Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What happened to my good intentions?

Kids birthday parties are out of control!! I have always thought they should be simple, fun and affordable. In fact, Big "B" didn't have a real birthday party with more than just family there until she turned three. It was exactly what she wanted and met all my criteria for the perfect, little kid soiree. It was at Chick-Fil-A. It was free. There were a total of five children there. Our big splurge was the $15 we paid to have the cow come out and interact with the kids. They played in the play area. We had cupcakes. It was stress free...understated. Big "B" LOVED it!

Fast forward a year. Turning 4 was a little more involved. She was in pre-school by then and had several more friends. There were around 18 children there. It was at Gymboree. There was a fee, but it was very much affordable. The kids had a blast. It was still fairly simple. The only problem is she got way too many gifts that she didn't need.

This year I intended to and encouraged Brooklyn to have her party at the Arkansas Food Bank. They host parties in their warehouse. The kids bring canned goods to donate instead of gifts for the birthday girl. They get a lesson in philanthropy and helping others. It is free. It has a purpose and I thought we'd both feel really good afterward.

Well....convincing a pre-schooler that she would feel good not getting any gifts proved harder than I had imagined and explaining exactly what a warehouse is and why it would make a good birthday party place was even tougher. As positive as I was trying to be, I even found it hard to convince myself. Then I thought maybe this isn't the year. Maybe she'll be able to understand the concept better and get excited about it when she turns six. So then, if we don't do the warehouse....what do we do for a birthday party?

I'm still trying to think small scale, inexpensive, and low-key.

This year we will celebrate both Big "B" and Little "B's" birthday at the lavish Peabody Hotel. We asked all 30 guests to come dressed in their fanciest, play dress-up clothes. Big "B" will be the honorary Duckmaster and get to lead the Peabody ducks to the fountain. The children will be served a "fancy" lunch of duck-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries (yes, while less fortunate kids - that we could have helped at the Food Bank go hungry). The "paparazzi" (my sisters) will be on hand to snap photographs. You know....small scale, inexpensive, low-key. Ha!

What the heck happened to my good intentions??? I don't know. I let things get away from me. One idea spawned into another and another and before I knew it, we were planning a full-on extravagant event. I know it will be fun. I'm excited about it. The girls are beyond excited about it. They'll remember this one forever. But, I'm also a little disappointed in myself. I feel guilty. I work with children in foster care on a regular basis and I'm throwing my girls the kind of party that those children will probably never have. I want my girls to understand the dangers of over indulgences. I want them to appreciate simple and know the incredible importance of helping others less fortunate. It is something I try to instill on a daily basis, but I may have let this opportunity get away from me. I am making a promise to myself that next year we will most definitely be celebrating their birthdays at the Food Bank. We're going to start talking about it now so they understand and can actually get excited about it.

Until then, I have lots to do to get ready for our Peabody Party. I've got to get party favors, decorations, boas for them to wear, dress-up shoes, make sure the menu is perfect.....OMG...I'm an out of control mommy...throwing and out of control party!!! In the end though...I must admit - it is going to be so much fun watching them celebrate their special day with special friends, dressed up like little princesses! We'll enjoy it for now and work on toning things down for next year!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Granny Camp 101

There are all sorts of summer camps out there, but none probably more fun and exciting than Granny Camp 101. It's a week at the grandparents house where Big "B" gets to be with them by herself, gets all the attention, goes to Vacation Bible School, swims everyday, is showered with gifts, gets to play with her cousins in the afternoon, and gets to forget about following her parents' rules...AND even forgets her parents altogether!!!

It was different not having her around for a week. I thought about her all day, everyday, especially at night when I'm used to snuggling up with her in my bed. I called her everyday. Most of the time she was too busy to talk and she NEVER called us except on the day we went to pick her up. When she called, she asked if we were on our way to get her. I thought I'd "joke" her, so, I said we had decided to let her stay another week thinking she would be heartbroken about not getting to see us. Wrong!!! Instead I was the one that was heartbroken. She got so excited, she put down the phone to go tell her grandmother the good news.

As bummed as I was about the situation, it made me think back to when I was a kid and spent the night with my grandparents. It was always so much fun! I got to stay up late, watch cartoons on cable TV (which we didn't have), play board games for hours and hours and eat whatever I wanted. I got to go shopping and pick out prizes. It's the same way with my parents now as it was with my grandparents then. It's no wonder Big "B" wasn't ready to come back home to us.

I know the memories she makes at Granny Camp 101 each year will be some of the most special. My mom and dad were great parents but they are INCREDIBLE grandparents. And as much as I miss Big "B" during that week I am grateful for their relationship...in fact, I'm a little jealous. It makes me want to call all my grandparents and see if they might be interested in hosting a Granny Camp for me this summer. It also makes me think about the Granny Camp I'll host for my grandchildren one day...and the payback Big "B" will get when I send her children back home ---SPOILED ROTTEN!

Friday, July 16, 2010

...one week as just one

I'm the oldest of three daughters. For two and a half years I was an only child. I (jokingly, of course) often call that time "the good ol' days"!! Now, I realize how important my best friends and sisters are to me. I also know that I CANNOT imagine life without them. I'm sure one day Little "B" and Big "B" will feel the same way, but for now being just one, at least every once in awhile, is proving to be a lot of fun for them.

While Big "B" has been away at her grandparents home taking part in Vacation Bible School there, Little "B" has been able to experience, for really the first time, what it's like to be an only child. At 23 months old, I thought she would be missing her big sister A LOT. They play well together and Big "B" is usually the first person she asks for when she wakes up. But, Little "B" is having a blast getting all the attention this week. She hasn't asked for Big "B" one time and when I ask if she wants to go see Big "B" she answers with her quick, little, insistent "No!".

I realized this week how often I rely on them to entertain each other while I do other things. Without Big "B" here I've focused completely on Little "B". We've played a lot, run errands together and she's even joined me in some of the things I normally do while she's busy with Big "B". (Like read a trashy tabloid! - I know it's terrible. I tried to read Elmo Enjoys Summer, but she preferred OK! magazine...I swear!)

Anyway, it has been so much fun to connect with her individually. She is learning new words daily, developing her own personality and during this week she's loved on me and given me more of her sweet kisses than ever before. She's also been better behaved. It has been a reminder of how much one-on-one time each child needs. I have missed "Big" B terribly, but I am grateful for such a special time with my baby.

Siblings are such a blessing...it's something, though, that obviously takes time to realize. I'll bet in 25 years or so she'll be sitting at her own home (probably reading a trashy tabloid) wishing her sister was there beside her so they could talk about all that Hollywood gossip together! I know it's something I wish daily...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mommy, are you jokin' me?

We laugh A LOT at our house! Ask Big "B" what her favorite holiday is and she'll tell you it's April Fool's Day. She gets this from me. There's not much I take seriously. I love to joke around and I do it often with my girls. So much, in fact, Big "B" is constantly questioning whether or not I'm "for real". Yes, these jokes have gotten me in trouble before and it probably isn't the best parenting tool but my number one rule is to have fun! Big "B" is pretty good at following rules so we have a lot of fun.

Recently, when it started pouring down rain Big "B" ran to the door and was staring at the dark sky. I said, "You can go out there if you want." She turned around with a confused look on her face. I repeated myself. She then said something I hear quite often, "Mommy, are you jokin' me?" "No," I responded. Now, we do love spontaneity and I let the girls do things I probably shouldn't sometimes, but I am not a fan of letting them get dirty or of allowing them to ruin their clothes that I've spent waaay too much on. So Big "B" gave me another, "Mommy, are you SURE you're not joking me?" I said, "Go ahead. Dance in the rain. It will be fun!"

She finally realized I wasn't 'joking' her and she asked me where her rain boots and rain coat were. I told her to just go out in her clothes. She got really excited and yelled to her daddy, "Mommy said we could go out in the rain! This is gonna be sooo much fun!" She ran out the door and Little "B" followed. They were apprehensive at first. They still thought they were doing something they shouldn't be. It was so much fun for us to watch. It didn't take long before they were spinning around. They splashed in the puddles. As their hair started to straighten their lips began to curl. Those smiles were some of the biggest I'd ever seen. Their laughter and mine started to rival the thunder. I grabbed the camera! It was a moment when I wished time could have stood still.

I love jokin' my girls, but this time I was so glad that I was for real. It is one of those things Big "B" is still talking about. And by the way, I learned a little rain - even a little mud isn't going to ruin clothes and if it does who cares!?! We'll never remember those clothes anyway -- we will remember....forever....dancing in the rain!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Is God A Superhero?

I get hard questions daily from my 4 year old...."Why do I have bad dreams sometimes?" "Why do you have to go to work in the middle of the night?" "When I get married one day can I still live with you and Daddy?" "Why can you tee-tee in the ocean, but not in the pool?" If you have a child at this age you know it goes on and on and on and on. Most of the time I can come up with an appropriate answer or at least one that is sufficient for her, but recently I got a question that really stumped me, that made me think and reminded me how important Big "B's" questions are and how thoughtfully I should consider every answer.

Out of the blue (like most of her questions) she asks me, "Mommy, is God a superhero?" Now, to give you some background - we pray together regularly, we talk about how powerful God is daily AND she's a huge Wonder Woman fan. At that moment, I almost said, "Sure, God's a superhero!" Then I thought for a second...God has superhero-like powers, but superheroes aren't real. I didn't want to confuse her. I really didn't know what to say. I gave a let me think about it..."Well..." I ended up saying that God is sort of like a superhero, but real and even more powerful. She accepted that answer but I doubted it. Would she have understood better if I had just gone with my gut and said "Yes. He is a superhero?"

I went to work asking co-workers and friends (of all different religions) for advice. It was a question that no one really had a quick or absolute answer for. I am still pondering it. Still worrying if I gave her the "right" answer. Questioning if I should have spent more time thinking about it and discussing it with her. I want her to have a firm understanding of God and his powers and what he can do in her life. It's hard for a 4 year old to understand and even harder for this first time mom to explain. I continue to ask for adivce on this one and I continue to get differing answers. It's a topic we will keep talking about regularly with Big "B".

I know as she gets older she'll have more fascinating questions for me and I know I will continue to probably give inadequate answers along the way, but what do you expect? I never claimed to be "Super Mom"!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wings to Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart trips with both my children stress me out!! I've begged my family and friends to do whatever it takes to keep me from getting into that nightmarish predicament, but inevitably they fail me! I forget how bad it is. Even when I do remember I fear running out of toilet paper might being even more of a nightmare so, we go...dreading what lies ahead...Little "B" screaming to get out of the shopping cart, Big "B" begging to ride on the shopping cart, both "B's" trying to open the Goldfish bag or worse, the popsicle box, me caving in and letting them and then, of course, the bag spilling all over aisle 9. I swear this happens EVERY time we go. I leave ready to burn down Wal-Mart and beat my kids, but worry those darned security cameras or some nosy, do-gooder is watching. So, I resist the urge like I always do. I know --- if I spanked my kids I probably wouldn't have these problems, but I don't. It is hard to spank my girls. They're really cute, make really sad sad-faces and I feel too guilty afterwards.

Anyway, there was no need for spanking during our most recent visit. There really wasn't even a need to raise my voice at the girls. Before we left for what I expected to be the same, old miserable trip to get groceries, Big "B" asked if she could wear her fairy wings to Wal-Mart. I said, "Sure! Why not!?!" It made me smile. How can fairy wings on a little girl not make you smile? As we walked the aisles of the store, she "flew". She loved having them on and it kept her focussed on something other than harassing her little sister or trying to open packages of food we hadn't paid for. It kept Little "B" entertained, too. I wasn't so stressed. The trip was actually, dare I say, fun! And let's face it...no one really likes being at Wal-Mart, but when all the bitter-looking customers saw Big "B" in those rainbow sparkly wings they stopped and smiled for a moment, too. At least for a couple of hours Wal-Mart was magical.

By the way...from now on those wings are mandatory for our grocery store trips!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

...pool, popsicles, pina coladas, pop's pork chops and a little pee and poop, too!

In every sense of the word -- it was a "traditional" 4th of July celebration at the Courtney house this weekend. The only thing we didn't have was fireworks, but with the history of my kids in the ER that was probably a good idea. We celebrated my mom's birthday on Friday. We were all there - ALL 13 of us - even the brothers-in-law and our five kids, all under the age of 5. It was chaos, there were spats, but nobody got hurt and the memories we made will stay forever!

The pool is our gathering place. The kids love it! Big "B" learned to dive and we all got a healthy dose of vitamin D. I made pina coladas for the grown-ups and mom must have handed out no less than 20 popsicles to the kids and we didn't care! They LOVE popsicles like we LOVE pina coladas - the more you have, the happier you are. It's a win -win! Dad cooked his famous bar-b-que burgers and pork chops. They are THE BEST! I can't imagine a summer holiday without him behind the grill!

The twist this year was that my twin nephews were potty-training. Now, unless you have twins you have no idea what this is like. Potty-training one child is hard enough. Multiply that times two. Now - think about all those popsicles...and all that pool water around them. By the end of the weekend we had all figured out both boys' (sometimes very discreet) potty dances and we were rushing them in and out of the bathroom about every 10 minutes. There were accidents and lots of laughs along the way. It made me dread what was ahead for Little "B" but is also reminded me of how much fun it is to raise your family -- with your family.

As I was telling a co-worker about our "traditional" 4th of July holiday weekend, I was quickly corrected. What we got to experience was really not-so-traditional at all - especially these days. He pointed out not many families are as close as we are. Not all families have each other to rely on and to celebrate with. There wasn't one of us that would have missed that weekend together. We hated to leave but got excited as we started talking about our upcoming beach vacation. Yes, all 13 of us vacation every year together, too! It's also not-so-traditional, but I thank God every day it is OUR tradition.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

God bless America and God bless moms and dads who go through heck to make their kids happy...

Every summer for the past three years Big "B" has eagerly looked forward to the Patriotic Bike Parade at her school. We look forward to it, too. It's simple, it's fun and the kids are adorable riding on their decorated bicycles dressed in all red, white and blue.

I'm not the best at going all out when it comes to decorating bikes. The past two years, her bike...well, let's just say it didn't stand out. What I am good at, is making HER stand out! (hence the sparkly, star shades! And if you're wondering, she did have a bow that matched but it was so big the paper hat she made at school wouldn't fit over it and I figured I would appear a little obnoxious making her wear them both.)

Anyway, I decided I would try a little harder at the bike decorating this year. So, on the afternoon before the parade we went to Michael's and bought lots of independence day garland, some bells, ribbon and stars to hang on the handlebars. While Little "B" slept the two of us had fun sweating in the sun, turning her pink and purple Hello Kitty bike into a fancy, shiny, red, white and blue one she could be proud of at the parade.

After putting on the finishing touches it was time to test it out for a practice spin. Not having ridden the bike in a few weeks because of the heat, she hopped on and started peddling, but the bike wouldn't go anywhere. I realized the back tire was flat and the training wheels were loose. That became Daddy's problem. Big "B" promptly got on the phone to call him. The conversation went something like this...."Daddy, I need you to come home on your dinner break so you can fix my bike. The back tire is flat and my training wheels are loose and I don't want to be the joke of the parade!" He agreed and came home in his suit and tie for what he thought was going to be a quick flat fix. Oh, was he in for something more!!

After about 15 minutes of trying to pump air in the dirty tire on the bike that he sat on our kitchen bar -- I realized it was not just a low tire. He still had hope and kept pumping. We were both growing frustrated. Then out came the tools - ALL the tools we own, spread out all over the kitchen. I was, at that point, convinced he didn't know what he's doing and this fix-it project seemed doomed.

Determined not to let my poor Big "B" be the "joke" of the parade, my solution was to just go to Wal-Mart and buy a new bike, but if we did that we would have to redecorate ANOTHER bike and time was running out! Frustrated and sweaty, my husband had to leave to return to work. I called him on his way back with a couple of suggestions on what we could do. He thought they were all dumb and the conversation ended with me yelling, "No! She can't ride her EZ Roller in the parade. It's a BIKE parade not an EZ Roller parade! And you're the worst dad EVER!!" Click.

It's one of those experiences we've all had as mothers and fathers numerous times. I knew one day I'd look back and laugh at this mishap, but at that moment I was livid!!! I went to bed hoping when I woke up on bike parade day Big "B" 's bike would be in riding condition and the laughter could begin. Instead, I woke up to the bike in worse condition. It was no longer on the kitchen bar. It was in a million pieces in the living room. Nuts and bolts and tools were scattered everywhere! I fought the urge to wake a sleeping house and left for work. When I got home my husband made a trip to Wal-Mart and after a couple of hours the bike was fixed and ready to go JUST in time for the parade.

When Big "B" saw it lined up on the breezeway with all the other bikes, she yelled, "Daddy, thanks SOOOOOO much for fixing my bike!" She didn't know he would have preferred she rode her EZ Roller instead of him fixing the bike, but he did it and he was the hero! She was happy, he was happy, I was happy....it was time to start laughing...