Thursday, February 27, 2014

I looked into the Mirror and the Dowager Countess Looked Back

Subtitle: I'm exhausted. Whipped. Spent. Done in.

It all began with a whirlwind weekend in Orlando. A seven hour drive south. Two days hitting the parks from dawn until way past dark. A seven hour drive north. And then: big geometry project, Science Fair Part I, packing Dave up for his trip to Alaska, a 7:00 a.m. flight, Science Fair Part II, Term Paper Part I, post-op appointment with the oral surgeon, supplying a tray of sandwiches for a wake at church, the first week of soccer season, and a full day subbing in the first grade.

I bailed on the oral surgeon, and the first soccer game was rained out (Thank you, good and gracious God).

But I'm exhausted. Whipped. Spent. Done in.

Disney means walk and walk and walk except when it means run to catch a shuttle or a monorail or a kid who's disappearing. It's all great fun, of course. And a great way to ward off the damage that McDonalds and funnel cake hath done to one's figure. But exhausting. Exhausting.

The Science Fair means print and cut and paste and edit and re-print and re-cut and re-paste. Lather, rinse, repeat. Exhausting. Cool, rewarding, totally worth it in the end, but exhausting.

Subbing means being On, Fully On, non-stop for seven hours on a rainy day with no outdoor recess. Exhausting. Let's talk about fractions. Let's sit in our chairs. No more sharpening pencils. (Here I'll add an aside: If pencil sharpening ever becomes a marketable skill, John and his classmates are destined for greatness. Yes, they are. And another aside: Should drought conditions return to the Augusta area, just schedule Kelly to sub because it rains every. single. time. I sub.Yep, it does.)

In the wake of this week, I should begin a brief tutorial on the fine art of graciously saying No.

No, my calendar is completely packed that week. No, I'm sorry; I'm maxed out. No, but call me another time. No.

When I hit the wall  -- as I have at least twice in the past seventy-two hours -- I go all introspective and wonder why I do the things I do. And there's value in this, of course. Certainly, time management and prudence and planning are important, but, truly, if we wait for life to be slow and convenient and easy, we'll miss many an opportunity to make memories, many a chance to serve others.

As we headed down I-4 East out of Orlando, Ainsley said, "Raise your hand if you miss Auntie Kate!"

Five hands went up.

Worth it.


But worth it.

And if you think the title of this post is a shade over the top, ummm, no. After subbing all day Wednesday, I had a two hour meeting followed by a shock and awe grocery store run. I unloaded my groceries and pulled out my credit card. The cashier looked at me and asked, "Are you a senior citizen?"

I am not even making that up.

So while the last seventy-two hours have been high speed, high stress, the next seventy-two hours should border on leisurely. Top priority: early bedtimes. And maybe a little make-up.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Valentine's Day Primer

Christy at Fountains of Home is collecting Five Favorites (for Hallie who is battling a nasty stomach bug). Here I offer a Valentine's Day Primer, five brief observations on our recent holiday:

1. The Gender Gap

Though my only girl is but four years old, I think I can confidently say the sexes view this holiday differently. In my defense I offer three pieces of evidence.

Exhibit A - Valentine's Bag, eleven-year-old boy:

Exhibit B, Valentine's Bag, ten-year-old boy:

Fine print reads "I don't really love you. You are just a friend."

Exhibit C, Conversation with fifteen-year-old boy:
"Is the high school doing Valentine's Day," I asked Tim.
"We did it last week," he said. "The girls brought in a bunch of food, and the boys ate it."

It's all about the food. They breeze right past the love business. At least for now. Praise the good Lord.

2. Scheduling

Valentine's Day should fall on a Monday, if you have any say in the matter. Addressing all those Valentines? Time consuming. Oh, no, you say. Your child will address his own Valentines. Ha!, I reply. But there may be a few purists out there. If you are among unjaded, be sure to allow plenty of time (ergo, Valentine's Day should fall on a Monday), and you just might, perhaps, lay in a generous supply of adult beverages to ease the pain which, trust me, will be plenty.

Oh, I remember the year the idealistic folks at Ainsley's school sent home a class list and suggested the child cut out the names. Ainsley was all about it. After she successfully severed the fourth or fifth name, I felt a nervous twitch coming on and took over.

When John was in pre-school, the kindest teacher ever (really, she was) suggested we encourage the kids to sign their own cards. We made it to the third name before raising the white flag of surrender. I dried John's tears and commandeered the whole production. No apologies, no retreat.

Pick your battles, people. Pick your battles.

3. Nerds versus Fun Dip

A great debate rages: Which one is merely evil and which one is the veritable spawn of satan? This is the question, and though the jury's still out, I think spawn = Nerds. John painstakingly collected his Nerds into one container yesterday afternoon, and wouldn't you know Ainsley managed to kick it over. I will be vacuuming up Nerds until All Saints' Day when the little people will gleefully gather a fresh supply.

Please don't think Fun Dip was relinquishing the title without a fight. No, no. John came to me this morning holding a severed package of ye olde Fun Dip and confessed, "I spilled it, Mama, but I cleaned it up. At least I think I did . . ." Insert worried look. At first blush, Fun Dip appears to leave a mess with a smaller spill radius than the Nerds, but this, friends, is a trifle misleading. Trust me when I say I'll find sticky residue on faucets and doorknobs, stray pencils and piano keys. Insidious, just insidious.

4. Pinteresty Mothers

Another one for the younger, more idealistic mothers. Maybe I'm just growing up a little here in mid-life, but I don't compare. Just don't do it.

5. Joy

As I wrote last year, kids bring an element of joy into so many, many facets of life, Valentine's Day included:
I confess I could be a complete curmudgeon about this whole commercialized affair, saturated as it is with artificial dyes, landfills of red plush, loads of the really, really unattractive lingerie. But I have a three-year-old girl who is thrilled -- clapping her hands, jumping up and down thrilled -- with her Hello Kitty mailbox and a five-year-old boy who loves -- loves -- his Batman cards and an eleven-year-old who eschews the whole mess, too, but is all about the candy.
And, gosh, they make life so much more fun! Nearly everything is more fun with kids. Okay, maybe not folding laundry or painting the molding or doing the taxes, but nearly everything else is more fun with kids. I am tearing up as I type this, overwhelmed by the simple, unsophisticated, childish delight that touches me every single day. These crazy little hooligans flat slay me with their affection, their enthusiasm, their joy.
Ainsley has now finished Valentines for everyone in the western hemisphere including all her stuffed animals and every single doll under our roof. I've cleaned up the dining room table at least six times and am feeling that familiar nervous twitch returning when she sidles up to me and says, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mama" and hands me a slip of paper. It's a simple Valentine, just four scraps of paper held together with at least seven ounces of Elmer's glue.

It has no hearts, no flowery message, just the word Mama written in Ainlsey's precious four-year-old script.

I plan to put it in my drawer and keep it forever.

(First I'll let the glue dry).

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Perfect Fit

"I'm a perfect fit," Ainsley tells me as I carry her through the backyard.

And she is.

I can still carry her. Not too far. But I can carry her. She fits in my lap at church. She snuggles up to me on the couch. She moves with great stealth and slides in between Dave and me every. single. night. I had to laugh when Dave put her to bed the other night. No pretense of Ainsley crashing in her own room, no, no, into our bed she went right from the get go. Ainsley proved handy during our recent power outage. Having a three foot long hot water bottle is helpful when the indoor temperature is hovering around 50.

She is a perfect fit.

Seventeen years ago, my friend Laurie was pregnant with her youngest when I was pregnant with my oldest. Tim and Caleb are six weeks apart. Laurie was teaching school when the  boys started pre-school together. Once or twice a week, Laurie would drop off Caleb for a few minutes before I drove them to school.

Except that she didn't drop him off.

She usually carried him into the house. And did that ever seem strange to me!. Tim was my oldest. Five! Kolbe was a newborn, and by comparison Tim was practically an adolescent!

But now I look at Ainsley -- my baby -- and I see how very small she is (how very small he was). She's a perfect fit, don't you know, and there's nothing odd about carrying the baby around.

I popped over to Clover Lane the other day and was truly touched by Sarah's words:

I've also learned over the last two decades that when I find the joy in mothering, yes, even when it requires every ounce of me, when I look through the world from the eyes of those who call me mommy, when I stop thinking "oh, this is hard" and started thinking "oh, i'm so lucky", I've fully enjoyed all the aspects of parenting.  I think I owe love and devotion to my children - I think all parents do. 
I like to visualize each of my precious babies as little gifts I was chosen by the grace of God to receive - spiritual perfection enclosed in a tiny bundle of cute human-ness - I have such an obligation (sometimes overwhelming for sure!) to care and nurture these gifts - their little lives depend on us really, to survive and thrive for the rest of their lives.   

Sarah had cruised the Internet and found plenty of copy lamenting what a drag parenting can be. I, too, have stumbled on a few blogs that make motherhood look like one monotonous trip to the dentist's office sans Novocaine. I'm not talking about the cathartic blog post full of poop, a cyber-rant following an ice storm coupled with a stomach blog served with a generous side of Science Fair. I write those. I read those. I laugh at those. But blogs that leave you wondering if these mothers like their children at all, ever? Those are sad.

One long night I was up late rocking a sick baby (croup? ear infection?), doing one of the hard things that, as Sarah points out, parents simply do. I flipped through the channels until I stumbled upon The Octomom talking to Suze Orman.

Quite a combo.

Suze was offering her financial wizardry to The Octomom who was facing bankruptcy and foreclosure. Not content to stick to money matters, Suze felt a pressing need to lead The Octomom to confess her sins on national television, to repent before Dr. Phil and all of America, not for gross mis-management of her finances, but for bringing all those kids into the world. And Suze's nothing if not persuasive. She got The Octomom to utter the words I'm sure many wanted to hear: If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have had them.

Believe me, I am not here to cheer the decisions this obviously troubled woman has made, but coaxing someone to say aloud I wish you'd never been born is simply hateful.

I wish you weren't.


But on to lighter topics . . . Do you get sucked into those Facebook quizzes? Oh, how I used to mock them! Which one of the Seven Dwarfs are you? Really, I have a life to live and laundry to do. Which character from Gone with the Wind are you? Um, no.

But then I spotted Which city should you live in? and I bit. I was hoping for London but settled for Paris. Which character from Downton Abbey are you? I wanted Lady Cora but settled for Anna. And then there was this one: How many kids should you have?

Now maybe the testers read too much into my reservations about dealing with pet waste. Yes, I admitted I would hold a vomiting child while simultaneously attending to the mess, but that's just common sense in my book. Well, they must have picked up on some latent, long buried OCD tendencies because the brains behind this test concluded I should have two children.

So which two wouldn't be?

When we sit down to dinner, more often than not, I'm harried. It's on the table. I've herded the troops, corralled the forgotten condiments, checked the burners, given the little people the pep talk about sitting up straight, no arguing, yadda, yadda, yadda. Harried, just harried.

And we start to pray.

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts . . . 

And invariably I think not of the food in front of us, but of the child sitting closest to me, the little blonde pixie on my left, the one who came so unexpectedly when I was 45, the one who defied fertility statistics and the Facebook quiz and added sparkle and pink tulle and blue eyes to the mix and left us forever changed.

And I lean over nearly every night at that exact moment and kiss her downy blonde hair.

Because she is a gift.

They all are.

And four children?

A perfect fit.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Turn Off the Noise

"Turn off the noise," Ainsley likes to say if the radio's playing and she has something to say, if the t.v. is on and she wants be heard.

It always make me laugh.

Our thirty-six hour adventure without power turned off plenty of noise. We were sitting around the table eating by candlelight talking about our day. I commented on how quiet everything was --  no washer or dryer, no t.v., no dishwasher, very few cars, no  "He took the remote!"

I woke up early, early on Wednesday and looked out the window to see our neighborhood coated in snow and (at that point) a thin layer of ice. I walked out the front door and noticed first the quiet and then unfamiliar noises.

Plink, plink, plink -- as ice continued to pile up steadily.

Creak, thud -- as branches fell.

More ominously, wahh, wahh, wahh -- as one siren after another wailed. This was a sound we would hear for three days.

I remember severe weather as a child growing up in Michigan. Oh, how we hoped and prayed the lights would go out! It was all a grand adventure, playing jacks by candlelight with my friend Susan, sitting in the basement waiting for a tornado warning to pass.

Oddly enough, I don't have a single memory of losing power in the winter. See, it's that "Wintery Mix" that does the damage -- the sleet, the freezing rain -- and Michigan pretty much gets snow, piles and piles of snow.

Here in Augusta, the epicenter of the Ice Capades that hit the South, our lights went out around midnight on Wednesday. With all other noise silenced for the duration, we became even more aware of the creak, thud, creak, thud, creak, thud all around us. At least three kabams were loud enough to send us flying to the windows to see what had fallen.

Let me tell you, all of this is a tad unnerving when you live in a pecan orchard.

We piled blankets on top of everyone and went to bed. I woke from a dead sleep around four o'clock in the morning to the sound of a deafening crash that must have come from the neighbors two doors down who lost a limb the size of a tree.

We woke up in a cold house and faced the first minor challenge of the day: How do you caffeinate without power? The second challenge was getting a radio operational. This storm was no surprise, and like the the rest of Augusta, I had stocked up at Walmart before it hit. My shopping list included batteries, but just the D and AA varieties. File this under lessons learned: All our radios take C batteries. I grabbed a flashlight and headed for the frigid attic, AKA The Island of Misfit Toys, hoping to find long-forgotten something that might harbor C cell batteries. Success! A defunct talking globe produced batteries, and we had communication with the outside world (which proved to be just as frozen and even more banged up than our property.)

Eventually the ping, ping and creak, thud gave way to the whine of chain saws as everyone dealt with the aftermath of the ice. A neighbor came by with 16 ounces of piping hot coffee. Another friend stopped by with wild rice soup and blueberry muffins. We checked in on our elderly neighbors.

Thirty-six hours in, we heard the microwave go bing, and we all rejoiced that the 'lectricity, as Ainsley calls it, was back once more. We enjoyed a nice dinner that required four burners, loaded a working dishwasher, and sat down to watch The Olympics.

And after a while, the couch started to shake. And dishes rattled. And I wondered if a massive tree had fallen. But I was fairly certain a tree wouldn't keep on falling, falling, falling.

Believe it or not, we had an earthquake, 4.1 on the Richter scale, epicenter not too far from here.

An earthquake!

And everyone was burning up Facebook wondering what in the world had just hit. And people were swearing they'd head to confession the next day. And we're all wondering what next? What next? And someone joked about The Rapture. (Note to my fellow Papists: Catholics don't do The Rapture.)

Quite a week.

And now I'm off to the store to replace the kids' Valentine's candy (which an unidentified someone may or may not have devoured during the ice storm.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Hallie over at Moxie Wife is collecting Five Favorites, so here are a few shots from the Ice-calypse that's hovering over Augusta:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Buy One Get One Free?

Dave's Dad had a heart catherization Friday. Apparently, during the procedure, a tiny piece of plaque broke free and caused a minor stroke. Dad is facing some confusion as well as problems with his peripheral vision. His prognosis is good.  Meanwhile, Dave's Mom has been consumed with taking care of Dad. The trip to the cath lab -- a trip that should have taken six, eight hours -- turned into an all-nighter. Between sleeping on a pull-out chair and missing a dose of maintenance meds the next morning, Mom's blood pressure went haywire, and she was admitted.

Dad's on the eighth floor; Mom's on the sixth. And if this sounds like deja vu all over again, that's because it is.

Note to both sets of parents: There's no Buy One Get One Free where heath care's concerned, no Frequent Flyer card for those whisked away by ambulance, no rewards program offered by friendly orthopods or electro-cardiologists.

If I'm making light of this, it's really just a coping mechanism in the face of four aging parents we love very much and so hope to see move through old age with grace, peace, and dignity.

It surely is no coincidence that my father ended up with his defibrillator firing after a week of handling my mother and her broken femur. Neither is it surprising that my mother-in-law is facing elevated blood pressure in the face of caring for my father-in-law.

Years ago I wrote Kill the Cow and You Kill the Calf -- my thoughts on taking care of mothers as they take care so many others. Certainly, the same attention needs to go toward the caregivers who face the challenges and uncertainties that come with aging.

I covet your prayers, yet again.

Friday, February 07, 2014

This Week

1. So we're one week post-op, and old Tim without wisdom teeth is just a touch swollen and a tad yellow, but otherwise in fine form. If I could add one item to the post-op menu, it would be this: water, lots and lots of water. Those narcotic pain meds? They may leave you with a pwecious wisp, but they come with a few less desirable side effects as well. I'll say no more.

2. We've been working on time management strategies around here. We were chatting with someone recently, and he had an interesting view on something parents should attempt to impart to their children: a horizontal view of life. Think: dry erase calendars hanging on a bedroom wall, planners carried in backpacks. 

3. Ainsley is an interesting study in how children perceive time.

Ainsley, early one morning: Is today tomorrow?

Ainsley, a different morning: Is today next Thursday?

I remember Tim at age four. Tomorrow was The Next Day to This Day, and Yesterday was The Last Day to This Day.

4. Meanwhile, I think Tim would like to go back in time based on this short exchange:

Tim: Back in Mr. Darcy's day, all you needed to get a girl was good manners.

Me: How do you get a girl today?

Tim: No one knows, Mom. No one knows.

5. File this one under "How do you spell after-thought?"

Ainsley, on hearing plans to visit Disney World: Me and Auntie Kate are going to have so. much. fun. Are you coming with us, Mama? 

6. But most of the time she flat adores me, that girl of mine, and naturally I'm not one to discourage this. She's lies in bed at night  (that would be in our bed, just to be clear) and asks me to sing "her song". As I'm a child of the sixties and seventies, I turn to Karen Carpenter for inspiration:

On the day that you were born
The angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
And golden starlight in your eyes of blue

It all unravels theologically, of course, as I'm fairly sure angels didn't have much to do with Ainsley's yellow hair or her blue eyes or her conception. 

But Ainsley was (and is) a dream come true.

7. Meanwhile I get lots of portraits, mostly entitled Me -- Before My Morning Coffee or Me -- Right After Kolbe Dumped the Last Ounce of Wine Down the Drain and Dutifully Loaded My Glass into the Dishwasher, Wow!, Isn't He a Servant? 

"I writed your name, Mama" Ainsley says, handing me her artwork. "No, I wroted it."

As Kolbe is wont to say any and every time I mangle the English language: Hash tag! English teacher!

Head over to Jen's to add you Quick Takes.

Thursday, February 06, 2014


Topping my To Do List:

  • Blitz the house
  • Germinate Seeds
  • Sort Papers
  • Locate Library Books
  • Place Order with Thred UP

The second item -- Germinate Seeds -- made the list because we are moving into my favorite season of the year: Science Fair season. For details, be sure to check out this and follow the link to Dave Barry's brilliant analysis of this annual event. Here's a brief excerpt:
(The Science Fair demonstrates) Newton's First Law of Inertia, which states: 'A body at rest will remain at rest until 8:45 p.m. the night before the science fair project is due, at which point the body will come rushing to the body's parents, who are already in their pajamas, and shout, `I JUST REMEMBERED THE SCIENCE FAIR IS TOMORROW AND WE GOTTA GO TO THE STORE RIGHT NOW!'
Dave Barry at his best (except for his column on camping, which you can fully appreciate only if you've just endured a 36 hour camping trip during which half the responsible adults encountered, ahem, stomach issues of a dramatic and technicolor variety).

But back to Science Fair . . . which, I'm happy to report, has absolutely nothing to do with stomach issues, dramatic, technicolor, or of any other variety.

The good news is that my involvement to date has been shooting a few pictures and, now, germinating a few seeds. The very good news is that all else is taking place Off Site, i.e. not in the middle of my dining room, i.e. we can eat dinner without (literally) negotiating an obstacle course, and all of this is thanks to the very, very nice grandfather of Kolbe's partner.

The robot faced a number of obstacles -- including a two-year-old.
Can I hear a shout out for Grandpa Doughty? He has a first name, I'm sure -- in fact, I think it's John -- but I call him Grandpa Doughty like everybody else. He is leading the boys in analyzing whether cover crops improve soil quality.

No human experimentation. No highly breakable robot to keep out of the way of  a two-year-old. So far just one trip to Lowes.

And did I mention No Mess In My House?

They've already won first place by my reckoning, but then my judging criterion differs ever so slightly from that of the scions of the Science Fair.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

On the Extraction of Wisdom Teeth

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is collecting Five Favorites. Here I tackle an usual list: Five Favorites - The Wisdom Teeth Edition.

If this past month had a motto, I do believe it would have to be Adventures in Dentistry. A crown, a root canal, complications from the root canal, complications from the complications, and, drum roll for this one, removal of Tim's wisdom teeth.

Here are simple suggestions to ensure all goes well:

1. Load up on soft comfort food -- chocolate pudding, refried beans, mac and cheese, broth, tomato soup, mashed potatoes.

2. Prepare to do nothing else the day of the surgery. Tim had his teeth yanked on my husband's birthday. Not a good plan (and not my plan), just the inevitable clash between our busy life and Tim's active social calendar. Clear your schedule.

3. Enjoy being Mama. Tim was pathetic, and I reveled in babying him. The minute he started feeling better, Tim was all cranky and irritable and rather demanding. I was glad I savored those fleeting moments of sweet.

Tim rounds out Five Favorites with advice of his own:

4. Videotape the patient. Between a system pumped with narcotic pain meds and a mouth full of gauze, Tim was well worth recording last Friday. We did snap a picture of his chipmunk gums, but missed the opportunity to record for all posterity his pwecious lisp.

5. Let the patient watch anything he wants, play whatever he wants, for as long as he wants. That's pretty much a direct quote.

Head over to Hallie's to add your Five Favorites.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Take Us Up to Defcon 4

Motherhood demands a unique skill set, and tunnel vision is an oft over-looked but highly useful talent every mother should hone.

Tunnel vision -  When you're thirty-seven weeks pregnant, certain your body can not stretch another millimeter, positive you will never again shave your legs or sleep through the night, tunnel vision helps you focus on the baby and press on!

Tunnel vision - When the house is strewn with packing lists and Scout gear, the phone is ringing, the ten-year-old is reporting that an entire container of fish food is currently floating in the tank, you ignore it all to attend to the toddler who is throwing up.

Tunnel vision - When you are receiving grim reports on your parents' health and Christmas is upon you and over the next forty-eight hours you are expected to produce two Secret Saint gifts, three plates of cookies, one two-liter drink, a dozen teacher gifts, and a reasonable Christmas photo, you find a two hour break and manage to complete 80% of your Christmas shopping.

You tune out unfolded laundry so that you can listen to the six-year-old -- the one who has struggled, struggled, struggled with the written word --enthusiastically read his salamander book for the eleventh time. You overcome exhaustion to comfort a croupy toddler and consciously choose not to dwell on how you will possibly function the next day on no sleep. You proof-read essays when you'd rather nap, attend events you enjoy and those you don't, pass many, many hours in hard-backed chairs in the waiting rooms of pediatricians and orthodontists and dermatologists and the list goes on.

You pull out your tunnel vision and put first things first.

Sometimes I look back on my single life and, no, I don't say What a lark it all was! I didn't know from stress!, but I do note that doing one thing at a time was a reasonable proposition. I could say I'm going to grade these papers, and I really could do it. It didn't require the intentional tunnel vision I have to exercise today.

Life and all its details bombard me. It takes discernment and an intentional act of the will to put first things first.

But there's a downside to tunnel vision, and here it is: Sometimes I tune out the wrong things.

A case in point:
Kolbe, on Monday: I have a project for English class. I'm making a dragon . . .
Me: That's nice! Time for basketball!
Kolbe, on Wednesday: Mom, we need to go to Michael's. I'm building a paper mache dragon for Eng . . .
Me:  That's nice! Did you take out the trash? How's your piano piece coming?
Kolbe, on Saturday: Mom, my dragon is due Monday!
Me: Get in the car!

Do you remember the movie Wargames?

Loved that movie.

(Disclaimer: I vaguely remember watching part of this with the older boys and encountering a fair amount of profanity I had long forgotten).

Remember the general? Mouthy, pompous, responsible for setting defense conditions in response to credible threats. He and his alarm system need to swing by my house sometime soon. Yep, I need an overweight, cigar-chewing general with a southern drawl to sound an alarm and say, "Take us up to Defcon 4" before mere problems morph into Crises!

When a pair of school shoes has advanced from Broken In to Falling Apart, Take Us Up to Defcon 4 before the math teachers calls and causally mentions that my son's shoes are now "flip-flops."

Direct quote.

During basketball season, Take Us Up to Defcon 4 before I find an adolescent boy sniffing -- sniffing! -- a basketball uniform and declaring it "Not that bad."

Another direct quote.

As the paper mache dragon approaches, Take Us Up to Defcon 4 while the dragon has some chance of being assembled without an anxiety attack, some hope of drying without benefit of a hairdryer and two fans.

When the boys' hair gets a tad on the shaggy side, Take Us Up to Defcon 4 before they morph into The Monkeys overnight, and the phone starts ringing.

(Though Tim swears he's "not on the radar" when it comes to haircuts. Apparently one of his classmates bears a striking resemblance to the Monkey on the bottom left {Mickey Dolenz?}. Apparently, Tim's messy locks don't even rate).

Tunnel vision -- sometimes my friend, sometimes my foe.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Seven Quick Takes

1. We have had a strange weekend in light of the sad, sad news of Wendy's death . . . Strange and yet absolutely normal in other respects. An irreplaceable soul is gone from her family, and yet everything else goes on. Kids ride bikes. Mothers buy groceries. Dads do the Boy Scout service project. Perfectly average, but off, off.

Winter in Augusta - Exhibit A
2. Tim had his wisdom teeth pulled on Friday. Will I sound ghoulish if I admit that I've thoroughly enjoyed babying him? He was pathetic for just a short window, but kinda needy and unusually sweet most of the weekend. With a mouth full of gauze, he had a lisp even cuter than John, age 3. He's on the road to recovery, but sporting a pair of swollen cheeks and still living on mac and cheese and re-fried beans. I needed someone to baby, and he was a willing candidate.

3. Before hopping in the car Saturday, I dutifully put our new license tags carefully in place, feeling quite proud of myself for remembering. And today I discovered that I affixed the sticker for the truck onto the van which may prove problematic when Dave drives into work tomorrow. God bless that husband of mine. He's out in the driveway right now cheerfully trying to correct the error of my ways. The scary thing? I read the registration and still got it backwards.

4. So we had snow and twelve degree weather just four days ago, and today it was 66. I have to say, I was more excited about the snow than the kids were. The storm began with an hour or two of freezing rain, and just when I thought it was all much ado about nothing, I heard a scream coming from the backyard. I knew the snow had arrived. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I ran to the window and immediately thought of a Bible song Ainsley likes to sing: Come and see what the Lord has done. He has done amazing things on the earth.
Winter in Augusta - Exhibit B

Snow is an amazing thing.

5. But not if you live in Atlanta. Never again will I snicker when we take a cautious approach to inclement weather. Without plows or salt trucks, the safest strategy is to Keep! Everyone! Home! My friend's brother spent ten hours driving ten miles during the snowpocalypse in Atlanta. (Snowpocalypse is clever, but Snowmageddon is even better.)

6. And snow's not so great if you're getting record quantities of it. As Ainsley stared out the window waiting for those elusive first flakes to fall, she turned to me and said, "My grandma never prays for snow."

I think that's an accurate statement.

7. Get your flu shot, baby your teenager while you still can, give a loved one an extra hug, read the vehicle registration twice before affixing your sticker, and head to Jen's to add your Seven Quick Takes.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rest in Peace, Wendy

Late Thursday morning we heard the sad, sad news that our cousin-in-law, Wendy, had died of complications from H1N1 flu. She was 30 years old and otherwise in perfect health.

Wendy came down with flu about a week before Christmas and by Christmas Eve was on a ventilator. Shortly afterwards she was transferred to a hospital in Atlanta and put on ECMO. From there, Wendy seemed to rally. Her sedation was reduced; she was able to sit, speak, joke around. She swore she'd get a flu shot next year.

Wendy's lungs remained cloudy and weak. She came down with pneumonia and then developed a MRSA infection in her trach site. Doctors began discussing a lung transplant. And then other organs began failing.

I met Wendy just once, at her wedding three years ago. Dave took the boys to visit Wendy and her husband, Aaron, a while back. Both Wendy and Aaron made a huge impression on the boys, especially on Kolbe, who loved their unique hobbies - Legos and fencing and building armor. Both Wendy and Aaron went out of their way to make the visit memorable.

In honor of Wendy, Aaron is promoting flu shots. He writes on Facebook:
There is one thing that I want everyone to take as Wendy's last wish. Before things got serious enough that she was on a respirator, I told her she was going to be getting a flu shot next year. She easily and vehemently agreed which pleased me to no end. Previously she never would take a damn flu shot because she was afraid that it might "make her sick" . . . and she would point out that since she never seems to get the flu, she must not be susceptible to it  . . .  Wendy spent 6 weeks in the hospital connected to every sort of medical device and pumped full of every drug that could help her. The medical bill will certainly be measured in multiple millions of dollars. However the number of tears shed for her are uncountable. All of this could have been avoided with a simple $20 shot available at any walk in pharmacy office at Walgreens, Publix, CVS, Target, or Walmart. If you don't have a spare $20 then let me know. I'd be honored and rest easier to see to it that you receive a flu shot. 
Aaron, I'll be getting a flu shot.

Rest in peace, Wendy.