My visitor

Scary bookMy son came home from school with a super scary library book. I don’t mind a good scare every now and then, but one evening, several years ago, the scare was all too real.

It was 1995 and I was in high school. My bedroom was in the basement and my parents were two floors up. I was pretty tired that evening and I easily drifted to sleep. Around 11:30 p.m. I heard a few steps creak. It sounded like someone was coming downstairs but was trying to step lightly. My bedroom was at the bottom of the stairs.

I assumed it was my mom coming downstairs to check on me. I rolled over so she would think I was asleep. I could hear my bedroom door slowly open. I kept my eyes closed, pretending to sleep, waiting for her to go back upstairs — satisfied that I was in bed.

Instead, I felt her sit down on my bed, her back touching the lower part of my back.  I thought, She wants to talk. I’m too tired to talk. I just want to sleep.

I waited. But she didn’t say anything. I waited some more. My tired, grumpy self said, “Mom! What do you want?” Silence. “Mom!” More silence. It wasn’t my mom.

My back started to break out in a sweat. I could still feel her (someone? something?) leaning against me. I was too scared to open my eyes. I laid completely still trying to wish the person away.

After what seemed like an eternity, the presence either stood up or disappeared. I was still too scared to look around my room. I kept my eyes closed and listened for the footsteps to go back up the stairs. There were no more footsteps. I eventually drifted off to sleep.

The next morning I looked around my room. Everything was in place. My bedroom door was open just a crack.

I went upstairs for breakfast and saw my mom in the kitchen. I asked her, “Why did you come to my room last night?”

“I didn’t,” she said.

“You didn’t come into my room and sit on my bed?”

“No. Why?”

“Someone did.”


Cheering section

Last night I was on Facebook and decided to see what my cousins have been up to. I went from page to page “liking” photos and thinking about how long it has been since I’ve seen them. My last stop was my cousin Meghan’s page.

Meghan recently completed a half marathon. Serious kudos to her. It was great to see pictures of her and her family at the event, but what stole the show were the signs her husband made to cheer her on to the finish line:

Push It
Go Meghan
Run like you stole something
Worst parade ever

That’s when I decided it was time to get back on my regular running schedule. If Meghan can run a half marathon, I can run to my kid’s school and back. All I need is a little encouragement. I asked the hubs and my sons to help. Here are their signs:
You can do it
Hayden is faster
Me watch Bubble Guppies
And he was serious. He did not want to be disturbed. In fact, he got so upset with me that he filed a complaint with his father:

I hate signs

Maybe a cheering section isn’t the answer after all.

I’m old(er)

I’ve seen the signs…the kids I used to babysit are having their second child. High school graduates look like they’re 12. Searching for gray hairs to eradicate has become part of my daily routine. But the reminders keep coming.

Two nights ago I caught myself in a senior moment and I had a flash forward to what my life might one day be like…

It was late at night. I couldn’t sleep. My tossing and turning was keeping the hubs from a restful slumber. I broke the silence.

Me: (trying to imitate Billy Madison) Shampoo is better. I go on first and clean the hair. Conditioner is better. I leave the hair silky and smooth.
Hubs: Where did that come from?
Me: It’s stuck in my head.
Hubs: Mr. Deeds.
Me: That’s not Mr. Deeds.
Hubs: No, a while back you were trying to think of the movie where the guy wrote greeting cards. I thought of the name. It’s Mr. Deeds.
Me: Oh yeah! Why was I even talking about that?
Hubs: I can’t remember.
Me: Hmm … now that’s going to bug me. I bet it was funny, too.
Hubs: Do you have any other Adam Sandler movies you’d like to get out of your system?
Me: Do you realize that first I couldn’t remember the movie name and now I can’t remember why I wanted to know the name of the movie?! This is bad. This is really bad. Is this what I’m going to be like when I’m 85 and in the nursing home? My mind running in circles about things I can’t remember?
Hubs: That is your life today. Right now.
Me: Shhh! Stop talking about it. Let’s go to sleep and pretend this conversation never happened.
Hubs: That should be easy to do.

Give yourself an out

I am all about keeping a commitment, but every now and then I throw in an escape clause:

“I will meet you for lunch unless any of the following circumstances occur: fire, flood, alien takeover, bad hair day, tornado, tsunami, flat tire, pouring rain with sporadic thunder and lightning, recurring wedgie, dehydration, illness, loss of appetite or any other life-changing event (as classified by me) including, but not limited to, the death of a member of the New Kids on the Block.”

It has taken me a long time to learn that it’s OK to be protective of me. Create your own escape clause. Give yourself an out. You deserve it.

Bike rider

On Saturday my 7-year-old said this after crashing on his bike…he was half yelling and half crying: “I don’t know why you are pushing me to learn to ride my bike! You just want me to fail. You stand there all judgy, waiting for me to fall. And my friends who come out to cheer me on are really just cheering for you. I don’t need to know how to ride a bike. Being able to ride my bike does not affect my future!”

The next day he mastered riding his bike. He loved it so much that he rode around for four hours.

Wild animal

Yesterday we visited Lazy T Ranch with cousins and in-laws. The family who lives at Lazy T opens up their ranch for visitors to explore. As soon as you get out of the car, the family’s dog trots over to say hello.

Four busy toddlersThere were games and pony rides. Goats, horses and cows were out for the kids to feed. The rabbits, ducks and chickens were in their coops. The ranch owner even took us on a hayrack ride to the top of the hill to show us unfarmed prairie  — a site with a view that was truly beautiful, especially dressed in fall colors.

After the hayrack ride, we stopped by the Cowboy Cafe, a small one-room barn, to get the necessities: water, popcorn and puppy chow. We returned to the Cowboy Cafe a little later to hear a historian give a presentation about the Kansas Underground Railroad.

The historian was a great storyteller. He was in the middle of explaining how the songs sung by slaves had code words in them. He said, “I’m going to start singing this song and you finish it. ‘Swing low, sweet chariot…'”

“Comin’ for to carry me home,” we sang. Then, the door flew open and a guy and his daughter, who was about nine months old, came in. He went up to a staff member and was talking quickly. The toddler was crying.

The historian kept going despite the commotion, “Slaves were taught at young ages to work, and they worked hard. They were also taught to hate the color of their skin and the size of their nose.”

The door flies open again and this time it’s a woman who appears to be the guy’s mother (the 9-month-old’s grandmother). “There is a wild animal out there! I need someone to address this immediately!” she yelled.  She walked over to where the dad, toddler and staff member were standing. The rest of us were looking out the window trying to see what wild animal was leering on ranch.

“I lost my place,” the historian said. “That was rather shocking.” He took a few moments to collect his thoughts.

“That dog bit my granddaughter and I want that dog’s papers!” the grandmother yelled.

“OK,” said the staff member, trying to calm the woman down.

“So…where was I?” asked the historian.

The dog bit the toddler? So the jolly family dog who came over to greet us and play with our family’s four toddler cousins is the wild animal?

“I’ll just start somewhere else,” the historian said. “In those days, slaves were valued at $1,500, which was a lot of money.”

“Oh my god! There’s blood!” the grandmother yelled from the back of the room. “That dog drew blood! I am calling the authorities this instant!” she said as she marched outside. Her son followed, carrying the toddler who had quieted down.

“If a slave tried to escape, its owner would put an iron brace around his or her neck,” the historian continued. As he spoke, the grandmother was pacing outside the window talking on her cell phone.

When the presentation was over, everyone went outside and right around the corner was an animal control officer talking to the grandmother and the toddler’s parents. The toddler’s dad was holding a leash. At the end of the leash was the dog lying like this:

Dog lying on its back

My mother- and father-in-law stood with me debating about what happened and what might happen to the dog.

That’s when my almost 2-year-old started to get cranky. I decided to redirect his attention by asking him to help me throw the popcorn bag away. He took the bag and walked over to the trash can. I followed. Then he saw the dog.

“My pet puppy!” he said and quickly headed toward the heated discussion. He stood next to the dog. “My pet puppy!”

I stood there trying to decide what to do. Here’s a dog that we had all played with that afternoon. Next to the dog is animal control, a screaming grandmother and a teary-eyed little girl who had scratches on her cheek. “Um, let’s wait,” I said. I pulled my son back.

A high school-aged boy standing nearby said, “He’s fine. You can pet him.”

My son wriggled away and sat down next to the dog. “My pet puppy!” he said with determination.  He sat down. I sat down between the dog and my son as he reached for the dog’s wet nose.

“No, that’s not how we pet dogs,” I said. “Here, open up your hand. Now keep your hand open and let’s pet his back.”

“Ma’am, I can’t do anything about the dog not having tags,” the officer said to the grandmother. “Tags are a city thing and we are in the country.”

“I need to see papers on this dog!” the grandmother demanded.

My son ruffled up the dog’s fur. The dog was lounging on the ground, enjoying the petting. “My pet puppy!” my son said, proud of himself.

“The dog has had his shots,” the high schooler said as if he was repeating the phrase for the umpteenth time.

“We can observe the dog for 10 days to see if he shows signs of rabies,” the animal control officer said. “But, this young man said he can get a copy of the dog’s papers so I wouldn’t worry.”

Then the animal control officer looked at me and my son petting the dog. “Until then, I suggest that you go over proper animal handling techniques with your granddaughter,” the officer said.

“We know how to handle a dog!” the grandmother said.

I could feel the grandmother glaring at me. And then I could see myself as a spectator would have seen me: Look at that crazy mom taking her son to pet that wild animal. What nerve. She’s just sitting there in the middle of all the drama! 

“Alright, that’s enough petting,” I said to my son, not daring to look up. “Let’s go to the maze.”

“No! My pet puppy!” he started crying. I scooped him up he began the mini meltdown that I was trying to avoid. With a kicking toddler in my arms, I made my way to my in-laws who were giggling.

“Only you!” my mother-in-law said.

We walked over to the play area to find the hubs who was keeping an eye on our other son. We must have had unusual looks on our faces because he looked straight at me and asked, “What did you do now?”

“What?” I said. “He wanted to pet the dog and I was trying to avoid a meltdown. Then things just evolved and there we were in the middle of the everything petting the dog.”

“My pet puppy!” the toddler said.

“I see,” the hubs said. “I think it’s time for us to go home.”

The family photo

It’s family portrait time and this year we are doing a group photo with everyone on my husband’s side: 12 adults and nine children between the ages of a few weeks old and seven years old.

Our goal is to have a photo that looks like this (but unfortunately no beach)…Picture perfect family photo

However, this is what happens when my family gets in front of the camera….
Too busy

Scary Santa

Photo at the STL arch
Photo booth fail

I scoured the mall, and — with the help of five sales associates — I found four matching green shirts. We will be color coordinated, that much I can promise. The rest, well, I wish the photographer luck.


We did it!

Family photo (new and improved)

Remember great

Pensacola BeachWaiting for an elevator with a colleague this morning on our way into the office…

Him: Hey. How are you?
Me: Good, thanks. How are you?

It was obvious that neither of us had made it to a coffee machine yet.

Good…considering. You know, things could be worse, right?
Me: Yes, that is true.
Him: Don’t you hate it when you ask someone at work how they are and they enthusiastically respond, “Great!” I just want to say, I hope this isn’t what great means to you.
Me: I know what you mean. I had a taste of great last week.
Him: Hang on to the vacation buzz as long as you can.
Me: I will do my best.

I wiggled the toe ring that no one can see through my closed-toe shoe. Don’t lose the buzz.

Foot flushing

I don’t understand foot flushers. I’m sure you’ve seen people do this. They use their foot to flush the toilet. Why do they flush with their foot? Is the handle so far out of arm’s reach that it requires a leg?

Perhaps foot flushing is for sanitary reasons. As in, my hands are so dirty I can’t stand to add any more bacteria before I get to the sink. That would be too much scrubbing. There’s no time for extra scrubbing. I’m very busy.

Or, perhaps the foot flushers get a rush out of the power of flushing with a foot. Like when you prop your foot on a rock after climbing a mountain. I have conquered the toilet! Flush!

There must be a piece to this foot flushing puzzle that I’m missing. What is it? I’m perplexed.

Just a myth

When we were planning to leave for Pensacola, we had a lot to do and I ran out of time. I did not have time to make the “Blazing Hot Tracks” CD for our friends who decided to drive to Florida (crazy, but they saw cotton fields and Elvis’ house so maybe not super crazy). I didn’t even have time to get a pedicure, but that turned out OK because the ocean chipped my do-it-yourself pedicure anyway.

I was focused on getting our boys’ laundry done, leaving instructions for my parents, letting the teachers know that pick up and drop off schedules were changing, etc. The last thing on my mind was preparing for the beach.

After a few days exploring Pensacola and collecting sea shells, the hubs and I decided to hit the water with body boards. The ocean was shallow before getting deep and then becoming shallow again. Because of the waves (and the fact that I’m vertically challenged), I had a hard time swimming past the deep part. I would swim forward, then get knocked back. It was more like I was swimming in place.

My husband, who is 6’1″, didn’t struggle with the ocean depth like I did. In fact, he was kind enough to give me a “sea tow” and pull me to shallow waters when needed.  And this is what we did all afternoon. I slid to the shore on a wave, turned around and headed back out to catch another one. “Sea tow!” I would yell and the hubs would make his way over to pull me to shallow waters. But there was one time my trip back out to the ocean didn’t go so well.

I was going nowhere in the deep part and the hubs was really far away. Then I felt stinging. First on my left ankle. Then on my right hand. My right wrist. “I’m getting stung!” I yelled. But the waves were so loud the hubs couldn’t hear me.

“What?” he yelled back. “Sea tow?”

“No, I’m getting stung!” I tried to swim out of the deep spot but I wasn’t getting anywhere. More stinging on my left thigh. The hubs started to make his way over. “I’m getting stung!” I yelled again.

“OK!” he made his way past a few waves and pulled me out of the deep.

“Jellyfish,” I said. “Look.” I showed him the red spots.

“Does it hurt?” he asked.

“Yeah, but it’s not horrible. They must have been small.” We both looked at each other in silence. I could tell we were thinking the same thing.

“I think it’s just a myth,” I said. He nodded. He didn’t want to pee on me.

“Is it still stinging?” he asked.

“Yes, but it will be fine,” I said. “Didn’t you see that episode of ‘Friends’? I think peeing on it doesn’t really help.” We stood there for a few more seconds not saying anything. And then, about 15 feet in front of us, two dolphins jumped out of the water. Suddenly, I was at peace with the ocean again.

As for the hubs, well, he never made peace with peeing on the jellyfish stings. Eventually the stinging stopped, and later — after the stinging had subsided — I found out the front desk keeps a spray bottle of vinegar on hand for jellyfish stings. Vinegar. So noted.

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