Friday, December 28, 2018

It's MY Fault!

Just when I was thinking that nothing too crazy was going to happen during Christmas break, Middle bounced into the living room as I was on the phone with Waffle tonight. "Hey, Mom. Can I have two Thin Mints and a piece of fudge to squish between them?" She pointed double finger-guns at me and grinned.

I glanced at the lower right corner of my computer and checked the time 8:14 p.m. Bedtime in less than an hour. "No. Not tonight. It's too late, and that's too much sugar."

I got a full-body-yet-not-so-serious pout in return. "But that's not fair!"

"Nope. It's too much. The end."

"I'm going to change your mind!" Middle flounced away.

I guarantee you, she didn't go far.

In my own defense, my fudge recipe is really rich, and even when cut into small pieces has enough sugar to power most 12-year-olds for a good two hours.

"What did she want?" Waffle asked.

A chocoholic's delight
I explained my precocious middle child's request...just as she ping-ponged back into the room from the stairwell.

"You have to have changed your mind by now!" she asserted.


Middle flailed back dramatically while groaning her displeasure. Waffle snickered on the other end of the line.

I hollered back, "I'm your mother! I'm a cosmic killjoy!"

"Well, duh!" Middle fired back and kept going. I had no idea what she said because Waffle and I were both laughing so hard.

Waffle tried to compose herself. "Did she just say, 'Well, duh'?"

I nodded my head while muttering an affirmative and still chuckling. Knowing the situation was too far gone at this point for me to even be taken seriously, I leaned back and asked over my shoulder, "What did you say after 'Well, duh'?"

With the same amount of amused impudence as I'm sure she injected the first time, Middle repeated, "Can't you be a cool mom for once?"

"No!" I shouted as Waffle roared. I took a moment to glance at my child. "You can have it tomorrow."
Do not take intravenously

Middle slumped to the floor. "But I won't be pumped then."

I smiled. "I'm sure you can pump yourself back up."

She cocked her head at me. "I knew you'd say something like that. But I won't." She paused. "Can I have one Thin Mint and one piece of fudge?"


Waffle and I tried to recover from the serious case of the giggles we'd had throughout the conversation as Middle bopped downstairs.

"How do you have Thin Mints in December?" Waffle wanted to know.

"My mother," I explained. "She bought several boxes and froze them, then brought a couple to us."

A few minutes later, Middle returned to the living room, an accusatory finger raised in my direction. "You raised me too well! It's YOUR fault!"

"What?" I asked about the same time Waffle did through the phone.

"Youngest said she could go ask you for a Thin Mint, and then she could give it to me, and I could have what I want. But I couldn't do that!"

I speared her with a gimlet eye. "Because you'd be out all kinds of sweet goodness if you ever got caught."

"Exactly! It's YOUR fault! How dare you!" Then Middle turned around and saw her cat in the rocking chair behind her. "Kimo! If you tell Mom, she'll let me have what I want!"

"She's begging the cat to talk," I informed Waffle.

She laughed. "Your child is unhinged."

I couldn't stop giggling. "Is it any wonder? I'm her mother."

"Well, it builds character." I could almost hear her smirk. "I'm going to let you deal with that--" Middle was still begging Kimo to speak--"and I'll talk to you tomorrow."

Speak, Kimo!
What follows is a sample of Middle's cajoling of the cat to speak so I will allow her to have two Thin Mints and fudge...which went on for a good fifteen minutes before Middle gave up:

"You're just rusty. You can do it. Just say it and Mom will give me Thin Mints and fudge. You talk to me all the time. You're opening your mouth. Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay sooooooooooooooooooomething. And she yawns. Yes, you can do it, Kimo. I believe in you. I'm being patient. Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay soooooooooooooooooooomething. Oh! I know. I have to speak in your cat language, and then you'll do it. I don't know your language. Is it Catanian? Catish? Oh, you're such a good Kimo. You can speak! Just say something! You can do it, baby!"

I kid you not.

I only wish I'd videoed some of her monologue for the wedding reception.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Let Them Eat Cake

We have leftover cake tonight.

As Middle finished dinner, she asked, "Mom, can I have that piece of cake?"

Well, no. She can't have that piece of cake. That piece of cake was a full quarter of the cake, which I'd cut last night but hadn't divided into smaller pieces. Half of the cake was leftover, but had been cut into the two remaining quarters. No way was I giving her an entire quarter of a chocolate cake.

She giggled when she realized it wasn't a single slice.

"You can have cake once I slice it." I cut the quarters into six relatively even slices, and Middle immediately picked out the biggest one. "That's mine!"

Sometimes, it pays to be the parent. She didn't argue. I put a slice on her plate and she dug in, with gusto.

Being that it was a fend-for-yourself night around these parts, I collected the rest of my dinner and then came out to get my cake, not trusting that my chosen piece would remain until I was done eating everything else.

Middle scraped at the frosting caught in the fluted edges of her plate, pressing in the tines of her plastic fork. "That's right," I encouraged her. "Get it all."

I stepped back into the kitchen for something and returned to the dining room...where Middle was licking the plate. I smacked the top of her head.

 She lowered the plate and gave me a look that was both sheepish and completely unrepentant. "I'm just getting every last morsel, as you advised."

I really didn't know how to argue with that.

Adventures of Pua

Yesterday, these goobers turned twelve. Hard to believe, I know, because the day before that they were just five.

One of the things Youngest had specifically requested as either a birthday or Christmas gift was a stuffed version of the pet pig from Moana. Middle loves ducks, as any longtime reader of this blog knows, but Youngest has a love for piggies that is nearly as big as Middle's love of duckies. (In fact, Youngest is beginning to have a hard time eating bacon and ham if she thinks about it too much. But I digress.)

I had, to her great delight, found the pig in question, whose name is Pua. Not only that, I'd found a good-sized one, and managed to have it delivered in time.

Because we can't have a birthday for my girls without a pig and a duck for their respective persons. (Hubby agreed, despite his groaning about why are we bringing in more stuffies when we're trying to get rid of the over abundance we have.)


This morning, while I huddled in my jammies under a fleecy blanket and monitored the time, Youngest had taken several minutes to carefully swaddle Pua in several blankets downstairs on the (ugly) green hide-a-bed couch in the den before she left for school.

I went to work without knowing about this.

I came home and lugged groceries inside, and was met by a goofily grinning Hubby.

"Youngest left Pua wrapped up in blankets in the den this morning," he said. "And Pua was bad."

I followed him to the den.

The blankets that had once surrounded Pua had been recklessly undone. A pair of Hubby's reading glasses perched on Pua's nose. A sleeve of crackers was tucked in next to the pig, with (of all things) a foam football behind them. On the other side of the pig, a bowl of what appeared to have been mashed potatoes was left with the spoon in it. (Eating in the den is verboten.) Pua's front feet clutched the remote for the TV, while the Roku remote sat carelessly nearby.

Having masterminded a series of Duckie escapades in the past, I chuckled.

And then I got on board.

I finished almost all of my diet Dr Pepper that I'd taken to work with me and tucked it in next to Pua, the sneaky thief who stole one of Momma's sodas too, in addition to all the other "crimes."

And after Hubby left for work and I changed my clothes, I turned on the TV, tuned into Netflix, went back a number of episodes, and set Pua up to be watching The Flash when the kids came home.

It was great.

I sat up in the living room, watching M*A*S*H and having a snack, when the girls got home about 3:15, grinning like a fool to myself. It didn't take long before the twins popped into the living room.

"Mom! Did you see what Dad did to Pua?" Youngest grinned from ear to ear.

I smiled. "I helped."

I can't wait to tell Hubby how well it played out.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

In Which Mother is a Sucker

Not that this was an extra-special night or anything (that's tomorrow), but perhaps we were celebrating the twins' last day of being 11. Maybe I'll just go with that. I gave in, anyway, when the girls begged for McFlurries after dinner at McDonald's tonight.

The franchise location we were at in Cburg uses kiosks for ordering (yay for removal of people, which would have immediately solved one of the problems in our order in a lot less time, but I digress on my rant against cutting labor costs by using machines over personnel), so we marched to the kiosk for the second time, this time for treats.

I let Youngest choose first. She wanted an M&M McFlurry, and asked for hot fudge topping and regular whipped cream for customized toppings.

I will say this for the kiosks. They let you customize your ice cream treats, whereas the counter staff don't always give you these options.

Middle was next. She selected an Oreo McFlurry, with M&M topping and hot fudge, and regular whipped cream.

I should point out here that the whipped cream comes in three levels: light, regular, and extra. Light and regular runs you an additional 40 cents. Extra costs you a whopping 80 cents more.

I turned to Oldest for her order.

"And now to make you regret the day I was born." She giggled as I tapped the screen to customize her McFlurry (she wanted the Reese's Peanut Butter cup one, which I'd already selected). She grinned at me. "Everything."

I raised a brow. "Everything?"


The twins stood in surprise as I tapped each topping in turn. Caramel. Hot Fudge. Oreo. M&M. Whipped cream...extra.

Hers was the most expensive McFlurry of the lot.

I ordered mine last, a Reese's Peanut Butter cup McFlurry without anything fancy. Then we took our table tent tag back and sat down to wait.

We hadn't been seated long when a couple came over and asked if the girls would like to pet the teeny Chihuahua-Mini Pinscher mix emotional support dog the woman carried. Oldest and Middle enthusiastically agreed, cooing over the little guy, and I came over to say hello too, while Youngest stayed parked on her chair. We spent a few minutes chatting (and marveling over teeny Axl Rose's almost preternatural calm), and then they went on their way.

It was several minutes more before the girls noticed that our ice cream treats were being made, and then the manager came over to inform us she had no peanut butter cups with which to make Oldest's and mine. We both settled on Oreo and we waited some more. Another employee then quickly delivered the twins', followed by mine and Oldest's.

The employee looked hard at Oldest as she handed over the McFlurry, which filled up the entire clear cap with the toppings. "No missing school tomorrow because of an upset stomach, young lady," she said with mock sternness.

"Oh, I won't." Oldest's eyes gleamed like dark chocolate.

I'll say this. For being the one of my kids with the queasiest gyro, high-potency sweets have never seemed to rattle hers.

She's still fine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Youngest had counseling this afternoon, and since I saw no purpose in driving all the way down to Cburg with just Youngest for her session, then all the way home after, only to pack everyone up to drive all the way back to Cburg yet again in half an hour's time for church, I decided we were all going to Youngest's session. The rest of us would bring stuff and wait in the waiting room.

So we did.

Even if we were a little late because I totally lost track of time and it's a Wednesday and next week I have got to plan better.

I decided I would, since we had a little extra money, simply take all of us out for dinner after the session. (This news was greeted with rave reviews. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Youngest's counselor has been out on maternity leave and only just returned this week. So I spent a bit of time getting her caught up on Youngest's life, then joined the other two in the waiting room.

Middle had scribbled a series of numbers in her notebook, and was about to hand them off to Oldest. "Mom! Mom! Since you're here, I'm gonna show you the impossible!"

She gave me the book instead.

"You can do the math here." She gestured below the number string. "Figure it out...if you can."

I studied the numbers for a moment. It wasn't hard to figure out what she'd done, so I skipped to the end. I found I was tired enough still (I was sick over the weekend, and I'm not 100% yet) that I couldn't do the math in my head, so I scribbled the problem at the bottom, did most of the math there, and then wrote the answer underneath at the end.

"Here." I slung the notebook back at her. It hadn't taken me more than a couple of minutes.

"What?! You're done? Let me see!" Middle grabbed it from my hands and stared first at my answer and then at where I'd done my figuring. "That is the answer!"

She looked so put out I almost laughed. "You didn't think I knew about Fibonacci sequences?"

"No! I thought only my teachers knew!"

Sorry 'bout yer luck, kid. I watched way too much Square One Television. MathNet for the win.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Breaking Dad

Two Saturdays ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed after the girls had gone to bed. I had, some time ago, become Facebook friends with Miss Easel, the twins' fifth grade teacher, now that the girls were out of her class, and I noticed a cluster of pictures in which she'd been tagged.

Well, awwww. Miss Easel and her boyfriend, Mr. Clocktower, had gotten engaged, apparently right smack in the middle of one of the local Christmas parades. Since this was a just-happened-this-minute posting, it must have been the parade in Cburg, just south of where we live. (In an interesting turn of whimsy, Mr. Clocktower's parents are in our Sunday school class. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.)

I mentioned the engagement to Hubby when he got home. He'd seen the news on Facebook himself.

The fact that we were both aware of this news is important.

The next morning, as we drove to church, Hubby asked if I'd told the girls yet. To be honest, no. I hadn't. Sunday mornings are often hectic as we try to get out of the house at something of a frenetic pace, and then we stop for donuts, which we'd done by the time Hubby posed his inquiry.

Hubby flicked his eyes to the rearview mirror. "Girls, Miss Easel got engaged last night."

Middle asked, "To Mr. Clocktower?"


I peered over my shoulder at the backseat.

"They're getting married?" This came from Youngest.

Hubby chuckled. "That's what engagement means."

"How long were you engaged?"

"Sixteen months," I said, at the same time as Hubby said, "Too long." (We were both right.)

"It might've been different," I pointed out, "if we'd lived in the same zip code." We'd spent most of our 16-month engagement a good twelve hours and 600 miles apart.

Middle piped up again. "How long have Special Edition and Mr. Nurse been engaged?"

This sparked something of a debate between Hubby and myself, as I said almost three years and he said almost two. (I'm right, for the record.) We explained to the girls that Special Edition and Mr. Nurse are choosing to continue to be engaged because that's what suits them at this time. Middle and Youngest kind of thought it was ridiculous to be engaged so long and still not be married.

About then, Oldest mused, "When I get engaged, I only want to be engaged for 7 months. Or maybe 9 months. I don't want to be stuck with my man for that long like Special Edition."

I sat and quietly snickered over the thought that marriage leaves you stuck with your man a lot longer when Hubby elbowed me. I shifted to look at him as unobtrusively as possible. He appeared both shell-shocked and shattered, and his eyes had nearly popped out of their sockets.

Poor man.

I felt for him. Really, I did.

But a couple nights earlier, I had been sitting downstairs in the basement, sorting old clothes with the girls, stuff that needs to be sold or donated and gotten out of the house. Makaha hadn't liked the fact that it had been stored in plastic bags, and so he'd peed on some of it. As we'd sorted into piles that were stuff to be washed and the rest by sizes, the girls had freely talked about what they would name their future children. (So far, I will have at least five grandsons named Kemper, all by one daughter, identified numerically.) That was a mildly harrowing experience.

From the back seat now: "What?"

Hubby sat in silence.

"I just don't want a long engagement. I don't think that's a good idea," Oldest went on.

I'm pretty sure Hubby paled. My baby is talking about engagement. She's only 13. I could see it written all over his face. No, not yet! NOT YET!

"You weren't there the other night for their discussion on what they want to name their children," I told him.

"No, no. I don't need to know!"

I chuckled.

We got to the church and parked, and Hubby still hadn't quite returned to normal.

"Is Dad okay?" Middle asked.

"No, he's not okay," I told her.

"I broke Dad!" Oldest crowed from where she'd skipped ahead. "I broke Dad!"

To bring the story full circle for you, I saw Mr. Clocktower's parents in Sunday school, and his mother gushed over how delighted they all were (they love Miss Easel), and she happily showed me the video of the proposal. Everyone there, including Miss Easel's parents and a number of their friends, knew Mr. Clocktower was going to propose...except Miss Easel, who was delightfully surprised. And also delightfully amused when I told her all about the morning's episode of Breaking Dad.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Let It Snow. And Snow Some More. And Some More After That.

If you're anywhere in the northeast of the U.S., or watching the news thereof, you know we're getting socked with a lot of wintry mix today, part of which has dumped anywhere from 5"-9" of snow before switching to rain tonight, and then we got blessed with the possibility of a couple more inches of snow later this evening on top of it all.

They cancelled school for today last night.

We already have a two-hour delay for tomorrow.

Snug as bugs in rugs.
I am explaining all of this to you for a reason.

So, first, let me state that I am currently home. Under a blankie. D'Artagan, Trooper, and Kimo are keeping close watch. We're enjoying Father Brown, although Kimo is sleeping through episodes and doesn't know whodunit and probably doesn't care. We are cozy. See? I am fine.

This is important. I am fine.


Tonight was our scheduled fourth-quarter board meeting for the home owners association where I serve as secretary to said board. And there were...reasons...for keeping the meeting scheduled. And it isn't really my call to cancel a meeting. And I grew up in upstate New York; I know how to drive in the White Death. So, as of noon, when I hadn't heard from the board president that we were cancelling the meeting, I decided it would be smart to just pack up like I was going to spent the night at my mother's (this is her HOA) and drive out. That way, if it took me longer than normal (which it most definitely would; the drive usually takes about an hour), I had plenty of time.

I went out to clear off the car, and we had all three of yesterday's predicted 1"-3" of snow, plus incoming reinforcements.

In retrospect, I should have stopped there and just gone back into the house right then. But I soldiered on and started the drive after promising Hubby that I would turn around and come right back home if I ever reached a point in time where I said, "This is ridiculous and not worth the job."

To amuse myself (and because D'Artagnan and Trooper, while fine travel companions, are not exactly verbose), I kept track: two semis pulled over to the side of the interstate, just off to the side. Two semis pulled over, hoods up, engines cooling. Two semis completely jackknifed, one in the median, and the other off to the right shoulder, with three heavy wreckers blocking the travel lane as they got ready to winch it out. (Ever see the TV show Highway Thru Hell? I almost saw it in real life.) One dump truck, facing backwards in the median. One passenger car, same condition and location.

It took me almost an hour to go less than ten miles.

I told myself I would stop at Pickletown, normally about 40 minutes into the trip, and get lunch at the Wendy's there. It took me two hours to reach the restaurant. I knocked the ice off my wipers and went inside and spent half an hour thawing out, then texted my mom and my husband that I was leaving there and continuing on.

I didn't make it out of Pickletown. It sits on several steep hills, which I found I couldn't navigate. I got nearly got myself horribly stuck, so I made a three-point-turn on the side of a hill and let gravity fix my problem. Then I hollered, "Okay, Google," at my phone and ordered the assistant to call my boss. I was canceling the meeting whether my boss wanted to or not at this point.

"Are you still in Cburg?" he asked. No, he did not say hello.

"I'm in Pickletown. But I'm going home."

"Good. Cancel the meeting."

I drove back to Wendy's and sent out the requisite notices. I was relieved the drive home only took me an hour and a half instead of two hours, but then, I had no jackknifed semis to contend with on that leg of the trip.

I spent four hours on the road.

Ridiculous? Yes. Insane? Probably. Should never have happened? Also likely. It is what it is. Like I said, I'm home. I'm safe. Nothing happened to either me or the car (although I did have a harrowing moment or two).

So my ankle is barking at me. It doesn't like these conditions under the best of circumstances, which is blankie-covered on the couch and not leaving, and possibly with a hot rice bag tucked against the joint. Thus, when I got home, I parked it on the couch, with buddies and blankies and books and Father Brown.

I did not even move for dinner, which Youngest made (spaghetti and meatballs). I was served too much, so I hobbled over to the top of the stairs a little bit ago and called for another person in the house (Hubby and the girls are watching The Flash series reboot together).

Oldest came out of the den to see what I needed.

I held out my plate. "I need you to cover my plate in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Then I need some blackberry ginger ale--" Oh, my gosh, have you had this stuff? Canada Dry makes it--"and I would like two brownies, please."

Oldest eyed me skeptically. "They're pretty big brownies. Are you sure you want two?"

Child, please. "I really think I can handle two brownies. Please."

There is not a brownie that I've found yet that I can't eat two of. Bring me my ginger ale and brownies, kid.

And that is why I told you this story.

By the way, the brownies are not as big as advertised. I will have a third later.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cuisine Middle

I've been down with a migraine today.

So at 6:30 this evening, I asked the kids to find things for dinner for themselves.

"Hey, Mama, I'm gonna have homemade mac and cheese!"

I glanced skeptically at Middle. We did not have any box mac and cheese in the house. This much I knew.

She smunched a package of ramen noodles against the counter. "This worked this afternoon."

I didn't even want to know. Just...Rule #2 and move on.

She pulled the off-brand Velveeta cheese out of the refrigerator and grabbed a paring knife from the drawer. "No, I did it this afternoon. It worked great." (Apparently not so great, because she had to scrape the remains into the trash at bedtime, but I digress.)

The child made "homemade mac and cheese" with pulverized unseasoned ramen noodles, water, and extremely generic processed American cheese food.

I have no words.

At least I didn't have to eat it.

Thongs, Boy Shorts, and Supreme Power

On Thursday this week, we had a bit of a scheduling pile-up. Hubby had counseling at the same time Middle had PT for her concussion symptoms that, yes, still linger more than six months after the accident. So, we picked her up from school and headed to the town south of us, where both appointments were both located.

Travels of any length with Middle are always entertaining, because you just never know what's going to pop out of her mouth to start a conversation going.

Something about her upcoming birthday later this month jump-started things.

Hubby: What do you want for your birthday?

Middle: I don't know. I can't come up with stuff right away.

Hubby: You don't know what you want?

Middle: I don't know.

I stifled a giggle.

Middle: A real nice agate, maybe.

Her favorite rock.

Hubby: Not a lot of wants is a good thing.

Middle: want lots of things. I just can't think of them right now!

Hubby and I laughed.

Middle: Stuff I talked to Special Edition about...

Me: I don't know the stuff you've talked to Special Edition about.

Middle: She doesn't rat on us!

Meanwhile, I fired off a text to Special Edition, telling her about the snippet of conversation with Middle. (Special Edition was very amused.)

Middle: I know what I want. Total power.

Hubby: Over what?

Middle: I want total and utter power over everything, Literal power.

Me: We could have you stick a fork in a socket like you dressed up as for Halloween.

Middle: I have a feeling that might kill me.

Me (with a grin): Zap you a little, at least.

Hubby: What else would you like for your birthday?

Yes, we're fishing.

Middle: Clip-on earrings.

Hubby: Really?

Middle: Yeah. I'm not cool among my classmates because I don't wear earrings, 'cause my holes have closed over.

Hubby gave her a skeptical look over his shoulder.

Middle: You don't know my life, Dad!

Hubby: (laughing)

Middle: And I want some tiny locks, like for diaries. And I want a pocket knife for whittling, so I don't have to keep borrowing yours. And I want boy short underwear.

Hubby: You want what?

I wasn't surprised by this; she'd asked me about it the day before when I'd been doing some shopping of my own. I'd denied new underwear for the sake of new underwear when her current undies fit just fine. And I knew what boy short panties were. Hubby, I suspected, did not.

Middle: Yes! When you come in at night [to get Youngest up], you'll see less of me if my legs are up!

Me: That's what pajama pants are for.

Middle: I don't like pajama pants.

Me: I doubt boy shorts are gonna cover more than briefs.

Hubby (looking slightly vexed and perplexed): I don't think boy shorts are going to be a thing for now. Thongs, however...

Me (sternly): NO.

Hubby: (laughs)

Middle: What's a thong?

Hubby: It's where there's no material covering either side of your tushie. You just have a strip of material going up between your cheeks. You're ... free-cheeking.

Middle: You should wear them, Dad!

I howled and sent a text to Special Edition, who immediately questioned life. Meanwhile...

Middle: No! No! I take it back! Never wear them!

I sent a follow-up text to Special Edition, explaining that Middle almost immediately backpedaled as the mental image caught up to her. I was pretty sure I could hear SE laughing from several hours away.

Middle: So why did you both come today?

Hubby: I had counseling at the same time that you have PT with Tani, so you guys are dropping me off first at counseling and then going to PT.

Middle: Ew, that's weird.

Hubby: Would you rather I call it therapy?

Middle: No, that's worse!

Me: I had counseling this morning.

Middle: No, that's okay.

Me (wryly): You may wanna tighten the bolts in your neck, kid.

Middle: No, it's not weird for you. It's weird for Dad.

To be honest, I think I felt a little offended here.

Hubby: Because your dad is a big strong man who's too tough for therapy?

Middle: Don't be-- Those are your words!

Hubby: But they're essentially kind of your feelings?

Middle: Your words, but yeah. (pause) Did you bring my book?

Hubby: Mom brought it. She remembered it.

Me: Have you been doing your exercises?

Middle: Yes.

I raised a brow.

Me: At the correct speed?

Did you know that you can hear eye rolls?  I think her eyes must have rolled around in her sockets twice.

Middle: Yeeeeeeees, Mom.

Hubby pulled into the lot at his counselor's office and parked.

Hubby: Some of those exercises are crazy. They had this black-and-white checkered mat that they spread across the floor, kind of like a picnic tablecloth. They had her walk in a straight line across it. She couldn't do it.

Middle: It was rigged!

Hubby: I couldn't even do it!

I drove us over to the PT location, where I ran into paperwork, and I had Middle help me with the questions on the forms about her last two weeks and her symptoms. This concussion had really been a doozy, and I hated how much it still affected her. It didn't stop her silliness when Tani came out and brought us back to the room.

Yes, neck pain still. Yes, dizziness still. No, she hadn't been drinking enough water, which the neurologist had called out on Monday's appointment, which is why we'd bought the water bottle on Wednesday when we'd gone shopping, because Middle's cardiologist had explained that her frequent vertigo on suddenly rising was due to her lack of blood volume due to lack of proper hydration. So she'd gotten dizzy on Thursday because she forgot the water bottle at home...which earned her a droll look from the therapist.

Tani brought Middle over to a sensor flat on the floor and told her to stand on it. Middle skittered away.

I pointed to it.

Me: Hop on.

Middle: It's rigged!

Me: How do you know it's rigged?

Middle: Past experience!

I couldn't argue with that, but Middle obeyed Tani and got on the sensor.

Tani: Stand still, and try to keep the plus sign there right in the center. Keep your arms down at your sides. Don't close your eyes.

Tani pointed to the screen, and Middle watched, swaying a little.

Middle: I can't do it!

She glanced over at me.

Middle: I told you it was rigged!

After a few minutes of this exercise, Tani placed a cushion on the sensor, and Middle repeated it.

Tani explained that Middle had progressed enough that it was time to bump her up to the next level of PT, so we were going to be referred to a new therapist at a new location. Middle should keep doing her exercises--at the correct duration and speed--and we'd meet the new therapist for our next appointment.

As we got ready to leave, I noticed Middle all but falling off the chair next to me.

Middle: My shoe is off!

Me: Keep your shoe on.

Middle: I have a problem.

Me: Child, you have many problems.

Middle: Thanks, which one?

We piled back in the car and headed back over to Hubby's counseling location. As I drove through the residential neighborhood where the PT office was located, we passed some heavy construction equipment actively working on a home.

Middle: Look, it's a thingie!

Me (looking): Yes, it's a thingie, because I can't remember the right word.

I drove for another tenth of a mile or so.

Me: Backhoe!

Middle: I thought we agreed it's a thingie.

We picked up Hubby and headed for home.

Middle: Mamoo, do you have any nail clippers?

By this time, Hubby was driving, so I was able to reach into my pocket and pull out the nail clippers I always carry. I handed them back to her. Hubby regaled us with stories of people he'd seen come into his store wearing costumes last week, both kids and adults. I related the story about Middle falling out of her shoes at therapy. Which made me remember.

Me: Are you done with my nail clippers yet?

Middle: Not yet.

Hubby (glancing into the back seat): She's working on her toenails through a hole in her sock!

Middle (nonchalantly): I have a hangnail.

Hubby: At least she probably didn't put the hole in.

Middle: I did. How else would I get access?

This had us giggling.

Several moments went by in silence, and Middle handed my nail clippers back to me.

Middle: My feet stink.

Hubby and Me (unison): We know.

Middle: Why don't your feet stink?

Hubby: I have good glands.

Me: My feet don't stink, either.

Hubby: You must also have good glands.

Middle: I sighed. It was a mistake.

I thought Hubby was going to blow snot out his nose. And if my father were alive and reading this, I think he'd be experiencing a coffee nasal cleanse about now.

Middle: Mom, I need your nail clippers again. I took my shoe off and I'd forgotten one.

Hubby: Oh. Well, then.

Middle (authoritatively): Shoes and socks are uncomfortable.

This kid.

Friday, November 2, 2018


Because meself has been a bit beleaguered with more than a few things on my plate, I hadn't given a thought to Halloween costumes until, y'know, last week. Or maybe the week before that. (I'm really not sure.)

And even then, the thought was, shall we say, fleeting, because I had other emergencies to worry about.

Like the impending celebration of what would have been my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.

Or the sudden death of one of my mom's teacher friends, and our last-minute trip to my hometown for the funeral.

And the normal weekly run of appointments for this household, plus Youngest's 6th-grade physical.

And the Fall Fun Festival at church.

So. Halloween costumes. Um. Yo, Momma, Halloween's in three days. You don't have costumes for your kids.

I'm such a fantastic mom.

I had at least solved the problem of Hubby having to work and thus me having to walk around with the kids (my bad ankle makes that an issue; I prefer to hand out candy at home while he takes them trick-or-treating): Special Edition came out to handle the actual trick-or-treating part.

I get to be Candy Queen still. Yay.

But we were still low on costume ideas. We needed stuff that was easy, quick to pull off, and most of all, cheap.

Youngest as the Wicked Witch
Oldest wanted to be a creeper from Minecraft. How the heck do I pull that off? Well, not to worry, because two days later, she wanted to be Janet Jackson. (This was promptly 86-ed by Hubby, due to wardrobe malfunctions.) What now?

Oldest as Marceline
Youngest wanted to be a witch. Ooookay. Well, she has a black dress. We can get some striped socks and make a hat with little expense. (We have tons of black felt just laying around here.)

That left us with Middle. Last year's costume as Michael Jackson from the early days of the Jackson Five was pretty brilliant, so how to top that?

Enter Special Edition, Bringer of Brilliant Ideas. For Oldest, she suggested a vampy emo cartoon character from one of her favorite shows, Marceline. Oldest loved it. A plaid shirt over a gray tee, jeans, and a pair of Chucks, and we were pretty much set...all of which we had. Score!

Middle as Hot Socket
But it was Special Edition's idea for Middle that I thought was truly fantastic. Middle has naturally curly hair--very tight curls. Why not tease them out crazy, hold 'em with some hair spray, and dress her as a fork stuck in a socket? Supplies needed: poster board, cardboard box, spare cardboard, aluminum foil, yarn, and hairspray. We had everything but the poster board.

I believe I spent less than $7 total on costume stuff, and the only reason it was that high was because I had to buy a four-pack of socks.

The results were grand.

The girls were a little sad that Special Edition didn't dress up, either, but I explained quickly that she was merely dressed up as the Big Sister--much the way Hubby used to dress up as the Lazy Dad.

It was 70 degrees out that night, a wonderful night for trick-or-treating, and I took a chair and went out to sit on my front porch and wait for my visitors with a book and my candy cauldron. My first guest was Spider Man. I got to see Princess Ariel, with curly red hair that was all her own. A monarch butterfly stopped by.

And the costume contest winner (at least, of the visitors to my house) was definitely the fuzzy yellow duck. Don't judge. I have my reasons.

We here at Casa Fries love our ducks.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Morning Conversations

Halloween morning, 6:45 a.m.

"Middle, you need to go get your glasses." I adjusted mine as I gave her the reminder.

"Right. I don't want to forget them all day like I did the other day."

Right. "It should be one of the first things you do."

"Momma, here's my list of things I need you or Dad to get for my costume." Youngest handed me a slip of paper.

The girls had finally settled on costume ideas last night--we are so last-minute people here--so I'd warned them they had to be quick-to-make and cheap--and I took the list. I immediately mentally crossed off two items and added two more. I looked at the time...and Middle's face. Still empty. "Middle! You need to go get your glasses now!"

"Youngest, will you come with me?" Middle wheedled.

"No." I nixed that. Youngest needed to put on socks and shoes. "Go get your glasses."

Middle crouched on the stairs. "But I can't be alone."

"It's your house!" I said, flabbergasted.

"I can't be alone," Middle protested.

"God will go with you."

"It's not the same."

I pointed to the stairs. "Go."

Middle careened up the stairs, stomping the whole way. I sighed, and turned to see that both Oldest and Youngest were wearing heavy coats. I pulled up my weather app. Yes, 44 degrees now, but going to be a high of 69. "Girls, you don't need your heavy coats." Middle stomped back into the kitchen. "A light coat will be sufficient. You don't want to be walking home wearing a heavy winter jacket when it's 69 degrees."

Oldest agreed and went to change her coat.

Middle pulled a maroon sweatshirt over her shirt, which sported dark rose pink and mauve-purple horizontal stripes. "Momma, can pink kill you?"

She would be the one to ask that. "No, it can't."

"I think it can."

"No, it can't."

"It's not worth the risk!"

I chuckled. This kid. "Come on, guys. Out the door."

*     *     *

You'd think that's all to the story, but it's not.

I ran out later in the morning to pick up the last few items we needed for costumes and stuff.

When I came back, Hubby and Special Edition were deep in discussion about something (I'm still not clear entirely on what), and then Hubby proceeded to involve math in the plans he'd left for the creation of the hat Youngest needs for her costume (Special Edition and I were both horrified).

And then I remembered.

I was going to write this post.

I smacked my hand to my forehead. "'Can pink kill you?'"

Hubby laughed. "Middle?"

"Who else?"

And then I explained Middle's refusal to go up and fetch her glasses alone.

"Because it's creepy, right? I keep telling you this house is haunted, and no one believes me!" Special Edition sputtered.

I grinned at her. The house settles, has water that moves through pipes to heat it, and it was built in 1959. I'm pretty sure it's not haunted. "I told her God would go with her."

Special Edition crossed her arms and frowned. "But that's not enough to save you from the hellspawn."

"Actually," I pointed out, "it is. Kinda one of the perks of being God."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Lord Speaketh

Tonight, dinner here at Casa Fries was my take on ham and scalloped potatoes. However, I cheat when cooking whenever possible (sorry, my organic friends and family; just gasp, shudder, and look the other way--this is more about the conversation than the food anyway), so I don't do the whole white-sauce-from-scratch thing, slice real potatoes, slice real onions paper thin, and chop up leftover ham.

No, I cut major corners. Two boxes of au gratin potato mix. Onions, previously chopped and frozen. And one boneless, pre-sliced ham, set in lukewarm water in the sink to thaw after being removed from the deep freeze.

After letting the ham thaw for a couple of hours when I got home from work, I went downstairs when I had about two hours left until dinnertime, figuring two hours in the crock pot would work for this meal. (I figured wrong. More on that later.) Youngest wandered in and wanted to help. So we layered potatoes from the boxed mixes, cut up ham, chopped semi-frozen onions (left to thaw on the counter while the ham thawed in the sink), and the seasoning packets from the au gratin potato mixes. I threw in some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, topped the whole mess with four tablespoons of butter, and added in the liquids as prescribed on the box mixes. 

When pulling the freezer ingredients, I had a brief flirtation with the idea of topping the whole shebang with tater tots, but decided the flavors wouldn't work. The tots stayed put.

When we reached the two-hour mark and the potato slices at the top were still not quite done, Youngest and I poured everything into my largest Corningware crock and I threw it into the microwave for five minutes while we put green beans into a two-quart glass dish and started setting the table.

So the five of us sat down to eat--Special Edition is visiting this week--and Youngest asked everyone if they liked dinner.

I was still serving myself and Oldest, but I pointed out that Special Edition and Middle were both inhaling their food, so that was promising.

"I didn't take all that much," Special Edition protested.

Middle, down to the last three bites or so, breathed heavily around a mouthful of food.

I shot her a glance. "If you wouldn't inhale so fast, then your food wouldn't be so hot when you're trying to eat it."

Middle just grinned impishly.

I reached for Youngest's plate to serve her some of the casserole. "I considered putting tater tots on top of this."

Special Edition stared at me in shock. "Why didn't you?"

I shrugged. "I don't know."

"When you get ideas to put tater tots on things, listen to them. That is the Lord speaking to you!" Special Edition insisted.

Conversation moved on to what each of the girls is going to be for Halloween tomorrow (you'll have to wait for tomorrow's post, but Middle's is especially brilliant). Since Hubby has to work, Special Edition is going to walk the girls around the neighborhood so I and my crankle don't have to.

This led to Special Edition attempting to wheedle her two favorite entrees, her favorite potato dish, and her favorite Christmas treat as compensation for doing the actual trick-or-treating. "Lemon chicken. And chicken and stuffing. And those potatoes sliced with the cheese. And the peanut butter balls."

Now, there's no way I can make all of that this week, let alone in a day.

"Of course I'll share it with you all, but most of the lemon chicken should come my way." Special Edition smirked.

"Hey, I already made you both of those dishes for your birthday this year."

"She should have them!" Youngest piped up.

"Stop helping!"

Special Edition laughed.

Oldest admitted her agreement.

"She doesn't need your help, either!"

Special Edition explained, "This is really Poppa's fault. Poppa's and yours."

I gave her an incredulous look. "How is this my fault?"

"Poppa was the one who told me last week in the car that he had to work on Halloween and that you would have to take the girls--" she heaped "poor Momma" emphasis on the words.

"So, I wasn't even there, and this is my fault?"

"Yes. It's affirmative action." She looked supremely proud of herself.

Okay then.

Thankfully, Special Edition chuckled and said she was happy to go trick-or-treating with the girls.

So I think I'm off the hook.


Friday, October 26, 2018

We Interrupt Your Dinner to Report a Hilarity

I was feeling lazy tonight, and so I decided to make a fan-favorite here that I call Baked Potato Toppers. It sounds far fancier than it is, as it's just baked potatoes topped with whatever we feel like: ham, cheese, what have you.

When I went downstairs at 6:30 to scrub potatoes and put them in the oven, I suspected the kids might still want this for dinner even though it meant eating at 7:30 instead of scrapping that and letting them scrounge a more immediate dinner right away.

Enthusiasm for my original (and simple) dinner plans confirmed, Oldest asked a question about her homework, which happened to be studying the list of Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Her paper, rather than list the text of the Amendments themselves, rather showed what they were about. She was confused about a couple of them, and we had a lively twenty-minute discussion about what the very important Bill of Rights was, especially as it related to a fictional account of me stealing a couple of TVs from Walmart and hiding them in our bomb shelter, my guilt or innocence depending on a couple of scenarios, and why the 19th Amendment was so important to us personally as women. We also discussed why the 24th Amendment was important to her and her sisters, as girls of color. (Look them up, people.)

Then I realized the time and went to scrub potatoes.

When we finally sat down to our very late dinner, Middle entertained us with a story about how she dislikes one of her (male) classmates. Intensely dislikes. Whatever word she used, she had to elaborate on it to her friend. "I loathe him," I think she said. Her friend asked for clarification at this point. "I hate him, I despise him, I can't stand him," Middle opined.

Here the friend showed she does not have Middle's vocabulary (not many sixth-graders do). "What does despise mean?"

Middle all but pounded the table as I carried my Winnie-the-Pooh tumbler into the room. "Context clues, woman!"

I almost dropped my cup.

And I immediately messaged the line to Waffle, so I wouldn't forget.

As dinner wrapped up, Middle was clearly not winding down. She had mischief in her eyes, and I'd already asked her to sit properly at the table. She sat on the floor like a dog instead. When I asked her to sit in her chair, she assumed a similar position, and would have barked if I'd not guessed that was coming next.

So I simply asked the kids to clear the table and put away the food. I contemplated the blackberry ginger ale I'd found at work--quite tasty, if you ask me--and prepared to get up and take my dishes to the kitchen.

That's when Middle moved from behind me over to the kitchen doorway with a maniacal shriek of laughter...that wouldn't stop. She bopped into the other room.

I considered things for a moment. "I think you'd better come back in here and tell me what you did."

Middle careened back in, shaking her head, curls flying riotously, laughing deliriously.

Okay then. I looked to her twin.

Youngest held up two slightly arched fingers. "She did this to you."

Bunny ears.

Middle shrieked again, giggles bouncing off the walls, much like she herself nearly was. "The difference is," she gasped, "when I did this to Dad, I was laughing at him!"

"As opposed to?" I said mildly, smiling.

The giggles burbled out. "I'm laughing at myself and what I did!"

I nodded and smirked. "I suppose you know, this means war."

 "I can't stop laughing!" She threw her head back and dodged, while I remained in my seat.

"You won't know when, or how..." I tried to say, and she whooped before the laughter overtook her.

I stood to bring my dishes to the kitchen, and she shrieked and dodged again, nearly falling over a chair, trying to escape. I left the kids to clean up, and then heard them come upstairs to get ready for bed, because it was now after 9.

Deciding it was really a shame that I hadn't gotten a photo of Middle's face in the midst of her laughter during the meal, I moseyed down the hall from my room and found her filling the tank for the humidifier in the hall bath.

"Momma, I made a mess, but I'll clean it up," she assured me.

Uh-huh. (But she did. We'll give her credit.)

"I need a picture of your hilarious face," I told her.

"I'm not in the mood now. You have to surprise me."


I stepped out of the bathroom and into the hall for about ten seconds...

You're welcome.

Regular Maintenance

Here at Casa Fries, we have what's called radiant heat. This means we have water pipes running through our floors, carrying hot water around the house, thus warming the floors, our toes, and the air around us. Generally pretty efficient, toasty for the tootsies, makes the cats happy, and requires some management when we first turn on the heat for the winter.

Which I did about two weeks earlier than I planned, thanks to the first overnight frost happening last week.

But I digress.

This means Hubby and I have to often bleed air from the lines to make sure there's nothing but water flowing through, or the house doesn't heat evenly, which it isn't right now. My bedroom is warm; the upstairs hallway is significantly cooler; the girls' bedroom is chilly. The stairwells are rather obviously not piped and rely on that whole heat-rises thing.

One of the air bleed locations in the basement has gunk on it that will not allow me to loosen the cap. That's one for Hubby to deal with, as I discovered when I went to bleed those lines the other day (usually my responsibility, because I'm smaller and can get back there behind the boiler). The upstairs lines (there are five of them) are all lined up in my closet and require a screwdriver to open.

While I waited for the potatoes to bake for tonight's dinner, I figured I would bleed the lines again, both upstairs and downstairs. I searched for a wrench to tackle the crusty one downstairs, and then for a screwdriver for upstairs.

As I shoved things aside in the kitchen closet toolbox, I shouted, "I need a regular rock! Where did all the regular rocks go? This is a Phillips rock. I need a regular rock!"

Middle, who has been down this road before with one of us, apparently, wasn't fazed.

Youngest, however, wanting to be helpful, offered, "Do you want me to go outside and get one, Mom?"

I snorted. Middle chuckled a little. "No, honey. I don't need that kind of a rock."

I strongly suspect Middle has been shown this Far Side cartoon. It's the only way she would know I'm talking about a screwdriver.

I found a regular rock in the downstairs tool cupboards, by the way.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Precise Definition

"Hey, Momma." Middle dropped into the rocker in the living room. "Guess what!"

I aimed the Roku remote (one of our wiser fiscal choices, that; wish we'd switched years ago) around Youngest and paused the show I'd put on for background noise while I tried to get some editing work done. Hopefully this was an update after yesterday's conversation about friendship. "What?"

"You-know-who and I are back together."

"I'm so glad," I told her, genuinely happy. Middle-school friendships are so often fraught with drama, and I was relieved this episode was short-lived.

"And I called one of my friends flamboyant today, but they didn't know what I meant, and so I had to explain that it means flashy and crazy and overly dramatic, and she didn't understand why I have to be so sesquipedalian, and..."

My brain screeched to a halt. I knew the word, but the definition escaped me. Fortunately, I had open in a browser tab, and a quick flick switched it to the dictionary side.

"Did you say sesquipedalian?"

Her eyes widened. "Maybe."

"Did they say that about you? Or did you say that about yourself?"

"What? No. I didn't say that."

I pinned Middle with a look. "I know you said it. I heard it."

She grinned. "I said it about me."

"Okay. I was just checking." I cocked my head and studied her. "Where did you hear it?"

"I don't know." She skipped out of the room.

I watched her go. Middle's my wordie. She likes to try to stump me. I at least knew how to spell the word, and Google doesn't recognize it here as correct. (Neither does spellcheck anywhere else I've mentioned it so far.)

Middle is the definition of sesquipedalian, given to using long words.

And she very nearly stumped me today.

I've got to up my game.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Snap, Crackle, and Pop

We here at Casa Fries, as you know, don't believe in doing anything halfway. Buckle up, because we have another one of these.

This week, I'm out at my mom's. Mom is recovering from surgery to repair a full rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder. The twins joined us on Monday this week, after Oldest went off to camp on Sunday and my mother-in-law went home Sunday evening. 

We had planned a relatively quiet Fourth of July. I would put out the flag at Mom's (she can't do it); Mom would go over to lunch at Sis and BIL's place; the twins and I would do something fun; and then Mom, the twins, and I would go over to the Lowe's parking lot and watch the fireworks from there.

Well, we all know what both Robert Burns and Solomon said about making your own plans...something about things going all agley when you think you've got it sorted out and the Lord making his own determinations.

The day started off as planned. I took Mom over to Sis and BIL's and then told the twins we'd go to Wendy's for lunch. I am not the grill master my father was, and I didn't feel like messing with my mother's broken gas grill, so Wendy's for cookery we went. Then we went to pick up some groceries that Mom had ordered through Walmart's website, and headed back home. Mom was still at Sis's, so we returned to watching Fixer Upper on HGTV (which we don't get at home).

Shortly after 3 p.m., while watching Pocahontas II with the twins, the phone rang. "Mrs. Auntie J, this is the camp director at Northwest Christian Camp. I have Oldest here, and she's hurt."


"She fell and tumbled down a short embankment and it looks like she might have dislocated her knee. We think she needs to be seen in the ER. Do you have a preference where we send her? We normally send them to Nearby Regional Hospital, but we can send her to Southern Hospital, if you prefer."

Given that I'm out at Mom's, Nearby Regional is closer. "I agree she needs to be seen. Go ahead and call the squad, and have them take her to Nearby Regional."

"Okay. Will do. We'll get things rolling here and call you back."

And so I waited for a bit, continuing to watch the movie with Middle and Youngest, and I sent a text to my mom around 3:30, explaining that I needed to leave. I also called Hubby to let him know the situation.

Mom responded about twenty minutes later, and the kids and I packed up to head out. I looked up Nearby Regional and figured I could get there without too much difficulty.

We were about twenty minutes into the drive and had arrived in Pickletown when my phone rang again. It was the camp director again. "The medics have been in touch with us and told us that they've felt they need to divert to Holy Ghost Medical."

"Where's that?"

"Mount Hill."

I whipped into the parking lot of of a church that's on the familiar route between Mom's and home, which had been the general route to Nearby Regional. "Okay. I'll find it."
"Please keep us informed about Oldest. We're all praying for her here."

I thanked him and hung up, and then did a search for Holy Ghost Medical and punched in directions. Fortunately, we weren't that far away.

Unfortunately, the skies opened up and God chose to celebrate the Fourth with us as I drove. The twins and I dashed through the rain to the Emergency Room entrance.

"My daughter Oldest Fry is here," I explained to the triage nurse. She frowned in concentration as she searched her system. "I may have beaten her here."

"Looks like you did," she confirmed. "Have a seat and I'll let you know when she arrives."

The twins and I settled down in the waiting room. They quickly got interested in America's Ninja Warrior and I pulled out the book I'd brought along, because, well, waiting rooms.

We waited about twenty minutes before being called over. We were led to a small room back behind the waiting room while the receptionist explained that Oldest had arrived and was being evaluated by their team, but we couldn't go see her yet. "She's getting the very best of care and being treated the fastest because she's in one of our trauma bays."

I had a flash of sudden understanding. I know what this room is for. Thankfully, I knew it wasn't for that purpose today, but it was still rattling, especially when the receptionist's departure coincided immediately with the arrival of a tiny woman wearing a habit. "Hi, I'm Sister Mary Joan, director of spiritual care."

We introduced ourselves, and Sister Mary Joan was quick to offer whatever assistance we needed. I only had a few moments to chat before I was called out to meet with the doctor.

"Hi. I'm Dr. Tall. You're mom?"

I nodded.

"Okay, what she has is a fracture of the growth plate here in her leg..." He turned to gesture at the x-ray, only to discover that it wasn't on a screen anywhere. "Okay, anyway, it's in the growth plate. That's orthopedics, and she really needs a pediatric orthopedist because of where the fracture is."

I nodded again and looked over at my daughter. Her injury was obvious, her left leg twisted and her knee swollen. I turned back to the doctor as he continued.

"So we are sending her to BigMed—did they tell you that?"

I shook my head.

"We're sending her to BigMed. They have a pediatric orthopedist there who's accepted her as a patient. So you don't have to go through any of the waiting or anything there; she's already a patient, so she skips the line. They're coming to transport at 6. Because she hit her head, we do need to do a CT to make sure she's okay. Any questions?"

That's a lot of information, awful fast. I looked at the clock. Twenty-two minutes until 6 p.m. "So what do you think we're looking at to treat this?"

"Probably surgery would be my guess. That's why she needs peds ortho. BigMed will take great care of her. You can go see her now."

I walked over, trying to avoid wires and cables and ER staff. "Hi, honey. Mom's here."

Oldest screamed and writhed in pain.

I reached for her hand. "It's okay."

"It's not okay!" she cried. "Why would you say that?"

Fair point. "I know. The doctors and nurses are going to help you, though. It's going to be okay."

That calmed her down some.

The nurses took her over to get her scan done, and I stood in the trauma bay and called Hubby at work. Again. Surprisingly, he answered the phone. I gave him the results of my two-minute conversation with the ER doc. After that, I called Mom and discussed what we were going to do with the fact that Oldest was going to be admitted forty-five minutes away, that Mom still needed help, and that I had to be with Oldest while the twins could not go stay with Sis and BIL.

Then I reviewed her history with the nurse. No weird diseases. These are her regular prescription meds (she takes two, and one OTC). She previously had her tonsils and adenoids out. No medication allergies that we know of. 

I stayed with her until the ambulance transport packed Oldest up and departed, promising to follow as soon as I could. Then I collected the twins, bid goodbye to Sister Mary Joan (who stayed with the twins the entire forty-five minutes I was gone; all the saints preserve her), and dashed through the rain to the car.

We drove back to Mom's, where we formed our game plan for the night: Sis would spend the night at Mom's with Mom and the twins. I would go be with Oldest. Reevaluate in the morning. I threw stuff
BigMed is very patriotic.
in a bag and drove to BigMed, where they were waiting for me. History review? Lather, rinse, repeat. No, I didn't see her injure herself. She was at camp. It was now about 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile I'd learned a bit more about the accident that brought us here. Oldest had safely navigated the zip line at camp and gotten unhooked from the harness, landing aground safely. But when the time came to run the rope back up the trail to the tower for the next camper, Oldest missed the trail and ran out of rope. She stumbled and landed on one knee, letting go of the rope. When she jumped to grab it again, she missed, and tumbled down a two-and-a-half foot embankment.

I met a wide association of doctors, nurses, techs, and was brought up to speed. The orthopedic fellows and one of the trauma docs and her admitting physician all decided that the best route to treat her was not surgery, but rather to sedate her in her room in the ER, set the fracture, cast it, then vent the cast by cutting slits in it to allow for swelling, then wrap the vented cast in a soft dressing. We'd come back and see them "in clinic" for follow-ups and go from there. Should be released in the morning after observation overnight.

So that's what happened. The admitting doctor thought they'd cleared her C-spine (x-rays showed no injury), but Oldest still complained her neck hurt at a level 4, so the collar stayed on, especially after she winced and cried after the doctor probed the back of her neck.

I stayed in the room until Oldest fell asleep under anesthesia so that the fracture could be properly set, and then I got punted to the waiting room. I bought the last bag of Smartfood popcorn from the vending machine and was bummed when I found there wasn't any more in the machine. (That was dinner.) 

The doctors proclaimed the procedure a success and I came back to wait with Oldest, who slept peacefully (thank goodness). Then they brought us up to her room. It was well past 2 a.m. when we finally got to fitful sleep.

Today dawned with Oldest waking me to read stuff on the television that's required for parents to read and acknowledge before they'll spring you from this joint.  I met with the social worker, who asked what she could to to help, and I explained my clothing dilemma: Oldest was at camp, all of her stuff is still at camp, home is ninety minutes away, and we are discharging to Gramma's home 50 minutes away. Yet more doctors came in, including the ones from last night. I wondered how much sleep the one whose name I originally thought was Dr. Quack (cell connection was poor because of the storm when Hubby called) had actually gotten, because it was almost criminal for him to look that good when I'd last seen him a scant four hours before. These young kids. I figured he was probably wearing yesterday's clothes like I was and felt better (before I went right back to sleep; he came in just before 6). A cheery Child Life volunteer came in around 9:30 and offered to have Oldest play Bingo via streaming video at 10:30 since she wasn't ambulatory. More nurses came in just at Bingo time and helped Oldest play, and she won the first of three games. (The roving Prize Patrol cart came to her.) Person #700 came and introduced himself as such, bringing some possible clothes for Oldest.

Of course, that's when we thought we were getting out of here today.

Because then Dr. Strong came in. He's the pediatric orthopedist who's really in charge here. He didn't like the way her leg was laying there in the cast, and determined he wanted to do what he hoped was a closed procedure to set the bone in precisely the right place so that she wouldn't end up knock-kneed. It was close enough, he said, that had she been 4, he would have left it alone. But because Oldest is almost 13 and the growth plate in her tibia (the bone she broke) stops growing at age 14, he didn't think she'd have enough time left to grow to have the bone straighten itself out. He gave me several options for what might need to be done in a traditionally closed procedure. 

Everything else today has been marching towards that procedure. Neuro came in, wanting to get an MRI done of her neck to make sure that there isn't anything wrong there that's causing pain and discomfort.

So I'm sitting here in a padded chair, in the very waiting room I was in almost exactly three weeks ago when Middle had her heart surgery. Not too long ago, last night's admitting doctor came out to talk to the family of another patient. He saw me and stopped before he went to talk to them, and asked if Oldest was in surgery, and if she was still in the collar. I explained Dr. Strong's reasoning, and he nodded, and we talked a little about last night before he moved on to his patient's family, but not before he gave me good wishes for Oldest's healing.

The receptionist informed me just now that Oldest is in surgery, and that Dr. Strong says they'll just be casting.

Sounds like good news to me, which means we should be out of here tomorrow. Whew.

If I'd had to pick which daughter would break a bone first, I would have said Middle, hands down. Agley is no respecter of a mother's intuition, I suppose.

To a less-adventurous Fourth next year!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

All Things New

I have been camping out at my mom's this week, taking over as chief cook, bottle washer, chauffeur, and nurse. Mom had surgery on Tuesday to repair a full tear on her right rotator cuff, and her surgeon wouldn't even schedule the procedure until he confirmed Mom had live-in help for two weeks post-op. Enter me.

The original plan called for the girls to come with me, and then Hubby would come out and pick up Oldest to pack her off to camp today. However, that changed last Friday, when my mother-in-law called and said she and Hubby's oldest sister and her husband were coming out a week earlier than expected.

Okay then. The girls got to stay with Gramma Bevvie, and I came to Mom's alone.

Which turned out to be a good thing all around, as it turned out. I love my mother-in-law, and I was sorry I couldn't spend more time with her than just a day, but Mom and I both agreed that having it just be the two of us in the immediate days following surgery was a good thing.


That's why I'm here.

Here, and scorching along with everyone else in the vicinity of the East Coast. We are all baking.

To that end, one of my daily tasks has been watering Mom's flowerbeds and tiny garden.

With temperatures soaring and the heat index skyrocketing, it was equally imperative that we get out to the cemetery and water the new tree Mom had planted on the plot where Dad's ashes are buried.

This is the part that requires a little history.

When Mom went looking for a cemetery plot, she specifically wanted a place that would allow her to plant a tree. Specifically, an oak tree, because oaks were special to my father, featured prominently in a poem he had written about his own father. Mom had gained permission from the cemetery my sister found, in a nice location, next to a small private airstrip (Dad also loved planes), and everything seemed perfect. We planted the tree and buried Dad's ashes.

And then things went sideways. Turns out, the owners of the cemetery—who also owned several cemeteries and properties in Ohio—were crooks. Mom was contacted by federal agents investigating the owners. The marker Mom ordered and paid for never arrived nor was installed. (As of this writing, Mom has seen the marker, and it's actually complete, but it still has not been installed, after three years.) Getting questions answered was next to impossible. The cemetery fell into disrepair, tended by only a few volunteers. Dad's tree was the only thing marking his grave.

Then I got a call from my mother in mid June last year, telling me that someone had cut the tree down.

Devastated doesn't begin to describe how we all felt.

The tree wasn't just cut down; it was chopped so low to the ground that it looked like it was never there.

Mom went and talked to the mother-in-law of the skeezy husband who owns the property, trying to find out what happened. This tree, after all, was tall enough and established enough to not just be a nut job planted by a forgetful squirrel. Of course, if they'd actually installed Dad's marker, then the tree wouldn't have just looked like it didn't belong in the middle of an expanse of plots. The mother-in-law said they never would have allowed a tree to be planted, while Mom argued that the owner said he loved the idea and wanted to plant more pin oaks in that section.

But with everything going on, and the owners in Ohio trying to wrap things up before beginning prison sentences, there was no way to get confirmation...and then the feds decided Mr. Martin was too much of a flight risk and scooped him up.

So. No tree. No marker.

My brother-in-law went out and hunted around, and found the very short stump, so at least we knew we could find the plot again.

Seasons changed, and Mom researched what she wanted to do.

This spring, she planted another oak tree. This one, she told me, was not a pin oak like the last one, just a regular oak with the more rounded leaves. And BIL had helped plant it, and he'd made sure that it would not be so hastily cut down. Mom mentioned that he'd also put up a cross with Dad's name and dates of birth and death.

Which brings me to today.

And our heat wave.

Hatchet proof.
Mom had wisely chosen to not attempt church, and after we had lunch and took a short walk, she decided she didn't truly need to go to the cemetery with me. I could go and water the tree alone.

I took five full gallon jugs of water and drove over, hoping that BIL's attempts to prevent another hackery were sufficient. I wasn't sure I could handle seeing another tree gone, and I hadn't been to the cemetery since the last time I'd gone, when I'd seen the awful truth for myself that the tree wasn't there.

I pulled up next to the section where Mom and Dad's plot is and smiled. The tree still stood, as did a small sturdy cross. I smiled. Well. That does discourage a quick hatchet job. BIL had constructed a cage support for the tree out of two-by-fours and chicken wire.

I grabbed the first two jugs and strode over. Huh. That's an awful lot of foliage near the ground there.

I set the jugs down when I got there, and dropped to my knees. It can't be! Shoots burst out of the ground. Actual branches. One threaded two and a half feet high, in through the chicken wire surrounding the new tree. I tugged it free.

I shoved aside the branches. They're saying poison oak is everywhere. Am I getting myself in a world of trouble? No, this is oak oak! I felt around. There it was--the stump, the jagged two-level cut that felled it that I remember.

This is Dad's tree!

I laughed in outright glee.

Death cannot stop true love.
I studied the leaves. Yes, these were pin oak leaves. They were clearly oak leaves, but also very clearly not the same as the oak leaves on the oak tree BIL had carefully caged. I shrieked and laughed some more. This is the coolest little resurrection story!

I dumped water on both trees—although admittedly the pin oak looked more like a bush than a tree—with glorious abandon.

See? I told you not to lose heart. I am making all things new. The words fed life into my soul. Thank you, Abba.

I messaged Waffle. I called Hubby, who was driving his mother back to meet his brother (the twins will be joining me tomorrow).

Then I plucked two leaves, one from each tree, and went home to tell Mom.

As I staggered into the house from the heat of the garage, she asked, "So, was it there?"

"Oh, it was there," I told her. "They were both there."

Mom whipped her head around as fast as she could. "Both?"

"Yes, both." I grinned. "Despite everything, that pin oak has grown back."

"Well, how about that."

How about that.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Kindness Challenge

We were five days into summer break and I was already sick of the squabbling. After listening to the girls nitpick against each other most of the day, I announced that we were done with this. It was going to be a long summer if all they did was snipe at each other all the time, and I wasn't going to have it.

"If you can't say something nice, you won't say anything at all," I told the three of them as we gathered around the kitchen island. "If the only nice thing you can say is, 'Oldest, I like the way you did your hair today,' then that's what you'll say. If that's the only nice thing you can say, then that's all you'll say." I gave them all hard stares. "If you can't say anything nice, my tape will help keep you from saying not-nice things."

The girls snickered.

"I'm not kidding," I continued. "If the only nice thing you can say is, 'Youngest, your shirt is cute,' then that's what you say. Furthermore, we're going to start a Kindness Challenge."

Their faces lit up.

"You may not nominate yourselves," I announced, watching their expressions fall. "When you see someone else doing something kind, you'll write it down and put it in the jar. For example, I can say that Youngest took the bread out of the bread machine for me without being asked, and that was kind."

"Are you and Dad gonna play? Can Special Edition?"

Special Edition was visiting at the time, and I knew she'd love this news. I grinned and answered the girls anyway. "Of course. It's for the whole family."

The girls really seemed excited, and Middle walked over to the homework station where we keep the Chromebook. "Can we use this pad of paper?"

A happy snowman smiled at us from the right corner. "That's mine, but sure, we can use that."

"Can we use that jar?" Middle pointed on top of the cupboard.

And so began our Kindness Challenge. I toyed with the idea of awarding dimes for every kindness, and filching them back for every meanness, but decided I didn't want kindness to be a currency. I wanted it to be its own reward.

Little folded slips of paper began appearing in the jar.

Well, where all this has been going is that today the squabbling reached a fever pitch again after Hubby went to work. I called them all up to the living room where I'd been folding laundry and talking to Waffle on the phone. "What's going on?" I asked, less interested in the answer and more interested in the next question I planned to ask. I let them spin out the answer and asked a couple of follow-ups just to justify bringing them up.

Then I jumped in. "Oldest, I would like you to tell me something you like about Youngest."

Oldest blinked at me, and then said, "Well, I like how she's creative..."

I stopped her. "That's good. But don't tell me. Tell your sister."

Oldest turned and relayed her compliment directly to the sister she has the most difficulty getting along with. "I really like how creative you are, and how you'll still try to play with me, even when I'm in a bad mood."

I had Oldest repeat the exercise with Middle, and then asked Middle to offer a compliment to Youngest in the same vein.

"I like your wild socks!"

Um, no. "Not something physical," I instructed. "Something deeper than that."

"Dad let us do that," Middle whined.

I gestured up and down along my torso. "Do I look like Dad?" Waffle snorted in my earbud.

Middle found a way to come up with genuine compliments for her sisters, and then it was Youngest's turn.

I studied them for a moment, trying to figure out my next step. "Oldest," I said, "I like your compassion. You care about things. Middle, I like your quick wit. It keeps me on my toes. Youngest, I like your desire to explore and learn. When you didn't know something, you looked to find it out." I looked at each of them. "Now, I want you to say something you like about yourselves."

Middle popped away from the wall. "I like my wordiness. I know lots of words." Her eyes narrowed at me. "But not more than you. I envy you."

I smothered a chuckle and said aside into the microphone on my earbuds, "You should have seen the look I just got."


"I've been talking to Waffle," I explained. "Go on."

With prompting, Youngest told us what she likes about herself.

"Oldest, what do you like about yourself?"


Well. "There's got to be something you like about yourself."

"Hey, Mom, what do you like about yourself?" Middle asked.

"I like my wordiness, too."

"Hey, somebody put your mom down for buying me tea!" Waffle shouted in my ear.

I relayed the message to the girls, and the twins took off giggling, chasing each other, trying to put in the paper slip first.

I chuckled and turned back to the more pressing problem of Oldest and her not having anything to like about herself. We had a good long talk about how other people's opinions shouldn't dictate whether she liked her eyes (which I love; they're the color of melted dark chocolate and they shine) or her skin color or her musical taste or whatever she likes about herself.

And both of the previous stories are really a setup for this one.

That long talk also included a ninja-level of reporting on the post-bedtime activities that were making all three girls sleep in so late (which I'd begun suspecting), so after I wrapped up my conversation with Oldest, promising to address the nocturnal misadventures she'd complained of, I went back to talking with Waffle, and I proceeded to set in motion my plan.

I figured the surest way to know what was happening in the room was to hear it, and I'd recently found the old intercom system we'd used as a baby monitor when the girls were teeny. After much crawling around under the loft beds, I positioned one intercom under Middle's loft bed and locked it in transmit position. I put the other under the loveseat where I usually sit in the living room.

Then I sent the cherubs to bed.

Middle has been using Special Edition's room since last Wednesday, when she had the heart catheterization procedure to get rid of her Wolff-Parkinson-White, because she still feels bruised at the groin and it's been easier to get in and out of Special Edition's bed than her own loft bed. I'd asked Middle to try her own bed tonight but didn't see her do it, so I was surprised to find her in Special Edition's room. Upon confrontation, she went up to her own room...but not her own bed.

Which I did not know.

I turned on the monitor, still talking to Waffle, mind you, because incidents had gone on so long, and then I heard funny sounds in the radio static from the intercom-monitor.


And then, Middle's voice.  "Who are you, strange person? Who's on the other side of this gadget?"

I could not believe it. I grabbed the intercom off the floor, jabbed the Talk button, and growled, "Get back into bed!"

"They found it already?" Waffle asked.

"Yes, they found it already." I hoofed it up the stairs to see what was going on.

Middle had decided she couldn't do her loft bed, and rather than coming down to Special Edition's room, which I'd told her she could stay in, she'd made a bed on the floor under her loft bed...and found the intercom and its glowing buttons.