Call Me “Director”
I am coordinating our church’s Vacation Bible School. This is my third consecutive year to direct this program, and consequently, I have a fairly solid staff of repeat volunteers. However, working with volunteers is almost amusing and sometimes frustrating. I called a volunteer from last year and asked if she’d be available to assist this year. She said, “Yes, I would, but I really don’t want to work with a group of children.” Well, hello!? That’s kind of what we do.

I did understand what she meant, though. She wanted to teach, not interact on a one-on-one as a crew leader. I suggested she be the preschool craft director and voila! A happy volunteer.

I do find I move through stages of organizing in a fairly predictable steps. The first step is: “Oh no, why did I agree to do this?” That’s quickly followed by: “This is going to be a disaster! No one is going to participate! No one is going to help!” Then, my final step: “Only three weeks and this will all be over, no matter what!”

I’m on the final step. Three weeks and this whole thing will be just a memory. We’ll probably have 100 children participate and 30+ volunteers when it’s all said and done.

The Pool
This afternoon, we went to the pool. Some family friends joined us–mom, dad and two boys, ages 4 and 2 and a half. I got into the pool with Babygirl and watched as they plopped their littlest boy into the pool, too. Both mom and dad sat near the pool, chatting and half-heartedly watching.

Then, mom says, “Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, NOLAN!” When she first started hello-ing, I looked around toward her, then when she yelled Nolan’s name, I looked back to the pool and saw him floating, face down, about six feet from me. I scrambled to get my feet under me so I could reach him, but before I could, his dad crashed into the water and snatched him up. Nolan was fine, but cautious and after that, his mom put his life-jacket on him. I thought, I would never have put him in this pool alone. I am a much better mother, even though she looks so much better in a swimsuit than I do.

Wouldn’t you know it, just awhile later, right in front of me, as I watched, Babygirl suddenly capsized and sank like a rock. I plucked her out of the water and she sputtered, wide-eyed, like she’d seen a mermaid in those twelve inches of water. I said, “You went underwater. Are you okay?” And she coughed a bit, and said, “Unner, wa-wa.” And then touched her head. “Hair. Wet.” She was nonplussed. Later in the afternoon, she lost her footing again while she was hopping and she dunked herself entirely again. I stood her on her feet and she choked and did that barky kind of seal-cough and then she was fine.

The only thing worse than a child being terrified of the water is a child who is not at all terrified of the water. They are both in danger of drowning without a sound if you look away for one second.

For that matter, that’s how I feel about coordinating VBS . . . in danger of drowning without a sound. In three weeks it will be all over. I can do this. I can. I can.


The Bird
I hate birds. Not birds in trees, but birds in captivity and that one bird which flew into the side of my head through my open car door window when I was seventeen. That stupid bird which perched in the back seat of my car fueled my disdain for birds and their little bird-brains. Then, a few years back, at the zoo, I went into the Lorikeet exhibit–against my will, but for the sake of my children–and a bird-brain-damaged bird flew into my hair. I did not want to alarm the children, so I did not scream, but I did say in a grim voice to the nearest adult, “Um, excuse me? Would you please help me remove this bird from my hair?”

I hate birds.

Guess what I see at the pool every time we go? Birds, yes. Cute little sparrow-like birds that flit through the chainlink fence in search of Cheeto crumbs. And then, there is a parrot that a woman carries on her shoulder. Okay, maybe it’s not a parrot, but it’s some kind of tropical bird.

The first time I saw it, I thought, “Geez, that must really suck when that bird poops down her back.” The woman’s back was broad (bringing “Silence of the Lambs” to mind) and exposed by her swimsuit. I kept shooting glances at this bird. Who brings a bird to a swimming pool? I didn’t notice that the bird wore a diaper until I overheard her mention it to some bird admirers.

Bird diapers. Who knew?

Where’s Babygirl?
I was in the pool with Babygirl yesterday. Another baby was frolicking in the pool, too. The mother and I exchanged pleasantries about our girls. Her daughter, Isabelle, is less than a month older than Babygirl, but she was dunking the back of her head underwater and climbing in and out by herself. The look in her sky-blue eyes was that of a maniac–wide-eyed and shocked–but she seemed happy.

Babygirl, on the other hand, walks carefully in the pool and tries to keep her hair dry. She likes to jump in, but she does make sure I’m going to catch her. She can’t climb the sides of the pool.

While I sat on the very edge of the pool, Babygirl was practicing hopping. She cannot manage a two-footed hop on dry land, but she can in the pool. So, she was hopping and I looked up at Isabelle’s mother and said, “Has she taken swimming lessons?” The mother said, “No,” and I said, “Well, she seems so comfortable in the water!” Then I looked at Babygirl. She was completely underwater, victim of a wild hop gone wrong, I suppose. I plucked her from the pool and stood her on the edge. She coughed and coughed, but never cried. She did get back into the pool, but she began to shiver because her head was wet and a cool breeze had kicked up.

“And You’re Ugly, Too”
This morning, while my husband was getting ready for work, he told me that yesterday he’d called a church lady. Rumor has it that Church Lady and her husband plan to leave our church. This grandparent-aged couple has been extremely involved in volunteer efforts. They have belonged to this church longer than we have, maybe by ten years.

But they are leaving. They never bothered to talk to my husband, who has been their pastor for the past six years. So, he called Church Lady yesterday to find out what’s going on.

He said, “Is there anything I’ve personally done that has offended you?” Church Lady said, “No.” He prodded a little more, trying to figure out the reason they would be leaving. She finally said, “Well, your sermons are too long and I don’t like your sense of humor.”

Well, then. Glad she figured this out after six years. My husband is a funny guy and he said, “Why didn’t she just tell me, ‘and you’re ugly, too’?”

I told him that God apparently needed Church Lady and her husband’s place on the pews for someone else. They will find some other pastor to complain about.

One of the most frustrating things about working with people in a church setting is that the people feel so free to criticize and discuss the pastor and his family–behind their backs, of course. And that’s all I’m saying about that, lest I sound as uncharitable as I feel at the moment.

“I’m Bored”

This is the first Tuesday of summer vacation. It’s 2:48 p.m. and already, TwinBoyB sat on the couch and said “I’m bored.”

Then it’s working.

My strategy this week is to let them do whatever they want to do. To not interfere in the endless hours of Nintendo and Gameboy and television. By next week, they will be so bored from it all that they will be putty in my hands.

Next week I will impose a little more structure. I have no grand schemes and dreams as in summers gone by when I thought I’d make them read a book a week and do a book report and practice their handwriting and learn the times tables. No. I have learned.

Summer flies by in approximately twenty minutes. I’m waiting until August to make them do the academic stuff the teachers sent home. We’ll get to the library this week, because they read every night. They will be starting journals next week.

Other than that, I’m playing it by ear.

Meanwhile, I told the boys that it will cost them a quarter for each time they say “I’m bored.” Be bored, but don’t irritate me by telling me so.

The Missing

When my twins were in third grade, TwinBoyB lost his school library book. It was about the moon and I looked everywhere for that thing. Eventually, I admitted defeat, and paid for the book. They just finished fifth grade, so it was awhile ago.

Last summer, or maybe two summers ago, YoungestBoy’s Gameboy disappeared from the living room. This was about the same time that my husband’s cell phone vaporized. I truly cannot imagine what happened to these things. Did a thief break in and steal two items? Did the dog literally eat them? If so, why didn’t I find the remains of them in the backyard during Poop Patrol?

We bought a replacement remote control because the kids lost the first two. And then the new one disappeared and the old one–the one that is held together with electrical tape because it was crushed once–surfaced. How does this happen?

I hate misplacing things. Even more, I hate searching fruitlessly for lost things. I’m afraid it’s a genetic flaw. My mother will spend an entire weekend in search of a single, invaluable piece of paper. In search mode, she stays in her pajamas, the make-up from the night before still on because she hasn’t gone to bed. She putters and rearranges and loses vast quantities of time searching for stuff. Entire weekends come and go while she tries in vain to find something.

I spend time searching for stuff, then surrender to the universe and admit defeat. We have a new cell phone now, and a new Gameboy. I bought another spare remote control, just in case. I tell the kids, “it’s not lost, it’s just misplaced.”

TwinBoyA took a disposable camera to school on one of the final days of school. He took half the pictures and then the next day, TwinBoyB took the camera. The camera has now disappeared. TwinBoyB claims he gave it to me, but he did not. The school says there is no sign of a camera with TwinBoyA’s name on it. If you happen to see a small, purple Kodak with his name written in Sharpie marker, will you send it back to me?

Meanwhile, guess what happened while I was sorting through the children’s books recently? The very same books that I have reshelved approximately seven thousand times in the last three years . . . that’s right. I found the moon book.

I was too embarrassed to call the school and ask, but I sure wish I could return that book now and get my fifteen bucks back.

The World’s Longest Day

This feels like the World’s Longest Day, or at least The Day The Sun Will Not Set. It is summer solstice, you know, which is why the sky is light here in the Pacific Northwest, despite the fact that it’s 9:20 p.m. Darkness will finally arrive at about 10:00 p.m.

But that’s not why this day feels so long.

Last night, we were at the swimming pool. Yes, when I say “we”, I am referring to me and my Girls. Oh, and my family, too. Anyway, when we got home, there was a phone message for my husband from our friend, Michael, who hails from Portland, Oregon. Michael and his family had been in Maui on vacation and their scheduled flight had been changed or rearranged and they missed it. The next best flight was one whose final destination was Seattle.

For those of you who missed geography class (we didn’t have geography class in my high school), Portland, Oregon, is three hours (or so) from Seattle, Washington. Michael and his clan boarded the plane, hoping that my husband would meet them at the airport and help them get home.

The plane was scheduled to arrive at 11 p.m. Or so he said.

My husband, being a prompt man who hates to be late, arrived at the airport before 10 p.m. He called me. “Did Michael call?” “No,” I said. He figured that Michael’s flight had to be the one arriving at 10:20 p.m.

At 11 p.m.: “Has Michael called?” “No,” I said.

At 11:30 p.m.: “Michael and his family are here. Can you get on-line and check the shuttle service from here to our house?” I checked. Last shuttle left at 10:20 p.m.

At midnight: “Someone will be staying at our house tonight and then tomorrow, they will take the train home. I just wanted you to know.”

So, all seven of them piled into our 1993 Mercury Sable. Their eight suitcases were piled into the trunk. Our little sedan has seat-belts for six. I still cannot imagine where they put seven people–which included one baby and her carseat.

Meanwhile, I come back downstairs, turn on the lights and survey the damage. I hadn’t done the lunch dishes because, well, because I hadn’t. Martha Stewart would be very disappointed in me. I finished my transcription after dinner, then we went to the pool and when we came home it was late and I was tired and I figured it could all wait until the next morning.

I swept the floor.
I unloaded the dishwasher.
I filled the dishwasher.
I washed the remaining dishes.
I scrubbed the stove.
I cleaned the bathroom.
I made a bed on the couch.
I cleaned off the table and stacked the newspapers neatly.

At 1:00 a.m., I crawled into bed. I was watching Bravo network’s “Insdie the Actors Studio” when I heard the front door open. Someone came upstairs to use the bathroom (I was so glad I’d cleaned it). Then my husband cracked open the door and saw that I was still awake, so he told me that they were just going to take the car home and he’d take the train down tomorrow and drive it home.

Then, he said, “Someone’s coming through to use our bathroom now.” I pulled the covers to my chin and said “hello” to Debbie as she walked through my laundry-strewn bedroom. How awkward.

I made small talk from under the covers. How odd. Even stranger still was a few minutes later after she’d left. My bedroom door opened again and Rachel (Debbie’s grown daughter) popped her head in and said, “Hi!” Again, more small talk about their vacation and adventure. I am gracious, even when tucked into bed for the night.

They left fairly quickly and then my alarm was ringing and it was morning. I showered and finished dressing before the phone rang. It was DaycareKid’s mom telling me she wasn’t going to bring him today because she was taking him to the doctor for his worsening eczema.

Hooray! A day off!
Bummer. No car.

My husband intended to take Amtrak down to Portland to retrieve the car. Until he remembered that his driver’s license was in the car. And you can’t get a ticket to ride on Amtrak without a picture identification card. So, Mike and Debbie had to turn around and drive our car back to us. He drove our car, she followed in their car.

Since he couldn’t go anywhere, my husband took the baby for a long walk in the stroller and while he was gone, I mowed the lawn and trimmed the ridiculously long boxwood hedge and sprayed the driveway weeds with Roundup. The sun was hot and soon, I was, too.

Our friends arrived an hour early at 3:00 p.m. I was in the front yard, sweating and pulling stupid grass from my ugly little flower bed by the driveway. My husband has suggested weed-whacking it to the ground. He was serious. He said, “Just tell me how to pull the weeds,” which, when translated into plain English means, “Go outside and pull those weeds.” I’ll admit that I was pouting a bit, because I didn’t want to do more yardwork. He was clipping ivy and a wasp stung him, leading me to remind him that if we had not done the yardwork, that never would have happened. Serves him right.

The rest of the day just dragged on and on. Babygirl never went to sleep–until she was in the car with her daddy, going for a ride. My husband is sweet–he takes her away so I can get things done. Today, I worked on letters for my volunteers for Vacation Bible School, which is approaching too quickly. Later, he took the boys to the video game store, while I played with Babygirl in the backyard. Then, still later, I took Babygirl shopping with me at Target. We sang “la la la la, la la la la, Elmo’s World . . . ” as we shopped. The theme from Elmo’s World–sometimes I wake up in the night and that song is playing on auto-pilot in my head.

Finally, finally, finally, the kids went to bed. The sky is now fading to black. Each day will now be subsequently darker and darker until I am complaining about the early nightfall. And so it goes.

Shopping for a Miracle

Yesterday, my husband granted me a brief furlough from the prison house. I had three hours. Oh, the pressure. How to spend this precious time?

I wanted to take my film to Costco to have it developed in one hour. I killed two birds with one stone by also picking up my husband’s contact lenses. After I dropped off the film, I drove a short distance to the mall. My plan was to buy my husband a Father’s Day gift and shop the sales rack at Gap for Kids. Babygirl needs new lightweight tights.

The moment I entered Sears, I became distracted, no, deluded by the thought that I might find a swimsuit. A Lands End swimsuit, because doesn’t Sears carry that brand now? I wandered until I found the swimsuits. Picked out everything that looked probable and tried it on.


Ack. What was I thinking?

I ventured to the Gap and bought my baby girl two white shirts and a darling pair of sunglasses (all on clearance).

Then, I thought, maybe Bon-Macy’s would have good swimsuits. Couldn’t hurt to try! Plus, I still had to buy that Father’s Day gift.

I found myself in the midst of a Sixteen Hour Sale. Women everywhere, swimsuits everywhere, crying babies in strollers everywhere! I started getting too hot, but now I was determined.

And then I found it. The Miracle Suit. It promised I would look ten pounds thinner in ten minutes. I figured that perhaps if I wore it for forty minutes, I could look forty pounds thinner. I have always been very good at math.

I picked out five swimsuits, paying careful attention to the top of the suit. I generally do not want to put mental images into your head, but let’s just say that I’m on the top-heavy side of things. And unlike Anna Nicole Smith, I prefer to keep the Girls private.

I couldn’t help but notice that the Miracle Suit that seemed the most promising–black with a lime green vertical stripe and a high neckline–cost $120.00. Yes, boys and girls, One-Hundred-and-Twenty-Dollars, American.

I was so desperate for a Miracle that it seemed like a bargain.

Now. Swimsuit manufacturers must not be familiar with well-endowed women. Or maybe it hasn’t occurred to them that naturally endowed women do not have the Anti-Gravity devices that plastic surgeons use to, well, defy gravity when they install extra-large melons on skinny, flat-chested women. My Girls do not stand at attention. They don’t even sit at attention. They basically lounge at attention and don’t even bother to get up when the President of the United States himself walks into the room.

The suits I tried on featured little kicky-skirts and stomach panels and optical illusion stripes–but then, on top, there was a stretchy bit of elastic and two little straps and that was it. People! Please! I might be a self-sufficient gal, but even I need a little support every now and then. Or are we busty chicks not supposed to swim?

Let me tell you, that Miracle Suit? A fraud. A fake. A phony. I did not find a Miracle in that dressing room. Where was Benny Hinn when I needed him? I threw that suit down in disgust. Well, not really. I just clipped it back onto the hanger and sighed. By then, I was really hot and wondered if I had enough time to get an ice cream cone. And I’d decided that I really do have to go to Weight Watchers this week. I cannot face another dressing room mirror. The mirror doesn’t lie.

My respite was nearly over and all I had done was face my unclothed self in various unmiraculous swimsuits. The wasted time! Who could I sue for this outrage? I wanted a Miracle, no matter the cost!

I rode the elevator downstairs (after putting on my capri pants and t-shirt, of course) and bought my husband a belt and a purple tie, as per his request (the belt) and YoungestBoy’s request (the tie). Then, back to Costco to pick up pictures and frozen hamburger patties and buns.

Today, I wore a swimsuit. My old Lands End suit from last summer. I bought it at Goodwill last year. For $3.00.

The sun is shining and it’s a hot day here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m in the baby pool with my suit on. Black, mock-tankini. My strategy involves not looking down at my body. I use denial because really, what can you do once you’ve left the safety of your own home? I left the house with a plan to leave my shirt on, but take my shorts off because even though the wading pool is just a foot deep, my shorts had gotten soaked on previous visits.

Using my logic, I put my bra on under my swimsuit, because I hate the smushed, uni-boob look and no one would see it, right? So, I’m in the pool, red t-shirt on top, swimsuit on bottom. Then, I think, wow, it’s so hot out today. I think I’ll just take off my shirt so I can dip my whole self into the pool. I nonchalantly pull the shirt over my head, maintaining my policy of not looking down at myself.

It took me about five minutes to remember that I was still wearing my lavender bra. Yes. Under my swimsuit, clearly visible. Lavender satin. I refrained from screaming and simply stepped out of the pool and pulled the red shirt over my head again.

Later, I did a flash-dance move and surreptitiously removed the bra from my swimsuit and stuffed it in my purse.

Now, that maneuver, my friends, is a Miracle.

Kids at the Swimming Pool

We belong to a private swim and tennis club. We pay $400 a summer for this privilege and my children adore going to the pool. Even Babygirl says “pool” and wears her tiny little swimming suit and jumps into the one-foot pool over and over again (while I catch her, of course).

On Friday night, I was standing in the pool, catching Babygirl over and over again. My mother sat near the edge of the pool, taking pictures. My twins were over in the big pool, out of my sight. My 6 year old was playing with two other little boys, skinny, scrawny, tan little kids. I had noticed them eating Nerds and joking around.

I guess I heard a noise. I looked up and saw the three boys sitting on a tall table under the covered area. YoungestBoy’s face was contorted and he was yelling “Stop! Stop!” The other two boys were laughing while YoungestBoy cried.

Without even a hesitation, I took a giant step out of the pool, wrapped Babygirl in a towel and strode over to YoungestBoy. The boy with glasses scurried away, but the very tan, skinny boy couldn’t duck under the table before I caught his arm. I said, “You! Stay there!”

YoungestBoy was incoherent. I heard something about a game that went awry. I gave Tan-Boy the evil eye and said, “If this happens again, I will tell your parents. Do you understand me?” Meanwhile, another mom had collared the Glasses-Boy. Then I said, “Son, tell me what happened.” To Tan-Boy, I said, “Don’t move!”

YoungestBoy told me that Tan-Boy and Glasses-Boy had been pinching him “here” (he pointed to his chubby little boy boobs) and slapping him, even though he was telling them to stop.

What?! I said to Tan-Boy and Glasses-Boy, “WHAT? That is not all right. We are going to talk to your parents. Take me to your mom or dad right now.”

Reluctantly, Tan-Boy took me to his dad. I said, “Our sons were playing together and your son was slapping and pinching my son, even though he told him to stop. I already yelled at him and I thought you’d like to talk with him, too.” Dad seemed unconcerned, unsurprised.

By now, tears were running down the face of Glasses-Boy. His mother was at the far corner of the area. When we reached her, I gave her the same little speech. She seemed shocked.

Then I returned to YoungestBoy who was back near the covered area, trying to figure out how to retrieve a wayward beach ball. I noticed a five-fingered slap mark on his back. I asked him again what happened, but he didn’t want to talk about it. I told him the boys were in trouble.

Just then, my husband walks up. He’d just arrived. I said, “Oh, you just missed an incident.” He wanted to know all about it, but I didn’t want to tell him in front of YoungestBoy, so I tried to abbreviate the story. He was confused, but furious and said, “Son, if that ever happens again, you should smack that kid as hard as you can!”

Gotta love testosterone.

My husband was concerned about the whole thing and after talking to a friend of ours, asked me to repeat exactly what happened several times. It seemed like he thought I had overreacted, but once he understood exactly what happened, he agreed with my response. The boys had previously been playing a game of “Duck, Duck, Slap” and he feared that YoungestBoy could give, but not take . . . (I know. Duck, Duck, Slap? Only boys would make up such a game.)

But this went far beyond a game. He was crying and they ganged up on him, the little skinny boys.

Both moms made their kids apologize. Before we left, the boys started playing together again. Both moms came to me to make sure everything was all right. I made sure to point out the hand-shaped slap mark which was still red on YoungestBoy’s back, just in case anyone thought I was an overprotective, insane mother.

Tan-Boy and Glasses-Boy won’t be messing around with me or my YoungestBoy again. Of that I am one hundred percent sure.

Don’t mess with me or my kids. That’s the number one rule this week.


Because I am an “active blogger”, I receive an invitation to get Gmail. That’s why I have the extremely concise and yet lovely address Melodee (at)Gmail(dot)com.

I’ve been able to invite a few friends to join Gmail. Then I discovered that Gmail invitations were selling on eBay and that entire websites were set up that traffic in Gmail swapping. I jumped right on the bandwagon and sold two Gmail invitations on eBay for about $15 a piece. That was two days ago.

Now tonight, I have received more invitations to extend to friends and associates. I listed one on eBay. I extended an invitation to my husband. And I have one left.

I thought it would be fun to offer it to one of you, my readers. So, who wants an invitation to Gmail? You can google Gmail and read all about it. Then tell me why you should receive my final invitation. May the best reader win! I hear that some people were swapping fudge for Gmail invitations. I’m just saying. Post a comment or use my Gmail address to email me privately.

I’ll post the winning plea tomorrow (unless, of course, the winner prefers to remain anonymous). Good luck, have fun and remember: Flattery and gifts will get you everywhere!

Another Week Ends

Another week ends and here I sit, sore back, squinty eyes, stiff fingers. I accepted another transcription job, due Wednesday morning, which unfortunately, will dominate my spare time (also known as Nap-time and Bed-time). On one hand . . . ick. On the other hand . . . cash!

Yesterday, my dear husband worked from morning to night. After Babygirl’s afternoon nap, the children and I walked down to the nearby elementary school. I just wanted to get them out of the house. Babygirl had a fine time playing on the preschool play structure. She appears to love slides as much as YoungestBoy loved swings when he was her age. I sure hope she prefers slides to swings, because I hate pushing swings. I know. No Mother of the Year Award for me.

Today, my dear husband had to work most of the day again. The boys went to a birthday party at the pool and my husband came home just as they were leaving. He volunteered to stay home while Babygirl napped, so I could go to the party. I would have rather stayed home myself and enjoyed the nice quiet house, but I think he was even more tired than I was. I had a great time at the pool, despite my initial reluctance. A few of the other mothers and I chatted, I took a lot of photographs of the kids and the topic of scrapbooking came up. The other moms all admitted they were behind on their scrapbooks, too, and I suggested we all scrapbook together. Now I have email addresses and I’m going to set up a little “scrapbooking bee.”

The boys were exhausted after the party. They woke up this morning before 6:00 a.m. because they wanted to play the video games I’d rented for them Saturday night. SLAM! Stomp, stomp, stomp, yell. SLAM! The rain and the slamming of the door disturbed my beauty sleep and I was none too pleased about that. I can’t wait until they children are teenagers and they want to sleep until noon. I intend to vacuum very loudly outside their door and then I’ll follow that up with loud banging of the pots and pans. Revenge will be sweet.

Finally. I saw a law firm building with the name of the firm displayed in large letters: “Small, Snell, Weiss and Comfort.” I thought how fortunte Small and Comfort were to have Snell and Weiss join them, because really, would you hire a law firm called “Small, Comfort, Attorneys at Law”?

Freaky Friday

Today, no DaycareKid because it’s his dad’s day off. I always feel like Fridays are a special holiday because I can actually leave my house and run errands. Except today the banks are closed. I think. Because it’s a National Day of Mourning. I saw bits of the ceremony on television and I was reminded again that ceremony is kind of what glues us together on days like today. And not just “us”, the public, but “us”, those who mourn.

Way back, before we had children, we started a church. My husband did the pastor-stuff and I did the teenager/kid stuff. We had a very small youth group, but one blond girl in particular was helpful and sweet and popular at school. Her name was Andrea, and I used to feel so sorry for her, even while I admired her spunk. Her dad, you see, had been a pastor when she was a young girl. And then he screwed up. Literally. If you know what I mean.

That’s why Andrea and her brother, Jordan, ended up living with their newly single-mother. Their father sold cars for a living and was largely absent from their lives.

We didn’t stay at that church all that long and a few years later, when Andrea was seventeen, we received a phone call from a member of our former church. Andrea had been sitting with a friend on the side of the rural road where she lived and a car struck her. The car had been passing a slower vehicle and never saw the girls.

Andrea lived for a short time, but her brain stem had been severed and she died. My husband and I drove hours to be at the funeral. I spoke at the podium about Andrea during the funeral and when I finished, I stumbled off the stage and then wept.

But later, I found myself dry-eyed, setting up chairs and arranging food and making small talk. And (finally), here’s my point. Setting up chairs is just what you do. It gives you something to do so that you don’t just curl into a ball in a corner and sob until your eyes swell shut. You just do the regular, mundane stuff. You sing Amazing Grace, you sit in a pew, you set up chairs, you shake hands. There is more pomp and circumstance, of course, if you are a former president, but even when you bury a seventeen year old girl, you embrace the protocol and the ceremony and the structure because without it, you might just fall apart forever. You need the glue of ceremony.

The other thing that struck me about President Reagan’s funeral was that Patti Davis seriously needs a makeover. Please, cut your hair, Patti! If my hair gets too long and unruly, will someone please tell me? Please, I am begging you.

So, Day of Mourning or not, we went and as I drove toward the freeway with Babygirl and YoungestBoy buckled into the backseat, I had the radio tuned to the funeral. Ave Maria and then Amazing Grace filled my car and served as background music to the most mundane things: YoungestBoy chattering on about Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Babygirl shouting “bus!”, workers digging by the side of the road, a woman waiting for the bus, car lights blinking and slowing down ahead of me. The moment was surreal and reminded me of a movie, when the music swells and the images change in lieu of narration and time marches on. And then the music fades and the storyline picks up.

As I pulled off the freeway, I saw an odd sight. There was a goose, a Canadian goose, walking around on the shoulder of the freeway. Uh, hello, Mr. Goose? Did you lose something? I wanted to see if a car would hit it, but that would have involved me losing conrol of my vehicle and hurtling over the overpass, which would have made my husband really annoyed, so I just drove on.

Our first stop was Krispie Kreme donuts. I’d never been to the bakery before. Babygirl toddled along behind us. She refuses to hold hands. YoungestBoy was excited to watch the donuts being fried and going under the waterfall of glaze. He ate three donuts, while Babygirl ate half.

Then we went to the nearby mall. I thought we’d kill some time while waiting for Costco to open (at 11 a.m.!). I didn’t realize that Babygirl would refuse to sit in her stroller, though, so our meandering path through the main corridor of the mall took forever. We went into the Gap for kids and I bought two shirts ($3.99 each!) and a pair of pink Mary Janes for Babygirl ($8.99 on sale). I tried the shoe on Babygirl’s foot. She was very cooperative, but when I tried to put her original shoe back on, she cried and yelled “no!” and refused. I showed her the little shoe and I explained that we had to pay first and then she could wear it, but she cried “no” more.

Until then, she was a happy little shopper. I paid for the items and asked her if she wanted the shoe on. No. I put her regular shoe back on and we headed back outside. Which took forever, because she still wouldn’t sit in the stroller. YoungestBoy pushed the stroller and kept swerving it into me. Oh yeah, now I remember why I never take the kids anywhere.

We went to Costco finally and I dropped off my film. Alas, we stayed less than an hour, so I’ll have to pick it up later. I put Babygirl in the seat of the shopping cart and YoungestBoy decided to climb under the bottom of the cart and ride on his stomach. I warned him several times to keep his hands off the floor and away from the wheels. And then, two Asian women blocked the aisle and I paused. When they finally moved, I pushed my cart and it did that skidding thing–you know, when a rock or something catches under the wheel? Only, of course, it wasn’t a rock. It was YoungestBoy’s left ring finger.

He didn’t even make a sound because it hurt so much. He crawled out with his little bloody ring-finger with its tiny little bitten fingernail and his filthy, dirty hands and tears on his face. I knew the pain was worse than any “I told you not to put your hands on the ground” lecture, but there was still a moment when I wanted to throttle him and yell at him for not listening to me when I was trying to prevent this from happening in the first place! Upon closer examination, the injury wasn’t that serious. Just a little blood. I added a huge box of Band-aids to our cart and we paid and then went to the bathroom to wash up and do a little Mom first-aid.

He’s fine, but he calls it “my injury.” “Mom, I’m just lucky that my injury was not on my strong hand.” I said, “Yes, you are very lucky.” In an unlucky sort of way, of course, because do lucky boys get their ring-fingers run over by enormous Costco shopping carts?

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