Monday, August 24, 2009

The Continuing Adventures of Small One's Mom

In case you are uninformed, please allow me to tell you about the three slowest land mammals on record. Coming in at number three is the two-toed sloth, a creature so slow moving that algae actually grows on his fur, providing him with the camouflage needed to do nothing but hang in a tree all day. Claiming second place is my own darling Man, who has been known to take two hours purchasing one item at a store five minutes from our home, provided there is someone in that store with whom to chat. In the top slot, though, is my ex-husband, the father of Eldest and M.C., whose errand running length is the stuff of legend. Nice guy, Mr. X, but truly slow moving.

That being the case, I was mildly distressed when I came running out of my bedroom the other day to find that he was in my hallway and had parked behind my car. He'd come by to pick up some things for Eldest, who is now living with him in order to be near his college, but I was running out the door to the bank, and I had exactly 33 minutes to make what is typically a 20 minute trek. Sure enough, it took Mr. X 16 minutes to move his car... to the other side of my driveway. I am not making that up.

I called the bank, and asked to speak to my own personal bank hook-up, who often grants me exceptions to bank rules because she is crazy about my Small One. The feeling is mutual, by the way, with Small often asking to go to visit her "friends at the bank". Unfortunately, my friend no longer works the late shift, so I received no sympathy from the teller to whom I told my tale of woe.

I drove faster. When it became apparent that I was still not going to make it. I called again, to ask if maybe I could give her all my numbers to input BEFORE they closed, since I would be screeching in 5 minutes AFTER they closed. She said no, then asked for my name. I told her, she was deadly silent. Then I added "I'm Small One's mom!" ...her voice went up an octave, and became all cheery and helpful. Result? Yeah, she made my deposit when I got there. Sometimes it's good to be Small One's Mom.

Yesterday, though, it was not as much fun. Small was supposed to start a gymnastics class a week ago, but because of recent family events, we were unable to make it. Yesterday was the second scheduled class, so we went- although I must tell you, Small spent the entire morning protesting, while simultaneously proving she needed to go. "I NOT NEEDA go to 'nastics class!" she'd shriek at me, while standing on her head on my bed. Yeah, she needed to go.

(Now, I've gone back and forth on whether to mention the name of the facility, because the story you're about to hear is a cautionary tale, but I can't actually speak for the quality of class, and the equipment looks impressive. However, the level of crazy madness in this story almost requires me to throw the Tucker Rec Center under the bus, so there... I just did.)

Anyway, we got there, and the signage for locating the gymnastics class was not as helpful as one would hope. We were late, we were lost, and I was getting frustrated. After about 10 minutes of wandering through cavernous halls devoid of friendly faces, we approached the front office. This is when I should have known the level of service I was about to receive... there were a few staff members standing by a door that obviously led into an office. I approached them and said "Excuse me..." only to be cut off by a man who said to me, very sternly, "MA'AM! You're gonna need to go around to the other door!" as he helpfully pointed me in the direction of another door... to the SAME ROOM. I am SO not kidding. There wasn't even a counter or divider or anything, it was just all one room!

The girl at the desk was on her cell phone. She placed her personal call on hold and asked if she could help me. I said "My daughter is signed up for the 12:30 little kids' gymnastics class..." and she was already sorrowfully shaking her head.

"I was just fixin' to start calling people," she said, "'cause that class is cancelled."

REALLY? She was just "fixin' to START calling people", 10 minutes into the class time?

"Did they have class last week?" I asked.

"No," she said, "they haven't had a teacher for that class yet."

Ok, let's see if I have this right. The class has been cancelled for over a week, yet this girl was planning to begin calling the parents, right after she finished her personal call. Got it.

"Ok..." I said, "is there another class for this age?"

"No ma'am," she replied, "They're all full, but you can apply for a refund if you want."

I told her I did indeed want to apply, and she told me I'd have to bring in my cancelled check. REALLY? Wouldn't it seem that my child's name on the roster in front of her would indicate the receipt of my payment? Apparently not.

"I don't know that I'd apply for a refund just yet, anyway," she continued, "because we MAY get a teacher."

I said, "Well, do I need to call you back about that?"

to which she replied, "Oh, no ma'am, we'll call you."

I did not make a smart comment about this statement, but that was not because they weren't all there in my head dying to come out. Seriously? Because they're so good at calling and letting people know things?

I made sure she knew my name, and Small's name, and I turned to leave. About that time, a second woman came in, and told the desk girl that she needed to call all the gymnastics parents and inform them that a teacher had been located, and classes would resume tomorrow. (Except she pronounced it "Tuhmarruh"

I said "So, classes will happen next week?"

She replied "No, not next week. Tomorrow."

I was genuinely confused. I asked again, "But, if my child is not in tomorrow's class, does that mean her class will happen next week."

She leaned closer to my face, since obviously my stupidity was the issue here. "TUH-MARR-UH," she said emphatically.

I leaned towards her. "But what if my child's class was supposed to be TUH- DAY?" I asked, just as emphatically.

She was clearly taken aback. "Oh, yeah, then bring her in next week," she said, in a pleasanter tone.

I walked out of the building, and called my husband. "If you are looking for me," I said, "I'll be outside Tucker Rec, lying on the ground, beating my head into the concrete."

Small One began wailing as I put her into the carseat. "I NEEDA GO TO MY 'NASTICS CLASS!!!!!!" (Funny how that particular worm turned, isn't it? Interesting reversal of opinion.)

As I drove away, my phone rang. I answered it, and a now familiar voice said "Uh, this is Tucker Rec Center, calling to inform you that we have found a teacher for your child's class..."

I cut in. "I was just standing in front of your desk, not five minutes ago."

"Oh," she said cheerfully, "I thought I recognized your name from somewhere."

Ah, wish us luck next week at nastics class.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On a lighter note- the Thursday 13

Thirteen Useful Items that Can be Purchased at the Dollar Store:
(Because people seemed mystified that one could purchase dishwasher detergent there)
  1. Canned Goods- seriously, a canned good is a canned good! Granted, this is one of those Dollar Store gray areas, where you need to make sure you aren't buying for $1 what the grocery store sells for 63 cents, but still...
  2. Condiments- again, what's the difference? Ketchup is ketchup.
  3. Garbage Bags- I got a box of 15 last time I was there.
  4. Light Bulbs
  5. Batteries- I've gotten Panasonic, in everything from triple A to D.
  6. Sunglasses- ok, so it's not the brand the movie stars wear, but hey! Dollar Store sunglasses will do in a pinch. Especially if you're like me and utterly incapable of not sitting on expensive sunglasses. The pricier they are, the faster I demolish them.
  7. Coloring Books- because seriously, coloring books have gotten ridiculous at regular stores.
  8. Dishwashing detergent- yes, it's true, I promise. You can also get laundry detergent, but I'm nervous about that.
  9. Toys- SOMETIMES you can even get GOOD toys! At the very least, party favors.
  10. Pet Food- I fed my cats Dollar Store cat food for two weeks, with no ill effects.
  11. Paper Products- paper towels, napkins, paper plates and cups, etc, etc... also wrapping paper.
  12. Household supplies- No, not just dish detergent! Window cleaner, all purpose cleaner, brushes, scrubby things, auto accessories. A veritable plethora of supplies!
  13. PREGNANCY TESTS. This, to me, is the biggest Christmas miracle of all. Why pay $15 for one test at the drug store? Seriously, if you, like me, are constantly paranoid that you're knocked up, you can STOCK UP for $15!!! You can buy 15 tests! That's, like, 5 months worth. (Assuming you test, decide that test must be wrong, test again, then wait a day and test again in case BOTH tests were wrong. Come on, you know you've done it.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Finding the Miracle

I believe in miracles. My faith in God is central to who I am, and I believe that He is an interested and involved Father who cares about the well being of his children, and who is available when we call.
In my life, I’ve seen big miracles. My son, born almost three months early, weighing not quite three pounds, has grown to be a strong and healthy young man. My compact car flipped and rolled down a hill, and we walked away with hardly a scratch. I’ve seen people healed, snatched from the brink of ruin, spared from disaster.

Last week was a week of small miracles. My bank account was empty, and I found a $20 bill in a purse I hadn’t used in a month, wrapped in a note that said “Love you”… turns out a dear friend had slipped it in there when I brought her lunch, and I only found it when I most needed it. My cupboards were bare, a friend needed to clean out her kitchen because of her sick husband's new dietary restrictions, and voila! I was restocked. My friend's husband's illness is certainly bad news, and they are in my prayers, but I have noticed that sometimes someone's miracle comes from someone else deciding to find good in a bad situation. I have learned to appreciate these things.

This week, though, we needed a big miracle. My precious Uncle Judson, the backbone of our family, was repairing a roof when he slipped and fell nine feet onto the pavement. Landing on his face, he sustained injuries that took his life two days later.

I have to take a moment now to talk about my uncle, so please forgive my self-indulgence. Judson was quite possibly the most generous man I've ever known. Family members, strangers, friends...anyone who came across his path was bettered for knowing him. He was handy, and spent much of his life renovating houses. Some of these houses he purchased and sold or rented, some he contracted to repair, but many he repaired out of sheer kindness. He employed many people, including some who would otherwise have been on the street. He rented homes to friends and family in need, at low cost, to give people a boost. He owned vacation properties to which we all had a standing invitation, and the blessing of those mini-vacations, courtesy of Uncle Judson, helped people through many stressful times. Illness, divorce, myriad troubles were soothed looking out over the waves, or across the mountains, appreciating the gift we'd been given.

He was a beautiful man, inside and out, the picture of health, athletic and agile, an avid surfer. He held a master's degree, and in his youth was a special education teacher. He was a doting father, and his love for his daughter was fierce and boundless. He was a loving husband, and he and his beautiful wife had one of the strongest marriages I've been privileged to observe.

He wasn't a saint. His temper was quick and hot, and anyone who worked for him needed to make sure to do the job right, or they'd be sure to hear about it. His lovely home is unfortunately the site of many unfinished projects. His sarcasm was legendary.

But his heart was enormous. His sense of humor made us laugh until tears rolled down our faces, and he loved to laugh. He loved to entertain, and we could be assured that any visit to his home would include a sunset ride on his boat. We could also be pretty sure he'd let someone drive the boat who had absolutely no idea how to do so, and then he'd roar with laughter at the shrieks of those of us nervous about drowning. Holidays at his house routinely included not only family and friends, but people he'd met who were down on their luck, or just didn't have another place to celebrate. They quickly became friends, too.

When he fell, we prayed for a miracle. We couldn't process the shock, couldn't bear the thought of losing him. He was only 58 years old! How could we lose our Judson, when he was so strong and vibrant? We thought he was invincible. We prayed day and night. Many of us drove in from out of state, praying all the way. We were sure God was going to spare him.

In the end, he passed away. Still reeling from the shock of hearing the news that his brain had no function, my aunt had to make the decision of whether to donate his organs, and her decision was, emphatically, yes. It was the only fitting thing to do for a man who'd already given so much of himself.

I was torn, though. As much as I believe in organ donation, I wasn't ready to give up on the idea that they'd shut off the ventilator, unplug all those machines, and we'd witness a miracle- he'd stand up and walk away. I wanted so badly for that to be the case, that the idea of them leaving him on the respirator while they harvested his organs made my stomach churn. I got upset with God.

As I prayed, though, a rather angry, questioning prayer, I began to feel a quiet calm. A peace came over me, and it was as though God was explaining things to me. We'd prayed for a miracle for two days, and here it was... I suddenly understood that all the lives my sweet uncle would be able to save in death comprised the miracle. It wasn't the miracle we'd hoped for, but I couldn't help but think it was the miracle for which those other families had been praying. Here was a man who spent his entire life helping other people, who would've gladly lain down his life for his fellow man, and in the end, that's what he was able to do.

I won't say it made it all ok, because it didn't. Last night we went to his house, and my Small One said "Oh! We're going to see Uncle Judson, and he'll take me on the boat!" I tried to explain to her, as simply as I could, that he had gotten terribly hurt, and God had taken him to live with him, instead of letting him go home with Aunt Peggy. "That's not right," she said. "He needs to come home and be with Aunt Peggy and see us!"

Honestly, as much as I'm glad he was able to help those other people, as much as I'm trying to make sense in all this and find peace, I have to admit, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

Goodbye, Uncle Jud. We'll miss you always.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


When my big kids were small kids, I had several rules that had rather unorthodox names. One that comes to mind is the "Tickle Me Elmo" rule, so named because Middle Child had an annoying habit of setting that dumb Elmo doll off every time I was in a particularly tense traffic situation. The Tickle Me Elmo rule stated simply that Mom had the right, at any time, to confiscate any toy that made noise in the car, and toss it out the window into oncoming traffic. I never had to actually make good on the threat, though I will admit to dangling a toy or two out the window on occasion, but all I had to say to silence a noisy toy was "Remember the Tickle Me Elmo rule!" and all would turn silent in the back seat.

Most of those rules no longer apply. Rarely do they make any noise at all in the backseat, instead choosing to sit side by side with headphones in, texting other people. But one rule that still applies is the "Stupidhead Rule", which I find myself using on a regular basis, not only for them, but for myself and, indeed, other adults.

The Stupidhead Rule came to be when my children were elementary school aged. One of them would come in, crying, because someone had called a name- like "Stupidhead", for example. "MOM!!!!!! He called me a stupidhead!!!!!"

I'd look at the child in question very calmly and ask, "Well, ARE you a stupidhead?"

Obviously, the answer would typically be "no", and I would advise the child to disregard the statement, since it was clearly false. So the Stupidhead Rule, simply stated, "Ask yourself if the criticism applies, and if not, throw it out." After awhile, all I'd have to say is "use the Stupidhead Rule!" and they'd know what I meant.

I still use it. It came in handy when I was in customer service for a food delivery company, and many times I'd think of it when I was starting to get stressed out. I'd ask myself, "Are you a rotten lying sack of excrement who stole this man's money and has no intention of making sure he gets the correct food?"

(Most of the time, no.)

Today I was talking to a good friend who is having trouble with a bully. She was sad, because he called her a long string of expletives, but honestly, the words, when taken away from the emotion, didn't even make sense. If anything, taken literally, they presented a pretty amusing mental image. Expletives are sort of funny, when you think about it, if you take them literally.

This friend has known my family for a long time, so I asked her the question, "Are you a {long and nonsensical string of expletives}?"

She giggled a little bit. "No, I really don't think I am a {long and nonsensical string of expletives}."

She's no Stupidhead, that's for sure.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Domestic Heroism

We're a little short on cash these days. (That, by the way, is my polite, Southern way of saying "Holy Moley, we're going down in flames!") Down here, we refer to that as "a little short on cash", in much the same way as we refer to an expensive new article of clothing as "this old thing?" when complimented. Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you, it's just the way it is.

Anyhoo, grocery shopping has become an adventure. I play little games with myself, like "How many meals can I make for five people using $20?" and "How many necessities can actually be purchased at the Dollar Store?". The answers to those questions? A. It depends on if you want them to actually eat the so-called food, and B. So far, I've been delighted to learn that Dollar Store cat food is not too bad, and neither is the dishwasher detergent. Still a little wary of the wine, though.

I occasionally toy with the idea of posting frugality tips here on the blog, since I feel quite certain, given the current economic climate, that we're not the only ones dealing with this, and I might be able to help someone else. As an example, something I find wonderful is that some of the larger grocery stores will mark down milk to practically free when it's going to expire in a couple of days. A couple of days? Amateurs! My children will go through that gallon in eighteen hours! Ha ha! I laugh at your expiration date, fools!

Today, I hit the grocery store for a few basic necessities, and felt pretty good about my thrift. Even managed to find some treat-y stuff for practically free. I was proud of myself, started feeling superhero-ish. The theme from "Chariots of Fire" seemed to be playing as I made my way out of the store, and I felt like slo-mo running, with one arm in the air, since my other one needed to push the cart. Yeah!

Then I realized that "Chariots of Fire" WAS playing. On the muzak. I'm such a nerd.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I don't have to blog today, because it's August, and I committed to blog every day in July, but haven't decided about August.

And technically, it's still August 1st where I am, though not August 1st at my home.

August is a big month for us. Eldest departs our home and starts college, Middle Child returns to the school she left last December, and The Man has a birthday. These are the reasons I may not blog every day. I might, though, the jury's still out... it's a pleasant pressure, the pressure to make it happen every day for a month. It pressures me to use my brain in a way unrelated to the running of my household, which consumes my every other minute.

I started August by attending my dad's wedding. It was weird, but a fun party. And I have to say, when two or more of the sibs in my family get together, it's a party, no matter what.

Tomorrow, we dive further into the month of August with an insane roadtrip, visiting three states in one day. Wish us luck!