Monday, January 31, 2011

Snowstorms and Snakes

"Wouldn't that be funny if the blizzard hit when we were at our meeting? And we couldn't get home? And we'd have to stay here at the office all night long?"

Uh, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be. I'd rather eat coconut than have a slumber party at the office. And trust me, eating coconut is no treat. I'm sure I'm not the only person on the planet who thinks coconut is a little too similar to baby toenails.

But just in case we do get snowed in, I've mentally staked out the fire proof safe room as my personal night time space. What it lacks in carpeting in makes up for in safety, being fire proof and all. And while it's true there's a big rat trap in the corner of the room, the rest of the office gets pretty cold and drafty. I'd rather share my space with a rat than freeze to death. Plus, since it's really warm in there, there's a slim-to-none chance potential snake intruders would slither their way to enjoy my body heat (because snakes hate snow, too).

What, like you don't plan ahead?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Navigating the obstacles of life just to get to Starbucks.

Last night I had big plans to escape my family and head to our local Starbucks to spend an amazing kid-free time with my amazing friend, Kim. I spent all day imagining the carefree laughter and the ability to have a conversation without being interrupted by people shorter than four feet. It would be pure bliss, I was certain.

At 5:01pm I was driving excitedly from the office parking lot, heading towards unadulterated freedom and a grande chai tea latte!

Except at 5:02pm, the reality of my life slapped me hard in the face when Big V called and said he didn't actually have time to pick the kids up from day care so I'd have to do it. I'm pretty sure he did that on purpose because I didn't invite him to our Starbucks soiree. He can be bitter and petty like that.

(Just kidding. That's called sarcasm people.) The truth is, Big V was off to referee a basketball game. He does that from time to time because he likes to play dress up and has an extra prisoner's shirt from an old Halloween costume he likes to use. (Again. Sarcasm.)

So I get the kids home and the Bean is all "do you notice I did my eye make-up different today?" and the baby was all "BAH! BAH! BAH!" which can mean book, ball, bottle, Bahamas or Bahrain. I don't pretend to understand. And then Dotter pipes up with, "I'm so excited! I can't wait to go!" Uh... go where? "To the cultural celebration!" And I was all I'll turn on National Geographic for you because I'm going to Starbuck's and I'm going to celebrate culture there by myself. Without kids.

And then she reminded me about how all those papers she's been handing me every night after school mentioned the fact that for the past thirty days or so the entire school has been learning about Africa and tonight is the night that the school gymnasium is transformed into another part of the planet and there will be food and posters and artwork and they even get to sing a traditional African greeting song. Oh, and also her shift starts at 7 o'clock. You have a shift? "Yes. I volunteered to work at our Nigeria table from 7:00 to 7:30pm." Oh, goody.

So we went to Africa. And at 7:31pm I was all up in Dotter's face Good job! This was great! Wow, you sure knew a lot about Nigeria! Can we go now? Huh? Huh? Can we?

Starbuck's was calling my name in a bad way so I decided to do what any mature mother would do in this situation and drop my daughter off in the street so I didn't have to lose precious time with all that in-and-out maneuvering in the driveway. Hasta la vista, kiddo!  "Goeie nag, Mamma! Ek is lief vir jou!"

Four minutes away was my safe haven... Almost there.... AND the phone rings. It's Big V:

I was going to talk to you before you left but I heard your tires squeal as you were escaping.

Oh, sorry. I'm in a hurry. What did you need?

The kids are hungry.

Feed them.

What should I feed them?


What food?

What do we have?

We have hot dogs.

Feed them hot dogs.

But we're out of propane.


For the grill. We're out of propane for the grill so I can't make the hot dogs.

What about the stove?

What about it?

Make the hot dogs on the stove.

You can make hot dogs on the stove?

Yes.  [... for the love ....]


How what?

How do you make hot dogs on the stove?

Just put them in a frying pan and fry them up. Pretend it's a grill.

What number should I put it on?

What? [... I'm parking now....]

What number should I put the dial on?

I don't care. 

Will 5 be too high?

It'll be fine.

I don't want to burn them

Then turn it down.

Will 2 be too low?

I don't know... it'll be fine... people eat hot dogs raw...  [...shut up... I'm almost to the door...]

Maybe I should just set the dial to in between the 2 and the 5.

THAT SOUNDS GREAT! YOU SHOULD DO THAT! I GOT TO GO! GOOD LUCK! [... I just want my Starbucks! Please don't make me cry!...]

I have never had so much fun sitting in Starbucks in my life. Amazingly, not once did I worry if my family succumbed to E Coli after consuming undercooked hot dogs.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Lang Company Thinks I'm A Loser. Maybe. Or Else They Love Me. I Can't Tell.

January 27, 2011

The Lang Company
PO Box 1605
Waukesha, WI 53187

To Whom It May Concern:

Last night I went to my mailbox which is something I do daily with a certain amount of dread because there are usually only bills inside, or junk mail addressed to some lady named Colleen who doesn’t even live in our house and really, what fun is that? But ‘lo and behold, last night, waiting in my mailbox was a package from The Lang Company. And I love me some Lang, know what I mean? (It’s the paper. Superb!)

I opened the package and found a 2011 Folk Art Engagement Planner inside. That made me confused because I was pretty sure I had already received the one I ordered but I tend to drink a lot of wine and also the baby has been suffering from a pretty bad cold and hasn’t been sleeping through the night lately so I couldn’t actually be certain I had one already. The mind can play some pretty powerful tricks on a person when they’re exhausted and/or drunk. So, I went to my purse and ‘lo and behold! There was the original 2011 Folk Art Engagement Planner I had ordered and received. In case you think I’m still drunk and/or exhausted here’s photographic proof there were two:

At first I thought obviously Lang loves me so much they sent me an extra gift to enjoy but then I started getting paranoid thinking maybe it was actually some sort of cruel joke to rub it in my face that there’s no way I have enough engagements planned to fill one book, much less two, and Lang thinks it’s funny to point out I’m a big loser. So I figured I ought to just ask outright which it was: a gift or a jab. But then I got to thinking that maybe the person who sent me two of my order instead of just the one I paid for had made an honest mistake and was not a mean person at all. Then I thought what if that person was just exhausted like me (but not necessarily drunk) and didn’t mean to mess up? I wouldn’t want them to lose their job because what if they have a baby at home who is all stuffed up and not sleeping through the night and needs medication and working at Lang is their only means to pay for that medication because not everyone has decent health insurance, you know, although they should.

Now I have this moral dilemma because I know the second planner isn’t one I rightfully paid for and I need to return it but I don’t want to have the firing of an individual on my conscience (especially knowing their child is sick). Unless of course that person is just malicious and meant to send it to me as a cruel reminder that after kids I no longer have a social life because then that person can just fry (figuratively speaking). So, here’s your extra book back. I trust you’ll know what to do.

Phoenix Rising

PS:  I don’t actually say ‘lo and behold often (or at all). It’s just that holy shit! did not seem professional.

PPS: I also don't drink as much as I may have implied so you don't really have to call Child Protective Services. Unless you feel you need to. I could just enter that home visit into my 2011 Folk Art Engagement Planner. (The one I kept; not the one I returned.)

PPPS: If someone from Lang did want to send me a special gift because they loved me I actually have my eye on the Vintage Floral Address Book (Item # 1013145). I do have enough friends and family to fill that no problem.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thanks to The Bloggess, My Life's Mission is Just About Complete

Yeah, yeah, I've given birth to three children, served in the United States Army, and can touch my nose with my tongue, but hasn't everybody?

Well, not everybody. Obviously, no man has actually given birth to a child, unless you count Thomas Beatie who was transgender and legally a man but kept his girlie parts so he could have a baby.

And the Army stint? They let anyone join. Seriously. Some time I'll tell you about Private Gloria Farmer (yes, her real name) who almost blew my legs off because she panicked during the whole "pull the pin, count to three and throw it" grenade exercise. Nowhere did it say "get nervous, fumble, and drop the sucker between the legs of your fellow soldier who is pretending to save your sorry ass with tracer bullets." (Don't worry, it wasn't a real grenade; those are expensive. These were the pretendish grenades that were more like fireworks. But fireworks can still blow off appendages, people. The danger is real.)

And also, there was a guy I went to school with who had this freakishly long tongue that he could part his bangs with. Seriously, the kid was part cow. My point? I haven't exactly accomplished anything memorable or exciting in life.

Or have I?

Because ohmygodIcannotbelievethis but you know Jenny, The Bloggess, right? I mean, she's only like the funniest person on the web - but, hey, uh, Mom, if you're reading this, don't actually click on that link I just provided because she sometimes seems to cuss a lot and she sometimes talks about sex and also zombies which might freak you out a bit. In fact, she's maybe probably actually written detailed accounts of zombies having sex which would really, really freak you out, so just trust me that she's really funny in between all the swearing and the sex addicted zombies, okay? So, anyway --- anyone who is anyone follows The Bloggess, except for William Shatner, who I think has a restraining order out against the Bloggess, but that's really for him to straighten out in therapy, and also, if I comment on that Bill might block me from his twitter account. Because he has done that.

So, this morning, the Bloggess posts and HOLY SMOKES her post is all about me! And by all about me I mean she included the title of one of my blog posts called A Dollar For Your 'Stache! And it's listed as number six! I made the top ten, people! I made the top ten!

Don't worry, I'll wait while you go back to her post and also bask in my glory. Perhaps I could get her to highlight my title to make it easier for you to find it. Just count six titles down, people. Just six. This, in and of itself, is quite an accomplishment.

This accomplishment feels intrinsically way better than the time I gave birth without an epidural and actually lived through it! Oh, yeah, and about that - I realize I was really young,  Dr. Rosenboom (yes, your real name), and had no idea what an actual "Birth Plan" was but that does not make it okay for you to keep the glorious wonders of an epidural secret. And also, while we're on it, I feel cheated because I never crushed on you and everyone says they crushed on their baby doc. No epidural and no irrational physical attraction to some guy who spends the majority of his day looking at lady bits? It's a miracle I ever had more children.

But nevermind all that. I am feeling good today because I was personally included in The Bloggess's post! I feel so good I am even going to forgive her obvious oversight in not mentioning me by name because she's probably busy terrifying people in her panda costume.

I am content in knowing my Life's Mission is just about complete. I can't tell you the full details of my mission because it involves a large dinner party where I am being served by one particular Bloggess donning a quite particular panda costume and I don't want to accidently scare said Bloggess away. Let's just say the groundwork has been laid, people. It's only a matter of time...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's For Dinner?

I'm thinking of writing a cookbook called I Have No Food and I Have No Time, What's For Dinner? because really, that's the story of my life. I usually work later than Big V and, while he's a great help at picking up the kids and carting their butts home, he tends to just sit there and wait until dinner magically appears in front of him. The older kids have picked up on this habit. I'll walk in two to three hours after they all got home and be ambushed by three starving, foaming at the mouths wild monsters, and one super cute toddler who's seemingly only word is a high pitched HI! (which he rapidly repeats 672 times before tiring). (Yes, 672 times. Believe this to be true.)

I haven't yet removed my shoes, I'm hopping up and down because my bladder can no longer take the ten minute commute down bumpy, country roads and I really have to pee, the baby is pulling on the purse hanging from my arm (another fun game we like to play, Let's Rip Mommy's Purse Out of Her Arms and Watch Her Horrified Reaction While She Tries to Gather Everything with Lightning Speed. This is especially fun to play in large crowds when we're in a hurry. Who says you can't have fun with your toddler for free?) and "What's for dinner?" is being hurled in my general direction from two rooms over where the television set is located. It's my favorite part of the day. Really. The only thing that could possibly beat it is the midnight wake-ups from the teen who just needs to remind me of something important. (Important in her mind; not mine.)

But I digress. "What's for dinner?" Since I assume nothing has magically appeared inside the pantry, my options are usually pretty limited. I've become great at cobbling things together that are actually edible. I always Once in a while I make Food Dump which is when I basically dump whatever food I can find in a pot and heat it up. I did this the other night and Big V loved it so much he declared it his absolute most favorite meal ever and forced me to write down the ingredients so I could replicate it. (Trouble with that was I hadn't really been paying attention when I was throwing things in the pot.) He also made me solemnly swear to make this at least twice a month. I swore, but I told him I couldn't guarantee an exact match.

Anyway. In honor of my new cookbook I Have No Food and I Have No Time, What's For Dinner? I shall share the blessed Food Dump: Version #47 recipe with you:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • butter (real butter; not that fake stuff)
  • 1 lb beef stew meat
  • 1can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • The rest of the jar of leftover chunky salsa that's been sitting in the fridge for the past three months (approx 1/4 cup)
  • chicken stock (anywhere from half a cup to a gallon. Truth be told, I have no idea how much.)
  • The rest of the egg noodles in the bag that's crinkled in the back of the pantry hiding behind the stale cereal
  • Half a box of whole wheat spaghetti noodles (ignore the expiration date; three years is not that long.)
  • The remaining bag of frozen vegetables for stew which amounts to about a handful.

Take a crapload of butter and melt it in your pan. (A crapload is approximately 2-4 tablespoons, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.) Throw your diced onion in. All of it. There is no such thing as too many onions. Unless you are a dental hygienist and then you should just stay away from onions altogether. In fact, it's probably a condition of your employment contract.

Add some more butter. It makes you feel better. Trust me. Brown the stew meat for just a bit. (You want to retain the red in the middle.) Remove the stew meat. Empty the enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes and chunky salsa into the pan with the onions and butter. Stir it up. You want that butter to be everywhere. Turn it down and let it simmer while you go cut the stew meat into bite sized pieces. No one wants to have to gnaw on a huge hunk of meat. Throw your bite sized meat pieces in the pot. Throw the vegetables in there, too. Hell, might as well dump the noodles in now. When everything cooks in one pot you have less dishes. Notice that there isn't a lot of "sauce" so start emptying your chicken stock into the pot until it looks like "enough." Put the lid on and walk away.

Go hide out in the bathroom for the next ten to fifteen minutes. It's the only room with a door that locks and you deserve it.

Now, dinner is done, but the probability of anyone actually walking into the kitchen to serve themselves is slim to none. You have two choices here: enable their laziness by serving them, or fill your bowl and eat it in front of them and trust that eventually they will embrace the resources God gave them and find the kitchen on their own. I personally suggest Option 2. (Enabling is so tacky.)

Ignore the ugly bowl. They're splotchy green with a moose on them.
If anyone wants this ugly set, consider it yours.

Note how I did not once say, "Dude, you have been home for TWO HOURS! How about YOU start dinner?" This is probably because I am way more mature than that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What did YOU do this weekend?

Things I learned this weekend:
The digestive system, which simply put, breaks down food into a form our body can use, is 28 feet long and consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines and anus. Digestion starts in the mouth where food is chewed and broken into smaller pieces. The mouth's saliva contains enzymes that turn starches into sugars. The food then travels down the ten inch tube, with a one inch diameter (about the size of a quarter) called the esophagus. The esophagus connects the mouth to the stomach. The stomach is a strong bag-like organ that squeezes the food for about 2 hours before it's passed to the small intestines. The small intestines are narrow - also about 1" in diameter, and 22 feet long. It is here where the liver and pancreas help aid in digestion. The liver produces bile that breaks down fat and the pancreas creates a chemical that breaks down stomach acid, without which the acid would burn through the walls of the small intestines. Ouch. Anyway, the nutrients are extracted from the food-like paste and travel through the wall of the small intestines out into the blood. This takes about 3-6 hours. The only thing left is waste which is pushed into the large intestines. The large intestines are about 3" in diameter and 4' long. Water is extracted from the waste and every 10 to 24 hours the waste exits our body via the anus.

Things my 9 year old daughter learned this weekend:
Her mother is the meanest mother in the entire world because her mother made her study for a stupid digestive system test which meant she had to miss Drake & Josh which isn't even on TV that much anymore and if her mother really knew her then her mother would know that Drake & Josh is very important to her, but obviously her mother doesn't care about her at all and is just plain mean. Also, anus is a very funny word and you can laugh at it every time it is mentioned.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I still don't know how it works.

Last night I went over to my parent's house to help them pick out paint colors for their walls. I kind of feel like an Honorary Member of the HGTV Design Team when I'm asked to help with interior design; except the feeling is really short lived because the extent of my involvement includes fanning the sample book open against the wall and my dad arbitrarily pointing at the nearest swatch announcing, "That looks alright." Then I glance towards my mother and ask, "Can you live with this color? Or will it slowly send you slipping into the inner depths of hell to the point you will snap and stab your husband 487 times in his sleep because the wall color was so god-awful you couldn't take it anymore?" My mom then shrugs and says, "that one's alright." She's either very laid back or is quietly laying the groundwork for her defense. Either way the whole picking-out-the-paint-color process takes about eighteen seconds which leaves us lots of time left over to discuss the great mysteries in life, like bidets.

Since my father is Australian, which is practically European French, I figured he would know all about bidets and how someone would, uh, navigate the use of one. But he got all prickly when I asked him and was all accusatory with his I don't know how to use one! I don't know what they are! Why would you look at me and ask that? which made me think maybe he had a bad experience with one and just didn't want to talk about it. Kind of like that time when I was 10 and overheard my mom laughing about how he accidently dipped in to the VICKS Vapor Rub to soothe his hemorrhoids thinking it was Vaseline and then told me not to say anything to my dad about hearing that because he was sensitive about the whole thing. Then she repeated the word sensitive and tried to stifle a laugh. When I was 17 and found out what hemorrhoids actually were I remembered the VICKS and suddenly that whole exchange was really funny! But it wasn't funny at all when I turned 28 and experienced hemorrhoids firsthand after the birth of my second child. There is nothing funny about hemorrhoids, y'all. Nothing.

"I just don't get bidets," I continued as the two of them stared at me. "As a woman you seriously expect me to drip while I hobble over from the toilet to the bidet? And then what? Water splashes and -- I'm still wet. How is that helping?"

At this point my father was looking at me as if I had escaped some sort of state institution. He tried to distract me off topic by announcing he made scones earlier in the day.

"I mean, isn't the point to make sure you're dry after you go to the bathroom. Like I'm going to want to walk around with drippage."

Chocolate Chip and also Plain scones.

"I just don't understand them. I don't get how people actually use them."

"Do you really need to know," my father muttered under his breath.

"Yes I do. I don't like not knowing how things work. I mean, is there no toilet paper usage at all? Do you just sit there waiting to drip dry?"

At this point my mother tried to salvage some dignity of the conversation by tactfully suggesting perhaps they were only used for after.... you know.

"When you poop? Well that would be worse. I wouldn't trust a bit of water to do the job. Unless it was a lot of water with a pretty good force."

"No, not that. The other thing...."

"What other thing? There's more than two things you can do?!" (This was certainly news to me.)

"No. After..." she looked to her left and to her right to ensure we were still the only three people in her kitchen. Lowering her voice to a whisper she said, "...after sex." Then yes, she actually threw her hands up to cover her face and giggled. Giggled, people.

There are two things I have never seen my mother do. And that would be giggle and say the word 'sex' out loud. In front of witnesses. Especially ones that blog.

Knowing that this was a break through of sorts - a maturing of our relationship, if you will - I paused, carefully considering how I should proceed.

"OHMYGAWD! YOU TOTALLY JUST SAID 'SEX' OUT LOUD! I am so going to blog about this tomorrow!!"

And that was when my father ushered me quickly from their home with a pound of scones.

If anyone is brave enough to give me the details on the who, what, when, where, why and how much of a bidet, I'd be brave enough to listen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mary Jo Update

Mary Jo Update (for those of you as giddy and excited as I am): 
Mary Jo was removed from the ventilator and has been breathing on her own, is chatting up a storm  and "wants to take a vacation in July" with her family and grandchildren. I cannot thank God enough.

A Dollar for your 'Stache

I have school age children. The law states when you enroll your child in school you must happily participate in fundraising. Lots of it.

Over the years we've sold frozen pizzas, wrapping paper, candles, coupons for a local restaurant, frozen pies, peanuts and cashews, t-shirts, cookbooks, and knives. Just to name a few.

It's all just so much work. The papers, remembering who paid, delivering the goods... can't the school just tack on an extra fundraising fee amount to the school fees? It would just be so much easier. And not feel like dreaded work.

And then, just when I think I can't stand the idea of another boring fundraiser, I come across THIS.

A very clever and witty dad in California is raising funds for his young daughter's art and music program at her charter school by WEARING A FAKE MUSTACHE IN PUBLIC EVERY DAY!

Each day promises a different style mustache. He blogs about the whole experience (which will leave you in stitches wondering what would I do if some crazy fool came in my office wearing a costume 'stache?)... and he takes pictures, y'all! I absolutely love this idea. In fact, I think the world would be a happier place if this were the type of fundraising we were asked to participate in.

Here, take a quick peak at Mustache Challenge 2011 to see what it's all about. And donate! I did. Trust me - it's way better than throwing money at a frozen pizza. ... I wonder if he'd send me an autographed photo.... If he does, I'm totally selling it on eBay.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mary Jo

"Sadly, we have confirmed that Mom is in a 'persistent vegetative state.' As she made her will to state that life support should cease if/when this happens, we will fulfill her wish on Monday morning (1/17/2011) so that she may finally share 'a cup of coffee with God' as she had always wanted. Further updates to follow."

I stared at the words haunting my computer screen. I found myself confused, not knowing what they meant. I read them again. And again.

Persistent vegetative state? Cease life support? This just could not be happening. Not to Mary Jo.

14 years ago I met Mary Jo. I was 21 years old and knew nothing about taking care of the baby I was now responsible for. Finding a babysitter to watch her while I worked full time was a necessity. Finding someone who would love my child more than I did was a blessing.

Mary Jo was a legend in the babysitting world. My aunt swore that this was the only person she ever trusted with her children, and that was the best recommendation I could ask for. So I went to meet her and see if she would 'pass the test' (if I had such a test).

Mary Jo lived in a quaint, little house on the top of a hill; a hill used for sledding in the wintertime. A play set sat on the edge of a grove of trees, hidden within the low hanging limbs was a fort waiting to be discovered. There was a field where countless races would be run. It reminded me of how I grew up and I decided then and there it was exactly where I wanted my child to be when I was at work.

Mary Jo met me at the door with a smile and a hand shake and quickly got down to business. It was obvious from the start I would not be interviewing her. Instead, she would be asking me questions to see if my child and I would fit into her world. "I expect my parents to follow through. If I discipline a child and tell them no treats for the rest of the day, I expect you to support that at home. Can you do that?" I nodded my head up and down furiously, more out of fear at that moment than anything. I was young. What did I know about the importance of withholding a cookie after dinner?

Mary Jo was no nonsense, but so full of love. Unconditional love. She never once judged me. She never treated me like the insecure, anxiety-filled, single mother I was. She treated me with kindness and respect. And she gave nothing but love and respect to my child.

Mary Jo "expected." She expected her children to be helpful and respectful and kind. She expected her parents to pay every Friday. And we all happily delivered.

Mary Jo was this sort of Betty Crocker/Martha Stewart/Drill Sergeant mix. She was super woman without the cape. Every single moment was a learning moment for her children. They learned about baking, setting the table, and making sandwiches. They learned how to breathe from their diaphragm when singing. They learned all about photosynthesis.

One of my favorite moments was when I was greeted at the door by a polite, excited 3-year old boy, who pointed to his knee cap and announced, "This is my patella!" Mary Jo casually offered an explanation: "We're learning anatomy." Of course you are, I thought. Why wouldn't you teach a bunch of three year olds anatomy?

Mary Jo knew her children were smart and intelligent and treated them as such. She accepted no excuses. She taught them about growing food in the garden and taught them how to take the fruit and make it into jam, or pickle the beans, which Mary Jo graciously gave away at Christmas time.

Halloween was always a special time at Mary Jo's. There was witch's brew and bobbing for apples and pictures taken of the costumed children by the pumpkins.

When I had my second child I knew right away Mary Jo would be their caregiver. And there was never any doubt when I gave birth to my third.

Mary Jo not only became a mother to my children, but a mother to me. She offered her opinion (whether I had asked for it or not) and always she would end up being right. She was enthusiastic and supportive of all my creative endeavors and came to every play I ever performed in. This winter, when she came to watch me in the play I co-wrote, she proudly asked for my autograph on the playbill. She never talked in matters of "wouldn't that be neat if..." it was always "When." When you become famous. When you publish your book.

Mary Jo believed in all her children - and also in me. She sees strength where sometimes I see none. More times than I can count I heard her exclaim, "Do not be a victim!" She has always believed we carry the strength and courage within ourselves to change the course of our destiny. "Do not be a victim." Do not allow anyone other than yourself to have control of your life. Do not allow yourself to sit in a corner crying because a friend made you feel bad by taking your toy. Pick yourself up and get on with life.

In the past 14 years of having Mary Jo in my life daily she has never called in the morning and cancelled last minute. I should have known something was wrong.

Last week she called Wednesday. She wasn't feeling good.

On Thursday she said her knee was swollen.

On Friday I glanced at the display on my phone: 6:13am. "I'm sorry, I just can't watch the kids today," whispered her voice on the other end. I didn't like how she sounded. Mary Jo was the epitome of strength... her voice did not sound strong at all. "It's okay," I reassured her. "Just get some rest and take it easy."

Nothing could prepare me for what was about to happen.

Someone said "critical ICU" and then "airlifted" and then "comatose." Each day brought more frustratingly sad news. "Non responsive." "Hemorrhage." "Infection." "Stroke." "Brain activity."

And then those words. Those awful, horrible words.

"Sadly, we have confirmed that Mom is in a 'persistent vegetative state.' As she made her will to state that life support should cease if/when this happens, we will fulfill her wish on Monday morning (1/17/2011) so that she may finally share 'a cup of coffee with God' as she had always wanted. Further updates to follow."

I sobbed. Not Mary Jo. Not Mary Jo.

I told my 15-year old. "Mary Jo can't die! She's supposed to live forever!" I know. I know.

I told my 9-year old. She cried and cried, harsh, heaving sobs wrecking her innocent body. "It's okay to cry," I whispered. "It's okay to feel sad and scared." And finally the crying quieted. She looked up at me: "Mary Jo will probably tell God where to sit." Oh, probably! I thought, as I squeezed my little girl. Yes, probably.

Such a hard lesson to be taught by someone as unprepared as myself.

I called my mom. "It doesn't look good."

I rambled on about how Mary Jo had wanted a reunion of all "her children" and it shouldn't be at her funeral. She would want to see everyone. I rambled on about how she always said, "don't be a victim" and I just couldn't stand to think of her as one. She wouldn't want to be a victim. I rambled on about something I had overheard a few days prior, that miracles happened because people believed they could. That people could see after being blind because they believed they would be able to see. That people were healed after being sick because they believed they could be healed.

If anyone believed in God and miracles it would be Mary Jo. She taught the children to pray diligently. I think they prayed for the same hamster every day for the past seven years. "God," I whispered. "Mary Jo believes in you."

How do you walk through your day when you know you're going to take your mother off life support on Monday? How do you get in your car and fill up your tank with gas? How do you play catch with a toddler or sign a permission slip to the zoo or discuss dinner options when you have this hanging over your head?

Mary Jo has a daughter, Lisa, who is the light of her world. Lisa is a couple years younger than me, with two small children of her own. How is she capable of putting one foot in front of the other? How is she capable of wiping her son's chin or cutting her daughter's food up small enough so she could eat it? Probably because she heard her mother's words telling her not to be a victim. Come on, let's get to it; there's work to do.

And then last night....

Last night... mere hours before the most unwelcome of Monday mornings.... my phone started going crazy. Did you hear?  Have you heard?

And I stared once again at words on my computer screen: 

We may actually have a miracle in our midst! The doctors relayed to Dad today that they feel 100% she is primed for RECOVERY! Her vitals are stable, her stroke - first thought to be critical enough for the end of life support - is now being deemed recoverable to such an extent that she could possibly return to almost normal functioning with therapy. She is moving her arms, turning her head slightly, and breathing on her own, but is still being heavily monitored for any negative changes. Lungs are clear, but she is not opening up her eyes ...yet. We are "cautiously optimistic" and TRULY need your prayers, support, and positive energy!

While we are not completely out of the woods yet, this is amazing progress and far exceeds anything we could have hoped for just two days ago. Thank you all for your support, love, and encouragement - keep her in your hearts and prayers! If ANYONE can do this, Mom/Nana/MaryJo CAN!

An hour later ....

NEWEST UPDATE: She is now opening her eyes and responding slowly to verbal commands...will keep everyone posted! ♥

The updates cannot come fast enough. Neither can my prayers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Drawing the Line

Cletus the used to be fetus is now 16 months old. This means he can walk, run, play, jump, climb and generally never stops moving during waking hours, which is great because it's never too early to train this kid for the Olympics according to Big V.

Big V grew up with seemingly no other purpose than to play sports and he's intent on passing this on to his son. I spend our evenings watching V hurl a regulation size football at Cletus's chest in the hopes that sooner or later automatic response will kick in and suddenly his banana smeared chubby hands will grasp that pigskin and snap it back. I kind of feel bad for the boy, but he seems to laugh every time he's knocked down. Now, I've never really played sports - I'm more of the cheering type. (If you count sitting with my friends in the bleachers catching up on the latest gossip "cheering.") - but I still think whipping an object at an innocent child's body in the hopes of turning him into the star quarterback is a bit harsh.

Last night V was out of the house playing basketball with the big boys which provided me the opportunity to teach some sport skills of my own. I decided to teach the boy to kick the soccer ball. That way I would be supporting Big V's sports goals and I wouldn't have to worry about giving the kid a black eye.

After twenty minutes of the toddler laughing at me running around the living room toe tapping a soccer ball Cletus decided to show off his kick. And the kid is good! Like, surprisingly, strangely good. In the "he is actually controlling the ball with his pudgy legs" kind of way. And I, like any giddy mother, started jumping up and down and clapping and squealing about how much of a natural he is and how he is going to be the next David Beckham (but without all the tattoos).

Then reality hit. Soccer? Uh, no. No. No. No. There is just absolutely no way I can allow this.

Soccer games are played in the middle of an open field in the middle of nowhere. And there are no seats. And You have to park your car and walk fifteen miles just to sit on the grass. And they play in the rain. And they have all these crazy tournaments that are hosted two hours away and start at seven o'clock in the morning. On a Saturday! There is just no way I can sit on the ground in the rain at seven o'clock in the morning week after painful week.

It was at that moment I realized I needed to take command of this situation before it got out of hand. I sat the boy down and had a heart-to-heart.

"Hey, buddy... Look! Mama has a cookie! See this good cookie? Mmm! Would you like a cookie?"

Up and down he nodded his little head excitedly.

"You can have this cookie if you promise Mommy to only play indoor sports. Okay? Can you say indoor sports?"


"Innn - doorrrr... yes, indoor sports are good! Just like this cookie!"


"...because Mommy gets really cold very easy and she doesn't like the rain..."


"... but she does like those bleachers in the gym! And she really, really likes that concession stand that sells those yummy nachos!"


"... and while Mommy eats her nachos, you can play basketball, or wrestle.... or even go swimming!!"


I'm pretty confident we have an agreement.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy Sunday, y'all!

Breckin Meyer.

Just because.
Just because I like to think he's chuckling at something witty I just said.
Just because I think men who can fashionably pull off scarves are sexy.
Just because I drink water, too.
Just because.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Food Issues

Last night I went to the front porch to get the mail. I turned on the outside porch light so our little mailbox could illuminate any potential rabid birds. See, the owners before us had secured some sort of ugly artificial plant hanging thing just above the mailbox which I had to knock down after I discovered two birds nesting in it. Scared the life out of me and them - except they didn't drop dead. They just flapped around my head and tried to attack me. Then they had the audacity to re-nest when I went back inside. I don't know how thousands of birds can drop dead from simultaneous fear but these two little suckers were hearty enough to handle my surprise attack. Whatever. I knocked the artificial plant thing down and that was the end. Stupid feathery squatters. Anyway, I always turn on the light and I always make a lot of noise to make sure any animals disappear before picking up the mail in the dark.

So, I stepped out on the porch and spied with my little eye a pile of what looked to be vomit on the grass in front of the mailbox. And I'm thinking the flu is going around and that poor mailman trudged up and down these streets puking over his shoulder just to deliver my credit card bill to me on time. What a trooper! Only after looking at it for a second longer I realized it wasn't vomit at all. It was actually a pile of macaroni and cheese. Because doesn't everyone have piles of food on their lawn? I'd like to say I live in a van down by the river, but sadly, I do not.

I summoned the family to come share in my discovery. "So, um, I see there's a pile of macaroni and cheese in front of our mailbox. Uh, anyone know how it got there?"

I was expecting a bunch of hemming and hawing from the children so, needless to say, I was pretty caught off guard when Big V proudly announced, "Yeah, I put it there." Like that was the most natural thing in the world to do: spoon a batch of Kraft goodness on the grass.


"Because no one was eating it and it was going to waste so I threw it out."

"So you threw it out onto the front lawn?"

"Well, what else was I going to do with it?"

"Um. Put it in the garbage like every other person on the planet."

"In the garbage? It'll smell."

"Then tie up the bag and take the garbage out. You seriously think the front lawn is a better disposal option?"


"What did you do when you were kids and had food on your plate that you didn't eat?"

"I don't know. I just left the plate on the table. My mom must've done something with it."

(Mothers: please teach your boys simple household chores.)

"Did you  grow up with piles of food in your yard?"

"..... uh.... no..... I guess I just figured animals would eat it."

"I can't wait to see what types of animals come sit outside our front porch waiting for food."

Now I'm scared of birds and raccoons and opossums and wild boar and whatever else might be lured to our property to dine on our front yard buffet. I'm going to need a rifle just to check the mail.

So Big V leaves to go dive under the ice because he's into that kind of thing. The man can dive into dark, freezing cold waters to find a body but he can't figure out what to do with leftover food. Focus on the good: he's saving lives.

By the time he got home I was in bed. I heard him in the kitchen pulling out the pork roast I had made for dinner. Plates hitting the counter, spoons being thrown in the sink. The beep of the microwave programmed to heat. Silence as Big V enjoyed the meal I slaved over.... then steps down the hall, bedroom door opening, light from the hall blinding my eyes.

"This tastes weird."

"It's a pork roast. It's pork - not beef."

"No, the mashed potatoes taste weird."

"I didn't make mashed potatoes."

"I think they were the ones left from Christmas Eve dinner."

"One, you shouldn't eat anything from Christmas Eve dinner. That was forever ago. Two, I didn't make mashed potatoes for Christmas Eve."

"Well, whenever you made them. They taste weird."

"I didn't make mashed potatoes. Like, ever. I don't think I've mashed any form of potato in over a year."

"But they were in the fridge."

"No they weren't."

"Then what am I eating."

"Cookie dough."


"Cookie dough. The Bean whipped up some cookie dough before she went to bed so she could throw them in the oven tomorrow after school."

"I'm eating heated up cookie dough?"

"And pork roast."

"That's gross! Who does that?! Who makes cookie dough and sticks it in the fridge?"

"Thousands of women all over the world."

"Well, then you should do something so people don't think it's mashed potatoes."

"How many people do you know wad up their leftover mashed potatoes into a ball and cover it tightly with plastic wrap? You honestly thought there was a wrapped ball of mashed potatoes sitting on the shelf in the fridge?"

"Well, I don't know what you do with leftovers."

"The past three years of plastic containers didn't give you a clue?"

"Whatever. What do I do with this?"

"With what?"

"The cookie dough and pork roast."

"You could eat it."

"It's gross."

"Then throw it out. ..... Just not in the front lawn."

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Resolutions

I've been so procrastinating writing this post. I know it won't live up to the Rah! Rah! Rah! GOOOOOO NEW YEAR! expectations. Because seriously, I'm not about resolutions. It's like a test: Quick: what do you resolve to change about yourself? It's as if I'm being asked what crappy thing about me do I think I need to change. Uh, where do I start? So let's just get the formality out of the way: Uh, I solemnly swear to resolve to attempt to remember to write 2011 on any check I might actually end up writing in 2011, which I don't think will be many since I do everything online.

Phew. I feel so much better.

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

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