Friday, September 11, 2015

"I was gonna punch him in the sack!"

Middle was telling Hubby the other day about a boy in her class who was making her upset. He continued with his antisocial-in-Middle's-view behavior, and, Middle opined, "He made me so mad I wanted to punch him in the sack!"

Hubby apparently paused for a moment, recalling the episode of the "s-word". Perhaps this was another such event...

"Do you even know what a 'sack' is?"

"Yes! Boy parts!"

I think Hubby had to swallow his shock. "Okay." Hubby pointed at Middle. "The only time you're ever allowed to punch a boy in the sack is if he's touching you and making you uncomfortable by touching you, and he will not stop. Do you understand?"

"Okay, Daddy."

If any of our girls were ever to punch a guy like that, I'm pretty sure it would be Middle.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Are you gonna share that?"


It never fails. If I am busy or otherwise occupied, my name gets bellowed.


"I'm down here!"

Middle pounds down the steps to the basement level of our house, but stays out of my sight. "You want to see something funny?"


"Okay, get ready to really laugh! This is really funny!"

I chuckled quietly. "I'm ready."

Middle popped around the corner and into view. "Look! I'm a mommy, too!"

"Just like you!"
Well, she was right...

I laughed.

She grinned at me.

"What are those?"

"They're potato heads!"

That was when I really laughed and had her go get my phone.

"Are you going to put that picture on Facebook?" she wanted to know after she posed so nicely for me.

"Maybe, honey."


It'll be a lot of fun to just post it on Facebook without much explanation, I think.

Hee hee.


Today was the first day of school.

Special Edition had a nerve-wracking day, but came home having made a couple of friends. (I'm so proud of her that I could plotz. Today was a scary day.) She only needs to attend for the first quarter to complete the amount of credits required for graduation.

Oldest, who was all worried about having Mr. K as her teacher, came home and proclaimed her first day of 5th grade as "Awesome!"

Middle also had a fabulous day. She had Mr. S, who Oldest also had for 3rd grade (and was frightened of because he didn't smile much on the first day). She reported that Mr. S smiled A LOT, and she's already told him he's her favorite third-grade teacher ever.

Youngest was worried about having Miss H, because of what some kids said about her last year, but she also had an awesome day. Apparently Miss H was not as advertised. (Come to find out, Mitzy's mom graduated from the local university with Miss H. Time for a rousing chorus of "It's a Small World After All.")

All in all, a good day, it seems.

Let's hope tomorrow goes as well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Residents

We have a couple of new family members I'd like to introduce to you.

This is Special Edition, and she is just that: special. She hails from far away, and came to us because of some pretty intolerable circumstances after she and Hubby met online during one of Hubby's roving, insomnia-driven youth-pastor-in-chat-room moments over a year and a half ago. (Long story.)

Isn't she cute?
Innyhoo, we are so glad to have her, even though it's interesting having an 18-year-old in addition to the 10-year-old and 8.5-year-olds. Poor Hubby is woefully outnumbered. He lives with five women, and that doesn't count the cats. She arrived in time to be able to go to Florida with us on our family vacation. (And to have emergency surgery five days after she came (she's much better now), in one of the craziest weeks I've ever had, and still feel well enough to travel with us ten days later.) She loves everything princess, so she fits in well, and was very tempted by this tiara we saw at Downtown Disney.

Our other new family member is of the four-legged variety. Yes, because we're nuts. But there's something about the sudden loss of a loved one, like Dad, that makes you crave the presence of young life. And, honestly, I needed something.

Enter the Little Dude.

Five weeks old and oh so tiny.
My dear friend Sunshine had come out to stay with us the day before Dad's service and to stay for a few days after, since I desperately needed her. While she was here, I learned about some little male buff-orange tiger kittens. Sunshine and I went out to meet these little guys. Five weeks old, much younger than I expected, not yet litter-trained or on solid food. I hadn't realized they would be so young. Had I not known for sure that Hubby would blow his stack, I would have taken all three of them. So cute, and little carbon copies of each other! This little guy was hiding under his brothers and trying to sleep. He's shy, and likes to cuddle up and sleep, we were told. After triple-checking that he's actually a he, I settled on him. He proved how not quiet he was when we had to wait out a rainstorm before I could drive to Petsmart and get him some kitten food.

Special Edition and Makaha, fiercely cute.
He's now almost 9 weeks old, and finally has a name: Makaha 'Auli'i. The two Hawai'ian words have a combined meaning of fierce and cute, so that makes him either fiercely cute or adorably fierce. "Makaha" is still a bit of a mouthful for such a small guy, but I figure he'll grow into it.

The reactions of the other felines were predictable: Koa didn't like him (still doesn't), Minou is sort of afraid of him (what else), Mika was tolerant (even when Makaha tried to nurse on him). Kimo was quite put out for the first 36 hours, having to give up the coveted place as the baby feline in the house. That lasted until Kimo discovered she could play with Makaha, and I had to watch the two of them carefully at the beginning, because Kimo was SO much bigger and hadn't clued in to the fact that Makaha was still a baby. Now that Makaha doesn't look like a fat fuzzy ball of buff-orange fluff, trying to bend his chubby belly in half to arch his back and puff out his fur to look bigger, and can tolerate horsing around, I don't worry so much. Makaha has already shown his name suits him!

On today's episode of "Can't Make This Up Theater"...

I'm watching FRIENDS with Special Edition while the kids are doing afternoon chores and chasing around the new kitten (oh, yeah, we have a new one of those, too), and doing some editing in the midst of all this. (I can multi-task.)

Middle walks in. "Mommy?"

Oh dear. I know that tone. "Yes?"

"I think I have a shell—you know, one of those really little ones?—stuck in my ear." Middle shook her head, looking for all the world like she was trying to knock water out of her ear.

Or a tiny shell.


Hubby's sister and brother-in-law had given the girls some necklaces made with teeny tiny shells several years ago. At least one of them had broken, so occasionally we find itty bitty shells kicking around the house.

"You stuck a shell in your ear," I said carefully.

"I don't know. I think so. I had it on my finger, and had to scratch my ear—"

Migraine salute, you're on deck. This one's gonna be a doozy.

"You didn't take it off first?" I guessed.

"I thought I did, but then I scratched my ear, and now it feels like there's something in there."

"Oookay." I heaved myself up off the couch. "Let's go check."

Several years ago, I found a "Doctor Mom" otoscope at Walmart and decided it was well worth the $25 or so I spent for it. With kids prone to ear infections, it seemed wise to have something that could help me rule out ear infections before having to go to the urgent care. It's turned into a very useful purchase.

So I strode into the kitchen and pulled out my otoscope. I clicked on the light, flipped the scope, and went to peer into her ear...

I didn't really need the scope.

That tiny shell was stuck right there, fairly obviously, and thankfully not so far in that this would require an ER trip.

I hoped.

I fetched a box of toothpicks from the pantry and fished one out. Maybe...just maybe...I could pop that thing out without requiring medical intervention. (I hadn't been so lucky with the popcorn kernel, but had been with the silly band.)

"Okay, hold still."

"A toothpick?" Middle said skeptically.

"Yes, I'm going to try to get the shell out without having to take you to the doctor." I carefully angled the toothpick between her ear and the shell.


"Sorry." I angled Middle's head and held it firmly, preparing for my next attempt.


The shell had pushed a little further into the ear, but I tamped down the panic. I could actually see a good spot to wedge the toothpick between shell and ear...and hopefully...

"Got it!" I announced as the tiny seed shell popped out of Middle's ear canal and stopped in her earlobe. From there, I was able to flick it into my hand.

Sticky, too.


"Please don't stick any more shells in your ears, okay?"

Middle nodded and picked up the shell.

I went back to the den, FRIENDS, and work, shaking my head.

You know, I thought we were past this stage of sticking foreign objects into body orifices.

Guess not.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"Mom, can you babysit my duck?"

It's not the first time I've been asked to do so. I'm sure it won't be the last.

However, two things struck me as odd when Middle came in and asked me that a few minutes ago.

One, this is the duck that was missing last night and had her in tears as a result.

Two, it's 15 minutes until bedtime.


"Um, isn't he going to sleep with you? I mean, of course I'll babysit him, but..."

Middle, already trusting that my answer would be yes, was now at the bedroom door. "Yes, he's going to sleep with me. But he wanted to spend some time with you."


That was all I could come up with, but I guess my dopey smile made up for that, because Middle smiled sweetly in return and walked away.

And Duckie and I are cuddling.

I'll take it.

I've been trusted with the most important thing in Middle's life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Lexical Legacy

On my refrigerator, there is a magnetic pad of paper, a Christmas gift from one of my children, full of green pages with a cheery little reindeer at the bottom of each.

And on that pad is a list.

I don’t remember what caused me to be scrolling through a map of the state of Indiana, but I’d grabbed that pad as I perused the state at close detail, because I needed to note the hilarious city names I’d found.

Muddy. Correct. Advance. Herod. Tunnel Hill. Galatia. Buncombe. Oolitic. Popcorn. Bippus. Lost Hill. Lively Grove. Loogootee. Santa Claus. Tunnelton. Alto Pass. Wynoose. French Lick!

I kid you not; they all exist.

As do Coosawhatchie (FL), Hunker (PA), Frostburg (MD), Loyalsock (PA), Short Pump (VA), Ypsilanti (MI), and Barker Ten Mile (NC).

What do all those have to do with Dad? I’m so glad you asked.

When it comes to my relationship with Dad, there was so much that we shared that it’s hard to pick something. Everything reminds me of him, but if I had to choose just one thing, it would be this: we were both obsessed with words.

We collected and shared city names that tickled our fancies. In part, that’s where the list above came from.

We’d started with vanity plates. His favorite, to this day, was the snooty, uppercrust, expensive car with a tag that read: TIS JAMES. The more we could challenge each other to figure a plate out without writing it down first, the better. Dad would often give me only two letters or characters at a time, deliberately pausing when there was no break, just to throw me off.

I think it was in 2002 when the hunting of wordplay took off, though. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan had just started, and I watched a fair amount of news with the patient I was sitting with. Dad sent me an email with only this question: “What do you think is the most fun city name currently in the news?”

For the girl who had once giggled constantly over the word purple, this was fun. My reply was one word only. Jalalabad! Which, of course, having known me all my life, was exactly what Dad knew I would say.

Our collection expanded to cities. Then streams and rivers (Hellbranch Run, Difficult Run Creek, North Anna River…and South Anna River, too)…and street names (Mutton Hollow Road, Pre-Emption Road, Temporary Lane, and Puckertoot Road, to name a few)…and businesses (Lost Sock Laundry, Curl up and Dye beauty shop, and Hickdaddy’s BBQ).

When he started working for ACS (now Xerox, which is a fun word in and of itself), he would occasionally consult me on matters of grammar or phrasing. Or he would call to tell me the latest crazy commentary one of his coworkers had left for him.
Then I got laid off from my job, and decided to launch my own business. Dad was thrilled. We could now compare notes on the horrible sins of bad writing (and not just Mom’s penchant for dropped words)!

And now there was a new layer to the word game: I started texting him with the last names of sources for all of the scholarly journal articles I was editing. I’m not sure which of us laughed more at the potential pronunciation of some of those.

We didn’t stop there, either. We enjoyed many of the same TV shows, and we would text each other our favorite lines from whatever we were watching, whether it was The Mentalist, NCIS, or Top Gear (hands down, a favorite). Even better was trying to figure out what the other had just quoted from…because we often didn’t say who was speaking, just for the fun of guessing. We loved the art of wordplay and turns of phrase (this included song lyrics, too).

With the advent of memes mashing words together to create new ones, and’s Word of the Day notifications, we had even more to share with each other. Most recently, I told him that I had to find a way to work the verb “absquatulate” into my regular conversation. (He naturally responded, using it in his reply.)

Words tied us inextricably together. Whether they were vanity plate shortforms, names of people, places or things, blog posts about the kids that made him nearly shoot soda out his nose (I did that more than once, and giggled every time he told me that), or commentary on whatever prose he or I were currently dissecting, always there were words. Perhaps it’s fanciful of me, but I always thought Dad and I understood each other on a level that we didn’t really share with anyone else.

There are so many, many things that made Dad all that he was to me, and not nearly enough words to explain them all. I have lost my daddy, my mentor, my friend, my partner in crime, my anchor…and I cannot even begin to describe everything that Dad was. There simply are no words.

No words for the amount of love, no words for the laughter, no words for the heartache.

The hope I cling to is that, someday, the Word made Flesh returns, and wipes away every tear…and Dad and I will be able to play with words together, again.

I love you so much, Dad, and I miss you. See you soon.

**Note: This was my personal tribute, which was read at Dad's memorial service on Monday this week.