Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The night before Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas, and I with my cart
was making my way around Super-Wal-Mart.
We’d just gotten home from a trip out of town.
There was nary a crumb in our house to be found.
“Aaaaaaaack!” I had shouted. “We’re going to be hosed!
I must get to the grocery before they’re all closed!”

And so I joined up with that last-minute crowd
in that wild mad-house – so chaotic and loud.
But though it was crazy, the people were merry
instead of all frazzled and angry and harried.

I inched through the isles. I’d stop and I’d start
and tried not to run anyone down with my cart.
There were shelves that looked like they’d been mowed through by locusts.
The food was all gone! Disappeared! Hocus Pocus!
Somehow or another I found what I’d need
for my Christmas Eve Dinner and family to feed.

I got to the check out and waited in line.
I browsed through a “People” to make good use of time!
Then finally, yes finally, I got out of there
all my food for the week; 15 minutes to spare!

I made my way home. I unloaded my stuff.
I poured up some wine. Is one large glass enough?
I started our dinner with no need to toil.
Green beans, mashed potatoes, a huge London broil.

I set up the table. They all gathered ‘round.
I put out the food, asked them all to sit down.
“How ‘bout”, said my husband “before we all start
we each can hold hands and open our hearts.
We all can give thanks, one by one, all around
Because we have been blessed, and goodness abounds.”

We took turns. We were grateful for family and friends
whose love, warmth and kindness, it seems never ends.
We were thankful for all of the loving and caring
and kindness and laughter and friendship and sharing.
We gave thanks for the gifts that have filled up our life.
(Especially Mike’s – he has such a great wife!)

Then we started to eat. What a fabulous dinner!
(Could it be this is why I don’t get any thinner?)
When we finished, we tucked the kids into their beds
so that sugar-plum visions could dance in their heads.
I checked on them once. They’d not made a peep.
Two kids so exhausted – already asleep!

We got out the paper and ribbons and bows.
Hold on now….. Just where did my wine bottle go?
We wrapped up the presents. We tried to be quick.
We staged up a visit from good old Saint Nick.

The stockings, hung up with meticulous care,
were stuffed to the brim, with no room left to spare.
The presents, in front of the stone fireplace
would bring a huge smile to each little face.

With a stretch and a yawn and a scratch of the head
I said to my husband “I’m going to bed.”
“You know that the kids will be up oh-so early,
all wound up, excited, incredibly squirrely.
And I need to sleep – to get some good rest
so when morning comes, I can be at my best.”

I brushed all my teeth, (I want them to stay white!)
climbed into my bed, and tucked myself tight.
And just one more thing as I turn out the light……

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm not sure, but I think I just got "parented" by my son......

Yesterday I told Landis, in no uncertain terms, to get in the car and put on his seat belt.
This was his reply: "When you can ask me nicely......then I will."

Ahhhhhhh, yes. There's nothing like the sweet, sweet feeling of your own words flying back in your face. Not to mention legitimately being taken to task by your three year old.............
(Deosn't he look like a little stinker?)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I'm dreaming of a Norman Rockwell Christmas.........

I had a conversation with a friend the other day. She was telling me about the process she and her family go through to find the perfect Christmas Tree. They don't skip down the road to the local Home Depot, or Lowe's, or even to one of the little Christmas Tree "farms" that crop up around this time of year. No sir. They drive to the mountains, where the REAL trees are. And once they get there they search out the most authentic Christmas tree farm they can find. Nothing too commercial; she doesn't want to shop for anything in an on-site gift shop. However, she is interested in a horse drawn carriage that will take you and your family back into the fields where you can walk through a forest of trees until -- Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!! -- you stumble upon the perfect one for your living room. You cut it fresh, tie it to the top of your car, and drive for hours back to your home. And do you know why they go to all this trouble, every year, to get their Christmas tree? "It's because I want it all -- I want the perfect Norman Rockwell experience." she explained.

Hmmmmmm......... I guess the "Norman Rockwell experience" goes over better in her family than it ever did in mine. My mom had the same hopes and dreams too. Christmas time would creep up, and her mind would start to overflow with those perfect, all-American images. She and my dad would load my brother and me up in the car with a dreamy look in their eyes. "Let's go cut our family Christmas tree!"

In hindsight, I understand what my mom was conjuring up. A walk through a winter wonderland, with all of us bundled in our scarves and hats and mittens, laughing and holding hands as we made our way through the trees. In her mind we'd find the perfect one, and then gather around it. Maybe we'd even "Oooooh" and "Aaaahhh". Then my dad would pat my brother on the back, and say something like "Well son, whaddaya say we go with this one?" And then the two of them would proceed to cut it down while my mom and I held hands and drank hot chocolate and talked about how wonderful this tree was, and then perhaps we'd all sing 'silent night' in three-part harmony. (Sigh......... Doesn't that sound nice?)

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that this was the beautiful picture my mom would conjure up every year. And, of course, every year the reality was something else entirely. Like I said, they'd load us up into the car with that dreamy "this is going to be a Norman Rockwell moment" look in their eyes. Then we'd back out of the driveway, and my brother and I would start arguing. After that, we'd hit each other all the way to the tree farm. Once we arrived, we'd spill out of the car and start hoofing it back into the fields. My brother and I would go in the opposite direction of my parents in search of the biggest tree we could find. My parents, being far more practical than my brother and me, would go in search of one that would actually fit inside our house. Once we each found our respective trees, we would begin the yearly argument. Josh and I would cling desperately to the trunk of the 12 foot tree that we'd found and exclaim over and over again that this was the ONLY suitable Christmas tree in the place. My parents would try to explain, repeatedly, that it wasn't possible to get a 12 footer. That, in fact, we had to get a 5 footer so that we could actually stand it up in our living room. With the understanding that we might be losing the battle, and yet refusing to be swayed away from our 12 foot giant, my brother and I, in our desperation, would begin to hurl insults: Their tree was stupid. Who wanted such a puny tree anyway? What could they possibly be thinking, wanting to get such an ugly tree?! We'd keep it up until my mom had finally had enough and sent us to wait in the car; Her dream of the perfect Norman Rockwell moment dashed for yet another year.

I'm not exactly sure how many years we went through that routine, but I do know that one day, just as the Christmas season was getting started, I walked in the front door to find a Christmas tree in our living room -- totally decorated! "What the......? How come you guys got the tree without us?" I stammered. My mom made some remark about how everybody was so busy it just seemed easier that way. But I think the truth was that my mom had given up on the dream. And I also think that maybe it was a relief. I don't know about you , but it seems to me that Ol' Norm sets up some pretty darn high expectations. I mean, who can really live up to those beautiful, all-American, perfect images?

So I started looking up some of Norm's paintings, and as I perused through all of them I came to a very different realization: Even though we all tend to conjure up the perfect American family when we think about Norman Rockwell, maybe Mr. Rockwell knew a thing or two about capturing the imperfect moments too. I found a painting of a boy being spanked by his teacher -- a man who had clearly been pushed to the very end of his rope. I found another of a young girl looking completely tousled, yet incredibly smug, sitting outside the Principal's office. And then there was one of a group of boys who were obviously having a heated argument over who was going to be stuck with the short kid on their basketball team.

And I have to admit that seeing those paintings made me feel better about my own failed attempt to create the perfect Norman Rockwell experience around the Christmas tree this year. Because once I actually took the time to really look, I saw that not all of Norm's moments were perfect. Somewhere, among the shards of the smashed and broken ornaments that my three-year-old tried so valiantly to put on the tree (against our express instructions, I might add) was a good moment. There may have been stress, and there may have been frustration, and there may have even been a time when I thought to myself "Why Oh Why did I think that this was a good idea!?!?" But without a doubt, there was also a good moment; A moment that Norm could have made pretty if he had chosen to capture it on a canvas. And that's good for my soul. Because after all, it's Christmas time. And a mom has to have a dream............

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmas Shopping

Here are 5 things you can catch your child carrying around when Christmas shopping at Lowe's Home Improvement Store:

#5. Rolls of wrapping paper

#4. A small pot of pansies

#3. Garland

#2. A box of large jingle bells

#1. A dead bird

Small-Town Girl

I take a yoga class on Fridays. I love the class and I love the instructor. And I could post about the awesomeness of yoga for days, but that's not the point of this little tid-bit. The point is this. After class, which happened to be the Friday before Thanksgiving, I was talking to my instructor. I told her I wouldn't be there next week, since I was traveling to Ohio to see my family for the holiday. My brief statement led to a long discussion about "going back home" and all of the old habits and anxieties that can bring up -- for her, not for me. I love going home and getting pampered by the folks. In any case, she did most of the talking, and I did most of the listening, nodding and smiling. And as she went on about how easy it is to fall into the old habits of restlessness and depression, eating excessively, worrying about how your body looks, and wondering how your life is stacking up, I was all smug, thinking about how glad I was that I am genuinely happy to spend time with my family and how I don't fall into those old "high school habits" she was ruminating about. (Well........except for the eating excessively part, and then obsessing about why my pants are hard to zip up. But isn't that what the holidays are mostly about?)

So when we arrived at my parent's house in Ohio, I had practically forgotten the conversation I had with my instructor. However, certain relevant bits of our little chat must have made themselves at home on my internal "radar-screen of self-awareness" because we hadn't been there very long when I made a discovery............. indeed, I do fall into an old "high-school habit" when I return to my old hometown. It's not depression, it's not restlessness, it's not "Am I a failure in my life?!?!", it's not about my body. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was in the bathroom for the 10th time, applying "touch-up" mascara to my already made-up eyes, and yet another layer of hairspray to my 3 inch long hair. I was staring at myself mid-spray and it clicked. When I return to Lebanon, I'm a primping fiend. It's ridiculous. And I can't stop. Why all the primping? Well, in this particular case, it was for a trip to the grocery store. But I do it before I step out the door to go anywhere in Lebanon. Gotta' go get gas in the car? Hang on! I have to check my hair. Want to run into town and pick up a movie? Sure! But let me just check and make sure my shoes go with my pants first. Who wants to take the kids swimming at the pool? I do! But first, has anyone seen my eyeliner?!

So this got me thinking. Why, when I'll go run my errands with yesterday's mascara and this morning's bed-head in Charlotte, do I compulsively do my hair and make-up when I'm in Lebanon? And I think I know the answer. It's because I'm a small-town girl. When I was growing up, Lebanon (if you want to say it right you'll pronounce it "Leb-nhun") was home to approximately 6,000 people. The population increased slowly over the years, but what this basically meant was that you knew everybody. You had family cookouts with your dentist. You went to school with his kids. And the hygienist's kids, and the receptionist's kids. Heck, you went to school with your family doctor's kids, and the local bank manager's kids. You went to school with the minister's kids, and the sheriff's kids, and the Judge's kids too. (And you knew that if you were interested in stirring up a little trouble, you should go hang out with the minister's kids, the sheriff's kids, and the judge's kids.) You knew every single person in your own class, and could probably name 80% of the people in the classes 2 years ahead of you and 2 years behind you. Practically any place you went you could be sure of 2 things: You knew the people there, or they knew you -- even if you didn't know they knew you. Make sense? It does in a small town.

What in the world does all of this have to do with hair and make-up? I'll tell you. It's because even though Lebanon's population has grown to almost 17,000 people, lots of the folks I grew up with are still there. (And why not? It's a great little town.) And having come from a small town, I've been privy to many, many, many, many, many conversations that go like this "I saw Sally Smith today! Wow! She looks fantastic. She has 3 kids and they are so sweet and cute..... You know, she's teaching now....." or, "You'll never guess who I ran into today! Bethany Brown! She's not looking too good. She's really let herself go. It's too bad too, because she was such a cute girl......." or even "You know, I saw Cheri Terri with her new 'partner' over at the Y. You know who I mean....... Thomas Brown's brother's niece? She looks good. I think they are living in Florida now....." Conversations like these happen every day because, like I said, you know everybody. They're meant to be informative. An update, if you will, on someone you may not have lain eyes on in 15 years, but someone you once knew well. And if, on the off chance that I run into an old high school friend, or the parent of an old high school friend, or anyone else who might "report" on me, I want the report to go something like this: "Whoa! You'll never guess who I saw at the grocery store today! RACHEL HAYNES!! I haven't seen her in 15 years! And she looks GREAT!"

So, I go back to Leb-nhun (home of the Wah-yaahs) and do my hair and make-up like a self-obsessed 15 year old. I can't help it, and I'd vow to stop except I know I won't. I guess some old high-school habits are too hard to break. What if I see my 7th grade crush at the gas station? What if it's one of my old neighbors? Or what if I see my old high school boyfriend when we go swimming at the Y? Or maybe I'll run into the girl who hated me because she thought I liked her boyfriend! What if I run into her old boyfriend??!! If you'll excuse me, I have to go buy a case of hairspray, and maybe some new eyeshadow. We'll be in Lebanon for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just one more thing about Gibson........

I know I've posted a lot about Gibson lately, with that whole solo-bike riding thing and all, but I have one more thing I want to share. He's into photography. I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that the poor kid has had a camera shoved up his nose since the day he was born, or if it's just coincidence that he likes it as much as I do. Whatever the case, I just got a few pictures back of some shots that he took with my camera -- which happens to be film, not digital, so when I let him take the shots I wasn't sure what we'd get. I was impressed with the results and thought maybe you would be too.

He took this one:

And this one:

And this one: (Of course you have to make considerations for the subject here......)

At 5 years of age, he can get everybody centered and in focus, which is more than I can say for my grandma, who has been systematically cutting off every body's heads for 82 years now. (And don't worry that my grandma will be offended by this. She knows..... She once took a picture of my cousin running at a track meet and the only part of Jill actually in the picture is her left foot. The rest of her has run off the right side. How do you even know that it's Jill? Because my grandma says so. It's hilarious. Truly, it is.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pictures. Courtesy of my budding little photographer.......

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In a split second

Gibson outgrew me the other day. And it only took a split second. In less time than it actually took me to write these words, everything changed. Even if he didn't realize the shift in the universe, I did. I felt it, and it was huge. You see, The G-man announced on his 5th birthday (which happened in July, in case you are wondering) that now, since he was a big boy, he was going to ride his bike without training wheels. And while it's fair to say that the kid is determined, he's also incredibly cautious, so after much careful consideration he decided the best way to learn would be in the grass.

So there we were, in July and August mind you, running back and forth and back and forth in the yard -- him pedaling the best he could over the uneven terrain, and me holding him steady. And that's how it went day after day after day, until one day when he eventually made it out to the sidewalk. OK, actually I think I may have insisted on it, but I couldn't take running in circles in the back yard in 115 degree heat for another second. I figured that if I could at least get him on the sidewalk he might be able to pick up some momentum and start to get a better feel for it. I don't know if any of you have ever spent any amount of time lumbering along behind a small bike like the hunchback of Notre Dame, but I was desperate for the kid to start to feel the balance. If he didn't start to get it soon, I knew I was going to have to make appointments with a chiropractor for the next year. And as happy as I was to help Gibson master the art of riding a two-wheeler, my patience was starting to grow thin. I think blazing sunshine and intense heat do that to a person. As the months wore on, each time we would take off down the sidewalk I would think to myself "Please....Please......get it this time....... I don't know how many sweat filled trips up and down the sidewalk I have left in me!"

Then one day we ended up in the street -- him pedaling a little bit faster and me not holding on quite so tightly. He was getting better at holding his own, but he still needed me. "Don't let go mom!" he would tell me nervously as he wobbled and peddled. "Don't worry, I won't." I would say reassuringly, as I ran along beside him. I didn't need to hold his seat anymore, even though he wanted me to. Instead I'd touch my fingers to his back so he would know I was there. And that's really what he needed -- just to know that I was there. This was our routine, and we kept it up for a couple of months.

As fall started to creep in, and the weather got more reasonable and the leaves began to change, we got new neighbors. One of them happened to be a sweet 6 year old named Alex, and Gibson could not have been more excited. They played together non-stop, and became instant friends in the way that only kids can. Then one day Alex showed up at our front door with his bike. "Hey Gibson! Do ya wanna ride bikes with me?" Gibson was so excited he couldn't stand it. "Yes!" he exclaimed, "Just let me go get my mom. She helps me." He came rushing into the house with his bike helmet already attached securely to his head. "Mom!” he said, excitedly, “Alex wants me to ride bikes with him and I told him that I needed you, so can you come out and help me?!" "Of course!" I replied. I hung up my dish towel (I'd been cleaning up kitchen) and headed for the door, being especially grateful that it was only 65 degrees outside. I got Gibson situated on his bike and the 3 of us headed off down the street. The happiness was radiating out of Gibson. He couldn't believe that he was actually riding his bike with his friend. And that's when it happened -- that specific moment when, with 4 strokes of his pedals, he outgrew me. And at that point, in that split second, I would have given anything in the world to have one more sweaty, heat-filled, hunch-backed-lumbering day with a shaky little boy on his bicycle. Yet, at the same time my heart was huge; swollen with pride for my little guy. How is it that moments like this can be so bittersweet? So full of conflicting emotions? I stood there soaking that moment up. I wanted to burn it into my memory so that I’d never forget how it went: There we all were, on the street, picking up speed, Alex laughing, Gibson beaming, me running beside him with my fingers reassuringly on his back. Alex started to go faster and faster, and Gibson was keeping up, but I could only run so fast. He gave me a quick glance over his shoulder. "It's OK mom." he said. "You can let go."
And so I did.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The rest of the story

OK. I waited a week - - 6 days to be precise - - and the only opinions I got were from Janice and my mom. (My 2 most loyal readers.) So, either no one is frequenting the blog lately, or they didn't follow my very strict directions. Tsk, tsk....... In either case, I'll go ahead and fill you in on the drama that went down in the grocery store check-out line last week.

As I think most of you know by now, since I've written about it frequently enough, my true test of the kind of Saturday I'm going to have lies in what time I make it to the grocery store. If I can be there before 9:00am, I know it's going to be a good day. And it just so happened that on this particular Saturday I was pushing my cart through the isles by 8:00. Things were already off to a great start because I didn't have to drag the kids along, and as I made my way leisurely up and down each isle, I found - in stock and in place - each and every item that was on my list. Seriously.....How could my morning get any better? I was practically whistling 'Zippety-Do-Da' as I pushed my cart into the check-out line.

I was standing behind a gentleman who had 2 carts. I patiently waited, basking in the warm glow of a perfect morning, as he was unloading his first cart onto the belt. As the groceries belonging to this gentleman were being scanned and he was moving forward, I came to the realization that he actually only had one cart (Cart A, according to the scenario from the Question Of The Day.) and that the cart in front of me (Cart B) belonged to another person -- who just happened to be M.I.A. (So as you may or may not have guessed by now, I was Cart C.) I looked around for Cart B's person. There was no one in sight. By now, the groceries from Cart A were almost entirely through the scanning process and the belt was almost empty. I waited, looking around a little more. It was time for the next person to put their groceries up and still, there was no one in sight who looked like he or she belonged to the lone cart in front of me. "Well, I guess I'll just go." I thought to myself, scanning the store one more time. "Who knows where this person went or how long it will take them to get back....." So, I went around Cart B and unloaded all my groceries up onto the belt. I was almost finished when the guy from Cart B returned. And folks, this is what prompted my oh-so-important Question Of The Day posting. Because this is the point when things started to get ugly.

The gentleman in front of me was paying for his groceries, and I was leaning over fishing the last couple of items out of my cart when I heard an angry voice behind me. "Did this full cart sitting here not mean anything to you?!" Do you ever have those moments when you have trouble comprehending what's happening to you because it's so far off base from what you'd consider to be "normal"? This was one of those times. I turned around to look behind me, totally bewildered. Was he talking to me? "Wha.....?" I half stammered. "You........ You weren't here........." I'm sure I looked completely confused. I was. Was this guy serious? He repeated himself. "I said, did this full cart sitting here not mean anything to you?! You thought you could just go on and go ahead of me?!" And as I was staring at him with a confused look, head cocked sideways, blinking enough times to try to make his words, combined with his anger, make sense in my head, it all started to sink in. He was mad. Mad because I went in front of him while he was gone. It took a minute, but I began to gather my wits.

"You weren't here." I pointed out again.

"So you just didn't see the full cart that might indicate to you that someone was coming back?!" he shot back at me.

"No. I saw it." I replied. "But you weren't here. Someone had to go next." Up until this point I had had the perfect morning. I wasn't going to let this guy ruin it.

"It wasn't your place to go next!" he said angrily to me. "I was coming right back. I left my cart here!"

"You know, " I said to him, in as nice a way as I could humanly muster, "when I have to leave my cart in the check-out line, I just pull it over to the side so that other people can go around me if they need to." I was hoping that maybe, somehow, for some reason, that suggestion would help make him more reasonable. That perhaps the mere suggestion that someone may have had a different point of view of what proper check-out-line etiquette was could possibly help him get his undies out of the extremely tight wad that they were obviously in.

He angrily shot something back about how he was back in time to go next and how I'd cut him off, etc, etc.....

And since I was determined to hold onto the one shred of my perfect morning that I still had left, I took a step back and extended my arm in a sweeping motion, palm-side up, toward the cashier. The cashier was watching all of this go down. The first guy was long gone and she was waiting for me.

"Look," I said, "If you want to go ahead of me, by all means, please do."

He shot me a look that you wouldn't believe and said, "If you take all of your stuff off the belt then I will!" He was nasty about it. And then he added "Otherwise you're just WASTING MY TIME!"

I'm not sure what it was about that last statement -- about me wasting his time -- that finally did it. Maybe I couldn't believe that he thought his time was so much more valuable than mine that I should be expected to wait for him indefinitely, but that he should not ever be expected to be inconvenienced for 2 minutes. Maybe it was the irony that someone who had the time to spare arguing about who was next in line could be so concerned about who was, in actuality, wasting it. Maybe it was just that he'd finally managed to completely strip me of every ounce of warm glow and good will that I'd had up until that moment. Whatever it was, I think the SNAP that happened inside me was audible to anyone within a 10 foot radius.

"Sir.... She'll be through in 2 seconds...." the cashier was saying. I, in the meantime was standing completely still giving him an icy stare. "Sir...." she said again, "Really. It'll just take a minute...... Here, let me just scan this...." She picked up a roll of paper towels and started pulling it toward the scanner. It was almost happening in slow motion.

"Ohnonononononono NO!" I yelled, as I lunged my entire body across the belt and grabbed the paper towels. I didn't yank them away from her, but I held onto them so that she couldn't move them. "Didn't you hear him?" I said in the loudest, most patronizing voice I could muster. "I'm wasting HIS time!!!" She released her grip on the paper towels. "I mean, the very last thing I would ever want to do is waste HIS time! God Forbid that I should go ahead of him! His cart was holding his place in line!! What in the world could I have possibly been thinking?! There was no one actually AT his cart, but clearly I was mistaken!!!!" I was practically shouting now as I made a huge scene out of putting all my groceries back into my cart. Part of me, the infuriated part of me, couldn't believe that I was actually going to let this prick go ahead of me. But the other part, the part that had been enjoying my perfect morning, just wanted to salvage a little bit of the leisurely morning I'd had before he showed up. I just wanted to scan and bag my groceries in peace, without some gigantic a-hole huffing and puffing and breathing down my neck.

I threw the last of my items into my cart and spun to face him. I took a very deep bow and said, as patronizingly as I could, "Please, please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you today..... Is there any other way that I can assist you with your time efficiency this morning?"

"Nope. This'll do it." he said, and started unloading his cart.

He took his own sweet time too. I was so furious I was shaking. And because in 34 years I can't even begin to remember a time when I haven't absolutely had to have the last word in a confrontation, I shouted at him as he was walking away "You make sure to have a fantastic day now! I hope you make fabulous use of your EXTRA 2 MINUTES!!!!!!!!!!!!"

He said something to me over his shoulder, but I didn't hear it. I looked at the cashier, who I'm sure doesn't get to see a scene like that go down in her check-out-line every day, and said "Geeze...... What a jackass." And if I had any worries that maybe she thought I was a little bit crazy, they quickly evaporated when she replied, "You're tellin' me, honey! I saw the whole thing."

So in the end, I did actually finish my grocery shopping by 9:00 in the morning. And I did, in fact manage to recapture my 'Zippety-Do-Da' feeling a couple of hours later. After all the adrenaline had left my body. After I was back at home. After all the groceries were put away. It happened as I was taking the most fabulous, leisurely, morning walk with my family. The sunlight was warm and bright, the sky was a beautiful Carolina blue, and we all strolled, hand in hand through the neighborhood so we could play in the park. It was perfect. And time wasn't a factor at all.........

I'm Rachel Kafsky, and you've just heard The Rest Of The Story.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Question of the day

Warning: If you continue reading this posting, you are required to leave your opinion in the "comments" section.

Seriously. I mean it. I need your opinion. Even if 9 times out of 10, you just lurk in the periphery, you must leave a comment today. "Why?" you may ask. Well, I'm taking a poll about something very, very serious. Something that affects all of us on a daily basis. Global Warming? No. The AIDS epidemic? No. Ethnic Cleansing? No. I'm talking about Grocery Store Etiquette. More specifically, Grocery Store Check-Out-Line Etiquette.

Here's the scenario:
  • There are 3 carts in the check-out-line.
  • The person accompanying Cart A has his/her groceries up on the belt and is in the process of checking out.
  • The person accompanying Cart B has left the line, however his/her full cart remains in line.
  • The person accompanying Cart C is waiting behind Cart B.
  • Now, the person accompanying Cart A is finishing his/her transaction, and it is time for the next person to start loading his/her groceries onto the belt.
  • The person accompanying Cart B has not yet returned.
So, my survey question is this: What is proper etiquette for the person accompanying Cart C? Does he/she wait for Cart B's person to return, or does Cart C's person skip over Cart B and go next?

Lay it on the line for me folks....... I have to know.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mountains and Molehills

wor·ry Pronunciation Key - [wur-ee, wuhr-ee] verb, -ried, -ry·ing, noun, plural -ries.
–verb (used without object)
1. to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret.

This is the definition of my mother-in-law. As much as I love her - and I truly do - I have never seen anyone with a better ability to take regular, everyday occurrences, and wind them around in her mind until she can come up with the worst-case-scenario. She has perfected the art of building mountains out of little mole-hills. I think she comes by it naturally. And by that I mean I think it's firmly embedded in her DNA. I make that assumption based on the stories she tells about her own mother, and her mother-in-law. And just so you understand where I'm coming from, let me share with you a couple of gems from her past. As Fran tells it, whenever her kids were getting ready to play on the playground in the park down the street her mother would tell them the following: "You kids need to be careful on that playground! There was a little boy who was playing on a playground once, and he slid down the slide and fell into a man-hole that was in the ground at the bottom of the slide. Someone left it uncovered.......and they never found him ever again!"

On other occasions, Fran tells about the advice she got from her mother-in-law when she brought her first baby home from the hospital. It went like this: "You know, you have to make sure that there is a hole poked in the nipple of the baby's bottle. There was a woman who brought her baby home and never checked to see if the bottle nipple had a hole in it and her baby starved to death!" Apparently Fran had to hear that story over and over and over again whenever she brought a baby home from the hospital, regardless of how many times she reassured her mother-in-law that there was a hole in the bottle nipple and her babies weren't going to starve to death.
And so it went. An entire childhood and adult life filled with story after story after story about how awful things - usually resulting in death or disappearance - happened to seemingly benign people going about their everyday activities. So like I said -- It's in her DNA. How can you spend your entire life listening to paranoid stories of how kids died from sliding down slides, or from not getting any milk from their bottles, and God only knows what else, and not have it rub off on you in some way, shape, or form? So now that she's the grandma, I think it's firmly embedded in her psyche that it's her "job" to worry about things that could happen, or what the worst-case scenario might be -- no matter how unlikely. I could cite countless examples, but instead I'll just share with you a few of the best.

One disastrous Christmas, when every single member of the Kafsky family was cooped up in a lodge together for a week, (I think there were right around 20 of us) my sister-in-law, Elise, started throwing up. She had a couple of other symptoms too, but I'll spare you the details, except to tell you that in our house we refer to it as 'butt and gut'. For some reason it was common knowledge that she'd recently started her period, too. Now, just to set the stage for you, I'll give you these details: Elise has a young daughter who attended daycare at the time. And anyone who has had his or her child in daycare knows that, as wonderful as daycare can be, they are also little petri-dishes; just ripe for passing all kinds of lovely things from child to child, from child to parent, and from parent to other unsuspecting adults. So, when Elise started doing the Ol' Heave Ho, I figured that she had a tummy bug. However, that was NOT the the logical conclusion drawn by Fran, who sat fretting away at a table armed to the teeth with a shovel made expressly for piling lots of worry onto the tops of her molehills. She knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Elise had Toxic Shock Syndrome. And certainly we wouldn't be responsible family members if we didn't rush her to the emergency room. In Fran's mind a virus was not the likely culprit. Yes indeed, the most likely scenario was TSS. "Don't you think she just has a stomach bug?" I asked. "I can't imagine that she has Toxic Shock Syndrome. I guess I don't know that much about it, but isn't TSS pretty rare?" For a few hours I did my best to reassure her, but to no avail. And though we didn't actually take Elise to the emergency room, Fran really, really wanted to. As it turned out, Elise did have a stomach bug. And by the end of the week, so did all the rest of us. It went like wild-fire, taking each and every one of us down, one soldier at a time.

Another time, we were all traveling to Cleveland, Ohio to see some extended family. All 20-something of us. Since our homes are all scattered across the Southeast, we met at Fran's house in Virginia to carpool the rest of the way. Somehow, as we were getting organized to start the caravan, my niece got ahold of a stray pill in Fran's bedroom and ate it. I found her standing in the middle of the room making an awful face and spitting out the remnants. "I think Reid was eating a pill -- but she spit most of it out." I announced in the kitchen. "Do you know what is was?" Through a course of questions the pill was determined to be iron. Everyone was pretty calm about the whole thing until Fran began constructing her mountain. She worried and fretted and then threw her first shovel full: She announced that iron is the number one killer of children in the US!!! There was a pause, and then a mad scramble for the phone to call poison control. "I think she spit most of it out..." I offered again. "Really....." The Poison Control Woman who fielded our call asked if the pills were over-the-counter, or if they were prescription. "Over-the-counter" answered my mother-in-law. "Then she should be fine." said the Poison Control Woman, "as long as it wasn't prescription." Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and got into their respective cars to finish the 5 hour drive to Cleveland. Fran was in our car and I could see her fret, fret, fretting away as she sat in the passenger seat. (Mentally scooping another shovel full of worry.) "I think we should take Reid to the emergency room." she said. No one really responded. She mentioned it again. "Look," I said "I don't think we need to take Reid to the emergency room. It wasn't prescription, and I really don't think she ingested that much of it. And if she does start to feel bad or get sick, we can take her then. It's not like we don't know what she got into. OK?" Fran nodded, but it wasn't convincing. I could see her worrying away...... Then she said "I think it might have been prescription, " carefully adding another shovel full of worry onto the top of the iron-pill molehill. Mike said "Was it, or wasn't it?" She couldn't remember. "How can you not know?" he asked. "Did you have a prescription for them or not?" She didn't know. (Scoop, scoop, shovel, shovel......) She rolled down her window as Reid's dad was walking past carrying the last of their belongings to the car. "I think it was prescription!" she yelled. She simply can't help herself.

Which brings me around to her most recent case of mountain building, worst-case-scenario, worry-wartness. We recently held our 6th annual pumpkin carvin' party, and most of my in-laws were in attendance. It's a great time; Thoroughly chaotic, with lots of nieces and nephews running around, but definitely a great time. We had a lot of prep work to do to get ready to host all the pumpkin carvers, so Fran and my brother-in-law, Ryan, were wrangling the kids. I cooked and cleaned house, and Mike finished mowing the lawn, hanging ghosts, and putting up other spooky decorations outside. After a few hours, Fran came in and told me that Landis was holding his penis a lot. "Oh, that." I said. "He's always holding it. He really likes it. It's no big deal." She went back outside. A little while later she came back in. She'd been outside piling some worry onto her molehill. "You know, I think something's wrong with him. He holds it a lot." she told me. "Trust me," I replied."He just likes to hold it. Seriously. He talks to it and everything. I promise he's fine. You don't have to worry about it." But of course, she did. It's in her DNA. It's her job as a grandmother. She came back. "I do really think it's bothering him, and he gets embarrassed when I ask him about it. Can you ask him if it's bothering him? I told Mike about it and he snapped at me." "Sure" I replied. If asking him would ease her mind, I'd be happy to do it. I went to find Landis. He was in the bathroom with Mike. Mike was turning the shower on and Landis was undressing. "Can you shower him?" Mike asked me. "He's filthy, and we're supposed to check out his penis. I finally lost it with my mom because she was following me around talking about the problems with Landis' penis. I'm tired of hearing about his penis." So I helped Landis take a shower, and I checked everything out. It all looked fine. But just to make sure, I asked him as I was drying him off. "Hey Landis," I said. "How's your peenee feeling?" He looked me straight in the face and answered with the kind of earnest sincerity that only a sweet little blue eyed 3-year old can muster. "Fwesh and cwean!!!!" "Fresh and clean?" I asked, barely able to contain myself. "Really? It doesn't hurt or anything?" "No." "Does it itch?" "No." "So it feels fine?" "Mommy, it feels fwesh and cwean!" Good enough for me. I reported my findings back to Fran. "He says it feels 'fwesh and cwean'. I told her. She looked skeptical, but what did I expect? She can't help it. It's in her DNA.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The evolution of Ma'am

Back when I was in my early 20's, working at a residential camp in the south, a boy of about 12 or so called me Ma'am. I was a water-skiing instructor then, and I was giving him some instructions from the boat. Turns out he couldn't hear me very well over the idling engine, so as well-mannered little southern boys tend to do, he said "Ma'am?" with an expression on his face meant to indicate to me that I should repeat what I just said. It literally sent shivers down my spine. What did he just call me? Ma'am? Seriously? You can save that crap for my mom. As far as I was concerned, "Ma'am" was a title meant for an old lady, and certainly not one that I could wear comfortably. It was like an old wool sweater, all scratchy and itchy, and I couldn't wait to shrug it off. I couldn't even stand for it to touch my skin. "You don't have to call me ma'am" I told him. "You can just call me Rachel."

Fast-forward 6 years or so. I'd gotten married. And you know what else I didn't like? "Mrs." It's another title that I couldn't wear very comfortably. It was like a mu-mu, and I couldn't help but think that it made me sound so matronly. And frankly, I just didn't feel very matronly. I was way too young and hip for that. (On a side note, the only thing I found more uncomfortable than a straight up "Mrs." was a "Mrs. Mike". That's like wearing a corset 2 sizes too small, and a skirt made of nothing but layers upon layers of crinoline while walking for 3 hours in 8 inch high heels. I'm guessing that all you married women out there know exactly what I'm talking about. And in case you don't, I'll go ahead and fill you in. Once you get married, you start getting mail addressed to you as the "mrs. version" of your husband's name. Like I don't have my own first name, or that somehow my identity got swallowed up by him on the day we said 'I Do'. I know, I know....... It's supposed to be formal and polite, but can you imagine if we actually used those titles in conversation? "Hi. It's nice to meet you. My name's Mrs. Mike. Mrs. Mike Kafsky. And this is my sister-in-law, Mrs. Josh. And have you met my best friend, Mrs. Brent?" Is there anyone out there who doesn't think that's ridiculous? I'd love to know. As it stands now, any time we receive a piece of mail addressed to Mrs. Mike, I turn around and start referring to my husband as Mr. Rachel. I find it to be hilarious. I'm not sure he shares the same sentiment.) But getting back to the original topic at hand, I didn't like "Mrs." I prefered to be "Ms." Ms. Rachel Kafsky. And before I was married, I was Ms. Rachel Haynes. "Ms." worked for me, like a good pair of jeans. Not too tight, but not too baggy either, because after all, I still wanted a look that was flattering.

Skip ahead another 6 years or so, and now I have kids. Two of 'em, ages 3 and 5. And occasionally, when they want to impress me, or show their respect, or when they're in trouble and they know it helps them to be as polite as humanly possible, they refer to me as "Ma'am". And you know what? I like it. It's like I pulled that dusty title out of the back of the closet, brushed it off and tried it on again all these years later. And lo and behold, it fits! It fits like a glove! It's perfectly broken in, so it's not at all too tight or constricting. Somehow, all that scratchiness is gone, and it actually feels good against my skin. And not only is it comfortable, I think it looks great on me too!
So here's what I want to know...... When did that happen? When did the title of "Ma'am" stop making my skin itch? And when did it become an appropriate title for someone as young and hip as me? Because I know I'm not an old lady. I may have a few laugh lines, and some crinkly crows feet around my eyes. And I may have a few stretch marks here and there that are a daily reminder of the size of my belly (and butt and hips) during my pregnancies. And I may like to be in bed before ten, and I may even pluck a stray chin hair now and then....(blond, mind you)..... but I ain't no old lady. I'm young and hip and might be possible that I am old-er. And while I still don't love the "Mrs.", when I pull that out and try it on, it's a little more flattering than it used to be. It's still a little matronly for my taste, but maybe now I wouldn't actually refer to it as a mu-mu. And you can trust me when I tell you that no one is more surprised about this than me. Though I think it's safe to say, no matter how much older I get, and no matter how much my sense of "fashion" changes, you can mark these words in stone: You will never catch me running around in that "Mrs. Mike" corset- crinoline-8 inch-heel-combo, ever. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure that'll never be my style.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I've been busy -- I think. (For Janice)

So my friend Jancie sent me an email the other day that said "What is up with your blog? I miss it!" She'd noticed that I hadn't been posting with any frequency lately. "Well," I thought to myself, "I've just been so busy....." And then I took a minute to ponder what is was I'd been so busy doing. Let's see........ I've been.............. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............. Well.............. Ummmmmmmmmm................... Clearly I've not been folding laundry since my loveseat is literally buried underneath a small mountain of clean, but extremely wrinkled clothing in all shapes and sizes. Washing and drying, Yes. Folding, No. And I certainly wasn't putting anything away. Maybe I was vacuuming................. But judging by the piles of dog hair gathering in the corners and organizing themselves for a mini-revolution, I'd say that's not been the case either. So..............Ummmmmmmmmm.........Oh! I know! I think I was cleaning the bathrooms! Oh, wait a minute...............I just looked them over and I have to admit, albeit grudgingly, that I wasn't. Maybe I was busy dusting? Nope. You can pretty much write your name in it -- especially over by the TV.

I'm so confused. I felt so busy. Why was that?

I guess we have been eating 3 squares a day and still have food in the pantry, so I must have made a couple of trips to the grocery store. And come to think of it, I am the head Chef in our household, so it's fair to say that I was busy pouring cereal, packing lunches, and organizing, preparing, and serving dinners. And my kitchen isn't piled floor to ceiling with dirty dishes, and my counters are clean, so I must have spent a good deal of time in the kitchen. I am, after all, extremely well acquainted with our dishwasher. Oh! And you know what else? Gibson has made it to and from school every day this week! Heck! This year! And even though he climbs into the car in wrinkly clothes from the mountain on the couch, he still goes clean and smelling good from the bubble bath he took the night before. Landis too, of course. And both of their imaginations have been filled up to overflowing with the kinds of good that can only come from reading lots and lots of bedtime stories, and nap time stories, and sometimes in-between stories, and playing with puzzles, and coloring pictures, and endless pretend games outside in the yard. And now that I really think about it, they say "May I", and "Please" and "Thank You" and sometimes, when they want to impress me, they say "Ma'am". They carry their plates to the sink after they excuse themselves from the table, scrape them off, and load them into the dishwasher. I dare say I've spent some time - a good deal of time - working on that. And if I really step back and look at the big picture, I'd say that as they are making their way through their days they are wrapped in a protective shield of invisible hugs and kisses that my mother-in-law swears to them will never, ever, ever come off -- even when they are 50, or 60, or 75. And you know what? All that huggin' and kissin' keeps me from doing other stuff like folding laundry and putting it away. Or from stopping the dog hair revolution in it's tracks.

So I guess I have been busy. (Perhaps I've even been redeemed here.) But you'd better lookout dog hair piles. I'm coming for you. I have the vacuum cleaner cocked and loaded. You may have won the battle, but you won't win the war.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mary, Mary quite contrary

Here's a conversation that I heard go down in the back seat of the car the other day, when Landis was taking exception with everything that Gibson had to say:

Gibson: Landis, stop arguing with me!
Landis: I'm NOT!
Gibson: Yes you are!
Landis: No I'm NOT!
Gibson: Yes you are!
Landis: NO I'M NOT!
Gibson: Yes you are!
Landis: NO I'M NOT!!!
Gibson: Yes you are!
Landis: NO I'M NOT!!!!

And so on and so forth for quite a while. And as ridiculous as it was, I have to admit that I found it to be hilarious that they were having an argument about whether or not they were having an argument. I choose my battles, so when it's not really a big deal I try to stay out of it and let them work through their tiffs on their own. But if I had to pick sides, I'd back Gibson on this one. Actually, I'd back Gibson a lot. Landis is the button-pusher in our household. For a kid who is so incredibly sweet, he has a remarkable ability to be a giant, contrary, pain in the ass. And I swear he just does it because he likes to stir the pot. So this morning I wrote him a poem. It's a take off on the little girl with the little curl. Wanna hear it? Here it goes:

There is a little guy
He's a Gemini
And he's sweet as a little bing cherry

Except when he's not
And it happens a lot
That he's flat out adverse and contrary

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Yesterday was my birthday, and I celebrated by getting to the grocery store at 7:30am and being home by 9:00! Wooo-Hoooooo!!!!! (OK -- Even though I did actually do that, I'm kidding about the "that's how I celebrated" part. However, I feel it's important to point out that for the record, being home from the grocery by 9:00am with all the food we need for the week, and not having to drag the boys along for the ride is my idea of a perfect Saturday. My, how my life has changed...... I'm sure the people who knew me in my college days, or perhaps from before that, are holding their sides and rolling on the floor convulsing with shrieks of laughter.) But I digress....... I was talking about my birthday.

I rolled into the driveway from the grocery store (at 9:00am) and was greeted by Landis and Gibson, who had hidden in a great spot, and totally scared the beejeezus out of me by jumping out of their hiding spot, blowing horns and yelling "SUPRISE!!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!" at the top of their lungs. They led me inside to a kitchen that was totally decorated, and sat me down at the table, which held a pile of birthday presents. I opened each gift to lots and lots of excitement, as the frozen veggies and other refrigerated items slowly defrosted and/or got warm in my hot car. After the presents were opened, and the kids were hugged and kissed and thanked, and Mike was hugged and kissed and thanked, and the groceries were in the house and put away, the boys scampered upstairs to get dressed. Then my mother-in-law pulled up. She lives in Virginia and had come for the day to celebrate my birthday and go to Carowinds with us! (For those of you who may not know, Carowinds is a theme park with roller coasters, rides, and a water park.) Hooray!! What a great birthday treat.

So, off we went. It was a Saturday, and lots of other people had the same idea we did, so it's safe to say that it was pretty crowded at Carowinds. And they were having a Christian music concert later that evening, so there were tons of church groups there, each distinguishing itself from another in the form of a group T-shirt. One was light blue and said "Satan is a poo poo head", others just had their church names on them. Some of them had scripture verses on the front, and others were more "recruit" focused, saying things like "Are YOU saved?". The number of people standing around at the gate was a little overwhelming, so we made our way through that sea of multi-colored T-shirts and headed toward the rides. We started in kiddie-land and wound around, from one ride to another, slowly making our way around the park. Hot air balloons, swings, roller coasters, boats, old fashioned cars..... rides that went up and down, rides that went 'round and 'round. And in between all the high-flying excitement we snacked, stood in lines, and finally took a break for lunch.

After lunch, we did more of them same. Except that now, in the afternoon, Mike and I were getting the itch to ride some more "adult" rides. Fran was not so interested in being flung around on a roller coaster, so she decided that we should ride a big roller coaster and she would take the kids back over to kiddie land. And seeing that the line for the "Borg" was probably going to take an hour, she told us to ride the ride, take our time, and don't rush. She took the boys and headed toward kiddie land, and we got in the long, long, long, line. We took our place behind a group of teenagers from one church group, and another large group of teenagers from another church took their place in line behind us. I wouldn't have had much cause to turn around and study the group of teenagers behind us, except for the fact that I couldn't help but overhear them. For instance, shortly after we got in line, 2 young African American boys came up the line from the back. They worked their way up past us, and joined 3 other boys who were standing in line about 20 people in front of us. "What?" says one of the boys behind me, with contempt dripping from his words. "They think just because they are black, they can just go stand with other black people and that makes it OK? So I should be able to go all the way to the front of the line as long as I stand with other white people?" I turned around to see who was being so nasty, and there they were. A group of teenagers, all wearing bright green shirts with the name of their Baptist Church on the front (I'll refrain from calling it by name, even though I want to), and huge letters on the back that say "ARE YOU LOST? Someone is looking for you." and then some more words about Jesus and being saved. (I won't put it in quotes because I can't remember it exactly.) "Wow. That's more than a little ironic!" I thought to myself. "He's recruiting for Jesus, and he's mean. Nice combo." And since we had at least an hour to wait, I was lucky enough to hear more from this crew. There was one girl in the mix, and while she wasn't mean, she was incredibly obnoxious. For at least 45 minutes of the wait she would say things like this: "I'm going to punch you in the face. Come on! I keep challenging you to a fight, but you won't fight me. Let's go. Don't punch me hard! You can't frog me! Flat fist." And so on and so forth, all the while punching and goading the kid behind me. Apparently this was her version of flirting. It was as though she never grew out of the 3rd grade stage of the-harder-you-hit-me-the-more-you-like-me game. The boy would let her punch and insult him, and then he would punch her back, or put her in a head-lock, or whatever else he could think of, and the moment he would retaliate in any way shape or form, she would screech at the top of her lungs "GRAAAAAAAYYYYYYYSON!!!!!!! STOOOOOOP IT!!" Or she would give a short shriek: "GRAYSON!!!!!!". And then she would lambast him for doing exactly what she'd goaded him into doing in the first place, and it would begin all over again. Hit me, punch me, pinch me, chicken shit, are you really going into the marines you crybaby, GRAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYSSON!!!!!!!!!!! Needless to say, since I'd left my own 5 year old with someone else, I was weary of this young lady in less than 15 minutes. (Actually, it's unfair of me to compare her to Gibson. Gibson is much better behaved.) It was especially delightful when they would knock into me during their little wrestling matches. And then another boy in the group made a call on his cell phone. We'd been standing in line for about 30 minutes and pretty clearly had at least another 30 to go. His call went like this: "Yea, Hi. Listen, we are leaving Carowinds right now, but I'm soaking wet and I have to go home to change. It's going to make me late. Yea, yea. We're leaving right now, I'm just wet so I have to go home first and get some dry pants. Yea. Sorry man." I looked at him, and of course he was as dry as a bone. And I was standing there trying to figure out why he had to tell such a blatant lie -- in his Jesus shirt. Seriously. Why couldn't he just say something to the fact that the line was longer than they thought, but that they were over halfway there and really wanted to stick it out? At that point I had had my fill of the group behind me. And I have a very high tolerance for crazy behavior -- I am, after all, married to Mike. And lest you think that I am critical of teenagers, please let me point out that we were behind a group of teens that was in no way behaving as offensively as the group behind us.

Finally, after an hour and 15 minutes, we rode the Borg, had a blast, and left the church-group teens behind. (Though Mike and I talked about them the entire way over to meet up with Fran and our kids.) So here's what I'm wondering today...... Am I out of line in thinking that you should walk your talk? That perhaps, while you are parading around in your "you need to be saved!" t-shirt, and advocating/recruiting for Jesus, you shouldn't, at least at the same time, be an obnoxious A-Hole?

Friday, September 14, 2007

I'm not sure how to take this......

I was just standing in the bedroom trying to start a video for the boys. Sam, our 100 pound yellow lab, was standing behind me -- a little too close for comfort, if you get my drift. So, I glance over my shoulder and say to the dog: "Sam.... Will you please get your nose out of my butt?!" To which Gibson replies: "Well, probably he's just hungry."


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Par for the course

We just spent a week at the beach. A nice, long relaxing week on the Carolina coast, complete with perfect temperatures and lots of sunshine. Relaxing days spent lounging in the sand, reading, and building castles. Relaxing mornings spent looking for shells on the shores of Cape Lookout. Relaxing afternoons spent playing in the waves, or paddling a canoe through a nature preserve to see the wild horses that live there. We even had relaxing dinners full of great food, fun conversation and good wine.

And then we decided to throw a game of putt-putt golf into the mix. Have you ever played 18 holes of putt-putt with 4 kids ages 5, 4, 3 and 2? Entertaining? Yes. Hilarious? You bet. Relaxing? No. Not really. In fact, not even close. It was chaos. Pure, out-and-out, unadulterated chaos.

Oh, the excitment was in the air the moment we walked in the door. The kids were buzzing with it. They each got their own club -- even my 2 year old neice, Rylie. Of course hers was of the plastic variety. But not the others. No sir. The rest of them got the real deal. And they also got to pick out their very favorite color of golf ball. Yes folks, the excitement was in the air when we left the clubhouse and headed for the course. I, in my obliviousness made sure to grab a score card and a pencil, and stopped to write each child's name in a slot.

Once we were out the door, our herd of stampeding kids went in one direction, and the 3 adults went in the other. ("Kids! Kids!! KIDS!!!!! Over here! No, not that way! THIS WAY!! Yes, I promise -- THIS is where we're supposed to start.") We somehow managed to get the stampede to stop, turn around, and head in our direction. Finally, we got them all lined up at the first hole. The first child stepped up to the line and putted, and then walked down the green toward the hole to fininsh his turn. All of a sudden, the rest of the kids were at the starting line and the shots were flying. And I was still delusional enough to think we would keep score. ("OK, how many was that for you Gibson? 20? Maddie? You got 18? Good Girl! Landis, Landis..... You can't just pick up the ball and put it in the hole. Start from here. Wait... Wait.... Gibson! Let it roll. Let it roll! Don't stop it! Wait.... Rylie! Honey! Don't bend over to get your ball if someone is swinging their club! Gibson! Don't swing your club if Rylie is getting her ball! Landis... How many for you? 23? Great! That may be a new putt-putt record! Wait!! Wait!! We're not going over there. Follow Uncle Josh. Follow Uncle Josh!") For the next 3 holes, I continued to diligently count strokes amid the shouting of instructions to the whirling dervish. It wasn't until my brother looked at me with a colossal amount of skepticism and said "Seriously?! You're keeping SCORE?" that I realized the futility of my task. I'm not sure where the scorecard and pencil ended up, or what I was even thinking in the first place, but I didn't have it with me on hole 5.

Throughout the 18 holes we did our best to implement some sort of structure to our undulating mass. "Let's all sit down! Let's take turns! Let's go one at a time! Let's wait until Maddie is done before we charge the starting line...." But regardless of how and what we tried, the end result was always the same: A wild, frenzied tangle of kids, all within striking distance of each other, swinging their metal clubs with absolute glee. And hard little golf balls going in every direction except the hole.

So, it wasn't relaxing. And maybe it was chaotic. But it sure was fun -- especially for the 4 sweaty little heads that skipped across the parking lot, climbed back into the mini-van and buckled into their car seats. And when you're 5, or 4, or 3, or 2, or even 34, isn't that what vacation should be about?

Friday, August 31, 2007

What a man, What a man, What a man, What a mighty good man.......

What a mighty mighty good man......

Are you humming along?
Good. Because I need to tell you about what transpired while Da Bug had me firmly in it's nasty little clutches.

It had begun early Tuesday morning, but I went to open up the Y at 4:45 am anyway, thinking I could muscle my way through my shift. I was wrong -- Da Bug may be microscopic but it is certainly mighty -- and I was stumbling back in the door by 7:00 mumbling incoherently to Mike that I thought I was going to die and that I needed to lay down.

Mike got up with the boys.
Mike made them breakfast.
Mike got Gibson ready for school and packed both their lunches.
Mike drove 30 minutes out of his way to drop Gibson off at school, making him late for work.
Then Mike called in the afternoon to see how I was doing and to ask if I needed him to pick Gibson up from school as well. (The answers were "bad" and "yes, thank you!", respectively.)
Mike left work early and drove 30 mintues to pick up Gibson. Then he called to say that he'd also bought me some Gatorade and would be home to drop it off. He also wanted to tell me that he needed to go back to work because he needed to take care of some staff training, but that he would pick up Landis and take both the boys to work with him so I could get some much needed sleep. So, he drove another 30 minutes home, dropped off the Gatorade, picked up Landis, and turned around to drive an additional 30 minutes back to work. He proceeded to run a staff training, which culminated in him needing to have a very serious talk with his new trainees about the importance of committing to the training process, and that not everyone would make it through -- all while 2 small boys were sitting politely at his side, burping and farting. ("I guess it probably made me seem less intimidating to the trainees" he said later.)

When they got home, Mike fed them dinner. Mike cleaned up the kitchen. Mike got them into the bath, and into their PJ's. Mike read them their bedtime stories, and tucked them into bed. All without ever complaining about any of it. All while I slept -- and occasionally drank some Gatorade.

So if you happen to see Mike, make sure you tell him he's a mighty good man. And tell him you heard it from me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Da' Bug - Encore Presentation

When my friend Alison heard about the nasty little bug that Landis had last week (and that I wrote about a couple of entries ago) she said to me, "Uh oh. You'd better start counting down. I always get it 4 days after the first kid starts throwing up." So I counted. Day 1........ Day 2.......... Day 3......... Day 4......... WHEW! I couldn't believe it, but I escaped unscathed.
Until this morning.
Day 8 to be exact.
And I'll spare you the gory details, except to tell you that it has me in it's big, mean, tummy churning clutches.......and it ain't pretty.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


We are going to the beach next week, and I thought it would be fun to put some highlights in my hair. Sort of a sun-kissed kind of look to celebrate the conclusion of a great summer. The tricky part here is that we're on a budget. There will be no $150.00 trip to the salon. And as it turns out, 2 of my friends are thinking of coloring their hair too. So the 3 of us (Janna, Janice and me) make plans to have a hair coloring party on Thursday night, and then head to Super-Target to buy some beauty-in-a-box.

On Thursday, Janice isn't feeling so hot. Janna and I decide that even though Janice is the one with the most experience in hair coloring, maybe we can pull this off ourselves. We meet over at Janna's, have a glass of wine, eat some kettle corn, and proceed to color our hair. It's around 10:00 or so when I head home -- hair still wet, but with my freshly painted highlights and I'm excited.

Friday morning, I get up to make the kids some breakfast. I walk out into the family room and come face-to-face with Gibson.

Gibson: "What did you do to your hair?!!!"
Me: "I highlighted it."
Gibson: "Well you look DISGUSTING!"

I look at Mike. He shrugs, but I can see that it's taking everything in his power not to fall to the floor, slapping his thighs and convulsing with laughter. And you know what they say........ Out of the mouths of babes......

I am now sporting a nice shade of auburn.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Da' Bug

We've had a rough couple of days. It all started on Sunday morning in the middle of the kitchen. There we were, having a little Norman Rockwell kind of morning, stirring up the ingredients for some baked oatmeal with peaches. The boys were taking turns pouring things in -- one does the milk, one does the oatmeal, one does the sugar, they both crack get the idea. We're all in our PJ's and I'm sporting some great bed-head when Landis turns around on the chair that he's standing on and says "Mommy, my tummy hurts." I figure he's probably got that nauseous feeling that occurrs sometimes when you don't get breakfast in soon enough, but no...... After he makes the announcement, he proceedes to throw up on the floor. Ugggghhhhhhhhhh! I feel so bad for him (I feel so bad for me too, but for different reasons) and as soon as we can ascertain that he is done throwing up, I tell him to go lie down while I clean up the mess in the kitchen. He gets as far as our bedroom and pukes all over the floor again -- at least 3 times. So, here we go....
I start scrubbing. I start at one end of the house and I'm not stopping. I'm channeling my baseboard-scrubbing, ceiling bleaching, white-tornado of a grandma, and for 2 solid days I clean while Landis barfs -- everywhere. He barfs in our bed, he barfs on the couch, he barfs in our bed again, he barfs on the other end of the couch, he barfs on the floor, he barfs in our bed, and finally -- yes, Thank the Lord, FINALLY -- he barfs in the toilet. (To date, our couch and our bed sheets have never been as clean as they are today. Well, maybe when they were brand new....) And while one child is throwing up, the other is giving a constant play-by-play. Gibson is pretty sure that it's his job to keep me up to date on all the details: Where, when, how much. Like somehow I don't already know.

Finally, on Tuesday morning (that would be day number 3 of barfing, in case you weren't keeping track) we make an appointment to see the doctor. I mean, I'm a fairly laid back mom, but I wasn't sure how many days he should be allowed to throw up before I was supposed to start getting concerned about it. The doctor assures us that he's fine. No fever, lots of energy, no complicated symptoms. Just your typical barf-bug working it's way through his system. "The reason he's probably throwing up so much" says the doctor "is that he's over-stimulated that muscle in his tummy that works to keep food down. He needs a little Zantac to settle things down in there. The bug will probably work it's way through his system, so if you see in blood in his stool, or if it smells like something died, call us because that could be salmonella. But he seems fine, and with no fever I'm sure it's just a bug." So we leave with a prescription in hand for Zantac, which for some reason cracks me up. My 3 year old needs Zantac. Does anyone else find that to be humorous, or have I just been breathing cleaning fumes too long?

We make it through the rest of Tuesday with no additional barfing. The mop, scrub-brush, and bucket are all put away. Toilets, floors, baseboards, walls, doors, windows -- all gleaming. The couch and the bed are cleaner than they've been in years. I know I've erradicated that bug and I'm exausted. That night (since I have to open the Y at 4:45am the next morning) I go to bed early, and as usual I am awoken at midnight by a small child standing next to me in the dark. I bolt upright. "Are you going to barf?" I ask. (Clearly, I'm a little gun-shy.) "No." he says. "I just want to sleep with you." This is fine by me since I will do anything to get a good night's sleep -- especially when I have to get up at 4:00am, which comes way earlier than it feels like it should. Still, I pry my exhausted body up off the sheets and stumble into the bathroom to wet down my bed-head. It occurrs to me, faintly, that for a room that is as clean as it is, it doesn't have the best smell. But it's 4:00 am and my brain is not firing on all it's cylinders yet. As I am drying my hair, the door to the bathroom opens. There stands Landis. "What are you doing?" I ask. "I want to get up." he says. "No. It's WAY too early. You need to be in bed." I say. "Either go get in your own bed, or climb back in with daddy." "No." he tells me. "I want to go with you." I'm getting a little frustrated with him because when I have to get up at 4:00 I don't really leave myself any extra time to stand and have a debate with a 3 year old. I scoop him up and place him on my hip, wrapping my hand around his bottom to support him. My intent is to carry him back to the bed. Instead, all of my senses come together to make a connection in my brain -- The slight stench in the air, the wet feeling on my hand, it's all coming from him. The bug. We're done with the barfing -- it's onward to diarrhea. Ugggggghhhhhhhhhh! Really?!?! At 4:00am?!?! I put Landis down and strip him of his clothes. I run the bath and tell him to get in. Then I kick the bathroom door open and say to Mike: "Get out of the bed. There's poop in it." Mike groans and rolls over, though it doesn't actually look like he's getting up. Oh well. If he wants to lie in it, it's his business. I have bigger things to tend to at the moment. I wash my hands, I wash his butt, I change my clothes. I open the bathroom door again. Turns out that Mike did actually get up. He'd stripped the bed for yet another round of double-washing, and then made his way out to the couch to go back to sleep. I get Landis re-dressed, re-tucked into bed, and make a mad dash out the door yelling over my shoulder to my already-back-asleep husband that Landis should eat nothing but toast or saltines for breakfast. And as I'm speeding down the street, trying desperately to get to the Y before those maniacal people eager to work out at 5:00am, I wonder to myself "Will there ever be a time when my life doesn't revolve around bodily functions? Ever?"

Please.......Someone? Anyone? Tell me some good news.

Friday, August 17, 2007

He said WHAT?!

I had a good day yesterday. A super-mom kind of day. I worked out, ran some errands, fixed lunch for myself and my boys, packed a lunch to take to Mike, prepped dinner so that it only needed to be put in the oven, and then went out to the whitewater center to do some guiding -- something I haven't done in years. It was great fun, and although I could feel the muscles in my body screaming at me about an hour in, it still made me feel like a robust 21 year old again. And it's heartening to know that at 33 I can still run circles around most of the hot-shot 20 year old boys out there on the water. So I came home around 7:30, at the end of a long productive day feeling quite smug with myself. I'm SUPER-MOM! I can wrangle 2 boys, guide rafts, and keep everybody fat, happy and well-behaved. Or so I believed.

Mike was tucking the boys into bed when I got home. So I sat down at the table to enjoy a few enchiladas -- still smiling to myself, wrapped up all smugly in my super-mom cape. About halfway into my enchiladas, Mike appeared in the kitchen. "I think you need to have a talk with your son" he says. Uh-oh. "Why?" I say. "Well" he says, "at the doctor's office today, when the nurse came in to take my stitches out (removal of fatty lump, no cause for concern in case any of you are wondering) Gibson looked right at her and said 'You're big.'"
I stopped chewing.
He continued.......
"I didn't say anything and neither did she, so I wasn't convinced that she heard him." Mike pauses and looks at me and I know it's going to get worse. My super-mom cape is begining to unwind itself from my body. "I guess he didn't get the reaction he wanted, so then he said very loudly so I know there is no doubt that she heard him: 'YOU'RE FAT!'"
I suck in air so sharply that I almost choke on my enchiladas. I sit at the table, hand over my gaping mouth, horrified, as my super-mom cape comes completely unraveled and lands in a heap at my feet. "He got in big trouble, and I've talked to him about it, but I think you should too" said Mike. I nod and push back from the table. I pause to kick my disheveled cape into the corner, and then I make my way up the stairs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gibson's Quote of the Day:

"My Lovey is magic. It makes me think good things."

Queen For a Day

I've just recently realized that I am influenced in my speech by whatever book I happen to be reading at the time. The diction, the dialect, the writing style, it all apparently has a subtle affect on me. For instance, I'm currently 365 pages into Queen Of This Realm, which is a work of historical fiction that is written as if it were the memoirs of Queen Elizabeth the 1st. It's great and I am thoroughly enjoying it, but that is beside the point.

The point is that as I was reading a bed-time book to my boys the other day I said something that made me do a double-take. I forget what book it was -- maybe Mother Goose, or Where the Wild Things Are -- but it was making them laugh. That laughter turned into them standing up on the bed and belly flopping back down onto the mattress. (It doesn't take much to distract them....) In my frustration with them I said, rather sharply, "BOYS! Shall I stop reading?!?" And there it was. My double-take. Shall? Did I just say "Shall?" I can't even imagine when was the last time I used that word in any sort of conversation -- but it occured to me that the Queen "shall's" all over the place. (Perhaps I even used a slight English accent.....) By the time I am done with this book, my discipline will go something like this: "My lords! If you do not stop this insolent behavior at once I shall conclude my reading immediately!" Or maybe "Pray you do not disobey me again or you shall be sent to the Tower with great haste! Surely such wise gentlemen as yourselves understand that should you not come to your senses shortly and obey my commands, you shall find yourselves on the rack!"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hand Puppets

Landis is a little boy with a big imagination. We joke that he could entertain himself for hours in a paper bag, and for a while now he's been really into his "hand puppets". (If you are curious as to what those hand puppets might be, hold your hand up in front of your face. Now pretend to have it talk to you in the same way that you would if it were actually in a puppet. Yep. That's it. No additional costume necessary.) He can get lost in his own little hand-puppet world at any given moment in any given day. Yesterday I was watching him brush his teeth, but he didn't know I was there. Right in the middle of brushing he abruptly stopped, spit, and layed his toothbrush down on the counter. Up came the hands.

Says the left hand: "Hi"

Right hand: "Hi"

Left hand: "What are you doing?"

Right hand: "I'm brushing he's teeth."

Left hand: "Oh. Ok."

And then he resumed brushing........