The Seven Dwarves at Disneyland


Visiting California recently for the family reunion was the perfect excuse to get the boys to Disneyland. Having generally frequented Disney World during off-seasons, hitting the smaller Disneyland park during peak tourist time was a challenge for us all. But it also afforded ample opportunity for people watching and reflection. These are my seven brief categorizations of the people I saw.

  1. Grumpy. It’s thirty minutes before the night electrical parade. My family and I have alternated “bench saving” for the past two hours in the sun because we’re giving Grumpyour 5 young boys a special treat to stay up late and we’d like them to actually be able to see the parade. Pushing her stroller, Grumpy points to the seats questioningly. I respond, “Yes, I have a big family coming.” “Well, only six is appropriate you know.” Hmmm, you have been crowned Judge of Family Size? Move along, dear, move along. Fortunately, Grumpy people were relatively rare.
  1. Happy. In contrast, every single staff person, and I mean, every single staffer at happyDisney had a smile. No matter what. I tried multiple times to uncover potential  “slight dissatisfaction” – but no. Standing in 90 degree sunshine with a wide brim hat, Ann helped us get into the Autocars. Exhaust fumes filled the air. Motors roared. Cars bumped into each other despite numerous admonitions. “Aren’t you hot?” I queried with a smile. “No, I’m good,” she replied. I love how Happy they are. If you are ever feeling just a tiny bit down, glance at their name tag and say “Hello. I see you’re from….” The conversations are so much fun.
  1. Sleepy. We tried and tried to keep walking and walking and walkingsleepy the boys in the stroller. It took forever, but the 4 year old finally succumbed to the hum of people talking and the warmth of the sunshine. A little attention to “sleepy” time will turn anyone’s mood around.
  1. Dopey. These people are just loving the park. It doesn’t matter their age. Every ride brings a smile to their face. Being stuck on the Indiana Jones ride just dopeyas the jeep is about to cross the swinging bridge brings joy to the four young men in front of us as they “ooh and ahh” over the details of the ride. The lights are turned on and you can see the fake cobwebs and broken jugs, the snake eyes glowing and the realistic looking frayed ropes. They eagerly anticipate a free pass to another ride if this one continues to be broken….and squeal with delight when asked if they want to “go again?” once the ride moves along. It’s a chance for the kid in all of us to “play.”
  1. Sneezy – A glance at the Disney character description suggests that sneezyhe sneezes “violently and frequently but he doesn’t let that stop him from having fun.” The same for many of the people visiting Disney that day. Most of us carry around some struggle or illness or limitation, but when we have the chance to put it aside and let mirth and gladness surround us, we have the opportunity to just “be” in the moment ….for a moment. Sometimes that’s just what we need.
  1. Bashful – “Have you been on this ride before?” the mother behind us asked as her bashfullittle princess bounced around her waist. “Is it scary?” Hesitant, yet showing strength for her daughter, she reached out to a stranger for more information. We opened up a delightful conversation about travel and kids and how we love to surprise them and yet are so protective of them.


  1. Doc – It was a warm touch and I was not expecting it. The beautiful docwoman beside me waiting for the parade, placed her hand on my knee and said, “You’re doing well. It’s hard but hang in there.” – Doc – the encourager, the supporter. She could see Super Tall Guy’s anger and oppositional behavior “a mile away.” She knew his rage. She was calm when he bolted into the crowd yelling that he was going to go ride the people mover by himself then! She was not phased by his hurtful tone. “You’re doing well.” I needed those words that day. The comfort of knowing that despite the challenges, I was doing my best and that was good enough. I wandered after him. He returned before me. We watched the parade. The day moved on and was better after that.

May more and more of us be “Doc” to each other, show each other our Dopey side with abandon, take care of our Sleepy needs, rejoice and be Happy more often, approach the world Bashfully when needed, yet not get bogged down when Sneezy, and put a smile on Grumpy whenever you meet him. A smile and a light touch have “magical” powers. Use them.

When Momma goes on a business trip

You should never go away on a business trip, even if just for a night. It seems to have a way of altering the universe of boy children in seemingly imperceptible yet powerful ways.

It starts the moment you walk in the door. For example, if the business trip happens to be to Hershey, and the boys “recommend” that you bring something back to them, there’s always the “Xtreme Hershey” extra large candy bar in the aisle at Rite Aid on sale for $1.50. (Please note, this is so much cheaper than the $8 plastic cars filled with 3 pieces of Reese candies purchased at Hershey World on the first business trip last year when you had to buy one for each of FIVE boys!) And this works as a fine exciting gift when you hand it over upon arrival. But do not expect them to hear the words “It’s for after supper” as you go out to unload the car. Within 2 minutes, it’s devoured by raptors, who thankfully did hear the second half, “It’s for you all to share.”  Amazingly, mouths dripping with chocolate juice were open wide in wonderment at the sudden cause for Mommy’s “outburst.”

Parenting – it’s always something.

And then comes the evening bedtime routine, during which the poor Mommy encountered an odoriferous 8 year old who thinks “it takes too long” and is “too boring” to adequately wipe; the 3 year old who peed through the pull-up and soaked the bed while lying there before falling asleep; the dog who pooped on the kitchen floor while trying to deal with the first two issues; followed by the discovery that the 6 year old had peed on the carpet right outside the bathroom door (because why?). Well, that discovery occurred shortly before realizing that the stench in the 6 year-old’s room emanated from the pile of dog poop on the comforter (from when?). I confess that my tired brain did not “remain calm” very well that evening. I may even have used a pretty “negative tone” with the sad-eyed boys haphazardly trying to help me clean up a bit. By the time I got the last one into bed, I officially tendered my resignation as CEO of the household and have decided to begin a search for a small tidy cottage with a fireplace and a cat.

It’s always something.

Bedtime the next evening, I spied a small scab between the shoulder blades of the three-year-old. Moving him into the light for a closer inspection revealed a happily attached and voracious tick. I hate ticks. I detest the fear of Lyme disease. I have learned to calmly smoother and remove these predators, but I hate them. I search madly for some antibiotic cream for the bandaid. I pretend it’s no big deal. I tuck the anxious one back in bed and vow to check all over that dog!

It’s always something.

And if the messes aren’t enough, there’s the aggressive behavioral side effects of sleep deprivation accompanied by lovely eye-rolling from Super Tall Guy, the whine for attention from The Little Guy, and the bouncy antics of Mr. Ornery alternating with total melt-downs to contend with. Add in the explosion of a stealth pull-up that made it into the washer and fifteen minutes of wiping up millions of tiny gel balls and you’ve just topped off the “Mommy dared to be away for a day” consequences.

That hotel room sure was nice. Fluffy pillows. Remote control. Quiet. Good solid quiet. Wonder when the next business trip is. Or if there’s a nice tidy cottage in the woods somewhere.

Yes, sometimes life with boys is crazy and I wouldn’t change it for the world….well, maybe we could tweak a few things!

Top “Few” Toddler Truths (as demonstrated in Disney!)

  • If it is on the ground and was at one point in time edible, then you might as well check to see if it is still indeed edible….including little pink wads of gum which are not only edible, but delicious as well.
  • If there is any opportunity to dash away from parental line of vision, you might as well chance it and see if you can temporarily hide behind the legs of people in a crowd…..just for the sport of it.
  • If the brothers look like they are having fun wrestling on the ground in the middle of the walkway, you might as well pile up on top and see how long you can hang on before being flung onto the pavement as from a bucking bronco!
  • If the surrounding atmosphere appears to be quiet and serene, you might as well try to liven up the mood with an ear-piercing scream….until the 5th or 6th time you are asked to stop and then a good whiny cry is the next strategy.
  • Although naps are definitely for babies, if you indeed find yourself sitting on someone’s lap in the middle of the afternoon (such as during a loud rendition of Beauty and the Beast), you might as well take the opportunity to lay lifelessly such that their leg will fall asleep and they become ineffective in pursuing you during your upcoming dart away.
  • If you see a toy that you once held (or thought you had once held….or even wished you had), you might as well grab it and proudly proclaim “mine!”….and see how long you can hold on to it before it is rudely snatched back.
  • You are the master of your own universe and control the space around you – which means you can walk in front of people, walk between their legs, circle around them, touch them, trip them up, whatever you need to do to impede their prior course of motion….even if you don’t know them. Adults seem to find this highly annoying …. especially when they have to practically leap over you to prevent a huge pile-up!

Arlington Cemetery….and the trials of 3 Boys!

Had she lived another few months, Gammie Cole would have been 98 years old.Gammie Cole The boys knew her as a woman confined to a wheelchair who watched their every move as they zoomed through their grandparents’ house. She smiled at them most of the time and occasionally growled in their general direction if they misbehaved. But they never had the pleasure of really knowing their great-grandmother and her wonderful love and graciousness to the world.

She passed away quietly about 18 months ago. In her typical sacrificial nature, she donated her body “to science” and her ashes were recently returned to the family. In a short ceremony on Friday, she was interred beside her husband of over 50 years in Arlington Cemetery. I was physically there …with 3 bouncy and grumpy boys…..but I was not mentally there….due to 3 bouncy and grumpy boys. I regret not being able to be mindful of the ceremony and the memory of my grandmother….due to 3 bouncy and grumpy boys.

It wasn’t really their fault. I mean, they had just spent 5 hours in a car and then were DC-2forced into “nice” shirts (hey, I caved and let them stay in shorts!) and then expected to…. Hey, get that Batman off the tombstone! Stop jumping over tombstones! Don’t throw “coconuts” (aka acorns) at the tombstones!

I was stressed. I fell into the trap of worrying what the twelve 70-some year-olds who were former Girl Scouts in my grandmother’s troop would think of these Out-Of-Control Boys….so I tried to control them. And when boys sense that you are about to swipe some of their “control” – they scowl, they run, they push one another onto the gravel, they throw rocks and other “natural” projectiles, they pull up grass….they become OOC Boys!DC-1

Now, let’s just say that the plan then is to take these OOC boys to a buffet for dinner? I mean, why not? It’s better than a sit-down served dinner….And if that’s not bad enough, and my inability to maintain my own sense of control is not glaringly obvious, then let’s head to the hotel and “go to bed”…..or jump on the beds, wrestle in the sheets, throw pillows at each other, turn lights on and off, open the door and scream down the hall….

So when it’s 8 pm and Mr. Ornery has been in “time-out” in the bathroom for over an hour (and has decided to cut his lower lip with my razor….for the second time – first time was at the beach vacation….”Mommy, I’m bleeding”), and the Little Guy is climbing in and out of the port-a-crib and egging on Super Tall Guy who is doing back-flips on the bed….I’m texting my sister in the room across the hall saying “I hate this,” “I want to go home.”  But I rest for a few minutes until they bounce OOC into a peaceful sleep, while I dream of a cold beer, then grab my cousin to walk to the local pharmacy to pick up a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk….and we survive the night.

Needing a better plan, we decided to completely wipe them out the next day. We took the metro to the Mall and visited the Air & Space Museum. We stopped by the National Book Festival where DC-3Kathy and her boys actually did “literary” type things while my boys and I wound up and flew rubber-band birds over and over again in the grass. And then we walked them to the Washington Monument, up past the White House and back to the metro. While waiting for the hotel shuttle, we gloriously let them splash in the deluge of rain dripping from the metro station roof. Soaking wet and happy, they inhaled a delivered pizza for “picnic and movie night” and by 7:30 they were snoring! Love it.  Now that’s how you handle OOC Boys!

Yet I replay the rough OOC day in my head over and over wondering if this “wild-ness” is just a function of their bouncy active nature …..or am I too lenient and need to do a better job at helping them “control” themselves more. Super Tall Guy has lately been very adamant that he is the boss of himself and not me, though I repetitively remind him that if he can’t handle himself, I have to step in (and that’s never a pretty sight when it’s 80 pounds to my 120!). It’s that parenting line that doesn’t have a clear answer. Am I respecting their needs and creativity and expression or am I raising misbehaving out-of-control children?

I sit here thinking about how I can “teach” them to handle themselves in certain situations, like how to behave at a restaurant. And my first thought was – gosh, that sounds like a miserable time! My second thought was – see, there’s some of that responsibility part of parenting that I posted about last week. …which, by the way, tends to coincide with the “exhausting” part of parenting. And since I have exhausted myself just by thinking about all of this tonight…I shall wrap this post upDC-4 (I’m already a day late since our cable/internet/phone box blew last night and I couldn’t do anything but get to bed early – how sad).

Tomorrow is another day to figure out how to get OOC Boys into little “slaves” as Super Tall Guy complained tonight that he was….the poor dear.

How Kids Punish You


IMG_2059In the adult world, we tend to reciprocate nice things for other people, especially people we love and care about. We think – wow, it was really nice that Jane sent me a letter last week (wish people did that still), I’m going to give her a call. Or my office mate and I who take turns buying lunch each week. Niceness tends to be met with niceness. This is not necessarily (read “rarely”) the case in the parenting world!

For some insane reason (maybe the same one that leads a woman to face labor pains another time), I continue to take my boys to the Great Geauga County Fair year after year. Mind you – the fair is really a great time. There’s pig races to see which of the four swine reach the Oreo cookie first. A fireman battle of water jets pushing a ball across a wire to the opposite side. A big sandbox with hundreds of little green army men and “big” army trucks to play with. There’s fire trucks to climb into, combines and tractors to climb on, firemen to dunk with a thrown softball, and lots and lots of animals to pet and daringly walk past before being hooved in the chest. And of course, the IMG_2043ultimate event at any fair is the eardrum-numbing, motor-revving, dust-kicking, smoke-billowing Demolition Derby. Yes, every youngster’s dream (and adults, too, apparently) – drive as fast as you can to smash into as many cars as you can. Last wreck moving is the winner!

This is all good. But this goodness that mothers endure on behalf of their offspring typically comes at a high price (and I’m not even talking about the cost of food at the fair!). I’m talking about the incredible exacting cost of emotional energy to survive over-stimulated, under-slept, over-sugared, greased out, muddy, potentially disease infected animal petting kids. By 8 pm, my voice was cracking after continuous exposure to dust and smoke and smells….but mostly from repeating similar phrases again and again: “get back here,” “do not run ahead,” “stop touching that,” “don’t put that in your mouth,” “get back here,” “put that down,”  “don’t IMG_1980touch that,” “get back here,” “stop running,” “get down from there.”

I sometimes think that the worst part of the 24-hour experience is trying to get them to settle at night in a new place as I’m spewing out threat after ineffective threat, praying they don’t break the accordion room divider of my friends’ RV or would stop playing with the window, or really – have I never told you not to shine a bright light into your eyes?!? RVs are just so dang fun!

But that’s a momentary punishment when it comes to the 6 hours I must endure the following afternoon with two over-stimulated, under-slept, over-sugared, greased out, now bathed little maniacs. (Yes, it was just two….I wisely decided that The Little Guy would be much happier….I mean, his mother would be much less stressed if he decided to spend the night with his loving grandmother instead of playing in the mud at the fair. He naturally dished out his version of punishment by virtually ignoring me for a bit once we got home just to show his displeasure…and of course, by running to his aunt for a hug instead of me….little bugger!) Mr. Ornery and Super Tall Guy regaled me hours and hours of noise, sibling fighting, squabbling, yelling, and general disobedience as a thank-you gift for the trip.

I stood in the shower this evening (washing off the mud and potentially disease infected animal substances) pondering how these little creatures repay “fun times with mommy” with “torture mommy” until she throws her hands up and practically swears “I’m never going to take you to do anything fun ever again!” (….until the next fun event).

And of course, I know that they are not trying to punish me. They are decompressing from a wonderful weekend, experiencing the disappointment of knowing that high intensity fun is over and “life” returns to normal, dealing with additional siblings in the house, coping with drastic changes to a generally well-aligned schedule, and of course, just being really, really tired.

So, just like the woman who faces labor again having “forgotten” (not really) the pains of last time, I shake off the “pain” of the day, wash away the mud, and prepare eagerly for the next Labor Day weekend. After all, we have more pigs to cheer for, firemen to dunk, ponies to ride and cars to smash. But they better not punish me the next time we do something fun!

Name change

We spent the week at the beach. Little Seth survived this excursion with all remaining teeth intact. He has however developed a much greater vocabulary since the first vacation and is now able to say, “I fell on rock” when you ask, “where’s your tooth?”

It was a very nice week from which I walked away with a few insights.

  • Some people say that they take their kids outside or to a playground or somewhere to let them run around for a couple hours and tire them out so that they sleep better. I realized that to tire out my boys, we have to spend 2 hours on the beach, 2 hours at the pool and hot tub, back for 1.5 hours on the beach and 2.5 hours in the pool/hot tub. Sunshine, sand castles and surf-boards definitely required. Then and only then will they fall asleep.  (In fact, after 3 days of this schedule, Micah fell asleep at 5:12 pm one evening and slept through the night….until 5:30 the next morning!)
  • My mother and sister are fantastic! They let me get out 3 mornings for a run – it was delightful to have a break from the boys (especially the morning that Micah decided to have a fit).
  • In general, I have a rule of “no TV on vacation” – this rule, however, has a couple exceptions, such as “except when you’re really bothering me and I need some quiet” and “except when we’re staying in a small condo with glass furniture and you are really being a pest to the other boys,” and naturally “except when it’s a continuous rain day.”
  • I spent one of my runs pondering names. I realized I have trouble while writing this blog remembering what the boys’ “fictional” names are, so I’ve decided to start using their real names:
    • Little Guy is the tiny little two-year-old. He gets that name because he really is very small….in comparison to the rest of the boys around him. He probably looks quite huge, though, if you’re a long-haired teddy bear hamster.
    • Mr. Ornery is the four-year-old, who is actually more impish (mischievous) than he is ornery (ill-tempered), but let’s face it – “Mr. Ornery” has a better ring than “Mr. Imp” so I plan to use it despite Merriam-Webster’s definitive definition.  Mr. Ornery likes to run around in cahoots with my sister’s 3-year-old son, henceforth to be referred to as “The Rascal.” The Rascal is really a mix of Dennis the Menace, Curious George and Tansmanian Devil. He is brilliant and knows exactly what he should and shouldn’t do….and therefore does all the “shouldn’t do’s” in as rapid a sequence as possible. I have often said that The Rascal has a “two minute leash” – if you can’t see where he is and what he’s doing within 2 minutes, you better get off your bum and go find him. Of late, I’ve noted that Mr. Ornery and The Rascal have a “1 minute leash” whenever they disappear together. The Rascal has had 2 haircuts in the past 2 weeks by a Mr. Ornery who denies the very possibility even when the evidence is within his own hands.
    • Super Tall Boy – this is my attempt to be edifying towards the 7-year-old, because I’m more likely to call him “The Grump” than any other descriptor….but that seems a bit judgmental. Actually, I have told Super Tall Boy several (and I mean MANY) times now, that I am going to officially change his name to “One.” Now that he knows my joke, he actually gets grumpy when I say it, but I do remind him that I can call him by his “real” name 4 or 5 times, but I never get a response. However, if I say “O-n-e” in just that tone, I get an immediate “what?” I used to consider this a joke until this afternoon, when The Rascal had disappeared for 117 seconds and I thought I better find him. I called his name 7 or 8 times as I walked around the house. Finally, I said “Rascal, I’m going to put you in time out if you don’t come out……One….”  As soon as the word “one” left my mouth, ST Boy who was playing a video game in the other room said “What?!?”  I laughed – deny it as much as you’d like, but your name is “One.”
  • By an eagle’s flight, the beach is 10 hours from our house. It took us over 15 hours to get home yesterday. We reached our driveway around 1:20 am and I carried the younger two boys up to bed. This woke them up and they chattered and played for a few minutes until getting to sleep. Consequently, I have little alertness tonight and off to bed….hoping for more than 4 hours tonight. I am a night owl….I wish my boys weren’t morning birds!


    Guess which print is Mr. Ornery’s!

9.25 minutes

9:25 minutes

That’s how long it takes to get to my mom’s house from ours….give or take a few seconds depending on the sequence of the stop lights and whether we shoot through one of the back alleys or not.

This is the sound track in the Odyssey for a very very small portion of those 9+ minutes (to the very highest degree of accuracy that my memory might allow….which probably isn’t great):

N: Mom, when we get there are we going to eat dinner? I’m hungry.
M: I want chicken nuggets and….
N: I didn’t pee in my pants at naptime today.
Me: That’s great N….
M: I kept my pull-up dry last night
N: Is Auntie behind us?
Me: M, that was your second pull-up, we changed…
N: Why is Auntie not behind us?
N: Are they coming?
S: arrghgh
Me: Yes, Sam, that is a boat
N: Can we buy a boat, Mommy?
Me: I don’t have enough…
M: When we go to Tim & Ben’s tomorrow, will we see fireworks?
N: I’m going to stay up to midnight.
Me: We’ll see how your behavior is. You should probably nap…
N: Is Auntie behind us now?
M: Can we play in the pool at Gammie’s?
Me: Yes. We are going to have a birthday party for K.
N: Are they coming yet?
N: Oh look, there’s a black hic-cup truck!
S: Op-day to you, Op-day to you…
N: I want a big hic-up truck!
Me: That’s right Sammy…
N & M: Mom, can Is I Tim have bigger a than cupcake  me??
Me: Tim is older
N: Mom, can I?
M: You promised you were going to take me to the store.
N: Oh, I see the fireman
Me: I know, honey….
M: I’m almost bigger than you, Mom.
N: and the fire truck
M: Can we go the back way?
Me: Which way is the…
N: the men are sitting on the bench
S: blargh, grapth
N: I’m going to put on that big helmet at Tim & Ben’s.
N: Can we buy them a big fire truck?
M: We need a big dog
S: Doggy
N: Is Auntie going to beat us there?
M: My seat keeps falling over.
N: I was a good listener this day.
N: Is Auntie there yet?

I turned off the radio long ago…..and sometimes just drive along listening to the cacophony….wondering why I even bother to interject at all….

And sometimes I wonder – how can anyone expect me to have sustained attention at work anymore? After all, I am being constantly conditioned to listen to 3 different things and process none of it.

But I sure would like to know why 4-year-olds talk so much?!?

N: Mom, are we there yet?