Boggy Bottoms Continued

Chapter 2

It was now about lunchtime at the Boggy Bottom Ranch. The clear April sunshine was filtering through the sycamore trees like a personal message from heaven. It was beautiful. It was also beginning to get hot. About this time, we were told to head over to the Pavilion to do a couple of the boys’ activities. There was a wide path that we had seen, but hadn’t taken. This, we were told, was a 3 minute walk. This had to be where those famous “hot showers” could be found.

Let’s address the 3 minute walk comment. Since the weekend, I have tried to tally up the things that would have to be in place for that walk to be 3 minutes. I could sprint, full-speed, which I did once. That almost caused a heart-attack and couldn’t be repeated more than once. I could be 9 feet tall, with the stride of a gazelle, and wear Shape-Ups. But as a regular, semi-fit person, this was NOT a 3-minute walk. And if you put a monkey on your back (Sister Squishypants), you can pretty much double your time from long to super crazy long.

Once we made that long walk over, there were ammo bags to make, marshmallow shooters to assemble, and fishing to do. By this time, Todd had arrived with the girls. They came running for me like something out of a 1950s romance movie. It was sweet. For one precise second. Then the whining started. It became clear from this point that this campout was not designed for 3 and 4 year old primadonnas. We only had 2 fishing poles, but there were four kids. The boys needed to be fishing. The girls apparently had that same need. So they cried about it. A lot. When all was said and done, there were five fish and 1 very big, very mean snapping turtle caught by our family. We managed to free the turtle without touching him. Good thing. He was out for blood. The fish were all thrown back that day. I don’t even think they were real. They were all about 6 inches long, very Pottery-Barn-Kids-looking. I think they were mechanical. But either way, they felt real to the touch and we threw them all back. What will Pottery Barn come up with next? That crazy Pottery Barn…

The next section on the Camping SAT was that Mamasboy opted out of the Marshmallow PVC Gun Project. He “didn’t want one.” I don’t know if that decision was prompted by laziness or momentary lack of desire, but he opted out. That was okay with me. But it should be noted here that being Mamasboy is a hard job. It’s not easy to be him. And sometimes it’s not easy being me, either. We are both a little whacked. When the War of the Baby Marshmallows started on the playground 2 hours later, he had a sudden reversal of that opt-out decision. But it was much too late for that. The war had begun. He didn’t have a shooter. He buried his head in my lap and lamented being him. I was back and forth between compassion and tough love when a sweet boy named Henry walked up.

“What’s wrong?” Henry asked. “He doesn’t have any ammo?”

“Actually, he doesn’t have a gun,” I answered. Or ammo, really. But without the gun, the ammo is just a taste squish of sugar in your teeth. Mmm.

“Oh,” Henry said, and dug down into his pocket. “I have a little one. My own personal secret shooter.” And he held out his hand to us. In his hand was a 4-inch piece of PVC pipe. One straight, small piece, unconnected. Simple. He held his pipe up close to his mouth and said, “You just load the ammo at the end and shoot. Want it?” To my very great surprise, Mamasboy accepted the gift and smiled through stale tears. “Here. Take some ammo.” He dug into his bag and handed us 4 marshmallows and then ran off. I have a fond place in my heart for that kid, I can tell you. It’s not typical for a 9-year-old boy to notice a hurting child, temporarily step out of a marshmallow war to ask why the child is crying, and then to meet the need at hand. That’s not normal. Thanks, Henry. You did a good thing that day.

The afternoon waned on. In the large pavilion there was a soda machine with Coke Zero, Sprite, Powerade of some blue variety, Orange Soda, Coke, and Diet Coke. I helped myself to at least 8 free Coke Zero cups. It was a tiny blast of cold carbonation that took the edge off the 3 minute walk. At one point, Mamasboy wanted to make his own mixture. So he hit each of those flavors one time, then said he needed some ice. Annnddd then he dropped that drink down into the ice and colored all those beautiful cubes like a snow cone from the circus. I felt sorry for the next 12 people to want ice. Really sorry about that. Really.  Sorry.

There was a segment of the day called “Movie Making.” In that activity, each den had to work together to come up with a premise for a movie. Once they had a thin plot/idea (please land heavily on the word ‘thin’), the leader in charge of the camera helped them build and film a 5-minute movie. When it came AG’s time to do this activity, his den of Bear Scouts was seated on the deck chatting about ideas.  How about attack of the giant zombie squid? Or attack of the alien baby? Oh, wait. Let’s do attack of the lego people bad guys! Then one kid, a very sweet, polite child said, “Let’s do a rescue of a cub scout who gets kidnapped at a campout!” All the others said, “Naaah.” That didn’t have attack in the title. They ended up making a movie about zombies killing everyone on the planet. I would link to the film, but it’s not uploaded to Youtube yet and I am not in possession of it. Use your imagination. That’s all you really need. The acting was as superb as the script.

By the time 6 o’clock rolled around, I was starting to think about Lupton’s barbecue an awful lot. But dinner was not until 7. So we rode it out in camp chairs as the sun beat down on us mercilessly. And then Beloved spoke up.

“I have to go poo poo,” she said. Really? Now? The long walk to other bathrooms was not an option here. Yes, really. So I bravely took her hand and we began the short walk to a disgusting demise. Squishypants needed to go too, so we all went together.

“Now,” I said to them both in a firm tone. “Don’t look down. Do not look down. Let’s just do our business and get out.” They had fear in their eyes. I must have had some too. Beloved’s eyes widened when she did what everyone has to do. She looked down. Oh, the unspeakable horrors. Did I say that already? Oh my. It wasn’t 1 minute before Beloved decided that she, in fact, did NOT need to go. It wasn’t worth it to her. I didn’t blame her. But there was still the baby to contend with and she needed to go. So I sat her up on the seat and waited for her to finish. The sweat poured down my face. The heat in that tiny cube of waste and disease was intense. There was no ventilation at all. Whose idea was that, I ask you? Who gathered up a board room of people and said, “I’ve got the greatest invention ever! A portable, non-flushing toilet! This is going to take the construction site world by storm! Let’s make sure there is NO AIR SOURCE to it, so the smell will be extra potent and the customers will want to die extra soon.” Who.thought.of.THAT? If I ever find them, I will kill them with baby marshmallows.

Either way, one girl used that toilet, the other girl refused. And it was dinner time. Finally. So as a family, we made that 3 minute walk down the path to the pavilion. This was at least my 8th time doing it that day. But at the end of this time, there was catered food waiting. In my right hand, I had a plastic bag containing what I’d need to shower myself and the boys after dinner. I had already told them to just expect it and not give me any choice words about it. If we were going to share a church pew with clean people the next morning, we were going to do that with our hair washed…with dish soap. Because that’s all I brought. But dish hair is better than port-o-potty hair. You know it’s true.

The meal was delicious. Delicious. It was even hot and not all catered meals are. I’m sure some of my appreciation came from having prepared none of it. But as far as food quality goes, it was HIGH.

Now it was time for the shower. Todd graciously offered to do the boys’ shower before heading back to town with Squishypants. Shortly thereafter, I did my own shower. Hot showers. Technically, yes. There were hot showers. But there were a few problems with them. (1) No one had used these showers in the last 18 months, which meant that there was a 3-inch layer of red clay on the bottom of the concrete shower. (2) There were a LOT of cob webs in there. No place to even rest a towel without taking an 8-legged friend back to your tent with you. (3) No water pressure adjustment. There was on…full blast. And there was off. That was it. (4) No drainage action from the drain. So in 3 minutes, you were standing in ankle-deep clay water.

At the end of it all, we were clean. But the process was a little like being flogged by the Gestapo.

Todd and Squishypants headed back to their car right after the showering fun. Sister Squishy wailed all the way down that path. She thought she was spending the night. She had picked out a sleeping bag and helped me pack up. What in the world? I felt terrible about that. It was a shock to her. But it had to happen this way, for about 15 different reasons. I now had the boys and Beloved for the night. Todd and SP would be back in the morning for break down.

Dark had descended upon Boggy Bottom. The mosquitoes were out in large clans. We were clean. We had washed any trace of repellent from our bodies with the dish soap we used. So we burned a few calories swatting.We won a few and lost more. When it was time to head back down the 3-minute path, the night was as black as the center of the earth. And because we had initially walked when it was still daylight, many of us had no flashlight. I know it will surprise you that I had dish soap, but no flashlight. I know.

It was dark. Very, very dark. Beloved was riding on my back. AG had linked his arm through mine and was trembling with fear. He is not a ghost stories, dark night kind of kid. Mamasboy was twirling like a boy in tights, having the time of his life and not the least bit concerned about my proximity to him. We walked back with a group. However many minutes later (not 3…), we emerged from the woods. My van was about 10 feet away. AG asked for his marshmallow gun. No problem, boy. Let me just get it for you.

The car was locked.
I went to the tent for my keys.
They weren’t in the tent.
I pointed a beam of light into my van, with panic mounting in my chest, and there they were.
There were my keys sitting on the driver’s seat.
No idea how they got there.

I just knew three things: (1) The keys were in the car. (2) The car was locked. (3) The only other set of keys was now back in town, 45 minutes away.


To be continued…

Boggy Bottoms

My boy is a cub scout.
This makes me a scout mom.
I believe I have already shared that I am, in no way, smart enough to be a scout mom. There are badges, achievements, chips, pins, and even beads. I didn’t even know beads existed until I received an email about all the ones earned by other boys who have other moms who all seem to know what beads are and how to earn them. If I needed a bead, I would just go to a bead store and buy one. But who am I kidding? I will never need a bead.

I’m way off track already, which is very bad news, because there are stories to be told.

All year I’ve been dreading doing an official scout campout. The dread comes from several sources. (1) Lack of togetherness. I won’t continue to beat that horse. (2) Lack of control. I have issues with this. (3) Official things kinda just freak me out. It leaves a whole lot of space to mess it up. People who know me well, and know my children, know that I don’t like to pass up an opportunity for a gargantuanly proportioned catastrophic moment.

But the date was on the calendar for April 1-3 and it was the last chance to camp with them for the year. AG wanted to go, so we planned it. And in making the decision, while still sitting up on that fence, I heard two things that decided it for me: (1) Lupton’s Barbecue (owners of the Boggy Bottom Ranch) was catering Saturday night’s meal, (2) The leaders had confirmed that there were hot showers on the ranch. Alright, let’s do it. A nice hot meal on Saturday night and a shower. That sounded divine.

And then, last week. the rain set in. It was the kind of rain that makes the popcorn fall off my ceiling and gets kids into the duck and cover position for tornadoes. Crazy rain. I could not do much in the way of organizing my car or packing. I didn’t even want to get out to do the shopping. Friday was a mad dash to do everything. It was drying up. I shopped, I packed, I planned, and I threw everything into the car that one day. Then I dropped the girls to Todd for them to have some local fun together under the umbrella of technology (he had a deadline to meet) and the boys and I took off into the middle of nowhere. For real. It took like a year to get there. Really just an hour. But still.

On the way there, I was mentally thinking through what I had packed and what the scout list said to pack. A shovel was on there. A shovel? What for? Dead bodies that fall in the field of Boggy Bottoms? Burying cat carcasses? I still don’t know what the shovel was for. I saw some there, but don’t know what their employment was. I didn’t bring a shovel. Nor did I miss it. A lighter or matches. That seems important. Didn’t pack that. Dunderhead. So we had to stop on the way. Already I had forgotten a crucial item. While in Walgreens shopping for lighters, we bought some awkwardly packaged girl scout cookies in a sandwich baggies to support Relay for Life. I’m a total fan of the cause. I do think they could have come up with something less awkward than Mary Lou’s leftover Trefoils for 25 cents a bag. But who’m I to question it? I bought them and ate 10 on the way to the campsite. Thus began my slide into a very dark place.

As I made the rest of the 10,000 mile drive, lighter in hand, I had an inward little chat with myself. Think like a man, Missy. You can put up a tent on your own. You are up to this. This is going to be super awesome. And then I pulled into the site. There were already many, many tents up and most people were done and relaxing. There were dads and there were boys. There were no scared-looking moms on hand. Trying to appear that I had everything under control, I rolled down my window and spoke to Mr. Van Augen (names changed to protect the people I don’t hate).

“Can we set up anywhere?” I asked. That seemed like a good question. He answered yes, but offered no further input. My confidence was waning. “Um, do you have any advice for picking a site?” I asked. My cover was blown and I hadn’t even put the car in Park yet. He mentioned avoiding fire ant hills and trying to find shade. I got out and looked around and picked a spot that was perfect.

So far, so awesome.

I allowed Mamasboy to run willy nilly in the field, because truthfully his kind of help isn’t quite what I needed. But I got AG on the tent assembly task with me. He hung with me on this, helping me with tent poles and stakes. Running around with a hammer and hammering things that you could push with a finger. Finally, a rather sizable fella came over and offered his know-how and muscle. And though I could have done it on my own, he shaved about an hour of “huh” time off my instruction-reading process.  The tent was up.

I sat down in a camp chair to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Less than 14 seconds later, Mamasboy had to use the bathroom. And I mean he had to USE THE BATHROOM. Well, there are bathrooms with hot showers, so let’s just find those. I looked around as he danced and panicked.

And that’s when I saw them.
The bathrooms.
Mr. Van Augen had referred to where the bathrooms were in pointing out considerations for a site. He had pointed to the southeast corner of the field. Two gray and white port-o-lets sat side by side at the bottom of this field. The bathrooms. I needed about 25 minutes to fully digest this fact, but I didn’t have that kind of time. Mamasboy needed those bathrooms. Right then. So off we ran, to drop the first of many horrors into one of those portable, non-flushing toilets. Oh, the horror. Oh, the unspeakable horror. We were the first to use them.

The rest of that night was pretty pleasant. We pan fried some hot dogs over a camp stove. We ate. We chatted with a few people. On the way back from the trash can, I approached my neighbor just to my west.

“Hello!” I said, as friendly as you can imagine. “If we’re going to be neighbors, I might as well introduce myself. I’m Missy,” I said, and stuck my dorky little hand out. That was stupid. Why’d I say all of that? If we are going to be neighbors? This is a cub scout campout, you dufus. He had just taken a massive bite of grilled hamburger. When he cleared his gullet, he told me his name was James and his boy’s name was Jimmy. And that was that. That was all he said. We were practically best friends after that. I could hear happy little clarinets playing when he shot a look my direction.

That night, the boys and I hunkered down in our tent together and tried to stay warm. They fell asleep almost immediately. But every time I would get into that soft, fuzzy state of dozing, I would get shocked awake by a train whistle. Trains. Running. Out in the middle of nowhere. At 11:30 at night. What? It was surreal. But I confirmed with other sleepy parents the following morning. There were indeed MANY train whistles that occurred between 11-12 that night. I wasn’t just having a night terror.

It felt like I didn’t sleep at all that night. But I do believe I fell asleep just after midnight. And like 5 minutes later, my alarm was going off for my school morning routine. Oh, that’s just BRILLIANT. I forgot to reset my cell phone school alarm. So I woke up the boys and  half the campground at 6:20 on a dark Saturday morning. Beautiful.
So, we were up at 6:20 and down at the port-0-potty, ready to catch a disease, by 7. Nothing says wide open spaces like a port-o-let.

By 9 a.m., the activities were starting. We learned to cook quesadillas over a campfire, tie fancy knots, assemble and break down a tent (thanks for nothing, people. You’re 12 hours too late). We made marshmallow shooters from PVC pipe, made ammo bags to  hold the baby marshmallows, etc. When sitting with AG to help with the ammo bags, I was handed a some felt and a needle and yarn. AG looked at me, then the ladies running that table, and announced quite matter-of-factly to the ladies in charge, “She can’t sew.” Awesome.  I had a few choice things I thought up to say in response, but decided to just answer by totally rocking the ammo bag sewage like you have never seen. I made an ammo bag for Mamasboy. One of the Den Mothers made AG’s bag. Her bag fell apart 6 hours later. Mine is still holding baby marshmallows.

Who needs a thimble now? Huh?

To Be Continued…

Throwback Thursday

I know I shouldn’t post this, but it took me back to the days of potty training the Squishy. She put me THROUGH IT, let me tell you. I’m sure I lost some very valuable days off my life expectancy just in following her around and trying to determine when her self-imposed constipation would finally end. If you don’t like gross stories, don’t read this one. It’s Throwback Thursday.

Just now I was dancing like a fiend to Somebody to Love by Justin Bieber. While trying to dance my flab away, SnuggleMonkey had to “go.” Since she refuses to do her business in a potty she could fall into, she uses the $22 Target training pot. It is difficult to clean a bottom while still dancing. I did.

Then, still dancing, I carried the “success” (though in many ways it was horrific) to the actual pot to flush. In that process, still dancing, I began to gag. Still dancing and now also gagging, I emptied the evidence and flushed. Gagging worse now and dancing not quite so much, I tried to clean the Target pot.

And then, no longer dancing at all, I threw up. Twice. And now I look like someone being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have GOT to get her using the regular pot.

All gagging aside now, I gotta go. Back to dancing.  Hasta.

Day Laboring at a rate of $600 an hour

One of the strangest jobs I ever accepted came as a result of a job offer I received on the fly in the lobby of a Red Lobster.  Call me a day laborer, if you will. My boss, that day, was the Informinator.

I was 28 and free as a bird. It was a roasty Sunday afternoon with all the sunshine a person could ever need. And four of us were standing in the lobby of Red Lobster, waiting to be seated.  The restaurant was more crowded than the lobby was, hence the wait. Since there was precisely nothing else to do or look at, we found ourselves staring at the nasty, nasty lobsters and discussing their fate. I personally believe those guys are house pets and never see the death of a lunch date. I think Red Lobster gets their lobster off a refrigerated truck, but I can’t prove this and it isn’t crucial to the story anyway. I’m just trying to take the heat off of me. The lobster tank was located about 2 feet from the Host/Hostess ( suddenly hungry for a Twinkie…) station. It was greenish and dark and just thoroughly represented everything that is wrong with seafood. By that I mean the pinchers and eyeballs and bones and scales and dead smell. That’s really all the negative that one can say about seafood. Hanging over the side of the tank, for a little splashy decor, was a yellow mask and snorkel, last used in 1962.

So as we stood there, making idle chat, the Informinator says, “Hey, I’ll pay you $10 to put that on for one minute.”

“Put what on?” I asked.

“The snorkel and the mask,” she clarified. “Snorkel in the mouth. Mask over the eyes.” I looked over at the contraption for a very brief moment. Mr. Informinator had perked up with new energy and I could tell he was hoping I was about to take this offer.

“One minute?” I asked again, thinking.

“One minute,” she said. “Sixty seconds.”

Well, now. How could anyone refuse an offer like that? With a few jobs like that on my resume, I could take a fancy vacation and afford to buy myself a brand new snorkel and mask.

“You’re on,” I said, with no further hesitation. As these words left my lips, I was surrounded by loved ones, along with 3 Red Lobster employees. I leaned over, placed the mask over my eyes and the very offensive snorkel in my mouth and the watch on Mr. Informinator’s arm began to count down. I had just assumed, when taking this assignment, that Mr. Informinator would stand by me, calling out the time each time 10 seconds ticked away. That isn’t quite the way it happened. At that moment, all the aforementioned loved ones fanned out and were just as gone as if they’d been at Olive Garden next door. And that really quick minute slowed down to a day and a half. It was like dog years, times 1000 eternities.

Technically, this was Hawaii, but it gives one a bit of a visual.

And there I was, sucking on a foreign snorkel while time crawled by at an alarmingly slow rate. Since I was hooked to the tank with my body bent over at an almost 90 degree angle, I was limited in what I could see. Todd? Todd are you there? Are you kidding? No guy wants to be happily married to Lobster Girl. Informinator? Mr. Informinator? Anyone? The only people within eye-locking range were the three Red Lobster employees who were watching me with unblinking  suspicion and contempt.  From my mask-inhibited peripheral vision, I could tell they hated me and wanted to call the police. But as of 1998, being disgusting and uncouth was not a prosecutable crime and they only had 60 seconds to think out a plan against me anyway.

Ah, 60 seconds. Has that not passed yet? Haven’t I been here for a week already? When the Informinator called ‘time’, I yanked the equipment off my face and tried to stand upright and walk into the bathroom with grace and dignity, as if nothing unusual had occurred. Everyone else was laughing. Hard. And I was wash, wash, washing my mouth. With soap even.

I resumed my day, one minute later, but it was difficult to walk upright after that. The weight of my shame was debilitating. Yes, yes, it was. But that night, my boss pressed a clean, crisp $10 into my hand and said, “Here you go. You earned it.”

She walked away $10 poorer, but had a priceless amount of dignity and grace.  And she’s still the Informinator.

We returned to that same Red Lobster the very next Sunday afternoon. The mask and snorkel were gone. Thrown out. The end of an era. Hard to know what to even say about that. But if you pay me $10, I’ll think of something.

The Tomato: An Unnecessary Evil

Today was the day I had decided to eat my first tomato. When I say my first tomato, I mean my first tomato. First one ever. You’ll see why here in a minute. Tomatoes are awful, awful foods if you try them raw. In their raw form they are pervasive and soggy and slimy and juicy with deadly toxins and terribly smelly and full of deadly carcinogenic seeds (do your research!) and from the devil. Notice that I prefaced that trail of descriptives with “In their raw form.” Do not argue with me and tell me why you like tomatoes,because number one, you’re wrong and number two, I don’t care what you think about them.

I hate them.

There are some good things come from tomatoes and I am glad to offer up the mad propers where they are due. Let’s take a moment together to consider.

  1. Salsa. I love you. Besides your awful jar shapes from commercial failures like Chi Chi, you are, as a food category, beautiful and incredible. You are the pregnant woman of food. (Don’t think too hard about that. Just go with it.)
  2. Tomato/marinara sauce. Without you, there would be no pizza and no spaghetti. This makes me tear up at even the thought.
  3. Ketchup. I can live without you, but I still have some affection and appreciation. You don’t get your own holiday, like salsa does, but you rock in your own understated way.  You are Linus in the Peanuts gang. Helper to everyone, but rarely center stage.

And there are occasionally some tomatoes found in the wild that are fascinating to behold, such as this little fella.

It's what he deserves for tasting so bad.

But mostly – MOSTLY – the tomato is bad. But today was my day to eat one, so I forged ahead. I spoke to Becky the Cheerleader (by this I mean, she was cheering me on to my task,  not that she is akin to a pom-pom-bearing girl named Gigi) as I was driving toward the grocery store. In three minutes or less, she told me many things: Get salt (didn’t have any). Stop expecting it not to be slimy. Think of it as a FRUIT. Fruits continue to ripen after you pick them. Vegetables immediately start to die once picked. Don’t wash them down with the ‘nasty aftertaste’ of Diet Mtn. Dew, because they are so juicy and good. If she’d said this line first I wouldn’t have heard another word she said. As it was, I screamed and hung up on her. Not really, but I should have. The LIES! I got other advice as well, mostly about how to choose the tomato once I found myself in the unfortunate location of standing directly in the tomato section of the Produce Department. Pick a ripe one. Wait till they’re in season.

I’ll tell you what season they are in: Foul and Disgusting. Nothing else matters.

And then I went to the park, the most logical location for a tomato tasting. My son begged me not to eat one. He is like me: easily disgusted and quick to gag. Also awesome.

Here is the conclusion of the matter, for your viewing pleasure. I ain’t puttin’ on here.

So, not to spoil it for you, but this is my first–and last–tomato.



An Informinator Kind of Mornin’

It’s not a bad morning in my life that includes a You Pick Two (Sierra Turkey Sandwich and Chicken Noodle Soup), a Diet Pepsi with a splash of real Dr. Pepper (the Pepper takes the edge of the Pepsi, if you get me…), free Wi-Fi, a cozy window booth in Panera, and The Informinator. SnuggleMonkey was at Ms. Kim’s house for an hour or two.  I had called a Business Meeting. I am clearly enjoying pretending things that are not true.  Business meetings are fun. This is my second one this week.

I arrived early and walked through the establishment just as a super skinny college girl was vacating the perfect booth. She waved me in. I sat down. And I began to dink around on my little Netbook, pretending to be doing something when in fact I wasn’t even properly connected to their network yet. I called the Informinator. The following brief conversation illustrates why she is The Informinator and I am vastly uninformed.

“Hey. You aren’t here yet, are you? Just wanted to make sure we weren’t on opposite sides of the restaurant..” I said. That was a fairly smart question. I was feeling both smart and efficient.

“No, I’m turning onto 30th now. I’ll be there in one minute,” she replied.

“OK. Well, I’m in a booth on the side of the restaurant that lines up to the road that leads to the mall,” Now I was beginning to fumble, so I continued…”You know, I’m on the opposite side from Fowler.”

“You mean you’re by the coke machine?” She asked. Such clarity. Such precision. Describe my seat using the INSIDE of the restaurant, not the bush on the southeast corner of the parking lot that is across from Staples. Yes.

“YES!” I said. Wish I had thought of that. By the cokes is a little easier than the side of the restaurant that lines up to the road that goes to the mall. Good grief, man.


She also had to tell me how to connect to the free Wi-Fi. And 156 other things that I needed to know. She was proceeding to explain something crucial to the future success of my blogging when Man Calves walked up to the coke machine.  The fact that the fountain drinks were only 3 feet from my head was already a distraction, but this chick completely derailed my train of thought. I have never, in my 40 years, seen calves like that. They were huge. She was a thick lumberjack build anyway, but wearing the clothing of a professional legal secretary. She had a shortish dress on that came just above the knees, and heels. Heels that caused her calves to stand out like a bulging vein.

“Do you see those man calves?” I asked, incredulous. Elaine was in the middle of a sentence. To humor me, and because now she was curious, she looked over. She gave them an unimpressed nod.

“OK. So back to this blog,” she said.

“No, wait. I mean, really,” I said. “I think she might have once been a dude.” Now Elaine was looking harder.

“Nooo.  I saw her face. I don’t think so. People can’t help the calves they were born with…” she said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “They can do amazing things surgically nowadays. To faces…and torsos,” I said. “I just don’t see how those could be from-birth girl calves.” At this point, she had to make concentrated eye contact and say, somewhat firmly,

“Move on from the man calves.”

OK. Done.

But Man Calves walked up at least twice more. It was tough to look away. Really tough.

I learned a lot today, but I’m still pretty backwards on all this internet blog-savvy stuff. I’ll get there. I have friends in high places. Be patient with me.

The Informinator now has her own email address. It’s If you would like to write her there, you may do so. Responses will be posted periodically on this site with answers. If you would rather skip the email step and post your questions in the Comments box, as we have done to this point, I say Hey! Let’s throw caution to the wind and do that! It’s early in the life of this blog. There are no rules yet. I don’t know what I’m doing.

To everything I asked today, she had an answer. So I will leave her with this one which both stumped me and almost stopped my heart.

Dear Informinator:

I do teach my children. We sit properly on proper facilities. We wash our hands with soap after each facility usage. And we try not discuss the topic 16 hours a day. So far, I’ve whittled the discussion time down to 13.5 hours. We’re getting there. But it’s hard to cover EVERY base. Sometimes you don’t know what small detail you’ve left out until the unthinkable occurs. Tonight, SnuggleMonkey (we’ll be changing her fuzzy little moniker after this story hits the internet) used her little potty seat and then took it into the bathroom to empty it out. I was reading a story to the other three while all of this was occurring. So I did not stop right that instant and sanitize the bowl. She returned with the bowl and set it beside her. Again, I was still reading as this was going on. Attention divided. She spat something out…loudly…we all looked up, wondering what was wrong. She looked at us and said, “Oh, I had to spit that out. I didn’t need it.”

OK. Well, I didn’t think TOO much of that, since it was excess liquid and she had spit it into the bowl where excess liquids technically go. And then she lifted it to her lips before all four of the rest of us could yell in horror, “NOOOOOOOO…” Too late. Guess she wanted that drink after all. Kids, avert your eyes! They will burn like acid with anthrax!  We scared her to death, all the “no’s” and dramatic gagging.  She’ll never try that again.

What could I have done to avoid this moment? What do I do to erase this memory and move on? What is SnuggleMonkey’s new name?

Thank you. With Man Calves and drinking problems having occurred on the same day, it is likely I will be up all night.

Sincerely yours,

Worth 1000 words? Let’s hope not.

So last night, minus a few very important people, I ate dinner and hung out with my core group from our tiny little Christian college. It was there that I met my dearest friends. It was there that I met my husband. It was there that I became comfortable with being a dork. And it was there that I stepped onto a path for my life, along which I am still walking. On this path, there is a Dora big wheel. On the Dora big wheel, there is an oversized 6-year-old pushing two buttons that honk two different horns. And she yells in that non-inflective (made that word up and you know EXACTLY what I mean, don’t you?) “Turning Right! Derecha!” And there’s apparently a laser gun, because you know how violent Dora and Boots are. And the engine is very loud and powerful. Why is this big wheel in my house, right next to my computer? And why am I not yelling for him to stop?

I’m sorry. I digress. That almost derailed this entire process.

So about that path. I think any place I went to school or didn’t go to school would have worked out fine, as long as God was involved. But I went where I went and I did what I did and I met who I met and 20 years, many dear friends, 1 husband, and four children later, I am blessed. And I am at the threshold of a reunion weekend where I will see a lot of people whose names I hope will come to me as my lips form a greeting of sorts. We shall see. Last night was a smallish reunion, again without some very important members of the group (you know who you are and we love you). Toward the end, I got the bright idea to self time a Canon Powershot that was balanced precariously on top of an umbrella, which was then horizontally placed across two hooks of a hat rack. This photo was the result of that first attempt.

Following this lovely “normal” shot, for the second photo, I yelled “Do something goofy!” And 8 seconds later, the timer went off, the result of which is below. Apparently, this group’s interpretation of goofy is quite different from mine. We have bunny ears (really, Jennifer?), glamor shots (come ON, Heather!). We have a couple of tilted heads. And we have monstrously disfigured. I’ll let you try to figure out which one I am. Even 1000 words wouldn’t cover this one.