Thursday, December 22, 2016

Oh Christmas Tree

As any parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, neighbor knows, September is fund raiser month - it should be declared an actual thing, then maybe we could face it head-on, be done and enjoy the school year. This September saw me ordering magazines, donating to various charities, and ordering Christmas greenery. Yes, I bought my tree in September, sight unseen as it wouldn't be cut for 2 months. 

Beautiful trees are cut, packed, shipped, and delivered right to our high school and then delivered to the customers. Previous customers (from another organization) rave about the beautiful trees and how they last. A great way to earn money for the kids. 

It arrived okay, Boy and I helped unload the truck and picked up or orders for delivery before Thanksgiving. And it was a gorgeous tree. Not too fat, not too scrawny, a perfect height. My husband commented more than once that it was perfectly symmetrical. It decorated our home until the 19th of December.

Yup - the 19th.

The drooping, browning, break-in-your-hands evergreen boughs were doing nothing for the holiday ambiance by then, let alone the fire hazard it posed, and it had to go. So it was that Monday saw me and the kids undecking the halls and Boy wrestling the tree to the backyard.

Tween and I hopped into the car to buy another at a local store. We arrived and wondered at the sight of the closed tent; it was quickly determined that there were no trees left. Do not panic. There are lots of stores was my inner chant as we headed out again. A second store - about 5 trees - as tall as Youngest and she isn't even tall enough to ride the carousel alone. It was at this point that I began to question my thinking, and to silently curse myself for forgetting my cell at home. Driving by an overpriced tree stand - in the midst of packing itself up - no trees here - annoyance turned to dread. At this point, empathetic Tween began to voice options - we could get a palm tree, a small plant to top a table, borrow a fake tree from Aunt C who has a couple in her garage. We headed home to call around. 

After a couple of calls we are able to locate a store that did, indeed, have some trees, and we were off. Tween is a stickler for looking at the options before choosing - even when it's tree #2 of the season. I held up, turned, and twisted tree after tree thank goodness they only had a few dozen left until the Goldilocks of trees was found.

It is a cute tree, full and wild looking, but sporting proportions that required yet another room rearrangement. We set it up, the kids wondering if their dad would notice - I voted a strong yes, and now we are on tree 2.0. The girls are happy to tell you this one sports enough room to add a toy train, something each one of my kids have wanted and to which I finally relented I must be getting soft in my old age or they are just wearing me down.

*disclaimer - My sister also got a tree through Boy, and  has no issues. I think we got a bad one, the trunk was rotting in the water when we took it out.*

Monday, December 19, 2016

Avoidance Accepted

Sunnyville is a hectic place from August through May, but there are moments of respite from the running and juggling that make the school year a test of endurance - and my favorite is Christmas break. The cookies will be baked, there will be time to walk through the woods and along the beach, we will drive around to see the lights - all in all a great time of year - once the chores are done.

Getting the holiday cleaning done weighs heavily on my mind, so it was with visions of dust cloths that I woke much too early for my first official day off and offered Youngest a choice. Part of her aftercare program provides camp for non-school days that occur throughout the year, but I figured she could use a break and I was filled with guilt for wanting her to go to camp, so I left it up to her. She chose to stay home.

I warned her that we would be doing chores today, the clean under your bed and dust while your down there kind of work, to which she assured me she could do it. Okay, home it would be, and we settled in to relax and wait for the siblings to wake. As breakfast came and went, I began to straighten, plan, and warn tell Boy what we would be doing today. At some point in this litany, Youngest walked up to me and said, "I changed my mind. I want to go the the Y today."

So, we hustled to pack a lunch, and headed to the car. Was it the reality of hours spent cleaning, or just the draw of hanging out with friends all day that motivated her to go? I don't know - but if it was chore avoidance, who can blame her? I want to go to the Y too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Finding Solace

For the majority of this country it has been a difficult week, even here in Sunnyville. I have found solace in the fact that we happen to be working on argument writing in class, not because I want the students to debate politics - far from it as they are outlawed in my classroom for the good of all - but because my text happens to use social justice essays to teach rhetoric.

Today was especially gratifying as we read, "I THINK THAT WORLD LITERATURE has the power in these frightening times to help mankind see itself accurately despite what is advocated by partisans and by parties."

Having my students translate this to everyday speak forced them to focus on the thesis, but the real power lay in the words, "At birth, violence behaves openly and even proudly. But as soon as it becomes stronger and firmly established, it senses the thinning of the air around it and cannot go on without befogging itself in lies, coating itself with lying’s sugary oratory."

I love to dissect this personification with them, the growth of violence, how it cloaks itself to hide and thrive. I love pointing out to them the inevitable connection being made between lies and violence... and then turn them lose to discuss whether this work has any relevance in the world today.

To encourage them to discuss the ideas they have without sharing my ideas or values can be hard, but I live by the motto "my job is to teach them how to think - not what to think." I facilitate through questions and through listening, and I hear them make connections to extremist groups  - the methods they use, I hear them make connections to dictatorships - notably N Korea,
I hear a few groups make connections to the idea that media might use lies to achieve a goal. And after warning them that ALL MEDIA should be assessed for credibility and validity, I smile. Just a small, little twitch of the mouth. Maybe - just maybe - I am making a small difference and these kids will assess information and its source before making judgements. That maybe they, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, will believe "One Word of Truth Outweighs the World."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On a Lighter Note - Election Flashback

Political ads, attack campaigns, mud slinging, and sound bites are the hallmarks of the season, but sometimes we all need a break - a moment to silence the incessant yammering. So, take a breath, sit back and travel to November of 2000.

Far before Oldest was in her senior year of college as a political science major, she was a curious kindergartner. It was the 2000 presidential election and she had listened. When the radio talked of environmental policies, her blue eyes would grow round behind childproof lenses and plastic frames as she asked for definitions, explanations, and examples. Living in Sunnyville she had grown to be an outdoor girl, spending more time under the shade of the Live Oaks in the backyard playing with her imaginary friends - who lived in various trees - than watching dinosaurs on TV, making the planet and world around her were her biggest concern. So, when it came time to vote - she was prepared.

On the way to school that fateful day, she asked again, "What is the man's name who wants to take care of the planet?" She was ready to vote.

After school that day we went directly from aftercare the plight of the working mom's child to vote. As I parked, Oldest talked about her day and explained the entire school-voting process. She was quite excited as we walked into the precinct and explained, when asked, that she had voted for the man who would keep the earth safe - Bush!

Under pressure, and having forgotten a name, who wouldn't assume the man with the name straight from nature was the environmentalist? She was so disappointed that she had it backwards, but the world didn't end when her candidate lost - a good lesson this evening.

Good night, and may the electoral congress be ever in your favor.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

With(out) Apology

This is it. Monday morning the Mr & I will have a child at each level of the educational system.

In some circles this makes us young - with Oldest entering her senior year of college we are the younger parents.

Among the parents of both Boy's and Tween's friends we are just average.

But on a recent visit to the kindergarten classroom, it was quite clear I am an older parent practically the old crone. A perfect example of how age is relative. 

But there exists a constant among all these groups - the reaction given when people hear how many children we have.

I am the often happy mother of four children. Not 100. Yet, to gauge the reactions of others, you'd think I was starring in some reality show. "Wow, how do you manage with four kids?" Or the restatement with disbelief coloring the shocked inflection, "You have four kids?" 

Apparently, there was an unannounced threshold I crossed after three - which was news to me - that seems to have mathematically doubled the meaning of four when related to children. Who knew?

Yet those reactions pale in comparison to the response I receive when they discover that my children span from five to twenty-one. Typically this involves a restatement of the age differences and some wondering comment or another while they look at me as though I were an exhibit in a historical reenactment. Or some poor soul who never learned the benefits of modern medicine.

This is when I am prone to fall into apology... If prepared, I laugh it off. I make a flip comment about spreading out college costs, or kids keeping us young; but, sometimes people ask out of the blue, having gained intel from other sources - typically one of the kids. And I apologize...

I believe apologies are important. To maintain relationships and civility - to grow - it is necessary to clearly state the wrong committed and humbly seek forgiveness. I believe in seeking forgiveness yes, my Catholic is showing, I know. But how often do we apologize for things - through word or action - that need no apology?

I have nothing to apologize for - we are raising 4 independent kids and nothing aside from the household budget is worse off than if we were raising the more acceptable 1 or 2. Sadly, this hasn't stopped me from explaining, and I have told people - who have no right or reason to know - that Youngest is not biologically ours. While it is no secret - she, herself, knows - it is none of their business. It is an apology, via explanation, which I do not owe - and worse one that separates our feisty Youngest from her family - us. So, why do I feel compelled to explain or apologize for that which needs neither?

Who knows why - but I'm not anymore. It is an insult to Youngest and the rest of us. We are who we are. If you are content with no children or 10 - great. I am thrilled for you. We are a family of six. We have four children who are spread over 16 years and span from college to kindergarten. This is who we are and it works for us.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Taking the Bad with the Good

There is one thing that terrifies me, as a parent to Tween, more than anything - taking her for a shot.

At her 5 year-old check-up she cried from the moment she saw the needle and continued for the next thirty minutes. And this was just the warm-up. The next year saw swine flu, and I thought I would be a responsible parent and take the kids for shots. A school cafeteria with sectioned areas for patient shots, many nurses were on hand to administer the shots - or nasal spray quickly. I hoped for the nasal spray - really wanted it - but she was too young. Ok. Deep breaths. She can do this. Into the booth we went, handed over the paperwork, and the anxiety breathing began. Small whining noises and little squeaks that escalated into all out tears and yelling. Panicked cries that truly frightened the other children caused us to make a hasty retreat.

Yes, she was young. I held that thought as I agreed to the pneumonia and meningitis shot at her 10 year check-up. After all, she is a smart child - surely she could hear reason. Nope. The hyperventilating started as I signed the paperwork. No amount of reasoning and calm breathing could alleviate her fear. She did get the shots. And promptly stormed out of the doctor's office and sat on the lawn refusing to get into my car. She hated me most of the day. 

The resurgence of JIA prompted frequent blood work - and she is getting better with needles. Not great, but better. At her recent check-up there was minimal panic - just hyperventilating and unhappiness.

So, imagine my dismay when her rheumatologist determined her swelling and pain is not being controlled enough with medication alone. Nope - he didn't want to give her a shot. He wanted me to give her shots. Plural. A shot once a week in fact - for who knows how long. It took all my control to keep the doubt and panic I felt from bubbling up in his office with Tween looking on. "Keep a brave face and the rest will follow" is sometimes the only defense. 

A training session with the nurse later and I was armed with a supply of syringes, a few encouraging words, and a facade of a positive attitude. Time for Tween's first home shot. I had her hold the syringe - which she dropped like a hot coal. She was armed with a stress ball - she was squeezing for all she was worth, a teasing brother - who may have helped to distract her - possibly, and facing a mother about to jab her with a needle. She did jump out of the chair - twice - but when push came to shove she held still and counted off the milliseconds as she took her first home injection. There was no declaration of hate, no storming out of the house. We all survived the first shot. 

As much as this additional routine sucks now, I remind myself that she is still lucky. She enjoys all her activities - even clogging for hours - and if I have to give her a shot once a week to keep her healthy and active, then so be it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Quiet Life

Some people live loud for good (or bad). Their actions are recorded in full technicolor for all to see or hear. The good often have names that appear on buildings, grants, and scholarships as testament that they have indeed affected the lives of others. But, most of us live quiet lives.

Do not let Thoreau fool you: quiet lives do not equal desperation. Many of these lives have a huge impact on those around them. And by turns their acts can change the face of society.

Once there was a much younger Mr Seashore who lived with his mother, alone. There were some tough times, and in stepped Auntie K with a home for them both until they were ready to move on. But her quiet, kind acts did not end here. There was assistance given to ensure a twenty-something Mr would have a roof over his head and there would be a home to bring infant-Oldest to upon her entrance to the world. Nothing was ever asked for in return. She was a quiet force of kind acts.

A mother to two daughters, she did everything in her power to ensure they overcame difficulties that life throws at everyone. Always a helping hand to those in need, including her grandchildren in their turn. An aunt to 2 nephews and a niece; there are many who hold warm memories within their hearts.

With a passion to create she was an inspired designer of her home and, when given the opportunity, her children's and grandchildren's spaces too. When she ran out of rooms to dress and design, she began to create with clay. Pouring her creative spirit into the act of forming figurines and characters from unformed mounds of colored clay, she truly held the soul of an artist, but not that of a chef. In fact, her oven was more often used for clay than food! When she was inspired there was nothing she wouldn't try, even entering into grassroots politics when many women are content to take-up more soothing hobbies.

When cancer struck, she kept a brave face. Refusing to be bowed by the vile intruder taking over her body she proceeded to live her life as she deemed fit. Until she could no longer fight. In the end, we all pass alone, but her passing was eased by the loving, constant presence of her daughter who, in her own way, portrays the quiet caring and love of her mother's spirit in her own actions.

Auntie K was and is loved. She will be mourned. She will be remembered as a person who touched lives.

God Bless and God Speed. Please give my love to Ma when you see her.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Good News & Bad News

How often has it happened that we hear our words parroted back from the mouths of babes?

This is why we eavesdrop while they play with toys. A known corner stone of play therapy, children play what they know. Hold on! Did that mom dog just threaten to spank the puppy for not listening?! Okay - she said time-out, phew. Wait, do I threaten my kids? That's not right - I'm supposed to provide logical consequences for actions. Pause for mental self chastising in lapses of best parenting practices Oh good, she is reading them a story. The mom dog is hugging the puppy! Yea! Not emotionally scarred today!

While we may take responsibility for situations our children encounter, it's important to keep things in perspective. After all, how often has a young person in your life made a statement that echos a certain princess with a bow and arrow? Or a super hero, evil genius, or Cartman from Southpark (if they are, hopefully, older teens)? Kids try on phrases like a mom getting ready for swim suit season, a seemingly endless & unsatisfying amount until they happen upon one that fits them just right or at least adequately.

Youngest recently happened across "I have good news and bad news."

Sitting near the sliding door, I watched as Youngest heaved open the obstacle and rushed forward. "Mom, I have good news and bad news," she announced in somber tones with wide eyes.

"Okay, tell me," I directed, then waited while she formulated the order of sharing within her mind.

"The good news is that Mr Nibbles [the guinea pig] isn't lost - he's just in the back yard and I found him. But the bad news is that there is a snake in the guinea pig cage! They keep running away because there is a snake!"

Hmm, mental check - catching wild snakes in the outdoors, not my area - cross reference topics and current occupants in the area... "Oh-no! You better tell Dad." Upon which she turned and delivered the entire explanation, verbatim, to my husband.

He dutifully put his shoes on, after she told him, "It's a giant snake in their cage! It will eat them up!" and out the door the door they went - only to discover Checkers (pig 2) was sitting on the creature and seemed unfazed by his house guest. Upon capture it turned-out to be a legless lizard (yes, there is such a thing) and Boy released it away from the pigs' home.

Since that day we have had numerous good/bad news incidents. I have heard everything from the fish are okay, but all the fish food fell into the tank (just miraculously fell in there) to I colored this picture for you, but the markers (sharpies she isn't supposed to touch) colored the kitchen table.

I like this phrase; it is reinforcing looking for the bright side in situations, a life skill that could use brushing-up in most of us.  It also offers many moments to laugh silently of course while maintaining a serious composure, as she delivers it with the full measure of gravity she deems worthy of the matter at hand.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dreadful Duty

At the tender age of 8 weeks it begins. Washed and dressed, ready for an outing we carry  our precious packages into pediatricians' offices around the country. Anxiously we hover as they are weighed, measured, and evaluated. We smile our replies as doctors ask about feeding and sleep schedules and ask our questions.

Then it is time. We knew it was coming and steel our spines as we watch our tiny treasures endure the first intentional harm to come to them. The prick of the needle.

Over the course of four children I have seen reactions ranging from slight surprise, that  perfect O forming on infant lips, to instantaneous piercing cries that can be soothed only with prompt nursing. Generally, though, the first and second series of immunizations are not devastating to anyone but the parent. It tends to be the toddlers who take personal insult with the whole business. This tears at our hearts as they wail without the luxury of instant forgetfulness induced by bottle or nursing. We comfort as best we can, and distract to the best of our ability, and we hate the inevitable necessity of it all.

And the reactions do not, necessarily, mellow with age. One of my children, who shall remain nameless, was so terrified of needles (due to other medical encounters) by the time she was 5 that she began crying before the shots. And afterwards? Well, let's just say ear plugs would have been a treasure for the 25 minute car ride of howling after we left the office. For her encore performance, 5 years later, she stormed out of the doctor's office in tears after additional immunizations and sat in the yard at the office screaming that she hated me. Ah, fun times.

But wait, there's more! For each series, there is the requisite dose of acetaminophen before the shots and the follow-up response to general lethargy and typical low (or not so low) grade fever. Youngest, having completed her 5 year check-up yesterday, complained of a sore arm - that MMR is brutal - and said, "Mom, you can't give me a snack because I eat it with this side and it won't reach my mouth."

Fear not, she can move her arm and has taken in sustenance, though not much since she started running a fever shortly after this and has been mostly miserable since yesterday afternoon.

I can see why parents would look for any excuse not to inflict this pain on their children. After all, isn't a parent's job to protect them? But from this comes not only immunity against potentially lethal illnesses for the child, it also gives the parents a reminder of a vital aspect of parenting - be a parent.

Children live in the present. It is the parental role to protect against the future. We don't give our children a time-out because it is pleasant or erases the fact that little johnny ran into the street. We do it to guard against the next time. Shots are another, albeit painful, reminder that life requires us to look to the future and endure the hardship of today to arrive at tomorrow safely. So, while I do not relish the tears of the patient nor caring for the feverish, I will always be firmly in favor of immunizations for our children. It is the act of a selfish parent to look to their own wants, be it ease of parenting over action or misplaced belief in anti-vaxxer mythology, before caring for the needs of the child.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Experiential Learning

From the oldest to the youngest they have all been through the ritual. Sitting on their haunches at the sweet spot, just where the wave breaks on the the shore, they wait. In it comes and out it goes, causing them to leap into action. Chubby preschool hands or slender competent teen fingers, they all know the routine. Take a scoop, not too much, of the newly soaked sand and deftly sift through until the feel of firmness meets your fingertips. Hold them tight and give a rinse to reveal the treasure of coquinas: tiny, delicate shells in an array of pastels from peach to violet. Then they release the treasure to the sand to watch intently as each shell swiftly upends itself while digging its way down into the soft wave washed sand. While toddlers, they call out excitedly for help as they watch the mollusks bury themselves, not quite able to make their fingers move with the deftness required to separate the creature from the sand. As they grow they collect them in buckets of water until some unspoken quota of colors is achieved before pouring them back into the waves to watch them return to safety.

Children at the seashore understand things tourists don't: stingrays require a bit of shuffling feet in the sand to scare them away, sharks teeth have a definite shape and hue when found among the grains of sand and crushed shells, and sand dollars are live animals that are best kept in the ocean. They are versed in the plethora of mammoth sized insects and lizards, both native and invasive that frequent the area around their homes. Many kids clamp anoles to their earlobes as makeshift earrings once they've reached a certain age, only to chase others around in a modern day native dance that plays itself out on the playgrounds across the state. Their knowledge can be impressive.

But there are definite holes.

It was muck out the guinea pig pen day, and I was outside helping Tween to shovel shavings from the playhouse they call home. While watching shavings fall from the heaping mound, I mentioned that this would be much easier with a snow shovel. Tween uttered a noncommittal sound and continued to hold the bag for a scoop or two. Then she paused, lowered the bag and in the searing 95 degree sunshine asked me, "What does a snow shovel look like?"

She can differentiate between a Florida and Cuban tree frog, knows when to reapply sunscreen and that a manatee is a safe swimming partner, but she has no frame of reference when discussing anything cold weather related.

It's a price we pay to live in paradise, but it might be good to take a trip north this winter...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Marriage Maxims Minimized

Preparing to marry in the Catholic church requires a lot of prep seemingly designed to measure the amount of stress a relationship between an agnostic guy and Catholic girl can take to bring the couple closer together.

During the retreat there were experienced couples sharing their stories of marriage - tips to make the relationship last and flourish. And I listened. Contritely. After all, we had already been friends for 8 years, we had a child well on her way to 2, and I knew dang well I went to bed angry. More than once. And I knew he had, too. There seemed to be an abundance of couples in the world who had a lovely anecdote ready to share - and our relationship was not living up to the generally accepted "guidelines for a great marriage." Nah, no stress there. But we persevered - the only casualty being an electric griddle which I still miss to this day. Twenty years later.

Yes, today marks the 20th anniversary (china anniversary) of my marriage. It seems going to bed angry doesn't derail a marriage after all. In fact there are lots and lots of "guidelines" we have both broken more than a couple of times.

But here are some we use:

1. Show compassion for each other: "Obviously you are hurt, so call the doctor! What do you think I can do?"

2. Use flirtation to stay connected on a fun level: "Oh baby, you know how excited I get when you fold the laundry."

3. Make alone time for yourselves as a couple: "I gotta get out of the house, wanna run to Walmart with me?"

4. Share your hobbies: "I thought I'd come stand here and watch you sand some wood for a bit before I go back to reading my book."

5. Discuss all major decisions as a team: me:"The baby was removed from her parents and we need to take her." him: "Okay. I'll leave work now."

What? We live by the letter of the rules if not the spirit. What we do have is a spirit of of loyalty and a shared history that reminds us of our connection and devotion. I know that when the world seems hostile and I just want someone on my side he will be there for me. Whether it's tagging off in parenting or deciding a home project we are partners. Partners don't always see things the same, and they certainly don't do things the same, but they are willing to share the responsibility and the rewards. We laugh - at the silly moments and sometimes at the darkest moments. We love - everyday and through the annoyances.

So it is to that nervous girl wondering if her husband-to-be is going to be on time, attired appropriately, if he will break her heart or be there for the duration I say, relax. Life is not easy, but you have a partner who will face it with you. Here's to the next 20 years.

Monday, June 13, 2016


I am finding silence difficult. My mind wants to focus on anything that can distract itself from the thought of what if.

What if Oldest's car hadn't died sending her to Sunnyville and she was at her home in Orlando with Saturday being her 2nd night off from work in a row?

What if she didn't arrive in Orlando Saturday evening exhausted from a day of boating, swimming, and car issues in Sunnyville, and instead had been home all day & looking to get out of the house?

What if I couldn't have sent a text saying, "I'm so glad you didn't go out last night." and received the reply, "Yeah, me too."?

What if my beautiful, vibrant baby had decided to go to a club she occasionally visits to enjoy music and friends without hurting another living soul only to be shot down by a psychopath?

The hell of it is these are thoughts no mother should have floating in her head while she waits at the stop light and the radio fades to background as the thoughts swirl in and out of focus. Yet there are many like me, and so much worse.

Grievously, there are parents that know beyond a doubt what if. And it is horrendous and grotesque. The heartache I feel for the victims, parents, siblings, & friends is oppressive, but does nothing to heal their pain or stop the madness.

So, no I don't want to defend the need for better gun laws and more efficient enforcement. I don't want to discuss psychotic religious fundamentalists or sociopath terrorists. I don't want to hear the noise coming from every direction - everyone with a political or social position to push. I am sure there are many strong arguments for the public and their right to know. But this is not the time to promote your position.

This is the time to mourn. To unite as a nation and a species. To say to the victims and their loved ones we grieve with you. We cannot fathom your pain, but we are mourning your loss with you. We know the that there but for the grace of God go we.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Diverting Laughter

We sat around the kitchen table, enjoying dinner and monitoring the vegetable intake of the younger members. Of course this is prime conversational skill time also known as "What beans? By the way did I tell you about school today?" time. So it came as no surprise that Youngest would seek to divert us with a joke. Preschool jokes tend to fall into 2 categories - they've either memorized a corny old favorite from someplace along the way or they make them up; either way it's a crap shoot.

When she asked us to hear a joke, Boy jumped in with a clear "No." This fell onto deaf ears and she continued merrily on her way, "Where does an ice cream truck driver live?" Hmm, had we heard it before? Is it a pun? Now that the question was out there, we all paused a moment before asking "Where?"

She smiled with mirth as she declared, "In a fire truck!" What? Her giggling was contagious, she really thought it was quite funny and well told - who knows in the preschool classroom this could be a gut buster. We all shared a look of pure incredulity and began to chuckle - laughter is contagious after all. 

At this point Tween decided to play along, "Where does a fireman live?" 

Youngest looked to her in pure wonder, "I don't know - where?" she asked. The inevitable response came, "In an ice cream truck!" To which Youngest vehemently declared, "That's NOT a joke! That's NOT funny!" Which of course sent the entire table into full blow belly laughter.

With the stresses of life waiting around every corner, I'll take laughter anywhere I can get it - even if I don't get the joke. :) 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Have You Seen My Dad?

It began innocently enough. I sent my dad a text on Monday, followed it up with a phone call - then I didn't hear back. Hmm. That's odd.

I tried again a few hours later - right to voicemail. I knew he wasn't blocking me - that is step 3 technology... "Oh-well, phone must be dead," I thought. No biggie.

Tuesday brought his birthday, and the idea to stop by after a kid thing I needed to attend with Tween. So it was after 3 phone call attempts, I found myself driving to my father's house and attempting to keep the mood light while worry niggled at the back of my mind. "No return call in 2 days? That's not normal.... You've been here before...." I called Sis to let her know what was going on with our dad and get some feedback. She had received no word either. Drive faster, think happy thoughts.

Now, don't get me wrong - the man is in great health. But things can happen when you live alone.

Staving off these negative thoughts, I told Tween we could show Grandpa her newly acquired trophies if he was home. I reminded her that it was his birthday and he might be out since we had celebrated it on Saturday. That's when I noted she had picked-up on my conversation and worry. Reassuring her, we pulled up to the house.

Dark, one car missing. Huh - he must be out. Okay.

I knocked anyway. I let myself in - yes daughters can do that at their parent's house. I called out numerous times - and kept my sister on the phone. Having been the one to find my mother-in-law after she departed made the situation all too plausible, so excuse my redundant precautions. No one home.

I left a note, a big note, telling him to call me or Sis when he returned. Sis called hospitals just to be safe, and we agreed not to worry until 24 more hours passed.

Jump to my lunch today... No word. 24 hours is a long time... By now my Sis had even heard from our ex-step-mother to inquire if things were okay. Attempts at  phone calls continued to prove fruitless. I sent a message to an uncle to see if maybe my dad had gone on a golf trip and lost his phone - not improbable. My Sis wondered when we should call authorities.

What do you do when your parent is missing - but you aren't sure because after all he's a grown man and could have just taken a trip? Or you could be crossing paths? I told Sis we should likely to go by the house and talk to the neighbors before we did anything else.

Okay. We had a plan... Then my father called and left me a voicemail. He told me not to pay the ransom - he escaped... Ha Ha. (did I mention he likes to laugh?) Happily his phone is just broken (or, more likely, he pushed a button that he shouldn't have) and he can make but not receive calls.... Then he told me to call him.... Guess I'm dropping by Dad's again today.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Wrong Number

You wake and wonder why your eyes are open, then the sound of the ringer (or in this case the voice from Portal 2 calling "Hello! Could you pick me up, please?" etc) and you realize it's the phone. Your stomach drops as you consider possible scenarios and worry about your college student as you hop out of bed and race toward the sound. Wondering only briefly why we race headlong toward negativity, as what could possibly be positive at 4:30am? On a Saturday!

Reaching the desk, I see the number is local, but not one of my husband's contacts, nor is it one I know. I don't answer. But the dogs are up, and the cat - so I let them out. In the minute it takes to let all the animals out, the phone buzzes with 2 new messages. Hmm - could it be a friend of Oldest's texting to indicate a problem? Lots of dire scenarios flit through my head forcing me to investigate further. As I lift the impromptu alarm clock, it buzzes yet again.

So I did what anybody would do - I opened the messages. Hush now, you know you wanted me to look before I let the dogs out! There it was - the negativity that wakes people in the wee hours of morning... Somewhere in Sunnyville someone's heart was broken. 

Three texts decried the receiver as a no-good friend and a man-stealer to boot. Of course, these were delivered in misspelled drunken text, but not lacking feeling for all of that. They were too good not to share and I was awake anyway - chasing the escaped kitten around the backyard is not conducive to holding on to sleep, so I woke the Mr. Misery loves company - right?

After reading them, he responded in typical Mr fashion - letting her know it was the wrong number but that she needed to dump that guy... He's nothing if not chivalrous. She sent 3 more texts, apologizing and pronouncing her misery, which he accepted and began to respond to respectively before deciding he didn't need to counsel the world before dawn even glimmered on the horizon.

I feel for her, truly I do - 9 years is a long time to waste on a loser who cheats with your friend - but interrupted sleep for a stranger's drama is not a fun way to start my weekend. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Who's Worth Saving?

Everywhere I turn the same mantra is spewed forth "You are responsible for no one's happiness but your own." 

I call BULLSHIT. This is a cop-out too often used by our fellow man to selfishly do what they want with no regard to how they affect those around them.

Watching someone in pain is hard - seeing injustice is frustrating, so, too often, we look away...

Then we wonder, why did that young adult kill himself? How did violence become so prevalent in my neighborhood?

There was a time in my life when I was difficult to love shocking I know or even to be around. A bleakness had nested itself so deeply in my soul that I was incapable of experiencing the joy that is at the center of life. 

This pain is messy - sobbing in great gulps with snot running down your lip messy. It can be cruel - biting words meant to cut deep and quick. Explosive and painful to everyone in the vicinity. It isn't easy to bear witness to this type of pain and the idea of wading into it to pull someone out can be daunting. How convenient then, to claim yourself absolved of all action since you are not responsible for another person's happiness.

Many people leave. Off to enjoy the company of those quick to laughter and eager to revel in the moment. And whether or not the person suffering understands the lure, the outcome is the same - she is alone. 

While was I was blessed to have support enough to get through and stellar insurance coverage many do not. 

So, yes it is absolutely my responsibility to be a humane being. It is yours, too.

Say something to the kids you hear taunting a child in the park - they will listen. Sure, they may talk smack when you turn your back - do you care? But they will stop picking on the kid, and unify in their distaste of adults. So be it. In some little way you have told them that injustice will not be tolerated.

You won't change the world by yourself. But think what can be accomplished if we all created the world in which we want to live. This will never happen if we are only concerned about our own happiness. We must be focused beyond ourselves. 

As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." (or watch it tear apart)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Blessings of Relativity

You're only as old as you seem relative to the population of your area. Which is one of the perks of living in Sunnyville. We have a healthy population of young families - the schools are full, the restaurant scene is diverse - but we have A LOT of retired people. The average age may well be in the 70's year-round with a jump to the late 80's in Snow Bird season.

Some people believe living among the elderly is full of negatives. And while I grant you driving is precarious - it is also good for your reflexes. You never know when some tiny 90 something using a double layer of cushions to see over the dash is going to stop at a green light or drive the wrong way (especially near construction cones - orange seems to scream "Go the wrong way!" when you achieve a certain age). This is just the thing to keep you focused and using your reflexes, a great way to stay young at heart if it doesn't stop entirely when you realize someone is coming at you head-on in a construction zone.

Driving dangers aside, there are perks too .Take yard care for example. I am not one to obsess about the grass and you won't see me edging and trimming daily heck not even weekly but I do appreciate the lush greenery that a well maintained yard brings to a neighborhood. Thank goodness for the dedicated gardeners on my street. They are out there with the sun - fertilizing, watering, and whatever other withchcraft they employ to keep the thickest, greenest grass. It adds to a neighborhood - especially since Sunnyville grass spreads out to the neighboring houses making us all look better - yea us!

But the best perk of all is the relative age. I am old all day for 5 days a week - a downfall of being around kids all day. But all around town I am young. Just this morning I took a rare solo trip to the grocery store. I wasn't in a particular hurry, so I took the time to share a few friendly good morning's as I passed my elder counterparts in the aisles. Typically, they would smile and say "good morning, dear." These encounters are pretty standard in a civilized society. How Sunnyville differs became clear as I bought eggs. There was an older couple studying the available types or more likely prices, so I went to the side to pluck a carton from the case. I opened the lid giving a cursory glance and a little shake as I turned toward my cart. Just at this moment a gentle hand reached over my shoulder and toward the carton. In confusion I turned toward the source to see the woman of the egg-studying-couple. She began to gently jostle each egg individually. As she continued through the carton she explained to me, "You have to check each egg by moving it just a little. If one is cracked at the bottom it will stick, so you will know." Of course I know this - hence the shake I gave the entire carton - but I kept it to myself. I smiled and thanked her. It isn't everyday that I am made to feel so young and inexperienced while grocery shopping for a family of 6! Ah - relativity - ain't it grand?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Funny in the Flu

"Tis the season to be laid low by cold and flu. Sunnyville is not immune to the season. In fact, it is my belief that all the vacationers arriving daily to our fair town bring their germs from far and wide, exposing us all only after they have distilled in the petri dish that is air travel. So, it comes as no surprise that Youngest is currently home sick.

There are many things about sick children and spouses that are no fun. I could write woeful tales of dealing with the crankiness and tears that preclude illness - before you have any idea there is a problem and wonder what alien or demon is inhabiting your child and how to get her back, or the adventure that is stripping and cleaning beds when the upset tummy has exploded in projectile vomit - at 2 in the morning, but why dwell? Each bout of the flu brings its own form of entertainment, and happily this outbreak has brought more comical moments than misery.

Take diagnosis - completing this with a pre-k child is a tricky business. They aren't so great at sharing symptoms, a condition that is clearly seen in Youngest coming to us with flushed cheeks and shivering with cold while radiating heat like a space heater to ask, "Am I still sick?" Hmm, let me think - yes!

And when asked where she feels bad I am just as likely to receive a full accounting of her small scratches - we adopted a kitten at Christmas - as I am to hear, "My neck hurts" or "My water tastes too funny today." From this I conclude cold with sore throat.

Then an intermittent cough appeared, so we revisited symptoms. When asked how she was doing I was told, "My breathing isn't going so well." Huh. That's a new one. So, I applied more Vapo-rub and tucked her into my bed to watch a movie - thank you TV programmers for choosing this weekend as a Disney movie marathon making the need to hunt for DVD's unnecessary.

However, even watching movies can be too much when you are a sick child. At least that is the only conclusion I can draw from her wandering into the kitchen as I prepared dinner to tell me, "My eyes aren't working when I lay down on the pillows." That's called sleeping, dear. 

And when she looks at me with watery eyes as I tuck her into bed mentally preparing sub plans for the next day, I do my utmost to avoid her breathing on me only to be foiled by a sneeze in the face as I lean down to give her a good night kiss. ACK! Get the sanitizer! 

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Day in the Life

It's Friday. Believe it or not, I don't usually count the days until Friday, but this week has been an unusually chaotic one and it is with relief that I look toward the end of my day. Until I realize a good 80-90% of the chaos in my life is at home!

Take Tuesday for example. After work there was a dentist appointment for Tween - which pushed the typical schedule back bit. Yet, a positive mindset prevailed and prompted me to ask for dinner input from the kids once I was home. Loaded with intel I set my mind to cooking - only to discover the kitchen was not set to rights. This of course prompted me to begin lecturing and nagging asking Tween and Boy to take care of their responsibilities. At this point Youngest interrupted to announce the toilet wouldn't flush. *sigh*

I considered, briefly, rousing my husband from his sick-bed to tackle the chore - but empathy prevailed shocking but true. After the usual grossness - which Tween watched with a mixture of horror and awe - the clog unstuck. Released from that focus, I tuned into my surroundings. Horror now furrowed my brow as I noted the state of the children's bathroom. Tween scurried off to retrieve some cleaning supplies and a brief - but thorough cleaning ensued.

Once everything was disinfected especially me I started pulling out the ingredients - glancing through the window to watch Youngest enter the guinea pig castle in the back yard. She was back in record time like spices just pulled from the pantry time and telling me "Harry Potter Pig is very tired! He's still sleeping!"

Insert mental eruption of a volcanic stream of 4 letter words here as I turned toward the child and her stiff, furry, glassy-eyed pet. You can imagine what ensued. Consoling murmurs to ease Youngest and Tween as I carried the rigid little form hither and yon in search of a why can I never find one when I need one? shoebox. As we still had no food, I placed the deceased on the front porch to await his final resting place, disinfected - again - and tried to continue continued the dinner prep. Tween was angst-filled and speculating on the health of the others, as well as blame. So of course, she went to retrieve the other 2 pigs to give them and herself reassurance. This led to an unscheduled check-up - preformed by yours truly to check nails, coats, teeth etc. An urgent need for more vegetables and fruits was proclaimed - by Tween - and I set to work to chop and dice - for the pigs - not the people.

Once everyone was settled, Boy - conspicuously absent to this point, came out to say he was hungry. - Huh. Ya don't say. - Youngest went to get the mail - her favorite job - and I scoured myself and shifted gears from meatloaf  to burgers.  There was a knock, I called come-in, and my friend came in with the stiff little beast in her hands and a questioning look on her face as Youngest protested behind her "Hey! I was just going to show -- my Harry Potter! He's waking up now!" UGH. Return the critter to his make-shift coffin, scrub down myself and Youngest, pass crying child off to her dad, etc etc. you get the idea.

Eventually all this was handled. The kitchen was tidied, the food was ready, the washer & dryer were running, and I was ready to crawl into bed. I settled for changing into clean PJ's - at 7pm - and encouraging the children to use their digital babysitters for a bit. Cast no stones! You know you would do the same Then, PJ clad, I answered the door again - we are so popular! - to another neighbor who received a summons about the ticket Boy got while dog sitting. But that's a story for another day...

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Can't Fool Her

If my house were an ongoing episode of Sesame Street with elements of various family dramas thrown in for interest then we recently had a special segment on the sense of smell. 

The Mr and I sat watching a movie on a weeknight! gotta love vacation. Tween and a friend could be heard creating new smells with a perfume kit. They were trying to perfect a manly smell - which apparently is best achieved with a cross between minty menthol, woodsy pine, and musk. So, sweaty guy at a campfire with sore muscles may be how men smell to tween girls everywhere. The Mr and I were employed periodically in the smell tests, but largely left to enjoy The Hobbit the Battle of the Five Armies in peace while the pork simmered on the stove soon to be pulled, spiced, and made into tamales.

Then onto the scene bursts Youngest. "I'm hungry for dinner now." Hmm, that's a head scratcher since we just finished dinner under an hour ago. After pausing the movie, I pointed this out to the questing child. "OK," she said, "then I am ready for second dinner." Not being hobbits of course - we don't have second dinner, though second breakfast is not unheard of for her but that's another story. 

Following this explanation she promptly transitioned to bloodhound mode. Without missing a beat she tilted her head, nose fully in the air pointing to the ceiling in a perfect scenting-the-prey-pose she proceeded to sniff at the air with exaggerated affect. Three long sniffs. She slowly lowered her head and with a knowing smile pierced us, her unwitting parents, in her gaze and announced, "Someone is tricking me!" Holding our gaze as we both valiantly refrain from bursting into giggles she continued "I smell something delicious. I will eat that!" 

Sadly scent loses out to sight, since she wouldn't touch the completed tamales on a bet.