Top Thanksgiving memories and a cup running over

Growing up, Thanksgiving was not so much about people. It was about food. Every year, we left after school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and drove from Tallahassee to Lakeland where my mom’s parents lived. There were no other kids–no cousins–until I was about 13, when one came along finally. So my brother and I just listened to Walkmans and tried to stay out of the way, while our mouths watered over the magic happening in that tiny little 1950s kitchen.

I’d like to say I remember conversations…or specific Thanksgiving foods. I’m sure it was all delicious. I was probably too finicky to really appreciate it all. What I do remember is the daily slow-cooked-in-bacon-grease scrambled eggs and the triple-layer, totally homemade and scrumptious chocolate cake. Oh my. Their equal has not been found. I will continue to search for the rest of my life.

But somewhere along the way, Thanksgiving began to morph into something bigger than scrambled eggs and chocolate cake, which I’m well aware are not standard Thanksgiving food staples. It began to become about the things and the people I am thankful for.

One of my fondest Thanksgiving memories was November 24, 1995. Todd’s parents were living in Concord, NC on a contract for Frank’s job. We decided to drive up to be with them and take everyone along. In a 1970s, horrible, hideously ugly, brown-striped Toyota minivan, 7 people piled in. It was my mom and dad, Todd, his sister, Kelley, my brother and his then-fiancee who is now his awesome wife. I know my parents are going to take me to task on my choice of words about that van. I only call it like I see it. They never rode in any seat but the front. They don’t know the sorrow. Actually, though I am technically complaining, that trip wouldn’t have been as funny or as memorable if we hadn’t had the knock-down, drag-out arguments over who would have to sit next to the flesh-eating mini blinds or who would sit in the middle seat of the middle row with their legs hiked up under their chin because that’s where Toyota decided the engine should go. Inside the car…with some ugly ole carpet over it. Good idea, boys. Really.

It was a 12 hour trip. We passed around a laptop, which was cutting edge in 1995, and played Links golf and Tetris. Good times. Halfway to NC, I began running a fever. I don’t remember much about the next few days. I remember being thankful we were all together. And some of what I was thankful for, I wrote down. During those early days, we kept a “thankful book” that we wrote in every year. More on that in a minute.

The next memory that stands out in my mind is Thanksgiving of 2007, when we booked a large house in north Alabama and spent the week in Joe Wheeler State Park with Todd’s parents, and Kelley’s family. The house was just one notch above haunted. It was in no way nice. It was super large and rambled on forever, giving us plenty of space to spread out and sleep everyone. But it didn’t have a fireplace, it DID come with a million house flies(think Plagues of Egypt or Alfred Hitchcock), and was old and drafty. That being said, however, it was on a river, set on a hill, and surrounded by fall color that was hanging on just for us, I believe. And we could walk out of our house and play a wild game of football in a field of crunchy yellow leaves. And when our electricity went out due to weather, there was a lodge across the park that served us a fine buffet with every color of Jello imaginable. For the toddlers among us, it was the little things. It was the Jello buffet. Those were good times.

I have more to be thankful for than you will want to read. I will probably write more on that tomorrow. On November 24, 1995, I wrote this little poem, which is kinda corny. I’m going to type it up anyway, because it reflects where I was that year and where I am now.

This year, more than any other, I am thankful.
On my knees, I am thankful.
My blessings are a mysterious November wind that swirls around me and can be breathed.
They are dried autumn leaves that carpet the earth in a mosaic of color and can be walked through.
I am thankful for the blessing of forgiveness, the providence of God, for second chances.
I thank God for the family I was given,
For family I have found,
For friendship.
I am thankful for afternoon rainstorms,
For the first, white crescent moon that hangs like a rocking chair in the sky,
For the scent of a fire.

I thank God for twilight, for quiet evenings, for hugs, for the smile of a friend, for worn pathways between familiar doorways, for laughter, for unbroken promises, for hope.

Most of all, I am thankful that as I walk across this carpet of color, surrounded by God’s gifts, I cannot see the end.

Back to 2011… That was a little too corny even for me, but it was true. And I didn’t have a single child then. I didn’t know that love. I didn’t know that gratitude.

I didn’t know what a sloppy mess i’d make when my cup ran over as it has. And I didn’t know the many ways God would hold me up over the next 16 years and keep that cup full. Always. He has never not been there. How does one say thank you for THAT?

On that note, I’m going to bed. I will post 2011’s version tomorrow.

Be thankful. There are reasons to be. Always.

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I didn’t think about Louisiana once today…

…until this moment.
Why is that, you ask?
Well, I’ll tell you. Today I did what I’ve been dying to do for years now: I flew over that tourist-devouring, swamp-sporting, traffic stopping state. Ahhh, life is good.

I am tired, but happy to be here. My oldest boy is already spending the first night here over at his cousin’s next door. This means I may have a prayer of the others sleeping in.

None of this is interesting, but I went to bed at 3 last night, so you don’t get interesting tonight. Sorry.

Happy thanksgiving week! I am looking very forward to traditional feast foods, the Macy’s Parade, a movie for the kids, and game playing a plenty.

Tonight the game is called Technology Table. It consists of 4 adults sitting around a table together. Two of them are using laptops; two are on iPads. The object of the game is to talk as little as possible, avoid looking up, and do a lot of grunting at the information you receive on the technological device. Phrases like, “huh” are worth 5 points. Accurate weather forecasts are worth 10 (points allotted the next day). And if you break a national story to the other adults at the table, you win the game.

I tried to win with “did you hear Demi Moore is divorcing Ashton Kutcher?” apparently that news came out on Friday.

If you attempt to win the game by breaking old news that is deemed stupid, you are docked 100 points, making it nearly impossible to win.

Go grab a device and get to playing…

(I have a feeling this is really going to take off.)

From Good to Regret

The day started out rough.
Rough.
It’s hard to know sometimes who to be mad at. I’m definitely mad at the kid causing the glitch in the moment when a morning goes awry. But I’m also mad at me, because I can’t seem to get the whole process running like a well oiled machine. I don’t want to be the really funny sit-com that people laugh at because of all the things that go wrong in funny ways. I want to be the boring show where nothing really happens and it gets canceled after the first season. Well, I don’t really want that ALL the time. But there are two or three times I’d like to run smoothly: (1) the morning off-to-school routine, (2) dinnertime, and (3) bedtime.

I’d like them to pick up their toys, put their clothes in the proper hamper, use ma’ams and sirs, and brush their teeth without first bathing in the toothpaste. And I’d like them to stop spilling their drinks. I mean this. I am OVER the drink spilling. So much so that we have no drinks in the house any more. If they feel like spilling, they’ll be spilling purified water. At least that way, they’ll be improving the house when they dump it. Here, child, add some soap and go grab the mop. Now you have lather. Enjoy.

So the morning started rough and then the day got some better. It was a fine afternoon and the evening was pleasant. I dare say, even, that it was good. It was good. But then, all at once, it wasn’t. They started whining and arguing. Two of them were running like banshees through the dining room. One of the runners stepped on something and screamed like a dying animal. (Hard to imagine how it could be dangerous to run 35 mph in a house where you didn’t first pick up your sharp toy from the floor…) And then…

Then…

…the smallest little thing set me off. I didn’t even realize I was at my snapping point. Apparently, I was. It was the pencil sharpener. You’d have to know our history with pencil sharpeners to understand my frustration. We can’t keep one working. I buy a new pencil sharpener pretty much every time I go shopping. This time, I thought I had a better solution. This time I bought the crank kind from walmart. You stick the pencil in, you turn the handle, you get a sharp pencil. It isn’t complicated. Until you decide to remove the main section to remove the shavings. As a 5 year old.

So, yes. Beloved came to me and sweetly said, “Mommy, I emptied the shavings into the garbage, but I need a little help putting the top back on.”

So I got up from my position in a leather chair and went to inspect. Emptying the shavings into the garbage is a pretty generous description for what she had actually done. Flung the shavings far and wide is closer to the mark, though admittedly exaggerated. I can exaggerate after a day like this one. And I will.  Shavings were everywhere. The trashcan had been relocated to catch the shavings, but failed to do its job. And the top would not go back on.

She broke the pencil sharpener.

I bought a cool new pencil sharpener which worked really well. She went out on her own to “empty” it (in her mind, a good thing. in my mind, not so much). She broke it. And I got mad. I had to clean up the mess. I had to throw away the broken sharpener. And I no longer had a way to sharpen pencils. Small thing? Sure. But it represents a bigger picture.

So I spiraled into a mood that sent them to bed. They needed to go to bed anyway. I was done with them. There had been too much whining. Too much striking out on their own and failing. Too much.

After tooth brushing, I forgot something and had to run downstairs to get it. Upon my return to the boys’ room, I found them still and quiet and Mama’s Boy was smiling.

“Do you notice anything, Mama?” he asked. I didn’t really notice anything so much. I guess they were sort of behaving. He was under his covers. “I made a plan to make you happy again. It was my plan.” Of course it was. He’s the pleaser in the family. He does not like to step off course. He doesn’t like his Mama to be unhappy. He had gotten everyone in their beds and even Snugglemonkey was in her bed in a totally separate room.

“Thank you, B,” I said. He asked if he could tell the bedtime story and I said yes. It isn’t my favorite part of the evening. I’m happy for someone else to make up a ridiculous story about a ninja who likes milk. You know, that kind of thing…

About this time, Snugglemonkey walked back in and I asked her to sit on my lap. At that instant, Beloved jumped up and wanted to sit on my lap, too. Suddenly they were fighting. Mama’s Boy sat up in bed and pleaded with them,

“Hey, come on,” he said. “now you’re making Mama upset again. You’re giving her a headache.” The girls continued to fight over my lap, which I assure you has plenty of real estate for the both of them. And then Mama’s Boy said something that hit me.

“You’re ruining my plan!”

And they were.

It was a good plan.
It was the best way.
They were ruining it.

I immediately thought of God…my Father. How many times have I broken His pencil sharpeners by emptying them without His permission and without His help? How many plans of His have I ruined?

I do it every day.

When He set this all in motion, He created light and called it good. He created animals and called them good. Plants, trees, oceans–all good. Man and woman, good. It was all good. Genesis 1 is a rosy picture. The sharpener was still working then.

But by Genesis 6, it says that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” and He regretted making them–us. He was deeply troubled. His perfect plan had been ruined.

Wow. I’m really thankful for His grace.
For His plan fix the things we break.
For His Son, who IS the fix for the things we break.
And for the fact that He is so much better a Parent than I am.

We ended our day by belting out My Favorite Things as a family. It is a known fact that you cannot remain grumpy while singing happy songs. You just can’t. So Mama’s Boy’s master plan ultimately did work. And it cheered me to know that though they did not do the things I asked them to today–and while they could not really meet my expectations today–they really do want to. And they really do love me. And with all their scattered shavings, they try.

And one of these days, we’ll just switch to presharpened pencils and call ourselves geniuses. And people will believe us.

Yes, they will.

The Louisiana neti pot

There’s only so much one can say about a neti pot. I think I’ve probably milked this cow dry.

There is one more thing, though. One more.

I was alerted by a reliable source to a news story about a man who died of a rare brain-eating parasite that he contracted through his home water system. He put the water into his neti pot, put the neti pot into his nose, and gave the brain-eating parasite a new place to live.

Wow, that’s disturbing.
That’s beyond horrifying.

The news article pointed out that this is a very rare case. It also pointed out that it can be avoided by boiling your water first. Well, okay. I can do that. So yesterday I tried to perfect the art of putting pure water into the neti pot. For some reason, I thought it would take 2 minutes to properly heat 4 ounces of water. I put bottled water into a mug, put it in the microwave, and hit 2:00. When I went back to check the water, it was the temperature of the earth’s core. As dumb as I can be, I am not dumb enough to then flush with water that hot.
So I let it sit.
And then I forgot it. I went back to check it a while later and it was cold.
Smudge Monkey, let’s try this again.

So, this time–being much smarter than before–I entered 45 seconds on the water. It was still the temperature of molten lava. After my third attempt, at 25 seconds, I got it right and cleansed my sinuses with non-scalding, purified water.

And then, when I was looking back over that article, I noticed something. The article says, “LOUISIANA man dies of rare brain infection….” And the man recommending the purified water was Louisiana’s state epidemiologist.

I have another recommendation. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? You can see it coming from your end of the 17-mile bridge. You can see it through the miles and miles of backed up traffic in Baton Rouge, can’t you?

You know I can’t NOT say this. There’s another answer that is quite obvious to even the non-seasoned traveler.

Stay out of Louisiana.
Avoid the water in Louisiana.
Don’t catch a cold in Louisiana.
Don’t use a Louisianan neti pot.
If you absolutely must cross the 17-mile bridge, roll up your windows and grip the wheel with white knuckles. It’ll be over in 90 minutes or so…

Only in Louisiana.

Did I tell you I’m flying OVER Louisiana next week? Oh, that feels good. Feels like revenge. Except that it isn’t. Because no one cares.

I’ll continue using purified water in my neti pot on the off chance that Florida has a few parasites, too.

But I bet they don’t.
It’s a Louisiana thing.

Mama’s Boy and the Neti Pot – Part 2

If you are just coming on board, you might want to read Part 1 of this topic before proceeding. It will explain the foundation of bad parenting, bribes, and clogged sinus passages, none of which you’ll get in this installment. This installment contains a great deal of spurting.

So AG had agreed to step in and be the neti pot guinea pig. He was grinning from ear to ear. I really have no idea why he agreed to this. I have to believe the hope of a new little lego pal was speaking to his soul. It’s hard to imagine that he’d flush his sinuses for less tangible things like love and sacrifice. I don’t mean that he’s not loving or sacrificial. He’s a fantastic brother. But he’s not one to mix his sinuses up in all that emotion. And he’s never been the first one to get a shot. But there was no sense in further questioning. I had a volunteer. I wasn’t going to turn this one away. AG marched up to the kitchen sink, getting slower and slower as the water warmed up. He was definitely getting cold feet, but was determined to carry through with it. I filled up the pot, tossed in the saline packet, and mixed it around. And much to my very great shock, he bent  his head and offered me a nostril.

This is really ridiculous. I can’t believe I’m telling a story with the phrase “offered me a nostril.” I should delete that. It’s totally within my power to stop this.

I’m not gonna.

Within a few seconds, the solution went in one nostril and out the other. He sputtered, wiped his face, and smiled. Mama’s Boy watched this with wide eyes, waiting for the reaction; for the verdict.

“It’s not too bad, B,” he said. “You should do it.” Yes, boy, you should.

Even still it took some haranguing, but the result was a chair pulled over to the sink (he’s quite a bit shorter than his brother) and a boy standing on that chair. He had a deer in the headlights look on his face as he leaned over. I still can’t believe he let me stick the end of that pot in his nose. It’s not like him at all.

Unfortunately, he was so clogged that there was no “in one nostril and out the other” experience, as there had been with his brother. The saline went in and ran into a wall. It tried to break through. But all it really did, as far as he was concerned, was burn the living daylights out of his sinus cavity.

So, he spewed it out of every place in his face and began to wail. This is the part I expected. If anything, I’m just surprised it took 45 seconds to arrive there.

“It’s STINGING!” he wailed. “That was HORRIBLE!” More wailing. “It didn’t work at all! The wailing continued. It was answered by my pleading.

“Boy, you are so stuffed up! You didn’t give it quite enough time to work. Let it work, boy. Try again…” Oh, no. There was to be no more trying of the neti pot. His mind was made up. I could have upped the ante to 5 mini figs and a trip to Chick-fil-a (I didn’t. I do have my limits…) and he still would have walked away.

The crying continued. I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you the effects of crying, but just for the sake of stating the obvious, crying generates more snot. More snot means more games of Kadiba in our future.

We solved nothing.

At this point, I started looking for some Benedryl. Maybe we could go about this the less natural way. While looking for the Benedryl, I came across the bulb syringe in our medicine box. (I have a friend, who shall remain nameless to protect her very delicate reputation, who calls the bulb syringe a “boogie suck.” I am not making this up. A boogie suck? Seriously.  I just can’t even go there. And if I can’t go there, no one should.)

I pulled the syringe out of the box and showed the kids.

“I should have done it this way,” I said. “This is what we used to do for you guys when you were babies.” All four kids wanted to hear stories about being stopped up and flushed out as babies. Well, Mama’s Boy was still pretty miffed, so he didn’t care to hear any. What kind of family has a bag full of these kinds of stories? I know. Sick.

“Hey,” I said in a stroke of genius. “I’ll try it this way,” I said. “I’ll show you how easy it is.” I was going to show Mama’s Boy that this was an alternate method for us to help him out. So I took the solution that didn’t get used and put it in the little blue syringe. Then, without any further planning, I pumped that up into my sinuses. We are all about examples tonight. Unfortunately for me, I think I sent it through at about 35 mph. I about lost an eye in this. What happened next is a bit of a blur to me. I think I made a pretty big scene, because the kids were really wide eyed by this time. Mama’s Boy stopped crying. When I came to my senses and washed my face a time or two, I looked at Mama’s Boy and said, “That was worse than the neti pot. I don’t recommend it.”

That was a stupid thing to say. He took it as gospel. But in the very next moment, I readjusted my trajectory and perfected my technique. This time was  less painful, but no less explosive. I lost the syringe altogether and things went flying. A whole bunch of saline hit the wall and the inside of the toaster.

“Whoops,” I said. Even Mama’s Boy was laughing now.”You see?” I said. “Not so bad this time. Want to try it?”

He was laughing.

“Nope.”

I knew he was going to say that.

We didn’t solve his problem, but he fulfilled his part of the bargain. And part of me believes we took a baby step toward something that will someday solve his problem. So true to my ill-fated bribe, I went to Target tonight.

To buy a Bini Fig.

This is not over yet, Boy.

Mama’s Boy and the Neti Pot

I am about to drive to Target to buy a couple of Lego mini figures.
Why? you ask.
Well, I will tell you.
I am buying them because I bribed two of the children tonight: the boys. And while the experiment itself appeared to be a failure, I believe we covered enough ground to have earned the mini figures.

Now, before you judge me, I’ll tell you I don’t believe in bribery. I also don’t believe in sin. But I manage to mess that up on occasion. So, you know, I am known to strike a bribe with a short person if the situation calls for it.

It’s bad parenting that got me here. You don’t have to tell me that. If I had gotten a few things solidly in place when they were babies, we wouldn’t be making a Lego mini figs run tonight.

We’ve all been sick in one way or another this week. We camped last weekend, which is a separate blog, if I ever get around to it. I sat around just enough campfire smoke to come home stopped up. I was stubborn for 2 full days. Finally, on Day 3, I got out the Neti Pot, dusted it off, and grimaced as I thought forward in time about 30 seconds.

Have you ever flushed out your sinuses with a neti pot? It isn’t a glamorous process. In fact, it’s horrible. If you are married to the wrong person and that wrong person happens to come around the corner while you are flushing with a neti pot, it might cause a 48 hour Bermuda divorce. It’s really that awful. Many marriages have ended over lesser matters. My husband, instead of filing, jumped on board. We share a respect for The Pot. We also have very clean sinuses.

But there’s one person in this family who needs the neti pot more than any human ever. That’s Mama’s Boy. He was born allergic to everything. We have jokingly mentioned getting him a plastic, hypo-allergenic bubble for him to tool around in. It’s really what he needs.

Today, quite suddenly, his sinuses flared. I guess it’s a cold. I guess I gave it to him. Either way, he was stuffed so full of his own fluids that his request to play me in Kadima came out clearly as “Kadiba.” I’m not good at Kadiba and I promptly told him so. I realized then that he was headed for the doctor if we don’t intervene somehow. He has never done the neti pot. And unfortunately, I’ve said a bit too much about the process for him to just agree peaceably to try it. Truthfully, Mama’s Boy isn’t going to agree to try anything without some type of a very serious discussion. It may end in threats. It may end in bribery. But you aren’t going to get an easy ‘yes.’ And if you do, I will pay you in mini figures. I’ll buy you 100 of those puppies if you fix this problem.

Clearly I’m not learning any lessons here.

“Listen, boy,” I said, very earnestly. “I really, really want to help you. I’m telling you the neti pot is a near miracle cure.”

“No, thanks,” he said, without even letting my words fall softly to the carpet.

I went on with more persuasion, more earnestness, more pleading.

“No, I don’t want to. You said it was terrible. You said you hate it.”

Hmm. Did I say that? Actually, I kinda love it. I just hate getting the whole thing started. OK, I kinda do hate it. But I LOVE how I feel immediately following.

“Boy, you remember how you looked at me with horror when I opted to have the doctor give you a strep antibiotic shot instead of 10 days of antibiotics, 3 times a day?”

“Yes.”

“Remember how you thought I betrayed you to the doctor? But then the next morning you felt like a million bucks and you thanked me for the shot?”

“Yes,” he replied, skeptically.

“Well,” I continued. “This is just like that, minus the painful shot part.” Why did I compare this to a shot? That was a totally counterproductive move on my part.

“No, thanks,” he said again.

“OK, OK,” I said. “Listen up, boy. If you will just try it…and let me help you…I will pay you a dollar.”

“No!” he said, emphatically. We must be spoiling him. He didn’t even bat an eye at the $1 mark.

“Two dollars…” I said. Are we at an auction?

“No!” he said, but he laughed. I think he at least considered it then.

“I’ll pay you in a mini fig!” I shouted. YES! THAT will do it!

This almost destroyed him. I had held up the golden ticket. Oh, he wanted that mini figure so badly. For those without Lego knowledge. This is the equivalent of $2.99 on the bribery scale. Now he had a real choice to make. He so totally did not want to do that neti pot flush, but he wanted the Lego guy bigger than life.

That’s when AG stepped in.

“B,” he said. “What if I try it first? To show you it’s ok?”  I yanked my head around in a “What you talkin’ about, Willis” kind of way. Did he just say that for real? This was an uncharacteristic move. The doting mother in me wanted, with all my heart, to believe that AG was throwing himself under the bus to help his brother.  But I think he was secretly hoping there’d be a mini figure in it for him, too.

“Wow, AG,” I said. “Thanks! But hold up…is this about you getting a mini fig, too?”

“No!” he said. “Not at all.”

After much hoopla, Mama’s Boy agreed to watch AG try it first and we began the grand experiment.

To be continued…(later, because I have to go to Target right now).