Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Week in Florida with no Leapster

We just got back from a week of family vacation in Florida. This was our first relatively long vacation as a family, and if I'm being honest I was a little bit scared. Ok, if I'm being totally honest I was terrified.

I wasn't scared of flying or of encountering Jaws in the ocean. I was scared that we would be driving each other crazy stuck in a small space that was hundreds of miles away from our home.

My executive decision to leave Alec's Leapster home did not help with my fear. At home I let him play with his Leapster a bit every day if he wants to, but this week I wanted him to experience our vacation without his nose glued to a 3-inch screen. So I was completely anticipating a melt down when he realized it was back home...but I'll get to that later.

Believe it or not, our vacation was actually somewhat relaxing, despite Tropical Storm Debby arriving at the end of our trip. The boys loved being in a different place. They loved the ocean and sand. They really loved the kid's museum that we found on a rainy day. They just loved the adventure all around.

Our view pre-Debby

The same view after Debby arrived

As with other trips I've taken, I used this vacation as an opportunity to reflect on my life and learn about myself. When Chad and I were in New York City last year, I was reminded of my stay-at-home mom wardrobe and my blessing of having wonderful family in my life, among other things (see What New York Taught Me About Being a Parent). Here is what our trip to Florida reinforced to me:

My kids are awesome. 

I mean, I knew that -- but sometimes I forget how awesome they really are. One example of how they were so awesome on this particular vacation was the way they handled a 17-hour return trip that was only supposed to take seven hours. I'll save the details for a possible future blog on my new opinions of United Airlines and why I will never fly them again.

Let's just say that my boys handled a 10-hour airport imprisonment like champs. In fact, they handled it better than Chad and I did.

While Chad and I stomped around muttering angry statements under our breath, Alec and Chase ran around squealing with delight at our airport adventure. Sure they got bored and were tired (after all, they were up at 6:15am, and we didn't get back to our house until 11:30pm). But they had fun exploring the airport, going up and down escalators, jumping over lines on the floor and spending quality time with Mom, Dad and Grandma. I'm sure they now know Dulles airport better than most of the employees there know it.  

I'm getting older. 

Ok, I also knew this one. But one particular experience in Florida made sure to remind me of this fact. We had passed a fun-looking place called the Daiquiri Shak a few times, so one evening Chad's mom stayed back at the condo after the boys were asleep so that Chad and I could try it out. When we arrived, we saw that there was a rather large crowd and a band playing. Neither of these bothered us, so we found a seat at one of the few remaining empty tables.

After we were settled and had ordered our daiquiris, we took a better look at the crowd and realized that there was a birthday party going on. Without judging (too much), I will guess that the members of the birthday party were in about their low to mid 20s and liked to party. Chad and I were quickly surrounded by dozens of people wearing neon pink hats with their names on them, guzzling beers with neon straws. The names on the hats ranged anywhere from Aimee to Smash and Big Taco.

Once I was able to tear my attention away from Big Taco, I started to pay closer attention to the band, which was way louder than it needed to be. Despite the volume of the band, their song selection wasn't bad. But their performance was terrible. They went from playing an incredibly out of tune version of "Kryptonite" to an even worse version of "Play that Funky Music."

When the band finally stopped playing long enough for Chad and me to hear each other talk, we both agreed that this was not our cup of tea. So when our daiquiris came, we chugged them faster than Big Taco could probably chug a beer, paid our tab and headed straight back to our condo. It wasn't even 9:00pm yet, but all I could think about was getting back to the couch and curling up with the latest Janet Evanovich book that I was in the middle of reading.

At some point in my life I could have been one of the people sporting a neon hat and partying to a bad band. But this defining moment made me realize that I have definitely moved on to an "older" phase in my life.

I have incredible family.

Hey, just because New York reminded me of this doesn't mean Florida can't remind me as well. Chad's mom came along with us on our trip, and I'm pretty sure I would have been a stressed out mess if she weren't there. The boys adore her, and she's pretty fond of them as well, so she spent a good amount of time playing with the boys and keeping them entertained. If Chase was napping, Alec would have "special Grandma time" that he looked forward to every day. And Chad and I even got to go out to two dinners by ourselves (not including the Daiquiri Shak!) while she stayed back and had pizza or Chinese food with the boys.

Headed out to dinner without the kids

Children are always learning.

One of the reasons that I think my boys did so well on this trip was because it was a learning experience for them. To them it wasn't about tropical storms or delayed airplanes or men in pink hats that say Big Taco. It was about learning. Learning what sand feels like. Learning first hand where dolphins live. Learning how to turn the reading lights in an airplane on (and off, and on, and off, and on...). Learning that there are other places in the world that have museums for kids that are just as good (and in this case way better) than the ones that we have at home.

Sure they'll learn most of these things in school, but learning it first hand makes it so much more exciting. There's something about experiencing things in person that just can't be expressed in a text book or even movie.

Honestly, this is the main reason I didn't want Alec to bring his Leapster. Sure it may have made the 10-hour delay a little bit easier. And it would have been a quick solution to the (very few) times when he got bored on the trip. But he survived without it and learned so much more in this week than he will probably ever learn with his Leapster, despite some of the fairly educational games that come along with it.

Alec learning about stingrays at the Florida Aquarium

Chase learning about seashells on the beach

I am so glad that my boys embraced traveling as well as they did. I love to travel, and it gives me hope that we will be able to have many more successful adventures together as a family. Hopefully exposing them to these opportunities as they grow up will show them that there is a whole other world out there with so much to see. And if it doesn't, at least I know I've done what I can.

Oh, and the Leapster? Alec didn't even ask about it once the whole week.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

He's Home!

Chad just got back from a 5-day business trip to Texas.
These are some highlights from while he was gone.
Missed Days 1 & 2? Check them out here!
Missed Days 3 & 4? Check them out here!

~Day 5~

The boys sleep in again today. But this time they actually sleep in. Until 8:45am! I feel like Super Mom. Maybe Chad should go away more often! Ok, maybe not. Things have gone much better than I expected, but I am definitely ready for him to get home.

The boys are still in their PJs at 11am, so I think it's safe to say we're not going anywhere this morning. We all need some down time after our busy few days.

Alec has his last swimming lesson tonight, so I have one more mission to accomplish before my week as a single parent is over. Fortunately Chad's mom is coming over to watch Chase while I take Alec to his lesson.

Alec enjoying his last swimming lesson for this year

Swimming goes well. We get home, have dinner and get ready for bath. Chad is usually the one who does bathtime with the boys, so giving them baths this week has been somewhat of an unfamiliar experience for me. Sure I've given them baths before, but I don't do it very often. I come out of the bathroom feeling like I have just lost a big battle with a garden hose.

I get the boys in bed around 8pm, and the countdown begins. Chad's plane is scheduled to get in at 11pm, so he should be home around midnight. I realize there is no way I am going to be able to stay awake for four hours. I settle in to spend some quality time catching up on my DVR'd episodes of The Bachelorette.

My guilty pleasure

While I am watching 13 guys produce more drama than a room full of PMSing teenage girls, I notice a faint smell. It is a pleasant smell, but I can't place it. I dismiss it and continue to watch the 13 men fight for Emily's "true love." A little while later I notice the same pleasant smell again, but I still can't place it. It's almost like a candle, but not as strong. I make it through one episode of man drama and decide I've had enough drama for one night. I head up to bed.

When I get up to my room, I notice that smell again and begin a thorough investigation to find out where it is coming from. After almost convincing myself that I am imagining things, I finally figure out what it is. My hands smell like the boys' shampoo from washing their hair earlier. I fall asleep happy, hoping I can remember this scent for a long time.

I hear Chad get home around midnight. I semi-consciously mumble a "hello" and "I missed you" to him before returning to my state of exhausted unconsciousness. Unlike the night when Chad left, I have no problem falling back to sleep this time.

~Day 6~

Daddy is home! And he has taken the day off of work! We spend a nice day together as a family, and Chad and I go out for dinner and a show in the evening.

That night while I am getting ready for bed, I think back to the past few days. I made it through five full days without Chad. Not only did I make it, but I actually enjoyed it. I had a really fun time with my boys, and they seemed to have a fun time with me, too.

It's not that we don't have fun together normally. We do. But I often find myself frustrated and at my wits' end with the boys. But this week was different. Despite the shredded wipes, stashed bacon bits and the bathtime hurricane, I managed to really enjoy my boys without feeling overly stressed.

I am definitely ready for Chad to be home, but after these past few days of being on my own with my boys I feel almost like a better mom now. I feel a sense of accomplishment that I don't normally feel. Maybe it was the extra 90 minutes of sleep the boys let me have yesterday. Maybe it was the smell of baby shampoo on my hands. Maybe it was the smiles on the boys faces when they saw their Daddy this morning (or the bigger smiles when they saw he brought back surprises!). Who knows. But whatever it was has left me smiling and feeling ready to tackle whatever my boys have in store for me next, even if it is decorating the bathroom with toilet paper...again.

Chase loved his surprises that Daddy brought back from Texas

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Four Down, One to go

Chad just got back from a 5-day business trip to Texas. 
These are some highlights from while he was gone. 
Missed Days 1 & 2? Check them out here!


~Day 3~

Alec and Chase get up at 7:00am. I have decided that today is going to be a great day.

We head downstairs, and I take the dog out. While outside, she rolls around in poop. Awesome. So much for that great day. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing at 7:15am than bathing a dog that rolled in poop. Is it too early to open that bottle in the fridge?

Now that the dog is clean, we need to get ready to go to a birthday party for our friends' son who is turning one. It is a pool party, so the boys are very excited. I somehow manage to get everyone dressed, load the pool bag, wrap the present and make it out the door on time.

We spend most of the day at the party, so nap time/quiet time doesn't happen. By the time we get home I am exhausted, and the boys are too. But it's already almost bedtime for the kids, and after bedtime it is girl's night!

I put the kids down about a half hour early because they are exhausted and because I don't have the energy to do anything other than sit down and space out. My friends get here a little while later. It is finally time to open that bottle!

I have a great time actually having a conversation with other adults, and I am comforted by the fact that my kids are not the only ones who have had issues with wipes, bacon bits, toilet paper and similar objects. I go to bed feeling like I can tackle the next two days.

~Day 4~

The boys "sleep in" until 7:38am. They really DO love me!

We've been running around like crazy for the past few days, so today we just hang out at home. For the most part we don't drive each other crazy.

I have decided that if Chase takes a long nap, I am going to attempt to take the boys to the drive-in movie theater to see Madagascar 3 tonight. I'm not sure if this makes me a good mom or a crazy mom. I'm leaning toward the latter.

Chase takes an awesome nap, so the drive-in is on! We head over around 6:30pm to get a good spot and have dinner there.

The boys couldn't have behaved any better. They were so good and had a great time, although I think they enjoyed having free roam of the car better than actually watching the movie. We head home at 11:00pm. This is later than the boys have ever been up. They fall asleep as soon as the car starts moving!

Once home, I transfer the boys to their beds, head over to my bed and pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Ready to hear about Days 5 & 6? Here they are!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Two Down, Three to go

Chad just got back from a 5-day business trip to Texas. 
These are some highlights from while he was gone.

~Day 1~

Chad's flight was scheduled to leave at 5:55am, so his alarm went off at 3:45am. He was super quiet getting ready and getting out the door, but since becoming a mother I have somehow developed the inability to fall back to sleep once I'm even a little bit awake at night. So I watched the clock tick until about 5:30am when I finally drifted off.

The boys were up at their normal time (about 7:15am), and both were in surprisingly good moods. We got ready and set out for a play date at a local bouncy house venue. We played there for a while and had lunch, and again the boys were on their (mostly) best behavior.

After exhausting ourselves jumping, bouncing and sliding, we came home and the boys had nap time/quiet time, followed by more good moods, dinner, play and bedtime. Overall a really great day.

~Day 2~

The boys were up at 7:15am. I was already showered and dressed. WIN!

They were playing nicely together, so I decided to dry my hair. Bad idea. When I got done, Chase came into the bathroom with a mouthful of something and told me he was eating crackers. Apparently he helped himself. FAIL. (Although I guess crackers are better than some other things...)

I went to get him a clean diaper and noticed his wipes were missing. I asked him where they were, and he pointed to his bed. Yep, they were there alright. All 100 of them ripped up and scattered all over his bed. FAIL.

So it's 7:30am, and the score is: Kids - 2, Mommy - 1. Time to let them watch TV before they somehow manage to burn the house down.

After a thrilling episode of Little Einsteins (ok, and a Bob the Builder, too), we head out for our first errand. We need to get photos taken for our summer pool pass. This went better than expected because I found out that we could just use our passes from last year. So I didn't have to fight a 4-year-old to look at the camera and do something other than smush his cheeks together and stick his tongue out (yes, we are in that phase now).

Next up, the liquor store. No really, I'm serious. With Chad out of town for five days, I decided it was the perfect time to host a girl's night at my house after the kids were in bed. So into the Wine and Spirits store I went with my 2-year-old and 4-year-old to purchase some drinks for the next night's vent-about-our-kids event. This errand also went well.

Our last errand was the grocery store. The first two errands went so well that I was sure the grocery store would be a disaster. But somehow this errand went just as well. I'm sure the playroom for Alec and the endless snacks for Chase had nothing to do with their cooperation.

Once we were home, I unloaded the groceries and got lunch ready. Other than the crackers and the wipes, the day was going really well. I was starting to think that maybe I could get through these next few days without going completely crazy.

While I was doing the dishes, Chase came into the kitchen with wet hands. He told me he went pee-pee. Now I know this isn't true because he isn't potty trained yet. But he does, on occasion, like to go into the bathroom and sit on the little potty or stand by the big potty and pretend to go. So I assumed that was what had happened. But that didn't explain the wet hands. So I asked him if he washed his hands, which he also likes to do on occasion. He said yes, but it seemed like there was more to the story. That was when Alec told me that Chase stuck his hands in the pee-pee water. Lovely. So I went into the bathroom to wash Chase's hands for real, and this is what I found:


I washed Chase's hands and then cleaned up the toilet paper mess. Now it was time for Chase's nap. But where was Chase? Off I went to look for him. Here is where I found him:

Yes, those are bacon bits and sprinkles that he has smuggled under the table. So much for making it through the next few days without going crazy.

After swearing to never let Chase out of my site again, we head up for nap time. The dog can clean up the bacon bits on the floor.

Finally Chase is down for his nap. What's that Alec? You want to play your Leapster for the next two hours? Go for it! I'll be downstairs resisting the urge to open up one of those bottles for tomorrow's girl's night. My friends would understand, right?

Nap time is over. We are heading over to a friend's house for dinner tonight. This is good because I can't deal with any more wipes or bacon bits incidents today!

The boys had a blast and tired themselves (and me) out. Next it's home from dinner and playing, and then bedtime...for everyone!

Ready to hear about Days 3 & 4? Here they are!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Interesting Situation

Last week I had an evening meeting to attend, so Chad stayed home with the boys. When I got home and asked Chad how things went, he replied that everything was fine, but that there was one interesting situation.

Before I go into the details of the interesting situation, there are three bits of background you should know.

First, you should know that Chad and I have been very lucky with our kids in the bathtub. We know plenty of people who have dealt with the "poop in the tub" incident, but fortunately we have somehow managed to avoid that situation.

Second, you should know that I am one of "those" parents who has chosen not to potty train my boys at the age of six months. Yes, Chase is two. Yes, he shows signs that he's ready to potty train. No, I have not started potty training him yet. I waited until Alec was three, and it was one of the easiest parenting experiences I have ever had, so I plan to do the same with Chase. Judge all you want.

Finally, you should know a little bit more about Alec's personality. He is a very serious boy, who takes things very literally. He is the first to let me know if someone isn't following the rules in a game, and he makes sure to let me know whenever Chase is doing something he shouldn't be doing.

So back to the interesting situation... (Can you see where this is going yet?)

Chad was giving the boys a bath together, and he had stepped out of the bathroom for just a minute to get their pajamas. Apparently, the 30 seconds that Chad chose to leave the bathroom were the same 30 seconds that Chase felt the need to do his business. Since this had never happened while in the tub before, Chase was not sure what to do. On some level he must have realized that he shouldn't poop in the tub or on his brother. But he didn't quite know enough to sit on the big potty to do it. So what did he do? He got out of the tub and did his business right smack dab on the bathroom rug.

Alec, being the meticulous child he is, proceeded to frantically yell, "Daddy, Chase pooped on the floor!" at the top of his lungs.

Oh, but it gets better. You see, since Chad and I have been married for over 10 years now, and since we're now parents, we have graduated to the level of talking about our kids' poop like we talk about the weather. So in an effort to better understand how bad the situation was, I asked Chad if it was easy to clean up. His response? "Well, it was until Chase stepped in it."

By the time Chad got done telling the story, I had tears coming down my face. And do you know what the best part of this whole story was? I wasn't even there when the whole "interesting situation" happened! I love that something like this actually happened with someone other than me. I'm not sure Chad feels the same way, but even he was laughing a little bit while telling me the story. Though I bet next time he'll make sure the pajamas are ready to go before bath time...