The Unexpecteds of Motherhood

Fourteen years ago today, I wasn’t a mother. I was only days away from motherhood that day and yet I had no idea. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the difference between a full term baby and too many burritos. It was that I wasn’t pregnant. I wanted to be. Badly. I had wanted to be for almost 4 years. But God had other very good plans for me and I had to be set on the path to motherhood by another vehicle. Someone else’s stomach.
Someone else’s sacrificial love.
Someone else’s miracle handed to me—placed in my arms—in Gainesville, FL. A girl with a pure complexion and a dimple and hazel eyes that caught the light from the hospital window gave me the best Mother’s Day gift I have ever received.
Her son.
My son.
Andrew.

So fourteen years ago today, I didn’t know that my life was about change. And I didn’t know HOW it would change. I had my pictures in my head. They were awesome pictures. I looked about 105 pounds and 5’ 10”, wearing clothes from Ann Taylor and flitting like a gazelle. Always in my head, I would be leaning over my future imaginary child blowing bubbles with them and smiling. I was usually wearing an apron and holding a basting brush. As if. Occasionally I’d tap the child’s nose or rub a curly little head. In these fantasies, I never yelled at anyone. I never melted down. The child never melted down. No one ever vomited or marked their territory in a line 14-deep at Costco. I was never exhausted from 6 weeks of consecutive night terrors (not mine…a kid’s) and my fantasy child ate green vegetables. I never struggled to establish and enforce rules and I certainly never went back on them. Nobody in my head pictures ever disobeyed. I mean, why would they? I was the perfect mother. In my head.

It was a lovely space. But nobody rents that apartment, because it isn’t real. It doesn’t exist. It’s too bad I didn’t know that 14 years ago. I could have saved myself, my husband, and my four babies a whole lot of trouble.

After one adoption, 3 pregnancies, and a whole lot of shattered fantasies later, I think I now understand it. I understand the whole motherhood thing. Each day I understand it a little more, but it is never what I expect.

I never expected that I would walk into a consignment store with two girls to buy ONLY CLOTHES and have the youngest talk me into the dumbest $7 toy ever. If you had told me that I would be such a lily-livered pushover ninny, I would have told you to get your own fantasy. Crazy person. You got me all wrong.

We were shopping for church clothes…today, mind you…this is not a throwback Thursday story. The youngest, getting bored by the scene because I wasn’t finding enough in her size, walked over to the toys and found a wooden toolbench thing with a hammer and screws and other ridiculous accessories. It was perfect for a 3 year old boy. Not for her. No, I said. No way. Put that up. We are NOT getting that. I am absolutely not getting that. It’s a baby toy. We didn’t come here for toys. I will not change my mind about this. No.

I bought it for her.
Her sales job was magic.
I have trouble with infomercials too. It’s a whole thing. If you keep at me, I crumple like a piece of paper. Fourteen years ago, I didn’t know that. I was a tower of strength then.

I certainly never expected to have two girls raid my Tupperware cabinet on the same Saturday (also today) to take pets for themselves: one, a slug from the front sidewalk and the other, a baby lizard rescued from the swimming pool. And I could not have predicted that the Slug Pet Owner would borrow my phone and look up the proper way to care for a slug. She came to me in the driveway while I was participating in very important motherhood-related tasks and said, “I need to microwave some soil.”

Hold up.
What did you say?

You heard me, mom. I need to microwave some soil. (This conversation was never in my daydreams.)

Why? (I opted out of sarcasm this one time just to get an unadulterated briefing of the facts here.)

Because that’s how you take care of a pet slug. You have to sterilize the soil.

No, you don’t. That’s crazy. He came from the sidewalk. It wasn’t microwaved. He doesn’t need sterile soil.

Your phone said he did. I have to do this.

No. No soil in my microwave. It’s a rule. They say this in the manual. No soil.

Please, mom. The website said I have to. He has to have microwaved soil to live.

I mean, what do you even say? It was like talking to Charles Manson. You can’t argue with that. So not only did soil go in my microwave less than 3 minutes later, I also lost a perfect clean Tupperware container to the soil.

It is now a very homey slug habitat.

And there is a baby lizard living in another one of my food storage containers out on top of the barbecue grill. His name is Lizzy. I don’t even know how she got him out of the middle of the pool without jumping in. I had already lost control of the entire out-of-doors situation. As of 5 p.m., Lizzy was missing his tail.

It’s probably in my laundry pile.

This wasn’t the motherhood I pictured.
It’s grosser. And weirder. And so much better.

To my mother who taught me first how burp and hold and change and love a baby, I am grateful.
To my mother-in-law who raised my husband to be the leader and lover of our family, I am also grateful.
To the pure-hearted birthmother who trusted me to raise the first love of her life when she was not in a place to raise him herself, how can I say thank you? She will never truly know the fierce love and gratitude I feel. It’s in every breath I take.
To the God and Father who first gave me Andrew and then gave me three more, I will try to give them back to Him…as I try with all I have to teach them to love Him for all He is and all He has given us.
To anyone who isn’t yet a mother, but yearns to be with angst and pain and emotions that cannot be quenched, don’t give up. Sometimes it’s a bumpy, twisty, ugly-cry road, but at the end of it, there’s a Tupperware container with a slug in it.
And a baby lizard.
And a missing tail.
Blue Ribbons of Motherhood.
Don’t ever give up.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Posted in Family, Motherhood | 4 Comments

Back from somewhere

Well.
It’s been some time. Some long time.
But just when I think it’s been too long to ever come back again–just when I think I should quit pretending and just give up the blog– I remember that this isn’t about who reads it or how often I write or when. Not really. This is the place I write the words that someday I will bind up for my children. Words about things they would never have remembered. We will hopefully all laugh and cry together remembering the silly and the sad. There’s been some of both. Every life has both. But I’m fortunate to have had a period of peace and joy and enough time to reflect on the blessings that sit in my lap and are gathered up all around me.

Tonight I feel especially thankful. It’s Easter weekend. I reflect on this like so many do, but this is not a huge event in our house or in our church because we reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection every Sunday. Every Sunday we commune together. This time of year is special because this is the time of year it really happened. But that sacrifice will be no less powerful 3 weeks from now. Or in late June. It’s every day. It’s everything.

My first cousins came over tonight with their families. Their children and mine got along famously, as has been the case in the last couple of years. The weather was perfect. The colors on the river were so rich and so green-gold that it seemed fake through the lens of my camera. I was astonished. We sat around and watched the flurry of activity in the pool and fought my youngest for control of the iPod. We shared stories about our grandmother and reflected on the last gifts she gave us. My oldest cousin (she’s not old, mind you, but there is a birth order here) and I both received gifts from her after she had died. I guess our parents had found these things put away in her apartment when they cleaned out her things. My gift was a crocheted afghan that was cream and simple and beautiful. With it was a note in her handwriting that said, “For Missy when she marries. With Love, Mama.” I boo-hooed like a little baby when I opened that gift after my engagement. She had been gone for a long time at that point. My cousin’s gift was a small baby blanket, knitted in pink, with another handwritten note. These blankets were crocheted sometime before 1991, long before I was married or my cousin had a child. My cousin’s child was born in 2004, just days before Mama’s Boy. She was a GIRL. My cousin named her Rebecca, after our grandmother. It had come full circle. Almost like she knew.

We talked about all of this tonight. And though these hand-made gifts were the last physical things she gave to us, it occurred to me tonight that her final gift to us was instilling in us the importance of getting together. There’s something inexplicably powerful in that. Her final gift to us was each other.

I ate my first McDonalds hamburger with my Mama. It’s possible that this cancels out the afghan. But she also eventually taught me not to take off the pickles. So there’s that.

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Posted in Family | 4 Comments

Thanksgiving Memories

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time to perfunctorily give thanks. Go ahead. Make fun of the word “perfunctorily” if you like. Or look it up and start using it in everyday language. It’s a good word. I don’t have a fantastic vocabulary. My husband and my father in law put me to shame and I find myself constantly saying, “Well, I’d respond if I had any idea what you just said.” I simply ask for a definition when I don’t know the word. Then I try to remember it the next time I’m looking for a weird word reference. If I don’t like the way the word sounds, however, like “innocuous,” I just skip the definition and pretend I never heard anyone speaking to me. That works, too. Innocuous just sounds like someone with a bad cold is about to cough something up. Flee from it.

Actually there’s nothing perfunctory about my gratitude. I am deeply grateful for everything I’ve been given and mindful that I don’t deserve even the scent of it. I am keenly aware of the kids growing up and of how soon the dynamic will change to the point where I’m calling them and wondering who’s coming home or what their plans are. Right now, they have no plans but me. I thank the Lord so much for this time. It will pass.
All of this thinking started a conversation about some of our favorite past holidays. And I can’t muse on past Thanksgivings without going straight back to Joe Wheeler State Park, AL. 2007.

It was August 2007 when the Texas family began to toss around emails about maybe doing something a little different for the upcoming holiday season. Of course, being August, I thought I was WAY ahead of the game in finding lodging options and making a game plan. I was grotesquely misled on this point. People who make cool plans for Thanksgiving make them far in advance of August or they make the same plan every year, ensuring that you never get the chance to rent their awesome cabin. But after spending an excessive amount of time online searching every possible camp, cabin, state park, Bates Motel, and dude ranch between Florida and Texas, we found a situation we thought was going to work. We’d go to north Alabama–the closest thing to a halfway point where you don’t have to marry a local to stay there and you get to go home with all of the kids you came with. This would be a 10 hour drive for my branch of the family and a 17 hour drive for the Texas branch. Eh. Almost halfway. It beats the wilderness in Mississippi. And Louisiana was never on the table.
And it shall remain that way forevermore.

I was 7 months pregnant with Sister Squish when that roadtripping adventure began. Our plan was to drive north on I-75, pick up my in-laws at the Atlanta airport after they flew in from TX, and then continue the rest of the trip with them in the car. This seemed like a good idea at the time. However, 2 of our existing kids were in car seats, which adds the bulk of an overweight teenager to the seat they occupy. And we had enough luggage to justify a horse trailer. So to add two people and THEIR luggage seems plum crazy now that I look back on it.
It was.
Crazy.

Alabama is an interesting place. As with Louisiana, I have to make the professional recommendation that one fly over the state whenever possible. If not possible, keep your eyes peeled, your GPS on hand, and a camera ready. You’ll pass large billboards advertising a stereotypical devil who is popping out of flames and saying “Go to church! Or the Devil with Get You!” (I did not make this up.) And you’ll happen upon the occasional oasis called the “Wallace Gro and Ser Sta.” I can only assume that this stands for Wallace Grocery and Service Station, but I suppose there are other possibilities.
We threw the inlaws in the car in Atlanta and kept going.
And going.
And.
Going.
It’s been long enough ago now, (and time heals all wounds) that I don’t remember why we chose to stop at Walmart on the edge of town to buy ALL of the groceries we’d need for the week. Perhaps the only reason was that we are insane. Because there wasn’t room in our Nissan Quest for even an airline package of peanuts.
And it was raining.

So after 11 hours stuffed in a van with car seats, 7 people, and 27 people’s worth of luggage, we climbed out in the rain and went into WALMART 2 days before Thanksgiving to buy groceries for 12 people for a week, including the fixings for a large traditional Thanksgiving meal. Let’s pause to absorb that for a moment.
Just pausing on the Walmart portion alone would be enough.
We split up.
We each had a cart and a list.
We met back at the van 20 minutes later with the food. There was a moment at which we all stared at each other and these bags. We were all thinking the same thing. But it was raining and no one was getting any less crazy by also getting wet.

This story is too long, but I can’t finish it before introducing the house flies.

We kept driving. The further into north Alabama we went, the louder I could hear the banjos playing in my mind. I hoped it was in my mind. I searched the roadsides for chalk outlines or anyone whose eyes might not be right.
And then, just when I had decided to induce my own labor, thus ensuring that I would HAVE to get out of the car and also probably guaranteeing me a private hospital room for the week, we pulled into Joe Wheeler State Park.
It was a crisp, clear, beautiful fall day and the colors were changing late in the season. Suddenly it was all worth it. We signed in at the office and then wound our way around to our cabin, sitting high and stately above the Tennessee River. The rain had slacked off and we could unload in peace.
So we grabbed the 1200 bags of groceries we had just purchased and walked into the kitchen to set it all down.
That’s when we realized why this cabin had still been available in August when we booked. It wasn’t because no one else was looking. It was because all the other traveling hopefuls KNEW about this cabin.
This was the housefly cabin.

I’m not sure if this was built over an insect burial ground or had once been home to a serial killer or what, but there were 100s of flies. HUNDREDS. Maybe thousands. OK, probably not thousands. They were literally everywhere in the kitchen. All over the windows. On all the appliances. Partying on the screen doors. Everywhere.
Thankfully the nice folks up at the office had thought to supply us with a flyswatter, anticipating what our first activity might be. My father in law went to town, smack-smacking those things all over the place. If I live to be a twisted 95 year old woman, I will never erase the image of Frank smacking all those flies. He didn’t give up until the last one was dead.
And then there was the problem of all the fly carcasses, though I think I’m probably not supposed to use the word carcass on such a small creature. The sheer number of them, though, demands it.
Having killed all the flies, cleansed the place with garlic, and received our Texas cousins with joy, we were set to spend the week there.

The rest of my memories are pretty great ones. The highs were in the 30s and the trees were the color of sunsets. We played football in the field across from our driveway and took walks through the woods. We imagined fires in what had once been a fireplace (not as good as the real thing, but I can dream up a roaring fire). There were nights playing Yahtzee with a four year old who shouldn’t have been able to count dots, let alone figure out that he had a full house, write it down, and spank me at the game I had brought from home. There was the one year old who couldn’t talk but loved to walk around in the driveway picking up shells and sporting the cutest little snow cap ever to frame up a fat little face. There were cuddles with the newest baby who has the heart of an angel from Heaven.

And when it came to our Thanksgiving meal, (because after all—this IS a post about Thanksgiving), we managed to cook it in a primitive kitchen that wasn’t good for much more than lodging houseflies. I mashed potatoes with a fork and a spoon and one of those hand-held twisty mixers that people used before someone invented the electric ones. I think we might have roasted the turkey over a fire in the back yard that we built with flint and kindling, but it’s possible we used an oven. At the end of the whole process, however ugly it may have been, we had a feast. A FEAST. We had turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and corn and pumpkin pies and probably 10 other things I can’t recall.

And as we all sat down to eat it in a dining room full of two picnic tables, we had the prayers of a 2 and 3 year old, who from their precious little souls and in their raspy voices thanked God for the whole fat lot of us and for every moment in this haunted housefly graveyard.
After a week rambling through this cabin that had room after room after room, we came down to our final night there. I guess we must have had phones to the outside world and I think I recall turning on a fuzzy signaled TV. Perhaps it was this that told us some weather was coming. It was going to be harsh. The temperatures would be dropping and rain was coming. It was a great night to gather some wood and make yourself a fire. Oh wait. Never mind. That ship had sailed when someone removed the fireplace to make room for the insect farm.

We were sort of wondering what all of this was going to look like when, at 4 p.m. the power went out. The power was very VERY out. Let me just tell you where you don’t want to be for a night when the power goes out.
THAT HOUSE. I mean, how you gonna fight the flies if you can’t see them? How you gonna find that 113th room upstairs if you don’t have light? We did the only thing we knew to do. We huddled together back-to-back for body heat and slept that way for warmth.

Actually, we got in our vans and drove across the park to the Saturday night buffet inside the lodge. WOW. Where had THIS PLACE been all week? It was like we were back in 2007 again. There were fires and laughing patrons and white-coated waiters and moist little green jello cubes. And electricity.
And there were no flies.
And we were thankful.
Very thankful.
That was one of our best Thanksgivings ever.
But we haven’t been back since.
We may be crazy, but we aren’t stupid.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Cabin in AL
The House of 1000 Flies
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Sweet Niece on the banks of the Tennessee River
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One of the two picnic tables in the dining area. The adults in my life won’t let me post a picture with both.
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Shoes.
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Out for a brisk walk with my baby
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Cold weather agreed with her.

Posted in Family | 2 Comments

Musings

Today was LONG. And tiring. And a little bit funny at times. I’m going to just ramble for a few minutes as if it hasn’t been months since I last posted. Go with me. Or don’t. No biggie.

I was up a lot last night with the child that has always had ear problems. At nine months, she had tubes put in and adenoids taken out. After they brought her out from those procedures, I thought for a second that she’d been switched with another, much uglier, baby. Minor surgery plus a LOT of screaming can make a baby look pretty smashed-pumpkin. In case you didn’t know.

Anyway, I’m ALREADY off topic. Her ears are not as bad as they once were, but she still tends to go that direction when congested. So she was up crying a lot last night and in and out of her bed, my bed, and no bed. We told stories about some crazy kid in the first grade and laughed at things that had happened recently. And then, shot from no sleep, we headed to the doctor this morning. We ended up at the Walgreens clinic because her pediatrician was slammed today. This is always a risk. Showing up to wait at Walgreens without an appointment is like I imagine it would be to spend 5 minutes playing slots in Vegas. Lose-lose.

We got there at 9. As we were signing in on the touch screen, which took 8 times longer because she wanted to sign herself in, the message popped up, “There are FIVE people ahead of you in the queue.” FIVE? That’s like a whole platoon! That’s a day’s worth of patients, man. I knew I was in for it. But my choices were this and this, so I sat down in a sea of other queued patients and waited. For 90 minutes. When we finally got called back, we were introduced to Dan, the very perky nurse practitioner with an odd nose and palate. Just odd. Ask my daughter about it sometime. She’ll tell you. He reminded me of a local dentist who calls your teeth “little rascals.” He was very perky, very talkative, and much, MUCH too enthusiastic to be treating an ear infection.

After a few minutes of paperwork and sech, he asked me what meds I had already given her.

“Just ibuprofen,” I answered.

“HEY!” he replied, much too exhuberantly. “Good call, Mom!” Then he looked at my girl. “Your mom did GOOD. She’s super! That was EXACTLY the right call. Gets that inflammation right down.” Insert hand motions for helping inflammation. At this point in my typing, I am laughing. You probably did have to be there to appreciate this, but this guy was SO OVER THE TOP on the ibuprofen thing. There was no rocket science behind my choice last night. Either I gave her the ibuprofen for the pain or I stayed up ALL NIGHT telling stories about weird kids in first grade. And at 2 a.m., man, I’m tired. I’m not above some marker sniffing at that hour. Yes, I am. Really.

Anyway, that Dan guy was weird. And he praised me for the ibuprofen enough to fill a 5-paragraph essay. Enough so that my 8 year old thought it was disturbing. But he fixed us up with something better than grape markers, so I’m cool with it.

I sat a lot today. In waiting rooms. Pharmacies. Cars. In so doing, I checked Facebook maybe 50 times. (Not enough going on today. Help a girl out, why don’t you.) That’s when I saw the picture with 25 comments of the cutest little boy ever. One of the comments was simply, “Previous.” I love that. I love it when someone comments “Previous” and never realizes they did it. Even though I know what they meant and that their phone likely came up with it, I still read it as “Previous” in my head and go on my way, merrier than before. Reminds me of the time I asked my friend if they were going to the park rectally. Not directly, mind you. Which was what I meant. Good, good times.

Previous.
Read that however you like.
I’m going to bed now.

Posted in Family, Motherhood, The Mundane, Thought for the Day | 2 Comments

Biking with other kinds of hurricanes

In every life there are moments that define us. Moments that stand out as amazing, embarrassing, ridiculous, tender, or painfully raw. And there are moments, both good and bad, that cause you to halt, step away from your actual body, and identify exactly who you are.

That is how my entry began of my other biking story.

Though it seems almost impossible, this same opening statement appears to apply to what happened yesterday. And since that’s true–really, truly, true in the truest sense of truth and trueness–I guess we can all only draw one really true conclusion:

The problem has to be me.

I’m the problem.

I should not be allowed to bike.

And if I should not be allowed to bike, FOR SURE I should not be allowed to bike with children.
Fo shizzle.

So the morning started slowly enough with kids eating this and that for breakfast and us trying to make a plan for the day. We’d been kicking around the idea of biking to the library since before Squishyknickers lost the training wheels. Truthfully, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. Well, she lost the training wheels on Saturday, took off like a champ that same day, and has practiced here and there for the last few days. So naturally, with 4 whole days of real world bike-riding experience under her belt, today seemed like the perfect day for a long journey to the public library.

That sounded just perfect to me.

And I announced it as such. My “We are riding to the library and having a grand adventure” announcement was met with differing reactions. AG, now 13, was like, “Meh.” Whatever. He could take it or leave it. I know he was hoping to leave it, but I told him to take it and he was cool with that. The girls were both very “YAY” about the whole thing. And then there was Mama’s Boy. He was having no pieces of that pie.

You might be thinking you know what I mean. You might be thinking about some child you’ve seen have a slightly negative reaction to an activity they sort of didn’t want to do. You might think maybe that Mama’s Boy doesn’t like to ride bikes. All of that is waaaaaaaay off. Mama’s Boy DOES like to ride bikes. But Mama’s Boy saw this one coming from across the pond and he called it like he saw it. I won’t recount the entire conversation because that’s no good for any of us. But I will give you his closing statement, which he clearly hoped would heavily alter my decision.

“This is going to be a DISASTER.”

Yeah, ok. Duly noted. Go get your library card.

Several outfit changes and 30 minutes later, we were all in the garage with our bikes listening to MB’s dire prophetic warnings of the end of the world.

And then, we were off.

I picked a route that wasn’t necessarily the shortest, but seemed to me would have the fewest obstacles and passing cars. For the next 8 minutes, it was a completely painless and pleasant bike ride for all 5 of us. Even MB was looking off toward the golf course, doing wheelies, and granting rave reviews and blessings on the neighborhood, the weather, and our decision to ride to the library. But little by little, circumstances began to chip away at the veneer of perfection. And by circumstances, I mean the stamina and biking skills of a 6-year-old who’d been riding for only 4 days. What had I actually thought would occur?

If only someone had warned me.
Oh, wait.

Anyway, some cops drove past us, obviously looking for a car going faster than 25. They smiled at us as they drove by, with that “aww, look how cute” expression. Maybe this is when the tide turned. Maybe Squishy saw the cops driving away and all hope inside her died. Maybe she was hoping for an easy ride to the library and the nice policemen, thinking she was enjoying herself, drove away. I’m not sure. But moments after the police car disappeared from view, she began to putter to a stop. And she stopped like 900 times in the next 15 minutes.

At that point, it was difficult to hear any actual voices or words coming from the real children. All I could hear was Mama’s Boy inside my own head. His prophecies were ringing in my ear like a toddler’s first day with a violin. Sigh.

So I stopped everyone. And first I gave a really convincing pep talk. “OK, everyone. Great job out here. You are looking strong. The library is just around the corner (It wasn’t) and the rest is mostly downhill (ummm…).” Then, I gave a little enlivening water to the little knickerbocker biker and tried to drum up the fever pitch to get going again. YAY! Rah rah library! Let’s DO THIS!

That worked.
For one minute.

My contrived enthusiasm lasted us down one hill, around a corner, and up half of another “hill.” And then she stopped again. This time, she dropped her bike, hunched her shoulders forward, and sat down on the curb.
You guys go on. I’ll wait here.

OK, come on, girl. You can do this.
Yeah, no I can’t. I’ll just rest here for awhile.

And then came the look. And the actual words. There he was, Mama’s Boy, straddling his bike as he raised his eyebrows at the situation and said to me, “I told you this was going to happen. It’s a disaster.”

Dude, this is NOT a disaster. It’s just a thing. A thing NOT riding her bike that we now have to deal with.

I had a solution to this intensifying problem. I was just hoping Mama’s Boy would be on board. I would carry her bike, while still biking myself, and he would carry her. Strangely enough, this young, naysaying prophet agreed to the plan and Squish climbed up on the pegs on his back wheel and grabbed on to his shoulders. I hoisted her bike up under my right arm and took off peddling.

I could go on and on here. Really, I could. I mean, there were 13 pounds of books checked out and a walking visit to CVS AFTER the library visit. But you don’t need me to prolong the madness. On our way back to our bikes from CVS, Mama’s Boy decided again that he was done with the whole thing and exclaimed, “What are we even doing here? Wandering around a city?! Doing nothing! On things that were invented 100 years ago!”

And at that, we hopped on those 100-year-old inventions and headed back toward our house. This time, we took the shorter route. I had some really upbeat thoughts as we headed toward home. This time would be shorter, easier. The rest had done us good. We were hydrated, pumped up, ready. And then maybe 29 seconds passed and I heard crying. Wailing, if you will. I turned around to see what exactly the problem was this time. Had she fallen? Was she hurt? What I saw baffled me. A small girl wearing a ridiculous looking bike helmet was riding her bike with grace and aplomb, while wailing.

Squishy, what’s wrong? I called out.

And still wailing, she answered back: “I’m–ruining–everything.”

Oh, but I had to laugh. This was just pathetic. About this time, my oldest boy who had been over us for quite some time, requested permission to ditch the circus clowns and ride home with some dignity. Beloved, who had not complained or mistepped a single time, followed him.

And there–at a fork in the road by a ritzy little country club–sat a pep talker, a wailing 6-year-old, and a boy who finally said it, “I guess I proved MY point.”

Ahh, good times. Good times
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And in the interest of eating lunch sometime before 2 o’clock, I humbly requested that the boy allow his little sister to again climb up onto his bike pegs and ride home clutching his shirt tails while I rode home with a 16-inch bike under one arm.

Between there and home, which wasn’t too much farther, we got a few offers for rides from kind neighbors we’ve not yet met. This still makes me laugh. If perfect strangers see what you are doing, pity what you are doing, and beg you to allow them to help you, your activity has jumped the tracks. Just FYI.

And also FYI, it was NOT a disaster.
I just need to tweak the process a little bit.
Next time, we’re going to Burger King. Come what may, there’s nothing a Whopper Jr. can’t put a bandaid on…

Posted in Recipes for the Unskilled and Lazy | 6 Comments

Change of Address

So.
We moved.
That was a thing we did.
And it took a lot of time and thought.
And I thought about and even premeditated trying to disappear for a preposterously long time. That way, when people saw me again and I told them I had moved–again– they’d say, “Oh…when did you move?” And I could tilt my head quite naturally to the side and say, “Oh, like…10 years ago.” And they would say, “OH.”

This is as far as I ever got with the fake conversation with fake people because (1) I got really bored with it. OH is all I could ever end with. (2) No one cares. (3) I couldn’t figure out how to disappear. (4) I don’t tilt my head and when I do it’s because I’ve run into a metal post of some sort.

It’d be one thing if we’d moved to some place far away like Montana, which actually isn’t a state I don’t think and real people don’t actually live there. Or maybe if we’d moved to Nevada, which might exist but probably can’t sustain life. Or Illinois, where we could have slipped in behind the mafia and made a saucy name for ourselves.

But no. We moved right back to where we came from. Within 2 miles of the house all our babies came home to. Within 5 miles of pretty much everyone we ever knew prior to the initial move out to the country. And when was THAT move? 2 years ago.

We only lasted 2 years.

And by the way, I like dangling prepositions. I have an English degree. I’m allowed to let them dangle. It’s called poetic license.

Anyway.
For two years, we happily lived out in the country. Living the farm life. Living off the land.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
No.
OK, so that wasn’t quite it.
It looked more like driving farther to the grocery store. Avoiding errands I didn’t absolutely HAVE to run. And living off the fat of the Circle K/Shell Station when the toilet paper ran out. .

We loved our land. We loved our 90-year-old quirky farm house where if you dropped a ball by the front door, it would roll all the way to the back of the house by way of the dining room and kitchen. I adored the sound of the sycamore trees when a breeze blew through. There is nothing like the quiet, shimmery tree music of sycamore leaves. I loved looking out across the pasture as the summer storms rolled in. I loved sitting on the porch in the thunder until it no longer felt safe. You could think there. You could throw a rogue football there and not end up in the neighbor’s yard retrieving it. You could shoot arrows at a bale of hay and not hit anything (even the hay, some days). And there, in that old house, I heard the wind howl for the first time in my life. It howled across the front porch like a restless spirit.

What an adventure it was. There was that one season where we successfully grew vegetables. After that, we very successfully cultivated man-sized weeds. We saw wild pigs and river otters. And our finest work was done in raising an unknown number of chickens. Don’t ask me why I can’t number them. Between the hawks, the raccoons, and a teeny, tiny sliver of human error, counting chicken heads became a bit complicated. Toward the end there, which was back in March, there were 6. I could count to 6 with no problem. And I did. Every night.

One night, back in early March, around 2:30 a.m., Beloved came to my side of the bed and woke me from a deep sleep.
“Mama, I don’t know what’s going on with the chickens, but something is. They are making crazy noises.”
I sat bolt upright in bed. I knew there was something bad wrong, because chickens don’t go crazy in the dark without a predator. Chickens are stupid, scared, quiet, and dare I say even polite, animals after dark.
“OK, sit here,” I told her. “I’ll be back.” At this point, I jumped out of bed and ran to the laundry room where we keep a .22, unloaded and without the barrel attached. It’s so safe to have in the house with kids that it’s basically unusable in an emergency.
Or at all.
Ever.
Getting it put together and loaded is like rocking the Rubik’s Cube, which I never once did.

It was dark and late and I was groggy. I have no idea what to do with a rifle even when my brain is fully functioning. But if you handicap me with exhaustion and dim lighting, I’m a total waste of space. I have no idea how much time passed while I was trying to prepare for battle. Maybe a week? I don’t know. I could hear my lil chickens going nuts outside the back door and I was fumbling.

When the gun was finally ready, I grabbed a flashlight and headed out into the darkness. For just a moment I glanced down at myself. Gym shorts. Bare feet. What was I thinking here? Still, though, I had to press on. These birds needed their mama. I flashed the beam of the light around the coop and immediately saw what I had already suspected. A raccoon. He had tunneled under the coop and was inside the enclosure, basically wreaking havoc.

Probably at this point, I should have turned right back around and gone to get the husband. He is definitely better than I am at pretty much everything. But at this point, he was a whole lot less awake, so I continued on. Knowing I was clearly out of my league, I should have stopped to regroup and reconsider my plan.

But instead, I put my shaky finger on the trigger and aimed the barrel of that gun at the raccoon that was staring back at me. I fired. It clicked. Just a click. Shoot. What is this, a toy? What’s the deal? Shoot, it’s on safety. How do you get it off safety? Did I load it right? I should not be allowed to even touch this thing. I fired once more on safety, enjoying a pleasant little click. Finally, I got off an actual shot…which did not come within 7 feet of the raccoon, but sent him and the chickens into hysterics anyway. Well, crum. There went my ONE BULLET. Now I have to run back in and reload. At this point, I’m pretty sure I totally knew I was a failure. I had to know that, right? I had to know that no good could come from reloading. All that was going to do was waste more time. It’s like the 10 monkeys jumping on the bed song. At the end, they all fall off the bed. You know from the outset that this is how it will turn out.

I needed a real plan, since my last one clearly did not work. Oh, I know. I’ll go INTO the coop with the gun, the crazed chickens, the predator, and only one bullet. That’s a good shift in judgment. If you can’t shoot a gun and aren’t wearing shoes…AND if the situation is urgent, you should definitely go into an enclosed space with an angry raccoon with only one bullet.

That is exactly what I did. I went in. Our coop is rather large (because, let’s face it, we care about our chickens), so I chose to go in the second door, rather than the first. The second door opens up into the larger chicken run that we added on so they could chillax and have a greater sense of self worth. When I opened that door and slunk through the opening, I stumbled over the carcass of one of the already-dead chickens. Oh, dear. It was obviously Goldilocks. She was an original Snapp bird, and we had had her for almost 2 years. Moment of silence. Now let’s kill us a raccoon. I could see another carcass across the chicken run from me. P2 was dead. Well, truthfully, it might have been P1. We named our Barred rocks P1 and P2 because we knew we’d never be able to tell them apart. It was one of the ps. And they were good layers. Stupid raccoon.

I took aim. I fired. The crack went off in my ear and the raccoon did not move. OK, seriously, is this thing loaded? How could I Have missed him by so much? He didn’t even bother to looked alarmed with that shot.

I needed a new plan. OK, I got one. Go get the husband. Finally, I had a plan that might work. I ran back in and shook my sleeping husband, who would much rather have had the chickens all die than go out in the night to defend them. He doesn’t eat eggs. And he was highly against us naming these creatures. But he loves us and we love chickens, so by the Transitive Theory from 10th grade geometry, he loves chickens.

Well, Plan B worked really, really well. The husband walked out with the gun, loaded it, turned off the safety, and shot it without all the frenzied flopping, and killed the murderous raccoon with a single shot. Yes. One shot. I guess ONE BULLET does work for some people. Just not for me. And while he was grabbing the dead raccoon by the tail and throwing it off into a far field, I was out in the dark side yard trying to catch the 4 remaining chickens that had escaped my chaos and were now running amuck at 3something a.m.

I have no idea how long it took to get the living chickens put away and calmed down. But when we finally got back to our bedroom, there sat Beloved just waiting, wide-eyed, to hear the end result.

The end result was–ultimately–that this raccoon’s cousins and step-brothers came around for the next two weeks and finished the job he had started that night. By the end of spring break, we owned no more chickens. I had to buy my eggs at Publix like the average city slicker.

And with that, I realized– I AM a city slicker.

So we decided to move back.
Over the eggs.

That’s actually not at all true. There were real reasons, none of which had anything to do with chickens or discontent or my bad shooting skills. And none of which bear any impact on anyone reading this.

But it sounds good to blame it on my failures as a chicken farmer.

You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl, right?

Posted in Recipes for the Unskilled and Lazy | 1 Comment

Traveling and the Irrational Fears

I’ve talked about the lies I sometimes believe. I fight those daily. There is probably another post entirely that I should dedicate to the truths I KNOW to be true, but don’t act on.  One such truth is that the dreading of something is always worse than the doing of it. We put off and put off and put off the things that hang like acid on our stomachs. Taxes, break ups, stepping on the scale, term papers.

For me, this morning, it is Space Bags.

Yes, space bags.

I ordered them from Amazon on the recommendation of two families who travel and said they are life changing. I mean, what could be better than putting some stuff into a bag, applying a vacuum to it, and reducing it’s size by 2/3? Right? For a large family, this is the best thing ever. Except that the box is still unopened. Not a suitcase is packed. Not a space bag is laid out for use. I am paralyzed for some reason. I have an irrational fear of space bags? Maybe.

Maybe it isn’t the space bags at all. Maybe it’s the fact that someone ALWAYS throws up in my car when we go north. Maybe it’s the fact that Typhoid Mary is on meds for Strep and I’m too busy watching the sky for the other shoe to drop to stop and open the space bags. Maybe it’s actually the space bags.

All I know for sure is that when I made my list of what had to happen today, “Clean out the brown chair” was Item #1 and “Clean out refrigerator” was Item #2. Open the space bags and figure them out didn’t even make the list. I’m having some inner prioritization turmoil.

So my plan is, add the space bags to the white board list. CONQUER. Do an awkward victory run around the very clean house before picking up the kids at 2. Blog about how awesome space bags are and how I’m no longer irrationally fearful of them.

Maybe it’s efficiency. I’m scared of efficiency.

Plastic. I bet it’s plastic.

Zip enclosures?

Ok, I’m out.

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