Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I took my four kids to the museum alone and lived to tell about it

Monday was a school holiday (President's Day) and my kids were bugging me bright and early to "take them somewhere fun".  Of course they typically choose crazy stuff that's not really possible for me to do on my own with three kids and an infant, like some type of skating, the local water park (the younger kids don't swim that great yet and I'll be damned if I'm going to squeeze my glazed donut filled hiney into a swimsuit in February), glacier luging, etc, you get the idea. I'm not a big fan of venturing out with all four kids alone, so I don't do it very often. It's tiring, stressful, and anxiety provoking (just the mere thought of it makes me bust out in the flop sweats with puffy hives).

For Christmas this year my dad bought our family a year long membership to the High Desert Museum, at my request since the thought of more toys coming into this tiny, overcrowded, cluttered rental house briefly turned me into the robot that goes haywire on RoboCop. Unfortunately Bend doesn't have a children's museum, or OMSI like we had in Portland, but the HDM is still packed full of fun, and the perfect place to spend an afternoon.  Plus, I was feeling a little guilty that I had only used our family membership once since Christmas, since we've been buried under 10,000 feet of snow and haven't ventured out much these past couple of months. So I told the kids we were going to the museum, and that was final.

It took me about two hours to get all four kids ready to go. Not even joking. Two freaking hours. By the time I got everyone locked and loaded into the car, I was already completely wiped out and dying for a nap. I was spoiled with having older, independent children before Seanie Mac was born. I thought my infant/toddler days were long gone and all I really had to worry about before we left the house was that the kids had brushed their teeth, were all wearing pants, and went to the bathroom so we didn't have to pull over to pee a million times along the way.

Now that Seanie Mac is here we had to wait for his morning nap to end (because taking a cranky, non rested baby on an outing on purpose is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, you know it isn't going to end well), feed him, clean him up, change his diaper, then change his diaper again because he took a dump as soon as I put a fresh diaper on him, etc. It seriously never ends with this kid. This is the same baby who almost always dumps the dog's water dish all over himself just seconds before we're ready to leave (or toilet water...he doesn't discriminate; he loves both).

I was really nervous that the kids were going to conspire against me and all hell was going to break loose and I'd have to use my one phone call from jail to call my husband at work to come bail me out, but to my surprise, the kids were all super duper well behaved, and no, I promise, I didn't drug them before we left.

We walked around the museum, checked out the exhibits (even though they really hadn't changed much since the last time we visited), the kids played in the kiddie area, and we even walked through the gift shop without anyone throwing a tantrum or breaking something, although my oldest started to get a little squirrely over an overpriced stuffed horse, but I held strong because if I bought her the horse, I'd have to say yes to the stuffed rodents that my boys were holding up and waving just inches from my face. Besides, I'm pretty sure we already have some rodents living behind our kitchen stove.

A shot of all four of them looking at the camera and I didn't even have to bribe them
Seanie was irritated that the stroller suddenly stopped moving 
A pathetic attempt at a selfie...we really could've used a selfie stick! 
Peanut loved this volunteer dude...he talked his ear off 
How I eat during PMS week
Seanie the rock climber. 
What do you mean your ten month old can't rock climb yet?
Kidding, he's still on the ground
I'm really happy I decided to take them out of the house and let them burn off some steam instead of yelling at them from the couch to be quiet while they ignore me and act like wild dingos at a rave.  Plus this gave me some confidence to know that not only could I do it, but that maybe I should be doing this kind of stuff more often. Of course you know what this means!! The next time I take them to the museum alone, I'll turn my back for one second and Peanut and Mahlon will end up falling into the snake pit. But at least I can always look back and say, "Remember that one time, when I took them to the museum and it was a total success?"  Yeah, I'll always have that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why I regret homeschooling my boys

This morning after the school bus drove away with my boys, my husband headed off to work, and I finally got my fussy ten month old son down for his morning nap. I grabbed my much needed cup of coffee, plopped my oversized rump onto my big comfy couch and started aimlessly flipping through the TV channels. There wasn't a whole lot to choose from, but I eventually settled on Dr. Phil. I used to be a huge Dr. Phil fan. I watched his talk show religiously every single afternoon, no matter what the episode was about. I'm not sure when or why I stopped watching it, but if I had to guess it's probably because I spend way too much time on my iPhone/social media and therefore I just don't watch a lot of TV anymore.  Not to mention I have 10,000 kids so typically the only shows that play in our house are Lab Rats or Paw Patrol.

Today's Dr. Phil show was a re-run (pretty sure all of the morning shows are older episodes as they show multiple episodes back to back), but the topic was "Parents who unschool" or something like that, and it totally caught my eye and I found myself getting sucked into the whole homeschool discussion/debate. It evoked a lot of strong feelings and emotions in me, because as some of you may remember, I used to homeschool two of my boys, Mahlon and Peanut.  I get asked a lot of questions about why I chose to homeschool them, especially because my older three kids were never homeschooled and attended public school from the start.

I don't know that I ever really had a bright, blaring reason for homeschooling. I didn't have anything against the public school system, and in fact my mother was an incredibly talented, dedicated elementary school teacher (who would be rolling over in her grave if she knew I homeschooled her grandkids) but rather it was more of a apprehension or fear of putting my boys in public school that drove me to it. I went back and forth over what to do, right up until the day Mahlon was due to start Kindergarten, but for some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to enroll him in our local public school.  I was afraid, really truly afraid. To understand, I guess you'd have to know that Mahlon had a bit of a rough start in life. He was born with moderate hypotonia (low muscle tone) and a pronated stance. He was a late talker as well, and it quickly became impossible to deny that he wasn't developing on par with his peers. So, he spent the majority of his toddler years in multiple, intensive therapies through our local Early Intervention center. He went to physical, occupational and speech therapy four out of five days a week for over two years. I will admit that I became very protective over Mahlon. Over protective you could say. It doesn't help that he's always been a momma's boy, and he definitely knows how to work his mom with a quick bat of those big brown eyes, blond hair and angelic face. I had many momma bear moments when he was little, as he would occasionally get teased or taunted by other kids on the playground because he wore big bulky leg braces due to his physical disabilities.  He also struggled to do a lot of things that other kids could do with ease, because he lacked the strength and muscle control and that hurt my heart (still does).

The thought of sending my darling, precious, fragile little Mahlon to public school where he would be away from me for more than six hours a day and could possibly get picked on by other kids or get hurt on the playground and I wouldn't be there to protect him, was more than I could bear (think full blown panic attack into a brown paper bag), so I just sort of stumbled into homeschool, even though it wasn't exactly a passion of mine. Sure, I made it work, but I didn't really enjoy it. I joined a few online homeschool groups, researched various curriculum options and tried to convince myself that not only was I doing the right thing, I was doing a better thing. I told myself he was getting more one on one attention, and receiving a better education than those poor neglected public school kids. And in some ways, he probably was. Mahlon took off with reading and by the time he finished the first grade, he was reading at a third to fourth grade level.  He loved to learn and actually looked forward to his lessons, sometimes even begging me to do more.  He had the perfect attitude/temperament for homeschooling, but something still didn't feel quite right.

Before I knew it, Peanut had approached Kindergarten age and because Peanut and Mahlon are best friends and joined at the hip, it was just sort of a no brainer to homeschool him as well.  However, unlike Mahlon, Peanut was a challenge to teach. He is stubborn and head strong and if he doesn't want to do something, it's a struggle to get him to cooperate (there were many days I threatened to toss the TV and the iPad out the window if he didn't buckle down and get his work done). He was also a big distraction for Mahlon and the two of them would team up against me, and it became very difficult to get through our daily assignments.  There were days I felt confident that I was giving them an education similar to their public schooled peers, and then days where I felt like a huge, colossal failure, and worried that they could possibly even be falling behind. Still I soldiered on, partly out of fear, and partly because I felt like I had made a commitment to homeschooling them and felt like I owed it to the boys to continue.

 One of the big arguments/topics of debate regarding homeschool is socialization. You cannot homeschool without hearing this term at some point (it was definitely discussed on the Dr. Phil episode I watched today). I used to get very defensive whenever anyone would ask me if I worried about socialization.  I scoffed at the mere notion, especially because my two boys are extremely friendly and social and seemed to make friends wherever we went. They were the boys who had new friends within minutes of arriving at a playground, and other kids seemed to naturally gravitate towards my boys. However, those friendships never lasted longer than the playground and we would say goodbye and go back home, and the guilt would set in.  Unlike their older sister, my boys weren't getting invited to birthday parties and had nobody to invite to their own parties. Each birthday was spent with just a few family members and I told myself that was enough because by this point, Mahlon was in taekwondo a few days a week and Peanut was in soccer, so how much socialization did these boys really need?  I told myself that what I was doing was enough, but deep in my soul I knew that it wasn't. Their older sister would come home with art projects, birthday invitations, field trip forms and more, and my heart started to ache for my boys.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I think homeschooling is a fantastic, viable option for many families, and I hope it doesn't sound like I'm throwing my fellow homeschoolers under the big yellow bus. I know many families who successfully homeschool and their kids are happy, bright, well adjusted, and just all around thriving in life, so I know it can be a very positive experience as well. It just wasn't for me because I wasn't a good homeschool mom. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was a sucky one. Sure, I hammered through their daily lessons, and my boys were definitely learning. Mahlon was an advanced, vivacious reader and Peanut a budding mathematical genius. But it just wasn't possible for me to provide them with those social experiences because I'm a bit socially dysfunctional myself.  Unlike my boys, I'm actually a shy, reclusive homebody and I found it super difficult (terrifying even) to jump in and get involved in the various homeschool activities. I did sign the boys up for some Mad Science Workshops over the years and they LOVED them, but those only happened once every few months, and that just fed my guilt monster even more because it was obvious that my boys needed more than what I was providing at home. 

Various Mad Science Workshops over the years
Mahlon loved to participate and was always the first to raise his hand 
Peanut with his crazy homeschool hair
Mahlon just loved these workshops so much! 
Their last and final year of homeschooling, 
this was taken outside of the workshop building
Plus, as I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm not very artistic, crafty, Pinteresty or whatever you want to call it.  I don't know how to make a butterfly habitat out of a toilet paper roll, nor do I even want to try. I hate that kind of stuff. HATE IT! But my boys love art and they craved more hands on activities. The few artsy fartsy projects we did do, they were beaming from ear to ear and so excited to show my husband when he walked in the door from work. "Daddy LOOK what we made today" as they jumped up and down, proudly displaying their homemade project, with big smiles plastered on their faces. I don't have a lot of positive homeschool memories, but those are the moments I remember and cherish fondly. 

I started confessing my feelings and concerns to my husband and he being the supportive husband that he is, said he would support me no matter what I decided to do. He did agree that the boys needed more social interaction with other kids. Mahlon hung his head once and said, "Daddy, I don't have any friends to invite to my party" and it broke his heart (and mine) into millions of pieces. After many serious conversations we agreed that once we moved out of Portland and into a better school district, the boys would be going to public school. As luck would have it we moved last July to a smaller town, with a highly rated public school system and we prepared the boys that they would be going to "regular school" come September.  The boys had a few reservations but for the most part they were really excited, and that just confirmed that I was making the right decision. I was nearly in tears during back to school shopping, which they were typically excluded from.  The boys ran up and down the school supply aisles, tossing items from their list into the shopping cart with pure joy and glee. Watching them pick out back packs, lunch boxes, and new shoes, was one of the happiest days of my life. They were so excited....and just happy.

The days leading up to their first day of school was nerve wracking, I'm not going to lie, but I didn't allow myself to show any fear in front of the boys. I reassured them that everything was going to be okay, and you know what? It was!!! Not only was it okay, it was even better than we ever could've imagined.  The boys love their new school, their teachers, classrooms, classmates, they honestly love everything about being in a traditional school setting. They actually look forward to getting up and going to school. They are up bright and early every single morning, and they get dressed without complaining, and they count down the minutes until the school bus arrives (they love riding the school bus).  I've raised two teenagers and have one in junior high, so I'm well aware that this could change in the future and to enjoy it while it lasts.

The boys were so proud of their backpacks
 The boys checking out their new school a week before school started (they insisted on wearing their backpacks)
First week of school...they were so excited! 
The boys eagerly heading to the bus stop on a sunny September morning
Yesterday was their very first Valentine's Day in public school. They could not stop talking about their class parties. They came home with their decorated bags full of Valentine cards from their classmates, and guarded them if they were some kind of prized, breakable, valuable possession.  One of the many experiences they would've missed out on, if they were still at home with me. 

I realize that not everyone has these amazing, positive, rainbows and unicorns experience with public school, and we are very fortunate to live in an area with a highly rated, solid public school system. I'm also well aware that we may hit some hurdles in the future (bullies, peer pressure, teachers or curriculum we don't like or agree with, etc), but we will face those hurdles head on, should they occur.  Seanie Mac is only ten months old, but I've already decided that he will also start public school in Kindergarten. I will not allow fear to make decisions for me anymore. That's not to say that all homeschooled families choose to out of fear, but it was definitely the deciding factor in my case. I regret not pushing through that fear and placing the boys in public school from the start. I regret that the boys both missed out on Kindergarten and Mahlon missed those first few fun years of public school where free play and art projects are plentiful. 

Homeschooling is becoming a popular option these days and many families with young children are wondering if maybe it's right for them.  My advice to parents considering homeschooling is to seriously think long and hard, deep inside of your heart and soul to decide if you really have what it takes to be successful at it. Be totally and completely honest with yourself. Do you have the motivation, patience and enthusiasm to teach your child day in and day out, even when you're tired, sick, frustrated?  Are you willing to get out of your house and get your child involved in co-ops, play dates, field trips? Are you willing to spend many hours of your personal downtime after the kids go to bed planning and organizing lesson plans, art projects, different curriculum options?  Will you still want to homeschool as your kids get older, and the subjects aren't so fun or easy anymore?  And the biggest question, are you doing this for your child or for you?

For me, the answer to these questions were pretty easy to answer once I got real with myself, and realized that I just didn't have it in me to keep going, so I didn't. If you're like me, and you're already homeschooling and it's not working out as planned, please don't feel guilty for choosing not to continue. I had some guilt at first, and worried that I was quitting, or abandoning my boys by sending them off to school, but in reality I did the best thing for them and I have no regrets (other than wishing I had done it sooner). This parenting gig is overwhelmingly hard, full of difficult decisions and choices we must make along the way. Sometimes you just have to follow what your gut or heart is telling you to do, as there are no easy answers, unless of course it's to the obvious like, "Hey mom, can I have this Fun Dip for dinner?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine Schmalentines

I apologize for not posting every day like I promised. I haven't been in a very good place lately. I don't know if it's winter depression, or maybe some leftover, residual post partum depression or what, but I've been down and out and just blah about everything. The motivation has been sucked out of me like a vacuum and all I really want to do is pull the covers over my head and sleep (which can't and wont happen because I have a hyperactive ten month old who is now taking steps on his own).

So, it wasn't really any big surprise that I would be blah about this year's Valentines Day as well.  Not that I was ever really all that excited over it. I'll admit, I'm not very romantic. In fact I'm pretty dude-like in many aspects. If you absolutely must have an example, I just finished clipping my toenails on the couch and then I stuffed my face with nachos (after going on a taco binge earlier today). The sexiness is just radiating out of me today so ladies hide yo men!

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy for those of you who have cheesy, romantic, flower filled, gushy Hallmark card holidays. Everyone should feel loved and appreciated, and just because I'm having a woe is me, poopy flavored lollipop of a year, doesn't mean that everyone should suffer (although I hope you all choke on your chocolates....KIDDING.....I choked on a Mexican pizza many years ago at Los Dos Amigos and it was pretty damn terrifying). 

My husband isn't much better. If it were up to him holidays wouldn't even exist at all.  Yes, it's true, he was super duper romantic on our first Valentine's Day, but let's just say that over the years it's just sort of become another day for us on the calendar.  Last night we had to run to Safeway so while we were out we grabbed a box of chocolates that were on clearance and then upgraded our coffee purchases to include travel mugs (they were offering them for half off).

Happy Valentine's Day honey, here's some discounted chocolates and a plastic coffee cup
I may sound bitter, but I swear, I'm really not at all. I'm terrible with flowers. TERRIBLE! I'm like the Black Dahlia of the gardening world where all living plants come to die a slow, torturous death (luckily I'm better with children, right?) And I don't wear jewelry, other than my wedding ring and my plain silver hoop earrings that I bought at Target for five bucks many (many) years ago. Romantic trips are out too because, well, do I even need to say it? We have four young kids still living at home.  

There is one teeny tiny little thing that I wish my husband would do that doesn't even cost any money, and I've hinted at it so many times that I've honestly just given up at this point. And that's okay. I know there are several things on his list that I've neglected, despite him nagging at me, so we're even, and that my friends is marriage. It's a compromise, and there are lots of good days and bad days, and many in between, just okay days. He shows his love in many other ways, as he's an amazing father and provider (hello, the poor man works his tail off so his wife can stay home with their 10,000 kids) and he does lots of little things for me that I probably take for granted and don't even recognize half the time. For example, sometimes he'll pick up little items for me on his lunch break, like a new pair of shoes, a pair of pj's, a dessert he knows I like, etc. He grabs our favorite vegan chicken strips at Trader Joes which we consume late at night after the kids are in bed, sometimes even with wine! Bonus! 

I don't need a dozen roses or a fancy box of chocolates to know that he loves me and is committed to our family. In fact, tonight we're actually celebrating V-Day as a family, which we've also done in previous years, and those are always my favorite Valentine memories to be perfectly honest. The kids will only be with us for so many years and once they're gone we'll have many years of intimate dinners and weekend getaways.  So for now it's quick trips to Safeway for discounted chocolates and plastic coffee cups. But hey, for dinner we're having cheese fondue (I make the best cheese fondue by the way), along with some chocolate fondue for dessert.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful, amazing, love filled Valentine's Day.  And if you're not having a wonderful, magical V-Day, let me leave you with this little fun filled image.....once I finish posting this, I will be heading back to my bathroom to continue scraping the stuck on, sticky icky Amoxicillin which spilled out all over my drawer, ruining what little make up I owned (it's a sign that I should never wear make up), with a butter knife. 

You're welcome.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Latest

I know I know...I disappeared again without a trace. I'm seriously struggling big time to maintain this blog and deal with the most hyper active baby I've ever had the pleasure of raising.  This one doesn't sleep y'all and he never ever EVER stops moving. Seriously, you guys have no idea how crazy my little man is, but I'll post more on Seanie Mac later because I could seriously fill up an entire post on the nutty, asinine things this boy is already doing and he's not even a year old. What can I say? He's gifted.....

Toy bins are made for climbing apparently
These two equal TROUBLE!!!
In other news I've decided that I'm going to start posting on my blog every single day (at least on the weekdays) to get myself actively writing again. I hope I don't run out of exciting things to post about, but then again I'm getting old so worst case scenario I can always talk about my changing moles, joint pain, and newest batch of grey hairs, right?

I'm so very sorry for not posting an update on the whole Mahlon/RSVP thing. I made a thank you slideshow with several pics and the video ended up being eight minutes long.  Rather than bore people to tears with the longest, slowest slideshow ever created (I seriously suck at figuring out how to use iMovie), I think I'll just post the pics on my blog instead. I will work on writing my post this weekend and have it up and running on Monday, and I'll try really hard to include a short video of Mahlon, either on the blog, Facebook, or both.  Mahlon is still begging us for his own YouTube channel and I know he's a charming, funny little boy and many people are interested in his life, but my husband and I haven't totally made up our minds yet. Part of me wants to shield him from the online world as some people can be unbelievably cruel while hiding behind a computer screen.  If we do allow him to start doing a weekly YouTube show, you guys will be the first to know.

Speaking of Mahlon, he is doing pretty great in case you're worried/wondering. He received an award at school (Growth Mindset) and he is so proud of himself, as are we. Academically he's doing amazing as well. As a former home school mom, I was so worried and anxious that he would be behind since he was thrown into public school as a third grader, but he's actually ahead of grade level.  He recently tested and got his upper green belt in Taekwondo not too long ago and life is pretty much back to normal for him, for all of us really. 

Upper green belt testing
Mahlon and I still get recognized from time to time since we live in a small town and that's kind of weird (and scary since it forces me to be on my best behavior at all times), but I'm actually relieved that the hype has died down. Going viral was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Occasionally I get asked how I went viral and I'm dead serious when I say, "Sorry, I have no idea" because that's the truth. I really, truly don't know how I did it. I simply wrote from the heart and my thoughts and feelings just poured out into my post, and it got shared......A LOT.

Despite what some jerky asshat in NY wrote about me, I never intended to go viral and to be quite honest, I didn't embrace the attention as many others probably would have.  What most don't know is that I turned down several offers to be on TV, which could've potentially turned into something else for our family (a reality show for example).  Yes, I write a blog and I share a lot of personal stories about our lives, but I'm also a very private person and I suffer from social anxiety, and it's very difficult to overcome and deal with at times. When my blog post first went viral I had many moments of sheer panic and terror over having to read comments about me from judgmental strangers, having to answer my phone for interviews, respond to emails, etc.  I'm not good at that kind of thing and it's also why I've been lying low these last few months and just trying to get back to normal.  No, it's not how most bloggers would've handled it, and most probably would've loved the sudden attention and ran with it, but for me, I had so much anxiety, that I couldn't even pick up my Macbook for several weeks.

There are a couple of things I've been contemplating about lately and one of them is writing a book about my life (but I thought about doing that long before my RSVP post went viral so stuff it Gershie).  Our entire family has been through some crazy stuff over the years, some of it is juicier than a cheesy Lifetime movie. I suppose I could write about it here, but I save this blog for more important, tantalizing topics like my dysfunctional bladder, my arachnophobic husband, and my dog who thinks our hardwood floors make a fabulous toilet.  I don't know if anyone would read my book, but I would still love to write one even if my family and a few friends end up being the only willing readers.  Another thing I've been working on is directly related to the RSVP post, but it's more of a pay it forward/mission type of project. Will update when or if we can get something going. I do have someone willing to help me so that's a good start. Now if I could force my ADD brain to focus on something for more than a week, I'd be golden.

Anyways, I could ramble on and on but we have company coming over tonight and my toilets look especially gas station worthy at the moment, so I need to go clean them before our company goes running out of our house screaming.

Have a great weekend and I'll be back on Monday!!

Friday, December 30, 2016

I took a pregnancy test the other day (and a giveaway for a $50 gift card)

As a mom to six, I definitely know a thing or two about testing for pregnancy. I may need some help in figuring out how the whole birth control thing works, but ask me anything about pregnancy tests,  especially questions like, "Which is the best pregnancy test on the market?" and I'm your gal.

Although my husband had a vasectomy shortly after our youngest son was born nine months ago, and we are technically done having kids, I still have a large stash of various pregnancy tests hidden in my bedroom. I may have even taken one the other day because of a late period (you'll have to keep reading to find out the results).

So, which test should you buy? Well, it really depends on your situation. For example, if your period is already late, even just by one day, then the majority of the home pregnancy tests on the market should all be able to detect the HCG hormone levels and give you an accurate result (provided your cycles are regular).  If your period isn't late yet, then I would suggest buying a more sensitive "early" test that can pick up a lower level of HCG, several days before your period is even due, like this one below:

In my case, only one of my six kids were actually planned, so with the majority of my pregnancies, I was already a week or two (or more) late with my period, so by the time I took a pregnancy test, it was so ridiculously positive that the test result line popped up immediately, even before the control line had a chance to appear.  Now if you're using a digital test (they didn't make these when my first few kids were born), you don't even have to count the lines. You simply wait for the screen to give you a "Yes" or "No" reading (some tests will say "Pregnant" or "Not Pregnant"). The control window is standard on any urine pregnancy test, and is a line or symbol that appears to let you know that the test is working properly. If it doesn't appear then you need to disregard the results and take a new test.

Examples of a positive, negative and invalid test:
When we weren't ttc (trying to conceive) or planning on becoming pregnant, I honestly didn't put much stock on which test to buy and basically just threw whichever test was within arms reach at the grocery store into my cart, along with a gigantic pile of chocolate, Sour Patch Kids, and tampons (wishful thinking that my period was going to start any day now). When we were ttc and desperately hoping to become pregnant soon, I became a hard core POAS (pee on a stick) addict and took so many tests that it was much too embarrassing to admit.

My advice would be if you are actively ttc a baby and know you'll be testing frequently each month, then I suggest buying multiple pregnancy tests in a pack. Get a box with at least three tests, as this will save you some frantic, last minute trips to the store to buy more tests, plus you wont feel so guilty about taking more than one test in a day, even when your period is still nearly two weeks away and it's way too early to get a positive result. Pffffft, NO I never did that. Okay, yes, I did. Many times in fact.

These are a couple of brands that come in a handy dandy 3 pack:

So, what were my pregnancy test results? Negative. And then of course my period showed up the very next day which perfectly explained why I had eaten my weight in chocolate and potato products, cried during a cereal commercial, and ironed my socks the day before.  So, yeah, there will definitely be no more babies in the Peanut Layne household, which is a good thing because my husband and I are not spring chickens anymore, and Seanie Mac is a total handful.

He sure is an adorable handful though, isn't he?

And now it's giveaway time!!!! Enter below for your chance to win a $50 gift card!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal, with a prize of a gift certificate

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Ah glorious Thanksgiving.  A day of food, family, football and tofu? Yeah, you guessed it. We're vegetarians, and let me tell you, nothing makes a person more uncomfortable than a vegetarian on Thanksgiving.  Some assume we don't celebrate the holiday at all, as if we're some strange hippie cult that hide out in our VW vans, eating tofu straight off the block, or we're holding signs of slaughtered turkeys and protesting in front of Foster Farms or something.  Well, never fear, I'm here to break those stereotypes and set the record straight.  Our holiday experiences are much like yours, they just happen to be meat free.

I still have to make a massive trip to the store and spend a small fortune on a meal that I will slave over for hours, while my family devours in two minutes and then begins to whine over wanting pumpkin pie.  Our Thanksgiving meal is pretty traditional and consists of mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, Hawaiian rolls, stuffing (homemade so I can use vegetable broth), deviled eggs and our vegetarian roast.  In some ways we actually have it worse than non vegetarians because turkey substitutes cost a lot of money and they are teeny tiny. Apparently the people who make these substitutes assume we have the appetite of a toddler because I had to buy two separate roasts this year for a whopping $30 at Whole Foods. Most grocery stores offer deep discounts on turkeys or hams during the holiday, some even offering them for free if you spend a certain amount. Not only do I spend the same amount as non vegetarians, but there are rarely ever any deals for vegetarian roasts, and the only way you're getting a free roast is if you're hauling one out of the store in your coat pocket and I do not recommend that as Thanksgiving in jail would not be much fun (or maybe it would be depending on your family....who am I to judge?)

Our turkey replacements...not too scary, right?
The holiday roast before it went in the oven...
this one is my favorite
Every other year we host Thanksgiving dinner for my husband's sister's family, but this year it was just us so that meant I could relax and breathe a little easier as I didn't have to worry about getting dinner out by a certain time, blowing up air mattresses or cleaning toilets for company. Instead I woke up, drank my coffee (thank you Starbucks for being open), watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with the kids and then got the distinct pleasure of listening to my husband scream at the television while his favorite football team lost. Thank you Redskins for ruining my holiday experience, you bastards! Of course I had to make an impromptu trip to the store because I was unaware that my kids ate all of the eggs last week and my twelve year old started pitching a fit over Thanksgiving being ruined if we didn't have deviled eggs, which is totally ironic since she scoops the tops off of them anyways and only eats the egg whites.  Nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like standing in an express line with nine hundred thousand other people who also forgot something.

The boys watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade this year 
because they wanted to see the Diary of a Wimpy Kid float
 My husband watching the Redskins...
or more like yelling at the Redskins
Safeway selfie...
one simply cannot go holiday shopping and not forget something
The best part of my Thanksgiving was cooking the entire meal by myself. Yes, I could've made my kids help, and I probably should have, but that would've included blood, sweat and tears and the kids wouldn't of been very well behaved either.  I wasn't exactly up for my kids arguing over who got to dump the milk into the mashed potatoes. Instead I kicked everyone out of my kitchen and got to work, threatening anyone who dared to cross into my threshold. The only one who got a free pass was our eight month old, Seanie Mac, because every so often he'd wander in on his baby walker and run over my foot, but he's a baby so I didn't mind so much. The other kids, along with my husband got the "If you come into my kitchen one more time, I'm sneezing on the pies."

By the time I got everything out onto the table, dished up the kids' plates and sat down, I realized that I wasn't hungry at all because I had already eaten an entire meal while cooking.  Of course that didn't stop me from stuffing my face like the little piggy that could and then waddling back to my bedroom while I held my muffin top and moaned in agony.  I had just enough time to pop some Tums before the kids started coming into my bedroom one by one while they whined, "Mooooom, when are we going to eat the pies?"

 Me trying to get a good pic of the kids before dessert...
 this is exactly why we don't do professional pics!!
Despite having a good day with my loving family, I have to say my favorite part of Thanksgiving would be breaking out the wine after the kids finally passed out from their imitation turkey comas.  After all, wine is made from grapes and grapes are fruit, therefore wine is totally vegetarian you know.

We drink our wine in martini glasses because we're classy like that....or more like all of our wine glasses got broken and you gotta do what you gotta do (classier than drinking them out of Spongebob we've never done that...okay yes we have)
On a serious note, I did want to thank everyone again for all of the love and support you've given our family. We are still sorting through mail (I think we're almost done), and we will be putting a video/slideshow together as a way to show our appreciation.  The outpouring of support still humbles me and brings me to tears. I'm not just saying that either. I literally tear up every single time I help Mahlon open and read his birthday cards.
Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts! I seriously wish we could send an individual thank you to each and every one of you, but we had absolutely no idea we were going to receive the amount of mail and packages we did. We literally received tens of thousands of cards and letters from all over the world! Mahlon will be keeping some of the gifts, but the rest will be going to a local charity (we will be including this in our video footage), as there is no possible way we can keep it all. Plus, part of what makes Mahlon so special is his kind and generous heart and he really wants to spread the love so I hope that those who sent gifts will feel comfort in knowing their generous gifts are going to make a child happy this Christmas (ack, and I'm crying again). He is opening every single letter, card, and package, so even those items he isn't keeping, he has been so excited to get to open up the boxes and envelopes to see what's inside, so we deeply appreciate every single thing that has been received.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We met Jeff Kinney!!

We're back from our whirlwind of a trip and WOW! What an amazing adventure! First off I cannot even describe how generous and kind it was of Jeff Kinney, author of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series to offer to fly our gigantic brood to Seattle to meet him in person.  I'm convinced he's the nicest person on the entire planet or on a personal mission from Jesus himself, because we're not the smallest or easiest crew to travel with.

On Sunday, we were picked up at our house by a driver, which felt very surreal as I've never been picked up by a driver before. As a mom to many, I tend to do way too much for others (it's a bad habit) so he had to stop me from trying to load up the trunk with our luggage (yes, I really did this) and then he also had to stop me from trying to fold down the backseat to let the kids pile in. He kept saying, "Ma'am, let me do it. I got it" but sometimes it's easier to just let me do my thing than try to stop me.  We had a personal driver the entire trip (but different drivers) and I attempted to load the trunk and fold down the seat with every single one of them, and they all said, "Ma'am, PLEASE, let me do it" so as you can see, I follow directions really well.

The flight went off without a hitch, except for baby Seanie (who is almost eight months old) wouldn't stop licking the window of the airplane. This would not be significant news to report except that he came down with a hellacious cold that very same evening, so I'm assuming that licking the airplane was not a very wise choice on his part. It was also quite disgusting to witness and I'm super glad my germaphobe of a husband was seated a few rows back and couldn't see this happening or he would've tried to bleach Seanie's tongue (not literally, at least I don't think so).

 We were dropped off at the shopping plaza where the book signing was taking place, but we had a few hours to kill before the actual book signing.  This is where my husband and I gritted our teeth as we knew we had to keep two crazy boys, a sassy, eye rolling tweenager who knows everything, and a teething baby who missed his nap, under control in a crowded place without being able to toss out idle threats or scream until our throats became raw because we were in public.  We also didn't have a chance to drop our luggage off at the hotel so we got lots of weird stares as we sat at a table in the cafe of the book store with four kids, a giant suitcase, a car seat and a mound of backpacks and carry on bags for each. We probably looked like we were "Homeless in Seattle" but oh well.

About an hour after we arrived, a black van pulled up and Jeff Kinney walked in and was about to walk right by our table. He probably wouldn't of noticed us except the boys spotted him right away and were yelling out "Hey, Jeff Kinney, it's me" so the ice was broken as we got the awkward introductions out of the way a bit earlier. My husband was in the bathroom changing his shirt (because we're fancy like that), so he missed out on that part.

Here we are walking to dinner with Jeff Kinney like it's no big deal 
when it totally was....
We had an amazing time at dinner and I don't think Jeff got that many words in because Peanut is much like his mother and doesn't stop talking.  Jeff drew Mahlon's comic book character, Jack, from his series "The Life of Jack" and Mahlon was drawing Greg from DOAWK. Peanut was drawing something too but I honestly couldn't tell you what it was because, well, let's just hope he chooses something other than an illustrator as his career path (he gets his lack of artistic flare from me as I literally cannot draw a stick figure.  I'm dead serious. I really can't).

You can see Peanut's mouth is wide open...and it stayed that way
 Oh no biggie...just drawing with Jeff Kinney
 Mahlon's character Jack meets Greg!!
After dinner it was book signing time. We were fortunate enough to have reserved seats in the front row which was really cool. No one has ever reserved seats for us before and typically when we get seated somewhere, it's far in the back by the dishwashers where the sound of clanging dishes drown out my herd of noisy children. We were especially blown away when Jeff called Mahlon up on stage!! He got to draw his own character, Jack in front of a large audience. I was expecting him to freak out and get nervous, but he didn't at all and seemed very comfortable on stage. I'm so glad I was able to record it on my phone because it was such a special moment.  I don't know how to upload it onto here so I put it on my Life On Peanut Layne's Facebook page if you'd like to see it. I will be sharing more details about the "Life of Jack" soon. Mahlon is working hard on his own comic book series and hopes to have it published in the near future.

We had front row seats at the book signing 
 The best part was when Mahlon got called up on stage to draw Jack
 The whole fam with the one and only Jeff Kinney!
The following morning Seanie was awake bright and early so I decided to take the kids to the hotel restaurant for breakfast alone as my husband was still in a travel induced coma.  Of course I had to be the only one in the entire restaurant with kids and come to find out that breakfast was served on actual glass plates versus the type of hotels we're used to staying in where you can grab some muffins and bagels off of the trays and head back to your room.  I leaned down and told the kids "This is a very bad idea" as it looked a little fancy and did I mention above that I was all alone with four kids? To top it all off the restaurant was small and trendy and not stroller friendly at all so of course I just had to bring the baby in a stroller (and then promptly take him out when he started screaming). Much to my horror, Mahlon dropped a big blob of jelly on the table and luckily I caught him out of the corner of my eye (we moms of many can see everything) and stopped him right before he tried to lick it off of the table. He claims he wasn't really going to do it, but he totally was. We managed to eat our food without a single dish getting thrown on the floor so all in all, it was a success.

Glass plates are dangerous with my boys...
I took lots of deep cleansing breaths
 My baby boy smiling in a non child friendly restaurant
After breakfast we finally got the husband out of bed and ventured out to the Space Needle which wasn't far from our hotel. I hadn't been there since I was a kid and our kids had never been to the top. It was a bit stressful keeping track of four kids, especially since the boys were running around in circles at full speed (which I'm sure the other patrons just loved, especially since it's not cheap to visit the Space Needle these days). Sorry, people of Seattle who happened to get stuck on the same time slot as us.  They have these selfie stations now on top of the Space Needle, and I have no doubt that several families probably have blurred body parts of Peanut and Mahlon in their selfies.

Walking to the Space Needle 
Mahlon checking out a big wall of photos on the Space Needle...super cool! 
Our turn for the selfie station! 
This was a wide shot but there was an older couple bending down right next to us and it looks a little weird to see their butts in our faces so I cropped them out
 No one fell off the needle so I'd say it was a successful trip!

After the Space Needle we had just enough time to eat lunch before sprinting back to the hotel to meet up with the driver who took us back to the airport.  This time around the airport check in wasn't quite as smooth as we were in Seattle and not our tiny little local airport. According to my husband, I gave one of the TSA agents attitude but they snapped at me first as I asked what I thought was an innocent question about where I was supposed to stand, so they threw away my brand new lipstick. I have no actual proof of this, but it was in my bag when I went through the line and wasn't in my bag when I came out. So bottom line, don't piss off the TSA agents because they don't mess around and something will end up getting thrown away. Mmmhmm. It will probably take me another ten years before I finally replace that tube of lipstick by the way. My usual lipstick routine consists of chewing on my lips until they bleed and then smearing the blood around on my lips. Voila! Instant lipstick.

After the check in, we had 2.5 hours before we boarded the plane. That might not sound so bad to you, but add in four kids and a grumpy husband and I think I would've opted for a root canal (at least you get some pain pills when you're done).  I was so thankful when we finally stepped onto the plane and A) Discovered that no one was sitting next to me which was awesome since I had a baby on my lap and nobody wants to sit next to someone else's baby B) Seanie fell asleep within minutes of me sitting down on the plane and slept the entire flight. WOOHOO!!!

We made it home safely and of course there is no school this week for Thanksgiving break so I wish I could say that it's so wonderful and relaxing to be back home, but it's chaotic and noisy and well, pretty normal.