My husband returns tomorrow. He’s been out of town since Monday. Since he was gone, I accomplished a few things:

1) Kept all children alive.
2) Fed all children.
3) Washed laundry, lots of it.
4) Took children to beach on Monday.
5) Went to meeting about on Tuesday. (Took Babygirl. Left big kids with a babysitter.)
6) Took kids to Weight Watchers meeting on Wednesday, but weighed in and missed meeting part so they could play on slides afterwards. Bribed them with ice cream to leave play structure, ensuring future Weight Watchers customers who have Food Issues. I didn’t lose weight, nor did I gain, which I consider a victory considering I went out to eat twice this week, then had a small skirmish with a carton of low-fat ice cream in my husband’s absence.
7) Scrubbed my shower stall and cleaned bathroom sink.
8) Vacuumed family room, though why? There are popcorn crumbs and kernels scattered everywhere, just from tonight. A family of mice could survive for a decade on the provisions found on this carpet.
9) Cleaned the twins’ room and washed their bedding more than once. (Don’t ask.)
10) Met my mom at the swimming pool tonight. Ate dinner and swam for almost 3 hours.
11) Cared for daycare baby a total of 36 hours.
12) Went to the zoo with five children.

What I did not accomplish:
1) Mopping floor.
2) Writing thank-you notes to volunteers from last week.
3) Ironing of any sort.
4) Eight million other things that nag at me every day–from smudged windows to grimy floors to scattered toys and the ever-present pile of papers on the kitchen counter. The very idea of the clutter in my storage room drives me to distraction. My living room cries out for paint. The back yard needs mowing, the front yard ivy needs trimming.

I did not exercise.
I did not make any overdue appointments with the children’s doctors.
I did not arrange for the kittens to get vaccines.
I did not scrapbook.
I did not find the cure for cancer, nor did I compose a heart-wrenching love ballad to my husband.

The thing about being a mother and being me at the same time is that I cannot work in the manner that is comfortable for me–working sequentially and systematically on projects. The “me” part needs to work in order. The “mom” part of me is constantly interrupted, day and night. A constant stream of noise squeezes the thoughts out of my brain. Tonight, on the way home from the pool, all four of my children were making noise at the same time, talking, chanting, babbling. And the radio was on. I clicked the radio off, because that was the only noise I could silence.

I often feel like I’m not getting a thing done. So why am I so exhausted?

A Book Review

I just finished reading Candace Bushnell’s Four Blondes.   She’s the author of Sex and the City, which I have not read, nor have I seen the show.  She talks about Four Blondes here.

Let me just say how thankful I am that I purchased it at a garage sale for a quarter, because that’s exactly how much it was worth.  She should pay me for the time I wasted reading it.  I read the entire dreadful book–which I don’t always do.  When I was young, if I hated a book, it didn’t matter.  I had to finish it, according to my self-imposed standards.  Not any more.  Now I will abandon a book without a flicker of guilt.

But I kept reading Four Blondes, thinking it would get better.  It did not.  This book purports to be the tales of four different New York women.  It read more like a rough draft of a college creative writing project.  No plot, no theme, no underlying meaning to her stories of shallow women living sorry lives.  As far as I’m concerned, Candace Bushnell owes me $28.00–minimum wage for four hours of time I spent reading this book.

Now, I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Blue Shoe.  The writing is beautiful and stands in vivid contrast to the clunkety writing by Candace Bushnell.  Anne Lamott rocks.

I’m also re-reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle.  I love this book so much.  I penciled in comments the first time I read it.  Everyone who aspires to write or create should read this book–even though it was written in 1972, it’s timeless and inspiring. 

The Zoo

I feel so much pressure this week to do something fun with the kids. My husband left early Monday morning and returns Friday afternoon and while he’s gone, I have the car. And the kids. Normally, I only have the kids, so I wanted to take advantage of the situation and seize the day.

Only two things stand in my way. Okay, three things. The first obstacle is DaycareKid. It’s tough to go anywhere with a toddler, but add an additional toddler and truly, you have double the trouble. Or triple the trouble. For instance, there is no way I’d take him to the ocean or up to Mount Rainier. I just couldn’t. The second obstacle is nap-time. Nap-time is sacred around here. So, we can’t be gone for longer than three hours. We must return home by noon. We can’t go after nap-time, either, because that’s when DaycareKid’s mom comes to pick him up. These two obstacles alone leave me pretty well boxed in.

And then, admittedly, the last obstacle is one of my own making. The last obstacle is my inertia. An object at rest stays at rest, right? That’s me. It’s just easier to stay put than it is to muster up the momentum to get us all moving forward in the appropriate direction. It’s easier to just watch The Wiggles, then go outside to play, then watch Sesame Street while playing in the family room, then having lunch, then watching more Wiggles before nap-time. Taking a toddler anywhere is like plopping a live grenade in your purse and just hoping no one jostles you. Too many things can nudge a toddler into a full-blown tantrum. It’s a chance I am loathe to take.

But this morning, I propelled us out of our normal orbit and off we went to the zoo. We left before 9:30 a.m., which seems like a minor miracle since I didn’t decide we should go until 8:30 a.m.

The zoo is on the smallish side. They’ve just redone a habitat featuring tigers, but my kids loved watching the elephants eat hay and spray dirt all over themselves. We spent a good deal of time watching sharks swimming by in the South Pacific aquarium. The bigger kids loved the dark tanks full of jellyfish and mysterious unfamiliar fish in the lower aquarium, but Babygirl was not so fond of those eery, spooky places, so we hurried through that part.

Half-way through our adventure, Babygirl decided she would no longer ride in her stroller. She wanted to walk and push her stroller herself. So, she did. Fortunately, the zoo wasn’t crowded or she’d have been bashing into people every two minutes. Thus, we entirely missed the polar bears and the penguins and scarcely glanced at the beluga whales and–my favorite–the grotesque, pinkish, gigantic walrus. He floated between two submerged stones, as still as a stone himself, but for the flaring of his nostrils and the flickering of his whiskers. Normally, he does a ballet around and around his tank.

It wasn’t until we left the zoo and I buckled Babygirl into her carseat–overriding her wishes to do it herself–that she screamed and cried. I thought that was pretty lucky since I had five kids with me and anything–literally anything–could have gone wrong at any step along the way. My big kids were very, very cooperative and helpful. Some days they are like that. I should fall on my knees and thank God.

We went through a McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home, thus accomplishing two goals: feeding the kids and keeping the little ones awake. When we got home, it was just about nap-time.

And during nap-time today, I was a responsible grown-up and I balanced the checkbook. I know. I should get a medal of some sort. Or a brownie. Or a day off.

Look Away

I am crabby.  Really, really, really crabby.  So crabby that Child Protective Services should come to my front door and remove my children.  So crabby that the sound of my children eating popsicles annoys me.  Now they will be all sticky and a sticky cellophane wrapper will stick to my sock when I am least expecting it.
Everywhere I look, I see stuff I want to unsee.  I see piles needing organization.  I see messes needing cleaning.  I see crumbs needing sweeping.  I see children needing nail-clipping and tooth-brushing and lessons from Miss Manners.  I see unfolded laundry and wrinkled shirts.  A stack of videos balances precariously on top of the dusty television.  I’ve decided I am just going to dump my unread magazines into the recycling bin.  As soon as I shake this crabby lethargy.
Oh.  My.  I’m living in a Goodwill store. 
Tonight, I have to attend a meeting about a new school program.  At 6:30 p.m., with my almost-2 year old in tow.  That will be fun.  Big sigh.  Tomorrow night, I have another meeting.  When was it that I thought I’d gallivant around our beautiful state with the children?  That means no pool today, no pool tomorrow.  Thursday, maybe, is our zoo day.  The ocean is positively out of the question since Friday–my day “off” with no daycare baby to care for–is the day my husband returns and then we’re having a barbecue at the pool with our friends that evening.  And I have to make and take all the food.  In my spare time.
I’m such a whiner.  Please.  Someone, shake me. 
And make it a chocolate malt, if you don’t mind. 

Afternoon Delight

The minute DaycareKid’s mom picked him up, I herded the neighborhood boys out the door and loaded my kids up in the car and drove them directly to McDonald’s.  Thus, marginally nourished, I drove to the beach where we spent the next two hours. 
I just want to know–why, oh why, do I have children who are fixated on swings?  My older boys (you know, the adopted ones who are on the lower tier of my affection) hated swings.  They would freak out if I pushed them too high.  YoungestBoy has always adored swinging and tonight, Babygirl fully embraced the whole swinging experience for the first time.  Her hand muscles are probably going to be sore tomorrow morning when she wakes up because she spent close to an hour clutching the metal links while clamoring “more swing!  more swing!”. 
Why are so many motherhood activities so mind-numbingly boring?  I mean, pushing her on the swing for fifteen minutes–perfect!  Half an hour?  Uh, I’m losing interest and I’d like to sprawl out on the lawn and watch the sunlight shimmering on the Puget Sound.  A whole hour?  Puh-lease.  Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring.  Of course, I put on my Good Mother face and push and then tickle her when she swings close to me again and I do all this while trying to keep an eye on my boys who have joined in with another boy in making water balloons.
Anyway, first she did slide for awhile.  Then the swings.  Then we all went down to the edge of the beach and the boys waded in–YoungestBoy went to his waist and then lost his flip-flops and then sort of plunged in to swim after them, giving me heart palpitations.  Babygirl would have nothing to do with the waves as they splashed on the rocky shore.  She climbed the retaining wall, saying, “Swing.  Swing.”  She would not be deterred, so I made the boys come back up to the swingset, which is when they found the Water Balloon Kid.  Then I was stuck pushing the swing for an hour.  Or so.
We bribed her out of the park with a promise of ice cream.  At first, she said, “no,” but all of the sudden, she said, “Okay.  Fast!” and she started to run.  She ran all the way up the wide walking path, all the way across the railroad tracks, all the way up the hill to the parking lot and then all the way across the parking lot to the car.  I think she will run marathons when she grows up.
We went to McDonald’s again for ice cream.  I know.  There goes my Mother of the Year award. 
By the time we returned home, it was almost 8:00 p.m., her bed-time.  The boys will be going to bed in minutes and finally–Mom is Still a Grown-up Time begins!
By the way, I noticed a couple of days ago that Babygirl’s hair is exactly the color of a dead lawn.  Just in case you were wondering.

I’m So Sure

When I was a teenager, my most overused phrase was, “I’m so sure!”  I still say it.  For instance, when I woke up early this morning and realized I have a cold, followed by this week I’m home alone with no help from my husband.  I thought, I’m so sure!
But, I took Advil, I ate my usual oatmeal breakfast and I don’t feel too bad.  It’s 10:10 a.m., so naptime is less than three hours a day.  How pathetic that I’m counting down the hours.  I used to do that when I had a really boring customer service job way back in history when I used to have a job with benefits–benefits other than the benefit of wearing black scuffy slippers all day.  I had to clock in for 7.5 hours each day and I counted down starting at about 6.5 hours.  Back then, I longed for a baby and for this life, the one I have now.  Lucky me, dreams come true.
Last year was my 20 year high school reunion and it was so much like high school.  I sat at a table with the two smartest high school girls (both still single) and we chatted while everyone else drank a lot and talked loudly.  Okay, maybe not everyone, but it did remind me a lot of high school.  I’m glad I went, though, because I reconnected with a few others from high school and it’s such a surreal experience to see the high-school kids you remember transformed into balding, pudgy men and actual grown-up women with colored hair that you can’t really recognize.  Why do all these people look so old when I am still so young and spry?
One of the women from high school has a blog and that’s how I know that last Saturday she and her husband went to Seattle, bought tickets to see The Lion King, did a training run with a marathon group, went to the Bite of Seattle, met someone for dinner, and then ended the day by seeing American Idol in concert.  They don’t have children, and I know that was not their choice, but still.  Why didn’t I enjoy my life more before I had children?  Oh yeah, that’s because we had no money and no time. 
Jealously is such a waste of time.  You know the last time I went to Seattle?  Um, that would be two days before I gave birth to Babygirl who is almost two years old.  The last concert I saw?  That would have to be about 8 years ago.  The last time I went to Bite of anything?  I can’t even remember that far back. 
My life is so small now, confined to this house, in this neighborhood.  It’s like one of those sponges–when you put it in water, it expands to ten times its current size . . . well, my life has been condensed to one-tenth of its former size.  Not that I would trade this life, but sometimes it does feel a little cramped.
But Friday, we have a day of freedom coming.  I think I’m going to take the kids to the ocean for the day.  And throw them in.  Just kidding
[My toddler has refused to wear a diaper this morning.  I just said to her, “Tell Mommy when you need to go pee-pee, okay?” and she looked at me with teenage defiance and said, “No!”]

Seventeen Years and Counting

My husband is leaving me tomorrow.  Today we celebrated our seventeenth anniversary.  It’s always this way because we got married on July 18, right in the very middle of the summer when he always has to jet off for an annual church-related meeting.  Some years, he’s even gone on our actual anniversary day.
But we are a very low-maintenance couple.  I’m an extremely low-maintenance wife, in fact.  He should thank me for that.  While the baby was napping, we had brunch at a very hoity-toity restaurant overlooking the Puget Sound.  We spent $50.00 on our meal.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Someone gave us a check for $50.00 today for our anniversary.  I like to think that God is looking out for us.
We never linger in restaurants.  We’re kind of that couple who speaks a little, but mostly sits in companionable silence, gazing out the windows, trying to eavesdrop on other patrons (I’m the eavesdropper–he mostly wishes he had a tiny little television screen attached to his wrist so he could always keep tabs on Fox News).  We finished so quickly that I dropped him off at home and went to the grocery store.  We need provisions during these five days he’ll be gone and I most certainly do not want to take four children into the grocery store.  That would be financial suicide.
We agreed not to exchange gifts or even cards.  I’m unsentimental like that.  I’ve heard people talk about renewing their vows and stuff like that, which I find to be a silly idea.  My vows haven’t expired and I hated putting on the whole wedding the first time around.  I didn’t like all those people watching me walk up the aisle, I didn’t like the long session with the photographer, I didn’t like having to make small talk with so many people.  Why would I do that to myself again? 
Anyway, so happy anniversary to me.  It really is easier to stay married the longer you’ve been married.  If, of course, you chose wisely.  I chose a man who is kind, calm, diligent, trustworthy, dependable, funny–very, very funny–a man with good friends and a consistent, solid world-view, a man who seeks to understand theology and who longs to be an authentic follower of Christ.  He also puts up with me, which is quite an undertaking since I am 1)  a woman and 2) always right and 3) ridiculously sequential in the way I deal with the world.  Also, he laughs at my sarcastic jokes.  How can I not stay married to a guy like that?
And now, I have to go clean out our 1992 Buick.  It’s sitting in the church parking lot with a trunk full of hamster cages and a Lego table and other assorted junk.  I need to empty it because we are donating it to charity.  The last time it didn’t start we decided enough was enough.  The poor thing has 265,000+  miles on it.  From now on, we’re a one-car family.
My husband leaves at 6:20 a.m. and what better way to spend our last night together–our anniversary night–than for me to be cleaning out the old car?  Happy Anniversary, Dear!

Anonymous Speaks!

Welll, looky here. Anonymous’ real name is Melinda and she left me a wordy comment on yesterday’s post. Although she says she’s read “enough filth” here in the last two days, I thought I’d answer her questions anyway because I find those members of the Reading Incomprehension Club so amusing and endearing.

First, I want to remind my readers (all three of you, how pathetic, right?) that my original post about Michael Moore’s movie was really just about going to the movies. I did not offer a political commentary, but just a description of my strange experience going to see this particular bit of propaganda as a Republican in my fiercely Democratic state.

Here’s what Melinda had to say in response to my Open Letter.

Dear Mel,

Please accept my most sincere apology. How silly of me to think that your “blog” was for the expression of any and all opinions. Clearly it is only intended on for those opinions that mimic your own. Nice to have a posse of like-minded buddies to give you the old thumbs-up isn’t it? Interesting though, the posse seems to only include such a precious few. I’m still not sure how I stumbled on you or why I felt compelled to respond. And yet here I am again.

Well, thank you, Melinda, for the apology. You are most certainly welcome to post whatever opinions you wish, but as this is Mel World, I am the Queen and therefore, I am right. But it was nice of you to stop by–I’ve had such fun responding to your comment from that post I made so long ago. Oh, and I don’t actually have a posse. This is a blog, you know, not a rap video. Are you trying to insult me by pointing out my lack of readership? Oh, boy, that hurts. Ouch, ouch.

I said in my previous post: 1) Do the parents of the dead babies in Iraq deserve less respect that the survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack?

Melinda says: You bet they do! My intention was to defend the concept of not showing the same gruesome photos again and again to incite panic in an effort to engender support for a baseless cause. And maybe, just maybe, those horrifying images of dead children might just wake up the masses. Uh hello-The United States purposely attacked Iraq and didn?t give a tiny rat’s – – – about collateral damage.

Ah, there’s the pesky problem of reading comprehension again. I asked if the parents of dead Iraqi babies deserve LESS respect that the relatives of the 9/11 victims. You said “You bet they do!” So, it doesn’t matter to you if Michael Moore exploits the grief and loss of Iraqi people? You would find it abhorent if images of the 9/11 massacre were shown, yet you do not find similar photos of Iraqi nationals also abhorent. How strange. Do you refuse to see the double-standard here?

And um, how exactly do you know that the United States doesn’t give a “rat’s – – -” about collateral damage? Oh, that’s right. You don’t know.

In my previous post, I said: 2) Did I mention how I feel about our government’s attack on Iraq? Do you think it’s possible to be horrified by dead Iraqi civilians and horrified by Michael Moore’s movie at the same time? ?

Melinda answers: True, you don’t mention how you feel about this despicable war–perhaps you should have.

Well, my post about my experience going to a movie was not intended to be a dissertation on my political views. If you want to read a blog about political views, there are literally millions of them to choose from. This blog is a personal journal. And you are taking great offense to my viewpoint about propaganda a movie.

Melinda continues: I’d like to think the human mind has the capacity to think/believe 2 things at once. And yet you disprove that. Do you think it is possible to love one’s country and be horrified by involvement in a war that makes no one safer, removes no threat to our nations sovereignty and only lines the pockets of the Bush’s cabinet?

I disprove your theory about believing two things at one time how exactly? So, you do agree with me that I can be horrified about dead Iraqi civilians AND hate Michael Moore’s ridiculous movie full of half-truths at the same time? Well, at least we have found common ground.

I absolutely think it’s possible to love one’s country and be horrified by the Iraqi war. Do I think that the war “makes no one safer, removes no threat to our nation’s sovereignty and only lines the pockets of the Bush cabinet”? No, of course not. How simplistic. But if it makes it easier for you to deal with a world that you’ve painted in only black and white, please, feel free. Just don’t call me narrow-minded.

I continued in my previous post: 3) How was I personally duped by our president, oh, All-Knowing Anonymous One?

Melinda says: The “all-knowing anonymous one” can only assume based on information provided. Maybe you weren’t duped, although you give every indication that you support the murder of hundreds of children, women & men–many of who are your compatriots. Forgive my rush to judgment.

I forgive your rush to judgment. Oh wait, did you just say I support the murder of hundreds of children, women and men? Oh, yeah, you’ve got me all figured out now! Now, if one dares to criticize Michael Moore’s movie, one supports the murder of hundreds of children, women and men. Oh yes, I see how that makes perfect logical sense.

My previous post ended: Thank your for your interest in my opinion. Next time, how about playing fair and signing your actual name? Otherwise, your opinion doesn’t count.

And by the way, saying something out loud does not make it true. Neither does publishing something in a book. You might want to make a note of that for future reference.

Melinda says: Interesting closing statement. Safe to say this would apply to the trash you suggest we all read by Christopher Hitchens. Guess what I did. I?m actually rather well read. And in “my opinion” he is no different than Michael Moore. Stating his opinion, supporting his cause. We choose to believe what jives with our own value structure. You have yours and I have mine and never the 2 shall meet.

I actually believe in absolute truth, so I’ll have to disagree with you here. There is truth and then, there is Fahrenheit 9/11.

Melinda says: Lest you marginalize my opinion as invalid by lack of a name, allow me to introduce myself, Melinda from not so far from where you live. No need to get your dander up. I won’t be visiting or responding anytime soon. I’ve had enough filth for 2 days.
Oh yes one last thing. I took a moment to cruise “about you”. Do you think your adopted children will grow up and appreciate being differentiated from their “homegrown” siblings? Gosh shame on you again!

Nice to meet you. Now, Melinda, do you really think that featuring your comments as post in my blog is “marginalizing” your opinion? I could have deleted your comments immediately after I read them, but guess what? I didn’t! If anything marginalizes your comments, it would be your name-calling and your insults to the Queen of this blog (yeah, that would be me). Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?

For the record, my “dander” is not up. I laughed my head off when I read your comments and have been cracking my husband up for two days now, reciting your words to him. My original post was meant to bait as well as entertain. Glad to see it worked. Sorry you won’t be back. Just pull that door shut behind you, will you? Thanks.

Oh, and thank you so much for your kind concern about my “adopted children.” Oh dear, you’re right! Shame on me! I should be keeping their adoption a secret from them! I do call them “Hey, Adopted TwinBoyB” and “Hey, Adopted TwinBoyA” here around the house. Do you think maybe I should stop doing that? Should I let them sleep in the house? They seem so comfortable in the shed, after all. We tell them all the time that we could send them back to the orphanage. You really think that’s too harsh?

Well, thanks again for stopping by, Melinda. It’s been fun.

An Open Letter to Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I received your comment today in response to my post about Michael Moore:

Anonymous said: “Thankfully there are very few responses to your narrow-minded and bigoted perspective to Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. It gives me hope that I am not alone and you represent the minority. It is outrageous that people can actually be this ignorant after all that has been revealed to support the so-called “satire” exposed by Michael Moore. Shame on you for condemning him for having the respect to not show the charred and mangled remains of the victims of 9/11 for the millionth time. Shame on you for not having the common sense to be disgusted by your own government who inflicted that gruesome death on children in Iraq for their own financial gain. Shame on you for not being able to recognize when you have been duped by a greedy presidency. And shame on you for being so intolerant and insulting to those of us who can only laugh in the face of a president who does not even posses a basic grasp of the English language. Did it ever occur to you that the giggles and laughter you heard where based in sheer humiliation because “that” is our president with the vacant gaze???

The reason the theater was not empty and you were a “Republican Island” is because the rest of us seek the truth that our government seems unable to provide. And from the sounds of your post, you are clearly not smarter than everyone you shared that theater with…just more myopic!!!!!”

“And I reply: Thank you so much for your anonymous opinion about me. This kind of reminds me of the time I received an anonymous note from a disgruntled church member: “Stop playing the hymns so fast. I hate the music.” It always brightens one’s day to know that a completely anonymous person has such strong opinions about my opinions.

Now, I just want to point out that this entire blog is, in essence, my opinion piece, just as Michael’s Moore’s movie is his opinion piece. Apparently, you grant Michael Moore the right to criticize people he disagrees with, yet I am not granted that same privilege in your eyes.

Also, I have a few questions:

1) Do the parents of the dead babies in Iraq deserve less respect that the survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack?

2) Did I mention how I feel about our government’s attack on Iraq? Do you think it’s possible to be horrified by dead Iraqi civilians and horrified by Michael Moore’s movie at the same time?

3) How was I personally duped by our president, oh, All-Knowing Anonymous One?

Thank your for your interest in my opinion. Next time, how about playing fair and signing your actual name? Otherwise, your opinion doesn’t count.

And by the way, saying something out loud does not make it true. Neither does publishing something in a book. You might want to make a note of that for future reference.

” . . . and I’ve got the t-shirt.”

I hated to do it, but last night after I put Babygirl to bed at 8:00 p.m., I had to grocery shop. I drove to the store via the route along the beach and was rewarded by the amazing sight of the sunlight sparkling on the Puget Sound as the sun began its descent from the sky.

I thought of all the times my dad would inform us we were going for a “drive,”–a roving journey with no destination. We almost always headed for the mountains. My mother would grip the dashboard with her hands and dig her foot into the floorboard as if she could control the car from the passenger seat. She has a little issue with heights and never could get comfortable driving on a narrow road along the edge of a steep incline.

This was way before the days of GameBoys. We didn’t even have a cassette player in our car, so we’d just sit and stare out the windows–and, of course, poke each other and complain and ask ten thousand times, “Are we almost there?” as if we were actually heading somewhere.

And then, there it would appear. A scenic vista with a sign and a place to pull off the side of the road. We’d scramble out of the back seat and stand at the edge of the lookout and peer into the distance–and often see more trees and more valleys and maybe, if we were extremely lucky, a stream or river or even hit the jackpot and see a waterfall. We’d stretch our legs and breathe fresh air and maybe shiver because mountain air is always chillier than low-land air.

And then my dad would say, “You’ve seen it. Get back in the car.”

This phrase became a family expression, one of those things that glues you and your dysfunctional siblings together. Thirty years later, you say to your brother, the one who was a skinhead for awhile: “You’ve seen it. Get back in the car,” and you are eight years old again, staring at Nature and the world is full of possibilities and hopefully, a snack somewhere. And you both laugh, because you both know exactly what it means and what it meant.

(Our other family expression was “It’s in a box in the garage.” We moved when I was 11, after my parents’ divorce, and some boxes were literally never unpacked. When something came up missing, my dad would say, “It’s in a box in the garage.” My siblings and I still say this to each other, as if it makes perfect sense.)

So, I reached the grocery store. I shopped quickly and almost finished, when I realized I had to walk all the way back across the store to find a cube of Diet Pepsi (on sale, $4.99). That’s when I ran into Suzi, a woman from church.

Suzi is probably about 50. We had a nice long chat, right between housewares and best-sellers. We discussed Vacation Bible School (going very well, thanks for asking), menopause (she’s better now, but a couple years ago, the hot flashes almost killed her, but a pill takes care of that), my husband’s ability to preach (she actually grew teary-eyed and I thought she might cry right there in Fred Meyers, which is always kind of strange for me, even though my husband is an extremely gifted preacher), mornings (she’s not a morning person), kids (she stopped at one), Texas (our husbands are both from there), weather, housekeeping (her daughter-in-law: she’s not a housekeeper, but she is really good with the kids). It went on and on. I was just happy I hadn’t hit the frozen food aisle yet.

And then–I don’t remember the topic–she said, “I’ve been there. Done that, got the t-shirt.” And I thought “You’ve seen it. Get back in the car.” Same thing.

I returned home after 9:00 p.m. and found my husband watching television and his brand-new George Foreman Grill still smelling like the salmon he’d grilled earlier. The kids had been invited to spend the night at their friends, but he couldn’t find one of the sleeping bags, so I put away the groceries, filled the dishwasher and found the sleeping bag. By then it was 9:30 p.m. and I hated to leave my house again.

My reward, though, was a view of the sky just before it fell asleep. The edge of the horizon was still pink, but the islands had become dark blue outlines in the periwinkle water. I dropped off the sleeping bag.

Then took a final look at the sky and the water and thought, “You’ve seen it. Get back in the car,” and went home to finish my paperwork for today’s exciting episode of Vacation Bible School.

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