Thursday, August 14, 2014

Well. That's a Problem.

From The Miami News-Record, July 6, 2014

Growing up we lived in a house in the country with rural water, so when the electricity went out and all our neighbors on wells were without water we were still drinkin’ water and flushin’ toilets with wild abandon.  Paul and I lived in town for 5 years on city water then moved to our Hudson Creek house which was again on rural water. There was only a short 10 month period as newlyweds that we had a well. It took a section of pipe with a hole in it to throw us into a waterless two day span marking what this spoiled girl thought was the seventh level of Hell. Fast forward to one day last week at our Wyandotte house when the kids and I were happily washing dinner dishes and the water just kind of fizzled out then …. stopped. I turned the water off and turned it back on, as if that magical routine would fix the problem. It didn’t. So then I did what I always do when something goes wrong: hollered for my husband.

He called the brother that lives closest. They both crawled under the house, scratched their heads a few times, then they called the other brother. Then they called a neighbor. Well, called the neighbor after Paul came in and asked if we had any money. I said we did, but not to get all high-falootin’ with that notion. He nodded and rushed back outside. Not long after that it was declared that some wires or something or ‘nother was shorted or burned or cut or possibly sabotaged by garden gnomes, heck I don’t know. Regardless of the actual problem, there was a bigger problem: by this point, all of us girls had to pee. The boys take advantage of Nature’s Toilet quite frequently out here, but we girls are a bit more delicate. Actually, I used to be quite adept at the ol’ pop-a-squat, but age and short chubby legs make it a bit more challenging these days. I mean, if I want to do yoga, I’ll ju—oh, who am I kidding, I’m never going to want to do yoga. Anyway, my girls just screeched at the thought of going outside even though their daddy told them to just get over it and go. I was going to, until I got out there, got myself all limbered up and then the coyotes that I’m pretty sure were attracted to the whites of my thighs started in with the howling and I vapor locked.

It is in times like these that I am glad I am a worrier with doomsday prepper tendencies because, see, I’ve been hoarding water in jugs since we moved out here. We moved in the middle of the winter to the top of a hill where the power lines run through the jungles of Wyandotte. The threat of ice storms periodically through the winter had me planning ahead for power outages. I’d nearly tackle a family member heading for the trash with a milk jug or juice bottle. Those were the precious receptacles of flush-water, I told them. They scoffed. I stood firm in my hoarding. When no ice storms came, I told them to just wait until the spring storm season. And even that has been mild. So turns out, I was just preparing for a shorted something or ‘nother in our well pump.

Because the well guy obviously had a life outside of coming to fix our well at 9pm, we were left with no choice but to employ the motto “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” further into the next day than any of us wanted. To be honest, you just don’t realize how pampered you really are until you are forced to piggy back your – ahem –efforts with family members and flush your toilet with hoarded water. We are definitely spoiled and incredibly fortunate, but more than anything, glad that’s over. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of Sister and Sprouts

From The Miami News-Record, July 13, 2014

My sister, Heather, is three and a half years younger than I am. We didn’t get along very well when we were kids and to this day, Mom still tells teary tales of lying in bed at night, crying, wondering what she did wrong to make us hate each other so much. The thing is, we didn’t hate each other, we were just….annoyed and annoying. I being the annoyED one, Sis being the annoyING one. It’s an ages-old tale, the one of siblings and the eternal cycle of bickering, pestering, fussing, and downright fisticuffs on occasion. My own kids do it. Sometimes it’s nearly enough to drive me to drink. However, I can’t think of bickering siblings without remembering the first time Sis and I had a “sister moment”, an unspoken reconciliation of sorts. We were probably 14 and 17 and it was the first time we realized we were on the same team. Of course, we still fussed from time to time after that, but it was just … different from that moment on.
We were sitting at the bar in our kitchen in the usual configuration and scenario: Dad at the end, Mom on the short side, Sis and I across from her on the long side. As usual, elbows were jabbed at each other, Sis thumped her feet against the cabinet, I exasperatingly squealed my disgust, insults were slung under our breaths, various other antics were displayed. Mom had made brussel sprouts for dinner and I DID NOT (still don’t) like brussel sprouts. The rule was we had to try new food once and if we didn’t like it, we were cleared from having to eat it when it was served. But every few years or so, we would have to re-try the foods to see if our “taste buds had changed”, as Mom put it. I always thought that to be a load of bull, but it was the rule. For some reason, that day Mom decided I needed to re-try the sprouts and put one on my plate. I whined. She added another. Before I got wise and shut up, I ended up with three of the nasty things on my plate. I ate everything but those tiny orbs of revulsion and Mom said I should get busy. I sat. Humor was a big thing in our house, so I tried that, making jokes about being allergic and did she want the possibility of my death hanging over her head for the rest of her days, but she didn’t buy into my cuteness. You would think that at 17 I’d have just eaten one and been done, but no, my mouth got me stuck with three and there seemed to be no way of getting around it.
Mom got up to refill her tea, her back to the bar, and quick as a flash, two sprouts disappeared from my plate and were in my sister’s mouth. She gave me a look and through a mouthful of green mumbled, “Chew!” When Mom turned back around, she saw her darling oldest child chewing away and her youngest intent on her own plate, shaking. Dad just stared. Mom asked, “Are they good? Do you like them?” Still “chewing”, I just nodded and made some noises I hoped would convince her that I was chowing down. I don’t know if it was my cartoonish “swallow” or the fact that Sis was about to have an aneurism from holding back her laughter, but I was found out. Then Mom did what any good mother would do: she force fed me the remaining sprout on my plate. All of us girls were laughing hysterically and before it was said and done, I had brussel sprout in my eyebrows and ears, green vegetable was slung all willy nilly and Dad just sat shaking his head.
But suddenly, annoyED and annoyING became friends. And we still are today.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Got the Point

From The Miami News-Record, Sunday, August 10, 2014

In 1983 I was in fourth grade, smack in the middle of my awkward stage. I had a Little Orphan Annie perm (not as cute on me), was chunky, and none of my shirts ever fit quite right. I quickly learned to deal with awkwardness by using humor – I loved to make people laugh. I still do.

For PE we would trek to the old gym (that still smells like wet wood and pre-pubescent angst) to play kickball, dodgeball, jumprope, or tag. On really good days we got to play with the scooters. On really bad days we had to climb the rope. On this particular day, Kristy Fink was sitting on the bleachers alone. She looked glum. I decided to cheer her up. I trotted toward her and when I got close, lowered my backside to the bleachers and slid, my intention being to slide into her and make her laugh. Instead of making her laugh, though, I instead felt this intense pain in the back of my leg, just under my ….cheek. I immediately jumped up, holding my bum, jumping around and screaming, “I have a splinter in my leg!” I think people thought I was again using humor, what with all my dancing and butt-holding, but I was seriously hurting. Coach Phillips looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Bass, calm down. Splinters aren’t that bad.” I assured him it was indeed bad. Not knowing what else to do, he instructed “Fink” to escort me to the office.

At the office, Mrs. Gatewood, the secretary, had me lower my britches and show her the splinter in question. My escort, Kristy, was very dark-skinned and upon seeing the splinter, blanched as white as the white girl showing her bum in the school office. Mrs. Gatewood gasped. The “splinter” was as big around as a toothpick and twice as long. It had gone in right under the skin and was sticking out about a half inch. It. Was. Horrible.

Because my mom cleaned houses during the day and cell phones hadn’t been invented, I was stuck in the office until she got home. Because the wooden skewer lodged in me was perilously close to my bum, there was no way I could sit. All they knew to do was put me face down on the faux leather sofa right in front of the principal’s desk with my pants around my ankles, my lower half draped in the principal’s jacket. Why no one thought to remove my pants from my ankles I’ll never know. That day I heard several teacher/principal conversations, listened to a kid get reprimanded for shooting spit balls, and was witness to a kid getting swats. That poor kid was mortified I was in there watching him get busted; I was equally mortified that I was there with my pants around my ankles.

Finally Mom got home and came to get me. Because my pants were still at my ankles, I couldn’t walk (again, not sure why they weren’t just removed), so the principal carried me to the car -- which wouldn’t have been so bad if third graders hadn’t been coming in from PE at the precise moment we entered the lobby. There I was, dangling from the principal’s neck, pants-less, draped in a Wyandotte Bears jacket, crying from embarrassment while all the kids were whispering, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with her?”, “Is she dead?”,  “She’s not dead! She’s crying!”, “Why is she crying?”, “What happened to her??” It. Was. Horrible.

The doctor had to cut my skin and create an “exit” for the spear embedded in my leg. If he had pulled it by the piece sticking out, there was a chance it would splinter back and create a big ol’ mess right there on my backside. But by day’s end I had a new stuffed dog, a bottle of pink bubblegum antibiotics, and a bandage on my backside. Oh, and an intense fear of wooden bleachers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Any of you who have more than one child knows what sibling rivalry is and how it sucks your will to live most of the time. On the other hand, though, as a parent of more than one child you also probably know that when they get along, that time is fricking golden. GOLDEN, I'm telling you.

When my kids were little, they'd fuss over who was breathing whose air, whose bum was getting more of the backseat, who got more spaghetti at dinner. Those things were just a part of my daily - nay, hourly - life as a mother of toddlers, preschoolers, elementary-aged kids. While I was silently suffering on the inside, breaking up fights without even realizing I was doing it, and even becoming so adept I could change the youngest's diaper with my hands while keeping the other two from ripping out jugular veins with one leg extended behind me, my husband had far less patience with the harping, nagging, fussing, squealing, arguing, and sometimes downright caterwauling. He'd go from completely detached from the universe to threatening bodily harm in 2.1 seconds. I could endure for days. And I did. Maybe it was because I was young. Maybe it was because motherhood had been my lifelong dream. Maybe it was because I knew if I stopped being a stay-at-home mommy I'd have to get a job that involved wearing a bra on a daily basis.

So now I am the mother of teenagers. Two are full-fledged teenagers, one is mere months away from being there officially, although her attitude argues otherwise. (Girl is rockin' those teenage hormones and eyerolls these days. Ugh.) The fleeting moments of shining parental happiness when your children get along is no different when they become teenagers. In fact, I think it's even more precious. Now that they are older, the arguments are more in the range of who is louder, who is more obnoxious, who is my favorite, who gets all of our money when their dad and I finally kick the bucket, and those kinds of things. And with taller bodies, apparently comes longer vocal cords and increased lung capacity with which to throw insults and slams at much higher volumes than when they were little, compact, and cute. Days where the insults fly from sun-up to sun-down are exhausting for me. Since we homeschool, there is very little opportunity for me to ever get a break. I love them all dearly and am so happy that God has given us the chance, blessings, freedom, and grace to educate them at home, but I am being completely honest when I say this: there are days I have considered tying them all three together with duct tape and kicking them out of the car in front of the school, driving on with a smile on my face and going straight home to just sit on my couch in the complete silence. Not taking a nap or a hot bath. Just sitting. Where it's quiet. Never mind that our oldest child has graduated high school and would have no need to step foot on a high school campus - but that's the least of what I'm thinking of when I'm daydreaming.

But oh. There are days that I see their sibling relationships developing right before my very eyes, the dynamics of sister/sister, sister/brother, and all three together. I see how big brother looks out for little sister. I see how little brother asks big sister for advice. I see how big sister steps down from her lofty heights of being nearly 18 to help little sister with an outfit or hair. I try to focus on those precious, stolen moments when little sister is invading her older siblings' personal space or when brother is tormenting the dickens out of his sisters with stinky socks or his retainer. I see them taking selfies with each other, making stupid faces or being serious either one. I see how little sister looks up (literally) to big sister with little stars shooting out of her eyes. I see how little brother looks down (literally) on either sister with a grin of mischief and dare I say it - love. I hope and pray with all that is in me that their relationships only strengthen as they get older. They are going to need each other when they get out there in the real world. They are going to experience heartache that they won't want to come to me or their daddy about, but a phone call to big sister is going to make it better, perhaps put things in perspective. They are going to call each other as Paul and I age to share stories about how we're losing it or something senile we said or did. And they are going to become aunts and uncle to my amazing future grandchildren, telling the new offspring about their growing up and stories to embarrass and laugh over.

So I am taking these little moments of bliss and filing them away in my mind and in my heart. I pull them out and remember them on those days when a math lesson has left littlest sister crying and oldest sister rolling her eyes in disdain at such a display. I pull them out on other days as well. The days when I feel like I am the worst mother in the world. On the days I forget to make French toast even though she asked me four times, but I got busy. On the days I snap at someone for not understanding something the way I teach it the first time. On the days the new Pinterest recipe is a great big fat fail. On the days I feel like I am fat, ugly, unloved, un-special, unwanted, unimportant and so much more "un"everything.

Because on those days, the days I have a hard time loving myself, I just look at those three crazy, prayed-for kids and see the perfect combination of their father and myself, the ultimate expressions of our insane love and roller coaster marriage, the fulfillment of so many hopes and dreams, the proof that God loves me enough to entrust these three humans to me to mold, shape, teach, lead, and love on until He's ready to call us home.

And then on other days? I lock myself in the bathroom and go back to that daydream about duct tape and a drive-off.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

From the Miami News-Record, June 22 (with a few extra pics!)
I have never been a gardener, nor been interested in gardening. It has been a long-standing rule around our house that I am not allowed to touch any potted plants or hanging baskets because when I do, they die. I moved to Stillwater at 19 and my mom sent a philodendron because, as she said, “You can’t kill a philodendron. Anyone can grow them.” When I moved back home six weeks later, along with a new collection of Eskimo Joe’s cups and t-shirts, I also brought my poor, dead plant. Last spring I received a hanging basket of beautiful pink flowers. I tried not to touch it, but I also didn’t want someone to think me rude by asking them to keep it away from me and whisk it off to the safety of my car before I had any effect on it. But I politely admired it and carried it myself and ….yeah, it died.

When we moved and I got this idea to plant a garden, my husband said it was a bad idea. He reminded me ever so gently of my plant-killing background. He was sweet about reiterating to me the fact that I do not have a green thumb. Yet I kept insisting, so he just went along with it and started tilling me a garden. He picked up some tomato and pepper plants and I excitedly called my mom from the seed aisle at Walmart because I didn’t know the first thing about what types of seeds to get - you know, because of the whole not-being-able-to-grow-stuff thing. Upon her advice I settled on yellow crookneck squash, okra, cucumbers, zucchini, peaches and cream corn, and green beans, then some jack o’ lantern pumpkin and watermelon seeds for the youngest (who actually does have the ability to grow things). I wanted eggplant and radishes and broccoli and lettuce and all the really tasty and wonderful things garden people grow, but no one here likes broccoli but me. And you can forget about eggplant – no one is actually sure they hate it seeing as how none of them have ever tried it, but they’re all relatively certain they do.
So. Hott.
We planted late because we were garden novices and had no clue what we were doing, but in our ignorance we saved ourselves some work because of the chilly spring freezes that took out a few gardens. Then when things started growing we had week after week of rain and things started looking pretty bleak out there. Enter the usual veggie-loving bugs and we all but threw in the towel. I didn’t check it for about a week, and then to my surprise one night we had pole beans in need of poles because they were attacking each other. After telling them to play nice while I unwound vine after vine, we drove in a few stakes, realizing quickly we needed more than a just “few” stakes. Paul took off for the shop while I pulled weeds. When he came back I could only laugh – he was carrying a cattle panel. Like for a corral. It actually works great and just kind of completes the redneck atmosphere we’ve got going on around our entire place.

Our little garden won’t win any awards, but we’re excited every time we find a new tiny veggie. I didn’t even bother with a scarecrow this year – I just grab my daughter’s pink Red Ryder BB gun and shoot the birds from the back porch window. I’m making a list of all the stuff we did wrong and things I want to try for next year and I’m finding that I actually like this new adventure and don’t mind the dirt and sweat too much. I find a strange peace while pulling weeds (and on evenings I’m particularly frustrated, it makes for a great stress reliever) and am in awe of seeing God’s handiwork firsthand in my little redneck garden with a metal cattle panel right in the middle.

Gardening ain't for sissies - or those who dislike dirty piggies.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Daughter, Myself

From the Miami News-Record, Sunday June 15
Of my three kids, I have two daughters. The oldest, Abby, is 17 and a half. She’s quiet, introverted, reserved, and sarcastic, doesn’t emote much, rarely cries, and would rather go through life just observing and blending into the background. She looks like, and is very much like, her father. The youngest daughter, Kady (or Bugg), is 12 and a half. She is loud, talkative, outgoing, boisterous, and emotional, loves being the center of attention, doesn’t know a stranger, and prefers her world to be full of fanfare, excitement, and noise. She looks like, and is very much like, me.

It took me years to fully appreciate our eldest’s quiet demeanor. She would rather be subjected to root canals sans anesthetic than speak before a crowd. This blows my mind. Why would you NOT want to speak in front of a crowd? Now, know this, I am an introvert – an outgoing introvert (Yes, we exist; look us up - we’re fascinating), but an introvert all the same. Our introverted personalities, scathing wit, ability to spin a yarn, and our utter intolerance for grammatical errors are pretty much the only personality traits we share. She hates chick flicks, I love them. I like sci-fi, geeky, nerdy, comic-bookish things, she laughs at me and all of my fellow nerds. I talk a lot, she does not. The list of things we do differently goes on awhile. We get along fabulously.
The youngest child is my mini me. We both have a strict policy that no one cries alone in our presence (something I inherited from my own mother and passed on to her – you ought to see the three of us watch “Steel Magnolias”). We love to hum, sing, talk, and communicate. We can read for hours on end and become totally lost in the story. We both have big feet. When we are mad and frustrated, door slamming seems to make us both feel better. We are both simultaneously scatter-brained yet strangely organized all at the same time. We fight. Constantly.
I knew we were a lot alike, but it wasn’t until this past week when I was helping her pack for church camp that I realized the depth of our similarities. She asked if I would help her organize her suitcase, a task she was more than capable of handling on her own, but she asked for my help and who was I to turn down quality time with my youngest before she headed off to camp? And as she whipped out note cards, color-coded for each day of the week of camp, each containing a list of the day’s outfit, color of flip-flops, bracelets and earrings, I busted out laughing. As a tween and teen myself, I would start weeks before camp, writing lists and making tags and labels for different pieces of an outfit. It was a bit of déjà vu. I mean, if listening to her cry over math on a daily basis wasn’t enough to make me realize she’s my spiritual doppelgänger, this freakishly organized packing ritual certainly was.
We do fuss a lot. Because we are so very, very much alike. We are both sensitive and emotional creatures and when you put that much passionate energy together, sometimes bombs go off. I slam doors in her honor and she slams them in mine. And after a particularly rough math lesson last week, as I fumed behind a firmly closed door at how infuriating she had just been to me, I was hit with a revelation: I used to infuriate my mother just as much. Because we, too, are so very, very much alike.
So while the relationship with one daughter has been easy from the start, I am now holding on firmly to the hope that the relationship with the other will get easier and stronger as we both age. Much like the relationship between my own mother and me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Surprise Visits

I grew up with the notion that when you went to visit someone, you called first. It was the polite thing to do, I was told. We never spontaneously dropped in on someone when I was a kid and people didn’t drop in on us. My husband’s family, on the other hand, never calls first. They just show up. I went straight from my momma’s house to my own, so I went straight from forewarned to surprised.
For a young married woman, this was unnerving. I was barely 20 and trying to get my sea legs for homemaking. Then later, for a young mother drowning in diapers, toys, VHS tapes of puppets and animated dragons, and a house that was rarely tidy, this was the seventh level of Hell. I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t just call first and was always flustered and embarrassed we had to move a pile (or two) of laundry from the couch so visitors could sit. I died a little every time we just had to kick a path through Legos, dolls, and Hot Wheels so they could make it to The Couch of Laundry and Hidden Sippy Cups. The porch was always covered in dirty shovels and pails from our latest yard expedition. Wet swimsuits were hung over chairs and the “decorative” antique ladder that was only “decorative” until the new puppy decided to eat the garland of autumn leaves, knock over the pot of mums (that I would’ve killed anyway), and I won’t even mention what he did to the Jack O’Lantern.
Needless to say, I will never end up on the cover of House Beautiful, but if they ever decide to publish one called Cluttered and Disorganized, I am a shoe-in for their spokesperson.
The kids are older now and there aren’t many toys in our house these days. And aside from the classroom (which is always in disarray – because learning is messy) (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it), the house isn’t as cluttered. Now I welcome the drop-ins.
And I am loving it.
For the first 21 years of our marriage we lived closer to my family – the family of warning calls – and now we are within two miles of pretty much all of Paul’s family – the family of surprises. If we go a day without a visit from someone we start to wonder if everyone has the flu. There is almost always a brother, nephew, or neighbor in the yard and the female counterpart to the guy in the yard can usually be found on a bar stool in my kitchen. Sure, I still have to stack up a pile of bills and receipts and move it from the bar so they can set down their sweet tea, and with two teenagers and a tween there is usually still a pile of laundry or two on the couch, but now that I have stopped worrying about the details I can enjoy the visits so much more. When I was younger I spent the visits silently berating myself for the mess, zoning out of the conversations while busying myself with cleaning up toys – and the conversations continued without me.
So today, at this point in my life, I am just…visiting. And now that I am tuned into the conversations and the precious people in my home I am aware of the goings-on, the news, the updates, and the whole reason they came to our house in the first place – because they love us. They didn’t come to judge my housekeeping skills, my ability (or lack thereof) to keep dust off the bookshelf, or to tsk-tsk at how the kids just tracked grass through the house after their latest water fight in the yard. They didn’t come to see our house; they came to see us. Which would be fine if they hadn’t caught me without makeup or without a bra.

Hey, I’m a work in progress.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our First Graduate

For the past year I have been writing a weekly column for the local newspaper. As long as no one objects (and really, this is my blog so if you object, just don't read it lol) I plan to start sharing each week's column here. I'll probably share some of the older ones as well, seeing as how I'm working on lesson plans for the class I'm teaching this fall at our homeschool co-op, plus my own kids' lesson plans, plus keeping house, keeping my children from killing each other and various other glamorous things. As you might surmise, writing time is limited for me these days. 
Anyway, this is what was published a few weeks ago, the weekend of Abby's graduation. Just thought I'd share - and add a few pictures. 
Our oldest daughter graduated this weekend. Since we homeschool there was no cap, gown, Pomp and Circumstance, or walking across a stage. We didn't sit in a hot gymnasium or on bleachers at a football field – we just got together with our friends and family, ate some hot dogs and hamburgers, and celebrated a pretty amazing young woman. She got a diploma, of course. I debated long and hard about who to say the certificate was issued by. See, our school’s “unofficial” name is The Hoover Academy of Higher Learning and General Shenanigans, but I was afraid the line wasn't long enough to hold all of that. One example I read online was, “Her parents, Bob and Suzy Homeschooler”, but I was afraid that would just really drive home the awkward homeschooler persona. Eventually, I just decided on “Hoover Academy." It looks nice. And not at all like she completed a lot of her school work in her pajamas on the couch.
It’s been 17 and a half years since her birth and I remember it like it was yesterday. After a very uneventful and quick delivery, she was laid into my arms, a quiet — slightly blue — wide-eyed gorgeous papoose with black hair and eyes so dark her pupils couldn't be seen. She didn't cry, just looked around at us like we had seriously offended her by forcing her entry into the world. We were in awe. We fell instantly in love. She was a miraculous blessing, a thing of wonder, a promise, a fulfillment, a tiny piece of joy in a crazy, stupid, busy world. She rarely cried, memorized If You Give a Mouse a Cookie when she was 18 months old, carried her toy tools in her Elmo purse and drove her Barbies around in her Tonka dump truck. She was a good starter kid. She eased us into the crazy world of Parenting.
She is a Pre-K dropout, but completed her final two years of high school in one year. She is quiet and sometimes shy, yet she’s a force to be reckoned with. She is passionate. Few people possess her determination. She never feels the need to small talk, chit chat or just fill the air with unnecessary words, but will talk to you about important, meaningful things as long as you want. She is amazingly artistic and if she wasn’t scared to death we’d beat her until candy comes out, she’d be decorating the world with graffiti any chance she got. I marvel at the things that kid can create. She started her own hair bow business a couple of years ago and is responsible for many a little girl’s accessorizing. She has little tolerance for blatant stupidity, people who aren’t nice to animals and children, boys who don’t respect girls, and any green vegetable. My sister taught her the art of sarcasm, which she has mastered. She is kind, gentle, witty, wise, and has amazing hair.
So look out, world. We have unleashed upon you amongst this year’s graduates, a tiny little tornado named Abby. She has promise. She has talent. She has overcome bullies and haters and is more compassionate for it. She can make a mean grilled cheese. She can count back change. She loves Jesus. She doesn’t like to camp. She thinks ice cream and cheesecake are two of the best things on this earth. She is allergic to pretty much everything in the air around her. She wants to be a foster parent. She is simply wonderful and she’ll rock your socks if you’ll let her. She already rocks ours.

Congratulations, Abby and the rest of the Class of 2014. Here’s my advice: Be kind. Make a difference. Make good choices. (And when you make bad ones don’t beat yourself up too much. Just learn from it.) Go through this life looking for experiences that will make for amazing stories later. Look out for the little guy. Laugh – a lot. Make us proud.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Droids, Washing Machines, and My Mother

My washing machine died a horrible, painful, loud death yesterday. It stopped agitating last week, the repairman replaced the faulty part, but after his repair it was making a horrific screeching, grinding noise when it spun that was about to send me to the funny farm. He came back out yesterday to make sure he hadn't left a screw or other random item (possibly a small chihuahua or perhaps his invitation letter to Hogwarts). He hadn't left anything weird, but did tell me that the transmission was loud and was "going out". I asked for a definition, a time frame, some hint as to how long she had before going off to the giant Whirlpool in the Sky, but he said, "Well, the transmission in my car has been loud for three years and the mechanic told me it was 'going out', but so far I'm still driving 'er. So just use the washer until it quits - that's about all I can tell ya." Then he gave me a shrug and went about his merry repairman way. Three loads - THREE LOADS, I SAY -- of laundry later, we were auditorily assaulted by the sound of grinding and OH, THE GRINDING. Paul called the repairman who said, "Well, I told your wife the transmission was going out..." to which I yelled across the living room, "BUT I KIND OF FIGURED I HAD MORE THAN THREE LOADS BEFORE IT HAPPENED." He laughed. He's a merry little repairman, that one. 

Since last Monday we have done a total of five loads of laundry in this house. Folks, that's sometimes a daytime total around here. We generate a lot of laundry here on Hooverton Mountain. So, I'm kind of borderline panicking about lack of clothing - mainly underwears. I don't do commando, dudes. And no one else in my house does either. Or at least, they better not.

I asked Mom if we could use her washer to catch up at some point this week and of course, she said that was fine. Because my mom is totes cool like that. However, we now live 40 minutes from my mother and going there and back is 1/4 tank of gas. Things are pretty monetarily slim around here right now and 1/4 tank of gas is pretty much the equivalent of winning the lottery, so I'm waiting until we are at UNDERWEAR DEFCON:1 before I haul my dirty laundry to town. Priorities are hard sometimes.

This morning I was lazing around in bed like a good homeschool mother should (KIDDING, I only laze around in bed a few mornings a week) when my mother sent a text. What follows is the hilarious conversation that had me giggling for half an hour afterwards.

Mom: Laundry room is available. You go, girl. Clean those undies! 
Me: Actually, probably won't come in until tomorrow - Paul has three uniforms and I usually wait until Wednesday to wash those. We may just go buy a washer tonight. Heck, it's just money.
Mom: Yes, it is just money. And which would you rather have? Money or clean underwear?  
Me: That is Sophie's choice, right there.  
Mom: Who is Sophie?
Me: The movie? "Sophie's Choice"? She has to choose between her two children in Auschwitz. Really, Mother? The movie is from 1982. You're losing it.  
Mom: Have never seen that movie. But really, what gives this Sophie the right to decide whether YOU have clean underwear or not. I need her cell phone number. 
Me: YOU'VE NEVER SEEN SOPHIE'S CHOICE?!?!? I feel like my whole life is a lie. I will order it on Netflix so you can agonize with Sophie. Gracious, and I thought me having an underwear shortage was a crisis. Turns out, my mother needs a movie intervention. ........... Aaaaaaand.....I don't think they issued cell phones to the Jews at Auschwitz. So you might have to look Sophie up on Facebook if you want to chat with her. Oh wait. Nevermind. You don't have Facebook. 

At this point she just calls me. I answer the phone not with "Hello" but with laughter when I hear her laughing on the other end. Then she tells me a story about a guy who was whispering a whole conversation because of "droids" who were following him.

I let her finish the whole story before I told her they were drones, not droids.

And I started to tell her about that scene from Star Wars, but I didn't want her asking for Obi Wan Kenobi's cell phone number.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Easter Tradition

A year ago, sometime around well, heck, I don't remember what time it was, but I do remember it was dark and I was asleep, Kady began barking the siren song of her people. You know her people: people with asthma. That siren song is a croup-y baby seal bark mixed in with with a raspy, horrible stridor and sometimes accompanied by wheezing and almost always by a look of absolute terror on my child's face.

Breathing treatments at home didn't help and she was panicking more with each breath, so I did what I have done so many times before: I tossed her wheezy butt in the car and drove for the hospital.

They released her just right about the time sunrise service was beginning. Paul took Abby and Sam to the church and I took Bugg and I home to the couch where I fell promptly to sleep while she, hopped up on asthma meds, watched TV and talked incessantly. No, it didn't matter I was snoring and drooling, she talked anyway. That's how she rolls.

This year we aren't attending any particular church and it had been awhile since we'd gone to the church where my Pops pastors, so we made plans to drive the hour there to be with Mom and Pops at their church. Shower schedules were set forth, everyone's Easter clothes were pressed and ready to go, I had the coffee pot fixed to kick on about the same time I hit the snooze button the first time, the day was essentially planned.

Until at 12:30 am Paul flips on the bedroom light to tell me that Bugg had just christened the bathroom with The First Official Barf since we moved in. He actually got a horrible stomach virus when we were nearly done with the remodel and ended up spending a few days sequestered here, sleeping on the hide-a-bed in the classroom, to keep the kids and me from getting it, but we weren't officially living here yet, so his barfing doesn't count. Kady gets the prize. Woot.

The poor kid puked about every 45 minutes for a solid 12 hours and ran a fever to boot. I didn't sleep much - but neither did she, so I shouldn't complain.

I'm a thermostat nazi and refuse to turn on the AC in April, so I slept with the windows open and I guess I really didn't know birds chirped and tweeted at night. I was used to owls at the other house, but never songbirds. I suppose I thought they tucked into their little birdie beds at night and slept like we do. In my restless dozing through the night, my brain mixed up the tweeting with my imagination and I was pretty sure I heard a mocking jay like in The Hunger Games. And of course, my dreams then sent me to the arena with Katniss for the next half hour or so to fight for my life. Fortunately (for me, not Kady) the sounds of retching woke me. My next pitiful bout of rest produced a dream in which someone was trying to break into our house and I, the hero of our story, grabbed a bolt action rifle and proceeded to shoot at the offender repeatedly. I don't even like to shoot bolt action rifles. I text my mom at 6:30 this morning to tell her we would not be attending Easter services to avoid spreading the love. Then I tried to doze some more, but Princess Barfypants in the next room wasn't having any of that.

It's now 7:30 pm. She's been puke-free since nearly noon. She is complaining about some lower abdominal pain that is freaking me the heck out after her brother decided to create a new holiday last October called "Appendix Liberation Day" - a day in which he was celebrated by a surgeon he pulled off the golf course as well as the on-call surgery staff and was the honored guest at his very own emergency appendectomy. So yeah, I'm a little paranoid when any of the kids (well, except Sam now) complain of abdominal pain on the right side.

I'm just ready to get some sleep. Without intermittent barfing or Katniss Everdeen and a random burglar visiting my subconscious.