Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Lobotomy anyone?

It was a GREAT road trip.

Right up until the projectile vomiting started.

But let me back up a bit. There’s a section of interstate that runs through America’s Heartland that could be mistaken for East Las Vegas Show-Me style.

In the span of 10 miles there are about 156 adult/XXX stores offering everything from videos to lap dancing to LIVE NUDES (as opposed to dead ones because I guess that would be gross) and gifts that are sure to delight the special pervert in your life.

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, so as we drove by I had a brilliant idea. “Hey, why don’t we pull into one of those adult stores and get our picture taken?” I pointed out the window. “We can use it as our holiday card. Kinda like ‘Merry XXXmas to all!’”

And...uh...that’s when my husband almost crashed the car. “Are you serious?!” he asked and jerked the wheel back to the left to avoid the fast-approaching ditch.

Apparently he was astonished that his prude of a wife would actually suggest it. Especially with her in-laws in the car. Who’s the prude now?

“Sure!” I answered. “Why not? It’d be funny.”

He quickly scanned the road for the nearest exit and just before reaching it...I chickened out.

“OK, maybe that’s not such a great idea,” I waivered and pointed to our 4-year-old son in the back seat. “Especially with you-know-who with us. Division of Child Services probably has those places under video surveillance. We stop in and next thing you know we’re on an episode of ‘Cops.’”

“Hey, I like that show,” my husband said.

“I know you do, babe, but that doesn’t mean you want a starring role.”

I was saved by the bell when my mom-in-law’s cell phone rang.

After the usual hello’s and how-are-you’s we heard her shriek, “You found WHAT in your hotel room??!”

OK. Now that’s a sentence that is definitely gonna catch a person’s attention. It’s like shouting “Fire!” in a theater or hearing “Does this look infected to you?” from the guy sitting next to you on the airplane.

And - fortunately - it was enough of a draw for my husband that he blindly drove past the exit for the last XXX store.

After a few minutes of chit-chat, she hung up the phone to be greeted by silence from the other four passengers in the car.

“Soooooo,” I said, trying to sound casual even though I was dying inside, “who was that?”

Long story short: friends who were also traveling had checked into a motel. Not having made reservations, they found themselves staying in an establishment perhaps more suited to adult store patrons than a place where a group of respectable retirees would normally spend the evening.

A member of their group likes to take a quick inventory of the room after checking in. Upon lifting the skirt of the bedspread she was greeted with the sight of a pair of underwear beneath the bed.

As if that wasn’t enough to make you toss your cookies? It was a DIRTY pair of underwear.

Now, how she got close enough to verify that fact I don’t know. I don’t wanna know. And - if I could - I would take a screwdriver and drill it into the part of my brain where this recollection currently resides.

Holiday lobotomy anyone?

Three hours later, I still had the shudders. And had put at the top of my To Do list when checking into our own hotel room was definitely Canvass Room for Dirty Underwear. (Thanks for the lesson, Patty).

But before we could reach our destination that evening we’d have our own inaugural event.

In a way, I suppose we were lucky our son reached the grand age of 4 before dealing with a rite of passage most parents dread: carsickness.

But a little warning would have been nice.

There we were happily watching movies. Giggling. Talking about the hotel we planned to stay in. Indoor pool. Video games. He was such a happy little traveler.

And then quicker than Tiger Woods can pick up a cocktail waitress, my son turned his head and puked.

Again and again and again.

OK, I thought. Road trip over. Let the holiday lobotomy begin.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm no Albert Einstein

Judging by the horrified look on his face, you’d think I’d just handed him a dead raccoon.


...Rather than a book titled, “What Will I Do If I Can’t Tie My Shoe?”

“But you said it was a SURPRISE!” my 4-year-old son hollered from the couch, curled in the fetal position he’d once assumed during 24 hours of labor.

“It IS a surprise!” I answered and waved the offending item in his face before tossing it next to him on the couch. “It’s a new book!”

He shoved the book to the floor and screamed, “I don’t want it! I want a REAL surprise. Like a race car. Or a puppy. Not a stupid...old...BOOK!”

This had turned ugly. Fast.

I glanced around for angry villagers carrying pitchforks and blazing torches but only saw our golden retriever slinking off with said book clamped in her fuzzy muzzle. I reached down and snagged it just before it became her lunch.

Then I sighed. Where did this all go so horribly wrong? He’s a good kid. He rarely throws tantrums. Says “please” and “thank you.” Picks up his toys (sometimes). Remembers to lift up the toilet seat (usually). And only occasionally picks his nose.

So at what point did my life take this terrible turn? What had served as the catalyst to this horrendous display? How did Chucky from “Child’s Play” pull off this body snatcher switcheroo with my beautiful, tow-headed angel?!

The answer quickly flashed through my mind, and I growled in response.

Literacy. Apparently it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

I thought I was exercising a practical parenting moment. He wants to learn to read. He wants to learn to tie his shoes. So when I stumbled across a book that showed how to tie your shoes, I figured A + B = C. Voila! Let the magic begin.

I. Am. A. Genius.

But apparently I’m no Albert Einstein. There was something a bit faulty with my math. I failed to take into account a preschooler’s concept of what constitutes a “surprise.”

Note to self: Race car = surprise. Puppy = surprise. Double-scoop, triple-hot fudge sundae = surprise.

Book = I’d rather have a root canal.

OK. Lesson learned. Call off the angry villagers. And put out the torches before you set the Christmas tree on fire.

***

Speaking of Christmas, this is the first year our son has begun asking questions about the big, fat guy in the red suit.

Except the little guy is already well-versed in Political Correctness (where the heck did that come from?).

“You shouldn’t call Santa Claus ‘fat,’” he told me in a wise voice. “It’s not nice.”

I looked down at the crayon drawing I’d just completed, which included a rather large pictorial of Santa’s big belly that jiggled like a bowl full of jelly.

Hmm. “How ‘bout we call him plump?” I asked.

He shook his head sadly and answered, “That’s just a fancy name for fat.”

Geesh! For a kid who doesn’t like to read he’s certainly building a rather vast vocabulary.

“Uh, that’s right, kiddo,” I quickly agreed. “It’s mean to call someone fat. So let’s call him...uh...gravitationally special.” Take that, Albert Einstein.

That seemed to make my son happy, so he then proceeded to ask no fewer than 347 questions about the Big Guy. Including.....

Where is the North Pole? Would I have to take a plane to get there? What is Mrs. Claus like? What does a reindeer smell like? Can I have a motorcycle? How tall is an elf? How many toys do they make each year? How heavy is his sleigh? What happens if a kid lives in a house with no chimney?

And then I respond: At the top of the world. Yes, you’d have to fly. Mrs. Claus is...gravitationally special too. Reindeer smell like popcorn. A motorcycle? OVER MY DEAD BODY. YOU THINK I’M STUPID?! Tall enough to reach the workbench. 3,567,321 toys, not including iPods. 2,657 pounds, without presents. Santa unlocks the front door with a magic key.

As he ran off to ponder this new knowledge, I made a mental note to add a post script to Santa’s letter this year: No books, please. He’d rather have a root canal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green TP?


"They’ll take my Ultra Soft Charmin only when they pry it from my cold, dead, aloe-smelling hands."

A great column from the Kansas City Star: http://bit.ly/4XHC0h. And one that my husband would agree with.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Like Sitting Bull...with a sombrero

It was like being a referee at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Only uglier.

With my husband playing the role of General Custer and our preschool son starring as Sitting Bull, our home had become the scene of a four-star death match usually only viewable through Pay-Per-View for $49.95.

And I wasn’t the least bit happy about getting a free showing.

Only 4 years old but armed with the knowledge that he “knows everything about everything,” our son was confident it was OK to wear a green and white football jersey with navy blue shorts to school that day.

And boots. Dear God, I can’t forget the boots.

I quietly slipped into my son’s bedroom just as a T-shirt whipped over my head with an “I am NOT gonna wear that and you can’t make me!” hurled right after it. Apparently my husband was equally confident that one’s clothes should match.

At that point, my husband’s face was the color Custer’s probably was when Sitting Bull told him to stuff it.

And we know how well that worked out for Custer.

But history has taught us zilch. He continued to argue with the little guy about his clothes – right through breakfast, brushing his teeth and putting on his jacket.

And in the end, our son went to school with a green and white football jersey, navy blue shorts and snow boots and my husband was nothing but a beaten-down old man curled in the fetal position on the floor talking to himself.

And you know what? I really didn’t care.

I wasn’t playing the role of Custer that day. It’s my son’s clothes, right? It’s not like he wanted to take weapon-grade plutonium to school for show-and-tell. (Note to Big Brother out there: We DO NOT have said plutonium, so please don’t send the FBI to West Edwards Street. We only have the empty box. My mom shipped us a fruit cake inside it.)

And it’s not like he wanted to paint his hair purple or buy a Snuggie or any other socially questionable activity.

He’s just learning to form his personal style, I told my husband. So pick your battles, I advised him. Life will go a lot easier if you do it my way.

And you won’t be left blubbering in the corner in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Besides, our insurance policy doesn’t cover mental health treatment.

I walked off, smug in my knowledge of the universe and dealing with a 4-year-old who couldn’t possible beat me down as he’d just done to his own father.

Until it happened to me.

***

“You’re NEVER allowed in MY room AGAIN!” preceded the loud slamming of his bedroom door.

I slunk down the stairs in shame and walked in the kitchen.

My husband casually asked, “Trouble in paradise?”

I sighed and slid into a chair. “I tried to get him to change his clothes,” I said. “It’s Thanksgiving dinner. He should look nice. He should NOT be wearing a Transformers’ T-shirt, a pair of long johns and the sombrero we bought him in Cancun.”

“So letting him develop his personal sense of style was a crock, right?” he asked with more than a hint of an I-told-you-so smirk.

“I should have just walked away,” I said. “But, no. I stripped him down like a $3 Barbie doll and dressed him up real nice.”

“So what’s wrong with that?” my husband asked.

I whispered, “He cried. Big, fat crocodile tears. He was humiliated. Then he yelled at me to get out of his room, and I can’t blame him.” My bottom lip trembled, “I can’t believe I did that.”

As I collapsed into a quivering mess of guilt-ridden sobs, my husband walked upstairs to find our son once again dressed in his Transformers’ shirt and long johns. With the sombrero perched jauntily atop his little blonde head.

He was happy as a clam and raring to go, with no idea he’d just broken yet another member of the family.

Sitting Bull the Second.

With a sombrero.

God help us all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Desperate for a human's undivided attention


His name is Bruce (left), and someone threw him into a fire.


At least that’s what staff members at the New Nodaway Humane Society’s animal shelter suspect. His feet were burned, the nails curled in, hair singed off and his face raw. Through the shelter’s loving care and dedication, he is healing, and along with 100 other feline friends at the shelter, he will be available for adoption for half-price in early December.

Due to the generosity of several area veterinarians, the humane society will offer a reduced adoption price of $35 for each cat and kitten at the shelter, manager Cindy Nelson said.

“This means the Nodaway Humane Society might have to absorb some extra costs, but the main objective is to get these animals out of cages and into good homes with people who care about them,” she said.

The $35 fee – half of the regular $70 cost – includes spaying or neutering, vaccinations, worming and an ID microchip in case the animal is lost. Animals can be adopted for the special price from Tuesday, Dec. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 5, and Tuesday, Dec. 8, through Saturday, Dec. 12, at the animal shelter located at 829 S. Depot St., Maryville.

A few of the cats have special needs, said Marlene Thompson, a volunteer who spends a lot of time with the shelter’s animals and loves each as her own.

“There’s Cheeto, who is deaf and will make someone a great pet. He just gets scared because he can’t hear what’s going on, poor thing,” she said. “There’s also Pixel, who is missing a hind foot. Like we humans, some of these cats have challenges to face, but they are very loving.”

While there is no national standard for reporting animal euthanasia, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than 4 million dogs and cats – including more than 70 percent of all cats that enter shelters – are destroyed each year.

The Nodaway Humane Society’s animal shelter is the area’s only no-kill facility and chooses to focus on saving lives and preventing litters. Members believe each and every animal deserves a second or third chance and only euthanizes an animal due to health reasons or if it’s deemed dangerous to others, Nelson said.

That means the shelter is often full, and many of the animals have spent months waiting in small cages. Future goals include a low-cost spay/neuter clinic and a feral cat program, which encourages the rescue and neutering of animals that are then returned to their natural environment. Until then, the shelter looks for inventive ways to encourage the adoption of the multitude of animals in its care.

“Our dedicated shelter staff members work extremely hard to make sure our animals are well-taken care of,” she said. “Because of overpopulation in our community, our shelter is full. We cannot euthanize to simply make room like other shelters do.”

Nodaway Veterinary Clinic, SouthPaws Veterinary Clinic and Francis Veterinary Services are helping make the event possible by spaying and neutering the cats at a greatly reduced rate. The Nodaway Humane Society hopes the event will help reduce its operational costs associated with caring for 100 cats and almost 70 dogs each day. This includes food, litter, medicine and vet bills.

“If you already own a pet, then you can imagine how expensive it is to take care of 170 of them,” Nelson said.

The advantages to choosing a shelter pet are many, including the chances it is house-trained, friendly around children and other pets and incredibly loving and thankful for a second chance. The knowledgeable shelter staff can help people pick out the animal that is right for them and their families, Nelson said.

“Meeting an animal in person is a great way to understand its personality. However, we understand visiting a shelter can be sad for some people,” Nelson said. “While our shelter is clean and the animals are well-taken care of, it’s difficult to see these sweet animals in cages. They are scared, lonely and desperate for a human’s undivided attention. If it’s hard to take in, we invite anyone to look at our Web site and view the animals for adoption. It can help narrow down your choice before you arrive.”

The NNHS animal shelter is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 1 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed to the public on Sundays and Mondays.

The NNHS animal shelter provides temporary sanctuary for lost or abandoned pets and provides education about pet care and owner responsibility. For more information or to view animals available for adoption, please contact the animal shelter at (660) 562-3333 or log onto www.nodawayhumanesociety.org.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Low-gluten altar breads: Holy Spirit at work


In addition to being a wife, a mom and a columnist, I also have a GREAT job as director of communications for a congregation of Benedictine sisters.

I don't often post work-related articles here, but I'm rather proud of this one: http://bit.ly/4ugvKo.

I was asked by Special Food Groups magazine to pen an article about the history and spirituality behind the Sisters' ministry of baking low-gluten altar breads (also called communion hosts).

The Sisters have been making altar breads for almost a century. To date, they are the largest religious producers of such breads. A few years ago, they invented a low-gluten bread for those with allergies or Celiac Sprue Disease. The Sisters are the only Vatican-approved makers of these special breads.

Oh, and did I mention they ROCK?! Hands down, they are the greatest people to work for, and I'm so delighted to call them my friends.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weekend warriors

The ninja warrior glided with cat-like moves across the delicately swinging foot bridge under the cover of inky darkness with such silence that not even the air stirred around him.

The long drop to the rocky gorge below did not cause him alarm. With each careful step, he crept closer and closer and closer to his unsuspecting prey until finally he was only a single breath away.

He slowly raised his sword, a hint of light reflected off its surface, and with a brief pause he savored this glorious moment.

Then with one final move he steeled his muscles, screamed, “AAAHHHH YAAAAHHHH!!!!!” and delivered the fatal blow, knocking his opponent over the side of the bridge, banishing him to the rushing torrent of water in the river far below.

He raised a fist and shouted his triumph with another loud, “YAAAHH!”

Then silence.

“What the hell is he doing down there?” I asked my husband after hearing our 4-year-old’s battle cry echo from the basement.

We tiptoed down the stairs and peeked around the corner. There in the middle of the room, our son stood gripping a Wii remote with eyes glued to the television in front of him. One after one, his opponents advanced with swords raised, preparing to attack with great ferociousness.

He raised the remote, which through the wonders of a superior technology only M.I.T. graduates can understand magically transformed him into a sword-wielding ninja.

With great velocity he began swinging it back and forth with enough speed to break the sound barrier or at least give the appearance he was suffering from a seizure grand enough to bring down a T-rex.

He even spun around in a 360-degree move that rivaled anything Bruce Lee ever threw at a bad guy.

My jaw dropped in astonishment, and my husband laughed, “He’s got style, doesn’t he?” He puffed out his chest in a testosterone-filled way and added, “I think he gets that from me.”

And, uh, that’s when I snorted so hard one of my sinuses went flying out my nose.

Well, not really. But you get the picture. I snorted. Hard. And not in a really enjoyable way one does when you have a cold and a good snort clears out the sinuses in a Wow! I can breathe again kinda way.

But things got really interesting when my husband and his brother soon joined in on the ninja fun.

Because one has not lived until seeing two 40-something males go at it with Wii remotes and a matter of family pride on the line.

It was kinda like watching gorillas at the zoo. Except primates are a bit more behaved.

“Come and get me,” one taunted.

Swish. Followed by a loud smack.

“You like that? Huh? You like getting kicked in your big fat - OH S#&! - I spilled my beer!” hollered the other one.

“Screw your beer! You’re going down! AHH-YAH!” preceded an elbow to the chest, knocking his adversary over onto the couch.

“Oh, you wanna play like that, do you?!” he yelled and swung hard. SMACK. “You fight like an old lady!”

“Don’t talk about our mother that way!” the other hollered and defended the move with a quick cross-check, bravely protecting the valor of his little video self on the screen. Then he screamed, “HOLY S---! I pulled a hamstring! I pulled a hamstring!” and collapsed onto the rug into a spasm of grief and tears.

But his opponent held no pity. “DIE! DIE! DIE!” he screamed and slashed and smashed his remote back and forth, sending the other’s character flying into the air and over the edge of a tall cliff. A tiny scream was heard through the speakers, and then all was silent.

He awkwardly arose from the couch, huffing and puffing from exertion, and stumbled over to look down at his enemy (still lying prone on the floor and moaning) only to lose his balance, fall over and land in a heap next to him.

“Hey, you found my beer,” he said with happiness...then passed out.

As my son and I walked up the stairs he asked, “Is that what I look like when I play, Mommy?”

“Oh, no, kiddo,” I quickly assured him. “You got style.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cumulonimbus is a funny word

Being a parent is about loving your child.

Nurturing them. Providing a safe place to live and food for the table. Giving them opportunities to grow, sharing in their education, teaching them values like respect and compassion.

Insert not-so-ladylike-snort here.

At least that’s what all the manuals say. Not that I’d know. They’re propping up the wobbly table in the basement at the moment.

With a few years of parenting under my belt, I’ve come to one major conclusion: parenting is all about Making Stuff Up.

As I drove our four-year-old to preschool one morning amidst a downpour, he asked, “Why does it rain?”

I sighed. Why did I give birth to the inquisitive child who wants to know everything about everything? What is with this weird obsession to understand this crazy world around him?

It’s just plain wrong.

Why couldn’t he ask me about Scooby Doo?! I have friggin’ Ph.D. in Scooby Doo!

But, alas, no. Mr. Science wants to know about the weather. So that little dial in my mind clicked back to Mr. Gordon’s seventh-grade science class in order to ascertain the proper answer.

Phrases like “barometric pressure” and “cumulonimbus clouds” popped out.

Hee-hee, I thought. Cumulonimbus is a funny word. I wonder how they came up with that one. Sounds like you have a mouth full of rocks and are trying to say, “Come, lay on my bus.”

Oh, I bet that probably means something dirty in Vegas.

A loud “MOMMY!” shouted from the backseat snapped me back from my quickly derailing thoughts and reminded me about the task at hand.

Rain. We were talking about rain.

“Well, kiddo,” I began. “When clouds get too full of water…they start to leak.”

Without missing a beat, my son responded with excitement, “Oh, so it’s like they gotta pee!”

Somewhere, Mr. Gordon’s head just exploded.

“Uh, yes. That is correct,” I answered.

He’s so gonna flunk preschool.

***

And then there are times you wish you could make stuff up but understand there are some things you just don’t mess with.

And that’s when it gets complicated.

“How did Jesus die?” my son asked during bedtime prayers one evening.

“He died on the cross, remember? Like the one we see at church,” I answered.

“Yeah, I know that,” Mr. Know-it-all responded. “But how did he die?”

Oh. My.

Yikes. My brain shifted into overdrive. How do you tell a four-year-old about using spikes to stake another human being through his arms and legs to a wooden cross and leaving him to suffer a slow, agonizing and painful death?

I’m thinking the right answer here is: you don’t.

“Well, it’s a little complicated,” I said then stopped, stalling and searching for the right words and getting nothing.

OK, God, I could use a little help here. Do I say they used Super Glue or duct tape? Oh, that seems more than a little sacrilegious. He’ll be at school telling all his friends, “Hey, guess what I heard? Jesus was duct-taped to the cross! My mommy said so!”

And I’d certainly be headed for the fiery gates of hell upon my death, provided the Big Guy didn’t strike me down with a lightening bolt right then and there.

So, no. Not duct-tape.

Or Super Glue. That just seems messy.

So I just went with the truth but prettied it up as best one could, considering the situation. “They used…nails, honey.” I winced, gritted my teeth and prepared for the worst.

He sat for a moment, pondering my words and finally shook his head in acceptance.

Whew. My shoulders slumped in relief.

Thank. You. God. I could finally relax.

“Now about this Santa Claus guy….”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day of silly sayings




















We drove to school in a downpour this morning. Gabe asks me, "Why does it rain?" I answered, "When clouds get so full of water they start to leak."

Clever, huh? Gabe responds, "Oh, so it's like they gotta pee!"

After seeing a photo of Michael Jackson in this morning's newspaper, Gabe yelled out, "Wow! That lady is scary looking!"

Out of the mouths of babes.....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

O Canada


Either we're raising a Canadian or our 4-year-old son has been secretly watching the movie "Strange Brew."

After returning home from school yesterday, he decided to ride his bike. He removed his jacket and said, "It's kinda warm out here, eh?"

Uh....OK.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Let there be light


He flipped the switch.

And that’s when my husband flipped out.

“Can’t you please, please, PLEASE get some light bulbs?!” I heard bellowed from the dark, cavernous interior of our bedroom’s walk-in closet.

It was - and I’m not exaggerating here - the 27th light bulb to burn out that very week.

OK. So I might be exaggerating just a tad.

It was the 26th.

And the house was in complete chaos. We’d been walking around in the dark for days. I was afraid we’d turn into Mole People if it lasted much longer. And I’m thinking those folks are not the bundle of joy one might think them to be.

“I tried. Honestly, I tried,” I whined in response. “But a person needs a Ph.D. in electrical engineering or be close and personal friends with Thomas Edison’s third cousin...twice removed...in order to understand anything about light bulbs in the 21st century.”

My husband, standing in the dark in nothing but boxer briefs, was less than understanding of my plight.

“COME ON!” he hollered and began to pace around the small closet. “IT’S A STUPID LIGHT BULB! JUST TAKE THE OLD ONE TO THE STORE AND MATCH IT WITH A NEW ONE. IT’S NOT THAT HARD - SON OF A B----!”

And that’s when he ran into the shoe rack hanging on the far wall.

And, yes. I laughed.

So here I am in the light bulb aisle because my husband doesn’t have a sense of humor.

After climbing out of a pile of two dozen pairs of smelly shoes, he demanded satisfaction. And I was ordered to the store to purchase new light bulbs.

At least I let him think he ordered me. I find it strategically important to let him think he can do so once in a while.

Puppet on a string, you know.

OK. Back to the light bulb aisle.

I turned on the spot and saw two shelves, each at least 20 yards long, filled to the gills with light bulbs of every shape, size and color.

Geesh. I had less difficulty choosing a college - and a husband - than choosing a light bulb.

God? Are you up there? It’s me. Kelley. I could use a little help down here. You know, if you’re not too busy trying to help starving children in Africa or something.

I waited a couple of minutes for divine inspiration. Not sure what form it would take. I assumed a burning bush was out of the question. Fire hazard and all that.

When neither lightning struck nor a person wearing a smock and a name tag arrived on a white horse, I figured I was on my own.

Breathing a deep sigh of trepidation, I removed the offending bulb from my purse and held it up, walking along the shelves, hoping against all hope that it would magically guide me to the correct spot. Kinda like when twins are separated at birth, then grow up and travel separately across the country and stop at a Quickie Mart in Arkansas and meet each other while simultaneously reaching for a Snickers Bar at the checkout counter.

But, alas, no such luck. I strode up and down the aisles, muttering to myself and scaring the other customers.

And then I felt the urge to sneeze.

That’s when I really began to panic because sneezing in the day and age of Swine Flu first requires a 100-page thesis on the proper way to do so.

WHADDAIDO?! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I CAN’T REMEMBER!

No hands. Can’t use my hands. I’ll go to Swine Flu jail if I use my hands.

I felt the sneeze welling up in my eyes, my nose was jumping in anticipation across my face. I felt the urge to pee my pants. Again.

Then in a flash of brilliance, I remembered.

ARMPIT! ARMPIT! IT’S THE ARMPIT!

I raised my arm in the nick of time and achoo-ed loudly in my armpit. Then remembered I’d forgotten to put deodorant on. Perfect.

“Where are the light bulbs?” my husband asked upon my return from the store and seeing my bag-less hands.

I could only shake my head and confess, “You’ll have to go to the store. I’m going to bed. The Swine Flu, babe. It got me.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Is it Christmas already??!



No disrespect to Halloween or Thanksgiving (who doesn't love candy AND turkey and mashed taters?!)...but I'm ready for Christmas.

When my dad had a massive - and fatal - heart attack two years ago, the holidays were so hard. My dad was the biggest kid at Christmas and spoiled everyone around him with love and gifts. It seemed that with his absense there was such a large hole to fill.

I maneuvered the holidays on autopilot. Smiled here. Laughed there. Gave a hug over there. When people were watching. But as soon as all eyes were off me, I retreated into my memories of a man who seemed so much larger than life, who was a giant of a man - in spirit and of heart. Then he was gone in an instant.

But this year is different. As if waking up from a long sleep, I'm ready to pick up where my dad left off. This holiday we celebrate in the way he taught us: with REAL smiles and REAL laughter and REAL love. After all, he's got one of the best seats in the house to celebrate the miracle of Jesus's birth. The least I can do is throw a great party down here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We're just monkeying around

There comes a point in every marriage when you realize the critical turn your life has taken and think, “Holy Mother of God! I married this person??!”

Sometimes those moments arrive after a series of events or circumstances, built up over years and years of cohabitation and sharing lives, toothbrushes and TV remote controls.

Kinda like how a decade’s worth of hair tangled in the shower drain will finally blow the plumbing apart and require $20,000 in repairs.

But sometimes an episode rears up and smacks you upside the head and provides a moment of sudden clarity so concise in its own right it eclipses everything else that has occurred up to that very point.

And so this column begins....

“Did I ever tell you I once attended a Monkees’ concert?”

Uh, I don’t think I heard that correctly.

“You did what?” I answered, praying that my brain had mistakenly heard my husband say “Monkees” rather than Metallica.

Yeah, Metallica sounds good.

But, alas, no.

“I saw the Monkees perform live,” he confirmed. As opposed to “I saw the Monkees perform dead.”

Because THAT would be a concert worth seeing.

And that was the very moment I began re-playing our marriage vows in my head, wondering if I’d had enough foresight to include a No-Monkees’ clause in there.

Hmmmm...honor, love and cherish (note that I left out obey, for a reason).

Nope, no Monkees’ clause.

DAMMIT!

“I think it was back in the ‘70’s,” my husband continued.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST STOP TALKING! I wanted to scream, but all functions to my brain had stopped, rendering me incapable of speech.

I had no idea that was even possible.

Nor did anyone who has ever met me. Go figure.

Skeletons in the closet are good things to have, don’t you think? Seriously. So I did what any honest-to-goodness Midwesterner would do.

I practiced the great art of avoidance.

“Oh, you meant to say Metallica, right?” I asked in a sing-song voice.

My husband frowned and formed his words carefully, like I was a deaf lip-reader.

Or Britney Spears.

“No, I said the MONK-EES,” he said very slowly.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” I waved him off and laughed uncomfortably. I tried again, “I think you MEANT to say Metallica.”

He cocked his head to the side in puzzlement then opened his mouth. I put up a hand to stop him before he could utter another syllable.

“Before you say ‘Monkees’ one more time I think it best to let you know my brain isn’t capable of dealing with that piece of information right now,” I warned.

And then it hit me. “Oh, I know why you went to a Monkees’ concert in the ‘70’s,” I said with great relief. “You thought Marcia Brady would be there.”

My husband has admitted — on more than one occasion — that the great love of his young life was none other than the pretty, popular, “Ow, my nose!” Marcia Brady from “The Brady Bunch.”

And since we all know Marcia was desperately in love with the Monkees’ lead singer, Davy Jones, my husband must have been following the trail to his beloved, hoping she’d be there in the front row, mini-skirt and all.

That’s the only possible explanation.

So let’s put that tidbit of information back in the closet where it belongs.

That is, after all, how marriage is supposed to be.

At least the happy ones.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saving face with a parking space

“It’s never gonna fit.”

“Trust me, it’ll fit.”

“Really, babe, it’s too big.”

“It’s not as big as you think it is.”

“Um, that’s not really something a girl wants to hear from a guy.”

“Look,” my husband said as he cranked the wheel so hard the car’s power steering groaned loud in response, “I know it’s been a while since I had to parallel park, but it’s really no big deal.”

I snuck a peek in the passenger side mirror and noticed a long trail of cars lined up behind us. The parade of headlights led back to the one-way entrance of the underground parking garage.

And here we sat, with our SUV pulled only halfway into the parking space. The front end sticking out to block the other drivers from getting around it. I think I saw somebody’s 3-year-old flip us off from his car seat.

And even though we were deep in the bowels of a metro parking structure in a city of more than half a million people, I recognized many of the drivers as fellow citizens of our small home town located 90 minutes away. There for the same reason we were – to watch our local university’s basketball team play in a post-season tournament.

Yikes. It seemed easier to incite a riot when amongst strangers rather than friends.

I hunched down a little farther in my seat and quietly asked, “Why don’t we just drive down another level and find a space there?” I asked in a reasonable voice.

The kind of voice a wife would use to tell her husband she ran over a parking curb and took out half her car’s undercarriage in one fell swoop, with the ripped off muffler spinning to a slow stop in front of the local florist shop while several pedestrians stood gaping in horror at the grisly scene.

Not that I’ve ever…done…that….

“What? You don’t think I can do it?” my husband asked, looking at the two cars parked in front and behind us and the small amount of real estate located between them.

“Sure, if we had one of those tiny, little European cars that people drive during chase scenes in really bad French films,” I answered. “But this car is Grade A, One Hundred Percent, All-American SUV. We could invade Iraq with this thing if we wanted to.”

Then I pointed out the window and added, “But it is not, however, going to fit into that tiny little space.”

His only answer was to shove the gear shift back into reverse, turn his head to look behind him and lean his foot down on the accelerator.

And he made it a whopping distance of 26 inches before shouting out “Whoa!” and slamming on the brakes. “Where’d that column come from?”

“What…uh…column?” I wheezed out, the seat belt having engaged with the sudden stop and digging hard into my chest.

“That column. The one back there,” he said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.

“That column?” I squeaked out and pointed a finger at the stone edifice in question. “The one that’s holding up the roof of the parking garage?”

“Was that there before?” my husband asked in all sincerity.

“No, babe,” I quickly answered. “It’s brand-spanking new. I think little fairies just flew it in.”

But he wasn’t paying attention to me. Perhaps the honking from the cars behind us had drowned out the latter part of my fairy comment.

I feared it wouldn’t be much longer before the other drivers emerged from their vehicles to drag us from ours and start beating us with the green and white pompoms they had undoubtedly brought for the basketball game.

I opened the door, stepped out and turned around. The headlights from the car behind hit me square in the face. I smiled and waved like an idiot. Maybe if they thought I was crazy they’d think twice about jumping me.

I walked to the rear of the car and began motioning like I was landing a 747. Soon the car was parked neatly into the space, and the other cars slowly filed past.

“See? It fits,” my husband said as he clumsily climbed over the console to exit via the passenger door because his side was blocked by the garage’s solid concrete wall.

“Amazing,” I answered. “Did I remember to tell you that my car needs a new muffler?”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The OTHER kind of football

It was like suiting up an astronaut for a spacewalk.

Wearing nothing but tighty-whities emblazed with rocket ships so he would “run fast” during his very first soccer game, my four-year-old son anxiously stood among a pile of shorts, jersey, socks, shin guards and cleats.

And I had no idea what the jock strap was doing in there. It’s not like he has that much to protect at this point. Girls are from Venus and boys are from, well, any planet that enjoys beer, football, naked women and cheese puffs.

As I pondered where to start this dressing ritual, my son picked up a shin guard, shoved his hand through it and pulled it up his arm.

One could safely assume I hadn’t given birth to the next Pele.

I picked up an outrageously long navy blue sock and asked my husband, “Do they think our son is 6-feet tall or that he is descended from a long line of giraffes?”

My husband laughed and added, “Maybe they’re supposed to double as hip waders. You know, in case it starts raining during the game.”

That was followed by a shriek of “COME ON, MOM! LET’S GO!” from the little guy wearing rocket underwear and waving a shin-guarded arm in my face.

OK, so he’s not quite ready for his appearance on the Wheaties box or the cover of “Sports Illustrated.” At least he was enthusiastic about it.

Back to the socks...a wise friend who was no longer a soccer-parent virgin had warned me about these socks.

“They’re long enough to use as bungee cords,” he said. “So here’s what you gotta do: put them on first, then strap on the shin guards and roll the top of the socks down over the shin guards. Problem solved.”

Well, that certainly made more sense than pulling them up to his armpits. And sounded a lot more comfortable too. But not nearly so fun to watch him try to walk that way. Which I did.

For a few minutes. Thanks, I needed a laugh.

***

Aw, it was a Dear Diary moment: watching my son run onto the field for his very first soccer game.

I played the sport for several years, so I was happy to witness this event. You know, before I lose him to his dad’s preferences of T-ball and football and naked women.

Each of the six little boys looked outrageously cute in their tiny uniforms. They followed the coach’s example and plopped down on the ground to begin their pre-game warm-ups. Tiny arms reached out to touch tiny toes.

“Awww,” I gushed and tried to block the tears from flowing.

My embarrassed husband snorted and asked, “Are you gonna do this the entire time?”

I shook my head and answered, “No, I’m gonna be tough. Rocky tough. Make it through ‘Steel Magnolias’ without crying at the funeral scene tough.”

And then one of the little guys high-fived my son in the universal sign of We Are Cool.

Let the wailing begin.

***

Oh, it was ugly.

The other team slaughtered our little guys. Up and down the field, scoring goal after goal, they methodically ripped through our defense like Oprah with a Snickers bar. Meanwhile, our team was busy kicking the dirt, playing with the field flags and comparing jersey numbers.

As the other team stole the ball - again - and took off down the field - again, I yelled out to my son, “You’re on defense now, Gabe!”

Without missing a beat, the little guy immediately dropped down into a 3-point football stance like a lineman ready for the snap count.

I started laughing so hard, I actually wet my pants a little.

So what? I’m not ashamed. I gave birth, for chrissakes, and surrendered all control of my bodily functions after that point. I wet my pants every time I sneeze, bend over or if it’s a Tuesday. Comes with the territory. So moving along....

In between howls of laughter at the sight of my son squatting on the ground while the rest of the team flew by him in the other direction, I sputtered, “Wrong sport! (laugh) You’re playing soccer (snort) not football (pee in pants)!”

Oh, well. It’s not about winning the game, I thought. It’s about learning rules and sportsmanship. It’s about being a teammate and wearing cool socks and rocket underwear.

Speaking of underwear...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Furry little helper


Working from home + a thunderstorm = 100-pound golden hiding under the desk.

Makes it a little difficult to get work done...but she makes a great foot warmer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jumping the shark



It was there – while surrounded by warm, green crystal waters of paradise under a brilliant blue sky and a sun that seemed so close I could reach out and touch it – that I realized a simple fact.

I was going to die here.

As I began to slip deeper into the water, I gave one final kick toward the surface, threw my head back and yelled to my fellow victims, “OK, whose #*& idea was this anyway??!”

***

“Why don’t we go snorkeling?” my mom-in-law asked at breakfast.

It was day four of our fabulous vacation in the Caribbean, and our family had spent the time swimming, eating, parasailing, eating, kayaking, eating and then eating again.

As I peered around my stack of 18 pancakes dripping with butter and syrup, I answered, “Sounds like fun!” I grabbed a fork and silently thanked God for whoever came up with the concept of “all-inclusive resorts.”

Later that day we placed our lives into the hands of a tour guide named Pedro, who kindly asked if we’d sign a waiver absolving him of all guilt in case one of us was eaten by a shark…or…something.

I had no idea what the “something” could be since I’d stopped paying attention after he uttered the word “shark.”

I tapped my husband on the shoulder and quietly asked, “There are sharks here?”

He turned around, pointed to his 6’ 7” brother and laughed, “Don’t worry. They’ll go after him first. He’s the bigger meal.”

“Yeah,” I answered, “but I’m the slower fish.”

***

We grabbed snorkels and flippers, strapped on life vests and climbed aboard jet skis for our trip out to the Great Mayan Reef.

Since our 4-year-old son was too young for snorkeling, he left to join Grammy and Grandpa on a submarine ride around the bay. We waved a friendly goodbye at the pier and headed off into the bright Mexican sun.

But something much more sinister awaited us that day in the warm Caribbean waters. Something hideous. Something that would reach down our throats, latch onto our stomachs and pull them back up through our ears.

It started when Pedro stopped his jet ski in the middle of the ocean, instructed the rest of us to pull up and cut the engines. He announced, “We’re here,” and told us to put on our fins and jump in the water.

And then we had to swim. And far, by the looks of it. I could barely make out the bright yellow buoy lines drifting along the top of the water, marking the snorkeling zone in the distance.

“Uh, there was nothing in the brochure about swimming,” I complained. “I thought we just floated around and looked at the pretty fish.”

My husband answered, “They have to keep the jet skis away from the zone, so people don’t get hit by accident.”

Screw safety, I thought. This is supposed to be a vacation!

OK, so it was only 100 yards. But it could have been the English Channel as far as I was concerned. I hadn’t swum 100 yards in a row since…well…ever.

How hard could it be?

***
The first cramp hit me about 10 strokes in. Starting in my lower calf, it traveled up my leg and lodged itself into my rib cage and never let go.

I yelled out, “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!” and reached out to my husband for help. “THE SHARK GOT ME!”

He would have laughed – if he could breathe. Instead, he was sucking some serious wind himself. I tried to laugh but swallowed a gallon of salt water in the process.

I heard a chugging, thunderous noise behind me and turned to see both of my brothers-in-law turning purple with exertion and using every swear word in their vocabulary.

OK, now I didn’t feel so bad.

My two sisters-in-law – the only ones in decent shape – swam ahead, valiantly protecting the family’s good name.

I eventually made it by using the line markers as a tow rope, while desperately trying to keep down the 18 pancakes from breakfast.

And it was there above the beauty of the kaleidoscope-colored reef, with tiny fish swimming around me that I cursed the person who invented “all-inclusive resorts.”

The diet starts tomorrow.

OK, maybe the day after tomorrow. Or – better yet – next week. I was – after all – on vacation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And that's how my 5-iron ended up in the lake


Head down, he flexed his fingers around the handle of the club in nervous anticipation. He shifted his feet then straightened his arms and lowered the club until it barely scraped the short blades of the bright green grass.

He slowly drew back the head of the club until it stopped to hover inches behind the ball. Biting his lip in concentration, he gently moved the club forward and bumped the ball with the lightest of taps.

It slowly rolled three looooong inches until catching the edge of the cup and tipping in with a plunk.

The crowd of one cheered as if he’d just won the U.S. Open.

“Way to go, Tiger Woods!” I hollered across the green to my four-year-old son.
He turned with a frown and answered in a voice dripping with preschooler scorn, “My nickname is NOT Tiger, Mom.”

He stood up tall and announced, “Just call me...,” he paused for dramatic effect, “the Crocodile.”

Um…OK.

He bent down to retrieve his golf ball from the cup and walked off the green to his waiting bag of clubs. He stowed the putter and drew out his 9-iron.

“OK, Mommy, let’s do this again,” he ordered and walked about 10 yards out, dropped his ball and prepared to chip back onto the green for the 87th time that afternoon.

At least I couldn’t fault his work ethic. It’ll come in handy when he gets older and realizes golf is a game that will suck the life out of you, leaving you to search the rough for lost balls and wondering why the hell you didn’t take up lawn darts instead.

***

“Let’s go play some long golf,” our son suggested to my husband the next afternoon.

“‘Long golf’?” my husband repeated and looked at me. “What exactly is ‘long golf’?”

I shrugged my shoulders and answered, “To me, that’s playing about 12 holes too many.” Because after hole #6 I’m already tired, mad, used all the swear words in my vocabulary and launched my 5-iron into the lake.

Man, golf is so much fun!

“You know, long golf,” my son insisted, holding his hands far apart. My husband and I looked at him like he was one of Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees using sign language to communicate with us.

And we still didn’t get it.

“Not sure what you’re talking about, kiddo,” I answered. He sighed at my stupidity and continued, “LONG GOLF!” As if yelling it like a drill sergeant meant we’d understand better. He stomped in frustration and hollered, “Not mini-golf but LONG golf!”

And that’s when the light bulb clicked in our heads. He wanted to play a real game of golf, not the carnival-style mini-golf with windmills and dancing fairies.
“You want to play golf?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes and threw up his hands. “That’s what I’ve been telling you, Mom.” Then added under his breath, “Don’t you understand English?”

“That depends,” I snapped back. “Do you understand what go to your room and kiss your rear goodbye means?”

***

“How did it go?” I asked the conquering warriors as they returned to the house later that day. In my surprise, they’d been gone a while.

Much longer than the 10 minutes I estimated it would take to play one hole of “long golf” before our son – barely old enough to hold his own clubs – would last before getting bored and whining to go home.

My husband chuckled and said, “He’s a trooper. He played seven holes.”

Wow, consider me impressed. “You played seven holes?” I asked our son. He nodded then teared up a bit and said, “But I lost a ball, Mommy. I hit it in the water and Daddy said I couldn’t go get it.”

I shook my head in understanding, “Been there, done that, my friend.”

Putting down the clubs, my husband said, “He would have played all nine but after he launched one into the water, he refused to play any more holes that had water on them.”

Our son nodded with new-found wisdom and said, “I didn’t want to lose any more balls.”

I looked at my husband and said, “You should have let him look for his ball. You could have fished out my 5-iron while you were there.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Who's got worms?

“Can I go skydiving?”

Whoa. That was a question I expected to hear when my son turned 18. Not 4.

“Skydiving?” I asked to confirm his earlier query regarding jumping from a perfectly good airplane at 10,000 feet and falling 120 mph to the earth to land in what would surely be the manner of a squashed bug on the windshield of life.

I don’t think so.

“Yes! I wanna go skydiving,” he answered. “And I wanna blue parachute!”
While I was curious to know where he got this lunatic idea from (thank you very much, Scooby Doo) at least I was comforted by the fact he was wise enough to know he would need a parachute.

It is, after all, what saved Shaggy on several occasions.

And since he had apparently spent some time thinking about his plan, I didn’t have the heart to shoot it down with the heat-seeking missile of my negativity. So I said what any self-respecting mom would say.

“Ask your father.”

***

Children should have hobbies. But I doubt even Britney Spears would approve of skydiving as an appropriate activity for a preschooler.

So it was off to the pond to teach our son the finer points of fishing. But we’re not stupid. We invited along an expert - Grandpa. And Grandma came along carrying lunch. How smart are we?

But then we also brought along two dogs.

OK. So we’re a little stupid.

For the next hour, it was a game of Grab the Collar as each dog wiggled loose to jump muzzle first in the cool, clear water. Splashing and flailing, rolling in muck and scattering fish in every direction. It was like watching the Swedish Bikini Team wrestle in Jell-O.

Not that I’ve actually seen it, but that was my husband’s comment.
After the two had exhausted themselves, they collapsed in wet heaps under the nearest tree. Praying the fish hadn’t sprouted legs and run off to Canada, we decided it was time to get down to business.

“Who’s got worms?” my father-in-law yelled out. I looked around, thinking he was talking to one of the dogs then realized he was looking straight at me.

“Uh...I...don’t have...worms,” I stammered, wondering what kind of gossip had spread through our small Midwestern town. “And I don’t care what you’ve heard!”

“Nooooo,” he laughed and pointed to the fishing pole. “Worms for the hooks.”

Ah, that makes more sense. My husband stepped forward with a small plastic container and said, “Here you go.”

“Is that what you bought from the guy under the tent by the side of the road on our way out here?” I asked.

“Sure, what did you think I was doing?” he answered.

It didn’t seem appropriate to ask at the time.

Then I realized my role in this bizarre little transaction.

“YOU MEAN THERE ARE WORMS IN THAT THING? I HELD THAT IN MY LAP!” I yelled. I began to feel light-headed and frankly more than a little grossed out. I reached out to brace myself against a tree, bent over and gagged.

“They’re just worms, Mommy,” the voice of reason said behind me. I turned my head to see said worm dangling from my son’s fingertips just three inches from my nose.
And...uh...that’s when I passed out.

***

“Mommy,” my son yelled from the bank, “I gotta go potty!”

Sure. No problem. We were, after all, in the Great Outdoors. This is what every little boy dreams of - getting to whiz on a tree outside without being picked up for public indecency.

I motioned toward the trees and said, “Pick one and go for it.”

He hopped excitedly toward me and said, “No, I have to go number 2.”

Oh, that presented a bit more of a challenge, didn’t it? I grabbed some napkins from the lunch basket and said, “Follow me.”

We hiked over to the far side of the pond. I pointed at a patch of grass and said, “There you go. Nature’s toilet.”

He shrugged as if to say “You’re the boss” and dropped his shorts. After he finished, he turned to me in excitement and said. “Wow! I went potty on the ground just like a dog! Wait’ll I tell everybody!”

So much for fishing, I thought and shook my head as he ran off. There’s always a catch. But not in the way you’d think.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sore loser



I've lost 20+ pounds since June 1, mostly by using the Wii Fit.
I started the Rhythm Boxing section yesterday. And today I'm sore.

Enough said.

(image copyright: Nintendo Wii)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Radioactive rump roast

My curiosity was piqued. I reached in and picked up the package.

The cold burned into my bare hands. The heat from my index finger carefully melted away a thin layer of frost and revealed a small clue to the identity of the misshapen bundle.

“Use by November 1,” said the tiny red letters stamped on the label. That’s not so bad, I thought. Then I read the year, “1998.”

Ooh, that is bad.

Cleaning out the freezer. It’s one of those household chores a person tackles only when a force of nature bends her to its will. Like a power loss or a 6-foot-6-inch brother-in-law demanding his chest freezer back.

Otherwise, I would have flitted through life, blissfully unaware that hiding in my kitchen was a toxic wasteland, rivaling anything caused by Chernobyl or our golden retriever after she eats the remote control.

And it was the thought of a radioactive rump roast spreading its diseased carcass around my kitchen that spurred me into action that Saturday morning.

No more battling for space in the freezer. No more shoving bags of frozen broccoli into tight corners, in between a two-year-old loaf of French bread and a fruit cake my grandma gave us three Christmases ago.

We don’t even eat broccoli. I only buy it because it looks so lonely in grocery store. The same could be said for frozen carrots, low-fat fudge bars and diet dinners. I buy because I care.

It had come down to this moment. Man vs. Machine. Female vs. Frigidaire.

The freezer is the black hole of kitchen appliances. What goes in never comes out. Except for ice cream. A gallon of double chocolate chunky crunch has a lifespan that rivals a fruit fly’s.

Armed with a pair of barbecue tongs, a roll of plastic trash bags, an updated tetanus shot and the gas mask I bought for $2.50 at our local army surplus store, I told my little boy I loved him deeply and to eat his veggies after mommy’s gone. But stay away from the carrots. They’re toxic.

I threw the freezer door open wide and was greeted with a large cloud of cold air and a smell generally reserved for a junior high school boys’ locker room. How’d that jockstrap get in there?

I reeled in horror, raised the tongs and waved them around to ward off the obnoxious odor.

Then I tripped over the dog sitting behind me who had decided to watch the proceedings with a misplaced notion that I was going to toss her a little something to challenge her iron-clad stomach.

I crashed to the floor and suddenly the lights went out. OHMYGOD! I’m blind! Save the baby!

That’s when I realized the gas mask had simply slipped down over my eyes. No need to panic. It’s cool. I let out a deep breath. That was a close one.

I stood up, pushed back my sleeves, wrestled the tongs away from the dog (who had snatched them off the floor and was halfway to the living room) and steeled myself for Round Two.

That’s when the ice machine loudly dumped a new load of fresh cubes into the storage bin. The freezer’s version of giving me the finger.

You are weak, my enemy. I am strong. I will crush you with my rancid smell and icy demeanor. And I have taken your double chocolate chunky crunch hostage.


The breath caught in my throat. Threatening me with the loss of double chocolate chunky crunch? That’s just plain mean.

I attacked with a vengeance. Nothing was safe. I reached in and grabbed boxes of stuffed jalapeno poppers, egg rolls and shrimp cocktail. I absently wondered who in the family had an appetizer addiction.

And a two-year-old frozen pizza with nothing but mushrooms on it? Who bought that and why aren’t they in therapy?

One hour later – with an amazing freezer burn on my arm the shape of Louisiana – the dust began to settle.

All that remained in the large freezer was a year’s supply of Girl Scout cookies and one gallon of double chocolate chunky crunch.

Man vs. Machine. It wasn’t much of a contest.
(originally published Aug. 8, 2006)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sunflower Smiles



Gabe is enjoying the fruits of his harvest this summer, including sunflowers. It finally bloomed today. By his excited reaction, you'd think he grew a diamond. It's nice to see my little guy appreciates the little things in life.

As we approach the two-year anniversary of my dad's death, I'm comforted to know my Gabe is so much like him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Shoes make the winner



Thanks to my freakishly small feet I can wear a youth-sized tennis shoe.

Found these on sale yesterday. My new Bearcat shoes shall bring us another national championship this year.

Fishing for compliments

The ping pong ball sailed through the air, making a perfect arc before falling back to earth and landing with a quiet plop into the small glass bowl about five feet away.

The crowd went wild; congratulating our four-year-old son for his perfect shot considering his small blonde head barely reached the counter of the carnival booth.
The attendant turned to me and asked, “Do you want the goldfish now or wait until you’re ready to leave the fair?”

Say what? Who said anything about a goldfish?! The prize in this booth is a goldfish?! Shouldn’t there be a sign or something?! A warning for parents to stay clear?! To run away?! Far, far away?! Of all the underhanded, sneaky, devious methods to…oh, wait. There IS a sign. Whoops. Sorry.

I turned my gaze from the much-too-happy-to-be-working-in-a-carnival-attendant to my husband and muttered, “He just won a goldfish.”

My husband - whose vision was distracted by a fellow carnival-goer who had eaten a few too many funnel cakes and stuffed her willowy 300-pound frame into a hot pink tube top and high heels - could only respond, “Eh?”

I nudged him hard in the ribs and repeated, “Your son. Just won a fish. We now have a goldfish.”

He dragged his gaze away from Angelina Jolie and looked at me in shock, “He did what?!”
I turned to our son and with as much enthusiasm as a mom can fake I said, “Way to go, kiddo…you won…uh…a fish.” I gulped and added in a strained voice, “Whoopee.”
He danced in excitement as the attendant fished his prize from the tank, dumped it in a clear bag and tied off the top. She handed it over the counter, and he reached up to grab it in his little hand. He turned to me, held it up like he’d just stumbled upon the crown jewels and smiled, “What do we do now, Mommy?”

Good question.

We had no bowl, no food, nor whatever else a goldfish needs to survive longer than four hours. And it was 10 p.m. on a Friday night.

That was really bad math no matter which way we added it up.

I soon found myself standing in the pet aisle of our local department store, desperately wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into as I gazed upon a mile of shelving covered with more fish-related items than Jacques Cousteau ever needed on an expedition.

“How about this one, Mommy?” my son asked and pointed to an aquarium the size of a small Buick.

What? Did we get Paris Hilton’s fish by mistake? I don’t think so.
I reached over and picked up a more modest $10 glass case and said, “I think your fish would be more comfortable in this.”

My son wrinkled his brow and stuck out his tongue, “Too small.” OK, Goldilocks. I put it back and chose one a bit bigger and placed it in the shopping cart. Without asking his opinion this time. I’m not entirely stupid, you know.

Two hours later, after a struggle over what color of gravel to get, what type of fake plants to buy, the right type of food, chemicals to treat the water and a heated game of rock-paper-scissors over whether he could buy a little ceramic sign that said “No Fishing” or a plastic shark to put in the tank, we found ourselves back home and in the middle of Fish 101.

One would think that two college-educated, reasonably intelligent individuals could put together a small aquarium with relative ease.

Think again.

“What’s this part for?” my husband asked, holding up a small piece of plastic tubing.
I frantically tore through the 36-PAGE INSTRUCTION BOOKLET (half of which was in either Korean or Swahili or Egyptian hieroglyphs) and answered, “Maybe it’s a beer bong for the fish?”

So we said a prayer and dumped him in the tank, hoping for the best. We turned off the light and quietly left the room. The hum of the aquarium’s filter drowned out the snoring of the sleeping little boy nearby.

I heard a little grrr and turned to find Chaser, Wonder Mutt of West Edwards Street, with her black nose pressed against the tank’s glass.

“No, he’s not sushi,” I remarked, grabbed her collar and marched her from the room, thinking it’ll be a miracle if that fish makes it to morning.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Have you seen my spleen?

Took Gabe to a Big Brothers/Big Sisters event today, which featured several Northwest Missouri State University Bearcat Football players.

There is something special about Division II football where fans (and kids) get to spend time with their favorite players.

Bearcat Running Back LaRon Council (pictured with Gabe) challenged the kids to Wii bowling during the event. Not sure how many games he and the other players won. Nice guys, those Bearcats. In any case, it reminds us that football season is just around the corner....

“This,” I said with hands on hips while glancing at the large charcoal grill that sat on the driveway, “is exactly why I asked the pastor to leave out the word ‘obey’ in our marriage vows.”
My husband, Jon, looked at me in complete innocence. “Come on,” he pleaded. “It’ll take two seconds. I swear.”

The day had finally arrived. The first game of Bearcat football season was set to kick off in less than five hours, and Jon was gearing up for a pre-game tailgate starting so early that the sun had barely cleared the horizon.

I knew this was an important day. I sighed and my shoulders slumped in defeat. “OK,” I said. “What do I have to do?”

His main objective was to load the heavy-as-hell charcoal grill onto the cargo carrier connected to the hitch on the back of our SUV.

“Tell me again why we’re doing this?” I asked as I bent down to get a good grasp of the grill’s bottom support. “Don’t you already have one of those travel grill thingies? Wouldn’t that be a lot simpler – and smaller – to take to a tailgate?”

Jon rolled his eyes and sighed in his must-I-explain-it-again? kinda way. Or, as a 100 percent-certified male, he was extremely disappointed to hear his wife refer to a grill as a “thingy.”

“No,” he answered, “because that is a gas grill and I need a charcoal grill today.” He said it slowly and patiently, as if I were a few IQ points short of the normal range.

I think, given the circumstances, one would legitimately understand my confusion. We have more grills in our house than the lawn and garden section of our local hardware store. Each, I am told, has a purpose that is unique to time and place. Like how we women feel about shoes.

“So,” I said with just a hint of sarcasm, “you want me to help you lift this bulky, heavy grill, weighing at least 100 pounds, three feet into the air then carefully set it down on that carrier without dropping and smashing it into a gazillion pieces?”

Jon nodded with enthusiasm. I think we really know who’s missing IQ points.

“Hello, have we met?” I asked and held out my flabby, granny-like arms and waved them in the air. “I jammed my finger last week just playing ball with the baby. You think I can actually do this?”

But he was a man on a mission and willing to overlook the small matter of my obvious lack of upper body strength.

“On three, let’s go,” he said cheerfully and smacked his hands together. Clearly the man was insane.

We both grabbed the grill and lifted. Well, Jon lifted. I managed a loud oomph noise, stumbled and veered a little to the right before finding my balance.

“You OK over there?” Jon called out.

“Gimme a second,” I answered. “I think my spleen just fell out onto the driveway.”

But he didn’t seem to notice. Or care. “OK, move it over and set it down,” Jon said. He might have been speaking English. However, with the blood pounding in my ears, it sounded more like Swahili.

With one final heave we managed to set the grill onto the carrier. Jon stepped back to admire our handiwork. I stepped back and took a good look at the car. And that’s when it hit me.

“Hey, babe,” I said with a smile. “Did you forget something?”

I reached over my head and grabbed the car’s rear hatch, which stuck high up in the air. I slowly began to pull the hatch down and looked over at Jon.

As I lowered the hatch inch by inch, his big smile slowly turned into a frown. Halfway down, the hatch was blocked by one large charcoal grill setting atop a cargo carrier. There was no way he could drive across town like that.

Jon’s jaw dropped. Then he muttered, “You gotta be kidding me.”

I howled with laughter at the look on his face. For all of about two seconds. That’s when I realized what this meant to me. We’d have to take the grill off the carrier, close the hatch and then lift it back on. Again.

“OK,” I said to Jon, “but you’ll have to let me find my spleen first.”
(originally published September 2005)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Screen cleaning in summer

You know it’s time to clean your home’s windows when you realize they are so dirty that sunlight has been blocked for weeks and the neighbors think you’ve hunkered down to start your own meth lab.

“You know what day it is?” my husband asked in a sing-song voice as he sauntered into the living room where I lounged on the sofa eating the chocolate bar I’d successfully hidden since Easter.

“No, whaday izit?” I managed to mumble past the gooey goodness melting in my mouth. I knew it wasn’t our anniversary, anyone’s birthday or the opening day of college football season. You know, like a holiday.

Which meant that his next words wouldn’t be anything I wanted to hear.

He smacked his hands together and announced, “It’s Clean the Windows Day!”

I was right. Definitely NOT something I wanted to hear.

I stuffed the rest of the candy bar in my mouth and prayed, God help us all.

***

“What &(*@# moron put these window screens in??!”

Ah, I love the sound of cussing in the morning.

I walked into the bedroom and found my husband standing in front of said window. It was the casement style, meaning we had to take off the indoor screen in order to clean the rollout window beyond it.

Hands on hips, surveying the sight before him with great frustration, he continued, “They installed the blinds right over the thingy-ma-bob I need to pull to pop out the screen. I’ll have to take the whole damn thing apart now!” he hollered.

I stood next to him and nodded in agreement. First, understanding that “thingy-ma-bob” is a technical term only men are allowed to use - but rarely and only around those of the female persuasion.

If I were to whip out such an insulting remark, I’d get a three-day course on the actual name of the part involved and a fully-guided tour of the nearest hardware store so I could correct my pitiful knowledge of all things home improvement. But I digress.

“Yep,” I answered. “We had the same problem last time we cleaned the windows, remember? Not sure who’s more of the moron here: the first guy who did it or us for not fixing it.”

He slowly turned toward me and glared a hole clean through my skull, right between the eyes.

OK, apparently not the time to have pointed out that little tidbit. I took a step back, handed him the screwdriver and got the heck outta Dodge.

***

The last time we cleaned the windows and screens, I was 8 1/2 months pregnant. And it was then, hunched over the side of the bath tub, my stomach the size of a Buick, scrubbing screens with soapy water and blowing out my spleen due to the exertion that I vowed never never never never never to do it again.

That was four years ago. So you can imagine how un-thrilled I was to learn my husband had declared it Clean the Windows Day again.

Which made me wonder, what gave him the right to declare anything around the Baldwin Casa? I don’t recall electing him president. Nor did he overthrow the current dictator (me!) or have the divine right as chosen by some whacked-out tribal religion deep in the jungles of the Amazon.

No, siree. As my father used to say when we kids would argue about a decision he’d made without our agreement, he’d calmly point out, “What makes you think this house is a democracy?” and walk out of the room. I didn’t appreciate the sentiment then. And I certainly didn’t appreciate it now.

So it was while looking down at the scruffy, dirty, grimy screens lying in the tub that I decided to put a stop to all this nonsense. It was time for the villagers to revolt and throw the tribal leader off a tall cliff.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” my husband asked.

I peered up from my position on the lounge chair on the deck, fruity drink in hand and book in lap, and calmly answered, “I’ve made an executive decision to over-ride your Clean the Windows Day.”
“WHAT?!” he screeched. “You can’t do that!”

I slipped the sunglasses back on my face and said, “Watch me.”

How’s that for democracy?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stains, stains, everywhere are stains

Gabe has spent the day upchucking everything from SpongeBob SquarePants yogurt to chocolate ice cream to water. Reminds me of another day spent surrounded by ickiness....

“What’s that?” my husband said as he pointed to the dark red stain splashed across the middle of my summer blue tee. “Did you get shot today?”

“Yes,” I said with a smirk, “by a one-year-old armed with raspberry yogurt, a wicked left arm and a mean streak.”

Stains aren’t a new thing around our home. So I must confess our offspring come by it naturally. We have, after all, trained them well.

Trying to eat a large chalupa stuffed to the brim with tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and beef probably isn’t the most sensible thing to eat while in a car. And doing it while driving down the interstate at a speed best reserved for a NASCAR qualifying race definitely adds to the danger.

“Whoops,” I heard my husband muffle. I looked over to see him, mouth full of artery-clogging goodness, holding the chalupa in one hand and picking bits of tomato from his lap with the other.

I did a quick count of hands (and being the math whiz that I am) discovered that meant he was using the old steer-with-your-knees method to keep our SUV on the road.

I also noticed that tomatoes weren’t the only food overboard. “How’d you manage to get taco sauce there,” I said. “I think that’s considered illegal in eleven states.”

“Hey,” Jon countered as he scooped a glop of gooey beans from the sliver of seat not protected by his legs, “I wasn’t the one who got sour cream on the rear view mirror.”

OK, point taken. I was still a little confused about that myself. But it does illustrate how neatness proves elusive in our home.

Chaser, our golden retriever, once yakked up something so hideous under the dining room table that neither I nor my husband went near it for days.

In my husband’s defense, he thought I had taken care of it. But, in reality, even I was scared of this one.

I gingerly got down on hands and knees, leaned in and looked just close enough to see half of a dark blue crayon and what I could only assume was the business end of what must have been one very slow and unfortunate rabbit.

Gross didn’t even begin to describe it. Comparing it to the creature that popped out of that poor guy’s stomach in “Alien” didn’t even begin to describe it. This thing was in a category of gore all on its own.

I threw a dish towel over it and shut the door. Said a short prayer for Bugs, the not-so-rascally rabbit, and walked away.

No, I’m not proud. But I guarantee it was much better than Plan B, which involved a nuclear warhead and a Snicker’s Bar.

Two days later, while sitting at the kitchen table, Jon sniffed the air and said, “What’s that smell?” He looked around, as if the offending odor was marked with a red neon sign shaped like an arrow blinking Stinky Stuff Here above it.

Uh-oh, I thought, and grimaced behind my newspaper. I glanced down at the perpetrator of the crime, who was currently wrapped around the bottom of my chair and desperately waiting for a portion of my cinnamon roll to drop between her paws.

She panted in the way that makes a golden look like she’s smiling. The end of her black lips turned upwards, long tongue flopping out the side of her mouth. Bless her puppy heart. She was completely oblivious the you-know-what was about to hit the fan.

I decided she might be cute, but I wasn’t quite willing to take a bullet for her…yet. I slowly lowered the newspaper and responded with a distracted-sounding, “Huh? What? Did you say something? Uh, want to go upstairs and…uh…do that one thing you saw on the Internet last week?”

However, my powers of distraction proved less than stellar. Jon was already on his feet, walking around and doing the sniff test.

I had only a few precious seconds before Columbo discovered the source. I knew what must be done. I leaned over, patted Chaser on the head and said, “Good luck, puppy. This one’s yours.”

I reached the backdoor just as I heard Jon yell out, “Holy Shi#!”

Fortunately, I was quicker than the rabbit.

(originally published September 5, 2005)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Career counseling


Gabe (who just turned 4) announced out of the blue this morning, "I'm gonna be a mime when I grow up." Not sure what is more horrifying - the fact that he wants to be a mime...or that he even knows what a mime is. Can one start career counseling at the age of 4??!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Now that's moving television


A remnant of my husband’s bachelor days, the 54-inch television was a monstrosity of picture and sound.

When hooked up to six large stereo speakers, a digital tuner, a 6-disc CD player and a few other pieces of unidentifiable but apparently necessary equipment, it was exactly what an unmarried male needed to entertain himself on the long, lonely nights before a lovely wife entered his life.

After our marriage it was banished to the basement. Its only reprieve came during football playoffs and the National Hot Dog Eating Championships when it was vital to watch Man at his best in bold and living color.

“It’s such a waste,” my husband, Jon, said while shaking his head sadly. He laid a hand upon the television and closed his eyes, no doubt the memories of larger-than-life versions of “Baywatch” and “SportsCenter” flashing through his mind.

Shucks. That’s just sad. And it was that brief moment of pity for a man in mourning that prompted the next words to stupidly exit my mouth. “Why don’t we move it upstairs?”
Jon’s eyes opened wide with shock. “Really?” he said with disbelief.

Ignoring the screaming voice in my head that was questioning my sanity and my ancestry, I answered, “Sure. How hard can it be?”

So we got down to business. We measured and thought and measured again. Made some sketches. I drew a dirty picture of a raccoon and a penguin. That didn’t seem to help our cause, but I found it funny anyway.

After roaming around the house for an hour with the tape measure, Bob Vila and I decided the only other place the television could go was in the master bedroom. Up two long flights of stairs and 28 God-fearing steps.

Suddenly this didn’t seem like such a terrific idea. Especially when my husband couldn’t talk any of his manly friends into helping us move the darn thing.

“Well, I guess that’s it,” I said with just enough sadness in my voice to make it believable. “Looks like the television stays in the basement.”

Jon nodded absentmindedly as he headed out the front door. He returned five minutes later with our next-door neighbor. A nice, weight-lifting college student who apparently would do anything for $20.

I shook my head sadly. The poor guy had no idea what he was up against. With a 40-something-year-old husband and a 20-something-year-old college student, I figured together they averaged a 30-year-old with a bad back and high blood pressure.

They would need to heave a 300-pound box measuring four feet across up 28 steps, down two hallways and around one landing. Even the dog understood that was bad math.

Imagine my shock when they actually did it. It’s amazing what a man will do in order to see Paris Hilton life-size on E! Television in his bedroom. And thankfully neither guy strained a groin muscle because, really, I understand that’s painful.

Safety first, though. We decided it best to remove the wheels from the base, just in case our toddler son decided to play the “Wonder what kind of noise this’ll make if I push it down the stairs” game.

I drew the short straw and ended up with the task of getting down on the floor to remove the wheels. Jon braced himself, grabbed the sides of the large black box and leaned the television back toward him.

He let out a short grunt and said, “This is one heavy son-of-a-hey-where-are-you-going?” as I walked toward the door.

“Just thought I’d quickly review our life insurance policies,” I said. He wasn’t amused.

So I grabbed the screwdriver and said, “I’m going in.” I bent over then stopped and straightened back up to gently remind him, “Don’t drop it, OK?”

“I won’t drop it.”
“You sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Because, you know, it looks heavy….”
“Yes, it IS heavy. Believe me.”
“…and your face is kinda turning that purple color that scares the dog.”

The tic that appeared next to his right eye told me I was pushing my luck. But I couldn’t resist and said, “Lefty loose-y, righty tight-y, right?” while holding up the screwdriver and twisting it in the air.

I swear. Death rays shot from his eyes.
Now that, I thought, would make great television.
(originally published Aug. 2006)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Marlene to the Rescue


As a busy wife and mother, I don't have a lot of time to volunteer in my community. But it's important, so I MAKE the time.

For those who read Life Like Mine, it's obvious that I love animals. So I volunteer with the New Nodaway Humane Society - http://www.nodawayhumanesociety.org/.

However, my contributions are nothing compared with some of our dedicated volunteers. People like Marlene Thompson, who along with two others, coordinates our shelter's Animal Rescue Transport program. Helping dogs like Bruce (pictured above) find new homes and new lives.

Marlene and the gals work tirelessly to find rescue organizations and foster programs across the U.S. to place dogs and cats that - for whatever reason - are not adopted from our shelter. Once they find a home, then it's time to call upon a group of fellow volunteers to help transport the animals to their new home via short 1- or 2-hour car trips.

It's a mission that takes a tremendous amount of time, coordination and dedication. And as long as they save one animal's life, they believe it's worth it. Learn more at her blog - http://marlenetotherescue.blogspot.com/. Be inspired to make a difference in your community. The way Marlene has done in ours.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Colorado, here I come!


Gabe leaves today for his Colorado vacation with Grammy and Grandpa. It includes a flight and a ride on a train.
In the meantime, Jon and I will celebrate our three-day independence. Well, as much as we can. Since the grandparents get Gabe - sigh - that means we get Nellie, their Weimaraner.
For any of you who know Nellie...that's not an even trade - http://tinyurl.com/nlrpb6.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chaser: Wondermutt of West Edwards Street


I get a lot of grief about having a 100-pound Golden Retriever. But - hey - she's not fat! She's just big.
And so is her mouth.
Big enough to fit three tennis balls in there.
Now THAT'S talent.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Theory of my relativity

“Are you wearing a bra?”

One might have taken that as a rather uninspired pick-up line overheard back in the day.
In a land where college fraternity boys roam free on Saturday nights, staggering their way through the barrage of IQ-challenged co-eds, desperately hoping they might get lucky.

But that was then.
This is now.

Instead, the location was the dinner table and the sentence was uttered by my own husband in a voice equal in interest as that of “Hey, is the mail here yet?”

So excuuuuuse me if it hit a nerve.

“What?” I asked and stared in confusion across the table, mouth agape with fork stopping in midair.

He reached over to poke a finger at my mid-chest region.

“Hmmm, I guess you are,” he muttered in disappointment. “I just thought...,” then hesitated when he noticed my eyebrows had joined in the middle of my forehead and my fork had begun moving sideways to hover over his oh-so-private-area, “...Uh...that...maybe...you weren’t,” he continued.

And that’s where he could have stopped the sentence.

COULD have.
SHOULD have.
But, alas, did NOT.

He then opened his mouth to sign, seal and deliver his own death sentence with, “Because they look kinda saggy.”

Oh.
My.
God.

So this is what a stroke feels like??!

“Are you actually saying my boobs are saggy?” I screamed with indignation.

On a side note, you don’t get a lot of screaming with indignation nowadays unless you are a regular on reality television or a presidential nominee denying tax evasion. But I’m pretty sure that’s just what I did.

At least, that’s what the neighbors told the city’s finest when they showed up to take official statements.

Me? I’m not so sure.

That’s the point when everything went a little hazy. So I can honestly say I have no idea how the fork ended up THERE.

***

OK, I admit.
The gals hang a bit lower thanks to the passage of time, the force of gravity and giving birth four years ago.

“It’s great!” every woman who’d had a child assured me. “Having kids will give you bigger boobs! It makes nine months of puking your guts out worth it!”

Sure, the experience resulted in a bigger cup size. Oh, but the inhumanity that quickly followed.
Sir Isaac Newton said it best. “Each particle of matter attracts every other particle with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”

That pesky law of universal gravitation.

Usually physicists apply it to its effect on planetary bodies. But we humans like to blame it for its effects on OUR bodies too.

To put it in everyday language - my boobs got bigger…but thanks to God’s diabolical sense of humor, it just gave the universe more weight with which to pull ‘em down.

And there ain’t enough under-wire, superglue or duct tape on the planet to haul ‘em back up to their original position.

At least they keep my belly button in the shade.
(originally published June 3, 2009)