Learning to socialize from a 12 year old

I was on my way back home yesterday on a flight from DC to Atlanta when I saw a young boy being escorted onto the plane by a flight attendant. He is what is deemed an “unaccompanied minor” by the airlines. As he walked onto the plane, I could see his face was still wet from tears he shed while telling his father goodbye. His eyes were all red, and he looked really scared. My heart broke for this little boy, and made me think of my three children I had just dropped off at their dad’s the day before.

I wondered why his father wasn’t flying back with him. I wondered why his mother didn’t fly up to DC to go get him. I know that children over a certain age fly unaccompanied all the time, and it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. This little boy seemed so clearly upset and bothered by being alone. There was another unaccompanied minor that was sitting next to him. She was a very confident looking young girl…she looked younger than he was, but I would soon find out that was not the case. The flight attendants warned both of the children to stay in their seats when we arrived in Atlanta so they could escort them both off the plane. Afterwards, there were a few moments of awkward silence. I felt sorry for the little boy…I figured he was probably embarrassed about crying and now too shy to talk to the little girl seated next to him. I felt sorry for her too. I thought she probably was scared to talk to him for fear he would burst into tears at any moment. My thoughts of pity for the two of them were interrupted by the sound of their chatter!

The little boy apologized for the crying and explained to the little girl that he was just sad because he was leaving his dad’s and didn’t want his summer vacation to end. He introduced himself as Ryan. Ryan then went on to ask the girl what her name was, and she answered. They talked about Harry Potter, iPods, Angry Birds, school, sports, summer break, where they each lived, who they had been visiting, divorce, siblings, cousins, step-parents…they didn’t stop talking the entire flight. I was reading my book and overhearing lots of the conversation because they were seated directly across from me. By the end of the flight, I was just feeling sorry for myself…I had NEVER had the courage to strike up a conversation with a complete and total stranger, and then continue that conversation for a full hour and a half. It’s not that I’m stuck up and don’t want to talk to anybody…and in general I believe that most people don’t take the initiative to strike up such conversations because they don’t want to be seen as a pest. I don’t want to bother anybody. The man next to me might just want to sit in peace and read his newspaper (most likely he does!!). That’s all I usually want too! On the flip side, I really don’t get out much and should take the opportunity to meet new people when and where I can.

All in all, it’s pretty ironic that I learned something about socializing and meeting new people from some 12 year old boy that I initially thought was a shy, awkward kid…he sure proved me wrong!

The Dog Days (of summer) are *almost* over

Boy, this summer is sure winding down quickly.  I’ll be taking the kids back to Maryland in less than 3 weeks, and they’ll start school just a mere 10 days later!  The time has flown by again this year.  I’ve got a list a mile long of things that we need to do before they go back home…doctor appointments, clothes shopping, visits to the library, and hopefully squeezing in a couple or three more beach visits before they leave.  I’ve started on this list…Karissa wanted these “design your own” Converse All Stars, so they’ve been ordered.  She’s been poring over the Justice for Girls website all summer, carefully selecting all the clothing she *needs* for her first year of middle school.  The boys are SO much easier.  They honestly could care less about clothes and shoes.  However, Nathan has been hovering around the front door all day, waiting for the Fed Ex man to show up with his iPod Touch (his only wish for his birthday…which is August 19th).  Jacob…well…Jacob would be content with some new legos or some sort of action figurine.

I remember when it was back to school time when I was young.  I couldn’t wait to pick out my new set of clothes from the JCPenney fall catalog (I’m talking EVEN into my high school years…am I showing my age??).  It might’ve been 90 degrees on the first day of school, but gosh darn it, I HAD to wear those new jeans and new sweater on the first day!  I got giddy over new pencils, pens and notebooks!  I remember the swarm of people that would flood Peoples Drug and Dart Drug (ok, now I really AM showing my age) to pick up their packets of loose leaf paper, bottles of glue, and 3-ring binders the evening after the first day of school.  One thing that has changed for the better is that schools typically hand out supply lists before school starts, some as early as the last day of school prior to the new school year.  This at least gives parents some time to plan ahead and prepare!

Along with the end of summer also comes the end of my peace and quiet…since school is starting, so will the phone calls riddled with complaints about how “expensive these kids are”, “Don’t you know how much school supplies cost?”, and the “You really need to send me more money, who cares if you pay your child support?”  I usually just chuckle under my breath and say…”Welcome to my World…how does it feel”…etc., etc., etc.

I think the video says it all….love this song by Florence and the Machine.

Take two Midols and call me in the morning

With my daughter fast approaching her teen years, and right smack in the middle of her “tweens”, the drama is ever ensuing at our house.  This morning, I walk into my bathroom to find a host of toiletries belonging to her on the countertop, accompanied by her used bath towel lying on the floor, and a trail of her discarded pajamas and underclothes.

“Karissa!!”, I yelled across the house.

“What?”, she yells back.

And, so the drama begins.  I ask her what all that stuff is doing there, she gives me her answer with a sprinkle of tweenage attitude, and then I. Get. ANGRY.  My head starts to roll and bob at the same time.  Then I breathe.  I’m still upset with her, but rather than yelling, I try to reason with her, and a lecture begins.  Bad move on my part.  More attitude is spewing from every pore on her body.  She is rolling her eyes, about to cry, bobbing HER head.  It is a battle of wise estrogen versus the novice estrogen.  Girl, I brought you into this world…yadda yadda yadda.  Meanwhile, had my mother not been in the other bathroom blowdrying her own hair and could’ve seen/heard what was going on…she would have been LAUGHING!  At ME!  Ha!  I think she would have called that karma.  Or paybacks.  Either way it’s a witch with a “b”.

Later (like 20 minutes later), my daughter is walking through the kitchen and proceeds to drop her iPod Touch on the floor.  Given, it was a complete accident, but it still cracked the entire screen to the point it’s not usable.  In the process, she gets a pin prick amount of blood on the tip of her finger, and you would’ve thought somebody just stabbed the poor child.  She needs a Band-Aid, I absolutely have to get her a new iPod Touch because CLEARLY it’s my fault that a) she dropped it, b) Apple didn’t make it with a stronger  screen to begin with, and c) pretty much everything is Mom’s fault, so this must be too.  So, as I am telling her that I am in NO way going to fix it for her, I’m looking online to find the info for Apple repair.  This is otherwise known as “caving”.  I’m famous for this.  Yes, I totally caved.  I started thinking that I had paid almost $250 for this product just 3 short months ago for her birthday.  It’s an investment.  I actually just ordered another one for my soon to be 9 year old for his upcoming birthday yesterday.  I can’t just let it be trash.

However, this behavior on my part has created what looms in my daughter as her sense of entitlement.  I really need to learn to stand my ground.  I have a hard time with that, mostly because I am only with them for such a short time and I want our time together to be as peaceful and enjoyable as possible.    I will be working on that.

And so begins what will be a series of dramatic mornings, that rollover into afternoons and evenings.  This will be the story of my life, so long as she is with me (and probably alot of the time she is not) until she is at least 30.  Thank goodness I’ve only got one girl…so far!

Are we having fun yet?

Most definitely!  We had a rocky start to the week…it started off like this:

Saturday, a week ago, I went to pick up the big kids.  I arrived and ended up waiting an HOUR for them to finish getting ready before we could leave.  No biggie…we had plenty of time, and Tristan was happy so long as he had his Mommy.  Once I picked them up, we grabbed our lunch and dinner at Subway, went back to my parents’ house and then to the airport.  Smooth sailing so far, right?  Yeah…until I heard those dreaded words at the airport…”Ground stop in Atlanta”.  Our flight was seriously delayed.  At first, it looked like it would be just for 30 minutes…they let us board the plane, I got all optimistic, and we were excited to leave.  Once everybody had boarded and gotten situated, the captain announced that another ground stop for Atlanta had been issued and we wouldn’t be permitted to take off again.  We sat on the plane for about an hour and a half before we could take off.  We had a connecting flight to make in Atlanta, and I was nervous that we would miss it.  Once we landed, I was relieved to see that our connecting flight had also been delayed, and wouldn’t be departing for another 45 minutes.  Big sigh of relief.  And then the captain had to open his big mouth again and tell us that although we had landed, our gate was full and we would not be able to deplane  for another half hour or so.  It ended up being about 50 minutes before we were at the gate and off the plane.  My connecting flight departed and the hunt for another flight began.  All this was occurring after 10:30 pm.  I was TIRED!  So were all the kids.  I found the gate where a flight to Orlando would be departing around 11:15, and it has already  boarded confirmed passengers, and was in the process of putting stand-by passengers on.  I needed to get on that plane if I wanted to get home in time to watch Tommy complete the Dad’s Day Triathlon the following day.  Well, thank you very much, Gina from Delta!!  She got us on the plane and we were off…unfortunately we wouldn’t arrive in Orlando until nearly 1 am, and the drive home is just over an hour.  We were getting home around 2:15 am.  The kids went right to their beds and passed out, and Tommy and I followed suit.

Somehow, around 5:30 am, Tommy woke up, got himself ready, and left for the Triathlon.  He said he kissed me goodbye, and that I tried to get up to join him and he told me to go back to sleep.  I don’t remember any of that.  I do remember waking up around 8:30 and finding a text from him shortly after that he had already completed it.  I was stoked he did so well, but not so stoked that we had all missed it!  We went to brunch after he got home, then I spent the rest of the day grocery shopping and letting Tommy catch some rest before we had to go to his boss’ house for a picnic.

Right after Tommy woke up from his nap, Karissa had taken Tristan with her into the kitchen.  Nothing out of the ordinary when baby-hog junior is around.  Less than two minutes later, I heard a blood-curdling cry come from the kitchen.  Something happened to the little guy.  I ran to the kitchen, hurdled over Jacob who was standing in the doorway.  Karissa was already holding him, but he was still crying.  She told me that she dropped him.  Before you freak out…she had placed him on the kitchen counter and he was sitting up.  She thought he would be okay for “just a second” while she turned around to get something (whatever it was, she forgot about what she was getting in all the confusion!).  He lunged forward and fell off the counter, straight onto the tile floor.  He landed on his back, and the back of his head.   He cried for a good bit (as would I have if my head had hit that hard floor).  I wasn’t really too concerned because he didn’t have a knot anywhere on his head that I could see.  It wasn’t until he vomited twice that I started to panic a little.  I thought it would be best if we took him to the ER to get him checked out to ensure he didn’ t have a bad head injury or a concussion.  So much for that picnic!!

We spent one hour in the ER (yep, just one hour!! quickest ER visit EVER!), then were sent on our way with some piece of mind.  Off to the picnic we went anyways…just a little late.

So, that’s that tale of our first 24 hours (almost…but not quite) in Florida.  I’m happy to report that the rest of the week was somewhat uneventful.  So, are we having fun yet?

Feeling the need to vent a little

This past week I have received multiple phone calls from my older childrens’ father demanding to know where his child support is.  (For those of you who do not know, my older three kids live with their dad during the school year, and I pay him child support year round).  I was cursed at, screamed at, etc.  I kept my cool and ensured him that I had sent payment and told him how I had done so.  I was then called a liar.  This went on and on and on over a series of several days, with me receiving calls every single day.

Since I was laid off from my job, obviously those weekly payments are not being sent by my employer any longer.  The last payment he received was on or about May 5th.  Today is June 10th.  I mailed a check via my online banking program, and the check was returned to me about a week later, unpresented due to the fact that the name on the check didn’t match my name (the account is in my husband’s name, so I guess that was the issue?).  The same day I received the check back in the mail, I followed the enclosed instructions to use the online “Expert Pay” service to submit payment.  I had already set up an account with the online service, but opted not to go that route because when I entered my child support case number, no information was found.  I was afraid that my payment would be sitting in limbo too long before it made it anywhere.  At this point, I had no choice but to utilize this service.  I crossed my fingers and hit submit, twice.  Twice, due to the fact that this online service will not allow me to make a payment for more than $400 at a time.  So, every two weeks, I will submit two payments for my child support, each in the amount of the former weekly payment that I was making.  Makes sense, right?  Well, this was first done on the 27th of May.  I had called and spoke to representatives with child support.  They informed me that as of May 5th, the amount I owed through the end of May was $19.17 (because by paying weekly I had actually jumped ahead on my payments).  I took note of this, but rather than just sending the “minimum”, I continued with my weekly payments, via the online service.  Well, finally…13 days later…the state received those first two payments, and I’m HOPING they deposited them into his account.  I am so tired of hearing about how broke he is, he doesn’t have money to pay for field trips, end of year picnics, lost library books, rides at the amusement park, etc.  He is in the red because he wrote out checks to pay for daycare without first consulting his bank account to determine whether he actually had the funds to cover those payments.  And all of this, of course, is MY fault.

In the meantime, before he called me to complain, I had already submitted my 2nd set of bi-weekly payments on June 3.  At this point, I should only owe $96.09 for the remainder of June.  I’m keeping track of these totals because everytime I log onto the state’s child support online account, they have changed what my monthly amount is supposed to be, it has a different amount showing for the total I owe, versus the current amount I owe.  None of this ever makes any sense.  When I talk to a rep at the toll-free number, they are telling me that I am over $500 in arrears.  I have to correct them, they tell me they can’t help me, and that an agent will call me back.  So, at this point, I am fuming.  Is it really too much to ask to have people who know basic arithmetic to be manning those phone lines??  Is it really that difficult??  Let me break it down for you…

$19.17(which is what I owed for the month of May as of May 5th when the last payment was submitted by my employer)

MINUS $461.54=-$442.37 (this new number is the amount already paid into the month of June.)

Take the $1000 that I’m ordered to pay each month and subtract that $442.37 listed above and you get $557.63 (which by the way is showing on the child support website at the “Total Balance Owed“–which is actually correct).  I have also been informed that you are not in “arrears” until you are 30 days past due.  Therefore, if July gets here, and they have received no further payments from me, then I will be $557.63 in arrears.  However, that isn’t even the number that the rep gave me when she told me I was in arrears.  She quoted me a different number.

These numbers just don't add up!

I redacted the other party’s name, the case number and the court order number to preserve the other party’s privacy.  I am not really upset at him, more so at the state that is handling this case.  I’m expected to be responsible and accountable for what I do, so why should this agency not have to uphold to those same standards??  Stay tuned, I will keep you posted on the outcome once this “agent” gets back to me, sometime within the next two business days.

Ready for Summer!

While I do realize that summer has been in full-swing here in Florida (just ask my sweat-o-meter!!), it doesn’t feel as if it’s really started until my kids arrive from Maryland.  Next week, I will be making my trip up north to attend their end of the year festivities at school.  My son Nathan called me a couple of days ago to invite me to his end-of-year picnic.  Of course I’m going!  I love seeing them interact with their friends and teachers at school.  I try to be as involved as I can be from 1000 miles away.  Field trips, fundraisers, string concerts…anything I can do to show them that I support them in everything they’re doing!  My daughter will be graduating from 5th grade on Monday, and I will also be there to see that.  Once they’re out of school, it will be just a matter of days before we make our trip back south to my house.  The kids always look forward to their time here.  It’s not like we live at amusement parks all summer…we just do normal “summer” activities together.  Swimming, biking, playing at the beach, family barbecues, shopping, cooking, movie nights…I like to pack as much action into their summer breaks as I can!  For me, this usually means being on the go constantly!  Last summer it was really tough because I was pregnant, working full-time, going to school full-time, and basically just completely exhausted all the time.  This summer, the only thing that will distract me from them is their new little brother.  No work, no school…just lots of fun in store!

With any luck, our adventures are making memories they’ll have for a lifetime.  I can remember summers when I was a kid and we always had lots of fun, even if we weren’t spending tons of cash.  Here’s a list of some of our favorite budget-friendly summer activities!

  • Library!  Yes, I know to some kids that might sound really boring, but our local library (and I bet yours as well) has some wonderful childrens’ programs for the summer.  Whether it’s a summer reading program, story-time, or arts and crafts, the kids can participate for free and it’s a great way to break up the week!  Here’s a link to the activities at the Melbourne Beach Public Library!
  • The pool!  Luckily, we have a pool in our backyard.  If you’re not as privileged, you can always visit your local pool, usually operated by the county’s Parks and Recreation department.  For a list of swim locations and open swim times, contact Brevard County Parks and Recreation, or your local parks and rec!
  • Visit your local Bookstore!  Yes, another activity that at first glance might look really boring to your 8 year old…but trust me!  Our local Barnes and Noble bookstore has lots of monthly activities for kids of all ages!  Check out the Barnes and Noble website and find a list of events near you!
  • The beach! This is one of the more “difficult” trips of ours.  Difficult because of the amount of preparation required–everyone has to be slathered with sunblock, suited up, towels packed, sandtoys packed, drinks and snacks packed, umbrella and chairs packed, reading material for Mom packed.  Now with a new baby to tote along, there is even more gear that is necessary.  However, it’s all stuff that we have here at the house and can be loaded up in our beach cart or stroller and toted over there.  The next part of the trip that is difficult is watching 4 children alone at the beach.  I try to reserve these trips for when my husband, or another responsible adult, is available to attend with us.  It’s no fun to go to the beach if nobody is allowed to get in the water!  Just a tip, head to a beach that is monitored by lifeguards!  For a list of lifeguard manned beaches in Brevard County, click here.  You will have to scroll down to almost the bottom of the page to view the list.
  • Make a summer scrapbook together.  If you’re like me, you’re WAY behind on scrapbooking.  I have tons of blank scrapbook pages, stickers, paper and lots of pictures.  My favorite scrapbooking supplies are from Creative Memories.  You can order the materials online, without having to attend a party or in-home show!  Take lots of pictures of your summer-fun activities, then have your kids make their own pages that they can show their friends when school starts back up.  These pages will serve as memories that will last long past their childhood.
  • Visit your local zoo!  We have an annual family membership to the Brevard Zoo.  This allows us to visit the zoo anytime we want, with no admission cost.  The membership was around $100, and that pays for itself within just a couple of visits!  The kids love watching the animals, and the zoo is small enough that we can see everything there in a couple of hours.  The best part is they have the Paws On exhibit, where the kids can take part in water play to cool off during those hot summer days!  If you don’t have an annual membership, and you can’t afford one, the zoo also offers $5 admission on Summer Saturday Nights!  Check out their website here for a list of all the upcoming events and other information.

These are just a few ideas to keep boredom at bay over the summer.  Feel free to share with me some of your favorite budget-friendly activities!!

Happy 7th Birthday Jacob!

Happy Birthday Jake!

Dear Jacob,

It seems like just yesterday I was bringing you home from the hospital.  Seven years ago I was blessed with my ginger-haired boy, and you have continued to bless my life to this day.

Happy as can be

You were such a delight as a baby…always smiling!  You still have the same sweet smile now, always eager to show us how happy you are.

Despite those dominant genes from your dad’s side, you got Mommy’s red hair and green eyes.  You also got my bright smile, and much to your disdain, my freckles.  You’ve got character kiddo, and that’s something that nobody can take away from you.

Over the years, you’ve always been the “accident-prone” kid.  Sure, your sister and brother have had their share of boo-boos, but you definitely have caused my heart to drop more than once!

When you were first walking, I remember leaving you with Mom-Mom, my grandmother, so I could go work at Mrs. Mary’s house.  Mom-Mom called me, in a panic, and said that I should come back as soon as I could.  She said you had touched the inside of her oven door and that your hand had been burnt.  I was thinking to myself, “Eh, it’s probably just a tiny blister on his finger“, because she said that you cried for a minute, but had stopped crying already.  Lo and behold, when I got there and saw just how bad it was, I panicked too!  The entire palm of your hand had been burnt!  We got you all fixed up, and the doctor gave us some great burn relief cream, and you healed soon enough.  Turns out your baby brother is alot like you…he ran with his arms outstretched (in his walker) straight for the oven door the other day!  Scared me half to death!

Just a few months after that, when you were just shy of 2 years old, you were playing with the keyboard drawer on your sister’s desk.  You pulled it out onto your face, causing a gash just below your eyebrow.  My goodness, I’ve never seen so much blood!  You gave me a big scare, and somehow I managed to collect myself, get you picked up, your sister and your brother ready to go out the door so they could stay at your Aunt Cary’s house while I got you to the emergency room.  You were such a fighter…it took four of us to hold you down while they stitched you up!  You still have a slight scar from that today, but it didn’t seem to phase you a bit!

This was taken right after you peed all over my lap at your Uncle Danny's wedding.

When you were around 3.5 years old, you were out playing around and you tripped and fell…right on your front tooth!  You still have a black front tooth, because you knocked it loose and the tooth died.  Your dentist said it was no big deal and we would just have to wait for it to fall out in time.  Since you’ve already lost your front two bottom teeth, I imagine it’s just a matter of weeks or even days until the dead tooth is finally gone!

Somewhere around the same time, you were bit in the face by a dog.  I wasn’t there at the time, and apparently you didn’t need stitches.  Just yet another example of how you’re my tough little guy.  Sure, you might cry when it hurts, but never for very long!  I’m sure that there will be many more times during the course of your childhood in which you will give me a scare!  That’s part of being a mom I guess, and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to be YOUR mommy.

You only remember life as it has been for the past couple of years…memories of you being with me a majority of the time are cloudy in your young mind, sometimes made clearer with stories we tell when we’re all together.  I’m so glad you were too young to remember all the bad that happened when you were just a baby, and in alot of ways, YOU are the reason that I put a stop to all the bad.

Playing in the pool at the Ron Jon Resort

You were not planned, but you were definitely wanted by me.  Your birth was a wakeup call to me to take charge of my life.  Now I had two little men who would need to see a positive example of what a dad should be as they are growing up.   It was time for me to stop the cycle, and do everything in my power to create an environment of peace and love for you and your siblings to grow up in.  Although things didn’t end up the way I would have liked for them to, it’s not the end.

Even though you’re not “the baby” of the family anymore, you’ll always be my baby.  I’ll do my best to not treat you like the baby you once were, but it’s hard for me to see you guys growing up so fast.  I hope that on this day, your birthday, that you are celebrating and having an awesome day!

Mommy loves you, and I wish you could be here with us today as we celebrate the past 7 years of your life!

All Grown Up!