Wednesday, October 28, 2009

what's in you wednesday

"Carolyn! Elizabeth! Where are your shoes?!" I asked my daughters this past Sunday morning, as we (or rather *I*) rushed to get out of the house before the boys woke up.

"I dunno..." came the reply.

I frustratedly began looking under couches, beds and chairs for my children's shoes. Shoes that they had on the night before. Shoes that I asked them to put away before they went to bed. Shoes that are brand spanking SPANKING new.

Twenty minutes later, I found two right shoes.

As of this writing, both lefts are still missing in action.

So I had to dig up new shoes and load everyone in the car before swinging by my neighbor's house to pick her up. While Charlie and the boys stayed home, the five of us were planning to attend the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) 1/2 Ironman triathlon that was being held in La Jolla. We were going not only because I thought this would be a wonderful spectator event for our children to see, but also to support my neighbor's friend who was riding 56 miles on a tandem bicycle, with a 15-year old boy who is blind.


I've seen information on the CAF before. I know that it is a group that helps to encourage and support athletes who have physical disabilities. But what I didn't expect when I arrived at the race course, is that I would spend the next several hours in absolute awe.


I hear people all the time, who say they can't do things.

They can't do things because they've got a bad knee, back, shoulder ... thumb.

For any one who considers a physical impairment a good reason not to do something, take a look at the little boy on the right. His name is Cody. He's eight-years-old and a bilateral amputee. When we arrived on the race course, he was just crossing the finish line.


This is Cameron. He's also eight-years-old and a bilateral amputee. When we went for a walk on the slick sandstone rocks down by the water, he was running around on his prosthetic legs, after having completed his first race.


This is Rudy, a gold medalist in the Paralympics. He's also a bilateral amputee and an Ironman triathlete. If you're unfamiliar with the Ironman, it's a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride followed by a 26.2-mile run. Rudy's face was not only plastered all over the banners at this big event, last night I happened to notice that he was featured in this month's edition of Triathlete magazine.


So while I walked around this event on Sunday ... while I watched people with prosthetic legs run across the finish line, and swimmers without limbs - brave their way through the ocean waves - and blind people riding tandem on a bicycle ... tears flowed out of my eyes and down my cheeks. And not because I was feeling sad or sorry.


But because WOW. WOW. WOW.


Who EXACTLY is the challenged one?


Cameron's mom told me that she had met Cody's family after Cody had been on the Ellen Degeneres show (and Oprah and Dateline). And through Cody, Cameron became involved with the CAF. Once that happened, Cameron's whole outlook and demeanor has changed. He was outfitted with new prosthetic 'running legs' and almost instantly, gained so much more courage and self confidence. His mother credits his incredible transformation, to his involvement with sports and interfacing with people who have similar disabilities.

It wasn't very long ago, people who had physical disabilities would be severely limited in what they could do. But to see these people participate and inspire one another and excel ... and to see the superstar status that so many of them have achieved for their sports?

It's beyond awesome.


I took the girls up to the jump house and while they waited their turn, a little boy - who was also a bilateral amputee - had taken off his prosthetic legs and was scooting around on the ground, using his strong arms to lift and propel himself through the air.

My children were quite a bit scared. They didn't know what to think. His legs were over ... there ... and he is over ... here ... and he's moving around so fast and ... getting very close to them ... a little too close ... and ... MOMMY!!

Before they started screaming (too loudly) I pulled them in to a big hug and squatting down to their eye level, told them that people come in all shapes and sizes. They weren't entirely convinced, so I asked them, why is it that they have brown hair and William has blond hair? When they told me, "God made us that way!" I explained that God made these people different, too. And while it might seem unusual to us - it's just because it's new and the more we spend time with people who are different - the more we will see that we really aren't that much different at all.


So the girls made another new friend. And then another, and another and another as they stood waiting for their turn on the mechanical surfboard. While I was waiting for Elizabeth to get launched off, a 10-year old boy who had been standing, on one leg, directly behind us in line was called by his mother. She bolted up to us yelling, "Michael! Michael! We need to go! Your teammates are coming across the finish line and we need to get over there and cheer for them! Come on!"


Since he had been patiently waiting and was next up, it was obvious that Michael was pained at the thought of losing his place in line and at that very moment, was more interested in taking one last ride on the mechanical surfboard than seeing his friends cross the finish line. So he stalled for a moment, undoubtedly debating if it was worth asking his mother if he could go one more time.

"Come on!" she yelled over her shoulder as she turned to walk away. But then she stopped and turned back to look at her son with an expression of panic. "Michael," she asked. "Where's your leg? Oh my Lord. MICHAEL! Where's your LEG?!"

The boy didn't answer and instead, looked longingly at the mechanical surfboard. Grabbing at her son's arm she repeated, "Michael. Look at me. Look at me. WHERE IS YOUR LEG?"

Michael shrugged his shoulders and said, "I dunno. I took it off to play. I put it somewhere."

As the mother lifted her arms up in to the air for what looked like a request for prompt heavenly guidance, the people standing in line all began looking around for the young boy's prosthetic limb and a few actually mobilized, searching for this child's leg. After a few tense minutes, it was found resting against a nearby tree.

When the mother ran over to grab her son's leg, I said to my bug-eyed girls, "Just think, I was mad at you because you lost your shoes."


So what is your impairment to getting out and doing something active?

As for me, it would have to be the 12-hour work days I've been putting in for the past few weeks. But hopefully, I'll be able to get back in to a good exercise routine, soon. Not only do I have a 60-mile walk coming up in a few weeks, but two weeks after my walk, I registered to compete in the Muddy Buddy race, which will benefit the CAF.

I can't believe how much I have going on right now and I'm a little stunned to think that I'd sign up for another race in the midst of it all. I truly think I might have lost my mind somewhere.

Chances are, it's with my daughters two left shoes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

my baby is growing up

Free at last ...


Free at last ...


Thank God, Almighty!


I am free at last!


Notice the duct tape holding the frame of the crib together? We really get our use out of furniture around here. I had been hoping we'd be using this particular piece of furniture until Henry was three, but he's made it abundantly clear he's ready to move on.

Once he showed me his escape maneuver, I put him back in his crib. But when I went to check on the boys a short while later, I found that he had climbed out again - and was now tucked in to bed - and sleeping soundly with his big brother.


One day he was sleeping in his crib.

The next day he wasn't.

I've really got to stop blinking.

Monday, October 26, 2009

good people

I'm very lucky to have so many good people in my life.

There's my mom who has unwaveringly supported me, my entire life, and will drop anything at a moment's notice to fly out and be by my side if I need her. There are my in-laws who have made numerous trips to San Diego to visit with us. There are the random packages that we will receive from Amazon from Aunt Sue, filled with the most awesome children's books you could imagine. There are the packages filled with home baked goods and hand crafted toys made by Aunt Kathy. There are the boxes of dress up clothes that Kathleen is notorious for sending out.

There are my sisters Eileen and Janet who never forget our children's birthdays and send them the most adorable presents. There is my sister, Beth, who has provided approximately 95% of the toys that we have in this house. At least once every two months, we will receive a box packed to the TOP with trains, puzzles, books, Legos, and you name it. Beth once packaged up and shipped out to California - from Massachusetts - a Little Tikes kitchen because she thought our children would love it. Which they did.

Climbing 4062

But the amount of money that Beth has spent on shipping costs over the past five years, would probably cover the purchase price of a new Smart Car. My freshman year, she signed me up for the Pepperidge Farm dessert of the month club. In doing so, she became largely responsible for at least 12 of the 15 pounds I put on my first year in college.

Just yesterday, I received a year supply worth of pharmaceuticals from Beth. The pharmacy where Beth works (as a pharmacist) was clearing out inventory and had a huge sale on various over-the-counter medications. My sister picked up a wide assortment of things that she thought we could use, and shipped them out.


Her timing, as always, was impeccable since I had just completed a check of our First Aid cabinet and noticed that almost all of our medications had expired in July of 2009. What are the odds of that?


There are my numerous friends who call, send e-mails and just drop by to check in. There are my fellow triplet moms - Jessica, Debbie and Jeanmarie, who I meet with at least once a month for play dates and companionship. There is my next door neighbor Karen, who is the best next door neighbor anyone could ever ask for. Although our paths rarely cross these days, she once spent an entire night with me at the emergency room with three vomiting toddlers.

There are my neighbors Jenny and Cindy who will invite me to their homes once a month to knit. There's Dawn who motivates me to grow stronger both physically and spiritually. There's my friend Lorie who got me kicked out of a Calculus class in college, but is and undoubtedly always will be, one of my closest allies. (We never did receive Shayna's birthday invitation. But I still don't think we can make it.)

There are my coworkers. There's Felicia who has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I've ever met. There's my boss, Dave. There's Lee and Nick and Marla and Jennifer and Emily and Roxanna and Denise and Maureen - many of whom live on the opposite side of the country, but all of whom were so generous in supporting my walk (and marathon).

There's our lab coordinator, Bob, who carved time out of his busy schedule last week to participate at our meeting in Santa Barbara. Not just because he wanted to come out from Texas and spend some time in California with our team, but because he obviously knew that Charlie and I would need him to help peddle our six seater Surrey up and down the boardwalk.


And Bob, who was sitting in the back talking on his cell phone to his broker, didn't even get the slightest bit irate when Charlie and I both jumped out of the driver seats to grab a bottle of water the children dropped - and in doing so - caused the surrey to veer down a slight embankment and in to a cactus. In reality, that small scale crash was probably less painful than the year Bob came to visit and we took him on the first camping trip he'd been on in over 30 years and had him sleeping in our itty bitty backpacking tent. He's a trooper.


There are my hilariously funny first cousins. Candy and Lisa and Regina and insert the names of at least 50 others, here. There is my cousin, Margaret, who I consider to be my fifth sister and one of my dearest friends. She is capable of putting me in a fit of hysterical laughter like very few people and is one of the only people I've stayed up all night, talking with. Did I ever share the memory of Margaret jumping off a ski lift, while wearing skis, when it was 15 feet in the air? She landed face first in a snow bank and created a two-foot-deep snow angel. (True story.)

She stood up, unscathed, laughing so hard she could hardly breathe. At the time, she was a beginner and she was supposed to get off the chairlift at the intermediate run, but she didn't know how. So, she opted instead to JUMP off the chairlift before it got to the advanced run at the top. Because surely that's a safer bet than ... you know ... asking to ride the chairlift back to the bottom?

Yesterday, I received a package from Margaret. In addition to an extremely generous donation for the Breast Cancer walk, she mailed out several books for our kids. And a whole lot of hugs and kisses for me. She's a keeper.


And then.

There's my cousin Anne Marie.

Not only is she the daughter of my beautiful Godmother, Aunt Carolyn - she is a professional hair stylist. And she is a professional baker. An unbelievably gifted baker. As you take a look at her blog, just know that I lack those talent genes, completely. (Although I did recently cut the children's hair again and if I don't say so myself, I think I'm IMPROVING.)

Three weeks ago, I saw Anne Marie for the first time in years, while I was in South Carolina. Since I had really come unglued at Uncle Bill's wake on Friday night, I wasn't feeling very optimistic that I'd be able to hold it all together during his funeral mass. Anne Marie sat next to me in the church and while I was preparing myself, emotionally, to get up and read my eulogy in front of Aunt Grace and the congregation, she leaned over and kindly asked if I was alright. When it took me a moment to answer, she whispered that if I could make it through my reading, she would make me a BIG box of chocolate fudge.

"Really?" I asked. "You'll make me chocolate fudge?"

Suddenly, my mind was distracted and I didn't feel the overwhelming urge to sob.

"With nuts?"

"You bet. I'll make you anything you want if you can get through the eulogy."

So I did. And she did.

The BIG box of chocolate fudge arrived yesterday.


And this is all that remains today.


Between Anne Marie and Margaret, I think they are largely responsible for 8 of the 10 pounds I've put on this week. Thankfully, both of them have committed to doing the 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk with me, next year in Washington, DC.

OK. So only Margaret has committed.

But I'm working on Anne.

yowzer, is there a dermatologist in the house?

The world is big, but the web makes it small.

Not long ago, I crossed paths with a woman named Maija who lives in Alaska, just north of the Arctic Circle. If not for the internet, I would never know of this woman, nor she of I. Maija's existence up there in the great white north is so different than my own, that I love to read her blog and get a glimpse in to the rugged life that she lives.

Yesterday, Maija posted about a serious health condition that she is facing. I could stay up all night Googling "blisters, oozing, painful skin rash" and come up with several diagnoses that would probably all be incorrect. Or, I could just link to her blog with the plea that if anyone who has any medical training (or has experienced something similar themself) has the slightest idea of what might be ailing this woman - and what she can do to get some relief - that they please step forward and lend their advice.

Bonus points if you live close enough that you can drop in and bring her dinner.

Here's a link to her most recent blog entry. Brace yourself.

A huge amount of thanks in advance for any advice offered.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

the henster meister

For a long time now, I've been wanting to write about Henry - his sleep habits, what's happening with weaning and how the little guy is adjusting to life here at the homestead.

Seeing as Henry is wide awake at this late hour and I don't want to clean up from the day and cause a ruckus (that's as good of an excuse as any why to skip scrubbing toilets), I figure now is a good time to jot down some thoughts on our little firecracker.

Since I've been traveling so much over the past sixteen weeks and Henry has not been with me for a large portion of that time - and I'm extremely unwilling to haul along and use a pump - my supply is just about gone. One might think that means weaning is complete, but that's not quite the case.

Gravity is a cruel thing. Especially after birthing four babies and nursing all of them, including one of them until he is 27 months old. So sorry in advance for the TMI, but my chest looks like two sadly deflated balloons. But that does not stop Henry, in the least, from thinking that my chest region is the most glorious thing ever. "Nurse, Mama? NURSE?" he'll ask me at random times throughout the day. Whenever I scoop him up and hold him in the crook of my arm, he'll gently put his hands on my face and ask again, "Nurse?"

If I oblige him, or if he happens to spot me climbing out of the shower, he'll throw his arms over his head and with a huge smile yell, "YAY HENRY!!" But if I deny him, he'll bury his head and sob. With big, rolling tears.

Sadly for my son, more and more he's been hearing the words, "Sorry little guy." I'm not telling him this because my supply is all but gone and he is 27-months old (!!), but rather because he needs to eat and sleep and I can see a direct trend between how well he eats and sleeps and how frequently he nurses. And when I'm around? There's nothing more he'd rather do.

Whenever I'm out of town, I get a daily report from Charlie. He'll tell me things like, "Henry ate a 12-inch pizza for dinner and then promptly fell asleep for the next 14 hours."

So weaning is definitely underway. Most days I'll nurse once. But no more than twice. And sometimes, not at all. I could probably stop altogether, and some would probably suggest that I do stop altogether, but quite honestly, there are times when I love being able to scoop him up and pacify him for a while. I fully realize that there is nothing nutritive about this process. But since I'm not ready to be done yet - we're not.

Henry does still have a pacifier, which I've intentionally lost on more than one occasion, and then promptly found again - because the importance of peace and quiet can not be overstated. Henry has dubbed his pacifier "Bucky" which he'll ask for by name. Charlie, in turn, has dubbed me, "Mommy Bucky" because up until recently, it appeared that I was evolving in to a living pacifier.

Every night, he's been going to sleep between 7 and 8 and since I've stopped nursing him first thing in the morning, he is now sleeping until 6:30 or 7 AM. He had been waking up between 5 and 5:30 and I would nurse him in our bed. But some mornings he'd wake up earlier. And gosh, you know, after several months of this, I was ready to SNAP. So I cut out that early morning session - he screamed for a few days, I contemplated locking him in the garage - and now, he sleeps for around 11-12 hours at night like a champ. (Except tonight.)

Another advantage of cutting back on the nursing is that he naps better, too.

What had been a 45-minute catnap during the mid-day is now at least a 2-hour nap in the afternoon. The key is getting him to nap around 1:00 PM, so that he is awake by 3:00 PM. Today, we didn't get him down until almost 2:30 and we should have woken him up by no later than 4:00. But I got distracted coloring with the kids and making spaghetti sauce for dinner and only realized that Henry was still asleep when we were loading up to go to church at 5:45 PM.

Hence the reason he is still awake at 11:00 PM.


Of course I could probably get him right to sleep if I just brought him out and nursed him now, which I just may do because I can already see tomorrow is shaping up to be a rough day. But instead, I'm sipping my wine - updating my blog - and hoping that he'll doze off soon.

Is it terribly cruel that I'm only nursing when it is convenient for me?

(Probably so. Don't answer that.)

Worthy to note is that our five-year-olds are fully aware of the nursing ritual. Carolyn for the most part, has an endless supply of patience with her little brother, and has sweetly told me that when she grows up, she will have milk in her chest so that they can nurse Henry for me. While I really do appreciate her gesture, I'm optimistic he'll be fully weaned by then and I doubt my daughter will feel the same willingness to help in 25 years.

William on the other hand, tends to get quite annoyed with our youngest. Especially when Henry ambushes his toy and clothing supply that he has segregated in various boxes in his closet. Sometimes, I'll hear William's frustrated voice telling his little brother to STOP TOUCHING HIS STUFF! When Henry does not immediately cooperate, William will ask, "Hey Henry? You wanna nurse?" because he knows that there is no faster way to dispose of his little brother than to pass him off on me and my deflated balloons.

Inevitably, whenever William makes this suggestion, Henry will cheer, "YAY HENRY!" and come running - which effectively, leaves William alone. And while I'd like to get upset that my son is offering up something he has no right to offer up, I'm actually very impressed (and extremely appreciative) that he doesn't resort to physical violence.

Unlike his sister, Elizabeth, who when Henry got in to her princess dolls last week, tried stuffing him in to a box for the poor children (aka: Salvation Army).

On the upside, she did throw his Bucky in with him...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

big questions all around

We had a wonderful time this past week in Santa Barbara.

Or rather, Charlie had a wonderful time in Santa Barbara while I was in business meetings.

Since my husband grew up in this beautiful coastal town, nestled between the Santa Ynez mountains and Pacific Ocean, while I worked, he spent time at his old stomping grounds and visiting with high school friends.

One afternoon, he took the children by the house where he grew up.

Slowly driving by, he pointed out to the kids that this is where he lived when he was a little boy. Then, he drove by the cemetery where his mother was buried 17 years ago. Climbing out of the car, he told the children that they need to be very respectful in a cemetery. He took the children to his mom's grave and had everyone stand around in a small circle, holding hands. My husband told the kids that they were going to be quiet for just a moment and say a little prayer.

As they stood holding hands in a circle, with their heads nodded, the children were whispering, "Dad. Dad. Dad! DAD!" When he finally looked up, the kids, not surprisingly asked, "Where's your mom?"

My husband tried to explain that when she died her spirit went to heaven and her body was placed in the ground. Then he pointed to her headstone and said, "She is right there." The kids looked at him incredulously and asked, "She's in there?"

When Charlie nodded yes, William tried to lift the headstone up with his hands. Once he determined that he couldn't, he made up a game of jumping from one to the next, across the cemetery. While their brother was distracted with something new, the girls stood and cried because they really wanted to see their grandmother and show her their new outfits.

My husband told our daughters that although they might not be able to see her, she can always see them. As Charlie was relaying this story to me, it just further confirmed what we've been feeling for a long time.

Life is short.

Family is important.

Follow your heart.

Everything will work out.

And that is why, change for us is coming soon.

We've been faced with some very big questions over the past few weeks.

What do we want to do?

Where do we want to live?

When will all of this happen?

How will all of this happen?

We think we have it figured out. But details won't emerge until they are confirmed. Until then, we're trying our best to answer the questions are children are posing. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why are clouds white? Why can't boys have babies? Why can't girls have peanuts and go potty standing up?

Then there was the question Carolyn asked the other day as we were sitting in the Santa Barbara restaurant where Charlie worked as a teenager. As she was nibbling on a burger she asked, "Mom, Dad? Where do cheeseburgers come from?"

I said, "A store" Charlie said, "A cow" and William shook his head and said, "A cheeseburger tree. Of course!"

Friday, October 23, 2009

news on the street

So, regarding my post on Wednesday?

That was some outstanding feedback!!

First there was my cousin Margaret who said she wanted to do the 3-Day walk in Hawaii. (Maggie, this wasn't even an option. Did you look at the list of cities?!)

Then there was Jen who said she wants to do the 3-Day walk in Washington, DC. (Jen, this is an option. Well done, I'd love to walk with you in the Nation's Capital!!)

Then there was my mother who said she'd like to do a walk, but sixty miles is way too far, and why don't we do the one-mile lung cancer walk in South Carolina?

Thanks Mom. I love how you always give me an out.

As of now, it's looking like the 3-Day Breast Cancer walk in Nation's Capital October 8-10, 2010 with the Caine Halter Lung Cancer 1-mile walk in Greenville, South Carolina sometime in November 2010. Both of those events should be easy to attend since all sources indicate we will be living somewhere in that area within the next 12 months.

(Oh yes. I did just kind of sorta not really make an announcement.)

Meanwhile, the children have reached the narking stage. They are tattling on each other - and Charlie and I - constantly.

For instance, this morning, William told me that yesterday daddy took him to the beach and forgot to put his hat on and he got a terrible, terrible sunburn. When I looked at his face I told him that it didn't look like he was burned at all. He gave me a frown and said, "Yeah. But I could HAVE."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

what's in you wednesday

This past weekend, we had our fourth Pink Lemonade Project stand in the beautiful La Jolla Cove. The day was truly, truly gorgeous. Even though there was a slight marine layer that was hovering over the water - and a fog bank rolled in just after noon, the day was spectacular.

(Unfortunately, I lack the ability to post pictures, so those will have to wait until I return home from my business trip, this weekend.)

For those adults that manned the lemonade stand, we spent much of the day alternating between chasing after children and collecting donations for our 3-Day Breast Cancer walk. At one point, a man in his 50's walked up to our table and once he heard our spiel about five mothers of triplets walking sixty miles in three days for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, in a voice not much more than a whisper he said, "I lost my wife five months ago."

My friends Jessica and Debbie were standing next to me at the table and all of us gasped our condolences when he shared this information. We heaped upon him handfuls of chocolate chip cookies, silicone bracelets and lemonade. And then we fell in to a respectful if not awkward silence, while he pointed to two men who were with him and added, "These are my two brothers. We live in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania but we are visiting San Diego because my wife always wanted to come here." Then he said with a sad smile, "I'm finishing up her bucket list."

We collected his generous donation and he walked away. But after standing near the sea wall for a few minutes, he came back and said, "She was diagnosed four years ago. It went away for a while, but then it came back last year. It hit her so hard. There was nothing any one could do. But she never gave up trying."

His wife's name is Lorraine. She was 53-years old when she died this past May from complications resulting from breast cancer. I told him that I would remember Lorraine during my walk. And I will. Just like I will keep doing something, anything, until we can find a cure.

Oh, that is such a lofty goal and I feel like such a head-in-the-clouds idiot for typing that out.

But I'll tell you - it really feels better doing something than nothing. And it feels pretty awesome that in less than two months, our walking team has raised over $11,000.00 for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.

During my recent trip back to South Carolina, I talked with my cousins late in to the night, about getting the whole family together for a reunion. We discussed where and when the reunion would be, and the possibility of completing a 3-Day walk (or something similar) as a precursor. Whether or not something like this will happen, remains to be seen, but it is definitely on the drawing board.

But this got me thinking. Why don't we organize an event like that?

I get so many e-mails from people who tell me that they wish they lived closer so that they could join me or participate in an event. And well, why the heck not? There are races and walks all over the country. And seeing as I love to travel, I'd be willing to go just about anywhere.

So where would you go - and what would you do?

Could you walk 60 miles in 3 days?

Monday, October 19, 2009

where dreams come true and people go bankrupt

Our trip to Disneyland was really fun.

But we are now totally broke and will be living off of rice for the rest of the year.

When we began to plan this trip last week, we had originally intended to stay at the Disneyland Resort. But when Charlie called up and found out that a two night stay at the resort and one day passes to Disneyland would be a whopping $1,567.00 (ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SEVEN DOLLARS), we laughed and laughed. Because surely they were kidding. Who charges seven hundred dollars a night for a standard hotel room during a recession?

I'll tell you who: Walt Disney and his little partner, Mickey.

They weren't kidding. They really do charge $700.00 for a standard hotel room at the Resort.

On a weeknight.

In the Fall.

So we made alternative arrangements.

But even with our savvy planning, two nights and one day visit at the Most Magical Place on earth was shockingly expensive. Let's look at some numbers.

Charlie and I had to pay to get in. That was $72.00 each, or $144.00. Henry is under the age of three, so he was free. Since we went on the triplets birthday, they were also free. The 21 buttons that they gave to us were free. (What the heck is up with all the buttons?! Can I smelt them down and make coins??)

Six classic Mickey Mouse ear hats with embroidery, $97.28. While I was forking over five twenties, I tried not to ponder that the material used to create these hats couldn't have cost more than four dollars.

Instead, I tried to fill my mind with how awesome it was that these hats will last a lifetime. Or at least until the children outgrow the youth sizes that I purchased within the next six months. Gah. I should have bought the adult sizes and lined them with cotton balls.

Breakfast at The Inn with Minnie and Friends was $125.00. The chintzy birthday cakes that came in even chintzier plastic treasure chests (two princess and one pirate themed) were $15.00 each, for a total of $45.00. Not including tax.

This "HEY EVERYBODY WE'RE AT DISNEY IN 2009!" family photo was $35.00.

Two salted pretzels and two boxes of popcorn were $18.00.

One Buzz Lightyear toy. One Buzz Lightyear Laser. One box of Monster Inc. figurines. One turtle dude from Finding Nemo. Just a few small miscellaneous toys that we picked up at the Disney Store because it was their birthday (and how could Henry not get something when his siblings did?) $84.00.

Then there were the shuttle passes from the hotel to the park. That only cost $12.00.

One breakfast. One lunch. And two dinners at the hotel. $325.00.

Room service for six hot fudge sundaes with candles. $21.52.

Lodging. $378.00. That included parking.

My calculator is missing or I'd give you a grand total.

It could have been worse. If we had to pay for the kids, that would have added $248.00 to our tab. And, I actually refused the children's requests to buy balloons. They each wanted a Mickey Mouse balloon, but when I found out that helium latex balloons were SEVEN DOLLARS EACH, I had to put my foot down. Like I'm going to pay TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS for four balloons that will either be let go of, or popped, or drive me clinically insane within seconds. I also steered William away from the foam sword and shield, which saved another $20.00.

And when a woman dressed up as a Fairy Godmother walked up to my children, holding a basket of brightly wrapped papers tied with bows, and offered one to each of my children and in a singsong voice told us that this was a solicitation for the Bippidi Boppity Boutique, where the kids could go in and have their faces painted and hair styled - I considered possibly saying yes, until I caught a glimpse of how much these "makeovers" would cost and then, while my children begged, "Please Mommy, PLEASE!" I once again, said NO.

I'm sure my children would love to have makeup applied and their hair highlighted and spiked, but I'm not paying $75.00 for my five-year-olds to look like they are 20, until they take a bubble bath in a few short hours and all the makeup and glitter goes down the drain.

Other thoughts...

We were there on a Wednesday, middle of the week, school is in session and it was RAINING.

Still, there were lines everywhere. When you consider Disney has a global draw, it should probably have come as no surprise that there was a 45 minute wait for Space Mountain and 70 minute wait for The Matterhorn. But I was surprised.

A bit agitated, even.

Absolutely no one was in a hurry. Everyone went painfully slow. It's almost as if they are doing it intentionally to limit the number of rides that you can fit in on any given day so that you need to come back again. And spend more money. And then, even more money because you'll need to visit the adjacent Park, which requires an entirely separate ticket to enter.

Does it sound like I'm being cheap?

With age, it seems to be getting worse. I've already started scowling at my kids every time we go shopping and whisper through clenched teeth, "You need to get a JOB!" the same way my mother did to me.

How old do you need to be to have a paper route? Six?

While I appreciate that Disney is a business, I don't appreciate feeling like I've been robbed. And it's not just at the Park. Walking through Target yesterday afternoon, my children spotted the new Disney's Snow White movie that has recently been released on DVD. It was $19.99. For a little piece of plastic, $20.00? Oh yes - I know that there are artists and technology and packaging and yadayadayada ... but man, I am in the wrong line of work.

I should be in PLASTICS.

Then there were two separate Disney Princess dress-up doll sets that the girls told me that they REALLY wanted. At $35.00 a piece, that's another $70.00. I didn't buy them, because I just know that within a day of those items being in our house, they would be lost or broken or the itty bitty tiny shoes would be sucked up in to my unforgiving vacuum. But how much do these things really cost to make? I'm guessing no more than pennies.

Even though I don't buy these items myself, Disney is everywhere. It's on toothbrushes, pajamas, cups, plates, cups and underwear. There's no escaping it and kids have gotta have it, like a druggie's gotta gotta gotta have crack.

I'm trying not to dwell on the expense, because we really had a wonderful time. Charlie and I spent a lot of much-needed time talking while we waited in line and since it took us over two hours to meet the Princesses, we got the rest of our lives completely sorted out.

But I think that for anyone who might be planning a trip to the Magic Kingdom, my suggestion is to fill your wallet up to the brink with money, and then just PRACTICE opening it and SHAKING EVERY LAST DIME OUT. And then stand around waiting for the money to reappear. Chances are by the time you're ready to give up, it will finally be your turn.

And almost instantly, you'll forget the misery of it all and just bask in the wonder on your children's faces.

Because it's ALL worth it.

It really, really is.

Now just keep cheerfully repeating that to yourself as you review your bank account statement. Soon enough, you will not only believe it - you'll be ready to plan your next trip.