Parenting

Love is love

rainbow heart

Like everyone, I’m overwhelmed by what happened in Orlando. The deadliest mass shooting in America.

I was a freshman in high school when the massacre at Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas topped the list. Because that gunman had driven his truck right into the restaurant before opening fire, some businesses designed barricades disguised as aesthetic like the giant red bollards in front of Target stores, or so says popular lore.

Then there was the Sandy Hook massacre which claimed the lives of 26 people, especially tragic for its mostly young victims.

Virginia Tech was utterly staggering for its high loss of life. I never imagined that would be surpassed.

And then a lone gunman stormed a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, taking hostages during his siege. At least 49 are dead and even more injured.

In all of these cases of senseless violence, the lone killers lay dead among their innocent victims.

Whenever something tragic like this happens, as parents we have to deal with our feelings and help our children process their own feelings of fear, helplessness and grief. Psychologist Dr. Janet Taylor appeared on ABC News to offer advice on how to talk to your kids about the Orlando massacre.

Two of my children are too young to be aware of what’s going on. It’s summer vacation for my soon-to-be 7 year-old son and my 4 year-old daughter has yet to start school. They are shielded in our loving home from the world’s atrocities. Just a few minutes ago they were happily enjoying some Neapolitan ice cream, a perk of lazy summer afternoons. And to be honest, I have no intention of telling them about what happened. Soon enough they will learn of hatred, cruelty, and violence. But today is not that day. Today is a day I can buy my son a $4.99 game he wants to play on the iPad. I can laugh with my youngest daughter while she dances with her hokey-pokey Elmo. And I can shower them with kisses and hugs and I love you’s in honor of the at least 49 families who no longer can.

#Loveislove #OrlandoStrong

My big PeeWee surprise

PeeWee's Big HolidayPeeWee’s Big Adventure is on Netflix. My husband recently put it on for the kids and and I was happy they enjoyed watching it. I’m an 80′s girl at heart. I remember when PeeWee’s ridiculous dance to “Tequila” made me smile and his trademark laugh was oddly endearing to me. I get sentimental about that neon decade of leg warmers so I like it when I can share a piece of it with my children.

Yesterday I found PeeWee’s Big Holiday was out. It’s a made-for-Netflix film to reprise the original and probably rekindle Paul Reubens’ career. I suggested that my kids watch it when they were looking for something besides Henry Danger reruns. They liked the other movie so they were excited. I was too… for a chance at some free time. I got on my laptop and half-watched the movie over my screen. It wasn’t grabbing my attention. The opening scene showed PeeWee and an alien exchanging friendship bracelets, which turns out to be a dream. But I did notice this: Paul Reubens hasn’t aged a day since the 80s so I’m guessing he sleeps in a cryogenic chamber. Or he has really good genes. Or I need the number of his plastic surgeon.

Then PeeWee goes to work at a diner and he makes someone a milkshake and then he gets on a motorcycle. I don’t know. I don’t care. But then he’s in VW Bug headed to New York City because reasons. Then three busty bank robbers, who he thinks are hitchhikers, squeeze into his small car and end up taking him to a motel room and tying him up while they decide what to do with him. Suddenly, there’s cops outside the room. The girls scramble to hide the money and one opens the door. The cops, who look suspiciously brawny even for a movie, announce that the girls are under arrest… for being too hot. They tear off their uniforms to reveal speedos underneath and I just managed to turn the movie off as a pillow fight was starting.

This movie is rated PG. No dash 13. Just PG. I literally have no idea what happens next but no. Just no. Call me a prude but PeeWee wasn’t exactly having the time of adventure I seem to remember him having. I have no idea what happened next but I wasn’t about to let my four and six year-olds watch and find out.

Goals

Hudson in a swingHudson just said, “I wish I had my own playground… or that I could take over the world!”

It’s good to have goals.

How to put your kids in therapy for the rest of their lives.

The Bloggess recently had her 18th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, she considered hiring an evil clown to stalk her husband for a week.

What?

It’s a real thing, she wrote, and I followed her link to a Huffington Post article about a man named Dominic Deville. It’s an appropriately creepy name for someone who hires himself out as an evil birthday clown. He “leaves scary notes for your children” and “harasses his targets with texts, phone calls and letters to let them know their time is coming.” After a frightening week of this, Deville appears in a freaky clown mask to smash a cake into your birthday child’s face.

Dominic Deville evil birthday clown

Turns out, Deville only performed these services in his native Switzerland (for 666 Swiss Francs) and he’s no longer in the Evil Birthday Clown business.

On an unrelated note, Hudson (who is back to going by his real name) has a birthday coming up.

Oh, and I think I have an idea for a new business.

This is how we do it.

Jolie at the splash padSwimming pools and splash pads. Bathing suits. Water shoes. Hats. Sunglasses. Sunscreen. Otter Pops. Kool-Aid. Fruit smoothies. Lots and lots of cold water.

This is summer survival in Phoenix. It’s how we handle the blistering heat when we dare to venture outside.

Now is the time for those of you who live in cool climates to rub it in. Brag about getting in your car without scalding yourself. Tell me how you can take out the trash barefoot and it’s not like walking on hot coals. Tell me how chilly it gets when the sun goes down. You still get to wear your jeans and sweaters!

Am I jealous? Yes, yes I am. But come winter time I’ll be Christmas shopping in shorts and not shoveling my driveway. That’s one of the many things that makes living in Phoenix worthwhile.

Summer days drifting away

One cool thing about summer is the extra activities there are for toddlers to do. A local church hosts Tot Town a couple of times a month. It’s a gymnasium full of bouncy houses! Little Tikes toys! Trucks! LEGOs! And cranky babies. Totally understandable because it’s probably sensory overload for them.

Jolie couldn’t get enough of the mini kitchen and microwave. The only thing she cooked was tools, in particular a purple screwdriver. Someday we’ll talk about how metal and microwaves don’t play nicely together, like big kids in bouncy houses who think the tiny ones are there for extra cushioning.

The Priceless and the Costly

I was sitting on the couch with my laptop when Hudson snuggled up to me and asked, “How long have you loved me?”

Usually children ask how much but he was interested in the longevity. “Since the moment I found out I was going to have you,” I told him.

Eye-roll. “No, in daaaayyyys.”

Oh, he wanted it quantified. I opened a new window in my browser and found an online calculator. “Well, you’re almost five years old and there are 365 days in a year. That’s 1,825 days. That’s a good estimate.”

This made him smile. “That’s a lot of days!” Then he pointed to the on-screen calculator and said, “Show me the number of how much you love me.”

Now he wants to know much. But how do you put love in numbers? It can’t be measured like that. I typed as many digits as the screen would show:

999999999999999

“That’s not even a real number, Mom.”

“Yes it is,” I said. “It’s like nine billion zillion. It’s a lot.”

“THIS is a real number.” He reached across me and typed:

123456789

“Okay, then this is how much I love you.” I typed random numbers, lots of 9′s, 8′s, and 7′s, something large that looked more like a real number to him.

He was satisfied. Then he asked, “Do you want to see how much I love you?”

Of course I did. He typed:

100

“One hundred!” he yelled.

To a four year-old, 100 probably seems like a lot. I’ll admit I was happy when he said, “Actually it’s more like this,” and he added some numbers:

1006210

Speaking of high numbers, here’s one I’m trying to calculate: the cost of a family trip to LEGOLand.

About a decade ago, LEGOLand was described to me as fairly boring and aimed mostly at younger kids. It stayed off my list of desirable destinations. Then last weekend my hairdresser told me her family has annual passes and they’re planning their upcoming trip.

“Really?” I asked in a tone that implied, Why would anyone go to LEGOLand when they can go to Disneyland?

“Oh, yeah!” she gushed. “Our kids love it.”

“They must be young. I heard there’s not much to do there.”

“There’s rides and stuff.”

“Rides?!”

“Uh huh. And a waterpark.”

How is it possible I didn’t know about this? Why has everyone being keeping this a secret from me?

“Oh, and if you stay at their hotel,” she added as an afterthought, “the rooms are LEGO themed and you can book a character breakfast and eat with Spongebob.”

LEGOs, rides, a waterpark, and BREAKFAST WITH SPONGEBOB?! It can’t get any better. It’s as if someone took Hudson’s favorite things and rolled it into one giant amusement park. Because does Hudson love LEGOs? Well…

Hudson buried in LEGOs

YES. That’s him at LEGO Fest one year.

So I went online and researched. What’s the cost of two-day tickets to LEGOLand and the Waterpark for two adults and two children?

$324 + tax

Not a bad price.

What about a hotel? Well, that varies. A simple room with beds and continental breakfast in the morning?

~$100 a night + tax

But what about a stay at the LEGOLand Hotel? The one that has cafés and restaurants, Castle play area, gift shop, and a heated pool with cabanas?

$429 and up PER NIGHT

That’s just a basic room without all the extra theme stuff. Although, it’s still pretty fabulous, right?

Adventure Room

Adventure Room

Yes, yes it is fabulous. Probably worth the money because, unlike some other themeparks open eight a.m. to midnight or one a.m., LEGOLand’s summer hours are 10:00am – 8:00pm. You’ll spend more time in your hotel than you would maybe if you were going to Disneyland.

I still have to crunch some numbers but I’m thinking tickets + hotel + gas (we’d drive) + food + souvenirs (a mandatory) + unforeseen expenses =

999999999999999

You know, about nine billion zillion.

Alright, maybe a little less. Still expensive but doable and totally worth it for the kids.

How Not to Say Thank You

A boy in my son’s preschool class has a summer birthday too. Thanks to the class roster, the mother was able to email the parents invitations to a party at an indoor trampoline and bouncy house place.

That’s the kind of mother I admire – one who doesn’t let the worry of people being on vacation or not wanting to go out in the blazing heat stop her from hosting a party.

Hudson AZ Air Time

Turns out, tons of kids came. I got some good pictures but not many of Hudson bouncing. Those action shots are so hard to capture.

My PicMonkey edit probably isn’t fooling anyone. The original was blurry with poor lighting. Totally makes me wonder how we survived the old days of cameras with flash cubes. A roll of film with 24 exposures? You could use half that many pictures just trying to photograph your mocha frappuccino and blueberry scone.

On the car ride home from the party – two hours of jumping, pizza, and cake – instead of immediately passing out, Hudson told me what a great time he had. I suggested we send a thank you card to the birthday kid. He agreed.

Then I asked what he’d like the card to say. His response? HILARIOUS.

“Thank you for inviting me to your party. It was lots of fun. I broke my leg and you didn’t help me. That was rude of you. Thanks anyway.”

Me (suppressing laughter): “I didn’t see you get hurt.”

Hudson: “I DID get hurt.”

Me: “But you didn’t break your leg.”

Hudson: “Yes I did!”

Me: “Maybe you hurt it, or twisted it, but you didn’t break it.”

Hudson: “I did.”

Me: “Your legs seem fine now. [The birthday kid] fell too. He was okay.”

Hudson (after a brief pause): “I did have fun even though I broke my leg.”

Me: “Well, I’m glad to hear it.”

I will be sending a thank you card. Not the one Hudson suggested but maybe mine will be honest too.

“Thanks for inviting us to the party. I enjoyed getting out of the house and talking to other adults. The cake was delicious but fattening. Now I’ll have to watch my calorie-intake for the next few days. Thanks anyway.”

What do you think?

Yeah, you’re right. One of those generic cards you can buy in packs would do just fine.

Walking with Kids

Lucas has a map app and he used it the other day to track our walk in the neighborhood with the kids. Our route looks much less chaotic than I thought it would, especially considering we let our four year-old carry the phone most of the time. At that age kids walk about as straight as a driver taking a field sobriety test.

Map App Screenshot You should have seen the screenshot Lucas took after walking the dogs. The line is pretty straight until they got to the park and then it looks like a child’s erratic crayon scribbles.

We usually walk the same general path with the kids, which includes a stop at an apartment complex to look for Linus. He’s an elusive indoor/outdoor cat with a friendly owner who doesn’t mind small children chasing her pet around.

There’s also a grassy knoll the kids like to play on. It’s covered with a sprinkling of small, white flower buds. Jolie thinks it’s popcorn. You can kind of see her point, can’t you?

Popcorn tree

This, I think, is the best reason to let kids take the lead on neighborhood strolls, even if it’s all squiggles and loop de loops. You never know what you might see: a glimpse of a slippery cat or a Popcorn Tree.

And we didn’t even get to go to Paris.

Jolie woke me up at 3:50 one morning. I didn’t write “4:00 am” because when you’re exhausted those ten minutes totally count.

Jolie wasn’t hungry, she was fussy and running a low-grade fever. Before I could even get to the liquid cherry Tylenol and measuring cup, Hudson got out of bed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was all I needed to know exactly how my day was going to go.

Hudson wasn’t sick too, thank God. He was ready to play. He heard us get up and decided he wasn’t about to waste another minute in bed and miss out on any pre-dawn fun.

The commotion I made rattling around in the kitchen, dispensing medicine for Jolie and pouring cereal for Hudson, also woke up Lucas. That was a relief because a one-to-one parent-child ratio is a necessity before sunrise.

Once the four of us were all snuggled on the couch I said to Lucas, “The only reason we should all be up this early is if we’re going somewhere awesome, like Paris.”

Paris is a reason to get up early. Who wouldn’t wake up before the roosters to go there? Except we weren’t headed to the airport for a Parisian vacation. We were watching the Science Channel, the only channel as far as Lucas is concerned. Normally I don’t mind but they were showing something about King Crabs. I don’t like crabs. They’re the spiders of the ocean.

Then it got worse. The show moved on to venomous lionfish. The poison is in their fin rays and in humans it causes pain, nausea, fever, convulsions, difficulty breathing, numbness, heartburn, “pins and needles” sensations, headache and sweating. In rare cases, paralysis of the limbs and even death.

Tell me this spiky thing swimming at you wouldn’t be terrifying:

Venomous lionfish

Just look at his beady little eyes and grimacing mouth. He looks like a surly predator about to swallow his prey whole. Some might say the same about me at four o’clock in the morning. Especially if I’m not waking up to go to Paris.