Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making Nature-Girls

When Jack was little, we were constantly outside.  I think the fact that he walked at 9 months and that it was much cooler weather when he was learning to walk enabled us to walk around outdoors much more.  We also had a screened porch at the house we were in.  The girls, however, learned to walk during the hottest months of summer which made it much more difficult for them to spend a large amount of time just roaming around the backyard...  Additionally, we had nice grass when Jack was younger.  Now, we've got glorified weeds and rocks.  With no shade.  It's just a pretty abysmal lot and it's not a ton of fun for kids.

So that's what I'm going to claim as my defense as to how in the world I, lover of all things outside, have managed to raise two very prissy girls who pout and whine at the mere mention of grass.  They'll do water (though, Addie much more than Jordan) and the beach, but you can forget anything else.  Last weekend we tried to go for a lengthy walk to a park, play for a bit and head back.  They wanted nothing to do with it.  This past weekend we tried a different park, and I switched my tactics a bit.  Where I had previously thought fewer clothes would be better to keep them cooler, this time I put them in (way too big) jeans and shoes to insulate their delicate skin from the offensive... air?  Grass?  Bugs?  Sun?  Whatever... I also brought towels for them to sit on and lounge in the shade of a tree.

The result?  Slightly happier twins.  Though, even still, Jordan was far more adventurous than Addie who only ventured off the towels towards the end and only then because I was holding her hand.

So I dunno... what do you think?  Can I convince them that nature really is okay?  Sigh.  I'll keep trying.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Know You're a Mom...

I should be cleaning.  I really should be.  But we all know how that goes for me.  I knew this was how it was going to happen... I'd procrastinate and delay and make excuses until I'm facing a crunch that'll be fueled by 3 cans of Coke at 11 pm and I'll whip the house into shape after everyone goes to bed.  It's like being in college again, but with Lysol and poop smears instead of FDR and the New Deal and my highlighters and note cards.

But my kids are being absurdly cute.  And they're sitting in their highchairs and we're singing songs while I blog.  And I don't really want to be anywhere else.  The simplicity of talking about where our noses are and playing peekaboo behind the laptop screen between sentences is so peaceful.

Before they woke up this morning I was looking at some of our pictures from the weekend and they made me miss my kiddos.  So I woke them up instead of squeezing in a few toilet cleanings.

I think I'm truly a nut case... I go between being so frustrated that I can't accomplish housework because they're mini tornadoes and being so enamored with them that I don't want to waste a single second with them by scrubbing soap scum.

Though, I guess I'm a little entitled to having a bit of a split personality since I'm fairly certain all kids are at least mildly schizophrenic, right?  One second (like, two paragraphs ago) they were being cute and babbling at me about noses and asking about their other facial features and now they're throwing french toast sticks at me and thumping their be-Tinkerbell'ed chests like wee monkeys because they're apparently quite finished with breakfast.

Geez, girls.

Crazy is just part of my life now.  I've kinda accepted it, totally embraced it, and freely admit to it.  It makes it a little easier to laugh when I find the twins pretending to be little Monet's by "painting" the couch cushions with their bottles of milk or systematically crushing animal crackers and dropping them down the air ducts while I'm busy cleaning up the "soup" Jack made by mixing cream of tartar with salt and green sprinkles in a bowl full of water and then spilled when he tasted it and violently recoiled with disgust.

I mean, what kind of lunatic gleefully flounces out the door at 9 pm to go to the grocery store, sans offspring, and feels like she's been granted the vacation of the century as she peacefully picks produce and compares prices in silence, meandering down aisles that even contain toys and candy with reckless abandon because, unencumbered, she knows she does not have to barter, bargain, bribe or plead in order to escape without either a fight or an acquiescence.

A mom... that's what kind.

Hit up my girl Arizona Mamma's blog for more camaraderie!

Black and White Wednesday

You know, when I look at my husband, the father of my children, my best friend, I can't help but marvel at how stinking lucky I got. 
He's such a tender and loving father... and he's such a caring husband.  And he's a ton of fun to be around.  I am just blessed... and so are my children.  I think if I can claim credit for giving them nothing else, I'll always be proud to have given them Justin as their Daddy. 

...Well, actually, I guess I should say instead that I'll always be grateful to have been given Justin as their Daddy... Because, truthfully, I'm pretty sure that's how it works.

There are other great black and white shots (who doesn't love black and white?) over at Lisa's blog... check them out!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Odds 'n Ends 'n Handcuffs

First of all, forgive me if I either a) blog too much this week because I'm procrastinating on the housecleaning I need to do to prepare for my dad's arrival or b) blog too little because I'm in over my head with the filth and squalor I've allowed to accumulate in the house for the last month.

Second, because change is what we do as a family (um, like the fact that we're living in our 6th state in 5 years) and we never sit still for very long, I've got a few cool things I'd like to tell you about as more details get fleshed out.  We're excited! AND I'd love to share now, but you know - phone calls need to happen, experts need to be consulted, signatures need scribbling, etc.  So.  In due time, my friends.

And now, because you're all antsy wondering if we're moving to Europe or adopting a heard of llamas or have sold the rights to our nutty lives to MTV for a reality show, I'll take your mind off the wondering with another crazy story.


I don't know how many of you have been to jail.   I'd imagine that the number is pretty small... I don't so much appeal to the rough crowd with my subject matter.  I, however, have been.  Not just TO jail, but IN jail.  Strip-searched, jumpsuit-wearing, mug-shot, booked-next-to-a-dude-covered-in-blood-style jail.  In a cop car.  In handcuffs. 

It.   Was.  Not.  Awesome.

Justin and I had been married all of 3 months and we were getting ready to move to our first stop in the Navy journey from our college town in Indiana.  One afternoon, I decided to head to the mall to pick up a birthday gift for my sister, and, after a really lame cruise through the stores where nothing really jumped out at me, I decided to purchase a shirt for her and call it a day.  I had parked outside a department store, so I meandered back through that store on my way out.  While I was passing through, I noticed a rack of sunglasses for sale at 50% off.  I paused there, since I had lost my sunglasses on my honeymoon, and decided to try on a few pairs.  I'd don a pair, look in the tiny mirror, shift that pair to my head, try another, swap them, and so on.  Eventually, discouraged and unwilling to settle on a pair that I didn't absolutely love, I just sighed and left the store.

Or, rather, tried to leave the store.

I had one hand on the bar on the door and had pushed it open and stepped one foot on the concrete when someone came from behind me and shoved me against the open door with two hands in the middle of my back, jamming a hard, cold object into my side.

"Give us the merchandise!" someone growled at me.  I blinked, too shocked to respond with anything other than a guttural "Huh?" "The merchandise, give it back to us right now."

The assailant stepped back and I realized it was a Taser they had held against me, and instead of the robber I thought I was dealing with, it was a security guy from the store.  I asked again what they were talking about and held out the shopping bag that contained the shirt I had purchased at a different store.  The guy shook his head and insisted again I return their merchandise.  All of a sudden it dawned on me: I must have left a pair of sunglasses on top of my head and walked out with them. 

"Oh no!  Ooops!" I said, aghast at my stupidity, "I'm so sorry!  Here, do you want me to go put them back or should I pay for them? I'm so sorry!" 

The guy (who looked maybe 12 years old) shook his head and said, "You're going to need to come with me."  I assumed we were going to talk to a manager or something as we meandered through the store to a little hallway into the bowels of the place.  He shoved me - shoved me - into a teeny little room full of video screens and a desk.  At this point, it was becoming clear that I was dealing with a person whose meager amount of power had gone to his head.  I asked him if there was any way I could just pay for the glasses and go home.  I told him it was a total mistake and that I was sorry - I would have gotten to my car and seen them on my head and gone right back in to pay for them.  He informed me that I'd have gotten in trouble then, too, as leaving with the goods constitutes theft and they have a zero tolerance policy.  "So you reward honesty with punishment?" I asked?  "No, we punish thieves," he said. 

So there I sat.  My cell phone started ringing as Justin was wondering where I was and why I hadn't come home yet.  The guy yelled at me and took my purse and said I couldn't make any phone calls or receive any.  That the police officer would determine if I could make any calls.


Yeah.  Police officer.  I don't know WHAT took the guy so long, but I was actually excited that he was on his way.  I figured he'd get there, I could explain what happened, he'd see that this whole thing was a waste of time and let me go home to my husband.

He didn't.  Instead, he grabbed my upper arm, hoisted me up and slapped cuffs on me.  Literally.  And double-locked them.  Yes, that's a thing.  Double locking.  It hurt.  He ushered me out of the store, and the whole time I had convinced myself that this was just a scare tactic or even a sick joke.  I even thought he was a little kidding when he shoved me in the back of his cruiser and started driving.

The officer asked me what my address was and I felt so relieved because he was just going to take me home! I told him and sat back, smiling.  All of a sudden, though, he turned left instead of right.  My stomach plummeted and I asked where we were going.  "To jail," he said, "You're being charged with a felony."

My life came to a screeching halt at that moment.  I couldn't even breathe and I started to feel light-headed and I began, I think, to cry.  "What?" "Yep, you screwed the pooch, sister."  He then proceeded to call Justin, who was terrified that I had been gone so long, only to freak him out further by telling him he had to meet us at the county jail to bail his newlywed wife out.  The officer further attempted to assuage my fears by telling me all about how my husband would probably have to divorce me because my felony would ruin his security clearance and possibly get him kicked out of the Navy. 

I'd love to tell you that I was strong and kept calm and had sassy attitude stemming from my confidence in my innocence.

But that was certainly NOT the case.  I was something of a disaster.  By the time we got to the jail, I could barely function.  Once we got there, they made me strip down ENTIRELY (apparently to make sure I wasn't hiding other merchandise in my under-garments) and take off all of my jewelry, including my sparkly new wedding ring. Then they made me wear a jumpsuit and the icky Keds and then they took me over to get booked, finger-printed, mug-shot, etc. 

No, I'm totally not joking.

The guy they were booking me next to kept claiming his name was Al Pacino and he was in for murder 1.  He was covered in blood.  And smelled like a sewer.  I ended up getting charged with a Class A misdemeanor because the sunglasses were over $55 - not a felony; turns out the officer was just "having fun with me".  (And I can assure you that if I had known that, I wouldn't have tried them on in the first place!) AND the booking officer thought I was cute so he printed my mug-shot out to hang on the wall.  Humiliating.  Utterly devastating.

Thankfully, Justin had arrived and bailed me out before I was even processed, so I didn't need to get put in the "tank" with all the other criminals and was able to just change back into my clothes and go home. 

It was horrific - beyond any mortification I could ever imagine.  I ended up pleading out and just doing some community service and letting a year pass to clear my record, rather than fight it because I would have had to travel back to Indiana to contest it in court and hire an attorney and all that.  So I just dealt with it.  But to this day my skin crawls at the idea of walking through a department store and I never, ever, EVER buy sunglasses.  If I need to replace them, I either order them online or have someone else purchase them for me.

So there you have it: your friendly, neighborhood zookeeper is actually a hardened criminal whose perky picture is on the wall of some sketchy jail in Indiana.  I don't wear bracelets and I don't buy sunglasses.  And I think police officers can be extraordinarily mean.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ya Know...

I have absolutely nothing to post. 

Wow - that's a heck of an opening line, right?  Talk about grabbing your attention, eh?  High school English teachers the nation over are clutching their hearts, aghast at my utter dearth of creativity.

I've just been feeling really blah

The girls are teething up a storm so I don't have any cute pictures of their faces because they've donned permanent scowls and established "whine" as their primary language.  We've been spending a ton of time outside at parks and walking on nature trails and looking at land to buy in the area, which only compounds the girls' general bitchiness since they love nature about as much as I love scraping corn-y poo out of cloth diapers. 

And don't even get me started on the state of my house.  I essentially gave up on cleaning after this hot mess, but my dad is coming to visit for the first time in FIVE years, so I'd like to put up this front of "having it all together" for at least the first few minutes of his visit.  HOWEVER, teethy/whiny/snarky/screechy/butt-crawly-upy kids are not making that possible.  In fact, right now, I'm icing my hand because I was so angry with the fact that I vacuumed, paused to change a diaper, and came out of the girls' room to discover that the other two had discovered how to take the thingy out of the vacuum cleaner and were working on replacing the filth on the floor (where it clearly belongs) that I ended up shutting myself in my room and punching a pillow, only to miss the pillow about 3 swings in and crush my knuckle on the bedpost. 


So I have a ton of pictures in my August folder of random patches of land...

...and of Addie hating the Great Outdoors...

...and of the back of Jordan because I'm often afraid to look her in the eye when she's in a Mood for fear of being turned to stone.

I mean, I love my kids.  But woah - these last few days have been challenging. 

Anyway, here's to the weekend (and maybe 10 minutes of peace... dare I hope?) - hope yours is great!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Black and White You Know You're a Mom When-sDaze

Woah - talk about some multi-tasking, eh?  Yeah, I'm just that lazy good.  Today you get a super-duper 2fer deal from me... Black and White Wednesday hosted by Lisa at The Long Road to China (and congratulations, again, Lisa and family!) and Arizona Mamma's You Know You're a Mom When-sDaze!

And, in case you're not satisfied with three days of posting in a row, you can check out a guest post I did for my future SIL, Artistically Amy, wherein I talk about how I ended up as here as this crazy Zookeeper in my nutty life.  Check it out here!

So yesterday was Jack's first day of school this year.  We're at a new school and we already love it - the place is fabulous.  As a social, outgoing, lover of learning, Jack has been pretty pumped about the prospect of school all summer.  Taking him out of school when we moved was one of the hardest parts of our move, and we weren't sure if we were going to be able to send him down here until we found this place.  For days, Jack has been wearing his monkey "pack-pack" around and toting his Thomas lunch box around, talking about going to play with friends and do art and sing songs at school.

The lump I had in my throat yesterday as I dropped him off... or, rather, as I helped him find his way to the classroom so he could dismiss me, was far different from the one I had last year when I left him, teary-eyed and confused, in his first classroom.  This year, as I watched my son skip and bound down the hallway, proudly showing off his lunch box, and greet his teacher with a hug and high-five, I was the teary-eyed one because I knew that I was doing something right.  I had helped him to be secure and sure of himself.  I had helped him find the confidence to venture out away from me, knowing I'd always come back.  And I had helped instill in him a love of learning and friendship that makes school such a wonderful tool for me to use in his education.

But, as a Mom who has watched her son grow and develop from a tiny embryo to this three-and-a-half year old little ball of fire, I also know that I have done only that: helped him find those qualities within himself.

So it was a big day... for him, of course, but as always, for me.  I am so proud of him and so happy for him... And that's when you know you're a mom: when you feel tears of joy and sadness and just a teeny bit of nostalgia slide down your face on the first day of school.  When you're so thrilled that he's starting another chapter in his life and you can't help grinning for him, but you recognize how quickly his childhood is passing so a little bit of desperation creeps into your heart because you want him to stay your cuddly little buddy forever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Under Fire

"Where is a cop when you need one?!" I thought fervently as I raced, harried, through dark, empty streets, shaking and praying that some officer would see my erratic driving and pull me over.  "Should I call 9-1-1?" I wondered... "And say what? 'Hi, my name is Melissa and I think someone tried to shoot me?' It sounded too absurd.  This couldn't be real."  So, I called my mom instead: "Mom, please don't freak out, but I'm coming home early.  I'm okay, but I need you to meet me in the driveway with a flashlight."  Onward I drove, my eyes darting between the road, my rear-view mirror, and the little crackle-edged circle that was, impossibly, on my windshield right in front of me.

One summer during college, I spent some time house-sitting for a family member.  I loved doing it; I loved the responsibility, and at the same time, the freedom it afforded me.  It was peaceful and enjoyable.  The only problem were the cats.  They're awfully adorable kitties, but I'm terribly allergic.  Normally it wasn't a huge problem, but one night all three of them decided to join me in bed, making it nearly impossible to breathe.  I was miserable and needed some medicine and some sleep, so I packed it in for the night, deciding I'd spend the rest of the night at home in my own bed and return after work the next afternoon.  So, at about 3 am, I grabbed my flip-flops and got in my Jeep and started home - about a 20 minute drive.

With the music on the radio and my windows down for some fresh air, I was in a good mood, bopping my head to my favoite song and enjoying the familiar drive.

Then, in an instant, everything changed.

I heard the characteristic "Pow!" At the exact same moment I heard the alien-sounding "Sssssnnnnnnnap!"

Instantly, reflexively, I ducked, but I couldn't keep my head down long, so I poked my head up to keep from crashing the car.  As I peeked over the dash, I saw that I was passing an empty strip-mall parking lot... empty except for the dark-colored sedan that was rolling up a window as I passed.  I shook my head to clear my thoughts and as I refocused on the road, my eyes came to rest on the circle that now adorned the lower left corner of my windshield, right at the edge of the inspection sticker on the inside of the window.

A bullet hole.

A bullet hole?

A bullet hole! 

On my window!

On my window? 


That was all I needed.  I stomped on the gas to get out of there and checked my mirror, only to see the dark car (in my mind, I was sure this was the source of the shot, but I have no idea) pulling into the road.  Was I being targeted?  Was this random?  Did they think I was someone else?  Was it an accident?  Did they miss?  What was going on?  I had no idea.  I could barely form a cohesive thought.  The car that I had seen was now nowhere in sight but I didn't slow down.  I wanted a cop to stop me.  I wanted to be safe.  I wanted to understand what had happened.


Once I was home safely, my mom met me outside, confused.  We looked at the hole, stuck our fingers in it, ran our hands over it, tried to wrap our minds around it.  It was there, but we could not figure out why.  We didn't call the police.  I don't know why, but I think we were just too confused as to what was going on to talk to them.  In the morning, though, we did call an officer out to look at it and figure out what we should do from there.

The officer determined the shot was most likely from a .22.  The officer also looked incredulously at me and told me that the bullet struck the strongest point of the windshield - the lower corners - and that the inspection sticker likely helped to reinforce the glass.  He said that if I had been driving any faster or left the house a second earlier, it would have come through the window and struck my neck.  I just kept asking - out loud and silently, "Why? Why me?" 

Random, it seemed, according to the officer.  Random.  The street I was driving on bisected the west side of our city and formed something of a boundary between turfs for gangs.  The best possibility the police could offer was that it was related to gang activity and I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

"Well," I couldn't help thinking, "I could have been at a MORE wrong place at a MORE wrong time" as I imagined, with a shiver, what the outcome could have been. 

I took my Jeep to a glass repair place the officer recommended - the same one the police department used to repair bullet holes in their fleet - where they filled the hole with resin so it wouldn't splinter and ruin my whole windshield.  But the circle didn't go away completely.  It was there until I sold the car... a haunting reminder that bad things can happen to anyone.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Twilight Zone Meets Animal Planet

You know those people that "stuff" happens to all the time?  Where they start telling stories and you think, "They have to be kidding me," because it's absurd? 

Yeah, I'm one of those people.

This post is going to kick off a series of baffling occurrences I've experienced that leave my friends and family and complete strangers scratching their heads, raising eyebrows and dropping jaws.  There are no deeper messages here, no reflections on life or gooshey sentiments to be found... Nope - this is pure entertainment. 

On Friday after dinner, we decided to pile into the van and go scout out some land tracts we're interested in around here.  We mapped out a route and got started, armed with sippy cups and a giant container of Goldfish crackers to keep the kids happy while we dragged them from one oddly-shaped patch of trees to another.  When we passed the final lot on our itinerary, which we vetoed because it was a teeny sliver of land in an established subdivision, we found ourselves being forced to continue driving deeper into the neighborhood as we couldn't find a safe place to turn around (and we aren't big on the idea of using people's driveways).  So, we figured we'd just keep going until we reached either a cul-de-sac or a safe enough spot to execute the turn. 

As we drove on, the houses got progressively larger and more stately until we reached the end of the street which contained about 4 incredible mansions with water views... and, incidentally, a turn-around spot.  As we slowed down to appreciate the view of the lake and to navigate the turn, a tan-colored pit bull materialized at the side of the car.  I was driving and it got so close to the vehicle that I couldn't even see it - Justin alerted me to its presence.  It had run right up to the tire on the driver's side and wouldn't move.  I gingerly tried to nudge the car past it, but the dog circled to the front of the van and started barking and snarling at us.

From nowhere another one, this time black, showed up to join in the weirdness.  At this point, both dogs were ferociously barking at us in front of our car.  I thought, "Surely if I inch forward they'll freak out and at least move to the side."  So I did.  Neither dog budged and seemed, in fact, energized by the game of chicken, as they started hopping up and down excitedly, barking - if possible - louder than before.  I stepped on the brake again and looked at Justin who was looking at me, totally confused.  We weren't on anyone's property - why were these dogs so aggressively bothering us?  And why were they so fearless? 

I did the only other thing I could think at the time... I started beeping my horn at them.  No response except more barking and growling.  I honked harder. At this point I was hoping to draw attention from a resident of the street who might be able to call off the hounds... or at least call the police on me.  Nothing.  No lights went on, no curtains fluttered.  Just the continuous barking.

So we rolled down the windows to yell at the dogs which only made them circle from one side of the car to the other, barking now at the window that had opened most recently and we were getting absolutely nowhere.  Finally, in desperation, we grabbed the kids' snack cups of Goldfish and Justin and I alternated chucking handfuls of snack crackers at the beasts which seemed to confuse them just enough for a brief enough time that I could slowly start to inch forward.  So we kept raining Goldfish down on them until I was able to break past them and build up some speed.

As I drove away, slowly since I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood, the dogs began chasing the car, barking louder and with even more intensity than before, snapping at the bumper.  I gained speed and all of a sudden, two more black dogs took up the chase with the original two... seemingly appearing out of the shadows like phantoms.  Soon, I was speeding down the road at a dangerous pace and only after a half a mile did the crazed pooches give up.  The came to a halt, shoulder-to-shoulder across the middle of the road and then dissolved into the dusk as we kept driving, more slowly now, out of the neighborhood.

The whole episode lasted maybe 10 minutes but it left us bewildered and a little disturbed.

We weren't trespassing.  We don't look sketchy.  And these dogs came from multiple directions... and the fact that not a single person so much as stirred in the 4 surrounding houses.  Barking, honking, shouting... nothing. 

Needless to say, we're not going to consider houses or land in that neighborhood.  Nor will we be attending any dinner parties in that area anytime soon.

What would you have done? 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Phew!  That was a fantastic visit from the grandparents!  It left me utterly exhausted though... and the kiddos, too (as evidenced by the fact that for 2 days in a row they slept past 9:30)!  We had a different activity every single day of the week that they were here... we went to the beach a few times, and to the local children's museum, and to the aquarium, and we took a ride on a train, plus played at a park downtown and rode a carousel... Every single day, the temperatures soared above 100, but we managed to have fun anyway!  We made some awesome meals and even did a clam bake and a Lowcountry Boil on Saturday - a while bushel of clams!  (Don't even ask how much that  costs when you live in a land-locked state...)  We ate gourmet cupcakes and porterhouse steaks and more than a few McNuggets.  We had a blast!

Addie fell asleep on her raft with Pawpaw on the lake, and Jordan determined she's much more a spa-day kinda gal than a beach kinda gal.  Jack didn't stay in one place long enough for me to snap many pictures of him.  I packed 9,745 sandwiches and loaded and unloaded the car about 1,349 times and filled and refilled about 16,384 water bottles and sippy cups and Grandma changed about a trillion diapers.
There was much laughing and much excitement and lots of playing.  I think Grandma and Pawpaw are going to need a week or so to recover from their vacation... I know we're recuperating down here ourselves.
So I'm taking this week to relax a little bit and get the kiddos back on a routine since Jack starts preschool next week and then we're going to start gearing up for my dad to come visit at the end of the month!  Lots to look forward to this month!  I've got some fun posts up my sleeve for you, as well as a guest post on Amy's blog next Tuesday.

And that, my friends, is why I wasn't around last week.  Thanks for sticking with me!  What have you been up to?

Friday, August 6, 2010


I'm still here!  I just have family in town and we're making the absolute most of every single minute we've got together... and finding ourselves utterly exhausted each afternoon from too much sun and too much fun... I'm still reading yours (but not always being able to comment... it doesn't work well on my mobile browser) and I hope you'll come back soon because I have fun stuff to share!  Please don't be mad at me - I just had to prioritize a little bit this week! 

Thanks for understanding and I hope you're all enjoying the last drops of summer too!


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