Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

The one with the really long story that is really about wishing someone a happy birthday.

February 10, 2014

When you look at how things turned out, you have to give credit to my mom: she’s a lot sneakier than she lets on. If the plan behind rooming my sister Kim and I together since, well, since even before Kim was even out of her crib – if the point was to force us to bond, then it worked. Maybe better than she thought. (So well that it’s the reason Bee and Gracie are stacked in bunk beds rather than let them branch out into their own rooms.)

We started out in the little bedroom downstairs, me in my big girl bed and the crib against the wall, even though Kim slept most nights in the bassinet in my parents’ room. Just before baby Joey was born, we were moved into the big front room (which my parents sometimes used as their room), Kim in her crib still, and me in my brass-frame little girl’s bed. We didn’t last long in the front room – there was plenty room for toys, sure, but the noise from the main road was loud and frightened us (or so the family story goes), and so my mom moved the two of us – with Kim in a big-girl bed – into the back bedroom and my parents moved their bedroom into the front room.

Kim and I shared that downstairs bedroom for years. She slept in the bed next to the window to protect me from all the scary things I imagined crawling into it, and I slept next to the open door to…okay, no, not to protect her from the same thing, it was so I didn’t have to sleep next to the window. Ahem. It was the bedroom where I first remember dancing around the room and on our beds, listening to the radio and our first cassette tapes. It’s where we had chicken pox, confined to our beds for an entire week, and where we learned to stay quiet while we were supposed to be falling asleep so that we could hear what our parents were saying in the next room. Yeah – that there? That bit about our first baby steps as spies? Kim always fell asleep.

When our bedroom moved upstairs, our dynamic duo was broken up for a short time. I moved upstairs first on my own, and then when I wasn’t eaten by monsters during the night, my parents moved Kim into the other room upstairs. Although now that I think about it, I think perhaps they moved Kim upstairs in an attempt to calm me down. I shouldn’t be scared because Kim was right next door! After a year of that particular experiment, they went ahead and bunked Kim and I in the same bedroom upstairs. The little room we used as a playroom, and then as Joey’s room when Rhianyn was born.

That upstairs room is when Kim and I really first became the “stilly stisters” that Bee and Gracie know us as today. We fought like cats and dogs at time as we learned to negotiate boundaries – and when to both abide by them and ignore them. And as our relationship grew and changed, the layout of our bedroom did, too. We jumped from bed to bed (and broke Kim’s bed at least once), we stayed up late telling stories, I learned to fall asleep to Kim’s breathing when I woke up from a nightmare and she learned to fall asleep to my reading light when I stayed up late. We counseled each other through boy problems and friend problems and parent problems and played endless board games. Our bedroom was our shared home-base, our headquarters where we could escape from the rest of the world and regroup.

When I started my second year of high school, my mom decided it was time to let me have my own room. I deserved some privacy, she said. I moved into the little room upstairs, Joey moved down to Rhianyn’s room, and Rhi moved into my former space in the big room upstairs with Kim. And that was how Kim and I learned that we were weren’t hanging out with each other because we had to – we liked hanging out with each other. She spent countless hours in my room doing the same things we had done when it was our room. Our separate space gave us corners to retreat to when we needed it – and boy, did we need them some days! – and a new understanding of just how close we we had become.

College was different – not only did we have separate bedrooms, we were living under separate roofs for the first time. But summers reunited the dynamic duo, as we were once more back in the big room upstairs together. That took some…readjusting.

No sooner did we negotiate a new treaty on how to share our space and save our collective sanity than I did a very ridiculous thing – I moved to Texas. And then Kim was ridiculous in refusing to move with me. But even after all of these years, all of these separate bedrooms and safe spaces and hideyholes where we go to retreat from the rest of the world, my sister and I still have that connection, that sense of comrades-in-arms that can only come from gutting it out in the trenches – or sharing your childhood bedroom.

Happy Birthday, Kim. Thanks for not killing me in my sleep any of those millions of times you wanted to.


The simple joys of summer.

August 15, 2013

There is a certain water spigot at my mom’s house that has gotten quite a lot of us kids into trouble over the years. It’s the outside faucet, one that we kiddos quickly learned how to turn off and on. We’d use it to make mud pies, to make moats in the sand box, to fill the pails when we were playing soup chef, to give the dog more water, and, on more than one occasion, to splash each other.

All of this abuse is certainly why, after shouting through the window to Stop turning the water on!, my mom eventually took water privileges away from us.

One day we went out and the handle to the water faucet was gone. I’m sure there was a lecture that probably went along with the mysterious disappearance, but I’ve blocked it if there was. But, because my mom loves us and because she was a softie (and quite possibly because we were rather lovingly relentless), we discovered before long that the handle to the water faucet was kept in my dad’s top dresser drawer. Now, my dad was kind a scary person when we were little. He was a strict disciplinarian and not very big on parental bonding. You can imagine how daunting it was to go fetch the faucet handle out of his drawer even with our mom’s permission, never mind when we were sneaking it out. Of course, the very idea of sneaking is kind of laughable now. Sure we were quiet and sneaky enough to get the handle out undetected. We could even put it back exactly as it was. But the thing about the outside water faucet is that the sound of the water coursing through the pipes was loud. It could be heard throughout the entire house. Not so sneaky. But definitely fun!

When I was trying to think of ways to keep the girls entertained while we spent time visiting my parents, the idea of water guns came to mind. I thought it would be a fun way for them to interact with their (immobile) grandfather. He could sit on the deck, armed with a water gun, and they could run around down in the yard and try to evade his fire and get him back. Add in Uncle Joey as a not-so-secret weapon for either side and you have a lot of fun. Grandpa didn’t play, but the girls and Uncle Joey sure did. Auntie Kim and I bought Joey a huge super-soaker and the girls these tiny little guns. The disparity cracked us up. The girls didn’t think it was so funny at first, but I did hear a suspicious amount of laughter and shrieking as they ran back and forth to the water faucet to reload.

The three amigos had been at it for more than an hour before I remembered that I didn’t think to bring extra clothes for my soaked urchins to change into. Whoops. Oh well – I was planning on buying them new Red Sox t-shirts anyway. I maybe had to negotiate a cease-fire as I made my way to the car to go get dry clothes, and when I came back, the girls were running around nearly nekkid, but that’s what summer’s for, I guess. Water gun fights, playing with crazy uncles, and filling the house with the sounds of shrieking laughter and that damned loud water faucet running full tilt.

Simple fun, but the kind that makes you sleep like the dead at night. How can you beat that?


One fox, two fox, good fox, bad fox.

June 13, 2011

Let me say that this blog post happened because my sister and I were discussing what in God’s Black, Scary Earth could be making the I’m-Coming-To-Kill-You-In-Your-Sleep noises outside her (very rural) house one night. There’s a second part to the story and if you’re very good (and I’m very dedicated), you’ll hear part two tomorrow. But first, I have to tell you…

When I was little, I was deathly afraid of foxes and wolves…and I really wasn’t too fond of coyotes, either. Our See n’ Say was broken and wouldn’t make the coyote sound and I always thought it was a sign that the world loved me, because sometimes when it would play just part of the coyote sound, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my stomach felt all watery. I couldn’t read the book about Little Bunny Cottontail without running to my mom in a dead fright because there was a fox whose tail the reader could see getting closer, and closer, and closer until it was almost too late. I used to have dreams that that fox was chasing me on the path behind my mom’s house and I almost couldn’t get up the stairs and into my mom’s house in time. In other dreams, it would be the dead of night and my mom and I would be running for a house when I would feel – literally feel in my dream – the wolf’s jaws jump and grab my left collarbone from behind (always the same spot) and start to eat me alive.

Did I mention that I lived in the middle of a rather large city (well, large for New England, at least) and that it wasn’t like we had any of these animals anywhere near us? I’d never seen a fox outside the pages of picture books. I couldn’t even stand to watch them on TV, they scared me so badly. So it’s not like I had reason to be afraid. I hadn’t ever heard coyotes howling. My fears had no basis. But that didn’t stop them.

I half-believed that every night, at 9:00 p.m., my closet door opened and a parade of beasts and witches and monsters filed past my bed and into the night to scare all the children. I don’t know why I thought the portal to the scary side of the world was in my bedroom, but I did. If I wasn’t fast asleep, the monsters would get me. And those were just the “pretend”(ish) beasts. I was firmly convinced that every night real wolves and real foxes and alllll of their very real teeth circled our house and looked for a chance to get inside. It could be through a window (I made my sister sleep in the bed next to the windows) or through an unlocked door, but one night they would get me. I made very sure that I slept stick straight in the middle of my bed and never moved a muscle. I didn’t sleep on my side or my stomach – just stick straight on my back down the middle of my bed. My mom used to tease me about never needing to make my bed – I could just climb out of it and fold my covers over my pillow – but it was because if the wolves and foxes put their snouts up to the bed, I thought they couldn’t reach me in the middle. The possibility of them jumping never occurred to me – thank god – but if they did, my plan was to scramble onto the brass pipes that made up my headboard. Okay, yes, that would have been impossible and impractical, but I was eight.

And then there was The Night I Was Scared to Frickin Death. It was a bitterly cold winter night. Temps must have plunged deep below zero because otherwise Goldie would have slept downstairs in the cellar on her carpeted pallet. Goldie was our family dog; half springer spaniel, half border collie. In fact, this picture is almost a dead ringer for her:

(You can see where this is going, can’t you?)

So on this Very Cold Night That Scared Me Frickin To Death, my dad insisted on letting Goldie sleep inside. Goldie NEVER slept inside. But it was freezing downstairs and he figured she would sleep next to the old cast-iron radiator in the kitchen, hidden from view by the washing machine. Ha, ha, ha, only she didn’t so when eight-year-old me wakes up at 2 in the morning and opens my eyes to do a monster check before I get up to pee, what do I see staring straight. at. me. from just over the threshold in the kitchen but a great, big, hair wolf.  I screamed bloody murder and, instead of implementing my If You Should See A Wolf plan, I threw my covers over my head. Turns out, that’s much more instinctual than people give it credit for. Next thing I know, my mom and dad are peeling the covers off, sitting on my bed and asking what was wrong. I couldn’t sleep for weeks.

I was well into adulthood before my “irrational” fear of wolves and foxes got any better, although I will admit that when I moved to Texas and first heard coyotes howl while I was walking to the car, I might have almost peed my pants trying to get inside and the doors locked. Heh. Now, I sometimes even think foxes are cute, although I will never ever really trust those sly wolves. You just know they’re planning on how to best prepare Feast de la Katie when they take over the world.

But if I had known – ever – at any point in my life – that foxes scream? It would have been game. frickin. over. everybody out of the pool. I never would have made it out of childhood and I’d be a drooling, gibbering mess somewhere, hooped up on sedatives and still eight-years-old.  Because look what I found while I was researching the thing that I’ll write about tomorrow and that started this whole mess. It’s a little thing I call Good Fox, Bad Fox and How to Tell the Difference:

Good Fox: Pretend I have embedded the Youtube video and Click here. Awww…aren’t the widdle foxes cute all jumpy and bouncing on the trampoline?

Bad Fox: Click here and then try not to run far, far away from the Very Bad Fox who seems to be promising that as soon as you go to sleep he’s going to come and eat your eyeballs Bwahaha!

If I had known that when I was little, my development would not only be arrested, it would be in maximum security with no possibility of parole. And the truth is, that’s not even the scariest thing I learned this weekend. But that is another story for another day. Now excuse me while I go get licenses to carry a not-so-concealed weapon into the boonies of Connecticut. <shivers> No way I’m going unarmed now.

Operation: NoMoHo

April 6, 2011

Next month week (for lo’ verily, it is already April), I am flying up to the vast wilds of Connecticut and then my sister and I are fleeing northward to my mom’s house. More accurately, we’re dragging ourselves because we’re going to start on a project no one really wants to do: start cleaning out my mom’s attic.

My mom keeps stuff. It’s what she does: she worries about people she used to parent and she keeps all the things. ALL THE THINGS! (Ahem. Sorry. I’m a bit sporky.) In any case. My mom’s house is full of stuff and junk and clutter and childhood treasures – at least the ones my dad hasn’t gotten around to throwing away lately. It’s reached critical mass: someone other than my gimpy dad or my overworked brother has to do something because you can’t walk into the attic at all anymore. The front porch is stuffed to the ceiling. And you can’t find anything in the rest of the house, either.

So! Kim and I started talking about Fixing Things. Because waiting until Mom absolutely positively needs to go to the nursing home before we sort stuff out seems like a very bad plan. That’s how Operation: NoMoHo (short for No More Hoarding, not that other thing you nasty-minded lech) was born. I would fly up for a week and Kim and I would attack the pile(s) of stuff.  We would rescue lost treasures! We would recover lost memories! We would…crack lots of bad jokes in a attempt to stave off depression! I think we might need superhero suits.

Since Operation: NoMoHo kicks off a week from today, I thought maybe I should start thinking about things like packing and what to do once we get there. Kim’s been sending me emails and stuff, but I – in my very best avoidance maneuvery defense mechanisms – have been not thinking about it other than yelling WINE! BUY WINE! at her. But! Then we had a very lovely discussion about…well, I’m sure it was about something.

Enjoy! (And maybe send wine.)

Me:  Do I need to bring a dressy outfit for NoMoHo? I seem to recall something about a concert.
Kim:  Well, the concert is Sat night, so I don’t think we’ll make it – because that’s the night Joey can come back to CT with us. But maybe bring one just in cases. It isn’t v fancy – pants and sweater would work, too.
me:  kk. And I’m not bringing jammies – will bring your socks and trade for mine back. (Note to self: pack Kim’s socks)
Kim:  hahaha.  I washed your black track pants recently and thought, note to self:
(blah! get out of my brain!)
hide these before Katie visits
me:  {But it’s sooooo commmmmmfy!} {Both the pants and your brain, FTW!}
Kim:  {square root of pi, dividing by irrational numbers, the Theory of Thermodynamics}
me:  {I still like them even with your pi and irrational numbers wiped all over them} Don’t you want comfypants at my house?
Kim:  I do.  Good point.
Kim:  hahahahha.  SEE!?  isn’t it USEful?
me:  Yes, but I try not to dilute its magic by parading it out for everyday use!
Kim:  we should start a pool to see how many socks i leave behind there this june…
me:  7
Kim:  ::head desk:: I just know it’s going to be an odd number…
me:  You’re an odd person <shoulder shrug> Can’t help it.
Kim:  ba-dum-CHING! How many bottles of wine you think we need?
me:  82
Kim:  If we figure, one a night with two extras, across w, f, sun, mon nights that’s six
me:  And we can always buy more.
Kim:  plus vodka for sat with Joey.  And gin. Except for on sundays, yes yes we can.
me:  Excellente! I bought a ledger at half price books to keep track of the stuffs [that we give to the sibs, in order to prevent the in-fighting later].
Kim:  oh GOOD thinking! I started a list of supplies we’ll need to get with things like trash bags, bottle of cleaner, paper towels
me:  add some wiiiine, a liitle mo’ wine, and a little mo’ wine…
packing tape
Kim: Not only do i already have sharpies on the list, i have multiple colors
me:  nerf guns
Kim:  So we can color code. hahahaha
me:  This is going to suck. So I plan on being serious exactly never. This is your 8 day warning.
Kim:  uh, did we need to write that down?  Because i assumed that was embedded in EVERYTHING.
me:  Well NO, but I felt like saying it out loud and stuffs.
Kim:  Joey can’t wait to see us fighting over who owns what
me:  HA! I own the memory so I gots the veto power.
Kim:  But i told him it will be even funnier to see you yelling at me for not remembering things. We did a whole little parody.
me:  We can string a wind sock to see how heavily I sigh at you. (Do you prick your thumbs at me, sir?)
Kim:  HA!  socks.  they love me more than you.  (because of the altar and all)
me:  (Yes. Well. Altars will do it every time. Ask Jesus.)
Kim:  you know what i just realized?
me:  That it’s a week from tomorrow?
Kim:  the acronym WWKD is so multipurpose!
me:  Katie Kim King Karma
Kim: It could mean either What Would Katie Do OR!  What Would Kim Do?
me:  ka khef kool-aid. We should totally spike some red kool-aid.
Kim:  i refuse to be drunk while in that house but as soon as we get back to CT…  ohhhh – there was this lovely red kool-aid stuff erin and i made senior year with ginger ale and vodka and the ready-mix kool-aid stuff and when you added the powder, it turned BLACK before dissolving into red.
me:  Which is hereby known as DT [Dark Tower] Kool-Aid.
Kim:  tastes like cough syrup.  possibly like the cheap wine Travellin’ Jack drinks.
me:  We could put a turtle at the bottom and see whose drink he ends up in.

And that is when we decided to go off to meetings and do work and you know – sucky grown-up stuff. Next week is going to be full of even worse sucky grown-up stuff, but at least we can laugh, blog, and drink our way through it. Le sigh.

Slippin’ just a little further down the yellow brick road.

November 15, 2010

It’s funny the things you use to measure the passage of time when you have babies toddlers pre-schoolers little people running around your house. I’m not one to get all verklempt over the little things – except that yes, yes I am. I was totally that person this weekend when I had to alter the Tivo scheduling yet again and strikethrough yet one more program my girls have outgrown. See? I told you it was funny, sometimes.

I sat there, telling the Tivo that yes, I was sure I wanted to cancel any and all recordings of Disney’s Little Einsteins (sniffle). And yes, I knew I was insane (thanks for asking, Tivo), but I did want to record Fresh Beat Band in its place. Yes, the show makes me twitch, and no it won’t teach the girls to say cute (and slightly skewed) things like, “Mom, we’re driving fortisimo!” But it’s slightly more age appropriate and does center around music – something we’re very big on in this house. Still, it made me a little sad.

It’s one more slap in the face that my babies are growing up. Taking one giant step down the yellow brick road. Today it’s Fresh Beat Band, tomorrow it’s the loss of the tooth fairy (we had a close encounter last night) and Santa Claus, and then one day they’ll reach the Emerald City and realize it’s just a man behind the curtain after all. Behind all of the curtains. (Really, if it had’ve been a woman running things I think the ruse would have lasted quite a bit longer. So hey! Maybe there’s hope for me!)

I know it’s a natural progression. I know losing Clifford, Doodlebops (thank. god.), Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and now Little Einsteins means that my girls are moving evvvvver so slowly towards things like Anne of Green Gables, Beezus and Ramona, and The Secret Garden. The stretch of yellow brick road they’re moving towards is one that I can run along with them and participate without gritting my teeth too much. But gosh, darn it, I need a moment to mourn their babiness…at least all the sweet moments that I’ve used to wallpaper over the rather icky moments.

Yep, that giant shudder you felt this weekend was one giant step towards Middle Childhood taken at Casa de Katie. I won’t say I was entirely happy that the girls woke up sick, sniffly and needing their mama this morning – but I will say I can’t imagine how maudlin I’d be right now if I didn’t feel at least a little bit necessary!

It’s all fun and games until someone steps on one.

October 14, 2010

I love Legos.

Irrationally. It’s an irrational, illogical, downright wacky love that I have for those little suckers and it’s all my mother’s fault. She loved Legos, too, but she didn’t have any when she was little. Not even the predecessor of Legos, snap-bricks, or whatever silly generic name they were called. So, what happened is that she fed our love for Legos by making sure Santa brought a box or two of Legos at Christmas time, or added some Legos into the mix at our birthdays. That ways she could play with them and admire all of the teeny tiny “special” pieces that would occasionally be thrown into the mix if we got a Lego city set some such to build.

I have to admit, some of those detailed pieces were pretty fun to find. A suitcase that opened and closed. Flower petals that came off the flowers (to feed the Lego people, naturally). Glass goblets and swords for the pirate people. (The year I got the pirate ship? Best. Christmas. Ever.) But what I really loved the most was assembling the Lego structures from scratch. I loved organizing the bags of Lego bricks, sorting each color, each type, each size brick. (See? I was geek-chic with the organizing and the sorting even then.) I would pour over the directions, carefully assembling the horse stable or Lego house or hospital. My sister and I would construct entire Lego cities, carefully doling out and trading pieces, spending entire days creating our kingdom. Then, of course, we’d play for only and hour or two before deconstructing everything. The greatest fun was always in the building.

And such was the case last night. Gracie got a Lego kit from Uncle Joey (who used to work at! the Lego! Store!!) when we were visiting Grandma and she had only just remembered that besides the bucket of Legos, there was a horse trailer set she hadn’t built yet. It was late, it was a school/work night, and everything had things they were supposed to be doing. But you know what? Sometimes when you’re having a crappy week, you just need to fling everything out the window and play with Legos. It’s something like a life rule.

At first, I happily pulled out the bags and opened the instructions and separated the bags and prepared to construct some Lego awesomeness. Gracie was happily sitting across from me on the floor, waiting eagerly for her toy to appear practically out of thin air. Then I realized – hey, she’s six. She’s smart. She can probably do this on her own. I’ll admit: ceding control of the Lego-building was very, very sad. I wanted to build it myself. Then I remembered I’m one of those “grown-up” things and I should probably let my kid build her own damn toy. Stupid being-a-mom responsibilities and love stuff getting in my way. At least Gracie still needed me to help by showing her where the new pieces appeared in the diagram so she could find them and snap them together. And sometimes the thin pieces were too tricky for her to secure, so I did get to help a little. And then she and her sister played Legos until I made them go to bed.

Realizing my oldest baby is ready for Legos made for a pretty awesome night. I’ve never been so proud of a Lego car in my whole life.

And I can’t wait to tell Santa.

I think I might have just died a little.

April 7, 2010

Either that or a fairy just died. Or a whole forest of fairies. It’s that horrible.

I was just humming along, doo diddly dee, giving the girls their bath. (They played outside yesterday at daycare. Trust me – they needed a bath.) And while I was rinsing their hair, Gracie was staring up at the ceiling to avoid getting soap in her eyes. We have this game that we play while we’re doing this to keep them distracted for the absolute of horror of getting a wee bit of water in her eye, which is to list all of things we could see in the sky.

“Sunshine!” Gracie yelled.
“Clouds!” I countered.
“Rainbows!” she added.
“Raindrops!” I added. It was a new one – quite an accomplishment considering how long we’ve played this game.
“It can’t rain in the morning,” Gracie tried to argue.
“Sure it can! It rains lots of times when we go to school,” I defended.
“Fairies!” Gracie yelled.
“Umbrellas!” I was on a rain kick, I guess.
“Umbrellas can’t fly!” Gracie argued.
“Sure they can! Mary Poppins arrived on one. Remember?”

And then…it happened:

“Mary Poppins was just pretend! People can’t fly! Movies are make-believe!” Gracie sounded so logical. So…grown-up. If only I had known the worst was yet to come.

“Gracie, people can’t fly, but Mary Poppins could – she had magic!” I tried to reason with her. Her almost-six-year-old self wasn’t having it.

“Magic isn’t real!”

And that’s when I and my gang of fairies and pixies all fell over dead. Please don’t revive me; I’m not sure I want to exist in a world that my daughter believes is devoid of magic. Even if I don’t believe she means it.

This girl is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

February 22, 2010

Yes, I know it’s old, but the song was on when I was running yesterday afternoon and now I can’t get Gwen out of my head.

Yes – running. That’s why I’m slightly crazy: after I got back from the pharm, I put on my running shoes and went out for a run. For one, it was sixty-five degrees out! Who doesn’t love running in shorts and a t-shirt when a week ago there was a foot of snow on the ground. Alas, the high for today is a balmy 48 degrees, so when I checked it out yesterday I thought it would be better to run in the sunshine and humidity than in the wind and cold. Especially with my lung function compromised the way that it is.

Which brings me to my other point: I found it much easier breathing when I was running than I had at any other point yesterday. I was breathing effortlessly until mile 2.5 when the elephant showed back up and plonked himself back on my chest. I thought that was pretty good for a girl with bronchitis, and hopefully all the running will help get the gunk out faster. Anything to improve my chances for Saturday, I’m gonna do it.

But back to the 65 degrees (because it is lovely). Everyone was outside. My crazy neighbor Jimmy Buffet and his groupies were hanging out in his garage. My neighbor was outside with her daughter, showing off their new baby. A few houses down the teenaged boys were washing the truck. A neighbor kid was skateboarding off a homemade ramp. And dogs were everywhere. I was kind of surprised – not by the dogs because I hear them and see them all the time. What surprised me yesterday was the number of dogs running around unleashed. They were well-behaved dogs – I wasn’t rushed by a single one – but it made me realize how infrequently I see an unleashed dog these days. When I grew up, it was much stranger to see a dog hanging out in a yard while on a leash than it was to see a dog roaming the neighborhood with a pack of kids.

I immediately thought of running around my friend Denise’s neighborhood. I think the number of dogs almost outnumbered the kids – and that was saying something. There was Denise and her cousin Tony. Then there was Tony’s cousins – a boy older than us and a girl who was younger. Another girl in our class lived a street over. And there were many other kids in the neighborhood who I knew from hanging around with them, but never really knew where they came from or to whom they belonged. We would ride bikes around the neighborhood, climb trees, build forts, play hide and seek (the rules were we had to stay outside, though – no sneaking into houses), tag, capture the flag. All kinds of mayhem. Having the neighborhood dogs run about at our feet only increased the mayhem and the fun. Imagining all of that fun without the dogs makes it seem so…empty, somehow.

So I’m glad everyone was running amok and ignoring the leash laws yesterday – at least for the afternoon. I think everyone needed to get out in the sunshine and forget about winter and gross, hacking colds for awhile. Now if only someone could jack with the thermostat so it stays nice and warm through the weekend…

A mother’s worry is never spent.

October 6, 2009

Bee baby and I were home sick yesterday. The poor thing came down with a fever on Saturday afternoon and she has yet to shake it. It never got too terribly high – it would bounce between 100.3 and 101.5 – but it was persistent, all the same. Bee would run around and be happy…and then all of a sudden stop and cry and whine that she didn’t feel good. I’d dose her full of Tylenol, and then off she’d go again. She was a little tired, a little cranky, but otherwise perfectly normal.

At first, I wasn’t too worried. Bee is my baby who is prone to fevers. She gets the slightest bit stuffy and she’ll heat up just to the point where she’s booted from daycare. Gracie was never like that. If she had a fever, it was high (103.7 wasn’t uncommon) and it was because of her ears. When Gracie outgrew her frequent ear infections, she pretty much outgrew her fevers. But she still had them often enough to inoculate me to the worries that accompany said fevers.

Until last night. I should have known better. Bee had been feverish for over 24 hours already. She wasn’t coughing, she didn’t have a runny nose (not too much any way), her fever wasn’t that high, and she certainly wasn’t lethargic. I had no reason to think it was the flu. But: nine people have died in the metroplex during the past few weeks. Some of them perfectly healthy people without any underlying health concerns. The refrain in those stories seemed to be how quickly the situation escalated. That was how I found myself – a mom who uses a thermometer once during the duration of a cold just to certify the child is feverish – pulling out the thermometer every three hours to check on Bee’s exact temperature. And I found myself getting out of bed every two hours (and waking even more frequently) to stumble across the house and check to make sure Bee hadn’t grown worse in her sleep. I feel like a pro at most childhood illnesses by now; I was struck by how worried I was suddenly, brought on by all the media hoopla. This isn’t anything worse than the regular flu, I told myself. People die from that all the time. Relax. Sleep. Kiss your worry up to God or whoever and let it go.

Bee was just the same in the morning: feverish and energetic (although she did take a nice nap after lunch). I’m sure the virus will run it’s course and any time now would be fine with me. We’re going on Day 4 and I’m just about done. If people really want to do something about health care reform, they will hand out lifetime supplies of Xanax to moms when they leave the hospital. In the meantime, the fumes from the Germ-X are working juuuuuuust fine.

Sometimes the apple rolls downhill.

April 1, 2009

One of my favorite things about my mom was that she was very hands-on while we were growing up. She spent a lot of time running the household, doing chores, and everything else included in raising four children (and taking care of a husband). But when she had some “free” time, she would help us perform science experiments, go on nature walks, or catch wild animals. And by wild animals, I mean things like bugs, slugs, frogs, baby birds, and snakes.

Yes, snakes. When I was really little and the yard wasn’t exactly used to having people outside playing in it all the time, it was pretty common to find garter snakes slithering around. My mom (or my dad) would catch them and let us touch them. I always, always, always wanted to pick one up and hold it, but I lacked the courage. I had no idea how they managed to pick it up without getting bitten. But that didn’t stop me from looking at them. I was fascinated. So fascinated, in fact, that during my end-of-school cookout, my friend James Matteson and I stood staring at a snake hole for twenty minutes waiting for the snake (that my mom had just seen) to come back out. When that didn’t work, we picked up a stick and started poking around inside the hole. My mom yelled at me for antagonizing the snake. I just wanted to see it! Sheesh!

Several other times growing up, my mom would run inside to get a trash basket and then catch the snakes for us to look at. Once, when I was older – maybe in sixth grade or junior high? – my mom enlisted my aid in catching a rather unusal snake. The momma got away, but we caught one of the babies. He was cute, I thought. Gray and marroon bands, with realllly skinny black bands. My mom had no idea what kind he was and called the local Science Center to see if they could help her identify it. He looked sort of like a milk snake, only with bands instead of splotches. But the coloring was right. I don’t think we ever did identify it, but I loved that my mom was adventurous enough to try.

I tend to be that way with wildlife myself. Although, I have to say, no one down here in Texas tends to encourage my affection towards snakes. The Ex was terrified of them. As in, bordering on phobia. If he saw one while he was mowing the grass, I think he would have chased after it in order to annihilate the poor thing. I would have tried to catch it. Unless, of course, it had rattles. I never used to have to worry about that. And really, it’s not like the snake is going to stop me first and say, “Pardon me, but I happen to have rattles (which you’ll hear in a second) and so if you could please not try to catch me, that would be lovely and in all of our best interests. Thanks ever so much.” So I’ve had to temper my impulses a wee bit.

My brother is much like me in this regard, and possibly my baby sister. Kim, however, did not inherit all of my mother’s outdoorsy traits. Oh, Kim loves to camp and enjoys the zoo as much as anyone. But the whole “Ooh! Let’s catch it!” thing? Not so much. Hers is more, “Ooh! You catch it and I’ll keep the girls over here…and maybe I’ll fling a pail at you at the right time!” I’m kidding (sort of). To be fair, Kim did call Saturday morning to tell the girls all about a baby snake she had found in her courtyard. She was going to have them look up what kind it was and so I asked her to describe him.

Kim: “He was…khaki. With black…spots?”

Me: “You found a camo snake with black polka-dots.”

Kim: “Yes?”

Me: “….”

Me again: “Did he have any other characteristics?”

Kim: “He was…long and….kinda skinny?”

At which point we kinda lost it. Because you know what? ALL SNAKES are long and kinda skinny. And we are hysterically funny people. I’m pretty sure she found my sarcastic reply that I would get right on looking up what kind of long and skinny snake she saw to be quite amusing. Thankfully, I thought of some follow up questions.

Me: “Was he aggressive? Or all pissed off?”

Kim: “Uh…no? He was just lying there.”

Me: “Was he playing dead?”

Kim: “He was just chillin’ on the ground. I don’t know if he was playing dead or just, you know, not moving in the few minutes I was there.”

Me: “Did he have a funny face?”

Kim: “He had a cute little face!”

Me: Oh geez. “Did he have a pointy nose?”

Kim: “Yes. It was such a cute lil pointy nose!”

Me, barfing. Because she is not like that. “He was an Eastern Hognose Snake.”

Yep. All in a day’s work around here. Now if only she had caught it, taken a picture and mailed it to the girls… Yeah, right. Then I’d have to lecture them for months about not picking up snakes because ours have giant teeth. But if YOU want to run around now and catch snakes for fun, here’s a Web site that might help you figure out what you’ve caught. Nothing beats a field guide, but who has those lying around any more? (Casa de Katie has three of them. But that doesn’t matter.) Now go! Have fun and BE CAREFUL!