I'm not cut out for school supply shopping. It is not for the faint of heart, and I've come to the conclusion that I just don't have what it takes. I hear other people excited about school supply shopping - "coordinated backpacks and lunchboxes! new pencils! clean pencil box! Pink Pearl erasers!" I missed that gene. I despise shopping for school supplies. Here are some of my gripes...in no particular order.
1. Where do the scissors go? Every year, my children have scissors on their supply lists, and every year we have to buy new scissors. I don't get it. Scissors are made of metal. Shouldn't they last more than one year? Our household scissors manage to cut things for years and years. Scissors shouldn't be consumables like pencils and erasers. School scissors just disappear though. Do teachers get to the end of the year with buckets of scissors in the classroom and then throw them away? Or does every pair of scissors break before the end of the year? Over the course of the elementary school years, I will end up purchasing 18 pairs of scissors (six of them left-handed for Elise ordered from Amazon because nobody can be bothered to stock kids' leftie scissors). Not a single pair of scissors has ever come home with my child at the end of the year. Maybe there is some secret black market for used scissors and the teachers are supplementing their meager budgets by selling off scissors at the end of the year? I've never figured it out, but if anybody knows the answer to the scissor mystery, leave me a comment.
2. "Can I have...?", "But, Mom, I NEED...", "Mom, my friend has this, and it works so well.", "Let's just buy these too in case I need them.", "My teacher says felt-tip pens are just as good as ball-point pens.", "This isn't on the list, but I KNOW we'll need it.". Sigh. Next year I think I'll hire a professional mediator to take with us on our school supply shopping trip. The constant negotiations drain me.
3. Clorox wipes, tissues, printer paper, and hand soap. I just think it is a sad state of affairs that our school budgets are so small that teachers aren't supplied with the very basics to keep their classrooms functional. I don't mind buying these items. I certainly want the teachers to have them. It just makes me angry with our state legislators that they are depending on parents to supply these basics. What about low-income schools where parents can barely afford the pencils and folders that their own child needs? Do those schools go without hand soap and tissues?
4. The *&$#% folders. Every year. The folders. What is it about the folders? Four years ago, I ranted about the scarcity of plastic folders. Three years ago, I complained about often requested but hard to find orange folders. This year wasn't too bad, but of the very small list of items that we didn't find at Target, a blue plastic folder with pockets with prongs was one of them. Retailers need to understand that these folders are the bane of every mom's existence this time of year. If a store were to advertise that they have a full-time employee dedicated to keeping all colors of all plastic folders (pockets-only, prongs-only, and pockets with prongs) stocked at all times, they would instantly become the number one shopping destination for all harried moms. Do you hear me Target? Staples? Just imagine the profits.. and we're not just talking folders here. These moms will be buying the TI scientific calculators, ear buds, Spiderman backpacks, Hello Kitty thermoses and 32 gb flash drives from you and you alone. All you have to do is keep your folder section fully stocked - orange, red, blue, purple, green, and yellow. Always. I don't think there has ever been a year that I was able to get every folder on the lists at one location. This is a problem that deserves a solution.
Thankfully, school supply shopping here is nearly done. We have a few things to return, and we are still missing a... wait for it... a folder. Yes, the one thing we are missing is a yellow plastic folder with pockets and prongs. It is always the folders.
School starts tomorrow (TOMORROW!!), so this weekend was spent doing the annual back-to-school clothes shopping marathon and the school supply list scavenger hunt (orange folders, anyone?). We were able to find most of the school supplies Friday night at Target. Addie ran wildly around the store like only an overtired preschooler can while the girls filled the cart with Ticonderoga brand #2 pencils (yes, the brand was specified for PENCILS! seriously? A #2 pencil is a #2 pencil, isn't it?), pencil boxes (Nina's had to be at least 5x8". Elise's could not be larger than 5x8"), reams of copy paper (because apparently with school budgets as they are, there is no budget for paper), Clorox wipes (ditto on the budget issues), crayons, colored pencils, pens, highlighters, sharpies, dry-erase markers, spirals, composition notebooks, folders, and binders. Our total at the register was obscene.
Just like last year though, we left without the elusive orange folder. Last year, I griped about the orange folder situation on my blog and begged retailers to stock more plastic folders. I think they listened to me. Really. They did! Both Target and Staples had a great supply of plastic folders. This year, I'm going to redirect my grumbling toward the teachers. Can you please, please, take the *#&%@ orange folder off the list? Red, blue, green, yellow, purple - these are all lovely options and simple to find. The retailers worked with me last year. They are stocking more plastic folders. There just aren't many orange folders in the world for them to stock. So teachers, if you are reading this... no more orange folders on the supply list... please. I'm begging you.
That rant brings me to Saturday. We were, of course, orange folder-less. J.C. was helping his dad all morning, so Addie got dragged around with the big girls to Justice, Kohl's, Old Navy, and Staples in search of new school clothes and the last of the school supplies. Shopping and being three just isn't a good cocktail. By the time we collapsed into a booth to eat lunch, I was fried. The girls got kids' menus and crayons and started coloring. Small fights over crayons were beginning to form, so I quickly said, "Guys... can you PLEASE just color silently. Mom needs a break." Addie looked at me, puzzled, and said, "What did you say, Mommy? Did you say your head is going to break?" I started with, "No, I said...." and then thought better of it. I said, "Yes, that's exactly it. I need you to color really, really quietly, or mommy's head is going to break."
And with that, I got my break... a little quiet and a Diet Coke to revive me.
While I was at urgent care this morning getting diagnosed with strep throat (ugh), I received this text from J.C.:
We are at Kohl's buying jeggings.
I find this humorous on so many levels.
1. He knows what jeggings are. He is clearly an all-girl daddy.
2. He is willing to go clothes shopping alone with all three of them, including having them try things on. Who does that? I certainly don't.
3. When I left the house, they were on their way to Sam's Club. How did they get derailed at Kohl's buying jeggings?
Day 6 was to be our relaxation day to catch up on sleep, do a little souvenir shopping, and just have some downtime from the parks. Instead, it turned into "Lose every child in the family at least once" day. This day was parenting at its finest, folks. Clearly, we should have used day 5 to catch up on sleep rather than waiting until day 6. We managed to end the day with all three children in our possession though, so we called it a success.
In going through photos just now, I realized this was also, "lose a bunch of photos" day. Wow. We must have been seriously lacking in sleep. We started the day off where we ended it the night before - at 'Ohana. We went for the 'Ohana's Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo and Stitch. We saw Lilo, Stitch, Pluto, and I think maybe Mickey? If I hadn't lost the pictures from that morning, I might remember who we saw. How do people remember anything without photo evidence? Anyway, I really don't even like Lilo or Stitch, but from a food and organization standpoint, this was my favorite character meal. Once again, food was served family style - Hawaiian pork sausages, Polynesian breads, bacon, eggs, Mickey waffles, etc.. It is so nice to just relax at the table while food is served (and served and served and served again until you are popping the top button on your jeans) instead of trying to time your dash to the buffet line around a character visit. At 'Ohana, we could just sit, relax, and enjoy the food and characters. Too bad I have no pictures to share.
After our nice leisurely breakfast, we headed over to Downtown Disney for souvenir shopping.
Addie picked out the slightly disturbing Baby Tinkerbell doll which she proceeded to take with us absolutely everywhere the rest of the trip. It is nothing short of a miracle that Baby Tinkerbell made it all the way home with us.
Elise selected a stuffed panda because, uh, you know... there are so many pandas at Disney World. Doesn't a panda bear just scream "I'm a Disney World souvenir"? No? OK, well, that's what she got anyway. I've given up trying to figure it out. Nina must have spent at least a half hour agonizing over which princess Polly Pocket-like sets to buy. I loved her reasoning too. It was never, "I really like Belle" or "I love Pocahontas, but Cinderella is one of my favorites too." There was absolutely no discussion of the princesses themselves. The decision was based solely on the fashions and accessories. The thought process went something like this.... "I like Cinderella and Belle because they both come with long gloves. I don't like Belle's cape though. I'm definitely not getting Mulan because she doesn't have ANY high heels. Aurora has high heels, but she doesn't have any gloves. I wish Aurora's dress came with Cinderella's glass slippers" This little monologue went on and on. I honestly don't even remember what her final choice was, but you can be sure they will be the most fashionably dressed miniature princesses.
The World of Disney was our first lost child incident of the day. The place is ginormous, and it was insanely crowded. Addie was locked up in her stroller with freaky Baby Tinkerbell. Nina was glued to the Polly-Pocket princess section. Elise wandered off though. The place is like a giant department store with departments like "Collectibles", "Men's wear", "Watches", "Plush toys", and "Pirate the Princess". Imagine losing your child in a big department store and not having a clue what department she was in. Fun, huh? We searched and searched and searched. Just when I was about ready to call in some employees to help, J.C. spotted her in the Plush Toys section (which we had each checked several times already). Fortunately, she didn't even realize she was "lost." She was just "shopping." We got the heck out of there and headed to Earl of Sandwich for lunch. J.C. looked at the line and said, "I'm still not that hungry after our huge breakfast. The line is so long... why don't we just go back to the resort and eat there?" I gave him a look that said, "Are you crazy? This entire day is planned around having lunch at Earl of Sandwich. We WILL eat here, and you WILL enjoy it." He shut up and found a table with the kids. He's a good man. I think I'll keep him around. The line was long, but it moved fast, and we had our best counter service meal of the week.
After that, it was back to the hotel for naps and the second lost child incident of the day. We had all woken up from our naps and were just hanging out in the room until dinner time. JC had gone off to check on something at the front desk. The girls were all watching TV, and I got in the shower. When I got out of the shower, I did not count children, assuming they were all still watching TV, and I laid down to read a book. A little while later, I heard some rattling at the front door. I figured it was J.C. coming back from his errand having some trouble with his key. I kept thinking he would walk in any minute. He didn't arrive, so I looked up and noticed Addie was no longer watching TV. I asked the girls where she was, and the TV-zombies had no clue. I went to the door, and there she was out in the hallway! Yikes! Parenting at its finest... my not-quite-three-year old was wandering around the hotel hallway. I don't even know how long she had been out there. She must have left while I was in the shower. I brought her back in safe and sound, and from there on out, we locked the top chain lock every time we entered the room.
For dinner, we took the monorail over to the Grand Floridian which is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. The gingerbread house alone is worth a trip over there.
I love the list of ingredients... over 1000 lbs of honey, 700 lbs of chocolate, and 35 lbs of spices. Spices! Can you imagine ever measuring spices in pounds rather than teapoons?
Our dinner destination was 1900 Park Fare for Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner. While 'Ohana had the best dining experience of our character dining meals, 1900 Park Fare definitely had the most colorful characters. Lady Tremaine and the step sisters were a riot. They stayed completely in character and were so much fun. One of the step sisters looked at Addie and said, "I really like your dress. It looks so much better on you than it does on my sister!" Addie was not about to take pictures with any of them, but I loved their expressions.
Addie was there for the main event... Cinderella and Prince Charming. Pink Crocs can pass as glass slippers, right?
1900 Park Fare was interesting... and not in a particularly good way. The food was fine, nothing spectacular, but reasonably good. The whole meal was so rushed though. It felt like you were on a conveyor belt trying to eat as fast as you could before you were dropped off at the end. The characters came through, and then BAM! They wanted you out of there. I've never seen a busboy clear tables as fast as the guy they had working our room. The family at the table next to us got up to simply get dessert, and their table was cleared while they were gone. That part of the experience was a big turn-off to me. The characters were so outstanding though that it is hard to complain too much.
After dinner, Addie decided the music in the lobby was wonderful for dancing.
When we got back to our hotel, we had lost child event number three. Elise and I were browsing in one of the shops in the lobby. J.C. had Addie in the stroller. Nina had to go to the bathroom, so J.C. was walking back and forth with Addie waiting for Nina to come out. Somehow, Nina must have come out, not seen J.C. and walked the opposite direction. He never saw her come out, and she never saw him. She decided to go back to our room. Apparently, she was outside the door to our hotel room banging on it and yelling for us when a hotel employee found her. The hotel employee showed Nina her white name badge (which we had told the girls numerous times to look for if they ever needed help or got lost), so Nina knew she could go with her. They were coming back to the lobby to take Nina to the front desk when J.C. spotted them and claimed her.
With all three children safely tucked in their beds, J.C. and I high fived ourselves for not permanently losing any of them and called it a night.
Day 6 Favorites
J.C. - seeing Addie with Prince Charming
Ann - meeting the step-sisters
Elise - buying a book and a souvenir, and taking a nap
Nina - shopping
Addie - meeting Cinderella
I've been a bit absent from the blogosphere lately, in part because I've been a bit absent from home. Last weekend I took a spur-of-the-moment three day trip to Dallas to visit my parents. I am entering the world of the "sandwich generation", the group of people caring for both young children and aging parents at the same time. My poor broken-back mostly-bed-ridden dad needed some company, and my tired, worn-out mom needed a break from the full-time care duties. I wish they were closer, so I could help them more. It is tough being across the country, and sadly, it isn't in the cards for them to move just yet. I was glad I was able to go though, and we had a nice visit.
This weekend, my traveling was of the fun, carefree, selfish variety! I drove a couple hours to meet up with my shopping buddies, J and H, as we do once or twice a year. I abandoned the stroller and pool bag in favor of an icy Dr. Pepper and GPS in the car. Instead of the Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, High School Musical filled playlist, my iPod was rocking Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Lady Ga Ga, and Glee. Dinner was grande margaritas and enough tacos and enchiladas to feed a starving nation rather than my toddler's favorite meal - edamame dipped in ketchup. The weekend was my me time.... desperately needed me time, I might add. I didn't miss the girls at all. Does that make me a terrible mother? I don't think so. I think it makes me a mom trying to do her best at a tough 24/7 job who realizes that she needs a break every now and then. Most jobs come with built-in vacation days. Motherhood doesn't. You have to invent your own vacation days occassionally in the name of sanity.
J, H, and I are the mothers to a collective 8 girls (ages 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, and 2). When we started these shopping excursions, the 5 year old was in an infant seat, and Addie wasn't even a blip on an ultrasound yet. We would spend our day ooh'ing and ahh'ing over the delicious layette at Gymboree, piecing together mix and match coordinates at Carter's, and buying sweet Mary Janes at Stride Rite. This year, we found ourselves spending the most time in Justice, Old Navy, and Aeropostale shopping for jeggings, graphic tees, and hoodies. My how times change! Instead of buying whatever our hearts desired, we were saddled with the expectations of the child who will only wear green, the one who will only wear jeans, the one who won't wear jeans, the child who wants the exact same dress from last winter, and the child who wants to wear Uggs every day. We reminisced about the "good old days" of shopping while all agreeing that we are DONE having children and glad to be moving forward with life. Our discussion topics and shopping tactics may have changed, but the good times have not. We all want need that time away to decompress, commiserate, and just relax... child free. I'm glad to be home and loved the hugs I received when I walked in, but when our next shopping weekend rolls around, I know I'll be waving good-bye and blowing kisses as I race out the door!
I almost always love the outcome of our beach portrait sessions, but the journey there is never simple. It starts at least two months prior to the trip when I begin obsessing over outfits. When you have a touch of fashion-OCD, coordinating five is the ultimate challenge. This year, it all started with a romper... a cute, sweet, picture-perfect romper.
From there, everything else had to coordinate. Finding a single portrait outfit is the easy part. Finding four more to coordinate is where things get tricky. After searching high and low, shopping online and brick-and-mortar, buying and returning, dresses were secured.
Once the clothing decision is complete, and portrait day has arrived, I have to pull everyone away from the beach, pool, margaritas, Wii, TV, magnatiles, and pool table to get them dressed and ready.
That is easier said than done and sometimes results in lopsided pigtails. Sigh.
Next comes the timing. Twilight is best when the sun is low in the sky and faces are lit with that gorgeous sun-touched glow . Unfortunately, twilight this time of year is after Addie's bedtime. If you've ever tried photographing a tired toddler, you know we were playing with fire to think twilight would work out. We gambled though, and I'm glad we did.
After getting everyone posed and the camera settings just right for the quickly fading light, the next obstacle was the appearance of the surfer dude smoking a cigarette who refused to move 10 feet in either direction to get out of the photo background. Awesome. Thanks, dude.
After traveling the long journey to get here, this was the final result.
I love it.
Of course, the sweet baby in the picture perfect romper had the most pictures taken.
... and the B family...
and a few of the kids... love the way these turned out!
From left to right, the kids' ages are: 7, 6, 9, 8 - anyone care to guess which set of parents are taller?
indecision: noun; a wavering between two or more possible courses of action
My friend Jodi is a decider. She can decide to paint a room one day, have a paint color chosen and purchased the next day, and have the entire room painted the next night after her kids go to bed.
I love that about her.
J.C. and I most certainly are NOT deciders. We decide to paint a room, think about it for 6 months, spend 3 months choosing a color, spend 3 more months debating whether it is really the best color, then finally give up in despair and just live with the current paint. Making the decision was just too grueling.
Knowing that background will help you understand how we got to where we are today. We have complained about our aging, hard-to-clean kitchen table for years. Replacing it would involve a decision, so that was out of the question. About a month ago though, J.C. broke one of the chairs. (No, he is not that heavy. It involved a temper tantrum of sorts while I was out of town.) Considering we have five people in our family and were down to three chairs, clearly it was time to buy new chairs. J.C. looked rather silly sitting on an exercise ball at the dinner table for the past month. Buying chairs involves yet another decision though, so it looked as though the exercise ball might stay in the kitchen permanently.
Then, a miracle happened... we made a decision. We received an email from our neighbors who hold a huge charity yard sale every year to benefit the Foundation Fighting Blindness. They were asking for yard sale donations. Suddenly, it all seemed so obvious... "Let's donate the table and chairs to their yard sale! Then we'll be forced to make a decision about a new dining set since we won't have any place to eat!" Brilliant, right? Their yard sale was going to be the perfect motivator. Obviously, when faced with no table at all, we would have to make a decision about a purchase.
The best laid plans....
Anyone want to place bets on how long our breakfast nook will look like this?