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*

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.

“You got this, Mom!”

Last weekend we made a family trip to the Columbus Zoo, on what will forever be known as one of the hottest zoo trips EVER. Adding to that fun, 3-year-old little man is potty training, so we made multiple pit stops in the various “continents.” (I know for sure he peed in North America, pooped in Africa, and did a little bit of both along the “Shores” region, among others.)

Potty training sucks. Taking young kids to the bathroom also sucks. Taking both of them at the same time in 90+ degree heat in a large stall in a public bathroom…. “Off the charts” on the Suck-O-Meter.

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So there I was, sitting on the pot myself (moms pee too; who knew?!) and trying to wrangle both kids to just hold still for one friggin’ minute and do not touch the door latch while I did my business.

I ask for so little.

It’s almost like, in their brains, they heard me say “definitely unlock the door and let it swing wide open for me to bare my mom-butt to the public.” 

Not only am I sweating from the heat, I’m also sweating in fear of what is inevitably going to happen:  One kid (can’t remember which, but does it really matter? They were both being hellions) undid the latch as the other leaned back against the door, forcing the outward-swinging partition to open to the bathroom crowd.

#momondisplay

WITHOUT. MISSING. A. BEAT. Some other mom – henceforth known as Super Hero Ninja Mom – turned with one swooping motion from her hand-washing position at the sink and pushed the door shut so I could latch it. #legendary #teamwork

Cherry on top:  On her way out the door, Super Hero Ninja Mom yelled,

“You got this, Mom!”

I think she was wearing a cape. Yeah, I definitely saw a cape. (Might have been hallucinating from the combo of heat & panic though.)

My daughter heard Super Hero Ninja Mom’s supportive solidarity and said, “Who was what?” That, my dear girl, is a legend.

Super Hero Ninja Mom, if you’re out there (and if you were in the bathroom adjacent to the food court in the Congo region this past weekend and caught a glimpse of something you’d rather not have), thanks for being you. Next drink is on me.

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Get the Funk Outta Here: Carolina BalloonFest

Even after all the trips and flights I’ve taken in my life, I still want the window seat, and I still look out the window in pure awe. At the risk of looking like a newbie flier (heaven forbid), I just cannot help taking the occasional picture. But it never fails that the picture doesn’t do it justice anyways. Maybe it’s the cold meds I’m on right now, but how can we img_8032not look at this beautiful, amazing, world and not gasp sometimes?  It can affirm or maybe even make you question everything you know and believe all at the same time. Regardless of beliefs on how this universe and all of us came to be, can we all agree what a beautiful world this truly is!?  (But Lord help the jerk who tries to take my window seat; I’m here for the scenery, not the opportunity to give you a lap dance should I need to use the lav. Namaste and Amen. 🙏🏼) This was a pic from this morning. Again, the pictures never do it justice but the sun had lit up the clouds in a stunning array of colors over our beautiful state of WV as we departed.

I know travel doesn’t entice everyone, and there are many influencing factors such as cost, anxiety, fear of unknown, in a funk, etc. But some of our own most memorable trips have been mini-adventures that haven’t required much money, setting foot on an airplane, or going anywhere remotely glamorous or getting crazy. And there are some folks who fear flying or are just afraid or paranoid to travel in general. I get it. Sometimes the news does not paint the most beautiful picture that would entice one to travel, but we have to do it anyways. We have to get out of that bubble. We just have to expose ourselves and our kids to all the awesomeness that is out there.

So I shall say it as nicely as possible: Get the funk outta here. See what this amazing world, or your state or region have to offer. Go off the beaten path and try new things. Even if it turns out to be a flop of an experience, at least you gave it a shot. Eat a weird food (i.e. Canadian Poutine), hike some lakeside paths, kayak a local lake as smooth as glass before the fog even lifts and embrace the total silence, snorkel somewhere with water that is clear for miles, or scoop your first born out of a dolphin tank in the Bahamas (ok that last one I don’t recommend, but you get my drift). Watch for local or regional events that spark your interest, and just go for it. As the cliche says, life is too short.

The very same happened to me recently. Facebook “suggested” (in the creepy way it knows everything) that I would be interested in an event coming up in North Carolina. Creeper Facebook was RIGHT! So we loaded up the family truckster and embarked on a quick little turnaround trip to the Carolina BalloonFest in Statesville, NC. It was everything we hoped for and more, not to mention budget-friendly and easy. (A few years back, some of my best buds and I took a hot air balloon ride in Napa, CA, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve done, and I wanted my family to experience that as well, but perhaps closer to the ground and without having to fly cross-country.) After a quick MapQuest to see how far away it was – about 4 hours from Huntington, WV, and a little hotel research, we decided this could be a fun and unique little weekend trip for all of us to experience.

Knowing that the balloons would not fly in any kind of inclement weather, we waited until a handful of days out to purchase our tickets while watching the forecast for that area. Adults were $20 each; kids under 12 free admission. We also sprung for VIP parking (another $20), and I would have paid double for it, maybe even triple. If you take only one nugget away from this post, let it be that VIP parking is the way to go. Otherwise, there after shuttles and lines and waits involved. The weather ending up looking pretty good in the days leading up to the event, so tickets were booked! They warn you ahead to take cash, and that was wise advice as only a couple vendors took cards, and ATM’s were hit or miss. Cell service is also splotchy (the event takes place in a massive field near the Statesville airport).

The festival was basically a fair/bazaar on steroids, but the balloons made it just magical. As I’ve said, pictures just don’t do it justice, so do yourself and favor and check it out personally next year! The balloons fly in the mornings and evenings, so we were sure to get there early to see the morning ascension. It’s a 3-day long festival, and we made it to Saturday/Sunday. We originally booked a Hampton Inn, but got “walked” (hotel-speak for “bumped”), but it worked out hugely in our favor. We were moved around the corner to a newer Hilton Garden Inn, and our whole stay was paid for. Breakfasts too. Woo hooooooo!

They had Kid Zone with several inflatables for kids, mostly free. Some things charged extra (i.e. Bungee jumping trampoline thing and balloon animals). There were tons of food selections (not free, but very yummy), and GREAT live music! We loved the bagpiping, didgerigdoo-playing group from Scotland called Albannach. We stayed to watch them twice! Adults: fear not…. there is a wine and beer garden. $20 got you unlimited sampling from some of my favorite NC area wineries and breweries.

And then there are actual hot-air balloon rides. Jeremy and the kids did the tethered ride. If I was gonna put all my eggs in one basket, literally, they were only going up about 40 feet. It cost $10 for adults and $5 friends for kids. And for shorter kiddos, like my son, they had a peep hole to look out of toward the bottom of the basket, so no need to lift over the edge of the balloon so he can see (whew!). The kids were enthralled, and now we are 4/4 as a family for having ridden in a hot-air balloon, and it was close and affordable and FUN! You can also do an actual balloon ride (untethered and floating around in the sky), but those were about $250 and you had to make separate arrangements with the pilots.

Major takeaways/advice:

  • Take cash
  • Take sunblock
  • VIP Parking = MUST!!!
  • Take chairs and a blanket (maybe even a wagon for kiddos) so you can get comfortable.
  • Check the weather before you commit! Without the balloons it would have still been fun, but the balloons were the main attraction and kinda the main reason we made the trip.
  • Get there EARLY! You do NOT want to miss the balloon races and games. Awesome!
  • And if you want to take a tethered balloon ride, get in line for it FIRST thing.

They do offer a VIP Experience, but it ran $300 for our family, and even after scoping it out this year, I’m not 100% sure that juice is worth the squeeze. Hmmmmm…. we’ll see. They had a tent and food and beverages, and they also provided “upgraded” port-a-potties. I need to know more about this; seems steep. And to me, a port-a-potty is a port-a-potty. Not too many ways to upgrade that experience in my book.

The Carolina BalloonFest is always the 3rd weekend in October, so mark your calendars and watch the weather! Maybe next year, we will see some familiar faces! It was certainly a highlight of the fall for our family, and overall just the perfect “festival” for a family. We definitely want to go back.  At the end of Saturday evening, they did what is called an “All-Burn” and a “Twinkle-Burn” with the balloons where they all light up together or twinkle, respectively, in the middle of the vast field. This spectacle alone was definitely worth sticking around through the evening hours. To see dozens of massive and colorful hot-air balloons lighting up right in front of you was an amazing sight to see, but again, the pictures just don’t do it justice, so I guess you’ll have to go check it out for yourself!

 

 

 

 

De-stress tip: Un”wine”d from time to time

First of all, if you don’t like/care about/want to hear about wine, this one isn’t for you.

I, however, love wine and love to take trips with my girls where we relax, catch up, sample some good wine, and eat some good food. After all, it’s nice now and then to not have to sneak-eat the last cupcake to avoid sharing it with a kid or shove an entire Uncrustable in your mouth as someone clings to your leg. Amiright?!

One of my absolute favorite “Mommy Juice” trips is a quick haul down I-77 through Virginia and right into North Carolina’s Yadkin River Valley. This area is chock full of wineries and vineyards, and in my opinion is one of the best kept little secrets in our area. In this area, you’ll find a lot of sweet wine options, but there are plenty for us dry-wine lovers too. There is also the occasional craft beer selection, which often balances out the wine in between tastings.

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Accommodations: You simply must stay in the Hampton Inn in Dobson. Not only is it wine-themed with its own little wine bar, it is newer, clean, and has a shuttle to the Shelton Vineyards about a mile down the road. (ALWAYS have a designated driver once the sampling begins!) This hotel is also in a great location for access to many wineries in the area. Location, location, location!

More on transportation because, I cannot say it enough: designate a driver! We have img_7169actually enlisted the services of a shuttle/van to take us around touring the area. The Hampton Inn shuttle only goes back and forth to Shelton, so that’s a good place to start/end your daily tour for that convenience, as well as their amazing on-site restaurant. The shuttle service we used was Grape Escape Tours, and it was perfect. You can tell them your wine preferences (dry, sweet, etc) and they will recommend a tour. They had a basket of snacks in the van, too, which was a nice touch. Our driver was a very nice and patient lady who took pictures of our group at the various stops. As you can imagine, as the day of “tasting” went on, dealing with us gals on the loose probably got interesting. I know from the pics that our smiles kept getting bigger and bigger. (Gosh, I wish I could remember her name…. she was just so patient. So very, very patient. Bless her.)

Here is a list of the places I’ve been in the area that I would highly recommend:

Shelton Vineyards: This is a Napa-style winery and vineyard. Take the tour and do the VIP tasting! It is worth the extra money for this awesome experience. While you’re there, eat at Harvest Grill. The food is amazing and the entire property is just breathtaking. Wine recommendation: Family Reserve Claret (or really anything from the Reserve collection).

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Grassy Creek Vineyard: This is an old stable converted into a winery! The cool factor is definitely “up there” and it just has a very chill vibe. The two men who run the joint are great to chat with and they also have events from time to time on the property. They also have a fun little gift shop selection. Wine recommendation: Red Barn Blend. It’s a crowd pleaser!

Elkin Creek Vineyard: This place is quaint and cozy and just plain old special! The girls and I had a blast sampling here, and next time I am definitely going to try one of their brick oven pizzas. Wine recommendation: Adequate Red (trust me when I tell you it is MUCH better than “adequate”)

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Round Peak Vineyard: This is a great “first stop” as it is north of the hotel exit (but again, remember to designate a driver!). They have wine and craft beer, but no matter what, do not miss the view from the back patio! Take your beverage out back and sit and enjoy the immediate relaxation that comes with knowing you are on holiday. This place is definitely a “must see.” (featured picture at top of post is a glimpse of the view from the patio)

222 Public House (now Angry Troll Brewing @ 222): This wasn’t quite a brewery last time I was there, but they had an awesome vibe and great food and cold beer. What more could you ask for? Definitely try the nachos!!

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Whew! This one is making me nostalgic for some girl time!! Hopefully my girls will read this and agree… it is time to getaway!

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