Thursday, November 3, 2016

National Adoption Month

Adoption is, as a subject, very close to my heart, for obvious reasons.

First and foremost, it's because, without it, I would have no place in the family of God. That adoption shows the reality of the hidden cost we often forget in the happiness of adoption and the creation of families: that adoption is, at its heart, redemption, and redemption does not come without a price, and sometimes, a terrible one. Without the terrible price of Jesus's life, my position as a fully adopted and invested daughter of God would not exist. It reminds me that Hubby and I are not the only ones who paid a price for the lives of our family. God paid the ultimate one to have us belong to Him.

Adoption is the reason why we have enjoyed sharing our lives with a parade of fabulous felines, some of whom we've had to say goodbye to entirely too soon. We traded a life without cat hair and hairballs and feline kleptomania for one where cat hair is a condiment, all the best seats are taken, alarm "clocks" with no snooze buttons who want to play at 4 a.m., and under-the-bed sneak attacks. I miss those we've lost—Popoki, our gentle giantess; Keiki, who liked to talk to herself and could sound like a herd of elephants when she ran across pine floors; Pa'ani, with his Edsel purr, who never met a stranger, just a new friend; and sweet Minou, whose gentle heart graced us all with her presence. I am supremely grateful for those who still share our hearts and lives: Mika, who, at 17, still thrives and is still my watch-cat and nursemaid; Koa, who has spent most of the last 15 and a half years trying to take over the world, and is also our resident klepto; Kimo, who helped us heal after our sudden loss of Pa'ani; and Makaha, who has both grown into the lofty name we gave him and still lives up to his kittenhood nickname of "Crackhead" (bestowed upon him by Special Edition), who gave me purpose and a reason to keep moving after we lost Dad so suddenly last year.

Adoption is the reason we have a house, not an apartment. It's the reason I hear pinging from a video game right now. It's the reason for an overabundance of Halloween candy in my home. It's the reason I have all of my children.

Back in the beginning, we had no idea we would end up here. We had no idea this would be the start of an adoption journey.

I remember, about a month into our parenthood experiment, when my parents came out to babysit for an evening to give Hubby and me a much-needed night off. When we returned home to my poor, exhausted parents, Hubby looked at my mom and asked, "Mom, tell me the truth. How long do you think we're going to have the girls?"

Mom didn't bat an eyelash. "Eighteen years."

Hubby's eyes bugged. "No, seriously, Mom."

"Eighteen years."

As it turned out, as it has on many occasions, Mom was right. After a little over a year, we found ourselves in the position of needing to do the unthinkable: defend the girls from those who should be protecting them but were instead placing them in direct danger. We filed suit for full custody of the girls, along with a special relief petition to keep them in our care until our custody suit was resolved.

It took 14 months for us to wind through the court process: presentation of the custody case, establishing visitation schedules, scheduling a hearing, the first continuation, the filing of the girls' biological mother's attorney to be relieved as counsel of record, reassignment to a new judge (to our great relief), a second continuation, a very pointless reconciliation hearing in which nothing got reconciled, a third continuation (this time on our part, due to the short duration of time our hearing was scheduled for; there was no way we could present all of our evidence in that amount of time and still allow for the other parties to present as well), a fourth continuation (this one and the first two were all at the bio mom's request), and then finally arriving at the hearing...and this was just the hearing on our special relief petition, not the custody case. Our attorney asked the judge to make a summary judgment on our case, based on the fact that the evidence we presented that day for the special relief petition hearing was the same evidence we would present at the custody hearing.

Our judge was relatively new, just having been elected the prior November and ascending to the bench in January of that year. But as a former county prosecutor, she knew her stuff. What we didn't know yet was how she would rule and when she would rule on our case, because our attorney didn't have enough experience with her yet. My parents were present in the courtroom; they both believed they needed to stand up for their grandchildren who could not fight for themselves, even when it meant stepping into a legal fray that now pitted two of their children against each other. My mother even testified on our behalf. She watched my testimony on the stand after the lunch break, and said afterward that she thought the judge was writing her opinion and the order as I testified. (My father called my time on the stand "magnificent" and he said he was sorry for doubting me.) And we were all astonished when the judge ruled that day.

Her order gave us primary physical custody of the girls, along with shared legal custody (which meant we had an obligation to share things like school grades when asked, to discuss major healthcare decisions, things like that), and imposed strict regulations on visitation for both biological parents. It was the best possible decision that we could have hoped for that day. It gave legal standing to what we had been doing now for more than two years. We had spent all this time acting in loco parentis, which is what gave us the legal standing to bring our case to court in the first place. Now we had the official rank of legal guardianship, formal custodianship, of these children we thought of as ours, who we were raising with all the love as if they were indeed ours.

That's only the first part of our journey, and a bare summation at that. As National Adoption Month continues, I hope to be able to share more of the ups and downs of our adoption story. Every adoption story is unique, and ours is no different. What comes at the "end" of each story—although it is so hard to call an adoption hearing the end, for it's a new beginning—is the ultimate goal of adoption and redemption.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Adventures in Babysitting

Last week, it didn't take me long to realize that the sinus infection I'd felt brewing for a good ten days had been given a kick in the pants by Oldest's nasty case of bronchitis the week before. I have been volunteering at the church office since the secretary retired, and so I went in on Monday to take care of my responsibilities, picked up Hubby from work later that afternoon, and announced I was going to bed. I slept for the better part of the next 12 hours.

Tuesday morning, I woke to find that my already-low voice had dropped an octave and a half. Hubby had to work, the twins had counseling appointments, so did I, and so adulting was going to be necessary for several hours. I don't think I'd said more than two sentences to Hubby before he determined I needed to see a doctor, and soon. Yeah, he was probably right.

So I squeezed in a run to the urgent care nearby between the twins' counseling sessions and mine. Sinus infection and antibiotics and a trip to the pharmacy. Yes, I sound terrible. I feel terrible. It's a matched set. I told my counselor she got the warmed-up voice that had moved a few steps back up the scale.

Then I went home and crashed until it was time to pick up Hubby, dozing through the kids getting home from school.

On Wednesday, I had never been so glad that I did not have anywhere to go. I got up long enough to get the kids off to school; that was it. As I sat half-comatose in the kitchen, waiting for the twins to head out to the bus stop momentarily so that I could go back to bed, Middle said, "Oh! I need to get my duck!"

She'd better hurry. Almost time to go. Almost time for me to fall over.

Middle dashed back into the kitchen. "Mom, will you babysit my duck today?"

Long-time readers will know this is a sacred charge. And I haven't been asked to babysit Duckie in weeks. Months, maybe.

I suspected this was less about me babysitting Duckie and more about Duckie babysitting me, since I was sick. Middle was giving me her best friend to help me feel better.

It warmed my heart, if not the cockles of my lungs.

"Let me know if he's bad!" Middle shouted as she zipped out the door.

I coughed, hobbled over to close the door behind them, and shuffled back to bed.

When Hubby woke awhile later to head to work, he observed, "There's a duck in our bed."

"I know," I hacked. "Middle asked me to babysit. Think it's more the other way around."

I drifted back to sleep and blearily looked at the world again around 1 p.m., and forced myself to get up and dressed. I needed food, and tucked Duckie in my jeans pocket as I moseyed to the kitchen.

I messaged Waffle about my companion and Middle's parting shout.

"I propose that Duckie be naughty and get caught on photo," she replied.

Well, now.

That sounded like more fun than anything I'd done all week, including trying to liberate my own lungs from my chest. Even if I was still exhausted.

What mischief can a small stuffed duckie with a rattle in its bum get into?

Lots, as it turns out.

He tried to eat my lunch.

Then he tried to steal my mini m&ms.

He attacked Koa with a fork.

He dove head-first into a gift bag that wasn't his.

He tried to ride Mika. (Poor Mika.)

He partied and tried to dance with a flower.

He trophy-hunted a Cootie in the hallway.

Vanity, thy name is Duckie.

After all that adventuring, we were quite tired.

So we took a nap.

Incidentally, Middle howled when I showed her these pictures.

I can't wait to be asked to babysit Duckie again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dinnertime Debate

Dinner was winding down just a few minutes ago, and I was about to pronounce that the rest of the gang was responsible for cleanup and putaway, since I had made dinner and gotten almost everything to the table all by myself. That's when Oldest blurted out that one of her friends is moving away.

Suddenly, the afternoon growling and tears and everything else made sense.

So we launched into a conversation about how, sometimes, friends do move away.

I explained how my closest friend moved in the middle of fourth grade. We lost touch, and I've not been able to track her back down. My next best friend from elementary school, KC, moved the summer after eighth grade. ("I've heard of this KC," Middle said in the middle of the story.) She and I still are in touch, and she got married the week after Hubby and I did, and she now lives in the Philippines.

Hubby talked about how mad he was in first grade, because he thought he was losing his closest friend The Goat to some new kid, Mitchie—who, in fact, became within a few years and is still one of his closest friends. Hubby himself moved away from all his friends after seventh grade, only to turn around and move right back three years later.

All of this led to talking about how Hubby used to ride his bike around to his friends' homes.

"Yes," Hubby agreed, "but I was 11 or 12."

Middle pointed across the table at Oldest. "She's 11!"

I looked right at Middle. "You're nine!"

"I'm 11!" Middle countered gleefully.

"No, you're not! I'm your mother. I may not always get your name right, but I know how old you are!"

Middle grinned impishly at me. "I'm aging very rapidly, Mother!"

My jaw just dropped, and silent laughter hit while Hubby and I looked at each other.

Maybe two minutes went by, and I felt a small hand on my shoulder. "Mama, are you okay? You've been laughing so long, I'm two years older. I'm 11 now!"

I chuckled. "Nice try."

About ten minutes later, I was up in the master bathroom upstairs, and Middle came up to scoop the litter box that's up there.

"Hey, Mama?"

"You're still"—I caught myself—"nine." I had come perilously close to saying You're still eleven.

Middle smiled at me. "You're in desperate need of something."

"What's that?"

She hugged me.

I hugged her back. "You're right. I'm almost always in desperate need of those."

"Mama," she said as she started to scoop the litter box, "you know something? When I first came in, I was gonna try to convince you that I was 11. How do you always know my mind?"

I decided that, discretion being the better part of both valor and parenthood, I probably shouldn't confess to my near-gaffe of telling her that she was still 11.

"Because I'm your mother," I said simply.

Vignettes from Opposite Sides of the House

Just now...

Middle: Mom! Mom! I'll bet you don't know what an "orthodontist" is...'cause I do!

Is it bad that I took so much glee in crushing her hopes that she finally knew a word that I didn't?

Me: I do know what an orthodontist is. I had one.

Middle: You had braces? Wow, I'll bet you looked really different.

Gee, thanks, sweetheart.


Three days ago...

Hubby: Get off me, woman!

Said to the coal-black, mouthy, sneezy, crabby, completely graceless, and slightly-less-ancient-than-Mika, 15-year-old Koa, who had no intention of leaving him alone when she wanted attention. Who cares if he has to go to work to keep her in the lifestyle to which she's accustomed? She had affection needs which she required to have met, and required that they be met right meow.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

In Which We Say Goodbye Again

These little glimpses into our lives, however fun and crazy our days, sometimes they are filled with heartache.

This is a post I could have written two months ago, even three, and had it ready. That's how long I've known this post was coming.

If we acknowledge the realities of life, it's a post that has been coming for 15 years. I don't like to think of life as nothing but a rush towards death, especially as death has overshadowed so much of my life for the past 14 months. But we are born, and we die, and occasionally, we witness both ends of the spectrum for those we love...

Friday, May 4, 2001

Let it be known, here and now, that Hubby is a seriously soft touch. We had gone to visit his family for Easter, and his sister-in-law had told him how there was a pregnant female cat in the group of strays that she feeds on her back porch...a very pregnant cat.

Hubby had looked pointedly at me. "No."

I had quickly swallowed the lump in my throat (pretty sure it was my heart), steeled myself—because I knew what happened to pregnant cats and their kittens in a community of semi-feral toms—and stared him down. "I wasn't even going to ask."

And, truly, I hadn't been. We were full up at home. We had four adult cats, Popoki, Keiki, Mika, and the most recent, Niele. It was just the two of us (and them). We didn't need any more.

But somehow...when we left, we were carting a cat carrier, borrowed from my in-laws, with a very pregnant, very cranky, very long-haired guest cat.
One very pregnant Inoa

"We are adopting them all out," Hubby said. "Even the mama."

"I know. That's fine."

We had enough friends that we'd find homes for them, including the mama cat.

"We're not naming them. We'll get too attached. We'll call them by number for birth order. One, Two, Three."

"Okay, honey."

That naming scheme worked great for the kittens. But what did we call the mom? Just kitty?

Hubby had a brilliant solution. We'd call her Inoa, the Hawaiian word that meant nameless. I almost chuckled, but it seemed to fit.

(The girl cats—Popoki, Keiki, and Niele—were less than pleased about the presence of feline girly hormones they no longer had. Mika was indifferent.)

Inoa was calm and unafraid of us and trusting, so we figured she had either been left behind when someone moved away (there's a special level of hell for those fiends), or she'd gotten out after moving with her family and tried to come back "home." And found trouble. Or, more likely, it found her. We didn't know how many kittens to expect, but we didn't figure a recent stray—she looked too well-cared-for to be anything but that, especially being a long-haired cat—could have gotten too pregnant.

And we'd never been feline midwives before. What did we know? We just knew we'd promised our nieces and nephews we'd call when the kittens arrived.

Lo and behold, we had a book, so we read up on the subject, and then we made a box and set it up in the second bedroom of our postage-stamp apartment. The book said a cat's gestation period is about nine weeks, and they start to look pregnant at about six weeks. Hubby called his sister-in-law. "Hey, how long has she looked pregnant?"

Val wasn't sure. "I don't know. Maybe around three weeks now?"

Fabulous. We're lucky she didn't drop these kittens in the car!

But here we were, another three and a half weeks later. Hubby was at work, and I was moseying down the hall for the first time that morning.

Erm, afternoon. It was about 12:30. And since nothing had been going on, I suppose we'd gotten complacent.

I stopped in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, and looked down. Huh. That's odd. Inoa had her lower half, including her rather immense belly, wedged into the bottom of our two-"story" kitty condo. "Inoa, are you stuck?"

I crouched down next to her. She was visibly panting, much like Po did when we traveled. Po hated the car, and pretty much panted from start to end of any trip and double-timed her shedding. "Here, let me help you get out of there. That's got to be uncomfortable." I reached under her to gently try to ease her out—the opening began a good inch and a half off the floor, and that'll give anyone a crick in the back, even a cat. Maybe especially a pregnant cat.

I half-muttered something about "a bear wedged in a great tightness," for she was shoehorned in there pretty good, but when I pulled her loose, she didn't come out alone!

Yeah, sometimes I'm not too swift.

A teeny, tiny brown tabby kitten followed her out, mewing in itty-bitty indignance at being so rudely interrupted from her first meal.


I quickly apologized to Inoa, but she ignored me (she was just a little busy), and I raced back to the other room. "Perfectly acceptable box, but noooo, she wants to have a belly full of babies in the kitty condo, which doesn't have enough room for her." I grabbed a pair of rubber gloves, the box we'd set up, took it back to the living room, put the condo in it, then gently placed both mama and the new baby (using gloved hands) in the box.

Within a few minutes, kitten #2 entered the world. This one looked like his mama, but with more white than she had.


I called Hubby at work. "The kittens are coming!"

His supervisor happened to be a cat person. She offered to led him come home right away. He said he was sure Inoa was fine and I was fine; he could stay at work. (She let him stay until he had an hour left in his day, and then insisted he come home to the babies.)

It was probably another forty minutes to an hour before kitten #3 arrived, looking much like her brother except black and white, without a bit of tabby to be found.
Minou, about 6 weeks, with a favorite playmate, Kermit.

Inoa coaxed all the babies back into the bottom of the condo and stuffed her still-obviously-pregnant self back in there.

"Okay, sweetheart," I crooned. "You can have them in there for now."

I tried to keep her from eating every single afterbirth, but I think she snuck them all around me. As it turned out, she probably needed them all.

When Hubby arrived home a couple hours later, I told him, "I know for sure there's three. But I think we might have four. I think one arrived, and I just can't tell, because it's so dark in there. And she's laboring again."

Hubby bent down and scratched behind Inoa's ears, talking softly to her. He was able to get a better look inside the kitty condo, and sure enough, we had four kittens now. The fourth was a little all-black spitfire.

Inoa seemed to be struggling with delivering the next kitten, so Hubby gently moved the four others out into a laundry basket with some clean dish towels and coached her through the birth. (Yes, Hubby can list feline midwifery among his skills.) This kitten was big, and another little brown tabby girl. No wonder Inoa was tired.

That's a baby Minou, by the wall,
at the far side of the kitten pile.
When another hour and a half had passed and no more kittens had arrived, we assumed we were done having kittens. (Don't you like how we say that? "We"?) Hubby put in the promised call to his brother's house and asked to speak to the nieces and nephews. While he's talking to them, I went over to the kitten box. Hubby had taken out the kitty condo, and put the top on the box (we had sacrificed a colored-cardboard storage box for this little adventure, figuring it was tall enough the kittens wouldn't get out until they were old enough). I lifted the lid to check on the babies and Inoa, and did a double-take. I counted again. "Honey, we've got another one!"

He hurried over, phone still pressed to his ear, to confirm.

The sixth kitten, also a hefty chunk of a thing, was coal-black like kitten #4.

After he hung up the phone, we sat and watched a very good mom taking very good care of very tiny babies, being very trusting of two humans she's known a very short span of her life.

Six. Kittens.

And we realized... Good golly, we live in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment that we now share with eleven felines.


The next eight weeks were a delight as the kittens became bouncy little troublemakers and did all the cute kitten things. Kittens 1 and 6  were named Amber and Zeta, and moved in with very dear friends of ours, Snarky Dad and his wife, who took our advice to get two kittens, so they'd kill each other and leave their much-older cat, Niban, alone. Kitten #2, the lone boy in the lot, Max, went to live with my friend Airman, who was also expecting a baby in a few months. Pregnancy was rough on her, and she
Minou was unthreatening, even to squirrels.
was looking forward to having a baby to cuddle ahead of schedule. #5 got the illustrious name Ceayte, and found a home with a dear college friend of ours, who moved in with us for awhile in a whole other story. And kittens 3 and 4...well, I had always wanted a black kitty, and Hubby had said we could keep one of the kittens if it was black and a boy. Sneaky #4 was in no way a boy, but certainly made it her life's mission to stay with us. You've met her. Her name is Koa.

Kitten #3 departed our home for a short while, to live with a co-worker of Hubby's and his French wife. They gave her the name Minouchette, which translates as sweetiepie. When the wife's allergies proved to be too much, the little long-haired black and white fluffy bundle came home...and never left again. We considered renaming her, giving her something Hawaiian to go with everyone else's names. But we couldn't. Minouchette was the perfect name. It suited her well. We kept it. We kept her.


August 3, 2016

I halp.
A soft meow claims my attention. If I don't make room on the loveseat, Minou will. I moved aside some papers so she has a place to settle next to me. Settling is not what she wants. My attention is what she wants, and in these last few weeks she's been very aggressive about getting it. She wants to be near me, she wants to be on me, she wants to "help" me work.

In the last year and a half or so, since we had to say goodbye to Pa'ani so suddenly, we've watched as Minou has no longer hidden upstairs in the bedroom so much. It's been nice. The Apparition, as Dad often called her, now regularly haunts the house, and perhaps, we mused, Pa'ani's happy-go-lucky, weaselly little self had had far more of an impact on the feline hierarchy of the house than we thought, because here Minou was. Not hiding.

I have claimed you, hooman.
A lot.

Just like today.

Today is different.

Today, I'm a little more tolerant of the interruption to my work.

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and this is no less true in animals. Minou's eyes have been her most effective communication, particularly in the last few weeks.

The dramatic weight loss—from a healthy 12–14 pounds in February or so, to a startlingly small 6.5 pounds last week, bringing her weight lower than Mika's for the first time in, oh, probably 13.5 years—has been nearly as eloquent.

Still surprisingly nimble, Minou alights on the cushion next to me. Our eyes meet. I can only see her right clearly, the left pressed deeply back into the socket by chronic swelling of an old cyst site that has flared again, and done what the vet has warned us it would eventually do, turned into a cancer we cannot see.

Her gaze is clear, though, love still shining through the knowledge of her condition. She knows. She knows I know.

I reach up and stroke her now-dainty head. It's funny to say that, but the weight loss is so extreme that it's even affected the shape of her head. "I know," I whisper.

There have been times I've sworn I've seen her eyes wonder and toss questions at me: I see that you see, Mama. I know that you know. I'm sick. I'm dying. ... Why am I still here?

The one thing I've never seen is censure.

Over the last two days, I have whispered my goodbyes at night, before going to bed. "It's okay, sweetheart. You don't have to stay. You can let go. If I wake up in the morning and you've gone home, that's okay. You don't have to stay for us. It's okay."

I was terrified, though, of the kids finding her like that, of me finding her like that.

Youngest and Minou
It seems she knew me better than I did, and refused to do that to us.

We'd told the kids on Monday when Special Edition and Mr. Nurse made a special trip out to say their goodbyes. Special Edition had been astonished when she touched Minou at just how much weight had simply vanished. Youngest, in particular, didn't want Minou to die; Minou was her baby. She'd developed a very strong attachment to her in the last year or so. But it was time. Oh, it was time. In fact, it was probably long past time. Minou was ready.

I gently rub her still-soft ears. "I was there when you were born. I will be there when you leave this life here." I whisper the promise gently, having already made the call. "I will not let you go alone."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It's been a terribly rough morning. Hubby opened, so I was up very early to take him to work. The first thing I did when I came downstairs was to see how Minou was.

It was both a scalding relief and a searing pain to have her walk out from the dining room.

The twins had early counseling appointments, and then I had to find something to make to take with me to the August potluck for my monthly writers group. Is it selfish of me to go, after what will happen this afternoon? Is it bad that I'm leaving Hubby to deal with the kids, and going to be with my friends, knowing I just need to get out of the house after all this?

I had enough time after errands and appointments to get home in time to make the cupcakes and pull them out to cool, and then I fetched the carrier from the upstairs hallway. I pulled out the filthy towel that was inside it; apparently this carrier had sat out after the last vet visit (probably Makaha's) with the gate open, and someone had hacked up a hairball. This would not do. I grabbed a clean one and rubbed it all over my arms and neck. Minou should at least smell me, and not some laundry detergent or fabric softener. Not on her last trip.

I cried as I carried it down the steps.

"Mama, why are you crying?" Middle asked.

I tried to rein in my temper. "Because of Minou," I managed to say.  I set the carrier on the island and bent to pick up Minou, who was at the water bowls, unable to stop my tears. She meowed as I cried into her fur. She's so light! I think she's lost even more weight!

Everything within me rebelled at the though of putting her in that carrier. I did not want to do it, even though I knew this was the right thing. I knew this was what she wanted. I knew this was what she needed, to not suffer anymore, to not be so sick anymore, to not lose what decency of life and dignity she had left. Her eyes had been giving me permission to act for weeks. They spoke that this was what she wanted, release from the disease that had corrupted this body.

It did not make it any easier to do, even as she did not fight being put into the carrier, and did not try to escape before I closed and latched the gate.

Youngest wanted to hold her on the way down. That was impractical. I put the carrier on the front seat, removed the ring on my right hand so she wouldn't cut up her face on it, and let her stroke herself against my fingers on the drive down. We picked up Hubby at work, and he drove us over to the vet while I held her in the carrier on my lap.

In the conversation during the short drive between Hubby's store and the vet's, we talked about what was going to happen, how the kids could come back if they wanted, but didn't have to, and could see as much as they wanted, but leave if they felt uncomfortable. As we pulled into the parking lot, Middle asked, "Are vets murderers?" There was a devastating pause as Hubby and I just stared at each other. "Because I think they are."

Hubby took a deep breath. "No, they're not. When you get a cut, what do you do?"

"I get a bandaid."

"Well, kitties can't do that for themselves, right?"


"And when you're sick, what do you do?"

"Tell you or Mom, and you take me to the doctor."

"Minou doesn't talk, so she can't tell us what's wrong. But we know she's sick. She's lost a lot of weight. Her body is starting to shut down." This was definitely true. I was glad Hubby was the one answering her, though. He went on, "We see these things that are happening to her, how much weight she's lost. She's lost most of her teeth. And her fur doesn't look as nice anymore, because she can't take care of it. It hurts her to move to do that. She's very old, and very sick. And as good pet owners, we know that sometimes we need to act when our pets reach this point."

You know, there really is nothing worse than sitting in the vet's waiting room, with a bunch of you wearing teary-eyed, shell-shocked expressions, with a carrier...and a small cardboard box next to it. Everyone knows why you're there, and everyone hates to be you. You're like some sort of vile disease, as you sit there and wait to be called back, twenty-five minutes past your appointment time.

The tech finally called us and we went back to the exam room. He pulled up Minou's chart; her weight two and a half years before was 15.25 pounds. I gently pulled her out of the carrier and we got her on the scale. Five pounds, 15 ounces. I answered the tech's questions about why we were there, and he said the vet would be in to talk to us.

Oldest did not want to be in the room with us, but nor did she want to be in the waiting room alone, so she settled for the furthest corner of the exam room by Daddy. Dr. M came in as I held Minou—who was not fighting being held, a pretty unusual thing for her—and did a brief exam as I explained again the sudden weight loss, the loss of bodily control, the signs of pain we'd started to see quite suddenly, the eye pressure that she had to be experiencing with her left eye. Middle and Youngest crowded close, wanting the comfort of touching their beloved friend. I asked them to step back at the same time Dr. M very kindly did, too, as she moved on to palpating Minou's belly and other things most cats offer up strenuous objections about.

Minou did not complain. Minou did not try to jump down after Dr. M finished and waved the girls back over.

Dr. M was wonderful; we have seen her before, and she explained everything she was going to do before she left to gather supplies. She looked between Hubby and me and confirmed that we were in agreement about euthanasia today. We both nodded. Dr. M left the room and came back with a soft fleece, a legal form for us to sign stating we had asked for this procedure, and the sleepy drug she had said she would use first, that would basically send Minou into a very drowsy, sleepy state, where she would feel no more pain. Dr. M laid the fleece on the table, and gently positioned Minou on it, so she wasn't laying on cold, hard, stainless steel, and injected the first drug along Minou's back. I don't know that Minou even felt it, tiny pinch that it was. It was so effective, so fast, that I was terribly afraid we were actually going to lose Minou before the barbiturates were administered.

That seems so silly to write...but I suppose I was afraid she was going to suffocate under the effects of the first drug and it would cause her pain, and that's what we were trying to avoid, giving her more pain, more suffering. But Minou merely drowsed. Middle and Youngest joined me by the exam table as we told Minou how much we loved her, how much we would miss her, that she should go find Poppa when she got to heaven, and we cried. But we loved on her as much as we could in those last few moments.

When Dr. M came in with the barbiturate, Oldest asked if she could go back out to the waiting room. We let her go. We knew she would process her grief in her own time. Youngest turned tear-filled eyes to Hubby. "Daddy, I don't think I can watch." He opened his arms and she ran into them, burying her face against his chest.

Dr. M gently shaved off some of Minou's surprisingly still-thick fur on  her back leg, located a vein, and pushed the final dose. Middle stood by me, her hands on Minou's shoulders the whole time. I felt the last gentle puff of air exhale with Minou's final breath, and cried in relief that she was at peace. "I promised," I whispered nearly inaudibly into her fur. Dr. M pulled her stethoscope from her neck, popped in the earpieces, and pressed the bell against Minou's chest. "No heartbeat," she gently confirmed. "Stay as long as you need to, okay?"

Hubby came over with Youngest and the four of us stood there and cried. When we were ready, Dr. M helped us carefully move Minou's body into the small cardboard box we'd brought with us. We would, we explained, take her home and bury her there with her brother and sisters.

As we helped funnel dirt back over the body of our dear friend, whose life we have had the privilege of caring for, from before her birth until today, her last day, Oldest wandered over with some flowers. She'd wanted to write on the flagstone we used as a marker, too. "I miss her," she said.

I squeezed her shoulder. "I know you do. I do, too."

My faith tells me that God loves His creation—all of His creation. He believes all of it is good. And if God cares enough to know that two sparrows are sold for a farthing, if He cares enough to daily dress the lilies of the field, if He promises to redeem His entire creation as His word says, then I know Minou now races in His presence.

As Middle wrote on the stone, we will see you soon, dear one. See you soon.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Youngest's Update

Ahhh, Youngest. She certainly kept our summer from being boring.

I debated titling this post "Adventures in House Arrest," because Youngest spent quite a bit of time confined to the house and yard this summer, not being able to go very far, due to a series of back-to-back groundings as a result of her riding around the neighborhood, well beyond allowed borders, on a number of occasions, without telling anyone she'd left or where she was going, with me only finding out afterwards. So Youngest found herself stuck with me, while I worked at home, rather than playing, or doing distasteful chores.

And there was the low-level larcenous behavior, too, of breaking into our neighbor's (unlocked) home, saying hello to Garden Lady's kitties, and perusing her freezer to find a box of 100-calorie ice cream sandwiches—and eating the five left in the box, leaving only the empty box behind. (When Garden Lady's mom told Hubby of the "break-in," and the startling theft of only ice cream sandwiches, it became obvious the perpetrator was under 5' tall.) Needless to say, Youngest will have to replace Garden Lady's ice cream sandwiches with her own money.

But it hasn't been all bad, really. She is our child who would rather ask forgiveness than get permission, that's for sure, but she has a kind heart and she loves her friends.

And, as I mentioned in this post, she is a source of surprises and amusement.

Mom has been out to visit on several occasions this summer. Never for very long, due to our cats and her allergies, but Mom has come out for a couple of days here and there. The morning after Middle's surgery, Mom handed me a ball of soft material. "I found this in the bathroom trashcan upstairs. I have no idea what it is, but it wasn't there last night when I was last up there."
Add caption

I took the wad of cloth from her, recognizing it immediately (I'm so sorry, SunshineLady). Swimsuit material. To be more specific, the flowy fabric part from the tankini top of a bathing suit set my college friend SunshineLady had bought—three matching suits for my darling girls, several summers back. They still fit the twins, barely. The tops were these little bralettes with this fabric that flowed down and around that hooked together in the back, so that, with the bottoms, it made pretty much a full-coverage suit. I liked them. And I knew that, with this fabric cut off, the top was basically...a bra. One very, very similar to Oldest's new purchases, in fact. And the one sibling who was most jealous of new girly things was...Youngest.

"I know what it is."

"What is it?"

"It's swimsuit material." I looked from the ball in my hands to Mom. "It's from a tankini top." She still looked confused. "It's the bottom part of a tankini top. And I'm pretty sure why it was done."


I leaned in conspiratorially. "Someone wanted a bra."

"Oh!" Mom chuckled.

When Hubby got home that night, we both sat down with Youngest, who did confess that she was the one who cut off the material. "Why did you do that?" Hubby asked her.

"Because I thought maybe I could craft with it," she mumbled.

There was a short discussion about how we do not destroy clothing (even if it's our last summer of wear) for crafting purposes, and we especially don't do that without checking with Mom or Dad first.

Hubby paused for a moment, then leaned over the kitchen island a little, in a secretive yet nonthreatening way. "Were you going to use it as a bra?"

"What? No!" Youngest denied, while looking like she'd swallowed a small eel.

"I thought maybe that was why you did this," I said. "Because you wanted a bra like Oldest's."

"Maybe a little?" Hubby said with a smile.

Youngest nodded.

Cow hugs!
"Yeah, we kinda thought so." He smiled at her. "It's okay to want big girl things. But Mom and I know when you'll need them. And when you do, we'll get them for you. So let's not cut up any more swimsuits, okay?"

We take Cow Appreciation Day
very seriously!

Youngest was also very brave on July 12. As anyone near a Chick-fil-A knows, July 12 is Cow Appreciation Day, and it was the first that Hubby's store was experiencing, since it's only been open since late January. Show up in any kind of Holstein gear, and you get a free entree. Youngest was determined to get a picture with the Chick-fil-A Cow, who also made an appearance that day. And for still being sometimes a little shy around people—and cows—she doesn't know, she did really well, and got a picture with the Cow before we left.
Happy cows.
Watch out for this guy. ;)

It was the happiest riot I've ever seen in any fast-food joint. I even saw a guy come in with a Cow Tails caramel cream pinned to the bottom back of his shirt. (Genius.) Even the crew got in on the fun, many of them decked out in cow-themed gear.

We're saving our shirts. I can hardly wait until next year!

Middle's Update

I started writing this post the night I was watching the women's 200-meter backstroke semifinals, live from Rio, and this is mostly because I was waiting for Michael Phelps to come out and stun the world again.

Special Edition is a little surprised that "we are an Olympics family. I didn't know that." Well, we are not nearly as devoted as, say, Jen Hatmaker, whose nightly posts have been a source of absolute hilarity for me. (I nearly herniated myself, laughing over her observations on Ryan Lochte's hair color. Mostly because they mimicked mine. Intervene, Jesus.)

And the updates on the dear wee ones here ended up having to wait due to my last book project, which was on a deadline, but I'm sure you've been breathlessly waiting.

You need to breathe.

I need to not neglect this blog.


She's had quite the summer. We had her checkup with her pediatric ophthalmologist in mid-June, regarding her exotropia. For those of you not in the know, this is an eye problem that looks kind of like it might be a lazy eye, but it's not. Short version: her eye muscles don't want to work well together, and they are not strong enough or tight enough to force her eyes to focus together like they're supposed to. Her glasses have been compensating for this, but even so, when she's tired, her left eye especially drifts way out of alignment. Both eyes are exotropic, but the left is the most obvious, particularly when she's tired. Despite our efforts, the doctor checked her eyes and determined that Middle was now at the point that she needed surgical correction.

The first available date was the week Middle was going to be at swim camp, and since Middle wouldn't be able to put her head under water for two weeks following surgery, we definitely didn't want to cut swim camp short, so surgery was scheduled for July 7. Middle was both petrified and excited. She finally got to have surgery and get presents like her sisters had gotten for their surgeries!

When we picked up Hubby from work, and I was explaining all this to him, Middle piped up from the back seat that she wanted to pick out her stuffed friend as her hospital buddy. (We've gotten both Youngest and Oldest a stuffed friend for the day of their surgeries.)

"I know what you want," I said, glancing in the rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of her in the back seat. A quick look at Hubby showed he was smiling.

"What?" Middle demanded.

"A duck!"

There was an audible, slightly-indignant gasp from behind Hubby's seat. "How did you know?"

I proceeded to quote her, verbatim, from a conversation we'd had no more than two weeks before, "'Mommy, I have to tell you something. Dodo birds aren't my favorite animal anymore. They're my second favorite. I just can't stand it anymore. I need more ducks!'"

Hubby dissolved into giggles, while Medium muttered a mostly happy, "Oh. Yeah," from the back seat.

I risked a glance at Hubby as we sped up the highway. "Why are you laughing? I told you about this last week!"

"I know," he gasped. "It's still funny!"

Medium had, you see, decided about six or eight months ago that ducks were no longer her favorite animal. Dodo birds were, despite their distinct extinctness. While she never fully explained it, I suspected that some pesky third-grade stinker found out about her love for ducks, made fun of her, and so she found something much "cooler" to love, even if it meant shoving ducks to second place and not being able to get any Dodo bird figures for Christmas. She was, however, terrified to hurt Gramma's feelings by telling her she no longer loved ducks. So, when she'd made this pronouncement a couple weeks before, it came as no surprise to me, but the method of delivery was a scream. Hubby had dissolved into giggles then, too.

A couple of days before the surgery, after a mother-daughter disagreement about chores (she wanted to be done; I said she needed to do two more things before she could be done with the den cleaning), I heard something suspicious: the sound of a full garbage bag thumping down the stairs. In retrospect, I should have recognized what was going on as her nerves about the approaching surgery. Oops. I only realized it when I saw the date on the picture I pulled to use here. Innyhoo...I discovered that Middle had bagged up all of her ducks because someday she was "going to have to pass them down to my children, so I'm going to have to get used to not having them, so I might as well start now."

Some days, this girl is so my Mini-me, it's frightening.

Partial Meeting of the AJSFA
We had a conversation about how she's only nine and a half, and she doesn't have to worry about that for a very long time. I showed her a big box in the attic that holds a bunch of my stuffed friends, which I still have, despite my rather advanced number of years compared to hers. I asked if she wanted to see what was in there. She said no.

But within fifteen minutes, she'd changed her mind, and wanted to see what I had in there (which, by the way, was a box much bigger than she thought, as it was a vacuum box, and still doesn't contain the entirety of the Auntie J Stuffed Friends Alliance). So I helped her get into the attic and we brought the box down to the living room. And we squealed over my Friends.

I was really hoping the stuffed duck from my childhood was going to be in that box. I was going to let him go into Middle's extended care.

Needless to say, I unpacked the bag of ducks and gloriously dumped them back all over her bed at her request.

Surgery on July 7th was very successful, and the surgeon—her ophthalmologist—was very pleased with how well the procedure went. On its surface, it's a simple surgery, putting a dissolvable suture into the controlling muscle to tighten it and thus force the eyes to align. Poor Middle woke up in recovery essentially blind, because her eyes were covered with a massive ice pack, and she couldn't see us. She could only hear us, and the anesthesia does wonky things to the brain. Hearing her say, "Daddy, is that really you?" was heartbreaking. She felt better once she could feel us touch her. The PACU staff were wonderful. Having never experienced anesthesia before, nor narcotics, we didn't know how she was going to react to certain medications. We were so grateful that the anesthesiologist was willing to come back several times to check on our daughter, who didn't seem to be responding to the pain medicine right away. He said that sometimes he sees kids not respond right away to the
Middle with our PACU nurse
medication he used, and then it kicks in with a bang—and that's exactly what happened with Middle. It seemed to take forever to kick in, but when it did, it was very obvious it had. We were able to travel home with popsicles and some cool new sunglasses for Middle's now very sensitive eyes, and between the prescribed pain medicine (which we used at night) and staggered over-the-counter stuff, we were able to keep her mostly comfortable as she recovered.

The following week was my birthday. I did not celebrate last year, despite the decadal mark I hit, because it was so soon after losing Dad, and those kinds of birthdays were always such a big deal in his family. I wasn't sure I really wanted to celebrate this year, but knew I needed to, even if just for my kids. Mom came out again (she had been out the week before for Middle's surgery), and we all drove out to a gorgeous lake about an hour and half away from us. Hubby had been to Ollie's recently, and had found a Civil War book he wanted, so he'd allowed the kids to spend $5 on themselves, and the twins had found a set of walkie-talkies they really wanted. Since we took two cars, we used their walkie-talkies to communicate, and it was an hour and a half of, "Do you read me?" "I read you. But do you read me?"

After several hours of fun in the sun at the lake, including meeting up with my cousins who live within 40 minutes of the lake and were able to come out and join us at the spur of the moment, we headed for home, and stopped at a local Hoss's Steakhouse for my birthday dinner. At one point, before our dinners arrived, I looked next to me to see Middle yanking her straw out of her drink in order to sluck down the soda remaining in the straw. Since I'd just asked her not to do that a few minutes before, she looked impishly guilty when I caught her.

"I can't help it!" she exclaimed. "I'm a hooligan!"

Mom burst into laughter while I fought to rein in my smirk.

"Or," Middle mused, "a hoolibarian. A hooligan and a barbarian." She smiled proudly at me. "I made that word up myself. A combination of hooligan and barbarian."

"I know." I couldn't contain the chuckle. Mom was still laughing. This girl... God, does Dad see this stuff from up there? He'd love this one.

And we have conversations like this all the time with Middle. It's frightening. It's awesome. It's hilarious.

This morning, I was half awake while Middle was talking to me about her library book, about drawing reptiles and lizards, and the conversation had started out about why her book didn't have any pictures of pterodactyls in it, just the pteranodon and quetzalcoatlus flying dinosaurs. I tried to pay attention, I really did, but I was exhausted and zoned out at some point along the way. I know she mentioned something about several of her classmates saying things (all of them boys), but the next thing I clearly heard was, "And then the kitties will have crunchy poop. Yeah, really crunchy poop."

I decided Rule #2 was best employed there and let her keep talking until I needed to go check the load of clothes in the dryer.

Innyhoo, the first follow-up checkup for Middle's eye surgery showed that one of the muscles had been a tad over-tightened. Dr. S was a bit surprised ("It's been awhile since I've done that; guess I have to keep myself humble," she observed). However, the extent of the exotropia in that eye was so severe that she suspected Middle was still relying on old muscle memory to help it keep crossing the way it was, so she wanted to give it a month and see how Middle was then. When we went back a week and a half ago, the eye was greatly improved, and Middle just needs new glasses to help finalize the proper muscle adjustment.

Starting fourth grade and a new school this year has been a big adjustment, and with everything that's gone on this summer, we've been very glad that Middle has her counselor to help with processing the fear of the surgery and the new school and school year and several other events.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Music Hath Charms...

Charles Emerson Winchester III found music to be a refuge from the ravages of wartime service in the 4077th M*A*S*H unit. Upon leaving at the end of the war (the show's run), he realized that music itself was now a permanent reminder of the war.

In many respects, music is equally a refuge for me, but at the same time, it's an ever-present reminder of my dad, and some music still hurts far too much to listen to.

Shortly before Christmas, I came across a new musical addiction that I've fallen completely in love with, and I desperately wish I could have shared this group with my dad. I think he would have loved them, too. But in the lack of sharing there's something of a blessing...I can listen to Home Free Vocal Band without the angst of grief over shared love.

All of this is to explain the following conversation that was had in the car last week, on a day when Oldest forgot to take her ADHD medication in the morning (she said she was "absolutely sure" she did) and I didn't find out until much later in the afternoon.

Home Free Vocal Band, on a recent video shoot.
I had plugged my phone into the aux port on the stereo system in my car and we were listening to Home Free via Spotify as I drove.

Oldest: Mommy, if you could marry any of the guys from Home Free, who would it be?

Oh, brother. 

Me: Well, honey, I'm married, and Adam and Rob are both married.

Oldest: What if they weren't? And you weren't? Who would you marry?

Middle: I'd marry Adam, and make sure he's not a robot. And then I'd make him teach me how to do that.

Middle is convinced that Home Free's beatboxer, Adam Rupp, must be a robot in order to make all the sounds he does.

Oldest: Mommy, which one is the one who sings so high?

Me: Austin?

Oldest: No, not him. The other one. [mimics singing] The one who does that. You know, on that song.

Me: I don't know which song you're talking about.

Oldest: I don't want to marry Tim, though. Mommy, it's the other one. The one who sings like this. On this song. [mimics again].

Light dawns.

Me: That's Rob.

Oldest: I'd marry Rob.

Middle: Why? He'd take up too much of the bed, and I'd smack him in the face!

Rob, Home Free's tenor, is a big guy like Hubby.

Meanwhile, Youngest is staying silent on the subject, and apparently shaking her head through this whole exchange.

Me: Rob and his wife are going to have a baby girl any day now.

(Trivia: she was born last week. Congratulations, Rob and Kelsey!)

Oldest: They should name her Emerald!

Me: That's a pretty name.

Middle (disgusted): It's a rock.

Me: It's a gemstone, yes. But it's also a name. However, I don't think that you get a say in their baby's name.

Oldest: Why not? They should name her Diamond!

Middle: No!

Oldest: They should name her Roxie, like my friend. It's short for Rock Star!

Me: Roxie is usually short for Roxanne or Roxanna.

Oldest: It's short for Rock Star. That's why I call her Roxie. (pause) They should call her Gold!

Me: They aren't going to take naming ideas from you.

Oldest: They should!

Middle: No, they shouldn't!

Middle, you are too right. Thank goodness they didn't.

Mid-Summer Update

I'm just gonna warn you now: get cozy. There's two more similar posts coming, and they're going to be longer than this one. Life here has not been dull.

Lest you think that we don't love Special Edition or Oldest very much because I'm lumping them into one update together, well, that's not true. They just haven't wreaked as much havoc this summer. This is partly due to the fact that Special Edition now lives with her fiance about two hours away from us, and that Oldest has mostly, well, kept her nose clean and only not forgotten to take her ADHD meds a couple of days, which has resulted in some insanity for me.

Special Edition, graduate!
Special Edition did, however, have one great moment that we definitely need to acknowledge and celebrate: she graduated from high school at the end of May.

We are so very proud of her.

So proud we could plotz.

So proud I almost did.

Oh my goodness, there's no way to describe how much we love this girl.

She came out and spent a few days with us so that she could go to the required rehearsals in order to walk in the ceremony, and we were so thrilled to have her home for that short time.

The last two Sundays, we have met up with her and Mr. Nurse, her fiance, at a lake that's relatively near us, and had a marvelous time. It was great fun to be able to just hang out and enjoy each other's company. Oldest's birthday is next week, so we're trying to arrange another lake party for that.

Speaking of Oldest, she is also doing well. She's nervous about the fact that she starts middle school in the fall, but otherwise is a spunky kid. Thanks to a camp scholarship, she spent a week at summer camp in mid-June and came back less tanned this year than she has in years past. She didn't pick swimming as one of her activities this year. Otherwise, she would have come back nearly as chocolate-colored as a Hershey's Special Dark bar. I need SPF Bulletproof. She barely needs sunscreen to protect from sunburns (we still have her use it for obvious reasons). She doesn't burn. She just gets darker. Me, I can burn on a cloudy day.

Oldest also made a big step into the world of growing up this summer, too. (She was so excited about this that I don't feel bad about sharing it.) She now has training bras, and is very excited. She even made me text Gramma about it right away. Lessons in bra-wearing etiquette have been ongoing.

And, that particular story is important for when you read Youngest's forthcoming update.

Last week, while the twins were at swim camp, I had Oldest with me when I went to go pick up Hubby from work. Oldest had, that particular day, forgotten to take her focus pill in the morning and I hadn't discovered it (because she told me she was "absolutely sure" she had) until about 3 in the afternoon, and one of the things that happens with ADHD is that, well, in Oldest's case, she can't stop talking. And I'd had enough. She'd been running her mouth nonstop for eight hours. And the whole drive down to Hubby's store.  And while we waited for him to finish.
Oldest. She's all legs, isn't she?

And so I snapped at her when we all got in the car.

"Why are we yelling at her?" Hubby asked.

"Because she didn't take her pill this morning like she said she did, and she hasn't shut up all day, and I just told her to be quiet a few minutes ago. She's driving. me. NUTS!"

Hubby just laughed at me. He has ADHD too. He knows how next-to-impossible it is for her to actually stop talking when she doesn't have the help of the medication to slow her brain down so that it works more efficiently. So do I, but I had no more nerves left.

Thankfully, we've managed to make sure she takes her pills regularly and missed doses are few.

Stay tuned. Updates for Middle and Youngest are coming...and they're doozies.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


This was the day that all fifth-graders dread: the day that the boys and the girls are split in health class and get to watch horrifying instructional videos about themselves and their bodies.

Oldest came home in something of a panic.

There were, shall we say, "party favors" passed out with the video lesson.

She was terrified. And mortified. And probably several other -ifieds that she hasn't figured out yet.

We sat and talked for an hour.

I had to shoo her siblings out of the room several times, because she desperately didn't want to discuss any of this around them.

"Mommy," she asked tentatively, "do we have to talk about this every day? Can it just be every other day?"

"Honey, we can talk about it whenever you have questions, but we don't have to talk about it every day."

After dinner, the subject apparently came up again, this time with Hubby. There was a brief conversation with all three girls regarding some things, and then Youngest had a question: "What's pyooterberry?"

As Hubby related this to me while the girls were getting ready for bed, I tried not to laugh too much, but pyooterberry was too good to not write down.

Hubby also explained why a simple misstep in the kitchen had Oldest blubbering uncontrollably earlier. She was petrified of all that had been discussed today.

She slunk back into the room while we were talking and settled on the couch next to Hubby, snuggling close to his side.

We reiterated that she can always come to us with questions, that this is something that every girl goes through, and that it's going to be okay.

Then Oldest wanted to know why it was that she didn't have any bras yet, because "almost every" girl in her school wears them. I explained that she didn't need them yet. Of course, this led to wanting to know when she would, and Hubby and I both explained that it's different for each girl. She peeked down her pajama top to look at her chest, and sighed. Then she announced that it bothered her that her one nipple was flat, and the other wasn't.

Hubby looked like he'd swallowed a live eel. He awkwardly patted her arm. "It's okay, honey. They' better."

I thought  his eyes were going to either explode or pop out of his head, and tried really hard to not laugh at him.

Middle had popped into the room during that conversation and was smothering Kimo with affection. Now she turned and looked at Hubby. "Are there fake boobs?"

I slapped my hand over my mouth and watched the expressions chase themselves over Hubby's face.

He hesitated for a moment. "Yes."

"How do I get those?" Medium immediately asked.

Oh, I am so glad she's asking him these questions, not me!

"Well," Hubby said, "most junior high girls get them by stuffing tissues in their bra. Or there are special doctors you can go to and get what are called implants put into you."

This then led to a discussion about breast sizes, and how there is no one-size-fits-all policy there; it just depends on your genes, and that some are small, and some are big.

Enter Youngest, who has finally finished getting ready for bed, and has only heard "...some are small, and some are big."

"Like Abraham Lincoln!" Youngest chimed in, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.

I very nearly fell off the couch, hooting with laughter.

"What?" Youngest said indignantly. "He's big!"

True enough, Hubby agreed, but not remotely close to the topic of conversation at hand.

Meanwhile, Middle is running over to see what I'm typing (I'm messaging with Waffle), as I'm still gasping and hooting, and demanding to know what's so funny.

It was pretty much left to Hubby to explain why Youngest's comment caused hilarity. Lucky him.

Then he asked her to tell me what they'd been talking about downstairs, after dinner. Mostly so I could hear it, I'm sure.

"Pyooterberry," Youngest said with a giggle.

"And how is it really pronounced?"

"Pyooterberry." More giggles.


We still have some work to do before pyooterberry hits.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Our street lost power this morning at about eight minutes to five. Yes, I know the exact time. Apparently I was in a point in my sleep cycle that the sudden stop of my bedside fan jolted me immediately awake.

Hubby took a quick stroll down the street and determined it wasn't just our house; it was everyone. I squinted blearily at my cell phone and punched in the information to report the outage, which the electric company hadn't registered yet.

Thank goodness for my pay-as-you-go plan's 3G.

The power came back on about ten after six, and this whole thing is, believe it or not, an important part of the story.

It has been rainy and threatening rain here for the last several weeks, the temps have still been doing a marvelous yo-yo impression (albeit without previous extremes), and I have been miserable as my crankle (as my friend Marti (previously mentioned here as Anne; Marti is more fun, she thinks) and I have taken to calling my cranky ankle) has protested the bipolar weather. Today was no exception, and after ferrying Oldest to school at 7a this morning for an all-day field trip, then Hubby to work because I would need to pick up Oldest before he was off work for the day, then picking Oldest up (which took a ridiculous amount of time because the rest of the world was picking up their fifth-graders too), then picking up Hubby, and then finally driving home, my foot cried foul. I grabbed my heating pad and parked myself on the loveseat in the living room.

As the kids were getting ready for bed, my phone beeped a couple of incoming texts. The pharmacy, I noted, saying my prescriptions had been refilled. Hooray...but there was no way I could go get them. The lesser of two evils was definitely tucking the kids in...and resetting their alarm clocks. I dispatched Hubby to Rite Aid and hobbled up the stairs.

I reset the twins' clock first, making sure the alarm had maintained the proper time (it had). Then I kissed everyone goodnight (Middle, Youngest, and Kimo, who had joined Middle in bed), and gimped down the hall to Oldest's room. Using the light from my phone, I reset her clock...and noticed the paper box she'd appropriated from somewhere that was filled with barbie dolls and ponies.

And...what the heck?

I bent and picked it up. Yup, exactly what I thought it was.

Holding it between two fingers, I looked over at Oldest, who was watching me, and lifted it up so she could see. "Where did you get this?"

"From the recycle bin."

With my hands both occupied, I couldn't perform the migraine salute I felt coming on. "Why do you have it?"

"I wanted it."

"For what?" Really, Auntie J, you know better. Rule #2, woman.

"I wanted it for my dollies."

"This isn't for dollies." I paused as I looked at it again, then back at Oldest. "Do you know what this is for?"


Okay then. "Did it have anything inside it when you found it?"


"It was clean when you found it?"


Whew. "This is not for dollies."

I got downstairs and texted a picture of my find to both Marti and Hubby. Since I was chatting with Marti Waffle* on Facebook anyway, it was easy to relate the whole story. Hubby sent me a voice message in reply, dread dripping from each syllable: "Is that what I think it is?"

Yes. Yes it is.

I've yet to tell him the whole story, but I had the horribly inappropriate thought that a) the dollies would hate having to use something this big, if b) they had the need to use it anyway.

*Postscript: Marti now wishes to be called Waffle, because she told me she liked the idea of having "an alter eggo," and I asked if she was now a waffle. So there we go. Anne = Marti = Waffle. I hope I can remember this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hernia Mesh Warning, Class V

I've got my earbuds in, working on aligning and syncing the captions I've typed out for a video (I do some interesting work, I tell you), and I've just finished unsnarling a particularly hairy spot where the speaker is talking rapidly enough that I have to adjust the caption groups so that the words on screen aren't flying by at too fast of a rate.

That's when Middle bounces into the room, where Hubby is sitting on the couch, watching a silly video on Facebook involving pants.

Middle: Daddy, are these bad words? S-E-X and S-E-X-Y?

Hubby: Do you know what they mean?

Middle: Well, I think the second one is kind of like Hannah Montana. She got too sexy.

Hubby: Do you know what sex is?

Middle: I think it's when you're sort of bad-ish.

I slapped a hand over my mouth, trying desperately not to laugh out loud, keeping the video on pause.

Hubby: Noooo...

Middle: Why don't you use your phone?

I turned my face into my elbow and hoped that would muffle my laughter.

Hubby: I don't need to use my phone. I know what it is. ... Are you hearing these words at school?

Middle: I'm seeing them in word searches and stuff.

Hubby: Oh, you are?

Middle: Yeah, kid word searches. Sex and sexy are right there, at the bottom.

Hubby: Okay, well, they aren't bad words, but they're grown-up words. "Sexy" is when you think someone is really good looking, when you look at them and you think "Hubba hubba!" I think Mom is sexy. You'd have to ask her if she thinks I'm sexy.

Middle: Hey, Momma!

Me: Oh, no. I'm not getting into this conversation!

Middle: You can hear us?!

Me: Yup. Not getting into this.

Middle: Why not? You're the smartest one in this house!

Hubby (laughing): I'm not disputing it. There are some things I know more about than Mom , but not much. So I'm not disputing.

Middle: Some of the kids in class said there were bad words. Mr. S [her teacher] said they weren't bad words, they just weren't for kids.

Hubby: Can you pick up this couch?

Middle: No.

Hubby: Because it's too heavy for you, right? Just like you can't pick up the couch because it's too heavy for you, these words are too heavy for you, too. When you're older, we'll talk more about them. Okay?

Middle (nods): Hey, Dad, I'm gonna give you a word scramble. What's E-T-T-S?

This kid. She's going to be the death of us. If not from her brains, from her rapid-fire subject changes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

So Put That in Your Blog and Smoke It

Hubby went and picked up Oldest and Middle from church tonight, and—after tucking the kids into bed—told me about what they'd talked about on the short trip home:

Hubby: What did you learn about tonight?

Oldest or Middle: The little boy king.

Hubby: The little boy king?

O/M: Yeah.

Hubby: Oh, you mean the rich young ruler.

O/M: Yeah!

Hubby: What happened?

O/M: He came and asked Jesus what he had to do to get into heaven.

Hubby: And what did Jesus say?

O/M: That he needed to obey all the commandments.

Hubby: What did the rich young ruler say to that?

O/M: That he'd kept all of those since he was a kid.

Hubby: Then what did Jesus say?

O/M: That he had to get rid of all his stuff, and he was sad.

Middle: And then they didn't finish the story!

Hubby: What?

Middle: He was sad, and then they didn't finish the story! He just walked away!

Only Middle, my storyteller, would ask that.

Hubby: Well, the reason he was sad is because he was rich, and he had lots of stuff, and he didn't want to give it away. That's why he walked away sad. He didn't want to give it all up.

I'm pretty sure at this point that Middle still thinks the story didn't end right, because we don't know what actually happened to the rich young ruler.

Hubby: So, what did Jesus say about being rich and getting into heaven, then?

Oldest: Something about a donkey.

Hubby: Noooo... A camel.

Oldest: Oh, right. Something about sticking a needle in a camel's eye.

Hubby chuckled here in his retelling, and I could see him trying to drive and have this conversation.

Hubby: No, Jesus said it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. What do you think that means?

Here Hubby, former youth pastor, with four years of religion education, stopped and looked at me. "So I'm really enjoying this. I'm having a deep, meaningful, spiritual conversation with my kids. I'm loving it. And that's when..."

Middle: I don't know, but I think we should ask Mom. She's the expert.

Hubby: You ungrateful little curs get in the house and get ready for bed!

"You did not say that to them!" I said.

"Yes, I said exactly that! 'Mom's the expert.' So put that in your blog and smoke it."

Tentacles: A Photo Essay

Grief is, as I've said before, an odd beast, that travels in drunken, staggering lines and weaves its tentacles into odd places in life, popping up at the most unexpected moments. For reasons I have not been able to determine, this week it has hovered dangerously close to the surface, leaving me teetering on the edge of tears on a near-constant basis.

I miss my dad.

A lot.

No amount of chocolate or french fries can fix it.

I miss my dad.

So, indulge me for a few minutes while I share some of my favorite memories.

Dad's 70th, making s'mores in his birthday firepit.

Mom & Dad with all the grandies (at that time)

That's Dad there on the right (thanks to DM, to his left, for this pic).
Dad loved to sing with the choir.

Middle, peering into The Crystal Bald.

Dad with his 2E buddies (from the choir's select group).
Handsome guys, right? (I love that tie.) Another one from DM.

Dad as a boy. Isn't he cute?
No, I don't remember back this far.

Dad would often lay in bed and pretend to be asleep,
just so the girls would come wake him up with a zillion smooches.

Dad and me, on my wedding day.

Dad as a young man. Handsome dude, he was.

Middle discovers Boppa's sweater has buttons.

Middle learns the art of combing Boppa's hair.

"Take a picture of me and my girls. Now make sure you send that to me!"

2010, when we all went to Florida together.

With Youngest.

Another from Dad's 70th. That was my gift to him that year.
Of course he went and put it on right away.

Dressed up as The Evil Queen. (You had to be there.)

Boppa was given Duckie for safekeeping.

Taking selfies with Boppa!

Dad really was such a good sport.

Yes, he's wearing a (clean) Pull-up for a hat.
I got in so much trouble for taking this.

Gotta love a guy who will let his granddaughters dress him up in pom-poms.

And boas.

Boppa makes a good slide!


That flip-out LCD on Boppa's camera is so cool.

What we do while we're waiting for the twins' birthday party to start...

I just love the abject glee on both their faces here.


Also during our 2010 trip. Youngest got fed up with the splash park.

A bald Poppa is a good foundation.

Come on, Boppa!

Story time.

Mom specifically requested that the Play-Doh pictures be in the slideshow for Dad's memorial service.

I think Youngest wouldn't go to the water's edge without Dad.

Another of the Play-Doh pictures. Anything is a blank slate to an artist...


I think this is when he realized I was "documenting."

Her grandpa is not only rockin', as her shirt says.
He's also pretty silly. She comes by it honestly.

Boppa, help!

Reading a favorite.

Of course, he had to get a picture with the twins wearing these shirts.

The hat lights up, folks. It lights up.

Hat heads.

Middle needed a moment at a splash park. Boppa was good for those times.

Dr. Oldest gives Boppa a checkup.

We gave Dad this blanket for Christmas one year. I have it now.

The hat lights up. Along the letters, yes. I have the hat, too.

I forget what year this was, but it was shortly after Christmas one year,
and we were out at Mom & Dad's. Dad fell asleep on the couch,
and one of the girls covered him with the blanket
and then tucked LarryBoy in next to him so he wouldn't be alone.

These two. So silly together.

This was Dad's birthday, and right before Middle and Oldest helped him
by blowing out the candle before he could.

Oldest, showing off my sandals. I don't know why.

Waiting to ride the Easter train.

Looking at train stuff.

I am not sure why Middle grabbed Dad's ear with her toes, other than that she could.

Dad was pretending to "cut" her toes with that toy straightener,
and Middle was squealing with delight. What a night.

Wearing a Duplo block. Left there by a granddaughter, no doubt.



Storytime again.

The kids gave him this book for Christmas one year.

One of few normal-ish pictures of Dad and Middle.

Dad and Youngest.

Dad and Oldest. He looks like he's keeping a secret. She looks like she's gone off the deep end.

Bedtime story.

Boppa makes funny noises!

And funny faces!

Oldest sharing some of her strawberry shortcake with Dad (it was his birthday).

Dad loved the BBC's "Top Gear," so we made him this shirt one year
for his birthday. The girls' shirts all say "STIGLET." He loved it.

Bedtime snuggles.

Back when the girls first came to live with us,
and Youngest still was so unsure of things.

At the Smithsonian National Zoo, and Youngest was a little cranky. Until Boppa got her.

"I'm following The Toucher."

Oldest's birthday. Already high on sugar, and hadn't even had cake yet.

I love this purple-lips picture. (Her Tangled cake had purple icing on it...)

Another one I'm pretty sure I got in trouble for. But if he's gonna wear 'em...

Christmas in February. These two.


Dad and the girls at our vacation rental home in Ocean City, MD, a few years back.

Dad and the girls, on Easter Sunday, several years ago.

The girls decided to bury Hubby in the sand. Dad decided to help.

♫ Ring around the roooooosie... ♪

Mom and Dad treated us to Sweet Frog right before they went to FL
in January 2015. This bit of magic happened.

And then this, which became Dad's final Facebook profile picture.
It's now my cover photo.