Friday, December 4, 2015

I've lost count.

I can't say I was especially looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, since it was going to be the first without Dad. However, based on how things ended up, Hubby and I opted to keep with our original plans and go to visit his family for the holiday.

With my folks so close, and Hubby's previous job obligations requiring us to stay home over Christmas, we have always alternated years regarding where we spend Thanksgiving. We were at his family's last year, as well, so that we could be back on a schedule of being with my family when more relatives attend the annual Thanksgiving brouhaha.

Now, since we live in rural PA, Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal. Well, not so much Thanksgiving itself, but deer season. So, our Thanksgiving break runs nearly a full week.

The kids were all excited about going to see Gramma Bevvie and the assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Middle informed me on Monday morning last week that Oldest had imperiously informed them that they had a two-hour delay for school on Wednesday, which she knows because she's Oldest, of course.

"No," I corrected. "You do not have a two-hour delay on Wednesday."

"But Oldest said we do."

"Oldest is wrong. It's silly to have a two-hour delay the day before Thanksgiving."

And I thought the matter was settled.

Silly me.

That afternoon, an email pinged in from the school district, and I immediately understood the confusion. This Wednesday, the schools dismiss two hours early because of the holiday break. Then, school is closed through Tuesday of the next week (deer season, people), and on next Wednesday, there is indeed a two-hour delay because of Act 80 teacher inservice training.

That night:

"We have a two-hour delay on Wednesday."

"No. You have a two-hour early dismissal on Wednesday."

"Oh. Right."

Tuesday morning:

"We have a two-hour delay tomorrow."

"No. You have a two-hour early dismissal tomorrow."

"Oh. Right."

Tuesday night:

"We have a two-hour delay tomorrow!"

"No! You have a two-hour early dismissal tomorrow!"

"Oh. Right."

Tuesday, bedtime;

"Do we need to set our alarms? We have a two-hour delay tomorrow."

It was a migraine salute moment. I performed said maneuver, pinching the bridge of my nose and closing my eyes. "NO. You have a two. Hour. Early. Dismissal. Tomorrow."

"Oh. Right."

Wednesday morning:

"Don't we have a two-hour delay this morning?"

It's a wonder I didn't screech in reply.

Lather, rinse, foam at the mouth, repeat.

Thanksgiving went well enough. We had a good time with my in-laws; the turkey was delicious, and lots of food was consumed. Middle and Youngest turned nine and were showered with presents. We made it a true family vacation after my mother-in-law took us out for Chinese on Saturday night, and Special Edition had an allergic reaction to (apparently) some crab legs she ate. There's a history of shellfish allergies in her family, so that's likely what she reacted to, but all the same, she had a bad reaction to something, which necessitated an ER visit that night, and another on our way home on Monday. Good times. (She's still itchy, poor thing.)

Tuesday morning rolled around, and...

"We have a two-hour early dismissal tomorrow."

Give me strength.

"No. You have a two-hour delay tomorrow."

"Oh. Right."

Did it end there? Oh, heck, no. Hubby had to take Special Edition back to the ER Tuesday night because her hives had returned and nothing was easing them, so I tucked the kids into bed. That's when I noticed that Oldest's alarm was set.

"Why is your alarm set?"


"Your alarm. Why is it set? You have a two-hour delay tomorrow." I don't know about you, but I have no desire to be awakened by my pop-tart child at 6:45 a.m. when I don't have to be. When I know there's a two-hour delay, nobody sets their alarms.

"Oh! Right!" She jumped up to turn it off.

Next up, twins. Same thing. They had their alarm on too. I turned it off and our conversation repeated verbatim.


I know we had the same conversations more times than I've detailed here. I couldn't tell you how many times, though. I honestly lost count.

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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

No Words

I have been blog-absent for several reasons. Life got very insane here about a month ago, and I didn't have a whole lot of time to catch up.

Then school let out.

Then we left for vacation—a week in sunny Florida with my parents—two days after that.

We had a wonderful time. We stayed at my folks' place about an hour outside of Tampa, squeezing all of us into their cozy little mobile home in a Wesleyan retirement community. We went to the beach. We went to Downtown Disney. We rode the monorail all the way around the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. We monopolized the pool in my folks' community. We celebrated Dad's birthday (his 71st). We celebrated Father's Day three days early, on Thursday.

And on Friday, June 19th, we got up ugly early to drive home.

With four kids, two adults, and a thousand-mile trip ahead of us, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Mom and Dad were staying another five days or so to close up their place and have it renter-ready for the folks who had just arranged to rent it for this coming November and December.

We got home late Friday night, after 1 a.m. I suppose that makes it technically Saturday, but I'm always of the mind that it's not the next day until I get a night's sleep in between.

Saturday afternoon, we returned the minivan we'd rented for our trip, and then Hubby and I stopped at Walmart on our way home to get some essential groceries to last us until, well, I got up the oomph to get to a grocery store. I had awakened with a headache and wanted nothing more than to go back to bed as soon as we got home. By the time we got back and I headed upstairs to my jammies and my bed, it was quarter to 4.

I don't think I was up there much more than half an hour when Hubby came up. I could tell by his face that something was wrong.

"Mom just called," he said, in that kind of hushed, I-can't-believe-this tone. "She said we left too soon. Dad's heart stopped. She called the squad. They're working on him and taking him to the hospital."

My entire world rocked. "Is he gone?"

Hubby looked uncertain. "I don't know."

A few minutes later, he called Mom back. She was at the hospital. Dad was hooked up to machines, she reported, but he was unresponsive.

I have read far too many of Ambulance Driver's blog posts to ignore what that meant...but I ignored it for awhile longer anyway. I didn't want to recognize the most likely reality until I absolutely had to. I know that the writers of ER have always gotten it wrong, because to recover a patient from complete asystole is very unlikely (less than 2% success rate).

While I desperately wanted to be alone while I waited for further news, Hubby stayed with me. The absolute horror of what could be happening in Florida hovered heavily over the bedroom. I begged God to save my daddy. I wasn't ready to lose him. Wasn't ready to navigate life without him. I needed him. Please, God, intervene. Heal Dad.

Hubby logged into Skype on his phone to see if he had Sis and BIL's contact information on his account, since I couldn't remember my password for Skype. He called my sister to let her know what was going on, what little we knew. They determined it would be best if she got in touch with Bro to let him know what was going on.

Thirty (give or take) of the longest minutes of my life later, the Top Gear theme blasted from Hubby's phone. He answered immediately. "Hello... Yes... Okay... Thank you for letting us know."

I couldn't tell from his side of the conversation what the news was.


And as I watched, Hubby's head dropped.

So did my heart.

He turned to look at me...and shook his head.

Grief flooded me. "My daddy's gone?"

"Yes." He could only whisper the word.

And I fell apart.

I screamed and cried and screamed and cried, and then I screamed and cried some more.
I begged Hubby to tell me it wasn't true.

It probably took me at least half an hour to pull myself together enough. I had posted on Facebook, requesting prayer, and now I had to start telling my friends that Dad was beyond prayers.

And we had to tell the kids their beloved Poppa was gone.

It was horribly unfair.

It was horrible. Period.

We sat down with the kids, turning the TV off, breaking the news as gently as we could. They took it hard.

With not knowing where Bro was even living, and Sis being overseas, someone needed to be with Mom.

Hubby started working the family network and found out that two of my cousins were flying down that night. Their daughter was willing to drive me down the next day.

I had not even been home 24 hours before I left again, meeting up with my cousin at my aunt and uncle's (her grandparents) about an hour away.

Hubby said, as we piled in the car for the drive to my aunt and uncle's, that their son was asking how I was doing.

I had a fit.

"My dad is dead! His 88-year-old father is still alive and kicking, but my 71-year-old dad isn't! How does he think I'm doing?!"

As it turned out, we all ended up driving down on Father's Day, because Former Hurricane Bill was having a rainy field day and flights were canceled.

We spent the next few days helping Mom deal with details regarding Dad and what he wanted and what that would mean, and getting everything she didn't want to leave in Florida packed and loaded into my cousins' minivan. Mom didn't want to have to come back, in case she later decided to sell. The extent of my help was just being there; I was too overwhelmed to be much practical good. And it was very hard to be back in the house, where Dad had been so vibrantly alive just a few days ago.

Dad wanted to be cremated, so Mom honored his wishes. I did get to see him one last time; he sure looked like he was asleep (or faking it), waiting for his grandies to come in and wake him up with a zillion kisses. But he felt so wrong. Dad was full of life, warm and caring, soft and squishy (sorry, Dad; you know it's true). This looked like Dad, but it was painfully obvious that Dad was no longer there. The Crystal Bald should not feel like an ice pack, and yet it did. There was no give when I touched his chest. Hard and stiff...this was just a house.

I am still struggling to understand a world without Dad. I miss him so much. Both Oldest and I hit big birthdays next month, and the thought of Dad not being there is heart-wrenching.

Sis, BIL, and their kids are wrapping up their work overseas in Romania, preparing to come home to the States for at least the next year. They arrive back in the States on Tuesday.

Because of the complexities of overseas travel and wanting Sis and her family to not have to jump from jetlag to a memorial service, Dad's service won't be until July 6. That's going to be a very tough day, for more reasons that just that it will be chock-full of remembering Dad and lots and lots and lots of tears. However, I can say this: Mom is planning the kind of service I know Dad would have wanted. It won't be short, but it will be a fitting tribute to the best man I've ever know.

Best. Dad. Ever.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I can't make this stuff up!

"Mommy, there's something wrong with my nose."

I looked up at Oldest. "What do you mean?"

"There's something weird happening when I blow my nose." She paused for a moment, and then announced with certainty, "I think it's a curse or something."

Oh boy.

"What's happening?"

"When I blow my nose, it...there's... A bubble comes out when I try to blow my nose."

"That's called a snot bubble. It happens. It's not a curse."

"Oh. Okay." With that, Oldest skipped out of the room.

Where do they come up with this stuff?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mother's Day Brunch

Due to our church's schedule of other events, the annual Mother's Day Brunch was held this morning.

Despite my last-minute invite and my mom still recovering from foot surgery, she was able to come. (Dad and Hubby went to brunch together and then out to whack some golf balls.)

The ladies in charge of today's event did a great job, and Middle was surprised to see men there, because Daddy had told her that men weren't allowed, and that's why he and Poppa weren't going.

I explained that the men in question had done all of the cooking for us ladies. "Men cook?" Middle asked, agog.

That's really hilarious, especially when you consider the fact that Hubby cooks just as many meals as I do here. It's not like they don't see him cook.

Three different door prizes had been donated by ladies affiliated with the church who also run their own direct-sales businesses. Everybody got three tickets to put in the drawings, and you could choose which drawings you wanted to enter.

I was busily scrawling names on our tickets for myself and the girls, and one of my favorite first-service ladies came up and gave me a hug, saying, "Happy first Mother's Day Brunch, Mom!" (I did an inner cartwheel.)

At the same time, Youngest was very perplexed on the other side of the table as she watched my mom write her name.

"No," she said to my mom, "you have to write Daddy's Last Name."

"But this is my last name," Mom said.

"We got adopted, though!"

"Yes, you got adopted. But I didn't. So my name is still the same."

I don't think Youngest was very convinced, from what Mom said later.

It was awful cute, though, that she thought Gramma and Poppa should now also have Daddy's Last Name.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Misadventures of the Really Big Kid

I had a pretty nasty headache Sunday night, so I got up this morning long enough to get Oldest off to school, then woke Hubby and said, "Tag." He got the twins off to school before heading into the office, and I crashed.

Then I was awakened by a call from Hubby.

PeeJay was on his way to get me, he said.


Because Hubby was suffering (medically mild) convulsions at work. 

His doctor had put him on a new medication a little over a week ago, and he was having issues with it waking him up early, but didn't consider that to be more than an irritating inconvenience.

He'd gone into work and was fine, although he'd been awake for a long time this morning. But then he started to quiver and shake. He researched side effects of his new med. Convulsions were rare, but...wait, what are convulsions? The part of the medical definition fit what he was experiencing: uncontrollable limb movement.

It kept getting worse.

So he did something he's never done in the past nearly-four years he's been at PSC. He called PeeJay to his office.

PeeJay gave him a funny look as he walked into the office. Hubby acknowledged that this was weird. He then explained what had been going on, sitting there quivering the whole time.

PeeJay did really good at not reacting as Hubby talked.

Hubby wrapped up his explanation, saying deadpan, "I'm having a little trouble concentrating."

PeeJay chuckled. "I would imagine so!"

By the time PeeJay got me to the church office, Hubby had safely navigated downstairs and was chatting with their ministry assistant. Honestly, he looked like a blob of jello. (PeeJay said the same thing.) Hubby showed both of us how he could force the jitters to stop on one arm, but it would send the other into faster spasms.

He had a call in to the doc, but we haven't heard back yet.

I had to take his coffee when we got in the car, because he couldn't hold it without spilling and get into the car at the same time. "It's hard to balance on one foot when that foot's shaking!" he said.

We got home and he nuked his coffee. Then he tried to drink it.

His hand wouldn't hold still.

I almost told him to make sure his head quivered at the same rate as his hand so that he could synchronize and drink.

He tried three more times.

No soap.

"Will you get me a straw?"

I got him a bendy straw from the pantry.

He had to bend over and sip his coffee that way.

He decided the bed was the safest place for him (I said the couch; less distance to the floor should he rattle himself off).

"You may have to answer my phone when the doc calls back. I'm not sure I can," he commented.

He'd gone upstairs and I was contemplating lunch options when my phone chimed an incoming text.

It was Hubby.

"Well hey you should come up here. We wouldn't even need to put a quarter in the bed."

I laughed so loudly that he heard me.

I'm not sorry at all.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


I've waited a couple of days to let the emotional dust settle before really writing about Thursday's hearing (best. hearing. EVAR!), but I'm finding it's still really hard to wrap my head around that day's events.

Everything is the same, and yet...everything is different.

We tried to take Thursday as easily as possible, but we still ended up rushing around right before we left. My husband was sure my parents weren't going to leave their house on time, and in an effort to assure me that they really were on their way and getting closer—while I was frantically trying to finish Small's special hairdo, still not dressed myself, with Hubby hollering about his missing white dress shirt, and holding a hot curling iron—Dad sent repeated texts with local landmarks they were passing.

JJ had been sending me hourly countdown texts all morning, which was great fun, but since I was holding a hot curling iron near a small-ish child, I couldn't just look at my phone, so I wasn't sure if it was her again (her last one said, "90 minutes! I think we can safely count by minutes now") or if it was Dad. When my phone bleated with what seemed like the twentieth text in as many seconds, I shouted, "Stop texting me!"

Had no idea who I was yelling at, really.

Turned out it was my dad. (He was amused when I told him.)

We were supposed to meet Ms. Sciuto on the second floor of the courthouse at 1:45. Dad and Hubby dropped off all of us outside the courthouse before parking the cars, in deference to my mother's tenuous and still-recovering health, my bad ankle, and my mother-in-law's fused ankle. We herded the kids inside the building and then tried to explain why they had to go through a metal detector. Ms. Sciuto had arrived ahead of us, and warned the deputies that we would be coming through with cameras, so we had no problems there once they went through the x-ray.

Dad and Hubby soon joined us on the second floor. The previous hearing in Courtroom 4 had concluded, and so we were able to get in and show the Fries what the courtroom looked like. Ms. Sciuto indicated the judge's bench and the witness stand and got enough chairs for all five of us to sit by her. Proud grandparents along with Jester and Mitzy got relegated to the gallery.

The bailiff announced the judge's entrance, and we all stood. Before she sat, she chose to administer the oath for those of us giving testimony, and asked us to raise our right hands. Hubby and I both knew we would be testifying, and that the judge might ask the kids some questions, but it was comical when all three of them raised their hands, too. (Large got it right, but the twins mirrored the judge's stance, and so we had to get them to raise the correct hands.) We all said, "I do," when prompted by the judge after she finished the oath to tell the truth.

Ms. Sciuto called me to the stand first, since Hubby had had such trouble with dates in our hearing last year. I was asked first to provide my name, address, age, and date of birth, then my husband's name, date of birth, and the date of our marriage. He's usually the one who has issues remembering dates, especially our wedding, but I blanked for about ten seconds on our anniversary. There was a chuckle as it was obvious that I'd had a momentary brain-blank...but, let me tell you, that showed the tone of the whole proceeding.

Ms. Sciuto walked me through her questions. I described our home and our neighborhood. Yes, the statements and facts in the petition were true and correct, to the best of my knowledge. Yes, I did file three petitions to adopt the three children present. Yes, I felt I had developed a parent/child bond with Large. And Medium. And Small. (I managed to hold it together through that without losing it. Barely.) Yes, I understood that the granting of the adoption petition would make these children as though they were my natural children, that they were entitled to inherit as any natural child, that I would be responsible for them in all ways (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially) until at least the age of 18 or possibly beyond. Yes, the disclosure of fees was correct (OUCH, but correct). Yes, these are the decrees, the correct current names, and the correct (and correctly spelled) proposed new names. Yes, we did discuss these with the children. Then Ms. Sciuto announced that she had no more questions.

Judge K turned to me. "How did you come up with these names? I am just really curious."

Yeah, wasn't quite expecting that one.

"Small and I share the same first name, and as Hubby and I were discussing the new names, we realized that having two of us in the same house with essentially the same name, the only difference being the middle name, was going to be a bad idea. We'd seen records get confused before, both with my late father-in-law and my husband's brother, and with other friends. We didn't want that," I said. "So we opted to make Small's first name her middle name, so that she could still be called that, but change her first name. The one we chose was in honor of my dad, since it's the feminine form of his name."

Watching and waiting while I testify.
I smiled at Small and then went on. "Small loved the new name, and so we then asked Medium what she would like, what changes she might want to have. She said she wanted more letters." At this, Medium vehemently shook her head, and chuckles came from the court gallery and the bench. "Yes, you did. I remember that discussion at bedtime." Medium continued shake her head. "We gave her the additional letters she wanted, keeping the same phonetics but changing the spelling.

"Large was a different story. At first, we were just going to drop the hyphenated part of her middle name. Then Hubby wanted to change her middle name to the feminine form of his dad's name, to honor him, which we liked, and so did Large...for a couple of months. Then she came to us and proposed a different name, because she said her friends didn't like the new one we had talked about. We thought it would be a passing phase, but she continued to talk about it. For a year. We discussed it several times, and the last time, she was able to tell us that she wanted a name that held good memories for her." It was hard to explain how we'd extrapolated from Large's explanation—that she associated her birth first name with "houses" and it gave her bad memories, and the new first name she wanted was associated with "good houses" and people she loved—that she was clearly trying to separate herself from the name given to her by the parents who had walked away from her, and take a name that was hers, one tied to the people she loves. And with all of the Fries there in court, I certainly didn't want to say that out loud. Judge K is a smart lady, and with the way I spoke, I was sure she could put two and two together.

"So, after that conversation, we agreed to the change that Large wanted," I finished.

Hubby's turn.
Judge K then dismissed me from the stand. "Thank you. That was the only question I really had."

Ms. Sciuto called Hubby to the stand. He went through the same litany of questions that I did, although Ms. Sciuto skipped the descriptive questions I had and simply asked if he substantially agreed to my testimony. When asked if he understood that he would be responsible for raising and disciplining and loving these children, Hubby smiled. "Yep, just keep doing what we're doing." More chuckles from the gallery (peanut and otherwise).

Ms. Sciuto addressed Judge K, and introduced all three girls. Judge K noted which girl was wearing what color, complimenting each of the girls' dresses as she did so. Then Ms. Sciuto said, "Your Honor, the girls have all said they would like to try sitting in the witness box."

Judge K nodded, and Ms. Sciuto called Large Fry up. "Who are these two people next to me?"

Large talks with Judge K.
"My mom and dad," Large Fry said quietly.

"Do you know why we're here today?"

"Yes, 'cause it's adoption day."

"Is this what you want, for them to be your real mom and dad?"


Ms. Sciuto smiled encouragingly, and said she had no more questions.

Judge K scooted her chair down closer to the witness stand so she could more easily talk to Large. I wasn't sure what kinds of questions she would ask, but Judge K didn't disappoint. Her questions were very well oriented to the age of her young witnesses.

"Do you know what 'adoption' means?" Judge K asked first.

Large shook her head, and the court reporter turned so she could see and read body language and lips to get answers.

Judge K took some time to explain what adoption meant, avoiding the legalese and saying it meant that our family was going to be official now. Then she asked what grade Large was in, and what her favorite subject was.

And what kind of rules we have.

Large was intimidated enough by the events that she couldn't think of any, but nodded when the judge offered suggestions like keeping her room clean and doing her homework. Oh, I thought, I hope she doesn't ask Small Fry that, because Small has had one of those weeks where she's been on the wrong end of the rules quite a bit.

Judge K then asked if Large wanted us to be her real mom and dad. There was no hesitation. "Yes!"

Medium in the box.
Then it was Medium's turn. Ms. Sciuto asked the same general questions of her that she'd asked of Large, and turned it over to the judge.

"What's your favorite thing to do with your mom?"

"I just like to be with her."

"What's your favorite thing to do with your dad?"

"I like to be next to him. And another word for it is snuggle."

That brought grins and chuckles from more than a few of us, because, well, Hubby and I knew that's the word she'd use, and it was so quintessentially Medium that we couldn't help but laugh.

"And do you want them to be your real, official mom and dad?"

"Oh, yes!"

Small climbed up into the witness box next, and the bailiff helped her get close and adjusted the microphone, just as he had for her sisters. Ms. Sciuto repeated the same questions again for Small before nodding to the judge.

Judge K's questions for Small followed in the same vein as those she'd asked Large and Medium, ending with, "Do you want them to be your real mom and dad?"

Small's grin lit up her face as she nodded, and then said, "Yes!"

Small skipped back to her seat as the judge moved her chair back to the center of the bench.

Judge K shuffled papers across the desk, sorting out the ones she needed. "I have absolutely no doubt," she said, looking directly at Hubby and me, "that you will continue to care for these children and provide for all of their needs, emotionally, physically, and—" here her voice caught—"spiritually. This has been a long road for all of you, and now the end is in sight. I have no worries about the future of these children; they are in excellent hands. I have been through this journey with you, and I am convinced that these girls could not be loved more than they already are. Therefore, it is my great pleasure to sign these decrees and make you an official family, confirming what you've been for so long already." She looked over at the kids and smiled. "Judges don't often get to do fun things. Judges have to do sad things and hard things and scary things a lot of the time. This is the best sort of thing that I get to do." Judge K looked over at Ms. Sciuto. "So, I will sign these, just as you've prepared them, Ms. Sciuto."

Making it official.
She picked up her pen and began to sign her name. She addressed Large by name and said, "I've signed this decree, and it says your name will now be Oldest."

She slid that sheet over, and picked up Medium's. "Oh, Ms. Sciuto. There's an error on here. Um, see me afterward and we'll get this sorted out." She signed the decree anyway, and spoke to Medium. "I've signed this decree, and it says your name will now be Middle. And no one will ever say your middle name the wrong way again."

Then she took Small's decree and signed it before turning to Small. "I've signed this decree, and your name will now be Youngest."
Judge K, Middle, and Flat Stanley

Judge K's smile beamed through the room. "It gives me such delight to declare you an official family. Happy Adoption Day!"

There was lots of blinking back tears.

Judge K, Youngest, and Flat Stanley
Ms. Sciuto stood. "Your Honor, they would like to get some pictures with you, if that's okay. Especially the two youngest girls—they have Flat Stanleys."

Judge K laughed. "Flat Stanley has been all over Courtroom 1."

The judge was kind enough to pose for a whole mess of pictures, although she confessed to getting flustered over where to look. She posed with each twin and their respective Flat Stanleys, then with all three girls, and then with all five of us.

Officially official!
As Hubby and the girls drifted away and my mom came forward to show the judge the scrapbook she'd made to tell our adoption story, the judge's eyes met mine. Hers shimmered with happy tears. "I am so happy for you all," she told me. "I am so glad that you were finally able to do this. I really have no doubt that they're in great hands."
Judge K loved Mom's book.

We moved out of the courtroom amid hugs from everyone, including Jester and Mitzy. "You held it together so well up there!" Mitzy exclaimed.

Jester concurred. "I wasn't sure you were going to make it," he teased.

"Yeah, well, I wasn't sure I was going to make it, either."

We got some pictures with Ms. Sciuto, and then decided that, since the majority of us adults had skipped lunch (I don't know that you could count my Little Debbie Nutty Bars as lunch), we would go out for an early celebratory dinner. Since this hearing qualified as a religious experience, really, we decided that TGI Friday's was the best choice.
Jester, Mitzy, & girls.

"Besides, I have to get my keys back from the guards downstairs," Dad said.

"What?" I asked.

"They wouldn't let me take my keys up because of the pocketknife on my keychain."

I chuckled. "Those things are lethal, you know."

However, when we got to Friday's and I couldn't get the cross-hatches on Oldest's slushie lid to open up for her straw, Dad volunteered the services of his knife.

"See?" he said. "I told you it could come in handy."

Then he showed me this picture he'd taken on the way into the restaurant.

"Forever Family. It's everywhere!"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

More later...

...but I wanted to at least put up a quick post about today.

The hearing went great, and the adoption was happily signed off on by the judge.

Here we are, with my mother-in-law, in TGI Friday's, celebrating after court:

First family selfie!

We're officially a family!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Twenty-Two and a Half

That's how many hours we have until we all bear the same last name.

We're not counting days anymore, people. We're counting hours.

Hand-picked animal charm necklaces.
I spent four days panicking last week because I couldn't find the camera (I found it, by the way), and all I could think was we wouldn't have our own camera to document the most important day in our family's history.

I had very strange dreams involving Billy Ray Cyrus, a decidedly not-Miley Cyrus daughter, a Disney-fied version of the adoption hearing (complete with lines), and a 13-year-old or so Spencer Breslin as my makeup artist because, I was told, the hearing (despite it being closed) was going to be filmed and televised and I needed stage makeup as a result.

We bought new dresses for the girls, just for the occasion.

We bought them new necklaces.

We bought them really nice new necklaces.

Living Locket necklaces.
Mom and I wrote up text for our own adoption books, and Mom digitally scrapped them and had them made through Snapfish.

Jester and Mitzy took tomorrow off work as soon as I found out it was the date of the hearing, just to make sure they could be there.

And last night, my mother-in-law showed up unannounced, so that she could be here for the hearing, too. We were delighted that she decided to come. (I genuinely love having her come to visit, so I don't care that I didn't know she was coming.)

And in less than a day, we will be a legally-acknowledged family, for real. We've been a real family all along. This is, really, merely a formality to what we've been for nearly seven years now.

My heart is so full that I don't know what to do with myself.


On Sunday, we drove out to my folks' after church for an Easter dinner together.

And we stayed several hours. Long enough for me to barely hold my personal title of "Amazing Wii Archer" for three rounds, and finally losing to my dad (I'm practicing, Dad).

Finally we rounded up the Fries and headed for home.

Since we retired the minivan for a Nissan Altima, the kids don't have quite the backseat view that they did before. Large Fry sits in the middle, with a twin on either side. Medium, who was behind me, was leaning over and apparently squishing Large, to Large's great consternation, and so there was a discussion about why Medium was encroaching on Large's personal space.

Medium explained that she can't see the dash and wanted to see what time it was.

She didn't enunciate "can't" well enough for her older sister...

Large: C-A-N-T?

Medium:  Can't.

Large: C-A-N-T.

Medium: C-A-N-apostrophe-T.

In the front, I smothered a chuckle.

Despite not giving birth to this child, and only having a smattering of shared genetics, she did exactly what I would have done.

I am in SO much trouble.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


One of my favorite pictures ever is this one:

Wee ones in the window.

I took this on June 2, 2008, four days into The Parenthood Experiment.

I had no idea on that day that they would still be here with us, seven years later.

Nor that, a week from now, this moment, their adoption will be official and we will be an official, legal family.

You'll note I didn't say we'd finally be a real family...but that's because we've been that for nearly seven years as it is. But now, when I say these precious Fries are my daughters, I'm not talking in theoreticals. I'll be talking in realities.

They'll be issued new birth certificates, with me (who's never even been pregnant) listed as their mother, Hubby as their father.

That just gets me every time. (It also entertains me to no end, but we all know I'm really weird.)

We're in the process of planning our big bash to celebrate, and I'm sorting through my rather extensive pictures over the last seven years. How in the world will I ever narrow down my choices? I have too many great ones!

Princess jammies! (August-ish, 2008)

Visiting Daddy's family for the first time, Sept. 2008

And we put the angel on top of the tree... (11/08)

Basket buddies, December 2008.

Enthroned Fries, Ice Fest 2009 (Feb).

Yes, that sucker is hand carved.
Park playtime, spring 2009.

Tire swings are fun! (Hubby took this one; spring 2009.)

Our first Easter together: 2009. I loved those dresses!

Spring fun at Gramma's, May 2009.

Straw horse at the farm where we got pumpkins in 2009!

First soft-serve ice cream! (November 2009, I think.)

Sledding for the first time! (January/February 2010)

Easter 2010, in Gramma & Boppa's backyard.

Four princesses! Downtown Disney, Orlando, FL (5/10)

"We love the Buckeyes!" (Fall 2010.)

Christmas 2010.

Easter 2011: blowing kisses!

Easter 2012: first one at our new house!

Christmas 2012: all tied up!

Christmas, 2013.

Easter, 2014.
Four princesses, round two: July 2014.

Christmas morning with Kimo, 2014!
 And these are just some of them!

How am I supposed to choose?

I suppose this is a good problem to have, after all...