Friday, December 27, 2013


Long into a good family game of Apples to Apples with an aunt and the grandparents...

It was Little Bean's turn to flip the green card...

The green card was 'AWKWARD'...

Little Bean began to read the red cards that had been given to her- cards that each player felt 'matched' the green card word...

"Swingers. What's swingers?" she demanded.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

I'm Disappointed in Phil Robertson

By now, I'm sure you're fully aware of the Duck Dynasty show, it's goofy antics, and the bearded men who made the show popular. I doubt you've missed the whole hullabaloo about Phil Robertson's recent remarks in GQ. You may or may not be as familiar with my opinion and you may not care. Fair enough. But, I feel as if I must put it out there and I've decided to honor that feeling.

I fully believe that Mr. Robertson is entitled to his opinion and he is as entitled to share his opinion as I am mine. That said, I'm seriously disappointed. I'm not so much surprised, but very disappointed. The show has been surprisingly popular and Duck Dynasty merchandise and the men of the show seem to be everywhere one looks lately. This put Mr. Robertson in a unique position to go forth and share the word of Jesus Christ, as he felt moved to do.

As a fellow Christian, I understand why Mr. Robertson felt so moved to share his love of Jesus. It is, after all, the greatest commandment that Jesus gave us- to love our God with all of our heart, mind, and soul. What Phil Robertson seems to have missed is the second greatest commandment Jesus gave us- to love your neighbor as yourself. Mr. Robertson had a unique opportunity to reach countless people through his popularity and share the love that Jesus taught us and instead he chose to share a message of vile hate.

I'm not surprised. All too often, followers of Christianity choose to spread hate and intolerance instead of love. I'm disappointed, and I feel that disappointment deep in my soul. If we were to read the Bible and follow the Old Testament, we'd be burning our houses down when we found mold. We'd be sacrificing animals. Women wouldn't be allowed in church very often. Men, would not be allowed to lie with other men, and women with other women. Dear people, we DON'T follow the laws of the Old Testament. Jesus took all of that away from us and His commandments were simple:

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”    

LOVE. The greatest commandments are about love. Sadly, Mr. Robertson missed a golden opportunity to share that love and in spreading his message of hate he has likely sent more people running  away from Christianity.  

So, my thoughts for Mr. Robertson are these:

Dear Mr. Roberston, my heart hurts today because of your message. You now have an opportunity to open your heart and your mouth to try to right the wrong, to mitigate some of the damage. I can only watch this story unfold like everyone else and see if you decide to share love and hope this Christmas season, or if you continue to use your popularity to spew hate.

As for me and my house, we will share love. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mother of the Year

Countdown Socks are a December tradition now in our family. Every night in December (with the exception of the nights we spent in the recliners with the virus from hell) we take down a numbered sock from the line and the kids get some little trinket or treat to mark the passage of days until Christmas.

If we're pressed for time (or feeling particularly lazy), we just stuff the treats in the sock. But on a good night, we hold a scavenger hunt! We use a lot of Christmas songs for clues, but Rough Stuff is a displaced elf with a photographic memory and she can sing every Christmas song ever. She can land the clues from a Christmas song much, much faster than I can type them up and hide them.

So, we've moved on to movie themes. Tonight's theme was National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The clues worked through several movie scenes- from the fried pussycat, to Clark's rant about wanting his boss brought from his happy holiday slumber- and led to shouts of "shitter's full!"


I think I've got Mother of the Year wrapped up tight.    

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving -Keepin' It Real

Our littlest child came home with a request from school last Monday- a photo of our Thanksgiving traditions.


I realized we have never taken a single photo of our Thanksgiving celebration. Ever. Not one. Because, um...our Thanksgiving is not picture pretty. There are no pretty plates (we are not washing all those plates on a holiday!), no shiny chargers, no beautiful tablecloth. We do not light candles and serve wine or even dress nice for dinner. Nope. None of that here.

Now, please understand- I'm not against any of those things. They just haven't been a part of our Thanksgiving history. This little school project really got me to thinking about what Thanksgiving means in our family and what traditions we hold near to our hearts. I decided that this year, I would document the whole thing in photos. And, because I'm the open book that I am, I am going to share the whole beautiful mess with you in blurry photos.

This is what we do on Thanksgiving:

We pull out the recipes. Many of the dishes we make every year, without fail, come from recipes that were handed down from family and friends. We pull out the recipes, read the cards, and then proceed to add and dump ingredients until the dish no longer quite resembles the original- because that is how our mothers and grandmothers did it and we learned from them.  

We all gather in the kitchen. Holidays are a time to be together. We cook together.

And we make messes together. What? There was no Miracle Whip on your floor and walls on Thanksgiving? Maybe you were doing it wrong.  

Everyone helps. (And yes, we label our Ritz crackers so the kids don't eat them before they can get crushed and sprinkled on the casserole.)

We pass on the traditions. 

We lounge. A lot. 

We tell stories- like the one about my grandma making the mashed potatoes in the Wear-Ever ricer one year (just like these girls are doing) and then storing them on the back porch (no room in the fridge). The mashed potatoes spoiled before they were put on the table and several of us had a bite before the disaster had been declared.        

We boil things over on the stove. (Some years we do much worse- someone cuts their thumb peeling potatoes and needs stitches before dinner, or steps on the hot oven rack after removing it from the oven to fit a turkey, or a boiled over pie starts a small oven fire.) What? Not at your house? You're doing it wrong.  

We teach the kids. 

We mortify our vegetarian children with the turkey carcass.  

That's what we do. We all participate. We prepare a huge feast. We say grace. We eat. We share what we are all thankful for. We lounge. Then, we spread the Black Friday ads out on the family room floor and the kids start making Christmas wish lists. We stay up late and watch Christmas movies, and then we sleep right through the Black Friday sales.

It may not be picture pretty, but I wouldn't change a minute of it. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why We Don't Send Holiday Photo Cards

I thought it would be fabulous to get a quick photo of the young herd on Thanksgiving. I asked them all to take a seat on the hearth and smile.

It seemed so simple.

Smile. That is not a smile, Tuna. 

Put your hand down, Rough Stuff. 

Son, really? 

No, that's not funny. 

Why are you doing that? 


Little people! Look at me! Smile!

This is not that hard. 

Look AT ME!

Yeah, now The Boy is bored. 

Look up, Son. Put the phone down. 

If y'all would cooperate...

NO! Sit down! 

Rough Stuff! Smile!

Little Bean, (sigh) sit up straight!

For reals? Bean?

Why was that so hard?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Party # 67: Under the Sea

With the youngest member of the herd turning 9, I can feel the cutesy theme parties slipping away. Maybe I'll get to do a few more...maybe. I wasn't taking any chances though. I was determined to make this party awesome.

I started a few weeks ago. I ordered party supplies. I made coral from dyed coffee filters. I covered suckers with tissue paper and twisted on little pipe cleaner legs; glued on wiggly eyes and made them into octopuses. Or octopi. Merriam Webster is undecided. I put together 24 adorable little party favor bags and tied them up with curling ribbon, a seashell strung from each one. I put all of the party supplies on the hearth.

And then...

We returned home one evening to a massacre. 

The dog sniffed out the fun-size candy bars tucked into each party favor and shredded the bags to retrieve them. He ate 20 candy bars, wrapper and all, and in the process he crunched the bubble containers and soaked everything in bubble solution and slobber. 

So, with just a few days before the party, we started over. It became a group effort. We picked up some ocean-themed favors and a new set of treat bags. I stuffed them Friday night and The Boy and his girlfriend tied them with ribbon just minutes before the party. All's well that ends well, right? (Shaking my fist at the dog.)  

We covered the dining room with water-print paper and hung crepe paper seaweed to set a very under-the-sea mood. 

Set out a few fishy thrift store finds...

The Big Guy made some jelly fish, a la dyed coffee filters and plastic table cloth strips...

And he painted a boat bottom to hang from the ceiling so we could truly feel under the sea 

I baked and frosted cupcakes (20 minutes before the party started) and we were all set!

Little Bean said it was the best birthday party ever. 

What more could a mother ask for?

(Shaking my fist at the dog.)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shaking My Head

It goes without saying, I'm sure, that with 5 kids in the herd I often see things in the house that leave me shaking my head. Always, when I see such a sight, a little voice in my head says "don't ask." But then I do.

Twice this week I encountered such a scenario.

This was the first:

Why, yes. Yes. That is a pot full of rocks. I found it on the kitchen island after all of the kids had gone to school. 

The second scenario was much more disturbing:

I was somewhat mortified. "The child responsible for this might need some sort of therapy" I thought, as I stood shaking my head. 

These things were not cause for alarm with the children. Not at all. The Boy, it turns out, pilfered some rocks from the local creek. (I hear the distant echo of Leave No Trace camp lessons floating on the wind.) He boiled them for his fiddler crabs to hide under in the aquarium. Makes perfect sense. I was worried we were having stone soup for dinner. He even used an old, rusted pot. Sweet boy. 

And the unclothed doll strung up from a tree branch?

No worries. The girls were making a video production. That's Miley on her wrecking ball. 

Huh. That was not my first impression.

Shaking my head. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Polite Dinner Conversation

We sat down as a family at the dinner table and as we typically do, we started a round-table discussion where everyone takes a turn sharing. The Boy is in college and rarely joins us for dinner. I was anxious to hear what he would share. Big mistake. Huge.

The Big Guy: Hey! Let's talk about what you did at school today.

The Boy: I cut open a frog brain. It was epic. It looked like...

Everyone: Euww! Cough...gag...sputter...

New family rule: No talk about zoology class at the dinner table.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What's In Carton #2?

I absolutely love fall. It is my favorite time of year and I try my very best to squeeze every possible moment from the season. But...

Ah, there is that ugly but. It is also the season that we endured a house fire two years ago. As soon as the leaves began to turn, I began to get an uneasy feeling. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but then we started moving the Halloween storage tubs from the attic into the living room and suddenly, all in a moment, I got it. The front door opened and the leaves fluttered across the lawn and I glanced at the plastic storage tubs sitting in the family room, and it clicked. I was remembering the fire.

There was a familiarity to the season and it brought back ugly feelings. There was a strange tension in the air. The Big Guy labeled it later that day and I realized I wasn't the only one feeling it. He said "the last time I brought those tubs down...I was spraying them with a water hose a few hours later waiting on the fire trucks."

The night our house caught fire was the same night two years ago that the Big Guy had decided we should start decorating for Halloween. The kids had hauled all of the storage tubs down into the living room and then they had left to go to the store, to buy rice to go with dinner. They returned a short time later to a house consumed with smoke and fire, and in desperation the Big Guy was spraying what he could see of the fire with our water hose. Of course, the water wasn't going anywhere because it was hitting those storage tubs which he couldn't see through the smoke just a few feet away.

We laugh about that now, but the memories are still painful. Here we are, two years later, back in our own rebuilt home, and the simple act of bringing out the Halloween decorations triggers a flood of tension and fear.


We had a nice surprise over the weekend. The Big Guy looked high and low in our basement and garage trying to find my sewing machine. It was a Christmas present three years ago and I had never even taken it out of the box. We were sure we'd seen it returned from the fire restoration warehouse, but it seemed to be in hiding. I desperately needed it to finish Halloween costumes, so the search was on. It finally turned up in the crafts closet upstairs. Strangely, that is exactly where it belongs, but we have no idea who put it there.

In the search, the Big Guy turned up carton #2. We have been through all of the boxes from the warehouse at least twice, and this box never turned up. Suddenly, there it was. (I have no idea- stranger things have happened, right?) Carton #2 contained our lamps. If we had to list the top 10 things we hoped we would get back after the fire, these lamps were way up there on the list.

When you open a carton from the fire restoration warehouse, you have no idea what you will find. Except paper- you will find a crap-ton of paper. And bubble wrap. And more paper.

Our End of the Trail lamp survived pretty much intact, except for a nasty brown residue that pooled under the horse. This lamp will need a new paint job.

The other lamp...well, it's missing a few things.

Like the knob to turn it on...

And the plug. What is interesting is that these lamps were marked "Sentimental" and "Fragile" and "Special Handling" but not "Damaged." They were returned, unclaimed, as in good condition. Alrighty then.

The cord has melted paint from our wall on it so I don't know if the plug fell off, or if perhaps they removed it as a safety precaution so we wouldn't try to plug it back in, but in any is damaged. And it was not damaged before the house caught on fire.

I am so beyond over this fire and the restoration it is not even funny anymore. But...

The Little Water Maiden lamp, hand painted by artist Rhea Grandon, that we purchased in our first married year, has returned. Carton # 2 has been found. We will rewire the lamps, give them a touch up, buy some new lamp shades, and restore them to their proper place in our new/old home. I will use the brand new, fire-stinky sewing machine to sew Halloween costumes. We decorated the house and yard. The season will go on. All is well.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Justifiable Spidercide


Look, I get it. The night's are getting cooler and you spiders are desperately seeking shelter. But, let me warn you- my house is NOT your shelter. Get under a rock. Crawl in a tree. Go underground. But do NOT come inside my house. And don't get in my car either. 

Invading my personal space could result in you being:
  • Kicked
  • Stomped
  • Smashed
  • Whacked
  • Doused in toxic chemicals
  • Randomly flung at high velocity into nearby objects
You have been warned. 

Oh, and about your shiny, black, freaky-legged friend that tried to share a shower with me this morning? That was justifiable spidercide.   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Remember the 80s?

Some conversations in our home leave me with the heavy impression that we're doing it all wrong.

Fish: We have to dress like the 80s.
Rough Stuff: You should wear Tuna's wig!

Um...the Mad Hatter wig? From Halloween? Because...why?

Me: Yeah...that's not really 80s, guys.
Rough Stuff: Mom, were you alive in the 80s?
Me: Do the math.

Long pause.

Rough Stuff: WHOA! Moms' turning 40 next year!

I don't think I like this convo.

Rough Stuff: So, Dad had an afro?


Fish: No, Dad's tan, not black.


"Kids, let's Google some 80s images!"  Before this convo gets any more off track.

Friday, September 13, 2013


It's Friday and this is how I feel about that.

And that's all I'm going to say about this week.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


I guess we peed in Little Bean's Post Toasties. She left a note on her door today.

It says:

Dear visitors come in
Mom and Dad not AlouD
I Will Be coming out For
Drinks-Sochol-FooD SeptemBer
crismist-BirthDays thank you
have a nice Day!!!

Well. I guess she told us. We'll sure miss her on Halloween.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Taco Headache

It began slowly, first just a couple of itchy bumps, one on one side of my neck and one on the other. Later, I noticed two more bumps. They were larger and more aggravating than the first two. I mentioned it to my husband over the weekend. "Look!" I said. "It's those bumps I get from being around cats." I had hugged two people over the weekend who have cats. "I have to stop hugging cat people. It gets all over my neck and chin and then this!"

Yesterday, I noticed pain in my jaws. I worried it could be dental pain. I've been too long without a cleaning and those wisdom teeth never have been removed. I flipped my head upside down to blow dry my hair with the diffuser and I felt the distinct pain of sinus pressure. Nope, not the teeth. Definitely pressure behind my eyes and nose. Not cool.

Today, I developed a headache. I felt crummy. My face hurt. I took a few ibuprofen tablets but as the day lingered I just felt worse. "I must be getting a head cold" I told my husband. My eyes felt scratchy and I was foggy. It didn't feel quite like the onset of a cold, but what else could it be?

Enter the teen-aged girl, Tuna. We attend a group meeting every Tuesday evening and this particular evening she had convinced the group that everyone should arrive in costume. The temps were hovering near 100 degrees and I was going to wear a giant felt costume and I already felt like poo. Woo hoo.

As I was finishing up my makeup, head threatening to implode, Tuna asked me to come up to her room so she could show me something. She had a secret to share. All sorts of things ran through my mind, but she had a decision to make. We could arrive at the meeting, she and I dressed as an M&M and peanut M&M package and the Big Guy looking like Jack Sparrow, or we could go share her secret. One or the other- there is only so much time in the day and the clock was ticking. She opted for the meeting.

It was there, in this meeting...people dressed as cats and Pokemon characters, wearing fake mustaches and M&M costumes, that Tuna decided to drop her bomb.

"I've been hiding a kitten in my room for three days."

Suddenly everything fell into place. The swollen nasal passages, the rash spreading around my neck, the facial PAIN. Uh huh. There was a CAT in my house. I was slowly dying. Betrayed by my own child.

Apparently the kitty had been rescued from the creek bank and even spent the first day after her rescue in Tuna's backpack at the high school. She had spent the next three days in a small animal carrier in Tuna's closet and probably spent nights in Tuna's bed. I imagine she spent an abundance of time shaking her precious kitty dander into the cold air duct where I could inhale it and embed the allergen straight into my sinus cavities.

After a desperate flurry of visits and phone calls (and some allergy medicine) the kitty was safely settled with a friend's mother who will bottle feed her and get her to a vet. After she is healthy and weaned she will be adopted by another friend who does not have a highly allergic mother.

Her name was Taco- Taco the pain in the face kitten.

Just goes to prove that your children will try to put you in an early grave. And kittens are irresistible.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Defining Normal

A friend of mine recently brought a letter to my attention- the letter written to Karla Begley, the mother of a teen  with autism living in Ontario. My friend asked what my response would be and says she is waiting with baited breath. She has had to wait a few days. (I'm sorry, Friend.)

This letter has been widely distributed. You can read the article I read at the Huffington Post here.

I needed a few days to really process this letter and discern what it meant to me and how I would feel if I had received the letter. While this entire letter is atrocious, the line that resonates with me is this:

"That noise he makes outside is dreadful...It scares the hell out of my normal children."

Normal children.

What exactly are normal children

Ask any mom with a decent sense of humor and they'll tell you that children are not normal. Seriously though, we all have our issues, folks. We do. Every one of us. We must stop defining our children as normal. Life is not a game of normal kids vs. abnormal kids. We all have to get along and work and play together. Everybody has to play nicely in the sandbox.

The CDC says 1 of every 54 boys is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Think about that- 1 in 54. Karla Begley's boy is like 1 of every 54 boys. That sounds pretty normal to me. The CDC also says that about 1 of every 6 children in the United States has a developmental disability. That means Kara Begley's boy is like 1 of every 6 children. That sounds VERY normal to me. If we take a close look at those other 5 children, I bet we could find something abnormal about them. It seems like maybe the normal child is kind of the odd kid out, so to speak.

Fortunately, it sounds like the neighborhood has rallied in support of the family of the targeted teen in Ontario. I personally believe that hateful folks are few and far between and most people are supportive and kind. We could all go a step further though.

We could all stop using the word normal to describe those without differences or challenges. Think for a moment about how you teach your children and how you interact with the world around you. I have a son with autism. Would you speak to me and refer to my child as abnormal? Probably not. But would you refer your own child as normal? What defines abnormality? Children with allergies? Children who are gifted? Children who were premature? Children with freckles? Children without freckles? Blond children? Brunette children? Happy children? It's a very slippery slope, folks.

The reality is, there are no normal children- just children- and they all deserve our compassion and respect.

I won't address the rest of the letter because I just don't have it in me. That kind of hate doesn't deserve attention and dwelling on it would just drain any positive energy I have left. I need all the energy I can muster to raise my 5 children to be the kind of supportive, compassionate, and accepting folks this world so desperately needs.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hello, Poison Control?

I was in the shower. That's a good place to be when a situation arises- wet and soapy. I heard a knock on the door and what sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons coming from the other side of the door. "Wah wah woh wah woh wah!" For the love of all! "Open the door!" I yelled back. The door opened and a frantic Fish cried out something about Little Bean having nail polish remover poured in her mouth.

I grabbed a towel and yelled for her to bring the poisoned child to me. Little Bean entered the bathroom smelling like she had chugged a gallon of nail polish remover. I ordered Fish to dial 411 and get a connection to Poison Control immediately and I grabbed a cup and instructed to Little Bean to rinse and spit, and not to swallow.

Frantically we carried on for a few minutes until I had Poison Control on the line. Rinse. Spit. Cry. Rinse. Spit. Snot. Rinse. Spit. Snot. Cry. Snot. Rinse. Spit.

Between spits I tried to pull out details. How much nail polish remover? Did she swallow it? Did any get in her tummy? Thankfully, she had not swallowed and it seemed only a teeny bit had gotten into her throat. Poison Control informed us that we had the best kind of nail polish remover on hand- non-acetone, with a sponge in the container. The risk was minor and since she had not swallowed the stuff a good glass of milk should coat her mouth and tummy and remove most of the taste.

Once the milk was downed and her little body washed, I had more time to ask "why in the name of all that is holy did you have nail polish remover in your mouth?!"

Actually, I already knew part of the story. I needed the finer details. Apparently, Rough Stuff wandered onto her big sister's nail polish remover and decided she needed to remove her finger nail polish. Upon opening the container, she decided Little Bean should get a good whiff of this awful smelling stuff. So, like any good big sister, she shoved the container right up in Little Bean's face and tipped it upside down over her nose. That is when all of the liquid not absorbed into the sponge poured right into Little Bean's mouth and nose. This incident occurred in the family room, because that is exactly where you want to pour nail polish remover out.

So that is how I ended up standing in a towel with a crying, snotting, foul-smelling child, on the phone with Poison Control, with water and conditioner dripping in a puddle at my feet.

How did you spend your Saturday, hmm?

(Little Bean is perfectly fine, though her tongue was a bit numb at dinner time and she could smell nail polish remover in her sinuses for several hours. Rough Stuff is mortified that the nail polish remover actually poured out of the sponge. Fish has been properly appreciated for handling the whole incident so well. I am praying I don't see bleached holes in the rug or furniture tomorrow.) 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The End of Morning Clothing Arguments

When the kids leave for school each morning, they must have clothes on. On this point, the Big Guy and I agree. Just what exactly they should be wearing is a point of contention. We both agree they should have matching, clean, and well-fitted clothing on that is weather appropriate. Our concepts of matching are miles apart.

Now, getting the kids out the door each day in matching (according to varying definitions), clean, and well-fitted clothing is nearly impossible. Like catching a greased pig impossible. Clean clothes suddenly disappear. Shoes migrate under large pieces of furniture. The kids will swear we never owned coats, gloves, or hats on the first cold morning. It is a some kind of law that spirit wear shirts will fall into the black hole of hell the night before they are needed- I swear they will slip their clean little cotton selves right off the hanger and just dis.a.ppear.  Gone. Vanished without a trace.

This year, I decided we would end the before-school clothing battle before it even started. The youngest kids are required to have 5 full outfits (shirt, jeans, undies, socks) on hangers, in the closet by Sunday evening. To help facilitate this unreasonable demand, I made daily organizing tags for their closets.

You can find cute little tags and beautifully organized closet spaces all over Pinterest. The clothes are all ruffly and adorable and the hangers all match. They are precious. I, was not going for precious. Nope. I was going for simple, fast, and functional. I am all about functional. (This momma ain't got time for precious.) 

I used a free CD label template in a Word document and printed 2 images to a page on colored cardstock. I spent about an hour cutting out 2 sets. I used 2 of each day (Monday through Friday plus Weekend) back-to-back and glued them together with a glue stick. I ran them through a hot laminator, 3 to a page and spent another half hour cutting the shapes from the laminate. I left a decent amount of laminate (plastic?) in the center so they would grip the closet rod. 

I figure I just saved the Big Guy and myself 171 hours of rather-poke-yourself-in-the-eye-than-search-for-another-lost-shoe early morning arguments about clothing.   

Oh, so worth it.