Friday, July 30, 2010

Did You Get Enough Food, My Dear? Or Would You Like Another Ton?

Keeping with the Australian theme (unless you're absolutely traumatized by yesterday's post), today we tackle food & food etiquette.

Remember, I was a shy, nervous 10 year-old, travelling around a foreign country without my mother. Technically my father was there, but he was busy visiting old family and friends - like the Fosters and the Four X's (hint: XXXX in beer label) - and didn't really pay attention to the fact that it was his job to explain every little detail of what to expect to his anxiety ridden daughter. For instance, he should have forewarned me that the second I asked for ketchup I'd be asked to repeat it over and over and over again for no significant reason. (Around the 27th repetition I figured out they call it tomato sauce and ketchup is just a really silly word they liked to hear me say.) Then there's that whole biscuit is a cookie and french fries are chips but chips are crisps and well, it's utterly exhausting to be speaking the same exact words that have such different meanings to the people you are talking to.

I figured my best bet would be to stick with what I knew: Give me a cheeseburger! What would you like on it? Oh, let's make it easy - give me everything. But the cheeseburger I was expecting - with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onion and pickle - showed up with all sorts of stuff on it, including a sliced beet, fried egg, slice of pineapple and bacon. Hey, Dad! A little warning here wouldn't hurt. Thankyouverymuch.

My mother taught me well, though. From an early age we were taught that you always eat what is on your plate. To do so is to waste food and wasting is not something you should be proud of. Our proudest accomplishment as children was when we visited our great-grandparents of Dutch descent, where we were treated to a deadly version of a pancake. It tasted like cardboard. And nylons. And like good little children we ate every last bit. (Ask my parents: they will both swear under oath how truly awful that food was.) And so I ate every bit of that very bizarre Australian burger. (Okay. Not really. I hid the beet in a napkin and tossed the sucker. I mean, really. A beet?)

And so, I proudly took my training with me over to the Australian Grandmother's house, where I was presented with a plate of food, overflowing with tasty morsels, a plate piled so high with food I thought I'd never see the bottom of it... but I did it. Spoonful by spoonful I ate. I ate and ate and ate until my stomach ached. But I finished it. I proudly put my flatware on the plate and smiled from ear to ear. They would be so proud! The little American finished her plate of food just like a good guest should.

Without a word my grandmother stood, walked around the table, picked up my plate and went into the kitchen. When she reappeared she had the plate in her hand. With more food piled on it. And she was walking in my direction. And dropped it on the table in front of me.

There was more food. To eat. But I couldn't eat it. I had already eaten more than was comfortable.

But I couldn't let my dad down. I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his family. And so I ate.

Each bite going slower. Each bite fighting down the urge to vomit. Each bite willing my stomach to not explode. Please, Lord, just let me be able to finish this food. I don't want to waste it.

My eyeballs were bulging. My arm getting heavy in its subconscious attempt to stop the gorging. Yet I fared on. I would not let my parents down! I would not waste this food! I was a warrior and I would prevail! And hopefully I would not vomit all over this table in my attempt to do so.

After what seemed to be a lifetime I finally managed to send the last bite of food down my esophagus. Granted, it didn't really go anywhere, just hung out at the back of my throat - but that damn plate was empty.

And with that my grandmother stood once again. Stalked to my chair. Picked up my plate. And stomped back into the kitchen muttering the entire way. I was confused. My 10-year old mind was telling me this is what mommy acted like when we destroyed her favorite antique buffet table and this was not what I thought happy, proud grown-ups acted like when well-trained little kids finished everything on their plate. Where was the clapping? The cheers of "good job!" and "what a good girl!"

And so I watched in horror as my grandmother stomped back towards me from the kitchen with another. plate. of. food. slamming it on the table in front of me.

Hey, Dad. You know what would've been great? If you had told me that it was considered an insult to finish everything on your plate because it was basically telling your hostess she sucked at providing you enough food the first go around. Yeah, that would've been helpful.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toilet Training: Australian Style

When I was 10, I went to Australia. We flew for a very long time and landed in a small airport in northern Queensland, where my Father, older sister and I were met by some strange man who spoke in a very strange accent. I was nervous and shy. We all got in this man's car and drove "home."

"Home" was half a day's car ride away. Except I had never driven in a car for that long. Ever. I didn't even know it was possible. In my world, everything was located ten minutes away. Going to the grocery store? Ten minutes. Going to the bank? Ten minutes. Going to church? Ten minutes. So it made sense in my 10-year old mind that I would get in this car and ten minutes later, upon reaching our destination, would get out of this car.

Except we didn't get out. Ever.

Ok, not ever. We did stop at some dusty shack along the side of a dusty road where I was handed my first ever Cherry Cheer Soda (which I would drink 2,763 of during my six-week stay). Then we got back into the car and continued driving. And driving. And I happily gulped down my entire soda.

And while we were driving, my bladder grew larger and larger. And it hurt. And I was uncomfortable. And I started to sweat. And ohmydeargod I needed to pee so bad but I didn't want to say anything because I was shy and shy people don't ask questions. Even if they could ask questions (which they can't) they most certainly would not ever, under any circumstances, dare to ask anything as personal as using the bathroom.

And so as my Dad and the Aussie Stranger laughed it up in the front seat, I was busy rocking back and forth, cramming my hands between my legs and praying to God this nightmare would end.

"Here we are!" the Aussie Stranger announced after far too many hours had passed. THANK YOU, JESUS! And with that momentary mental relaxation, urine slipped from my bladder, soaking the entire crotch of my jeans, wicking its way down my thighs.

No! No! No! No! No!
Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!

Well now, this isn't very good. Now I'm sitting in pee-pee jeans in the back of some man's car; some man whom I have never ever met before in my life and who I never, ever wanted to see again. I managed to stop the urine escape, but the damage  had been done. The front of my jeans were soaked. The only thing I had going for me was the car did not have fabric upholstery and all the windows of the car were down. There would be no stain and no smell. Especially if I moved all the way forward in my seat and balanced at the very edge on my tail bone.

A left, a right, then another left and we park. Except we're not at a house. We're in the center of town. In a business district. And my dad's announcing that we're all going to inside this bank so he can get money and I have to get out of this car and walk in public? With pee soaked pants?! What was wrong with this man who called himself my father? Did he not know his 10-year old daughter hadn't emptied her bladder in half a flipping day? My mom would've known. My mom would've made a point to stop at every available restroom and order our bladders drained. My mom would've said, "Just go try...." when we whined we didn't have to. My mom would not have allowed any of her children to drink a soda then drive for six hours without a potty break. It just would not have happened. And that is just one reason why my mom is so special. Because she would know when I needed to go. (Also, she would not have wanted to clean up after an accident.)

Thankfully I had my sweater next to me from the flight. (Thank you, Wisconsin Winter!) I tied that sucker so tight it looked like I had a pastel striped towel wrapped around my waist. Then I hobbled into the bank after my father. Because walking with a full bladder is bad enough; walking with a full bladder that has sweater sleeves cutting into it, squeezing it in half, borders on torture.

Now, looking back with my adult mind, I realize there probably were bathroom facilities located in that bank. Surely their employees had to go at some point throughout the work day. But then again, I was shy. And surrounded by all sorts of strange people and noises and smells and lights... barely hanging on to consciousness.

I don't remember the ride from the bank to the house we were staying at. I do remember knocking down my sister and trampling over her to get in the door. At this point I was convinced I was going to die if I didn't pee. It had been hours of struggling and the bladder was about to win.

"WHERE IS YOUR BATHROOM?" I shouted at the woman who had opened the door.

"...uh... down the hall, first door on your right..."

And that is where I took off running. Down the hall ... first door on the right ... and I slammed that door so hard and locked that door so fast ... and I was jumping around as I started untying that stupid sweater still hanging around my waist and I was dancing around unbuttoning those jeans and starting to unzip those pants and ... where the hell was the toilet?

I saw a sink. A very nice sink. With a counter. And a mirror and lights. And it looked just like our sinks in America. And I saw a bathtub. A very nice bathtub. With a shower curtain and a shower head and a faucet. And it looked just like our bathtubs in America. But that was it. There was no toilet. I was standing in a room that looked like a bathroom. Was decorated like a bathroom. Acted like a bathroom. But was missing one very vital piece of furniture of which is expected in something defined as a bathroom.

So I took a piss in the bathtub and wondered what the heck Australians had against toilets.

Editor's Note: I would quickly learn the toilet was next door in a room called, most appropriately, the Toilet.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why I Never Took My Friends Up On Their Offer To Set Me Up On A Date

"Hey! I got a guy for you!" Suh-weet! I could use a good look-see. Whadyagot?

"His name is Kenny." Okay. Decent name. Better than Horrace.

"He's crazy! Absolutely crazy! A NUT!"  As in certifiable? Or like streak through the Summerfest grounds after spending 2 hours in the Leine's tent crazy?

"He's divorced - has two kids..." Well, I'd be the pot calling the kettle black on that one...

"His wife WHACKED him!" Whacked him? What the hell does that mean?

"Took him for everything he's got." Ah, so he's poor.

"He's a musician - never around - especially during the summer. Always playing gigs." Nonexistant. Super. Perhaps I could meet him when he rolls out of bed around 2pm.

"And boy does he like his vodka! Starts drinking at 7 in the morning!" Well, I guess that means he doesn't sleep in as late as I thought.

"In his 50's.... but he likes the young broads." Why are you my friend?

Seriously, people. A crazy 50-year old musician who has no money but starts drinking vodka upon waking. Those are the qualities that make you think of me?

Editor's Note: Eventually I would realize that dating should not be allowed for me. I went on a year-long self imposed dating sabbatical (that strecthed into almost two years) and it made all the difference in the world! Then I met Big V at midget wrestling...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not What Martha Would Do

We have a rule in our house that before a friend comes over or before you go to a friend's house, your room must be clean. The problem with this rule is that 9 times out of 10 I'm sitting at my desk in another town when the Bean calls up to excitedly ask if she can go to so-and-so's house, assuring me her room is most definitely clean. Then, when I get home and open the door, I realize I've been snowed. Again. She comes home, I yell, she giggles and says something like, "well, I didn't know you were going to actually check."

I know. The gall, right? Except she's snowed me over at least 27 times already so you think I'd be smart enough pick up on it. Hello! She's 15! She has no intention whatsoever of actually cleaning her room. I swear I'm as clueless now as I was in high school. (I swear I had no idea people were drinking vodka out of their McDonald's cups during those football games.)

Well, I'm not letting this little 15-year old punk get the best of me! No-siree! (The devil dog has that job.) So after the most recent snow job I informed her that not only would she be cleaning that room of hers, she'd be doing the laundry, too! (See how I did that? I turned it around - turned it into something that would benefit ME! Oh, yeah! Who's in charge now, kiddos?!)

I imagined coming home from work with piles of neatly folded towels, coordinated by size and color, just like Martha Stewart would do. I imagined crisply folded t-shirts, a spotless laundry room floor and angels singing in the background.

In all actuality, when I arrived home there were no angels singing. There weren't any piles of completed laundry either.

"Um, so, Bean. How's the laundry coming along?"

"Fine.

"Good. Good. Yeah, that's good. But, uh, where is it?"

"Where's what?"

"The laundry."

"Oh. It's in the dryer."

"Is it, uh, dry?"

"No, but I think there's something wrong with the dryer because I've had to turn it on like four times and it's still not dry." [In her defense, the dryer has been acting a little wonky.]

"Is it set to delicate?"

"No, mom. Gawd, I know how to do laundry. Duh."

"Where's the load that was already in the dryer?"

"What?"

"There was a load already in the dryer. In fact, it had been sitting in there for the past three days. Every morning I'd reach in and grab something to wear. So, where is that load?"

* crickets chirping *

"Bean. Where is the load of dry clothes that were sitting in the dryer before you did laundry?"

* more crickets chirping *

"THERE WERE CLOTHES IN THE DRYER. WHERE ARE THEY NOW?"

"I already told you - they're not dry yet. Gawd!"

"Did you just restart the dry clothes already in there?"

"No! Gawd!"

"Good, because those were dry three days ago. Now, where did those clothes go?"

* damn crickets *

"Did you do ANY laundry today?"

"YES! I DID! I SWEAR! PLEASE DON'T TAKE MY PHONE AWAY!"

(Remember when we were kids and it was more like, "please don't beat me with that yardstick again!" oh, how times have changed.)

"Ok. Let's start from the beginning. ... Did you put any clothes inside the washing machine and turn it on?"

"Yes."

"After those clothes that you put inside the washing machine were done being washed, what did you do with them?"

"I put them in the dryer."

"Ok. Now, before you put the clothes from the washing machine into the dryer, what did you do with the clothes that were already sitting in the dryer?"

* here come those crickets again *

"Bean... what. did. you. do. with. the. clothes. that. were. already. sitting. in. the. dryer?"

"I left them in there."

"You left them in there? As in, you actually stuffed a full load of wet clothes in the dryer on top of a load of already dry clothes because you were too lazy to take them out and deal with them?!"

"NO! I didn't 'stuff a full load' in with the dry clothes ... gawd!... they wouldn't all fit, so I only put half the load in."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Get Your Schnitz Outta My Ear

In an effort to drum up new readers, today's blog post will feature some of the Greatest Women in the State. They could up their title coverage to Greatest Women in the World if they ever bothered to read this blog; but let's not go there. I'm still not over the trauma of learning they'd rather have real relationships with real people rather than read my blog.

The only exception is Sue. Sue reads my blog. But, let's be honest. That's because she stays home with her two small children every single blessed day and the weather hasn't been condusive to outdoor playdates, so she can't have real relationships with real people. She can only be a mom. So, to escape that hard truth she can either read my blog or drink large quantities of wine. Perhaps she does both. But the most important detail is that she actually reads my blog. That's why I love her. I also love her because she's my cousin. But mostly because she reads my blog. (Even if she is drunk when she reads it.)


This is Sue. Sue is the size of my left thigh. But I won't hold the fact that I can never take advantage of borrowing her wardrobe against her. (I don't want to lose readership.) She makes homemade soup and allows her children to use glitter and glue inside the house. She also lets them use play dough. For this reason alone I consider her my personal hero.


This is Beth. Beth is the most confident, positive person I know. She is who she is and makes no qualms about it. Beth will say grace before a meal in a public restaurant. She also travels with a fart machine which she will gladly use at any moment (like when someone's husband calls). Beth goes on dates with her husband. I like that about her. She also takes her kids out to search for toads after a rainstorm. I think it's pretty obvious that is something I will never do.


This is Margaret. Margaret comes from one of those ginormous families that talk and laugh and eat really great food. She makes the best tiramisu on the face of the planet. Seriously. Just writing that added 5 pounds to my thighs. Margaret has the most gracious, giving heart but I'm not sure she knows it. She will do the most amazing, selfless things ever and truly just believes it's no big deal. The world would be such a better place if we were all a little more like Margaret. She also drinks wine. And I like me my wine drinkin' friends!


This is Jane and Jill. Jane has the same birthday as me. Normally I'd be upset and pout because I had to share my special day (middle child syndrome) but I don't mind sharing with Jane because she happens to be one of the coolest people I've ever met. She never stops laughing. Ever. Jane gave her husband a Speedo as a gift (and he wears it). This alone explains why Jane is the bomb. She is also incredibly athletic and will do things like wake up at 5am and walk 47 miles because she wanted to and not because anyone put a gun to her head and forced her. I tried walking next to her once and she almost gave me a heart attack because that woman doesn't walk; she runs. And that's not fair to do that to a sloth-like creature such as myself.

Jill is like Southern Hospitality sprinkled with Wisconsin Raucous. She says things like testicles and snatch, which is okay  because she taught sex ed. (Although I don't believe snatch is the official term.) I don't like to stand next to Jill because she looks like she stepped out of a magazine and never has anything out of place. Ever. She is always perfectly coiffed and styled all. the. time. The really upsetting part about this is she doesn't even try. Jill tells great stories. Really great stories. The kind that leave you wiping tears they're so funny. Everyone should have a friend like that.


This is Kelly. Kelly has the most amazing hair on the planet. People pay thousands of dollars a year in the hopes to get close to achieving hair like hers and she just wakes up with it. Kelly is also incredibly insightful and wise, and super fun and has this great laugh that makes you want to be part of who she is. She told a story that actually included the sentence, "Sir, please get your schnitz outta my ear!" I still haven't recovered.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

25 Things You Didn't Care To Know About Me.

This was written a while ago, but still rings true today.

1. I don’t trust dogs. We had the nicest, gentlest dog in the entire world – and then he ripped a kid’s face off. Yes, off. I don’t trust dogs and I internally panic when I see people bury their faces anywhere near a dog’s teeth. (7/22/10: I can add that my little niece was bit yesterday by the nicest, gentlest dog in the entire world. That dog was nice and gentle, but it still had teeth.)

2. Our dog’s name was Collie. It was a border collie. My brother was an idiot.

3. My brother disappeared when he was 4. (This was the same brother that insisted our collie’s name was Collie.) There was a search party and a lot of fear. I know how easy it is for kids to vanish into thin air and I am petrified it could happen to mine.

4. The first penis I saw belonged to my grandfather (my dad’s father). It was unintentional as he was sitting on a chair at an outdoor get-together and that’s when men’s shorts were a little too short for those choosing not to wear underwear. I was ten and horrified. But I pointed it out to my sister anyway.

5. I still beat myself up for not going to Veronica’s funeral. I was too scared to tell my mom I wanted to go.

6. I once stole a sweatshirt out of someone’s unlocked car when I was in college.

7. I joined the Army to make my mom mad. I don’t think she noticed I joined.

8. I’m too scared to go visit my grandmother. She’s 91 and I love her more than anything and I have so many letters from her so I know how she feels about me and I know all the advice she’s given me and I love her sense of humor – but I’m scared that if I allow myself to get close to her I won’t know how to grieve when she dies.

9. I think if my mother had her way we’d all be mono-expressive. Crying in our family is barely tolerated. Nor do we like emotions of any kind. Anything considered heavy, deep, or vital to the emotional well-being of a person’s soul is uncomfortable. (This explains greatly why my mom and I have a “strained relationship” since my excessive, out of control display of emotions make her run for the hills every time she sees me.)

10. I scoff at people who put the period after the exclamation mark.

11. I am actually way more intelligent than I let people know about me. For some reason I think people will hate me if they know I’m smart. I think it comes from years and years of hearing that education is overrated, so I “dummy down” a lot and then later feel ashamed that I did.

12. My proudest moment of having Shannon as my big sister was when our cousin tried drowning me in the pool and Shannon came to my rescue – and then not only took the crap my grandmother gave her, but walked home without a towel because grandma made her give it to the mean cousin who forgot hers.

13. I almost drowned my brother Patrick, but not on purpose. I tried to catch him off the pier and went to where I was standing on my tip-toes and the water was up to my chin – he jumped the same time a wave came in and went over me. I tried grabbing him but couldn’t get to him. A lifeguard pulled him out. I still feel incredibly guilty about that. I don't remember if I gave him my towel.

14. I had an audition with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan that I never showed up for. Instead I chose to stay in an abusive relationship with a complete control freak and get knocked up.

15. I have great childhood stories – from the crazy herd of sheep trying to run us down, to my sister giving a goat a hair cut, to the bat in the house, to the food fight with the one lone pork and bean left on the ceiling, to the gravity heat registers that provided endless hours of entertainment, to sweeping out the basement floods, to my baby brother being lowered into the trunk of a huge tree to save a litter of kittens, to the crazy horse Rocket that my dad brought home… I feel bad that my kids will never have the hilarious childhood that I had.

16. My dad was showing off on a dirt bike and almost killed himself. Two boys we knew happened to be driving by and saw what had happened and helped clip my dad out from the fence… my dad walked to the house, into the bathroom, locked himself in and almost bled out. It was pretty bad. Sometimes I wonder if any of us kids would’ve ever realized we should call 911. As it was, we called my mom at work. My mom always knew what to do in every situation. I wonder if the boys that saved my dad ever knew how serious that was.

17. Once my brother got lost in a really bad blizzard-like snow storm walking to the house from the end of the driveway when the bus dropped us off. (It was a long driveway.) My sister made two of us kids drink peach schnapps to warm us up and went out in the storm to search for my brother. She was always saving us… (still does, really).

18. I was in the hospital when my Grandpa died. My sister brought me to the ER that night. Because everyone was so busy with funeral arrangements, no one visited me for four days. Or called. That was the loneliest I ever felt. My brother picked me up the night of the wake, and I was out for the weekend, but had to go back in on Monday. I still miss my Grandpa.

19. The first time I was in labor my mom brought me to the hospital. The second time I was in labor I drove myself.

20. I met Big V at Midget Wrestling.

21. I keep making excuses that prohibit me from writing on a serious level...and I can't figure out the logistics of "just do it."

22. Secretly I am very happy with how my life has turned out, but I feel like I can’t act that way because it would be setting a bad example to the young and impressionable. I don’t allow myself to feel joy and excitement when something good happens to me as a result of unconventional means. I try to play it off like it's just one more idiot decision that resulted in something I have no choice but to accept, while inside I’m overflowing with giddiness.

23. The way to cut through my heart is to tell me I’m stupid or that you knew I’d never amount to anything or that you never expected much from me. That’s some pretty hateful stuff to say to a person.

24. I hate ice cream. There. I said it. I am un-American and not normal. But I hate it. It’s disgusting. It’s icky. I don’t get what the big thrill is. I also don’t like warm fruit pies. Fruit was not meant to be warm and gooey. Fruit is meant to take off the vine and bite into. I also hate Apple Cider. The smell makes me want to vomit. That all being said, if I am served a bowl of ice cream I will eat it and not put up a fuss because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I know how important ice cream is to the general public. I won’t ooh and ahh over it and I won’t ask for more, but you also won’t know that I’d rather be munching on cat livers.

25. Contrary to popular belief, I can keep a secret. In fact, I can keep many. There are many, many more things that you won't know about me besides these 25.

Sheep. Or, How To Cash In On A Life Insurance Policy And Make It Look Like An Accident

I believe my childhood ultimately is what made me stronger. Let me be more specific... SURVIVING my childhood is what has made me stronger. There is a long standing belief in our family that my parents tried (unsuccessfully, as of today's date) to kill off their offspring.

Take for instance the sheep. One day my dad decided we needed sheep. Lots of them. We had no idea why. He used to do these things when we were kids - random, unexplainable things that no one understood. I used to think he was just a stereotypical eccentric artist; now I realize he more than likely had consumed one too many cans of Pabst prior to coming to that profound decision.

And so we became the proud and very sudden recipients of a herd of sheep.

They were kept in a pasture. A large pasture. Huge. With sun and shade and even a small creek emptying into a shallow pond where they could drink. A fabulous pasture where they could run and frolic and do whatever it was that sheep did together.

Periodically, though, the sheep would escape the Eden-like pasture. Us kids never actually witnessed the sheep escaping... we were simply notified by one or both parental figures yelling, "Kids! The sheep got out again!" Sure enough... we'd squint towards the furthest portion of our property and there they were in the apple orchard. A whole herd of sheep happily munching on fallen apples. That was another odd thing. Every single sheep always escaped. No one was ever left behind, and none of the sheep appeared to have been 'just arriving' in the orchard. They all looked like they had settled in quite nicely some time ago. Try as we might, we kids never found any portion of the fence line cut or bent to allow for the passage of our fat, woolly sheep. There was certainly no way the sheep could jump OVER the fence and the gate to the pasture was always chained. Yet they continued to escape.

It is our belief that our parents would sneak out to the pasture gate, encourage the sheep to walk through, and shut the gate behind them to make it appear like a master escape. They would then allow enough time to pass so that every single sheep could get as far away from the gate as possible. Assured everything was in place, they'd notify us of the break out.

"Kids! The sheep are out again!" they'd call out, crossing their fingers, hoping maybe, just maybe they would be able to cash in at least one life insurance policy. (They would never be so bold as to wish to cash in on all four at once, would they?)

We had no choice. Our roles had been cast. We were commissioned to return the herd of wool through the orchard, past the house, down across the gravel drive, past the barn, and back into the pasture.

The first step in our dangerous mission was proper footwear. Bare feet was deadly – there were potential dangers everywhere on the farm... prickers (or thistles, as some call them), gravel rocks, the occasional rusty nail. Flip-flops were also too risky as they could easily flop off leaving you barefoot. Laced shoes were required. You'd have to hurry though to get the shoes on your feet though, because although the sheep loved apples, there was always that one idiot sheep who thought it was a great idea to wander into the hay field – and if that happened we were just screwed.

So, like skilled firemen jumping into their gear the four of us quickly fashioned our shoes in double knots. (We couldn't afford any loose shoestrings.) Out to the garage we flew to claim an empty ice cream pail (those flimsy plastic gallon tubs with the thin metal handle). Most the times the handles would fall off but we had to make do.

Our secret weapon: dry dog food.

To the sheep this was some sort of drug. They couldn't get enough of it. We'd put a handful or two of the dry kernels in the plastic bucket. And, being careful not to scare them away with a fast approach, we quietly crept into the back yard towards the rows of apple trees. Closer. Closer. Until one would jerk it's head up – suddenly aware of us. Stay still! Don't scare them away. Still... still... They're all looking at us now – not sure what to do, wanting to run. Still. Don't move anything. Stay still. Wait until you feel them relax. Wait. Wait. Don't rush it... there. See that... the one who is the leader – he relaxed (though barely visible)... but we knew... it was time.

With a slight gentle twist of the wrist one of us kids would stir up the kernels of dog food. Like the sound of sand paper, they circled the bottom of the pail. He was listening – you could see it. Now another of us would twist our wrist... shhuuuk... shhuuuk... shhuuuk... easy now... easy... he took a step forward... they were all listening now... trying to place that sound... shhuuuk... shhuuuk... shh - - - OH SHIT!!!!!

Within a split second the herd thundered toward us, their only goal to get the dog food drug – which was generic crap anyways; not even the good stuff. Like bats out of hell we took off towards the gate. (You know, I've never actually understood the term "like a bat out of hell", but I'm pretty sure it clearly explains how fast we ran. But I digress.) Four skinny, scrawny kids running like mad through the property being chased by crazy dog food-fiending sheep.

We knew if we dropped a bucket it would all be in vain – the sheep would stop and eat the pieces scattered to the ground and turn back to the orchard. We needed to keep going strong - and FAST! - making sure we didn't lose the goods.

The most dangerous part was the gravel driveway. It was easy to lose your step, slide through the gravel – more than likely falling face first, which meant gravel embedded in your hands (if you were quick enough to put them in front of you) and knees. Not only that, your bucket will surely fall emptying its contents all around you, the sheep - running with way too much momentum built up wouldn't be able to stop. They'd trample you, then circle back around and stand on your little gravel-pocked body while they ate the cheap dog food that surrounded you. They wouldn't even notice you lying there. And so we knew there was only one option – DO NOT FALL.

Once you made it past the driveway it was a straight shot to the swing gate... this had to be timed perfectly... there were four of us kids... you couldn't risk losing one to the herd. (Besides, by this time in our life we were all skilled in the art of holding grudges and treating each other maliciously when called for. To allow one sibling down meant sure hell for the next week or possibly longer.)

Like professional aerial acrobats we raced to get side-by-side, shoulder to shoulder, mad hooves thundering behind us. With perfect running steps we ran... one.. two... three... and LEAPED onto the gate, our weight forcing it to swing wide open as we threw our buckets WAY out into the pasture... raining hard, dry nuggets of dog food ... our hearts racing, chests heaving, through the dust kicked up by the crazed herd racing after their drug.

The kid closest to the chain would step off the gate, slowly swing it shut, wrap the rusted metal chain around the post, securing it in place. The rest of us, exhausted, would slowly fall, one by one, from the closed gate. Turning towards the house we'd catch glimpses of mom and dad peeking through the kitchen window, the curtains quickly snapping shut. And on we'd walk... to wait until the next time the sheep got out again.

The One In Which I Hope Gypsies Steal My Oldest Daughter In The Middle Of The Night

Oh, stop judging me. It's just a title.

Albeit one full of insight and obvious frustration.

Oh, Jelly Bean. How I adore your perky little 15-year old attitude. Full of self-entitlement and anger. I, too, was once fifteen. I, too, was full of anger. More anger than you are full of because I was a middle child and you happen to be the respected first born. I had to wear hand-me-downs. Lots of them. My entire life. And my older sister was pretty. And smart. And talented. And had lots of friends. And got her very own dog named Princess for her birthday. And even though Princess only lasted three days because the thing was an idiot, the point was she got her very own dog and we lived on a farm. And don't even get me started on the whole bath time routine... the one where the First Born got to bathe in fresh, clear, hot water and I got the leftovers. Imagine bathing in someone else's exfoliated skin. You have no idea if they farted in that water and yet here I was, expected to wash my face with it. Then the tub was emptied for the two younger boys. Fresh, clear, hot water for them to splash around and fart in. As if bath time wasn't enough to send me over the edge, my older sister got a stereo as a bribe when my dad tried to get rid of the insane killer-horse named Rocket even though Rocket was "everybody's horse" and tried desperately to kill me (not her). Do you get what I'm saying? She was the only one out of four of us who made out with stereo equipment so I get anger. I lived it. Breathed it. And have allowed it to fester into the snarky wit my mother is so proud of today.

But, you. You. You are beautiful. You can do your hair in thousands of different styles that come straight off the red carpet. And you do this by yourself. In the dark. With your eyes closed. I have two styles: Down and Frizzy or Up and Frizzy. You are the first born. There are pictures as proof of you in clothes that came right off the rack - without spit up stains on them. Remember my hand me downs? They included a t-shirt with one of those pliable vinyl transfers on it of a kitten. Only it had been washed and worn so many times by my older sister it looked like the white snowstorm static of a 1970's television set. (That's not a cool shirt, in case you were wondering.) You possess a talent for dancing that is unprecedented in my world. When I dance I sort of look like I'm suffering through full body electro-shock treatments.

I guess what I'm saying is, I can't wait until you're old enough to realize how beautiful and talented and fun and smart you truly are. How you are far more beautiful than this attitude you've been handing out. It might be a long, lonely, miserable wait for me, but you're worth it. And don't mind Mommy as she opens her second bottle of wine today...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Life's Big Choices

At times I struggle with anxiety. I fill with dread at the thought that I might not be making the right choice. I question whether I'm truly living life to the fullest. My mind overloads with thoughts that I might be missing opportunities, walking by something that was truly meant to be experienced, throwing away time by fearing unchartered waters.

I'm of course talking about deciding what to eat for lunch.

Look, people. I sit in a closet. Literally. They took the doors off an existing closet and 'lo and behold, I've got my own personal work space. My desk isn't even a desk. It's a computer credenza. Lay two rulers end to end and one of them is falling off. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's my space. In Mommy Land this space is more valued than the bathroom at home. (read: my children cannot access this space. It is mine. It's all mine!)

I sit here for hours upon hours each week wondering if anyone knows my name. I've been called every name under the sun but mine: Heather, Rachael, Brittney. I had a meeting once with an attorney. A face-to-face meeting. As in I appeared before him in person. With no costume. And yet he referred to me in correspondence as Richard. And my therapist wonders why I have identity issues.

No one really knows or understands or cares to know or understand what I do at work. Big V will ask "so, how was work today?" and there's that little pause where I ask myself if he really wants me to explain how I researched the density debate, and what I argued regarding streetscape design, or how franchises can be considered a viable option for distressed areas and how communities don't have to sell out for oversized tacky buildings but rather impose design controls through ordinances to retain neighborhood character.

I lost you at density, didn't I? Don't worry, it happens all the time.

So you understand how unbelievably important lunch is, right? It's a topic I can talk to with anyone. Everyone. Heck, we all like to eat, right? Except for those crazy health fanatics that only eat kale and Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal and work out seven days a week, but I'm not really friends with those kind of people. Not because I have anything against them, it's just hanging around them makes me feel like a sloth. Or sloth-like. Which I suppose is essentially the same thing and basically means that spending time with really healthy active people reminds me that I want to take a nap.

But, lunch. Lunch! That is the purpose of my work day! The reason I wake up in the morning. The reason I can't get my hair done on a regular basis because I choose to spend my hard earned money on food regardless of our paycheck-to-paycheck status. But I digress (for the thirtieth time in this post....).

Today I had no idea where to go. It was one of those six-year old but I don't wanna figure it out kind of things. I had stopped off at our local deli located in the only grocery store in town and stared at the case. Chicken? Nope. Not doing it for me. Pot Roast? Nah. Potato Casserole? Not sure what that all entails, but it looks kind of greasy. Nothing was jumping out at me. That is until two of the coolest people in the world jumped out at me!

"Are you here for Taco Tuesday?"  "You've gotta try Taco Tuesday!"

What the heck is Taco Tuesday?

Behold.

This is Taco Tuesday:



Two big ole' tacos filled to the brim with fresh lettuce, red juicy toamatoes, lots of cheese, and my second reason for living: sour cream. On my way back to the office I worried it wouldn't be enough to fill me up... then I saw the lights from Heaven beaming down on our local Burger King sign which called out to me in big, bold, block lettering: CINNABON CHEESECAKE and I decided that God, Himself, wanted to ensure I had a successful lunch experience, so I washed those two bad boys down with this little slice of heavenly sweetness:



Thank you, Jake and Heidi,
for making sure I made the right choice today.
Life is so good.

All Together Now!

This is what's been keeping me up at night....


It's not going to help much considering he has just one tooth on the bottom.

Monday, July 19, 2010

So Close and Only Three Bra Sizes Too Small

It's no secret that I would love, Love, LOVE a job in social media. Unless you didn't know me. Then you wouldn't know that. It wouldn't necessarily be a secret, though. It'd just be unknown to you. Because I would be unknown to you. Anyway. You get my point. Hopefully.

To me, there would be no greater thrill than getting paid to face, blog, tweet, flick, space, and digg for a living. (I shortened them because I'm hip. That's right, kids. Mama is "Hip.") My witty commentary could actually earn me a paycheck and I could finally say, "Hey, Mom - remember when you told me that when I talk and talk and talk and talk I exhaust you? Well, guess what? These people PAY ME to keep on talking! How's that for irony?!" And also I wouldn't have to pretend to be working when I wasn't. I'd actually be working.

Today I saw a job posting that was just about perfect. It was a full time position in the city. (Ooh! I could take the train!) Full time is good. A commute is even better. Because I have three kids which means I don't get privacy in the bathroom but I could surely get it on a train they weren't on. Try to barge in on my now, punks! The job requirements were so up my alley.... facebook, twitter, increase traffic via social means - yes! This is something I could do! This is something I should do! This is something ----

Oh.

This is something for Playboy.

Huh. Well, maybe they really are interested in hiring a flat-chested, jiggly-thighed, paunchy-bellied, dark-circles-under-the-eyes-because-I-haven't-slept-in-weeks-and-what-on-earth-is-up-with-my-hair-it-feels-like-straw woman with excellent grammar skills. Right? Right?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Negative, Facebook Request.

Remember when I had to beg and plead for my second grader to attend a private Christian school? And the Chairperson of the School Board really didn't want us there because I am the epitome of sin? And they made me feel like crap but it was really important to Dotter so I sucked it up and didn't say anything (except in my trademark passive aggressive snarky commentary on my blog)?

I mean, it was bad enough that I was unacceptable by Christian School standards, what with all my out-of-wedlock  children, and living in sin, and swearing and stuff. I admit to all of that. But Dotter didn't do any of that. In fact, she tells me all the time how I shouldn't swear because it's bad and I could go to "the opposite of Heaven." Anyway. Remember how I thought it wouldn't be a big deal that my non-cussing, non-hussy 7-year old attend a school where she would learn about love and forgiveness and grace and peace and the unending limits of God's love and understanding, and how I would pay thousands of dollars each year for this precious educational gift, but how it turned out to be a really big deal instead and made me want to pack up and leave town and settle some place where people wouldn't judge me for swearing? Like on a lobster boat in Maine? And how I cried because I've never been made to feel so horrible by one woman in all my life? (Well, except for another woman, and that other woman's crazy daughter who hunted me down at our local WalMart, which makes me think this happens more in my life than I'm willing to admit.) Remember that woman? The first one. Not the second or the third one. (Although equally scary.)

Well, Hallelujah! She hath found forgiveness! She done gone requested little old sinful me as her very own Facebook Friend!

Really. Facebook Commandments clearly state that if you make someone cry, or if you make someone feel like the mud upon the bottom of your shoe in front of their children, you may not request them as a friend.

She obviously has not read that set of rules.

But now I'm all worried. Because what if I ignore the request? Then will she hate me even more and possibly  ban Dotter from school on the basis that I think I'm too good to have her as my friend. Which is ironic because I wouldn't even come close to picking the term "friend" to describe our nonexistent relationship.

I can't say yes... because, honestly, my Facebook is like my blog all hopped up on energy drinks... and Jesus was actually pretty chill from what I've been taught. The content on my Facebook alone could have us banned from all religious institutions throughout the state. I cuss a LOT. I snark even more. And there are pictures of me imbibing alcoholic beverages. And then there's that whole White Trash thing to try to explain. Well, you see my predicament.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Collection Calls

I hate answering the phone in our office.

What irritates me further is when I answer the phone and it's not even work related at all, rather some collection agency looking for some woman who obviously had issues paying her bills but who does not work here. For the first year I tried to be helpful explaining this was a second line in an office we recently acquired; that this is a business and that woman doesn't work here; that it's been over a year and we've never heard of this person and perhaps it's about time to update your stupid records and how did you get this job anyway if you can't even do something as simple as update your records to show this lady is not here. You know, helpful things like that.

Seriously, people. It's been over a year of this nonsense. It's time to have a little fun with this.

Telemarketer:  "Hello, is Barbara there, please?"

Me: "Oh my god! Barbara?! You mean -- you didn't hear?"

T: "I'm sorry. Um. Is Barbara available? This is a business matter."

Me: "You didn't hear? Barbara was involved in that big porn raid over at the Methodist Church."

T: ".....uh.... I'm looking for Barbara Smith....."

Me: "Can you believe that? I mean - the Methodists, right? Who would've thought! Totally conjures up a different image when you hear 'Let's get together and whip up some pies!' "

T: ".... uh... is there a better time when I could call ...."

Me: "Good Lord, you don't think she'll be released anytime soon, do you? I mean, there was that whole thing with the goat - I'm pretty sure that's some serious charges there."

T: ".... um... uh... thank you ...."

click.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rules to Live By

Everyone has Life Rules they live by. I have Life Rules I live by. To me, they're less general guidelines and more black & white unalterable restrictions. And they're not some willy-nilly nonsense; these are based on actual childhood experience. I know what works and I know what doesn't. And that's just how it should be. So, here I will let you into just a couple of my Life Rules just in case you need help determining yours.

1.) Never open an exterior door after dusk for longer than two seconds. A bat could fly in and wreck havoc in your home. Your kids will be scared to pieces thinking they're all going to die of rabies and demand to sleep on your bedroom floor and your father will wake you up in the middle of the night by stepping on your face as he tries to smash the rabid bat with a broom and you'll never, ever get the sound of a shrieking bat, nor the image of a middle-aged man jumping & swatting over your face wearing only tighty-whiteys out of your head and you'll have to go to therapy and it's just not worth it so keep the door closed.

2.) Grown men should always wear underwear under shorts. Because let's say you don't, and your ten-year old granddaughter is sitting across from you at a barbeque and while you're tipping back another Foster's in that lawn chair of yours, your bored out of her gourd granddaughter is looking at you and then says to herself what the heck is that thing sticking out of grandpa's shorts? and she still can't figure it out so she enlists the help of a slightly older relative and learns that's what male genitalia looks like. And she's grossed out and will never get that image out of her mind ever and will have to go to therapy and it's just not worth it so keep it locked up, boys.

3.) Make sure your shoes are tied all the time. If they have laces they should be laced up. Period. Let's say you're wandering around a very busy airport at a very young age during a very lengthy layover and you decide to ride up and down the escalators while your dad boozes it up in the airport bar and your laces are untied and the escalator grabs your laces and starts twisting your shoe and your sister screams because she thinks you're being eaten alive and strangers have to come to your rescue to save your life and you're stuck walking in half a shoe for the rest of the trip. Not good, right? So keep 'em laced up.

4.) Never light candles. Ever. But especially on that cottonish-fake-snow-with-tacky-glitter stuff people put on their antique buffet tables at Christmas time. Because once that stuff catches fire the flames are HUGE and no amount of Kool-Aid you throw on it is going to help and then you have to explain to your mother why the wall is covered in soot and the antique buffet table she was in love with is more or less kindling and how come you weren't able to get her a Christmas gift because you were busy battling a forest fire in her dining room. Trust me, she'd much rather have had a noodle necklace. Just don't light the candles, ok?

There's plenty more... but I thought I'd start off slow, so as not to scare you off...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Has Anyone Seen the Baby?


To be fair, we did not just leave him on the park bench.
We remembered to take him home.
(Third Child Syndrome)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Did Someone Lose an Appendage?

When I was 14-years old I woke up and found an arm laying on the bed next to me.

It was an uneventful evening, I'm sure, mostly  because I was a dorky 14-year old who wore purple plastic framed glasses à la Sally Jessy Raphael. I didn't do much of anything. Ever. Except sit all angsty and moody in my room, wondering why I resembled more of a zoo animal and nothing at all like the girls on the cover of Seventeen. And also I hadn't started boozing it up at that stage in my life, so really I'm pretty certain I had spent the evening watching the Cosby Show and picking fights with my siblings. Then I went to bed. Completely sober.

My eyes fluttered awake, my bedroom washed in the soft pinks of an early sunrise. *sigh* Another ordinary, uneventful day I thought, turning my head to the left to see what time was displayed on my alarm clock.

And that's when I saw it. Holy shit! What the hell is that?! IT'S A FREAKING HAND!! (Sorry for cussing in my thoughts, Mom. I didn't swear at that stage in my life, I swear. I saved that for when I started boozing many years later.)

On my pillow, right next to my head, right where my eyeballs were staring, was a hand. Palm face up. Fingers slightly curled. Almost touching my head.

ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod!

I wanted to scream. But what if the psychopath that put the  hand there was still in my bedroom? What if he had a knife? Or an axe? ohmygod! What do I do?

Ok. Stay calm.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Turn your head slowly and look around the room.

Do you see anyone else?

Does anything look out of place?


No.

Ok. That's a good sign.

What if the whole family was murdered?

Stop thinking like that! 

Ok. You're going to have to get out of the bed and call 911.

Turn to the left again. Is the hand still there?

YES! OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!


Calm down, dammit! You're not going to be any help like that.

Ok. Slowly now - quiet - we don't want to alert the murderers that you're awake. You have to move the hand.

NO I DON'T WANT TO!

You have to. We have to get out of this room.

Now, take your right hand and slowly pick up the hand...

My right arm felt like concrete inching across by body to get to the lifeless hand sitting on my pillow.

OHGOD!

It's okay.

IT FEELS COLD! OHMYGODOHMYGOD!

You're doing fine... move the hand and we can slide out of bed.

It's HEAVY! OHMYGOD IT'S HEAVY!

You're doing fine... we have to call 911....

AAGGGGGHHHH!!!!! THE WHOLE ARM IS HERE! IT'S STILL ATTACHED TO THE ARM!!!!!

You idiot. That's your arm. You fell asleep on it.

For the next 45 seconds I had fun lifting up my numb arm and watching it plop onto the surface of the bed, completely unfeeling. Then the sensation of feeling crept back in, which felt like someone was pumping a thousand nails in my arm with a power nailer. That wasn't as cool.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Could he be hungry?

Does this make my butt look big?

A while ago the family and I went to get our pictures taken. This was somewhat of a big deal in and of itself because we've never had our photos professionally taken before. I'm not a big fan of the posed. Or trying to figure out coordinated outfits. Or the anxiety-ridden drive filled with "don't touch your hair - we're going to have to brush it again" and "stop licking your lips - they're going to look chapped" and "why did you make your sister cry? Now she's got puffy eyes and snot running down to her chin." Also, my only experience with Family Portraits was at one of those - you know - mall stores, where thirteen different families wait in what looks to be a closet at the rear of the store. Not fun.

But we went... why? Because the pictures were FREE! And I never pass up free stuff. And they were done by a real professional photographer. The kind that had his own studio (which included a kitchen set because he was currently working on some chef project).

Now, you might be wondering why I got so lucky as to get FREE family photos by a real professional photographer. Or you might not be wondering that at all. You might actually be wondering what you're having for dinner tonight. Or how the heck you're going to put up with your crazy mother-in-law at the next family function since she suddenly stopped taking her meds, convinced fresh air alone will suddenly make her sane. Or you might be wondering how you've managed to spend the last 36 years spelling Colombia wrong (not realizing you were spelling it "Columbia" like it's a coat, not a country).

Just in case you are wondering though, I'll continue.

A couple months ago I got a call from someone at the hospital where I recently gave birth to Cletus the Used to be Fetus. Immediately I went through a mental list of anything we may have damaged, destroyed or stolen while we were there. I swear I made sure Big V put those blankets and pillows back...

After I was assured I would not need legal representation and the child we took home was, in fact, ours, she got down to business, explaining staff "remembered" us from our stay. Oh. That can't be good. Staff thought we'd be good candidates for a marketing campaign they were starting... and well, would we like to be a part of it? What do we have to do? Oh, you know, take some pictures, make a statement about what you thought of your hospital care and the creative souls in the marketing department would do the rest.

So here I am, in all my glory, ready to be set on a billboard.





Yep. On a BILLBOARD. You know, a really large - painfully large - humongous - wooden canvas for all the world to see.

Pictures were taken (FREE of charge) of the entire family, and then some of just me and the boy and some of just Big V and the boy. They picked the best one to put on billboards all across southeastern Wisconsin. Honestly, if this is the best picture that was taken I don't really care to see the rest. My hair looks plastered against my head. (Bean was right, I should've worn it down.) And I guess I have a really thick neck now. (Thanks baby weight that refuses to leave, even though I've asked you nicely.)  I can't imagine what it's going to look like blown up to 14'x48'.

I also spent an afternoon where they video taped an interview that will be edited and posted to their website. I haven't seen that, but I can only imagine what that looks like - with my out of control facial expressions, rolling eyes and gravelly voice, it should be a real treat!

To be honest, I loved everyone at the hospital when we were there. I'm not sure if I ever wrote about it because it was less funny and more scary and serious. One minute V and I were laughing over his pizza and the next minute I was being swarmed by a medical team rushing me to surgery trying to get to the baby. Scariest moment of my life. But everyone was wonderful.

It was more than just the professional medical care. They truly did make us feel special. They made us feel like we were the only ones in that entire hospital. They made us feel like no matter what was about to happen they were seeing this through to the end with us and they weren't about to leave us stranded wondering what was going on.

Plus, they all "got" our sense of humor. We tend to deflect with sarcasm and wit - which can be confused with flippancy and uncaring... but these nurses and doctors were a hoot! And I'd go back there in a heartbeat.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

You Should Eat Here. It's That Simple.

Midwestern life includes farming. It's just the way it is. And on farms, you get fed. You get fed real good because they need you to keep working, and let's be honest, a plate of raw fish is not going to get you to stack hay in a 300-degree haymow for very long.

Lunches (or dinners, as they're called) on the farm is simple: You sit down at the table and you eat what was cooked. There's no pesky decisions to be made; no choice of appetizers, no "put that on the side, please"- just good, wholesome, food on your plate, waiting to get et. Those were the ways of my youth.

Fast forward to the present, when my main meal of the day usually comes bagged by some pimply kid in a dorky hat. I missed the old farm lunches. I missed the love the food was made with. I missed the wholesomeness and the way the food stuck to my bones....

UNTIL I FOUND THIS PLACE!!


It is with my pleasure (and a certain amount of giddiness)
that I introduce you to Sharon's Sweet Shop.
A little restaurant in the humble Village of Sharon, Wisconsin.

Yes, it is worth the trip.

Want to know what's for lunch?
She writes it on the chalkboard that stands outside!
You don't get a choice.
You just eat what's for dinner.
It's that simple.


The place is small. And quaint. And cute. And welcoming.
And it has a piano.
(And no one plays Chopsticks. Ever.)
And it has homemade soup.
Homemade.
As in, I didn't open a can to get this Cream of Broccoli soup.


The day I went, pork chops were being served.
They were juicy.
And delicious.
And there was a homemade roll.
That was straight from the oven.
And my butter melted.
Like heaven.


I'm not sure what the Loaded Garlic Mashed Potatoes were loaded with,
but I loved them.
I loved them more than my children.
(Not really. That wouldn't be very mother-of-the-year like, would it?)

And if you're not yet convinced to try this place out...

then you haven't been introduced to her homemade dessert.


I call this:

Americana On A Plate

and also

HURRY UP, GET ME ANOTHER!


Let me know when you want to meet for lunch.
I'll save you a seat at my table.

Black & White and Nothing In Between

"Okay, Mom. I'm ready to go now."

There stood my 8-year old daughter. The one I affectionately refer to as Dotter on my blog. Because 'dotter' literally means "daughter" in Swedish. And "literal" is the best way to describe my daughter, Dotter.

Comedian Mitch Hedberg joked, "I once saw a forklift lift a crate of forks. And it was way to literal for me." My daughter would've been in heaven. Of course a forklift would lift forks. Why else would they call it a forklift? Any other explanation would be ridiculous.

I sighed. Loud. Obnoxiously. Rudely.

"Mom, you said we could go to the store sometime. I'm ready to go now." She had her money ready to go in a Ziploc bag. I knew it she had already counted it out. Probably twice.

"Go comb your hair," I directed as I lifted my hands out of the kitchen sink where I was washing dishes.

Really, it was easier. Easier than trying to explain that the definition of "some time" is endless... it could mean in ten minutes, or an hour, or six, or a month from now. I want to go to the French countryside "some time" but that doesn't mean I'm packing just yet. But I knew what the argument would be: If "some time" could be any time, then couldn't it be that "right now" is actually the realization of "some time?"

Confused? That's why it was so much easier to just direct her to comb her hair. Gather the baby. Throw him in the car seat. Sigh again. Loudly. Obnoxiously. Rudely. Again.

Obviously this is not new to us. When she was two she completely freaked out when I turned left off the highway exit ramp instead of right because I needed to stop and get gas. In her world we turned right. It was that simple. We always turned right. To suddenly turn left rocked her world to extremes. Probably similar to what I'd feel if a group of armed men suddenly stormed my bedroom at three in the morning.

She doesn't function well when she doesn't know what to expect. You have to explain what's about to happen - and then pray to God it happens the way you explained it. And when she has something organized and explained in her mind it can be quite challenging to veer from that. Sometimes it's just way easier to just go with her flow.

"Do you know how much money you have?"

"I have one dollar and ninety-one cents."

"Do you know how much money you need?"

"No. But Bean knows how much they are and I can call her."

"So let's call her."

Bean was out with her friends, wandering aimlessly around stores that are probably sick of seeing all those goofy teens on summer break taking weird pictures of themselves with their cell phones and updating them to Facebook... and never buying anything more than a Monster and a pack of gum. It'll be a long summer... but Bean knew how much a pack of Crazy Bands were. Which turned out to be fifty-nine cents more than what Dotter had.

And the meltdown began....

"BUT I DON'T HAVE TWO DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS! I ONLY HAVE ONE DOLLAR AND NINETY ONE CENTS! NOW I CAN'T GET THEM AND MOM SAID WE COULD GO SOME  TIME!"

Sigh. Loud. Obnoxious. Rude. I know. I'm like, fourteen. I think I may have even rolled my eyes.

What I want to say is something along the lines of get a grip! It's not the end of the world if we don't do exactly what you have planned in your little head. Life will go on. You will survive this!

And then God smiled upon me, because the Bean, of all things - offered to lend money to Dotter. "It's okay," she said calmly. "You can take four of my one-dollar bills. If you go in my underwear drawer I have a little box that I keep my money in. You can take four of the ones that say one-dollar, okay?" (Praise Jesus, she was with friends and not home alone, where the response would've been more along the lines of, "What is your problem?")

Instant happiness. "Thanks!"

Let's get this show on the road. Quicker we leave the sooner we get back and I can finish these dishes.

Except that happiness was short lived. Five minutes later I'm looking at Dotter sitting on the edge of Bean's bed sobbing. What now?

"She doesn't have an underwear drawer!"

"It's the top drawer."

"NO IT'S NOT! I looked and it's not her underwear drawer."

"Yes it is," I explain, walking over to the drawer and opening it.

"NO! THERE'S NO UNDERWEAR IN THERE! THERE'S ONLY BRAS! SHE SAID I COULD USE MONEY FROM HER UNDERWEAR DRAWER NOT HER BRA DRAWER!"

(And if you think I'm kidding you'd be so wrong.)

Sigh. Use every ounce of my energy to not pound my head against the dresser. She was right, of course. I knew before I looked. I was praying one lone pair of underwear would be in that drawer. Just one. That's all I needed. But no. Bras. Just bras.

"Dotter, people consider bras underwear, too. This is the drawer. See the box here? It's got her money inside."

"You need to follow the RULES, Mom. And she didn't say I could take money from her bra drawer."

"Yes," I sighed. "Let's call her."

The One in which I take my Father for his Covid Vaccine

I got a voicemail the other day from the hospital saying ‘since you’re the contact on record we just want you to know your Dad can get a Cov...