In the beginning, our trip to Pittsburgh to visit family was shaping up to be a lovely moment on the timeline of our lives. My sister, Karen, had finally moved within a distance we could drive on a single tank of gas. She had a new job, a new baby, and a new house under contract. So my husband, Steve, and I loaded up the minivan with our crew of five and pointed her west. Spring Break looks a little different once you’ve traded bikinis for, well, Pittsburgh, but we had high expectations for album-worthy memories on this trip. Which meant there was only way it could go: down in flames. And spectacularly so.
Fate laughs in the face of such hubris.
Trouble started brewing on Friday night, when Eddie (2) started vomiting. There is no faster way to become persona non grata in someone’s home than to start chewing through their linens. My poor sister had been a mom for about 10 minutes, but she was torn. It’s all fun and games until someone needs a bucket.
We had just dropped Patient Zero in the middle of her lovely new home. I could see her mind click through her options: Grab her own child a la Sally Field in “Not Without My Daughter”, kick mine to the curb, or re-create a scene from Outbreak complete with tenting and masks.
My sister may or may not have been thinking this!
Um, we started packing.
At this point, I was harboring a fantasy that the exorcism coming from my child really was the result of his licking the bathroom floor at the rest stop as Charlie (8) suggested. I was packaging this spin for my sister and her husband, Dan, when Victim 2 fell. And hard. The siege was underway.
Pittsburgh is about five horrible, evil, ugly hours from home when you’re under attack. I’m gonna spare you the details, but leave you with this image: Steve pulled the car into the driveway after a looooooooong drive on the Puking Parkway from Pittsburgh and promptly tossed his cookies on the front lawn. Where’s a white flag when you really need one??
This was Saturday night. Easter morning was a mere 6 hours away. So in addition to Eddie, Ace (12) was down, Steve was down, and the other three kids were dropping like flies. We could have used a quarantine sign and some yellow tape.
What did this seemingly sane woman do then? Start wrapping and assembling Easter baskets. It was me against the clock. But much like the scene with Steve hours before, I succumbed right about the time I nestled the last chocolate egg in its basket.
Dawn rose on a day with two parents completely incapacitated. It was not looking good for an Easter miracle, but thank every lucky star in the sky for the resilience of boys when candy is on the line! Ace (12) who not 6 hours earlier had been wrapped around a toilet bowl had regained his usual step. He had no idea what I had in store for him.
Bottom Line: Sonny Boy got a huge promotion, complete with bunny ears and bragging rights. I felt like a stage mom pushing my baby into the spotlight, “You can do it, honey! Just think positive thoughts.” To be frank, I was too sick to move so it was more like gesturing and mumbling, but, whatever, he was my Chosen One.
No childhood innocence was lost in the making of this memory. At least, I hope not. I actually have no recollection of that day, but Ace even took pictures. It happened.
Is this not the most pathetic looking child you have ever seen?
Postscript: The virus took down my sister’s whole family viciously within hours of our hasty retreat. Dan still uses The Great Pittsburgh Easter Plague as the yardstick to measure all other illnesses. In fact, he was completely unsympathetic when another virus took us all down last year.
And I did get my album-worthy memory after all. Mostly because Dan won’t let me forget it.
We have said it before and we have to say it again: We love to party! And not just for birthdays, anniversaries, and such. Heck, if it’s a day that ends in “Y”, somebody bring the beach balls and the booze and let’s crank up the jams. Anyway, here are. . .
10 Parties That Make Us Proud
1. Irish Girls Do It in Bright Green
I just love that this Irish girl married into a Polish family with a fun-loving real-life Irish Grandmom. We love our GiGi, and all of the fabulous parties that happen on her favorite day each year!
2. Inside This Box is a Fabulous . . .
Road Trip. With five kids and birthdays that come in bunches, we don’t always go the traditional party route. Often times, we hit the road to celebrate. In fact, Biddie and I are still basking in the glow of our great Northeastern Adventure to celebrate her 13th birthday this past summer.
This picture is one of my favorites though. When Biddie was 10, she was obsessed with the First Ladies. Sorry, 1D! Martha Washington was her first real pin-up! Her birthday was the weekend of the Obama inauguration that year. All she wanted was to get to Washington, DC. Here she is scanning the White House windows looking for a glimpse of one of the Obama girls. Still one of my favorite birthdays ever!
But other times we play it straight and we get. . .
3. The Party That Proved Just How Smart I Am!!
Eddie LOVED all things Star Wars the summer he turned four. We had a pool party and these lightsaber pool noodles were the party favor. Cheap, easy to make, and 10,000 times better than a bag of Dollar Store junk. Every mom and kid loved them! And some still have them!
But there is always a fly in the punch. Check out Eddie’s face behind his cool cupcakes. Darn kid’s ruining my boast! I swear no exorcism was required.
4. True Fans Party on Opening Day
Who parties on the opening day of the Liverpool soccer season? Maybe the family that left their North Caroline beach vacation early to see them play on American soil last summer. This might be taking the term Soccer Mom to a whole new level, but I don’t care. I’m hoping these crazy family traditions are gonna be the things that get these kids home for a visit every once in a while after the big, wide world scatters them to the winds.
5. 40 IS Fabulous!
Especially when you do it Sisterhood Style. We always treat our buddies well on their special day, but this party for our friend Lauri was the best! We went kayaking on the river near her house. Her family even had it planned for us to paddle up to a dock for some beverages and snacks along the way. Kind of like a Kayak Crawl.
Erin’s proud party moments turned out just like her: all over the place and fabulous. I’m going to stick to the traditional birthday party genre. We take the mantra “Go big or go home” to heart around here when it comes to celebrating those special days.
I love to have my house stuffed with happy girls. I also love our family tradition where the birthday girl gets her very own personalized cake to dive into with abandon. The theme for Jellybean’s 12th birthday was pandas, so with 13 girls sleeping over, it was pandamonium. Get it??
2. Monkey Business
In fact, this is the party where the personal birthday cake tradition was born by chance. So take that Pinterest. I was able to develop fun family rituals long before you rolled up on the scene.
3. Letting the Cat Out of The Bag
Jellybean got our cat Sparkle for her 6th birthday. Imagine my delight when she came downstairs ready for her indoor bounce house party dressed in her kitty cat Halloween costume. Melt.
4. Ginormous Water Slide For The Win
I LOVE throwing little kid birthday parties. Coed teenager parties make my palms clammy. For our first one, I got this huge water slide as a distraction. I should have thought about the bathing suit factor.
5. Back to the Good Ol’ Days
Alright, let’s forget the teen years, I’m starting to break out in hives. Let’s go back to when all I had to do was transform our basement into the American Idol sound stage. And upon review, I apparently also transformed our backyard into a superstar themed obstacle course for about a bazillion little girls. Did I mention “Go big or go home”?
In case all of this party pride is making you a little nauseous, don’t forget the New Year’s Eve when Ellen made everyone actually gag with this little gem of a Pintershit drink.
Also, don’t forget to check out the other bloggers over at Monday Listicles who responded to Stasha’s prompt 10 THINGS YOU ARE PROUD OF. Feel free to join in on the fun.
Two years ago today, we had a perfect night. Crisp, clear, and beautiful, you could practically feel the quick-silver energy of spring crackling in the air. We were in that limbo of the changing seasons with one foot in fur-lined boots and the other in flip-flops, but we were definitely on the cusp of change. Hope and promise and the hint of so many lovely days to come were everywhere that night. So this country girl left the windows wide open and went to sleep.
Around midnight, I awoke to the sound of voices outside. Certain that it was neighborhood teens drawn outside by the beautiful weather, I was irritated. I needed to get back to sleep. I am not actually a girl any more, and we more seasoned gals need our beauty sleep.
When I went to the window to call out to them, time stopped. The house two doors down was engulfed in flames. A young family of seven was sobbing on the front lawn. The images kept coming then, stacked one upon another, each one more heartbreaking than the one that came before. Neighbors trying to keep the flames at bay with garden hoses. A little boy patting his Mama’s arm. Fire truck after fire truck after fire truck lined up through the neighborhood—a brotherhood of firemen trying to save the home of one of their own. A baby girl wrapped in a neighbor’s sweatshirt. Little bare feet everywhere in the too cool air. Two more pictures stood out. A house there. Then not.
The family had just moved in three weeks prior, but we were already connected. Maybe it was because this young family was our mirror in many ways with 4 boys and a girl. Maybe it was because the boys had become such fast friends. Our kids were already playing together every day, wearing out our side yard with spirited games of soccer. Maybe it was because I was already friends with the husband’s sister and knew the extended family a little. Time doesn’t define all relationships.
My family tried to help in any way we could. But in addition to the burnt scar in the ground just two houses away that we saw EVERY. SINGLE. DAY., we now had a quiet empty soccer field beside the house. Whoever said silence is golden hasn’t walked around a neighborhood after a tragedy.
A little while after the fire, Eddie, then 3, and I visited the family to see how they were doing. You never REALLY know what to expect from preschoolers, but Eddie walked right up to their 3 year old Bezzy like they hadn’t missed a beat.
“Your house burned down. That’s sad.” I froze, but I didn’t need to worry. Their three year old son Bezzy started jabbering away about everything that was going on. He told Eddie every last toy that he lost, every lovey that was gone forever, and, saddest of all, that their dear dog had died in the fire too. These were preschoolers, and they were talking like two wizened old souls.
Bezzy’s mom Sarah told me that the fire had unmoored Bezzy, shattering his notion of home and safety. Bezzy had pretty much stopped talking after that night and had retreated into his own little world of play. Eddie was reaching across a divide with his friendship to pull Bezzy to the other side. As we were watching these two little guys chatter on, we sensed the change, saw with our own eyes how the simple gifts of acknowledgment and a listening heart could bring someone through limbo to the cusp of change. Then this. . .
“Well, let’s eat a cracker, and then play with some trucks.”
Two years on, and the family is back in our neighborhood in a beautiful new home, and the neighborhood play has resumed.
Sarah was asked to give a talk at her local church about what people can do when tragedy strikes, and she told the boys’ story. It’s especially beautiful when coupled with one of Sarah’s favorite sayings that she often shared on their year-long journey from the fire back into their home: God’s favorite way of showing up is through His people.
Today I picked up a pile of dirty sweatshirts out beside our makeshift side yard soccer field. Warmer weather, longer days, and the promise of long afternoons filled with not-so-much-to-do are right around the corner. Knee-deep in extra laundry and waging a daily battle against the dirt mound threatening to engulf us, I could complain, but I don’t. This time of year is special. Full of promise. Laden with hope. I want to remember that today.
We published this piece last May, but this discussion is still relevant for anyone pondering this big decision. See the update at the end to check out how we all are doing.
Erin– Today was one of those days. A few weeks ago, we had THE TALK. Not THAT ONE, the other one—the one where you meet with the preschool teacher about whether to send the baby to kindergarten.
All I can hear is Joe Strummer singing in my head, “Should he stay or should he go?”
Ellen– Remember folks, she not only has a visa for Planet Teen, she is the Princess of Preschool Nation. She’s got five kids in her army.
Erin– Goodness, haven’t I been around this tree before? Am I still supposed to be wringing sweat from my hands about preschool and kindergarten?
Ellen– Shouldn’t it be one of the perks of being a mother of five to get a reprieve from kindergarten being a colossal decision?
I mean, really, you’ve been there and done that 4 times already. Isn’t it the consolation prize that you get to have some things on autopilot? I mean why else would you triple or quadruple your food bill, your electric bill, and your college tuitions? Except for, of course, you also exponentially increase your joy. (For real, Erin’s family is a joy to be around.)
Erin– One of the supposed joys of mothering a brood is the notion that decisions become less fraught because your experience (times 4 or 5) makes you wiser.
So when can I stop and smell the roses? When am I allowed to stop sweating every decision??
Ellen– Apparently never. No GET OUT OF THIS CONVERSATION FREE card for you. Doomed to sit in the little chairs yet again.
Erin– To be perfectly honest, although I love Eddie’s teacher and think she loves him back, I was a little annoyed that I had to take an hour of my time AND schedule it so that Steve could be there too AND this was all ON A SCHOOL NIGHT. Which meant the teens were running the evening routine. Enough said, and GRRRRRR.
Ellen– Shudder. But why is this decision so angst-inducing? He has done his year in preschool, and he makes the cut-off date for kindergarten, right?
Erin– The main arguments for holding Eddie back are that he is physically small, has a late birthday in the late summer, and the majority of his class cohort has much older birthdays.
These are fair arguments. They are just not compelling ones—at least to me.
Ellen– If we are talking about Eddie, specifically, and not in generalizations, they are not very compelling to me either.
Erin– And yet my husband had made me promise to muzzle it and let THE TEACHER talk: “We’ll learn a lot about what to do from what she tells us without our interpretation or input.”
The teacher had no concerns about his academic readiness, his social skills, or his developmental readiness, so my main takeaway was that another year could be a gift to him—another year to play and be a little boy. Hmmmm. Who wouldn’t get on board with that?
The only thing I said during our hour was “Thank you, we would like some time to think this over.”
And that’s what I did, except when I said “think it over” what I meant was give myself time to read everything I could find and poll every person I know.
Ellen– I’m impressed you could tamp down that niggling voice whispering, “This is all a big waste of time.”
Erin– Oh, it was niggling me! More than that really, it was saying, “Put this baby to rest. Send THAT baby to kindergarten. We have bigger fish to fry.” But I put on my Good Girl hat and started doing my research.
Ellen– Good Girl hat? I’m thinking you lost those brownie points when you didn’t immediately accept holding him back. So what did the research say?
Erin— At this point, I want to be able to say that the research (the paper kind and the people kind) clarified everything, but what I found was. . . contradictory at best.
There were some very good reasons for holding him back. One study found that the youngest students were much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and were three times as likely to repeat a grade. Umm, no thank you.
Another study found that the oldest students were most likely to become student leaders. Well, what parent DOESN’T want that? At this point, I started daydreaming about my sweet boy as class president circa Class of 2022!
But by far the most compelling argument for another year of PreK was what my mother (former preschool teacher, current kindergarten teacher) said: “You cannot underestimate the power of feeling confident and capable in the classroom.” Maybe Momma IS always right.
I was all ready to give him another year, but, of course, I then kept reading. The arguments against another year of Pre-K pushed me right back on my fence. There were negligible long-term academic benefits. The differences between the oldest and the youngest are the largest on the first day of kindergarten, but the advantages decrease over time. Younger students catch up with the oldest by third grade. Even studies that matched each child who delayed entrance with a child of like intelligence who had not delayed entrance did not find any solid proof that this practice made any difference at all.
At this point, my head was spinning. I heard Joe singing, “If I go, it could be trouble. If I stay, it could be double.” What’s a Momma to do?
Ellen, singing: “This indecision’s killing me.”
Erin:THIS Momma remembered her maxim to Have a Little Ellen in her life. I handed this mess over.
Ellen: Are you getting the gist? Erin read pages more of research and she sent them to me. Here is my take-away: despite research indicating there is no real benefit, it is becoming a common practice to “red-shirt” for kindergarten.
Erin: We did not make that up. It’s a term. Oy.
Ellen: There are no large studies with good statistical significance to show that it is beneficial to hold back. It is most often recommended to white males, and quite frankly, there are whiffs that it is recommended so that schools have better scores on their “No Child Left Behind” rankings.
Erin: Wake up! At this point, I’m cutting her off. She could analyze statistics for hours. The links are there if you want to read what I read. My last call was to my dad, the fair-minded judge and father of 4. It’s his daily work to evaluate two sides of an issue, balance interests, and come up with good solutions.
He just said, “What did your mother say? Do that.”
Ellen: At this point, I had heard this talk long enough. It was now time to call on The Sisterhood.
They were only too happy to share their thoughts:
SIL with two summer babies: “Was worried, but both kids are doing great.”
SIL with two fall babies who got that valuable extra year: “Kids are happy and doing great.”
Friend with a Summer Birthday Baby and a December birthday Baby: “Hold him back, because you are thinking ahead. If he moves on to kindergarten, he will turn 18 a month before he goes to college. He will be the last in his class to get his driver’s license.”
Ellen– Must interject here. I also have a summer baby, Coco (13), and a December baby, Jellybean (11). And while it is true that the preschool teacher initiated a mortifying conference to discuss Coco using yips to answer questions instead of words, she is doing fine. Upper tail of the bell curve and all that.
Sisterhood Friend: “I wish I had thought to hold X back. He’s struggling socially in middle school, and he has a late summer birthday.”
Other Sisterhood Friend: “I don’t think you can make a wrong decision, but you will definitely know which one is better.”
Ellen: Eddie is ready for kindergarten. He is articulate. He is one of the few 5 year olds I can have a conversation with that I enjoy. His best buds are moving up. And besides, it will make it much easier to work on the blog.
Erin: Rest assured, no decisions were made based on this blog. You did catch that Ellen took the time to read my research.
Then my sister called to weigh in. My mother and father had filled her in on our Big Dilemma.
My beloved sister: “Are we seriously even talking about this?”
Erin: OK, so, maybe my sister Karen is the voice in my head. Hmmm.
So here is the thing I learned that I already knew: all of these kids, including mine, are going to be just fine. The decisions to start preschool or kindergarten and when are important decisions, but they are not deal-breakers. Kids grow where they are planted and nourished and cared for.
I knew that. I needed to remember that. And not for nothing, the fifth time around this tree made it easier to see that.
Eddie is going to kindergarten next year. He is curious, inquisitive, and ready to learn. He is still small, will still have a birthday in the late summer, and will still be the youngest in his class. He will still have time to play and be a little boy, but he will also learn to read and write and, if we’re lucky, eat some paste, because that’s what curious, inquisitive little boys do.
He is going not because of any one thing we read or brilliant insight someone shared. He is not going because of any readiness assessments we took (although they did make us feel better—really). He is going, because one night after we put him to bed, Steve and I looked at each other and at the same moment said, “He’s ready.”
He’s going, because he’s ready, and we both feel that to be true.
I could break into song, but this time it’s not Joe in my head, but the Hallelujah Chorus. No more hand-wringing or sweating this decision.
Ellen: Get Eddie a bigger backpack, because he’s goin’ to kindergarten!
As we were working on this piece, 60 Minutes ran a segment about kindergarten redshirting. Definitely worth a look if you are also in the midst of this decision.
Eddie has adjusted to kindergarten well. He is doing everything we hoped he would in kindergarten, except for eating the paste. For some reason, he just won’t oblige me on this one, even though we all know that’s part of what kindergarten is for. Anyway, he is reading, writing, and doing the arithmetic. No cause for worry, right? Well, not so fast.
I had a meeting with his teacher this week, and she has some concerns. Chief among them is that he is the youngest in his class (sound familiar?) and because this particular class skews old, he looks young. Is he still appropriate for his age? Yes. Is he a behavior problem? No. Is she concerned about him academically? Not really. Is he driving her a little crazy? Maybe.
Eddie has a tendency to dig his heels in, especially when there is something he does not want to do. And by dig his heels in, I mean park his cute little butt down and cross his arms in the international gesture of “Ain’t Gonna Happen. No Way. No How”. But even this is, in her words, still developmentally appropriate for a 5 1/2 year old. We had a pretty good discussion about how I am A-OK with whatever consequences she dreams up for my little sideline-sitter when these occasions arise. Hopefully, this carte-blanche to corral my kid will help her help him toe the line.
Bottom Line for You: If you plow forward with your summer baby and keep him or her with their birth cohort, you might still be talking about this or thinking about this. For AWHILE. This means that if you follow this path, you may be sitting in the little chairs discussing issues a little more often than other parents. Remember what the literature said: it can take until third grade until everything evens out. Or not. All kids are different.
Bottom Line for Me: We are continuing to move forward despite some bumps in the road. School is a marathon, not a sprint, and we are just starting out. I can wait for Eddie, and I am pretty small so the little chairs aren’t such a bad fit for me anyway. I am happy with his progress, and I am OK with talking to the teacher. I am even OK with talking to my hyper-verbal kid and asking him what he thinks about all of this and what he wants. We are putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward taking one day at a time.
Click to give us a vote! It’s really easy. We’d be so grateful!
Erin: Last week in The Sisterhood we had a very Freaky Friday, er, Saturday, kind of thing going on. The kind of thing that made me want to do something like this . . .
Ellen put a kibosh on this one. Especially since she ended up with the better end of the deal.
Ellen: Excuse me if I thought running full speed at each other into full-on belly slams was excessive, but maybe you would have gotten a concussion so you could‘ve forgotten about your Saturday. And forgotten about whining.
Erin:It was all over holiday decorating. In particular, the tree. My family has tree-getting down to an art. If it’s not quite Norman Rockwell, it is definitely good enough for Facebook bragging.
Ellen: This would normally be the point where I would scoff and ridicule, because Frank and I are traditionally The Home Depot sort of tree buyers. We don’t even take the kids with us. Don’t judge or the Elf on the Shelf will get you. He hates self-righteousness as much as he seems to enjoy seeing all of his pranks archived on Pinterest. But not this year! We went full-on Christmas tree farm!
Erin:Didn’t you love it? I have fond memories from Decembers past of packing up the crew in their festive holiday garb — sometimes there are even hats — and heading to a local tree farm. We make a total day of it. Picking out the tree. Playing on the hay bales, singing carols, drinking hot chocolate, taking the classic poses by cardboard Santa measuring how much we have grown . . .
Ellen: And there it is.
Ellen: My reason to pull your antlers. Singing carols in holiday hats? Did this really go down or are you remembering a Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas special?
Erin:Oh, I have the pictures to prove it.
You know if you had hats as cool as these you’d wear them too! Unless you’re Ellen.
Ellen: Sometimes you make my snarky bone hurt, but I see your goofy hat and raise you a nuclear reactor, helicopter rides, playgrounds, pony rides . . . and a teepee.
Erin:Are you sure you didn’t just cut a tree down on the set of Red Dawn?
The whole parade was delightful, but check out that eagle!
Ellen: No. On this gift of a perfect weather day, we went to Coleman’s Christmas Tree Farm — after attending our first local Christmas parade, which was delightful. Coco’s (14) high school marching band did such a great job. We had the absolute best day. It WAS Norman Rockwell — on steroids.
Erin:So how does a self-proclaimed Home Depot devotee happen upon such a place?
Ellen: We ended up there last year out of desperation. We got jammed and weren’t able to get our tree until the 15th. Every depot, mini-mart, and scout stand was all sold out. Unless this was your dream tree.
Visions of Charlie Brown trees swirled through her head.
Ellen – Per tradition, Frank and I were by ourselves when magic Google found Coleman’s for us. We did have the parental decency to feel a wee bit shameful on the awesome wagon ride out to the field. Frank muttered, “This would probably be fun for the girls.”
So bam! We did it this year and it was epically fun. We are converts! Just look at my man harvesting our tree.
No chainsaw for us! It’s like we ARE a Norman Rockwell painting.
Erin:I’m woman enough to admit that I’m feeling a twee bit of evil towards you. Sort of like the evil vortex that hung over my whole tree day and sucked the Norman Rockwell right out of it. I suspected there might be trouble when they ALL woke up cranky. That’s a rarity. There’s usually at least one chipper bird in my nest of five. Instead, they all looked like this. . .
I wish I was kidding. They were just short of snorting fire and breathing venom.
Ellen: You need to learn when to tamp down your Mom-on-a-Mission tendencies.
Erin:Oh no. This was THE day, and no mounting evidence to the contrary was gonna change my mind. So we packed the camera and the cranky kids and headed to our favorite farm. Holiday spirit be damned: we were getting our tree today.
Ellen: I can’t imagine why things went downhill.
Erin:Well, once we got there, that ball of crap we were rolling really started to pick up steam. The minivan doors open and Charlie (11) sneak attacks Deacon (9) and boots him into a puddle of mud. This breach of familial etiquette causes Deacon to let off a scream completely incongruous to the event that had just transpired. (Just for the record, my vocabulary expands exponentially the pissier I get. When I start spewing 4 syllable words—Run!) Nothing says fa-la-la-la like halting the fun with a public time out in the middle of a parking lot full of witnesses.
Ellen: The towel should have been thrown in before you even left the house, Ms. Intractable. See, I know big words too.
Erin:Just wait. Five minutes later, everyone is roughhousing on the hay bales and the kids are clamoring to get their pictures taken in front of cardboard Santa. As I whip out the camera and back-pedal quickly because all I have is my zoom lens since I lost my camera bag, my jingle bells jangle even more because I have forgotten the SD card. Are you kidding me!?! My head pounds like the little drummer boy on Mountain Dew as I frantically check my purse and the car for the missing card. At this point, my husband lobs a live grenade with his not-so-subtle jab at my forgetfulness, “Are you pregnant?”
Ellen: Seems legit . . . given the circumstances.
Erin:As Steve ducks to avoid the holiday left hook aimed for his head, the 14 year old girl child remembers that she has her iPod touch with her. Unfortunately, she drained it listening to One Direction on a continuous loop, so it’s zero help. Three pictures later, and this mess was recorded for posterity.
Ellen: Barely. Did you think to use your phone? Oh, that’s right. I had to give you instructions yesterday on how to take pictures with my phone . . . that is exactly like your phone.
Erin:Perhaps. Or it could be that I was distracted by the 5 year old nosediving off the hay bale. Amid the screams and recriminations, we put this stinker of a day down. Once and for all. There was a little lot of pre-cut trees right beside the barn. We wandered over with our spirits broken, pointed at one that looked about the right size, and we. were. done.
Ellen: Just to be clear, I’m not trading days with you. Besides our end products were equally yuletide-y and this will all fade from everyone’s memory . . .
Erin:If we hadn’t written a post about it.
Ellen: That’s okay. The true secret of Christmas is you need a little Bah Humbug to make the joy all that more joyful.
Erin:And now you’ve made MY snarky bone hurt.
Which tree is Ellen’s and which tree is Erin’s? Hint: Erin’s is missing its topper. Ellen thinks it eloped with Erin’s missing camera bag.
Very rarely do the planets align to create a perfect family day, but we had one this summer when Steve and I took our kids for a little impromptu tour of my hometown. No fighting, no whining, and no unpleasantness whatsoever—-it was the trifecta of family harmony.
But all good things must come to an end.
Because I was hopped up on the good vibes AND our happy jaunt around town landed us in front of the old courthouse AND it was the exact spot where Steve and I had some wedding photos taken 16 years ago, I wanted evidence. Of course, whipping out the DSLR caused some kind of shift in the universe, and things started to unravel. And quickly. Don’t look for those photos on our Christmas card this year.
Always the one to add some gasoline to the inferno, I thought it would be a swell idea to take some photos for the blog too. I mean, the sky was blue, the air was perfect, and my kids were self-combusting—what better time to catch some photo ops? But my kids are pros now at posing as the faceless wonders, so that part of the shoot went just fine. I didn’t really think of those pictures again. Then earlier this week, I came upon this photo.
I don’t care what their teachers say. My boys are geniuses, and revenge is sweet.
Well played, gentlemen. Well played.
PS–I think I can even see them giggling. I don’t know how I missed it before.
I haven’t ever had a kindergartener without another baby at home. I haven’t been without a little buddy close on my heels for 15 years. I don’t really know quite what to feel, so I am just being philosophical about it. Ellen, who is also experiencing her own big changes as her girls enter high school and middle school this year, has agreed to help me. While I wax nostalgic, she is going to give me the reality check I sorely need. Hopefully, this will help me avoid holing up under my covers the first week of school.
Things I Will Miss:
1. Preschool Productions. There is nothing like an uncooperative angel to move me in unexpected ways.
Ellen Reality Check: These productions generally involve the sewing/gluing/repairing/conjuring of costumes, usually at the last minute. All this costuming must be squeezed around baking the 20 dozen cookies needed for the reception. The bonus is you get to take your little angel home immediately after he has been sugared up at the aforementioned reception.
2. Dressing Up. They may still do it a little once “big kid” school starts, but capes and swords and boots are the wardrobe of preschool.
Ellen Reality Check: Oh please, I know your kid. The caped crusader outfitting is not going to stop. You’ll still have Wolverine as your side-kick at the grocery store (if you’re not smart enough to do your shopping while he is in school, that is).
3. The freedom to explore and strike out on our own during the week. We will still go out and do it, but there is less time now.
Ellen Reality Check: That is sad. Wait, I’m supposed to counterpoint. How about you won’t have to squeeze working out, blogging, grocery shopping, and cleaning into a three hour time slot each day. You won’t have to choose between exercising and showering anymore. Your blogging partner says, “Yippee!”
4. Little things. Star Wars guys, Lego mini-figures, army men, Trash Pack Guys, Squinkies—you name it. If you can clutch more than one of them, Eddie loves them unconditionally. He will still play with them, but his little clutches won’t be all over the house all day every day. Sniff.
Ellen Reality Check: I’ll finally be able to walk around your freakin’ house without impaling my foot. And by the way, you do realize school is only about 6 hours? He has oodles of time before and after school to wreak his havoc on your abode.
5. Day trips after preschool. There was just something so special about having that little extra alone time together.
Ellen Reality Check: For real? You’re a great mom, but did you really go tip-toeing through the tulips every day after pick-up? Go train for your half marathon already, geesh.
Final Ellen Reality Check: I may or may not have gone back to bed, curled into the fetal position, and pulled the covers over my head for a solid month after I put my youngest on the bus for kindergarten. You’ll never know because the evidence was destroyed in the honey badger incident of 2011. Well, at least Erin has blogging to ease her pain.
Click on over to Monday Listicles to check out the other great posts. This week should prove to be a good one.
This list of summer memories is a teaser of sorts for our Sisterhood Parkquest camping madness. No idea what we are talking about? You will. All in good time.
Erin:Now, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the highlights from our shared vacations.
Ellen: I want it known that vacation is in air quotes. Big time. Vacation equals luxury to me. But you know what isn’t in air quotes? Fun! Good ol’ fashion family fun.
Erin:Remember George of the Jungle?? His tagline was “every day is a new adventure full of mayhem, mishaps, and monkey business.” George might as well be our mascot, because he is certainly with us in spirit on some of our adventures. Enjoy our memories and “Watch out for that tree!”
1.The Best Laid Plans
Erin:When we travel, my role tends to be Planner. Here’s a little excerpt from Day 1 last year: “12pm—Arrival. Hugs, High Fives, and Organizational Stuff”. Who gets a little mad with power? This girl! Oy!
Ellen: Who the heck writes out “Hugs’!?!
Erin:Anyway, despite such stellar planning, after a solid day of outdoor fun, we wound up with our sizable and famished crew at a closed Pizza Hut. I was in such shock that I had so completely screwed this up (Damn Google foiled me again!) that I was in denial.
“Maybe they are just remodeling.”
The Sisterhood: Raised eyebrows.
Imagine a Pizza Hut with no sign and no power. Sure. They’re just remodeling.
Check out the ghost of the Pizza Hut letters and the boarded up windows.
Erin:One of our favorite places to take our crew is Janes Island near Crisfield, MD. We love to kayak through the salt marshes, watch the sun set over the water, and check out the local wildlife. Every memory from Janes Island is a keeper which is good, because there is one small drawback of this seemingly idyllic place—the mosquitoes.
Ellen: They are big, they are blood-thirsty, and they maniacally laugh at herbal repellant. We have been stock piling Deep Woods DEET for this year’s trip like it’s booze and the husbands are giving us a weekend off. Now maybe we can toast some marshmallows without getting eaten alive.
The pretty shot before Kid B smacks Kid A on the butt to kill the skeeter. With an oar.
Erin:It’s a testimony to our deep bond that we all bounced back from this one and kept vacationing, not just that day but for years afterward.
Ellen: Our very first outing of our very first day of our very first vacation, I get lost on Gambrill Mountain with a gaggle of kids. I’m not just “Hey, I went left instead of right” lost, I’m “Oh, crap, are we going to make it out before dark?” lost.
Erin:Obviously, it all ended up fine. Ellen always bounces back. She’s our Bear Grylls with infinitely better hair and wardrobe.
4.“No Trace Left Behind” Fail
Erin:We all know that one of the major tenets of communing with nature is to leave it as you found it. Pack it in, pack it out, and all that. Apparently, my Eddie didn’t get the memo. Two years ago, as we were potty-training, Eddie pulled his pants down and did his number 2 business right there on the beach. There was no warning. No time to intervene. But there were witnesses. Oh, yes, there were. Everywhere.
Ellen: My kids brought this one up for a year when dinner conversations were getting a little slow—just for the easy laugh.
5.“It’s All Fun and Games”
Doesn’t this look fun?
Erin:Last year, we ended up in Western Maryland at one of my favorite state parks, Swallow Falls. We had one of those picture perfect days with kids and adults having an absolutely wonderful time jumping off the rocks and playing behind the waterfalls.
Doesn’t this look dangerous?
Ellen: It was all fun and games until one of the boys slipped on a rock and cut his chin open to the tune of a hospital trip and some stitches. Still a favorite memory though.
Erin:We’re badass like that.
6. “I Knew That Was A Bad Idea”
Erin:This is a direct quote from Ellen’s daughter, Coco (11), who was my canoe mate. You know how you would yell at your kid if she pulled out her cellphone while canoeing on some of the murkiest water ever? Well someone should have yelled at me, because I whipped mine out then promptly lost it in the Pocomoke River. Sniff. Sniff.
Ellen: This quote proves Coco actually listens to me. And extra bonus tact points to my girl for waiting until we were back on shore and for only saying it to her momma.
We don’t always hike in the rain, but when we do, we prefer to look like the Unibomber
7. Momma Knows Best
Erin:So you may not have noticed, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Our trip to Deep Creek Lake was no exception. The weather punked us and ruined our beach day. But we rallied and decided to complete the quest anyway. This was the Murphy’s Law of quests—everything that could go wrong did and spectacularly so.
Ellen: Three different GPS failed us. We Moms finally said, “Screw it, we have been here before,” ditched the technology, and followed the path from memory. In addition to helping us complete the quest, our chutzpah gave us this great photo op. Don’t you wish you had a picture of you with your best buds in a bear trap?
Unicorns are real. They have mad dance skills. And why yes, they do fart glitter.
8.American Idol, Here We Come!!
Erin: Coming from such shrinking violets as Ellen and myself, you might find it hard to believe, but our kids are major hambones and total goofballs. When we vacation, in addition to all the outdoorsy adventure type stuff, the kids also LOVE to put on a talent show for us. Not everyone can say they watch pink unicorns dancing on their vacation.
Ellen: Who needs a cabana boy?
9.Snake Charming 101
Erin:During one hike on Gambrill Mountain, we were cruising along on a hike. There was no whining or complaining. It was as perfect a hike as you can dream up with kids until one of the kids nearly stepped on the copperhead snake on our path. I still shudder at this memory, but no kids were lost in the making of it. Oh, the good times!!
Ellen: And now I carry a snake bite kit. From Walmart.
Ellen: We were stuck outside the Pocomoke Nature Canter waiting for a storm to pass.
Erin:Are you seeing a trend?
Ellen: The Nature Center wasn’t open, but we couldn’t start hiking or kayaking yet, so we were kind of in limbo—such a fun place to be with a bunch of kids. Our buddy Vickie turned on some music and started blasting it from her car.
Erin:This song came on and all of the kids started dancing in the parking lot. They can find fun anywhere, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.
This song should probably be our anthem, and I should have added it to this list for sure.
So, in the end, our memories are more sweet than tart, and, of course, priceless. For the rest of the Parkquest story click here!
Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I hope you have had plenty of family time and have taken a moment to think about our freedom and remember all of the women and men who have secured it for us. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Erin is spending Memorial Day Weekend at the beach celebrating Ace’s 15th birthday. But I’m relaxing with my family close to home, going to some parties, doing some baking, and attacking some yard work. So there is no reason to skip Stasha’s Monday Listicle: 10 WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOUR HOME. A girl can only haul so much mulch or bake so many cookies without a break. Quick word of advice, don’t let those two activities cross paths. Mulch in baked goods cannot be passed off as fiber.
Ellen's Weekend. This is totally representative of my discovery of the snake skin shed in the holly bush I was trimming. No exaggeration.
So where to begin? Erin threw out this helpful email, “My house is known as command central.” Gee, I think we all can say that. Not really enough to work with. Even though I’m not rollicking on the beach, I have better things to do than create lists out of thin air.
Then there is the post we wrote about Erin’s Oasis and my counter post about The Coco Room Apocalypse. Quite frankly, they provided TOO much to work with. And since my house hasn’t been completely clean since I started blogging, I was in no mood to review Erin’s neat house techniques, albeit, they are very good and handy.
See? I'm sappier than I let on.
So I was going to copy from this canvas on my wall because Erin has a very similar one hanging in her house. But it seemed very precious and quite frankly, a little plagiarize-y. I mean, do I really want to stoop to ripping off the equivalent a Hallmark card? I may have a touch of the sappy, but I ooze with integrity. I’m Googling right now to see if there is an ointment for that.
But I was inspired! The Listicle asks for words describing our homes, not our houses. I was on the right track with the wall art, but I needed originality. Our homes are the people who fill our hearts and clog our septic systems, not the disorderly conditions of our stray sock baskets. And since you can’t get more one-of-a-kind than the people in our lives, I present without further ado…
The People Who Transform Our Houses Into Homes
(While the names have been changed per our kids’ requests, the personalities are all real.)
Erin’s Army first…
They are almost this funny. Wait, they ARE this funny.
1. Ace. My oldest son just turned 15 years old and is completing his freshman year in High School. He is a huge sports fan and plays soccer and runs track. Ace looks like my husband and acts like me. He can make friends with a light bulb. He is funny, impetuous, and confounding.
2. Biddie. Her blog name came to me, because my husband’s family is Polish. They used this nickname for his sister when she was younger, because she was small but mighty. That’s our Biddie. Thirteen years old, smart, creative, funny, and athletic, Biddie is everything I wish I was at her age.
3. Charlie. He is my 11 year old who loves soccer, Comic Books, and hats. I swear that he is either going to be the Frat President in college or its mascot. The kid is slightly cracked, but in the best possible way. Everybody loves him. One of the nicest compliments a teacher gave us about him was that of the 24 kids in his class, twenty-three of them considered him one of their best friends. He is our soft, sweet center.
4. Deacon. He was the one I had the hardest time renaming for the blog. His actual name is soooo perfectly him that it was hard to imagine him or referring to him any other way. Deacon is 8 years old and loves to build LEGOs, play soccer, and do science and art projects. At home, we sometimes call him The Hammer, because he has singular focus and knows what he wants.
5. Eddie. Eddie is a total Momma’s boy. My husband implied that his obsession might be a little more than your average bear (do you see where we are going with this? Oedipal Complex?). Eddie is 4 years old and loves Star Wars, stealing the iPad2 from his siblings, books, and hiking. He is stubborn, smart, and adorable—a deadly combo.
6. Steve. Last, but never least, is my husband of 15 years, Steve. When I told him that I was going to use military-inspired aliases for the blog and I thought that I might call him The Colonel (you know, because I am The General), he said, “I feel more like The Corporal.” He makes me laugh most days, and he is the most patient, kind person I have ever known. He’s the best. You are just going to have to trust me on this one.
Now Ellen’s Crew…
Don't worry, we only wear these pants on Thanksgiving..for the stretch. Oh and on Groundhog Day...for the style.
7. Frank. He is my soul mate and the best father I could imagine for our two girls. We have been together since he hit on me on that fraternity house lawn. I am blessed to have his support and love. He is sharp and witty and definitely lightens me up. I might be a smidge intense. I do have a tendency to tell him that he is lucky I don’t have an addictive personality, because he might be a bit of an enabler. But hey, he boosts my ego when Coco gets done with me.
8. Coco. So, Coco is nearly 14. I think she really picked the alias Cocoa because she loves chocolate, but I changed it to Coco because the girl has style. She is a preternatural force. She brought me to my knees as an infant with her colic and sometimes we question if the colic ever ended. She is a musician, an athlete, an actress, a writer, and a first class student. God gave her to me to keep me in my place. You should thank her too, because she keeps me from thinking that I am all that and a bag of chips. I am happy and blessed to know her.
9. Jellybean. She is 11. She is the least pleased with any of this blog stuff. She is a girl you want as your friend. She is kind, but not sappy, and definitely has a bit of the imp about her; just ask the cat. She is fun with a silly sense of humor, but has a well-defined BS meter. She is happy to be with a group, but can go and do her own thing without forcing the group to conform to her. She brings her determination to her sports, her Legos, and her schoolwork. Jellybean just gets it done. Her laugh has brought me joy from the first moment I heard it.
Hmmm…I ran out of family members. Seems like we didn’t have Monday Listicles in mind when we were squirting out kids. So number 1o is a bonus funny…
10. Antique White. This is something both of our families ridicule tease Erin about. She wants to paint everything in her home “Antique White,” (I know, that’s a whole different issue). She actually thinks she has painted everything “Antique White.” I, along with the entire Army and Crew, are here to tell the world, and her, once and for all: HER CHOSEN COLOR IS YELLOW!
So I guess the moral of this story is that Erin can’t suppress her sunny, positive personality with the bland and mundane, even when she tries.
Booooooring Antique White or Sparkling Superfly Yellow? Which do you think fits Erin best?
Now check out the other great Listicles, although I can almost guarantee they won’t contain a flying Boohbah.