Archive for the ‘Casa de Katie’ Category

She won’t stop chanting “Fashion show at lunch.”

May 16, 2017

I knew Gracie had grown in leaps and bounds lately, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when she told me she didn’t fit into any of her summer clothes. None of her shorts fit. Very few of her tshirts. And only two of her pairs of jeans from this spring. This spring!

I was going to try to take her to the outlet mall this past Saturday, but I knew Bee would hate that idea, and our friends were busy, so I couldn’t leave her in the middle of a playdate. Also, I had to supervise Bee’s project, and that took a lot more time than I thought. So as a compromise – and because they were having a 40% off sale – we all went out to Old Navy Saturday morning.

Gracie picked out a few pairs of shorts, some shirts, and wanted to really get some jeans since they were 50% off. I pointed out, though, that if her jeans from this spring didn’t fit, who was to say they’d fit in November when it was cool enough to wear them again. My teen ceded the rare valid point and crossed jeans off her shopping list. Don’t worry – we still have armfuls of clothes to try on! (Bee helped load ’em up. She had a couple shirts, a jacket, some tank tops, and a dress or two [I think? it’s all a blur] in the mix. But she culled entirely from the clearance rack with one exception, so I’m proud, not mad!)

As soon as we checked out, Gracie started in on “Hey! I know what we can do when we get home! Fashion show! Fashion show! Fashion show at lunch! Fashion show! Fashion show! Fashion show at lunch! Yep, that’s still her favorite. Even more so since she watched The Office and learned what it was from.

And so, unsurprisingly, this happened later Saturday evening:

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Yeah, words-on-tees trend got Gracie like whoa. And since I know she’ll wear it, I’m more than okay letting her load ’em up. She also has on a new pair of shorts, dark wash, with a cuff, even though she says she’s not a fan of cuffs.

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We almost missed this shirt, and I’m glad I got out of line to grab it because it’s an actual. color. instead of just white, black, or grey. I knew Gracie would love it because arrows are her jam. For the record: arrows > neutrals.

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Gracie picked out two dresses (of the 40 she tried on); this one, and a similar blue floral that I have to exchange because while the hangar said Small, the actual dress, it turned out, was XXL. Not quite Gracie-sized! But now Gracie has something to wear to church besides the two semi-formal dresses she’s been rotating between.

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This might be Gracie’s favorites, for obvious reasons. My baby girl won’t ever not be in a hurry to grow up! We both saw the mannequin sporting this top and liked it. I wouldn’t ever be able to wear it – more because it’s white and would make me nervous that I’m spill something on it…or out of it. Gracie doesn’t have any such worries. And she did look terrific in it! So we added it to the Buy pile, after making sure it looked just as good(ish) with the sleeves pulled up over her shoulders. You know – in case Dad freaks out. And these shorts are a new pair, too. Gracie much prefers the fringed hemline to the cuffed ones from earlier. I like them both – you need different looks!

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This tank might be a little too low-cut to be worn outside the house on its own (that would be the layering in the layering tank bit, m’dear), but I love the fatigue green on Gracie and the pineapple shorts sets off my girlie’s tan very nicely. Also: pineapples!

So mi chica has a good base for her summer wardrobe. She could stand to pick up another couple shirts and a sundress or two, but we did pretty good for an hour or two on a Saturday morning. Certainly we picked up enough to stage a fashion show! fashion show! fashion show at lunch!

My best of times, worst of times Mother’s Day.

May 15, 2017

Mother’s Day is never an easy day for me.

I’m filled with gratitude for this amazing village that surrounds me, helping me to be the best me – as they step in to designate hit for me when needed – and helping to raise my girlies for me. I have great sisters (birth sisters and accumulated sisters), cousins, friends, and the best dang stepmom I could have dreamed of. So many people help keep us upright and I am blessed!

But even with all of that happy, there’s the reality of my own mom. Mother’s Day goes in both directions. And my mom is…not how I remember my mom. But I still need to honor Mom as she is. I called her and let her talk for as long as she could. I talked to her about what was going on with us, and she didn’t have much to add from her end. But I know it meant a lot to her to hear from us. Kim and Rhi were there, so I felt like I was, too. Talking – even when she’s obviously having a bad spell – is good for her.

But it wrecked me. Seeing Mom be Not-Mom is always a gutpunch. On Mother’s Day, even more so.

So.

But let’s rewind. The girls and I were having an epic, wonderful weekend. We had a dance party on Friday night, and then after we wore ourselves out with wii-dancing, we played board games and talked and talked and talked. Everyone got along and it was great!

Saturday was the same. The girls went on errands with me without complaining, we went summer clothes shopping for Gracie (who has outgrown all of her clothes since spring), and Bee found a thing or two. She had more that she had picked out, but when I would point out that they wanted $20 for a tank top, she decided herself that it was ridiculous. Watching her carefully weight wants and needs, and the spending of my money, it was glorious!

After shopping, Bee knocked out her project and did it with minimal fuss. Gracie ran out grocery shopping with me, like she does, and I only had minimal grumbling when I made her. She put away the groceries when I got back while I helped Bee finish her project. Bee even wielded the hot glue gun all by herself! And the project was AMAZING:

Bee made the house and lined up the cotton and grapes. It was my idea to do a beginning, middle, and end slide on a rolling paper background, wrapped around two pencils to wind and unwind the paper scenes. (I am so frickin proud of my idea to mount the pencils on push pins that I super-glued to the base. The pencils went onto the push pins with the eraser. That way the bottom was attached firmly, but the pencils could still twirl. Genius, right?!) And then Saturday night the girls kept asking to do something as a family! Something as a family! Please? So we watched movies and had make-up tutorials that we re-enacted on ourselves. Don’t ask me how late I let them stay up! Because they weren’t arguing and we were having fun all together.

And then actual Mother’s Day showed up. Bee decorated all my usual seats with scarves, to make it fancy. The girls got ready for church and gave me a million hugs and told me how much they loved me. It was lovely.

After church, they came home and we opened cards and…no gifts. The cards were nice – don’t get me wrong! But – and here’s where I feel like a horrible person who’s a little materialistic, but let me explain how it’s not – I know I shouldn’t take how my Ex sees my value as a mom by him helping the girls get me a gift for Mother’s Day, but I do. I know he appreciates me – we get along so much better now and we’re honest to god friends, like I was at one point afraid we never would be. I’m close with his new wife, the girls’ stepmom. We call ourselves sister wives! ha! But I can’t say the lack of gifts didn’t hurt a little. I felt like I wasn’t worth the effort. My sister Kim helped the girls get me something, just in case, and it was lovely. Bee picked out a season of Victoria, that she and I could bond over together. (Kim’s right – time period costuming is definitely in our future!) And Gracie got me a bouquet of roses that she arranged.

But, after Gracie arranged the flowers and I got big hugs after church….everything went downhill in a hurry. The girls bickered all afternoon. They entrenched themselves in the living room and turned into zombies, playing Minecraft. I had to do laundry. I had to load the dishwasher. No one wanted to do anything fun with me. My afternoon of watching Victoria wasn’t realized. They were busy. No one wanted anything to do with me. I had my heartbreaking conversation with my mom and the girls had their turns talking with her. And then they went back to…not me. Which, I could have handled in small portions. I don’t expect every single moment to be devoted to me. I just wanted some sort of acknowledgment that it was Mother’s Day and I mattered. That they liked spending time with me. Without me asking. Just one activity together. Like the rest of the weekend!

Dinner was more of the same. Bee asked if she had to make dinner. Why couldn’t I do it. (Sigh.) They watched me set the table. I finished first and rather sit and talk to them at the table while they ate, I just got up and left. I shut my door. You’d think they’d realize I was hurt. They definitely got it when I came out, hours later, and was crying. I had to clear up the leftovers. The girls went right back to Minecrafting in the same seats they had been in since they got home from church. I told them through tears how hurt I was and how they had ruined my day, since they only came to talk to me when they were complaining and tattling about their sister.

So, no. Mother’s Day wasn’t my favorite. So many things went wrong. And no one took any trouble to make it right.

I could have kept quiet. I could have just sighed and hoped next year would be better. But I decided to write about it because this is the truth of what happened. It might hurt some people’s feelings. I don’t mean it to. I just needed to write it out, to purge my hurt feelings.

And maybe things will be better.

My Little Free Library: The before.

May 9, 2017

Waaaaay back at Christmas, my sister gifted me with a Little Free Library kit. Well, she gave the gift to me – the name of the gift – because they were slightly back-ordered. So my kit arrived sometime in March – still long enough ago that it should be up and operational by now.

The problem is, I was ignoring it for the longest time because I was going through the darkest depression this spring and it was all I could do to act “normal”, get through my day, go to work, take care of the family… you get the idea. So the Little Free Library sat in its box, waiting.

A few weeks, I started thinking about it. It came out of its box and I checked out all of the books (the kit Kim ordered came with a bunch of free books), and looked at the design. I started thinking about where I wanted to put it. I mean, I knew where I wanted to plant my LFL: at the entrance to our neighborhood park. It would get a lot of traffic as everyone walked by, plus it would be visible from the streets – the entrance is at the elbow of two roads, so twice the visibility. And it would motivate me to get back to running again – if I have to check it out regularly to make sure there are books there and everything is copacetic, it’s something I can do as I go for a run. (If I go the long way, it’ll be the one mile marker. How smart am I?!) The only problem was: How do we get permission to put a semi-permanent structure on public land?

I called 2342 different offices in my rather large city. I wasn’t sure who would be in charge of the project. I spoke to about a dozen people, some of them twice as I got re-routed, and they were all sympathetic and trying to be helpful, but no one seemed to be in charge of either selling me a permit or saying it was okay to just go do. I was relaying the story to a guy at work, someone who’s had about a gazillion jobs in the past few years. He’s wicked bright, like scary bright, and he mentioned that he used to be a contractor back in his youth. He asked if I got along with my neighbors, how many of them liked the park, if I thought the LFL would be vandalized or if they’d complain about it being there. No? My neighbors are awesome. And even if no one used it, or even particularly liked it, I can’t see them calling the city. So, this guy said, I should just do it. No one is going to know unless someone complains.

Huh.

It’s an idea. One I rather like. I tried to do it the proper way, but that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Now I’ll do it this way. And so, with a plan in mind, now I have to execute. And that means prepping my LFL box.

I’m thinking of painting the LFL box as if it’s a Tardis. (And not just because I wish the dang thing were bigger on the inside to hold all the books at once!)(But maybe.) I can buy Tardis blue paint (everyone was kind enough to send me the Pantone number) and then created the details at the top and on the sides and back (which I should have taken a picture of). It will be spectacular!

As you can see, we have a number of books ready for deployment. The free books that came with the kit are mostly younger kids books, which is perfect! The girls get books for their ages that they won’t necessarily want to keep when they’re done, and I have lots of grown-up books that I can donate after reading, so younger kids is definitely the area we wouldn’t naturally be able to fill. There are board books about Mickey Mouse, younger readers about the Avengers, two boxed book sets that are Cars themed, two big Disney themed 5-minute stories type books, two activity books by Don’t Let the Pigeon, and a bunch of bunny-themed easy readers. A good haul, even if there are duplicates, that means there are more for everyone! The haul for the grown-ups includes Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, You, Shatter, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Everybody Sees the Ants, Ella Minnow Pea, The Eyre Affair, Pride and Prejudice, The Kite Runner, The Girl on the Train, The Red Tent, The Girl at the Bottom of the Well, August Moon, Everything for a Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, Gutsy Girl, and Everlast. Not a bad start!

So! We’ll get to painting this weekend. Then we’ll figure out how to attach the kit to a post. Then we’ll get that sucker planted into the ground. I have some favors to call in because I’m sure not digging a post hole in this clay soil! Ha!

Stand by for the rest of the story! I’m sure it will be an adventure and a half!

In which Easter was happy, despite Fenway’s empty bunny ears.

April 17, 2017

It was a happy Easter. Not just because there was chocolate and wine (although there was). And not just because we had pizza for dinner (although we did). It’s because of the little victories! (And also: books.)

The girls went to their dad’s house for a potluck reunion after church, so we’ll just have the ham dinner I bought another time. It was a last minute addition, last Saturday night kind of last minute, but I know how hard it is to get everyone together on that side of the family, and so I thought that was a little more important than what we had going on.

While the girls were gone, I filled Easter baskets and plastic eggs and maybe cried a little when I saw the bunny ears we used to put on Fenway (and Bee, to be honest). It worked out okay for the girls, though, because feeling all my feelings just meant I added extra chocolate to their baskets.

I think they were pretty happy, don’t you?

If you can’t see in the pictures, this year’s book haul from the Easter Bunny: Bee got the new volume of Lumberjanes – and shrieked my ears off – and Gracie picked out By Your Side, by Kasie West, a romance about two teens (one good girl, one “bad” guy) stuck in a school library for the weekend. And I got the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy.

You can’t really see the girls’ dresses in this pic, but that’s okay because I dragged them outside at stupid early o’clock. They had to show up early for church, and so we were all up crazy early – and so were my neighbors, for unknown reasons, but my wish came true and they didn’t call over or try to engage us in conversation. Maybe because I was still in my pajamas and my hair wasn’t even done? But that’s okay because the girls looked so pretty!

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We won’t talk about how grown-up Gracie looks in that lace dress, or how much I wanted to cover up the giant cut-out in the lace in the middle of her back, or the fact that those shoes she has on are mine! Instead, we’ll focus on how great Bee-girl looks in her chevrons and that she’ll be able to wear that dress the entire summer no matter how tall she grows because superlong! The fact that I was able to find dresses that fit them both and matched together was an Easter Miracle, praise the Cadbury Bunny and all the Easter gods that ever was!

There was one other small, sad detail from this Easter that I have to report. After finally relenting and buying three dozen eggs for the girls to color (to avoid all the arguing over how many eggs), the girls broke it to me that they didn’t want to color eggs. So much for my big surprise! Also: I now have more than five dozen eggs in my fridge, so guess what’s for dinner all week?

But, not to worry! Just because the girls didn’t want to color eggs, that doesn’t mean they didn’t want to hunt for them! I still had to count out 20 eggs in each of their approved Easter colors, stuff them with candy, and then hide the eggs while the girls hid in their rooms.

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Yes, I made them tough to find. So tough, in fact, that two eggs are still missing! They’ll turn up. I’m not worried. It will probably be June and I’ll hear Bee exclaim, “Ooh! Mini-eggs!” and pop them in her mouth.

See? It’s the little victories here at Casa de Katie. The little things that keep us going.

It’s gonna be a little kitsch, but I don’t care.

April 11, 2017

The idea came to me when I was on a run, like all of the best ideas do. I think I had passed a house that had a giant butterfly or two attached to the roof (talk about kitsch), which made me think of our neighbor when we were growing up, Albina.

Albina was like a grandmother to us. She was quiet, and kept to herself, and with our side yard being so big (more than two house lots, but just), it wasn’t like we could throw pleasantries over the fence. So we kids talked to her whenever she was out gardening and we were out playing, and she must have talked to my parents from time to time. I know that when she drove past in her little four-door sedan (with the electric windows that we thought were so. fancy.) and we were outside, she would stop and talk to mum.

Not only did we talk to Albina when she was outside gardening (which seemed like all the time – the woman loved her flowers and plants), she sometimes borrowed me to help her run errands. We go driving around the city, picking up various things. I think she liked the company. She didn’t have any family. So I was her stand-in granddaughter. And I liked that. She always took me to McDonald’s for lunch when we ran errands, and she knew all the best McDonald’s with the coolest outside playgrounds. Even if the “cool” ones were far away, she would take me there. She liked to treat me.

Sometimes the errands we ran included picking up new ceramics from her supplier. Albina ran a ceramics class out of the basement on her side of her duplex. The shelves were lines with unpainted figurines. Everything from bears to kittens to clocks to doll’s heads and hands. Everything! She had shelves and shelves. She had two long tables with chairs and so many jars of paint! And there was a TV and two giant kilns in the corner. It was a wonderland!

For a couple summers, Albina taught Kim and I ceramics two days a week. We’d go over in the afternoon and stay for an hour or so. Albina would pick out a piece for us (or sometimes ask us for ideas) and that’s what we’d work on. We did Care Bear banks, a Holly Hobby clock, a baseball nighlight for Joey, and so many other things. We’d paint whatever section Albina had picked out for us, and we’d use whatever paint she gave us. There wasn’t really a lot of choice involved, but we didn’t mind. And we watched Albina’s show, Days of Our Lives, while we painted. Mum wasn’t very pleased about that, but not enough to say something. I laughed to myself when my roommate in college was addicted to that show and I still knew so many of the characters, just from the short time I spent watching it with Albina.

One of our favorite things about ceramics class, though, was the walk. We’d leave our yard, walk to the end, past the three giant pine trees, and turn onto Beanie’s path. (Beanie is what we called her; she always chuckled so at her nickname!) Once we hit her walkway, Kim and I would start counting the ceramics we saw attached to Beanie’s roof, or the side of her house, or hidden in her garden. There were gnomes and butterflies, kittens and frogs, signs and mushrooms and stepping stones. It was all so magical! Truly, each piece felt like a talisman of some sort.

And so that’s my tribute: I want to start placing nice pieces of ceramics around my gardens, fairy gardens, and house. I want to cover my yard in a tribute to Albina. I’ll try my best to keep it from being too tacky, because I want to capture a little bit of the magic that Beanie’s house had. I think keeping most of the pieces at least partially hidden might be key.

We’ll see. I have an entire yard and house to start decorating. Kitschy or a bit magical – I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In which I finally caved and said yes.

April 4, 2017

I had A Day with Miss Gracie yesterday. It was one of those golden days that I’m sure I’ll look back on a hundred times later.

It didn’t even start out all that extraordinary. I picked her and M. up from school. I dropped of M. and got Bee-girl from After-Care. The coordinator there loaded us up with cookies and desserts they had leftover from Panera – it pays to be a nice parent, you guys. And while we were driving, I told Gracie about my crazypantsbananatown day, and she told me about all the drama going down at her school. Something about a text-storm at 4 a.m. [good lord – yeah, if that continues, the phone is outta there] and then a bunch of smack being talked about her at school. I listened as baby girl told me all about it, and agreed (mostly) with how poised her responses were. Gracie’s doing fine. I’m parenting fine. All is well. …At least on that front. …For now.

Our evening…meh. It seemed pretty average. Bee had a headache, so she laid down for awhile. Gracie did her normal just-got-home things: played with the dog, changed into comfy clothes, texted all her friends. Told me more about all the drama. In fact, I remember quite a bit of her following me around as I tried to transition out of my day. Earrings were getting shucked, shoes getting put away, hair pulled back. Finally I told her I was changing and just stopped caring if she was in the room. Tell you what – as soon as I unbuttoned my slacks, that girl was gone.

We had a good dinner (shrimp scampi and salmon and garlic button croissants. And pretend we had a veggie) and the girls and I laughed our way through some household chores. And it was Bee who came and hung out with me in my room and watched TV with me; she and I started putting together the Ghostbuster’s Ecto-1 Lego car. But then it was bedtime and Bee went to bed without a fuss (because: headache earlier) and I made Gracie come entertain me while I cleaned the kitchen. So I rinsed dished and loaded the dishwasher and recycled 93284032 cans and wiped the counters and cleaned the sink and checked on my pet ants, all while Gracie told me stories and more about her day. It made me think of when my mom would be cleaning the kitchen and ask me to entertain her. It’s a good way to sneak in some bonding time.

I should have sent her to bed after the kitchen was clean. But the wiseass I raised kept trying to convince me that we should flop down on my (comfy, comfy) bed and talk or watch Bones instead of cleaning. So I told her we could hang out in my room for a bit. She immediately flopped down on the bed and started making herself comfy while I got ready for the next day, picking out outfits and jewelry. Then I got the grand idea of letting Gracie help me to game out my outfit for my date on Friday. She adjusted a few things and I went with her decision, so we’ll see how it plays out. In between all of that, Gracie took alllllll the selfies. I’m sorry, World: there are no selfies left. Gracie took them all last night. Sheesh.

That’s when the begging began. About just staying right there and sleeeeeeeeping. I can count the number of times that child has slept in my bed, and two of them were after times she ended up in the trauma hospital.

I can’t believe I gave in.

I know the girl kicks in her sleep. No one wants to sleep with her on vacation because we know she is a restless sleeper, she snores, she drools, and she kicks. And coughs! I made the girl get up and take some cough medicine. God, I was tired by that point, but she thought it was Christmas morning, getting to sleep on the NASA technology mattress she’s in love with. Lights went off. And then the moving began. Over and then the other way, and shuffle this way, and that arm… It was a nightmare! I put a hand on Gracie’s upper arm. Told her rather firmly to stay still (because the girl was out – dang, she can sleep!) and she stopped.

So I did get some sleep after all. My little girl is growing up so fast, it’s nice to have those moments – or an afternoon of moments – while we can. Even if those mean I have to deal with a bonkers teenager who sleeps like monkeys are jumping on the bed.

Spring must be here, because everything is attacking me again.

April 3, 2017

Spring is violent. Possibly everywhere, but spring is especially violent here in Tejas.

When I first moved here, I had to adjust to the rabid pollen that attacked me at every breath. The first few years, my poor nose would stuff up just after Valentine’s Day, and wouldn’t relent until after Easter. That level of sinus congestion was violent. My mood was violent after so many sleep deprived nights. Hell, even the raw, red, drippy end of my nose looked violent.

Spring weather is obviously violent here. Every time I think I’ve acclimated a little, I’m reminded just how much of a non-native I really am. One storm system, I’ll be all nonchalant and muster nothing more than a half-hearted hope that I make it home from my errands after work before it gets too bad; the next tornado watch with a tor:con north of 3 means I have to take a personal day and sometimes I even have to take the girls out of school for a made-up doctor’s appointment, because who takes the kids out of school early because of the weather radar?! So after I’m all, okay maybe I can handle this, and being the kind of person who walks out into the back yard to get a better look because it’s not too close yet, then I get a close call like last week and I’m terrified again of how very violent spring is here. Yeah, I’ll be hiding in the closet for awhile.

Then there are the birds, attacking me from left and right. I always loved bluebirds. I mean, maybe not as much as Disney loved them, but I had a real strong affinity. Maybe you remember the story about the bluebirds who set up their cute little nest last year in a corner of the overhang that covers the front stoop? I was all BABY BIRDS!, until I realized that baby birds meant mama birds. Mama birds who like to protect their babies – violently, if need be. Mama birds who will ZOOM! at your head with their razor-sharp beaks and clawing talons. Mama birds who make you slam the door shut before they eat your face off. Violently. So: guess who I opened my front door to find on Saturday?

And lastly (please, God, let it be “lastly”), there are my favorite feral pets, The Ants. My feral ants, also called sugar ants, that can’t be smooshed because they’ll send a distress signal to the hive, causing it to split and multiply. Ants, teeny, tiny, microscopic ants that will make you paranoid about everything, always. Ants that I woke up to find on Sunday morning, crawling out of an electrical outlet and into my sugar jar. I had some of the nuclear poison needed to eradicate my “pets”, which I used to quarantine the outlet they’d made their homebase, but the directions said to let the ants traipse the poison back to their home, in order to kill every last one. I don’t know if I can wait that long. I just need them gone. Now.

So, yes, from all of the violent goings on, I figure it must be spring time in Tejas. Huzzah.

 

Dear Weather Gods: We were kidding about the bottle of Jack Daniels.

March 29, 2017

I knew it was going to storm. It was one of those days when Texans complain about the humidity…and they’re actually right. Usually the humidity they complain about is the kind that makes me shrug a shoulder and “meh,” at them and get the stink eye in return. I’m from a state where humidity and moisture content are ridiculous. It’s like yesterday afternoon, but all the time. A sit-down-in-the-wooden-kitchen-chair-and-have-to-peel-yourself-out-of-it kind of humidity. The air was hot and muggy and not moving anywhere. It felt like tornado weather.

It wasn’t supposed to start until later in the evening, but the line fired up early. It was slow as molasses, though, so really all the meant was that I could look at it every so often as I refreshed all the weather radars and shut off all the NOAA alerts for counties that didn’t even include mine. I eventually convinced myself to go to bed. I was going to be exhausted if I didn’t. Especially if things fired up during the night.

Go ahead and guess what happened.

My heart flew through my chest and up out of my throat every time that NOAA weather radio went off. I’d make sure it wasn’t a tornado, I’d check to see if it was headed my way. Then I’d shut off the lights (if I’d bothered), try to slow my heart rate, and lie back down. Sometimes it would happen three or four times in a row. After time 10 or 12 in about a 5 minute span, I decided that maybe I should just stay up until the line of storms passed. I still had more than half of my night’s sleep ahead of me, and with my insomnia issues, I knew 4 hours would be manageable.

That was when when got our first tornado warning.

I started flying through the house, finding sneakers, grabbing a twin mattress for the closet, convincing the dog to come with me. I took the NOAA radio with me. I took my lap top with me. I cursed myself for cancelling cable – and then changed my mind when I saw I could watch my news station live as long as my internet held out. Mostly, I kept telling the weather gods that Kim and I hadn’t really meant it when we said we were going to chuck a bottle of booze at the next twister in memory of Bill Paxton. Because the tornado the weathermen had issued the warning for? It was headed straight for my house.

There’s nothing quite like that moment, when you realize the exits or mile markers on the highways include your exit (less than a mile from your house), or when they name your intersection on the news, or casually intone the “radar-indicated rotation” is headed straight for the park that you can see two lots over from your back yard. Then the lights start flickering, and your hands shake a little bit more. You start listening for the roar, worrying over it, sure your heart will explode. You wonder if the sweat you’re producing is a symptom of a heart attack – surely it can’t be healthy.

It was the longest half hour of my life. The tornado warning was allowed to expire. Good gravy, that was close! I texted with the girls and made sure they were okay. I checked on Jeff – the other tornado in the area passed by just a couple hundred feet from his house; he watched the power flashes as the transformers blew.

I stayed awake for a few minutes, getting back to “normal” and seeing if I could ever sleep again. I didn’t think I would fall asleep, but I crashed hard, trying to figure out what was going on when my alarm clock went off.

As scary as that was, it hit me again as I drove out of the neighborhood and nearly ended up in the tree that was lying across the road – there were trees and street lights lying helter skelter, a goodish number of them across the road. A yard or two over from my house. That’s a little too close.

Good luck getting me to sleep the next night we have storms in our forecast. Good luck trying to get me to sleep at all.

Well…that’s one way to cure it.

March 27, 2017

Have I mentioned? In the midst of everything else going on (or maybe because of it), I’ve had a bit of insomnia. Or, I did…until last night happened.

Yesterday was a bit of a weird day. It was scattered. The girls had church, during which I took the most glorious nap. (Napping hasn’t be a problem for my insomnia. And yes, I can hear you: but not napping has no effect on whether or not I sleep at night) When the girls came home, they had lunch, and worked on a few chores.

Oh, and that’s when I might have mentioned to them that it was supposed to tornado on our heads later. Our tor:con was 5 and, yeah. Not really happy about it, but at least it wasn’t all day? I had things to do!

So the girls looked at the sky and shrugged their shoulders and moved on with their afternoons. Bee worked on laundry, Gracie went to Costco with me [she had requested, by the way, that we now call her The Man Of The House because she is the strongest and could move the giant dog food bag by herself]. Then we went home, unloaded the car and looked at the sky again.

Not much going on.

So I went for a run, spent my energy, showered, sent the girls through their showers early, in case it was storming later, and checked the radar. Yeah, there they were – storms off to our west. Just about the same time that I saw the storms on the radar, my weather radio went off with a tornado watch. And then a severe thunderstorm warning for counties north and south. I couldn’t tell by the radar, but it looked possible that the storms would split and miss us. So just in case…

I took a quick poll and decided to order pizza. The good kind I had to go pick up. Which meant I would just miss the storms coming back. At least, I would if the line held.

Of Bee and I went. We grabbed our goodies and headed back. The wind was up, the clouds were gray, but nothing terrible. We ate our pizza undisturbed.

Well – not really. The NOAA weather alarm went off every few minutes. Everyone else was getting slammed with storms but us! So I read my book and shut off the alarm every time it went off, but those times were slowing down.

And that’s when it happened – I put my head down on my bed for just for a moment. I even left my finger holding my page in my book. I just needed a ten-minute nap.

My “ten minutes” was interrupted some untold time later by the weather radio. Gracie ran in and we listened. I told her I was just resting my eyes. I think she got the message by how sleepy I seemed when I was trying to shut off the beeping.

The alarm went off again, and I honestly couldn’t tell you which girl I talked to.Someone came in. We talked, I shut the alarm off, and I closed my eyes again.

When I opened them the next time, it was dark in my room. I looked at the clock. It was midnight. I got up and went out into the living room – Fenway was asleep, the kitchen was shut down, the locks all on, and the alarm was set. The girls did an awesome job getting the house shut down, even if they didn’t wake me up. Even the alarm clock in Bee’s room was turned on.

Yep, that’s one way to nap.

I must have needed it. I was exhausted. Too many nights where I wasn’t sleeping. Still! I can’t believe the girls had picked up and then shut down the house. They set the alarm and did everyone a grown-up would do. Well – almost. They didn’t turn on the outside light before setting the alarm, but I bet they didn’t even know I did that. I was so proud of them!

I asked them this morning if they really went to bed at 9pm (normal bedtime) and they swore they did. I asked them why they didn’t wake me up and reassured them that they are allowed to wake me. Bee says she opened the door at bedtime and said “Mom?” once. I didn’t move. So she shrugged her shoulders (again) and just went to bed.

After checking on the house at midnight, I went back to bed and slept until 5a. Not bad. I went to bed three hours earlier than I would have, and only got up one hour earlier. And all of those hours were filled with sleep!

The other funny bit is that after an entire day of staring at the sky and being “excited” (uh, “anxious”, Katie – get it right), I slept through the whole thing! Bee said it never stormed, and Gracie said it was just windy (which explained why the extra security pole was wedged under the back door). I missed the wind and the storms missed us. But not everyone – my phone was lit up with messages and tweets about hail storms and thunderstorms and everything else. Uhhh…glad I’m not northeast? Because it sounded unfun. You know – as I WAS SLEEPING!

I shouldn’t brag too loud about that, or this sleep thing will disappear!

Oh, trust me – it would be justifiable homicide.

March 15, 2017

I was thinking of how many people would be mad at me – my cousins, my friends, my siblings (well, one of them), my girls, myself (…eh)… And so I didn’t open the gate. I grabbed that dog by the collar and I started the trek across the grass, through the mud, flung open the gate (with my hand very firmly on the dog’s collar), and marched him over to the neighbor’s house. For the fifth time in three days.

Everyone on Facebook has heard the complaints already. My neighbor means well. He does. He tries to be a good neighbor, a good father, and an honorable man. The problem is… well, there are a few of them. There’s a language barrier, which makes any interaction with him a struggle. He works two or three jobs to provide for his large, extended family who live with him. He spoils his two sons (ages 7 & 9 maybe?) rotten so that they’re absolute brats when he’s not around (uh, which is any time between 6a and 10p, because two jobs). So, yeah, a few problems. The latest of which is that they have too many dogs and not enough f*@)s to give.

The first dog the family has is not a favorite in our end of the neighborhood. It’s allowed to roam freely and it will charge and nip you (or just plain terrorize you) if my neighbor isn’t out. And the boys? I mentioned how terrible they are; they don’t care to make the beagle/Jack Russel terrier mix stay in their yard while they play. So I was a little leery when I found out about the second dog, a pit bull/rhinoceros mix who isĀ so sweet, but so huge! and likes to jump on you from behind and smother you in puppy kisses.

I found out about the second puppy, Brownie, the last time I had to go yell at the neighbor for leaving the dog(s) out all night and letting them whine under my bedroom window for two hours at 2 a.m. [That’s also when I saw my neighbor hit his son for leaving the gate open and letting the dog get out at night. Which, uh, no thanks.] I really got to know Brownie, though, when neighbor caught me one day when I came home from work. Sidestory! I had just put down the garage and heard someone banging on the garage door just before it finished sliding all the way down. Who does that?! Creepers and serial killers, that’s who! The “knocking” continued, so I went into the house, stepped around a frenzied Fenway, looked out the front window and didn’t see anyone. Because they were already knocking on my front door. The peephole (god bless peepholes) said it was my neighbor, so I went out and we struggled through a conversation (the man speaks three languages, I’m not knocking him; it’s just painful) about replacing the fence on our shared side of the yard. I knew it was something I was going to have to do after I got my taxes back – that fence is beyond rotten. Slats are missing. We’ve patched the holes as best we can to keep the dogs away from each other. And his kids like to throw things through the missing parts because: brats. So I had unlatched the gate and we were walking back there and talking and Brownie was with him, unleashed, just jumping on the two of us and trying to love on everything. And marking his territory everywhere. Pooping in my yard. You know. Neighbor dude mentioned how the puppy was eating everything in his house and wasn’t training up really well, but his boys loved him. I noted how friendly the dog was cried a little on the inside because all we needed was another problem dog.

And problem dog he was. Thank GOD the sweet pup-pup was as loving as he was. If he was mean, I’d probs be dead or mangled by now. Because that dang thing can wiggle through some pretty small holes, which is a doggy miracle, given the size of the thing. He immediately started busting into our yard, trying to get to Fenway. Or see what there was to see. Or just because – who knows. I just know that half the times I looked up into our yard, there would be Brownie. At first I just coaxed him back through the holes left by the missing fence slats. Neighbor and I kept replacing them, or jimmying together some temporary fix that we thought patched the fence good enough to prevent jailbreaks. But there would be that dang dog again. Brownie would come up to me when I went outside to “fix” it – eventually. He might dance up and dart away a few times, wanting to give me some puppy kisses, but knowing I was going to send him away. If I wasn’t so frustrated, I woulda laughed at how obviously torn the puppy was.

I kinda lost my patience after this weekend, though. Five jailbreaks in three days. FIVE. The dog was tearing my screens trying to see in the house, chewing on my patio furniture, and pooping on the patio! (The poop ended up over the fence on top of the neighbor’s a/c unit. I don’t know how. Honestly. ish.) I was all done being a good neighbor.

I started bringing the dog to their front door, thinking that would emphasize to them how often this was happening. Then I put the dog on a leash to give them an idea that they could let their dog out on a leash. In fact, when the boys answered the door, I started making that suggestion. “You guys need to get this under control, or maybe use a leash.” And then, “Tell your dad that he needs to hurry up and fix the fence, or you’ll have to use a leash for the dog every time because this is getting ridiculous.” That was the time the boys slammed the door in my face as soon as they had the puppy. And I might have yelled through the door exactly what I thought of that response when I was being pretty cool about the dang dog. I thought about telling my neighbor about the door being slammed in my face, but since he had hit the boys before for not listening to him, I didn’t want to be a party to whatever fallout would happen if he knew his kids had disrespected me that way. But I did plenty of fuming.

This is when everyone started telling me to start documenting the problem, or maybe call animal control. But I hated to do that. My neighbor genuinely is a good guy. He’s just not there because he’s trying to live the American Dream and you need a lot of paychecks to do that when you’re making what we’re making. He’s a guy who patched my roof once and has offered 2938209348 times since then to help with it again. He always waves and would help with any problem I had. When I went over to complain about his dog, he thought I was talking about the stray dog that had attacked him, and so he took a butcher knife because he thought he was coming out to rescue me. Neighbor is a good guy – just absent and not able to easily communicate when he is there. So I don’t think he’s manipulating the situation or trying to take advantage of me. The neighbors would judge me if I called the cops on one of us (we’re a tight-knit community and we try to handle our problems inside the family first), even though I’m sure they’d understand once I explained. So I don’t think Neighbor was banking on me not breaking the code, either. I think he just doesn’t know how often it’s happening because he’s not there and his bratty boys aren’t telling him.

I was already past the point of caring how mad anyone got because I was done. I had had a long day at work, I didn’t need to chase down and drag the neighbor’s dog back to his house twice. I wanted to unwind and go to bed in peace. But I couldn’t, because the doorbell rang at 9 p.m. I stared at the door, jaw agape, wondering what the heck. I had just started shutting down the house for the night, but the lights where still on so they could see someone was up. That doesn’t obligate me to answer the door, but I had a sneaky suspicion that it was the neighbors. I had heard a noise outside and did a quick scan, but didn’t see Brownie. Then again, it was pitch black. Which also meant I couldn’t see who was at the door without putting on the porch lights. I couldn’t put on porch lights without them knowing I was up. The doorbell had run again and knocking had started while I tried to decide what to do. Finally I decided that if I didn’t answer and it was the neighbors looking for their dog, they’d probably just open my gate and come on in. Which, after I opened the door, saw it was one of the boys, and let him through the house to go get the dog from the yard, I found out is exactly what happened. But no dog. I hoped that the dog had escaped and was running around the neighborhood, never to be found (yes, I’m a bad person going to hell), but after I ushered the neighbors out of my house and my yard, I heard them out in their front and back yards yelling and shrieking and whistling – but mostly shrieking – for more than thirty minutes. Yes, Spring Break week, but who lets their kids be that loud outside after 9p on a weeknight?!

So I’m done. Done, done, done. I haven’t quite figured out what that means, but for sure there’s going to be a firm discussion with my neighbor. And I’m going to hand him one of my extra leashes, because I’m pretty sure he’ll follow through on that plan. But something has to be done. If the fence can’t be fixed right now, then maybe they need a run for their dog. I’ll tell him that the last thing I want to do is create hard feelings by calling animal control to report the dog when it’s gotten loose, but the situation has gotten out of control.

Like I said – justifiable homicide. The problem is, at this point I’m not sure if I’m more upset with the dog, the neighbor, or those two bratty boys!