The Color Crew

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Either the writers of today’s kid’s shows are on crack…or they want to drive me to crack instead. We don’t have cable. We use Netflix. The perk being that my kids do not watch commercials. They recently started watching Qubo through our antenna and suddenly I’m getting requests that they absolutely must have a goldfish…in a bowl…that is stuffed in the stomach of a bear. No joke. You feed the fish by feeding the bear and it goes in its stomach. Yeah, I refuse to get that. I digress.

But first up on my list of crack inducing shows is the “Color Crew”. This show has no dialogue. Yeah, no dialogue at all. There is an applause soundtrack and the characters make a lot of freaky giggling and cooing. Wait. They do say words. Colors. That’s it. Did I mention the characters are all crayons. All but one character…which is an eraser. The crayons all get together and a magic hat floats around until it chooses a color that gets to be it. The chosen one coos and makes happy giggling noises that could also be used on some creepy thriller movie just as effectively. Then they pick a partner and they head off to a blank coloring book page. They then proceed to color objects, occasionally giggling and cooing, and yelling out their color on occasion. Then one of them will make a mistake…cue frowny faces…and they have to call in Mr. Eraser. He’s accompanied by much deeper music as he thumps dramatically on the scene. He is also sporting a mustache reminiscent of the Parker brothers mascot. He erases the mistake (setting my children up for unrealistic expectations that crayon can ever be erased in any reality), wiggles his eyebrows in a slightly disturbing way, and then dramatically bounces off scene. At the end all the crayons dance together in a happy jubilee. And that is every single episode. My kids will watch this for HOURS.
Seriously. I. may. lose. my. mind. But hey, there’s always Barbie’s Dreamhouse…

Top 10 ways my life is more awesome now that I have kids.

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So…I was pondering today about some of the ways kids have changed my life. I’ll be honest, they drive me insane sometimes. Being an introvert, I love my personal space and time in my head…which has significantly decreased since bearing offspring. But some things have indeed improved. It’s nice to ponder them on occasion.
So here is my top 10 list of how my life has indeed improved since I had these three small bundles of emotion:

10. I get to drive in the HOV lane. There is a perk to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever being alone. I don’t often have to sit in traffic. In fact, to drive to my sister’s house or to see my parents there is a HOV lane that runs practically from my front steps to their driveway…or something like that.

9. Built in remote control. One of my favorite Weird Al songs on his new album is “Inactive”. The lyrics run something like this:
The TV’s on, I really hate this show
I can’t reach my remote control
Welcome to my new place, to my new place
Sorry it’s a cramped space, but it’s my place
I’m really inactive, I’m so inactive
I’m really inactive, highly inactive
(Yankovic, 2014)
Yeah…except thanks to my kids my problem isn’t that I can’t reach my remote control. I don’t even know where it is. But that doesn’t really matter since two out of my three children can work our electronic devices better than I can. No need to get up to change the channel…my kids can do that.

8. It’s like having a slightly incompetent assistant. Very well meaning, yet incompetent assistants. My kids love to help me. Of course it usually takes ten minutes of explanations before Urpling can figure out where the object I need her to fetch is (spoiler alert: it was next to her left foot). But I still have a plethora of small human beings at my disposal to fetch and carry things for me.

7. Cable has been rendered unnecessary. Dinner at our house is better than any reality TV show. We had friends over for dinner tonight, and between King Toot’s dramatic refusal to eat one slice of carrot and Sasquatch belching in someone’s face with such force that would put a middle-school boy to shame, the entertainment was non-stop. Life is full of enough bizarre scenarios, cheesy dialogue, and slap-stick comedy to fill several channels for years to come.

6. Pushy vendors avoid eye contact in the mall. You know the ones…they have the little vending stands in the hallways and pounce on you to give you a sales pitch. Well, I walk by with my entourage of small children where Sasquatch is twirling and prancing like a ballerina, Urpling is running all over the place yelling, “look at me!”, and King Toot is screaming because we wouldn’t spend $40 on that Buzz Lightyear doll…not one of them tries to sell me anything. Not only that, if I look at them, they look away and avoid my gaze. It’s wonderful.

5. I get to play with toys. I’ve recently gotten in touch with my inner child. I’ve rediscovered the joys of making forts, coloring in coloring books, dressing up dolls, and playing house. I race cars on racetracks and climb trees. I forgot how much I missed that, and here is a chance to do it all again!

4. The food. I got all responsible and adult like and stopped eating Mac and Cheese, Lunchables, and Goldfish. Now I buy them. Mainly because they are worth their wait in gold when they can get my kids to sit quietly for a few minutes when I’m about to lose it…but the added bonus is that I get to munch on these treats as well. Seriously, goldfish is tasty.

3. Blogging. I love being able to write, and my kids have given me unending amounts of material. Never wrote much before kids (except in college and the topics were a little less amusing. I love not having to cite sources according APA) but now I do, and I get to choose the topic.

2. They make me look good…sometimes. Urpling is obsessed with making my bed recently. I’ve been married 10 years and I’ve never made my bed during all that time. But every morning, Uprling emerges from my room, grabs my hand and says, “Close your eyes!”. She leads me to my room and then yells, “Ta-la!” with a dramatic display with her hands. And there is my bed…maybe not perfectly made but looking a whole lot better than I left it. My kids do things like that for me. (They also scream in public, hit each other, or cover me in various compounds of which I am often scared to examine…but let’s focus on the good here.)

1. The snuggles…and the giggles. Nothing in the entire world will ever match the sound of my kids squealing in laughter, or the feel of their little arms around my neck or waist. King Toot even works it more by gently patting me on my back. Seriously, the feels guys. The feels.

My kids drive me up a wall, but they are my little treasures and sometimes I just need to sit and remember that.

Yankovic, A. (July 15, 2014). Inactive. On Mandatory Fun. [Digital audio]. Los Angeles, California: RCA. (September 4, 2012)

Yes…I just cited Weird Al according to APA style. *puts on glasses* I’ve still got it…

When Murphy met Lusi Part 6: An Epic Adventure

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I am finally finishing my chronicle of my adventures in New Zealand. Some of them horrifying (like here and here) and some of them amazing and wonderful (like here and here)

Note: the second link of horrifying adventures is probably the piece of writing I am most proud of. If you haven’t read it and need a laugh…read it!

Our final adventure on our last full day was cave diving. Like, extreme caving. EXTREME!!! Now keep in mind that I was still bleeding a lot, and suffering from some pretty heavy blood loss the day before (again…need to read that link I already mentioned) so I was a little nervous about this. Why? Well, I was going to spend six hours in a wetsuit and rubber boots and a helmet, and then proceed to us a harness and some rope to lower myself down 100 meters into a cave, and then hike, crawl, climb, slither, and swim my way out. But I decided to go for it, because I would never have this opportunity again! First they had us practice and train with our equipment, and then they prepared to lower us down!

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Our equipment we used

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The view down into the cave from the top of where we were lowered.

When we got to the bottom, they had a picnic lunch we ate on the floor of the cave, and then we started hiking along. We ended up crawling through a sinkhole made by the river, scaled a 20 foot waterfall, swam through a small crack in the cave, shimmied through another crack, swam through a deep river, and all kinds of adventures. All the things you want to do in a cave but never get to (at least here in the US). All the while we were surrounded by beautiful glow worms (which we learned were actually pretty disgusting creatures with major cannibalistic tendencies…but I guess you can’t have everything).

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I made it down the “chimney”

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Crawling through the crack…in the river.

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At least this crack didn’t have a river…thus in my mind. I call it dry crack.

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Group photo under some of those beautiful (yet disgusting) glow worms.

When we made it out the cave entrance, we hiked back to the main building where they were grilling food for us. Steak, potatoes and all sorts of yumminess was waiting for us.

I would go back. Seriously, I would do that again if given the chance because it was amazing! It was the perfect way to end our vacation.

Another note: on the flight home we actually left the airport and hung out by the pool of a hotel across the street. The views were amazing, the drinks were amazing, and the food was amazing. A much better way to pass the time. So if you ever have a flight in Fiji, leave the airport. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY LEAVE THAT HORRIFYING SINKHOLE OF DEATH!!

Treasure these moments

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My mind has been a whirlwind of thoughts lately. Spending 80 hours driving in a car with three small ones probably didn’t help matters. But recently life seems to have been going in fast forward. I would just like to hit the pause button just for a minute. Just to take a moment to soak in these moments of my three little ones.

Now, here’s the thing. I get really irked when people tell me to treasure these moments before their gone. Wait, let me elaborate. I don’t dislike the advice, except it seems to be spouted to me at the worst times. No one says it to me when my kids are giggling and squealing as they tickle each other, or wrap their little arms around me to give me hugs and kisses. It is always at those difficult moments. I once had King Toot in full melt down mode punch Urpling in the head so that she started wailing…while I was in the check out line trying to pay for food and grab bags of stuff to put back in the cart. I gave an exasperated sigh and the little old lady waiting in line behind me told me to treasure these moments as they fly by. I promptly assured her that I did treasure moments with my kids…just not these moments. I stand by that. I’m no expert and my kids aren’t grown so I cannot say definitively, but I’m willing to go out on a limb with this and say certain moments will not be missed. Never peeing alone, trying to take a prison shower before Chernobyl erupts in the living room over a bent up card from a game we no longer have, cooking every night only to watch three little beings poke at it for an hour claiming to not be hungry even though just ten minutes earlier was pleading for gold fish or cookies because they were SOOOOOOOOOO hungry…these moments are not something I will cherish. I’m fairly certain that the passing of these moments, never to return, are the silver lining to help ease the pain of your children slowly growing more and more independent and needing us less and less (that and grand babies. I’m pretty sure grand babies are a good salve on the wound of our children leaving us. They are the rewards for putting our time in with our kids. Little ones to love and dote on, spoil and pamper, and then pass back to mom and dad at the end of the day. I do plan on cherishing those moments!)

These ponderings were prompted by my preparations for the coming school year. Our family has a fairly strict routine we follow. Why? Because the elaborate schedule gives me peace. Everything I need to get done in a week has a place. Since it has a place, I can let go of it and stop stressing over it the rest of the week. I digress. As I was reworking our schedule I had to adjust several things. For example, last year Sasquatch only went to half day kindergarten. So she was gone for the morning, but I got to keep her the rest of the time. But now she will be gone all day. Which really hit me when I realized that she wouldn’t need to help pick up each day…because she wouldn’t be there to make a mess. *insert a few tears and a small and delicate sniffle for dramatic effect.* No more elaborate forts. No more “decorations” to make the house pretty that consisted of whatever random toys she found coating every surface of every shelf and door knob and bed and chair. No more elaborate Calvin and Hobbes books that she drew for me. Okay, I know, she still will have the weekends and evenings to do these things but it’s a really big jump in my life. For 6 years it’s been just Sir Smiley, Me, and the kids. We occasionally made excursions into the real world but usually it was our own little world. We’ve slowly been losing that and this feels like the big moment, the end of an era. Sasquatch will be in children’s choir at church, and be with the big kids (at least they’re big in my mind), she’ll be eating multiple meals a week without me, and will be having all these experiences that have nothing to do with me.

A sudden desperation to squeeze in as much time with her as possible has seized me. She is, of course, excited to finally eat lunch at school with her friends. I’m, of course. worried that she won’t have friends, or someone will be mean to her and I won’t be there to talk her through it. I am not a worrier by nature. I don’t often cry. But this one really hit me. Kindergarten didn’t…but first grade has.

I have about two weeks to go treasure these moments…and I intend to do just that.

Love for Hire

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I took a very long trip a week or so ago. By long, I mean I drove over 5,000 miles, through 15 different states and back, with my three small children, in a tiny car, all by myself. Sir Smiley flew out to the ultimate destination for a few days and flew home. When I got back I experienced a drain that I have never experienced before. I’m an introvert who spent over two weeks with absolutely no time to myself. Add that to the fact that I had an ablation three days before I left means I was physically tapped out. I had no energy reserves…mentally, emotionally, or physically. The result was a very disconcerting week. I have always struggled with feelings of self doubt…but they always sit in the back, hidden. But I was faced with a situation that brought it glaringly to the surface. I was so exhausted that I was relying on my husband and others to do it all while I kept having to sit and rest. The kicker was there was no real medical condition, no surgery or illness, to justify my “laziness” (as in my mind that is how it felt).

I could no longer earn love. I had to just receive it.

I’ll let that sink in because I am betting that a lot more of us suffer from this than would care to admit. Those of us who keep a hidden tally, a mental scorecard, and make sure they’re always ahead. Who work so hard to keep others happy so that in the end any affection and love they receive they can be comfortable with…knowing that they deserve it.

But this is the complete opposite of what God wanted. So far from the truth. As Martin Luther put it, “The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”. I was falling prey to this sin. I had never felt so vulnerable when I realized how much I was motivated by this very wrong perception. I knew the truth in my head, but wasn’t following it with my heart.

And beyond earning my husband’s love, I wanted to earn God’s love. But to rely on my own actions and behaviors is an unstable place to rest. Every mistake, every moment of weakness is more crushing because I’m resting my worthiness on actions I can never fully live up to. In a way, I’m treating other people as though I have to buy their love in some way. Their love is for hire…and I want to be the highest bidder.

Of course, I didn’t see how much I was relying on myself and what I do to create my worth until I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t see because also thrown in the mix is my honest love for God, for my husband, for my kids, for my friends and family. In part, I do things for them because I love them. There is nothing wrong with that. I will continue to do things out of love for them. But I need to learn to accept their love. Not a love that is a response to what I’ve done…but a love that is a response to who I am. I can only accept love when I accept the truth. God loves me. He will not love me any less if I mess up. He will not love me more if I achieve some new level of greatness. He will feel pride and pleasure in my accomplishments, and will be my unwavering support when I fall. He does not love me because I am involved in my church. I could be a CEO (Christmas and Easter Only) Christian and he would love me the same. He does not love me more than others who “do” less. If I can truly learn to accept this truth, the more free I will become to love Him back…and other’s as well.

When Murphy met Lusi Part 5: Embracing the Geek

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So it’s only taking me months to finally get caught up on my blogs about my trip to New Zealand.
I left off with a good day of scuba diving (which was epic enough to make up for a damaged car and epic vomit). We started off the next day with an amazing breakfast:

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Then we headed south to Hobbiton. One thing you should know about me. I’m a huge geek. I already have my Dr. Who and Supernatural attire all picked out for comicon this year. I embrace the geek side of myself frequently and often. So to be able to go to Hobbiton was literally a dream come true…and this place was amazing! Because of the start of the cyclone, it was cloudy and misty. But no real rain, and because of this instead of a tour bus full of 60-70 people we only had 13 in our group! So I got pictures that were amazing….without having to push through crowds of people. Here are some of my favorites!

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Here I am at the entrance. I was just a tad bit excited…

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Here are some views of Hobbiton.

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Here I am in a hobbit hole. This one was scaled for actors playing actual hobbits.

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Here I am knocking on the door of another hobbit hole. This one was scaled for actors playing the “larger” humans.

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The infamous Bag End. Need I say more?

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The party tree and field where Bilbo had his party. To the left you can see the gate that Bilbo jumps over in the movie when he yells, “I’m going on an adventure!”

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Crossing the old stone bridge to go to the Green Dragon. We wee able to get a drink and some beef and ale pie inside!

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The old mill.

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Panorama from the front of the Green Dragon.

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Yes…I bought the sign!

We stayed that night in a wonderful bed and breakfast. It was called Lakeview Heights and the hosts were amazing and the accommodations were fabulous! At this point we didn’t see much of a view because of the cyclone and had to follow our alternate itinerary. We headed south for our Lord of the Rings tour (the one we almost missed…). Again, embracing my geek side we had an amazing full day tour! We got to see Weta Cave where they do all the effects for LOTR and The Hobbit movies as well as Iron Man 3, Avengers, Avatar, and other movies. It was an amazing place!

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About to head inside!

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The deta

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The detail on all their statues was amazing!

Then we visited some actual filming locations. We actually visited about 6 locations but I’m just including the ones where the pictures turned out the best.
First we have the scene where the hobbits have just taken a tumble and landed on the road. This scene here:

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…and this is what the site looks like now…you can still see the three trees that were behind the hobbits.

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Next up is that actual studios. The gate was actually open so I snapped a shot of the giant blue (now green) screen they used to film the marshes.

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Next we went to a park where they filmed Gandalf riding to visit Saruman.
Here is what it looked like in the film:

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Here it is in real life…you can see the shot was inverted so the tree on the left is on the right in the film and vice versa.

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Finally we saw the greenway where Gandalf and Saruman were taking a stroll together. Here is what it looked like in the film:

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Here is what it looked like in real life:

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It was a wonderful few days for a geek girl like me! The scenery was beautiful and the tour also included lunch and all kinds of interesting facts not only about the LOTR films but about Wellington as well. It was well worth the money if you are a big LOTR fan!

These were the amazing high points that accented the crazy and mortifying moments.

An Honest Mother’s Day

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It’s Mother’s Day. That day that honors mothers and the work we do. I love the idea. Motherhood is the most talked about calling. I can find hundreds of blogs, memes, internet threads, articles, trending hashtags, and any other media bit about motherhood. Yet it is also the most controversial.

I was pondering this today. I’ve read blog posts comforting mothers. Telling us it’s okay that we don’t have it all together. I’ve read posts commending mothers who haven’t caved to consumerism and instead stick to old fashioned ideals. I’ve even seen posts stating they refuse to celebrate Mother’s Day because mothers should be celebrated every day. Everyone looking to cleverly offer a new perspective on motherhood.

I am not that clever. Unlike Matt Walsh’s mom, I did take my kids to Disneyland. I do let my kids watch movies. I’m not perfect. I also wish I had clever words of comfort on this day of all days for all us hardworking mommas. For those of us who feel like we fail each day to be that perfect mommy we see plastered on our Facebook walls. But I have none.

All I have is a life lesson. I used to get my hopes up when Mother’s Day would approach. This day is MY day. It will be a day I get to do what I want and relax for a change. Each year would leave me disappointed. My husband didn’t do enough. My kids were naughty. Angels didn’t follow me singing a chorus of alleluia behind me. But I eventually learned that Mother’s Day works much better if I approach it the way I have learned to approach life. Prepare for (and then promptly discard) the disasters and enjoy the successes. Don’t know what I mean? Let me give you some examples:
I woke up at 5:45 am to get the grocery shopping done since our bare essentials were now non existent and I would have to resort to eating hamburger helper…without hamburger…and juice with a suspicious expiration date. Not exactly pampering. So I discard that…and remember that I also woke up to several notes taped all over the house:

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I also got to walk out to the car and get into it without negotiating three peace treaties and a cease fire…and I drove to the store without listening to Let it Go, the most ironically named song I’ve heard. Definitely something to enjoy.

Of course King Toot proceeded to smack me on the face when he was angry today…twice. The kids spent at least 90% of the morning shrieking, yelling, and tattling. I cried. Also, several preschool workers were unable to do nursery this morning so I spent much of the morning scrambling to get the nursery classes covered. I’ve discarded those moments…in favor of the moments where several people stepped up to help. I even got to attend service instead of working in the nursery myself.

My husband had to work on Mother’s Day so I have spent most of the day without him. But I choose to instead enjoy the fact that my sister, who has lived half a country away from me for several years, moved back to my city this week and we spent the afternoon together. Our kids played well together and it was a fun and (mostly) relaxing afternoon of conversation with my life-long best friend.

So yes, parts of the day sucked. There were some tears. There were moments where I felt I had failed. But there were beautiful moments filled with family and friends and selfless love. So I guess today is a pretty good representation of motherhood in general. There are moments of beauty. There are moments where you soar and you finally feel like maybe you’ve got it figured out. But there are also moments of failure and compromise. Those moments where you just hope to make it to the end of the day in one piece. We just need to choose where to focus. It’s Mother’s Day so I will focus on the positive…today and everyday.

Now excuse me, I must go feed my children cold cereal from a box while watching a movie because…Mother’s Day.

Some selfies with those little people who made me “Mom”

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Sasquatch…now six years old!

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My four year old Urpling

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The youngest little trouble maker…the two year old King Toot…