Saturday, December 24, 2011

80 Percent Fun

 I took the girls to an aquarium and the beach this past weekend. It was about 80 percent fun; I think sleeping in the same bed as a two year old who magically morphs into a giant slug that slowly pushes you off the mattress accounts for 10 percent of fun loss. The other 10 percent was lost by losing Morgan for about three minutes.

Our hotel was right on the beach so we marched right on down to the shore. The first time was great. We found shells, put our feet in the water and called it a day. The second time, Halle plopped herself in the ocean, Morgan fell in it, and we were all so sandy and dirty that I quickly remembered why we rarely visit the sea.

Near the hotel entrance, there was a hose you could use to wash yourself off with. While I washed Halle's pants and feet, Morgan hid behind a bush. Looking up and not seeing her, I panicked and started calling her. I told Halle to stay put while I started searching the area. Some people from a balcony started yelling directions to my lost daughter. It would have been helpful had they been directing me toward the correct child. As it was, it was only irritating and distracting. Morgan popped out from behind her bush a few minutes later and asked me what was wrong. "What happened, Mommy?" I told her we were not going back to the beach for a very long time.

Morgan has done this once before; while Halle is two years older and terrible at hide-and-seek ("Mommy! You're missing a little girl! I'm over here!"), Morgan is a master at it. While my mom was visiting, we went shopping in Raleigh. Both of us thought the other adult had Morgan, and thus shopped in peace until we realized our error. We started searching for her, and then I realized if Morgan was hiding, she would never reveal her location. When we found her, she was smiling and barely containing her delight. She couldn't believe how well her trick had worked. Funny, I didn't think to threaten not taking her shopping for a very long time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The lacquer thinner is surprisingly working. It's exciting to think of living in a house where it doesn't feel like Barbie snuck in and graffittied the couch. While I was scrubbing the couch, trying not to pass out from the fumes, Halle commented on the improvement. "So you were just teasing me when you were so mad and said the couch was ruined!"

I assured her that I had not been teasing her, but that I was glad the couch wasn't ruined. I also told her that she was more important than any couch. I'm never sure if I get through. But I hope if something gets through, the more important thing does.

Besides, Willie seemed to be on board with having a pink couch. Maybe I should have just bought more pink and doused the whole thing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Clean Harder

We are going to a superhero birthday party today. I'm kind of feeling like a villain, but we're going in spite of that. It's not like four year old boys can do anything to villains, anyway. Yesterday, I made a cape for Halle and thought I would save us 5 dollars and a trip to the store by making a bag for the gift. When I was almost finished sewing, I took a break to paint the girls' toe nails. It seemed like a nice motherly thing to do since I hadn't paid a lot of attention to them while I was working on my projects. After the toes were decorated, I went back to the sewing machine to finish up. I smelled something funny.

Jumping up from the machine, I saw that my couch had been murdered. There was bright pink fingernail polish EVERYWHERE, which of course does not come out. Furious, I sent Halle upstairs. (Morgan hadn't had time to make much of a mess, so she skirted most of the wrath.) When I had calmed down, I asked her to come downstairs. I explained that the couch was ruined, that nothing could get out the stains and that was why I was so upset. "Is there anything you would like to say?" I asked.

"Like... maybe you should clean harder?"

That was not the "something" I had wanted. Her blue eyes blinked up at me innocently. "Then maybe you should tell me what I'm supposed to say."

"Sorry. You're supposed to say you're sorry."

"Oh. I'm sorry, Mom."

I'm looking into lacquer thinner today, but it would take Superman to get this out. That's what you get for trying to save 5 bucks. Next time, I'll just buy a bag.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Apple Core, Baltimore

We didn't get a VCR until Blockbuster stopped renting them out in bags. Remember that? During that time, we rented both the VCR and an obscure chipmunk/Donald Duck movie. In it, a chipmunk would eat an apple then say to it's chipmunk buddy, "Apple Core." The other rodent would reply, "Baltimore". Chipmunk 1: "Who's your friend?" Then the second would point out an unlucky pal and the first would hurl his apple core at the "friend". My brothers and I thought this was a spectacular idea and have continued the tradition to this day.

This ritual is so ingrained in our family that sometimes we forget not only how obnoxious it is, but how obscure. I don't think anyone else saw this movie. So when my mom accidentally dropped an apple core into a birthday gift bag for her boss and he found it, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Apple Core, Baltimore." Not surprisingly, he missed the reference.

I foolishly taught my daughter this game and now it has extended to peas. Much of the dialogue has been simplified: "Peas Porridge, who's your friend?" She doesn't even need an answer. If it wasn't for my black lab, there would be peas everywhere. Those black labs are amazing. Mine is also fat.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Finding Christmas

In six years of marriage, Willie and I have only had two Christmas trees. Every time I put up a Christmas tree, I remember that the stand my mom gave me is only for decoration: it's missing a couple screws and is probably 80 years old (actually, it doesn't have any screws). But it's been three years since we had a tree and just long enough that the stand seemed perfectly capable. We had to have a tree this year because Halle explicitly asked for one last year. The conversation went like this: "Merry Christmas, Halle!"
"No, it's not."
"What do you mean?"
"I looked for Christmas everywhere and can't find it. Can we at least have a tree next year?"
It's hard for me to justify buying Christmas decorations when they cost money and get stored the majority of the year. But, seeing my three year old's disappointment in her parents has fueled my decorating fire. We had to get a tree. And a deer head. 

So I called friends to deliver my tree. After a lot of effort, Chris explained to me that the stand was not going to work and that I would need to get a new one. "But when you get a new one, call us and we'll put it in for you. Don't try to do it yourself."

Of course, after they left I immediately sawed off several more branches and enlisted my four year old to help me in getting it back in the stand. The tree fell on me three times. 

After all that effort, the tree was still a little tilted. But it was in my house and decorated. I would have left it. But my friends called me again, knowing that I would do something stupid and try to fix the stand. They delivered a stand and installed it. The tree only fell on Karen once. Moving a tree around is way more efficient with adults.

I'm hoping that Halle is appeased this year. I know that I, for one, am all ready having a great Christmas. Not only are we celebrating Christ's birth and our rescue from sin and darkness, I have a deer mount. My brothers and husband have all shot deer. I have hunted and captured one as well. I'm sure my family will be very proud.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The first time I saw Halle break out in hives, it was all over her face and I did a classic mom-freak out. I called the doctor and actually said that I feared for my child's life. I rushed her into the doctor and by the time we sat down in the waiting room, her hives had cleared up. This prompted me to lean over and whisper into my two year old's ear, "itch your face, child. I look like an idiot."

Thus, when her face broke out in hives this week I just pulled out the Benadryl. I won't be fooled again. I still have no idea what causes these hives, but I am sure that if I take her to the doctor to find out, they'll clear right up.

These skin irritations must run in the family because Willie also has had some frightening episodes. His ear, lips, and cheeks have all spontaneously swelled up. The doctor diagnosed him with, "unexplained hives." I could have diagnosed that.

Willie's biggest foe, however, is poison ivy. When we lived in Georgia he broke out in a rash and didn't get rid of it for a YEAR. If someone talks about poison ivy, he breaks out. I, on the other hand, am immune. This greatly aggravates my husband. I like to call it my superpower. He may be cuter, more athletic, smarter, and luckier than I am, but I am immune to poison ivy.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I got shushed this week by some old lady at the post office. She was hogging the window because she wanted to fill out some paperwork, which could have been done anywhere else. I was trying to send a large sewing machine across the country. My children were being very good, which never lasts all that long. The second you think to yourself, "I must be doing something right!" all hell breaks loose. Morgan wriggled out of my arms as I signed the credit card slip. "Don't touch anything!" I told her. She immediately went to the packaging supplies to touch all of them. Halle put her in a headlock and started dragging her toward me. Morgan let out a milk curdling scream, causing me to gasp and say, "Oh my!" I grabbed my receipt and the window hog irritably turned her head and shushed me. I would have shushed the kids, but that's just me.

I go in between thinking that I can't wait to be old so that I can be obnoxious and thinking that I hope I'm nice, even if I'm crazy. There was this old guy who used to come into the store I cashiered at during college. He suffered from narcolepsy, which made him very entertaining. He would start digging out money, and fall asleep. After a few snores he usually woke up and finished the transaction. One visit, he fell asleep three times before I could hand him the receipt. But he was very nice.

Another old lady who came into my store asked me to help her out to her car. I happily obliged, asking her which was her car. "I don't know," she said. "You mean, you don't know where you parked?" I clarified. "No," came her reply. "I don't know which is mine. I can't see them. I parked in the front row. It's a blue car," she squinted and meandered around. After settling on a Lincoln, she went on her way. I entered the store, raised my arms and made an announcement. "Nobody leave the store for at least fifteen minutes. There's a lady on the road who is considered blind and dangerous." She was nice, too.

I think I would rather be nice and crazy. That way, even if you don't have an excuse to be obnoxious, you have someone to drive you to the store while you sleep in the checkout line. Sleeping while you shop plus good company. Win/Win.

Friday, October 14, 2011


 Parties and I don't mix. The last party I went to, my cat ended up dying. When we were new to our church, we had a group of people over. In the group was our pastor and his wife. In the middle of dinner, I discovered that I had forgotten to remove the fly tape hanging over the table. We never used our table; we mostly ate at the counter since it was just the two of us. I mentioned this fact as I climbed on top of my chair in my dress and removed the fly tape (hopefully not flashing anyone in the process, but it is a possibility). Our pastor said that it was okay; he had been to lots of redneck houses and that hadn't scared him off at all. That really was his reassurance.
 Later, it was discovered that my fish was dead in its bowl.
I am terrible at remembering things like silverware, too. I think of the plates, napkins, balloons, but forget about basic necessities.

Thus, after Halle's first birthday party bust, (wherein no one enjoyed themselves) I made the decision to cancel all birthday parties. Instead, we go somewhere. We went to the zoo this year, last year we visited the Children's Museum and the Museum of History.

Unfortunately for Halle, we were travelling home from Oregon on her birthday this year. It was a long, exhausting day. The next day, I bought an ice cream cake (still in our freezer) from Dairy Queen, dug out some farm-yard themed candles from two years ago, and we sang. The candles kept going out so by the time I got them all lit at the same time, the chicken's head had burned off.

Morgan's birthday yesterday was a good time had by all, and the presents were all opened at the same time after a proper cake was lit and sung over (it was actually a carrot cake roll that happens to be my favorite sort of cake - Morgan was easily persuaded). All this fun and festivity prompted Halle to ask, "Mom, can tomorrow be my birthday? Because my birthday was kind of messed up."

You know, my birthday wasn't much of anything this year either. I would also like a do-over. At least I can still talk my kids into getting my favorite kind of cake for their birthdays.

Oh, and the first picture is of albino alligators. I just thought that needed to be shared. Albino alligators - who knew gators could be even more terrifying and ugly? Their eyes are red because they have no pigment. You're actually seeing the blood behind the eyeball. Learned that yesterday. See? No clean up and educational.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Actual Unexpected Gifts, Part II

4. Fanny Pack
Willie asked for a fanny pack for his birthday a couple years ago. I asked if he had had a flashback moment to 1992, but he said that in the fishing world a fanny pack is considered fashionably acceptable. He didn't use those words, but he did tell me that they are incredibly handy and he didn't care what Tim Gunn thought.

5. When we were dating, I lost a pocketknife that I had claimed in a lost and found box at the end of the school year. I was so disappointed, not because I ever used it, but because my Grandmother had always carried a pocketknife with her. I figured I would probably need one at some point during the aging process. I did not want to find myself without one when that day came. Valentines Day rolled around, and I was presented with a blue and purple Kershaw knife. I use it all the time. My Grandma was totally right.

6. Dinosaurs
We stayed the night at a friend's sister's house while visiting West Virginia about two years ago. A dino-obsessed little boy lived there, and Halle was instantly taken with the reptilian monsters. She opened her arms wide toward the plastic replicas. "All these could be MINE!" She exclaimed with glee. They couldn't be hers, but I did give her two that I found for a dollar a piece.

Now, every night after her bath, Halle disappears. "There's no Halle anymore!" a muffled voice says. Covered in her towel, she makes cracking noises. Leaping out of the towel stands a baby T-Rex. "Wrrrrraaaaa," she says. From that point until morning, she answers only to "Baby T-Rex." She has also introduced herself to strangers as "Baby Triceratops", "T-Rex", and "Spinosaurus".

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Actual Unexpected Gifts

One day I decided to see what people find when they google my name. They would find my blog, of course, but the reason they would look for it is because they're looking for unusual gift ideas. I figured I might as well write some entries about that subject so that people aren't completely disappointed.

1. Krystal Burgers
The first year we were married, we moved to Georgia from Washington state. Willie was literally the only person I really knew in three thousand miles, and he forgot my birthday. We had just moved into our apartment and I couldn't even find the box that might have a shower curtain. Willie wore a panicked expression as he left to try to  remedy the situation. He returned a couple hours later with a small paper bag. "It's Sunday," he said. "Everything is closed. I couldn't get you anything, so I bought you these." The bag held ten tiny, square hamburgers. I declined the offer, telling him that the dry cereal I had eaten earlier was more appetizing. He devoured the tiny grease squares and then asked with a desperate expression, "How can I redeem your birthday?" We ended up going to Savannah, which is charming and the entire day is one of my favorite memories of our time in Georgia.

2. Eisenhower
Before we got married, I adopted a cat from my Grandparent's house. It was a Siamese and I thought (erroneously) that it would be fun to name our cats after Presidents. After the wedding, Ike had difficulty adjusting. He hated Willie. He would sneak into a room, leap into the air, rake his claws across Willie's back, and then hide somewhere in the house. Anything that smelled like Willie got sprayed.

Ike also made friends with a local racoon. I found him shredding a bag of garbage on our back porch with his masked companion. They ate side-by-side from Ike's bowl.

Willie had a custom-made guitar sitting on a stand next to its custom-made case. Ike decided this case would work as a second litter box. It was then that I agreed Ike had to go.

Willie's parents came for a visit and we happily gifted Ike to them. Eisenhower only lasted about a month in the country before he got ran over.

3. Smartwool socks
My brother Jarred is famous for the comment, "Thank you. I hate this" which he made about a gift I gave him one Christmas. I repeated the phrase when I opened a pair of socks he gave me one year. It was a pair of neon yellow felted wool socks. They were the most uncomfortable, ill-fitting, ugly things I have ever laid eyes on. What had happened, was some guy at college who needed money had made them and then suckered Jarred into buying them.

No one in my family can say no to a traveling salesman. Once, I let a rambling black man wash Willie's truck for ten bucks. It was the worst car wash known to man and Willie was incensed. This summer, I bought a bunch of books from some college kid. Girl scouts actually frighten me.

At any rate, the next Christmas Jarred asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted some socks. He thought I was mocking him, but I really did want socks - just not handmade ones from alpaca boy. He bought me two thick pairs of gray Smartwool socks. I wore them for two weeks straight during a trip to Europe. The only time I took them off was when I took a rather rare shower.

I was telling my friend about my love for Smartwool socks: "They're more expensive, but you don't need as many because you almost never have to wash these things! They breathe so well that you can wear them for like three days and they're not too stinky." I could tell by the expression on her face that not only was she NOT planning to invest in Smartwool socks, she had also lost some respect for me.

That's probably enough for this installment. The moral of this entry: 1. Don't buy burgers to make up for forgetting your spouse's birthday, but DO ask her/him how you can fix it; 2. Do NOT buy Siamese cats, but if you get one, give it to your in laws who can dispose of it for you; 3. Smartwool socks are an excellent gift at anytime for anyone.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Showing Sheep

 The girls and I courageously ventured out west last month. To make the trip easier, Halle got a Leapster Explorer. She calls this electronic entertainer her "GPS" because she wanted a GPS for her birthday and I didn't want to give her mine. An aunt bought her a penguin game that we played for the first time on the ride home. I can only imagine what the other passengers thought of us. In this game, the penguin has to slap (at times using "fish-chucks", numchucks made of fish) cockroaches, birds, and rats. Halle needed help at times: "Mom, you've got to smack that rat! He's a bad guy! Those birds are bad, too! Smack the birds!"

Anyway, during the trip we went to the Walla Walla county fair, which is one of my favorite times and places. I grew up showing sheep at this fair, sheep usually named George. My nieces and nephews were all showing sheep this year, so we watched and even participated. The girls each earned suckers in Pee-wee showmanship. I'm very proud. Also, the suckers were delicious.

I talked my brother, sister-in-law Stephanie, mom, and one of my friends into showing with me. We all borrowed sheep and led them into the ring. My mom showed dairy cows when growing up, so she decided to use charm on the judge. Winking earned her a milkshake and third from last. Stephanie got asked the hardest question of the entire fair, "When was FFA founded?" Stephanie's wild guess was only two years off: turns out FFA was founded in 1928. She got last, which isn't bad considering she had never been in either 4-H or FFA. My friend Ashley used a ewe, who was about twice Ashley's size, and approximately forty times meaner. Ashley had hives afterward.

Meanwhile, my jeans were coming down a little in the back, so I decided to tuck my shirt in so that my bright pink underwear wouldn't show. In a video shot by Ashley's mom, it was revealed that I had actually tucked my shirt into my underwear. In showmanship, you're taught to pretend that you have a hole in the back of your pants that the judge can never see. I don't think that the judge saw my underwear, but everyone else sure did. My brother Tim did pretty well. He got third place, and I think a hamburger or something. They ran out of milk shake certificates, so they gave Steph a sucker. "Because you're a sucker for coming!" they joked. Steph did not find them funny. The Fair isn't always fair.

Afterward, we were all chatting in the stands while the girls played in the dirt. Mom bumped me and pointed at Halle. Halle's pants were down. I rushed to her and tried to pull her pants back up. "MOM, I'm peeing!" she yelled.

Mom had bought a tank top for me for $1.50 earlier, just because she can't pass up a deal. It turns out that adult tank tops can be turned into a child's dress with the aid of balloon string found on the ground.

We had lots of adventures everywhere we went. They'll probably make it into other blog posts because not much happens the rest of the year.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Painting Diaries

My Mom is visiting right now. There is always some sort of project while she visits, usually to ward off her boredom. My brothers and I have a saying: If you ever want to feel lazy, have Mom and Dad visit. They are really the most hard working people I know.

During their first visit, Dad and Mom helped paint the entire downstairs, fix holes in the wall, and fix flooring issues. The second visit, they painted the outside of the house. The third, they built me a pond. The fourth, they remodeled the kitchen.

Actually, Mom and I are getting smarter. While the men (my Dad and Willie) remodeled the kitchen, we went to the spa. Halle and Morgan watched The Jungle Book and Snoopy Come Home five times each.

This visit, it's Halle and Morgan who are doing the painting. And they're having a great time doing it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hold Your Horses

I often tell Halle to hold her horses, which of course means, "be patient". Although I have explained this hidden meaning, I still get colorful responses: "Horses are just animals!", "I don't have any horses", "I can't hold horses!" and, my favorite, "I hate my horses!"

Patience is certainly the most frustrating virtue. That's probably why it is a virtue. Something that hard should receive some kind of recognition. I was reminded of another difficult cliche the other day when I sent Halle inside for time out. While playing with her sister outside, an incident occurred wherein I sent Halle inside for four minutes. When I told her it was okay to return, she didn't hop to the door. I went inside to investigate.

You're not supposed to cry over spilled milk, but I guess it's fine to yell about it. Halle had reached inside the refrigerator, retrieved the milk, and had poured it all over the kitchen table.

Yesterday, during quiet time, it was a little too quiet. So I took a nap. Halle painted her nails. Actually, she painted her feet and hands, but her nails did get covered. Good thing I don't have any horses either; otherwise, I would have to hold them.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Golf Cart Towing

This past weekend, I learned to drive a golf cart. I also learned where to have golf cart chargers fixed when you're in the Outer Banks. In putting the golf cart into reverse, I accidentally tested its towing capacity. Sure enough. A golf cart can jerk its charger off the wall and tow it a couple feet. We went to the beach, wore the kids out, and then put them down for a nap. While my friends monitored supposedly sleeping children, (I did hear that Halle pounced on a sleeping Morgan a couple times) I slipped out. I went to "John's Golf Carts" and, I assume, spoke to John.

"I think I need a new charger," I said.
"A new one is going to cost you 400 dollars," he replied. "But I can fix just about any charger for around 50 dollars. I've fixed them when they've looked like they were hit by a truck. Do you have it with you?" Of course I didn't have it with me. That would have been too easy. It was 4:45, he closed at 5:00 and we were leaving the next day. "I'll tell you what," John said. "I'll stay open for you if you go back and get the charger. I'll fix it while you wait."

The traffic was so bad that it took an hour to travel three miles. But I retrieved the machinery, took it back to the shop, and John was impressed by the damage. "Holy mackerel!" he exclaimed. I guess the regular mackerel didn't cover it. But amazing perhaps both of us, he fixed it right up.

It always amazes me how God takes care of us: it really doesn't matter why we need bailed out. Even if we did something incredibly stupid, He is faithful. And I appreciate that He occasionally uses even holy mackerel.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Terrible Advice From Trees

"There's nothing to be scared of here. Just trust in Mother Nature...listen for the great wolf's howl, he says you're safe here now" the tree in the center of Great Wolf Lodge sings. There's an entire clock tower that comes alive, including a tree, a child that rises out of a stump, a moose head, raccoon, and Native American woman who emerges from inside a house. These characters collectively give the worst outdoor survival advice imaginable. On top of that, they frightened one little boy so badly that he didn't trust the hotel for the remainder of his stay. If you think about it, his reaction was probably the most logical. If someone told me to trust wolves, I would keep my eye on 'em.

We were there for a conference, a gathering of soldier's wives. Halle learned a lot. We shared a room with a friend and her two kids - a three year old boy and five year old girl. The boy was getting ready to hit the water park, so he stripped down and streaked across the room. "What was that?" Halle asked, whipping her head around. "Boys are made different than girls," I said. "Look at me. Look in my eyes. Focus on me."

It was very educational. The last time we went over there, it resulted in my buying a GPS and Halle throwing up. This time, my friend Casey threw up and her son got a rash that made his skin look like a red T-shirt. It turns out that the levels of chlorine in that indoor water park could probably disinfect the ocean.

At least we know better than to trust the advice of trees. Don't listen to them. Stay away from wolves.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rules I Didn't Expect to Make

There are some things that should be common sense, even to a three year old. Then again, in the chain of events that occurred Wednesday, I wasn't entirely blameless. I was painting something on our back deck for a project and thought that since the girls were playing so intently inside, that I could sneak out and get the painting done before they missed me. Right, like that was going to happen.

As they piled out the back door, I told them that they had to wear an old T shirt over their clothes. I ran inside to  retrieve the items and found that there was a spot all ready on Morgan's dress. I slipped a T shirt over Halle, but in my rush to save the dress, I left Morgan outside with just a diaper on.

In the three minutes it took for me to run water, rub soap on the paint spot and leave it to soak, Halle was busy. I came outside to find Morgan painted. Morgan's nose, cheeks, ear, entire tummy, and diaper were all green. "Halle, you are not allowed to paint your sister!" I said in shock. These are words I had not expected to ever say out loud. Or in my head, for that matter. "Oh," she said, as though this was a surprising restriction.

I ran for the garden hose to wash the child and while I drug that from the side of the house, the girls had painted a large portion of the deck. Our deck will never look the same. As I sprayed down the deck (after giving Mo a white trash bath), I saw Mo painting the item that I had started in the first place. I finished washing what I could, then put away the painting for later when the girls were napping. That's really what I should have done in the first place, but there's nothing like learning the same lesson over and over and over again.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Travel Tip

Buy the person next to on the airplane alcohol. This makes your child's attempt at hide-and-go-seek actually rather funny and her anecdotes about her imaginary friend hilarious. I didn't even have to buy the drinks for the Marine sitting next to me. He had a buddy traveling with him who had supplied him a couple rounds before they boarded.

The buddy (we'll call him Dave) had not seen drinking alone in a seat down the aisle from a tiny bathroom an obstacle. The spirits were flowing. Dave approached my neighbor and spotted me. He gave me a wink and a couple eyebrow raises. You know they've had too many when you're still looking like a viable option with two kids in tow. Neighbor asks Dave to share the riches with him. Dave glances in my direction and stuffs a twenty in Neighbor's hand, then heads to the bathroom.

"Do you really feel good about taking advantage of your friend when he's in this state?" I asked the guy sitting next to me.

He shoved the bill in his pocket and said, "It's what Marines do. I only met that guy two days ago."

Huh. Perhaps a lack of generosity would account for my not joining the service. Whatever the case, the flights home were actually somewhat enjoyable. I thank God for that. I also find myself thanking Him for Sam Adams, something I have not had occasion to do before.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chocolate Bunnies

Two days before Christmas, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. After receiving the news one friend asked, "Are they going to hack anything off?" A very good looking plastic surgeon hacked off something in January. Before going under, the surgeon asked if my mom was ready. "I'm sure you've seen better," she replied, "but I guess I'm as ready as possible." My intrepid mother made decisions no one should have to make, received news with grace, and pondered her circumstances with a sense of humor that only comes from knowing that God is in control.

Recently, I attended one of her appointments with her. Apparently, only attractive people are allowed to work in plastic surgery offices. As I strolled through the glass doors, I had to wonder if the staff takes bets on what visitors would like to have done.

After the appointment, we hit the mall. You need to see some train wrecks after you've been to a high class clinic. Halle found a purse that looked almost identical to a chihuahua. Grover's mom needed it, she said.

"What could Grover's mother possibly need it for?" I asked.
"To put chocolate bunnies in for Grover."
Of course that's what Grover's mother would use it for. I wished my mother had chocolate bunnies in her purse for me. The purse looks so real that a dog actually sniffed its butt when we were at a different store.

We left feeling more blessed than before we had come. The greatest blessing is seeing my mom well and to have such an intrepid mother to begin with. But not too far down the list is Grover's mom's purse.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Carpet Lessons

Halle learned a valuable lesson about graffiti today: If your plan for getting out of trouble is blaming your sister, avoid writing your own initial all over the carpet.
Two weeks ago, the carpet in her bedroom had a much different story. I greeted her Sunday morning when she came downstairs. "How did you sleep?" I asked.
"Bad. I slept bad."
"Oh no. Why?"
"Oh, because I throwed up all over the floor."
"You WHAT?"
"Yeah, Grover throwed up too."
I went upstairs with her to survey the damage. The bathroom light next to her bedroom was on. "Why is the light on in the bathroom?"
"Well, because I slept in there last night."
I noticed a clean guest towel crumpled next to the bathroom rug. She had thrown up all over her bed, the carpet, and the guest bed next to her bed. Afterwards, instead of going downstairs and informing me of the situation, she curled up on the bathroom rug and went right back to sleep.

After church, we met a friend and went to a Harness race. Standing in a crowd of spectators, I glanced down and saw that Halle's pants were around her ankles. Diarrhea strikes. I shoved Morgan into my friend's arms and rushed Halle to the bathroom for a change of clothes. I wonder if Halle will have a recurring nightmare of forgetting to wear pants when she gets older.

Last week, we almost got swept away by a tornado. It was during this instance that I was reminded that I am the worst possible person to be with in a crisis situation. My friend whom I had met for coffee had received a phone call that a friend who lived near her had lost her house. So, as we sat waiting for news, power, or a favorable change in the weather, she happened to mention that her house was a mess. "Maybe it won't matter," I said. Immediately after saying this, I realized it was not a comforting comment.
I suppose the moral of all these events is that you can never be prepared for everything that comes. But you can learn to keep your mouth shut. Obviously, I'm still working on the second.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I shouldn't be allowed to own fish. I wouldn't even have fish except my mother insisted that I get a tank so that my daughter could experience the soothing floaty action. I clean our tank when you can't see the fish any more. Today, it had again reached the point where I wasn't sure if the fish were alive or dead. I cleaned the tank thoroughly and dumped the fish back inside. (Neither fish are named, a testament to how unattached everyone is to the fish - even the bat that terrorized our household last week got named "Alexander".) Not too long after, I clearly saw them floating at the top of the tank. One would assume that the fish would have died in the putrid sewage they were swimming in previously. Instead, they choose to die when they can actually breathe and see the world. Maybe they were shocked by how my oxygen their gills pumped, or by seeing our cat Rex for the first time. (They don't even know that he's less frightening now that his herpes is under control.)

Now that I've cleaned the tank, I'm considering getting another fish. I've gone to all that trouble - it seems a shame to waste a clean tank. If I did, I would get a gold fish, which I could dump in our pond outside when I tired of it. The last time we did that, Halle actually caught "Black Betty" in the pond, flipped her on the bank, and discovered that fish can't survive out of water. Again, too much oxygen can kill a fish.

At least the fish chose a good time of year to die. They will be excellent fertilizer for a really tiny plant.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beware of Offering to Help

When people offer help “if I need anything”, I often wonder what “anything” means to them. Tonight, I wondered if that included bat eradication. Fortunately, the flying rodent did not transform into a vampire, which would have been at least equally frightening as the large, furry, pteranodon-like creature I almost stepped on.

Climbing the stairs with both children in tow, I noticed a furry-looking creature the next step up. “Wait a second,” I said to Halle she raised her foot. I put my hand on her stomach, keeping her from ascending. “That looks kind of like a bat.” Hearing the name of its species, the bat removed all doubts by screaming like a fire alarm. I grabbed both children, lifted the gate at the bottom of the stairs off its hinges, and threw it on the floor. The three of us sought refuge in my bedroom. “Wait here,” I told the girls, and grabbed my phone.

Calling a friend, I asked for advice. Sonja suggested covering it with a blanket. I reached for a blanket, cast the net, and watched in horror as a bat wing found the edge and then sidled along. The bat’s screams were thinly muffled by the blanket which I will now wash at least three times. The bat succeeded to fly upward two stories to the skylight, where it was impossible to be trapped. Shooting it was clearly the only option.

My friend’s husband called her. Sonja answered the telephone with the greeting, “Kara has a bat in her house and she’s planning to shoot it.” “That is a poor decision,” he replied. Fortunately, another friend had supplied her son Zach, who is a hunter. I met him at the door with an air rifle.

As I pointed out the pest and explained the situation, I told him I didn’t know how it had entered my house. Halle’s voice from behind my bedroom door came, “It’s Grover’s bat! Grover let it in!” I felt strangely betrayed by her imaginary friend.

Zach shot the bat, but only made it scream again and fly around before it attached itself to the same spot. Changing tactics, Zach was able to trap the bat with a telescoping net, then cover the top with a blanket and release the furry flyer into the outdoors. I paid Zach with cookies.

Halle told us Grover would be very surprised that the bat was gone. I told her to relay to Grover that I did not want a bat in the house again. She called him up. “It’s for you,” she said, handing the phone to Zach. Zach declined talking to Grover, but I think the monster got the message. Let’s hope so. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Vote is for East

This past weekend, the girls and I headed the Great Wolf Lodge on the other side of the state. The lodge houses an indoor water park, maintained at a balmy 80 degrees year round. The water park, in my opinion, has way too many surprises (water shoots, dumps, gurgles, and sprays at different times and places constantly) but I guess some people enjoy that sort of thing. I'm not a big one for surprises.

As soon as we started home, I realized that my plan of reversing the directions I had printed out in order to come home might be a flawed plan. I got hopelessly lost. At one point, I said to Halle (in an empty parking lot), "We're going EAST! I think we're supposed to be going west. I can't believe I did that!" Halle interjected, "I would like to say right now that my vote is for east." It turned out she was right, which must have been nice for her because about ten minutes away from the hotel, she had thrown up all over herself.

We pulled over to get her cleaned up. "Grover threw up, too," Halle told me. Grover is one of Halle's imaginary friends. He has a herd of cows that travel with him, as well as a couple of dinosaur buddies and his cat named Lotion. Fortunately for everyone, imaginary vomit does not smell or create much of a mess.

The whole adventure home (which took four hours instead of two) reminded me of one that I took two years ago with my Dad and sister-in-law Stephanie. Attending my brother's boot camp graduation, we stayed in a hotel with a toilet that sprayed water all over Steph, I threw up in a McDonald's drive-through, and we got so lost that we drove two hours out of our way before realizing our mistake. In addition to this, I was turning left and keeping an eye on some kids who were J-walking to the right of my car. I failed to notice a driver careening toward us, which Stephanie pointed out. Slamming my foot on the gas, we safely reached the turn lane. I stretched my hand over to my dad in the passenger seat. "High five for staying alive," I said. Dad slapped my hand and Stephanie recovered from her heart attack.

At any rate, I think I've decided to buy a GPS. It would give me a few less surprises.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I really didn't think the "check engine soon" light had a, "now" after it, but apparently it does. I had had the light checked out a couple weeks ago, but was told it was an emissions thing and that I was fine to continue driving it as long as there wasn't an environmentalist behind me. So Sunday evening, I planted my girls in their car seats, had a cup of hot tea in the center console and was surprised to find that the check engine light did not come on - because nothing did. The car would not revive, regardless of my excellent pep talk.

I've been giving cars pep talks since I drove my first car, the '66 Chevy Impala, which was roughly the size of a barge. It would often pass out on me, in which I would pop the hood, look at the gigantic engine, and then begin my talk. "Listen, you and I both know that I have no idea what I'm looking at, let alone how to help you. So if you want fixed, you had better get yourself together and get us home where there's someone who can nurse you back to health." It often worked. Today, it did not.

Kindly, the car did not die on my birthday. It waited a full 24 hours after the date in question. Four years ago, my jeep did not have that decency. The morning of this birthday in question, I went to work and then commenced vomiting every 15 minutes. I told my boss (near a toilet) that I needed to leave work and seek medical attention. I drove myself to the hospital (taking a couple of pit stops along the way) and then was given a couple bags of IV fluid. After I was discharged, I went to crank the old girl up, and was met with a wrrrrr-rrrrr cough. It had to be jumped twice before I was able to stumble home. Willie, not being much of a phone person, did not check any of his messages and was surprised to find me in bed when he arrived home. He had brought me chocolates. Since I was not in much of a mood for them, he ate them himself.

So this morning, I learned to jump the car by myself. I watched a you tube video on the subject wherein the instructor said, "This red cable you clip on the positive terminal. This black one can go anywhere." I called my friend Kat, who referred me to her husband, who walked me through the process. I was still unsuccessful, so he and Kat came over this afternoon. It turns out you're supposed to take some plastic covers off the battery terminals. That was not in the you tube video.

The car made it to the shop, so who knows what they'll find wrong with it. They'll probably discover a gremlin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cat Complications

Out new kitten has feline herpes. A friend commented, "Don't they have kitty condoms for that?" It's surprising that they don't. It turns out that 95 percent of cats have the disease, but many of them never become symptomatic. Stress triggers herpes, so if you come to my house, please be nice to my cat.

This was the first time I have ever taken a cat to the vet. Growing up, only the most expensive animals received medical attention. Since cats were free, they never made it. Once, we adopted a white kitten that had a hernia. We just duct taped the hernia up.

When we were first married, Willie and I had a cat named Ike. I have never seen a cat so full of hate before. That cat despised Willie. Anything that smelled like him was peed on. Ike also befriended a raccoon, which he went through our garbage and shared his meals with. The final straw was when the cat used Willie's custom made guitar case as a litter box. We gifted the cat to Willie's parents, who accidentally flattened the cat with their car within a month.

But my favorite cat memories are from our almost life-long friends, the Durfees. The Durfee kittens never seemed about to stay out of the driveway. On more than one occasion, Laurie (Mrs. Durfee) would hit a kitten on our way somewhere, lean over to my brother and me and whisper, "Distract the girls while I bury the kitten". One such kitten was not killed but merely disfigured. She was thereafter called, "Mrs. Wobbles". Mrs. Wobbles was caught wobbling out into the road and lying down several times. She finally succeeded in her suicide attempts.

We have also had many wonderful cats and some have died of old age. We'll see how Rex does. Again, please don't stress him out. (Or me, for that matter.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why We Went Into the Woods... and Why We Went Out of the Woods

Thoreau wrote an essay called, "Why I Went Into the Woods", which I read (not voluntarily, but read nonetheless). I never bothered to read his sequel, "Why I Went Out of the Woods" because that always seemed obvious. But the great thing about going out of the woods is that it feels like a vacation when you get home.

Feel like you need a new mattress? Go sleep on the cold, hard ground. Your bed will feel like heavenly clouds. Feel like your bathroom is too far away? Hike to one in the freezing cold outdoors. If you're lucky, there will be one-ply toilet paper. Feel like you can never get your house clean? Go live in dirt. It's all about perspective.

Of course, when you trade your life of relative ease with relative misery, conflict is inevitable. As my friend Yunjong put it, "I went camping once. I have many stories of being mad at my husband." I have many stories, too, most of them stemming around differing definitions. I grew up camping, so when we were dating, I told him confidently that I love to camp. Then, I went camping with him. The first evening, I was in shock. Where was the volleyball net? The poker game? The snipe hunts, feasts, bonfires... none of those existed in Willie's definition of camping. His definition: camping - sleeping near a river and/or lake and fishing from dawn until dusk. This trip, I brought a book. I'm learning.

You always learn something about each other when you're camping. This trip, we learned that Halle walks in her sleep. In the middle of a frigid night, I heard something moan and smack the side of the tent. "That sounds like Halle," I thought. I checked her sleeping bag and found it empty. I woke up Willie. We coached Halle back into the tent. "I'm freezing!" she said. Willie tucked her back into the sleeping bag. "How long were you out there?" he asked. "Three hours!" she replied.

Of course, she wasn't out there for three hours. But it probably felt like three hours, the same way that were were technically camping for three days, but it felt (and smelled) like three weeks. This is another great thing about camping: it lasts longer than a regular vacation. Vacations always fly by too fast and never come soon enough. I think I'll be satisfied if I don't camp for another year or even longer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Santa Squirrel

Unfortunately, I recognize the scratching inside my chimney. These little visitors have overstayed their welcome before. As a matter of fact, this is our third squirrel infestation. The first was in our attic in Georgia (one feisty little feller chewed through the brake lines on a guy's car in the parking lot). The second was a couple of years ago, after a rare red cockated woodpecker pecked an enormous hole on the side of our wooden chimney. This prompts several questions: 1.) Why would anyone ever build a wooden chimney?, 2.) Why are these woodpeckers protected?, 3.) What will happen to us if we shoot the woodpeckers or squirrels within city limits? The third question has unfortunately been answered by my neighbor, a very nice lady who used to work for the police department. She kindly informed me that she would call the cops if she saw any suspicious business. She is actually very nice.

The second infestation also raised the question of how to get the boogers out of the chimney. We can't smoke them out since we can't actually use our fireplace. It was at one time a gas-burning fireplace, but the lines have since been removed. Now, a set of candles inhabits the inside. They lend a nice ambiance for the rodents. So, Willie built a squirrel pole. This is a survival technique where you take a pole, attach snares and shiny things and set it in the path of squirrels. The squirrel pole was set up in front of our bird feeder. Fortunately, we weren't depending on it for food. It was unsuccessful for three months. After a slight alteration (Oh! This must be the right squirrel path!), a squirrel was caught. I carried our 18 month old daughter up the porch steps and watched in horror as a squirrel hanged itself right in front of us. But this story does have a happy ending: Willie was able to use the tail to tie some fishing flies.

I don't know what will become of these squirrels. If they contributed, that would be one thing. Maybe I can train them to bring nuts and seeds or something. At least it isn't mice.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Imaginary Advantage

Halle got so angry with me that she removed all of her clothing. Fortunately, we were at home. I don't know why that seemed an appropriate response, but it reminded me of a similar incident involving her father. When we first bought our house, we removed the carpet and began installing laminate flooring. While laying the panels, Willie encountered "some trouble". Whenever power tools are involved, trouble is of massive proportion. We had limited materials, so one wrong cut was a crucial error. He was so frustrated, he wanted to throw something. However, doing so not only would ruin the floor that had all ready been laid, it would not be able to be replaced. Thus, in his anger, he wriggled out of his shirt and threw that on the floor. I think it helped. I laughed so hard I had to leave the room. It was such a logical, well-executed outburst it should not be openly ridiculed.

Anyhow, Halle seems to have inherited this same rationale. She also shares her father's hatred of smelly dogs. Yesterday, Halle began pointing and yelling "Bad dog!" at our innocently relaxing animal. "What are you doing?" I asked. "She's really a good dog. Why are you yelling at her like that?" Halle replied with great feeling, "When she passes gas, she is a bad dog!" It really isn't Maddy's fault. Morgan would rather feed the dog than herself. Occasionally, I have to put the dog outside so that Morgan will eat something.

Since outbursts don't work in gaining the upper hand, Halle has developed a rather ingenious method to get what she wants. She has numerous friends whom she never gets upset with or even argues with. Of course, they're all imaginary, but they seem like good company. She asked me if she could watch a movie today. I told her that she couldn't. "Well, let me ask Grover," she replied. Grover is one of her friends. He has a cat named "Lotion", a herd of cows, and a posse of dinosaurs. "Grover, is it okay if I watch a movie?" (Turning and speaking in a lower voice), "Why, yes, Halle! You may watch a movie! See Mom, it's okay with Grover, so I will go pick one out." These imaginary friends are so handy, I'm thinking of getting myself a few.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heimlich Maneuver

Halle performed her first successful Heimlich maneuver today. Hearing Morgan wailing, I entered the room she was in and found Halle standing next to her with an expression that read, "I'm going to get in trouble, aren't I?" I demanded to know what had happened. "Well, I just dropped her."
"You WHAT?" 
"I was just trying to get the marble out of her mouth."
I congratulated Halle on her success and thanked God that He works through big sisters. It's amazing how humbling parenting is. It's also amazing how marbles can multiply and race throughout your house, be hidden countless times, and be dragged out of the depths of closets by a determined three year old.

Potato heads share this ability. Their parts never fit in their behinds, and if you find most of them, jam them together, and take them to Goodwill, body parts will miraculously appear and regenerate upon your return. Don't get me started on puzzles.

I have bought numerous puzzles with the intention of sharpening Halle's comprehension, coordination, and creativity. (Apparently, I should just focus on First Aid.) I go crazy before they can serve their purposes. Last Christmas, I bought her a bear puzzle that features Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. You can change their faces to reflect different emotions as well as their outfits. Unable to wait for the green light for unwrapping, Halle served three separate sentences in time out. When she finally opened the bear puzzle, she arranged the emotions accordingly: Papa Bear and Mama Bear had angry faces, while Baby Bear had tears running down his furry face. 

That puzzle is on top on the refrigerator now. Halle may not have a future in psychology, but the medical field is still in the running.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Last night, I discovered that my 3 year old daughter cheats at cards. It was a bit of a shocking revelation, especially since I hadn't noticed her stealing my Go Fish pairs. She began laughing uproariously and waving a 3 of fishes around. "I stole this card!" she exclaimed, unable to conceal her conquest any longer. Shocked, Willie and I could do nothing but laugh.

Last week, I concealed something perhaps equally impish. At the end of the grocery cycle, I poured the last bit of Rice Crispies and milk into a bowl for Willie. Busy doing something else, we both failed to notice Monkey Cat on the counter feasting on his breakfast. I turned and quickly shooed her away, unsure of the next course of action. If I came clean, Willie would not only miss out on breakfast, (we had NO OTHER food in the house) but he would be very cranky. Wasn't it better that he leave the house with a full stomach and a happy disposition? Wasn't it better that we still have a cat?

Of course, like Halle I could not keep the information to myself and blurted it out after he came home. These events prove that I would make a horrible poker player. Hiding emotion has never held much interest for me. This is something else I inherited from my mother.

Mom and Dad came to visit at Christmas. Mom and I went to the spa, where there is a "quiet area". The quiet area has a hot tub, steam room, and sauna. On the door before you enter, there is a sign that says clothing is optional. To me, that means pants are optional. A bathing suit is not optional. This is America, people. Not a beach in France. A woman who interpreted the sign differently was enjoying the steam room. My mom entered and almost bumped into the woman's ample flesh. "Excuse me!" she said in surprise. If the woman was bothered, she had a better poker face than mine. "No problem," she cheerfully replied. Mom left. Sometimes leaving is the most tactful course of action.