Tuesday, February 19, 2013

There's No Business Like Snow Business

We just got back from our much anticipated snow trip.
Our church had planned a get-away to lovely Mt. Shasta for 60+ people.
With all the packing I'd done, I felt like our family must have made up half of that number.
Good grief that was a lot of warmth.

The drive from home was almost 6 hours, so I had the idea to stop half way in Chico to visit my brother and sister-in-law and their family on the way up, and then go the rest of the way into Shasta on Saturday morning.
There was only so much,
"WHEN are we going to BEEEEEEEEEEEE there"s I could handle.
I wanted to break it up a bit.

By the time we finally rolled into town Saturday afternoon and found the house the group had rented and unloaded our gear and donned our snow clothes to go meet the group, it was almost 2:00.
We were approximately 4 hours behind them in snow-play, and we still hadn't eaten lunch.
We'd just been feeding the kids cheese to hold them off.
LOTS of cheese.
Like, Paige had eaten two full string cheeses and two pieces of Tilamook in 10 minutes, Lots.

Of course we hadn't gotten lunch.

It's like we just can't ever get ourselves going.
Once we think we're ready, someone has to pee, or find their watch, or they can't get buckled, or their sock seam is crooked and it's ruining their chance at happiness.

I'm surprised we ever get ANYWHERE, actually.

Finally we'd bought our lunch meat and crackers and waters and various other snacks from the questionable local market and we headed up the hill.

Yes, Tessa. We're really going to the snow right NOW.
We don't have to stop anywhere else.

Pretty soon we'll be in snow covered bliss with all your friends.

We followed the road up the hill that we'd been told to follow.
It just kept going on and on, it seemed.
Almost like we were being punked.
For miles we drove.
I think I saw vultures circling.
It was a never-ending hill.
Up in the hills and snow with nothing else around - Our gas light came on.
Where IS this place?!
Are we going to have to walk back?!
I've seen news reports about these types of things.

We kept driving.
Were we lost?
It was practically dinner time, it seemed.
The kids were starting to whine, Justin was starting to flare his nostrils and make The Face.
The Angry Indian Face, as we call it.
I started having a panic attack. Now I was remembering it clearly.
The 20/20 we'd watched about a family in Oregon lost for days in the snow.
Where was the flippin' group?!

Then we saw them.


They were leaving.
They were done with the snow.
Afterall, they'd all been there for hours as we did our Green Family ritual of complete nonsense and chaos.

We had finally found it and they were leaving.

I wanted to cry.
From the looks of Justin, he wanted to chew someone's jugular vein like a Walker.

All this work and build up and excitement and they were all leaving.

We flagged someone down and pulled over and I hopped out, hyperventilating.
The kids all staring at me with the look they give when they're wondering why the sides of mommy's neck are pulsating.
My shadow on the hill looked like a Yetti.

Our friends told us that our friend Sara had sledded into a tree and possibly broken her leg, so they were all heading back to the cabin.

We opted to just go on.
Even if it meant playing in the snow alone.

We hadn't driven for hours and hours to turn back now.
Dag nabbit, we were going to have some FUN.
Even if it was the grit-your-teeth-and-pretend-to-be-happy fun.

I'm pretty sure if I'd laid down in the snow right then, I would have made a snow fire-breathing dragon, not an angel.

Once we got the the parking area, we realized that we weren't the only ones left.
We were there with the Lemleys.
A lovely family with three boys and a girl that were relatively new to our church.
At least we could hang with SOMEONE.

We got to know them better, that day, and I got to see that Spring, the mom, was my kind of mother.

I learned this in what was one of my favorite moments on the trip.
The moment her youngest son threw a giant fit over not wanting to share his snow tube, and when she stood up, walked to him, looked into his eyes - his face looking happy that he was going to get picked up and coddled in his bad behavior - yet the moment when, instead,
she plucked him from the snow one-handed, shoved him in an empty snow tube, and kicked the tube speeding down the snowy hill.
His cries just got more and more faint as he disappeared from view over a burm.
It was amazing.
I wanted to hug her.
That's my kind of woman.

The So-Help-Me-I'm-Going-To-Harm-You-In-Public kind of mom.
The REAL kind.

And it worked. When he returned, he was too out of breath from the climb up the hill to cry more.
Problem solved.

All was fine in that moment.
We were laughing and talking and we had recovered from our stresses of getting there.
NOW we were having fun.

Then Tessa burst the joy bubble.
She had to pee.
It's one thing to have to pee at home or in a restaurant, but having to go to the bathroom in the snow, is a whole other animal.
You have to remove your gloves, then remove approximately 6 layers of clothes on the kid, then you have to hover, holding the kid ever so cautiously so that you don't drop them into the port-o-potty which always has a hole too big for children to safely sit on without risk. You have to make sure they don't pee on their clothes because wet pee ice is very un-awesome.
You visualize horrible things like your car keys flying out of your pocket while you hold the kid and having to decide in a split second which one is more important to save from the poo filled abyss.

It was a 15 minute ordeal that was more stressful than it probably needed to be.

Then there was the trek back to the car.
The lecture about not darting in front of cars.
The slip on the ice.
The comforting hug.
They eye-rolling while GIVING the comforting hug because this was the 18th time she'd gotten hurt that day and sometimes I get tired of saying I'm sorry for boo-boos and I just want them to buck the heck UP.

We had JUST made it back to the group, which was not a tiny trek, and she said the dreaded words,
"Actually, Mama. Now I need to poop."

Of COURSE you do.

Back we went.
She fell again.
She cried again.
This time I did not comfort.
I just told her to stand up and keep walking.

We made it back to the toilet and off came my gloves and her six layers of clothes.
I repositioned myself in front of the toilet and held her.
She needed to be scooted, she said.
I scooted her.
Not that far. More. More. There. No. A little more. Right. There.
I waited.
I waited more.
Was it HOT in here?
My legs hurt.
Why was I sweating so much?

Then she said it.
That beastly beast.

"Actually, Mama. I think I DON'T have to go."

Kill me.
Kill me now.

That bleeping bathroom ordeal took approximately 45 minutes in total.
45 minutes I'd never get back.

When we got back over the hill, Chloe was just heading down the sledding hill on her tube.
I watched and waved and said things parents say in the snow.
"Yeah, Chloe! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! How fun!"
Except it wasn't fun.
That kid, who was nervous at first to sled, who I'd had to convince by showing her happy youtube videos of sledding that didn't end in a frozen death,
who I'd promised wouldn't fall off the tube and get hurt and that snow was soft and she'd love it,
flew right over top of the hill built to stop kids from going too far and just kept going,
right into a tree.

Now SHE was crying her loud open mouth cry that makes her head look open enough to double as an airplane hangar.

Oh for Heaven's sake.

I have to go DOWN THERE?!

Thirty minutes in and I had both kids sitting on camping chairs with red, tear-streaked faces from all the crying they'd done.
I'm pretty sure they'd each played for a total of 6 minutes in the snow.
The happy Green family on their trip to the snow.

Say "Cheese!"

Meanwhile, the baby who was in wet suede Robeez - unquestionably the worst snow shoes ever, and would most likely have to have toes removed from frost-bite, was as happy as a clam.

We played just up until the point when the kids were about to need therapists for trauma, and we decided to pack up and go.

The Lemleys were leaving, too.

We stayed and helped eachother deflate snow tubes and change wet socks and find water bottles and tether straps and after what seemed like forever, we waved goodbye and got into our vans that were parked side by side.

Oh no.
Their car battery was dead. Are you SERIOUS?!

Good thing we'd just had ours replaced. A quick jump and they'd be on their way.


We were both stuck in the snow.
Side by side.
The red-headed step children of the snow. The ones unable to just follow the bouncing ball.

The kids stared freaking out.
10 of them between us.
We told them yes, we were going to have to sleep in the snowy cars, just to be mean.

One of the kids had a brilliant idea to put on the snow chains and so that's what we did for the Lemley's van, which was stuck worse than ours.
It would have worked if we could have gotten the chain all the way around the tire.

Finally we had to flag down some guys who had some towing stuff to help drag us out.
They hooked it up and flipped their car into reverse and the Lemley's car started to move.
But so did the half-attached snow chain.
It moved right around the van's axle and got stuck there.

Yes, Kerri.
This was really happening.
Like we were actually not meant to ever leave that hill.
Stuck in a snowy future full of tears, hour long bathroom trips and wet socks with only a half box of Cheese-Its left.

It's OK. There was a jack. He'd just try to jack it up and un-wind the snow chain.
An easy plan if the van didn't keep slipping off the jack.

Once we finally came down off that hill and got to the place we were all supposed to be meeting for dinner, the whole group was there.
We were late yet again.
We found our seat and got our food and glared at each other for this issue and that issue.
I hissed some commands to Alena about being helpful and family duty.

Then Paige started wailing and every family in that place turned to look.
Her face was red and she looked like her head would pop off.
She was trying to poop.
Dead center in the restaurant - the family who couldn't quite get themselves together - was drawing attention yet again with their constipated baby because she'd been stuffed full of cheese.

Is it bed time yet?

I had to take her out to the van to change her poo pebble.
A stray dog crept up and watched me from behind.

Surprisingly, we all slept pretty well in one room packed like sardines, that night.
Exhausted from our day.
I probably could have slept in a YMCA shower stall, I was so tired.

The rest of the trip was great, actually.
If you remove the fight with Justin and the desperate need for FIVE FREAKING SECONDS where I was not asked for a snack of some kind.

I was asked to sing in a snow covered little church Sunday morning and was greeted by warm strangers with cheerful faces.
The sun was shining.
Paige had finally pooped.
All was well in the world.

My brother and his family even showed up for the day to play with us and he gifted me with the greatest invention of all time -
The snow Pack-N-Play, which is actually just a very deep hole dug in the snow, piled with blankets, to place babies in.
Best idea ever, made even better by pouring drinks in the snow around the rim so they can lick it like a snow cone.

That night I got to have Thai food from the lovely 'Phuket Thai Food' restaurant in town.
(A place that I do not recommend taking your children to if they really love practicing to read phonetically.)

"Chloe. STOP trying to sound it out. Because I said so. Just don't."

But we are safely home. Unpacked. Pictures loaded. Another memory and new friends made.

Family fun is exhausting.
And yet, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Just as long as that heartbeat is a year from now.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy Balloon Suffocation!

I think if I coughed right now
cake mix would come billowing out of my mouth.

Today I baked my 10th dozen of cupcakes for the week.
This was after I'd baked two complete cakes.
Both of which Paige demolished within minutes.
Pudgy, dimpled fists pounding at it with a scary twinkle in her eyes like the pulverized crumbs were somehow giving her super powers.

One hundred and twenty cupcakes.



If I had known this would be my January fate from here through the next 18 years because of the poor birth date planning on my part for Chloe and Paige, I might have planned better.
Their birthdays are four days apart.

This was Paige's first birthday, so of course, we had to do it up big.
I planned for weeks and made so many paper poms I felt arthritic.
I read about epsom salts on the internet, but was too tired to actually go get some.

And poor Chloe.
She didn't even get a card.
She got Paige's leftover party decorations and a half smashed cupcake in her lunch for school.
Her lunch which, for four days, had been 80% leftover party food from Paige's party.

When I opened her lunch bag to pack it again for tomorrow's lunch, it looked like a cupcake murder scene.
It took seven paper towels to clean it out.
She didn't seem to mind, really, or even notice.
She loved her gift and was super excited about the pencil she'd gotten from her teacher, and she seemed chipper enough as she sat down and made this drawing for herself.

Kind of sad when you have to make your own birthday card.

But I AM letting her have her very first slumber party tomorrow.
She's inviting her two best friends, Maddie and Kaitlin - Both of whom she's known since birth.
Her major plans for the evening involve playing ring toss and making Tessa be the yellow rings, eating pesto pasta, and having a dance party - but not to the song from Despicable Me because she's "kind of tired of that song now."

I've been fretting over how to entertain the girls, but I guess I need to just keep remembering that this is the kid that hugged me three times for writing "Chloe's Bakery" on a brown paper bag so that she could pretend that she was selling her wooden food from her wooden kitchen.

I KNOW I overcomplicate.

I don't know what it is in me that gives me the need to outdo myself.
I put so much pressure on it.
Are the cupcakes evenly frosted?
Are the poms hung at a precise level to achieve visual balance?
Do the lemon slices in the water match the color scheme, or would limes have been better?...
I think this.
And I blame Martha Stewart's Magazine for scoffing at me from the checkstand as I buy canned frosting and boxed cake mix.
But Martha doesn't have four kids who will need seven snacks in the period of time it would take to make a cake from scratch.
Martha's mixing bowls aren't being used as Barbie swimming pools that have been sitting outside for so long they are growing black slime.

I may not take on all her suggestions of planning my spring potting, but I do take on some pressure.

All the while,
the kid whose birthday it is sits in the corner eating their own boogers.
A connoisseur they are not.
So why is my upper lip sweaty?

They don't care about paper poms.
They just want to know if they can have my iPad after the guests are gone.

I don't even remember having birthday parties as a kid.
I know I did, but I don't really remember them.

The only one I remember was my third one.

My parents had hired a clown, which scared me half to death.

But it didn't scare me as much as the game we played.
(And apparently, after looking at this picture more closely, I should have also been scared of those orthopedic looking shoes I was wearing....?!)

It was a race won by pushing a balloon, without using your hands, across a finish line with just your nose.

I was petrified and refused to play.
Why was I petrified?
Because my mother, for as long as I could remember, had told me,
"Be careful, Kerri! Don't put that in your mouth or by your face! If it pops, you could inhale it and you'd suffocate on it!"

We used to get balloons at the bank when we went and I can remember wondering why they'd give out such traps of sure death to kids.
The bank clearly must hate children.

Looking back, I laugh, thinking about all the haphazard things that would have had to go wrong for me to have inhaled and suffocated on a balloon fragment.
I'd never met or heard of anyone else who even knew someone who that had happened to,
so surely it couldn't have been that common.
To hear my mom talk, though, you would have thought it was a sure thing.
Like it happened all the time.
A common childhood issue, such as Slap Cheek or Pink Eye.

Chicken Pox, Measles, Balloon Suffocation.

Balloons equaled death.
The end.

Death that was almost as sure as the one you would suffer if you twisted your swing and let it unwind and twirl you.
You could get your neck caught in the chains, you know.

But I love the planning. At least I THINK I do.
My family probably questions it as I go into convulsions over something or another.

I love thinking about colors and themes and favors and the cake.

It's what caused me to throw Alena the biggest fifth birthday bash the world has ever known.
Embarrassing, really.
A princess party complete with a castle for the kids to eat in. Each stone hand sponged.

I made Justin rent a dragon costume and come out screaming trying to grab the kids.
At least it was SUPPOSED to be a dragon.
In reality it looked more like a giant gray lizard that hadn't had its skin wet down for a few days and was about to meet its dried out death.

I wore a Pepto-Bismol colored dress I'd bought at Ross that I later returned because there was NO WAY I was wearing that thing again.

Her cake looked like a wedding cake.

And all this is funny because when I asked her what her favorite birthday ever was, it was the one where I let her have a whole bunch of friends over and they ran around like loons with no real plan to speak of.

I have made 20 fancy tea party hats out of paper plates and hand painted little tea sets for each guest before,

and she remembers the loons.


It's all for me, I guess.

It's so that I can look back at the pictures and feel like I did something that showed them that their day was special to me, too.
Their Mama celebrated them.

And I do.

Every booger eating one.