Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Vocabulary Lesson…

We have a few catch phrases that don’t make sense elsewhere, but have very specific meanings here at our house. I’d like to take a few moments to share…

HHOMC- Our only acronym, and coined by my father in reference to our house: Hammonton House Of Many Children. Ex. As planned, the whole family will meet at the HHOMC for lunch.

Shore Leave- An afternoon or evening alone and free of child-rearing responsibilities usually used for shopping in peace and quiet. Ex. Aimee spent her shore leave scouring AC Moore for discount scrapbook supplies.

Carter-safe- A product not containing peanuts (and until recently, eggs). Ex. We can’t buy that cookie mix. It isn’t Carter-safe.

28 cents- The average cost of a pull-up diaper, usually used when a child wakes up dry from naptime, and the pull-up can be reused at bedtime. Ex. You did a great job using the potty. You just saved us 28 cents!
Spin For It?- An opportunity to allow the “Wheel of Responsibility” to determine which parent will complete a particular task. Mostly used for diaper duty and other unpleasant jobs. Ex. Brenna is screaming that she missed the potty. Do you want to spin for it?

Jerrel!- My friend Jerrel, we call his name and raise our fists anytime something goes wrong that can’t be explained. He’s basically our go-to-guy when we want to blame something on someone. This originated this summer, when we found a Boston Red Sox sticker on Drew’s booster seat. I asked Drew where it came from and he responded by raising his fist in the air, while looking up and shouting, “Jerrel”! (Who is a good friend, but is also a noted Phillies Hater)-It should be noted that no one ever took responsibility for defacing the booster seat. Ex. This milk is sour and it isn’t even past the date yet. …JERREL!

Nowhere- Where whining will get you. We say this so often, that the kids will now even answer. Ex. Mom or Dad: “Hey, you know where all that whining is going to get you?” Any kid: “Nowhere!”

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Each day, we witness so many subtle changes in the social and emotional growth of our children. They play together much more now and truly care about each other. Carter, however, is clearly showing that he is going to be such a sweet young man. He still has his fair share of tantrums and continues to want things a certain way, or he can’t deal with it, but even some of those things are milder than before.

Yesterday, I watched Carter approach Emily and her V-Tech KidJamz Studio. It’s really an awesome toy, so we made the rule that the kids could only play it when they were “sharing” with Emily, hoping to encourage more interaction. Carter, rather than taking over, actually was pressing Em’s fingers on the keys, which she loved. They played together like that for more than 5 minutes.

This afternoon, Brenna was teasing both Drew and I by making her unicorn kiss us. We were both engrossed in the Flyers game and Drew asked Brenna to stop several times before she focused her attention on me. I told her I didn’t like gross unicorn kisses while she continued to sneak kisses at me increasing her giggles. Eventually I nudged her away from me and covered her with blankets, while she continued to giggle away. Realizing that she was beaten, she remained on the floor and called for Aimee. Carter, who was playing on his mini “cup-pooter”, immediately powered down and got up. I asked the little guy if he was going upstairs and he replied matter-of-factly, “No, I’m checking on Brenna.”

He’s funny too, in his own way. He mostly just repeats a word or sound effect relating to a particular bodily function and his brother and sister laugh out loud. In fact, he was playing Drew’s Leapster game and realized that a sunscreen bottle squirting lotion sounds a lot like, well, you know... He sat there for 2 minutes continually pressing the button and laughing out loud. He catches on what is going on and appreciates a good joke. He’ll often make a low pitched sound , “EHHHHHH”, when he thinks something is funny, which is funny to hear and reminds me of my Mom’s, “Dit”. Even tonight, after Brenna did something silly and said, “That was fun”; Carter quietly said, “knee”(as if she hadn’t finished the word).

Today, Carter really impressed me at Shop Rite. While we were in the checkout line, an associate asked him if he wanted a balloon, and she clamped a yellow Shop Rite balloon on the cart for him. He looked up and smiled so big you’d think she’d just given him a lifetime supply of ice cream. We were extra careful clipping the balloon on his shirt, zipping his coat up, and wrapping the string around his arm twice. As I put him in the car and pulled the string down to get the balloon in with him, I watched the balloon float away as the 22 degree temperature must have been too much for the adhesive to handle. No doubt, Carter was disappointed as we watched his balloon float away, but he handled it. He didn’t even cry.

Carter is known to get upset when I answer his calls at bedtime. For example, he calls downstairs to Aimee, and I go up to check on him. “NOOOOOO. I WAS TALKIN’ TO MOMMMYYYYYYYYY” is generally all I can get out of him. We have continued to challenge these behaviors; giving in to his “demands” for the sake of calm could have long term consequences, not to mention how unfair it would be to Aimee since he clearly favors her for potty issues.

Carter is clearly improving on many of his balance, communication, and frustration issues. After a great first year of school, I really look forward to his growth at camp this summer, and in Pre-K next year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Days 6-7 We're home and safe

Emily’s Wish Day 6
We decided a long time ago that we’d spend New Year’s Day at Magic Kingdom. We had been warned to stay away on the 31st (I found out that they were at capacity at 10am, so I’m glad we were not at a park for that). We also really wanted to be able to do the fireworks as a last hurrah before we left.

We arrived at the park at 9:15am and caught the trolley show on Main Street, USA as we walked toward the castle. My friend, Tommy, who has worked at Disney for the last 12 years, sent me a text this week and told me he was performing in Mickey’s Castle Show. So when we realized the first show of the day started in just a few minutes, we sat right in front . Tommy was great and the kids loved the show (although they never did find out that Tommy was in it.)

The first ride of the day was the Jungle Cruise, which was very funny and the way they put Emily on was awesome. We saw another family whose daughter was coming off (who clearly loved it) that said how impressed he was with the improved accessibility in just the past few years. I think our narrator was particularly good at the pun delivery throughout.

We met Tiana, Naveen, and Ariel, which was awesome, as each treated our kids like royalty. Brenna can be quite a handful when around a princess or two, always grabbing and looking where not entirely appropriate, but these princesses never missed a beat, and Tiana even cracked a few funny jokes along the way.

We had lunch at the Crystal Palace, where we completed our autograph books by meeting Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore, and Piglet. The lunch was really good and the chef made a special nut-free brownie for Carter, which he enjoyed.

We visited the wish lounge to relax a bit since we had such a long day ahead of us. I read a condensed version of 101 Dalmations while Aimee took care of Em’s tests, diaper change, bag cleaning and refilling.

Then, a costume change!! We were off to meet the Princesses and Fairies. We met the princesses first after about a 10 minute wait and a frightening moment when Brenna walked the wrong direction in pursuit of a Mickey Mouse sticker. It was only about 5 seconds of absolute fear, but everything was in slow motion, just like in the movies. We met Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Belle (in yellow- and no, they didn’t think it was odd that she didn’t remember them from before). They spent SO MUCH TIME with us and the rest of the room was empty, which I don’t think is the norm. I know a ten minute wait isn’t the norm either, so needless to say, Aimee and I really appreciated the VIP treatment Emily and the whole family received throughout the trip, but especially the personal touch received when meeting the characters.

We had to wait just another five minutes or so to meet the fairies, where we met Fawn, Tinkerbelle, and Vidia. We really liked Fawn and Vidia, because it was clear that they both really enjoyed their characters.

The highlight of our day came at somewhat of a surprise. I think the ride was called, The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and to me, it seemed pretty ordinary. We had virtually no wait and the handicapped car was able to have the bouncing turned off (thank heavens!). Emily absolutely LOVED THIS RIDE. I screamed ahead to Aimee (who had the other kids in a separate car) because Emily was looking, smiling, and audibly laughing pretty much the whole time. There were lots of bright orange and yellow things, which Emily favors, plus black lights, which really made them jump out. Aimee and I have sort of decided for her that Tigger is her favorite, but boy-oh-boy did she verify it during this ride! I was so excited for her. Don’t think us strange if you ever visit and we have a fluorescent Tigger picture and black lights in our living room!

Right after the ride, I checked my cell phone for messages as Tommy would have a two-hour break between 3:30 and 5:30 and I was hoping to get to see him. He caught up with us behind the castle within a few minutes and took some much needed “Facebook Update” photos
(The only other shot we have was 14 years ago). The family took to him quickly, and we were able to catch up while we waited in line for the coveted Dole Whip. This was Aimee’s surprise for me: Pineapple softserve ice cream. I’d never heard of it, but certainly will never forget it.

After lots of peer pressure and a slight mockery by Aimee of a certain Jamboree, we decided to alter our schedule and visit the Tiki Room, which was really fun. I caught Brenna out of the corner of my eye clapping furiously right after the first bird sang. She (and the rest of us) thought it was really cute.
Unfortunately, Tommy needed to get back for his next shift, so we said our goodbyes. (It was great seeing you again, Tommy!)

We made our way to the Magic Carpets where Aimee, Carter, Brenna, and Drew got “spit on” by a camel during the fun flying adventure. Emily hung out by the exit for this one!

The Country Bear Jamboree was as much fun as I remembered and more fun than Aimee remembered. We both agree that your perspective changes when you have kids and you enjoy things because you see how much they appreciate it. This was especially clear to us during this last week.

This is the part of this post where I mention how Aimee and I scoffed at the idea of standing and holding a spot for the parade because everyone was getting cranky and the 45 minutes would have been not fun. We figured we’d be able to see the bright lights no matter where we were… (some of you may know where this is leading…) Aimee took Drew, Carter, and Brenna on Peter Pan as the last ride before the parade and fireworks and they all came out excited about it. Emily had been fading out and we really wanted her to be awake for the bright lights, so we didn’t push it.
We returned to the Wish Lounge for Emily’s care and drinks and I took turns running Brenna, Carter, and Drew to the restroom. The looks I was getting from the people sitting on the patio were pretty funny since I kept coming out of the door with a different kid.

When we finally made it out we started to understand why people planned their spots so meticulously. We couldn’t get near the street, which would have been ok if everyone stayed sitting. Unfortunately, everyone in the front stands up, and everyone in the second row on puts their kid on their shoulders. Thus, even Aimee and I couldn’t see and we were grossly outnumbered in the kid to shoulders ratio.
We wanted Emily to see it, so I held her up and Aimee took turns holding up each of the other three, but although this works in theory, there are several problems with this plan. One, neither Aimee nor I particularly enjoy holding children in the air for extended periods of time. Two, the two kids on the ground typically get bored since they can’t see and tend to wander a bit in a large noisy crowd IN THE DARK. And Three, as time elapsed, Carter, and Brenna were much less tolerant of being on the ground for extended periods, so they just cranky crashed into tantrums… meanwhile, I was stressed out that we’d lose a wandering crankster. This is where I definitely ended up being unhappy at Disneyworld. Now the bright side of all of this is that Emily loved what she saw, as did everyone else; it was just a bit of a letdown. The good news was that we were in prime position for the fireworks that would start in an hour. But… Now we were an hour hungrier and an hour crankier.

We went over to get hot dogs so we could come right back, but apparently hot dogs are in much higher demand right after the parade than they were 10 minutes ago, so we waited in line much longer than we expected. By the time we finished eating, the fireworks were about to begin.
Tommy had told me that we would be fine if we were in front of the castle. When we started to move that way, there wasn’t enough room to get the stroller through and we had to go back to the left and eventually just had to stop and watch because otherwise we’d miss it while trying to find a spot.
(Above is a good shot of the tree that blocked much of our view)

Again, Emily was awake throughout, didn’t seem bothered by the loud noises, and clearly watched the lights during the whole presentation. But it was a bit of a letdown after all the planning.
We talked about it and decided to stay for the next parade, even though we were another hour crankier and another hour loopier. We staked our spots on the sidewalk edge and joked and sang songs, and cuddled together waiting for our incredible trip end on a high note. It was SO WORTH IT. Cranky or not, it was worth it.

Emily’s Wish Day 7

We ate breakfast, cleaned up, packed, went on a final carousel ride and checked out. At check out they gave us a special passport that will allow free admission for all 6 of us at over 100 different parks nationwide for the next year. Several of them are close enough that we will likely get to use it more than once.
As promised, we took Drew and the money from his piggy bank to the Lego store. He was able to find some things he liked and we got to see some really neat creations.

On the way to the airport, Carter got sick in the car and needed to be changed, plus emptying out a rental car when you have a child who needs to be held and another who wants to be held is pretty impossible without other adults. All told, it took nearly an hour to get to the ticket counter.
Adam the TSA Agent came to our rescue. He escorted us through the checkpoint and carried Em’s car seat and two bags all the way to our flight. Quickly Aimee took Emily to get her changed and I mixed her meds and unfortunately poured water into the pill crusher which may create some additional difficulties tomorrow.
When Aimee came back and Emily had her medicine, I volunteered to go get food from Wendy’s. I suggested giving the kids our cheese crackers and get fries to go with them, because I didn’t think they’d eat the Wendy’s nuggets. Aimee disagreed and insisted that I get the nuggets. Finally, once at the front of the Wendy’s line, I ordered the nuggets: The cashier told me they were all out. I asked her if she’d write me a note to my wife… Yeah, I asked, I’m not ashamed. I didn’t think Aimee would believe me. Even if she did, the doubts would linger. The cashier apparently isn’t allowed to write notes on company time, so she called over Jeff, the Wendy’s manager, to see if he could help. I explained my plight and he said he’d do me one better. He comped the meal and wrote a note on the bottom of the receipt, “Sorry, no nuggets”.
Luckily, since the flight was full, we (and anyone else on the flight) were invited to check additional carry-ons for free, which made transferring to the plane and off much easier.
The flight was unremarkable; the ride home was quick and warm. I’m looking forward to going to bed after a long week wishes coming true. Thanks Make a Wish-New Jersey, Give Kids The World, and all the sponsors of these incredible organizations. We will never forget this week.