The Minivan

If you've got kids, what goes on in your vehicle is a lot of things. In mine, it's messy, loud, stressful, fun, loud, tired, joyful, sad, excited, educational, loud, crazy, and loud. But you know what? It's my van, and it's my business. It's between me and God what goes on in there. Once I close those sliding doors the world outside doesn't have to be a part of my transportational chaos.

Until today. Could you imagine someone revealing an unknown audio recording of the sounds of your van- recorded randomly without your knowledge for an undetermined length of time? This happened to me today. Twice. Jimmy and I and the kids were out running errands and Jimmy made a phone call on his cell phone, unintentionally leaving his phone on after voice mail picked up on two different calls. So there sits his phone in the middle cup holder of our van, recording everything that's going on. Luckily, the calls were not to any of his clients so we're good there. And he actually got a compliment from his co-worker who listened to a few seconds of her "live in the Alley's minivan" message. She heard some whining and said we were patient with it. Whew.

But oh, the horror! It really gave me a reality check. I would hate for people to hear some of the not so nice mommy moments I know I've had in the van. Some of the questions I answer to the best of my ability but probably not so wonderfully because I'm distracted by driving. How often do I say, "Don't pee, you can hold it, just pee in the bushes when we get home" or (after I'm already out of the driveway and down the street) "Buckle up--Now!" or other such embarrassing things.

But when I really stopped and thought about it, I wish I had more recordings of our rides in the minivan. I have had to answer many a question in the van. Buckle down a child with a five point harness without much to do and they ask all kinds of interesting things. The minivan houses the soundtrack to our life--there's always music going. Our outings are full of everything that happens when you are in close quarters with people you love. So...good times, laughter, and fights. These things are what makes us a family. But please Jimmy, no more unknown recordings. Because you never know when I might need to scale the back seat to help someone pee in a cup.


B is for Beautiful Buttons Blog

One of the secrets of my home school is my mom, the queen, the primary grades teacher of 27 years. She taught mostly kindergarten, and saved many of her files, from a to z. I went through them when Jackson hit pre-K, and have benefited ever since.

The most favorite thing I gleaned from her past as a teacher were coloring pages of the Letter People. I used the Letter People when I was in school, and can remember how much fun they were. My friend Noelle and I whom I went to school with from K to 12th grade, used to sing "Mr. M has a munching mouth" into middle school.

My kids LOVE the Letter people. I start doing a letter of the week when they are in PreK, so this year it's for Cash. Every week on Monday I reveal the letter, shape, color, and number of the week. By far the most anticipated event is which letter it will be this week. And, in turn, the coloring of said letter person on Thursdays. Cash wants to color the letter person all week, which is why I make him wait until Thursday. It gives him something to look forward to. We also look up online the movie (which are puppet skits from the 70s) and song (I download the MP3) every week. Even though Cash already knows his letters and their sounds, we do it anyway. They love the personification of the letters. It is really exciting for some reason.

This week is letter B. Mr. B. has beautiful buttons. I happen to have a jar full of eclectic vintage buttons that came from my Granny's estate. I got them out and we had fun doing sorting activities with them. Afterward, I suggested we turn Cash into Mr. B. and cover him with buttons. The kids thought this was a great idea and I ended up doing it to all of them. You know you have boys who are growing up when your 4 year old tells your 9 year old he's going to put buttons on his privates. Thank goodness I only have two boys and not five. So here is Cash, posing as Mr. B. Happy letter learning to all those preschoolers out there!


The End of an Era

We have been going to Family night at the Chick Fil-A in the Tallahassee Mall here for years. You get a free kids meal with the purchase of a value meal. And all the kids get free ice cream. This saves us about 12 bucks every time we come. It's Tuesday nights. This means that every Tuesday we decide to go (which is most Tuesdays) I get to use the hour from 4-5 p.m. when I'm usually cooking dinner, to clean up the house and catch up on other chores. It also means we get home right at bedtime and kill the witching hours out at the mall. The way I figure it, we make money on the deal. If you figure in what we would pay for groceries at home, the utilities we save by using the mall bathrooms for 2 hours, what it would cost to pay someone to do the cleaning up I do every Tuesday afternoon, and the time kill, it is totally worth it.

Through the years the mall has had its ups and downs. I remember the Tallahassee Mall being cool when my sisters were in college here. I even played miniature golf on the course behind the mall which is now overgrown bushes we drive by every week. The mall got a movie theater shortly after I came here for college and had a surge of good years but since we've been going there on Tuesdays it has begun to decline. This is good for us because the mall is like a ghost town and the kids can be a tad disruptive (because my kids always max out at "a tad disruptive" --right) and you don't feel like you're bothering anyone. We invite friends. We put together 8 tables. No one cares. Imagine our disappointment when we found out last Tuesday that the mall is going up for auction and Chick Fil-A has decided to pull out and will be closing on March 31st.

I have tried all week to put it out of my mind. I planned a big "last time" party event in my mind for sometime in March. I figured we'd invite everyone who ever came with us to the mall. It seemed so far away. Unfortunately when we arrived at Chick Fil-A tonight we found out that it was the last "kids eat free" night. It is the end of an era. We can still go to the mall until the end of March of course, but it will not have as much appeal--having to pay full price.

This evening the children were eating and hanging out with their friends. Unaware that their sweet hook-up of nuggets, fries, and ice cream once a week was coming to an end. I gazed at their innocent faces. They smile, dip their fry in ketchup, and laugh, fully oblivious of the implications this has for us. It is completely and totally sad. Little Juliet slept in her car seat and I looked down at her sweet innocence. She will never know the good times at the T-mall.

Other restaraunts have kids eat free deals. Even other Chick Fil-A's in town. But we own the mall. It is our space. I have come to enjoy the smell of the questionably nasty food court. The eclectic music they play. The stuffiness of the mall as they try to save money on their utilites by raising the thermostat. Too bad it didn't work. I would have endured even hotter temperatures to prolong kids night a little longer.

So I will recite the cliches you tell yourself when change like this occurs. The end of one thing is always the beginning of something else. At least we still have each other. Everything will work out in the end. When God closes a door, He always opens a window. All's well that ends well. Eat more chicken!


Scoot n Zoom

Sometimes I think about the fact that by having five children, I've increased my chances for experiencing familial injuries. If I only had one kid, the probability of me visiting the emergency room and doctor's office would be much less. But as it is, we've actually only visited the emergency room with a child once--last Wednesday when Penelope busted her chin open on the wood floor due to an accident on the "Scoot n Zoom" toy she got for Christmas. These toys are great. A huge hit. But for some reason it locked up on her and she went over the front.

Penelope was a really good patient and as you can see from the pictures, is very proud of her stitches. (And also has really clean nostrils!) :-)


The Dream is Alive

It is time I devoted a blog to my wonderful husband. He has been really incredible this first week of my post-partem recovery. Being married to Jimmy is nothing if not eventful. He is always fun and makes me laugh all the time.

This past week was not without Jimmy excitement. It began on Wednesday morning. My mom and I returned from taking Juliet to the pediatrician and Jimmy's first question to me (with a panic stricken tone) was "Have you seen my phone?" He was referring of course to his Blackberry, which he needs for all things real estate. The phone was lost. We retraced steps, looked everywhere, explored all possibilities. We couldn't find it anywhere.

Meanwhile, since he was handicapped as far as work goes, Jimmy decides to cash in some lottery tickets he got as a present from my brother in law for Christmas. We do a $3 Christmas in my family. Your gift amount cap is $3. So Jimmy got three scratch-off lotto tickets. With those three he won $4, so he bought four more. Then he won $21. He pocketed $10, then bought 11 more. He's still going. Coming back from the convenience store saying things like, "The dream is alive!" Currently, he's $1 in the black.

During these crazy escapades to the corner store to cash them in, I'm begging him to stop. I mean really, is there ANYTHING more white trash than playing the scratch off lottery? I think it is pathetic, sinful, stupid, ridiculous...need I go on? Yet I love my husband and his excitement for the game seemed to make him happy and was a good distraction for a man forced to stay home phoneless on a rainy day with his recovering wife and mother in law.

Late Thursday afternoon he figured out where his phone was. He had placed it on top of the van when taking Cash to preschool on Wednesday morning. So it had traveled a few places and of course it had rained so it was soaked. Since then it has sat in rice, baked in the oven, and been taken apart and put back together countless times by my determined man. He's been unable to get it to work completely, but it lights up so I believe there is hope.

Tonight in the van Jimmy turned up a little Guns N Roses. When I was a middle schooler, Guns N Roses for me, a Christian music youth groupie, was like one step above full out Satan worship. Now, I allow my husband to play it loudly for my children. Even with a newborn sleeping in the back. This is only because I love him with my entire being and see that he loves music, and that it makes him happy.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't really approve of the lottery or heavy metal music, but I fully approve of my husband. He loves me and he loves our kids and he showed that multiple times this week, while being very entertaining in the process.


Juliet Hope

Juliet Hope Alley
December 31, 2010
7:11 p.m.

8 pounds 4 ounces

20.4 inches


Birthing Technology

Well, baby Juliet has arrived. I gave birth about 24 hours ago on the last day of 2010. Still in the hospital but wanted to record some thoughts about this experience. I feel free to express myself because I'm pretty sure no one reads blogs anymore due to the hated Facebook. (No offense to anyone who uses it. I love you. I hate Facebook.) And even tweeting has not made it to our family. I love birds. I do not like to tweet.

I felt as though this was the first birth experience that was filled with technology. I'm kickin' it old school, pushing the baby out and all without the help of a robot or anything, but meanwhile my husband and those around me are connected at the hip to the internet and cell phones.

It started when Jimmy decided to post on Facebook that I was in labor. Little did we know, Jackson had already logged in at home to his Facebook and informed all his Facebook friends of our new status. He got a talking to for that one. Then, as we were in the labor and delivery room, Jimmy decides to try and Skype with Jackson and our other children (and my dad who was home with them) and talk to them while I'm having contractions. (I could only tolerate this because I ended up getting an epidural.) Don't I leave the children at home during labor for a reason? If I wanted them in the delivery room, I'd bring them. I don't need them "skyping in" while my body is doing it's work.

Although a little disconcerting, the Skype thing was pretty cool. I could wave at the kids and tell them I love them and reassure them things were going fine. When Juliet was born, Jimmy called them up with the laptop and showed them their new pink naked baby sister on the warming bed. Meanwhile, I'm after birthing and doing things that come after birth (was that vague enough?) and telling Jimmy across the l&d room..."Don't point that thing over here!" The last thing I need is for my four kids to see their mother in that position.

What made me laugh the hardest is earlier today when Jimmy was having a few words with Jackson on Skype, trying to speak sternly to him about something, in an attempt to help out the grandparents and remind Jackson to behave. Not thinking, he said, "Jackson look at me." (Jackson was sending emoticons galore, what 9 year old doesn't like those things) So he stopped, and looked at Jimmy. He's on the computer screen in front of him. But Jackson looking at Jimmy on the computer screen doesn't mean he'll be looking his dad in the eye. So Jimmy tries again, "No Jackson, stop looking at the computer. Look at me." And I'm cracking up, trying to explain to Jimmy that if he wants Jackson to look at him, Jackson has to NOT look at him and stare at the web cam. It was pretty funny.

I barely ever leave my kids. But I leave them when I have a baby. I need to focus and take a few hours to get better. Having Skype and cell phones to communicate with them really makes things more difficult in many ways. What is the most wonderful thing about being me and having a baby? Not technology. Having 4 awesome grandparents who love my kids and are totally willing to help out with them even though they are jumping off the walls, crying a lot, keeping them up at night, and sending beer mug emoticons to their crazy excited proud dad in the hospital.

I birth the babies, Jimmy links to the world and informs them what's going on. Hey, at least I blogged this. Status update: still blogging. behind the times. don't facebook. have babies. but I'm quitting that one now. (insert smiley emoticon)