Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Vaseline Should Be Included in Your Disney Vacation...

T minus 64 days until our fabulous Disney vacation aka Our Mother Effin’ Disney Catastrophe.

One of my favorite sayings is “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst”. The same has to go for vacations with 6 kids. I am hoping for the best, but specifically planning for what could single handedly be our most expensive cluster !*#% of a trip ever. But I’m excited. 
Really. Truly. I mean it. Pinky swear.

In the meantime, can we please take a moment and talk about the planning stages that have me waking up, nightly, in a full sweat?

Dear Walt Disney:

Can I have a moment of your time?
Spotlight Photography & KTR Photoshop

Kids vs. Adults Tickets: First off, Walt, I know kids are maturing earlier and all, but since when is “10 and older” an adult? My 10 year old son and step daughter do not eat like grownups. And they are still in the “scared of the big coaster” stages of life, so paying full price for them is just plain stupid. And to pay $109.53 PER DAY for the 3 meal dining plan makes me want to punch you right in the kisser. Oooo, but that includes 1 refillable mug. How nice of you to throw that in there. Now I’m waiting outside the bathroom for my kid half the day. How ‘bout you keep your mug and deduct $30 per day….per kid, er, I mean “adult”? We will be packing snacks and not partaking in the meal plan for the discounted price of $876.24 per day for our family of 8. Is Mickey spoon feeding us? Does each meal include sushi and filet mignon? Do we get a commemorative gold plate with each meal? Does Britney Spears jump out of a cake?  We will not eat $3,500 in food in 4 days. You want us to buy the dining package, because it’s convenient. I will take the inconvenience and raise you a grand (or hopefully 2) in savings, Walt. Time to lay off the crack pipe.

Park Hopping:  Please explain to this mother WHY it’s $400 additional to park hop? So basically you’re charging folks for convenience!?  If kids are burned out from It’s a Small World and glittery Princess vomit, then they can mosey over to Lions, Tigers, and Bears in Animal Kingdom all in the same day. OR the parents can save a few hundred dollars and say “Hey kids, we’re doing Magic Kingdom on Monday, and Animal Kingdom on Tuesday”. Sure, I’d love the convenience to go in and out of parks, but not when it’s my monthly car payment to do so. Shouldn’t park hopping just be standard? Sorry kids, we won't be hoppin'. We’ll just use that $400 on 8 Mickey Bars.

Places to stay: Ahhh….. the places we can stay. 
Pros: There are multiple options. 
Cons: They suck in price if you have the gall to have more than 3 children.
We can get 2 moderate resort rooms on Disney property, which in turn doubles the price of our trip. We can squeeze our butts into Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort or Animal Kingdom Villas for the super duper price-range of $7,000 - $8,620. Hey, that includes park tickets!
…..but no park hopper. Shocker

Lastly, and most reasonable, for $3,100 we can stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort Campsites. One problem though: I don’t think the fifteen passenger van we’re renting doubles as sleeping accommodations. We’d more than likely get arrested. And let’s face it, we don’t camp well which was blatantly apparant during our last ice storm power outage.

For convenience, yet again, we pay. And we pay BIG. 

So I did what any budgeting mom would do, I found a place in our price range.

Wait for it…………..

(insert music from The Conjuring)

Disgusting, I know. I’m sure we’ll get the look of shame from fellow traveling Disney loving families when we show up at the gate peeling out of a crammed non-affiliated shuttle. And when we pull out cash to pay for food…. I cannot even imagine the looks of pity. But in my defense, there are eight of us. Maybe if we left 50% of our children at home, we could afford to do the “Disney-all-inclusive-fabulous-and-most-convenient-vacation”. But that’s not an option. We go big or stay home. While I can’t change the number of people going, I can change my mindset during this god-awful planning stage. It’s going to be pricey, even with eating breakfast in, packing snacks for the park, driving instead of flying, foregoing the expensive Disney resort and redonkulous dining plans, it’s Disney and we are a big ole family. So I will succumb to the financial pain we shall incur. And I surrender to Walt (RIP) and all of his peeps.


After all, big families need Disney too.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Heaven is For Real and I Have My Own Witness....

www.theamericanjesus.net Image
13 years ago, one evening driving home, my eldest son, who was 7 at the time, decided to floor his father and me with one topic of conversation. I remember the moment and his words vividly. He was sitting in the backseat with his little brother and, there, it came out of no where:

"I remember seeing you and daddy when you were both little." 

At first, we played along. "Oh really, son? Very cool. Tell us more." Kids have huge imaginations and it was kind of fun to see where his was going.

... until he started stating facts about my childhood

"I saw Mommy doing flips in her backyard"
I used to do cartwheels in my backyard while daddy counted, to the point I'm sure it drove my father insane when I asked time and time again for him to watch me.

He gave an account of other things eerily spot on, but we were still skeptical, so I started to ask specific questions, ones I knew he'd have no way of knowing.

"Do you remember what kind of car Nana drove?"
"It was green and had 4 doors."
She drove a green, 4 door, Oldsmobile.

"What about Paw Paw?"
He paused for a minute to recall.
"It was a very old blue car. It had 2 doors."
He drove a 2 door Pontiac that was on it's last leg.

"Where were you when you saw us?"
"I was in heaven. It was before I came to earth. There were angels. They were beautiful and wore gold. God showed me you and daddy and told me you were going to be my parents".

He recalled other childhood details that there were no explanations for. Needless to say, his dad and I were blown away. To this day, I am at a loss as to how he knew the things he did. None of it made sense, yet all of it made sense. 

There are naysayers about heaven. Does it exist? Does it not? According to my kid, it exists. 

And I believe him.

You may not believe. That's what makes the world go 'round. However, had you been sitting in my car 13 years ago, listening to a 7 year olds vivid account, you may change your mind.

With the latest release of the movie Heaven is For Real, it appears he isn't the only one who's "been there, done that". 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Precious Moments

For the first time in months I have been at a true loss for words. Every time I start to write, I stop myself. There just doesn't seem anything worthy of saying, no words of wisdom, no witty one-liners....nothing that moves me to words on paper. On the contrary, I've done the opposite. I've retreated into a shell in order to process the events of the past month in our small town.

A month ago, a young man, just a year younger than my oldest son, was diagnosed with brain cancer. In a few short weeks, he's had surgery to remove the tumor and started his first round of treatments. A week ago today, another young man, just a few months older than my second son was in a tragic car accident that took his life. His death shook our close-knit community and has had moms and dads clinging extra tightly to their babies as these are reminders that tomorrow is never guaranteed.

I question, "why does this happen to kids"? Yet, I stop myself in knowing God's will should not be questioned. Then I read the writings of the mom whose son is battling cancer. Unknown to her, she strengthens my faith. (and if I had to guess, I’m not the only one) She is dealing with unknowns for her baby boy and has accepted this is not something she can kiss and make better. She has put it in God’s hands. She writes about her thoughts and this journey and I am inspired by her strength, courage, hope and, especially, faith. It’s too easy to give up on God when faced with tragic news. Not once has she wavered in her faith and she keeps me from questioning “why these kids, God?” Her son is her hero.

She is mine.

All too often we take the day-to-days for granted. I am guilty of stressing about schedules and “not enough time in the day” to do this and that. I don't know how good I have it. How dare I?  Instead, there’s been a significant shift in my focus. It seems the things that brought me stress, no longer seem so important. I stop what I’m doing, immediately, when my 10 year old decides to share every detail of his day verses rush him through it because I have a call to make. I spent the afternoon with my 14 year old on Saturday. We chatted, laughed, and for the first time in a long time, were not rushed in conversation or to get somewhere else. He had my undivided attention, which, sadly, has been hard to come by. Looking back, more times than not, I’ve been the mom that has been there physically, but not mentally. I am going through motions to try to do and say the right things as a parent, but I’m missing the mark by not taking a break from outside influences that suck away my time and attention. These influences have also taken away a bit of my faith.

Yet God speaks to each of us, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a roar. It may be directly to us or through other people. By His grace, my ears are open and I hear Him loud and clear. I realize it’s time to reevaluate and reprioritize. Just when I start to wander off the path with my "not enough time in the day"s , I am reminded by the faith of others and my own renewed faith in what truly matters: 


Take them. Cherish them. Hold them dear to your heart. 

And if it so happens you're blessed with tomorrow, do it all over again.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Acts of Kindness on My Darkest Day of the Year

March 20th: It's time for a change.

Twenty years is a long time to harbor hate for a day that should be nothing but a celebration of life, so I made up my mind to make it all about the good. It became a happy day on my calendar to honor the greatest man I have ever known. My daddy.

I documented my plan, my thought process along the way as well as the actual events on a website I created specifically for that day. I also reached out to friends to take part in their own random acts of kindness on that day as well. Many people participated. I am working on compiling a few stories to share. 

Check it my story:

Circa 1974.

From this year forward I dedicate that day on my calendar to spreading love and kindness throughout the day. We should never waste another moment wishing for the past, instead work at changing our future....for the better.

I miss you daddy. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Operation Wink - Spread Kindness

March 20th will mark twenty years since my father passed away, which means I will have spent exactly half my life without my father in it. It's difficult for me to fathom. For 2 decades I have hated March 20th. It is a reminder that another year has passed without his gentle personality, dry wit and wisdom. And there isn't a day that goes by that I don't mourn my kids never knowing, first hand, what an amazing person he was.

This year I decided I was not going to dread March 20th. Instead I am making plans to do something uplifting for the soul. I plan to celebrate!

Celebrate what, you ask?


I have now deemed this month as a kick-off for Operation Wink.

Winking: a friendly gesture. "Wink" was also my childhood nickname given to me by my dad. I feel the word is fitting for exactly what I would like to accomplish on this particular day. 

I ask that you join in by "winking" at others by spreading a small act of kindness in the way of a note to a friend. Choose 10 Twitter or Facebook friends who you feel may need something uplifting in their day. Write a message of encouragement, love, praise, etc. You can choose to send it anonymously (or sign it) and drop it in the mail. Please print the "Operation Wink" image below to send along with your note in honor of this kindness gesture. 

Print me!

Knowing that kindness is spreading is something for me to rejoice in on March 20th. Thank you, friends.

Make kindness go viral!

Whitepages.com is a great reference for mailing addresses.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Performance Reviews for Parents?!

I work full time for a construction management firm where we have yearly performance reviews. Most of the time, I feel I do a good job meeting the company’s expectations. But there are times when I THINK I’m doing a good job, but somehow I have completely missed the boat. Unless someone is there to guide me back on task, I keep moving in a direction that isn’t necessarily the right one. My intentions are good, but my deliverable isn’t up to par. I need to reevaluate, be aware, make the adjustments and move on.

As a mom, I feel that it’s just as important to have my performance evaluated as well. We spend day in and day out with our kids, parenting: “please sit up straight”, “why didn’t you make your bed when I asked?”  “Why is this grade not an A!” “Put your phone away at the table” "Why can't you replace the toilet paper roll?" It’s our job to give guidance and advice even if it isn’t necessarily always welcomed on the receiving end. With that said, I often wonder how I am doing with this whole Mom thing. When was the last time you looked at your kid and said, “Am I doing a good job?”  Like my job outside of the home, I think I’m doing fairly well, but no one really tells me otherwise. (probably from fear of getting grounded) So I put on my big girl panties and asked the big question to my 4 kids.

"If you could describe your mom in 5 words, what would they be?"

As I asked the question to my older 3 boys, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. The feeling was the exact one I feel at work, but this time it was personal! Ouch!

My oldest was first to answer. His response was almost immediate. I wasn’t really sure if that was a good sign or not. Then I read his text:


Uh, wait.... did he say "crazy"?

My third son answered next.

Alwaysright? Damn straight, son. That answer may partly stem from my turning into the proper English/grammar police with him lately. If correcting him makes me alwaysright, I don't wanna be alwayswrong.

My second son then answered:

Annoying? What the??? Well... to be honest, I guess I am all up in their business (hence the questionnaire and detective comment from Mann boy #1) I s'pose that could be annoying to a teenager. But teenagers are annoying so we're even. 

I decided with my 10 year old to add a couple of questions. He's pretty brutally honest. Let's face it, that's the entire point of a performance review, no? To get honest feedback? Not to mention he has the most years left stuck in the house with his mother, so I felt I may need to specifically pay attention to what he has to say.

Here are his brilliant honest answers.
My favorite child
Apparently I'm funny, according to 100% of my children. I'm not sure that's necessarily a good thing. Do they not take me seriously? Am I 'cool' funny? Or am I "she's so stupid - funny?"

The 10 year old also thinks I'm cheery, skinny, nice, and fun. Did I mention skinny? 

I could do better by taking him to McDonalds and La Cocina (his fave Mexican restaurant) more. Get a job, kid. I annoy him by making him go to bed early. Tough shiznit. And I make him happy by taking him to sports. If that's the case, he should seriously be the happiest kid in the world. I drag his arse to A LOT of sports.

In summary, I'm a funny, caring, nice, helpful, smart, loving, fun, crazy, silly, cheery, annoying, protective, questionnaire, skinny detective who is always right.

My assessment of their evaluation?

Nailed it!

Skinny Mom

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You're Gonna Miss This

Ten "Lightyears" Later
In the throes of sports schedules, school projects, birthday parties, sleepovers, snotty noses, injuries, tantrums, and tears, I am one irritable, stressed out Mom. Most days I can keep it together, but there are times I want to put myself in timeout indefinitely until the dust settles from my kid sh*tstorm of the day.

But I am reminded by veteran moms: "You're gonna miss this".

To moms and dads of newborns who've inflicted sleep deprivation: the middle-of-the-night moments of rocking, wrapping their tiny hands around your finger, smiling and cooing can never be relived.

You're gonna miss this.

To moms and dads of toddlers eventually finding their way through your house like a tasmanian devil on crack, ripping out drawers and cabinets: Their sweet, inquisitive minds of innocence will be gone in a flash.

You're gonna miss this.

To moms and dads of young children who spend hours cursing and assembling toys on Christmas Eve and who frantically search for dollar bills the evening after an unexpected tooth loss: The pure excitement over the simplest moments in life will never be the same once they stop believing.

You're gonna miss this.

To moms and dads of children who have 6 places to be in one day: Before you blink, they'll have their own license and the moments in the car of cherished conversation are now replaced with moments at home, praying they'll get there safely.

You're gonna miss this.

To moms and dads of school aged children whose projects seem to never end: You will find that once they're in college, you are rarely in the loop with anything in their lives, much less projects.

You're gonna miss this.

To moms and dads of active kids in sports, dance, music, etc. wishing for just one night you could have a dinner that was something other than the fast food variety and that you could have just one night at home: One day you will find that, while you felt you lived your life in the car; every game, every recital, every proud moment in the midst of chaos was worth your sacrifice.

You're gonna miss this.

With my youngest at 10, I realize more each day how much I miss my babies as babies and the things I once complained about, I wish, even for just a moment, I had them back.

While this song starts out with advice we give our kids, there's a reflection of being a parent that brings tears to my eyes....especially in the last verse. Take a moment to listen.

You're gonna miss this.

"But you're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this
You're gonna miss this
Yeah, you're gonna miss this"