Well, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I even READ another blog, much less attempted to write one. I considered giving up altogether, but it didn’t seem right to just skulk away. So here I am.

Not surprisingly to anyone who knows us, there’s been some vomit. So much vomit. So many people. So ridiculous that it doesn’t even bear retelling. It wouldn’t seem real. You wouldn’t believe. It all started with the youngest and some special houseguests. The houseguests had never been in my house before. In fact, no one but my in-laws and crazy Cousin Chuck have ever stayed in the farmhouse. People think we’re haunted.

Now I know why.

Our friends got into town from the West at around 11 p.m. eastern time. Their kids were shot. We got everyone settled down and then said good night and figured we’d all catch up in the morning. At 1:15 a.m., not even 2 hours after their arrival, my youngest shows up crying by the side of my bed. By this point in my life, this scene should cause my blood to run cold, but somehow it didn’t. I thought it was a bad dream, or a need for water, or an innocuous request for a hug.

“I just threw up in my bed,” she said, instead. Not a hug. Just a big ole vomit 2 feet from the poor little child sleeping on her floor.

In that moment, my past life flashed before my eyes and my future weekend did also. I just knew the next four days were going to be nightmarish and grisly. I was already looking around for the emotional scar cream. But then…move on, woman, your kid is standing here covered in throw-up.

So, 1 hour, a load of laundry, a new set of pajamas, a large McDonalds cup, a can of Lysol, 2 paper plates (think backhoe, people) and a whole lot of praying and gagging later…I was ready to lay back down for the night.

Hmm, though. Hmm. Now there’s a conundrum. Where should I lay down? Typhoid Mary was flat-out in my spot. Her spot upstairs was DE-FILED. The guest room was filled to 4x its capacity. Plus, I needed to be the cup holder for Typhoid Mary. I couldn’t exactly escape to the couch.

My bedroom is about the size of some people’s walk-in closet. No joke. The queen sized bed IS the whole room, with a narrow walking path all the way around it. Until 3 a.m., I sat on the floor on a throw pillow and did the whole cup-holding, chin-wiping routine. Then, when I thought I’d pass out from deep vein thrombosis, I climbed up onto my bed and curled into fetal position against a footboard I now cursed. This is where you’d sleep if you were a hairball coughing, mangy cat. I am almost 5’9″. This wasn’t working for me. I got kicked in the head at least twice.

I was never more grateful to hear an alarm go off before 6 a.m. That was one of the longer nights of my life. There have been 2 others in the last week, but I feel a certain confidence that this round is over.

I don’t know why people don’t want to stay with us.

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.

Smiley things

As shameful as I feel this statement is, it does reflect where we’ve been this week. Here it is. I must own it.

I read a People Magazine from COVER to COVER today.

I mean that quite literally. I read every.single.page. From the Scoop about Patrick Dempsey’s Hawaiian vacation to the story about the deaf dachshund to the pictures of the best and worst hats at the royal wedding. I even read the really disturbing IAMS cat food ads. I plan to scan that one in so you can be disturbed, too. But not tonight. That would require effort and I have none of that.

One thing that made me chuckle was in the deaf dachshund article. As you might imagine, this was not the cover story. We’re talking page 108 here. At any rate, they were having trouble finding a good home for this dog, because he was deaf and barked incessantly. The quote I liked was: “What in the heck was I going to do with a deaf weiner dog?” If I only had a nickel for the times I’ve asked myself this question.

I also got a chuckle from a quote from the Bible. The Bible is not my normal source for comedy, but every now and then you get some growth AND comedy.

2 Chronicles 9:21:  21 The king had a fleet of trading ships manned by Hiram’s servants. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.

The apes and baboons thing really threw me. I wasn’t expecting that. And I laughed. It was just so precise. Returning every three years and each time carrying apes and baboons. That sounds fun. Also terrifying.

And finally, I will leave you with the only thing I’ve left you with for days now: Ick. We were sitting around the dinner table as a family for the first time in a long time, due to illness. Beloved was a mess today. I forced her to let me carry her outside for a few minutes before dinner, so she could soak in just a tad of sunshine and maybe grab some Vitamin D from the air. Then, like a surgery patient, I forced her to walk the circle of our downstairs. And then we tried to force her to eat, because she hasn’t eaten in 2 days and because she seemed to be wasting away. That seemed to be going really well, right to the end when it seemed to go terribly awry. She started to sputter a bit and got that deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. I know that look. Her lips were pursed shut. I jumped up, shoving my chair backwards across the kitchen floor with my very functional posterior. Then I did a little tribal dance, as I surveyed my possible receptacles. Finally, I just nabbed a regular soup bowl out of the cabinet and in one swift motion, swiveled Beloved around to face away from the table and held the bowl under her chin as she did what she apparently had to do. Clean, efficient, professional. The rest of them continued eating. And then I heard Mamasboy, chatting as if this was a regular occurrence:

“Man. Mama’s fast. I’d still be standing there looking for something, if it was me.”

I laughed at that. If all you do in a day is hold a bowl, it’s nice to be recognized for how stinkin’ good at it you are. Thanks, boy.

I’m going back to bed now. Tomorrow is totally a new day. Totally.


I wish I could find some. This has been a grueling week around my house. I’m sleeping in 45 minute stretches and burning calories around the clock. A night hasn’t gone by where laundry wasn’t started in the wee hours of the morning. And my Beloved hasn’t had any solid food since Monday at noon. She can’t afford to lose weight. She only weighs about 28 pounds as it is.

I wasn’t quite asleep last night when I heard the Little Munch crying on the monitor. I went running, because I am still in Emergency Response Mode. Good thing I was fast because there was complete carnage. Really? She started this whole thing. How do you get sick, get well, and then get sick again? I guess this shouldn’t baffle me. There is a word they made up just for this one thing: Relapse.

Can you tell I haven’t slept? This is really boring and poorly written. Sheeee.

So I went to CVS last night to purchase a card and a few little things for Teacher Appreciation Week. When I got to the check out counter, the cashier said, “If you purchase 2 more cards, you get one of our sprays for free.” And she waved her hand along the display of sprays in metal colored canisters, like the girl who did not get hired when they hired Vanna White.

“No, thanks,” I said. “I really don’t have any more cards to buy.” It sure seemed like that should have ended the matter. But it didn’t.

“It doesn’t have to be Mother’s Day,” the girl said. “It can be any type of cards. Birthday….graduation…” She was waiting. Waiting for me to get an Aha Card Buying Inspiration. Waiting for me to say, “Oh wait. I forgot about the other 2 cards I need. Let me go stand in that card aisle for another 20 minutes, grimacing because your choices are so terrible and your poetry makes me want to give into the stomach virus that is raging inside my house.”  I didn’t have that moment. And I didn’t say any of that. Instead, I just said,

“No, thanks. I don’t need the cards.” Again, this was a matter-ending statement. There was no opening for more spray talk. Except that she kept going.

“Well, would you like to buy one of our sprays? I think they are $1.99.”

I was now completely confused by this line of questioning. My face took on a mask of bewilderment and horror. What? How could you still think I want a spray? This isn’t just a problem with your bad cards and me not wanting to go all the way to the back of the store to pick out two more. This is a situation where I.Don’t.Want.Spray. In fact, I have no idea, to this moment, what the spray even was. What kind of spray? Breath spray? Under Arm Enchantment Spray? Pheromones? What? What is so magical about this spray?

She finally gave it up and just rang me up for the Andes Mints I wanted. Seriously.

And then I laid down and entered the Vortex I can’t seem to shake. I was up most of the night. Some of that was spent holding a bowl under Beloved’s chin. Some of it was spent running up and down the stairs to help the Loose Cannon. And some of it was spent doing laundry.

I bet if I had just gotten the spray this wouldn’t still be happening. You think?

The Exhale

I did not sleep in my running shoes.

I did sleep a little, I think. God has protected me both from this virus and from shutting down in the days and days of not sleeping. I am thankful.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, Beloved stopped losing her water droplets 10 minutes after she drank them. I was thankful to be waking up for false alarms. False alarms are a lot less messy than the actual alarms. I think the last incident we had occurred on the sleeping bag that was protecting the bed. I balled it up and took it to the laundry at some ridiculous hour in the middle of the night. When I returned to it, an hour or so later (I’m all about staying on top of the Laundry Mountain Range), it was in shreds. It is an Ozark Trail from Walmart. I didn’t read the tag. Surely it doesn’t say to not wash it, because no human with even 1/16 of a brain would invent a sleeping bag that can’t be washed. Have you read about Boggy Bottom Ranch? You have to wash these things. So, no, I didn’t read the tag and yes, I’m dragging that wet tattered sleeping bag back to Sam Walton with my palm outstretched. Give me back my money, dude. I like to camp.
In sleeping bags.
That have been washed.

At any rate, things settled down after that. I am wearing clean clothes today and think I may just take a gander at some make up. I know. We are living crazy on the edge around here.

Do you know Pioneer Woman? Surely, you must. If you don’t, go to her blog (www.thepioneerwoman.com). Click the Confessions tab, and at the end of her Quarters post, leave a comment with a charity name that could benefit folks in the South that suffered from tornadoes. If you can’t think of any, she makes a few suggestions. Red Cross is always a stand-by. She is giving away 25 cents per comment to this post. She already has in excess of 16,000 comments, so we are up past $4,000 for people in Alabama. She’ll count the comments on Friday and base her gift on that number. She has plenty of money and she uses her influence for good. So by leaving a comment, you can ‘give’ without actually sticking your own 25 cents into an envelope and mailing it to People in Alabama, Towns in Alabama, AL, Zip Codes that go to Alabama.

You can do that whole quarter in the envelope, too, but I think we’d need to be more specific somehow. If we all did something, just think.

I’m going to put on my running shoes now. I hope God blesses your corner today.

Singularity of Purpose

Today is one of the longest, busiest, most physically taxing days in my recent memory. And yet, at the end of it I feel peaceful and fulfilled and content. That sounds a little bit wackadoodle, but after I thought about it, it made perfect sense.

Upon waking this morning, I had a purpose. Assess the kids. Make the sick people comfortable. Clean up behind them. Try not to get sick yourself. Stay ahead of the trail of destruction. While there were many pieces to my purpose, there was really only one goal: Get past this. However you have to.

The method of operation has been to put out the hottest fire first, clean up the nastiest mess before dealing with the next thing, and hold who needs holding. When my mother-in-law, who was supposed to fly out this morning, showed up sick, she asked me not to hold her. In fact, I think the message was to not touch her to get near her in any way. In fact, she punched me. No, she didn’t. Surely you don’t believe a thing I say. But if I had tried to wipe her chin or pick her up, she might have punched me. And she’s strong. Some of you have seen her arm wrestle. So I didn’t mess with that.

At any rate, she got sick and the flight had to be changed. We felt really bad about that, but we don’t mind having them for another two days. Even if we do all look like death. Even if we are wearing our underfixins on the outside of our clothes. It’s all good.

Mamasboy was over the worst of it and just recovering today. AG went off to school without a hitch. I was doing laundry and trying to get ahead of the messes that come in a week like this one. Beloved woke up excited about school, but as we were about to put her in the car to go, she started crying and saying she didn’t feel good. I had already been down this road with her. She is just a teensy, tinesy, itsy, bitsy bit dramatic. And she likes to be pampered. So I was skeptical. However, given the vast amount of germ transfer going on in this family, the better part of wisdom said to keep her home. And my mom the doctor said to keep her home. So I did. And I called her a Faker. Twice. I was so sure she was milking it that I continued chopping celery after I heard my name spoken through tones of distress. But before you Tsk Tsk me to death, realize that I hear my name through tones of distress about 176 times in an 8-hr period. I believe I have earned the right to finish my celery chopping. This time it was real and the celery should have waited. She was throwing up. A lot. All over my bed. That’ll teach me to chop celery. That little move cost me an hour of laundry and an awful lot of grossness.

From that point on, I was moving in hyperdrive. There was a lot more laundry. There was four times the amount of Bowl Holding and Chin Wiping. And there was still the celery there waiting. Celery won’t chop itself, you know. The whole celery thing was part of my master plan to cook homemade chicken noodle soup today.  But after Beloved fell to the Germ, there was hardly a 10 minute period without a crisis.

When I made my 6th pilgrimage to the laundry room, arms full of disease, I discovered that the detergent was gone. It had fallen behind the washer. Nice. One very stiff pair of tongs, a lot of grunting and sweating, and a stone bruise later, I had the 6th load running. Then I put on my best socks and running shoes, because clearly the barefoot route was no longer working.

I got that celery done. And the soup got made and eaten. And I enjoyed it.

And as I typed the words about being peaceful and content and fulfilled in that first paragraph, I was frantically summoned and informed that Beloved had thrown up all over my just-washed sheets. Kick in the knickerbockers. So. Load #7 is washing now and Beloved is laying on a sleeping bag covered awkwardly by a soft, green blanket. She is drinking water. And she thinks that water is going to stay down.
But I know better.

I’m sleeping in these running shoes. And I’m thinking about changing my clothes.

But my whole point to this point was GOING TO BE that the thing that makes a day like this one work is the singularity of purpose. We aren’t pulled in 1000 directions. We have one goal. Get through it and help the one who needs it most. Well, help everyone. But start with the one who needs the bowl and has the worst aim.

Oh, forget it. There’s no point to this post. But I seriously am sleeping in my running shoes. If I sleep at all.

The Other Shoe

I will finish the Duck Lips Tale and accompany it with a photo. When I feel like it. The terrible thing about me having my own blog is that I can just decide to shelve something and your only recourse is to dump me and stop reading. Some of you have chosen this. Some of you will choose this in the future. But should you find my attitude one notch above deplorable –should you choose to tolerate me– you’ll see that duck photo soon enough. I’ll reward you with images that will cause you to look away in horror and certainly will keep you up at night. And the ending is better than the beginning.

But for now, I will explain where I am this moment in time. I am sitting next to the most mischievous 3 year old I’ve ever known. She is quiet, but terribly destructive. She will not make a sound as she reaches her toe over my keyboard, hits a key with her big fat toe, and deletes what I’ve been typing. She is completely silent while opening and closing and ruining forever my CD drive. She is impossible. Impossible to manage. Impossible to punish. Impossible not to love.

She started this whole mess on Friday. Our first stomach virus since May 2009. For the math challenged, that’s just under 2 years without an official stomach virus. If there were a Guinness Book of Miracles, this two year period of Vomit Free Living would be documented within its pages. For years, we caught every germ in the tri-county area. We duct taped ourselves and stood near people with germs and kept our mouths wide open just to make sure no germ passed us by. One friend named us the Vom Snapps. It was bad.

And then the cloud lifted.

Now it is back. We’ve been at the beach with Grammy, and were enjoying ourselves immensely. On Friday, while we were sitting by the Gulf of Mexico building sand castles, Snugmonk came over to me, wrapped herself in a towel, and laid face-down in my lap. She did not lift her head for 40 minutes. I carried her up to the condo. She was feverish. Between naps, she started in with some stomach problems. Though it is my nature to describe every last detail, I think I will leave some gaps in this part of the story. You’re welcome.

I stayed in that evening with SnuggleGerms from the seafood dinner I had been thinking about for 2 days. We had been eating the dregs of my refrigerator back in town and I was ready for some real food. I got mine to-go.

We came home yesterday. GermMonkey seemed a tad better, but not well. We put the kids to bed on time. I did not go to bed on time. At 2:33 a.m., AG woke me up (he said he had already tried once, unsuccessfully) and told me Mamasboy was throwing up. At that point, I hopped out of bed frantically and started looking for my shorts. I couldn’t find my shorts anywhere. I opened every drawer, muttered lots of unintelligible things, and finally found them about 7 minutes later. Ridiculous. I got to Mamasboy as fast as I could, turned the light on, and assessed the damage. It was dense, but confined to one area of his bumper pad.

(Now, I know what your next question is. Bumper Pad? Isn’t he 7? Yes, yes he is. But he has been rubbing his face on this mangy textile for 7 years. It’s his pillow.  His woobie. His blankie. His bud. I have bigger fish to fry so I haven’t fried this one yet. So yes, he sleeps with a bumper pad and yes, that bumper pad was buried under his dinner.)

So the problem was contained. And then my shorts-wearing self tried to pick it up to clean it. In the process, I slung bacterial devastation all over every surface imaginable. Even now, as I type this, I don’t know how I managed to bungle this so badly. My boys watched in horror as I destroyed their bedroom. The next 30 minutes were all about cleaning that up. And changing sheets. And doing laundry. And cursing myself in languages they could not understand or repeat.

It was almost 4 when I fell asleep on the boys’ floor. I sat up many times over the next 2 hours, helping the boy feel less alone while he was desperately ill.

When I got up this morning at 7, it was obvious that at least me, Mamasboy, and Snugglepants were staying in from church. Beloved didn’t seem quite right, so I opted to keep her in also. AG went on with the gang. As the morning proceeded on, it became unquestionably clear that I had made an error in judgment. Beloved was perfectly fit for church and I was perfectly unfit for her energy level. I paid for this mistake at least 22 times over the next several hours. Mamasboy didn’t emerge from his cave until 11:20, making this the longest any child of mine has ever slept.  As I type, he is sleeping again.

AG is now running  a fever. And Beloved is at church. Ha.

And while no one likes the stomach junk, it is but a fraction of a fraction of a drop in a bucket compared to people all over the south who suffered devastation and damage and even death from the scariest storms on earth. I’ve never seen or heard or been even close to a tornado. I pray I never am. I am so sorry for those who are suffering. My mom has a friend who is blogging about the experience from the Hunstville, AL area. They don’t have power, but they still have a house. They were traumatized terribly, but they are safe, along with all the kids and grandkids. Her photos and writing really hit home with me. So if you want to put yourself in Alabama on Wednesday, April 27, click here. Pray for all of these people. For so many people, this day ripped everything they had known and created a new normal that they never would have chosen. I pray that God will help each of them rebuild and find strength they did not know possible.

Hoppily Ever After

I’ll be a little melancholy when this holiday is over and I have to write new material. Actually, that’s not true. I love writing. I love being irritatingly verbose. But right now, my brain is tired from decisions. Lots of decisions. What task to do first, when it looks like the house has been bombed by an intoxicated slob from the 60s. Whites or colors (that’s laundry, people, not some slur…)? What horrifyingly difficult exercise DVD to do today? Where to live? How to make a million dollars for charity.

And on and on. There’s a lot to think about. And when you throw in plastic eggs and way too much candy, well, I sometimes just sit down and become part of the furniture.

But it’s Spring Break, so how long can I allow the blahs to rule? It’s going to be a great week!

Allow me to leave you with a few more furry train wrecks. You know you love this.

I know, kid. I know. Save your money in case your insurance doesn’t cover the therapist.

I just don’t even know what to say about this one. I’m hoping the person in the costume was blind.

In a sea of dorks, there’s always at least one cool kid…

I’m calling this one “The Abominable SnowBunny.”

I hope they got a BIG discount on material, because this gray is just plain sinister.

Oh.WOW. This one will show back up in my most frightening dreams. The eyes. The EYES! And the red? It seems obvious that this stems from past victims. This is most definitely a predatory bunny.

I have more of these. Exciting, I know.

There are an awful lot of things that look just like a human tooth.

I was just chatting on Facebook with a dear friend about the Easter Bunny. Somehow I’ve managed to virtually ignore him, creepy though he is. Somehow we’ve dodged the Easter Bunny AND the Tooth Fairy.  I already explained my Easter Bunny issues. The tooth fairy thing is pure laziness on my part. I saw that the children were coming out of nowhere. I have enough math prowess to realize that four kids x a million teeth in each mouth equals 4 million teeth. And then I started thinking about Orthodontia. Well, no thanks on paying them to spit out their teeth. And no thanks on scary little unexplained critters creeping in, taking the tooth, and replacing it with a buck. And who drove up the cost of that anyway? I always got a quarter. Now it’s a dollar, and that’s if you’re a cheapskate. Did I say that ignoring the Tooth Fairy was laziness? Now that I am typing, it appears to be completely intentional. I guess I have Tooth Fairy issues also.  It’s probably a good thing I do, because the whole “losing teeth” process has been a wreck in this house from.the.beginning. The afternoon AG lost his first tooth was traumatic enough to write down. So, as shocked as you may be by this, I typed out a REALLY LONG story about it. In a smack down between the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, I wonder who would win?

How many of you are first children? The oldest. The experiment in your parents’ search for the perfect combination of discipline, nurturing, instruction, and adventure? Well, I’m here to tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry they messed you up. On behalf of parents everywhere, I apologize for bungling the moments that should have been sacred, for spanking when I should have hugged, for hugging when I should have spanked, for glaring when I should have laughed, and for losing things that can never be recovered. And on behalf of parents everywhere, I can tell you in all sincerity that they really did try to do it right. And here’s my story.

Several weeks ago, AG showed up with a loose tooth. It was appropriately the same tooth that first appeared in his head when he was four months old. And appropriately that tooth would exit the world as silently and mysteriously as it first appeared more than 5 years ago. This loose tooth was a matter of great pride for the boy. He wiggled it, displayed it, and spoke of it often. He was looking forward to the day when that tooth would become a breezeway to his gullet–a trophy of sorts. It didn’t seem to be progressing very quickly, so I stopped reaching into his mouth to try it out myself. Until last Wednesday. It was a crisp, November afternoon and the other two children were sleeping. A friend was doing laundry and studying inside while AG and I played ball in the back yard together. He laughed about something and I noticed his tooth was noticeably different. So I reached in and this time, the looseness was shocking. That tooth fell forward at the pressure of one finger and felt as if it would fall out in my hand. So I called my mom, who loves to pull teeth (she was the neighborhood tooth fairy in my childhood days) and scheduled a pulling for 5:15 on their way to dinner. AG was unaware of this plan. It’s just better that way with him. He’s what you might call anxious. When my parents showed up, he proudly showed them his loose tooth and attempted to go about his business. At that point, I tried my best to do a quick “wegottapullthistoothbeforeitfallsoutandweloseitoryouswallowit” speech, followed immediately by a capture-and-yank operation. Had we actually gotten the tooth on the first yank, this would have been a perfect plan. But that little puppy was more stubborn than it looked and it took four yanks to commandeer it. By the fourth pull — and mind you, we were out in the driveway — I began to glance furtively around for undercover reps for the Department of Children and Families. He cried. He bit down on a Kleenex to clot the empty space in his mouth. It was over and fine. And I walked inside with the tooth. I set it on the entry way table while I got AG and Mamasboy settled on the bed to watch a movie. AG was still sniffling a little and Mamasboy was just following after us blindly. Then, I picked up that tooth, walked into the kitchen to throw something away, and with eyes as big as a pizza pan, watched that tiny little enameled fleck of love fly out of my grasp and into the kitchen trash. It was one of those slow motion “nooooooo” kind of moments. You watch it happen in slow motion but somehow cannot interrupt or retard the speed at which it is actually happening. And then you look up in real time and say to whomever is unlucky enough to be listening, “I just threw my first child’s first tooth into a soggy can of garbage. Now that’s just bad parenting.”

The tooth was in the kitchen trash now. The friend doing laundry was looking at me from the big brown chair. Beloved, (still an infant) was asleep in her upstairs bedroom. AG and Mamasboy were blissfully unaware of this latest snag. And the phone was ringing. Ignoring all of that, I leaned over that trash can where I spent the next 90 minutes of my life. I craned my neck and strained my eyes and spotted the tiny baby tooth wedged between the empty Miracle Whip jar and the side of the trashcan. That’ll teach me to recycle. This is going to be tricky, I thought as I went in after that tooth. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that I should have tried anything but the reach-and-grab. Reach in with some duct tape and draw it out with adhesive. Go in with tweezers. Sit the trashcan aside and wait for Todd to come home. Anything. But I reached in for that tooth and that’s the last I saw of it. It slipped beyond my line of sight and took a journey into refuse that I was forced to follow. Like a homicide detective, I removed trash from that trash bag piece by piece, peeling back each layer as Melissa attempted to continue studying just a few feet away. But as the minutes passed without success, my heart rate increased, my hair became fluffier, my tone became strained, and Melissa got up and asked for a flashlight. Now there were two people combing through garbage. Oh, I think I see the tooth. No, that’s just the morning grits. OK, I think I have it. Nope. Feta cheese. Did you know that even the inside of a broken pretzel looks like a human tooth? It does. The previous night’s Beef Burgundy did not make this any more pleasant, I can assure you. (Incidentally, it was this same beef burgundy that had murdered my cell phone a couple of weeks prior to this…)

By this point, I was beginning to stress over the kids walking in on the scene or the baby waking up. I kept glancing at my watch and wondering how Bible class was going to fit into this covert operation. I now had the trash can between my knees like a full term baby. My hair was worse than anything I’ve ever seen; just an explosion of chaos. I was taking the occasional break to stand up and whisper, “you idiot” under my breath to myself. And all the removed trash was strewn out on every horizontal surface in the kitchen. All counter tops were employed in the operation and half of the kitchen table. No biggie. Just the places we prepare and eat our food. This project outlasted Melissa, who badly wanted to help but had to return to the dorms, craving a return to anything that felt remotely normal. The operation continued throughout the microwaved dinners I placed in front of the boys. What are you doing, Mama? Just looking for something important, boys. Don’t mind the dissected diapers. Don’t touch. Eat your macaroni and cheese.

At 6:55, I gave up. And with 5 minutes to work with, we all changed clothes and went to church, leaving the garbage to further collect bacteria and resigning myself to the idea that I was probably never going to see that tooth again.

Strangely enough, AG never asked to see or hold his tooth. He never asked about the tooth fairy. We decided not to even get into the whole tooth fairy thing. AG is scared of his own shadow. He’s scared of firefighters. I just didn’t think he was going to be excited about some invisible fairy sneaking in and reaching under his pillow as he slept. But a dollar appeared on his floor next to his bed, as a reward for the memory of that tooth. And that was that. All I have to show for it is a can full of rearranged trash and this blog post.

But really…who decided that we should pull teeth and then keep the mangy things in a jar by the Avon products?

Boggy Bottoms – Part Tres

Chapter 3

I haven’t locked my keys in my car in such a long time. A very, very long time. I’ve never locked my keys in my car in the middle of nowhere.

I’d like to tell you that I really handled this like a Champion of Calm Thinking.

But I can’t tell you that.

I panicked. I called Todd asking why he’d locked the car before he drove away. I had no answer to his question of why the keys were on the seat. I called my dad panicking even further. I spouted things like why me and stink in a bucket (I could have just said port-o-let…same thing). My middle children were watching this unfold. Of greater concern to them was the fact that their mom was about to check into Crazy Town. Keys? Eh. Mom going nuts? Um, that’s a problem.

After ranting on the phone to my dad for a few moments, he talked me away from the ledge and talked me into going down to the campfire to locate a wire hanger. I was pretty sure we could unlock it if there was a wire hanger in the camp.

There wasn’t.

There was, however, a smores skewer and a couple of dudes who know how to break into a vehicle in nothing flat.

Ten minutes after locating the dudes, a hammer, and the skewer, I was clutching my keys to my heart and handing my oldest boy his prized marshmallow shooter. Peace of mind was slow to return, but it began to creep back in. Gradually. [Sidebar: The Marshmallow Shooter was not the reason I needed to get into my car. There were a lot of essential items locked up for the night. We were going to need those. I may have mental lapses, but I’m not so attached to the PVC marshmallow gun.]

By this point, it was after 10 p.m. AG was not having anything to do with campfire ghost stories. Everyone needed a last stop at the port-o-potty. It was time to just accept our losses and hit the tent to decompress. I did head down to the fire briefly to say a heartfelt and humble thank you for the people who had pulled together to save me. And then we all walked back to the tent. Home sweet tent. It was a lengthy process trying to get everyone clean underwear and clean teeth. But we managed the backwoods version of both and climbed into our sleeping bags. AG was on the outskirts of the tent, watching Alvin and the Chipmunks on his iPod. Beloved was next to him, hunkered down in a brand new, orange sleeping  bag. I had had to talk her out of the Jr. sized Tinkerbell bag and I am so glad I fought that battle. Disney. Don’t even get me started. For half the price I got a larger, plusher, warmer sleeping bag. Tinkerbell, schminkerbell. Then there was me and mamasboy. 4 happy campers lined up in a euphoric row. We were all so happy to just be flat-out finally. I don’t think AG stopped a single time all day, for anything. He was going at 100% all day long. His neck was sunburned. The rest of us were tired, too. We said a prayer together, told a quick story, and in less than 15 minutes, we left the train whistles, cobwebs, non-flushing toilets, and key crises behind us and slipped into the slumber of our lives. I didn’t move all night. I slept like a well-trained baby. And because I DO learn from my foibles, I had reset my alarm for 7:20 and we slept until it went off.

At 7:20 Sunday morning, that alarm did indeed go off. And at that precise moment, there were no less than 3 of us dying to use the bathroom. But it was still too chilly and damp to want to march down the hill to the you-know-what. When ALL other conditions are perfect, one can perhaps talk themselves into such atrocities. But when it is dark and damp outside, one begins to create other solutions. And that again opened me up to an opportunity for significant regret. There was a water bottle at the door of the tent. It was empty. It was also small. Normally, we tote the typical 16.9 oz bottles. This trip we toted a smaller 12 ounces. Don’t ask me why. I guess I wasn’t thinking of them as a multi-purpose bottle at the purchase point. Go ahead and think what you will. You can even say it out loud. This is a public blog and this is horrific information. But it is what it is and I had been through a lot with those stand-up sewage tanks. So I helped with bottle facilitation and Mamasboy did what he needed to do…about 13.5 ounces worth. It was so dark in the tent that we didn’t know we had exceeded the maximum 12 ounces until it was upon us. And both of us reacted the exact same way in the exact same moment. “Ohhhhhh…” But after that, he proceeded to cry and lament his station in life. I did not, though, at this point, I could have, I assure you. I tried to comfort him. We have clean underwear to change into. The weekend is over. We made it. All is well. None of that really worked. But a new voice piped in to take our minds off of it.

“I need to go, too, Mama,” AG said. Hmm. Well, as I’ve previously stated, I try not to make the same heinous mistake twice. I certainly don’t make the same one in the span of 5 minutes. So I unzipped the tent, used the keys that were not locked in the car, and retrieved an empty Gatorade bottle from the back seat. That’s 24 ounces of awesome. There were no issues with this bathroom stall.

By 8:30, our car was packed and we were dressed for church. Todd had been asked to say a few words from the Bible, so we walked down to the campfire and read from Psalm 73. Todd talked about integrity…about doing the right thing even if it doesn’t benefit you. Why does it seem that good people suffer? Why do evil people seem to have a gravy train to ride on? I don’t know. David didn’t know either. But He had God. And so do I. Always. All the mistakes in the world won’t erase that truth from my mind.

And that was the end of the weekend. I know I’ve painted a picture of utter fiasco and a mom who hates camping. Nothing could be further from the truth. There were a lot of things that went completely backwards. And there were things that made me cringe and bristle. But there were also sweet moments of a child reaching up to squeeze my hand on the 3 minute walk. And there were glances and smiles exchanged in a tent by the glow of a flashlight. And there were strange little conversations while sitting cross legged in a camp chair. And there was Merry Christmas dish soap that had all of us smelling like a freshly washed platter in December.  And there was no television. And there were Orion and the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. And 45 horrific little s’more cookers trying to pass off their charred marshmallow remains on unsuspecting adults so they could start over and do it right. And there were piggy back rides that were much more fun for the rider than the piggy. And there were games of Cops and Robbers after dark by flashlight.

Aristotle once said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The sum of the parts had some problems. The whole was altogether good.

I wonder if Aristotle ever used a port-o-potty. Maybe that’s all he used…