Dear God…

As we sat down at the table for dinner, my sixth grade son said, “Let’s pray!”

We had just recently resumed our dinner time prayers and I was surprised to hear one of the children suggest it.

“Sounds good,” I said. “Do you want to say it?”

“Sure,” he said – again, to my surprise.

“Dear God,” he began. “Thank you for this set. {giggle} Oops. {pause} I mean, thank you for this day and for this food set before us. I’m glad I had a good day and I hope you will… um… I hope you will make tomorrow good. And thank you for our day and the food and my family and… and… and everything in the world. Except the kids in Africa.”

My eyes opened as I cautiously waited for what would come next.

“I don’t like that at all,” he said.

I looked up at him and noticed my husband was doing the same.

“That’s just not a good situation there,” he said, and then catching our incredulous stares, he finished. “And, um, amen.”

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The Quiet Game

As we sat down for our Christmas meal at home, just the five of us, Hal announced we were going to play the quiet game. He did this in a very loud voice.

Daryl responded by stating that he wasn’t playing. Hal triumphantly announced in an even louder voice, “Bubba is out! He talked!”

“So you are out too!” Jane said.

“Oh! Sissy is out!”

“So are you! You talked!” she protested.

“No, I was just announcing who was out. I get to do that. I’m letting everyone know when people are out.”

“But it’s obvious when people are out, Hal. We can all hear them speak,” I said. “We don’t need you to tell us.”

“Ok, ok. We’re starting over. Quiet game! Starting now!”

“Whatever…” muttered Jane.

“Sissy is out!” Hal yelled, pointing accusingly at his sister.

“So are you!” she said.

“Ok, let’s start over. We’re starting over everyone.”

“You can’t just keep starting over every time you get out, Hal.”

“Well, we are starting over.”

“Daddy, can you pass me the butter?” Daryl asked.

“Bubba is out,” whispered Hal. Then he looked around at us as we all stifled laughs and I pointed a silent finger at him. “No, it’s ok to whisper. This is the quiet game where you get to whisper.”

Before long, and after several more restarts and declarations of the acceptability of whispering or whatever non-silent activity Hal was engaged in, Daryl and Daddy had both spoken and Hal’s whisper soon rose to an arguably non-whisper hyperactive level. Everyone was holding their sides and trying not to fall off their chair from laughing. I looked at Jane and made a silent congratulatory hand motion that caught Hal’s eye.

“Mommy is out!”

“She didn’t speak,” Daryl said.

“She’s still out! I win!”

“You spoke. You are out,” I said.

“Well, you spoke too. Ok, let’s start over!”

“No, Jane won.”

“No, we are starting over. This time it’s ok to talk.”

“What?!”

“This is the quiet game where you get to talk as loud as you want.”

I stared incredulously and silently at my husband, who returned the look until he dissolved into laughter as Hal and then Daryl began to sing and make nonsense noises at the top of their lungs. The quiet game sure has changed since I was a kid.

Stand By

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. There was a short line at baggage check-in and an equally short line through security. We arrived at our gate in plenty of time as well and bought breakfast at the nearby Whataburger. We had been a little tense on our way there. I had not gotten much sleep. Grace, my sister-in-law had gotten considerably less. I had added to the frustration by forgetting to confirm my reservation Monday morning, forgetting indeed until late, late that night. Since we were flying Southwest, that meant Jane and I were late in the boarding order. We were unlikely to get to sit together and might even have trouble catching our connecting flight in St. Louis.

So, at Whataburger, we sat back and relaxed. We joked about ways that Grace could try to keep the seats next to her open for us. We knew we had plenty of time. But we had a problem. Neither adult was actually awake. Grace was fully aware of what time it was but mistakenly thought our departure time was 20 minutes later than it was. I knew exactly when our departure was but was paying no attention to the current time. As we ate our breakfast, our fellow passengers boarded the plane not 30 yards from us. And flew away.

Eventually, we decided it was time to go sit by the gate so we could hear better. Grace confirmed that the screen showed our flight. We sat and waited. Some distant part of my brain noted that all the people were gone. That was for an earlier flight, some equally distant part answered. Eventually Grace commented that it seemed like they should be calling us to board now. I looked at my watch to see that it was 6:50 about the same time she remarked at the paucity of passengers waiting at the gate. When I took a closer look at the screen, I saw that the flight had departed. I’d like to say that woke us up, but really, it didn’t.

Southwest took care of us and directed us to another gate to board a flight to St. Louis, warning that our prospects from there were bleak and would likely involve us arriving in Washington, DC late in the evening. It would be much later before I would think to wonder about our luggage.

In St. Louis, the helpful man tried to find a way to get us to Reagan National earlier. But the cold hard fact was that the next flight did not leave for nearly six hours and was full. We’d be on stand-by with very little hope of getting on board. I had taken a nap between Dallas and St. Louis so was feeling a bit more like myself. “What about Dulles?” I asked. Surely getting to some part of DC was better than sitting in Missouri.

That query got us back on the same plane from which we had just disembarked, now on its way to Chicago, where we were assured we would easily get to board a plane leaving for Dulles just before noon. We then learned that the folks in Chicago were not quite as helpful. They didn’t seem as confident that we would get that flight as the nice guy in St. Louis. The best I could get was a “probably”. But then they received word that the plane had a weight issue. They might not let us on. We also learned that we couldn’t find out anything about our luggage without going to a baggage claim office, which we couldn’t do there without risking missing the flight.

I had met a woman in the bathroom who had been placed on stand-by for the same flight. I saw her later with a boarding pass and she encouraged me to talk to the ladies at the desk again. They said they were not approving stand-bys and didn’t seem to hear me when I said that they had for “those two ladies over there”. Then we started getting anxious. We moved to seats right next to the desk, where I suspect we sat staring at them like hungry wolves.

A lady with a stroller approached and asked about the flight too. She was given the same answer as us. At this point, a war started up in my head. There was a woman with a two year old trying to board a plane. Compassion told me that she needed the flight more than we did, that we could better handle sitting at the airport for a long time than she could. Survival instincts growled we were here first.

The lady at the desk started a conversation with the lady at the gate that was broadcast over the speakers. We looked back and forth at them as they discussed our fate. We must have looked like we were watching a tennis match. Back and forth, back and forth. Eventually, the gate lady held up 5 fingers. Room for five people. We jumped up and gathered our stuff. The desk lady sounded like she said a name – Barbara? Oh, no! What if other people are waiting ahead of us? She was printing stuff out. And pointedly not looking at us. My heart began to sink. And then she turned to us and said, “You are in luck, ladies.”

With that, we boarded the plane. The last leg of our flights was relatively uneventful. I was sitting next to someone who did not smell nice and we hit some turbulence, but I was just happy to be getting to DC without too much delay.

When we left the plane at Dulles, I realized that our adventure was really just beginning. Up until then, our fate had been in the hands of others. Other than deciding to try for Dulles instead of Reagan, we had simply asked for help and done what we were told and waited. Now we were at an airport unsure of where our luggage was or how to get to it.

“Ok, Grace,” I said, “we are going to go down to baggage claim. I’m going to ask if they can help determine where our luggage is. You call the hotel and find out if they have a shuttle from here.” Only, there was no one at baggage claim. The sign said to go to the ticket counter. While Grace and Jane watched the luggage return from our flight on the (very) remote chance that our luggage had somehow followed us, I went searching for the ticket counter.

There, I was assured that our luggage had made the journey to Reagan and was told there were shuttles available. At first, I didn’t understand that they essentially meant taxis that hold lots of people and go wherever you pay them to take you. But for $49, we were on our way to our original destination airport. Luck made us the second drop-off from the shuttle.

We walked into the baggage claim office and I said, “We sincerely hope that our luggage arrived about 11:30 this morning. We missed our flight but are here now.”

“From Dallas?” he asked. Our hearts lightened. Next thing we knew, we had our luggage. Our luck held out in that the hotel shuttle arrived within moments of us reaching the waiting point. And then ours was the first hotel stop. And then the hotel lady informed us there was a complimentary dinner in less than an hour, complete with a free glass of wine. Then she gave us too many dinner passes so that complimentary glass of wine became two glasses of wine.

It was if the cosmos was compensating for the rough and stressful day with a nice, relaxing evening. Bedtime was another story all together, but the evening… the evening was nice.

Teamwork

How many children does it take to pour salad dressing from a bottle? If they are mine, three.

Dinner tonight consisted of choose-your-nut butter and jelly sandwiches (three of us had fresh almond butter while the other two chose peanut) and raw broccoli florets on the side. It was a late dinner after baseball and volleyball so most had snacked and no one needed much to eat.

Jane busted out the well-used bottle of Ranch dressing and with considerable effort, managed to get out enough for her use. Daryl then took the bottle and got some as well, again, not easily.

Hal looked at the two of them, picked up the bottle, looked at it, and tossed it into the recycle bin, announcing, “Daddy! We are out of Ranch dressing!”

Jane, who has little faith in grocery items being replaced in a timely fashion, reacted quickly, grabbing the bottle before it hit the bin and insisting there was still plenty of dressing in the bottle.

Hal appeared to think about it for a minute before opening the bottle and turning it upside down. He started squeezing the sides of the bottle in rapid fashion. I told him to be patient.

Jane reached over and grabbed the side of the bottle. Hal did not let go. As Hal squeezed the bottle, Jane began to shake it up and down. When dressing did not immediately appear, Daryl reached over and hit the top of the bottle with his fist.

The sight of all three of them each performing their own preferred method of dressing extraction at the same time brought a smile to my face. For once, it didn’t break out into a fight with some “Let me do it!”s and “Fine! I was just trying to help!”s. With a little teamwork, they soon had the dressing flowing and everyone ate their meal in peace.

Bring a Towel!

Daryl was being a bit standoffish this evening. At every opportunity, he disappeared to his room. While fixing dinner, I called him into the kitchen with a simple, “Daryl! Come here!”

“Why?!”

“Because I called you.”

When he entered the room and I asked him to unload the dishwasher, he expressed his displeasure and reluctantly went about completing the task. As he grabbed an ice cube tray and tried to rush across the room, the water sloshed out and onto the floor.

“Make sure you get a towel and clean that up.”

Several minutes later, I looked up from the spaghetti to see that Daryl was gone and the sizable puddle was still on the floor.

“Daryl!”

“What?!”

“Come here, please!”

“Why?!”

“Because I called you.”

He entered the room and I pointed to the floor. “Remember? You need to clean up the water you spilled.”

He flopped and flailed about as I headed to the pantry for some vegetables. When I returned, he was gone and the water had been spread around the floor, but was still very much present.

“Daryl!”

“WHAT?!”

“Come here, please!”

“WHY?!”

“Because I called you.”

“Bring a towel!” added his dad.

This time when he entered, I again pointed to the floor and said, “You didn’t dry the floor enough. It’s still really wet. You need to get a towel.”

The flopping and flailing doubled in intensity from the last time and he stomped into the kitchen and opened the drawer that holds the kitchen textile items.

“I did use a towel! I used one just like this one!”

I looked down at the item in his hand. “That’s a potholder, Daryl.”

Once the laughter subsided and as I hugged him tight, I said, “No wonder you couldn’t get the water soaked up. Potholders aren’t very absorbent. Go get one of the bathroom towels.”

He pulled the disappearing act again at dinner – leaving quietly with a bite of spaghetti and some vegetables still on his plate.

“Daryl!”

“What?”

“Come here!”

“Bring a towel!” called his dad.

When Daryl walked into the room actually carrying a towel, everyone again dissolved into laughter – including him. At our insistence, he finished his dinner before leaving again.

He was called in several more times. Once to rinse his plate, once to rinse his dessert bowl, and one final time to put away the cups from the dishwasher that he had left on the counter.

“Daryl!”

“What?!”

“Come here!”

A little voice… Hal’s… called from the bathroom down the hall, “Bring a towel!”

I looked up at my husband and smiled as he and Jane giggled quietly. Fortunately, all of tonight’s humor at Daryl’s expense was handled by him with good grace.

When Plans Fail to Account for Bunnies and Other Disruptions

We had a plan. We both had meetings at church, one at 5:30, the other at 6:30. I would go straight to the church from work. He would arrive at 6:30, put the kids in a particular room with a video, and go to his meeting. I would retrieve the kids and feed them dinner at home. That was the plan. A very simple and straightforward plan.

When my meeting finally ended sometime after 7:00, I went next door to collect the children. They were not there. I headed across the hall and found two children! Yay! Unfortunately, only one of them was mine. When I asked Daryl where Jane and Hal were, he answered without looking up from his DS: “I don’t know.”

As I puzzled in the hallway on where to look next, Hal came running toward me. Two down, one to go. “Where’s Jane?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he replied. I then texted Jane: Where are you? Eventually, the reply came: Home. It is remarkable that neither boy noticed that their sister was not in the car with them.

As we backed out of the parking space, I saw a wagging dog looking at me with great excitement from the adjacent car. Rose. Our dog, sitting in our car. She’d surely be anxious if we left her and she’d probably rather be at home than waiting for her dad. So… I parked and we all moved to the car and headed home. This would prove to be a big mistake.

As we pulled into the driveway, Jane walked out of the studio holding her wrist, with her face scrunched up in pain. She had been wedging clay when she twisted her wrist funny and heard a pop. I wrapped it in ice, gave her some Tylenol, and showed her how to rest her hand on her shoulder so the wrist would be elevated.

I tried to resume the plan, which called for quesadillas for dinner. We still had some tortillas cooked from taco night plus leftover meat and guacamole. Only the tortillas weren’t in the fridge. I texted my husband. He hadn’t eaten them. I asked the kids. They hadn’t eaten them. The tortillas had vanished. With a sigh, I retrieved the uncooked ones and tried not to think about the delay.

About then, Daryl came in the front door and tried to hurry past the kitchen. “Daryl! Are you telling me the truth about the tortillas? I just want to know.”

“Yes! I didn’t eat them.”

“Ok. {pause} What are you doing?” I asked, finally noticing that he was holding a clear plastic box with a small blanket draped over it.

“Nothing.”

“Daryl, what’s in the box?”

“Nothing!” A smile began to spread across his face. As it spread, I saw a small furry creature scurry past the exposed corner of the box.

“Daryl! What is in the box?!”

“It’s just a rabbit. We are taking it to our room.”

“Oh, no you are not! You can’t bring a rabbit into the house. Rose will kill it!”

The expected back-and-forth argument ensued, but eventually, after I promised to take a picture, the boys reluctantly took the box outside.

“How did you catch it anyway?” I asked.

“I put the box down like this and Hal chased it.”

“And it just ran into the box?”

“Yes.”

“Daryl, there might be something wrong with the rabbit.”

“No, it’s fine!” he insisted.

I tapped my temple with a finger and repeated, “Daryl, there might be something wrong with the rabbit.”

“He’s fine!”

“He ran into your box.”

“No, it took us several tries. It wasn’t easy!”

“Still. You need to let it go and not touch it.”

“But Hal already touched it. He grabbed it.”

“I thought you said it ran into the box.”

“That was the second time. The first time, Hal caught it.”

Some confusing conversation ensued as we tried to figure out the best place to release what turned out to be a very young rabbit. As we settled on a location where three other baby bunnies were recently seen, my phone rang. “How’s it going?” my husband asked.

“Your boys just tried to sneak a baby rabbit into the house.”

When his infectious belly laugh that brought a reluctant wry grin to my face began to subside, he dropped the bombshell. His keys to the truck were hanging on the hook by the front door. He had no way to get home.

I entered the house and looked at the griddle that was warming up to cook the tortillas, the block of cheese and grater, the clock. It was 7:50. The kids had not eaten and we now needed to return to town.

“Pancakes and sausage, everyone!” I announced, as I pulled leftovers from the fridge. It’s situations like this when you decide that your twelve year old daughter really is old enough to supervise her brothers for twenty-five minutes while you drive keys to your stranded husband.

We had a plan. But I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve me eating sometime after the kids went to bed. I think I would have eaten a late afternoon snack if it had.

The bunny while in the box.  The light is filtering through a blue blanket, hence the lovely hue.

The bunny while in the box. The light is filtering through a blue blanket, hence the lovely hue.

Just before release.

Just before release.

Smart Mouths

Daryl and his friend were hanging out in my Sunday School classroom Sunday morning before classes began. The teacher suggested that perhaps they should stay because “we are going to talk about watching your mouth.” Daryl twisted his face as if trying to look at his mouth and said, “I can’t watch my mouth.”

He was telling the truth in the figurative as well as literal sense. He has a sharp wit and a sense of comedic timing. He rarely watches his tongue but throws out a sarcastic barb or a perfect pun with ease.

Actually, all of our children are decent at delivering one liners. Different families cherish certain qualities more than others. In our household, a brilliant riposte is worth gold.

Sunday evening, our church had a Valentine’s dinner. The program included “The Not-So-Newlywed Game”, in which my husband and I were contestants. We lost the game by half a point, he pointing out that we would have won if I had simply understood that our truck was rear wheel drive, not all wheel drive. Nevermind that he considered lipstick to be a wardrobe item. But I digress…

While we were waiting for the men from the two tying first-place teams to return from their sequester, the host asked Jane to hand out participation prizes to the couples.

She started at the other end and handed a heart shaped box of chocolates to the pastor and his wife, who thanked her. Then to the judge’s wife. Then she stopped in front of us and began to pull the next box out of the bag. I reached to receive it and just before the box touched my fingers, she pulled it away, stepped to the wife of the final couple, and handed it to her.

I expressed shock and the crowd laughed as she then handed me the last box. As she returned to her seat, the host said, “Now, Jane. The Bible says to be nice to your parents.”

Without missing a beat, she smiled and said, “It says to obey them. It doesn’t say anything at all about being nice to them.” The congregation roared with laughter.

I tried to prove her wrong. “Actually,” I called out, “the Ten Commandments tell you that you should honor your mother and father.”

“I did honor you. I saved the best for last, didn’t I?”

I was losing the verbal battle with my twelve year old daughter and doing so in front of a crowd. I didn’t mind. She did me proud.