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I am Sneezy, Mother to Crybaby

I can’t stop sneezing.  My daughter won’t stop crying.  But, hey, the weather is beautiful out today, predicted to reach 80 degrees, some optimistic meteorologists proclaim.  (Whatever happened to just calling them “forecasters” anyway?)

My husband would like you to know that he is one terrific guy.  Saturday, he set me loose from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  I saw a movie (“The Illusionist” which I can wholeheartedly recommend) and shopped at my favorite thrift store and at Marshall’s.  As usual, being alone out in the world refreshed me and almost made me ready to face the sink full of dishes at home.  In fact, when I got home, I cleaned out my closet. 

My daughter is still crying.  She’s crying for two reasons.  1)  She went to bed last night an hour late because I had to take her to my son’s Judo class last night because my husband went to a meeting; 2)  I just snapped at her when she kept repeating the same sentence over and over and over.  Why people in this family don’t realize I CAN HEAR THEM the first time, even if I don’t immediately respond is beyond my comprehension.  Just because I am not speaking, people I live with appear to believe that I am also NOT THINKING and not IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING. 

Now, she’s gone into the other room to play the other computer.  Finally, she stopped crying.  I have also temporarily stopped sneezing.  I have fall allergies sometimes and this year, I sneeze all morning long.  My nose itches.  Really, it’s quite a delight to be me.

Have you ever heard of Pickleball?  It’s like playing tennis with wiffle balls and giant ping-pong paddles.  I’d never seen it played before this weekend when we visited friends who have a court in their driveway.  I tried to not be jealous of those people . . . and not just because they have at least $100,000 worth of vehicles parked in their garage, but because their pantry is bigger than my whole kitchen. 

My besetting sin:  jealousy.

And so my day begins with my sober assessment of my shortcomings (snappish, jealous, prone to sneezing, unable to keep kitchen floor clean, impatient) and a pile of used tissues.

My husband, though . . . he rocks.  And I’m not just saying that because he told me to.

Hold Your Nose

Why do teenage boys smell like feet?

And why don’t they want to brush their teeth?

Why are they opposed to deodorant and combing their hair?

Just wondering.  I came home tonight at 11:30 p.m. (from cleaning up and decorating my Sunday School classroom) and when I walked into the Boy Cave, the smell of feet assailed my delicate nasal passages.  Are the boys hard of smelling? 

Anyway, they have a friend spending the night and I predict that they will not sleep most of the night and that furthermore, they may be dead from inhaling foot odor in the morning, which is known to be a deadly killer.

Back In Time

I whispered to my great-aunt, “How’d he do last night?”

And she whispered back, “He was a little restless, but he settled down.”

We both gazed at my father, his six-foot-two-inch frame stretched out in the hospital bed.  The bed looked out of place in the lavender room where I’d spent my adolescence–we’d moved it in the day before, right before he was discharged from the hospital.

He hadn’t wanted to die in the hospital.  So, eleven days after I left him in the emergency room for pain management, an ambulance brought him home.  In prior days, my aunt had cautioned me, “What will you do?  You’ll have to go back to work sometime.”  But that night, I had wept in the dark and when my husband had reached for me, asking what was wrong, I sobbed out the words, “I want to bring him home!  He doesn’t want to die in the hospital.”

And my husband had said, “Then bring him home.  We’ll figure it out from there.”  So we did.

We drove in a makeshift caravan home from the hospital.  My stepmother brought a thick foam pad for the bed in her truck.  My husband and I followed the ambulance.  A friend of my dad’s brought the aunts with her.

The stretcher couldn’t reach the last bedroom on the right, so the ambulance driver yelled, “MR. MARTIN!  MR. MARTIN!  YOU HAVE TO WALK!” right in his face.  My dad, ravaged by cancer, finally said with annoyance, “I KNOW!” 

And he teetered one baby-step after another into the lavender room while I stood in his old room, the master bedroom, watching with tears in my eyes and a pillow clutched in my twenty-four year old hands.

We settled him into his bed.  The catheter bag hung on the side, dark urine collecting in a small puddle.  I could see his pulse beating fast near his collarbone.  His mouth parted, just a little, as he slept.  His face looked unfamiliar without his wire-rimmed glasses. 

His three aunts had flown out from Wisconsin to be with us.  We took turns sitting in the green recliner we’d moved next to his bed.  His friend stopped by to simply sit with him.  

In the evening, around dinner-time, I went in to the room with the list of medications he needed to take.  I pushed the buttons to move the head of the bed so he was sort of sitting.  I tried to wake him, but he responded with nonsense. 

“Dad!  You need to take these pills.”  And I placed a pill in his mouth.  “No, no!  Don’t chew . . . swallow.”  I stuck the tip of the straw into his mouth, but he chewed it, reminding me of a goat.  I laughed.  He chewed up his pills and I reclined the bed flat again.

When the night came, I went to bed, leaving my aunt, a nurse, to sit with him.  The next morning, when she reported that he’d had a good night, I said, “Do you think I should go to work?”  She nodded, so I showered and off to work I went.

I called around noon to see how he was.  He’s had a quiet day, she assured me, so I told her I’d stay until 4 p.m. 

I drove into my driveway at 4:30 p.m. and my aunt met me on the sidewalk.  “Go get your sister.  He doesn’t have much time.”  He’d taken a sudden turn for the worse.

My 17-year old sister worked at KFC a mile away.  She had worried aloud about who would get her or tell her or pick her up.  I told her I would.  I turned and drove straight to the fast-food restaurant.  I parked.  I walked in, asked for her.  When she pushed through the swinging doors, I couldn’t speak.  I just stared at her and she knew.  I choked out, “It’s time.”

And I held her in my arms and we cried a little by the case of fast-food delicacies.

We drove home.  Before we could enter the house, my aunt said, “He’s having seizures.  Don’t go back there.”  I pushed past and went straight to my old bedroom.  His body was rigid and shaking and his blue bloodshot eyes were opened. 

I turned and rushed my sister away, back down the hallway to the living room.  A few moments later, an aunt walked in and quietly said, “He’s gone.”

From the doorway, I saw my mother on the other side of him, crying and saying, “In Your hands, we commit his spirit.”  My aunts were hugging, crying.  I touched his bearded cheek and said, “Poor daddy.”  And then I went back through the house to tell my husband and my stepmother and his best friend that he was gone. 

I hadn’t even met the hospice nurse, but she soon arrived and began to make arrangements.  We called the funeral director.  My other sister arrived and began to wail when she heard he was dead already.

People filled our house.  Aunts, friends, family . . . we sat by the dining room table, uneasily making quiet conversation while the funeral director and his assistant tried to maneuver my dad’s hulking frame back out of the room, down the hallway and away from us. 

I imagined him zipped into a black bag, like a suit in a garment bag, but I never saw his body again, so I don’t know if this is imagined or true.  My husband helped them carried the body out while our conversation around the table grew more desperate and surreal with grim laughter.

And that’s what I was doing seventeen years ago today, when my 47-year old dad’s body fell victim to malignant melanoma and his spirit flew away, free.

A Kind of Whiny Post

The start of school has turned my life into a treadmill of laundry, dishes, schoolwork, dinner, grocery shopping and sleep-deprivation.  Various projects long for my attention, but I can’t manage to focus. 

If you add the babysitting I’ve done throughout the years to the mix, I’ve been taking care of either a baby, toddler or preschooler for thirteen years.  (My twins are 13.  When they were three, I started a home daycare.  Then I had my youngest son.  When he was three, I got pregnant again and when that baby girl was a year old, I started babysitting again.)

I suppose little ones keep you young, but they also keep you from concentrating for more than a few minutes at a time.  I mean, honestly, how much can you accomplish during nap-time?  Or in the space between the kids’ bedtime and your own collapse into bed? 

Life is chopped into little morsels, at least it is around here.  The things I want to accomplish demand large chunks of time . . . whatever shall I do?

I will think about it tomorrow, that’s what.  And I will thank myself for cleaning up the family room floor and the kitchen tonight so a scary mess doesn’t greet me in the morning.

“I’m exhausted,” she declared.


(And she pronounced it like this:  “ezhausted!”  And then, she was eerily quiet in her room.  I pushed open the door to discover her in this position.  She wasn’t kidding!)

The Fair

All through the night and pre-dawn darkness Monday, I heard steady rain.  How much do I love to sleep to the sound of rain?  And yet, I fretted in that fuzzy space between consciousness and unconsciousness because we planned to go to the fair first thing Monday morning.

We loaded up our four kids, plus an extra two year old and a spare four year old.  We were on the road by 9:45 a.m. and arrived at the fair shortly after it opened.

By then, only drizzle fell from the cloudy skies.  All the rides were wet, of course, but the ride operators wiped them off and so little bottoms only got a bit wet.  The best part about our early arrival on this damp day was that the kids didn’t have to wait in any lines.  In fact, the ride operators waited for us to approach. 

My husband and I split up–he took the big kids and I took the small kids.  My daughter turns out to be just like me–she loved every single ride, only refusing those which spun high into the air (comparatively speaking–they were all little-kid rides).  She rode with her buddy while the two-year old was content to watch from his stroller. 

The only happening of note was when a particular ride operator and I both buckled in my daughter–our hands touched.  No big deal except then while my daughter spun in circles, the ride operating woman began to share too much information:  “My better half went and got me a coffee.” 

Me:  (Nod, smile tightly)  That’s nice.

Her:  Yeah, I have a really sore throat but hot liquids help.


Her:  Yeah, I made an appointment for Friday at 10:40, but I’ll have to take off some time.

Me:  (NEED TO WASH HANDS!  MUST FIND SINK!)  I hope you feel better soon.

Then, I promptly forgot all about it and didn’t wash  my hands.  I’m a sorry excuse for a germaphobe.  We did later use the bathroom and wash afterwards, so I can only hope I didn’t transfer any of sick-ride-lady’s germs to myself.   

After meeting up with my husband again and eating lunch (again, no lines), we headed toward the animal barns and saw horses, llamas, chicks, ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep and pigs.  (We did wash our hands after touching animals.)

And the sun came out!  The crowds began to build, too, and I congratulated myself on our early arrival.

We would have greeted Dora the Explorer (live, in a gigantic fuzzy costume), but I refused to stand in such a long line with my daughter who would probably not have let Dora touch her long enough for a picture to be snapped.  Plus, they were trying to get us to pay big money for a photograph and I wasn’t about to play along.

I did not see anything that I would have seen if I didn’t have children.  No retail booths.  No quilt displays.  No 4-H demonstrations.  No produce.  I didn’t even eat any fair food, nor did I ride a roller coaster.  I had no time to sit and study people.

But boy, the new Sillyville area of the fair, created just for children was quite delightful.

And we were home by 2:00 p.m.  (My husband took my 8-year old son back for the afternoon and evening.  Now, that is a boy after my own heart, a kid who wants to ride all the rides, see all the stuff and stay at the fair until the last light flickers off.)

This is the real, true official end of summer for me.  Blink.  All gone.


If you subscribe to my ClubMom blog, The Amazing Shrinking Mom, by following this link, you will get a daily email with a tiny excerpt from that blog.  You’ll also get fifty ClubMom points (if you save them up, you can exchange them for good stuff, eventually). 

Most importantly, I’ll have more subscribers than some of the other ClubMom bloggers . . . we’re having a contest and suddenly, my competitive nature shows up!  (Tip:  Never play board games with me.)  The blog with the most subscribers wins . . . I want to win!   (Not that I have a snowball’s chance in Florida with some of the big names over there, but still.)

Weekend Update

Saturday morning found me in the kitchen, preparing two dishes to take to a church potluck.  I suppose people exist in the world who have never experienced the joy of a church potluck, but I am not one of them.  I chopped and chopped vegetables for a salad and then created a lasagna-kind of crock-pot dish.

Then I left home.  I headed for the church to decorate my Sunday School classroom.  I’m teaching the preschoolers again this year, mainly because my daughter will not go to a Sunday School class unless I’m the teacher.  For years and years, I’ve taught preschoolers about Adam and Eve and about Noah and his ark and about Zacchaeus, the wee little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus.  I’ve introduced dozens of children to Bibles stories and this year will be no different.

I spent a few hours decorating (using left-over VBS materials, mostly) and finally, at 1:20 p.m., fled the church for the anonymity of Value Village.  I’ve mentioned before how the meditation of sorting through other people’s cast-offs soothes my mind and yesterday was no different.  (Alas, I didn’t find any Pampered Chef items this time.)

The potluck was well-attended.  My daughter exclaimed with glee over going to church for dinner. 

She asked, “Will we listen to the music?” and I said, “No, not tonight.  We’ll just eat.”  And she replied, “Good, because the music is boring!”  (On Sunday mornings, we strive to stay in the service until the sermon starts.  I tell her, “First, we’ll listen to the music.”)

That reminded of the time my 4-year old son explained to me why he didn’t like Sunday School:  “Because all they talk about is Jesus and Jesus is no fun!”

When we left the potluck, my daughter asked, “Are we coming to church tomorrow?” 

I said, “Yes.”

She said, “I don’t want to go to church!”  (She normally loves going.)

I said, “Well, we’re going.”

Then she launched into a fit, the specialized variety of four year old girls.  Tears ran down her cheeks and she wailed her displeasure.

We all buckled up and I drove the van home while she cried and cried.  When we entered the house, she immediately began stripping, even though she still wept.  “What are you doing?” I asked and she said, “I’m taking a bath!”

So, I ran the bathwater.  She watched a show and soon, was in bed.

She woke three times in the night, once at midnight (my husband got up) and twice in the pre-dawn darkness.  The last time, I didn’t even touch her, I just hissed, “Lay down and go to sleep!” and she mumbled something about a bad dream and I said (with no pity), “Just think happy thoughts and go to sleep!”

I returned to bed, grateful that my husband had suggested we stay home from church.  (He said so after I described her dismay and tears–he wasn’t home during the fit.)  The horrible night of interrupted sleep convinced me of the wisdom of staying home.  Plus, this would be our last chance to play hooky before Sunday School starts next week.

And my daughter?  I said, “Do you want to go to church?” and she said, “No!” followed by “Yes!” 

We went to church and as usual, I was glad we went.  The children are growing up with a sense that they belong to something bigger than just our family.  They belong to the family of God, a place where adults know their names and don’t even blink when they take four pieces of dessert at a potluck.  (Well, maybe they blink, but they find my children amusing, I like to think.)

Tomorrow, we’re going to the Western Washington Fair.  I am eager to show the draft horses and the piglets and the bunnies to my daughter.  My 8-year old will dream tonight of riding the fastest rides while my teenagers will try to decide which delectable fried food they should eat. 

I will wish I had more time to study the quilts and 4-H displays and I’ll take as many pictures as I can while balancing my desire to photograph the moment with my longing to participate in it.  

My husband will rush us along because that’s what he does, but we will slow him down.  For one day, we will all slow down, even as we hurry to the roller coaster line.

Locked Out!

Last night, at 9:00 p.m., I headed out to the grocery store for milk (and whatever else I realized we needed while strolling the aisles).  In the driveway, I looked at the set of keys in my  hand and realized that I’d grabbed my husband’s set of keys, which include an ignition key to our van, but not a door key.  I was too lazy to go back inside to get our set of van keys, so I said to myself, “Self, just don’t lock the door.” 

You see where this is going, right?

I shopped until my cart was sort of full.  I stood in line for quite some time because some lady needed a price check.  Finally, yawning, I paid for my groceries, reached into my purse to get my keys and said to myself, “Self, uh, you didn’t lock the door, did you?”

Surely not, right?  Is my attention span so short that I forget during the ten minute drive from my house to Albertson’s? 

I strode to the van, hoping against hope that my brain had overruled habit.  Alas, it did not.  I was locked out of my van.  I called my husband, not that he could help me because we only have one vehicle.  But while on the telephone with him, I came up with a plan:  I called my mother.

It was 9:42 p.m.

My mother was home, and around 10:00 p.m., I was loading groceries into the back of my van. 

So much for a quick trip to the store.  By the time I was home and the groceries were unloaded, it was past 10:30 p.m.

*  *  *

After my depiction of household school-at-home harmony, we had an unpleasant day today.  My Reluctant Student chose to skim his pre-algebra chapter review and then grew indignant, pouty and angry with me when I informed him he would have to actually complete the lesson.  I am so unreasonable.

Later, after the shouting, he began picking up toys and straightening up the family room.  I said, “What are you doing?” 

He said, “Cleaning up.” 

I said, “Are you doing penance?” 

Both boys said, “What’s that?”  I explained penance and thus, we turn even a difficult situation into a learning experience.  Ha.

Tonight, the same Reluctant Student helped me make quiche for dinner.  He can be so helpful . . . if only we could do something about the fits.

Rules Rule

When I was a teenager, a police officer in Seattle stopped my friend, Shelly, and me, and threatened to give us a ticket.  Our crime?  Jaywalking. 

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we take jaywalking very seriously.  In downtown Seattle, in fact, when you can look both ways and no cars are coming, you still stand on the curb and wait for the light to turn green.  You will, or you will pay.

I like that.  I like to follow rules.  I like other people to follow rules.  The world would be a better place if we all just followed the rules.  (My rules, in case you wondered.)

The other day, as I drove along savoring my freedom, the lights marking a railroad crossing began to flash.  I slowed to a stop, first in line at the crossing.

The crossing did not have a gate, only flashing lights.  I could see clearly down the tracks looking both directions.  Quite a distance to the right, I could see the train coming.

The rain puttered along very slowly.  I could have run faster than the crawling train.  Still.  I sat, obeying the flashing lights.

I reasoned that I could go . . . now! 

Or . . . now! 

Or even . . . now! 

But I sat.  I waited.  And waited some more.  I thought, I could have gone twenty times already! 

But I didn’t move.  Finally, the train arrived.  I could see the whites of the eyes of the train engineer.  I think he was smirking. 

I followed the rules, though.  Never cross railroad tracks when lights are flashing. 

I was that child in your classroom who shushed everyone, the girl who longed for the rest of the class to stop asking questions long enough for the teacher to complete the instructions.

I love rules.  (But not these rules.)  Curiously enough, I don’t want anyone to speak for me or tell me what to do.

But the Golden Rule?  The one where we all treat each other like we want to be treated?  (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Luke 6:31)  I try to do that.  I hope you try to do that. 

If that guy tailgating me or that woman parking her shopping cart in the middle of the aisle or my kids leaving their dirty dishes scattered hither and yon would also do that, I would be grateful.  If those drunks driving and those kids drinking and that cat pooping in my yard would also follow the rules, wouldn’t that be nice?

Also, if my daughter would refrain from waking me at 6:00 a.m., I would appreciate it.  The day should never begin before sun is up and shining through the window.  She, however, listens to the dictates of her stomach which apparently rumbled, “GIVE ME A DONUT NOW.”

I hate a predawn talking tummy, even more than I hate a slow train chugging down the tracks, wasting my precious free time.

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