Friday, March 27, 2009

Snow Day


When we first moved to Colorado, I thought for sure that we would get a lot of snow. I mean, it's Colorado, right? The day we moved from the rental house to our new home it was snowing, and I figured it was just the first of many storms we would be having that winter. I was wrong. Winter around here means dry cold wind far more often than snow. Most of the time that the weather forecasters here tell us that there will be snow, there isn't any. The kids have gone to bed many nights hoping for enough to go sledding in the morning, to wake up and see only a few flakes wedged up against the fence.

The wind is one thing that we get a lot of around here. This year has been particularly bad, and on more then one occasion I have found myself chasing trash cans down the street. The fences in our neighborhood have gone down a couple times already. Our huge plastic swimming pool managed to get out from behind the tree and blew over by the side of the house on one particularly blustery day. I was scared to try and move it...it's big and would make a great sail. I didn't want to end up in Kansas. You would think growing up in Simi that I would have forever avoided living in windy places. I thought I was. I thought it snowed here. I didn't think it was windy all the time.

Living in Colorado, you learn about weather. You see, we live in what is known as the Banana Belt. And we are directly in the rainshadow of a 14er. These terms mean nothing to people living outside the Front Range, but they mean a lot here. The Banana Belt is the area just to the East of the Rockies. The storms hit the mountains pretty hard, but leapfrog over us and hit the plains more. We, for better or worse, don't get all that much weather here typically. Longmont is due East of Longs Peak, putting us in the rainshadow of a 14,000 foot peak. We get the downsloping wind, but the clouds go around us. The effect of the Banana Belt is exaggerated here because of it. Storms tend to hit harder North and South of us. Put it all together, and it means that we don't get a whole lot of snow. Usually.

If and when a storm sets up like the one did yesterday, we can get a ton of snow in a very short period of time. We got about a foot yesterday, most of which fell in 3-4 hours. In order for that to happen, the storm has to set up as an upper level low, centered in the SouthEast corner of the state. When that happens, we catch the backside of the storm, which pushes the energy up against the mountains from the East. Known to people here as upslope. A few hours of that, and we can make up for months of a dry winter.

It doesn't happen often, but when it does we can end up with blizzard conditions. And we did yesterday. School was closed yesterday and today as a result. It's the first time since we have lived here that the schools have been closed. The kids don't seem to mind at all.

We had real snow once when I was a kid. It was maybe an inch or less, nothing exciting by Colorado standards for sure. Living in Southern California, snow is something that almost never happens. I was in Junior High, and the teachers let us all out to play in it. For about an hour, we ran and played, threw snowballs and had a blast. For that brief time, school could wait. The adults in charge of us knew playing was far more important that whatever else we were supposed to be doing that morning. It melted quickly, but that snow day is something I will always remember.

There is something nice about a snow day. Being forced to take a day off. Sitting and enjoying the simple beauty of snow. Hot cocoa and tea, comfort food and sitting by the fire. Building blanket forts and baking cookies. Sitting around in your pjs watching movies. And a good old fashioned snowball fight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Puddle Jumping

I am strange, I've been told. I love the rain. Absolutely love it. I wish it would rain more often here. We almost moved to Oregon a few times, and the idea of virtually constant rain made me giddy. I'm not one of those people who needs sunlight to be happy and energetic. Cloudy is just fine with me.

Rain is nature's sprinkler system, and when you have rain, you have an abundance of green. The hills, the grass, the trees. I love how the asphalt smells when it rains. I love to walk in the rain. I own a few umbrellas, but I never ever use them. Just another thing to carry. Besides, it's just water. It's not going to hurt you. I love to sleep when it is raining, I love the sound of the raindrops hitting the roof and the windows. There is something soothing to the soul about rain. A cleansing, a renewal.

From the time I was a little girl, I have loved to play in the rain. I used to run around the backyard in my Wonder Woman Underoos in the rain. The kids think I am crazy. I get the kids dressed in their raincoats and we go out and play in it. They love their rainboots, though after a few good puddles they are wet inside and out and don't serve much purpose.

I have never understood the scolding that kids get for jumping in puddles. It's fun, and you only live once. Instictively, children know that a good splash is satisfying. There is just something about the pooling of water that makes you want to do it. They are drawn to puddles, and shooed away by well-meaning adults. The adults who have forgotten the innocence and fun of childhood. Pants and socks can be washed, shoes will dry. But if you don't jump in that puddle, soon it will be gone.

We don't get many good rainstorms here that aren't thunderstorms - and we have to take advantage of every one we can. I have been known to jump in puddles even when the kids aren't around, and I highly recommend doing so. The satisfaction that comes with a good splash doesn't diminish with age. You just have to let yourself jump.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Power of Words

This afternoon I read a book cover to cover, which hasn't happened in one sitting in a while. I was urged to read this particular book by a friend, one who shares many of my thoughts and feelings on spirituality and religion. She came upon it the way I did, at the recommendation of another. It is The Shack, and it was amazing.

There have been many, many times in my life when I have questioned the reasoning, the judgment and even the existence of God. I have spent countless nights wondering if there really is anything bigger than us, if there is a reason for all this. If there is a purpose in life. If the horrible things that happen are just our turn with mathematical probabilities.

The most trying moments in my life, I have asked why. I have looked for answers, for an explanation. I have been betrayed, I have been hurt, I have been injured, I have been violated and I have been alone. In my darkest days, I doubted. I doubted that God was real. If there was a God, why would he allow these things to happen? Why would he allow for such pain and loss?

This book spoke to my soul, in a deep and profound way. It has affected me in a way that books don't usually do. I suppose this is because of how often my own faith has been shaken. How often I have doubted.

Through the years, I have gained a clarity about my life. Though there have been some days and nights when I felt things could not possibly ever get better, they did. When I wondered what else could go wrong, and something else did, eventually the trend reversed. The biggest problem with trying times is that it is often difficult, if not impossible to see past them. Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is dim and fleeting. With time can you see the growth, changes and maturity that only come though blood, sweat and tears.

Things never make sense at the time. Looking back on the last 10 years of my life, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the path we would go down. Looking back now, I can see with a better understanding why. If it was not for all the pain, all the loss and all the hopelessness we endured, we would not be where we are today. I would not be where I am today. And maybe, just maybe, God had a hand in that.

Rocks

Our backyard is not finished. Well, not completely. We have sprinklers and grass, a few trees and a play area. The border area around the yard, intended for plants at some indeterminate time in the future, is void. It is supposed to be covered in mulch, but over time, the mulch has been shifted and relocated. Mostly by the dogs. Mostly by Jake.

There is little point in trying to plant anything along the back fence line because Jake has a friend behind us. Another dog. They bark and bark at each other every day, running up and down the fence line. We've spread the mulch back out along that fence more times than I can count and it always ends up in mounds on the edges within a few days. Funny thing is that if Jake and this other dog ever got to meet in person, without the fence between them, they would probably be buddies. Jake is a friendly dog. But, they bark and run, run and bark.

I hate mulch. Partly because of Jake, but mostly because of it's general ineffectiveness. Because of the wind here, it tends to fly away. You have to rake it every season, and should replenish it often - which we don't do. We got some free mulch from the city last year and won't make that mistake again. It was free for a reason.

When we first landscaped the backyard, we opted for mulch over rocks because it was what we were used to seeing. Coming from California, rocks weren't a normal part of landscaping. But after being here for a few years, I see the practicality of it. They don't dislodge from dogs running on them. They don't fly away in the wind. Once they are in, they are in.

We do have a large area of river rock on the side of the house, which currently is a thorn in my side. For whatever reason, the girls love the rocks. They play with them. They move them all over the backyard, leave them at the doorstep. They put them in the play area, where the mulch is supposed to be. Ally is particular is fascinated with the rocks. I wouldn't mind so much, but I've grown tired of the mulch being in the wrong place and the rocks being in the wrong place. It's time for a change.

What I would love to do, which may or may not happen anytime soon is to change the backyard. I want all the mulch out of the back. I hate it. Really, I hate it. It sticks to everything and gets all over the kids clothes. I want to put sand in the play area and put rocks all around the perimeter.

We'll see if it happens. I doubt it, but a girl can dream, right? Maybe the backyard fairy will come and magically change it for me. ;)

March Madness

I'll be the first to admit that I am not a huge basketball fan. I used to like the NBA, but haven't watched much in the last few years. They are overpaid and spoiled, perpetually stuck in a prolonged adolescence - well, at least some really high profile players are. And I can't stand to watch it. Of course, if the Lakers are doing well, and it's nearing the end of the season, I will suddenly become a fan once again.

I'm only slightly more interested in college basketball. I could care less about it for most of the season, and really don't pay attention to it until the brackets are announced for the big dance. The NCAA Tournament.

Then something happens. We become superfans. It's bizarre actually, and Tom is worse than I am. It's a good thing that we don't watch college hoops for the whole season - Tom can't handle the suspense. The last 2 minutes drive him crazy. He yells at the TV, especially when there are those last minute foul calls, the half court desperation shots. When teams get into OT, he's mesmerized until the end.

He was mad that SDSU didn't make it to the dance this year - they lost their tournament in the final game by only 2 points. But, the Mountain West is not a glorified conference in the eyes of the NCAA, and so to the NIT the Aztecs went this year. It's truly a consolation tournament, but it's almost a waste of time. No one really cares about the NIT.

UCLA, the perennial PAC-10 good basketball team was eliminated in the first round. It's always nice to see them lose. USC made it, and they are playing in the second round today. Fight On!

Friday, March 20, 2009

100 Things

Copy and paste it into your blog and then just bold the things you've done!
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Gone on a hot air balloon ride
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing (though not well!)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets and plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (well, I've had an article in a book, does that count?)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Totally copied a post from someone else's blog to your own

You think I'm paranoid?

So there is an issue at school. A few years back, after a shooting in the state, the principal closed the front double doors in the school and changed the access rules for the building. This year, new principal. She decided that they were going to re-open the doors and I wrote a letter.

I think it's a bad idea for many reasons, safety being the primary one. The way the building is configured, the doors lead to a hallway and classrooms. And you can walk through those doors before walking past the office. It wouldn't be hard for an intruder to gain access to the interior of the building if the doors are opened. And there are other options.

I was invited to a meeting of parents that serves as an advisory board to the principal, and asked to share my concerns. It was pretty clear that they had already made up their minds, and that they were just hearing me out. They all assume that nothing will ever happen at school, which is a nice assumption really. But it is an assumption.

Having lived down the street from Santana High and dealing with the aftermath of a stabbing at Valley View, I have personal experience with school violence. It is not just a hypothetical. It really happens. It's not something that people want to believe happens, but it does.

One of the board members was quick to judge me as being overly worried to the point of being paranoid. That I was being too overprotective, and that there is no way that we as parents can avoid all harm. Really, we are just talking about a set of doors. A set of doors that cannot be closed even with a panic button in time to keep someone out.

I don't live in fear of things. I never have. I found it interesting that I was being labeled as paranoid when I am pretty far from it. I am practical and realistic. And I am not alone. Most of the other parents I have talked to about the issue agree with me.

Yesterday, I realized why this board member, this mother, had labeled me paranoid. I was talking to a friend after drop off and the board member pulled up in the front of the school. Parked in the fire lane and left the car full of kids while she went into the school for about 5 minutes. Only one of the kids she left in the car belongs to her. The others are children she is supposed to be watching through her in-home daycare.

She sees nothing wrong with parking in a fire lane, one clearly marked *No Parking*. She seems to think it is okay to leave kids in a car, even those she is paid to watch. Bad enough to do it with her own kids, but to do that with other people's? Her definition of responsible parenting and mine clearly are different. No wonder she thinks I am paranoid.

Crocs

Oh, the things a girl will do for shoes. Crocs is based out of Boulder, and they have a warehouse here in town. A few times a year, they have a warehouse sale and you can get all different kinds of shoes for a fraction of the normal retail price. I've heard about the sale before, but never went for some reason. Until yesterday.

Let's just say it was an adventure in shopping. Worse than Black Friday, which is pretty hard! Kathi and I went with the girls and the baby, not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into. We should have been tipped off by the huge line to get in and the traffic police on the street that it was going to be crowded.

The weather was gorgeous, so waiting in line outside wasn't a bad thing. Patience is a virtue, right? Too bad that the girls aren't very virtuous. They got antsy within minutes. When we came around the corner and the port-a-potties were in view, the power of suggestion took over. The girls are bathroom tourists, and even if they don't really have to go, they have to go. They also could care less if it is a nasty portable toilet - they still have to go.

After waiting for about 40 minutes to get in, I lugged the stroller up the stairs and we were handed an economy size trash bag. As soon as we got inside the warehouse, it was pretty clear that this wasn't going to be easy or fun. Tons of people, everywhere. The aisles were so narrow that I could hardly get the stroller through them. And never underestimate the rudeness of a woman on a shoe mission - there were a few that practically climbed over the stroller. Really? Climbing over a baby just to get a pair of shoes?

After a little while, Kathi was done. Warehouse sales and claustrophobia don't mix well! She found a spot to sit in the middle and kept the girls and the stroller with her. I found a few more treasures and we made our way out to the cash registers. I did get quite a few good deals.

I really wanted to look for some of the shoes for myself, but couldn't get over into those sections at all with the stroller. So, I might go back this weekend to look again. But I'm not taking the kids, that is for sure. And I'm developing a strategy before I step foot in there again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Finding Time

It seems that every major holiday that rolls around is fraught with a million things to do. Extra activities, special meals, things at school to do. In our house, St. Patrick's Day is a major holiday. Yesterday, the kids had to wear green for St. Patty's of course. A few years ago, I made some little ruffled capris with shamrocks for the girls and found an easy peasant dress pattern. Cheap, and didn't take long, plus they came out cute. They don't get worn all that often obviously, but they already have quite a few years of use.

While we were at school in the morning yesterday I overheard some of the other moms talking about the girls. How cute they always look and how they could never justify spending as much money as I must on seasonal stuff. That it must be only because there are two of them to wear it. One of them, who knows me better than the others, chimed in that she was pretty sure I had made the outfits.

They stared at me a bit, shaking their heads in disbelief. Here I am standing with the baby in one arm and a huge bag full of homemade Irish food for the preschool in the other. One mom commented on how there was just no way that I had time to make the girls clothes, cook for the entire preschool and do all the other stuff that comes with having 4 kids. But the simple truth is that I do.

It's not that I have free time to do these things. Because, clearly, free time is not something in my vocabulary anymore. I can't remember the last time I did anything just for myself beyond a quick 5 minute pedicure at home. I guess you could call the blog my me-time, but even that is misleading. Most of the time, I am typing with one hand or with someone on my lap.

The only way that I find time to do these things is that I have to make the time. St. Patrick's Day in particular is important to me. I want the kids to know about their Irish heritage and share it with their classmates. I don't want the kids to think that being Irish is just about having food dyed green one day a year.

One of the things that has become crystal clear to me, especially since the baby was born, is that I have to make a concerted effort to do the things that are important to me. I have to find time. If that means I sleep a little less, so be it.

Spring

Though it isn't technically Spring yet, I'm loving it. The weather has been beautiful, the birds are chirping and my tulips are sprouting. I love when everything turns green again, and I love to watch the changes. Spring is a good time to clean out the closets, to scrub the floors and wash the windows. A fresh start, a new beginning.

Late in the winter, the plant catalogs start coming in the mail. Flower porn, I call them. Everything in there is beautiful and unattainable. They do provide some motivation and inspiration, even if it is unrealistic for me to think I could ever grow anything that well.

It's far too early to plant anything here unless you are a trained expert like my neighbor, the envy of the block, the botanist. For the rest of us, planting generally has to wait until after Mother's Day. Since the growing season is so short here, I have vowed for the last couple of years to seed start some flowers so they would be ready to transfer in May, and would actually have a chance to grow. This year I finally did it. I have sweet peas, morning glory, sunflowers and golden poppies nesting in their little peat moss homes, protected in the tiny little greenhouse indoors.

Each of the flowers I am attempting to grow this year I chose for a reason. I love sunflowers because they are so easy to grow. They are hardy, and it's pretty hard to kill them. We get along. I picked the poppies because they remind me of home. Oh, how I miss driving up the coast to Santa Barbara, smelling the ocean and watching the wildflowers swaying in the breeze. The sweet peas were chosen by Ally, which is quite a coincidence. She can't yet read, but one of my nicknames for her is Sweet Pea. Out of hundreds of flower seed packets, she picked that one. And the last, the morning glories, are one of my most favorite flowers. Our backyard in San Diego was a constant work in progress. When we finally got the planter done on the North side of the yard, I planted it with morning glories and absolutely fell in love with them. In California, they can grow all year. Here, I only get a few magic months of them.

I hope that this little greenhouse works. Last year, out of all the seeds we put in the ground, the only ones that actually grew to maturity were the morning glory. Hopefully this year, they will have a better chance. We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Perspective

There are many, many abilities that fade over time. That lessen a little bit with each passing day. As we age, we run slower, we wrinkle, we break easier and it takes a whole lot longer to heal. One thing that has, at least for me, gotten stronger each day is my ability to see things differently. To try at least to step into someone else's shoes and think for a moment how they see the world. How they feel about things. Why they do things the way they do them.

This is particularly important when it comes to other parents I think. Kids sure don't come with instruction manuals, and there is no one way to do things right. There are an infinite number of ways to raise a child, and no one can say with any degree of certainty that one way is better than another. They are just different.

Of course, there are the no-brainers. The stupid things that people with kids do that make you want to bang your head on the nearest wall. The people who let their kids whine and scream at them constantly. The people who let their kids hit them. The people who will let a 2 year old climb all over the inside of a moving car rather than making them sit in a carseat. The people who send a kid to school in 10 degree weather in shorts. The people who leave a car full of kids alone, with the engine running. I think most people could agree that these parents aren't making the best choices.

Short of the obviously wrong choices, there is a huge gray area. Degrees of right and wrong, good and bad. It's easy to judge people from the outside when you see how their kids behave, or how they interact with them. But only when you can fully understand what their life is like, what that particular child is like, can you begin to see why they do things the way they do.

I like to believe that I am pretty open minded about things. That I can sympathize with other parents and that I can at least try to see where they are coming from. Every once in a while, though, I am weak and I judge. I kick myself for doing it, particularly when I learn details I didn't know that bring clarity to their reasoning.

An example of this was fairly recent. There is a little girl in one of the kid's classes that has very involved parents - the kind that are around for every single event at school. Every holiday, every activity without fail. They go over the top with extravagant gifts for the entire class, just *too* much. I recently learned that they had tremendous difficulty getting pregnant, and it clicked. Everything made sense. While I had once judged them for being overindulgent parents who needed to learn to cut back and give their kids less, I now see that they are just insanely grateful to have been blessed with their children. Having been there myself, I can understand. They want to give their children everything, especially after what they went through to have kids. I can see why now. I've gained a little more perspective.

Judging people is easy. Learning not to judge people is hard. But it is a lesson worth learning. And walking a mile in someone else's shoes allows you to see the world in an entirely different way.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events

There are some things I've tried to teach the kids that you aren't supposed to do. You aren't supposed to go outside without shoes. You aren't supposed to leave the bathroom without washing your hands. You aren't supposed to go to bed without brushing your teeth. And you certainly don't go anywhere without your underwear on.

That's why the series of unfortunate events that transpired yesterday was so confusing and amusing for the girls. The didn't expect me to break one of my rules.

We went to lunch before taking Grandma Judy to the airport, and at some point during that lunch, the long skirt I was wearing must have come into contact with gum. If I had to put money on where the gum came from, I can virtually guarantee that it was from Ally. Anyway, the gum got on the skirt, and I didn't notice. Not in time, anyway.

We got back in the car and dropped Grandma off, then went to Babies R Us to get some spoons and cups for the baby. When I got out of the car, I quickly realized that something was indeed very wrong. And I very quickly realized that it involved gum. Except it wasn't on just my skirt.

Since it was on the area of my skirt that I had been sitting on in the car, you can just imagine where the gum went. Let's just say it isn't a place you want gum to end up. I took the girls and the baby to the bathroom and had Aidan wait in the hallway. There was only one solution - and it involved breaking one of my rules. I had to go commando.

The look on Ashley's face was priceless. But, I don't understand mommy! How can you go out in the store without panties on? Leave it to the 3 year old to announce it to everyone. We walked out of the bathroom and she says in her least discreet voice, "Mommy, what if people see your butt?!?!"

Just add it to the very long list of things I never thought would happen to me as a direct result of having kids. Luckily it was a long skirt.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Money Pit

The money pit I am referring to here isn't the house, as typically labeled. It is Build A Bear Workshop. Whoever came up with the idea of having kids stuff their own animals for twice the price they normally cost is nothing short of a genius. And most likely very wealthy by now.

I have to admit that I like Build A Bear. I think it's cute in a super cheesy sort of way. I secretly want to make and stuff my own animal, one just for me. I want my own cardboard bear house.

Build A Bear isn't just bears anymore. They have relatively inexpensive bears starting at $10 all the way up to $30, just for an unstuffed animal. They have just about every kind of animal you could imagine, and rotate new ones in all the time. They have seasonal animals, and those tend to be harder to find. We did get Rudolph, but never were able to find Clarice.

The place is a money pit because it is virtually impossible to walk out of there without dropping more cash than intended. The marketing department of the company is good. You have to hand it to them. In the years that they have been in existence, they have contracted relationships with Disney, every major sports franchise, Hello Kitty, even Limited Too - girls can get matching outfits for their new friend and themselves. Genius. Lure the kids in, and make them want everything.

There are walls and aisles of outfits for the bears. Costumes. Seasonal themed sets. Shoes, purses and carriers. There are even little bear underwear and pajamas. For the *baby* bears, there are baby clothes and baby toys. And of course, the kids feel like they need to get everything for their bears.

Before we ever step foot in the place, I have to sit the kids down and remind them that we aren't getting everything. You could walk out of that place easily spending $100 per bear. Easily. It's to the point now that I tell them they can have an animal, but that's it. And, preferably, not the huge animal or the logo animal that costs the most. Ashley in particular seems drawn to the most expensive animal every time. The girl has expensive taste.

Even Aidan gets in on it. He owns pajamas for his bears. Costumes and baseball outfits. You'd think that he might have outgrown it by now, but no such luck. Still fun for him.

The people that work there make or break the experience for the kids. A good BAB stuffer makes them jump up and down, twirl, make wishes for their bear and kiss the little heart at least once before stitching it closed. Rushed BAB stuffers aren't as much fun, and you feel like you aren't getting your money's worth without the silliness. After all, the animals can't really cost that much. You are paying for the ambience. The experience.

We went to Build A Bear last night, and like mom made them promise, no one threw a fit for extra goodies. They walked out of the mall, in a line like little ducklings following their momma, proudly carrying their new little cardboard houses. And Build A Bear got $40 richer thanks to me, even with two coupons!

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