Last night at 11:20 p.m., the phone rang. A late night phone call means one of two things: 1) Really, supersized bad news or; 2) Some drunk guy looking for someone. Last night, a woman’s voice said, “I’m sorry to call so late, but I just got home and there was a message on my machine from Ruby Dunlap saying that Grandma was not at home and there was some type of emergency. Do you know what’s going on?” I said, “Hold on, let me give you to my husband,” and then I passed the phone to him. He was already asleep, while I was just watching the last part of the news with half-closed eyes and trying to read the final page of Vanity Fair.

He listened for a moment, then handed the phone back to me, saying, “It’s one of your relatives!”

Oh. It was my Aunt Geri (I didn’t recognize her voice because we seldom talk on the phone). I asked her if she called my mom–she said my mom’s line was busy. (My mom has dial-up internet, no wonder.) I told her I’d call my mom’s cell and figure this out.

Now, my grandmother is 98 years old and we’ve been thinking for years that she’s going to die sometime. Every Christmas we say, “This could be Grandma’s last Christmas.” Every birthday, every Mother’s Day, same thing. Yet, she just keeps on living alone in her immaculate, little house, blinded by macular degeneration, keeping the thermostat at eighty degrees because she’s always cold.

My mother’s phone rang and rang and then I left a message, hoping she’d pick up. Then I called her cell. No answer. Then I called her regular number again and this time she picked up.

My mom told me that the big emergency at my grandma’s house was that her phone didn’t work. And during the day my mom had picked up Grandma and brought her over to her house and they tried to call Ruby (my grandma’s friend who calls her every day) so Ruby wouldn’t worry, but they hadn’t been able to reach her.

So, Ruby, worried so much that she drove all the way over to Grandma’s house, found Grandma missing and alerted the media! Okay, she only called my Aunt Geri, but still. In the meantime, my mother returned my Grandma home and they called Ruby and all was well. And it turns out that the “phone trouble” was simply a handset that wasn’t quite hung up properly.

Except no one remembered to call Geri. So Geri called me. So, after my mother, Queen of Detailed Stories That Go On and On, told me all this, I called Geri back and told her the short version: Grandma is fine. She was just at my mom’s house.

My husband said, half-asleep, half-joking, “Next time, don’t hand me the phone when it’s your relatives.” I had mistakenly assumed it was a church member, because we occasionally get those kind of church-related calls. A few times, my husband has sprung out of bed into the middle of the night to sit by a hospital bed or hold hands in the emergency room.

My baby, sensing my weariness, called to me at 5:40 a.m.: “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” in a tone that suggested she’d been abandoned without food or drink for days on end. I don’t know why she woke up a full two hours earlier than normal, but she did go back to sleep by 6:45 a.m., after I sat and rocked her.

I face the day, then, shrouded in the kind of tired that prompted George Costanza (on Seinfeld) to actually build a bed into the bottom of his desk at work, the kind of tired that reminds me of having mononucleosis, the kind of tired that convinced me to crawl back into bed until 7:00 a.m., rather than shower. Nothing like facing the day bleary-eyed and dirty-haired.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Here’s what is Too Much of a Good Thing: My daughter, the almost 2-year old Babygirl, at 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday night.

I have just had enough of her by then.

The darling is asleep now at 8:20 p.m. . . . a two full hours before fireworks are scheduled to begin. My husband will stay home while she sleeps and I will take my boys to my mother’s house to view the “rocket’s red glare.” She has a view of the Puget Sound where pyrotechnics will light up the night sky.

Babygirl also slept through today’s parade at 1:00 p.m. After church, we strolled through the three blocks of the street fair, bought nachos and then I left the boys with my husband, came home and put Babygirl down for a nap.

I enjoyed a gloriously quiet (though messy) house for two hours, which was way better than a parade. Even though I do love a small-town parade, I love solitude even more.

I might just be a recluse in my old age. Or maybe by then, I will have recovered from having Too Much of a Good Thing and my appetite for non-stop human interaction will return.

I’m looking forward to Independence Day–and by that, I mean my Empty Nest, which will occur in only 16 more years. Not that I’m counting. Really.

Moore: Smarmy Champion of the Feeble-Minded

With all the scattering of ashes at sea and weddings to perform, my husband’s weekends have been harried. So my weekends have been exactly like my weekdays–that is to say, daily laundry, the routine of caring for a two year old and fixing food for people to eat.

Last night, then, I went to a movie. Just me. I love to go to movies alone. And not just because I hate sharing my popcorn. No. I like the solitude in the midst of a crowd, the vast stretches of time in which to think. If you are with someone, small talk intrudes and your thoughts are disrupted. I like to sit, to eavesdrop, to daydream, to ponder.

I hated to do it, but I saw “Fahrenheit 9/11″, the Michael Moore satire-disguised-as-documentary. I arrived early at the theater and sat smack in the middle, screen at perfect eye-level. For a long time, there were only a few of us in the theater–a couple behind me and over a bit and some others behind my back.

I thought, “Wow, well, I guess the theater will be empty,” and then it gradually filled until I became a Republican island in the middle of a fiercely Democratic ocean. The seats on either side of me were empty. Other than that, I was surrounded and hoped that I wouldn’t accidentally get Tourette’s Syndrome and shout out “That’s a load of crap!” at one of Michael Moore’s ludicrous, yet solemnly-intoned statements (like the one about how Iraq had never killed any American prior to the most recent war). More than once, I wanted to protest, “But that’s just not true!” but I preferred not to be lynched on a rare Saturday night out, so I kept quiet.

The crowd around me, however, laughed uproariously at things that were not funny. They thought facial expressions of people who were waiting off-camera for the cameras to begin rolling were hilarious. Ha ha ha. Boy, it’s so funny to see someone waiting to go “on-air.” Let’s make fun of how people look. How mature and fun-loving we are!

What I did not find the least bit funny was the fact that Michael Moore showed no footage from the 9/11 terrorist attack–no mangled bodies, no people burned to a crisp, no bloodied faces–yet he lingered over gruesome footage of dead Iraqi babies and severely injured Iraqi children. Uh, hello? The terrorists purposely attacked and killed Americans. These poor dead and injured children were not purposely attacked. Our soldiers did not intentionally main or kill any innocent civilians. Furthermore, how about showing a little footage of Saddam Hussein’s cronies hacking off the hands of people who dared disagree with him or his dictates? Oh, no, wait, that would actually be full disclosure of truth. Can’t have that!

I found Michael Moore to be a smarmy man with an agenda and I wondered if those in the movie theater around me were so feeble-minded that they would swallow whole whatever irrational story he fed them. And please, would someone explain to him that parents do not enlist their children in the army as if they are signing up their children for summer-camp? Furthermore, those who enlist in the army are not children. They are men and women, capable, rational, thinking people who join of their own free will.

Just saying something does not make it true. Michael Moore surely must realize that, but I don’t think the giggling, critical crowd in the movie theater last night understands that fact.

So, here’s what I thought when I sat in the theater last night:

1) I am outnumbered.
2) These people obviously have not read what Christopher Hitchens has to say on the matter.
3) Our country is in serious trouble if people think this is funny.
4) I am smarter than everyone here.
5) Is this movie almost over? This is so boring. I probably should have seen Spiderman, even though I hate action films.
6) Michael Moore is an idiot and perhaps he’d like to spend a little time living under a despot like Saddam Hussein and get back to us. Now, that’s a documentary I’d like to see.

I Want A Saturday!

When I was in my twenties, I used to watch television’s “thirtysomething” with love and devotion. I never missed an episode and I cried almost every week while watching the interaction between Hope and Michael or Nancy and Elliot. I broke down completely and wept when Gary died. (Ironically enough, that happened after my own dad had died and his name was, you guessed it, Gary.)

One episode was all about Hope’s fervent wish for a “Saturday night,” an old-fashioned date with her husband. All sorts of things go awry, of course.

I’ve been thirtysomething for quite some time now. Almost the maximum allowable time, actually. You can see my approaching expiration date if you look very closely under my bangs–why do you think I have bangs? And while I haven’t experienced much of what I viewed as a dreamy-eyed twentysomething, right now, today, I am full of longing for a Saturday. Not a Saturday night, just a plain old Saturday.

I need a Saturday so I can sleep late, eat brunch at a cafe’, run errands, stroll along the beach, chat with old friends on the phone, drive along a scenic highway, hike on a trail, or just get out of the house. The last time I got out of the house, I was shopping for a miracle, and the time has come for another break!

This Saturday–tomorrow–held great promise. Last Saturday, my husband had to literally go out to sea for a cermonial scattering of ashes.

He mentioned just awhile ago that he has plans for tomorrow. Who’d like to guess what he has on his agenda? ::::Big pause for you to ponder::::: That’s right! A wedding!

Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow?

Taking care of four kids within the walls of my insane asylum house.

Someday, my day will come. And I hope it’s a Saturday.

Pretty in Orange

 Posted by Hello

I have a cousin named Cindy who is five years older than me, almost exactly. So, when I was 6 years old (as I am in this picture), she was 11. My Aunt Martha used to give my mother hand-me-down clothes from Cindy for me. We were always very grateful because we never had enough money. My father had spent the first five years of his marriage to my mother informing her that they were moving. He didn’t like his job, he could do better, so pack up, we’re hitting the road! On one of those occasions, they left in such a hurry that what couldn’t fit into the car–including my mother’s wedding gown–was left behind. My mother cried when the car broke down miles away and they ended up having to rent a U-Haul truck after all. They did not return for the left-behind stuff, though.

In their first five years of marriage, they brought three babies into the world–I was smack in the center, sixteen months older and sixteen months younger. Do you suppose I got enough attention? I still remember how frustrated and sad I was when I told my mom, “It’s not fair! I never get to hold the popcorn!” But phooey on my emotional needs. My dad was busy trying to find a better job, a job that deserved him. That’s why my parents moved us twenty-five times in their first five years together. And when I say “moved,” I mean from Wisconsin to Missouri to Montana back to Wisconsin with a U-Haul truck hooked to the back of our decrepit car. No down-the-block moves for us. I still remember during one move I could actually watch the street through the rust-eaten floorboards of the car.

When we finally settled into our house at Whispering Firs, I was in kindergarten and that’s when the bags of hand-me-down clothes began to arrive. My cousin’s daddy was a minister and consequently, she had lots of pretty dresses. For some reason, many of them were orange, so my school pictures from first grade, second grade, and third grade featured lovely orange attire. I thought I looked pretty hot at the time. I also nursed a fierce jealousy of Cindy with her fancy duds and her preacher daddy. My daddy slept all day and worked all night and had rough, calloused hands and a stern face. Her daddy’s hands were soft when he shook mine and his hair was smoothed perfectly into place and he always said, “Hi, Beautiful!”

The main problem with Cindy’s clothes, though, was the size. Cindy was a petite bird of a person. I’m more of the sturdy, frontier-girl type. Some of the beautiful clothes just wouldn’t fit around my normal sized waist. Which explains why I thought I was fat as a child. I was normal, but I was trying to fit into a Barbie doll’s clothes.

Today, Cindy lives not so far from me. I see her occasionally and she might weigh 90 pounds on a particularly “fat day.” I’m just thankful that I don’t have to try to fit into any more of her hand-me-downs. My grown-up self-image is wobbly enough as it is.

And here’s a tip for all mothers of girls: When your normal-sized girl says, “Mommy, am I fat?” please, please, please, just say, “No, of course not. You look perfect to me.”

Endless Chatter

You are sitting in the middle of an auditorium before a concert starts. Around you, the cacophony of voices simmers and boils and eventually makes you want to scream “SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!” and then plug your ears and run screaming from the irritating, never-ending noise. And then, afterwards, you walk into the cool night and the silence envelopes you. Blessed, blessed quietness.

For the past hour, I have been answering emails, reading a message board, instant-messaging while submerged in the endless chatter that spews forth from my children. For background noise, they have a Pokemon movie playing. Periodically, I look over and say, “PLEASE! Be quiet! Sit still! Stop talking! You! Get out of this room!” It doesn’t matter. They just never stop making noise, these children that God gave me. Me, the one who loves silence, the one who prefers solitude to crowds, the one who avoids parties, the one who’d rather read than make small-talk.

Real funny.

I used to torture myself when I was a child by trying to figure out which I’d rather be: deaf or blind. I would miss music, I decided, but blindness would be intolerable, because then I couldn’t read. Now, I know for sure, that deafness would be the way to go. Peace and quiet.

(I also used to try to figure out the best death. I settled on drowning or freezing to death. I think drowning quickly would be the better of the two. I was a quirky child, with entirely too much thinking time on my hands!)

I loved when the children were babies, because despite the occasional crying, babies are pretty quiet. Well, when they aren’t screeching and babbling. At least they didn’t talk back, or as my twins said when they were kindergarteners, “back-sass.” Nowadays, these kids are just plain loud. They don’t nap like babies do. They just keep polluting the air with noise. Can something be done about this? Aren’t there organizations that deal with the problem of noise pollution?

Well, now I hear the baby crying, so my break time has ended. Boy, do I feel refreshed.

Proof That I’m an Idiot Raising a Great Kid

I am an idiot.

I took YoungestBoy to the library way back when and let him check out some books. And videos. I personally hate it when the kids want to check out videos, because I want them to browse in the book section and fall in googly-eyed love with books, not get all blank-eyed while they stare at the videos. Anyway, I let him get four videos and five books.

They were due the day after school was out. I thought that would be perfect. I’d take the kids to the library–while we sang “doe-a-deer-a-female-deer. . . ” and held hands and skipped–and they would check out books for summertime fun. Only, my husband used the car that day and we didn’t get to the library.

Everything was overdue, but somehow (I blame my husband), I have not had a chance to take the kids to the library. Now it’s July. Watching a daycare baby really cramps my style. I literally cannot go anywhere with all five kids because my car cannot accomodate them all–and even if it could, do I really want to take five kids to the library?

My husband mentioned a time or two that the books were overdue. Yeah, yeah, whatever. A nickel per book fine, who cares? Then. Well, then I realized with a start that the fine for videos is $1.00. A day. Oh good grief. We had four videos ten days late.

That is why I’m an idiot. And the kids didn’t even watch one of them.

But, here is proof that I’m raising a great, amazing kid.

The other night, the doorbell rang at about 6:00 p.m. It was the neighbor boy, a just-finished-third-grader, who greeted my “hello” with an outburst that sounded something like this: “. . . and YoungestBoy gave me a game, but the case was empty and I gave him two games and it’s not fairrrrrrr!” YoungestBoy came rushing in and claimed that he had no idea that the game case was empty and that it wasn’t his fault and that TwinBoyA said he couldn’t trade that game. By that point, we were standing in front of the Nintendo GameCube, where TwinBoyA was actually playing the game in question. He was not about to loan it to the neighbor kid, as YoungestBoy had promised.

Neighbor kid was crying and carrying on.

It seems that YoungestBoy and neighbor kid had agreed on a trade. Neighbor kid loaned YoungestBoy two games and YoungestBoy was to loan one in return. Only, when he attempted to loan the game, TwinBoyA vetoed the plan and YoungestBoy, thinking quickly and deviously, gave neighbor kid an empty case, which he discovered upon his arrival at home.

Finally, the boys agreed to give neighbor kid a substitute game. He left, but shouted, “I’ll never trust you again!” to YoungestBoy.

Much later in the evening, YoungestBoy came to me and said, “Mom, I want to give the neighbors something to make up for trying to gyp them out.” I gave him permission. When it was all said and done, he’d picked out two of his own Gameboy games, two stuffed Neopet toys and a little stack of Yu-gi-oh cards. He dictated a note to me that apologized for “gypping” them. The next day, we walked down to their house and YoungestBoy handed over a little gold gift bag with these items.

My YoungestBoy still has a soft heart and when he hurts someone, he feels the sting. I hope he stays this way for a long, long time. He’s a great kid, despite me.

An Epilogue

So, I took the kids swimming after dinner. Even Fat Kid. Which was challenging because I drive a small 1993 Mercury Sable. I was squished in the driver’s seat because TwinBoyA sat in the middle and Fat Kid hogged the passenger seat. We stayed from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and then I bought everyone McDonald’s ice cream cones on the way home. The baby did not go to bed early and my mom stopped by just after I put her to bed at 8:30 p.m., which explains why I didn’t leave my house for the grocery store until 9:00 p.m., which further explains why I didn’t return home from the grocery store until 10:30 p.m., which explains why I am now going to bed at 11:35 p.m.

And did I mention that I babysat an extra 18 month old for three hours this morning?

I need a trophy. I’ll settle for a pat on the head.

The Stupid, Stupid Boy

The boys have a friend from school, who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy. Let’s just call him Fat Kid. Is that mean? Well, he’s anonymous, so I don’t care. And he’s fat. Really fat. Fat Albert fat. With dreadlocks.

Fat Kid is the youngest kid in a family of teenagers. He’s bossy, he’s mean and he invites himself over to play with my kids periodically. He constantly tells my kids, “No, YoungestBoy. No, TwinBoyA!” if they deviate from his rules. For some reason, TwinBoyA always says, “okay” when Fat Kid asks if he can come over. I cannot understand why my boys would agree to play with Fat Kid, but they always do.

So, today, just after I put the baby to bed, the phone rings. It’s Fat Kid. “Can I come over?” he asks my son. TwinBoyA asks me and I say, “When?” He asks Fat Kid and tells me “Two-fifty.” I think, well, nap-time will almost be over, so that will be all right because I know they’ll make noise, but not until the babies have already slept a good long while.

I agree.

At 1:15 p.m., I am informed that Fat Kid is on his way over. Uh, hello, Fat Kid? Can you tell time? Two-fifty is an hour later than one-fifty.

Now, at 2:30 p.m., what do I hear? That’s right. My baby is crying. She normally sleeps until 3:00 p.m. at least, sometimes 3:30 p.m. And when she wakes up, she wakes up happy, not crying. I have repeatedly told Fat Kid to keep it down, to not talk so loudly.

Stupid Fat Kid.

Oh, and guess what Fat Kid wanted to come over and play? Playmobil people. Playmobil people are like Barbies for boys–all the little accessories and everything. I can’t figure out exactly what they are doing, though. Fat Kid just keeps saying, “No! YoungestBoy, stop! Put that back! TwinboyA, okay, stop! Okay, it’s going to look stupid. Stop, YoungestBoy. No!”

Now, looking on the positive side (how uncharacteristic of me), maybe the baby will go to bed a little early and I can finish grocery shopping before 9:30 p.m. tonight.

Time to get Miss Priss from her crib. And I haven’t even finished my Diet Coke yet. I am annoyed.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

For you visual learners, I added pictures to the following posts:

YoungestBoy falls asleep in wacky position,

The boys at the beach,

and Kindergarten Slug Race.

And just because she’s so cute, despite her hair-deficiency, here is Babygirl:  Posted by Hello

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