Me to the Princess (who is a straight ally): Did you see that the supreme court ruled on Gay Marriage today?

Her: Yes.

Me: That is so cool, isn’t it? It’s just so awesome.

I catch Littlebit’s eye in the back seat.

Me: Do you know what it means to be Gay?

Her: No

Me: Well, I’m a girl and I like boys. And Daddy is a boy and he liked girls. We were in love and we married each other. But, sometimes boys love boys and want to marry boys AND sometimes girls love girls and want to marry girls and NOW boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls if they want to. Isn’t that great?

Littlebit (always all about love!) Yeah!

Baby Bee: Boys are gross.

There you have it. A simple, straightforward conversation about what it means to be Gay AND what it means to be able to marry whomever you choose. That’s it. That’s all it took. Along with a reassurance that Daddy and Mommy want them to love and marry whomever they choose no matter their gender, race or religion. Everyone is worthy, if they are good people.

We teach our children. There’s an amazing Dennis Leary quote floating around that says something to the affect of “You know what my 2 year old hates? Naps. We aren’t born racist.” And that’s true. We’re not born racist or ageist or homophobic or classist or religionist (creedist? Xist? I’ve learned there’s no one word term for people being prejudiced towards a religious group. I mean, there’s antisemitism, but that’s sort of limiting in that it only refers to Jewish people). We teach and model this in our homes. There will be facebook posts and twitter posts and blog posts with people lamenting how they will tell their children about what happened. Honestly, it didn’t seem that hard to me. Children understand and accept our differences so easily.


“In forming a marital union, two people be­come something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.”
–Justice Anthony Kenndy

Six years ago, on a bright June morning Baby Bee decided to be impatient and arrive just about two weeks before my due date.  My sister dropped everything to drive in from Michigan to give us a hand (and got a monster sunburn in the deal).  I don’t buy into superstition and things, but Baby Bee has always been tiny, adorable and impatient.

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There is a distinct freedom that comes from being the mother of a few children. I have been able to relax and just enjoy the youngest two for what they are, not something I am able to do for the Princess. The Princess still falls pray to my growing pains. With Littlebit, it’s been about finding ways to relax and letting her grow without feeling the need to hover over her so much and with Baby Bee, watching her grow is just about joy and feeling how lovely it is to have someone be 1 or 3 or 5.

Or six.

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By your third child you have an understanding of what it is to be that age. You know where the magic is laying. You understand how wonderful it feels to have the weight of a sleeping toddler draped across you or to accept a dandelion bouquet from a tiny hand sticky with dandelion milk. Hard things don’t seem so hard. It’s easy to change diapers, rock to sleep, comfort after accidents and watch, hawk-like, for dangers.

You can sense when your child is going to wrench away from you in a parking.  You can feel a meltdown coming.  You learn them, differently.  They don’t insult you when they turn their noses up at your home cooked meals and announce they liked the boxed stuff better.  You understand how little 2 and 3 still are and you excuse them for their break downs and insecurity.  You spritz them with your perfume before sending them off to preschool so they can smell you and feel near.

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You greet their milestones like old friends. Crawling?  How enchanting!  Walking?  Wonderful!  Cobbled together two and three word sentences?  How I’ve missed you!  Please, come and stay a while.  Adorable stick figure representations of your family?  Yes!  I have a bed made up for you!  Goodnight, Moon?  Yes, I’d love to read it again (and again).  Playdough?  I have all the time in the world for you.

Haltering reading from thin paper books with short words and tiny heads bent over in concentration?  Yes.  Please come.  I’ve missed you.

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All children are gifts. Don’t mistake my words. Every one and every moment, even the trying ones, are precious. The minutes and hours and days fly by so quickly, as if they’re on a rocket.  They’re so few and so fast.  They’re a gift.

When Baby Bee was tiny, I made up a ridiculous song that we sang to her all the time.  In it, I extolled her to “be a little baby as long as you can”.  Third babies grow up so much faster than first babies do as they run to catch up with their older siblings.  In many ways, Baby Bee has given me a gift.   I don’t have an eternal toddler or preschooler, but I have been lucky enough to get a little bit of extra little kid time through her and I’ve cherished every bit.   Her delays are cloaked in a blessing.  Her lack of maturity means more time with someone small in my lap.   Her need for more time to grow meant a whole extra year of that magical place called Preschool.

That’s not to say we haven’t had hard times with her.  We have.  And, in my heart I know that her transition to school won’t be easy for her, no matter how hard I work to prepare her or be positive about it.  Baby Bee is going to struggle and that breaks my heart in half.  No one wants that for their children, but for Baby Bee, it’s going to be unavoidable.  I’m worried that six isn’t going to be her best year and I want every single year to be her best year.

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But, in the end, I know Baby Bee will continue to be what we love the most about her. She will be funny and imaginative and persistent and adorable. Our irreplaceable number three.

Happy Birthday, tiny love.

That’s my daughter in the water
every time she fell I caught her.
Every time she fell.
That’s my daughter in the water,
I lost every time I fought her.
Yeah, I lost every time.

–Daughter by Loudon Wainwright

Last night, Big Daddy, the girl and I hit our local theater (on discount day, no less) to watch Disney/Pixar’s newest feature film “Inside Out”.  After spending $60 for the pleasure of watching the film with drinks and popcorn, we settled into our seats to watch the show.

Two hour later, I left kind of speechless and pretty blotchy faced.  Let me tell you why.

Riley is born and when she opens her eyes in the hospital and becomes conscious, Joy is born.  Joy is one of the five emotions that rule Riley from Headquarters.  In time, Joy is joined by Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, but don’t be fooled.  Joy is running the show.  Riley’s family lives in Minnesota, and they’re very happy.  Riley loves hockey and her home and her friends and just when everything seems perfect, the family relocate to San Francisco.  At first, Riley is optimistic.  Joy gathers up the emotions and helps Riley find positive things in a new, sort of ugly house and ugly bedroom and there’s a dead mouse.  Inside Riley’s head there is some weird stuff going on.  Namely Sadness.  She keeps touching stuff and turning Riley’ memories sad.  Joy tries to take over and contain Sadness but Sadness, as we all know, can’t be contained.  She and Joy struggle when she tries touching some of Riley’s core memories and in the scuffle Joy, Sadness and all of Riley’s core memories are sucked into Longterm Memory.

Sadness and Joy are no longer at work in headquarters and Riley is left trying to live life with Disgust, Anger and Fear running the ship.

Depressed folks, does this sound familiar?  Because it certainly felt very familiar to me.

Joy and Sadness go on a pilgrimage to get back to Headquarters and help Riley and on the way, Joy learns how very important being able to be sad is to Riley.  Sadness is just as powerful as Joy.  Only different.

As a Mom, I got really weepy when Riley opened her eyes and met her parents and Joy was born.  Isn’t that beautiful to think about?  And, I cried again when Joy and Bing Bong where were forgotten memories go and all those lovely, happy moments of Riley as a baby and toddler were disappearing into thin air  Wow.  That hurts to think about.  It’s so deep and profound that these happy moments just disappear and are forgotten.  Of course, we know that happens, but it was just moving to see it happen, visually.

But the thing that spoke to me the most deeply was what happened to Riley when Joy and Sadness went away and Anger, Disgust and Fear took over.  Pixar, were you watching my life?  Did the emotions running MY Headquarters reach out to you?  It was depression.  Visual, palpable depression being depicted right in front of me.   I could hardly believe my eyes.  I understood, so well, when Anger grabbed the controls and made bad decisions  when neither Sadness or Joy could be found and I knew what it felt like when everything seemed lost and gray and I felt unreachable.

Oh, Pixar, you genius.

And, yet, there’s more.  For Baby Bee, naming and understanding her emotions can be difficult and now, she has a visual representation.  We talked the entire way home about who we thought was driving in our Headquarters (The Princess was Two Disgusts, Two Angers and a Joy.  LIttlebit was Four Joys and a Sadness.  Baby Bee was Joy and Sadness and Silly. ;)  I said I was pretty sure Fear was driving me and the Princess suggested that Big Daddy is driven by some Zen Hippy).  Taking emotions and turning them into something real and tangible from an abstract concept is just beyond wonderful and I hope we’re able to consider who’s driving in Headquarters when we’re dealing with each other in our family.

Got kids?  Take them to see this one.  Don’t have kids?  Go anyhow and see how it speaks to you.

 

A large number of Cinemark movie theaters offer “Discount Day” and we were able to see this new movie for $5/person which is pretty cheap.  Discount Day varies by theater, but you can check your local Cinemark Theater to see when and if you can get a sweet deal. 

 

PS-Cinemark didn’t contact me to say that.  It’s expensive to take 5 people to a non-matinee new release movie, so I included the above link to help you out.  As I explained on my about me page, anything I recommend is purchased for my own use with Big Daddy’s credit card. 

 

 

Once you decide when you’d like to go to Disney World, it’s time to start working out the budget for your stay. Two of the hottest topics on any Disney World fan board are the topics of dining and hotels. I’ll cover dining next month, but this month I want to talk to you about how to decide where to stay and whether or not that expensive, on site hotel lives up to it’s extra cost.

Orlando is really a great destination for tourists. Not only are there ample things to do, but because of this rooms and tourists specials can be found in abundance.  The Internet tells me that I can book a top rated, four star hotel for a Saturday night in two weeks for under $100.  The internet also tells me that I can stay at a lower rated Disney hotel for $50-$60 extra per night.    At first, it seems like a no-brainer.  Seven nights at the four star resort within close driving distance to Disney World will cost you $420 less than staying at the least expensive Disney option.  So, in this case, why would anyone ever choose to stay on-site at Disney World and, more than that, should you?

If your bottom line is a low price Disney vacation, you really must stay off site.  Great lodgings can be had for far less than the price I quoted above and Orlando is a good place for finding super affordable (read: cheap) lodging so if you must stretch your money, you need to stay off site. Period.  The nearby Holiday Inn Express clocks in at just over $60 a night, less than half of a value Disney Resort.  The rooms will be the same size and breakfast will be included.   You will easily save $100/day staying at the Holiday Inn Express and paying the $17 to park at the Disney Parks than to stay at a value resort.  That’s just how it goes.

But, again, why would anyone choose to do something different?  Why would you pay so much more to stay on site?  $100 a day isn’t insubstantial.   Why do you recommend staying on site?

The first thing most Disney World Resort fans will point out is that the Disney hotels are very well themed.  If you’re concerned about everything being cartoonish, you can put your worries away.  While Disney’s Value resorts do cater more to cartoons and families,  their moderate and deluxe resorts usually don’t have to many cartoons to be found.  They’re well themed, relaxing , well maintained and beautiful.  But, that’s not really worth an extra $100 a night (considering hotel costs and complimentary breakfasts).   Disney also offers “free” family entertainment at all of their resorts including daily pool parties, games and night time movies.  But worth an extra $100?  It’s nice, but it’s not worth the price jump.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your dress about the Disney Bubble.  It’s nice.  There are some nice resorts with some wonderful themeing, but you’re seriously paying for that privilege.  Staying at a Disney World Resort, for me, is about time, effort and statistical advantages.

Disney World Resort hotels are worth the extra money because of the amenities being a resort guest affords you.    There aren’t a ton, but depending on the time of year you visit they can turn out to be substantial.

1) Disney World Resort guests have “early” access to their dining reservation system.  What does that mean?  Anyone visiting Walt Disney World can make reservations for “table service” restaurants beginning at 180 days in advance.  Popular restaurants and dining times are competitive. Let that sink in for a minute.  Some restaurants, such as the super popular Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom is booked SOLID.  You must have a reservation.  Resort guests are able to utilize a “+10 day” option.  What does that mean?  Your reservation window opens for your entire stay at your 180 day (6 month) mark up to ten days.  That gives you an advantage for popular restaurants over “day guests”.   That few days of advantage can be the difference between getting a reservation at your chosen restaurant at your preferred time and, frankly, not.

2) You can make FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance where as “day guests” only get 30 days.    What is FastPass+?  It’s Disney’s line management system, essentially.  FastPass+ allows you to make a reservation for the ride you want to ride up to 60 days in advance.  FastPass+ works as a free, front of the line pass and is available for selected rides and attractions for all Disney guests.    I’ll explain more about how to use FastPass+ later.  No Disney guest is barred from waiting in line for any attraction regardless of if they hold a FastPass+ or resort stay, but for super popular attractions like visiting Anna and Elsa or riding the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, FastPass+ offers a substantial time savings, if you can get one.  Resort guests have first priority, so not only do you increase the chances of getting the FastPass+ you want, but you also increase the chances of getting the time you want.

3) Resort Guests will still be admitted to the Disney Parks during times of high volume when the park is closed to day guests.  Now, this doesn’t happen very often, but for those of us who are working around the kids’ school schedules, it means showing up at the parks when everyone else is.  Those dates, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, have seen park closures before due to crowd levels.  As a resort guest, you can still get in (even if you might not want to).

One thing I do want to be clear about, is that Big Daddy and I are willing to pay more for something to save us time and effort.  Not everyone feels like that.  I understand that.   Obviously, the main benefits of staying at a Disney resort are time/effort benefits.  I don’t have to get up for a week straight at 6am when the Disney Dining reservation system opens. I just have to get up once and it increases my odds of getting popular restaurants at popular times (there’s a reason why those times and places are popular).   I also want to point out that planning to this micro level isn’t really necessary to have a good time. It’s something I enjoy, but you might not so being able to decide in May that you’re going to meet Elsa and Anna on a Wednesday in July might not be worth it to you.   Only you know what sort of trip you want to have and my advice is just that.

Disney resort guests will also enjoy the minimal savings of free theme park parking and free magic bands.  The cost of the parking and magic bands is about two nights difference between staying at the Holiday Inn and staying at a Value Resort.  It’s there, but not very substantial.

Lastly, if you are traveling with small kids and want to take advantage of he much touted “afternoon break”, staying on property should offer you a shorter commute time from the park to your room.  I say it should because nothing is guaranteed, of course, and delays do happen,

So, after my post lamenting an ending, I’m super happy that as of Friday our summer has officially begun. Summer vacation is my absolute favorite time of year, even after Christmas and Autumn. I like spending all day, every day with these kiddos.

But, I don’t want to homeschool, so no one get any crazy ideas.

A few years ago, I followed the Internet trend of taking first AND last day of school pictures. I think it’s really neat to see the tremendous growth of the kids over the year.

Of course, it’s not so obvious with the Princess anymore. She’s probably done most of her physical growing.

You can see a lot of change in Littlebit’s face. She’s growing up.

And, we won’t talk about how much Baby Bee has grown up this year. It’s still a sensitive subject.

It was super sunny and even though I suggested she open her eyes, she refused. I have sensitive eyes, too, so I can sympathize. It’s probably why she was looking into the sun and I wasn’t.

But, for now, we have 86 Awesome Days of Summer. School is out.

Several years ago, Big Daddy, the girls and I spent some time in the North Woods of Wisconsin with Big Daddy’s Dad and Stepmom. They’re both good cooks and we had lots of really good food they prepared themselves at the cabin.

One dish, however, my Stepmom-in-law prepared for breakfast and it has become a staple in our house every since. It is relatively easy to make, hearty and filling.

We make it weekdays with regular ingredients, but it’s a great place to showcase expensive bacons because it takes so little in the dish to make a big impact.

Southern Delight
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1.5 cups of dry, instant grits
  • 2 slices of bacon per serving
  • 1-2 eggs per serving
Instructions
  1. ) Pan fry bacon
  2. ) Boil water in a medium sized sauce pan. Once water comes to a boil, add grits (stir during adding or else they’ll get clumpy!) and reduce heat to low. Quick grits cook in about five minutes. However, slower cooking grits are much creamier and worth the time, but this recipe refers to what I had on hand.
  3. ) Once grits are finished, fry eggs to taste.
  4. )Serve grits (about half a heaping cup) into a bowl. Top with eggs and bacon and serve.

I like mine with salt and some Frank’s Red Hot sauce. I stir it all together, but I won’t take a picture of that because it doesn’t look very pretty that way. But, trust me, it tastes delicious! Even the little girls like this with various additions or subtractions (Baby Bee: with butter, no egg. Littlebit: with butter, no bacon, egg white only).

Eleven and a half years ago, I held the hand of a little blonde girl. She wore overalls and a bright blue t-shirt that set off her eyes and a purple backpack with a big yellow smiley face on it. We walked, hand in hand, to a little brick building on a little lake. She found her name at the table, sat down and didn’t even look over to wave goodbye.

Yesterday, I dressed a little brunette in her swimsuit and pulled a sundress over top. I packed her beach towel into her purple backpack and sent her off with Big Daddy because I knew I was going to be a crying mess and decided to spare everyone the unpleasantness of me having a break down in the pick up line.

It was the very last day of preschool.

Part of me is more than ready. Over the course of my fifteen years of mother hood, I have spent more than half in the preschool years. I’m tired of the pick up and drop off line and the truncated days which leave me not enough time to do the things I want to do myself nor enough time to do the things I want to do with my preschool kid.

Part of me will never be ready. Eight years of fingerpaintings and pint sized backpacks isn’t nearly enough.

Yesterday was the very last preschool day after eight years of them.

When school starts in the fall, Baby Bee and I won’t get a couple of weeks of alone time as her sisters head off for school and we wait for hers to start. I won’t send in a clean pair of clothes and undies for accidents. I will retire her pint sized backpack for a bigger, kindergarten variety that will, once again, dwarf her. I won’t drive her to school in the morning, she’ll catch the bus at the end of the drive way with Littlebit.  The house will be quiet all day.  I won’t have to watch daytime children’s televison from Monday through Friday.

What I’ve learned, having done it twice already, is that when your child enters Kindergarten they begin to have a life that is their own apart from you in a way they did not as a preschool aged child. Kindergarten is the end of little kid days, no matter how much you try and stretch it out and we have stretched it out as far and as long as possible. On a warm August morning, just a few months away a fairy will wave her wand over Baby Bee and she will be a little kid no more and it will be bittersweet like big changes like this always will.

But, I’ll have a Kindergartener again and Kindergarteners are part magic, too.

 

Yarny ladies, I am about to make a confession and I know that when I do some of you will scream and run from your computers, but I want you to know that what I did is not only okay, but I’d do it again.

Here’s the story;

Right around my last birthday, I wrote out this 40 Before Forty list. I chose things from all aspects of my life that I wanted to try and accomplish. Some of those things were easy (buy a porch swing!) and some of them were hard (reach my goal weight?). Some of them were things that would benefit me directly (Drink 64 oz of water every day) and some benefitted others (spend a whole day paying it forward).

On that list, number 7 to be exact, I wrote down that I wanted to knit through all of my yarn. It wasn’t too lofty a goal. I didn’t own a lot of yarn. It was something I could easily attain in a couple of years if I wanted to. But, something happened.

First I found that I don’t really want to knit or crochet at this point in my life. Yeah, that’s crazy, I know, but crafts move in seasons for me and apparently I’m in summer and knitting is in Winter and I don’t know if Winter is ever coming back. Second, over the course of the last few years the little girls have had at my yarn supply. They’ve tangled it, cut it and strewn it around the house. Some, I know I didn’t have enough to use for its intended project anymore. Some I didn’t like anymore. Some I didn’t know why I’d bought it.

And, so, ladies, I did the unthinkable. I saved a ball for a project that’s been promised and one that I spent a lot of money on and…

…hold on now, ladies. Take a breath….

…I threw the rest away!

I know.

I know.

Why didn’t I donate it?  It was a mess.  And even if I was giving it away for free, two balls of sock yarn that had been hopelessly tangled and chopped out by a five year old with pinking sheers was going to be no benefit to anyone and, second, I just wanted it to go away.  I didn’t want to think about what to do with it or find someone who wanted it.  It just needed to leave.  I didn’t want to find strands of it laying about and I wanted to stop feeling guilty for not wanting anything to do with it.

So, I got rid of it.

I guess maybe it’s cheating a little bit.  It doesn’t exist in my house anymore.  I’ve effectively cleaned out my yarn basket, but I felt such a huge surge of peace when I made the decision that I knew it was the right one.

 

 

Let me give you a nickles worth of free marital advice.

Ladies, if you want something, please just tell your husband.  Yes, I know, after five or ten or fifteen or twenty years he should know what you want or what you’d like without you having to say a whole lot, but to set our partners up to be successful sometimes we just have to tell them what we want or need.

Listen, I’m a girl who likes a good surprise and whose love language is gifts.  I married an acts of service guy.  It means, that’s he’s easy to please on the cheap and I’m not.  For a long time, I’d be really passive aggressive with Big Daddy when he didn’t come through with an awesome present for a gift giving event.  Then, I spent some time in therapy and realized I was making both of us miserable.  I felt unloved and uncared for when Big Daddy would slap together something decidedly un-special at the last minute and Big Daddy felt stressed and incapable when he knew I wasn’t happy with what he’d  thrown put together.

So, I quit that crap.

When we were house shopping in 2010, I knew I wanted three things; more space, a big kitchen and a sweet front porch.  I’m pretty easy to please, despite what I told you above and our current house has all of those things.  (My next house will have four dedicated bedrooms, a master bathroom that makes sense and preferabley not have been own by people who thought they could DIY when they DICouldn’t).  The front porch is one of my favorite places.  Last summer, we hosted a wedding reception for my cousin and her husband and even though it rained, all of her friends camped out on the porch and played music and it was perfect, if I may say so myself (and damp and humid, but you get the idea).

Big Daddy  and I built these awesome Adirondack chairs last summer…

…and our porch is a place we really use.

For me, it goes without saying that if you have an awesome porch, you really need to have a porch swing.  And, to tie this whole thing together, this year I sat Big Daddy down and said “you’re buying me a porch swing for Mother’s Day”.

And so he did.

In a few weeks the fireflies will be out and I wish I could capture a picture of that for you because it’s nothing I’ve ever seen until we moved here.  They go off in the trees like a million, teeny paparazzi.  It’s stunning to watch.  But, until then, we’ve been swinging.  In the morning, before the bus and in the evenings before bed and on the weekends when we don’t have anything better to do.

I’m sure there will be people who say that telling Big Daddy what I want, and then getting it, isn’t as fun or spontaneous or romantic as him guessing.   Maybe, but there is also something deeply satisfying in being heard and something very peaceful in helping your spouse succeed in making your happy.

I know that time on the swing will be a big priority this summer and throughout the years to come.

My Mom wasn’t much of a cook. Oh, she was okay, but the real chef in our house was my Dad. My Dad is the sort of cook I wish I could be. He’s inventive in a way that I haven’t figured out how to be yet. Maybe there’s still hope for me?

Sausage gravy is one of my Dad’s wheelhouse recipes. When we go home, Dad makes this as a special request and it was always a treat growing up. And, my family loves it just as much as I did growing up.

Sausage gravy is perfect for slow Sunday mornings. There’s time in between the steps to linger with a cup of coffee and the newspaper or snuggled up on the couch. And, if you make extra, it’s delicious warmed up on busy weekday mornings as well. I like my gravy over my potatoes and served with a warm biscuits with honey and butter.

If you are nervous about making gravies and roux because you believe them to be complicated, this recipe is a great place to start because it’s very easy to make corrections to get your preferred thickness.

Sausage Gravy
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs of sausage (we like one hot and one mild)
  • .5 c of flour
  • 2 c of milk
  • dash of hot sauce (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cook sausage through, breaking it up into small pieces during the cooking process. Smaller is better,
  2. Keep the temperature up (I like medium high) so the sausage is nice and hot when you stir in your flour. It ought to melt into the sausage with no lumps, but be generous with the stirring to insure it’s well incorporated.
  3. Add 1.5 cups of the milk into the sausage and flour mixture and let come to a boil. You don’t have to babysit this roux too much. Give it a good stir and let it wait until bubbly, about five minutes. From here, adjust your consistency using milk. If your gravy is too thick, add the extra half cup of milk (I always do). If it’s too thin add more flour (start with ⅛ cup).
  4. Stir in a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
  5. Serve piping hot over biscuits or potatoes.