Best Laid Plans

Just on the off chance that you are tone deaf to emotion and didn’t pick up on it in the last two posts, I’ve been kinda down of late. Monday was particularly bad. Tuesday wasn’t shaping up to be much better until I decided to throw caution (and responsibility) to the wind and leave work early to go run.

I was giddy with excitement as I walked to my car. I had great plans. I’d run outdoors for the first time in weeks. It was a beautiful day! And then I’d take a nice long shower before picking up the boys. Hal, from his friend’s house and Daryl, from basketball practice.

But plans – especially happy plans – almost never work out. Especially if you have kids. You never get to do what you want when you have kids.

Jane had left school early for a doctor’s appointment, which was not likely to interfere, I thought. How naive…

I finished my run to find Jane baking a cake (from scratch). The darling had decided to make a cake for the Angel Mom picking up Hal from school as a thank you. There was just one problem. She had forgotten to preheat the oven and now needed to leave before it was done.

“It’s just another 12 minutes, mom. Can you finish it? You just need to add cocoa and melt it all for the icing,” she said, gesturing to a saucepan already holding milk and butter. “Then once it’s all liquid, add the vanilla and half that bag of sugar.”

I was standing there bathed in sweat, looking forward to my shower, and was now, instead, going to stand in a hot kitchen.

“Ok,” I said.

“Thanks, Mommy!”

While I waited for the butter to melt, I checked my voicemail. Someone had called during my run. Turns out it was Daryl, who had had to borrow someone’s phone since his was sitting in a bag of rice at home.

“Mom. There’s no basketball practice.”

That was the entire message. And no way to call him back.

Now what?

I tried to hurry outside and wave Jane down but she didn’t see me. I called a friend but she had already picked up her son and was home.

Now what?

The cake still had 10 minutes to go. His message was a solid 15 minutes earlier. Nothing to it. He’d just have to wait until I was done icing the cake.

And I’d just have to wait on that shower too.

The best laid plans of mice and men, folks. Best laid plans.

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Holding Court

Sometimes I get it right. Or maybe my kids are just in a more receptive mood. I don’t know. Sometimes it just all works out as it should.

I was taking my shower this morning when Hal came into the bathroom blubbering about something. He was holding his arm and speaking incoherently. When it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to hear the story with water cascading around me, I turned it off.

As I coaxed the story out of him, my mind analyzed the subtle clues. Is the crying real or forced? Is he truly in pain or just mad? Or are his feelings just hurt? Deciding it was real, I worked on piecing together the story of how his brother had come to squeeze his arm so hard and dig his thumb into the muscle.

Working backward from the point of injury, I learned that Daryl had squeezed the arm in response to Hal telling him to shut up. Hal had told Daryl to shut up after Daryl told Hal to shut up. When asked why Daryl had told him to shut up, Hal became reticent to continue unraveling the full story. Ahhh, I thought. I’m getting somewhere now.

Hal was being too loud. When asked whether Daryl had previously asked him nicely to be quiet, Hal claimed no. That’s when Daryl, who had apparently been lurking just outside the door interjected with protest.

The court is now called to order.

The defendant sits on a chair next to the sink. The accuser sits across the room from him at a safe distance on the toilet. The judge stands in all her naked glory with water dripping from her now-getting-cold body inside the glass judge’s box.

Before she can begin her questions, the defendant attempts a counter-claim. “He shoved me really hard before coming in here.”

“This was after you squeezed his arm?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“OK, retaliation isn’t right but it was in response to you hurting him. Did you tell him to be quiet?”

“Yes your honor.” (So maybe I added the “your honor” bit, but wouldn’t it be nice?)

“Where was he when he was being too loud?”

“In our bedroom. And I could hear him all the way down in the kitchen.”

The accuser is, amazingly enough, waiting silently for the trial to progress.

“And where were you when you asked him to be quiet?”

“In our bedroom.”

“And did you invoke Charley?” (Our house guest sleeping in a room near the kitchen).

“What?”

“Did you tell Hal why he should be quiet?”

“Yes. I told him he might wake up Charley.”

“Hal?” Says the judge, turning to the toilet. “Did Daryl ask you to be quiet first?”

{Silence.}

“Did he ask you to be quiet?”

“Yes.”

“And did you hear why?”

“Yes.”

“And you didn’t do it.”

“No.”

The judge, noticing the cold soaking into her skin and the slimy soap still hanging out where the sun doesn’t shine, is ready to deliver the verdict.

“Ok, see? This is where it started. A member of the family – it doesn’t matter who – asked you to do something and gave you a good reason why and you ignored him. Do you see that?”

Hal nodded dejectedly.

“Now,” the judge says, turning her attention back to the defendant’s chair. “It’s never OK to respond with physical violence. You understand that, right? What are you supposed to do when he’s not doing what he’s supposed to do?”

{Silence.}

“Daryl, what are you supposed to do?”

“Come tell you or Daddy.”

“Right. And then I could have called him in here and talked to him.”

“But Hal,” the judge shifted her attention back to the accuser. “It started with you. It started when you disregarded another member of the family. If you had listened and responded appropriately, he never would have told you to shut up and then you wouldn’t have told him to shut up and then he wouldn’t have squeezed your arm. Do you see that?”

“Yes.”

“OK. I want you to apologize to your brother for ignoring him.”

“I’m sorry I ignored you Bubba.” (For the record, this was a very sincere apology.)

“It’s OK.”

“And now I want you to apologize to Hal for hurting him.”

“I’m sorry I hurt your arm.” (Another sincere apology.)

“It’s OK.”

“Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got soap in places I didn’t need it to stay so I’m going to resume my shower now.”

Court is adjourned.

The Blanket Wars

We were staying at my mother’s house on a recent Saturday night. My husband and I in one room, Jane in another, and the boys in a small room off the living room with a curtain temporarily installed over the doorway to it.

I was sound asleep when 2:00 am rolled around. More than sound, I was dead asleep. Deep, deep into some sort of dream that left me disoriented and confused when I heard our door open with force and speed.

I jumped and tried to orient myself. Before I had fully managed to separate reality from the dream, an angry little voice said, “MOMMY. Bubba just ripped my blanket right off of me! And he won’t give it back!”

I tried to fathom my older child doing this in the middle of the night. A visual image of the younger wrapped tightly in his blanket and the older pulling it off of him with malice just didn’t seem to work.

I dropped the attempt to understand and just opened the closet in our room. I felt around blindly until I touched one of mom’s two million blankets she has tucked away. After pulling it out, I handed it to young Hal.

Hal looked at it and looked at me as I walked back toward my beckoning bed.

“Is this blanket for Bubba?” he asked.

“Well,” I responded carefully, “since Bubba already has the other one now, why don’t you just use this one.”

I winced as he exploded, “BUT THAT’S MY BLANKET! I was using it!”

All hope for returning quickly to sleep vanished as I headed down the hall to deal with the situation. I still didn’t understand why Daryl would have woken up and chosen to pick a fight with his sleeping brother, but I was going to get to the bottom of it.

The scene that greeted me wasn’t what I expected. The two mattresses lay about 5 feet apart. The blanket in question was on the floor between them. Daryl was sprawled on his bed with his arm on the floor and an intensely angry expression on his face.

“Take the blanket back, Hal,” he said in disgust. “You weren’t even using it.”

Suddenly, it all made sense. Hal had been wrapped up in his blanket and kicked it off of himself as the night went on. Daryl woke up cold and saw that Hal wasn’t using his blanket so decided to take it. But Hal was likely still on top of it such that when Daryl pulled it away, it woke up Hal and left him with the impression that the blanket had been ripped off of him.

The whole scenario was made all the more bemusing by the fact that it was hot in that room! No wonder Hal had kicked off the blanket. And I have no clue why Daryl felt he needed one.

Oh, well. I draped the new blanket over Daryl as Hal wrapped himself again in his blanket. Life returned to normal in that room, where everyone was likely already asleep by the time I crawled into my bed.

As always though, I was not as quick to regain slumber. Once again, I lay awake and composed blog posts in my head and tried not to hold a grudge against my little cherubs.

Not Pretty

My daughter’s boyfriend is Mexican American and his mother is a superb cook. I have pretty much lost my daughter to her.

“David’s mom made soup so I’m going to stay here for dinner. Her soup is the best!”

“We are over here at David’s house eating this great meat dish. I don’t know what it’s called.”

“She made tamales and… wow! They are so tasty! Is it ok if I stay?”

And even…

“O.M.G.! David’s mom is making hamburgers tonight and hers are the best! I’m not coming home.”

I’ve been a little jealous, to be honest. Jealous of her time with my daughter. Jealous of my daughter getting to eat the food while I struggle at home deciding whether to serve up hummus and pretzels or hamburger meat with rice or just tell everyone it is (yet again) fend-for-yourself night.

She did bring a few of those tamales home one night and she was right – they were tasty indeed. And she promised me some soup once but it all got consumed by people actually present at the house, so I missed out.

Most recently, she brought home some salsa (flavorful but a bit too hot for me!), some of the best flavored Spanish rice I’ve ever had, and some fresh homemade tortillas. As I carefully unwrapped the tortillas from the moist paper towel wrapped around them, Jane passed on her new mom’s warning: “She said to tell you that they aren’t pretty.”

I glanced down at the goods. They were small, just a bit denser than what you’d get at a restaurant, and perfectly round with some slightly rough edges. I laughed.

You see, I tried making tortillas from scratch once. Once.

I even had instructions from a genuine Mexican American woman.

It didn’t help.

I told Jane to tell her that when I made tortillas, we were able to engage in quality geography lessons. Seriously. Despite my best efforts to make them round, I had one that had a striking resemblance to the state of Texas. Several other noticeably non-circular blobs. And one that incredibly enough, looked just like Florida.

Florida.

Not even one of the square states.

It was one of those moments that I thought I might lose my husband to a laughing fit. “Breathe, honey! Breathe!”

So, see, just like people, when it comes to tortillas, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Roller Coaster Day

We had big plans for Memorial Day weekend. Jane was gone with the High School band on a trip. We had decided to take the boys to New Orleans. We had just told them about the swamp boat rides and the Voodoo museum and the cool parks and food. They were excited.

The next day, our fridge died.

We bought a new one with the money earmarked for New Orleans and started looking for a cheaper vacation destination. That meant returning to our home town for free room and board at my mom’s house. My mom, whose fridge had not died and usurped trip money, was away on a vacation of her own. We’d go visit our dads and play board games and spend a day at the local theme park we had grown up with.

We arrived at the park shortly after it opened and went straight to a short roller coaster that made a high-speed loop, stopped, and then went through the loop again backwards. Neither boy liked it and immediately declared their dislike of roller coasters. We started to think the trip was going to be a bust, until Hal, the seven year-old, gave us a ray of hope on our walk away from it with “Well, maybe I kinda liked it. It wasn’t too bad.”

We forced them onto the next one, a steel coaster with a loop and speed but a smooth ride. They loved it. So then we convinced them to try the one where your feet dangle and they loved that one too. We then chanced the big old wooden coaster, which I hated but they loved, and we bought the picture they had snapped of us on the first big downhill.

Then I made my first mistake. Remembering my love for a particular ride from my youth, I insisted on riding it next. It was a cylindrical room that spins very fast and the floor drops a few inches and you hang suspended from the wall. Daryl, a cautious twelve year-old, said he didn’t want to ride it. “I don’t want to get dizzy,” he said.

We insisted he wouldn’t get dizzy.

We were wrong. So very wrong.

As the room began to slow down near the end of the ride, I could feel the nausea hitting me full force. Daryl whispered to me, “I think I’m going to throw up.” “Yeah, me too,” I responded. The attendant told us all to gather in the center of the room. I thought of the embarrassment of shutting the ride down if I vomited all over the floor.

I held it together long enough to exit, but I could feel the sour sensation high in my cheeks that meant expulsion of food and bile was imminent. “Come on,” I gasped to Daryl and then took off away from the ride. I hurried toward the nearest bathrooms I knew of but was certain I wouldn’t make it. I examined bushes and trash cans as I walked briskly by. Which would be better? I wondered. Into the bushes or rip the lid off a trash can? Either will be humiliating. Please let me make it to the bathroom.

Not only did I make it to the bathroom, but one of the private “family” ones was open. I entered and motioned for Daryl to join me. He had his dad’s handkerchief pressed to his arm – the centrifugal force having ripped the scab off a wound on his elbow. As we walked in, the cold air of the air conditioner lessened our nausea. We stood and rested and neither needed to throw up any more. Crisis averted, I thought to myself.

At this point, we headed to the dress-up photo store. I dawned a big fancy dress with a hoop skirt and matching hat, the boys and their dad wore jeans and chaps and old-timey shirts and handkerchiefs and cowboy hats. I held a fan and they all had guns and we posed in a western bar scene. I felt mildly shaky but the cool air inside helped.

After choosing pictures, my husband started talking about getting something to eat. Just the discussion made me sick to my stomach. I couldn’t even fathom walking into one of the park dining areas, much less eating. I said as much and we adjourned instead to the kiddie area where Hal ran and played under the watchful eye of his dad. Daryl and I sat on a bench and tried not to be sick.

Thinking maybe a cool snack would help, I took Daryl to get Dippin’ Dots. I ate two or three dots and the nausea washed over me full force. I then sent Daryl back to the kiddie area to share the dots that I no longer wanted while I headed to the General Store in search of drugs. I found them.

After asking for the package of Dramamine, I attempted to read the fine print on the back to see if it would help with already-present nausea. But since I had opted for wrap-around sunglasses instead of my prescription glasses that day, not anticipating having to read anything small, I had to squint to make out the words. Big mistake. I pushed the drugs back to the cashier. “This will have to wait,” I said as I began to walk away in search of a bathroom. Realizing I had no clue, I turned back and asked the girl where one was. She pointed and I hurried off.

The door to the women’s room was open and I could see 3-4 women waiting in line. That won’t work, I thought to myself. After momentarily considering pushing to the front of the line and jumping into the first stall that opened, I turned instead to a worker coming out of a janitor’s closet.

“I’m about to throw up and there’s a line in the ladies’ room,” I said. She turned to another worker and repeated my dilemma. That worker opened the janitor’s closet, presumably to get me a bucket. No time. I stepped past him, hoping to make it to the big mop bucket but it was too late.

The mess was all over the sides and interior of the bucket. On the handle and the mop and the floor and the wooden raised platform nearby. On my hands and my shirt and my arms and face and sunglasses. In my nose and my eyes. My mouth and nose burned. The first girl grabbed a roll of paper towels and handed me a wad. I wiped and wiped and wiped. She handed me more and more. As I regained some composure, I softly apologized. She expressed regret that she didn’t have a mint to offer me.

After walking past the line in the women’s room to liberally splash water all over me and then returning to the janitor’s closet for more paper towels and buying a frozen strawberry lemonade, I returned to my waiting and family and explained. Food was now a serious dilemma but my dear husband managed to find a stand that had prepackaged deli sandwiches. The cheese was dry and the bread was  soggy but it worked better than the greasy burgers they were eating would have.

You are probably thinking, “Wow, what a rough/awful/stressful/crazy/fill-in-the-blank day you had.” But I wasn’t done yet. Not even close.

From there, we waiting in line for the log flume, only to learn that the ride had just broken. So we headed on to the rapids water ride. Signs warned about cell phones and stuff. I thought it’d surely be ok. I kept mine securily in the Roo Sport pouch that was tucked in the small of my back. Just to be safe, I went ahead and powered it off.

Near the end of the ride, the raft turned and I took the full brunt of a huge wave. The water rushed around me from the chest down. The Roo pouch puffed full of water. I began to worry.

As soon as I could exit, I extracted my soaking phone. It was attempting to power back on. I turned it off and looked for a place to dry it, the only place being the front top of my husband’s shirt.

That’s when stupid kicked in. If it wasn’t for a history of similar poor, I-knew-better decision making, I’d blame it on the nausea, the vomiting, and the sedative effect of the Dramamine. Maybe I will anyway. The boys wanted to ride the roller coasters some more and took off. I chose to watch them and their dad instead of joining them, my pants too soaked for me to want to sit in the rides.

Ooh! It’d be cool to video them, I thought to myself. And so I powered my phone back on. It was making little brief bumping vibrations but I started up the video camera anyway. It ran for 13 seconds and stopped. Annoyed, I started it back. 10 seconds and stop. Restart. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Ride over. Oh, crap. What have I been doing?! I powered the phone off again. Took the case off and stared forlornly at the water that had been trapped in between. Started sucking water out of the headphones port, the micro-USB port, the speaker.

“Wow, that really does suck,” you might be thinking, but wait! There’s more.

We moved to another ride and my husband and I sat on a bench in the shade while the boys waited in line. Across the walkway from us was some landscaping with a smooth, flat section of clover in the sun. I stretched my Roo pouch on the clover to dry and then commented on my return that I’d have to keep my eye on it, especially since my credit cards and cash and driver’s license were in it.

“How many times are you going to tell this story and say ‘if only I’d taken my cards out of it.’?” my husband asked. After some hesitation, I walked back over to it and removed my valuables… but left the pouch where it was! It wasn’t even that wet.

A few minutes later, sure enough, I glanced that way and it was gone. I rushed down the walk, looking for anyone that might be holding it. I returned dejected and empty-handed. I loved that pouch.

I called this a roller coaster day, which means there must be ups as well as downs, otherwise it’d just be a horrible free fall. We enjoyed the boys having fun. We were amused when they actually managed to break the plates and win the pink square pigs they wanted in the carnival section. We had fun with the pictures. But there was one final crest before we left.

With limited hope, I walked in to the Customer Relations building just before we left. “I’ve been profoundly stupid today,” I started.

“Oh, I doubt that,” the lady countered with a gentle smile.

“Oh, trust me, I have,” I responded. “The most recent event was when I chose to lay my purple and black Roo pouch out in the sun to dry and it walked off. I’m hoping that maybe it was a good Samaritan that picked it up?”

“Did you have anything in it?” she asked, smiling more broadly.

“Why yes,” I said, still too drugged or beaten down to fully embrace the full significance of her question. “I had a number of receipts from here. One from the picture at the wooden roller coaster and one from the old timey picture place for $74.76 and, let’s see…”

“Did you eat a sandwich?”

“Yes I did,” I said, finally noticing her rifling through the receipts in my pouch behind the counter. “It cost the same as the roller coaster picture.”

She then told me as she handed it to me that the people who turned it in were concerned that someone had stripped it of its valuables and tossed it aside.

Well, I guess in a way, that’s exactly what happened. Although I had laid it out gently, not tossed it. And the phone? Well, the phone stayed off, spent some time in some rice until my research convinced me that wasn’t actually useful, then spent some time in the sun to help it dry out, and then journeyed home, where I powered it on and quickly got the pictures off. Time will tell if its survival was compete or just a temporary last breath.

How To Remember The Little Things

My mom always left notes for herself. Everywhere. There could be notes hanging from the ceiling fan pull in the dining room, guaranteeing she would see them since that was the main thoroughfare of the house. She’d tape notes on the inside of the front door so we’d see them as we left. Or on the door out to the garage. Or taped to the bathroom mirror. Or she might lay the note on her purse or on some other object that she wasn’t likely to forget.

I used to think she was forgetful. Now I know how smart she was.

Her notes would remind her to get something out of the fridge or to take something with her or make a phone call, some little out-of-the-norm activity that she needed to do. Or it would be a note reminding us of something we needed to do.

I actually come from a long line of note posters. My grandpa, her dad,  taped notes on the staircase banister, which was the central location of his house. These notes were often notes instructing my grandma on something she needed to do or a note for one of us coming to the house. The funny thing about his notes were that they were always typed and dated. I’m kinda surprised he didn’t sign them or have them notarized. I used to imagine that he filed the old notes away in case he needed them as evidence in a disagreement on something or for historical reference.

Despite having been raised by note-posters and understanding the intrinsic value of the activity, I’ve never made it part of my daily routine. And considering how badly I remember the minutia of life, that’s not a good thing.

While bemoaning the stacks of stuff in our entry way that my husband plans on (some day) (when he remembers) taking out to his studio, I remembered the notes.

“Maybe you need a better reminder {than all the crap in the way… I thought but didn’t say}. Maybe a note on the door so you see it on the way out.”

That put the thought in my head.

I have these Wella bars that I eat for breakfast at work and I accidentally took the entire box to work on Monday without remembering to leave one at home to eat before our half marathon this weekend. So I knew I had all week to remember to bring one back home.

Yesterday, as I retrieved one from the fridge in the morning, I thought, You aren’t going to ever remember to take one of these out at the end of the day.

Aha! I thought with a smile. A Post-It note will do the trick. But where? The fridge? My computer screen? No, I’ll get used to seeing it all day and it won’t work. Aha! On my purse!

And that’s what I did. Come the end of the day when I reached for my purse, I smiled broadly at my wild success and retrieved the almost-forgotten Wella bar from the fridge and slipped it in my purse, triumphant.

And then this morning as I pondered our upcoming race, I suddenly exclaimed an expletive. The must-be-refrigerated Wella bar from the day before was still nestled in my purse.

I guess I’m still in the beginner stages. Another note, perhaps? Maybe I should have carried the note with me and placed it on my steering wheel or back on my purse. So close, yet so far. I’ve got a long way to go before I earn my place among the great note-posters of my family.

string-around-finger-9x10

Electronics Free Time

My husband decided we should institute an electronics free time in our household. He and I discussed it for a bit before deciding to “go live” Sunday evening. Sun-Thurs, regardless of whether school is in session, everyone will put away electronics from 5pm until 8pm.

This includes phones, iPods, tablets, the PS-4, computer games – all of them. Kindles are allowed for reading. And while the devices are all sitting in a designated public-access spot, we can check them for text messages or answer the phone if it rings.

So Sunday evening rolled around and my husband told the boys to put their electronics away. Daryl soon picked up his old iPod and said he wanted to do experiments with it outside. I was leery until I verified that it wouldn’t power on.

He and Hal were soon outside using the silvery back of the iPod to reflect the sun onto the sidewalk. When they noticed that they could almost see the Apple logo on the concrete, they ran back in for a sheet of paper to see if they could get a clearer reflection.

Sometime later, Hal came in looking for a rag. A glance outside showed that they had raided my husband’s pottery shard pile and were cracking pottery with a rock, washing desired pieces in a cup of water, drying it with the rag, and arranging them on a board for a mosaic.

Several times, I contemplated calling them in to put away laundry or help me make decisions on their overabundance of T-shirts. Every time, though, I looked outside at the two of them. Working together. Not fighting – at all. And unplugged.

And every time, I decided the clothes could wait.

When I came home from work last night, they had found a magnifying glass and were seeing if they could start a piece of paper on fire in the driveway. Hal created a new hind end for himself out of a shoe box. They played with the Nerf dart guns.

Both nights, they came easily to the table when called in for dinner. And no one has whined about wanting to be on their electronics. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s like nirvana or something.

We’ll see how well it lasts. And both nights, Jane has been gone so the jury’s still out on how that is going to work. And last night wasn’t without a dispute or two. But all in all, this is exactly what we were hoping to see happen.

As I told my husband, I’m more than happy to give up Two Dots for this.