Friday, October 21, 2016

DMV Drama


I'm not sure why a major milestone can't be reached in our family without being accompanied by some crazy backstory.  I guess life would be less entertaining that way. But my blood pressure sure would remain a bit more stable.  

Reese has been studying to take her learner's permit test for weeks. She started off slowly, but within the last week or so has been cramming the info in. "I really don't know why this book is so thick. All you gotta do is press the pedal! Am I right??" was her frightening insight on the whole ordeal.  

She would come into my room randomly spouting off rules of the road, "If a semi is in front of you and is turning right, don't try and squeeze between them and the curb. They'll crush you into a biscuit."

"Does it really say that?!" I asked gullibly.  

"Well, it says they'll crush you. I added the biscuit," she confessed.  

And she's been refreshing my memory on laws while I'm driving, "Mom, if you get to this 4 way stop first, you have the right of way. Otherwise, it's the person to your right." It's like I'm a driver's ed student all over again. Lovely. 

They were off school yesterday and today for conferences. Perfect time for a trip to the DMV. The first part of this week turned into craziness and our evenings were filled with activities, which didn't give me any time to quiz her. So when she got back from an early morning basketball practice yesterday, I asked if she was still planning on taking her test. She was.  

Reese has no understanding or patience with service that isn't prompt. When we go to restaurants, after about 4 minutes of placing our order, she's asking why our food hasn't been delivered to our table yet. And don't even get me started on doctor's appointments. "But our appt was at 10. Why can't the doctor just see us at 10?!"

So there was no way on God's green Earth I was going to sit at the DMV half the day with her. I tried the feature where you text them to hold your place in line. Which was weird because I felt like I was cutting in front of people who physically went there to sit for hours. Our estimated wait time was 160 minutes. We went on about our day. She took some practice tests online. I prepared my famous white chicken chili for the middle school teachers' dinner. Ok, so it's not exactly famous, but all my kids love it and request it frequently in Fall and Winter so I feel like it could be famous. Unfortunately, yesterday, when they recognized the lovely smell permeating the house, I had to break it to all of them they wouldn't be consuming any of it.  

I had an irrational fear that the 40 some odd people in front of us in line would spontaneously contract bird flu and have to drop out, thus bumping us to the front and we wouldn't be ready. So I obsessively checked our line status throughout the day. No bird flu outbreak occurred and we inched up slowly, one spot at a time.  

I figured we'd leave the house around 2:30, drop the chili off at the school (it needed to be there by 3:30) and leisurely make our way to the DMV. About 2:23 I checked our status, 78 min until our turn.  I shredded the chicken, stirred it all up, told Reese to get her shoes on, and she headed out to the car.  My phone buzzed and when I checked it I almost dropped my crockpot! Our wait had jumped down to 10 minutes and they were requesting we make our way there right now! I barreled out the front door trying not to slosh the chili contents, yelling, "Go! Go! Go! We have to get there!"

Let's just pause right here and discuss how badly I handle crisis situations. Even little mini-crisis situations like this. Whenever kinks are thrown into my well laid plans, I wring my hands and moan, "What are we gonna do?!" which David (aka "Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected") thinks is hilarious.  

I carefully handed off the crockpot to Reese and said, "Hold this with all your being! It CANNOT spill!" (For all you nervous readers out there who think this is foreshadowing of chili contents spilling all over my floorboard, rest assured, the chili makes it.)

A few blocks from the DMV, Reese checked our place in line. We still had 9 minutes to get there.  My heart began to slow back down to a normal pace. Until my phone buzzed again and said, "You have reached the front of the line.  Please proceed to Window 1."

"Whaaaaat????" I yelled. "How can this happen? Type 'M'! Type 'M'!" I commanded her.  

"What's 'M'?!" she yelled back as she sent it.

"It gives us more time if we need it. This is the craziest system ever invented!"

It pushed us back 3 people and gave us 19 minutes to spare. Why I didn't think to do that back at the house is beyond me.  I told you I don't think clearly in these types of situations.  But it would have gotten me back on track with my plan and I could have dropped the chili off and all would have been right with the world.  

We made it, scrambled of the car, and I contemplated bringing in my crockpot in so it could stay warm.  I'm sure stranger things have happened at the DMV.  I ended up leaving it, we bolted inside, checked in, and collapsed in our seats. The wait had gone to 5 minutes and then suddenly our number was called.  I hadn't even had the chance to get all sappy about my baby getting ready to take her test to operate a motor vehicle! 

It was a little before 3 by this time so I told Reese, "Don't hurry through your test. Take your time. But seriously, I HAVE to be out of here by 3:15 to get this chili to the school. So I may have to leave you and come back."

They took her picture and asked her all the standard questions, eye color, weight, etc.  I was holding it all together nicely until he asked if she wanted to be an organ donor.  She paused, looked at me, I swallowed the lump in my throat nodding slightly. I wanted to grab her and bolt out the door saying, "I'm sorry. This is a mistake. She won't be getting behind the wheel today or any other day in my lifetime. I'll just drive her to work, college, across country to her new career, and then I'll drive my grandkids hither and yon as well."

She made it through the rest of the questions, faltering slightly at, "Are you legally present in the US?" because she thought they said "President". "I thought that was weird," she told me later, "I mean, wouldn't they KNOW if I was President?". (Trust me, if she was old enough, I'd definitely be writing in her name come November.)

The man behind the counter started messing with her, asking if she'd brought her 250 word essay. I chuckled politely but inside was thinking, "Now is NOT the day. I'm on a mission to make an extremely important chili delivery in T-16 minutes so let's get this show on the road!"

I sat off to the side while she took her test on the computer. I tried to read her body language and could tell she was missing a few. My people-watching tendency got the best of me and she suddenly appeared with a shy smile, saying, "I passed. What do we do now?"

I jumped out of my seat, congratulated her, and we made our way to the window to get her temporary permit. We were off. As we headed to the car, she said happily, "We made it with a minute to spare!" 

"Whaaaat?!" thinking she meant it was 3:29 and knowing we'd never make it to the school on time now.  

"It's 3:14. You wanted to be out of there by 3:15," she explained.  

As she climbed in the front seat, I again said, "I'm so proud of you, Reese!" Then immediately slipped back into psycho mode. "So help me, if you spill one drop of this chili....!"

I'm going to take the next few days to recover psychologically from her first driving lesson. And then I'll recap it. 

Spoiler alert: Reese is a fantastic driver...IF only we lived in England.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Let's Hit the Road {and not Each Other}

When David and I are toodling across the country by our lonesome one day I'm going to pull out this post and reflect on what road trips used to be like.

Because 1/2 our earthly belongings must accompany us to Alabama each Summer, we've started traveling in David's truck. The cab is actually quite roomy. I'm not sure it's "Let's pick out our largest stuffed animal to ride along" roomy, but that's just what Tate did. So don't be surprised if his beloved cow, Kringle, makes an appearance in a few vacation photos.
Each year I get a little bit smarter about preparing for the actual car ride itself. For instance, so I wouldn't arrive at our destination with a body temperature of -7, I incorporated sweat pants into my travel attire. Therefore, when we finally reach the beloved family farm, I'll emerge from the car and greet family members I haven't seen in a year (or more) in sweatpants. Not to mention the humidity level in sweet home Alabama is 112%. 

While the kids are occupied by books, electronic devices, and trying to sneak into the snack bag without getting caught, David and I have ample time to discuss our hopes and dreams with one another. Which sounds good in theory, only David refuses to carry on a conversation on road trips. I looked over a few minutes into our journey and he was already in his own little world immersed in his audio book. 
Drue learned a valuable lesson for future travel: If you have the longest legs amongst your siblings, it's best not to lash out in anger and scratch your brother as the car is getting loaded. You will be banished to the dreaded middle seat as punishment for the first half of the trip. 

David sweetly relinquished the front seat to Reese when it was my turn to drive. No doubt afraid I'd try to strike up a conversation. Reese's first order of business was attempting to kill a small winged creature. Her most expensive possession, her iPhone, was her weapon of choice and she proceeded to slam it down on the dash. I calmly suggested she find a different weapon, saying, "Are you crazy?!" Next, she grabbed David's hiking shoe and slammed it into the window. It was his turn to question her sanity, adding, "You're going to break the glass!" 

We soon came upon a small town and the speed limit dropped to 50 mph. To avoid incessant teasing by my passengers if I were to get pulled over, I slowed down accordingly. "I can run faster than this," Reese declared. Normally I would just dismiss this type of comment as random teenage snarkiness, but because I longed for conversation, I entered into a lengthy debate with her about how that was entirely impossible. I even went so far as to throw in a math lesson telling her to divide her fastest mile time into 60. You're welcome, teacher friends. 

Like David, Tate isn't a huge conversationalist on extended car rides. In fact, he's often so quiet I'll turn around abruptly and scan the backseat for him after stops. He could pretty much be the perfect traveler, if it weren't for the fact that when he gets restless he randomly lets out the highest pitched shrieks I've ever heard. I am certain this will be the cause of our demise one day if I'm at the wheel. "Tate!" I shrieked right back, "Stop. Doing. That. I almost careened right through that guard rail." 

At least we got our timing right this trip. David and I share the driving and he almost always ends up driving the windy two lane stretch through Arkansas. He sets the cruise control and I have the grip of death on the door handle while I bargain with the Lord that if he gets us through the next few hours unscathed, I'll do this, that, and the other for Him. 

The stars aligned and that particular stretch fell during my time to drive. As I was sliently thanking the Lord, I heard, "I'm hungry. When are we stopping?" Stopping? We go through about 15 towns with populations of 306. There will be no stopping until we reach Jonesboro. There's nothing to stop at. And just like that, I'm the one getting blamed for the lack of fast food places across the entire state. "Mom won't stop for us to eat. We're starving!" 

Don't even get me started on picking a place everyone will agree on. A restaurant could have been Drue's absolute favorite yesterday, but if Reese is the one to suggest stopping there, Drue instantly can no longer stand it and won't even think about eating there.

After I made it clear I would only be stopping at one place, Reese said, "That's fine. Let's just go through the drive thru."

"Ohhhhh nooooo. Nope. Not happening. I refuse." Ordering for those three in a drive thru definitely makes the list of "Things I Don't Enjoy", right underneath "pull all my toenails out one by one." If they would just order simple things like a #1 or a #3 I'd be fine. But they each want to customize minor details of their order and it usually ends up sounding something along the lines of:
"Hi, I'd like a cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun, with just one sesame seed. And can you cut the corners off the cheese so it fits just so on the patty? And I'll take a Sprite, no, wait, do you have Cherry Coke? Ok, well would you mind running next door to the store and bringing one back to put on ice? Oh. Well I'll just take a Dr. Pepper, no just make that a Sprite then."

Nope. I pulled into the parking lot of Wendy's and kicked everyone out to go order their own bag of crazy. 

I count it a successful road trip when we finally arrive and are all still on speaking terms with one another. Even if we're not on speaking terms, we'll put on our happy faces and pretend we are as we hop out of the car. I love the familiar crunch of the gravel road under our tires, that first smell of pine as we roll down our windows, and the hugs waiting for us at the end of the road.

I've already made a mental note for our next trip: Discuss with David beforehand what shirt he's wearing so we don't inadvertently wind up as this couple again.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dodging the Dice

A few weeks ago the Lowe's Creative Ideas magazine came in the mail. I briefly scanned its contents and decided I couldn't live another moment without a yard Yahtzee set.

So I texted the Mister. 
Bless him. After 18 years of marriage he knew my "help me make this" meant he would do all the measuring, cutting, etc and I would just put the dots on. 

In between business travel, kids' activities, and larger scale home improvement projects, by golly he had my dice made in no time flat. He used wood scraps we already had so this project cost $0. I also think the scrap wood gives them a vintage feel, like perhaps these same dice were used by the Ingalls' children on the open prairie.  
David left last evening for Indy. I'm sure it was just a coincidence he suggested we all go outside and play Yahtzee...perhaps to take our minds off missing him already. I'm choosing to believe it wasn't because he was wanting to be as far away as possible when we played for the first time. 

So, David, because I'm sure you felt sad about missing out on the fun, here's a little recap:

Tate grabbed all the snacks he could carry. He never has to work up an appetite, his appetite is perpetually there. We grabbed the score sheets and bug spray, dumped our socks out of the sock bucket and headed out to the backyard. As the girls and I began applying bug spray, Tate seized his opportunity to dig into the snacks first and wound up coughing and spitting for the first few rounds after some spray wafted his way.  
Of course Tate wore his fleece jammie the middle of Kansas. 

We quickly discovered a helpful tip for future games--roll the dice on a flat surface to avoid squabbles about which number they actually landed on. There was more than one debate on this subject when the dice landed crazy on the grass. 

Reese became our chief photographer and didn't sugar coat the reason why, "Mom, you stink at taking pictures. Here, let me do it."

She captured what I'm pretty sure is the most hideous picture of me ever documented...mid-victory dance rubbing it in that I was the first one to roll a Yahtzee.

If Drue can get someone else to do her work for her, she certainly will. She enjoyed rolling the dice, but would read off her numbers each time and say, "So...what should I go for?". After the 2nd or 3rd time we all yelled back, "We're not telling you! You have to think for yourself!"
I envisioned them gently tossing the dice onto the freshly mowed lawn. Instead, they decided to throw them straight up in the air then dodge the 5 large blocks hurtling back down toward their heads. There were quite a few near misses. I'm just relieved I didn't end up in the E.R. trying to explain how one of my children suffered a scalp laceration playing Yahtzee.
Moving along to the round when the entire bucket flew out of Drue's hands and shattered on the ground....
We politely declined her offer to go grab the bucket we use to pick up dog poop and ended up rolling the dice out of the three intact sides for the rest of the evening.

At one point, Reese began screaming and frantically trying to get away from whatever had landed on her. Gauging by the speed at which she leapt from her chair, I was sure a 4 foot long garden snake had fallen from the tree above. Turns out the fear-invoking creature was a lightning bug. Perhaps this teen needs to get outside more often.  

By the last few rounds, we had no sunlight left and were playing by the light of our phones. The same phones I'd been desperately trying to ban for a good portion of the game. 

"Reese, get off your phone." 
"Ok, but can we listen to music?" 
"I guess. Turn it down."
"Reese, get off your phone.
"But I'm just 'liking' this song on Pandora."
"Reese, get off your phone."
"But I'm learning how to do a waterfall braid."
"Oh, in that case...GET OFF YOUR PHONE!"

There were a lot of laughs, a lot of cheese puffs consumed, and enough family togetherness that they all scattered and headed off to bed when we came inside without me telling them to. 

We can't wait for you to come home, dear, and enjoy our newest Summer activity every single night! Oh, and you'll be glad to know that was the last issue of the Lowes magazine they'll be printing. So it may be awhile before I come up with another project for you.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Summer Better Shape Up

Our second full weekday of Summer break is coming to a close and I want a refund. I was promised stress free nights turning into lazy, carefree mornings and so far I've had neither.

Tate was so done with school last Thursday he couldn't even make it into the house with his backpack.

Drue, on the other hand, headed straight up to her room to read when she got home. There are a slew of books on her Summer reading list so I don't expect to see her again {other than mealtimes} until mid June. I have set a reminder on my phone not to forget her when we leave for vacation. She's already finished 3 of the books since Thursday. Reese and I get to help her celebrate by watching the movies with her. 

Me settling in on the couch to watch anything past sunset is a joke. I slept through most of the first movie and drifted in and out last night during the second one. Meanwhile, David and Tate headed up to our room to watch TV and fell asleep. 

So KC {who was adopted and returned AGAIN last week!} and I just crashed in the basement. Around 1am I heard little footsteps and the doggie gate on the stairs creak open. 

All sorts of scenarios started spinning on which little family member it was. I'd already narrowed it down to a kid, because when anyone over 100 pounds walks around upstairs, it sounds as though they'll crash through the basement ceiling into your lap at any moment.

Maybe one of the girls was scared, had a deep question they'd been pondering, or were going to tell me they might throw up. Or perhaps I'd be lucky and they'd just be heading to the kitchen for a drink. 

Nope. The footsteps continued down the stairs, the second doggie gate creaked open, and the entire basement was illuminated. Tate appeared at the end of the sofa bed and sweetly asked, "Do you need anything?"

Squinting my eyes from the light, I said, "No buddy, I'm good. Thanks. Wait, are you even awake?"

"Yep," he sleepily replied as he crawled into bed beside me. 

I slipped out between him and KC, hit the lights, then carefully felt my way back into bed. 

I would have had no problem drifting back to dreamland if the ear piercing alarm from our smoke detector hadn't started going off next. You know you're tired when you hear that and just decide to lay there for a minute and sniff the air for smoke. It stopped after a few seconds. As a parent, that's not just something you can easily fall back to sleep after. Too many "what ifs" to keep you awake. 

After the second time the alarm went off, David came downstairs to fiddle with the one in the basement. I mumbled something about Tate coming down earlier and he said, "What? I thought he was sleeping upstairs with me?" By this time Tate was awake again so David asked him how he got downstairs. Tate just rubbed his eyes and said, "I have no idea." 

Great. So not only can he maneuver three sets of stairs and 2 dog gates in his sleep, David had no clue any of it was even happening. Neither situation makes me feel safe. At least Tate remembers his manners in his sleep. 

The alarm went off once or twice more. I decided this fell under my blanket excuse, "I birthed the kids, David can deal with this..." and never left the bed. 

As the sun peeped through the window, I pulled the covers over my head calculating how many more minutes of sleep I could get without coming up for air.


Dang. It. This was the day the air conditioning company was coming to do a routine check of our system. Their window of time was 8am-12pm. Any other day you know they'd be pulling up at 11:50 but because of my sleepless night and extra frumpy appearance, they'd surely be arriving at 8:01. 

I slithered out of bed to throw on a hat and shut the bedroom doors of all my sleeping offspring. As I entered my room, the smell of 1000 roadkill corpses mixed with dog food burned my nares. The largest pile of dog throw up I've ever enountered greeted me. Of course George's aim was impeccable...right snack dab in the middle of the pile of clean laundry David had shoved off the bed onto the floor the night before. 

Seriously, Summer? Pulling out the big guns right off the bat? Couldn't just let me ease into you and establish a new relaxed routine? 

You're just jealous because Fall has always had my heart. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

KC's Story

I hate this day. And I love this day. 

The day I wake up next to you for the last time.

The day I go through the motions of letting you out, feeding you breakfast, and scratching all your favorite spots as an unmistakable lump forms in my throat.

The day I bathe you, brush you, and load you into the car for one more drive together (where you'll try and hog my air vent). A drive I'll be returning from without you.

And the absolute worst part of the entire day, handing your leash over to someone else, kissing your head, and walking out the door.

Today I stayed until most of the paperwork was complete. But I knew I just couldn't watch you get into his car. So after a few last kisses, I slipped out, leaving you sitting on the bench next to your new dad.

I know in my head it's wonderful you're off to your forever home, but it's my heart that needs a little more convincing, and where a piece of you will always remain.

You were scared, filthy, and starving when I picked you and your puppies up from the shelter eight months ago. Despite being neglected on a farm, you dug a hole next to a barn to place your puppies in for protection. A hole the shelter workers searched over 13 acres to find, after trapping you on the side of the highway and discovering you were a nursing mother.

You let me know right away you didn't trust me and I was not to mess with the 6 little bundles who had accompanied you. This made it challenging once you started weaning them and I had to get into the pen to feed them, change their papers, scrub the floor, and sneak them out for baths every so often. And when you knocked their pen over in the middle of the night I had to chase 24 little feet around the garage trying to scoop each puppy up without you charging me each time I got close to one. I collapsed back into bed thinking, "I am not cut out for this!"

When the puppies went to live with their new families you weren't sure what to make of the situation. After you finally stopped looking for them, you took up residence in the bottom shelf of an empty bookcase in our garage. I bought a warm, soft dog bed for you and placed it next to the bookcase. It sat there untouched for days, until one morning I found you sitting in it, looking unsure if that was ok.

David got a collar on you.

And then a leash.

But you had no idea why the leash was connected to you and why we were holding the other end. So we took it slow. Putting the leash on a few times per day without tugging on it, so you could see there was nothing to be afraid of.

This went on for weeks. Some of the coldest days of the winter, I worried even more about you and spent extra time trying to coax you inside. But you just wouldn't budge.

I remember the day I'd had enough. I muzzled you, scooped you up, marched you inside and gently placed you in the tub.  As the water turned brown and your white fur began to peek out through the suds, I wished I'd been brave enough to try this earlier. This was the day I think you finally realized I would never do anything to hurt you.

I think this was also the first time you'd ever been in someone's home. Every sound made you jump and you'd immediately look to me to gauge my reaction on whether or not it was something you should be afraid of. The heat kicking on, the dishwasher humming, toilets flushing, faucets coming on and off, cabinet doors closing. You found a few hiding spots to escape from everything. When the kids finally scrambled out the door in the mornings and it was just you and me, you'd come out of hiding, tail wagging, and follow me around for the rest of the day. Until you'd hear the front doorknob turning in the afternoon. And you'd retreat to one of your comfort zones.

Because you'd lived outside for so long, and nighttime is the best time for hunting, this was when you wanted to be outside. Those were some long weeks! Stumbling down the stairs with you at 2 am into the cool night air.

Your schedule eventually flipped and you learned to settle in for the night next to me in bed. I woke up one morning surprised to find you all stretched out sleeping soundly. Before, I'd only ever seen you sleep curled up defensively in a ball.
You learned to love our walks. Unless they took us by the playground at recess, in which case I'd have to pick you up and quickly carry you past because the sound of all those kids made you nervous. You also learned to love our car rides. Hopping in and out like you'd been doing this your whole life. You didn't care that we were just heading to pick up one of the kids from practice.
I'll be vacuuming up your hair from now until next week. I'll go about my housework now without my little sidekick and you'll no longer be laying just on the other side of the dog gate waiting for me to finish folding laundry. 
You figured out how to be someone's pet. 

And I figured out how to love you with all your quirks and odd behaviors.

Eight months was a long time.

Yet it wasn't quite long enough.

I hate this day. And I love this day.

The day you get to go home.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Kids' Eye View of the Candidates

I don't want to spark a debate.

Or judge anyone for their beliefs.

But I do want to remember this conversation forever. And since it's hard for me to remember what I made for supper two nights ago, I've learned to write down info I don't want to forget.

Like some of you, this is the first Presidential election where I'm left scratching my head thinking, "What in the world?!" 

I'm thankful it's in God I trust, and not a person holding an office.

As with previous elections, the kids are full of questions. Some are amusing, some are thought-provoking, and some are just plain hard to answer. 

We do our best. But I'm always quick to say, "Now just because your friend's parents are voting for so-and-so..." (because that information is readily shared on the playground, believe me) "...doesn't mean we tell them they're wrong or they shouldn't vote for them or anything like that." 

I wish I'd been writing down the kids' questions all along. Because their viewpoint is so simple, so innocent, and just so plain refreshing. 

Today it was pouring rain, so I walked up to the school, umbrellas in hand, to catch Drue and Tate as they came out the doors. The election was a hot topic of discussion as we sloshed our way home.

"People say if *Crump (*name has been changed to protect the candidate's identity) gets elected, they're moving," Tate declared, "And I think we should too."

"Oh? Where would me move to?" I inquired.

He thought for a second and said, "California."

As Drue choked on her laughter, I kindly pointed out the flaw in his reasoning. 

"Oh," he paused, "So I guess he'd rule over Rhode Island too, huh?" 

Canada, Mexico, and Italy were all offered as alternatives by the both of them. 

It then quickly turned into a game of "Would you rather have ______ as President or ________?"

We made it home and I assumed all political discussions would be tabled while they busied themselves consuming the contents of the pantry.

Apparently, Tate's wheels were still turning.  He was in first grade when the last election took place.  And I remember him point blank asking me who I was voting for and, more specifically, why.  Knowing there was no way I could explain the issue in terms a 6 year old would be able to understand, I finally settled on, "Well, because he believes that all babies in their Mommie's tummies should be able to live their lives." That night, as he said the blessing, he added, "And please help all babies be able to live their little lives."

Today, that same issue resurfaced in our conversation. Tate was trying to figure out why a certain candidate would not be getting my vote.

"Well," I took a deep breath, "Because he believes it's ok for a Mommy to kill her baby that's still inside her."

Tate's eyebrows wrinkled in confusion as he blurted out, "Like any Mom would ever do that!"

My heart melted.

He wasn't finished.  "And his wife is ok with that?" he asked in disbelief.

Did I ever plan to discuss this particular issue with my children? Of course not.

Am I going to go into specific reasons with him why a woman might choose to not let her baby be born? Again, no. He still doesn't fully comprehend how babies get there in the first place.

But I do want my kids to feel like they can ask me anything, especially when it comes to our beliefs. And to him, if a woman has a baby in her tummy, she's a Mommy. He knows the first baby in my tummy went straight to Heaven. One I never rocked to sleep, bandaged a knee for, or snuggled with on the couch, but whom I'm a Mommy to all the same.      

As quickly as it had begun, our discussion ended. My little 9 year old headed off to do little 9 year old things.  I have to say, I was quite thankful for the Wii at that specific moment so he could just be a kid and put aside contemplating grown up issues.

And I was left to ponder what the state of our country will be when he's old enough to vote, just another 9 short years away.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Like Father, Like Son

He's watching you.

The other day when you made those little fruit concoctions with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream, he was watching. And he tried his best to recreate them for me when he brought me breakfast in bed this morning.

Every Saturday morning when you go out and get me a half-caf white chocolate mocha from Starbucks, he's watching. So today, as I made my cheap imitation weekday drink {cappuccino mix & water}, he said he wanted to learn to make it for me. As I began telling him what I do, he quickly ran and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen so he wouldn't miss any steps. It now hangs on the fridge for reference.

He's learning all the little ways you say "I love you" and letting me know he loves me too. 

He's watching you. 

And someday we'll watch him show his wife and children just how much they mean to him.  

Because he learned it from his dad.  

And he couldn't have a better teacher. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Help, Someone's Calling, and I Can't Pick Up

I may, perhaps, be ready to entertain the idea, that there's a slight possibility, I might have a problem.

No, David, not that problem.

Nope, not that one either.

Oh alright already, so I have quite a few shortcomings.

This one's really more of a Mom addiction. Some Moms binge watch shows on Netflix. Some immerse themselves in love stories, forsaking the laundry or other chores. (I may have been guilty of this during the Twilight series). And still others take a spa day or visit a nail salon on a regular basis.

Mine is a slightly different escape from reality.

Quite a few Christmases ago, the kids got a Wii. I was quick to add Super Mario Bros to "their" game collection.  Except if they were playing it, I also had to be playing it. And if there was a level I was particularly stuck on, I kicked them off altogether so I could concentrate better.

Sadly, somewhere along the line, the Wii went kaput. And we got an Xbox.

I do not care for the Xbox.

I can't play any of the games, other than the Kinect games where your whole body controls your body on the screen. That stuff right there is brilliant.

Tate thought it was pretty cool that I had played Wii with him, so he assumed I'd also want to play Xbox.

We quickly discovered that's just not possible. I don't get it. I will never get it. 3D games where you are left to wander at your leisure but are still expected to complete certain tasks drive me bonkers.

Minecraft? Forget it.

Infinity? Not happening.

He even picked out a Disney game thinking that'd be more up my alley. Nope. I don't understand how to manipulate the controller to move around. I was always going the wrong way or running into walls. And I spent most of my time just trying to get myself turned back around in the right direction.

He would help me the best he could, "Over here, Mom. Get that star."

"What? What star? Where is it?"

"There, by the bridge. Nope, the other way. I see you. And you need to turn around."

"How are you seeing me?! I can't see you. And where's the blasted star?!"

"You can't see me because you're facing the wall."

I finally just gave up altogether. I let him down gently and explained that I just didn't get 3D games and they frustrated me too much. I can only play games that go from left to right.

He took it pretty well. "I guess 'cuz that's what you played when you were little, so that's what you're used to." Then he brightened up, "I'm going to invent a 2D game you can play Mom, and then me and you can play together."

And just like that, David became his chief gaming buddy. In fact, I think they rather enjoy retreating to their little man cave now and then.

I may have mentioned a time or 12 that I missed our Wii. And I missed Mario. So for Christmas this year, David got a Wii for the kids to give me. Thus the rekindling of my addiction.

David still prefers Xbox, which works out fine because our Wii games can only accommodate 4 players at the most. What happens in the game, stays in the game. The kids and I hoot and holler at one other and carry on if we accidentally get knocked into the lava or someone steals our power. But as soon as we shut the console off, we're back to being a civil little group of relatives for the most part.

Tate's skills have improved exceedingly. I now consider him an equal teammate. And at times, better than me. He'll sometimes sneak in when the girls are distracted elsewhere and say, "Mom, let's just me and you play so we can beat it." It didn't take us long to beat my Mario game over break.  But there's a bonus level that can only be played if you've collected all the large coins in the other levels.  So we went back and started working on those. All too soon, Christmas break was over and I had to send my little gaming buddy back to school.

That's when the first sign arose that I may have a problem. I pondered for a split second leaving the following voicemail for his school, "Good Morning, I realize it's the first day back after break, but Tate is running a little late today. See, there's this level we've been working on for awhile now, and, well, I just really need him here to help me beat it. As soon as we do, I'll run him right up.  If not today, then for sure tomorrow. Oh, and please send any missed work home with Drue. She's not very good at Mario so she should be there on time."

We've taking a hiatus from Mario Bros and have rediscovered Mario Kart. Which I guess is considered 3D, but because you're driving on a set track and not just free to venture wherever you please, I can do it. I was a little rusty at first. And the kids kept flying past me. Which is odd, considering I'm the only one of the four of us who actually knows how to drive. But I'm improving, and have no problem whatsoever leaving them in my dust and tossing a red turtle shell their way to knock them off the course entirely.

I'm beginning to realize my affection for Mario Kart has slowly taken root and is beginning to affect other areas of my life. A few weeks ago David was on his way home from Denver. I had already gotten his text saying he'd landed in KC so was a bit surprised when the Superman theme song resonated from my cell phone (his assigned ring). The kids and I were playing Mario Kart and I had raced myself into 2nd place. 2nd place! We still had about a lap and half to go and the others were coming up quickly behind me. So I kept going.

"Mom," Reese said as she sped through the course, "Daddy's calling you."

"I know. I'll call him back," I replied.

"What if it's important?" she asked, growing a little concerned.

"Well, then I'll find that out after I cross the finish line," I continued as I dodged some banana peels.

Turns out, he had stopped at the store and just wanted to know if he needed to pick up anything. Of course, he proceeded to ask what we were up to because Reese hadn't picked up her phone either. I vaguely answered that the kids and I were spending some quality time together. "You guys are playing Mario aren't you?" he deduced.

Fast forward about a week. Drue had a meeting after school so she was going to be a little later than usual. David was taking some conference calls from home, answering work emails, etc. I normally  keep the front door unlocked in the afternoons when I'm home because the kids each trickle in at different times. I don't know if he thought Drue had already come home or what, but he locked the front door. Tate and I were racing through a course when the doorbell rang.

"What in the world? Who's at the door?" I hollered. "It's freezing outside!"

"I don't know. It could be Drue," Tate offered, never looking away from the TV screen.

She rang again, shimmied the doorknob, then started knocking. George was going c-r-a-z-y and David was on a call in the basement.

So I yelled, "Pause it! Pause it!" and raced to the door. I hope I greeted her with a warm hug and a "How was your day?" but who can really remember that far back?

I do remember when I returned to the couch, Tate hadn't paused the game in a timely enough manner and I was now in last place with no hope of catching up. I reviewed our no locked door policy in-depth with David later that evening.

Not all my behaviors have a negative impact, however, when it comes to my Mom addiction. Yes, I may have missed a phone call (or three) and let my daughter stand outside a bit longer than necessary, but there are also positives. Knowing that the kids will be getting home by a certain time each day, I'm motivated to get my errands and housework done even earlier so I'll be available should they want to take a spin around the ol' racetrack. I use my crock pot a lot, especially on nights they have practices, so each person can dish out their grub when they get home or before they leave.  But it also comes in handy on the rare nights they don't have practices. I can prepare the meal during the day and plop it in early so I won't have to be watching pots boil and peeling potatoes during prime gaming hours after school.

Never fear, homework is being completed, actual books are getting read, sports activities are continuing. But I do look forward to little breaks from time to time as we retreat into Mario World. Oh, and if you're planning on calling me, kindly do so before 4pm.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Midwest Girls in a West Coast World

When I run into friends I haven't seen in a few months, the first question they ask is, "How was California?!" To which I look confused and say, "What are you talking a--- oooohhhh! Yes! I did go to California!" So I thought I'd better document it lest I forget the entire trip altogether.

After we decided to take each of the kids on a trip to begin their teenage years (thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for the idea) I sat down to plan one with our first teenager...Reese.  

I immediately thought of a nice, relaxing, beach vacation...except...Reese abhors everything about the beach.  Seriously, it's like a chore to her when we bee bop down to Gulf Shores in the Summer. The sun, sand, saltwater, tiny little fish swimming around her.  She's a little trooper and endures it for the sake of the family, but I didn't want to subject her to that for her own personal celebration.  

Drue and Tate have ideas for everything.  Places they want to go, food they want to eat, presents they'd like to receive.  But not Reese.  She just shrugs her shoulders, smiles sweetly, and says, "I don't know."

Next, I thought about the Mall of America.  An easy trip.  Somewhere she's never been.  But David suggested I go bigger.  (He and Tate are kicking around the idea of going on an African safari in 3 years.)

One of my all-time favorite shows is Full House.  And I've gotten the kids hooked on it too.  We regularly have Full House marathons when David's out of town.  So I came up with the idea to try and attend a taping of Fuller House.  Turns out, tickets are actually free online.  BUT they're only released 30 days before a taping, and you have to be online at a certain time to snatch them up.  So each time I went to check, they were already "sold out". 

It was coming down the wire, and I still hadn't planned what we were going to do.  Reese's birthday was in 11 days.  I checked tickets one more time and it showed there were some available for November 5th! I filled in the info for us with shaking hands. When I checked again, it said "sold out" so I'm pretty sure we got the last two available.  As I continued reading about it, it said, "This ticket does not guarantee entrance into the show" and I panicked.  What if we got all the way out to California and couldn't get in?! That right there almost stopped me from going any further.  But I decided to put my practical self behind and take a chance.  Completely unlike me at all. 

Thanks to David's travel points, our airfare was $22 and he booked us at a Hilton overlooking Universal Studios. Hogwarts was right outside our window! Harry Potter world doesn't open 'til Spring but it was still fun to wake up to.

I was so excited to plan the trip I left out one of the most important we were going to get around once we got there.  In the back of my head I feel like every major vacation destination is all inclusive and shuttles you from place to place like our trip to Disneyworld a few years back.  I frantically began comparing airport shuttles and taxi prices when David suggested matter-of-factly, "Just rent a car." So that's what we decided to do.

We landed at 10:30pm (12:30am our time) and drug our weary selves and luggage to the rental car counter which was a long haul from the terminal. "What kind of car would you like?" was the first question.  "Oh...I don't know...something small." Something small?  This was my first mistake.  I haven't driven "something small" since 1998. I've either had little suv's or a van.  But he found me something small...a tiny Ford with a windshield the size of a matchbox car.  "The keys are in it," he smiled as he handed me the agreement with the parking spot number on it.

Well, that turned out to be a bold-faced lie.  No, the keys were not in it...because it had a keyless car start! Did he not know a middle-aged Mom from the Midwest, who up until last Spring, drove a minivan, would have no clue how to start this vehicle?! Let alone, I'm unable to process any new information past 9pm.  I grabbed the key fob and started running my hands all over the dashboard and steering area.

"What are you doing?" Reese asked, confused.

"I'm trying to find where to stick this in!" I may have answered a little impatiently.

"You don't stick it in anywhere. You press that button that says 'start'."

So I pressed it.  And nothing happened.

"This. Is. Not. Happening." I picked up my phone to call David but remembered what time it was and put it back.  I was on my own with this one.

After about 5 more minutes of me searching the dash, and saying unkind things about progress and technology, Reese said, "Just go ask them how to start it."

"That would be totally embarrassing!" I replied. (Not unlike my retelling of the whole scenario). I pressed the button again and we started rolling forward slightly.  But the car wasn't actually turned on yet.  Part of me was tempted to jump out of the car and catch the first flight home to Kansas, but I paused, took a deep breath, and noticed a little tag on the key fob with directions on how to start it.  The engine revved and we were on our way.  But I was afraid the entire drive to the hotel that the car was just going to stop suddenly in the middle of the road and turn itself off.

We finally made it and pulled into the parking garage.  Another fear inducing trigger for me.  Even though we were in the tiniest car known to man, I still ducked my head as we drove through.

We collapsed into bed and I made a mental note to send David (lover of all things Harry Potter) a picture of our view of Hogwarts from the 21st floor.  Then my "Mom Worry" hit me full force.  21st floor?! We're in California!  If there's an earthquake I had no idea what to do.  Great, I drug Reese out here for a fun time and we're both going to perish in an earthquake.  I made another mental note to Google what to do in an earthquake the next morning also.

The next day was the show taping.  We set out ridiculously early to get there.  I was a nervous Nellie driving in California and my phone GPS seemed to be working a few microseconds too slow. My co-navigator certainly wasn't much help. She has no idea where she is if our destination isn't near the Chik-Fil-A in Olathe.  No matter where we drive in the KC area she'll say, "I have no idea where we are...are we by Chik-fil-A?" Now, I can zip around KC highways no problem, but the thought of getting on one in California freaked me the heck out.  I feel intimidated when I get out of my zip code bubble. Any time the GPS said to "take a slight right on such and such highway" I panicked. "Nooooo! I don't want to get on the highway!" Reese tried half-heartedly to comfort me, "Mom, you drive on highways all the time back home." "Yeah, but they don't have songs written about them! Ohhhh...Ventura Blvd! Quick, take a picture!"

Needless to say, we missed a crucial turn to the WB studios.  No biggie.  We were super early.  I would just turn around up ahead.  Only "up ahead" ended up being miles and miles away.  And it involved me getting back on the highway.  We finally made it to the parking garage where we needed to be and found a spot in line to wait on some benches.  There were only a few people ahead of us.  And there we sat.  For four hours. Looooong story short, we made it in.  Since it was the taping of the season finale, the VIP guest list was long and not many people with regular tickets got in.  I didn't relax until we were actually sitting in the studio.  Then an usher came over and told me to come with him.  I'm sure you're sensing a theme here... I panicked.  "But she's with me!" I signaled toward Reese.  "She can come too," he explained.  This was it.  We'd come all this way and were getting kicked out to make room for a VIP.  But it was actually the opposite.  A few VIPs didn't show so we got moved to the front row.

I could contain my excitement no longer.  "We made it!  And we're in the front row! I can't believe this is happening!" Reese looked around to make sure no one was watching my bubbly display of happiness. Oh, she was excited too, she just shows it less enthusiastically.  The whole experience was surreal. The curtain went up and there was the Tanner's living room and DJ, Stephanie, and Kimi all grown up.  And they were real people.  Who danced to the music in between takes, got their makeup and hair touched up about 282 times, and laughed at their own bloopers.  No wonder I feel like a frumpy, middle-aged Mom...I need someone to follow me around with a little caddy of makeup products and hairspray and do a few touch ups after every conversation I have. When DJ walked by, I leaned over to Reese and said, "She's my age!" in disbelief. Reese looked at her, then looked at me and said (in equal disbelief) "She is?!"

It took over 4 hours for them to shoot the show.  No spoilers here, but in one of the last scenes, the girls are eating cake.  They had to do a few takes.  And a brand new cake was brought in each time!  So we all got to eat a piece of the leftovers.  It tasted heavenly. We also got a rose from one of the scenes from Becky and Jesse's apartment.  

The next day we ventured out to see the Hollywood sign.  Made another wrong turn, ended up at the top of the mountain and had to turn around in someone's driveway.  I guess so cars don't slide down the mountain, the driveways have weird curbs at the end of them.  And I crunched the front of the rental car backing out.  I felt so guilty, I called David to confess and he found the whole predicament hilarious.  "I rent cars 24 weeks per year and have never damaged one.  You rent ONE car and have a mishap!" Thankfully, the bumper was just whacked out of place and the rental car company was able to whack it back into place. 

We spent the rest of the day at Universal Studios.  I even sprung for a late afternoon snack at the park since I just had one kid to buy for and it wouldn't break the bank just to get ice cream. We both had on our Royals shirts and people were congratulating us for our well-deserved win.  
We took a tour of some movie sets and saw where Three Amigos and Jaws were filmed.

Reese kept looking around at everyone and finally announced, "I'm the palest girl in California!" And she wouldn't let us walk the few miles from our hotel to the nearest In-and-Out Burger for supper in the dark, so I braved the roads yet again.

At one point, as I quietly concentrated on maneuvering our hot wheels through the traffic, she looked at me and said, "Are you shutting down?". "What?" I cried. She continued, "Daddy said you would probably shut down at some point during this trip." Good ol' Daddy. "No, I am not shutting down! I can't! I'm the only adult there...oh gracious day in the morning...there's a highway up ahead!"

I will say one nice thing about California.  It has beautiful scenery.  I positioned Reese just so against a lovely sunset reflected off the mountains.  I may have gone a little crazy with the pictures, because she finally said, "You've taken a picture of me next to every Palm tree in California!"

As we got ready to leave for the airport the next day, I thought aloud, "Should I wash my hair? Or just wear a hat?"

"A hat? To the airport?" Reese questioned. "You don't want to look suspicious!"

Yes, because I'm pretty sure most terrorists sport baseball caps and ponytails.

I've mentioned before how Reese is extremely time oriented.  And always wants to know the exact times events are happening and the exact time of our departure and arrival somewhere.  When she'd ask me what time our plane would land in such and such a place and what time that would be back home, etc I really tried at first to figure it out.  But since we were landing and flying through multiple time zones I finally gave up and said, "We'll get there when we get there!"

As we compared tickets at the airport she groaned, "Ugh...I have to save you a seat on both flights!" when she saw she would board first.  "I am so sorry to put you out like that.  How inconvenient for you to have to come on this awesome trip to the West Coast and be burdened with having to save your own Mother a seat," I sympathized sarcastically.

When I finally plopped down beside her and thanked her profusely for bearing that burden, she confessed, "I'm just saying, if a Royals player had come on this plane, I would have sold you out and said to them, 'Sure, you can sit here.' You would have been on your own."

I nestled our In-and-Out burger carton containing our John Stamos roses securely under the seat in front of me and said, "Oh yeah?  Well if they hadn't let us board with these roses and I would have had to pick between you and them...I would have had to think about it.  Really hard."

We made it home around 10pm to our excited family who couldn't wait to hug us and hear all about our adventures.  Or that's how I imagined it would be. We actually let ourselves in to a completely dark and quiet house because everyone had already gone to bed.

All in all, I had a great time with our first teenager. Hopefully it will stall her turning crazy on us for a little bit.  I'm already looking forward to my trip with Drue in 2 years.  She has her sights set on Hawaii. But I'll probably try and trick her and take her to Florida instead.  I'll just make sure she has her earbuds in when the flight attendant announces where we're headed.  

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