RIP, Mr. Chipmunk

One of the hardest things about parenting for me is coming up with good explanations and “Momisms” on the spot. It doesn’t help that I am living with a 6-year-old Lawyer in Training either. She does NOT take my first answer as solid. She continues to question and reason and inquire and investigate and OMG . . . . it can be just exhausting sometimes. I love her curiosity, but geez kid.

I like to think I’m a pretty smooth operator and think quickly on my feet, but when it comes to the hard-hitting issues of parenthood, I sometimes fall short and find myself stammering through what feels like an interrogation by a smaller version of myself.

Case in point:  A poor unfortunate forest creature on a recent weekend trip. We had hopped on some golf carts and were taking a wonderfully serene tour through a resort golf course in the mountain lake region here in our beautiful state of West Virginia, and Little Princess and I were sharing a cart. We were having so much fun! Singing, chit-chatting, and just enjoying our surroundings.

We continued this little journey as the golf course path wove through the hills and into the forest. The lush greenery of it all nearly took my breath away. It really felt like a little enchanted forest.

Until it wasn’t.

I slowed our cart as we realized that something seemed to be scurrying across our path. Upon further investigation, I quickly (but not soon enough to dodge the bullet I’m about to share with you) realized it was a chipmunk in the THROES of death. I am not even exaggerating. It looked like a dramatic western death scene acted out by forest rodentia. I couldn’t swerve around him (her?) because he was convulsing all over the path and I was afraid I would squash  him, further scarring my daughter for life as “The Mommy Who Smashed a Chipmunk.”

I had no other course of action than to wait for him to finally stop seizing and go around cautiously. After what felt like hours of the two of us watching in horror (it was seconds), I was able to slowly navigate the cart around his lifeless body. He was on my side of the cart, but 6-year-olds are curious and we are all crippled by our inability to look away from a train crash, so we both got a clear visual of the blood that was coming out of his little mouth profusely.

I have no clue how this happened. We didn’t run over him; I was pretty sure the cart in front of us was too far ahead of us to have hit him.

Can chipmunks fall out of trees to their death?!?

No, seriously, I’m asking because that is the exact explanation I gave my daughter.

She was quiet for a little while and I said to her, “I’m sorry we had to see that. It was sad. Do you have any questions?” (Silently applauding myself for such an amazing reaction to the situation and rethinking writing a book on stellar parenting.)

Not so fast, Holls.

Cue 6-year-old rage and dramatics.

“WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP???? WHY DIDN’T YOU HELP HIM! WE COULD HAVE TAKEN HIM TO A VET! THAT’S WHAT VETS DO! THEY HELP ANIMALS!”

Crap.

I held her as she cried and I tried to navigate a golf cart on a narrow path and attempted to explain to her that there wasn’t a Chipmunk Vet (“YES THERE IS!”), and that there wasn’t anything that could be done to save him due to the severe head trauma sustained from his fall. “WE SHOULD HAVE PICKED HIM UP AND HELPED HIM!” More tears.

Look, I get it. I’m a sympathetic soul, too, and it hurt my heart to watch the poor little guy die. But I want to really emphasize to anyone who is reading this and thinks my daughter has a point and that I should have done something that this thing was undeniably and reliably D-E-A-D. Watching it flop all over the trail was terrible.

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She continued to cry. I continued to silently curse the heavens above for making us witness something so yucky, thereby also forcing me to have this somber discussion on what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend vacation. I started to feel emotional because I couldn’t take away my baby’s sadness and it hurt my heart to see her so upset. I empathized with her hopelessness toward the chipmunk, as I felt helpless as to what to say to comfort her. I also couldn’t stop picturing Alvin, Simon, Theodore, Chip, and Dale.

I had exhausted all the right things to say, which wasn’t much. That parenting book of mine will probably be more of a pamphlet than anything, really. So I whipped out the last trick up my sleeve:  Chipmunk Prayer Vigil. I pulled the golf cart over and turned it off, and we said a prayer for the little fella.

We bowed our heads and asked Jesus to open up his pearly gates and welcome Mr. Chipmunk in with an abundance of nuts and other chipmunk friends.*

*Seriously. I said all those things. I was grasping for straws here, people.

We eventually made it back to the clubhouse and I shared with the other adults in our golf cart caravan the traumatic events of the last 15 minutes or so. (Actually, what I think I said was, “ok, which one of you ***********ers hit the **** chipmunk?!?”) None of them did; after all they really were too far ahead of us. But I really have no idea what happened to that thing! I’m sticking with it lost its footing and fell from high branch.

As children tend to do, Little Princess rebounded nicely and soon forgot about the critter and his untimely demise.  I think I’m more scarred over the whole debacle, partially because I wonder if I handled it correctly. Death is a difficult topic with kids, and it is hard to explain a situation that is truly hopeless. Mr. Chipmunk went to heaven. There was nothing we could do. And we got to watch (UGH!).

Later that evening at dinner, we were all enjoying dining al fresca, and the whole chipmunk fiasco of 2018 seemed to have passed us. We had moved on to the acceptance stage of grief and were at peace. #amen

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And then, I sh!t you not, at that very moment a freaking bird flew across the terrace and smacked RIGHT INTO the glass window next to our table and dropped like a rock to the ground in front of God and everyone (including the kids).

Sigh.

*orders glass of wine*

Ninja Worrier

I’m going to take us back to the OG topic of this blog, “worrying,” as this time of year and the busy-ness that is school and activities tends to stir me up a little. It’s always an adjustment, going back to school. For us, it almost seems like relief because we can re-establish a solid routine, and of course who doesn’t just LOVE Fall!? Getting back into said routine can be tricky, and there are just so many boxes to check off at the beginning of the school year. It feels like a sprint, but once we are back into the swing of things, I can unclench a tad.

But at the same time, for some reason, this time of year can trigger some anxiety. It sneaks up on me like a ninja in the night. Sometimes I think it’s because school used to once be a completely safe space, and now that guarantee isn’t necessarily there; but Fall also represents a chaotic and action (and excitement) filled time. School starts, sports and activities pick up, and the running around commences. So many things, positive or negative, can cause our souls to churn a little, seemingly out of nowhere.

I think every Mom carries with her a varying degree of anxiety or worry, specifically when it comes to our kids. When you become a parent, there is something so very, very powerful ignited inside you that it can be overwhelming at times; maybe even take your breath away. It has had me sometimes contemplating putting my kids in bubble where nobody and nothing can ever hurt them. It is a severely protective instinct, commonly known as the “Mama Bear” instinct.

And then there are times we parents can cross the line in the sand to what we lovingly refer to as “Psycho Mom.” I, myself, have a few legendary stories about Holly the Psycho Mom, and I will share one of those with you now…

After one particularly rough day at work, I was driving to pick up my kids at their daycare. As I approached the turn to take me to the center’s parking lot, I noticed a police car pulled off the side of the road with the lights on, the road was blockaded, and there was a law-enforcement officer directing traffic around the school as if to make people avoid the area.

Sadly, in today’s world, and having already been on edge from a stressful day, I immediately assumed the absolute worst possible scenarios. I first looked for flames and smoke shooting out of the building, and when I didn’t see that my mind went to another grim scenario: There must have been an act of violence.

My stomach immediately dropped and I felt the feeling leave my arms and face, and then I felt an internal swelling of emotions (that I guess must have been adrenaline) kick in. I did what any mama bear would do: I whipped my Pimp Ass Mom Van out of the lane of traffic (nearly onto the sidewalk) and pulled up right next to the officer and basically screamed,

“MY KIDS ARE IN THAT BUILDING!”

The kind officer looked at me puzzled, and right about that moment a beautiful red convertible with a lovely princess in a tiara and sash sitting on top of the backseat passed by, and I realized that all of this hullabaloo was because it was time for a parade. Nothing was wrong other than a small road block that caused me to have to go down 1/2 of a block further to access the daycare center parking lot.

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A FREAKING PARADE.

We are all laughing now, right? This little event happened a couple years ago and I still tell people this tale of total overreacting by Yours Truly. (It was the Marshall Homecoming parade, in case you were wondering. Ah, Fall. Such a lovely time.)

But then again, did you get a little uncomfortable or anxious for me before you saw what REALLY happened? Can you relate? Maybe you would have done the same thing? (Maybe not? LOL!) Every parent is different. Every situation is different. And I have learned the reaction absolutely depends upon your disposition heading into said situation. I was already in a bad mood. If I hadn’t been, maybe I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction.

I will never forget that initial feeling when I thought something was wrong and my sweet babies were in harm’s way. I blame that Mama Bear instinct. One moment you are a totally rational person, and the next you are invoking the guy from Mortal  Kombat who rips a guys head off and throws it at his body. #FINISHHIM

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Apologies for the graphic pic, but people of my generation will totally relate. Side note: Why did our parents let us play this game?!

These emotions are powerful, and I think it is present in all of us to varying degrees.

And that brings me to my point (I hope)…. Where’s the boundary between reasonable protective instinct and total Psycho Parade Jamming Holly? It’s often at the root of Mommy Shaming. We have all been guilty of it, referring to someone as a “helicopter parent” or, on the flip side, a “free-range hippie.” We think to ourselves, “OMG, what a Psycho Mom,” or “OMG, I would NEVER let my kid do that!” (Parental Note: Invariably, if you say your kid will NEVER do something, I guaran-damn-tee they absolutely will do that thing you said they would NEVER do.)

There are days when I feel pretty reasonable about gradually extending my kids’ metaphorical leashes, feeling free to let us all go out and experience everything life and this beautiful world has to offer. And then there are days when I want to become a “Dooms Day Prepper” and secure us all in a padded safe house deep in the wilderness away from all the negativity the world also has to offer. I’m on a quest to find the middle ground between those two extremes amidst the worry and the need to protect my babies no matter what.

Where is the boundary between reasonably protecting your child and stifling their growth through experiences? They have to learn to take care of themselves eventually, so how do we meter raising well-balanced kids and creating everything-phobes who can’t tie their own shoes or use a can-opener when they get to college? How can we parents sleep well at night (like, ever) when the world can be so scary sometimes?

Back in the day, I traveled a lot for work. Leaving the kids for days in a row was excruciating, and I was convinced that by leaving them I was doing permanent damage and certainly my plane would go down in flames leaving them motherless. (I know, morbid, right? But that’s the mind of this Weekend Worrier.) I was in an airport gift shop once and found a book called Psalm 91 for Mothers. For those of you unfamiliar with Psalm 91, it is commonly known as the Psalm of Protection. It is a favorite in my family, and while I often refer to myself as a “very flawed Catholic,” I find profound comfort in this verse.

Being a parent is so hard; the world is scary. Even if I don’t have something specific to worry or ruminate about, my kids are always at the forefront of my mind. I’m not alone, right? I guess the best thing we all can do is our very best, and even some days get by with good enough.

I don’t have all the answers. But, Dear Lord, I wish I did. Mother Theresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

Some days, that’s all we can do, and most days, it’s all we need to do.

MT

Minimize THIS: Part 5 – The Playroom, Revisited

If you have a house with a playroom or designated play area for your little ones, then you will understand why I was absolutely putting this one off as long as I could. It took the kids staying at Grandma’s & Pap’s, a motivated husband, and a little bit of wine to attempt to summit my own personal Everest.

Behold…. the Before:

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Gasp! #shame

I mean, who lives here?!?! Tarzan and Mowgli? Clearly not civilized children.

We went in without holding back. It was a highly tactical mission. I had a few boxes and a few large utility trash bags, and we just started throwing stuff out. It was easy at first:  little broken pieces or random cards from God-only-knows-which-game went right out the door. Once we got the first layer down, we started working on the various “zones” of the playroom:

  1. The Barbie Boneyard
  2. Youth Hostel for Babies
  3. Train Set Junction
  4. The Creation Station
  5. Hollywood
  6. The Parking Garage

The Barbie Boneyard and the Youth Hostel for Babies were pretty simple.  We just got rid of broken and headless dolls and organized the good stuff into its own tote. I do wish to say there is a special place in Hell for whoever thought that silverware for Barbie dolls was a necessary item. Barbie doesn’t even have separate fingers. Nice going, Mattel®.

My husband tackled Train Set Junction. No one really needs 5-6 train sets, right? We managed to narrow it down to two sets only. Hollywood = costumes, accessories and anything a kid needs to have a blast getting all dolled (or ninja’d) up to play and perform. We just removed anything torn or too small, and threw out some broken stuff. Some things that we had outgrown went to littler cousins.

The Creation Station was majorly pared down. This is where we keep all the “arts and crafts” crap that the kids use to glue things to our wall that they shouldn’t; it’s why we can’t have nice things. All things glitter-related were banished and are never to be seen again. That stuff is insidious. #dieglitterdie

The Parking Garage is where a large portion of my son’s little cars (aka Feet Killers) went, as well as any large vehicle that a child can push around, such as a fire truck or Belle’s tea cart, complete with Mrs. Potts, Chip, and “Be Our Guest” on loop. What the heck was Santa thinking on that one?!?!

We were able to empty out and remove one whole bookcase/toybox combo that was falling apart, most likely due to having to contain about a metric ton of toys and other plastic crap. As we moved it up the stairs together and tried to pivot it around the door frame, you guessed it! PIVOT!!!!

One of the more enjoyable aspects of this adventure is that I’ve seized the opportunity to use one of my favorite “Friends” references, PIVOT! It never gets old (to me, anyways. The Huz might have a differing opinion on that).

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I’m also intrigued by why little girls are so “into” super-duper-tiny-little-miniature things. We have Hatchimals and LOL dolls and their various accouterments, but why on God’s green Earth does something such as this even have to exist…

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It’s a miniature perfume bottle, in case you’re wondering.

I definitely broke a sweat on this one, and I was worried for the next day when we revealed to the children their newly organized play area. I felt CERTAIN that they would take immediate visual inventory and know what was missing and completely fall apart and we would have to make an urgent appointment with an interventionist. Not the case.

In fact, they were astounded by how clean and pretty it looked, and played with things they really had not played with much recently. Could this be because they were now able to see the forest for the trees? Without all the clutter and junk in the way, were they able to find joy in things from the past?

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See? Still gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. Who-zits and whats-its galore. (Sorry if you have that song in your head now.)

As we organized, we were able to fill three utility sized trash bags to toss. We gathered three large boxes worth of items for donation or to give away. We gave everything a designated space throughout the process, and set the clear expectation with the kids that once you were done playing with a toy,  you put it back before you moved on to something else. Realistic? Probably not, but it made me feel like a good parent for a fleeting moment.

They played for HOURS in the playroom that day; longer than I can remember in recent past. And not once did they ask for anything that they felt was missing.

This process in the playroom is perpetual. As they continue to age and grow out of things, and gather new things throughout the year, we will have to keep on top of it. But knowing that we took a pretty huge chunk out of it was extremely cathartic. I slept like a baby that night.

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So, here are some tips for tackling that playroom:

  1. Go in with bags and boxes, and maybe a face mask. Gloves. Oxygen tank. (Your call.)
  2. Take some wine, too, while you’re at it.
  3. Wear shoes. Legos suck.
  4. Don’t let the kids help. They aren’t helpful.
  5. Get rid of the first layer: “trash” and broken/misfit toys. They have their own island, after all.
  6. Tackle it by “zones” so that you have distinct areas for certain kinds of toys. This will make it easier for the kiddos to clean up after themselves.
  7. Remember there are a lot of things you can do with items for donation.
  8. As long as you don’t burn their toys in effigy in front of them, you won’t damage your kids emotionally.

Minimize THIS: Stuff = Stress

I bought something with my face. Yes, you read that right. I wanted to purchase something on my iPhone X, and all I had to do was look at the screen and POOF! Purchase confirmed. I have also purchased things with my thumbprint or a quick little password (which my devices all so very conveniently save for my own ease and comfort – how thoughtful!). It’s that easy.

It’s too easy. And now there is stuff everywhere and I’m drowning in it.

I’m the opposite of a procrastinator, more of a ruminator really – anything hanging over my head MUST get done before even a modicum of relaxation can flutter in. I dwell on things more than I should. I have also never been one who can relax in a mess or surrounded by clutter, so the combination of all our “stuff” (that’s putting it nicely) and the need I feel to sort and purge is becoming overwhelming to me lately. It’s not so much a need for “spring cleaning” as it is to feel like have regained control over my home and the things in it. I crave organization, and we are nearing max capacity.  We love to have fun and enjoy life, and often time that fun means acquiring the appropriate “stuff” with which to have specific said fun.  But in this life, especially with kids, we have accumulated SO MUCH STUFF that I almost cannot even stand it. It’s making this perpetual worrier even more uptight, and one weekend it came to a head…

jerry mcguire

Enter “Minimalism.” I have been reading a little bit about this concept lately and researching it just out of curiosity (and maybe a tad of desperation). I recently heard a story about a person who has one plate, one fork, one cup, etc, for each person in her family and that is it in the way of dishes. When you use your plate/cup/fork/whatever, you immediately wash it and put it away. I don’t know that I will ever achieve that level of minimal possessions, but I am very interested in the idea of filling our lives with things other than knick-knacks, plastic goodies, things we don’t really need, and plain old junk. I’m skeptical that I will ever pare down our belongings to the point that I can actually declare myself a true Minimalist, but I am sure as heck going to learn about this concept and take away things from it that I feel will benefit my family and the way we want to live on our little piece of this third rock from the sun. I want to feel like I can truly organize what we need versus just trying to find an unoccupied space for something. I want to evolve, explore, and experiment with maybe not buying that thing I want from Amazon just because I can buy it and think I need at that very second, only to have it soon forgotten and left to contribute to the mass of stuff. (Instant gratification, anyone?) I want to get real about the shame I sometimes feel about the massive collection of toys (for both adult and kids) that sometimes seem to have taken over our home. I am going to have the uncomfortable conversations with myself and my family about what it really means to feel fulfilled, and where that fulfillment comes from, and how we can start peeling back the layers to truly reveal our love-filled home. It’ll be a journey, for sure, and not something that will happen quickly at all. As I have heard from some friends of mine, “Experiences; not things.”

I’m thinking of this as “exfoliating” our house (and life), one section at a time. And I cannot wait to see the gunk that comes off her face!

So, I invite you to join me on this exploratory adventure to unburden ourselves from much of the truly unnecessary and excessive as we try to enrich our lives with the more meaningful. If anything, for entertainment value because I assure you, it will probably get ugly at times. At the same time, I’m also looking forward to the side effects of this and the things we learn as a family. I mean, there are obvious financial benefits to procuring “less,” and I am envisioning the yard sale to end all yard sales. It’s about a quality of life and living a lifestyle that is truly our “style,” not the one that we think we are supposed to have. It will truly be an adventure. There’s got to be a happy medium on the spectrum between drawers too full to close and tiny house dwellers. Please do not picture us living in our yard in tents with only a backpack to survive; that is not what this is about. I’ve never been one to rough it, but it’s gone too far.

TBH

PS – You should prepare yourself for Troop Beverly Hills references if you come along on this journey with me.

I had a small, but poignant, epiphany recently from our family vacation to Canada:  I cannot remember ever feeling so relaxed and my heart so full as I did during this entire vacation (not an easy task when trapped in a car for several hours with two young kids), and yet we did not come home with ONE. SINGLE. SOUVENIR. The thought of purchasing anything besides food, tickets to attractions, and cold drinks never really crossed my mind. We came home with two Christmas ornaments that our friends so graciously gifted to us to always remind us of this amazing trip and experience, but aside from that, nada. No stuffed animals (that would soon be forgotten), no shirts (that would fall to the back of the drawer causing a clothing clog), no tangible mementos of any kind. When I realized this had happen, I panicked at first. “Shouldn’t we have bought something for our parents?! What about something cute for the kids so they remember this trip? Oh my gosh we literally brought back nothing except dirty laundry!”

Ummmmm . . . we also brought back about gazillion lifetime memories with our kids and great friends, Holly. Geesh. Get a grip.

This is going to be one heck of a journey.

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National Lampoon’s Trip to Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar

Setting: Early on a Friday evening. Planning to leave later that night for a weekend getaway. Must pick up kids and feed them. (*sigh* Fed them yesterday, but whatever.) Decide on Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar as dinner locale. Princess agrees that this is a winner. Head to pick up Little Man.

5:03pm:  Arrive at day care to get Little Man. He is curiously wearing the shirt I sent him in, but not the same pants. Hmmmmm.  Today’s “Day Care Potty Training Pants of Shame” are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse pajama pants that are too small for him and therefore look like capris and come nowhere near matching his shirt. #pottytrainingsucks

5:10pm:  After wrangling both kids into my Pimp Mom Van, I become wary of my decision to attempt a meal out alone with the two of them, realizing I have forgotten any kind of pee-barrier for Little Man (translation: no extra pull-ups). Should these pants become soiled, we are royally screwed. They are literally the Last Frontier tonight.  Question this dinner decision out loud; Princess will hear none of it. We are GOING to Backyard. I then ask myself how the heck this power shift between me and 6-year old occurred. Promise self to download book on parenting that will go unread.

5:18pm: Score a great parking spot, albeit across a busy street. Threaten kids within inches of life to hold my hands as we cross. (I’m talking clenched teeth threats in Batman mom voice.)

5:20pm:  Text Grandparents to see if they would like to join us at “backyard.” SURE! Comes the reply. Yay! Reinforcements.

5:23pm: Realize as we are walking to our table that my children look kind of like disasters. One has pool hair and the other, well, he’s his own man. I think people might be staring. Hipster host makes comment about Little Man’s cool wardrobe choice. Oh well. No turning back now.

5:30pm:  Have booth in back and message Grandparents our exact location. Response from Grammy? Ohhhhh, they thought we meant we were eating dinner in our actual backyard. My mistake was not capitalizing the “B” in backyard. Teachers are such sticklers.

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5:31pm:  Lied to my mother. It’s actually not funny. Crap. Realize I’m on my own. Promptly order (small) beer.

5:32pm:  Order chips and cheese for kids, but “not the spicy cheese.” Where did these divas come from? Cheese is cheese. Maybe I will read that parenting book after all. 🤔

5:33pm:  Look at our young, carefree waitress with a touch of envy as I try to connect to restaurant WiFi so kids can watch something on my phone. (Don’t judge. You know you do it too. And did you not see that text from my mom?! They’re NOT coming.)

5:37pm: Beer arrives, and not a minute too soon. Chips and cheese also arrive. Little Man immediately spills cheese down his shirt, but quickly remedies that by simply scraping it off with a chip and shoveling it into his mouth. “Waste not, want not” is his motto.

5:40pm: Little man has to pee. Oh joy. I leave Princess to man the table, again employing the Batman mom voice regarding strangers and leaving the table for any reason at all. I’m such a good mom. I don’t need that parenting book.

5:41pm:  In the restroom, solidly plop a little pale butt onto the toilet seat. Distracted by his oohing and aahing over the trees in the bathroom (they are pretty cool), I fail to notice that he is not, ahem, appropriately “aimed” and pee squirts all over the back of the aforementioned Day Care Potty Training Pants of Shame. Luckily, I think I catch it in time to avoid too much damage. Doesn’t matter anyways. He has no other options besides total bottom-half nakedness, which is frowned upon in public places, even hipster joints like Backyard.

5:46pm: Hands washed and back at table, I quickly realize that the pee damage is a little more extensive than I thought as a wet trail is left behind Little Man as he scoots across the booth. No worries, we have lots of napkins. After years of mothering (six = Expert Level), I now know to ask for extras of these absorbent miracles. I smoothly wipe it up and throw the napkin aside on the table. Totally zero need for parenting book.

5:47pm:  Princess lets me know that, in my absence, she summoned our lovely, young, carefree server over to the table. Why? Just to let her know we didn’t need anything. Note to self: I shall tip server well.

5:50pm: We have food, we have wifi, all is right in the world! Parenting book be damned.

5:55pm: Little Man spills more of something all over the place. Again, I shall tip well.

6:10pm:  We are wrapping up, and Little Man crawls over to me. I grab the napkin that I had tossed aside earlier and dabbed it in my water to wipe off his shirt a little better. He goes back over to his seat. I gulp down some water as my beautiful and angelic children sit quietly side by side as we wait for our bill, silently gloating and congratulating myself on a job well done. We are on the home stretch. Perhaps I shall write my own book on parenting; I’m that good. 👏🏼

6:11pm:  Like a bolt of lightning, it hits me that the same napkin I previously used to mop up pee with is the one that I just dabbed into my water to clean off my son’s shirt, and then I proceeded to gulp down that same water. So, I guess I ingested some pee. Great. #pottytrainingsucks

6:15pm:  Bill paid. Server well-gratuitized for her patience and the phantom pee on the bench, etc, etc.

6:18pm:  Batman mom voice as we cross the street again back to the van with bellies full, and I  make peace with the fact that I definitely drank some pee. Will definitely need that parenting book. Will skip right to chapter on potty training.

Into “The Wilds”

I’m starting with our most recent adventure first since it is fresh in my mind and is really what served as the tipping point for me wanting to start this blog. My niche tends to be these quick 1-3 night trips that aren’t too far away. After all, whoever said “getting there is half the fun” clearly never drove 12 hours with two kids under the age of five. That being said, my kiddos really are troopers at traveling. Start ’em young, I say!

I also find a lot of joy in planning travel, and not just for us. I love it when people come to me for travel advice. Being a former “frequent flier” and “road warrior,” I am quite familiar with the in’s and out’s of the travel industry, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of putting together an itinerary. The one drawback of my planning obsession is that I tend to fixate too much on what I think the adventure should look like, and sometimes build up an unrealistic picture of how the whole thing will play out. But then again, don’t we all want that picture-perfect experience? I assure you, our adventures are anything but perfect, but the memories are made in the imperfections that make up the adventure.

Case in point: This past weekend, our Magic Mini Van took us to “The Wilds” in Cumberland, OH. “The Wilds” is a private, not for profit safari (yes, a safari in Ohio) that focuses on conservation. It has a pretty cool backstory as well. We left Saturday afternoon and made our way about 3 hours north of Huntington to Cambridge, OH, where we stayed at a Hampton Inn. I’ll go ahead and issue this disclaimer now: When I travel, I stick with 3 vendors… Hilton, Delta, and Hertz. It’s a matter of personal preference, and those are mine. This particular Hampton Inn was clean, safe, quiet, and it had an indoor pool (that no one else seemed interested in). Score! So, we flipped on the Marshall game and went for a family swim. Has anyone else ever noticed just how freaking exhausted swimming makes kids? That was an added bonus for us parental units. We got a queen suite for a little extra space. Pro Tip:  We have found that instead of traveling with fancy toddler bed solutions, we opt to pull the mattress off of a pull-out sofa and put it on the floor for the floppy little dude to sleep on. Who needs a pack-and-play anyways?

After a fun night of getting assaulted in our sleep by small kicking feet, we awoke refreshed and ready for breakfast. We hit up Denny’s right down the road for easy in and out and fun kid options. There are plenty of restaurants around this hotel. Nothing fancy, but all reliable.

Next… onto The Wilds! The day prior, I had made the mistake of mentioning we were going to see animals to Leo and the poor little guy must have said “Animals?!” at least 20 times. Lesson learned. Keep it a surprise next time. I started to feel bad lying to him by saying “just a little bit longer” knowing full well we were a solid 24 hours out.  But, alas, the time had come for ANIMALS!

It’s a bit off the beaten path, but then again, it is a safari. In Ohio. I keep having to wrap my brain around that. My expectations were not high, if I’m being honest. But I can honestly say it was amazing with hints of Jurassic Park (picture double gate systems locking around you before you can move onto the next section). You park at the bottom of the park and a cool khaki-colored bus shuttles you to the top. It is $6 to park, and right across from the parking lot is a free butterfly sanctuary you can walk through. We did not get to partake in that as by that time, my dear sweet Woodland Creatures were ticking time bombs. (Mandatory family fun is hard people!)

Once you get to the top, there is a little concession stand-like area, a small gift shop, and a kid center and building where you can see what I would consider the stuff of nightmares, The Hellbender. We played in the kids area for a little while (a cool little classroom setting area for kids to explore) and admired the view. Then, our open-safari bus picked us up! We had made reservations ahead of time (highly recommended!) and the tickets were $30/person. Again, I was skeptical about this being worth the drive and the money, but I’ll try most things once.

We boarded the bus and went to the back. There are NO bad seats on this bus, so sit anywhere. Warning: If you sit in the back, it is very bumpy. Do not sit in the back if you have any issues with being jostled (neck/back problems or pregnant are two that come to my mind based on our experience). Leo went airborne at one point. Jeremy caught him. Such good parents, we are. We even dressed our kids in adorable identical sweatshirts! Just kidding. I forgot jackets and it was cold so I had to buy the sweatshirts at the gift shop.

We wove through the park with a fun tour guide/driver named Jeff. He was the King of Dad Jokes, and Jeremy bowed down in his presence. We had a fun little checklist of animals we would see, and we did indeed see all but two of them. One of those was a beetle that laid its eggs in dead carcasses, so I didn’t feel like I missed out. The animals are roaming free (with the exception of the carnivores like the cheetahs and dholes), so they can come right up to the open air bus. We were within spitting range of camels, almost touched a wild horse, and had a family of rhinos come right up to us. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun checking the animals off our list!

wilds map

The ride has two stops: one to feed fish and parakeets and the other stop to see things that would like to feed on you (carnivores). First stop: Highly recommend springing the $1 to get a seed stick for the parakeet house!  You basically get attacked by these adorable little Australian parakeets. Birds aren’t really my thing, but my son loves them and they were pretty cute. The second stop was at the carnivore area where they have a little grill/concession area. I very much recommend bringing your own drinks and snacks! You can’t eat/drink on the shuttle because you might choke, but you can eat your own stuff at the stops.

The adventure terminates at the gift shop (of course, right? It is owned by a zoo, after all) and another grill/concession area. The view here is AMAZING! For adults/older kids: they have a lot of other activities such as horseback riding and zip lines. Oh…. and they have yurts! It is on my bucket list to stay in a yurt, so this Glamping experience opportunity is definitely on my radar.

We left the park refreshed from the beautiful weather and exhausted from a whirlwind trip full of fun. I always bask in the happiness of my kids when I know I’ve shown them something pretty darn cool. Have you ever heard of a Sichuan Takin? Interesting creatures. Don’t forget to tip your guide! They really are a wealth of knowledge and entertainment on this tour.

On the way out, I asked the kids which animal was their favorite. My daughter said “giraffes!” I agree. Cool creatures.

My son’s response? “Cows!” (Ya know, the ones we saw on the way TO the park because it is in the middle of Ohio.) Asked him again what his favorite was, and he responded slightly more adventurously with “hippopotamus,” which would have been great if we had seen those.

All in all, well worth the quick 26-hour turnaround trip and another fun weekend adventure in the books!

Weekend Worrier: The Beginning

Hi, my name is Holly and I’m obsessed with weekends.

“Hi, Holly.”

(But really, who doesn’t love the weekends, right?)

I’m jumping on the Blog Wagon with this new adventure in technology and sharing, and I’m so excited to see how this goes! My inspiration comes from the things I love the most: my friends, my family, and adventures! Whether at home or out seeing the sights, I love every part of travel and adventuring and trying new things with the ones I love most.

Except unpacking. I could do without that.

But where did the name come from? It’s kinda a long story, so buckle in…

I used to travel for work a lot. As in, at one point I had about 500,000 frequent flier miles to my name and reserved parking at many a-Hilton property. But that meant my weekends with my family were spent recovering from these work trips, which was kinda a bummer. I also suffer from what I discovered to be called “Sunday Blues.” (It’s a real thing. Look it up. Seriously.) This is where a person gets kind of anxious/antsy for the work week to start. I’d like to think of it as “Monday-Eve Anxiety” wherein I turn into a bit of a nut, so any distraction is welcome.

Oh, and did I mention I’m a mom to two young kids? First of all, no one can fully prepare you for the anxiousness brought on by the constant feeling of vigilance that is required to keep these crazy kids happy, healthy, and safe.These kids are the absolute loves of my life, but dang they wear us out sometimes.

Never one to wish time away, I admit to occasional yearning for the stage of life where we can just throw some stuff in the van and go without packing 100 diapers, 2 strollers, a million bottles/nipples/rings, a pack-and-play, a bottle warmer, a breast pump, a gazillion safe toy options for baby, 3 changes of wardrobe for each day of planned travel (you get the idea ….. Parents: Can I get an AMEN?).

Well, I think we are getting to that point! While we still have to pack some diapers (potty training is the WORST) and the occasional extra change of clothes, I am happy to announce that this past weekend, our entire family of four packed in one bag.

Yes, it was only for 2 days/1 night, but still. How is that for easy?

To bring this whole word-vomit full circle, I no longer travel for work, which frees up the weekends to take some seriously quick, easy, and fun adventures with my family and friends! Admittedly, I’m also from the school of thought that adventures and getaways should occur regularly; not once a year. Occasionally, we will plan a “big” vacation (i.e. a Disney Cruise), but most weekends, you can find us just scooting off to someplace new and fun, or sticking around here to try something fun and new or tried and true. It keeps the mind and body busy, while creating new memories with the ones we love.

My hope with this blog is to share some of these adventures to inspire readers to take on some new adventures themselves! Many of these posts will be geared toward families/younger kiddos, but I also have a handful of AMAZING girlfriends with whom I like to go a little crazy with as well sometimes, so the occasional Adventures with Mommy Juice (wine) will make an appearance. You’ll also see some info about little activities and great gear that makes my life easier and more enriched so I can focus on what matters most.