Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Belyoak Mobile

Mr. Charming and I are now the proud owners of a 1991 two-tone blue Dodge, 12-passenger van.  The red vintage interior covers three bench seats and a console that rivals The Starship Enterprise.  The stellar sound system includes FM radio and a cassette deck, and there’s at least three feet of luggage space in the back.

I know.  You so wish you were us right now.

About three weeks ago we decided it was time for us to find a family-friendly vehicle that could fit our nine-member brood.  Until this moment in time we had been caravanning in two vehicles whenever we all wanted to go somewhere like the library, the park or church.
We found this beauty on Craigslist.  

Maybe the reason I love it so much is because it’s reminiscent of the vehicle from my own childhood: a 1974 powder-blue Ford van.

I’m the oldest of six children, and when there were about four of us my parents decided that instead of strapping kids into the back of our 1970 Plymouth Duster, they would secure a heartier vehicle fit for errands and road trips. 

Upon purchasing the van, my dad pimped that ride, 1970-style.  He took out the bench seat in the back and replaced it with a “bed” which was basically a wooden platform covered in blue shag carpet.  As the oldest, I frequently rode on the bed, listening to cassette tapes my mother created in attempts to keep us entertained.

In fact, thirty years later I was watching Pete’s Dragon with my children when I inexplicably began speaking every line of dialogue with the characters.  For a minute, I thought I had become psychic.  Then I realized that Pete’s Dragon, along with Benji and The Apple Dumpling Gang, was one of many movies my mother recorded onto those cassette tapes that played for hours and hours while we traveled.  

To make road trips even easier, my father would bungee a mini porta-potty to the back of the passenger seat.  So when nature called we either did one of two things: 1. exercised tremendous bladder control or 2. balanced precariously and half naked, sans seat beat, over the sloshing blue water of our traveling toilet.  Being six years older than the next child, I went with option one, thank you very much. 

Year later I drove that same van, carrying a slew of teenagers, to a dance in another county.  My younger brother ended up changing the flat we got on the way back.  After I went away to college, another brother ran it up against a guardrail trying to maneuver the oversized van to a secluded parking lot by the river (after curfew, I might add).  And a few years before the van was finally put down, the neighbor boy pelted the side of it with a bb gun, in what my mother still alleges to be part of an ongoing feud over the hedges lining our property. 

Now we have our very own blue beast parked on the curb in front of our house. We’ll only drive it when all our kids are home, and we hope that years from now they’ll have fond memories of the vehicle that carted our blended family around (without the traveling toilet, of course).  

So honk three times when you see the Belyoak Mobile.  Because I’m certain that the last thing our children will ever be when riding in this vehicle is embarrassed. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Because everyone loves a chore chart...

Back in the day, I was overwhelmed at the prospect of successfully raising three healthy, responsible, and kind children.  Then I got remarried and became catatonic at the prospect of helping raise seven.  There’s nothing more daunting than eventually releasing enough citizens into the world to sway election results or make a lacrosse team.

So I did what any other mother does to reduce her parenting stress: I got crafty.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I feel much better about myself as a mother when I can glue gun, toll paint or macramé something for my family.  That or fill a board on Pinterest with items I can glue gun, toll paint or macramé for my family.  

In this case, I decided a cute chore chart (made with red spray-painted cookie sheets, of course) would solve all my parenting woes.

The Belknap children have been through roughly 6.5 versions of The Chore Chart, utilizing an assortment of the following: mason jars, industrial-sized rolls of paper, dry erase markers, magnets, marbles, packing foam and my own patented task distribution method called Extreme Chore Lottery.   Each of these versions was functional, enabling my children to know which chores they could complain about doing on any given day.

And that’s the funny thing about getting crafty.  Much like bedazzling a diet journal doesn’t make me lose weight any faster, making a new chore chart doesn’t make our children complete those chores without first whining about them (unless, of course, the chart is macraméd to a cattle prod).

The chart enjoyed its official unveiling last night when Mr. Charming’s children came over.  First let me explain that the chart includes all our children’s names, checkmarks and a variety of magnetic chore icons.  The magnets represent a child’s assigned chores which they move under the checkmark once they’ve been completed.  Genius, right?

Only the girls hung around to admire the chart’s sparkly blue lettering and glass-tipped magnets.  “Oh,” said the youngest.  “This one’s my favorite.”  She placed the “clean room” chore icon under her name.  “Now I have to sleep.”

“Uhm,” I said.  “That one actually means you have to clean your room.”

“No,” she said.  “It’s a bed.  It means I have to sleep.”

“When you clean your room, you make your bed, so that’s why there’s a bed on the magnet.”

“Ohhhhhhhh,” she said.  And she promptly removed the magnet from beneath her name.  “I don’t like that chore.”

So far version 1.0 of the Belyoak Chore Chart is working swimmingly.  Version 2.0 may include revised expectations and a new batch of magnets including “graduate from high school” and “stay out of jail.”  (I’ll be posting templates to Pinterest, if you care to follow me.)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Law of Attraction and Tampon Dispsensers

Note: the following post is intended for an all female audience. Any man who reads this post is cautioned to do so at his own risk. ‘Nuf said.

I don’t mean to make a public announcement or anything, but it’s that time of month. And I did the last thing any woman should ever do within the first couple days of her period. I went shopping. And unlike other, more prepared women, I wasn't carrying a spare in my purse, if you know what I mean. My new BFF, who no longer has a uterus, informed me that even she carries a tampon in her purse. In retrospect I’m realizing I should have gone shopping with her.

So I was at Sam’s Club with Leah and Zack, checking out the summer workbooks for kids, when I realized a change of guard was in order. But, I thought, this is America. What retail chain wouldn’t take advantage of a woman’s misfortune and sell a tampon or two in their restrooms? No problem, right?

The ladies room was being serviced. The janitor heard my moan of frustration and called out, “You can use the family restroom.” Women who use the family restrooms need tampons too, right? So I ushered my children in to discover that the only thing being dispensed in the family restroom was diaper packs and scented changing pads.

So leaving the door to the family restroom open while my children romped and played, I wedged myself between the wall and the janitor's cart to check the walls of the women’s restroom.

“Can I help you?” the janitor asked, stepping directly into my comfort zone.

“Are there any, uhm, machines, in there?” I asked.

Machines?” he asked, and I could tell he was trying to figure out what new technology he was missing out on.

I racked my brain. Was there a nice euphemism for tampon dispenser? Besides girlie cigar and lady lolli I couldn’t think of one proper synonym for tampon, period. Pun intended.

“I need a tampon. Is there a tampon dispenser in there?”

I realized there are many things you can say to shut a man up, but that phrase, uttered to a complete stranger, is by far the most effective. He didn’t say a thing. In fact, he physically resisted the reflex to look at my crotch and see just how dire my lady dilemma was.Not that dire, buddy.

I returned to the family restroom and soon realized that my situation hadn’t been dire at all. All that fuss for nothing.

My friend insists that I “attract” these situations so I have something to write about.

Speak up, ladies. Please tell me there are others who experience menstrual emergencies while out and about. That I’m not that only female on the planet who exposes her eczema to single pediatricians, locks herself outside the house in the dead of winter (after midnight),and is accosted by Mary Kay consultants while standing in the neuter line.

Never mind. Don't answer that. I don’t want to know…