Friday, May 31, 2013

Epic Epcot

We decided to sleep in this morning, so we didn't step off the bus at Epcot until about 9:30. This we did to the complaints of tummy aches of two big kids and a screaming fit from our favorite toddler. My first stop upon entering the park was the gift shop to buy Pepto. Having dispensed the meds, we got in line for "Spaceship Earth," a slow-moving ride inside the iconic silver ball. By 10:00, Weston was puking over a rail, and we waited for his stomach to settle a bit before he and I began the process of trying to get out of line (which really isn't all that easy). He felt better after the purge but only wanted to lay on a bench while we waited for the others to exit the ride. By the time they rejoined us, Weston felt well enough to visit the "Innovations" exhibit. We looked around there for a while, but by 11:30, everyone was in agreement that we should go ahead and keep our lunch reservation at the aquarium restaurant and then head back to the resort for some rest. Everyone perked up a bit during lunch, but about half-way through the meal, Weston jumped out of his seat and literally started running for the restroom. Unfortunately, he was just a bit too late, and diarrhea claimed the bottom half of his wardrobe. Jeff quickly excused himself to the nearest over-priced gift shop to find the poor boy some replacement duds. While Jeff was away, Ruth got choked on something and coughed and sputtered for several long minutes, and Clay launched a piece of pizza across the restaurant, which landed on an adjacent table, which was, thankfully, unoccupied. Just about the time Jeff returned, Clay announced his need to go potty, and then promptly drenched himself in Sprite and went into hysterics, so I scooped him up for a speedy exit and a wardrobe change. When we were all together again, we decided to see the rest of the aquarium and then leave. All I can tell you about Epcot is that the Coral Reef restaurant is very nice (and we were so glad they didn't kick us out!), the aquarium is pretty cool and the restrooms seem to be very functional and plentiful. It was also much less crowed than Magic Kingdom. Also, if you need Pepto, you have to ask for it, because they keep it behind the counter, completely out of view. And, according to Jeff, the undies are not in a terribly obvious location either. But, they do have them, up to size 10, if you aren't picky about style. We are back at the resort resting now and praying we will all be better for it.

Spaceship Earth

Innovations test lab
(The big boys are trying to bust a T.V. screen)

He doesn't care what happens on the screen,
he just wants to steer!

Coral Reef restaurant

watching the manatees

shark bait

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Magic Kingdom

The kids loved our day in Magic Kingdom more than either of the other days we've spent at Disney World--and they enjoyed themselves quite a lot at the other two parks! (The over-30 crowd found it to be a less-than-magical experience, mainly because of the oppressive crowds and a frustrating lunch experience.) The kids loved having so many rides to ride and characters to meet--so many that we couldn't even get to all of them. They are all pretty sure they want to come back to this park on one of our unplanned days later in the week. (The parents will work on their attitudes between now and then, and we will avoid Pecos Bill's restaurant like the Plague if we do go back).

The iconic Disney castle

Max scored a front seat on the magic carpet ride

The bosses of Splash Mountain

Clay standing in for Max for a photo op with Woody and Jessie

me and my crazy chauffeur

Max and Clay meet Buzz Lightyear

Weston in the stocks in Liberty Square

Exploring the Swiss Family Robinson tree house

Peter Pan and Hook battling it out in the electric parade 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hollywood Studios

It was another full and fun day at Disney. We started early again, so that we could get the kids signed up for the Jedi Training Academy, which they have been hoping to do for weeks. We did manage to get them signed up, but when the time for the show came, it was raining buckets (not for the first or last time during the day), so they didn't get to go through with it. However, they were allowed a special photo op with Darth Vader and a couple of Storm Troopers, and they still got their official Jedi Certificates, which they certainly deserved for doing such a great job of just rolling with the punches.

Other fun things from the day included playing at the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" play area, watching the Indiana Jones stunt show, lunch at Pizza Planet (from the Toy Story movies), a stage performance of "Beauty and the Beast," a photo op with Lightening McQueen and Tow Mater, an amazing car stunt show, a Muppets Movie, lots of rides, another wonderful dinner buffet, and a short Little Mermaid show. We didn't leave the park until 8:45. And, when we got back to the resort, Jeff took the big kids to see the movie being shown out by the pool. That kind of fun doesn't come without a price, so we are all now completely exhausted and have made a plan to sleep in a bit in the morning.

C-3PO greets us on the Star Tours ride
The birthday Jedi takes on the dark side

Larger-than-life fun at "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

Beauty and the Beast

a visit with some of our favorite friends

Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show

Ursula, the evil sea witch

still smiling at the end of the day

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Animal Kingdom

We were up at the crack of dawn this morning so that we could get over to Animal Kingdom well before they actually opened the park. We had been warned by so many people of the need to arrive early in order to do the really popular rides, that we seriously took it to heart. They opened the main gate at 8:30 so we could all "enjoy the Oasis." But none of us had any intention of doing that. We all lined up like a bunch of Olympians at the starting line of the big race, behind a roped off area, so we could all be the first to participate in the Kilimanjaro Safari. When the ropes came down at 9:00, we literally raced to the other side of the park trying to beat the hundreds of others racing alongside us. Thanks to Ruth and Max's quick feet, we ended up very near the front of the line and were able to do the safari ride right away. It really was amazing, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it! Clay was especially excited to find the animals in the savannah, some of which were very close to our vehicle. After that, we headed over to DinoLand, where we rode rides, played in a fossil-themed play area, watched the wonderful show "Finding Nemo, The Musical," and had some lunch. Then, we caught the train to the petting zoo. And, then we headed back to DinoLand so the big kids could ride some more rides, while Clay took a little siesta. Later, we saw "The Festival of the Lion King," which was a really fantastic show that all the kids (and adults) loved. When that was over, we rode a somewhat scary dinosaur ride a couple of times, before heading back to Africa for dinner at an African-themed buffet. After dinner, we decided to catch the bus back to the hotel, so the kids could swim while it was still light. It was a full and fun day!

A favorite from the safari

This big guy was hanging out right by the road

making some African music

The Tree of Life
The Triceratops Spin

The Bone Yard

Dino Buddies

A scene from "Finding Nemo"

Dinosaur, The Ride
Dinner at the Tusker House

Monday, May 27, 2013

We made it!

Without further mishaps, we made it to Disney about 7:30 (EST) this evening. We are staying in the All-Star Music Resort, which is decorated with a variety of musical themes. Our room is in the jazz section. The kids immediately put on their swimsuits for a dip in the grand piano-shaped pool, and we ate pizza poolside. Tomorrow is our first day in the parks. Let the adventure begin!

We're here!
...And the crowd goes wild!
The All-Star Music Resort
Jazzy accommodations
Towel Mickey was here to greet us
grand piano pool

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Our Epic Disney Adventure Begins

Our plan was to get up early this morning and hit the road for Florida. But, when Ruth's family birthday party was over yesterday, we all just had the itch to get on the road. So, in an act of complete spontaneity, we loaded up the van, and off we went. We pulled out of the driveway about 6:30 and drove until about midnight, stopping for the night in Orange, TX.

We were on the road again around 8:00 this morning and almost immediately passed into LA. Just as we got across the seemingly endless bridge over Lake Charles, and within eye shot of the increased speed limit sign, we were met by the state police, who were out in force, and they welcomed us to the state with a lovely little speeding ticket.

Undaunted, we pushed on (at a slightly lower pace). We were hoping to celebrate Weston's half-birthday at Chuck E. Cheese's in Pensacola, FL, where we also planned to spend the night, before making the final push to Disney tomorrow. Again, our plans changed. We made it to Covington, LA before our "check engine" light started flashing and our engine started chugging, reminiscent of our little trip to Amarillo last month. Not wanting to push the van beyond its limits, we found the local Chuck E. Cheese's and proceeded with the half-birthday celebration. And, while the kids played, Jeff called the Honda dealership and every rental car place in a 50-mile radius. Since it was Sunday, and Memorial weekend, nothing was open. (Well, there was one rental place open but they had exactly zero cars of any size to rent, so we weren't really sure why they bothered coming in today).

We finally figured out that the rental car places at the airport in New Orleans would be open, and a quick call confirmed that they also had cars (and vans) to rent. Eventually, we decided to stay in Covington for tonight, with the plan of leaving our van here at the Honda dealership and heading to Florida in the rental tomorrow. We found a hotel with connected indoor and outdoor pools and some very large suites. (According to Ruth, it's the most amazing hotel she has EVER stayed in). Jeff dropped the kids and me off, along with our swimsuits, and took a cab the 40 or so miles to New Orleans. When he returned, we modified our plan to leave our van at the Honda dealership in Slidell tomorrow morning, so it would be more convenient to return the rental to New Orleans on our way home. And, then we went out for cajun food. Followed by a quick trip to the pharmacy, because we are afraid Weston is coming down with a cold.

But, aside from a few little set-backs, the trip just couldn't be going better! The kids are having a blast and were very well-behaved in van and very flexible when things didn't go according to plan. We are hoping to hit the road early tomorrow and still make it to our resort in time to swim in the grand piano-shaped pool. Stay tuned for more stories from our Disney adventure.

Another birthday party under her belt

Celebrating 7 1/2 with Chuck. E Cheese

Half-birthday requests: "Abe Lincoln hat and baseball stuff"
(Don't know why that kid isn't smiling.
He was really, really excited about these two things!)

Two of my little fishes in the hotel pool

Chillin' before dinner

Peace and Joy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

From Pre-Med to Peppermint Oil

Life is funny. It has a way of changing people. Sometimes big changes, all at once, and, sometimes, gradual changes we don't even recognize until we look back. I began my adult life with a very specific focus and determination to go to medical school and become a doctor. I graduated with a decent GPA, from a decent university, with a pre-med degree. But Life was working, even then, to change me. In those early years, I believed in modern medicine wholeheartedly. I decided not to go to medical school for a variety of reasons, but it wasn't that I stopped believing in the marvels of modern medicine.

Around the time I started having babies, I remember thinking, "Women have been doing this for thousands of years, without the aid of doctors or machinery or hospitals or epidurals. What's the big deal?" I even told the doctor that delivered Weston that all I really needed was a catcher. My first three babies were delivered in hospitals by doctors, because we had big, fat, corporate insurance, and it just seemed easiest to pick an in-network doctor and go with that. But, even then, I didn't feel it was necessary to have a doctor present. I just knew that Jeff probably wasn't up for playing catcher, so we needed someone else in the room. I didn't have an epidural or any medication. I just did what my body knew to do. (Max was a little bit of a challenge, as he decided to come out like Superman and got himself stuck. It wasn't quite as straightforward as the other deliveries, and I was thankful to have some extra, knowledgeable help to get him out and to help him through the next few days as he recovered from the experience).

When the corporate insurance went away, we took a longer, deeper look at the role of modern medicine in our lives, and we decided most of it wasn't necessary. Originally, we were motivated almost solely by money and convenience. We started using homemade cough remedies for kids who seemed to be too young for all the over-the-counter stuff. And, we experimented with using hydrogen peroxide to treat ear infections. And, it worked--sometimes on about the same time frame as medicine and sometimes quicker. And, when it came time to have our fourth child, we chose to have a midwife deliver him at a birthing center. The cost to deliver there was significantly lower than to deliver at the hospital. But, money aside, I can tell you now that I wish I would have chosen that route with all my babies. No one bothered me. Or hooked me up to a million instruments. Or told me what to do. Or tried to pump me full of drugs. When I was ready, I just told the midwife, and she stood beside the bed to play catcher. Then, we went home later that day, and it all just felt so much more natural and comfortable.

I find that the more years I get under my belt, the less I depend on, and even trust, modern medicine and the more I look for alternatives to keep my family healthy. Now, granted, we are generally a pretty healthy bunch. Thankfully, we aren't dealing with any major illnesses or chronic conditions. And, I'm not saying modern medicine isn't useful. I was very glad to have a skilled doctor sew up Max's chin a few months ago and one to staple my head closed last summer. And, I'm thankful for all the modern medicine involved in helping my dad when he had his heart attack a month ago. Certainly, it has it's place. But, I no longer believe in it like I used to, especially for non-serious medical problems.

Recently, as we've had little problems come up, I've been researching and trying more and more home remedies. I have been taking Evening Primrose Oil (in caplet form) for hormonal acne and have seen major improvements. I was introduced to Peppermint Oil as a way to treat headaches and have been amazed at how well it has worked. I have also used Vitamin E Oil to treat ingrown toenails on myself and plantar warts on the kids and have seen wonderful results.

It's funny to me now that I once wanted to be a doctor of modern medicine and that I once believed in that system so wholeheartedly. That's not at all who I am anymore. Life has changed me. Of course, I recognize that many readers will not agree, and that is perfectly fine with me. I am not trying to persuade anyone to change the way they think. I just wanted to express my amusement in the fact that Life changes us in spite of ourselves. I am learning to embrace and appreciate change as it comes, and I respect that Life will not take any two people down the exact same path. This is one way in which Life has changed me. How has it changed you?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Customer Non-Service

Jeff and I have long been frustrated with our bank. But, the thought of moving the six accounts we hold there just seems too daunting a task, and it never seems to make it even to the top ten on the priority list.  But, if they keep up their amazing customer non-service, we just might have to get serious about making a change.

For the last couple of weeks, we have not been able to log on to online banking from our laptops. That is inconvenient, but we have just been logging on on our phones instead. But, today, I received a message when I tried to log in on my phone that my account had been locked. Which meant I had no choice but to call the ridiculously unhelpful customer service department. Someone answered, required me to answer a million questions to verify my identity, listened to my problem, put me on hold and then, without further explanation, told me she would have to pass me along to someone else. Fine. Next person answers, asks me the same million questions and then asks me what the problem is. I explain that I cannot log on to my online account, and she tells me I need to use a different browser. Well, I don't have another browser on my laptop, but I tell her I can try on a another machine. No luck with that either. So, she then proceeds to scoff at the fact that I don't have any other computers or browsers to try and tells me that, in that case, there is nothing she can do. She simply cannot help me and apparently can't point me to anyone who can. Then the following conversation took place:

"So, I can't use online banking at all?" I ask.

"Well, can't you just log on from your phone?" she replies.

"I don't know. I wasn't able to log on from my phone earlier, which is why I called you."

"You mean you haven't tried to log on from your phone since you talked to the other rep, because I see here that that person unlocked your account?"

"Um, no. I have been on the phone the entire time, waiting to talk to someone who can help me."

"Oh. You mean, you are using that same phone?!"

"Well, yes. It's the only phone I have. But I can try it when we hang up, and call you back if it doesn't work."

"Ok. That sounds good. Is there anything else I can assist you with today?"

[Words screamed spoken only in my head while banging it against a wall] "Are you kidding me?! You haven't assisted me with anything yet!!!"

Ugh! Anybody out there have a bank they love, with excellent (or at least not lousy) customer service?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The party that almost did me in

I love a good party. Especially a good birthday party. And, I've hosted some fine ones, if I do say so myself. I have planned and served elaborate themed meals. I have toiled over the most minute birthday cake details until the wee hours of the morning and gone to bed with a satisfied weariness that came from knowing I produced exactly what my child described to me as his or her perfect cake. I have designed fancy invitations, decorated the house, filled piƱatas, planned fun activities and bought cool party favors. I even once spent weeks creating a firetruck out of a sofa box and arranging for the real firetruck to show up at the party!

But the birthday party that just about did me in was the one that took place at our house today. It was the first one we've had that didn't involve a theme. Or my hand in the invitations. Or me making a cake. (Or even the cookies that were served in place of cake). And, I barely even saw Ruth and her friends during the party, as they tucked themselves away where they could giggle and tell secrets and silly stories and listen to Taylor Swift and do each other's hair. I knew this party was coming; I just didn't know it was going to get here so soon. And, even though I am proud of Ruth for designing, printing and mailing all the invitations and baking her own cookies and creating a special piece of jewelry to give to each of her friends as a favor, I must admit a piece of my heart is completely broken. I feel like I have been kicked out of the loop. Birthday parties are one of the tangible ways I love on my kids. But I feel like I'm no longer an essential piece of the puzzle. And, I know that, while my kids will always love me, there will be more and more instances where they just don't really need me. This, of course, is how it should be. If I'm doing my job correctly, my children should become more independent. That's absolutely what I want. At the moment, though, I'm not quite sure what to do with my emotions or how to re-channel my birthday party energy or why things can't just always be as they were. I guess I've got some growing up of my own to do. Perhaps, I should follow the lead of this lovely lady:

Celebrating 11

Friday, May 17, 2013

Maldives Dreaming

Back in January or February, Jeff and I booked an early anniversary get-away to the Maldives. Our plan was to stay in a water bungalow and go scuba diving and enjoy each other's company and soak up some sun and silence on the private island on which our resort was situated. But, as the countdown to the trip began and we thought about leaving the children for so long and going so far away, we began to get cold feet, and we cancelled the trip. And, filling in the gaps, as life does, work stuff came up for both of us for this week, and that seemed to confirm that we had made a good choice to stay around here. I haven't really regretted our decision to cancel the trip (except for the lost motivation to work out). But, today was a day full of regular life--sickness, crying, spills, broken objects, work, feelings of inadequacy, potty training, messes, technical difficulties, et cetera, et cetera--and a glance at the calendar told me it was a day when I could have been dipping my toes in the clear blue water of the Indian Ocean without any little people around to detract from the solitude. I will admit to feeling sadness and regret at the realization. I really do know it was for the best that we changed our plans, but just for tonight I will dream that I am sitting on this deck, sipping on a fruity little drink, with no house to clean or laundry to do or McDonald's for dinner or countless interrupted conversations. And, perhaps one of these days, the dream will become reality.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lunch According to Ruth

Summer tends to get chaotic for us when there is no schedule to follow. And, chaos tends to make me cranky. So, in an effort to combat that, I have put together a little summer schedule for us to follow. It's nothing elaborate, and it still leaves plenty of room for all kinds of spontaneous fun, but I need to hold on to all the sanity I can, and I find structure helps with that.

One of the things on the schedule that the big kids are really excited about is that each of them is responsible for planning and preparing (to the best of their ability) one meal a week. Today, Ruth made lunch, in true Ruth fashion. She prepared a vegetarian meal in three courses and pulled out the crystal and china for serving. The finer points of this meal may have been lost on her brothers (the only other diners), but I found it to be a delightful little luncheon. It's fun to have someone around here who appreciates the finer things and enjoys pretty things just because they are pretty. (As opposed to those whose menus call for classy things like canned meat). Ruth did everything herself for this meal, from chopping to serving to hand washing the china.

pretty preparations

Ruth's 1st course: homemade bread and dipping oil

2nd course: cold cucumber soup with tomatoes

3rd course: goat cheese and grapes