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Monday, July 26, 2010

Hold Down the Fort!

By Jody Worsham July 2010
All rights reserved for Sumo Wrestling

Whenever my husband or I would leave our house, there was always the admonition to the other to “Hold down the Fort”. With six children, you had to or there wouldn’t be a fort when you got back.

I’m not sure how the phrase originated, possibly from some of those “Rent-a-Party” places that rent you those net enclosed inflatable forts. I’m sure the instructions included “Hold down the Fort for maximum propulsion through the air.” It could have come from pioneer days, but I doubt it.

This past weekend we went camping at our favorite spot; that place being an RV park with a cement drive-through pad, water, sewage, electrical, cable hook-ups, a pool, and a McDonald’s within two miles.

After setting up camp, hooking up the air conditioner, hot-water heater, and pulling out the awning, my husband was off to Sears for some serious tool shopping. “Hold down the fort while I’m gone”, his parting words as he spun out of the parking lot.

This was not a problem. The first six children were now grown and I only had the latest two children to contain in order to hold down the fort. The children were inside the trailer and I was sitting at the picnic table reading. If I tried to read in the trailer with the two children, I would soon get sea sick from all the rocking. Sixty-four jacks under the trailer cannot stop the trailer from bouncing and swaying under the pounding of their feet.

I noticed the storm clouds gathering. I gathered up card tables, lawn chairs, assorted towels, roller skates, fans, and bicycles and stored them next to the trailer under the awning. Then the wind hit.

The awning began trying to imitate a Kansas twister as I frantically, in my best imitation of Dorothy looking for Toto, alternately lowered first the left awning brace and then the right one. By the time I had gotten them down as far as I could, I was drenched and the awning was still trying to get to Oz.

The lightning was cracking overhead so I decided not to touch the metal braces anymore. The wind was trying to flip the awning over the top of the trailer. There was only one way to hold down the fort. I grabbed the flapping web strap used to roll up the awning and held on. For once I was glad I was packing a few extra pounds and could keep the awning in place.

Because the awning was now six feet from the trailer door, you couldn’t open the door. The children climbed up on the kitchen counter and were yelling at me through the window. I couldn’t hear what they were saying so I just smiled through my dripping hair to reassure them as I did battle with the awning.

The wind was picking up. From my 4-H training in handling horses, I remembered you were never to wrap the lead rope around your wrist in case the horse bolted dragging you along with him. I could just see a gust of wind ripping the awning off and sending me airborne with it through the trees.

I could see the next day's headlines “Senior Mom and Awning seen sailing due North during Storm”. I quickly unwrapped the web strap from my wrist and looped it under my rear using both hands to control the slack. I think I had seen this on a National Geographic Mt. Everest climb.

All the campsites and streets were now standing in six inches of water. The lightning was still cracking so I edged away from the aluminum picnic table although I don’t think it would have mattered since I was ankle deep in water anyway. I stood there grinning like an idiot (the children were still looking through the kitchen blinds every five minutes) soaked and hanging onto a strap in a hurricane and wondering why no one came to help.

After fifteen minutes the wind died down and it was just heavy rain. I tied the strap to the aluminum picnic table and waited for the rain to stop still being unable to raise the awning due to continued lightning. After another twenty minutes the rain stopped. I untied the strap from the table and raised the awning back to its pre-storm position, set the chairs back out to dry, and put on dry clothes.

A few minutes later my husband arrived back from Sears.
“Boy, that was some storm! I saw an awning flipped completely over a trailer just down from us and another one was bent completely into two pieces. I was surprised ours was still in tact.”

I don’t know why he was surprised. I said I would hold down the fort…and I did.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summertime Blues

by Jody Worsham All rights reserved for normal parenting classes.

There was an article recently in our semi-local newspaper entitled “50 Ways to Keep Kids Active”. Heading into my sixth week of no school with a five year old and a nine year old, I eagerly scanned the list for ways to keep them occupied and out of the police report.

Of the list of fifty, there were only about ten specific activities for children. The rest was a long diatribe of rules and policies such as “limit TV and computer time”, duh, “exercise more” duh duh, “do things with your kids”, duh, duh, duh.

So in a humanitarian effort to help other struggling parents, I have concocted my own list of activities to keep kids out of your hair, out of your make-up, and out of the living room.

1) Have a crayon melting pool. Charge each kid twenty-five cents for a chance to determine exactly how long it will take a box of crayons to melt on a piece of aluminum starting at 11 A.M. Winner receives the money pool and the melted crayons. To make this activity last longer, put the crayons in the freezer the night before and don’t tell the kids.

2) Call your child’s teacher for next year on a cell phone while parked across the street from her house and schedule a conference at the teacher’s home. As an interested parent you want to make sure your child gets off to a good start. Then let the kids take turns guessing how long before the teacher jumps in her car and drives away. For added fun, follow her…at least until she crosses the state line.

3) The night before, unplug everything except the refrigerator. The kids will spend at least thirty minutes waiting for the TV to come on or the computer to boot up. This could be longer if you have dial up on your computer. Then let them take turns trying to figure out why nothing works. By noon everything should be plugged back in if your children are exceptionally bright.

4) When you go to the grocery store or the local mega mart drop the kids off at the front door while you “park the car”. Hide the car behind the store. Then when you check out, send your kids on with the grocery cart and the car keys and you stay behind on the pretext of having forgotten something. However, before giving them the car keys, remove the batteries from the key chain so the car horn will not sound. After about an hour and after you have enjoyed a nice quiet iced coffee, go out to the parking lot and follow the trail of melting ice cream until you find your kids again and get the car.

5) Anytime the children say “I’m bored”, sit them down in a circle and proceed to tell them about when you were a kid until they find something interesting to do. This one actually only takes about five seconds but guaranteed to keep them away for at least two hours.

6) Give your shopping list and the sales ads to the children. Have them find and list the store with the highest price and the lowest price for the items you need. Give them the phone book so they can call the stores if any of your items are not on sale. Agree to give them the difference in the highest and lowest price for food items when they have completed the list. Be sure to include cumquats, venison jerky, and bamboo shoots on your list. Also make sure you block long distance calls on your phone.

7) Give your children nail clippers and tell them to trim the grass around the flower bed.

8) The night before staple several dollar bills to a tree. The next morning tell the children you are going out to the money tree to pick a few dollars. They may argue that “money doesn’t grow on trees” but tell them that is a saying Daddy uses. Then let them watch you pick the money. Afterwards, give them a spoon and a handful of pennies and tell them to plant their own money tree.

9. Let them grow their own desserts. Give them some apple seeds, peach pits, and plumb pits and a garden trowel.

10) Hook up their video games to a stationary bicycle and a small generator. The more they peddle, the longer they can play.

11) Get a calendar and list the date and time of every Vacation Bible School within a fifty mile radius. Create carpools with other desperate parents. If you are lucky you may find a VBS that meets from 7:30a.m.-12:00 noon, one that meets from l:00p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and another that meets 6pm.-8p.m. on the same day. The children will have the benefit of being able to quote every verse in the Bible and you will be able to formulate a coherent sentence.

12) When you have had an especially dry spell, tell the children you have discovered a secret Indian rain dance. Create some wild dance steps that stop just short of a visit to the chiropractor and teach it to the children. Put them in the back yard and have them dance all afternoon. If they begin to lose interest, take the water hose in the front yard and shoot a stream over the roof into the backyard. This will keep them motivated for another two hours.

While this list is certainly shorter than the fifty listed in the newspaper and probably will not be found on any educational website, it will keep your little ones busy.

If you need additional ideas, tell the oldest child that unless he or she can come up with additional activities for the others, be prepared to baby sit for the rest of the summer. That will almost guarantee an endless supply of activities. Just be sure you lock up your car keys, power tools, passports, and credit cards or you may discover that one of their “fun” activities is building a bridge in London or creating a trap for Leprechauns in Ireland.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Things to Do on a Rainy Cruise

Things to Do on a Rainy Cruise

By Jody Worsham All rights reserved to purchase water repellant

During six of the seven days of our cruise, our captain was able to spot, chase, and go through ever rain storm in the Caribbean. I think that may be some kind of record.

The sun worshippers were threatening mutiny. Parents of children were threatening mutiny. The only ones not threatening mutiny were the bartenders as their sales tend to quadruple in rainy weather.

Our cruise director, Jeff, in an attempt to quell the rebellion offered some additional rainy day activities for the guests. However, being the mother of eight children, I have extended his list.

Here is my list for a rainy cruise.

1. Count raindrops hitting the window port hole.

2. Eat

3. Watch the Raindrop Regatta. Which rain drop will be the fastest descending the port hole?

4. Eat

5. Watch the Flip Flop Hydroplane Races as people hurry across the wet deck.

6. Eat

7. Watch rain clouds build up and take bets on how soon the captain will overtake them.

8. Eat

9. Sit in your cabin and watch the closed circuit mini-cam broadcast live as people run, slip, fall, and hydroplane across the deck. Turn off the sound and make up your own dialogue for what the people are saying.

10. Eat

11. Float paper boats across the flooded deck.

12. Eat

13. Play miniature Float Golf. No clubs. Set the ball on the course. If it floats over the cup in less than one minute, you have a Drown-in-One.

14. Eat

15. Watch “Singing in the Rain” in the rain at the outdoor theatre.

16. And if all else fails to entertain you, EAT!

Now I know why all the pictures of Noah’s family after their forty-day and forty-night cruise are depicted as rotund.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Floating Never-ending Buffet

By Jody Worsham,
All rights reserved for Rolaids

People who weren’t overweight before will be after a cruise. The longer the cruise, the more weight you gain. As one lady standing in the never-ending-food line explained, “The more I eat, the less this cruise costs me.” Judging from the amount of food on her plate, her cruise will be free.

First time cruisers are always the first in line at the buffet which features foods from a different country each day. After filling their plates with a little bit of each dish offered, they then head for the hamburger, hot dog, and pizza line.

The experienced cruisers know the menu by heart and go through the line loading up with the good stuff. They also are wearing baggy stretch pants and oversized t-shirts. By the end of the cruise both will be stretched to the max.

Upon boarding the ship at the beginning of the cruise your picture is taken and digitally loaded onto your room key. I used to think this was for security reasons until I noticed the crew fighting over who was going to work the debarkation line. That’s when they compare your image at the start of the cruise to the fat-er, cheek-drooping-barely-able-to-breath-in-the-no-longer-stretch pants person standing in front of them. With their twelve month contracts with no time off, I guess they need some kind of comic relief.

I just needed relief spelled R-O-L-A-I-D-S. Amidst the laughter of my debarkation crew member, I waddled down the gang plank and headed back home vowing once again to a) eat less b) take the stairs on the next cruise, or c) buy larger stretch pants.
Hmmm, I think there is a Pre/Post Cruise Sale for Women of Stature at Lane Bryant’s today. I think I will go as soon as I grab a little something from the buffet line...oh, wait, I'm back home. That would be Mickey D's.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Road Trip

By Jody Worsham
All rights reserved for a Mother Lode jack.

Thought you might enjoy a break from the "Cruise News". Here's a different kind of cruisin'.

I made my trip to check on Mother today...six hour round trip for a two hour visit. My sister was away for a couple of weeks so I told her I would come and check on Mother and make sure she had a good supply of strawberry malted milkshakes until she got back into town.

I took the five-year-old and the eight-year-old with me, both a good idea and a bad idea. They handle her better than I do. The eight-year-old painted my ninety-year-old mother's fingernails. The five-year-old just talked non-stop. Both seemed to please her. Good idea. Eight-year-old and five-year-old bickering, fighting, fussing with ever increasing volume over who's DS Nintendo was the coolest during the six hour round trip, bad idea.

Our suburban high step-up is too much for Mother so I had my husband build an 18x36x7 inch platform. I insisted he make it sturdy and stable. He even added a handle on the side so I could get it in and out of the back easily. Mother always wants to go somewhere when we come to visit.

As soon as we arrived, she was ready for Dollar Tree, the ice cream store, and Wal-Mart (I think it is genetic). I hauled out the 2x6 reinforced with 2x4 two ton platform. It worked great. She got in. I put the three ton platform back in the car.

First stop Dollar Tree. I moved the four ton platform from the back to the front door so she could get out. We shopped; I got her back in. I drug the five ton platform to the back of the car. I heaved and ho'ed till I got it back in the car. I staggered to the driver's side gasping for air. "Ice cream next," she commanded. "But you can go through the drive-through." Silently I said a prayer of thanks.

After her strawberry malted milkshake my muscles began screaming in anticipation of the next 6 ton-platform-weight-lifting-event at the local Wal-Mart. However, before we made it out of the drive-thru she said she was ready to go home. She said getting in and out of the car tired her out. It was tiring me out, too.

When we returned to the assisted living facility, I looked for a loading dock that was level with the step of my car. Then my blood pressure returned to normal and I remembered there wasn't one which is why I had the platform for ascending Mt. Everest built in the first place.

I got out of the car, held onto the car roof line until I reached the back door. Lacking an oxygen tank for immediate revival, I paused. I thought of Mother carrying me through two feet of snow as she made her way to Grandma's house on Christmas day when I was fifteen days old ...walking uphill both ways as she had told me many times. "Ok, one more time and then we are even", I said to no one in particular and all the time knowing that was a lie; you never get even.

I pulled out the seven ton platform and drug it around to the passenger side. She managed to get out and the eight-year-old guided her to the entrance of her apartment. I began singing Tennessee Ernie Ford's classic, "You load 16 tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in sweat" as I re-drug the now eight ton platform made heavier since it was now soaked with my sweat back to the car and loaded it. I don't know how. I think I may have blacked out.

Inside the apartment, I listened to my mother alternately complain and gripe over doctors constantly interfering with her life, weekly doctor visits, and being held "prisoner" in her assisted care facility and never getting to go anywhere and then over that same doctor's indifference, infrequent visits, and the fact that the assisted living facility made her get out and go places.

All the time I was looking at her high school basketball pictures on the wall. Change the year, and I could have been looking at myself at fourteen.

Oh, dear. I better get in a good supply of fingernail polish and a set of weights for the eight-year-old now. At least she won't be in her sixties when I am in my nineties.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Guess Who's NOT Coming to Dinner?

2010 by Jody Worsham
All rights reserved for Etiquette Lessons and an entry fee for America’s Funniest Cruising Videos

This post is much much shorter. Sorry the last one was so long.

Well, first of all, the five-year-old who has been on our other cruises, couldn’t remember any of them, so essentially, this was the first cruise. To him everything was “new”.

I always want the children to experience new things. The eight-year-old is now aware of different accents and languages. The five-year-old mainly wants to look out the cabin window at the water and ask “Are we there yet”?

The first night I insisted that we all eat together in the formal dinning room for a little exposure to meals that do not come in a sack with a toy or out of the freezer. Because we had made our reservations late, we were assigned late seating which was at 8:15. I had prepared for this by feeding the children pizza at 5 p.m.

I must say we had a good start. The five-year-old did put the napkin in his lap and not on his head; and he did not make a parachute out of it or make a tunnel for his spoon car…well, not at first. The waiter brought crayons and a booklet which kept them occupied for about five seconds. The Kiddy Menu had the standard fast food listed, chicken nuggets, fries, pizza. Not this meal. I told them to try what I ordered for them and if they didn’t like it, I would get them more pizza later. The eight-year-old wanted to know if I would get them more pizza even if they did like it. I said yes. Revolt averted.

The eight-year-old has become a soup connoisseur as a result of her other five cruises which she could remember, being more than three years old at the time. I ordered her the Beef Barley Soup with Root Vegetables. I just didn’t tell her the “root vegetable” part. I ordered the five-year-old the tomato basil even though I knew the eight-year-old would eat it.

For the main course, after I explained that they didn’t have to eat the entire loaf of bread and butter because more food was coming, I ordered steak medium and pork ribs.

Now let me just say that a formal dinning place setting is not necessarily kid friendly by its very nature. Once I deconstructed the extra fork, spoon, and knife sculpture created by the five-year-old, I could concentrate on how he was going to handle the stemmed water glass. Two hands were required but he needed three. Quick intervention prevented an eight-year-old and a five-year-old toast that would have shattered both glasses.

The eight-year-old gained etiquette points as she managed the soup spoon properly. This is a great improvement over drinking her soup through a straw during the first two cruises. Ok, she was only four and it was a moving ship. After the appetizer she declared the soup delicious as well as the tomato basil soup, my fruit salad, and my husband’s salad. However, she lot points when she dunked chunks of her bread in the beef barley soup to “sop up all the juice”. Baby steps, baby steps.

The five-year-old declared the ribs good and better than those at Diamond Jack’s Hotel and Casino. That garnered us strange looks from tables 378 and #377. However, when he announced quite loudly “This apple juice will get the poop a’goin”, he cleared tables #378 and #377.

Guess who’s NOT coming to dinner tomorrow?