Outings


…and I didn’t even know it. I usually know when to be embarrassed. There are signs. My face gets hot and red; I start sweating and my heart starts beating, “Duh-dumb…Duh-dumb…Duh-idiot”.

But this time none of that happened.

I had just left dinner with friends and decided to run into Whole Foods before I went home. It was dark (my disclaimer). I parked my car and reached into my purse for my lipliner. (I had eaten off all my lipstick at the restaurant.) I still had a band-aid on my nose from my visit with Dr. Ghoul but I didn’t let that stop me from going out. I don’t embarrass easily. As long as you’ve got on some lipstick…you’re good.

Everyone in the store was nice to me. REALLY nice. Bigger smiles; (giggly, actually) more than the usual pleasantries, but I didn’t give it another thought accept, “Wow, I still got it!” I paid for my things and left the store.

The embarrassment doesn’t hit me until I get home. Mark looks at me when I come through the door and exclaims, “Hola, Chola!”

“Huh?” I run to the mirror and see:

Let me zoom in on the “Chola”:

 

Morals of the story:

1. Eye-liner is the same size and shape as lip-liner.

2. I soooo don’t, “still got it”.

 

I’m happy to report that I’m back in the gym.

I’m NOT happy to report that after a weight-lifting class, I’m not able to “lift my weight”  off the potty.

If it wasn’t for the towel bar in my bathroom…this story would have had a MUCH different ending.

 

The magic started to happen on the hour drive to the ship’s port. Nate & Zeke looked up from their books, turned their heads towards each other, smiled and began to TALK to each other! Not one of the sentences started with, “Give it to me! It’s not fair!” or even, “I’m telling!” What was happening? Who were these kids and can I keep them?

Nate started the conversation:

“Zeke, what’s the first thing you’re gonna do when you get on the ship?”

“Well, I’m gonna find our room, see if we have a port hole or a balcony, then I’m gonna go into the bathroom…I’ll probably have to go poop by then.”

Their excitement was palpable. The closer we got to the ship, the more they resembled the children I have in my dreams at night. Hey….wait a minute…we were cruising on the DREAM! I don’t know how Disney does it, but it was 4 amazing days of my boys being happy, nice, polite, friendly, helpful and loving…to each other. Don’t take my word for it, here’s the proof:

They played together:

 

 

 

They swam together:

 

They played tricks on Mommy and made her heart stop:

 

They posed for every photo with REAL smiles:

 

They watched every show on the edge of their seats:

 

Sometimes, it was too exciting to watch:

 

They snuggled the Mouse…Zeke, inappropriately. (Yikes! Sorry, Mickey.):

 

And if you STILL don’t believe in Disney magic, I give you “BOYS WITH PRINCESSES”:

 

Disney cast a magical spell on my boys. I rest my case.

 

 

 

…an hour before these were taken.

It looked REALLY good…on paper. The 4 of us (plus Wickette) fly to Branson. Mark’s family drives to Branson from their homes in WI to meet us. They bring Motor homes, boat, jet skis, canoes and LOTS of “stuff” to have fun with. It had all the makings of a family vacation for the record books. And it was…but for all the wrong reasons:

1. Pack for family of four plus a puppy who’s never been on a plane before and screams like you’re removing her claws when you put her into a travel crate. Get said crew to the airport parking lot; onto the shuttle bus; check bags, get through security; find gate then hear announcement that the plane is delayed an hour and we will NOT make our connection to Branson. Board plane; ignore hateful stares and assure everyone puppy is not being tortured; get off plane TWO hours late; find place for puppy to pee; ignore hateful stares; repeat (in my stern voice)to supervisor that I will not leave counter until they pay for a hotel for my family; spend 2 1/2 hrs. with luggage rep. trying to locate our lost bags while playing “I spy” with the boys for the billionth time. Take shuttle to hotel; smuggle puppy into room; order $32. pasta (x 4) from room service because we can’t go to a restaurant with puppy; sleep for 3 hours, get up and start ALL OVER AGAIN!

2. Branson had a record-setting heat wave that week. 106 degrees in an RV filled with 6 of your inlaws feels like 175 degrees. I should have stayed home and set myself on fire. It would have been cheaper and more fun.

3. I searched desperately for air conditioned establishments. I somehow convinced the family that spelunking in a cave (that’s 62 degrees) will be the thrill of a lifetime. I spend the entire tour with a death-grip on my boys’ hands so they don’t fall down the cave “steps”. Repeat 10 times, “No, you may not buy an $18 cave rock in the gift store.” Leave store, pick up 2 rocks outside and hand them to boys. “Here’s your souvenirs. You’re welcome.”

4. Buy tickets to a show called, “The Legend of Kung Fu” because it has the longest running time (in air conditioning) of all the shows in Branson. Suffer the consequences of my oldest falling in love with the show:

5. Transform RV’s dining table and couch into beds every night, then back into table and couch every morning. AAAGGGHHHH!!!

6. a) Spend 3 minutes on the back of the jet ski with my husband, then 2 hours in the boat waiting for the “men” to untangle the inner-tube rope (my husband ran over) from the jet skis’ engine.

 

b) Uncles let 4 yr. olds drive jet skis.

7. Make “swatting the flies” into a scored game between my sons.

8. Driving over an hour with my hot, tired and bored sons to see Papa’s new building on his property. Finding out there’s no plumbing yet:

9. Hearing your sons say, “The best part of my vacation was finding the Praying Mantis with Uncle Mike.”

10. Finding out that even under the absolute WORST conditions…I love hanging out with my inlaws!

PS How about next year we take a cruise to Alaska?

First, before I tell this tale, I must remind you of the morbid fear I have had of snakes for just under 40 years. Click here to read about my paralyzing fear then come back. OK, having flash-backed to that will make my incredible feat of bravery even more awe-inspiring.

Repticon. The word itself makes my skin crawl, my chest tighten and my husband skip through the house like a kid on christmas eve. Polar opposite reactions. He’s not only infected my oldest son, Nate with the reptile “fever” but he’s the head of a reptile team at our sons’ Montessori school. I actually encouraged this job because I had hoped it would be an outlet for his love affair that was over 2 blocks away from my safe haven (home).

Now, no one wants to pass down to their children a crippling fear of anything…but you have to admit…if you do pass one to them, the fear of venom-filled, vampire-fanged, put-on-earth-to-kill-me beasts has to be low on the list of harmful fears, right? Second only to fear of poison and strangers with candy. You might even say that I would be doing a GOOD thing by teaching my sons to fear snakes… OK, so I don’t really believe that, it’s just something I say to myself to relieve the guilt I feel when I act like a deranged psycho-path in front of my kids.

Sooooo…I’ve been working on it. For the past 17 years that I’ve been with Mark, I’ve been easing into the reptile thing. It’s taking a long time but who’s counting? I can now watch real snakes on TV and movies. Not the fake ones that are trying to scare you like that freaking Harry Potter movie, where the snake strikes toward the audience and nearly put me in the psych unit of the hospital. I can look at snakes through glass enclosures with my family and not run the snake-breaks-through-glass-and-kills-entire-family scenario in my head. And I actually touched the tail of the snake at Gatorland when my then 4-year-old Nate told me not to be afraid, he would protect me. Big progress!

Long story, short…(too late!) Mark was going to Repticon on Saturday and he was taking Nate and one of his Reptile team, Brian. Imagine his shock when I announced, “Hey…I thought Zeke and I would come along.”  He nearly fell over. All he could muster to say was, “WHY?!!” “So you don’t buy anything, of course!” I joked, which actually was half the reason I was going. The other half? I don’t  know. The family that Repticons together, stays together? No, that can’t be it.

Anyway, when we get there, we meet up with Karen Simon, the director of the Montessori and she and Mark were on a mission to repopulate the school with critters.

Nate found a snake that was “Actually shedding his skin right in front of my eyes so I can see it happening.” and demanded that I watch with him:

 

I tried pointing to all the snakes, lizards and turtles but Zeke was not impressed. You could even say bored:

I was on a mission to find something to engage Zeke with.  Luckily, we found a vendor with pygmy possums. So stinking cute! Zeke perked up so fast, you would have thought he said, “Free Legos” instead of “Wanna pet the possum?”:

Yes! We’ve made contact! Head is out of the wagon, Lego guy is in his pocket…we’re making progress! Then we wheel over to the next booth. There stands a man with a 75 ft. snake in his hands. (OK, so my mind plays tricks on me. It was more like 4 ft.) He looks me right in the eyes and starts to hand me the snake! “NOOOO THANK YOU!” I yelled louder than I meant to. I’m afraid of snakes, but I’m trying to work through it. Just me being in this building filled to the brim (gulp, not helping) with snakes is a miracle. He smiles and walks toward Zeke. “Hey, little guy, want to pet the snake?” Zeke looks up and says, “No thank you, I’m afraid of snakes!”  OH, NO! What have I done? I slap myself on the forehead and compose myself. “No, Zekey…you’re not afraid of snakes. Go ahead and pet him.” “No thank you, Mommy.”  Dang it! I must fix this before it’s too late. Damage control mode. “Zeke, I’ll make a deal with you. How about we both pet the snake? Deal?” He looks up at me, “DEAL!” and shakes my hand. Dan, the snake man holds out the snake and Zeke cautiously reaches out for a touch:

“How does it feel, Zeke?” “Good.” and he cracks a smile and reaches over for another pet:

Then Dan stands up and starts to hand me the snake. “Wawawait a minute…wait a minute!” I hand my camera to a nice man who I’m hoping will drop it and save me when the snake attacks. Or at the very least get shots of the massacre so that Mark will know what happened. “I’m just going to touch it. that’s the deal I made with my son.” I touched the snake and agree that it’s not slimy. Then Dan starts to put the snake into my hands. I think to myself, “OK, I could scream at the top of my lungs but that would scare Zeke and make the snake bite my face off. I could run for my life but leaving my son to fight off the snake alone would cross me off the Mother of the Year Award list. Or, I could summon my  primordial instincts and kill the snake with my bare hands, cook it over an open fire and make a belt with its skin. OR I could grit my teach, hold the snake and help heal the fear I’ve placed on my innocent son. A deal is a deal:
Biting my lip so hard:

Oh, my god, oh my god, oh my god…Where’s the head? !!!! Dan just kept talking to me in a soft voice, “You’re doing great, good job, great job!” Yeah, I know that trick Dan…I use it on my kids when they’re getting a shot at the doctor’s. “Where’s the head Dan?” It’s peeking under its body and coming back towards me…”OK…here ya go, Dan. That’s enough. Don’t have to break any records here today…

So, I held the damn snake to “save” my son from the crippling fear I’ve carried with me for all these years. I used the Mommy power to push through the panic for him. I did it ALL for Zeke!

Now, please refer back to all three pictures. Zeke is back to playing with his Lego guys and has no idea any of this is even happening. (SIGH.)

Thank you Dan for getting me through the panic. I will admit to a flood of tears after the fact. But I did it. I ran the camera over to Mark (He’s been buying up reptiles with Karen this entire time, unaware that half of his family had faced mortal danger) “What’s wrong, Honey?” I couldn’t talk. I just handed him the camera. He looked down at the pictures and said, “WHAT? You did it without me? After all these years, you did it with another man?!!”

I’ve heard that “snakes are phallic” but this is ridiculous.

When Mark told me he was doing some work on the newest Disney ship called “The Dream” and we were all going on for 4 days, the last thing I ever thought I’d have to say to my kids was, “Are you alright? Are you having a fun?”

Zeke has been going thru a phase in which he spends most of his days with his hands covering his ears. I’m very impressed how inventive he can be to get things done while keeping them covered. We had his hearing checked and it’s not a volume thing. Seems like it’s an overload thing.

Having said that, I’d like to present to you our family photos from our amazing Disney Cruise:

Checking out our cabin:

On deck, checking out the pools, slides & movie screen:

Listening (?) to the boat drill instructions:

Mommy trying to “persuade” his hands off his ears:

Enjoying (?) the spectacular show in the theater:

The pirate show (Zeke LOVES pirates) up on deck:

Resting his little pirate arms:

The first meeting with the Princesses didn’t go so well. Nate had bought into all the “Princesses are lame and for girls!” talk from the boys in his class. It took all my master spin-doctor skills to get him to even walk over to one.

“Nate, if Princesses are so lame, why do all the super cool Princes risk life & limb to save them?”

“What’s a limb?”

“That’s another word for arms and legs.”

“Mommy? I don’t remember any part of any of the stories when a Prince almost got an arm or leg off…except Capt. Hook but he’s not a Prince and that happened before the story started.”

“It’s just a saying, Nate.”

“Is a saying the same as a lie then?”

“No, it’s not a lie…it’s…uh…uuummm…Listen, if you go over there and meet the Princess, I’ll let you go to the Kid Center and play video games.”

I’m not proud, I’m just addicted to photo-ops: (Notice the stiff-arm “I’m not hugging you, but you can hug me” pose.)

“Mommy, Sleeping Beauty was REALLY nice!”

“I told you, Nate. That’s why the Princes fight so hard to save them.”

By the end of the cruise, he was courting them all. I couldn’t drag him away:

Zeke had a different agenda:

At the end of the cruise, we walked through the ship’s doors and stepped onto the gangway. Zeke whipped around, dropped his hands from his ears and proclaimed at the top of his voice, “THAT WAS THE BEST VACATION I EVER HAD IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!!”

(Sigh) I’m glad you liked it, Zeke.

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