Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ocean City--Fun in the Sun!

This year our "big" family vacation was a mere two days in Ocean City, MD. My sister Amber had to remind me that they can't all be month-long road trips to Sacramento and back. Even though our vacation was a quick one, we still managed to have a blast!

We loaded up the car last Wednesday morning and drove to Ocean City. The biggest highlight of the drive over was Michael's eagle-eye spotting of a Sonic on the way. Cherry Lime-aids for all! What could be better than that, dear friend?

Once we got to OC, we went to our hotel, grabbed a key to the bathroom and changed into our swimsuits. We were a little too early to get our room key, but we didn't mind because our plan was to head to the beach anyway.

Before we went, Maia had told us that she was nervous about the waves. You see, none of my children had ever been swimming in the actual ocean before. Pathetic, I know! We've been to the bay lots of times, but never the actual ocean. Anyway, leave it to Maia to get all worked up about the thrill factor of something new. She wasn't sure if she wanted to give the ocean an try.

Thankfully, she decided to give riding the waves a whirl and....loved it! Seriously, the waves were actually quite rough and the life guards weren't letting people out very far at all, but Maia was fearless. (Michael even made a comment about a certain someone lacking "good sense" as she fearlessly threw herself into strong wave after strong wave.) She fell in love with boogie boarding and quickly caught on to timing the waves so that she rode them all the way in to the sand each time. We couldn't get her out of the water! That's my Maia, get her in the water and she shines.

Mason also tried his hand at boogie boarding. He couldn't get the timing quite as well as Maia, but he still had a grand time. He also enjoyed making "sandballs" (instead of snowballs) and digging to China in the sand. Maybe he wanted to get to the Olympics?!

The rough waves were quite violent to our little girls (and to my favorite sunglasses, for that matter, which were lost at sea while I boogie boarded with Maia...). Mackenna never quite felt secure enough to enjoy the ocean and preferred to spend her time making me countless sand "pies" which I pretended to consume with abandon. Teensy tried on and off to enjoy the ocean waves and by the second day learned to enjoy the beach most by staying either in her daddy's arms or in the mostly shallow waters. She even boogie boarded backwards, refusing to turn her back on those treacherous waves for even a moment.

After several hours on the beach, we walked the half block back to our hotel and officially checked in. Everyone bathed and attempted to de-sand. I was the last to get in the shower and by the time I got out, sweet Kenna had fallen asleep sitting up on the couch! I guess missing a nap and being in the sun for four hours had really drained the poor child.

We went to Phillips for dinner where we ordered the calamari with sweet chile sauce as an appetizer. We had all the kids try it and then waited until each one had said how delicious it was before we told them what it was! It was awesome! Mason kept right on digging in, but Teensy and Maia weren't quite as enthusiastic about second helpings. I had a delicious crab cake and filet mignon (don't judge me, my vacation was only one night and I was going to make it count!).

After dinner, we returned to our hotel where everyone got ready for bed. I was the first one asleep! I guess a missed nap and four hours in the sun had taken its toll on me, as well.

Thursday morning, we got up and ate breakfast in our room before heading out to the boardwalk. We ended up renting a bicycle built for six, otherwise known as a surrey with a fringe on the top! It was so fun to ride together up and down the boardwalk and look at the beautiful waves and interesting people.

The rest of Thursday morning was spent checking out of our hotel and then playing at the beach. After lunch, we hopped in the car and drove over to Assateague Island. Neither Michael nor I had ever been there and we thought it would be a hit for the whole family to see those infamous wild horses. We were right! The kids were fascinated with the horses that just roam the island and don't pay any attention to all the humans oggling them.

Of course, we had to test the beach on Assateague, too. It was all about the wildlife. Michael scooped the shell of a horseshoe crab out of a wave and had all sorts of people ooh-ing and ah-ing over it. I showed the kids how to watch after a wave hit the shore and see the little tiny creatures in shells (like little clams, but I don't know what they are, exactly) dig their way back into the sand. The kids were mesmerized by this activity and would scoop those little creatures up time after time after time. Michael joined in and scooped up a bigger creature. We don't know what it is either, but again, the kids really liked looking at it. They just loved seeing all these different creatures!

After spending a couple of hours at the beach, we attempted to rinse the sand off ourselves in the shower (that stuff just sticks like glue, doesn't it? I had forgotten my baby powder...) and changed into clean clothes before heading home. It was a quick little trip but very memorable. Mason told me on Wednesday, "This is the best day of my whole life!" and I think he meant it. Just two days ago, he was filling out a questionnaire for school and listed Ocean City as his "favorite place." Vacation successful!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

West Virginia, Mountain Mamma

Here's my mother-in-law, our family's West Virginia Mountain Mamma, in her office with my little girls. Don't believe the look on her face--Teensy was just trying to look grumpy for the photo as a joke (she's good, isn't she?).

A couple of weeks ago, we loaded up the off-spring for a five hour drive to my mother-in-law's new digs in The Middle of Nowhere, West Virginia. Actually, that's the "big city" nearest her house; she lives 21 miles outside The Middle of Nowhere. No lie.

Let me tell you, the drive through western Maryland into central West Virginia is beautiful and I mean gorgeous. If you know me at all, you know that I am a sucker for trees and greenery; the scenic views on our drive featuring both of those things did not disappoint. I couldn't shut up about how breathtaking it all was. It's not quite as perfect as Transylvania (which holds the place in my mind as the most beautiful place on earth), but it's close.

Teensy loves to have her dad flip her over his head and all around.

I forget what this little car-thingie is called, but Kenna and Teensy loved playing in it. They took turns at the steering wheel and opened and shut the windows about 37 times before moving on to their next adventure.

We went to my mother-in-law's house to celebrate her husband's 70th birthday. The plan was to camp on their property and have a big party on Saturday. Margaret and Bill had prepared a nice picnic area under some trees and next to their creek where the camping and partying would take place. Within minutes of getting out of their car seats, my kids were in that creek finding crayfish. They were a filthy mess in no time, but they were in heaven. They enjoyed the tire swing Grandpa Bill had made and loved hiking on Grandma Margaret and Grandpa Bill's 35+ acres of land with their cousins.

Kenna demonstrating the joys of the tire swing!

This is classic Mason--up a tree and brandishing a sword, to boot!

My sister-in-law had a hotel room in The Middle of Nowhere and "needed" someone to drive to it with her and keep her company for the night. I was volunteered for the job. It was tough, but I love Heather, and felt that this act of service would show her just how much I care. So, Michael kept the eldest three kids and slept in a tent in his mom's yard while I took Kenna and mooched a bed at the nearest Days Inn. Don't judge me here, people. That was the night that Michael Phelps won the 100-fly by a fingernail. If I would have missed that I never would have forgiven myself!! (My mother-in-law doesn't have a TV.)

Grandpa Bill giving a tractor ride to my nephew, Gavin, Kenna and Teense.

Saturday, the kids ran around like heathens again. Several of Bill's children came to the party; it was fun to meet some people we've been hearing about for the past 10+ years.

Kenna really learned to give her daddy more of her attention (for which this mom is Grateful!) while they had more time to spend together. She's holding her balloon poodle in this photo.

One of Bill's daughters, Merrily (I love that name) is a clown, for real. She brought some of her goods and was basically enslav
ed as the resident balloon-maker/face-painter. She really went above and beyond, let me tell you. My kids were thrilled with all her efforts!

Just a shot to give you and idea of the steady line of "customers" waiting for Merrily's services. Don't you love Bill's "Birthday Hat" there at the end of the line?

Hands down the cutest balloon animal on earth: the balloon caterpillar. Teensy loved that little guy so! I had "babysit" the thing and keep it wrapped in her blanket while she went for more ice cream!

Teensy loved the purple and pink face painting that matched her shirt. (Please note that the strawberry sauce remnants on her face are left over from her ice cream and are not part of Merrily's flawless face painting design.)

Maia and Nina looking so pretty with their faces painted!

Kenna had to get her face painted as "Superman," like her cousin, Ethan. Go ahead, you try to tell her that it's actually Spiderman.

Saturday night my Michael decided that we should all stay in a room at the hotel so that we could get ready for church easier in the morning. It was fun to have all our kids pass out (and Josiah and Heather's) and then open the connecting door between our rooms so that we could watch the Olympics together while finishing off Josiah's Oreo's. You gotta love a brother-in-law who brings Oreo's wherever he goes!

After church on Sunday, we went back to Margaret and Bill's for a quick lunch and change of clothes before hitting the road to return home. Sadly, we met up with some road construction which extended our trip home, but I just focused on those pretty vistas out the window! My kids are already asking when they can go camping at Grandma's house again.

(I just realized that I have soooo many more photos of the little girls than the older kids from this trip. What can I say? I keep the little ones with me while the older ones run around like lunatics with their cousins. It's easier to get pictures of children you're incessantly watching than ones who are off playing and climbing all over the place without you.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dear IOC

Dear International Olympic Committee,

First, let me tell you I am quite enamored with your little operation. I look forward to it every two years and am so pleased to be able to feed my addiction for watching international competition.

I also want to
thank NBC (A.K.A. the "dealer" to my Olympics addiction), for its extensive coverage of the Summer Olympics. I do love them so and quite enjoy watching all the swimming, diving, cycling and, of course, the gymnastics! Each evening I head straight to the TV, telling my beloved spouse, Michael, that I have an important commitment; my country needs me. I am there each evening to cheer for all our hard-working athletes without fail.

I do, however, have one problem. I am not sure how much longer I can watch the nightly "prime time" coverage. You see, I am only human and, therefore, actually require a certain thing called sleep. Last night's coverage didn't end until after 12:30 a.m. and this morning my children were up and fighting (complete with screams the likes of which usually only accompany limbs being ripped off of torsos) before 7:00 a.m. I'm just not as young as I once was and this rigorous schedule is certainly taking its toll.

Would it really be too much to ask to have all the really cool events take place at a time that would be, say, in real prime time on the East Coast of the good ole US of A?

What? This isn't about me? Are you sure? Because I feel like an important part of the Olympic Team. I am the USA's biggest cheerleader! But, I guess if it's more important for the athletes to have their rest before say, breaking world records, than it is for me to be able to devoutly sit on my couch without nodding off, I suppose I will have to make do. I'm just upset I didn't think to order DVR or TiVo or the like in time for the games. That really would have been helpful!

Respectfully Submitted,

Mendy Hunter, Chronically Fatigued Olympic Addict

Monday, August 11, 2008

CSI: Suburbia

Two weeks ago, I hosted a good-bye soiree for my dear friend, Jenni, and her family; they're off to Colorado. I don't know what I am going to do on my nights out of the house without Jenni. She and I had many similar interests and were, therefore, involved in several of the same groups (Book Club, Card Exchange, Recipe Swap and Quilt Group, to name a few). We have also been partners in our church's Visiting Teaching program for the past 5+ years. To say I'll miss Jenni is an understatement. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Michael will miss her husband, Adrian, as one nerd can only miss another. I was busy trying to be the hostess with the mostess the night of their farewell, so I didn't snap any photos. Good thing Cami was around with her fancy new camera!

Anyway, after an evening of general mayhem in my house (which is somewhat smaller than both my good intentions and my feelings of hospitality) I went down to the playroom and discovered a gruesome crime scene. Warning: this is not for the faint of heart. The images you are about to see may not be suitable for young children, especially if said children are fans of a certain Latina preschooler with a purple backpack.

The victim was actually hung in triplicate! Not once, not twice, but three times poor Dora was hung by her little neck off the top bunk of the spare bed. Apparently, the calling card of the killer is a black polka dotted hair ribbon. The motive for such a heinous crime is still undetermined. We are following the leads we have, but in the meantime authorities have asked that you keep all your Nick Jr. paraphernalia safely under your supervision. They say the prime suspect is a real fox!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Friendly FYI

You know me, dear friend and devoted reader; I love to give unsolicited advice. This latest bit is prompted by my latest Verizon bill. It's my combined Internet, phone and TV service bill. Last month, it jumped up almost 50%. Eek!

Here's the advice: if your older brother moves his family to the Philippines and you decide to call him for some brotherly advice, make sure you're quick about it. Like, super quick. The phone really isn't your most cost-effective option here. Try email or mental telepathy or some other cheaper form of communication.

I talked to Joel for 8 minutes and it cost me $43.36. For 8 minutes. My Verizon bill went from its usual $100 to $150 for one phone call. And did I mention that the phone call only lasted 8 minutes? So, I'm just putting it out there, that if your brother moves to the Philippines get ready for a hike in your phone bill. Even if you only chat for 8 minutes. Seriously, 8 minutes!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cleveland Rocks!

My Michael went to Colorado for the weekend to visit with his family there and to baptize our niece, Jenniel. When I saw his trip on the horizon, I started hinting to his cousin's wife about how I'd be home alone with the kids for four days...poor me. Naturally, she invited me to come to Cleveland to pass the time of my Michael's absence and I, of course, obliged (that's what the hinting was for, after all!) In the end, Michael's brother and his family came, too and we ended up having a rip-roaring good time.

Michael's flight to Denver left early Friday morning. Fool that I am, I thought it would be great to gently throw the kids in the car, drop Daddy at the airport and then begin the six hour drive with sleeping children. We loaded up the kids and took Daddy to the airport at 4:30 a.m. just as I'd planned, but did one of my children even have an extended blink on the way to Sean and Jessica's? That would be a negative, dear friend and devoted reader. All four of them were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the entire 365 mile journey! But don't feel too bad for me because my children are freaky mutants.

This is a good thing! Why? Because even though not one of them fell back asleep in the car, we zipped right to Cleveland in record time. The reason? We didn't stop the car! That's right. I drove six straight hours and not once did a child ask to use the potty or to get out of the car. I just kept thinking I'll drive until someone asks me to stop and no one ever did. Can you believe that? We listened to some music CD's and a book on tape, watched a new Scooby Doo DVD and they drew in some spiral notebooks (oh, there are some Maia treasures in hers, to be sure). My legs were really ready for a stretch by the time we pulled into Sean and Jessica's, let me tell you!

Soon, cousin mayhem commenced. We had 12 kids ages 17 months-9 years old in the house, plus five adults. The afternoon was a joyous love-fest between all the kids. And it was my little nephew, Merritt's, birthday.

The ten older kids outside the Cleveland Brown's stadium. Maia and her cousins had already played "make-over" and taken out her hair!

Friday night we headed into downtown Cleveland and went to a Cleveland Brown's practice. Some of the kids were a little disappointed that we weren't watching an actual NFL game, but they all behaved really well. It was Family Night and hot dogs were $1; Maia shocked us all by asking for and then devouring one. (She's been a vegetarian for more than 3 years.) After the practice there was a pretty decent fireworks show over the stadium. The kids had a blast!

We got home pretty late and put all the kids to bed. Then, Heather, Jessica and I headed out to Border's where Jess had put copies of Breaking Dawn on reserve for herself and me. Heather thought we were nuts to wait to be 284th in line to buy a book at midnight, but she humored us. Once we were home again, Jessica and I started reading just to get a "taste" of how things would go for Edward and Bella. Since I had gotten up at 4:18 in the morning, I had to call it quits at about 3:00 Saturday morning.

Jessica and me at Border's at the Breaking Dawn party. Like how I'm hunched over the stack of books?

Saturday morning Sean brought me a big breakfast in bed. Talk about a good cousin! After a morning of playing at home, we took the kids to swim in a little lake behind Jessica's parent's house. Oh, the fun they had! They all went down the slide and jumped off the little pier. The braver souls tried to do flips; my Mason was among them (I know what you're thinking--this is the child who cried for 35 minutes over riding the swings?!). We saw little fishies and not-so-little fishies. My little girls loved that they were swimming with fish, even after Marlee claimed that she "felt something's teeth" on her foot.

Cheaper by the Dozen! The brood of children produced by my Michael, his brother and his cousin. Don't they all look so well-behaved and calm?

The line at the slide!

Maia, Nina and Hannah jumping off the pier together.

Logan was thrilled to have his second cousin, Mason, come and celebrate his 7th birthday with him!

After a couple of hours in the sun, we brought the kids home and bathed them all. We used the divide and conquer method of simultaneously washing a dozen kids--three big girls in one shower, three big boys in another, three little girls in the soaking tub---hey, wait, how did the three little boys get clean? I don't know. I don't have a little boy so I didn't pay much attention to that. I was probably back with my nose in a book...

Heather (the birthday girl!), Jessica and me at the lake. You're welcome that this is the only view of me in a swim suit that you're getting.

Josiah and Sean agreed to man the home front while Jess and I took Heather for a pedicure. Saturday was Heather and Logan's birthday. (Talk about a lot of birthdays, I know!) It was great to get away again with just the girls. My sister-in-law, Heather, is so funny. She's very friendly and expressive. One of the things I love about her is that she tells me all the time that she can't hear. I know this; Heather is deaf. Everyone who knows her knows that she can't hear so it just makes me laugh when she tells me that she can't hear. I did tell her once this weekend that I envied her a little bit sometimes. Hey, if you were in a house with 12 cousins running around screaming and fighting and playing and jumping, you might start to envy your deaf sister-in-law, too. Don't judge me.

Anyway, after our pedis, we went back home to pick up the daddies and go to dinner. Sean and Jessica basically offered a college-aged girl full-tuition reimbursement if she'd bring a friend over and watch all the kids. Sucker, she took the bait!

The five of us went to a little outdoor mall and walked around before heading to The Melting Pot. Nothing like sitting at a table for six with three fondue pots (the one in front of you remaining mockingly empty) while you stare at the nothingness in front of you to make you miss your husband, I tell you. Don't get me wrong, we laughed and had a grand time, the five of us, but I was sad that my Michael wasn't there to be having fun with me. And I was sad for him that he was missing out on all this fun. Surely, he couldn't be having fun without me, right? Anyway, before we left the restaurant, Josiah literally drank his fondue pot empty; that's true appreciation for white chocolate and amaretto, I tell you.

Josiah slurping up his dessert while Heather takes his photo. Notice Jessica, our little pixie in the corner!

It was getting pretty late by the time we got back home, but I just wanted to read a little more. I only had about 200 pages left at this point and thought I could forge on till the end. Well, my mind was willing but my flesh was weak, dear friend and devoted reader. My eyes kept crossing and my blinks were getting longer, so I decided to wait until Sunday to finish.

After church on Sunday we had the traditional Spittle taco meal and then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. Josiah and Heather went back to Virginia, but I stayed until Monday so I could get one night of decent sleep before driving the six hours home.

This morning, after I packed up our stuff, Jessica and I took the eight remaining kids to the park for some last minute fun and for some wiggle time for my kids before our drive home. The drive went well again. I did call a potty break after 3.5 hours and was shocked that only one of my kids could actually go. What is up with these children, I ask you? They were made for car trips, I guess.

We had such a great time this weekend. Sean and Jessica are great hosts and it's always fun to hang out with Josiah and Heather. Our kids do really well together. I'm always surprised at how well they play even when they are grouped in three's; they're pretty good about not leaving anyone out. It was lots of fun but I am glad to be back home.

My Michael gets home tonight as well, and not too soon. Mason was crying as he went to bed tonight because he misses his dad. Teensy actually stroked her Uncle Josiah's face over the weekend and told him how he looks like her daddy (and he really does). And I'm ready to have my Edward back. Oh, he's not perfect like Edward is, but he's perfect for me and I'll keep him...

Quotation of the Month

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill