Sunday, June 26, 2016

Back in My Day

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 26, 2016. 

My oldest daughter, as you know, is expecting a sweet, precious, little girl (who has decided this week to behave and stay put awhile longer, thank the Lord). She is very active, has crazy long legs, and likes to lie on her back with her arms over her head or across her face – just the way her momma sleeps. This has proven problematic for ultrasound pictures because the little stinker refuses to cooperate and smile for the camera. And now Abby is just absolutely convinced she needs a 3D ultrasound so she can see this baby girl’s face.

But I think “need” is a bit of a stretch.

Back in my day, you got ONE ultrasound. It was at 20 weeks. Period. You had to go in with a bladder full to approximately the size of a watermelon, knowing full well someone was going to squish around on it for about 30 minutes. All of your friends warned you and told you to expect to either cry or pee yourself. Or do one then the other. There was no such thing as 3D or 4D ultrasounds back then. No, your baby appeared on screen as a grainy, skeleton alien monster. If you were lucky enough to have a cooperative child with some exhibitionist tendencies, they could sometimes determine the gender of your child. Then the technician would describe the child’s genitals as either a “hot dog” (girl) or a “turtle” (boy). And most of them wouldn’t give you any more than a 60% chance they were correct. You didn’t WANT a face shot because frankly, your baby was a frightening creature that looked like an alien and you were secretly afraid it was going to grab hold of and eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

This glamorous ultrasound session was usually done by a surly technician who felt their time and talent was being wasted on such frivolous things as, oh you know, YOUR BABY. Twice I got a tech that sighed through the entire ultrasound. Apparently they were bitter that they hadn’t been made famous yet by discovering a new and previously unnoticed organ or something during a routine ultrasound.

The price of your child’s first photo shoot was included in the all-inclusive delivery fee you were informed of on your first visit. You know, the first visit where they confirm that yes indeedy, you are quite pregnant. As if the 50 positive pregnancy tests you peed on and the barfing 24/7 weren’t big enough clues. You were shuffled from the exam room to an office where “the girl who does the insurance” held court. There she asked for your insurance card, did some magical figuring on an adding machine (this was pre-internet, mind you), and made a declaration of what you had to pay the doctor every month when you visited so your baby would be paid in full by delivery. (During my last pregnancy I asked if they would repo a couple – the two who were at that moment in a full-on WWE match on her office floor) (She didn’t get my sense of humor. She said no.) 

I get it, times change. My mom had nary an ultrasound with either of her pregnancies. Of course, my Nana also nearly had a stroke when she saw Mom hanging clothes on the line and running the vacuum while pregnant because both of those chores were 199% known to cause the cord to wrap around the baby’s neck. Daddies didn’t get to witness the birth of their children. Diapers were cloth, bottles were glass, carseats were virtually nonexistent.

So if my kiddo wants to pay for a glimpse of her baby’s face ahead of time, I suppose I won’t complain. I’m already so in love with this little blueberry that seeing her squishy little face early might cause me to go into happy spasms or an uncontrollable squealing fit, but I suppose I’ll adjust to the changing times. It’s what all the hip grandmas do. 

Hard Labor

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 19, 2016. 

A little less than 15 years ago I was pregnant and started having what I thought were Braxton-Hicks contractions. After a week of the pesky contractions other things happened that made me think that perhaps these contractions weren't merely for training purposes only. And sure enough, a visit to my doctor, then a trip to the hospital revealed that I was indeed in active labor and dilated four centimeters. Normally people get excited at this news, but I was only 25 weeks pregnant. They shot me full of steroids to speed up the development of her lungs and sent me home on strict bed rest. The doctor said delivery was imminent and the outlook was grim. Happy ending: we managed to keep the little stinker in place ten more weeks and, other than being a bit of a diva, she's a normal kid. 

Fast forward to this past Tuesday when my oldest, the one currently incubating my first grandchild, sent me a text that asked, “What does a contraction feel like? Because I'm pretty sure I just had one.” Well, that got my attention. I quickly text a nurse friend who said for her to drink a big glass of water and take a warm bath. They didn't stop. She called her OB’s office and they sent her to the hospital. As we walked in, Abby said, “This is going to be SO embarrassing when they say I'm silly and send me home.” She and her husband went into a room, my mom and I stayed in the waiting room. Finally after ten minutes I couldn't stand it. I knocked on the door and peeked in. My teeny tiny little girl was swallowed up in that big ol’ hospital and grew even smaller as she said, “I'm dilated.” A tear slid down her cheek. We spent the next few hours in a room while she was scanned, prodded, hydrated, medicated, and pondered over. It got kind of tense so Mom and I decided to lighten the mood by telling a story. 

It was December 19, 2001. I was in labor the second (and proper) time with Kady. My mom and mother-in-law had come up to visit us.  Now, my mother-in-law is a funny lady. She's sweet, but very quiet and matter-of-fact. She did not attend the birth of the other two and I offered once more to let her attend to which she quickly replied, “Oh nononono! I don't need to see…..that.” I laughed and told her the offer was there if she changed her mind. She stood there awkwardly and I patted the bed and said, “Martha, come sit here. There’s no need to stand!” Paul even offered her his chair. She waved us both away and said, “Oh, hush. I'll just sit on this stool here.”

What happened next still causes Mom and I to have to stop the story-telling because we’re already laughing. Martha backed up to the stool – which was on wheels – and started to sit. But the stool had another idea. It started to roll away from her. She started baby-stepping backward trying to catch the stool with her bum, rolling all the way to the wall across the room. Paul, Mom, Abby, Sam, and I watched in horror as the stool stopped rolling when it hit the wall and Martha fell squarely on her rear end. The room was silent then all of us busted into laughter so loud the nurses had to think we were crazy. Mom and Paul ran to her aid while I continued laughing until I was certain I was going to laugh Kady right on out. The telling of the story still makes her laugh as well. It's my favorite Martha story, second only to the one where she killed a goat. But I'll save that one for another time. 

Of course, by this point in the story, Abby and Dakota we laughing and the scary preterm labor monster was temporarily forgotten. Y'all know that my answer for everything in life is laughter and I was only doing my job. We’re still facing down some unsure times ahead over the next few months, but one thing is for sure, we’ll face it all together and we’ll do it with as much laughter as we can muster. 

Being Bold

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 12, 2016. 

I’ve mentioned several times here on our Sunday chats that I am an introvert. I am an outgoing introvert, but an introvert nonetheless. I am also nonconfrontational. So when I have to cowboy up and stand up for myself or someone I love, it’s a BIG deal. I don’t enjoy it, however I have been told I’m awesome at it once I’m forced to do it.  I still don’t like it and I don’t think I ever will. I am generally a nice person. Most of the time. And I like to get along with people even if I don’t like to interact with them.

It’s been over six weeks since Abby’s car accident. Just this past week the other person’s insurance made contact for the first time. They decided to go ahead and accept the liability which is a total duh decision since the police report and the witness all state as such. Their insured ran a red light – how would they NOT accept the liability?? Yeesh.

After a phone conversation where the claims agent told me they wanted to take the vehicle off our property to assess the damage and make their decision on what to offer us, my husband nearly blew a gasket. He told me to call her back and let her know that an adjuster can come to us and that was that. That meant me having to actually pick up the phone and call her back. There are just some days it’s almost physically painful to pick up a phone and dial a number in order to speak to another human. And knowing I was going to likely have to be firm and/or confrontational made it worse. But I didn’t dare let Paul handle it – he tends to be a little uhm….shall we say “overly aggressive” when he has to get firm. The quiet, genial redneck in him mutates like when David Banner gets angry and goes all Hulk on everyone. When Paul gets wound up, the freckles on his face go from a sandy ginger to an angry brownish red and veins appear on his neck and forehead. His flannel shirts are in danger of ripping and once I swear I thought he was going to turn green. No, he was NOT going to handle this.

So I called the claims agent and she himmed and hawed, but eventually agreed to send an adjuster to our house. She said if the towing service called to schedule a pickup for the truck to let them know other arrangements had been made. Again with people making me interact! Why does the world insist I speak to other people so much lately??

Sure enough, they called to schedule the pickup, but I missed the call. When I called back the gal asked for my lot number. I explained that I didn’t have a lot number because my vehicle isn’t on her lot. She refused to comprehend the words emanating from my face. Then she got snarky and hateful and well, she just caught me in the right mood. I nearly went Hulk Smash myself. 

She snottily stated, “If you don’t have a lot number I simply cannot help you. Lady, I have six acres of cars out there and a lot number is the only way I can find your vehicle.”

My reply? “Well, I have 30 acres and I can tell you exactly where to find it. It’s HERE. On MY thirty acres. Not on your six. I just need to make sure you don't come pick it up from my 30 acres!” Then she said that my attitude wasn’t helping her any at all. Seriously, folks. Jesus was all that was holding me back. Well, and the fact she was in Oklahoma City.

And I may or may not have told her that if someone from her place of business showed up on my property there would be a redneck with a shotgun there to greet them. I didn’t mention that he might be green, though. I wouldn’t want her to think I was weird or something. 

Terrible Horrible

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on May 29, 2016.

One of my favorite children’s books is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s about a little boy who has just has a rotten day from start to finish and declares he’s moving to Australia. This week I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day of my own.

Tuesday morning’s hair-fixing took me longer than usual. I recently cut my hair short and short hair is a fickle, fickle entity. The least little thing can anger it or at the very least be fuzzy and willful. I finally got it where I wanted it, hairsprayed it into submission, and decided I had time to water my freshly-planted garden before I headed out the door. I opened the front door to find three very happy dogs, one of whom was covered nose to tail in dirt. I ran – okay, haha, I don’t run – I walked briskly to the back yard to find every single mound where I had planted squash or zucchini had been happily dug into by Abby’s dog Jojo (who now lives with us). I stood there in the middle of all the disaster, my sparkly aqua flip flops sinking into the dirt, my fists clenched, fighting back tears. When Jojo came gleefully running toward me all I said was “JOJO. NO.” The words apparently had some serious power to them because she hit the ground and belly crawled all the way back to the front of the house. Finally I just decided to go ahead and cry while I replanted what seeds I could find, said a prayer over each mound, and went back in the house. Standing at the mirror to wash my hands I looked up and saw that my hair had become a fuzzy, wavy, unkempt mess and my makeup was streaky from the crying.

I text my coworker and told her I’d be late, fixed myself the best I could, decided I didn’t have time to pack a lunch and eating was overrated anyway. I flew out the door with Kady who was going to spend the day with me at work. The night before, I had left a bag behind at Walmart. When I realized it, I called and they said they had it and to come pick it up at my convenience. But by 8:45 the next morning they’d put it all back on the shelf. I did not have time to re-shop because for the life of me I couldn’t remember which boxers I had bought Paul the night before so I just asked for my money back. I had promised Kady a 99¢ morning Sonic drink and figured since I was apparently going to be skipping lunch, I deserved a breakfast burrito. Two bites in and I dropped a big hunk of cheesy, greasy sausage on my shirt. I just shrugged and laughed. I’d already cried enough.

The day got better when Mom called and said she wanted to buy me lunch, so bonus food! And even though I had to go to the salon where all the pretty people work that afternoon to pick up Kady with flat, weird hair and a burrito grease stain on my shirt there are much worse things in the world than looking unkempt and sloppy. I had the money to buy my husband’s boxers and the gum they put back on the shelf – and even a breakfast burrito. I have a house with a garden and a daughter who pulled weeds and visited with me while I planted, that same daughter who is currently incubating my beautiful granddaughter. I have a husband who watered my garden that morning because in all the hullaballoo I forgot to actually do that. I have a momma who buys me chicken strips when I have bad days. I have clothes, food, a Sonic nearby, and Jesus. My life isn’t so terrible horrible.

Bad days are going to happen. They are inevitable. They are also survivable. And just so you know, Sonic chicken strips usually help. 

Don't Throw Stones

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on May 22, 2016. 

Five years ago my husband had a kidney stone. And it was a testament of my enduring love for him.  
After two ER visits to two different hospitals he was finally admitted and scheduled for surgery. Paul all but kissed the ER doc when he said he’d get his orders ready to admit him. The plan was to have surgery the next morning where they would go in and…..ahem….retrieve the dastardly stone. Yeah. I’ve had that done myself. It’s as unpleasant as you’re probably imagining.

Bright and early the next day the anesthesiologist came in, visited with us, and gave him some Versed to “relax” him prior to them taking him downstairs to surgery. Paul sat there on the bed and said, “This stuff doesn’t do anything to me. I’m …—“ and then he started snoring. I patted his leg and went back to reading my book. In came two cute little gals from the surgery department, ready to take him away. They managed to wake him up long enough to confirm his identity and were unlocking the wheels on his bed when one said, “Oh no. Mr. Hoover? MR. HOOVER?? Hon, you left your shorts on and we’re going to need you to take those off. MR. HOOVER??” She poked her head around the curtain and said, “Are you Mrs. Hoover? Uhm…can you try to get his shorts off of him? He seems to be pretty out of it.” She held the curtain open so I could see my completely unconscious husband. And his flowered Bermuda shorts just shinin’ there in all their glory. Then they told me they’d give us some privacy and stepped around the curtain.

THEY LEFT ME. I sighed. I patted his cheek, said his name, patted his hand. Nothing. Just snoring. I shook his shoulder. He waved me away. “Honey, you have to wake up and help me get these shorts off of you! Can you help me?” He mumbled, “Well, sure. Why didn’t you just ask?” I heard a giggle on the other side of the curtain. I shot her a death glare she’s probably glad she couldn’t see.

What ensued was pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done next to birthing babies. I would give him a command, make a request, he would agree to comply…..then he’d pass out and start snoring again. He was 100% deadweight and absolutely NO HELP. At one point one of the little gals on the other side of the curtain said, “Ma’am? You doin’ okay back there?”  to which I replied, “NO! I am NOT doing okay back here! Could I maybe get some help?” Then they giggled and said, “You’re doing great! Take your time. You’ll get it!” It was at that point I just busted out laughing. And they joined in. And we all had a good ol’ laugh. Which woke up my husband and he drunkenly said a bad word and passed back out again.  

After much wrangling, wrestling, persuading, and borderline accosting my poor husband, the Bermuda shorts were finally removed. By me alone. With no help. I considered a cartwheel, but then decided if I broke a hip and ended up in a different hospital room who would be there to remove any other stubborn articles of clothing if necessary?

The surgery was unsuccessful and a second procedure was scheduled for the next day. When the anesthesiologist came in the second time he said, “I gave him about half of what I did yesterday. Apparently your husband is a lightweight. We’d never seen anyone quite so out of it as he was yesterday.” Then he laughed as he said, “And I heard you had quite a time with his shorts…”

I dug those dadblamed shorts out of his laundry bag and threw them in the biohazard trashcan as soon as they wheeled him off to surgery. He’s mentioned them a time or two and wonders where they went. I’ll never tell. 

It's Not Always Easy

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on May 8, 2016. 

My firstborn gagged to the point of tears and would throw up any green baby food that was put into her face. She loved squash and sweet potatoes, all of the fruits were fine, but peas and green beans? Barf City. I was an avid reader of any and all parenting books (this was before we had the internet at our fingertips 24/7) and the firm belief was that after ten exposures to a food the child would magically love it and develop a lifetime of healthy eating habits. I mean, it was in the THE BOOKS so of course, it was true, right? Drs. T. Berry Brazelton and Penelope Leach all heartily agreed that picky eaters were a thing of the past because TEN TIMES OF EATING A FOOD WILL CURE PICKINESS. And I believed it.

I believed it so much that when on the 11th time I coaxed her cherubic little mouth into accepting a little plastic spoon full of green beans and she promptly spewed forth something completely Exorcist-worthy, I busted into tears. Why did she throw up?? Why did she not do the cute little smacking thing she does with applesauce and squash? IS SHE BROKEN?

So then I did what seemed like the next logical thing to do: I called my mother. I got her machine. She was out gallivanting about town while I was having a pureed vegetable crisis involving her first grandchild. The nerve! So the next logical thing was to call the Gerber hotline. Yes, I was that parent. The sweet woman who took my call was probably a grandmother – or a seasoned momma at the least – and listened while I hysterically explained that the green beans were not being accepted by my infant daughter and the doctors on TV assured me this was a foolproof method to ensure a healthy, well-rounded child who would be open to trying such foods as hummus and calamari. She listened. Then when I was done she calmly and sweetly said, “Sweetie? Have you ever thought that maybe she just doesn’t like green beans?” *blink blink* Well, no I had not actually thought of that. I thanked her for her advice and hung up. On a whim stuck my tongue to the spoon full of green goop and gagged. I didn’t make her try them a 12th time.

I took an infant Sam to the pediatrician once. When poor unsuspecting Dr. Ross walked in the room I held him out at arm’s length and said, “Fix him. He. Is. Broken.” She listened to my tearful description of his incessant screaming, his constant squealing, his perpetual noise-making while she played with him and looked him over from head to toe. I suggested he was hearing impaired – why else would he scream all the time? It wasn’t crying. Just screaming. So much screaming. She  finished her exam, patted a jabbering toddler-faced Abby on the head, then handed Sam back to me. 

“He’s perfectly fine, Momma. He just likes to hear his voice. Apparently a lot. But he’s normal. And you? You need a nap. Let your husband or mother take the kids for a few hours. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Because I know you are.” It was like she knew me! Then I remembered she had gone on maternity leave the week after Sam was born. So she was there in the trenches with me. And maybe her little boy was noisy, too.

So to all my fellow mommas out there: You are not alone. You have a very important job and it’s an exhausting one. And you are most of the time your own worst critic. Chill, my dear. Enjoy the smudges, toys, sticky-on-everything part of their toddler years, the eye-rolling, smelly parts of their teenage years, and the worry-filled and joyous parts of their adulthood. Relax. Enjoy your day. Enjoy Motherhood. And have a happy Mother’s Day! Seriously. I mean it. I SAID enjoy yourself. Stop touching your brother! And don’t pick your nose!

Oops, sorry. Occupational hazard. 


Originally published in the Miami News-Record on April 17, 2016.

Since we homeschool we don’t get many chances to dress up. Now, don’t think we’re the stereotypical kind who stay in their pajamas all day (that’s only the entire month of December) because we’re not. Most days we are all awake, dressed, make-up-ed, sufficiently caffeinated, and bordering on productive by 9 am. Because of Vo-tech Sam actually has to leave the house on a daily basis. Of course, as soon as he walks in the door at 12:15 he’s usually in pajama pants within minutes, so there’s that.

Our co-op hosts a semi-formal banquet in the spring and the kids have the chance to get a little gussied up, have dinner with other homeschoolers, and enjoy a special evening. My kids took to calling it the Not-Prom their first year and the name kind of stuck. They’ve done murder mystery dinners (actually, they’re doing that again this year), excursions to Springfield for dinner and a baseball game, and one year they attended a very Pinterest-perfect dinner in a family’s field complete with outdoor chandelier, real china, and fancy soup and stuff. This is Kady’s first year to go and she has learned maximum frugality from her big sister. We managed to get her dress at Susie’s for $6.00. I was pleased. We splurged on the shoes, but hey, it’s her first Not-Prom and that deserves insanely high-heeled sparkly red shoes, right?

I felt kind of bad when it was Abby’s Jr/Sr year and she wasn’t getting ready for the Prom like all of her public schooled friends were. I asked her if she felt like she was missing out. Her reply was as practical as the girl herself: “Mom, the only thing I’m missing out on is the chance to spend a ton of money and wear horribly uncomfortable shoes. I’m fine. Don’t worry.” So I didn’t.  

A few months ago my niece Addison casually mentioned to Sam that she thought it might be fun to take him to Prom if he thought he might be interested. They both are dancing fools, they are seriously geeky with their comic books and different fandoms, and are more like brother and sister than cousins. His reply was as boisterous as the boy himself: “HECK YES I’M INTERESTED!” Then not much more was said about it. Until one morning before church she presented him with donuts and a Mountain Dew for a prom-posal: “’Dew’ you want to go to Prom with me? Please ‘donut’ say no!” I secretly wished prom-posals had been a thing back in the 90’s.

Getting him ready for his first and (probably) only Prom was almost as fun as getting a girl ready. A visit to B. Oliver’s for his tux and boutonnière (the cousins refused to give each other flowers because “Ew, Mom. Weird.”) was the highlight of that week. We pored over the book, discussed looks and colors. Barry was helpful and made it a blast. Paul was less than pleased over what it cost to rent a tux, but I reminded him of a picture of a certain mullet-ed 17 year old in a white tux with a powder blue ruffled shirt and mused at how much that probably cost the boy’s mom back in 1979. He harrumphed me.

The big night finally came and unlike a girl, his getting ready routine began about 40 minutes before we had to leave for pictures and merely involved a shower and a shave. I realized I had never actually pinned a boutonnière on a lapel so the pictures show me with a frustrated look on my face and my phone up to my ear because I had to call Mom. His looked like everyone else’s in the pictures so I guess I did okay. He was excited and looked so handsome. One of my new favoritest pictures in the whole wide world is the one of my over-six-foot-tall boy grinning widely with his arm around his smiling, just-over-five-foot-tall momma. It was a night to remember for us both. 

A Smarter Phone

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on April 10, 2016.

Right around the time we disconnected our satellite TV we changed up our cell phone plan. Just like with the TV, we were tired of paying an astronomical amount on phones as well.  Paul’s favorite tirade (right after his lengthy speeches about the unfairness of the turnpike tolls – remind me to tell y’all about that one someday) is when he starts in on how “Back in MY day, we didn’t take our phones with us everywhere because they were attached TO OUR WALLS.” And of course, then he’d take a deep breath and immediately say that for what we’re paying on our phone bill, we could make “a heck of a car payment”. Except I like my car and he likes his truck, so I’m not sure why we need to make a car payment… But, as soon as contracts started expiring, I started shopping.

I made a call to our carrier and just basically told them I didn’t want to  utilize another company’s buy-out deal but I would if I had to and that I really liked their service, I just didn’t like the price that kept showing up on the bill every month. Fortunately, it worked. She worked a bunch of stuff around, offered a lower price for more data than we were currently getting – IF we wanted to add a couple of smart phones.

And that’s where I balked. We let Abby and Sam switch over to smart phones a few years ago and Kady has just been counting down the days until she could have one. The kids would belittle my adorable little phone with the slide-out keyboard in attempts to bring me into this century. They would ask me to please not use it in front of their friends. Once while sitting in the parent room at our homeschool co-op I whipped out my little phone, slid out the keyboard like a boss, and proceeded to send a text – quite adeptly I might add. My friend nearly spit out her drink when she saw it. “Oh my gosh! I haven’t seen one of those in years!” When I told her my husband still had a flip phone I thought she was going to pass out from laughing so hard.

So when they said I could add two smart phones and upgrade Sam’s to the newer version than what he had all while lowering our bill to the tune of $100, I took a deep breath and said, “Okay. Let’s just do it.” She noted everything on the account and we headed to the store in town. Before I left I asked Paul if he wanted to upgrade to a smart phone. He said a word I don’t dare type lest my mother pass smooth out and my editor fire me. I asked if he at least wanted to lose the flip phone, maybe go to one with a keyboard. “What? I just learned how to use this one!” I reminded him that the phone he was currently stroking like a Persian cat was almost five years old. While he clutched it to his chest like it was his most prized possession he reminded me of the five hellish days he owned a slider phone and how he threw it across the room while cursing his large thumbs. I told him the next phone he got was going to be a Jitterbug made just for senior citizens. He gave me a dirty look and called me a whippersnapper. 

I have to say, I’m enjoying my smart phone. I’ve sent my share of horrible autocorrects that have left myself and my unfortunate texting partner laughing. I WAY overuse emojis. I text the kids and when they don’t reply immediately send, “Thanks to the fancy smart phone you insisted I get, I know you’ve read my text. Reply now or you’re grounded.” Then I send the angry face emoji. Then the kids roll their eyes. No need for an emoji there. They convey that face in real life just fine.

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...