Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mobile Blogging

Really, this is just a test post from my iPod because I got the Blogger app and want to see if it works.

This.....yes, *this* is how exciting my life really is

Be jealous.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Van-tastrophe

Vehicles are kind of a sensitive subject for a lot of people. You have your Ford people, your Chevy people, your Jeep folks and then, the really amazing ones who are Dodge people. (Yes, we're Dodge people. Why do you ask?) There are some who are brand-loyal and some who drive whatever Consumer Reports says is best. Some drive beaters that are so environmentally unfriendly they are on the EPA's Most Wanted list and some, like my parents, who drive those hybrid ninja cars that make no sound and I never know they've driven up my 1/10 mile driveway until they knock on my door, scaring me to pieces and making me holler "Wait a minute!" while I scurry to find a bra.

Now, before I start this and you all immediately think I'm a whiner, please know that I truly do recognize my blessings. I really do. I know that there are a lot of people out there without homes, much less vehicles, but please indulge me a moment if you will.

When we got married in 1993, myself on the verge of turning 20, I was still driving the car my parents had given me at age 16 - a 1986 Chevy Cavalier that was still sporting the badly crackled paint job, the dent in the rear driver's side door where I crunched into Jerry Friend's pickup bumper in the school parking lot my Senior year and there was literally a brick holding the driver's seat in an upright position. I ran her out of oil once and still she kept on doin' her thing. She was a good car. When it got to the point where I had to put a quart of oil in her every single day, we decided to let her go. A family friend who owned a car lot gave us $2000 trade-in on her and boy, was that generous.

We traded the Cavalier for a 1989 Ford Tempo. A two-door Ford Tempo. And for a Ford, it was a good little car -- until we had our first child in 1996 and crawling in the back seat to buckle in a carrier carseat got real old real quick. We made do until  May 1997, then we drove to Tulsa to the car lot where my cousin worked and he finagled us a decent deal on a 1993 Mercury Sable. It was a spunky little car with a ginormous motor. That motor meant nothing to me, personally, but it was always a topic of conversation with Paul who took great joy in showing people how much space the engine took up under the hood.

In December 2001 we had our third child. The formerly spacious back seat of my car suddenly shrunk. Trying to get a forward-facing car seat, a rear-facing car seat with a base and a booster seat all crammed safely into that car became something requiring just short of an engineering degree. In March 2002, after literal tears from me, we decided we needed a minivan.

It was hard on me. It didn't bother Paul very much at all. Of course not -- he had just traded off the fancy new truck he had driven off the lot with 17 miles on the odometer for a big ol' honkin' Chevy pickup with dual exhaust that would rattle the fillings in your teeth. He wasn't compromising his manliness, his youthfulness, for a.....a....minivan. I found myself at 29 years old, a mother of three and sentenced to an eternal life of carpooling, chauferring and hauling. Granted, I'd have done all those things in a car as well, but there was just such a stigma attached to driving a minivan.

We found a 1998 Chevy Astro Van, a gigantic box of a thing, built on a truck chassis and capable of hauling approximately 742 people. Okay, I kid - it seated eight. I think it could've hauled a regular minivan around in it, strapped next to one of my kids in their carseats. It was a monster and definitely NOT a minivan. It took me about two days to fall desperately, madly in love with that ugly monstrosity. And I drove it until the back door would no longer open, the driver's window would no longer roll down (made ATM's and drive-thru's always fun) and Paul was worried the transmission was going to shift so hard one day we'd leave it behind us on the highway. I mourned the loss of the Astro before it was even gone, because I knew he  meant business. He was bound and determined to get me a new vehicle. I whined. I bulled up. I pouted. I griped. I begged. I pleaded. He wouldn't budge.

Then one day he called me and with an excited tone in his voice told me he had found me a minivan. I was less than happy. I said, "Fine. I'll come drive it, but I refuse to like it. No matter what." It was a shiny red 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan. A little old couple had driven it to and from the grocery store and church (sounds so silly, but it's true!) and it was in immaculate shape. I scoffed at the light tan interior, imagining the McNugget crumbs and melted suckers that would soon adorn it. I grumbled at the leather seats which were cold on my rump. I grumbled more when the salesman flipped the switch to the bun warmers, thus promptly toasting my backside, certain that I would end up with 2nd degree burns when they shorted out. I said I hated the dual sliding doors. I said the Astro only had one, why would I need two? Hmph. We took it home for the weekend to drive it. We ended up selling the Astro over that weekend, so ..... yeah, that next Monday we bought that stupid Caravan.

And now, here I am nearly five years later, pre-emptively mourning the loss of her. She's got new creaks and thumps, the air conditioner/heater is tempermental at best, she's got 160-some-thousand miles on her, she's 12 years old now, she smells like sweaty socks (probably because for some reason the kids like to leave sweaty socks in her overnight when she's all shut up).....I guess it's time. I hadn't fully admitted to Paul it was time, though, until last week. I have been quietly contemplating a new vehicle, mostly because with a new (to me) vehicle also will come a car payment and after three years of being totally debt-free, this causes me stress. Dave Ramsey himself says car payments are unacceptable debt. I know this. But we haven't really stuck to that whole "pay yourself first" thing because heck, we're doing good to tithe, pay the bills and clothe the kids these days, much less set aside any for an impending vehicle purchase. It's totally our fault. We know this. So we'll have a car payment and we'll survive. We just won't like it.

So, the other day, when I saw a brand spankin' new, probably 2011 Grand Caravan in the Walmart parking lot I nearly wet myself in excitement. THAT WAS THE VAN I WANTED! It didn't look like a traditional minivan, heck, it doesn't look like the Grand Caravan I'm driving now. It's lower profile, boxier shaped, looks more like a longer SUV than a van.....I call them SUVans. And I want one. So I parked close to it. Mosied over by it and gave it a look-see. Paul scoffed. And proceded to tell me it was a $40,000 vehicle and I couldn't have it.

SAY WHAT??? For one thing, I was pretty sure it wasn't a $40,000 vehicle and for another, he drove a truck off a lot with SEVENTEEN MILES ON IT, eleven of those put on by us on the test drive! Why CAN'T I have a new vehicle? I've never ever gotten a new one, never even gotten one less than four years old! He drives a 2004 Ram right now that is simply gorgeous and we paid wayyyyyyy too much for because he saw it and he wanted it and he got it.

Well, his laughter just infuriated me on the spot. I ignored him and went on into the store. We shopped. We checked out. We stopped by my Mom's office and I had her look up a 2011 Grand Caravan online.

HA! $26,000, BUCKO!

He grinned and said, "Okay, let's go find one and test drive it."

I crossed my arms and firmly said, "No. I will drive the one I have until parts start falling off of her. And then when the parts do start falling off of her I will just duct tape them back on. Because I'm not getting a new van. Period. I simply refuese."  His reply: "Okay."


Yeah. I showed him.

I turned on the air conditioner yesterday and the sound that came out of the vents was, I'm pretty sure, the van's signal to the mother ship, to beam it up, it's tired and wants to go home. Paul made a funny face, looked sideways at me, grinned and crossed his arms across his chest.

" got any duct tape?"

I so do not find him amusing sometimes.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

This is the Stuff

The life of a stay-at-home mom is not for the faint of heart. When your children are infants you yearn for the voice of another who isn't screaming to be fed, changed or burped and doesn't want to suck on a couple of your appendages. When your children are toddlers you yearn for the voice of another who isn't screaming NO! to every plea, request or bribe. When they are preschoolers you just want to hear someone NOT ask you question after question after question about poop or the color of the sky. And then they go off to school.....and if you're me, you start all over by babysitting.

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and I dearly love staying home what with me being anti-social and all, but there are still days that the crazy starts to creep in.

Thursday night is Paul's golf night and I'm totally okay with that. I value my "me" time and I respect his desire to go walk around with his friends on a lush green pasture whacking at a tiny ball with a skinny pole. Usually he goes with his work friends and is home by 8 or 8:30, but this week he went with the men of the church and you know how Baptists are - they had to eat afterwards because Baptists think it's not fellowship unless there is eating. He didn't get home until 10. Normally I would still be up then, but I've been fighting off a weird stomach virus this week and just didn't feel well, so I was in bed when he got home. I had spent the whole day parked in my chair because I didn't have the energy for much else and rather than be unproductive, I started scheduling activities for the church youth group. I did so without any counsel from my fellow youth leader (Paul) or the pastor, so I was a little worried I had made flawed plans and hadn't taken into consideration some such other activity or event.

As soon as I woke him up Friday morning I kind of barraged him with talking. Looking back, this was a bad decision and I shouldn't have said all. those. words. so early in the morning, but I had spent all day Thursday feeling half sick while taking care of two three-year-olds (okay, so they watched a lot of Disney Junior that day) and had only seen him for about 10 minutes between him getting home from work and leaving for golf. I enjoy our usual after work conversations and frankly, I miss him all day while he's at work. I had a lot of things to say! Imagine how quickly my chirpy, caffeine-fueled chattering got under his skin and he told me to just please stop moving my mouth and allowing words to come out. Then when I didn't, he just shut down and ignored me altogether. Then I got my feelings hurt. Then he told me to quit being so sensitive and get off his back. Then I started crying. Then he stomped out the front door and slammed it behind him. Then I started crying harder. Then he drove off. Then I got mad and called his phone. Then he didn't answer it.

Soon after that my newest babysitting ward, Mary, arrived in full-scale three-year-old diva mode, bawling her face off while her father tried so sweetly to tame the savage girl-beast he was carrying. I totally related to her and was pretty close to a diva meltdown of my own. She eventually mellowed and her daddy felt like my safety and well-being wasn't going to be endangered by that of his youngest offspring and he left. Shortly after that Conner arrived and brought yogurt parfaits, thus further soothing Mary and myself (because I didn't have to fix breakfast!). I was feeling pretty confident that even though the morning had started off a little rough, it was going to be just fine. We were out of dog food for our swiftly growing German Shepherd pups and the plan had been to go to town and pick up a 740,439 pound bag of food because that's roughly how much those beasts eat in a week, a few groceries and be home by lunch time.

I called Mom to see if I could print off a few things for my Sunday School lesson and was given the go-ahead to stop by the house when I got to town. Oh yeah, I had the morning under control. In the short 45 minutes that had elapsed from the end of breakfast to that particular moment, Conner and Mary had managed to empty the toy box, Lego box and Hot Wheels box into the living room floor, so I told them to clean up quickly so we could go to Walmart. They both gasped in excitement and turned to, what I thought was, clean up. I grinned smugly to myself that oh yeah, I was doing great. I hurried to the bathroom to finish my makeup and while doing so heard the sounds of toys hitting plastic and three-year-old conversation. I assumed they were doing as I had instructed.

Silly me. They're three. Duh.

I finished my makeup, gave my hair one final spritz of hairspray and exited the bathroom only to see WHAT?!?! HOW DID THEY GET MORE TOYS OUT??? I thought they had already gotten out all there had been to GET out!! Did the toys somehow multiply? My living room looked like Santa's Workshop had vomited onto my living room carpet. I said, "Conner! Mary! Didn't Kiki tell you to clean up your toys so we could go to town?" They both nodded. I continued, "So why did you not do it?" Conner shrugged and said, "We didn't want to," and turned back to his Lego tower. Oh no he di-n't. I gently informed them that it wasn't really an option to which they resolutely ignored me and continued playing. I literally had to get all up in their faces and again, gently explain, clean up or else. Not sure what "or else" would entail, but fortunately they didn't try me. They understood I meant business at that point.

Then I discovered Conner had wet his pants. Wardrobe change. Tears.


As I was buckling Mary into her seat while Conner kicked up dust in the driveway even after I told him to get. in. the. dadgum. van. my phone rang and it was the school's number. Lovely. It was Abby telling me she had gotten a mosquito bite in Ag and it was swollen. Ooookay? My silence prompted her to continue, "No, Momma, you don't understand! It's REALLY swollen! Like, Ms. Tina even TOLD me to call you! It's HUGE!" I sighed and said I would bring her a Benadryl. I dusted Conner off from the self-inflicted dust storm and loaded him in, his butt hitting the seat and poufing up more dust. Usually I park right by the door of the high school and just run in when I have business in the office, but there was no parking by the door, so I had to unbuckle both kids and herd them into the building.

Sure enough, Abby's mosquito bite was about the diameter of a nectarine. She is allergic to them anyway and always reacts with huge welts, but this went beyond ridiculous. I marked the edges with an ink pen and told her that if it got bigger after the Benadryl to call me.

After re-buckling both kids we headed to town. I went through Sonic because at that point I needed a sweet tea. It wasn't until I was nearly to Walmart that I took the first swig to find it was about the strength of water. With a hint of sugar. Grrrr.

Sam has taken on this gigantic growth spurt as of late and is outgrowing clothes as fast as we buy them. He is currently jeans-less and since we are still holding out hope that eventually the weather will stop being quite so hellish here in Oklahoma, I figure it's time to buy him some. Yeah, you try buying jeans for a swiftly growing almost-13-year-old without him being with you. Not easy. As I was searching a rack for the ever-mysterious boy's size 18 of which only three pair are made in each style and each one of those three are sent to separate stores approximately 1300 miles apart, I hear this little voice go, "Kiki? Mary frew up."

*blink blink*

I quickly ran to the front of the cart to see Mary looking up at me with her big blue eyes, hands in her lap, certainly not looking like she had just "frew up". I said, "Mary, sweetie? Where did you throw up?" She pointed down. I looked under the cart. No barf. I said, "Mary, honey, where were you when you threw up?" She said, "I am sitting in the cart, silly." I said, "No, honey, the cart was moving....were we here when you threw up or over there?" and pointed to the boys clothing section. She shook her head. I continued looking around for this phantom puke. Then I heard her giggle. Then I heard Conner giggle. I put my hands on my hips and said, "Guys.....are you pretending to throw up?" They both busted up and then Conner grabbed his belly and said, "OOOOOH I'M GONNA FROW UP!" Well, I was in on the joke at that point, but those shopping around me all looked up in absolute freak-outed-ness at his very loud proclamation. I just grimaced and said, "No, no, no....they're pretending." Old women shook their heads and did not appreciate the imaginative play of my little darlings.

I continued to shop, fielding strange looks as they continued to "frow up" throughout the store. But when we got to the produce aisle it was then that Mary demanded popcorn chicken. I said, "No, sweetie, no popcorn chicken. We'll go back to Kiki's house and have lunch." Her requests got louder. Conner, not to be outdone, joined in. The cries of frowing up changed into yells of  "WE-WANT-POP-CORN-CHICK-KEN!" I firmly said no. They yelled louder. And louder. I then walked to the front of the cart where I could see their darling faces and said, "You are not speaking kindly. You are not asking nicely. You are yelling and you are being rude. You will not get popcorn chicken. Ever." Yes, it was an empty threat since their parents may probably someday feed them popcorn chicken, but I had suddenly turned into "that mother" in Walmart and neither of them were actually my children. People were staring. It was after my lecture that they both promptly busted into cries of, "BUT WE'RE HUNNNNNNNGGGGRRRRYYYYYYYY! Feeeeeeeeeeed ussssssss!"

It was then that the kind man stocking the bananas gave them each one in an attempt to make the screams stop because I'm pretty sure the Walmart police were getting ready to swoop in on me and either escort me out or call DHS because I was apparently starving the children.

We made it to the checkout line where the Associate said the words "d*mn" and "h*ll" three times apiece while checking out the woman in line ahead of me. In her defense, the other woman was saying them as well. I guess she felt peer pressure. I just felt annoyed.

I had to remove the kids from the cart because the groceries and plastic bags would've suffocated them and yes, while that would've made them significantly quieter, it's just a hassle to explain to their parents and the police. I threatened them that if they removed their tiny little hands from the carts that kittens all over the world would die. Actually, I did not say that, so please don't call DHS. I just told them that Kiki really needed them to touch the cart and to do what I said. I think they noticed the tic just under my right eye and they complied.

After some jackwagon barreled through the parking lot and nearly broad-sided me, I made it out onto the road. The kids were being incredibly quiet and I felt bad for the whole "we're hungry" pleas in Walmart and we had been shopping a long time, so I wheeled into McDonald's for Happy Meals. Again with the demanding of food. I quietly told them that when they could ask for their food the right way, they could have it. They both crossed their arms and pouted. Two peas in a pod, I'm telling you. I just drove on. They just continued to pout. I was okay with that. Finally, at the edge of town, I heard two tiny voices asking so sweetly for food. I was happy to pull over and comply.

By the time we got home they were fed and happy once more. I deposited them both at the table to finish up their apples and went out to unload the car. The dogs could apparently smell the Puppy Chow through the van windows, so they and the cats attacked me as I walked to the van. After kicking them all away I managed to get the dog food open and dumped some out onto the ground (who needs bowls) and then unloaded the groceries. I cleaned Mary and Conner up, took them both the potty and then told them to get their nap towels and blankets.

They wanted to watch Little Bear. I said no. They were already 30 minutes past naptime. They cried. I said they could watch Little Bear after nap. They threw themselves onto the floor. I said, "Fabulous. You're already on the floor for nap. Sweet dreams." I handed them their blankets, kissed them both and walked into the kitchen. Strangely enough, they both went right to sleep.

It was after I finally had the groceries put up and the kids were softly snoring their adorable little preschooler snores that I sat down and found myself humming this song:

Thank you, God, for the reminder.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...