On Declaring Independence.

I know that you’ve all been waiting with intense anticipation for an update on the fallout of Noah’s stomach virus.

I am here for you.

I am gleeful to report that, although it did last through the night and he woke up Thursday morning with his bed in such an abominable state that if I described it I’d have to burn my blog, it did end quickly after that. And more importantly, whatever parasite he licked off of only God knows what disgusting surface was blessedly not the type that spreads to other family members.

So, gloriously, we were all free of spurting out of any orifices just in time for the holiday weekend.

And as we’d been in our-life-is-falling-apart-at-the-stomach-seams mode, we found ourselves having not planned ahead a single minute of our Fourth of July.

So we did what any loving parents would do and made our children hike two miles up a mountain in the woods.

140704b Ruffner's View of Birmingham

(With one in a diaper. JUST in case.)

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(He can’t believe I just told you that.)

On their way up the mountainside, they both managed to find gender-stereotypical pieces of nature, of which they took a moment to appreciate once we allowed them to sit down.

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Seriously guys. That was unstaged.

…As was Noah’s near-use of his rock when I actually asked them to pose for me.

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And he wonders why she doesn’t trust him.

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That night, we set out on an unplanned attempt to find a vantage point for Birmingham’s fireworks show above Vulcan. We had no idea where to go and were entirely uncertain as to whether our children would be whiny-sleepy, interested, or petrified, as Noah had a bit of a traumatic fireworks experience last fall, and this was the first Fourth of July we’d been in town in many years.

I applauded my husband’s ability to withstand such tenuous uncertainty.

We ended up on the Children’s Hospital Parking Deck, where they had actually roped off the top deck for viewers, and were quite kind to everyone who had found their way up there.

Better yet: we made it in time for sunset.

140704d God Shed His Light on Thee

A sunset which, for a moment, even turned red white and blue. JUST FOR ME. (And everyone else.)

140704e Red White and Blue

Our children were excited and self-entertained while we waited for 9pm to arrive,

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Chris had the forethought to pack popsicles,

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My Parents, Grandmother, and Brother joined us after we let them know we found the best view in Birmingham,

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And when the fireworks began, Noah relieved us all by saying “I do like these kind of fireworks!!”

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From Puke and Poo Hell to Family-Togetherness Utopia…clearly God did indeed shed His Grace on us.

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I took my DSLR, set it up on a tripod, adjusted it to what I hoped would work, then carelessly snapped about 250 crappy fireworks photos without even looking through the viewfinder. Chris suggested that I pick the least blurry ones and create a composite image of the night, which turned into an obsessively geeky exercise in Photoshop Layering.

140704 Vulcan's Show

(But I totally got fussed at by my seven-year-old for not including one of the upside-down smiley fireworks.)

(So here you go.)

Smiley Firework

The next morning, gloriously, (how often does the climax of a story come after the fireworks are over?), I dumped my disease-free children at my parent’s and Chris swept me off to North Alabama.

For Recovery from Motherhood.

(It’s a real thing, y’all.)

140705c Weathington Point

We visited the above, Weathington Park, then continued to one of our favorite retreats, Gorham’s Bluff.

140705 A Gorham's Bluff Sunset

We ate, we rested, we read, we biked, we talked, and we got to sit on the edge of a ledge and see this.

140705b Beams over Gorham's Bluff

Happy Independence Indeed.

(p.s. I love my children.)

(p.p.s. But sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder.)

When Children Are Like Salt in a Wound.

Ali lost her fourth tooth in a month on Thursday night.

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Okay, “lost” doesn’t accurately portray the traitorous and forceful separation of tooth and child that had to take place.

Unlike the three previous teeth, this one wasn’t eager to turn loose, and I didn’t exactly achieve stellar parental ranking by a) insisting on removing it from her gums, and b) requiring two takes to actually get it out.

But it needed to be set free – it was DIS-GUSTING. Her gums around it had turned a deathly shade of purple, the tooth was being propelled from her being by an adult tooth underneath and therefore it was sticking half a tooth above the rest, and when she bent the tooth over, the cavernous, half-detached underside mooned whomever happened to be watching.

So I ripped it out of her mouth right before bed, and of course it had to be a bleeder.

(More like a spurter.)

Which did not help her lack of endearment toward me.

But she dried up, quickly scrawled a note to the tooth fairy, and went to bed.

As always, instead of doing the responsible thing, which would include finding the needed fundage and writing my response right after I put her to bed, I didn’t remember until 11:45pm.

I stumbled downstairs, hurriedly typed out a sad excuse for a note, and began looking for five dollars in cash. But keeping cash around is not exactly listed in the strengths column on my résumé.

I did not have a five, nor did I own five ones. I had a twenty, but I wasn’t feeling that guilty about my aforementioned medical-treatment-without-consent.

So I hitched up my conscience and I stole $5 out of Ali’s bank. In order to give it back to her as a farcical creature that she is surely going to be upset about when she finds out that it was all A Lie.

Tooth Fairy

And I kinda intended to pay her back? But also assumed I’d forget. After all, I’m not good with cash.

I went to bed and slept like a baby. Because bent morals and Mommy-Guilt are feelings I’m used to combatting by now.

The next morning, Ali walked into my bedroom brightly, holding the note and cash. She silently handed me the note to read, then tenderly placed the five dollar bill in my hand.

“Am I allowed to give you my five dollars from the Tooth Fairy?”

“That’s sweet, honey! But don’t you want to put it in your bank?”

“I have lots of money from the Tooth Fairy in my bank. And I know you haven’t felt good this week. So I’d really like for you to have it.”

Children are tiny, often toothless, superior moral creatures.

And I. Am hideous.

(But I did sneak that money back in her bank.)

(So we’re even.)

(Except that she’s a better human than me.)

The Slumber Games.

Guest post by Lindsey Murphy.

 Slumber Games

Two tributes: One adult male, one adult female.

Three rivals:

District 4: Male, four years old. Tactics include wetting the bed, loud footsteps, and the desire to play with other tributes at ungodly hours of the morning.

District 3: Female, three years old. Susceptible to bad dreams. Deep attachment to blanket. Thumb sucker (this is to your advantage for self-soothing, but against you in the event of a stuffy nose. Also, orthodontics will be a long term consequence.)

District 1: Female, one year old. Weapons of choice include six razor sharp teeth and pinching claws of death. Also equipped with howling shriek of doom. Uses dimples and adorableness to lure in her victims before attack.

Arena: 1200 square feet, one full bed, two twin beds, one crib.

Objective: Survival…or at least a minimal amount of sleep.

The games begin when the last light is off.

Time: 11:00pm

It’s go time. Roll over and turn out the light after falling asleep reading. As soon as you get comfortable, get ready for your first attack. Screaming three year old, middle bedroom. Nightmare. Run in before she wakes the baby in the room. Assure her that there are no bees (or bats) in her room. No, you will not read a story. No, she may not have a cookie. Counterattack with blanket and back-rubbing. Success. Tiptoe past the crib and climb back into bed. Roll over, get comfortable, and close your eyes.

12:30am: Four year old, running through the halls, needs to go potty. Kick male tribute and shove him out of bed. Warn him to avert his eyes downward lest he be blinded by the bathroom light. Whisper death threats to the four year old to keep him from waking his sisters in his proclamation of urination. Begrudgingly move back to your side of the bed when male tribute returns.

2:00: The scream of a Ring wraith pierces the night air (over the two sound machines, that is). Weaning baby, hungry and mad at her discovery that she’s in her crib, alone. Run. Snatch baby from crib and tiptoe back to full size bed. Rock screaming baby. Snuggle screaming baby. Pat the baby’s bottom. Whatever you do, do NOT nurse the screaming, weaning baby.

2:15: Nurse the weaning baby.

2:30-4:30: Undergo a series of co-sleeping attacks in various positions. (Her personal favorite is the “snow angels.”)

5:45: Four year old is up, demanding to watch TV. Engage immediately or he will recruit three year old for backup. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. The games are over once they join forces. Keep them isolated at all costs. Kick male tribute. Kick him again. Remind him that this is his male heir and pull out the “I’ve been nursing all night” card. Male tribute joins four year old in twin bed and fends off several jumping attacks and endless questions.

6:00: Sneak baby back into her crib

Enjoy 30 minutes of uninterrupted, touch-free sleep.

6:30 Three year old climbs into bed to snuggle. Baby wakes up. Male tribute plops the squiggling fury of teeth and claws into bed with you. Your defeat is imminent. Try to tame rivals with kisses and lullabies.

7:15 The games are over. Get up and face the day with as much kindness as you can muster. With minimal sleep and lots of coffee. And no naps.

May the odds be ever in your favor.