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 -

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 - 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 -

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, “ 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.”


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)