Turning 5--It's par for the course.

The Monkey turned 5 a few weeks back. Since we were actually on the cruise during his birthday, we waited to have his party. We went with the whole mini-golf idea: 5 holes, plastic putters, and mini-trophies for prizes. Just like Martha...well, sort of.

All then the rain came tumbling down. The whole week prior to the party it rained and rained. By party day, even though the sun had finally appeared, the yard was in no shape to be played on. And let's face it, I really didn't want lots of little feet tracking mud all over my house.

So we decided to have the party inside. We put the course upstairs using AstroTurf. Each hole had a different theme: a bear hole (where you had to putt around the bears), a hole with a long tunnel that the Monkey had decorated, a bubble hole (complete with a bubble machine), a pinwheel hole, and finally the last hole where you had to putt down the stairs and into a large gopher. (The 5 year-olds did not get the Caddyshack reference.)

Fun was had by all, even if the AstroTurf did make a gigantic mess (that stuff really, really sheds a lot.) There was cake and ice cream and presents and everyone was happy and no tears were shed.

And later that evening, playing with some of his new toys, the Monkey looked up at my mother and said, "I feel 5 now."

The Disney Cruise of 2010.

:: showing brotherly love while waiting to board ::

:: sliding/running into the Mickey Pool ::

:: any excuse to dance with cute girls, he'll take it ::

:: greeted by the locals in Nassau ::

:: wild and crazy fun at the kids' club ::

:: special birthday buttons "rock!"::

:: nothing like a duck in a tux ::

Weekly Column: Raising Siblings: What would Eve Do?

© 2007, Stephenie Freeman

(Since I am now writing a monthly, instead of weekly, column, I thought I'd treat you sweet readers to some oldies-but-goodies that never made it to the blog. Enoy!)

Something I have been praying for has finally happened. My children actually like each other.

For a while there, the only real interaction that my children were having with each other involved sharing or should I say, not sharing. So recently I asked my husband, who just happens to have a brother himself, how long it would be before our boys started to get along.

"A long, long time,” he informed me. “Maybe never.”

Needless to say, I didn't easily accept his answer. “No, seriously. Like when?”

Dead serious, so as not to be mistaken, he informed me that he guessed that would probably be sometime after they both graduated from college; after they learned to appreciate each other. Clueless, I was shocked in an only child sort of way.

Sibling relationships are something that I have no expertise in and little understanding of. If any one thing makes me nervous about raising my boys, it’s fostering a healthy relationship between the two of them. So after my husband’s comment, I wondered whether or not there would ever be a bond between these two brothers.

Sitting in church one Sunday I listened intently to a sermon about Adam and Eve being the first parents. Naturally, I began to wonder. Where did Eve go wrong with her boys?

Poor Eve. I can hear her now. “I turned my back on them for a second and the next thing I know they were trying to kill each other!”

You have to give her credit for trying to raise the first two children on the planet. She didn’t have the modern mother conveniences that we have today. She didn’t have other mommies at the playground telling her what these little creatures are truly capable of. She didn’t know that when it comes to boys, playing can turn into wrestling, which can turn into fighting, which usually turns into a trip to minor emergency.

“Cain, please quit playing so rough with your brother. Someone’s going to get hurt.”

Just think how different his life would have been if only he had listened to his mother.

Like Eve, I have also found that my boys only know one way to play—loud and rough. They love to chase each other around the living room when they're supposed to be eating dinner. They think it is fun to jump on the couch, laughing as they bump into each other, knocking each other down. Yeah, it’s all fun and games until someone falls off the couch and breaks something, like my coffee table.

Inevitably when my boys play together, someone gets hurt. It never takes long before one or both of them start to cry. Between brothers, playing can quickly turn ugly within a matter of seconds. The other day I watched as our youngest moved in slow motion to bite his brother who had just taken away his favorite toy. Mayhem ensued and tears flowed. The boys cried too.

During these times, these times of all out boy fun, I can’t help but feel very much like a girl. I’m the outsider, standing on the other side of the fence yelling things at them like, “Stop using my throw pillows as weapons!” and “Hot Wheels aren’t supposed to fly—especially at each other!”

And my personal favorite during raucous games of hide-n-seek, “My bottom might be big, but that doesn’t mean you can hide behind it.”

I serve as their “base”, their safe zone, their mediator when things go terribly wrong. I yell things like, “Play nice!” and “Use your inside voice!” to no avail. As the mama, it my job to be the umpire, the referee, the line judge who call outs the illegal moves and takes them to the penalty box when necessary. And as two brothers, it’s their job to make my job more difficult.

I guess I’m not as worried about my boys getting along as I used to be. Even Eve didn’t get it right the first time, so I figure I’m in pretty good company. And if we get through the next eighteen years without one them killing the other, we’ll be ahead of the game.

Until then, I’ll keep preaching brotherly love and keep the emergency room on speed dial.

We're Back!

We made it home safely from our fabulous trip, but now everyone's down with the "crud", something that we picked up from the ship or the airplane or quite possibly both. So in between the moaning children and the loads of laundry, all I have time to give you is this quick pic with a promise of more details to come. (That's if all of this California rain doesn't wash us away.)

Apparently, the weather man hates me.

I'm not a full-on control freak. I just have a mild case. A mild case that throws me into a world of worry and panic when I find that I don't have control.

It's not so much that I want control, I just want everything to happen the way that I think it should.

I've been planning this trip--our inaugural Disney Cruise--for months now. Months of imagining and planning and working to get everything just right. And now we are only 2 days away from leaving and the excitement in the house can hardly be controlled.

Everything about the planning of this trip has gone smoothly. I've been able to check things off my planning list with ease and amazing efficiency. I had always heard how amazing Disney Cruises are and I was making sure that ours would be no different.

{telling the boys Christmas morning our our vacation plans}
And then I started checking the weather and it has totally thrown me into I-don't-have-any-control-and-it's-freaking-me-out mode.

The weather hasn't been something that I've really thought about until I started thinking a couple of days ago what we needed to pack. I knew that the temps this time of year averaged somewhere around the low 70's, but could also be in the low 60's. It could be a little chilly, but so what? We're going to be on a freakin' Disney Cruise! And besides, the kids would swim no matter the temperature. That's just how kids are.

But it now looks like there's also a small chance of rain. A small chance, but enough of one to make me a nervous wreck. Rain ruins things. Rain makes you sad. Rain makes you want to lay in bed and not do anything. But we were going on a flippin' Disney Cruise where rain just isn't an option. Apparently Mother Nature doesn't give a crap that I've been planning this for months and have this perfect picture in my mind of exactly how our trip is supposed to go.

I shared my worries with the Golfer. He quietly reminded me that I have no control over the situation. None whatsoever.

"But I don't want it to rain or be chilly. I want it all to be perfect. Exactly how it is in my mind: perfect!"

And he nodded and looked at me with those eyes that said, "I married a crazy woman." And quietly shared these words.

"Honey, it's supposed to be 70 degrees with a slight chance of showers. Relax. The kids aren't going to care what the weather's like. They will have a blast no matter what."

And dammit, you know what? He's right.
I hate it when that happens.

I'm not 300 years old. I just feel like I am.

Yesterday was my 300th post. A milestone I suppose. I guess it's significant, although I'm not sure why. But I'll go ahead and give myself a "Whoo-hoo!" because it seems like I should mark the occassion with an annoying chick noise of some kind.

It wasn't my 300th, but I did celebrate a birthday recently. Nothing significant about it at all. In fact, I spent half the day in bed with a migraine, but that's nothing new since big, fat, ugly headaches that make me want to scream are becoming a regular part of my old age.

The only thing good about my birthday was the cards (or should I say, pictures) that I received from my boys.

This picture was from the Monkey (aka Palmer). That of course is a beautiful tree and those two grey figures next to it are me and the Monkey. Not surprisingly, I am the bigger of the two. (And those are my eyes, not my boobs.)

This one is from the Cheese. I love its simplicity. A pretty flower and the words, "To Mom". Nothing mushy or overdone. Just keep it simple stupid. The Cheese apparently takes after his father.

I love how they both write their names on their pictures. I remember doing that as a kid. For a long time, your name is the only word that you can write and so you write it on everything. And I love how the Monkey is still in the stage where you write it as big as you can, in the middle of the page in black, so there's no way anyone can miss it.

You've gotta love a four-year-old's egocentricity.

That was all my kids gave me for my birthday. No teacups or lightbulbs this year. Just their love drawn in crayon on a piece of copy paper that they stole out of my printer.

I couldn't have asked for a better present.

Mini-golf birthday for a 5-year-old? No problem!

I thought that when I talked the Monkey into having a mini-golf birthday that I was doing a good thing. I thought it would be easy. We'd play putt-putt in the backyard, have a cute golf cake, and give out mini-trophies as prizes. The mistake I made was using Martha Stewart as an example.

The idea came from one of her kids' magazines. I had ripped it out and saved it because I just knew that it would make a darling party.

{photo from marthastewart.com}

The pictures make it look so easy. All you need is...a baking sheet, play sand, two-by-fours, cardboard, acrylic paint, pinwheels, croquet wickets, electrical tape, a xylophone, dowels and fabric for flags, and 200 square feet of artificial turf.

No problem. Sure. Whatever, Martha.

The mistake I made was showing the pictures of the 9-hole mini-golf course to the Monkey. He said things like "Cool!" and "Awesome!" and "Whoo-Hoo!"

And now here I am. Three weeks until his party and I haven't started on any of it. And to top it off, we are leaving on a Disney Cruise (so excited, so excited, so excited!) in 4 days, drastically cutting off my partying planning time.

The Golfer suggested we just let the kids hit golf balls all over the house. I think he was drunk when he said it. No, I'm sure he was.

But my little boy is turning 5 and there's no way I'm going to disappoint.

I just might kill myself with a putter by the time it's all over.

Weekly Column: A new year, another birthday.

©Stephenie Freeman

I was two weeks late arriving. Every night my father pleaded with my mother, “Have it tonight. I’m all ready. Have it tonight.” Before they knew it, New Year’s Eve had arrived and I still hadn’t.

My parents decided to go to my aunt and uncle’s house for to watch whatever bowl games were on and celebrate the New Year with their family and friends. Two chili dogs with onions and a glass of champagne later, my tired mother was ready to take my inebriated father home.

“Don’t have it tonight.” (Slurring.) “Please, just don’t have it tonight.”

At around four o’clock in the morning, my mother went into labor and approximately eight hours later I arrived. Yes, I was a New Year’s baby who made her parents miss getting a tax break by a measly twelve hours and fifty-four minutes.

I was a difficult child from the beginning.

Toting two cameras with a champagne induced headache and dressed in overalls, my father took pictures of me through the nursery window while my mother spent the next nine hours sleeping off the Demerol. Unfortunately, some other kid out at Ft. Sill was born before me, so I did not win the year’s supply of diapers or get my picture in the paper. But there is something unique about being born on this particular day, and I’m reminded of it every time someone looks at my driver’s license.

“Oh, look! You’re a New Year’s Baby.”

“Yep, sure am.”

“Guess that’s a pretty fun birthday. Everybody always celebrates it.”

“Actually, everyone is usually hung-over on my birthday.”

“Still, it’s gotta be a fun birthday to have!”

And it is. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have been sung “Happy Birthday” at midnight. I always start the New Year with champagne, cake, and presents, and no one ever has to work on my birthday. There’s a Rose Parade to watch, black-eyed peas to eat (which I never do), and resolutions to make and break.

Growing up, however, it wasn’t always so great. Kids with birthdays near Christmas are often shortchanged in the present department. The DMV wasn’t open the day I turned sixteen, and I never had my birthday party on my actual birthday because parents don’t want to bring their kid to a birthday party when there are bowl games to watch.

When I was in kindergarten, all of the students with birthdays in the month of January were asked to come up on stage during a school assembly to be recognized.

“And when’s your birthday?” Mr. Wright, our principal, asked me.

“January 1st,” I told him.

“Wow! What a fun birthday to have,” he said smiling at me.

“Uh-huh, but I made my father miss the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl and cost him lots of money.”

I got a big laugh from the teachers on that one and was later told that I might have a future as a stand-up comedian. But a five-year-old doesn’t think up those sorts of one-liners on her own. Kindergartners usually repeat things that they’ve heard over and over and over again from their parents.

Regardless, I wouldn’t trade my birthday for any of the other 364 days in the year. No matter how old I get I will always be the New Year’s Baby, and when you’re knocking on forty being referred to as a baby isn’t such a bad thing. Every year for my birthday I am given the gift of all that the New Year has to bring. Unfortunately, I can’t return it if I decide I don’t like it. Good thing I’ll get a brand-new one for my birthday next year.