Rain, Rain, Go Away

For the past three weekends that the kids have been at our house, we have had
nothing but torrential rain. It has rained so much that I think i saw Edward and Bella Cullen from Seattle checking out the house for sale next door to use as a vacation home.

It’s bad. I need sunshine.

Since we are a very active family, we normally are outside throwing the
football, hiking a random mountain or kayaking down a river. This month though, the kids have been hanging out in their rooms, plastered to their computer screens, coming out only to eat and then return to their bat caves.

After 36 hours of nonstop rain, we decided to take the kids to the local
trampoline park so even if they couldn’t get vitamin D, they could at least get some exercise. (A trampoline park, by the way, is a huge building filled with side-by-side trampolines so hundreds of kids can be jumping in one area at the same time.)

As we walked into the building I am immediately overwhelmed by the stench of
dirty kid sweat mixed with stale popcorn, and the high pitched screams of excited children.

Did I remember to take my blood pressure medicine today?

We move slowly through the line to pick up shoes. Now I always thought bowling shoes were disgusting but then I was introduced to the petri dish family of trampoline shoes. With bowling shoes, the wearer walks up and throws a ball down a wooden lane. Not much sweat involved.

However.

With trampoline shoes, the wearer is jumping, running, etc. as sweat builds up inside so badly so that when the wearer attempts to remove his or her socks, they literally have to peel them off their foot.

The other option is for the jumper to go barefoot.photo

Yes. Barefoot.

No socks.

I feel the little hairs on my neck starting to stand on end.

I sit back and watch hundreds of kids jumping around, standing in line at the
concession stand, or walking into the bathroom either wearing their sweaty
sponge shoes or their bare feet.

It reminds me of those kid play areas at fast food restaurants. You know what I’m talking about…the microbiology study that is disguised as a fun looking ball-pit that the kids can jump in. Isn’t that what every parent wants? For their children to dive into a method of multiplying microbial organisms?

The bile starts to rise in my throat.

It appears that every child is either part of a birthday group or the birthday child herself. Kids are screaming; parents look confused. It’s like a hillbilly circus without the social graces of a hillbilly.

Older girls walking around in their short-shorts that put Daisy Dukes to shame, putting the “tramp” in “trampoline park”. It’s a little more than just shocking. I mean the place has a dress code for people’s feet but they don’t care if a person’s butt is hanging out?

I watch the clock like a hawk. Only 35 minutes to go. I look away for a second and look back. 37 minutes now? How did that happen?

Finally the whistle blows and the jumping session is over. The kids run over to us begging for water. They take off their trampoline shoes and I take them by the laces. I carefully walk as if I’m holding an unstable bomb and toss them up on the counter, careful not to let them touch me.

I ask for open hands and immediately squirt on a little extra-than-normal size glob of hand sanitizer. Me? I want to bathe in it.

We fall into the slow flow of people who are also leaving because their session is over. Endorphins run amuck throughout the children who have been bouncing non-stop for the past hour.

A group of little girls squeal right next to me piercing my eardrums. I think I may have hearing damage.

And as we get in the car to go home, I start to wonder why it doesn’t seem to bother the kids that they are now covered in millions of prokaryotic microorganisms.

Then I remember that a long time ago, I was also a kid, who was unaware of the dangers lurking in a ball pit.

Long before I became a mom.

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Crying On The Shoulder Of The Road

Last month, we decided to take the kids up to Gatlinburg, TN for a weekend mini-vacation. Hopefully we would see some snow like we did three years ago. We had woken up the morning after we arrived to find everything covered in snow. It certainly would be fun if it snowed, but we knew we would still have fun even if it didn’t. (Hey – we live in the South and didn’t even get a dusting here this year. We get excited about seeing snow!)

We got up early, loaded up our SUV with kids, pillows, blankets, suitcases, phone chargers and iPads.
We were ready to go. I like driving, so I hopped in the drivers seat and we took off.

We had been on the road for about an hour when the “Check Engine” light came on.

I mentioned it to Dale but he didn’t seem too nervous about it. Our SUV is 11 years old, so lights come on and off all of the time. The “Check Engine” light being one of them. But this time it stayed on.

We had just crossed into North Carolina when I asked Dale if he could drive for a while so I could shut my eyes. Since I was up packing into the wee hours of the morning the night before, I was a little groggy and needed a quick power nap.

Less than five minutes after we switched drivers and just as I was starting to doze off, it felt like Dale was tapping the brakes – while going up a hill.

“WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING????” I hissed. I was tired, and when I’m tired, it’s no time for jokes.

“I’m not doing anything!” Dale said. “Something is wrong with the car.”

Now since he is always playing jokes on me – making it seem like we have a flat tire, or we are out of gas, etc., I usually don’t worry too much. But this time he was serious.

We pulled over on the side of the road. In the middle of NOWHERE.

I wanted to cry. It was cold outside. I was exhausted. I REALLY needed a nap. Except now we were stuck. I knew that the hill we were heading up lead into more of nowhere. If we could turn around and coast back down the hill, I remembered seeing a mechanic shop somewhere before we switched drivers.

Dale turned the car around and we rolled down the hill.

As if Heaven opened up and a stream of light shone down with Angels singing, suddenly, right in front of us, was a mechanic shop. And it was open on a Saturday. Hallelujah!

We rolled in the lot and a guy who looked eerily familiar like someone from the movie “Deliverance” came over to check on us. My first instinct was to lock the doors but it turned out, the look was the only similarity. This gentleman was genuinely kind and concerned that we were headed out of town and were now stuck at a garage.

He put his other works in progress on hold and helped us out.

Unfortunately, he finally realized that the truck was going to need a part – a part that they didn’t keep in stock, and wouldn’t be available until Tuesday. The mechanic called the local rent-a-car company so that we could get back on the road.

One of the interesting things about breaking down in nowhere was that the only rent-a-car company was called “Rent-a-Wreck…and it was, in fact…a wreck.

We headed out in a 2003 (yes, it was 10 years old) Chevrolet Cavalier (no, they don’t even make those cars anymore) with 140,000 miles on it. It shook if it got over 60 MPH and it smelled like dirty feet. I would not be surprised if a body had been transported in the trunk at some point.

But it was a car that worked when ours didn’t.

A week later, our SUV was repaired and we were told we could come pick up it up.

So, our “inexpensive” weekend getaway with the kids ended up costing about $1,300 more than originally planned. But we all had a blast, even if it didn’t snow. The kids (and Dale!) played Magi-Quest; we rode go-carts in the freezing cold; and we watched not-yet-released movies while snuggled up in our hotel beds.photo(73)

It was then that I suddenly realized that no matter what the final cost of the trip was, these memories actually were….

Priceless.

If Your Beard Is Real, You’re Too Old To Trick-or-Treat

Tonight is Halloween. It’s truly one of my favorite holidays. I don’t like all of the evil witchcraft and Satanic stuff that surrounds Halloween, but I love hearing the sweet little voices shout out “Trick or Treat” while they are wearing flowing Princess costumes or red and blue Spiderman costumes.

Each time the door rings, my dog goes utterly insane. She has on her Halloween “Security” costume but no one gets to see her because I have to put her in the bedroom and shut the door. She is only six pounds but she is scratching at the door like a caged tiger.

I drop handfuls of candy into pillowcases or orange plastic pumpkins, or even cute handmade Halloween bags that some overly-crafty supermom made and the children happily trod off across the lawn to the neighbor’s house to collect their next bounty.

As soon as I sit down, the doorbell rings 14 times. My dog goes crazy. I get up off the couch and go to the door thinking about what little crapheads the kids at the door must be.

I open the door and look down expecting to find three-foot tall goblins. Instead, I have to look up and find four teenagers (all taller than me) saying in deep tenor voices, “Trick or treat.”

Seriously?

For once in my life I am speechless.

Isn’t there an age limit on when you need to stop trick or treating?

I drop candy in each bag simply because I’m kinda scared of them and I just want to shut the door and lock it. I have pictures of CSI going through my head and headlines for tomorrow’s newspaper:

“Local Woman And Her Dog Murdered Over Twix and Kit-Kat Bars.”

I think that for next Halloween, I’m going to make a sign for my front door that reads “Don’t knock on my door if any of the following pertain to you.”

1. If you can grow a beard.
2. If your breasts are bigger than mine.
3. If you are driving yourself through the neighborhood.
4. If you have tattoos (because you have to be 18 to get a tattoo).
5. If you are a parent.
6. If you are smoking cigarettes.
7. If you understand what the word “pertain” means.
8. If you are walking around the neighborhood with a beer, and are of legal age to drink.
9. If you are old enough to vote in the Presidential election.
10. If you have your own apartment.
11. If that stripper costume you have on is one you use at work.

And for anyone ringing my doorbell next year that matches any of the above, please note that you won’t be getting any chocolate.

You’ll be getting a box of stale raisins.

Be Like A Boy Scout – Be Prepared!

This past weekend my husband, Dale and I decided to take a short getaway to help us relax and enjoy life so we decided to go camping. The North Georgia mountains are only an hour away from our home so it’s an easy drive to make to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

We got there early and started setting up camp. Soon the tent was up and we were sitting by a nice roaring campfire sipping on a long deserved glass of chilled chardonnay.

Although the campsites are wooded and far enough away from each other to allow for some privacy, we couldn’t help but notice a young couple at the campsite across from us attempt to make a fire. After a while my amusement turned to sympathy because it was starting to get dark as well as a little chilly.

I watched them crumple up little pieces of paper and dried leaves to get a fire going. They would get it set up, lite it, blow on it to make it smolder, and then it would go out.

Finally I told Dale that we needed to help them out or else they were going to be miserable all night. Now, I love the simplicity of primitive camping (no electricity, no water, etc.) but I am not foolish enough to think that I can create a fire with a piece of flint and some sticks. I’m much smarter than that…I had fire-starter logs. We took some over to them and within minutes they had a fire competing with ours.

In the morning the girl, Katie came by our campsite and thanked us profusely for helping them out. She said that they hadn’t been camping in years so they didn’t have the slightest clue what to bring. She looked around our campsite said “Wow – you really are organized with your camp stuff!!”

I explained that after years of camping and forgetting this and that, I put together three containers which I keep things that we ONLY use for camping. After each trip we make a list of the things we used up and need more of, and other items are washed and put back in the containers until the next trip. That way we don’t ever end up camping without fire starter logs. I told her that I also keep a “camping list” on my phone, which she asked me to share…so here goes:

Camp supply bins & shelf with tents & sleeping bag

1) Tent. I am sure that even the most inexperienced camper can figure out why you would need this. The only exception would be if you have a camper. If you have one, don’t forget to bring that.
2) Tarp to go under the tent. This helps eliminate condensation on the floor of the tent, keeping your stuff from getting wet.
3) Air mattress. This isn’t a necessity, but it certainly makes camping more comfortable. The ground can get colder than you think.
4) Air pump for blowing up the air mattress. And don’t forget the batteries.
5) Sleeping bags. My husband is hotter than a meteor (I’m sure he’ll love that analogy, but his body temperature is really hot and keeps me warm when it’s cold outside) so we take sheets and blankets instead of individual sleeping bags so I can snuggle up and keep my feet warm.
6) Pillows.
7) Table canopy. I personally do not like things to fall in my food so we bring a tarp (or one of those pop-up canopy’s that you use when you’re tailgating) to go over the table.
8) Cooler. (I make a list of food we are going to eat and then pack accordingly.) Don’t forget the ice!
9) Camp stove. If you have ever had a full breakfast when you’re camping, then you know why you want to bring a camp stove. Scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, & toast have never tasted so good!

Yep, that’s a non-showered me eating my camp breakfast


10) Pots, pans & utensils.
11) Propane (or whatever fuel your stove calls for.)
12) Paper plates & bowls. (Don’t forget coffee cups if you expect to have coffee in the morning!) Just toss them in the fire when you’re done eating!
13) Charcoal and lighter fluid. Most camp sites have designated fire pits which double as a grill so you won’t need to bring your Weber, just bring the charcoal. (I also use foil over the grill because who knows what’s been cooked there.)
14) Folding chairs to sit by the fire. I have a deathly fear of spiders and granddaddy long-legs…and if you end up sitting on the ground to enjoy your fire, then be prepared because these bugs tend to enjoy the fire while sitting on YOU.
15) Lantern or flashlights. We also have head lamps which makes it nice when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or just reading a book in bed.
16) Towels. If your camp site has running water and shower facilities.
17) Your clothes. Check the weather beforehand and pack appropriately.
18) Gallon jugs of water. If your campsite doesn’t have water, you will want this to make food, clean cookware, and just to wash your hands. Camping can get dirty.
19) Firewood and fire starter logs. I am going camping to have fun – not to prove that I could be on “Survivor” therefore, I am going to go the easy route and bring along something that makes starting a fire as simple as the flick of a Bic. (On a side note, be aware that many Federal and State campgrounds have incredibly HIGH penalties for cutting down branches and trees for firewood. BRING YOUR OWN!!!)

Miscellaneous:
a) Trash bags
b) Matches
c) Hammer (to knock in the tent stakes)
d) Scrub brush & dish soap
e) Hand soap
f) Batteries
g) Rope
h) Table cloth
i) Knife
j) Grill utensils
k) Ziplock bags
l) Foil
m) Baby wipes. You can use these if you can’t shower but need to clean up a bit
n) Cards or small board games
o) Citronella candle
p) Pepper spray. (This one is important. Most Federal and State parks have rules about bringing in firearms…you can’t…so the thought of being in a fabric house with a zippered door always makes me a little nervous so we keep pepper spray within arms reach)
q) Toilet paper. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go…Just watch where you squat. Those three leaved bandits are poison ivy and take it from me, you don’t want poison ivy on your butt.

The key is to figure out what type of camping you want to do. If you’re primitive camping then you will need to bring more items than if you are camping where there is electricity and running water. If you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail then you don’t need this list or you will need to bring along some pack mules to carry it all for you.

Or if you are like many of my friends then you will just need to check into the local Ritz Carlton because that’s as close as you’re ever going to get to camping.

In any case, enjoy!

Do you enjoy camping? Share your story!


We made the fun photo above using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store or Android market.

It’s All Greek To Me

My college student has officially started rush week. My husband and I have both told him that this week will be one of the most fun parts of his college years. And for him, it’s only the beginning.

Even though it’s been well over 20 years ago, I can still smell the hazy cigarette smoke and stale spilled beer throughout the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house at Mississippi State University. I was lucky enough to be invited and initiated as a “Little Sister of Minerva”, or an SAE Little Sister.

I’m convinced that Kurt Cobain copied the grunge style from the SAE’s at Mississippi State. They were way ahead of their fashion time with their long stringy hair with the occasional mullet (hey – it was the 80’s!), and disintegrating t-shirts saying “You Can’t Spell State Without SAE!”

The house was probably one of the strangest on Fraternity Row. For some reason someone thought that a very plain, two story rectangular, red brick building would look better by adding a church-like addition (minus the steeple). Nestled in with the Southern Plantation, white columned style homes of Kappa Alpha, Pike, and Kappa Sig houses, the SAE house stood out like a sore thumb. Besides the fact that the house looked like an old gas station, an eclectic mix of sofas and chairs were usually strewn out in the front yard along with the previous night’s beer bottles and empty solo cups. Are you having visions of “Animal House” yet? If so, you’re right on track.

Dancing to a live band playing “Brown Eyed Girl”, or sitting on the roof watching the sun rise (and laughing at girls trying to sneak out of the frat house in the wee hours of the morning), or the Little Sister/Big Brother Wine & Cheese party, or dressing up as a 1920’s gangster’s widow during Paddy Murphy week. These are just slivers of my fun memories.

And now my son Matthew is going through rush. I don’t care what fraternity he chooses to pledge, I just want him to pick the one that fits his personality the best. And the most important thing I hope he gets from going through rush is realizing the lifelong friends he will make. Many of the friends on my Facebook page are my SAE big brothers…and I was just a little sister! The depth of lifelong brotherhood that he will be a part of upon joining a fraternity is immeasurable.

And although I know he’s going to have fun, I hope he realizes that there are some things he should and should not do. I won’t name names here, but holding a pizza guy hostage for more pizza probably isn’t the smartest thing to ever do, but keeping beer in the coke machine? That, my dear brothers, was BRILLIANT!!!

I made the fun photo above using StoryMark. For more information, visit http://www.storymarklife.com or download for free in the iPhone app store or Android Market.

Life Is So Much Better With Your Friends

The 1980’s were such an incredibly colorful and fun time to grow up in. We all had big hair that made us appear three inches taller than we actually were because it was so teased and poofed up like a rooster crown. Our clothes were made up of big, baggy neon shirts with low hanging belts, printed or acid washed jeans, colorful pumps with lace socks, and fingerless lace gloves a la Madonna. Jewelry consisted of earrings that each weighed the equivalent to a TV remote control, Swatch watches, and hundreds of jelly bracelets in every color imaginable that went halfway up our arms. And don’t even get me started on rabbit fur jackets. I wanted one so bad but I got a faux fur jacket instead. Do you know the difference between a real rabbit fur jacket and a fake one? One feels soft and snuggly while the other feels like you took the built up hair out of your hairbrush and made it into a coat. Definitely not the same. (But then I found out how rabbit fur jackets were made and I was glad I had a faux one.)

AND GOOD GRIEF – THE MAKEUP! We would wear purple or blue eye shadow and then line our eyes with darker shades of more purple or blue and we would end up looking like the daughters of Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Mascara would be applied in so many layers that it looked like tarantula legs were stuck to our eyelids. Blush was always applied in a dark stripe across the cheekbones, and foundation was so thick that a chisel was the only way we could take it off. Maybelline must have made a killing in the 80’s.

High school is where I spent my time during the 80’s. It’s normally a place that most people try to purge from their memory. For me, it’s the time in my life where I had a really bad overbite that was trying to be rectified with braces. …and not the cool colored kind they have today. Mine were shiny metal and unfortunately for my popularity status, I also had to wear rubber bands and headgear. Anyone that doesn’t know what headgear is clearly did not grow up in the 1980’s. I am confident that somewhere there was a demented orthodontist that created a metal torture device called headgear that you had to clip around your head that other othodontists could use for their own merriment.

But back to high school. It’s where I tried but completely failed at having a Farrah Faucett hairdo. It’s where I had crushes on boys that didn’t know I even existed, most likely because I had a chest flatter than a 10 year old boy.

But while the 80’s are home to some of my most embarrassing memories, it’s also when some of my best memories were made of growing up. I made some of my best friends while cheerleading for the basketball team, dancing across the football field at half time with the drill team (squeeze the marble, girls!), and of course, I made friends in my classes.

My best friends, however, were a group of girls I bonded with like no others. Somewhere along the line, we started calling ourselves “The Hatundas”… I don’t know where it came from or what it meant, but it sounded funny and we thought it was wicked. We would be heading to the latest football game, acting so cool in our class-after-class-hand-me-down polyester uniforms while sitting in the back of the bus screaming “Hail to Hatunda” and “Back of the bus forever!!!” The other girls would just look at us like they should redirect the bus driver away from the football game, and instead head on over to the local mental institution and schedule us for individual lobotomies. We didn’t care. We were just having fun and acting stupid. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in high school?

After graduation, the Hatundas all went our separate ways and ended up at different colleges. Some got married and had babies, others traveled all over, and some started jobs in the corporate world. Over the years we tried to get together but it wasn’t until our 25th high school reunion that we really realized how much we missed seeing each other and how much we still really needed each other. Plus we realized we were getting old. And when the day comes that you realize you’re getting old, it’s a bad, bad day.

We have started getting together every other month for dinner and I look forward to each time like a kid looking forward to Christmas morning. Knowing that I am going to reminisce, laugh and talk with the girls who helped shape my life is priceless to me. The endless bags of taco-flavored Doritos, late night pizza and Dr. Pepper menu has changed to Tapas and Mojitos and wine. The conversation has also changed from who were we going to the Prom with, skanky girls that hit on our boyfriends, passing the test to finally get out driver’s license, and curfews… to our husbands midlife lack of hair confidence, the gross time when our son’s figured out what their willie’s do, and simply how hard it is raising kids. Our clothing is much better as well, but the giggles have a tendency to stay the same – especially at the stupid way our kids wear their hair and the way they dress, since the 80’s style is coming back around full circle.

I love these ex-Madonna wanna-be’s with all of my heart and wouldn’t trade my lifelong membership in the
Hatunda’s for anything in this world.

So, Hail to you, Hatunda! WHATEVER that means.

Do you stay in touch with your high school friends? Share your story!

We made the fun photo below using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store and Android Marketplace

http://www.blogdash.com/full_profile/?claim_code=82826f1a7ae056c8819c407bf0b602cd

Should I Pack The Kitchen Sink Too?

It’s Saturday morning and I wake up and realize that OMG – I promised the kids we would go to the pool today. I had come up with a gazillion great excuses during the week but today it is warm and sunny…and no rain in sight. Thanks a lot weather.com.

Drats. I’m stuck.

Kids don’t realize that you just don’t hop in the car and head on over to the pool or water park. Those clean towels and drinks and snacks and sunscreen and toys and floats and chairs don’t just magically appear in the car.  Someone had to get everything together and put it there.

Then once you get to your destination, be it a beach, a pool or the lake, someone has to set everything up. There are bodies to be sprayed and noses to be covered with sunscreen, floaties to be blown up, pool toys and sand buckets and goggles to be found and handed out.

Finally, when all is complete then I sit down and open my book to page four…the exact place where I left off the last time we were here.

Ahhh. I can finally relax. I settle down into the lounge chair, close my eyes for a brief moment and feel the sun beating down on me when I suddenly realize that I forgot to put sunscreen on myself.  About that same time I hear the sound of the lifeguard’s shrill whistle and him call out “adult swim!”   Suddenly the kids climb out of the pool and state that they are starving, all the while dripping all over my nice dry towel and book.  Never mind that we just ate lunch moments before we left the house, everyone is acting like they haven’t eaten in a week.

I hand out crackers and cheese and Capri Suns and water and right before they’re finished the lifeguards blow their whistles again and state that adult swim is over. The kids drop everything and start to head out like a stampede of buffalo until I yell for everyone come back and take their trash to the can. They slowly come back each one not wanting to claim the trash that ended up on the ground. The rule is – no one goes in the pool until the trash is gone so it finally disappears.

Ahhhh. Back to relaxation. I start back on page two because I’ve now forgotten what the book was about. I get to page four again when I hear someone crying. Uh oh. I look up from my book.  It’s the dreaded water-up-the-nose scream. I do my best to calm the victim and after a while she slowly heads back to the water and I turn back to my book, about which time I see a tiny drop of water soaking into the tender paper and spreading out like a virus. Then another. Tiny little sprinkles. No big deal. I can handle some sprinkles.  I read another page. Did I just hear thunder or am I just imagining it? I look towards the lifeguard stand and see that the lifeguard hasn’t seemed to notice. I begin to relax a little.  Then I hear it again and this time the life guard does too because his whistle is in his mouth already.  “Thunder. Everybody out of the pool.” I look towards the sky. It looks like Storm from X-Men has been here. The sky is getting darker and darker.   Where did this come from?

The kids stagger up and I distribute towels and flip flops.  I collect goggles, ear plugs, & toys.  I let the air out of the floaties and start to pack up.  Hopefully we can get to the car before the bottom falls out.

When I get home I’ve got to empty the cooler, put away snacks, wash and dry towels and bathing suits, and then I can finally take a shower.

And as I’m soaping up my hair I realize that dang it….I never even got to chapter two.

I used www.storymarklife.com to create the photo above.  Download for free in the iPhone app store or Android Marketplace.

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