A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words…unless it’s not. (vacation fails)

Ah…spring is upon us and so, too, the season of Spring Break vacations and picture sharing! Such beautiful images of bliss and perfection surround us at every flip of the screen! The smiling faces, the pristine beaches or powdery slopes all there to regale… and, perhaps at times, remind us of the imperfections in our own lives.

For my offspring it is also a time to roll their eyes back in a demonstration of teenage endless wisdom and impatience (duh! I KNOW EVERYTHING ALREADY. Ummm…why are you still talking?), as I explain, once again, that the images that appear on screens in general never tell the whole story. They are simply happy snippets of lives that, like our own, have their ups and downs. They are posted to share good times and happy memories with others (and sometimes for darker, less altruistic reasons…but I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt). Why do I try to burn this into my kids’ not-always-open-to-parental-information brains? Because, I figure you have a better chance at getting a card in the hat, if you throw the whole deck… multiple decks… multiple times. I REALLY want them to understand that a picture may be worth 1,000 words, but that you generally only see the pictures that people want you to see and that there are a billion other words that are not captured in those pictures. I want them to understand that happiness and bliss are not the only things going on around them and that the feelings of sadness, or anger, or hopelessness they feel at times, are totally normal. The teenage years are hard… and hard can be harder when you think everyone else has it together and that everyone else is living sunshine and lollipops, while you are struggling with who you are in the world.

Lest you think I am somehow against the joys of Spring Break or sharing the joys of one’s Spring Break… I have absolutely nothing against vacation pics! I post them myself and I love to see them! But, I view and enjoy them with the knowledge of what they are and I simply want to make sure that my kids do the same. After all, it is the easiest way to share with friends and family who are far away. Besides, I have always been an advocate of the old if-you-don’t-like-the-pics-or-the-post-you-are-welcome-to-scroll-on-by-without-commenting strategy. Admittedly, not every post is for every person. And, when I want to give the kids an example of my point about pictures versus reality, I love to bring up pics of our first weekend ski vacation as a family…

We have a lovely series of photos filled with happy smiling faces on powdery white slopes as a result of that vacation! One would never guess, by looking at them, that this was THE most disastrous vacation that this family has yet experienced. (And here I will take a moment to knock on every piece of wood in the room and touch anything iron… the Italian equivalent of knocking on wood… while I make the horns symbol with my fingers to ward off bad juju.) Yet, these are the only physical pictures that remain, while the nightmarish details live on only in our minds (indelibly burned there, thankfully getting a little “funnier” with the distance of each passing year).

In the interest of full disclosure, I will share the unfortunate details of this most memorable of vacations. Please, feel free to share calamitous vacation stories of your own in the comments. We all have them and sometimes sharing them shines a comedic light upon them that all survivors of vacations gone wrong can appreciate…

From the moment we decided to embark upon this family weekend ski vacation, we knew that the key to success would be planning (which is generally the key to all successful vacations with young children). So, my husband and I decided to do a couple’s weekend at the ski resort first to give it a test run and to check out the lessons and activities available to children (as well as… to have a nice couple’s weekend away from the kids: win win). It was fairly early in the season and the skiing was not at its best, but that also meant that the crowds had not yet begun to arrive in full force, which was definitely a plus. We had a wonderful time and were impressed by how family friendly the resort was. So, before we left to return home, we set things up for our upcoming family vacation: we booked a little apartment close to the lifts, set up some lessons for the girls, and enrolled five-year-old Little Man in the kids’ club (a combination of ski school and daycare). The idea being to get everyone comfortable skiing and to have some extra time on the slopes with the girls, while Little Man learned to ski and made snow forts…and friends. Then we would all ski together as a family at the end of each day. It was going to be a wonderful weekend! …at least that was the plan.

With some luck and a large amount of hand sanitizer we made it through the week without any of the kids catching the latest respiratory or stomach bugs ominously creeping the schools at the time, and we began our 5 plus hour drive to our vacation destination. There was the usual quibbling and scuffling between the kids in the minivan on the way there. It’s amazing how the more personal space we give them sometimes, the more stupid little things the kids find to fight about/over. A mere few years later, we downsized from a minivan to a five seater, forcing them to sit shoulder to shoulder on road trips, and things actually improved, dispute-wise. It seems they are much less likely to start a fight when seated in easy retaliation distance. In the minivan they could toss things at one another…or kick one another’s seats… or spit… or make a comment, then duck back out of reach to avoid the consequences. When you are shoulder to shoulder and start something, chances are the person next to you is going to finish it. Although, by the end of this trip we were happy to have the minivan… but we’ll get to that. Anyhow, we arrived late Friday night, transferred everyone and everything into our apartment with ease, and hit the sack.

And that was the extent of the smooth part of our little trip. First thing in the morning, while I was dropping Little Man off at kids’ club, someone knocked my husband over on his way to the lift with the girls. Thinking it was not a big deal (no real speed was involved) we skied all morning, until it was time for lunch. We then headed into the restaurant for some warmth and good food. As we were eating, my husband told me that his leg was bothering him a bit where it had banged against his ski when he fell. He decided he was going to go back to the apartment to take a look and would meet us later. I did another run down the slopes with the girls and then they took off to ski together while I went to the store to look into some poles for Little Man. As I waited in line with a couple items at the checkout counter, a call came in from my husband, asking me to please drop everything and return to the apartment. What greeted me as I entered was akin to a scene from CSI. Apparently, when my husband had fallen, his freshly sharpened ski edge had sliced his leg. The extreme cold and pressure from his under layers had masked the pain, but as soon as he had begun to warm up, it had begun to hurt…and when he had removed his boot and ski gear once inside the apartment…well… again… think CSI. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this,” he said, handing me his blood filled boot to rinse. I called First Aid to come over with supplies. They rushed someone right over, bandaged his wound (he had already cleaned it), and advised him to get to the hospital for stitches. On the way out the door, the very kind first aid guy leaned toward me and whispered, “I’ll send someone over to clean this up. Don’t worry.” Which, in my book, earned the resort an immediate and eternal rating of 5 stars.

Hours later, when my husband was back, complete with ten stitches and meds, and I had rounded up all the kids, we sat down to figure out our next steps. In the end we decided that I would drop everyone off at lessons and kids’ club in the morning and then head back to check us out. That way, he could rest in the apartment until checkout and then rest a bit more over at the restaurant where we could grab a quick lunch with the girls. We would then check Little Man out of kids’ club after his lunch and head home early. Though the kids were sad to have to leave early, they obviously understood the reason we were doing it (the bloody ski boot drying by the fireplace served as a good reminder).

The beginning of our second and final day began with a desperate search for Little Man’s ski mittens and snow pants… a search that would end with a trip back to the resort store, once Little Man had explained that they were soaking in the bathroom sink where he had “washed” dirt off of them the night before in an effort to be “helpful” and not bother us… After a series of deep breaths and trips back and forth dropping kids off, loading the car, and checking out, my husband and I relaxed a little to prepare for the drive home. We got lunch with the girls, then drove over to the little chalet that housed the kids’ club to pick up Little Man. When I picked him up, I noticed that he felt a little warm, but figured (or desperately hoped) that he was just sweaty from skiing. The two of us walked nearby to drop off his rental skis and to make one more bathroom stop before the long trip, especially since he had begun to mention that his stomach was hurting a little. …and…that is when I discovered that ski pants are just as great at keeping moisture in as they are at keeping it out… Turns out poor Little Man had the stomach bug… and had it bad. In the end, I threw away his bottom two layers, cleaned the inside of his brand new snow pants off, wrapped him in paper towel, slid the snow pants back on him like some over-sized fluorescent orange diaper, and brought him to the minivan.

The “what took you so long?” that greeted me when we reached the car, was answered by pursed lips and a cold blank stare… followed by a detailed description of “what took me so long”. No further questions were asked, the windows were cracked, and I got behind the wheel to begin the trek home (which would obviously not be including any driver switches). Off we went, my husband stretched out in the way back where he could keep his leg up (thank you minivan), Little Man (groaning and stomach rumbling) and My Sun in the middle bucket seats, and My Moon (thankfully just old enough to legally sit up front) riding shotgun. After a long and speedy drive… one mere hour from arriving home… and as if to finish off the trip in style, My Moon turned to me to ask if we were there, yet… just as her nose exploded in a spontaneous, projectile nose bleed. Worst vacation laundry EVER.

So, remember as you enjoy all those beautiful vacation pictures of beaches, canyons, or slopes filled with smiling faces and perfection… whether they are yours, someone else’s, or mine (especially mine), that perfection is rarely an actual part of the equation and that they are there to show the happy times… most definitely not to deny that there are difficult ones!

Disney and Other Family Theme Parks… when your child’s theme is fear.

What better treat than to take the family to Disney, right? It is a child’s dream! One of the happiest places on earth! You look around and see everyone’s favorite characters signing autographs and waiting for the lines of giggling children to run up and give them a hug. All around you there is singing and dancing as excited kids drag their parents toward their favorite rides. OR… Disney and every other theme park out there can be a challenge to navigate…a walk through a potential mine field… a delicate balance between sheer happiness and utter fear, panic and despair. As a family, we tend to fall into the second category. Let me explain…

Have you ever been in one of the endless lines at the park (yes, I know they have Fast Passes, but you can only get a limited number at a time and maybe I didn’t get one for that ride that they did not want to go on… until they decided they wanted to go on it… until they didn’t) and watched as excited, bubbling tots waited with their parents for their 2nd or 3rd spin on a ride …building your excitement to experience said ride with your own child… only to have your noticeably older (mostly to you) child suddenly and completely wig out, start to whimper desperately, and ask to leave, causing those around you to aim their scolding eyes upon you (sometimes subtly… mostly not), wondering why on earth you would selfishly drag your obviously traumatized kid with “issues” onto a ride that he/she does not wish to ride, and, more importantly, why you would subject them to his/her whining and whimpering in what is SUPPOSED TO BE THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH, FOR WHICH THEY PAID GOOD MONEY? Have you ever been walking through a theme park with your children, spotted their all time favorite character just standing there waiting for a hug, and turned to find that one or more of your kids has gone from happy go-lucky to mass of trembling terror at the mere and distant sight of said character, whose dvds they have played enough times to permanently burn theme songs into your brain? If so, you totally understand what I am talking about. You need no explanation! That said, you are welcome to read along and to take solace in the fact that you are not alone in your struggles!

We just returned from a family birthday trip down to Orlando, where we went to both Universal Studios and two of the three main Disney parks. We had already been to Disney several times, but this was our first trip to Universal Studios as a family. All in all, I would say it was a good family trip…a fun trip, but not without hiccups. Back in the day… pre-Little Man, when the girls were very young, I had my first hard lessons on the diverse and sometimes frustrating reactions that kids may have to amusement parks. I can now say that I am a “seasoned” parent of amusement-park-challenged children and that the standards I use to gauge the success of each trip are quite different from what they used to be, before I had kids.

When my Moon was six years old we took our first trip to Disney. The fact that she would barely release my ankles to go down our local park slide at the time, prepared me for her fear of anything that went faster than the people mover and we knew that we would be using the Child Swap lines for anything else we may have wanted to try (THANK YOU CHILD SWAP). I was not quite as prepared for the shear terror she exhibited when exposed to most of her favorite Disney characters “in the flesh”, so to speak, nor did I understand why she would death grip my legs and whimper at the sight of Woody or Winnie the Pooh (while her two-year-old sister sauntered up to gather autographs for the both of them, nonchalantly explaining that her older sister “over behind Mamma” was afraid to ask), yet happily run head first into freaking ten-foot-tall Baloo, arms extended, or calmly high five the Army Man from Toy Story, WHO HAS NO FACE.

Even now, on this most recent trip… she posed with every super hero and avoided pretty much anything else (though her teenaged method of eye-rolling and feigning complete disinterest was MUCH more pleasant than the blood curdling screams back in the day when Woody snuck up behind her for a picture). So… since she is now an articulate seventeen-year-old, I decided to ask why she was (and to some extent still is) so terrified of some character costumes, but not others. This sums up her answer: It wasn’t so much the appearance or design of the costume that bothered her (she loved Maleficent, for example). It was the size distortion. Baloo is supposed to be big! Winnie-the-Pooh is not. Army Man may, in fact, have no face, but he is true to human size… even though she had to agree that he was much bigger than a plastic army man. When I pushed it a little further and asked why she was afraid of clowns, she quipped (with an eye roll), “Mom, clowns are just creepy… and their feet are too big.” Simple enough.

Now, let’s jump to Little Man (we shall skip My Sun because she will try just about any ride…including ones that I, myself, would not touch with a ten foot pole). Little Man is one of those kids that definitely knows what he wants to avoid, but sometimes thinks he wants to go on a ride, then gets in line and anxiety gets the best of him. And yes, at times I put a little pressure on him to follow through (or even offer the occasional bribe), but not because I care if we actually go on the ride or not and NOT on anything super fast or scary. I want him to see that, in the end, his fears are unfounded and that those things that we told him about the ride (a million times) are true. I want him to see that there were, in fact, no drops… or one small one, and that we were not trying to trick him. And so far (with the exception of The Barn Stormer, which his sister convinced him to go on and ended up being a tragedy) he has come through ok and even liked a lot of those rides after the fact. So, please don’t judge me if I do not yank him from the It’s A Small World line when he starts to tear up and whimper because he is certain that at some point in the ride all those robot children are going to begin to chortle as they send our raft plunging hundreds of feet into roaring rapids. I want him to see that this will not happen… that he can trust me to be up front with him.

Why go to theme parks at all if we end up needing to navigate them like parents walking barefoot through a carpet full of legos…in the dark? Because all in all and despite the challenges, we have a good time… and isn’t that (and not perfection) the whole point of going on a family vacation? Besides, some of those things that made one vacation or another bumpy, end up becoming hysterically funny family tales once enough time has passed: Remember the time your sister took her sandal off on Tom Sawyer’s Island and threw it into the lagoon before anyone could stop her? How about that time we waited for almost an hour to ride Pirates of the Caribbean only to have it close for technical difficulties as we neared the boats, causing your brother, who had decided that he did not want to be there, to cheer triumphantly among the angry sighs?

It all boils down to the metrics I now use to measure success. Who says you have to go on all the rides to have a good time? Who says you even have to go on any of the rides to have a good time? Yes, these places are expensive, so you do want to try to get the best bang for your buck, but sometimes that bang can mean different things to different families. I have three children. Two of them are extremely anxious. One will try anything. They all came out happy in the end, so I will count this family vacation as successful. Besides, take a moment… look around and past the misadventures of your own kids (something that is incredibly hard to do in the moment): there are plenty of other whiny, tired, irritated children and exasperated and exhausted parents out there! My point being that you are not the only one! It just seems that way, at times.

I would now like to leave you with some of Little Man’s ratings of rides at the various parks (in no specific order…as presented). He may not have gone on too many of them, but he had definite opinions about the ones he did try.

Na’vi River Journey (Disney’s Animal Kingdom): On a scale of 1-10… definitely a 10. It was smooth, relaxing, calm, pretty, glorious (what can I say? The boy loves his adjectives.), and most importantly THERE ARE NO DROPS.

Avatar Flight of Passage (Disney’s Animal Kingdom): (He totally DID NOT go on this ride, but wanted to express his opinion on why. The rest of us loved it, by the way.) On a scale of 1-10… no way will I go on this ride. It is probably very scary, too realistic and rough… and it looks like you are up in the air, which is pretty horrifying.

Kilimanjaro Safaris (Disney’s Animal Kingdom): On a scale of 1-10… This was a 10. You can see real animals, so the bumpiness didn’t bother me and it didn’t disturb the animals.

Pirates of the Caribbean (Disney’s Magic Kingdom): let me give you some background on this ride when it comes to Little Man. He used to be terrified of this ride, but somehow decided that they had shortened the drop so it is ok to go on… though he prefers a bribe… I am not going to argue that they did not, in fact, shorten the drop because it makes the ride “ok” in his book! So, PLEASE don’t tell him!) On a scale of 1-10… this one gets a 7 because it is fun, but it has an unexpected drop and even though they made the drop shorter, it is still a drop… and scary. (and he spent the rest of the day worrying that there were hidden drops in pretty much every other ride).

The Barnstormer (Disney’s Magic Kingdom): On a scale of 1-10… this one gets a 0. It was too bumpy. There were too many turns. It was too rough. I hated it. My sister made me go on it. This will never happen again.

The Seas With Nemo and Friends (Disney’s Epcot): On a scale of 1-10…this one only gets a 5 because it was nice and calm, but Nemo came off as a little rude and kind of a jerk.

Soarin’ Around the World (Disney’s Epcot): On a scale of 1-10… definitely a 9. It was smooth and very realistic and you got to fly over nature, but the noise was too loud sometimes and it was terrifying to fly through fireworks. (PS: this was one of the rides that he worried about the whole time we were in line.)

Jungle Cruise (Disney’s Magic Kingdom): On a scale of 1-10… this gets a definite 10 and an LOL. It was super funny and smooth!

The Haunted Mansion (Disney’s Magic Kingdom): On a scale of 1-10… a 9 because I mostly liked the ride, but I really was freaked out by the very beginning before you get on and right after you get on. It also kept stopping!

Spaceship Earth (Disney’s Epcot): On a scale of 1-10… I give it a 10. It was cool and really pretty inside. The ride was very smooth and the cartoon was funny.

The People Mover (Disney’s Magic Kingdom): On a scale of 1-10… I give it a 10. It was very smooth and they taught about the history. I also got to see the inside of the Buzz Lightyear ride, which I want to go on, but the park was closing…so next time. I saw the inside of Space Mountain, too, but I would NEVER ride that!

The Simpsons Ride: (Universal Studios) On a scale of 1-10… It was a 5. It was funny, but way too realistic and scary and bumpy. It was good that I could close my eyes at the scary parts.

Kang and Kudo’s Twirl n Hurl: (Universal Studios) On a scale of 1-10… a 9. It was fun, but a little hard to control.

Fast and Furious – Supercharged: (Universal Studios) On a scale of 1-10… this was a 0. I do not know why I went on this ride. It was loud and bumpy and scary.

The Cat in the Hat: (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) On a scale of 1-10… I give it a 9. There were some loud noises and it was a bit jerky, but humorous.

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride: (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) On a scale of 1-10… I give it a 10…even though it was a little bumpy.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) On a scale of 1-10… I give it a 10 because you got squirted with water and it was hot out!

Jurassic World Raptor Encounter: (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) On a scale of 1-10… I give it an 8. I LOVE dinosaurs, but it looked so real and Blue was pretty scary and liked to surprise people!

On our next trip down, he wants to do a more extensive review and says that “maybe” he will go on some more rides. “Maybe”… unless he decides not to…

Resolute

Having trouble with your New Year’s resolutions? I always have..,.

We are not even through January, and I am already on my way to breaking a couple of New Year’s resolutions, while the lawyer in me is deftly attempting to explain that I simply did not get the wording quite right when drawing up this mental contract in the first place. You didn’t really mean you were going to bike EVERY morning… What you actually MEANT was every morning that the temperature is above 60, provided it follows a full night of uninterrupted sleep… when you feel like it… maybe. It has me wondering if next year’s resolution should involve some kind of notarized contract… or a resolution about being more resolute.

Maybe I just need to take baby steps and start with resolutions like reading more books, or traveling more: things that I really want to do anyway and have been tending toward, but for which I perhaps just need a little extra push to work on logistics. Though, that kind of feels like cheating… you know, like if Little Man gave up eating broccoli for Lent or follows through on his actual resolution this year to “catch more lizards”. (Here, the lawyer in me is giving her two cents again and informing me that this kind of resolution would give good cover for doing these activities instead of maybe washing the clothes or working on editing that story I’ve been neglecting for way to long. You HAVE to read this book! It’s a resolution for Pete’s sake! Drop that laundry basket!)

If it is not yet obvious, I am bad at New Year’s resolutions. I SUCK at New Year’s resolutions and always have. When I was younger, I would proudly announce my intentions along with my friends and family, only to be completely distracted away from them within the first few weeks of the year, to then remember them around December 31st when coming up with resolutions for the next year (What was last year’s resolution again? Oh… yeah… well…). And… now that I think about it, it is not that I am not resolute. Just ask Little Man: I once spent 4 hours sitting at a table with him trying to get him to eat ONE piece of cooked bowtie pasta. There are two morals to that story, by the way: 1. once you pick your battle, you need to stick with it if at all possible (in the end he did eat the pasta, nonchalantly said it “wasn’t too bad”, then wandered off to bed as I sat tapping my forehead against the table) AND 2. for the love of sanity, be selective in picking your battles.

I have decided it has less to do with being resolute and more to do with balance and fitting one’s resolutions to one’s personality. So, this year I am officially voiding my New Year’s Eve resolutions (YES, Lawyer Me, I CAN do that. A contract between two parties… or in this case 3: me, myself, and I… may be rendered null and void if both… or all… parties consent to do so, which, in this case, they… we… are more than happy to do!) and opting for a solution that better fits me. My new resolution is to NOT make a New Year’s resolution, but to instead wake up each morning and to try to tackle the things I resolve to tackle that day. In this way, I will avoid that feeling of utter defeat which inevitably awaits me at the end of each year and attempt to, instead, confine my shortcomings and triumphs to one day at a time… Wait…did I just make a resolution to make 365 resolutions?

The Santa Conundrum

I have always found that the best way to get me to do something, is to tell me not to do it. And yes, the opposite also applies: tell me that I absolutely must do something, and chances are the first thought to pop into my head will be to throw on the brakes…and not the car emergency brake, which still allows me to drive around town like a champ, wondering why the car is being so hesitant. I mean a full-out stomp on the floor pedal. I consider myself to be a fairly self-aware individual and will readily admit to this flaw, though I hesitate to call it a flaw…especially since I have read that it absolutely is a flaw… Let’s just agree to call it a quirk (one that I am currently paying for in the form of genetic transference… Touché DNA, touché).

Anyhow, this is why I try to avoid any kind of article or piece that pretends to know who I am and what I must or must not do to be a good person (so I may as well turn off the computer, the television, and the phone nowadays, right?). Don’t get me wrong: I readily listen to and evaluate advice, and when politely asked to do something, I try my very best. My qualm is with the THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING WRONG AND WHY YOU ARE RUINING EVERYONE’S LIFE articles and the IF YOU ARE NOT DOING THIS, YOUR ARE A HORRIBLE MOTHER…AND PERSON…AND WHY ARE YOU EVEN STILL BREATHING? pieces that fill up cyber space like those packing peanuts we jam around the important things we ship.

So…when I read one of the latest pieces on what I am doing wrong and what I ABSOLUTELY NEED TO DO about the whole Santa conundrum in order to be a good parent (ok…sometimes they are disguised as fun, happy articles and by the time I realize what I am reading, I am already starting to reevaluate my life choices. Damn you, internet), I thought to myself, really? Is it really so black and white? Am I really the only one sitting here in the gray zone and thinking that every kid is different and that no matter how hard we try, we only control our little part of a world equation that our kids will encounter?    Heck! I may want my kid to believe in Santa until he is 20 years old, but nothing is going to stop that little five-year-old punk from walking up to him in Kindergarten and jamming a shiv into his holiday bubble. My only option after that is damage control.

I distinctly remember my own revelation about the big, jolly, bearded guy. I was in the fourth grade and had asked for the Breyer Arabian Horse family. It was really the only thing I desired and would therefore blurt out to any Santa I encountered. Of course, I had heard rumblings about Father Christmas being less than real, but I had chosen to push them out of my mind. Well, a certain brother, who will remain anonymous (I only have two…so it’s a 50/50 guess for anyone who does not actually know my brothers), convinced me to help him look for our presents while my parents were not home. There they were…that happy equine family…staring up at me through the cellophane window of their box, deep in my parents’ closet. I was hit by some pretty deep emotions for a nine-year-old. Had I just single-handedly ruined my own Christmas? I was still so very happy to play with them on Christmas morning, yet at the same time crushed to read that they were a gift from Santa. One thing I did not feel was any of that anger I read about kids feeling because their parents lied to them all those years… I was angry, but I was angry at myself. After that I chose to believe and to then become a part of the magic for those younger than myself.

I now find myself with two teenaged girls and a nine-year-old. We are a Santa family. I know that the girls are old enough to know what’s going on and that Little Man is teetering… desperately trying to hold on to the magic. The kid pasted pictures and descriptions of all the…what My Sun likes to lovingly call “nerd toys”… that he would love to see under the tree into a notebook that he then brought with him to show Santa (as I nervously glanced at the line of kids behind us…and suggested that maybe he leave it next to the cookies on Christmas Eve). I don’t know how other families choose to do it and it really is not my business, even when it means that they might tell my kids something I would rather they not hear. Of course, it is annoying…maddening even…when it happens, but I know that I am not raising my children in a bubble and that they will have to grow some thick skin to survive out in the real world. It is all a part of growing up, and there will be much bigger challenges than this in their futures. As long as they understand that if they ever do that to some other kid, they’ll be looking at a dump truck full of coal.

I am comfortable with my own choices for my own kids. We have a simple saying in my house: He who does not believe, does not receive. In other words, you can choose to continue the magic and get gifts from Santa (which may or may not be a set of towels this year for those teenaged girls who keep getting make-up stains all over mine…) or opt out. Santa only brings one gift per child at our place, anyway (and some stocking stuffers…mainly the ones that I forget, or am too knackered to label on Christmas Eve), so it would not make a huge difference. Anyhow, I know that My Moon and My Sun mostly choose to believe for the sake of Little Man, which makes my heart smile.

So…if you started reading this hoping to find some sort of solution to the Santa Conundrum, I am sorry to disappoint. I have no answers. My only advice would be to raise your children to be respectful of other families’ beliefs and to teach them that there is more than one way to do things. Follow your heart. You know your children much better than I do…

A Spit and Glue Christmas

We have all had at least one of those Christmases… We are surrounded…nay bombarded… by images of perfect holiday bliss and cheer, but in our own spheres can barely lift our heads in the morning thinking of everything that just is not going the way we planned and trying to come up with ways to salvage the season while juggling all the other balls we have in the air (not to insult the fine graceful art of juggling…in reality this looks more like someone just desperately snatching and throwing balls up in the air, trying not to let too many hit the ground. (Wait, some of these balls might not even be mine!) With our recent move and other happenings, this is definitely one of those Christmases for us…held together with spit and glue.

A couple of weekends ago, I noticed that Little Man seemed a bit down. When I asked him what was up, he told me it didn’t feel like Christmas this year. When I asked him why, he mentioned that fact that we did not have a tree. FRICK! The tree. How does one forget the tree? Where do they sell trees around here? Where the heck are we going to even put a tree? There are still boxes of kitchen all over the house! Found a place that still had trees, loaded up the family in the car…and now we have a mostly decorated tree in the office. 

…maybe they will help decorate…

In my ongoing quest for the Mother-of-the-Year award, I totally forgot to make monkey bread for my Moon’s class party (I was supposed to make cookies, but am in the middle of a huge kitchen renovation and we compromised). The kicker is that I did remember to make it for her sister’s class a few days earlier (way to spur on that sibling rivalry, Mom). In my defense, between those two events, the dog sliced his paw pad open and ran through the house “decorating” the floors in Christmas red, and we once again loss the use of some appliances due to just one more hiccup in the renovation (it is not a good sign when your contractor dubs yours the “dark cloud house”). Still, I felt horrible about it…so I threw together some reindeer candy canes for her to take to her teacher and for the kids to give out to friends, because it isn’t really Christmas until Mamma burns her fingers with the glue gun (“that was the only day we were supposed to bring snacks, Mamma.” “Just take the freaking candy cane reindeer…please.”)

It just isn’t Christmas until Mamma burns her fingers with the glue gun.

After a trip to Zoo Lights and out to the mall to shop, my Sun mentioned that it still did not really feel like Christmas this year. “Is it the warmer weather?” I asked. The answer was “I guess…kinda…and the Christmas village isn’t even up.” FRICK! The Christmas village! I know where that box is… I think. And…voilà:

“Yes, I can see that it is wrinkled…we are going with an ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Christmas theme. That is too a thing! Well, it’s a thing now.”

This is definitely a Spit and Glue Christmas. The cards are nowhere near being all sent out (I was soooo doing them early this year so people would have our new address…ha…ha…ha), I can’t make our traditional Lebkuchen cookies until I have a functioning kitchen (though the dough is ready to go), the kids are still figuring out their new schools and are missing their friends (me, too, guys), the packages are all stacked in the hall waiting to be sent but I can’t leave the injured, grumpy dog in the house to go to the post office while people are working in the kitchen (well, I could in theory…but I rather enjoy having a bedroom door and furniture without gnaw marks). We are trying to get some festive activities in here and there, and it is nice to get to walk on the beach in weather that feels more like spring than winter, but I agree with the kids…it doesn’t feel like Christmas in some ways.

This morning, while the girls and I were gathered around the kitchen island getting breakfast and moving everything out of the path of the drywall that would be coming down later in the day, I asked about favorite Christmas memories. My Moon immediately chimed in, recalling the year that her hamster, Leafy,  magically appeared in her room. I remember that Christmas! It was my Sun’s first Christmas…the one when she got pink eye and spread it, like holiday cheer, all through the household. That was the year of the kidney stones, gallstones, and mono. Oh boy do I remember that spit and glue Christmas.

My Sun mentioned something about a Christmas when she spent the day dressing up in costumes and putting on little plays: the year she woke to a cute little wardrobe for her costumes (not the most pleasant thing to put together). I remember that Christmas, too! We were living in that house we were renting because we couldn’t sell the one in the state from which we had moved. It was back during the housing crash. Between trips out to make sure the house (which was 7 hours away by car) was ok and the ups and downs of showing…and then not selling, we had done our best to piece together a festive little family Christmas. My grandmother had also passed away earlier that year so we had made the 15 hour road trip to my parents’ house to attend her memorial service and then turned around to make the drive home on Christmas Eve so that my husband could be back at work after a Christmas Day on call. I remember it as a difficult Christmas… definitely one held together by spit and glue.

So, you see, in the end the kids most likely don’t remember the spit and glue Christmases as being anything but… Christmas. Heck, mine remember two of our hardest as being the best of all! Thinking back to my favorite Christmases growing up, I am sure that my parents have a whole different memory of them and the crazy things going on at the time, while they tried to paste together the family holiday (I seem to recall a story about the dog eating all the edible presents in the car while we were traveling to or from relatives, and the tree being tied up with a rope so that it wouldn’t tip all the way over). 

Anyway, I have to sign off now. The cat is in the Christmas village, Little Man is home from his last day of school before vacation with a fever, and the dog somehow slipped out of the cone of shame. This Christmas is definitely going to need more glue…

Happy Holidays to All from The Moon, The Sun, and Little Man… and from me!

A Different Kind of Thanks for a Different Kind of Thanksgiving

As I knelt over the sunken bathtub in our new home this Thanksgiving morning, washing dishes while the espresso machine above me pumped out some life juice, and the convection toaster oven in the family room tried its very best to cook the pecan pie that I always make for Thanksgiving (my grandmother’s recipe), so that we would not be going to the neighbors’ house for Friendsgiving empty-handed, I got to thinking about how drastically things have changed in a year.

A tear formed at the corner of my eye, not because of the intense cramp in my right thigh, or the drywall dust floating up from the white paw prints that lead from the partially renovated kitchen up to the dog with the powder-dipped nose, standing beside me (though some tears did follow after I caught a glimpse of what had been a freshly mopped kitchen floor mere moments before), but at the thought that Thanksgiving would be so different this year.

Our fall colors have gone from pumpkins, and gorgeous turning trees of yellow, orange, and fiery red… to butterflies,  shimmering emerald green waters, white sands, and bright colorful flowers; our sounds from the wind rattling through browning corn stalks, the rush of fallen leaves, and the crackling of flames against the wood in the fire pit…  to songbirds, tree frogs and the crashing of waves against the shore; our attire from sweaters and mittens… to short sleeves and sunglasses. Instead of laughing at inside jokes with family and familiar faces, we would be introducing ourselves and hoping to make a good impression. It just felt different, and that feeling of being a stranger in a strange land had once again snuck up on me.

And so, this year as I establish myself in a new town in a new state and even a new climate, I would like to say that I am thankful for all of the people out there in so many different places, whose collective knowledge of me and whose pieces of shared stories… all knit together form a comforting shawl, in which I can wrap myself mentally when I am feeling displaced. You all know who you are… keepers of stories both funny and embarrassing… and somber and melancholy…

I am thankful for those who teased me about the many times they saw me running down the street desperately chasing after the school bus. I am thankful for the very few who remember the time we accidentally flipped off the police officer in that patrol car that was tailgating us that night… I am thankful for the friends who protected me that time I nearly passed out on the floor of the tennis club bar and absolutely DID NOT need an iv… I am thankful for the friends who remember the time I got flipped over the front of a car while crossing the street and who hosted me that night and made sure I was ok the next morning.

I am thankful for all of you…even (especially) those who hold the very most embarrassing secrets about me (no need to mention any of those in the comments, Folks), and honored to be the holder of secrets in turn. And most of all, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the fact that your numbers are ever increasing.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Late Riser Blues: My Moon and the Rhythm of School

This is not technically a part of my “move series”, however, because the move put this more into perspective in our lives…I am including it as a part of the move…

I was asking my Moon, my Sun, and Little Man about what their favorite things were about our new home, and after hearing about every kind of lizard, snake, frog, and insect thus far captured (and thankfully then released) by Little Man, my Moon mentioned not the beach…not the warm weather…but the later start time for school…

Having actually done some research on this years back when I first began to wonder why it took three alarm clocks (including one that literally shook the freaking bed) and a personal visit…complete with sheet removal and the partial dragging of at least one foot to the side of the bed, to get my Moon out of bed in time for her to catch the bus to school…and often times not in time for her to catch the bus…, I decided to revisit the topic.

I began researching from the point of view of someone whose kid has ADHD…and who is keenly aware of the fact that attempting to get said kid’s brain to shut down for sleep time is like trying to power down a nuclear power plant in emergency meltdown mode. It’s not as easy as simply limiting screen time before bed (check), not having electronics accessible in the room (check), camomile tea (check), lavender scented everything (check) … and this time around I ended up learning a whole lot about puberty and circadian rhythms, and “social jet lag”, and… wait… what? The American Academy of Pediatrics issued recommendations that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later? They did this in 2014?! That would have been before my Moon even started high school…

Cue the folks yelling, “those lazy teens need to get their butts out of bed like I did when I was younger!” And, though I have always held a special place in my heart for people who like to watch others suffer simply because they did, I really don’t see this as valid, given that humans are (most of the time I would like to think…er…hope) progressing as a species through the help of scientific research and experiences. In other words, when we discover something new that may help to improve something in our (or in this case our children’s) lives, we can apply the information to improve things from that moment on… letting the waters of our miserable early rising high school years flow peacefully under the bridge and off to oblivion (cue credits).

Now I would like to welcome the folks out there screaming, “Those lazy teens need to get their butts out of bed early! It builds character! They’ll have to get their lazy butts out of bed when they have a real job, anyway!” (and I always imagine some kind of ‘harrumph’ at the end). Good news, angry screaming people! When they are adults and have “real jobs” their circadian rhythms will be shifting to favor earlier wake-ups anyway. They may still hate getting their lazy butts out of bed early…but at least they’ll have biology on their side.

One article that I was browsing (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161103130300.htm) put things in a way that truly drove the point home for me. It equated the usual early school start wake-up time for adolescents with a 3 a.m. wake-up time for adults. Ha! I HAVE KIDS! I TOTALLY REMEMBER ALL THE 3 A.M. WAKE-UP TIMES AS AN ADULT! This hits home much more clearly than all those charts about circadian rhythm-a-giggies! Remember those 3 a.m. feeding… or fever… or vomiting… or monster-under-the-freaking-bed wake-up calls? Now, try to imagine sitting down to learn how to find the derivatives of logarithmic functions after dragging yourself out of bed at that time. It was hard enough to find the boppy pillow, or bottle, or thermometer (and read it), or puke basin, or to come up with a totally made-up but convincing way to kill the freaking monster under the bed at that hour! I get it! …and now, as usual, I feel like I have let my kid down…cue parental guilt…

And I totally get that some teens (a definite minority) love to wake up at the crack of dawn and are 100% ready to learn and succeed before the roosters even start to crow. One of the articles that I was reading from the Boston Globe (Students find more awareness with later starts, written by James Vaznis) described a group of teens that wished school would start earlier… so much so that they actually showed up early at the school most mornings, drank coffee and listen to music while they waited for classes to begin… I guess as a kind of protest? To this I say: they may not like starting school later, but it does not in any way harm them or their academic success, the way that the opposite has been shown to do to later risers. Heck! Crack a book open and do some homework while you are waiting for school to start!

The main reasons for those holding on to or wishing to change back to the early start times seem to have to do with sports, other extra-curricular activities and after school jobs. Trust me. I get it! I totally agree that it is important for kids to be involved in activities outside of studying… for them to get exercise… for them to study music (and here I could rant on about public schools severely cutting funds for music and the arts in general… but I will hold my tongue…for now)… learn responsibility through a job. That said, I think it all comes down to the question of goals.

The job of our school system is to offer our children an education. Therefore, the goal of the institution should be to set things up in such a way as to maximize the successful deliverance and reception of said education for as many students as possible. It seems pretty simple to me. Schools that have pushed their start times later have reported fewer tardies and absences, better student engagement during class, and… most importantly… better grades. Besides, in the Boston Globe article I cited, a school that was trying the later start times reported that the impact on sports was less significant than they had feared it might be. Other school systems scheduled games to accommodate their new schedule (duh! if they want to compete against you, they will find a time that works) and several of their athletes said that getting to sleep later on school mornings outweighed the later practices.

I know, I know. There’s a lot of information out there and a myriad of opinions (this one included). And, let’s face it, change is never easy. All I can tell you is that I have seen a miraculous transformation in my own child. At her new high school the bus comes at 8:20 instead of 6:50. That is a change of an hour and a half… a change that has brought with it happier mornings with less conflict, less missed homework assignments, and higher grades. She wakes herself up in the morning and therefore is truly awake…no longer the unpleasant zombie I used to face and with whom I used to have to try to communicate. Oh, don’t get me wrong: mornings can still be hectic (as mornings tend to be) and The Sisters still bicker about who “borrowed” what from whose room, but it is much less frequent, much easier to diffuse, and when it happens, Little Man, my elementary school child who is up at the crack of dawn rain or shine… Monday or (sadly) Saturday, is already happily on his bus and on his way to school.

Packing up the Family and Walking on the Moon: a continuation of the moving saga

Initially, I thought it would be ideal to write about the move as it was happening… ‘Get all those feelings down while they are raw’, I told myself. That was my intention…and now, here I am sitting in our new home…two weeks after school has started (and, heck, we even went to the zoo once!), finally getting down some thoughts.

Two facts in my defense: 1. as I look around at the boxes here and there (and everywhere in the kids’ rooms), the cat chewing bubble wrap, and the packing paper currently hanging from the dog’s mouth (I’ll be right back), I can honestly say that the move is definitely not over yet, despite some recent signs of normalcy and “settling”; and 2. it is hard to write while riding a roller coaster, juggling, and hitting gaps of both gravity and oxygen…which is exactly how I have felt through much of the process… Never mind the fact that one needs hands to type and mine have either been packing, driving, unpacking, fending off jets of water shooting out of a badly attached washing machine, or filling out some kind of form or another for much of the past month.

I like to be in control…and more specifically in control of my sphere. I have no illusions of having any kind of control outside my sphere (and any time I have, life has done me the express favor of open-handed smacking me back to reality) …but damn, I like to have a handle on what is happening on the inside! This is probably why, in my more-than-35-less-than-50 years of life (ok, ok…48), I have never been intoxicated (something I can now safely say, at this age, without people thinking it is a condition they need to help me cure). I have a need to know what is going on and to feel like I have some sort of control over…or at least influence on… my sphere.

Moving the sphere upsets the balance that I have so painstakingly tried to establish (picture a waiter walking with a tray balanced upon his hand and suddenly changing direction). Moving the sphere with teenagers in it tends to be a bit more dramatic (picture a waiter walking with a tray balanced upon his hand and suddenly changing direction..and then, as he steadies himself and his charge, a teenager reaches out and flips the tray over).

This move…with teenagers in tow…has definitely been more difficult than the many moves we did when the kids were much younger. Not that anyone in their right mind would profess to have anything resembling control over their toddler, but I definitely had a lot more say about what was going on in their lives when they were little. Oh, it was still hard to see them dealing with being the new kid on the block or at the playground, but I could exercise some influence over their spheres by setting up play dates or signing them up for some activities so as to get the ball rolling. This isn’t to say that I don’t still give a little behind the scenes nudge where I can…when one is needed, but I can only imagine the 360 degree eye roll that would occur if I tried to set up a “play date” for my Moon or my Sun nowadays…and rightfully so. As teenagers…and high schoolers…they are wandering out and creating their own spheres, separate from mine, and it is as heartbreaking to have to stay back and watch them struggle to find their footing as it is elating to hear about their triumphs. It is a bona fide roller coaster and adding a move to that process simply upgrades it from a Disney coaster to one of those twisty, flippy, spinny coasters that you leave with your stomach firmly anchored to the roof of your mouth.

I also feel it is no longer my place to just run in, unpack their boxes and to set their rooms up the way I see fit (as much as a part of me really really wants to do this). They need to establish their own balance and to have an environment in which they feel comfortable (preferably one that does not involve the need for professional gymnastic abilities in order to simply cross the room). That said… I am not above opening said boxes and dumping them onto their beds…you know…to gently nudge them into unpacking… They do, after all, still have a foot in my sphere.

Little Man has been a different story. I was extremely concerned about how he would take the move. He has always been a creature of habit. Asking him to try something new has generally brought forth a wave of anxiety that you could surf all the way to the distant shores of Australia. At the beginning of each new school year, he has faced a wall of fear stacked high with “what-ifs” that we have had to chip through together day by day, block by block. I can count the foods he will eat on my fingers…and for four years sent the very same lunch into school with him, with only a slight adjustment of the menu in the third grade. Whenever we talked about the move, he would go over all the things that would be different and all the things that would not be in his new home and school. When I talked about the new house having a pool, he would say he was afraid of swimming. When I mentioned the beach, he would bring up all the dangerous species of ocean dwellers…

…and yet…he has thrived during this move! I almost feel like I may have packed the wrong child and that one of these days, the people who bought our house are going to open a closet and, voilà, Little Man! Not once has he asked me to pack him a lunch, preferring instead to buy at the school and he has become an absolute fish in the swimming pool. To what do I owe this unbelievable transformation, you may ask? Well, I can sum it up for you in one word: creatures. We moved to a place that is chock-full of creatures and the boy LOVES creatures.

He still starts to go into a bit of a panic when faced with something new…especially in the homework department, where, in his mind, every new assignment will be way too difficult and will take days…nay months…to complete, but slap a gecko down in front of him and he is up to the challenge! Is the math assignment getting him a bit worked up? How about a tree frog break to set things right? And when he starts to miss his friends…sending them a pic of his latest terrarium guests makes him feel better. My favorite part of the deal is that he follows a strict catch and release policy…so the actual amount of time that any given creature is residing in my home is quite limited (we are still working on limiting the locations of the creatures, however…There is something about having a lizard cock its head at me as I prepare dinner that I find a little unnerving.).

…and then there is me. Why “Walking on the Moon”? Because, though I have obviously never walked on the moon, sometimes I feel like I must be. Sometimes, despite the temperature here being quite warm…I feel a cold. Sometimes, despite having met some truly kind, funny, and wonderful people…I feel alone. As I look ahead to new experiences, I can feel a part of me once again revisiting the past and mourning everything I have left behind…a view that stretches back decades. And no matter how fleeting the feelings may be, and though I know that, as always, they will fade with time and the acknowledgement that the things I have left behind have actually become a part of who I am, they can still sneak up on me and steal the air from my lungs from time to time.

Their is a current tendency to only air happiness and to try to conceal pain or difficulties. Part of it may be that we are trying to convince others…or even ourselves…of our constant happiness and success. However, if we only acknowledge our happiness and conquests, we are not embracing the entirety of our stories. The power of our emotions stems from the range that they span. What moves me when I am sitting at the beach gazing out at the ocean is not just the beauty of it all, but the solemn hints of solitude and the insignificance of my sphere in comparison. Besides…how can I stay sad for too long, when there is a tree frog peeking out at me from behind a leaf…on my kitchen table…

Roots

When I was growing up, I used to be jealous of the kids around me who had lived in one place their whole lives and whose families had lived there back through generations. They were tied to the area through roots that stretched back through unimaginable spans of time. It fascinated me. They had aunts, uncles and cousins everywhere; streets and shops that bore their names. They were a part of the land… Such was my sensation, that I was thrilled when my mother told me we had a cousin of a cousin through marriage (once or twice removed?) in the area, whose kids were in our school system…even though we never hung out with them and one of the brothers liked to torment a friend of mine. It was still an invisible line I could link to, to feel like a part of the group.

Now, I am the mother of three children…each one of them born in a different state, just like me and my own siblings, and after the longest stint yet living in any one place, we are once again preparing to move.

Moving is not easy…and I am not talking about the buying and selling of the home, complete with inspection reports that can make even the nicest house toured seem like not much more than a pile of corroded, leaky, defective sticks (it looked so perfect when we walked through…geez…what are they going to say about our house?); nor am I referring to the notices of each showing of our own place with all the cleaning and rearranging so that the house looks its absolute best, despite being home to not one…but two… of that notoriously sloppy and elusive creature known as the teenager, and inevitably followed by the herding of all inhabitants, two-legged and four, into the car for a nice drive about town while perfect strangers browse through our home, judging each beloved scratch or ding (Sweetie, [insert nostalgic tone] remember when you pushed your sister’s buttons so incessantly that she threw that plastic rhinoceros at you and dented the wall?) so that they can then come up with statements about being turned off by the fact that the carpet has some wear to it. (I apologize: we were walking on it as a family of five for the past 6 years, when, as I now realize, we should have been hovering about like Casper and his uncles…). It is hard in all these ways, too, but I am referring to that feeling of foreboding and uncertainty…the almost audible pulling of roots from the ground…the sensation of loss…

It really doesn’t matter where we are going. We could be moving into Cinderella’s castle (the one from the movie…not the one right smack in the middle of one of the most crowded theme parks on Earth) or our own private tropical island with candy-bearing trees and streams of coffee. It is still a move from the known (with its comfortable routine and familiar faces) to the unknown. Sadly , somewhere along the way through life’s inevitable bumps and bruises, which seem to cement themselves into our memories so much more readily than do the times of ease and enjoyment… perhaps in our brain’s effort at self preservation… we tend to shift from the expectation we often have as children, of finding a Narnia deep in every closet, to a more “adult” attitude of there may be an axe murderer behind each door.

Roots make us feel secure. I can almost feel them extending down through the soles of my feet, and probing the earth around me, looking for a way to seep into the ground to anchor me each time we set up in a new home. More and more, however, I have had the opportunity to observe how the roots that extend out and around those we love are the ones that truly stabilize us. We are not trees, after all, whose only hope of standing against the wind is a strong, stationary network into the land. Our connection to each other…to those around us can stabilize us even while we move from place to place, and life (not the wind) mercilessly throws debris at us.

The more we tend to these horizontal roots, the more they will help to sustain us when we are hit unexpectedly by life’s inevitable curve balls… When, for example, we are scrambling to prepare the house for the market, and our loving family Newfoundland who we first met as a two-week-old pup…who saved Little Man when he was an even littler man… suddenly takes a turn for the worse…and we lose him the very next day; when not even a week later, our talented seventeen-year-old daughter…my Moon… comes downstairs short of breath and is rushed to the ER where we discover that her lung has partially collapsed; when things have not improved enough for that same talented young lady to attend the art and design camp she has been looking forward to from the very moment she was accepted, and we are instead planning out a myriad of tests to discover why this happened…

When we think we cannot weather one more storm, or even the slightest puff of wind, it is not the roots we have to the land currently occupied that sustain us, but those that web out and around our family and friends near and far… spanning unimaginable distances, over mountains even, and across oceans… that help us to bear what can seem impossible to shoulder.

I am still fascinated by those families that have ties to the land they live on spanning back generations. Heck, I even married one…though he ended up being the black sheep who wandered away from the family pasture, preferring instead to explore the world. I am still fascinated, but I am no longer jealous. I know that the horizontal roots that I have established for myself and my family will nourish and sustain my children in every way that they require and that they will, in turn, expand those roots out even further during their own life adventures and travels, whether they choose to live near or far.

Moving The Moon, The Sun, and Little Man

We have lived in our present location for almost nine years. That, my friends, is the longest we have lived anywhere as a family…and even the longest that I have lived in any one place since moving out of my parents’ home. Well, actually, we have only lived in this house for six years: we moved about a mile down the road into our current home after renting one for three years. Though I would definitely say that every move has had its challenges, that in-town move was our least traumatic to date. We did not have to juggle buying and selling a home and when we had a little time, we could drive things from one home to the other right up until our very last day of rent. Not only did the kids not change schools…they did not even have to change school buses!

I suppose, if I were to try to give you a fun description of the degrees of difficulty of our various moves, I would say the in-town move was kind of like stepping off of a carousel onto terra firma and continuing on ones way. There was a bit of a jolt, but no need to steady ourselves afterwards.

Following this same upbeat carnivalesque spirit, I would say that our out-of-state moves thus far have felt more like stepping off of a moving carousel onto another moving carousel…with the carousels moving slightly faster at the addition of each child. Not only was the actual, physical move more complicated to arrange (I absolutely despise haggling with movers. SURE you can move me for half the price…but I kind of want my stuff to come, too…preferably in the same number of pieces it started in…) but there were the children’s records to gather (both medical and school records), registrations to figure out, old friends to leave and new friends to find. Our last big move involved elementary school registration (during which my Sun was out of her freaking mind and TOUCHED EVERYTHING that it was possible to touch in a 700+ student building…spurring the principal to mention that “not all children are ready for full-time kindergarten”. He likes to remind me of how far she has come…) and emergency, oh-crap-I-have-a-kidneystone-and-we-don’t-know-anyone daycare registration.

This time, our move will involve juggling the selling and buying of homes several states away from each other (we have thus far moved from rental to owning…or vice versa), and… TEENAGERS, which makes the whole elementary school thing seem like a cake walk AND makes the entire moving process feel more like stepping off of a moving carousel (at full speed) and onto a moving Ferris wheel! …or, perhaps, one of these:

Don’t get me wrong. I love an adventure and am totally up for the challenge…I think… (which happens to involve the happy abandoning of the snow shovels and rock salt for salty beaches…ahhh), but I also know that the next few months are going to be an emotional roller coaster (and thus we complete our tour of the carnival). So…as we try to successfully move The Moon, The Sun, and Little Man…along with our huge furry dog, our supposed to be 50 lb. but actually 80 lb. dog, and two cats named after Italian alcohol (and NO the pond bullfrogs cannot come), I will attempt to hang onto my sanity with the tenacious grip (if not the grace) of a blindfolded trapeze artist in full swing toward the unknown…