Saturday, December 25, 2010


I promised you a picture of Flamingo Joe and his little chicks in their Christmas outfits and here they are:

They look a little pooped out because they are. I took this picture after the Christmas Eve service. These poor children are worn slap out from working themselves into a tizzy wanting Santa to come. They spent the last couple of days before Christmas helping me make cookies . . . and by "help" I mean exactly what you think I mean:

Two days before Christmas, I went into Casey's room and saw that they had made their own sleigh:

. . . complete with reindeer:

Casey also spent some time practicing his two songs we'd been working on to sing for YaYa and PopPop. Here's some of the actual performance if you're interested (vanity disclaimer - ignore the pianist, who had not yet had a shower in spite of the fact that this video was shot at 3:00 in the afternoon and also had no makeup on):

So cute. I'm not sure how Flamingo Joe could just lay back there with his eyes closed with all that cuteness going on right in front of him.

You'll recall, that both of our children received letters from Santa the week before Christmas and Santa told them that if they were not in bed and asleep he could not leave presents for them. So Casey, who had spied on Santa for three years in a row, suddenly saw the error of his ways and decided that he should at least pretend to be asleep this year when Santa came. Instead of spying on Santa this Christmas Eve, Casey decided he didn't want to risk getting busted and on December 23rd, came into our room right before bed and announced that he had a new plan for Christmas Eve. As you might imagine, this made our Christmas Eve much simpler.

So on Christmas Eve, while I was in Casey's room reading to him, we thought we heard a noise, so Casey turned out all the lights and told me to be quiet. Sure enough, pretty soon we heard reindeer hooves, jingle bells, and some disconcerting sliding and shuffling noises on the roof. Poor Santa had some trouble on our slick shingles -- we almost had to cash in that life insurance policy we carry on Santa. Mace had been asleep for an hour, so he missed all the excitement, but he decided he believed in Santa after all once he saw his brand new Spiderman bike waiting on him the next morning.

Note that it is indeed still dark outside -- I think we were up by 6:30 or so. I vaguely remember the seven Christmases back during the days before we had kids. We slept until 8:00 (Joe) or 9:00 (me), got up, had coffee and a bagel and then moseyed over to the tree by 10:00 or so to open the 2 or 3 presents under the tree. If I had know how having children would change Christmas, I would have had those pesky kids much much sooner. Christmas without kids is always a bit of a let-down, I think.

We had a great morning. By the time YaYa snapped the picture above, we had already progressed to the assembly stage of our morning, which extended well into the evening. Just kidding, it wasn't too bad this year, though I did get frustrated enough trying to get Gordon to work that I almost threw him through the wall.

Casey got a bat, glove and bucket of baseballs, so I spent some time trying not to get hit in the face while at the same time standing close enough for accurate pitches. I'm a terrible pitcher. But Mace is an excellent fetcher. YaYa is a good fetcher, too, for that matter.

I got a Kindle for Christmas, which explains why I haven't posted since Christmas Eve -- I've read about 6 books since Christmas Day. Flamingo Joe threatened to hide the Kindle a couple of days ago, but he's finding it hard to snatch it because it's usually attached to me somehow. But I'm learning to moderate my new addiction by only reading while I'm awake -- though last night I did fall asleep with my head on the Kindle and then dreamed I was still reading, so maybe I have some more work to do with my Kindle sponsor.

Oh well . . . new year, new challenges.

Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Why Jesus Came

A couple of Sundays ago at church, it was Tommy Shelton's job to prepare us for communion. We have communion every Sunday at our church -- I grew up in Southern Baptist churches where communion was once a quarter. So for the first few months at our current church, it would surprise me every Sunday when the elements were passed out and whoever was next to me would have to nudge me to take the plate. Tommy Shelton is our church's youth pastor and I really like his sermons -- they are often a little complex, but he comes back around to where he started and I always love how he gets back there. Here is a link to his Sunday sermons -- I highly recommend the sermon from Christmas last year (Bread, Goggles & Wise Men):

But on the Sunday I'm talking about, Tommy's only job was to prepare us for communion. Because we have communion every Sunday, the job of preparing the congregation for it is passed around to different people (much like the elements themselves) -- I used to laugh to myself that it must be difficult to think of new things to say about communion every week and pity the poor soul whose turn it was to get up there, but after hearing about a year's worth of insights into communion, I'm starting to have a new perspective on communion. I think that maybe the point of having communion every week is to actually incorporate the taking of the bread and wine into the routine of worship. Think about it -- effective corporate worship involves being comfortable enough in your surroundings to not think about what's going to happen next so that you can let your heart and mind find God without distraction. At churches where communion is taken once a quarter and on Christmas and Easter, communion itself is an event -- we have to make room for it in the Sunday morning line-up. It changes things up and throws the rhythm of worship off -- I've never found communion to be that meaningful in those circumstances. Now that I've been taking communion every week for a year, it's part of my weekly corporate worship and I am comfortable enough to find God there without distraction.

So on this Christmas Eve, I wanted to share Tommy's insights into Christmas and Communion with you:

It’s obvious to my family that Christmas is coming soon. I have loved the cold weather lately because for me cold=Christmas, its because of where I grew up. The first Christmas I spent here, I spent in shorts, and it just didn’t seem right. So I know that Christmas is coming but what does that bring with it? Well, we know that as followers of Christ that Christmas is about the coming of Jesus. And we know from the Gospels that Jesus did so many wonderful things and it would appear by looking at the sheer volume of things that Christ accomplished and the things that Christ taught, that Jesus came for so many reasons. And we realize that Christ came because he was the Fathers gift to us, and he came to love us and to show us how to live. He came to do miraculous things, he came to feed homeless and heal the sick and gift sight to the blind. We know all of these things, we read them in Matthew, Mark Luke, and John. We see the richness and the fullness of Christ’s life and everything that he accomplished, but why did Jesus come -- I mean why did he really come? We read in 1st Corinthians 5:21 that “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin that we might become the righteousness of God.” But what was THE purpose for Jesus’ life? The purpose of Jesus’ life was Jesus‘ death. Jesus came to die. Everything that Jesus did, he did on the way to the cross. Every sermon that he taught was on the way to the cross. Every hungry mouth he fed was on the way to the cross. Every blind and crippled man he healed was on the way to the cross. Meditate on this meal because it is symbolic for the reason why Christ came -- so his blood could be spilled and that we could be washed clean. Of course Jesus healed, he is a loving God. Of course he fed, he is a loving God. Jesus always had time for those in need. But He was always clear that the purpose of His coming was to die. He came so that his flesh could be torn and his blood would be spilled so that we could be washed clean. We spend a lot of time with our children and they get all wrapped up with the presents part of Christmas, and its almost so cliché’ to say, “lets remember Jesus is the reason for the season” but what’s the real reason? Lets go a little bit deeper than that. Jesus came to die. My children were asking me the other day what my favorite holiday was, and I said I think it’s Christmas, and Adelyn said, “mine too.” And Ella my seven year old said “But daddy, Easter is the most important holiday though, isn't it? And I said, "Yes Ella it is," but then I said "Girls, Christmas is really a celebration of Easter, Jesus had to be born for him to die." So, this meal, this simple juice, and this simple piece of bread symbolizes the life that we can have -- the righteousness that we can have. Because God made him who knew know sin to become sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

So this Christmas, may God's peace be with you because you are confident in your Savior's love for you -- because you know that your Savior died that you may have life.

Merry Christmas!

(***Special thanks to Tommy Shelton for allowing me to post his message!***)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Miracle at Dillards

I love the countdown to Christmas mainly because I like to torture my kids by bringing packages in the front door, sashaying past them with an evil I-know-something-you-don't grin, ignoring their pleas for information ("What's in there?" "Can I see?" "Is it for me?"), and carrying the package into the sewing room closet. It's odd, but Casey is one of those children that if you tell him not to go near something, he just won't go near it. You don't have to threaten him with consequences or make up an extravagant story about how all the presents will just *poof* disappear if he opens the door. I attribute this rogue strain of obedience to his naturally skittish nature -- he assumes that if I tell him not to go near something (hot stove, electricity, Christmas closet), that if he does go near it he will experience pain, or worse, in his case, failure. So he hasn't even attempted to go in the sewing room.

The only reason Mace hasn't tried to go in the sewing room is because he doesn't really know enough to try yet. When he figures it out, it will take all manner of threats and security measures, possibly tasers, to keep him out. I'll have to start hiding presents somewhere else.

Nowadays, the thing I miss most about Christmas is the element of surprise. The rules of gift-giving have changed altogether. As an adult, it's only polite to give your loved ones a short list of affordable items you might like -- to drop all the proper hints at the proper time. It saves them the frustration of figuring it out -- which I understand, since it is four days until Christmas and I still haven't bought anything for Flamingo Joe and neither has Grandma.

When Flamingo Joe and I started dating, I was so excited to have someone to buy clothes for, so I would buy him shirts and jackets and sweaters at Christmas. I found out pretty quickly that he didn't appreciate it -- he took it as an insult that I apparently thought he couldn't dress himself. He was really rather sensitive about it. He totally misinterpreted my intentions -- whether he could or could not dress himself was completely irrelevant -- I loved clothes. It gave me great pleasure and joy to buy him some. I don't find nearly as much pleasure and joy in buying him tools.

Flamingo Joe and I rarely shop together anymore, but somehow Saturday night I convinced him to go with me to the mall after supper to help me find Casey a sweater vest to wear Sunday morning to church (the kids were singing in the service). We started out at Sears and thereafter hit every single department store at the mall. I rarely shop for nice clothes for the kids -- my goal is to buy them clothes that, when they get stained with spaghetti sauce or chocolate milk within the first two minutes they are worn, don't make me cry. The ratio of time worn before stained v. cost is extremely important when selecting clothes for boys.

But there are rare occasions when I have to find something nice, and singing at church is one of them. As we made our way through store after store, the selection of nice boy clothes was limited to almost nothing. At Sears we found one sweater left in Casey's size. We hid it amongst some clothes crammed on a rack in case that was our only option and went to the next store, which I think was JCPenney's. I wish you could have seen the tables of clothes at Penney's -- it looked like a tornado had come and picked up all the clothes and dropped them again. Those poor employees were going to be there until 3 a.m. folding clothes.

Then we went on to Macy's and stopped at a couple of other smaller stores in between. Nothing. I was really surprised Macy's only had dress shirts with horrible cheap ties in sets to sell. Nothing else. And to find those, we had to lay on the floor and scoop them out from behind a rack of pants hanging against the wall where they had fallen during the shopping melee that had apparently taken place there during the day. We had been at the mall for an hour and a half and were getting discouraged. Flamingo Joe, whose bum knee was killing him, suggested we go back to Sears and buy the one sweater. I told him I thought we should hit Dillards and that he shouldn't feel like he needed to go there with me -- he was free to go back to Red Robin and nurse a beer until I got there. But he said he'd come with me and we headed to Dillards.

When we finally found the children's department at Dillards, I looked around at all the neatly hung and folded clothes that were arranged by (gasp) style and color and I heard angels singing. It was a Christmas miracle. Joe and I headed straight for the sweater vests that were hanging neatly on the wall with matching mock turtlenecks right beside them and in 30 seconds had picked out the perfect set for Casey. Then Flamingo Joe suggested we try to find something similar for Mace.

I almost passed out -- Flamingo Joe was suggesting we shop more? Gracious.

We walked across the room to the little boy department, which was arranged just as neatly. My personal belief is that when you walk into a store that sells clothes for little boys, the store should be arranged in such a way that you gasp and run to a rack saying, "Look how cute!!!!" They had the exact vest we picked out for Casey in Mace's size and the same mock turtleneck. I was having euphoric visions of my children in matching Christmas sweaters on Christmas Eve when I spotted a vest in the same colors but with a train on the front. I almost passed out -- I held it out for Joe to see and he had to keep himself from crying it was so cute (that may be a slight exaggeration).

With both the boys outfitted, we were getting ready to head for the checkout when Joe said (you're not going to believe this), "I wonder if they have that same sweater we're getting Casey in my size."

Oh my. I don't think I've been that happy in years.

It was like the very opposite of that excruciating marriage workshop we went to a couple of years ago.

So we went to the men's department and . . . sadly, no, they didn't have the exact sweater, but they did have a solid sweater vest in the same gray as the kids' vests, so we bought that for Flamingo Joe. I don't have a picture of him and the boys together yet, so you'll have to check back with me on Christmas Day.

In our post-shopping glow, we stopped at Red Robin for a Jamaican Shake (me) and a beer (FJ). As we were sitting there basking in the glory of actually finding what we were looking for and then some, I told Joe I was having trouble finding him something for Christmas and so was his mother. I told him I didn't want to just give him money to fix his tractor or whatever, I wanted to give him an actual gift. He said he didn't need anything else -- he needed to fix stuff or new stuff to work on stuff he needed to fix. For example, he said, he needs a new push mower.

A push mower?

I told him that was the same as if he bought me a vacuum/mop combo for Christmas.

He said no, it wasn't, because he would actually use the push mower.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Naughty List

We have discovered this holiday season that our three year old, Mace, is a natural skeptic. This is his first "conscious" Christmas season -- i.e., he is verbal enough to tell us exactly what his reactions are to Santa, reindeer, elves, etc.

And he thinks it's all bunk.

It's a bit of a downer during the holidays when your 7 year old is more of a believer than your 3 year old.

Two days after Thanksgiving, when Everest, our family elf, came back and appeared on top of the entertainment center, Casey was thrilled and ran to get Mace and bring him into the room. When Casey showed Mace the elf, Mace sat down on the couch and just stared at him for a good five minutes before announcing, "He not real."

Casey protested, "Yes he is!! You can talk to him and tell him what you want for Christmas and he'll go back to the North Pole every night and tell Santa whether you've been bad or good!"

Mace stuck to his guns, "No. He not real."

Yesterday, both of the children received letters from Santa himself. It was a surprise for all of us (except Flamingo Joe, if you catch my meaning). We opened up the letters right away and read the remarkable news that Santa has placed both my children on the "Good List."

As soon as I told Mace that Santa had sent him a letter, he said, "No, he not send letter." So I started reading the letter aloud to him. The entire time I'm reading the letter, he's shaking his head and mumbling something to himself.

"No," he would say, shaking his head, "(mumble mumble mumble)."

When I got to the end of the letter, I pulled out the certificate that came with the letter which declares that In Honor of Your Outstanding Behavior and for Keeping the Spirit of Christmas All Year Long, I Santa Claus, Hereby Place Mace Flamingo on the Good List for this Christmas. The Good List Certificate is signed by Rudolph (by hoofprint), Arthur Elfmeyer the Chief Elf and Santa Claus himself. I showed the certificate to Mace and told him, "See Mace, Santa put you on the Good List."

Mace shook his head again and spoke up loud enough for us to hear exactly what he was saying this time, "No. I on Naughty List."

Grandma and I started laughing, "What did you say??"

"I on the Naughty List. I not on Good List."

I asked him, "Who told you that you are on the Naughty List?"

"Miss Christine," he said. Miss Christine is one of his preschool teachers.

Mace has been having some self-control issues lately at school and at home. He is at the same age that Casey was when I took him on an almost week-long trip to Memphis with my parents and when we came back, my mother told me that she was going to buy me a book about how to raise an only child. Apparently she thought that one child was too many for me since I couldn't even teach the one I had to keep his limbs from flinging about at the least little stimulus.

How bad, though, do you have to behave for your preschool teacher to tell you that are on Santa's Naughty List?

But the bigger point here, I think, is that Mace actually has so much self-awareness that if Santa thinks he is worthy of the Good List, then Santa obviously doesn't exist.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Losing Quarterback Anderson Dares to Laugh During Game

***Disclaimer: This post was researched for all of two minutes on the internet by my research assistant (i.e., me) who only cares about professional football if Brad Johnson is playing (and he's not anymore); therefore, the opinions expressed in this post are unenlightened, for all intents and purposes unresearched, and may be offensive to anyone who actually cares about profesional football.***

In case you haven't heard (which I find hard to believe, since it is such really really big news, on the order of health care reform and nuclear attacks), Arizona Cardinals quarterback, Derek Anderson, actually laughed while talking with a teammate on the sidelines last night during Monday Night Football while his team was getting beaten by the San Francisco 49ers and is being excoriated by sportscasters and other professional sporting types.

The absolute unmitigated nerve of that guy to actually set an example for your kids (mine have never heard of Monday Night Football) and show them that playing sports is fun even when your team is losing.

Seriously, who does that guy think he is? A guy who plays a game for living?


(The sad part is that instead of consulting me prior to the post-game press conference, where he could have been counseled along the above lines, he blew his cool and stormed off. I'm hoping all those impressionable young children were in bed by then and only saw him laughing.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving -- Do You Know Where the Cheez Whiz is?

Today is Thanksgiving, so I have to run get my last minute items from the grocery store -- silver polish and brown sugar. It took me all day Monday and Tuesday to make a long shopping list for everything I would need for today. I intended to go to the store only once. When I got to the store yesterday afternoon, I exited my vehicle with my detailed shopping list in hand, but by the time I was standing in front of the cucumbers I had lost it. I nearly broke down right there in the store. I retraced my steps all the way back out to the car and couldn't find the list, but I only had one hour to get the shopping done, so I tried to remember everything on the list. I walked up and down each aisle scanning both sides of the aisle to make sure I didn't miss anything. I must have looked deranged because at least two Publix employees asked me if they could help me find something. Both times, I sobbed out, "I lost my LIST, can you help me find my LIST?? It took me two days to make it!! I can't find it!!" They both mumbled apologies and left me alone.

When I got home, I pulled out my menu for today and cross-referenced the ingredients to the items I purchased and realized I had done pretty well. The only things I forgot from the original list were Cheez Whiz and silver polish. As the day progressed yesterday, the menu changed slightly – Flamingo Joe wants sweet potatoes, so I had to find a recipe for that and then had to find time to get back to the store.

Dez went with us to dinner last night and she had to pick up something for her family’s Thanksgiving meal (only lettuce -- she’s such a bad cook, they don’t even trust her to make the entire salad), so after we ate, we stopped by Target to pick up what we needed. I told Dez I needed Cheez Whiz and she insisted it was in the cracker aisle. As I am from the South, I have eaten plenty of things with Cheez Whiz in them, but I haven’t actually cooked with it myself for several years, so I had no clue where to find it in Target. But Dez was apparently a Cheez Whiz connoisseur and could lead me right to it. I was, quite frankly, a little taken aback by her confidence. She told me to follow her, so I did – right up to the bottles of squirt cheese.

“Dez,” I said, “this isn’t Cheez Whiz.”

“Yes it is” she said.

“No. It isn’t” I said. “Cheez Whiz comes in a jar. That’s squirt cheese. You can't cook with squirt cheese. I'm pretty sure it's not even food.”

“Well then, I don’t know where the Cheez Whiz is.”

Just in case you need to know where the Cheez Whiz is for your cooking today, it’s in the cheese case where the cream cheese and shredded cheese is. I think that proves that it’s a legitimate food item – a whole different class of food than squirt cheese.

Squirt cheese, honestly. You can’t make mac n’ cheese with squirt cheese!

I was so upset by this insult to Cheez Whiz that I forgot to get silver polish and brown sugar.

So I'll see you at Wal-Mart in a few minutes!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flamingo Day at Disney

Last weekend we met one of my best friends, Durema, and almost her entire extended family at Disney. Durema and I actually met at camp when we were young and then happened to end up at the same small college in North Carolina many years later. I was sitting in my first day of Finite Math (the math class English majors took because there were no actual numbers involved) and the professor, who was calling the role, called out "Durema R--!" A voice from two or three chairs back called out "Here!" I whipped my head around to see if it could possibly be the same Durema I knew from camp (how many Duremas do you know?) and there she was. Durema will probably not appreciate receiving even this much attention in my blog, so I definitely won't get into our college days.

But we don't need to digress that far back to provide any background for our day at Disney. Suffice it to say that it was great to spend that much time with my friend. Flamingo Joe, on the other hand, was not as thrilled to be at Disney -- I had promised him we would go to Hollywood Studios this time since we've been to Disney with Casey several times. He's got a bum knee and if he's going to be walking around all day, he would at least like it to be in a new place so the pain will be worth it. But he was a good sport when I changed my mind at the very last second to join Durema and her family at the happiest place on earth. He only took out his frustration by taking blurry and unflattering pictures of me.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

(Though that's not so much unflattering as it is doofy.)

Mace, as usual, adopted another family as soon as we stepped off the monorail. The good news is that the new family was at least people we knew this time.

This was Mace's first trip to Disney, so it was fun to watch him experience it fresh. He drove the race cars with Daddy:

(Grandma has the same trouble with visibility when she's driving, too.)

He climbed the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse so Joe could get some ideas about what to do with all the bamboo he's growing.

And he went shooting:

After we pushed the boys aside (who really couldn't hit the broad side of a barn), I outshot Flamingo Joe by several points -- ok, no one was keeping score, but I'm sure if they were, I totally won. Winning a marksmanship award during basic training 28 years ago doesn't guarantee that you can beat your wife in a shoot-off at Disney.

On Sunday morning we went shopping in Downtown Disney. It was miserable for Joe, who had to combine two things he hates: shopping with children in toy stores and pointlessly walking around.

So he amused himself by annoying Casey:

Mace found the Handy Manny chainsaw, "Rip," in one of the toy stores and latched onto it like a dog with a bone. I kept trying to get him to go look at other toys, but I could only pull him away for about 30 seconds to go see the build-your-own lightsaber display. When he pulled me back to the chainsaw, he took the box off the shelf, flipped it over and pretended to read it.

After a few seconds he looked up at me and said, "It not a hunnert dollars."

I said, "No, but it is twenty dollars" in my most disapproving, we-aren't-getting-this-toy voice.

Unfazed, he smiled, batted his eyelashes and said, "We can buy it 'den!!"

So you can guess what happened (please don't tell Dave Ramsey):

Rip is, of course, a talking chainsaw and talked to us all the way home from Disney and has asked us to "cut some wood" with him all week. He also has a pronounced southern accent. Every time I hear him say something, I think one of my high school boyfriends has come to visit. It's making me a little jumpy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Mile Long Post About A Milepost

I'm not sure whether you've noticed, but I tend to tell stories like my mother does -- first, I have to give you the "back story" (with accompanying parenthetical digressions such as this one), then I have to bring you up to the point of the current story by providing you with all the marginally relevant asides that will help you truly appreciate the context of the current story once I finally get around to telling it to you because I would hate for you to miss every single nuance. And then I finally get around to telling you the actual current story.

I'm not sure what that style of writing is actually called -- "stream of consciousness" comes to mind -- but when I was an English major back in the day, I always interpreted "stream of consciousness" as "too lazy to edit out the irrelevant boring drivel" and surely that's not me.


Perhaps I should close the comments for this post.

I do know that Flamingo Joe cannot tolerate my style of story telling when I'm verbally telling him, for example, how it came to be that one of my blog posts (Hypnosis and Babies, Part II) was linked from the Enjoy Birth blog over the weekend and created an avalanche of hits on my blog the likes of which this poor blog has never seen. He would zone out as soon as I got to the part about how I was trying to filter the types of ads that appeared on the blog and noticed that something was amiss in the numbers -- because he would realize that if I had to start that far back in the story, there would be no getting to the point for 15 more minutes and that exceeds his attention span for my stories by about 13 minutes. But for the most part, he does appear to tolerate my story telling style when it appears in print and he can peruse it at his leisure. If I had discovered this earlier in our marriage, I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and written up my lengthier narratives in notebooks and left them by the toilet.

But, as usual, I digress.

Over a year ago we decided it was high time Casey learned how to ride his bike, or barring that, stopped screaming like a girl every time we forced him to sit on the bike (yes, the training wheels were still attached). The training wheels obviously weren't helping Casey feel more confident on the bike, so Flamingo Joe went in search of another teaching method. He found an online pamphlet that detailed a foolproof method for teaching your child to ride a bike. The instructions assured us that we would not need to run alongside Casey while trying to keep him upright, shouting encouragement and instruction, only to let go and watch in dismay and horror as he teetered over and slammed his sweet little face into the pavement. The pamphlet described an ingenius plan where the child essentially taught himself from beginning to end of the process -- all the parent had to do was 1) remove the training wheels; 2) lower the bike seat all the way down; 3) remove the pedals; and 4) encourage the child to push himself around until he could glide several feet by pushing himself into motion and then raising his feet.

It was a beautiful plan.

We removed the training wheels and the pedals, lowered the seat, and encouraged Casey to push himself around and try to glide. Casey sat on the bike, pushed himself about three inches at a time for a grand total of 4 minutes and then went inside to play Lego Star Wars on the Playstation.

And . . . a year passed.

A week or so ago Casey was willing to try the bike again at his father's insistence. Flamingo Joe has acclimated Mace to the kiddie tandem bike, so if Casey will learn to ride, we could all ride together. Casey tried gliding around for a while and really was doing a little better than his attempts a year ago. But he stopped after about 10 minutes because he said the seat was giving him a "wedgie." I sat on the bike and quickly realized that the seat that came standard on the bike was not meant for anyone weighing over 100 pounds. Ouch. So we went to Wal-Mart and bought another bike seat (and just in case you're wondering . . . while there is no Dave Ramsey envelope for "bike accessories," there is an envelope for "children" -- but don't actually tell the children they are a line item in our budget or they will insist on having a say in how the money is spent and I will spend more time than I already do answering the question, "When are we ever going to get to go to McDonald's again?").

So on Sunday, Casey was suddenly dying to go to the bike trail with Flamingo Joe, who was getting ready to take Mace out for a long ride on the tandem bike. Casey was not going to make it very far just by pushing and gliding and I knew he would not be able to keep up. So I told Casey that if he would let me finish the quilt block I was working on (no, really, that's what I was doing -- aren't you glad I don't blog about quilting? (yet)), I would go with him to the trail and we could meet up with Joe and Mace when they were on their way back.

At the trail, I had Casey glide down some small hills so he could really balance on the bike. He caught on to that very quickly and pretty soon I was wishing we had put the pedals back on the bike before we came to the trail. Once Casey was balancing himself on the bike and gliding 25 feet or so at a time, he knew he was ready to be really riding. When we met up with Joe and Mace, he started pestering Joe to put the pedals back on his bike, but it was already late in the afternoon and it would be dark after dinner. So we had to wait one more day (during which, Casey told his friends at school that he was going to learn to ride his bike after school -- that's confidence).

Monday afternoon I took Casey and his bike, complete with pedals, back to the trail, where he rode down a hill, put his feet on the pedals and off he went. He was riding his bike. He did not fall down once. I did not run alongside him with my hand on the back of the seat. He rode and rode and rode until it was time to get to swim team practice. Over and over again, he kept saying, "This is fun! This is so much fun!"

When we arrived at the Y for swimming, he hopped out of the car and started looking at himself in the car's side mirror.

I asked him why he was looking at himself and he said, "I just wanted to see what I looked like."

I said, "You mean because you're all proud and self-confident?"

He said, "No, I've never been this happy before and I just wanted to see what I looked like!"

I've forgotten how fun it was the day I learned how to ride my bike -- I don't remember that day at all. I can't remember how old I was. I can't remember who was with me when I learned. I distinctly remember flying over my handlebars and chipping a tooth on the pavement on my way to the Schaibles house one day, but I'm pretty sure I'd been riding my bike for a good while by then.

I feel it necessary to point out that because of my long-winded story telling, my son will remember the day he learned to ride his bike.

And so will Flamingo Joe.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Swap

Casey and I ran out of books to read this week. Every night before bed, Casey and I read nice fat books like Mysterious Benedict Society or Harry Potter . I try to pick books that have long story lines and characters that become the reader's friend by the end -- mainly because if I'm having to read, too, I need something more riveting than Hank the Cowdog. That's a selfish approach to nighttime reading, I know, but I think it explains why my second grader reads on a sixth grade level and throws around words like "improbable". And don't start feeling like poor little Mace is being forced to suffer through 300 page novels just yet -- we'll wait until he's four to start The Odyssey.

Anyway, Casey and I have also read the Series of Unfortunate Events series (all 13 or 14 books), which I despised -- I really think that if an entire series of books for young readers is based on the mystery surrounding parents who were allegedly killed in a fire and a rumor that at least one of the parents actually survived the fire, then the kids should find at least that one parent by the end of the series. I don't need Pollyanna, but the end of that series was, well, unfortunate. It's extremely difficult to find books that are appropriate for Casey's reading level, but not inappropriate for his age.

But I digress.

We ran out of interesting nighttime books to read this week and I promised Casey that today we would buy more books. Well, the Dave Ramsey envelope system does not have an envelope for books, which meant that I was going to have to get a little creative if I was going to buy books today. And yes, the library is always a good option for people who do not have such large outstanding fines that their privileges are currently suspended.

At first, I thought we might check the new big Goodwill store down the road from us. And then I remembered that I could probably trade in some of our old books for credit toward new ones at a used bookstore. I located one not too far from us and commenced gathering up all the books I was willing to relinquish, which is not as straightforward as it sounds. I've spent the last 25 years of my life hoarding books. One year (when I was still single and carefree), I decided to write down the title of each book I read that year because I knew I read a lot, I just wanted to know how much. I stopped writing titles down when I reached 100 books for the year by June. I have a book problem the size of which only a Kindle could solve. Because of my aging brain, I have even bought a book or two in the last year that I had already read, but didn't realize it until I got two or three pages into the story. In fact, book hoarding is one of the things Flamingo Joe loves least about me. When I told him I was heading to the book swap, he asked if I wanted him to bring up the 10 (or 20) Rubbermaid bins full of my books from downstairs. "Heavens no! Those are ones I want to keep!" I said. I only intended to tackle the upstairs bookshelves and closet where the books were double-stacked to maximize storage space.

After I'd gone through the stacks and shelves, my "swap" pile looked like this:

That's nine very full bags of books, separated by genre. This only skims a layer off the surface of the book collection in our house -- I didn't want to take more than that because I was going to have to rely on child labor (Casey) to help me get them into the store unless I could convince Dez to come with us (which I did).

When we got to the book swap, I went in first and asked if there were any particular books the store was not currently accepting. I didn't want to haul 9 bags of books into the store, only to have to haul 8 away in shame. The clerk started listing criteria, but several items on her list concerned the age of the books and whether they had or had not come out in paperback. I had separated my books by genre, thinking that the book swap might not want 150 Christian romance fiction paperbacks (my mom kept passing them down to me and I never passed them on to anyone else -- most of them were so bad I didn't want anyone else to know I had actually read them). I had not considered that the age of the book might matter. The clerk told me to just bring all the books in and she would go through them and give me store credit for the ones she wanted to keep and I could take the rest back. She encouraged us to look around while she went through the books.

Casey and I went to the juvenile fiction room and started browsing. It was difficult, but we found a few things. We were there for at least half an hour trying to find appropriate books for him. I don't really want my second grader reading about sixth and seventh graders experiencing their first kiss. You would be surprised just how many books there are in the juvenile fiction room where first kisses are indeed the pivotal plot element.

Eventually, the clerk told us that we had a store credit of $21. We could use the store credit to apply towards the purchase of books (up to 50% of the price, the other half we had to pay for). So we bought four or five books and only spent about $10.

You may be thinking that $21 is not a lot of money for all the books in those bags and you'd be right. The clerk only kept about 1/4 of the books we took in, so I took the walk of shame back to the car with six bags. I had to decide what I was going to do with the rejected books. I knew I couldn't go home with them or Flamingo Joe would make me sleep under the house in a Rubbermaid bin with them. So I stopped at Goodwill and dropped them off before heading home.

When I got home, I picked up the only book I had bought for myself at the book swap.

Turns out I had already read it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Post Stinks

On Monday, while Casey and I were at swim team practice, Grandma was at the house alone with Mace when an alarm started going off. A really loud alarm. The alarm was sounding from her side of the house, so at first she assumed her alarm clock had taken steroids and was alarming for no good reason. She went into her bedroom, pushed the button on the alarm clock that would normally stop the infernal beeping, but to no avail. Still convinced that the clock had to be the source of the gazillion decibel honking, she unplugged the clock. Nada.

While she was in her room, covering her ears with her hands, she decided that the alarm was coming from outside, but definitely on her side of the house. She tried calling me, but I'd left my cell phone in the car. She tried calling Joe, but he didn't answer either. So she decided to head outside and find the alarm. When she got outside and walked around the house she saw a silver box with a red flashing light stuck to the side of the house. She had no idea what the alarm was for and was immediately panicked by the thought that the HVAC units were about to blow up -- obviously there was imminent danger to life and property at hand and the alarm must be warning her to remove children and pets from the home before the whole place blew. It is a really really loud alarm. The box has a hand print on it, inside of which is written: "Push here once to stop Alarm. Push twice to test alarm." But Grandma did not want to "push here" because she was afraid she might get electrocuted (which is proof that Grandma has lived with us long enough to know that danger lurks everywhere at Casa Flamingo -- to date, she has severely injured her shoulder after slipping on non-stick cooking spray that Casey sprayed on the floor by the front door, broken her hip by tripping in her garage, and knocked herself unconscious on a boat trailer hitch -- you can't blame her if she's a little skittish about touching flashing alarm boxes).

So she went back inside and found our contractor, Jamie's, phone number, assuming that since he remodeled our entire house, he would know what the alarm was. He happened to be passing close by on his way home and because he is also a great friend of ours, stopped by our house to help Grandma. He found the alarm box, touched the hand print to stop the alarm, assured Grandma she was not going to be electrocuted and/or blown up, and left.

When I got home shortly after Jamie left, the red light was still blinking on the box, but otherwise, everything was quiet. I called the company that installed our septic system and drain field and was informed that in all likelihood our pump had stopped working. He said he could send someone out that night, but I didn't want to pay the premium price for middle of the night service, so I asked the guy on the phone if he thought we'd be okay until morning. He said so long as we didn't flush, take showers, or wash clothes or dishes, we'd be fine.

I don't know about you, but as soon as someone tells me I'm not allowed to flush, or limits my access to the bathroom in any way, I need to go immediately. And for as long as my access to the toilet is limited, I will need to go every time I think about how my access is limited. This explains why a two hour car trip can turn into a three and a half hour car trip with me along and also why I have to sit in the aisle seat on the airplane. So I went, but didn't flush, probably 10 times between the time we had to stop using water last night until the guys came and fixed our problem early this morning. Grandma and the boys apparently had the same problem. By the time the truck appeared yesterday morning, all the toilets in the house were a little, um, over ripe.

>Mace had a great time watching the septic technicians (seriously, I think that's what they're called and you should know that I am mightily resisting the temptation to launch into a lengthy list of potential occupational titles for people who suck poop out of tanks for a living). As soon as the truck drove up, he stood by the porch rail watching the whole process --

-- from the digging to the sucking to the work stoppage that occurred when the head septic technician came to tell me that it was going to cost $1000 to empty the tank (turns out you should pump out your septic every 3 to 4 years, not every 5 to 6 years), replace the pump and install a new power outlet. The technician grew tired of me standing in front of him with my mouth open and a blank stare on my face, so he left to get some parts he was missing and empty his truck (our tanks were really really full), but did make sure he installed the new pump first so that we could use the water again.

It is painful to spend $1000 on septic system maintenance and repairs because all you have to show for it are toilets that you can flush. And while flushing toilets are a wonderful thing indeed, I still feel a little bit robbed until I consider that if I had to get splattered all day every day with other people's poo, I would charge a heck of a lot too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Random Fodder

I've been saving up some blog fodder for you that, on its own, is not really enough for a full blog post. So tonight I have decided to just stop holding the fodder back and unleash it all in one post.

Hold on to your Twinkies, people, here we go.

First -- on Friday last week, Mace was supposed to go dressed as a farmer to preschool and this was the best we could do:

I couldn't talk the boy into wearing blue jeans and that's a jungle hat from Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. It was a pathetic showing for agricultural attire. His teachers apparently agreed with me -- when I picked him up, one of them had taken the brim of his jungle hat and flipped it up so that his hat looked more like a cowboy hat.

Grandma and I have also been experimenting with some Thanksgiving recipes. Grandma tried out this mashed potato pie:

It was good, but she forgot to put in a certain spice and I think it would have been better with the spice included. Or gravy. Anything is better with gravy. So this dish may or may not make an appearance on our table at Thanksgiving, but if it does, it will most certainly be with gravy.

I also made pumpkin cream cheese pastry thingamabobs. Grandma brought home pumpkin turnovers a few weeks ago and after we polished the four of those off in half a day, I thought I might try to make some myself. So I bought the ingredients and didn't get around to making them until last week. Lately I only show you my cooking failures, but today we have an exception:

These turned out fine. Grandma and I ate them. The end.

In other news, my 7 year old decided to make a random list in the car last week, not at all related to anything I happened to be doing in the car; really, I have no idea where he gets his material, no idea at all.

It's really dangerous for 7 year old passengers to write in the car, so there's a new rule in our family: no 7 year olds are allowed to write in the car. It would be tragic if we went over a bump and the pencil flew out of his hand and poked him in the eye. Better to be safe than sorry.

And now, allow me to introduce you to Origami Yoda:

(Please ignore the chemical process represented by the green and black spots on that nearly-new bathroom fixture -- the Flamingo water is evil and eats metal) Casey bought Origami Yoda, the book, at the school book fair last week. He thought it was hilarious -- when he wasn't making random lists in the car, he was reading his new book and falling over laughing. On Tuesday of this week, he asked me to help him make an origami Yoda (the instructions are in the back of the book) and I said I would have to do it later, I was too busy, couldn't he see I was texting and driving? So after the kids had gone to bed and I was watching the election returns come in, I decided to try making the origami Yoda. It took me a couple of attempts to get Yoda's ears to stick out to the side like that, but once I got it, I was on a roll and made several. Then I hid them around the house so Casey would find them the next morning. I put one on his alarm clock, the stairs, his toothbrush, in the flower arrangement, on the TV remote, in his lunchbox, and in his school communication folder. And although there were three sitting in plain view on his way downstairs from his room to the couch on Wednesday morning, he didn't see any of them until he put his hand on the remote and crushed the Jedi master. But that's okay, because I can now make an origami Yoda in 15 seconds flat, so I can just make another.

Last but not least, YaYa and PopPop came for a visit today and brought a new toy with them for the boys:

The kids played with it all afternoon and then argued over who was going to sleep with the engine and cars. The next time you see me, you can tell me how impressed you are with my Mega Blocks rendering of London Bridge.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Believe That Children Are Our Future

I believe it's important that our children are raised with a heightened sense of their civic duties. If we want to preserve freedom, and I most definitely do, we must not take it for granted. So whenever it's election time, no matter how small the election, I talk about it a little bit with Casey and make sure he understands that we think it is very important to vote in America, every chance we get. If you struggle with how to teach your children about democracy, perhaps I can help you -- serve as a model for civic-minded parents everywhere, if you will.

Children, I believe, are more inclined to join the ranks of the Socialists ("Hey!! That's not FAIR!! He has more candy than me!! Make him share!!") and not the Capitalists (sometimes it doesn't matter how much money you offer them, they aren't going to clean up the dog vomit), so the virtues of democracy must be taught from an early age. As you know, I am a stellar parent and I really want nothing more than to help you along this parenting journey. So I offer you this sample dialogue that actually occurred between Casey and myself about a week ago after I voted early -- you should feel free to adopt this dialogue to assist you in opening up the conversation with your own children.

Me: Casey, I voted today.

Casey: Are you going to win?

Me: Huh?

Casey: Did you vote for yourself? Are you going to win?

Me: Uh . . . no. I'm not running for anything.

Casey: Oh. Well, I want to be President!!

Me: No you don't. That's the absolute worst job in the whole world.

Casey: No it's not. Being King of Spain would be the worst job in the whole world.

Me: Why would being King of Spain be the worst job in the whole world?

Casey: Because you wouldn't know the language.

So you see, with carefully guided dialogue, your children can learn so much about our democratic society. Just watch for teachable moments.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hypnosis and Babies, Part II

I have a very good friend, Sheetul, from law school who got pregnant in our third year. She was frequently miserable and slept with about 16 pillows because she couldn't get comfortable at night. We loved to tease her relentlessly by telling her that certainly, without a doubt, she was the first woman ever pregnant. I felt really bad about how we treated Sheetul when I got pregnant myself the first time because, compared to me, Sheetul was indeed a valiant warrior unfazed by the horrors and gassiness of pregnancy.

I was a truly awful pregnant woman.

A total wimp.

I was nauseous from almost the moment I found out I was pregnant until I delivered. But in hindsight, I never threw up or had to be admitted to the hospital like other women I know. I did gain 50 pounds with my first pregnancy and got a nasty nasty rash in a bad place (not that bad place . . . the other one . . . under my [if I use the real word here, my site will get blocked when people want to see it from a library computer or at work, so insert a word here that rhymes with "rests"].) There's a good reason only one photo exists of me when I was pregnant with Casey. I looked like I felt and I whined and whined and whined. Such a shame that I just could not locate that photo to post with this riveting narrative.

Hand in hand with misery, in my case, went abject terror . . . of childbirth. So pretty early on I decided that I wanted to use all possible tools at my disposal for getting through childbirth -- drugs, birthing tub, drugs, lamaze, drugs, a doula, drugs, hypnosis, and drugs. Unfortunately, you can't use drugs and have a water birth (though doesn't that sound absolutely perfect?), but you can combine drugs with a doula and hypnosis. A few months into my pregnancy, when it was time to talk to my obstetrician about the actual birth, he asked me if I'd thought about a birth plan and I told him yes, I wanted to try hypnobirthing. He looked at me sideways and tried to keep a straight face as he encouraged me to keep an open mind and not rule out drugs altogether because I wouldn't know how I would really feel until I was in labor blah-bitty-blah-blah-blah. I interrupted him and said, "Oh no, you misunderstand . . . I want to use hypnosis AND lots and lots of drugs." So he shrugged and said the doctorly equivalent of "whatever."

Flamingo Joe was a good sport and went along with the hypnobirthing plan. But wouldn't it be strange if he wasn't up for any plan where he learned how to hypnotize his wife? I found a hypnobirthing center in south Tampa where we could go learn how to hypnotize me for labor. A doula taught the class and she was . . . well, do you already have a picture in your head of what a woman who calls herself a "doula" and teaches a hypno-birthing class looks like? That's her. We were in the class with two other couples, I think, but I only remember one of the couples because they seemed semi-normal and I was surprised. They were both accountants.

The "center" had its own birthing room (that under no circumstances did I intend to use) where moms who wanted a truly peaceful, natural birthing experience could walk around humming and listening to soft music while their baby came into the world with no screams or tears sporting an extremely high IQ.

The doula basically taught me how to relax myself into a stupor. If you are wondering how that helps you in childbirth, this is the theory: the more uptight you are, the more pain you feel because your muscles are all bunched up, and the more pain you feel, the more uptight you get, which just means you feel more pain; so if you can totally and completely systematically relax all the right muscles you will feel no pain whatsoever and your baby will come skipping into the world ready to explain the theory of relativity.

To practice this form of hypnosis, the doula gave me cassette tapes with some music on it and a woman talking with a soothing voice. First, the tape instructed me to breathe in and out very deeply in certain patterns. Then, I was invited to imagine myself floating on a strawberry colored cloud and then I think my cloud changed colors as I was floating along. Next, the voice instructed me to systematically relax my body starting with the top of my head and working my way down. If I remember correctly, the tape was about half an hour long, but after I got really good at following the instructions on the tape, I was out like a light in 3 minutes or less. I rarely got all the way to the first strawberry cloud.

Given all the discomfort I was feeling in my pregnancy, practicing hypnobirthing was the highlight of my day. I started putting myself to sleep every night by using the hypnobirthing tape. I would put a Breathe Right strip on my nose, pee three or four times (by the time I was 8 months along I couldn't make it back to the bed from the toilet without feeling like I needed to go again), put some baby powder under my word that rhymes with "rests," adjust the 7 pillows, put on the headphones, turn on the tape, and three minutes later it's possible I could have had triplets and wouldn't have realized it.

But I wasn't really sure . . . would the hypnosis work in the delivery room? I figured I could use the hypnosis to get me through the early stages of labor up until the point I could get the epidural. The problem was that in the class with the doula, epidurals were pretty much roundly blamed for ADD, ADHD, childhood obesity, and freckles, so it wasn't like I could ask the doula whether, for example, the hypnosis would work too well and that I would be so relaxed that I simply passed the point where early labor became hard labor without noticing and missed my opportunity for drugs. I did not want to miss my opportunity for drugs. This doula, I should tell you, does not use drugs for dental work -- she uses hypnosis -- so she was not going to be cutting me any slack on the epidural. So I just kept hypnotizing myself to sleep every night and hoped for the best.

Casey was due between Christmas and New Year's Day. On the day after Christmas, I went to the doctor for my weekly visit and noting that I had gained even more weight in the preceding week, the doctor sent me down the hall for a sonogram. The sonogram revealed that Casey was enormous, well over 9 pounds they thought, and that he had not turned, much less dropped. He wasn't budging. The doctor was mildly alarmed at the thought of coming back from his ski vacation (scheduled to begin the following day) and finding me still hanging out, growing an elephant, so he gave me the following options: 1) wait until he returned three or four days later and if Casey had turned head down, he could induce labor and I could attempt to deliver an extremely large baby; or 2) schedule a C-Section for the following morning before he left town.

That night, I used my hypnobirthing tape for the last time to ensure that I would be well-rested for my C-Section the following morning.

Hawwoween Identity Crisis

Tonight I went trick or treating with Jeff Gordon, Harry Potter, and an astronaut.

Dora came too. And after I took these photos, a mysterious girl wearing what she called a "beggar's skirt" flitted around our group pretty much avoiding the camera completely, but in the picture below, she's the blonde.

Dora's mom and the beggar's mom also came because it's okay for Dora the Explorer to run around with only her map, a monkey, and backpack in Nickelodeon land, but on the tough streets of Tampa, she needs some adult supervision.

Not that this adorable astronaut couldn't have protected her.

I love the picture of Harry Potter below. See his lightning-shaped scar just below his hairline? And note the palm trees reflected in his glasses -- how totally Florida!

We kept Harry's hair long for two weeks longer than we normally would have just so it could be messy like it's supposed to be for tonight. But even Harry is insisting on getting it cut tomorrow.

Our astronaut pooped out after about 20 minutes of trick or treating and decided to hitch a ride in the wagon, where he proceeded to eat a good bit of his candy. I didn't realize how much candy he'd eaten until I was cleaning out the wagon and found all the empty wrappers at the bottom.

Sweet Dora was actually sooooo cute as Dora that we all promptly forgot her real name and started calling her Dora from the moment she put the wig on. Everyone, including complete strangers, called her Dora, all around the neighborhood all night long. It was, quite frankly, impossible to call her anything else. Not too long after we started trick or treating, she ran up to her mom and said, "Mommy! Evwywon thwinks I'm the WEAL DOWA!!" But she sounded a little stressed out by it, as if she was afraid she was actually turning into Dora and wouldn't be able to turn back into herself. Later in the evening, when a woman saw her and said, "Oh hi Dora!!" She said, "No, I'm not weally Dowa . . . onwy for Hawwoween." When she got back home at the end of the night, you could tell she was just emotionally spent from worrying she was actually Dora. Once the wig came off, I think she was so relieved when she realized that no, she was not going to have to have a monkey for a best friend and rely on a talking map to tell her where to go for the rest of her life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hypnosis and Babies, Part I

Flamingo Joe and I were married for 7 years before I became pregnant with Casey and there was a good reason we waited so long . . . two good reasons, actually . . . Flamingo Joe wasn't so sure he wanted to have kids there for awhile and then in about year 5, we decided we'd like to adopt a little girl from China and started that process in year 6. At the time, adopting from China took about 18 months. In hindsight, neither of those reasons were particularly valid considering how much we love our children and that, because we waited so late, Flamingo Joe will be 61 when Mace actually goes off to college and I will be 56. I really should be working out more.

I had been on birth control for those first 7 years and was starting to be concerned about the side effects of the birth control (not that I can remember now what those were), so I bought a book about using natural fertility planning to prevent pregnancy (go ahead and start laughing now, you know you want to). I had been out of law school and working at a large Tampa law firm for about 8 months when my careful fertility planning fell through and I got pregnant while I was specifically planning not to.

On the day I realized I might be pregnant, I was going to a fund-raising dinner with a friend from my law firm after work. I had confided in her that I was afraid I might be pregnant at some point during the day so she insisted that before going to the dinner we pick up a pregnancy test and go to her condo and see if I was actually pregnant. If I had been thinking clearly and not in a state of sheer terror, I would have refused and gotten the test later that night and taken it in the privacy of my own home. Flamingo Joe was traveling at the time and I could have taken the test in private, processed the info, and then called him and he would have been the first person who knew.

But as I said, I wasn't thinking clearly and went along with my friend's plan. We purchased the pregnancy test and went back to her condo. I can remember sitting there in her bathroom after having peed on the stick and waiting for about 10 seconds before the line popped up just as bright as anything you've ever seen. I started feeling faint and moaned something like, "Uh-oh." My friend, sitting outside the door, started squealing and laughing. We barely had time to chuck the test in the trash before we had to leave for the fundraising dinner, which was about three blocks away. So as we were walking, my friend was chattering away about how exciting it was that I was pregnant and I was numb with terror and thinking I really needed to call Joe because it wasn't right that he wasn't the first to know, but how could I? I only had about two minutes before I would be sitting in the dinner, so I decided I would call him when I got home -- I rationalized that my friend knowing first was okay since she happened to be there when I took the test. I would just get through the dinner and get home and call Joe. It's not like anyone else at the dinner was going to find out.

As we got close to the venue for the dinner, we ran into my friend's father, who just so happens to be a sitting federal judge here in the Middle District of Florida, and my friend's stepmother. I believe I had met the judge once before, but had never had a real conversation with him. As soon as we approached the judge and his wife, my friend re-introduced me and blurted out, "She's PREGNANT!" I almost fainted dead away. A federal judge I didn't really know and his wife knew that I was pregnant before my own husband. (I'm certain that my oldest child's inclination to judge a new experience before he actually tries it is somehow a direct consequence of my stupidity that day.)

I barely made it through that dinner without throwing up. As soon as it was over, I dashed back to my friend's condo, picked up my car and sped home. When I got home, I let the dogs out and then sat in the dark on the stairs and called Joe:

FJ: Hello.

Me: Hi -- how was your day?

FJ: Okay -- how was yours?

Me: Well -- you know that birth control method I was using to keep from getting pregnant?

FJ: Ummm -- it's not working?

Me: Right.

FJ: Let me guess -- it failed miserably?

Me: Yes -- I'm pregnant.

FJ: Well that's fine -- that's good -- are you okay with that?

Me: Sure, I'm fine. I'm scared.

I did not tell Flamingo Joe that he wasn't the first to know until later and that a federal judge actually knew before he did, but when I did tell him, he wasn't really upset as far as I could tell. He may have been as numb as I was, though, and didn't actually hear me. For all I know, this may be the first time Flamingo Joe actually hears this story and we'll have to take it up with a marriage counselor next week.

[To be continued . . . ]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Tiny Vermin Solution

I have gotten at least three direct mailings from these people:

I'm concerned.

How did I get on this mailing list?

What must my postman think? He probably puts latex gloves on every time he drives up to my mailbox.

Is there a national database of families who have frequent head lice problems and somehow we (erroneously, mind you) ended up on the list?

Or, worse, did my kids' doctor or dentist sell their mailing list to the head lice people? They aren't really allowed to do that, right? I mean, isn't that what HIPAA is for?

Or even worse, did one of my kids' schools refer us to the head lice solution folks because we just seem like the kind of people who would be a magnet for tiny vermin? I've heard that lice are attracted to clean hair, not dirty hair -- so I assure you, my children's heads are not hospitable habitats for lice.

And finally, just how reoccurring does your head lice problem have to be for you to need a solution to it as opposed to just a treatment?

[As an aside, the Google Ads that appear on this post are apparently generated by post topics. For example, when I post about camping, RV ads come up. I can't wait to see what ads this post will generate.]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Year's Selection at the Pumpkin Patch

Our family just returned from the pumpkin patch at the local Methodist Church and I am excited to tell you that the Cub Scouts have a varied offering of styles and colors in pumpkins this year.

Specimen #1 -- a perfectly lovely vericose vein variety:

Specimen #2 -- a pumpkin alien giving birth to a piece of pinwheel taffy:

And Specimen #3 . . . our family's personal favorite . . .

Harvest Moon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Today Mace decided that the inside of the dishwasher was in desperate need of a thorough cleaning . . . so he emptied out the racks and commenced the scrubbing:

He was very pleased with his work:

On Sunday, he was a tool for measuring the proper depth for a bamboo plant.

As someone who struggles with achieving a healthy balance in life, I'm starting to appreciate the way he lives his life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Camping with the Flamingos: Day 2

When Mace joined Flamingo Joe by the fire on Day 2 of our camping trip, they were in for a bit of a wait while the rest of us took our time rolling out of the trailer. While they were sitting out there waiting in the dark, Joe and Mace messed around with the fire, which meant that Mace inevitably ended up getting burned. Something Joe put into the fire fell out, Mace grabbed it to put it back in and burned the tip of his finger. Joe said Mace cried . . . I -- alert, conscientious parent that I am -- slept through it snug and warm in the trailer. But when we emerged an hour or so later, poor little Mace had his hand curled into a fist, clutched against his body and refused to let me see it.

He was okay -- four days later when he opened his fist, I saw he had a small blister on the tip of his finger.

And may I say . . . it is not a good idea to allow your children to run around a fire without shoes on. Not that he burned his feet, but still . . . what kind of parenting is that? Seriously . . . where is that child's mother?? It's a good thing DCF wasn't out at the campground monitoring fireside parenting on Day 2.

And one more thing about the photo above -- if you are going on a camping trip and plan to cook over a fire, take real full-of-fat oinky bacon . . . and cook it in butter. Turkey bacon sizzling in the frying pan sprayed with fat free cooking spray smells nothing at all like real bacon cooking over a campfire in a cast iron skillet. I'll remember that next time. I think I'll take real eggs, too, because we all know that Better n' Eggs are in no way, shape, or fashion actually better than eggs.

After eating turkey bacon and fake eggs, we decided to go canoeing on the river. Given the number of alligators we saw on the river the night before, none of us wanted to be the one to have to take the kayak. That normally would have been me, but I was not keen at all to be close enough to the water that a twelve foot alligator could just open its mouth and I would slide right in. We'd brought one canoe with us, so we decided to rent a second.

The canoe rental was back up the river about a quarter of a mile, so we piled in the car and drove up to rent the second canoe. When you rent the canoe there, you have to go ahead and put in there at the river as well, so Flamingo Joe and Casey (I'm not sure what happened to my skittish child who couldn't bear to be separated from me by more than 8 feet) got in the rental canoe and headed downriver to meet us at the campground's canoe launch. When we all met up again at the boat launch a few minutes later, Flamingo Joe looked nervous. He got out of the canoe to help us get the other boat down to the water and said, "I don't think you guys will want to do this . . . we just saw a huge alligator on the bank back there." I asked him if he thought the alligators would really bother us and he said no, but I know he thought Dez and I would freak out and want to come back. I was offended. So I handled it like any good wife would.

I ridiculed him for being a chicken and put the three year old in his boat so that if the three year old got eaten I could blame him.

Some of us on this canoeing excursion had long and varied outdoorsy histories full of camping and canoeing and others of us had heretofore lived lives completely devoid of any interaction with the outdoors whatsoever. I will not name names, but said inexperienced canoeist sat in the front of my boat and in order to actually get anywhere on the river that did not involve me having to untangle my hair from a tree, I just had to tell her to stop paddling.

At least she minds well.

And let me tell you something about canoeing on the Hillsborough River -- or at least the section of it that runs through the state park:

When you are not distracted by grown men wearing too-small hats . . .

. . . or your 7 year old inexplicably clinging to trees . . .

. . . you will find that the Hillsborough River is a wonderful, quiet, and lovely place that can only truly be appreciated in a canoe (though I did see one brave woman all by herself out there in a kayak). It was absolutely beautiful.

Look . . . turtle with a big leaf on its neck:

See the alligator back in there?

It's okay if you missed that one, we saw like, 25 or 30 more. See, here's another one:

After a while I had to stop taking pictures of all the alligators because every time I tried to snap a photo, the canoe would drift off course and Dez and I would end up lodged on a rock or stuck in the branches of a tree.

When Casey and I were taking the rental canoe back upriver, we saw this, too:

A red-shouldered hawk (you too will learn these official names when you start hanging out in state parks). Casey is still talking about how close we were to that hawk. Don't get me wrong, we live by water that provides us with all the alligators, herons, snakes, turtles, fruit rats and hawks that we can handle, but something about being in the middle of the woods, on a river, in a canoe, so close to a hawk that you could touch him with your oar, is amazing.

Later on Day 2, everyone but me did a little fishing.

Mace, as you might expect, didn't catch anything with his SpongeBob fishing pole. He kept trying to talk to the pre-teen girls that were hanging around. It was a little embarrassing to watch him walk up to girls, start talking, and be completely ignored. But he didn't seem to mind too much.

Joe caught a catfish for about 4 seconds:

It's hard to document these things when you only have four seconds to snap the picture, so you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that he caught the only fish of the day by just placing his worm on the fish's head right as Dez was telling him, "You can't catch a fish just by putting the worm right on top of . . . OH OH REEL IT IN REEL IT IN . . . dang."

By evening, we were tired, but we managed to cook some chicken over the fire, make some more s'mores for the kids and roll into bed. Mace fell asleep while sitting on my lap and it wasn't hard at all to convince Casey it was bedtime pretty soon after that. Dez slept in the tent the second night and the rest of us slept in the trailer. I wanted to make sure Dez fully experienced the outdoors on this camping trip, so when she volunteered to sleep in the tent, I didn't argue too much with her -- that would have been selfish of me.

On Day 3, as we promised the ranger, we packed up our stuff and left. When we got home, I took a shower and then laid in the bed and watched 8 hours' worth of movies on TV.