Last Friday, Annabelle and I took a trip to SeaWorld with church. Twenty-three children from the 3rd-5th grade Sunday school classes, four parent chaperones and one saintly children’s director boarded a charter bus and headed south.
The director gave a little speech before we left about behavior expectations, and she mentioned how while there was a bathroom on the bus, it didn’t need to be used all the time. I love her and she’s great with kids, but that statement was throwing pearls before swine. Every single child visited the bathroom at least once, if not three times. None of them could resist the urge to use a small bathroom on wheels while going 72mph. I know that each child went to the bathroom several times because they all asked me for permission to go. I was sitting closest to the children by a mere 8 inches. The next chaperone was less than one literal footstep away, but I was the first point of contact and was therefore the one who got asked every single question. Every time they needed something from the overhead compartment, asked to go to the bathroom, had a question about snacks, needed help with their charger, asked about the bathroom, wanted to know how much longer before we got there, was there anyone in the bathroom, etc etc etc, they asked me. I didn’t know I would be doubling as a flight attendant when I signed up to go. My friend and fellow chaperone was hunkered down in the front seat with her book and thanks to my hard work, she got through 175 pages without one disruption.
I’ll tell you what else I didn’t know when I signed up- the sleep hours or lack thereof. I wasn’t expecting a spa environment, but I also wasn’t expecting to be told by the SeaWorld workers that they’d be waking us up at 6am to start the day. That was conveniently left out of all Caren’s planning emails.
We got there right before SeaWorld closed for the day. Two workers were assigned to our girls group for the night and they gave us a private tour of the park. The boys group slept by the beluga whales and we slept by the dolphins. The whole time I thought about how when I was younger I wanted to be a dolphin trainer thanks to Lisa Frank. My younger self would not have believed my good luck in spending a night with the dolphins. They never stopped swimming and with the exhibit dark but the tank lit up, it was extremely relaxing. I loved it.
We weren’t allowed to go up to the bathroom alone while the park was closed, so the employees had to accompany 18 girls and all our accouterments up the walkway to the bathroom to change. We left a little trail of socks and underwear in our wake. Some of the girls were organized. My child dropped her shirt in the toilet and left her pajamas on the counter of the public bathroom. That’s why she didn’t go on this trip without me.On Saturday, we split up according to who wanted to do what and our group was the low key group. Shocker shocker, AB was in the low-key group. We went on a few rides, but mostly we enjoyed the animals. My fellow chaperone, Sarah Beth, and I had those girls in line. Everyone had a buddy and we were constantly counting heads. One adult was in the back of the group and one in the front. No one would get lost one our watch!We had eight girls in the morning and eight girls several hours later when we joined up with one of the other groups.
No one did get lost on our watch, but someone got lost mere minutes after we joined up with the boys and that someone was my Annabelle. My little ball of anxiety and worry, lost in a crowd. I’m not going to assign blame but if I was, I’d point your attention to the third chaperone who took over as our leader. He booked it into the crowd walking so fast there was no way to keep the children together. The system Sarah Beth and I had perfected with our girls went out the window and into the sea turtle tank. Somehow in the shuffle, Sesame ended up ahead of the group. I went back to look, the dad went ahead and Sarah Beth stayed with a gaggle of children all giving advice on what to do. Thank the Lord, Annabelle was not alone. She was with her buddy and together they found a janitor and were borrowing his phone to call me when they saw the rest of our group. I have never been so thankful I drilled my phone number into her head for such a time as this. I didn’t tell Christopher about the small mishap until we got home. “BTW, I did lose your one and only offspring, but here she is safe and sound!”(God was in a crazy mood when He designed the stingray face.)
I went to SeaWorld when I was around 15 and have told Annabelle stories about the orca show and beluga whales for years. I love getting to bring her to the same experiences I had.
We returned home with all 23 children, four parents, one saintly children’s director, several new stuffed animals from the gift shop and the free souvenir of having lost a child.
Last Friday, Christopher and I volunteered at Night to Shine.
I spent weeks deliberating and second-guessing my outfit. Christopher hadn’t tried on his suit nor did he have a bowtie until the day before and he wasn’t concerned about it one bit. I was on the bowtie search committee. Other than no pink or brown, I had no guidelines which wasn’t helpful. I went to a local store that sells suits, ties, and the most bejeweled and embroidered men’s shoes and belts you’ve ever seen. Everything in there was bright, bold and the place of Dolly Parton’s dreams. It was outside anything Christopher would wear but I loved it. I refrained from getting him a bowtie with a crown or rose pinned to the middle. It would have fit the occasion but he’d never have worn it.
It’s not an exaggeration that it took me two hours to do my hair that day. I straightened it with the round brush but it looked too flat, so I added curls with the curling iron. My hair doesn’t hold fake curls well so they all went limp. That required me to use the straightener to fix that problem. School should have been canceled for the day so I could fully devote my attention to my hair issues. I couldn’t properly focus when I had to be answering questions about the Revolutionary War simultaneously. NTS was hosted by the church associated with Annabelle’s school and held on the school/church property. The students helped fill the guest’s gift bags and were involved as much as they could leading up to the big night. Sesame had also gone to volunteer training with us so she was well aware of what the event was (a prom for those with special needs). Every time I sighed or made a complaint about my hair, she’d said, “You know, Mom, it’s not about you. It’s about them and making them feel special.” She wasn’t wrong, but I also wanted my hair to look good! After all that work, my job was partly outside in the rain and my hair got messed up anyway. Pride goeth before a bad hair day.
Christopher was part of the shoe-shining crew. I didn’t get to see him in action, but a picture of his hands polishing a man’s shoes made it to the big recap video so apparently he made an impression. I wasn’t sure he’d make it at all. We had 227 registered VIP’s and you know who wasn’t one of those guests? Christopher’s shingles. That’s right. The week that we have a Big Event, his body said, “LOL. JK! Let’s throw a wrench in your plans and give you a disease for which there is no medicine unless you take it within 18 minutes of the onset of symptoms.” It was touch and go for a while there, but he pulled himself up by his suspenders and polished away.
I was on the red carpet. Of course, I was. Was there ever a more perfect spot for me and my rose gold sequined shoes? I was delighted the whole entire night.
After the men got their shoes shined and the ladies had their hair and makeup done, they rode in limos around the church and were announced to the crowd before walking the red carpet. We clapped and cheered like they were stars. My friend’s daughter and I waved our blue pompoms and cheered until we were hoarse. Many of those people had never been celebrated at all, let alone with an entire night catered to their special requirements, and it was so touching to see them respond. One man had so much fun in the limo they drove him around four times. Another man liked the attention of walking the carpet and asked to do it several times. Each time we cheered like it was his first time and his face lit up.
After the red carpet, the guests went to activities and games, the dance floor and karaoke, a meal and their crowning. All the men were given crowns and the girl’s tiaras. Night to Shine says “All kings, all queens, all loved by God” so they try to make everyone feel special, loved and included regardless of their capabilities.
We couldn’t stay for the whole event because of space and security reasons, but I’m so glad we got to be involved in a small way. It wasn’t much of an effort on our part but it made a huge difference for them.
Plus I got to wear sparkly rose gold shoes and I don’t care what AB says. I did that for me.
We recently had Spirit Week and AB’s class dressed up as the 101 dalmatians. I made the ears which I thought were so cute, but Sesame took off immediately when she got into school. “Mom. I can’t be wearing those in the building! I can only wear them in the car and the parking lot!” I’m so glad I spent all that time cutting and gluing! Last week was the 101st day of school and she had no desire to dress up as an old lady so we recycled the shirt which was very handy. I didn’t bother asking if she wanted to wear the ears. I knew better.
Every Sunday after church we go out for coffee. Some Sundays we get a snack from the attached gas station and have a snacksperiment. Not to name names, but these two can be the weak links in the family when it comes to good taking pictures. Not that I think I’m a photogenic goddess, but I know about angles. These two roll their eyes and/or heads, make faces, and insist they’re smiling when they’re not. All I ask for is one nice picture! When I finally get one, I show anyone and everyone and use it for everything for the rest of the year.
Our church has recently gotten involved in an organization called Sleep In Heavenly Peace which provides free beds and bedding for underprivileged children. Christopher went with a group to Columbus several months ago to make the beds and they brought back several to distribute in our area. He and AB were part of a bed delivery before Christmas but I wasn’t able to go. On Saturday the three of us along with a few people from church went to a home downtown to bring two beds. Seeing children who previously had to sleep in bed with their parents or on the floor because there wasn’t another option isn’t something AB was familiar with so I’m glad it’s something she can experience. I think it’s important for her to be exposed and for all of us to be reminded how fortunate we are. Hopefully this ministry will grow and we can continue to help.
Another thing I think is important to teach is good-natured smack talk. Christopher has no smack talk or competitive nature which is exceptionally boring. I alone carry the role of handing the smack talk torch to the next generation. We’ve been on a big badminton kick which has given me and Annabelle lots of time to practice our best smack talk phrases. One she’s most proud of is, “I hope you brought a lawn bag because my score is going to be so high it’s going to mow over your score.” It’s a bit of a mouthful but she’s on the right track.Annabelle told me she knows the F word. I asked her to write it down for me and said she wouldn’t get in trouble. She wrote “freak and fraud.” It will be a true zinger the day she uses one of those F words and calls me a badminton fraud.
Last weekend we went to the pumpkin patch for our annual Fall day o’ fun. I always wear pants out of principle even though it’s in the 80s and more like shorts weather. We like to go there and sweat it out as we go down the giant tube slide, paint pumpkins, shoot the corn cannon, and more. When we arrived the place was dead. The man at the counter was surprised to see us. He said all the festivities ended the week before “because it’s almost December.” It was two weeks before Thanksgiving. Do people not like to have fun in November? We’re ready for fun at all times.
Given the limited options, we decided to do the corn maze. This corn maze had the added element of finding clues along the way to find out which farm animal kidnapped the farmer. Generally, I’m against paying for an event where I purposely get lost. I can (and do) get lost for free any old time! The last time I did a corn maze was when I was pregnant. I was maybe three months pregnant but we got so lost I thought I’d still be in there when it was time for me to have the baby. Now the baby that I almost had in the corn maze was leading the way (the blind leading the blind) while I brought up the rear and hoped for the best. She sang “Roses are red, violets are blue. Baby, I love you! That much is true!” I sang “Where you lead, I will follow” from Gilmore Girls but apparently it wasn’t a proper corn maze song because it “didn’t have enough of a beat.” I don’t think there should be so many rules in a corn maze shaped like a pig.
“I don’t do blogs but I guess I can help with yours. Ok, let’s see. My favorite shows to watch this summer are Wizards of Waverly Place and The InBestigators. My favorite podcasts are Wow In the World, Who When What, Bobby Wonder and Circle Round. We went to a water park. We went to Boston. I went to Winshape. This is when we built one of our forts.
We played in the dirt pile in the backyard. It’s called Dirt City. I build houses and bury the shovel so when I come back I can dig it up with my hand.
I’m a ghost in this picture. I said, ‘no more pictures, Mom!’
We walked at the lake and fed all the ducks. My favorite ducks are named Bushtop, Hangtime and Dragon. Their favorite snack is bread.
We went to the coffee shop after church and I wore my gray hat. It was my detective hat from Halloween. The people at church liked it and kept saying it looked cute, but it wasn’t supposed to be cute! It was just a hat! I didn’t like all the attention when they kept saying that.
We did gardening. Mom’s tomatoes were a big snack for the bugs! The peppers are ok and they’re still growing now. That’s about it about my summer. Can I finish my puzzle now?”
VBS is in full swing at church.
The theme is Making Waves for Jesus and we created an underwater extravaganza with coral reefs, waves, and a jellyfish wall.
I was helping with behind-the-scenes things so I didn’t do much of the flashy decorating, but I did hang the blue water around the stage and under the left screen. As I predicted, the kids loved Mrs. Jimmy the octopus, the little creatures in the reef and hand-painted murals much more than my shimmering waves that are getting more flimsy by the day, but no ocean life would be possible without the water so in a way my handiwork is the most important.
AB has an up-and-down relationship with VBS. She hates loud noises and yelling so she spent most of the large group time the first day in the back of the room covering her ears. Once we break up into smaller groups she enjoys it more but she still has a limit on how much stimulation she can handle at one time. Yesterday during large group time (the loudest part of the day) she helped me do check-in for my kids which distracted her from the noise and this morning she was with her friends so we’re making progress. She likes seeing the kids and playing the games but she’d like it better without screaming.
Last year I was the snack lady with the other Sara. Everyone loves the snack ladies. We didn’t ask hard questions and we handed out goldfish and cookies. What wasn’t to love? We did such a fabulous job we both assumed we’d be snack ladies again this year, but no such luck. Kati and Kelli are the snack ladies. Instead of working off a little cart like we had, they have a cart, two round tables, and a long table decorated like a tiki bar (or “snack shack” since we’re in church). It’s fine. Sara and I aren’t jealous. We walked so they can run. At the planning meeting, the director asked that we write down what role we were interested in this year. I said snacks or anything job except being in charge of something. I’ll be an assistant all day long but I really didn’t want to be a leader. Guess what j-o-b I have. A leader of 15 first graders. My teacher hat is on and I am in full leader mode. We are the most organized and well-behaved group. We do have the VBS problem child but we have him under control for the most part. Two older ladies are helping our group and I have a suspicion the director put me with them because I have young eyes. Neither of them can read print smaller than size 20 font so they can’t see names on the clipboard or read the regular schedule. One of the ladies got herself a large print schedule that they hold up to the light and still squint to see. We also have three youth assistants with us all day so we’re quite the parade going down the hallway.
Kids across the country are all the same. They all have the ability to get completely off track. Each day we sit through a half-hour carefully thought out Bible lesson and without fail, someone raises their hand and says something along the lines of, “Mr. Wesley, my sister has a boyfriend” or “Can I go to Sonic when I leave today?” I can sense the unrelated questions coming from six miles away. Four kids will raise their hands and when I ask if anyone has a question related to Mr. Wesley’s lesson, all four hands go down. My eyes may be young but I have years of seeing through kid shenanigans under my belt.