Saturday, August 31, 2013

Conclusion and Beginning

Yesterday I went to a shelter that keeps all of the cats in rooms without cages (unsupervised!) and lets you wander the hallways and help yourself to the colonies of cats. So I'm pretty sure it was just like heaven.

In the kitten room, once I ascertained no volunteers could see me, I sat on the floor and piled five kittens into my lap and buried my face in them. It felt so good. I kissed every cat in the building and tried to force all of them to hug me (a few were simply not having it, particularly the older cats. Not much they could do about a kiss though.) I was like a wild preschooler, waking sleeping kitties, holding them improperly, dragging them from their food bowls, and maybe squeezing them too hard or petting too enthusiastically. Most of them liked it. I loved it.

I fell in love with half of them. I desperately wanted 6 of them. The front desk guy assured me that they were buy one get one free, so I'd only have to pay for 3 of them. It's a good thing Mr. Ashley was there because I don't think I could turn down free cats.

We went back this morning, kids in tow, and covered ourselves in kittens again.

We decided not to get a rebound cat.

We decided to get two!

This is Calvin Alexander. Sometimes Big Kid "accidentally" calls him Socks. He's tiny and fuzzy and sweet and a total wild maniac who climbs lamps, hangs from the side of my new couch, growls at the dog, gets into drinking glasses, and knocks things from tables:

 This is Indomitable "Dom" Diamond.  He came with the name Indomitable Dom because he was thrown from or hit by a car and almost died--we added Diamond because why not go full stripper name at that point? Mr. Ashley liked him best and then when we brought the kids, Dom immediately sat on Big Kid's lap when he sat down:

He rode home completely unconcerned (as Calvin stuck both paws out through the slats of the cat carrier and screamed), he has no opinion on the dog (who is really hoping to gain a friend somewhere in all of this), and is currently absolutely euphoric while leaning against Mr. Ashley in bed with the fan blowing in his face. He keeps kneading the memory foam mattress topper with his paws. 

So...that was completely crazy and poorly planned. 

But earlier when Calvin stopped wrecking shit and settled down on my chest for a nap, tiny little purring face tilted up at mine, itsy bitsy paws stretched out to rest in my neck, my heart felt pretty justified in signing up for this insanity. 

 Calvin has tried to knock all of this stuff down. All night long.

 One of Calvin's favorite past times is scratching kids, but who can blame him?

                           Dom is less photogenic but pretty in person, in a sweet, kind, solid way.

 Dom is a very nice cat. Even if he has the name of someone who might dry hump you or break your legs.

While this is certainly a decision I may regret in the future, it's keeping me happy and busy right now. Calvin is purring loudly on my shoulder as I type and that makes it worth the trouble he will surely be.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day 3

"When we get a new cat, maybe we could name it Socks," suggested Big Kid, still Socks Clinton's biggest fan. 

So, that's something to look forward to. Or not.

I'd like to say I'm doing better but I've spent a good portion of my day plucking cat hair off of my pillowcase with tweezers and saving it in a folded up piece of tissue in a ziploc bag.

(Please don't tell my husband.)

I've also visited two cat adoption places, and am 95% convinced that getting another smallish black cat and pretending it's my old cat would be a perfectly normal and healthy thing to do. I saw one that would work at the Humane Society. It was a boy, but when I saw him all snuggled up sleeping, I thought, "That's close enough..."

They wouldn't let me hold the cats. I guess I don't blame them.

What's the consensus on rebound pets? It was a horrible idea when we did it with Murphy, but I had a colicky baby and a failing business, so a puppy was a stupid idea, period. I want something soft and fuzzy to love, but I'm afraid it will make me forget how it felt when she purred in my ear or tenderly sniffed at my eyelashes.

Also afraid that little fucker will scratch up my brand new couch. That wouldn't be cute at all.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day Two

I think last night was the longest of my life.

I woke up hourly, wondering why I was awake and then remembering. During one of these wake-ups, I felt a soft vibration near my feet and my heart surged momentarily as I groggily thought, "Purring! It was a mistake!" until I realized it was a small portable fan and cried myself back to sleep. This morning Mr. Ashley tried to get the kids ready for school so I could sleep in but instead of sleeping I hid under my comforter and cried, wide awake even without my feline alarm clock.

I have dealt with grief before but this situation has a physical component--I miss her presence. When I would pick her up, she would put one paw on each shoulder and squeeze her cheek to mine like a human hug. No exaggeration--I would give up my car, unable to afford a new one, for just one more of those hugs. Just to know it was the last. My hands ache to touch her and I desperately would like to press my mouth to the top of her head for one more kiss and to smell her. My lap feels empty and it feels wrong not to have to crane my arms over a small buzzing lump in order to reach the keyboard. It's not only my heart, my body misses hers.

I go to the bathroom with the door ajar because she never met a closed door she didn't need to be on the other side of; no one opens the door now. I can finally go to the bathroom alone after all of these years of parenting, and it sucks.

The kids are taking it better than I expected, probably more aware of my own intense grief than they should be and giving me space accordingly. There was much crying when I broke the news. Big Kid kept saying things like, "She was an old girl. She had a good life. She wouldn't want us to be this sad," as he cried quietly and asked why life had to be so hard. At one point little kid was the one sobbing, and I thought Big Kid was handling it rather well and then he said in a simple, stunned and matter-of-fact way: "I don't really know how I'll go on without her." And I know how he feels.

little kid asked, tears streaming down his face, "What is that thing when people come back as other things? What is that called?"


"Yes. I hope there's that."

"Maybe so. Maybe she's being born into a new kitten body right now and maybe in a few months we'll meet back up."

"That's a nice thought, but no offense, pretty unlikely," Big Kid said.

"I don't know. We don't know how the universe works. Energy has to go somewhere. As you grow up, you'll meet people that you know were meant to be in your life, and will realize that they would have been placed there one way or another--that it was destiny for you to meet up, that you are drawn to one another. Maybe that's what it is. Maybe there are certain souls that we need and maybe we all seek each other out time and time again. I hope so."

"Or maybe her soul went up into the sky and she turned into a star," little kid offered. I could work with that, too.

Yesterday I interrupted Mr. Ashley's work day with frantic requests for her one white whisker, begging for private cremation, pleading for a promise that he would make sure our ashes were joined together one day. If I wasn't a crazy cat lady for not wanting to leave her to go to the beach house, I certainly am now that I have no cat.

I told him that I just wish I had taken more time to appreciate her and he chuckled and said no one has ever been more appreciated. That I lavished love on her daily and it would probably be fair to call her the love of my life, and that she knew this. I just want more time; I regret every vacation we took this summer because that was 18 precious days that I missed. I know that's absurd but that's part of grief, the what-if game. What if I could have 18 more days? Honestly, I'd take even 18 more minutes. I'd take one hug, one kiss, one pet, one minute, just one real goodbye.

I need to mop. I need to do laundry. I need to put away the litter box and food bowls. I need to follow up to emails and make important phone calls. I need to write my column. I need to crawl back into bed and stay there for a week but I hate it there now without her.

I know one day the pain will be further from the surface. But I really can't imagine ever finding another love like that and facing that fact is hard. I know I was so lucky to have experienced it but I feel like I will be a little bit empty forever now without her.

Thank you for your kind words and understanding, the sadness has been made more bearable by the support of the people around me. I promise we'll get back to normal (at least here) soon. My inbox is overflowing with people who want to give you stuff and I have some cool and happy things happening behind the scenes that I'm finally able to share with you. We'll get to it all. I just need a few days to sit here and wonder what to do.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


This morning we found the heart of my heart, our cat Pearl, under the bed, gasping for air and covered in urine.

There are truly no words in the English language (or all of the other languages combined) that could explain what this cat means to me. I have never had a friend so true, a love so consistent, or company as comforting. She loves me without expecting anything in return, the mere sight of me enough to send her into a passionate fit of purring and rubbing. She puts my children to bed every night, curling up on their feet to listen as I read them Harry Potter and then staying after I leave until they are sound asleep. She is my personal alarm clock, whether I like it or not, as she wakes me early each morning by rubbing her nose on my face and purring in my ear, using her paws to unearth me from the covers if I try to hide.  She snuggles the three of us before school starts, walking from chest to chest and rubbing her faces on ours. She is the very essence of love.

She is warm and soft and solid, light and sweet. To call her a pet would be gravely understating her place in my life--she is more than my best friend. To even call her my baby may be in error--I love her that intensely but appreciate her in a different way, a way that marvels at all she will give without expecting in return. She is my equal or maybe even my superior in this family, a place earned through her selflessness.

At the sight of her in distress, Big Kid gasped and burst into tears. I assured him everything was okay although in my heart I knew it wasn't. He believed me, though, and I envied that hope and trust. I couldn't wait 10 more minutes for the bus and asked them to wait alone, the fear I felt in doing so completely overshadowed by my fear for the small, gasping bundle in my arms.

At the vet they took her from me and promised to call. I was supposed to work at the yoga studio from 11-2 so I called the vet back and asked, if they were me, would they come to visit her before work? Praying for them to tell me that was unnecessary, that I could pick her up at 2, that she was looking great.

They said yes, if they were me, they would.

The uncomfortable and sympathetic front desk girl led me back to her and explained that I couldn't hold her because she had to stay in the oxygen tank.

There was my heart, in a tiny glass box, eyes unfocused, mouth agape. Unsure if she could hear me, I called to her and she didn't react. My heart plummeted. I called again, more frantic this time, and she turned her head, saw me and took a few shaky steps to press her face against the front of the box. I pressed my face back into hers, both of us divided by the cool glass, so close but never further away than in that instant. She laid down and looked at me, still gasping for each breath and I sunk to my knees and sobbed, keeping my face as close to her as possible, running my hands along the glass where she lay, murmuring about how I loved her and how she was my best friend and what a great life we've had and how it couldn't end like this, as random people in scrubs gingerly stepped around us. Telling her to not be scared, that she's a good girl, that all would be okay, we would be okay, that I need her--I really do need her. We need her.

I sat there, forehead to glass, fingers curled around the bottom lip of the tank, "Hey There Delilah" (a former favorite I never want to hear again) playing softly in the background, begging my closest friend to please stay here on earth until the vet finally brought me a tissue, helped me to my feet and led me into a small surgical suite (as his other less heartbroken customers waited) and explained her condition, went over some of the more mysterious points and offered a small beam of hope if we wait for the end of the day. He cushioned this by reminding me of her age, and that we don't want her to be in pain.

I didn't even make it to the car before slumping against a bank of mailboxes and crying my heart out.

And as I was sitting here typing out all of the above, trying to hold onto a hope I never had and every beat of my heart reminding me of her ragged breaths, the vet called and told me she was gone. After a flurry of phone calls, I sank to my knees and sobbed until I dry heaved and then lay there in abject misery trying to decide how to tell the kids; how to tell Big Kid that his best friend, one of his only friends, is gone forever.

Due to bad genetics, bad luck, and careless friends, I have dealt with death far more than the average person my age and yet nothing has hurt like this. Logically I know that she was a cat, but in my heart I feel like that makes our relationship even more amazing--that this strange little creature from an entirely different species and I loved each other like every breath depended on it for the last 14 years and now that is no more. She was the last one left to have lived in all of our houses, nuzzled all of our babies, sat on all of our couches, known our past pets, and been nearby for a lifetime full of laughter, crying, fighting, surviving and now she is gone forever.

I'm beyond crying now, my lungs too tired to draw in breaths deep enough for a sob, but my eyes just leak continuously--fat, bold tears racing each other to land on my chest, my neck and the front of my soggy shirt. I still smell a bit of her sickness, and although I know it's disgusting and irrational, I am reluctant to wash it away.

The house already feels 100x emptier, as does the place in my chest where my heart should be.

 (She sat on our new couch first, as she liked to sit on all new things first. I'm so glad she got to.)

How will I do life without her.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Naked Maids

"Mom, I'm not trying to be awkward but..." Big Kid started.

I was immediately all ears. In fact, I wish I could set my phone to auto-record any conversation that starts with "I'm not trying to be...".

"Okay. Go on."

"At the beach house? They had a channel called 'Naked Maids.'"

"Ahhh. Did you click it?"

"No!" He replied, completely insulted.

"It was probably pay-per-view. They have satellite television there."

"I'm just saying. It's a family rental. We are a nice family of four. Five, if you count Murphy but I don't know if you would. And to have a channel called 'Naked Maids'? It's just not right."

"True. You have to pay for that channel though or you can't see it."

"From their pictures they seem like such a nice family." He lamented.

"No, I'm saying that although you can see it on the guide because it's available to everyone who has satellite service for God knows what reason, if you had clicked on it--"

"I didn't!"

"I'm just saying that if you had, if anyone did, the channel would be unavailable until you called and gave your credit card number. So no children or families are being harmed."

"Except by the title."


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Papa Bear

We took the kids to a water park in Orlando this weekend to celebrate little kid's birthday.

Our room was on the 9th floor of the hotel and at one point we shared an elevator with a very big, gruff-looking guy--the type that probably doesn't have kids on purpose so I pitied him for sharing the small space with ours.

He got off on the 8th floor and little kid started to follow him out. I yelled, "Not you, Papa Bear, come back here!" (I don't know why we call him Papa Bear, I agree that it's odd) and the big, tough-looking man turned around to get back in the elevator.

"No, not you," I said, both of us turning red,"I wasn't talking to you." He gave a short embarrassed nod and walked away.

"Did he think I was calling him Papa Bear?" I asked as we all giggled a bit.

I still laugh every time I think about it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dear little kid,

Today you are 7; a joyful, exuberant, cool and clever 7. I admire you more than I could ever express, you are a marvel.

You are such a character, so funny and true. Your people skills are incredible.  I watch you appraise others to determine your approach, sizing them up and catering your introduction accordingly. You go out of your way to say hello and inquire about the day of perpetually crabby school staff members, who slowly warm to you. You admit this is a strategy of yours that makes life easier, yet you end up honestly befriending these people who seem cold to everyone else. You make friends everywhere you go, with people young and old. You walk into a room with courage, with your head held high, certain that you will have fun because you know you will make it fun. I envy that.

You have a passion for nature, for the earth and the sea, for minerals and creatures, and for the things the rest of us take for granted. You are a steward of nature, quick to catch and release, with an intent to do no harm. At 6, you can throw a cast net and bait a hook and you talk about fishing as if you are a seasoned captain--this is actually due more to your charisma than your experience. Even if you're uncertain, you speak with the authority of an expert on any topic that interests you. I'm amazed by that. You also touch fish fearlessly, and lots of other gross things. I'm amazed by that, too.

You love with abandon, craving physical affection and dispensing compliments and warm emotions freely. You give the sweetest hugs, giving all of yourself with no fear of rejection, confident of the love people have for you and knowing you are worthy of it. To be so lucky.

I remember your baby self--with that fat cheesy grin and one finger digging in your belly button and clinging to me as if I was your life raft, your soft fuzzy head always in easy reach of my lips. I remember your preschool years when you wore cowboy boots every single day for years, even if you wore nothing with them, and talked at length about your imaginary work life reconstructing dinosaur bones and paving roads. I remember your littler boy years where you constantly tried to trick me into accepting your marriage proposals--I am still your beautiful princess, but I am no longer marriage material. I am saddened and relieved.

You are such a little boy and I adore that about you. I cherish it, inhale it, feel it, smell it and try to imprint it onto my soul, your little boyness. I want to keep it forever, but if I can't, I must find a way to never forget it. You are an inspiration.

I love everything about you and I wish more people were like you, for their own good.

I like you, I love you, and I'll always protect you,

Friday, August 23, 2013


Did you notice how I'm posting every day?

It's because I know you're voting every day. You are, right? Since it's just one click, I'm certain that you are.

It's either daily comments or daily votes, both if you want to be my favorite.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Won't You Be Miner

This is little kid's birthday wish list, in order of importance. He has some other ideas but he went ahead and made a separate list for these top three items and has instructed me if I run out of money to just go with this priority list:

He is dead serious about the pick axe, he panics over any mention that it may not be the wisest choice for a 7-year-old.

But it would be completely idiotic to give a 7-year-old a pick axe...

I think I'm going to get him THIS ONE

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Eyeshadow tutorial infographic (This is how I do it)

Preserved vascular system of a shark

Pin ups and their real-life counterparts (NSFW-ish but not X rated)

Billionaire gives away 99% of his income so poor kids can go to college

How doctors die (The health care decisions they make for themselves)

Everlasting love   (The skeletons of a mother and 2 children buried together 5000 years ago)

Children with their most prized possessions (this seriously moved little kid, particularly the last boy with the monkey.)

Egyptian Mummy Mysteries Unraveled

Genetics are awesome (Cool photoshop project)

Photos of anxiety issues

A baby still in the amniotic sac during Cesarean

X ray images of women wearing corsets from 1908

This ended up being a really random grouping that could have been better organized!

That's life, though.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Poodle Nora Noodle

This is Nora Noodle.

Long ago, when her hair was not matted, her pink was much brighter, and she still had a nose, her name was Poodle Noodle.

When Big Kid was 4 he had a little bit of money to spend and I took him to the toy store to pick out a Webkinz. He asked the sales girl for this one.

"That one?" She asked.

I looked at him, a little skeptical myself. He nodded.

"But it's pink." She said. He looked confused. "Are you sure?"

"That's the one he wants," I stated, losing all of my own indecisiveness and feeling annoyed, silently challenging anyone to give my son's pink poodle the side eye from that moment forth.

At the ripe old age of 10, she is still the one he wants. This pink poodle and his frog, Zumby, are in his bed every night and discretely tucked away into a nightstand drawer when friends come around. A year or two ago, Big Kid began looking at her more critically and decided Poodle Noodle was a ridiculous name. He was considering letting her retire to the (gigantic) bag of beloved stuffed animals that take up too much room and must never, ever be parted with but sensing his reluctance, I suggested a name change. He came up with Nora, which I love, and I begged him to keep Noodle as her last name to pay homage to her past. I believe he secretly likes it when I call her Poodle Nora Noodle but he doesn't call her that himself.

Every time I see that scruffy, faded, nose-less pink poodle, I remember his joy over her when she was still brand new and it brings me back to his little self. She's a million times more special because she's pink and I'm so glad no one talked him out of it.

And whether it's ridiculous or not, in my heart she will always be Poodle Noodle.

(I found the post where he originally got her, although she is not the focus.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Big Man on Campus

I still remember dropping my first child off at his first day of kindergarten.

Not well, you know my memory sucks, but I have a recollection of thinking that this was one of the hardest life milestones--trusting my sweet little guy with a building full of strangers, neither of us wanting to end the hug before I left him for the day, sobbing on the way back home.

little kid was actually even harder because I felt like my job had officially gone part-time--that I was no longer quite necessary, just kept around for my loyalty and since I already knew the schedule.

I was jubilant about the thought of today, though, about the thought of being free once again. I'm now A-OK with being a "part-time" employee. In fact, I tried to talk them into being dropped off as car riders this morning but little kid sheepishly told me he would like to be walked inside if it wasn't too much trouble. I sighed a bit and then my heart softened. That is my baby and he is already a second grader. Of course I will walk him inside.

I did and he clung to me just a little tighter before letting go and turning to his teacher. I found solace in the fact that his cheek was still soft and slightly chubby like his baby self as I kissed it goodbye.

"Big Kid, do you want me to walk you to your classroom?" I asked when finished.

"Actually, mom, I'd prefer that you didn't. Sorry," he said apologetically. It stung.

"Oh. Would it be alright if I just walked you to your building? I won't go upstairs. You know, on the way out?" Despite it not being on the way out at all.

"Uh, okay," he reluctantly conceded.

We walked side by side, together but apart.

"Well, here we are," I said awkwardly, wanting a hug more than I've ever wanted a hug. Wanting to walk him upstairs more than I've ever wanted to walk upstairs. "Can I get a fist bump?"

He looked around furtively before crashing his fist into mine with a small "I'm totally pitying you, don't cry" type of smile before turning and rushing away with a casual "Bye".

I sucked my lips against my teeth as I walked down the hallway, trying to keep my chin from trembling. I consciously made a mental effort to smooth my forehead. I smiled at teachers and staff and glossy-eyed kindergarten parents, wishing them all good luck.

And I got in the car and cried. It was a different cry from the cry of that kindergarten parent; I was no longer crying because my child didn't want me to leave but because he was okay with me doing so.

I know this is a measure of my success as a parent--I am raising them to be independent adults who will do just fine in a building full of strangers. I just wasn't quite ready for this type of success today.

He is fine, and that is wonderful, and that hurts.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Call to Action

Will you all do me a two click favor? I was nominated for a Circle of Mom's Top 25 Southern Moms award, which was nice. If you click on this link and click on that vote heart, you can vote for me. No registration or anything. It really gets no easier than that, this is even easier than commenting which I know is difficult for many (side eye). I'm pretty sure the prize is a cruise for me and my top 500 favorite readers.

Maybe not, but maybe.

Let's not take the risk.

You can see the other nominees here if you really want to.

Thank you in advance, having little hearts or stars by my name on the internet really means a lot to me. (No really, it does. I know that's sad.)

P.S.--You can click the heart once every day if you really love me lots. 

Loss of Inheritance

"How long are we keeping this Capri Sun in the freezer for?" little kid asked. It was one that had lost its straw and was destined to become a picnic cooler ice pack some day.

"Forever. I'm going to give it to your children's children. It's the Ashley Family Sacred Capri Sun--it's our legacy."

Big Kid sighed loudly. "Seriously. What is wrong with you? What kind of family was I born into?"

"I'm going to eat it now." little kid announced. It was frozen solid so I guess he thought he'd eat it like a popsicle or something.

"Then I will tell my great grandchildren that you destroyed the Ashley Family Sacred Capri Sun! That is your inheritance! We are not a wealthy family and you are destroying the one thing I have set aside to pass down to my heirs."

"Mom, he's so bad that I would be shocked--I mean, absolutely shocked if little kid ever had any fruit from his loins." Big Kid contributed.

I cracked up at that, breaking character. "Oh don't worry, I'm sure little kid's loins will have fruit anyway."

"I don't even know what it means, but I'm assuming babies." Big Kid continued.

"I'm seriously going to eat this Capri Sun, guys."

"RESPECT THE POUCH!" Big Kid yelled.

"He's stealing from your grandchildren," I informed Big Kid. "That's half theirs."

little kid ate it anyway.

Sorry, great grandkids.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Lied About the Book List

I just realized that I completely forgot the entire existence of a book I read over vacation. This is proof that my book amnesia is a very real thing.

I also read "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie." I liked it, so I'm not sure how I forgot I ever read it within a few short days.

It was fiction about a black woman named Hattie and her 12 children, and each chapter featured a different kid of hers and their life story and hinted about how their mother (and her own burdens and struggles as a human being, woman and mother) influenced their paths in life.

I thought it beautifully summed up the challenges of motherhood and of balancing who you are now with who you used to be, what your children need versus what you are able to give, and how hard relationships can be.

I read it quickly and I enjoyed it, even if I immediately forgot all about it. It's not in the running for book of the year or anything but I'm glad I read it.

Can't Face(book) It

There is a lady from my area's Facebook yard sale site coming to look at an antique school desk I have for sale.

I told her I would leave it under my entry way and she could text me when she's on her way, that way if I'm not here, she can just go ahead and leave the money under the mat if she wants it.

My real plan is to leave the house when she texts because I would rather risk someone just taking the desk than dealing with the awkwardness of Facebook yard sale people.

And I'm dreading the actual leaving the house part, but that's how badly I don't want to see her.

This is why I don't sell things. I don't like dealing with the people who want to buy them.

UPDATE: She never came or even messaged me. See? I was right not to like her.

Out of his Shell

The other day we were at a children's museum and Big Kid was in the art studio, where they have bins full of supplies for every project possible and several employees helping the kids with whatever they decide to do. It's pretty cool.

He was creating an artist's trading card when an employee approached.

"What are you drawing?" she asked.

"It's a frog."

"It looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle."

He looked up at her and back down at it. "Yeah..." This frog is Big Kid's life mascot. I really can't even begin to explain the obsession--it is based on a stuffed animal named Zumby he has had since he was 4. It's hard for me to even call Zumby a stuffed animal because he is such a household entity that he feels like a family member. This frog has been drawn thousands of times and I think it looks like a frog.

"You should put a pizza in his hand!"

"Yeah. That would be a good idea, except he's a frog," he said in a friendly voice.

"Are you drawing your turtle on a lily pad?" No she didn't, I thought. (Yes, she really did.)

"Yes. It's a frog on a lily pad." At this point, I wasn't sure if I wanted to crack up laughing or smack her so I did nothing. Big Kid continued drawing.

"Are you going to put a pizza in his hands?"

Big Kid looked exasperated but kept his tone even and light. "No, because I already did the hands and they are down and they aren't ready to hold a pizza and it's hard to erase nicely. And since it's a frog..."

He continued coloring and was soon ready for her to add it to the trading board. She showed it to another employee.

"Look, it looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!"

"Actually, it's a frog. He mentioned that to you." I said sharply, because that seemed easier to get away with than a slap, but it still didn't feel like quite enough.

What the hell, dream killer? I had visions of someone insisting to DaVinci that Mona Lisa looked a lot like Jesus and just running with it. (But maybe it's a little different.)

When we were safely back in the car, I said, "That business in the art studio? How she kept talking about ninja turtles after you already told her it was a frog? That was super weird. You handled it well though, way to go seeming friendly and interested in her ideas even though she was being rather rude about it."

"I'm glad you said that. It was weird. Has she ever even seen a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?"

"Or a frog?" I added.

As little kid would write, "Hatters gonna hat." I bet she can't draw a frog or a ninja turtle.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In the Thicke of it

So we heard the song, "Blurred Lines" again today. And every day. And every hour on the hour since it is one of maybe five songs being played on the radio lately.

Big Kid said,"Oh great, here's this song again. I like it but I don't like it."

"Yeah, I know," I answered. I know because he tells me every single time it comes on, without fail. You might think it would be easier to just turn off the radio while in the car, but you probably have fancy MP3 players or children that you don't have to attempt to drown out with volume. Congrats on that. I'll just keep allowing Robin Thicke and his good girl to disturb my child.

"I still don't think they're talking about dancing because why does he say 'You wanna hug me. What rhymes with hug me?' What's he talking about there?"

I had a feeling we'd be revisiting this issue. I hadn't thought of anything new to say but the longer I parent, the better I get at improv.

"I don't know why he says it. What rhymes with hug me? Bug me? Mug me? That's probably it. Maybe she's really a pickpocket and he just thinks she's a good girl and that's why the lines are blurred. Maybe that's why she wants to get at him and that's what he means by getting nasty--being a thief is nasty! Far from plastic because she likes CASH MONEY, know what I mean?"

I glanced in the rear view mirror.  He looked deep in thought and doubtful.

"Hmmm. Not really." Damn it.

"But nothing else rhymes with hug me. Jug me makes no sense at all. It could be bug me. What else rhymes with hug me?"

"True." He agreed reluctantly.

And at that moment, I was so very grateful that Robin Thicke doesn't understand how rhyming works.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Diving Board

Look, another moving picture! I told you guys these would never quit entertaining me:

I Found Alisha Found Eden

I just found this hilarious video of two moms parodying Mackemore's "Can't Hold Us" about putting kids to bed. I laughed so hard I nearly hurt myself and then decided I want to be best friends with these Alisha Found Eden people.

Big Kid overheard a few of the songs and asked, "Is parenting really as much of a challenge as they make it seem?"

 "Worse." I answered. "Especially toddlers." I shuddered a bit at the thought. "It's awesome too, obviously, but there's enough songs about that."

Their Mom of the Year/Billionaire parody made me a bit sad in a real way, but I could appreciate all of the others, if only for their goofiness.

We need more moms like that on the PTO (for my own enjoyment and amusement).

Final Countdown

In 7 days, 8 hours and 16 minutes, the kids return to school. But who's counting?

(Me. I have a countdown timer on my computer to mark this momentous occasion.)

And I will go to yoga. No really, I swear I will. I haven't been since I called that not pregnant lady pregnant, but I'm ready now.

I will go to the beach alone and I will bring one chair and a book and it will be glorious.

I will read books without being interrupted to hear about video games or sharks.

I will swim in the pool without wearing another human being as a necklace.

I will not wonder if I should buy a striped shirt and a whistle since I will no longer be a full time referee.

I will not hear open-mouthed chewing at lunch time.

I will have a semi-normal life with a schedule--a schedule that never involves bowling.

I will never complain about packing a lunch again. Until at least November.

When that morning bell rings, I am pretty sure fat little trumpet-toting, diaper-wearing cherubs will descend from the heavens to serenade me, and Jesus Christ himself will probably slide down a rainbow to shake my hand and say, "Good job, Ashley. I don't know how you managed, I would've smacked someone."

 I'll be okay if that last part doesn't happen, but really, I won't be surprised if it does.

I have survived a true test of the soul and I didn't even smack anyone.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vacation Reading

I mentioned in the vacation post that I devoured 4 books (really 3 because I've stopped reading completely upon my return and may never finish Orange is the New Black at this pace...but I read a lot of it.)

The first book I finished was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. It's about a person who gets to come back and do life all over again each time she dies, changing her ultimate fate. At first I found it well written but tedious and I put it down a few months ago in favor of something else. I decided to finish it on vacation because I kept hearing so much buzz about it and I'm really glad I did. This was the kind of book that I was truly sad to see end, I felt like it could (and maybe should) continue forever. It's also the kind of book that makes me marvel that the writer managed to keep the storyline organized and cohesive. Sometimes I become so obsessed with trying to create a mental timeline or figure how different elements of the story work together (Time Traveler's Wife comes to mind) that I feel like I'm too distracted doing that to enjoy it. Once I just read without expectations, trusting that it will all come together, these books end up being my favorite. This was an amazing book and I still find myself thinking of it sometimes. (Very rare because I have book amnesia and forget everything beyond "loved it" or "hated it" 10 minutes after I finish a story.)

Then I read And the Mountains Echoed by the guy who wrote the Kite Runner. I don't know if he has a real name, but I do know that this man is a genius. Not just a literary genius, he truly understands people and the struggles of the human condition. I saw that the synopsis of this book was something very short, something like, "A story about trying to find the missing piece of yourself in someone else." (But probably not that exactly--wouldn't it be awesome if I actually looked this stuff up for you?) and I thought that someone had really gotten right to the point with giving very little information with that summary...but by the end of the book, I was amazed at how perfectly it explained the tale told. I read it in one day and was very moved by it. When I finished, I closed my eyes for a minute to soak it all in and got goosebumps. This is the kind of book that makes me think, "Holy shit, I could never write a book like this. THANKS FOR KILLING MY DREAMS WITH YOUR UNGODLY AMOUNT OF TALENT." Those are the ones I love.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is the type of book that kind of annoys me just by the cover. I can't really explain this aversion. I don't like light, funny, silly books in general (that sounds fun of me, doesn't it?) and I don't like books that I feel are girly or gimmicky. This was all of the above. I liked it, though and, sadly, related all too easily to the neurotic, introverted main character with terrible judgment. The way the story was presented was easy and engaging, it was witty and entertaining, it was over-the-top silly in a mostly acceptable way and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Will it be on my Top 10 list? Never. Top 20? Probably not. But I'm ridiculously picky and I have read a lot. I didn't find out until the end that the author wrote for Arrested Development, my favorite show ever, so it makes sense that I enjoyed the humor.

And as mentioned, I started Orange Is the New Black but I no longer comment on books I haven't finished because sometimes they either slowly get awesome or reveal that they suck towards the end (I'm looking at you, Hidden Cities). I was hoping to finish it before starting the television series, so that means I probably won't watch the show until everyone else is already over it and done discussing it.

I never did do a book wrap-up for 2012 (she says in August 2013) and I feel irrationally guilty about that, like it weighs on me at night sometimes. I feel like last year wasn't a great reading year for me. I can't go into much detail due to the aforementioned book amnesia but I loved Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. It's the fictional account of Christ's first 33 years, as told by his childhood best friend. I thought it was incredibly funny and clever. I also loved The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, which reads more like fiction than non-fiction. My favorite for the year though was probably The Book Thief. It was unique, dark and beautiful. This is one that I look forward to sharing with Big Kid some day because the writing was incredible.

Phew! We're all caught up now. Probably for a while since my nook is uncharged and I'm not on vacation.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Love Triangle

Anyone who has followed our story for a while knows that one of my best friends had a baby 6 months after I had Big Kid, primarily so that he would have a built-in friend and we'd have more excuses to hang out together, and all of that has worked out splendidly.

Since she has understood the concept of romantic love, Em has had her sights set on Big Kid. I'm not sure if he has ever outwardly encouraged her in this and I have, in fact, consoled both of them at different times--her because he had the audacity to say they may not get married and him with repeated promises that he can marry who he wants. He loves her with an intensity but probably not the intensity she would prefer.

She was over today to celebrate his birthday and this morning I saw the shadows of the neighbor girls (we have tons of them) through the sidelights at the front doors.

"The girls are here, if you guys want to go play." I announced, mostly to little kid.

"Who are the girls?" Em asked, as he opened the door and peered outside.

It was not the girls, it was an envelope containing something that was scribbled out. The boys decided this was the beginning of a prank war and put a vomit-flavored jelly bean in a paper cup and left it on their door step with a note.

As we left to drop little kid off at a friend's house, I noticed three of the girls in their yard, eyeing our yard and holding a piece of paper. It was the two littlest sisters and the oldest, a combination of two different neighboring houses. The middle one was missing and I wondered where she was. The other three acted like they didn't see us.

Mr. Ashley called soon after and said he came home for lunch and there was a drawing of Big Kid and Stella (the middle, and my favorite) getting married with a heart around them on our door step. I mentioned this to Big Kid and he scoffed.

"That is one of their favorite jokes, they love to act like Stella is in love with me."

"Really?" I asked. I thought Big Kid was enamored with the oldest sister.

"Yes. They do it all of the time."

"Well, then...Stella probably really does like you."

"NO! It makes her really mad when they say it."

"She's probably just embarrassed." Right then I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw Em in the back seat, looking slightly ill.

"Who is she?" She asked. "The tall one?" referencing the oldest (stunning) sister.

"Stella's really young anyway, isn't she? Isn't she like little kid's age?" I asked.

I suddenly remembered all of the times I sent little kid out to play and Stella would knock again and say, "What about Big Kid?" She is a tiny thing with a tangle of brown curly hair and freckles across her nose and mischievous eyes with dark eyelashes. I then remembered all of the times they had been paired as Cinderella and the prince in the backyard plays the oldest sister produces. I thought Big Kid only went outside if the oldest sister was present but noticed the other day when she was in our house that he would barely bother to look at her and wondered why sometimes he's out there for hours and other times he comes right home and says the wrong people were there. Everything became a lot clearer then.

"No!" He rushed to say. "She's, like, 9. Or 8. Not too young, more like my age than little kid's."

"Oh, 8 is young," Emily, at the wise old age of 9 said.

We arrived home and the offensive item was on the door step.

"DO NOT take a photo of that and post it on your Facebook, blog, instagram, any of it. Do not!" Big Kid asserted.

"I won't!" But, man, did I want to. It is such a cute picture.

"Pick it up," I said, waiting to get inside.

Big Kid hesitated as he looked at it. "If you don't want to touch it, I will," Emily stated. "This was probably a prank," she continued. "Don't you think? Are you going to get revenge? You should get revenge!"

Big Kid agreed this was probably a prank. "I'm going to write a note and go back over there," he decided. The note was about the vomit-flavored jelly bean from earlier, which, it turns out, the girls were smart enough to throw into the bushes. (I told the boys that girls would never eat a mystery jelly bean in a cup.) They both went over to deliver it.

When they returned, Big Kid told me that he had explained the note he found to Stella (Can you imagine?) and she said her sisters did it to get revenge on her. He thought that terrible of them. He said Stella was upset.

"We should fill up water guns and wait in case they come back," Em declared.

I decided it was time for lunch.

After lunch it was rather quiet, with Big Kid flipping through a new book he got and Em glancing nervously out the windows. She seemed sad.

I pulled Big Kid aside. "Look, you're not in trouble or anything but I just want to let you know that I think Stella does like you and--"

"MOM! She does not!"

"Okay. I'm just saying. I've been a girl for 34 years and have chased boys for many of them and I know what I'm seeing here. I think Stella likes you and she's probably a little freaked out. I think Emily sometimes has those same feelings for you and is feeling threatened and a bit hurt. Do what you want but if I were you I would majorly try to distract Em with something fun and completely ignore the neighbor situation for now. Then when she goes home, figure out what to do about that."

He nodded. "Okay. That's what I'm going to do." He walked back inside and asked what she wanted to play. They ended up playing tag inside the house which was annoying, but whatever. Several minutes later she said, "What do you think little kid will think?"

"About what?"

"About you and Stella?"

"He won't think anything. There is no me AND Stella. Let's keep playing."

They played rambunctiously and seemed carefree for hours more and then it was time to drive Emily home. It was quiet in the car and out of nowhere she said, "I can't believe she wrote you a love note." She looked wounded. It hurt my heart.

"I'll rip it into 1000 pieces. I don't care about it. Let's not talk about it."

They are 9 and 10. I thought I'd have at least 4 or 5 more years before I overheard conversations like these.

She changed the subject and seemed happy the rest of the way home. When she got out of the car, I asked, "So what are you going to do about Stella?"

"Probably throw myself into a bonfire," he said with a sigh.

"Big Kid! That's a little dramatic. Stella is a cool girl, you have to be nice to her. Do you like Stella?"

He sighed, exasperated. "I'm too young for this! You know how people always say, 'I'm too old for this!'? That's what I'm saying, but the opposite!"

I laughed and agreed. He is too young for this. And I am too young to witness this.

"I think I will shave my head, get a scar on my face and move to Alaska," he said.

"Good luck with that. I'm not moving to Alaska."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Well that's...awesome

I just realized I own two pairs of panties that have the word "awesome" printed across the butt.

I'm not sure what this says about me as a person, but I bet people who are actually awesome don't have it written on their underwear.

Beach House Vacation

My vacation was like the movie Groundhog's Day, but in the best way possible. This was my activity list for 8 straight days:

Woke up around 9 or 10. Made coffee and complained about it tasting like mud, reminded Mr. Ashley that he had forgotten to pack the creamer. Mr. Ashley was sorry about creamer.

Wandered downstairs to the beach with the dog, took a long walk, collected shark's teeth and sea glass, waved to neighbors.

Floated in Gulf of Mexico with Big Kid, discussing internet memes (seriously--you know the only thing less funny than internet memes? Having them recited and explained to you), video games (he wants a classic Nintendo for his upcoming birthday. He knows everything in the universe about the entire Nintendo franchise and that is in no way an exaggeration. I have heard almost all of it), and his strange hatred of PETA (not really sure where he heard about them but he has a lot to say about it, including objecting to their objectification of women which I thought was hilarious and fantastic). I discussed these things with passion and interest. Turns out I can do just about anything if I'm floating around.

Sat on beach and read in the sun.

Moved chair under the house and read in the shade.

Went upstairs for wine.

More reading in sun, this time with wine.

More reading under house, this time with wine.

Nap time upstairs for one to two hours.

Reading on balcony with ocean view while drinking wine.


Beach walk and more shark tooth collecting, usually with little kid who plans on opening a shell-selling enterprise that he can talk about for hours. We would also stop at a tangle of driftwood and ornament it with a shell. I tried to call it the summer tree but he insisted it was an offering back to nature in exchange for taking the other shells, which is way more imaginative and awesome than a summer tree.

Sunset floating/paddleboarding/reading.

Sitting on balcony staring at stars and discussing the possibilities of just refusing to leave. More drinking.


Every single day, with only very minor variations. I read four books. I saw five shooting stars, I found a handful of sea glass and hundreds of shark teeth. And yes, I still swam in that water.

I was so reluctant to come home, even after 9 days of no civilization and a dwindling supply of food. I could stay forever and watch little kid throw his tiny cast net or bait a fishing hook. He met a pack of other little boys and our house became their fort and research center as they caught crabs and fish in their nets and jumped and tumbled from our giant anchored raft. I walked miles and miles along the shore, sometimes in an effort to escape our Lord of the Flies clubhouse.

I did get stung by a jellyfish across the tops of both feet, which made all of the skin burn and blister for days. It was awful. As Big Kid said, "Jellyfish are jerks." Jellyfish are jerks and they can all die in a fire but I didn't let it ruin my fun. I did complain about it a lot though and the tops of my feet are still a mottled magenta color.

Also, the dog was adorable for the first three days. He walked with me, went on the paddleboard with me, swam out to the raft with me, and wasn't too obnoxious about other people or dogs. However, he would only be with me--to the point where he would fall down the stairs if left in the house with another family member and once jumped off of the paddleboard to swim to the shore where I was walking. He would cry if I swam and howl if I walked without him. He got lazy by day four and refused to walk farther than the neighbor's house, knowing there was no real destination to my journeys. He also got territorial about the house and decided no one could walk under it. The house straddles the entire beach and it's simply not reasonable to expect all passerby to swim around during high tide. He also does not like other dogs, not even if they like him, not even if they pay no attention to him whatsoever, he just does not like them to breathe air in his general vicinity.

It was his first, and last, vacation. It was like being with a colicky baby and I've done that already--who wouldn't hire a dog sitter for a colicky baby if it was acceptable?

Other than jellyfish and wiener dogs, it was the perfect vacation. I could live there, happily only ever seeing a few tourists and the handful of homeowners there. Our neighbors used to own the house we rented and raised their boys there until they entered kindergarten, and kept commenting that watching our family was like looking back on their past selves. They raced to pound on our door when rumor had it a sea turtle was laying her eggs nearby and brought us a bottle of wine after their expedition to a grocery store off island. They would make lovely neighbors. You think I'd be sick of the beach, living just a few miles from the Gulf here at home but no, I would do anything to be a little closer.

I am only glad to be home because of my cat and internet. Both missed me like I missed them.

(The cat more than the internet. Thanks, guys.)

Here are some photos:

It was another vacation that left me feeling lucky.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dearest Big Kid,

Today you are 10. A whole decade! A real big kid (instead of a tongue-in-cheek reference to your birth order) which is astounding because I still very clearly recall every detail of the tightly wrapped, big-eyed bundle that was handed to me 10 years ago today. I remember thinking, "He is important. I better not get this wrong," and I have had some variation of that thought every single day since. For 10 whole years!

Although I joke about canceling your birthday and refusing to acknowledge 10, I will also admit to being eager to see what your future holds. That's the thing about parenting--you want to know what will happen next but soon figure out how quickly next comes. As each new layer of you is revealed, I marvel at what a cool person you are and how knowledgeable you are about the things that interest you. You are witty and clever and smart and kind. You have tremendous empathy for others and I often believe your true genius is emotional giftedness--this is not something I expect you to understand at 10 but I hope reading back on this some day you still recognize that sweetness in yourself. You have an ability to understand far beyond your young years and I wish more of the world was like that. I hope you find this to be a blessing and not a curse in your future, because it is a gift to those around you. I am so proud of your soul, despite knowing without a doubt that you came that way.

Now when I gaze at you and hear that voice reminding me that you are important and I had better get it right, I can answer back with a quiet confidence that so far we seem to be doing okay because you are an incredible person.

I cherish the last 10 years and look forward to the next.

Happy Birthday, Big Kid!
But you'll always be my baby.

I like you, I love you, and I will always protect you,