Thank You Note, The Prequel

My MIL did indeed receive Cailey’s heartfelt thank you note from last week. She got quite a surprise and a really good chuckle out of it. I’m blessed to have a MIL with an extraordinarily good sense of humor. Then she did what any good grandmother would do under the circumstances. She hung it on the refrigerator.

I’m lying.

She placed it in a file. She keeps a file for all cards and letters worth saving, and when the child or grandchild reaches adulthood, they inherit the file. She’s a wise woman.

I started thinking about the kinds of things my own mother kept from our childhood. And it pretty much encompassed everything. She kept my grandfathers gold teeth after he died, for crying out loud. By the way, those same gold teeth now reside in a small envelope in my jewelry drawer. Along with my own childhood baby teeth.

For reasons that I cannot fathom, this really creeps Fiddledaddy out.

The day my mother died, I found myself having to sort through her desk to find important insurance paperwork. My mother’s method of filing was to stuff whatever she deemed important into any crevice that would hold such a document. In whatever part of the house that she happened to be. On this somber day, as I pulled bits and pieces of paper out of drawers, I came across something that I had given her when I was a Catholic schoolgirl of about 8. It was a paper card listing the penance for my misdeeds. On the front I had colored in crayon, a cross, and what kind of looks like a manger. Or a birds nest, I can’t be sure. On the inside was the following laundry list:

To Mom and Dad,

3 Masses
3 Holy Communions
10 Our Fathers
10 Hail Marys
10 Ejaculations

The quiet of the room of mourners was interrupted. Tears began to fly from my eyes as I fell to the floor in a heap. Racked with inappropriate laughter. As I passed this Holy document around the room, I was joined by my mother’s family and close friends.

What I had forgotten, since it had been a few decades since I’d entered the sanctity of the confessional, is that “ejaculations” is a Catholic term for “short burst of prayer.”

Allrightythen.

And my mother kept this tattered piece of paper, I’m sure, to give to me when I had my own children. Children she would not live to meet. Although, on that day that my mother died, and I found that childhood card that she had been keeping for over 30 years, I was carrying a very tiny fetus that would grow up to be called “Emme.” So really, my own penance for all the grief that I gave my parents, are my own three exasperating children. Perfect.

I took that note that my mother had saved and I did what any good mother would do. I hung it on my fridge.

Oh yes I did.

November 6, 2007

Halloween Is Not For Sissies

My children anxiously await a yearly event at our church on Halloween night. They host “Trunk or Treat” for the children in our area. Cars are lined up, with elaborately decorated trunks and festive characters ready to dispense candy to little trick or treaters as they stroll by. It is a most awesome idea.

Last year we attended, and the event was held outdoors. The kids talked about it all year. So, imagine the disappointment when my Emme developed a fever the afternoon of the 31st. She immediately took to her deathbed to ward off further illness. Vowing that if she took a nap, all would be right with the world.

It appeared to work, because by mid-afternoon, she was feeling better. We decided it would be okay to go if Aunt Trish brought her little red wagon, so we could wheel Emme around so as to not overdo it. The house was abuzz with excitement as Cailey donned her princess ballerina fairy costume, Emme climbed into her karate gee, and Jensen was dressed as a 3 foot tall basketball star. Trish made costumes for us. We went as SuperMom. I wore my Superman pj bottoms, a glittery “S” on my chest, and a red cape that read “Super Mom”, lest anyone be confused. “Are those your pajamas?” Fiddledaddy queried, as I climbed into the van.

Like I never wear my pajamas in public.

Emme lasted in the little red wagon about 5 minutes. The skies were threatening rain, so most of the event had been moved indoors. Except for the trunks. Of the cars. A long line had formed so the kids could collect their booty before the skies opened up. We adults tried our best to keep things moving along. My Cailey stopped at each trunk and quizzed the occupants about the peanut content of their particular bowl of candy. “I’m allergic,” she explained to each and every car owner, while batting her bright blue eyes. I stood behind her hollering, “CAILEY, GO FOR THE REESES, SO MOMMY HAS SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR!

We all then moved indoors. With the other sardines. The bouncy houses, slides, and games were in our sanctuary. I heard that there was a promise of Starbucks Coffee and hotdogs indoors as well. Since I’m extremely claustrophobic, that was the only thing getting me in those doors.

We all split up with various offspring and cousins. Divide and conquer seemed our only safe option. The lines were long, the air was stagnate, and the Starbucks was gone. Supermom Trish and I looked at one another holding our children’s various costume pieces, shoes, prizes, and bags of candy. Like pack mules. Check please.

Finally, Fiddledaddy and I decided to grab our children and make a break for it. Besides, Jensen, who doesn’t care for enclosed spaces, had lost his sense of decorum two migraines ago.

One bright note to the evening is that Fiddledaddy and I discovered that if we made loud animal noises over the walkie-talkies, we could embarrass our children.

Good times.

On the way home we stopped at Wendy’s so that we could feed the children something nutritious. And we added chocolate frostys because we didn’t have nearly enough sugar in the car.

After the children had climbed into their pjs, Emme began complaining that she didn’t feel well again. And no, I didn’t give her any Halloween candy. Just the Frosty. And that may have been what sent her over the abyss. She was sitting on my bed telling her daddy that the Tylenol chewables in the bubble gum flavor would make her throw up.

He’s gonna believe her next time.

I heard the rumbling. And the hurried attempt to scoop her up and get her into the bathroom. All in vain. I entered the room and followed the trail of chocolate frosty, mixed with chicken nuggets, fries, and bathroom floor hair. While Fiddledaddy deposited our girl into the tub for a much needed soak, I was left to clean up the mess. While gagging.

And still wearing my red supermom cape.

Perfect.

Oh well. What’s Halloween without a little carnage, after all.

November 1, 2007

The Thank You Note

When you receive a nice gift for your birthday, good manners dictate that a prompt thank you note follow. At least this is what I’m trying to instill in my children. After Cailey’s birthday bash a week ago, we sat down to write the notes of gratitude for such wonderful gifts. And happily, it doubled as our handwriting practice for the day. Since Cailey can only read short vowel words at present, and her spelling is limited, we composed the notes together, I wrote them out on index cards to copy, and she wrote the actual note.

It was a good plan.

The following is what I wrote out for her to copy for the gift that her devoutly Catholic grandparents gave to her.

“Dear Nana and PopPop,

Thank you for coming to my party. And thanks for my cute shirt!

From,
Cailey”

This is what actually made it onto the thank you note:

“Dear Nana and PoPop,

Thank you for coming to my cute sh**!”

From,
Cailey

Yes, she spelled it out. I did not so that I would continue to be a family friendly blog.

No, she has never heard “that word” before in her short little life. Only because she can’t read my mind.

No, I didn’t have her correct it. I sealed it in the envelope and off it went in the mail. I told my MIL that her thank you note would be forthcoming.

I suspect I’ll be getting a phone call when her mail arrives Monday.

This will surely propel me to my rightful place as “favorite daughter-in-law.”

October 29, 2007

Smile and Say Cheese

I’ve never had a cavity.

Which is a miracle considering what I was raised on. I come from a long line of good southern cooks. I drank my iced tea with enough sugar to ensure the spoon could stand on it’s own. All meats were deep fried in bacon fat and accompanied a side of gravy. Dessert was served after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then, there were the columns of Oreos, life’s most perfect food.

It’s a wonder I don’t have a set of teeth that sleep in a jar at night.

My mama had good teeth. She didn’t experience a cavity until her late 30’s. And I clearly remember how she felt assaulted by the news. You may as well have told her that Tom Jones was gay. She would have taken it equally as bad.

I didn’t lose my two front teeth until the 5th grade. And my first training bra was still another year away. Salt on the wound. By high school, all my adult teeth were mercifully in, except for my two eye teeth. Every year, our family dentist advised my parents to have those poor baby teeth pulled, and to put me in braces.

Instinctively, my parents knew that my fragile teenage mental state couldn’t take it. And they were sure that I would have made their lives even more miserable than I already was. They were absolutely right.

I can admit that now.

I held onto those baby teeth until about 5 years ago. I kept feeling a popcorn kernel stuck in my teeth. Without the benefit of eating popcorn. I discovered, to my horror, that the adult eye tooth was finally making an appearance, fashionably late. But, the room was too crowded, so it wasn’t getting in. Not without a fight.

Enter adult orthodontia. The baby teeth had to be pulled and “chains” were attached to the stubborn adult teeth, to coax them down. Along with top and bottom braces. The whole thing was much more violent than I’m describing. I’d love to tell you that I was a trooper and endured the hardship with grace and ease for the two long years that it took.

But that would be a big fat lie.

AND I ate popcorn and chewed gum when I had braces. Because I’m a REBEL.

But, with all that behind me, I went for my teeth cleaning this week. The annual Scraping Of The Plaque. Which really isn’t all that bad. I mean, I’ve never endured the pain of drilling for a cavity, or a root canal. So, I shouldn’t complain.

But I do.

At one point during the cleaning, the technician dropped the suction tool on the ground. “Five second rule” I cheerfully chirped. She doesn’t have kids. She didn’t get my humor. She had to stop and sterilize herself and the tool all over again. If I had been a technician with my first patient, I would have boiled everything for two minutes. By the second patient, I would have rinsed it off. But by the third, I would have just shook the hair off and stuck it back in my patient’s mouth.

Maybe that’s why I’m a mother. And not a dental technician.

The actual dentist came into to view my x-rays and look inside my mouth. Thusly ensuring I was getting my moneys worth out of this visit. With a smile, I was told, “Wow, for someone your age, you have a really great set of teeth!”

I force a broad smile, “Why thank you.”

That was so unnecessary.

A root canal would have been less hurtful.

To ease my pain, I went to Dunkin’ Donuts afterwards.

Oh RELAX, I didn’t do it. I just got coffee.

But, I thought about it. And the thought made my smile genuine.

October 26, 2007

Someone To Watch Over Me

This week our homeschool group was meeting at the playground for a little of that all important socialization. The kids are all different ages and sizes, and usually play really well together. At one point in the afternoon, Cailey came up to me and collapsed in my arms. Large crocodile tears trailing down her red and sweaty face. I asked her what was wrong, and finally she was able to tell me that an older boy she was playing tag with, said to her, “I hate you.” I held her tight, stroking her hair. I bit my lip in an effort to keep from unleashing the MOMMY SMACK DOWN on the boy who just hurt my daughter’s heart.

“Hate” is a word we’re not allowed to use in our home. Because of the likelihood it can and will be misused. So, it being a forbidden word in her 6 year old vocabulary, is the worse kind of insult a sweet princess-like girl can receive.

Now when Cailey cries, she can be heard for miles, so all the mothers came to check on her to see if an ambulance needed to be dispatched. Because her wailing sounded like she was surely dying.

The mother of the boy in question caught wind of the slight and she benched her son nearby. Cailey’s 6 year old cousin, Simon, came up to her and said, “Cailey, what happened?” Now Simon and Cailey are tight. Two peas in a pod. They get each other. Both being the middle child, and all. Through heaving sobs she got the whole sordid story out. “Who said that to you?” he demanded. She told him. His eyes grew wide, he shook his head, and kicked at the dirt. Knowing the boy was not only older, but BIGGER, I watched him wrestle with what he should do. After a moment or two, he sighed heavily, and marched over to the accused. “What did you say to my cousin?” Without waiting for an answer, he lowered his voice to an impressive octave and followed with “Don’t ever say anything bad to my cousin again.” And he turned and walked away. A little taller.

Blood really is thicker than water. And the desire to look out for the ones we love wins out over fear any day of the week.

Especially on the playground.

When Cailey starts dating, I’m sending Simon as a chaperone.  If Fiddledaddy can’t make it, that is.

October 25, 2007

Big Brother

I sat on a blanket in the shade, near the dugout.  My two year old son was eating a cheese stick and wandered away from me to explore the perfectly manicured baseball field.  No need to race after him.  The park was completely fenced in, and I could keep my eye on him at the same time my two girls were practicing their soccer moves nearby.  Jensen looked very small standing alone between 1st and 2nd base.  Nibbling on a cheese stick.  A few moments later, his 3 year old cousin joined him on the field.  They faced one another.  And discussed whatever it is that a two and three year old talk about while standing in the middle of a lonely baseball field.

Then Jensen dropped his cheese stick in the dirt.  A small cloud of dust rose from the ground where the snack landed.  While still facing one another, both cousins stood completely still, gazing down at the cheese stick.  In the dirt.

Oh please God, don’t let either one of them pick up that cheese stick and eat it.  You know my sprint isn’t what it once was, and I’ll never make it out there in time.  And besides, it’s so nice here in the shade.”

After a minute or two, Jensen lost interest and walk away.  His cousin remained, still staring at the discarded cheese stick.  He took a step back, and kicked dirt over the offending mozzarella.  And walked away.  Only for a moment.  Then returned to the scene of the crime to kick more dirt over the evidence.  Not unlike Jimmy Hoffa, that cheese stick will never be found.

Satisfied, he turned to follow Jensen onto their next adventure.

October 23, 2007

In The Grotto

My baby girl turned 6 last week. For months she had been requesting breakfast at Bob Evans for her birthday. I don’t encourage her to set her dining sights too high in our one horse town. She got all gussied up, wearing a new dress that her Nana had just made. For her sister. So it was a little roomy, but had excellent twirling capabilities. Besides, if you’re going to enjoy the fine dining experience of Bob Evans, it’s best to wear clothes that have a little “give.” Personally, I find that stretchypants work best for me.

We were suppose to have her “Mermaid” party that afternoon, but alas, that morning we discovered that 6 of our 8 cousin party guests were unable to make it. So, because we’re flexible, and I was frankly relieved to postpone it, we rescheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Procrastination is my friend.

At last Sunday arrived. I spread tarps all over the backyard. And set a large ring sprinkler in the middle. In essence, forming a lagoon.

By the way, spreading large blue tarps all over your lawn hides a multitude of landscaping sins.

I also had a largish baby pool filled with water, and a slide stationed to deposit slippery party goers into it. There were water balloons, and a finger painting station. I served a mermaid cake and ice cream cones. All in the lagoon. So the guests could be hosed down afterward.

One of my most brilliant moments, I know.

Other than a little rain, which no one really noticed, since the adults enjoyed the fact that their clothes were sticking to them because of the balmy conditions here in Armpit, Florida, the party was a huge success.

“THIS IS THE BEST PARTY I’VE EVER HAD!” exclaimed my Cailey.

I neglected to tell her that it’s the ONLY party she’s ever had. So, comparatively speaking, it really ranked way up there on the party chart.

We start getting all festive with the birthday party business, after the 3rd birthday or so. And unfortunately for Cailey, Jensen came along right about then and life came to a grinding halt.

But no more. We’re fast becoming party animals. In fact, I’m planning a party for Emme who will turn 8 next weekend. Since I survived this one. Mostly intact.

I have memories as a child of my mother giving me simple, but wonderful, backyard neighborhood birthday parties. There were games, snacks, and a gorgeous hand baked birthday cake. And my mother always looked spectacular with her 60’s bouffant hair, fashionable capris, and slings. I have the home movies to prove it. I don’t know how she did it. And my parties were always in August.

My daughter will have home movies of her mother with frizzy (not even my Chi could help me today) hair. The parts of my hair that weren’t sticking straight out were plastered to my pointy head from sweat and wayward water balloons. My mascara was running, and I was soaked from head to toe.

The grotto may have been my downfall.

But my baby girl mermaid had a 6th birthday party that she will always remember. And that’s what counts.

mermaidcake.jpg

October 22, 2007

Mama Rock

Wednesday night was date night with my girls. We attended AWANA while Fiddledaddy spent a little bonding time with the boy. Much to Jensen’s delight. When Jensen was born, I thought I’d finally have a child that worships the linoleum I walk on.

I was mistaken.

As far as Jensen is concerned, the sun rises and sets on Daddy. As though he senses the balance of testosterone and estrogen in the house is askew. Even the death of Katie the Cat left the house still hormonally unbalanced. And with the onset of pre-menopause, well, the testosterone carriers in the house cling together. Afraid for their very lives.

By the time we girls pulled into the driveway, Fiddledaddy had put Jensen blissfully to bed. One down. Two to go. Just as we were preparing to enter the front door, we noticed a number of frogs on our front porch. Everything from small green ones to large fat bulbous amphibians. A plague, as it were. As Fiddledaddy opened the door, the commotion began, in domino effect. Emme shrieked, catching a small frog attached to the door. And thusly flinging it to the middle child. Who screamed. Then a large well fed toad attempted to hop into the house. Fiddledaddy scooted him out with his foot. At this point, Emme thought it would be sporting to stomp on this hapless frog. While wearing her crocs. The frog began hopping for his life, heading right for the middle sister and the mother, as she continued stomping. Have I mentioned the mother is deathly afraid of frogs? For no apparent reason. From all the shrieking and screaming, the neighbors must have locked their doors and pulled down their collective shades in an effort to avoid the home invasion robbery that was surely occurring next door.

Somehow the frog escaped certain death from squishing, and we made it in the door. Breathless.

But not without waking the sleeping baby brother.

Since the majority of the noise came from me, I felt obligated to go to him to comfort him back to sleep. When I entered his room, the crying ceased, and he looked up at me with tired red eyes. “Mama rock,” he stated. “Mama rock,” I agreed. We settled into the old faithful rocking chair. My baby boy laid his sweet head on my shoulder. After a few moments, he looked up at me and whispered, “Mama home?” “Mama home,” I reported. He smiled and sighed contentedly, “Mama home,” and he lay his head back on my shoulder. His breathing matching my own.

And for that sweet moment, he was a mama’s boy.