Friday, October 31, 2014

The stress is mounting

I have always had a deep respect for single parents, having spent over 50% of the last six years being a widow to the hospital- I do not understand what single parents go through day-in and day-out, but I have a glimpse of it.

And it is a tough world.

Husband has, oh, you know, the biggest test of his life coming up next week and if he is not at the hospital, he is studying. If he is not studying or sleeping, he is giving me a ten minute respite from the minions we created so that I can get my weekly bath.

Yesterday, Laura texted me and asked if I wanted to go to the park. I promptly responded:

"Sounds Amazing"

The biggest blessing I have had this week is that LMC's class does not have any homework. The teachers took pity on the parents with it being Halloween week. I sent the teacher flowers and a handwritten thank you note on fine Crane stationery. (exaggeration, rather, she received an emoji text- but my heart wanted to do so much more)

Seeing Laura yesterday, I told her that I am so drained that I think I want to cry. She said GO! I've got this, go get some air. Rather, I wanted to stay and hang out with someone taller than 3.5 feet tall. So, I stayed and regaled her with my morning...

Typically, we have to leave the house by 7:40. Which means, we are in the car, backing out of the driveway by 7:46 to get us to school by the obligatory first bell. At 7:30 yesterday, LMC is still in her pajamas and I am feverishly trying to find clothes that fit. Maternity clothes do not come in stages and I am entering the third and final. 7:31, LMC finally finishes brushing her teeth and I am ready to strangle her. Knowing that Bennie is still asleep, I think to myself, "OK- I'm going to run in, grab her- put her in the car... and change her diaper when we get back from school."

LMC does not want a granola bar in the car for breakfast. Rather, she wants something... anything else that does not involve expedience and portability.

I open Bennie's door and immediately know that I am in trouble. Big Trouble.

I don't need to cut the light on to know that there is something in my future that will not make us on time. The room... smells... like a ... sheesh, well... I don't know what it smells like. Let's just leave it at bad. It makes my stomach turn and I know there is no one else who is going to handle this and time is not ticking any slower.

On the changing table, clothes stripped that need to be sterilized, I pick her up in last night's bath towel like a hobo's sack and carry her to the bathroom. There's, ahem, stuff (or any other word that starts with "S" and ends with disaster) everywhere.

We aren't in the car. We aren't backing down the driveway. We are, instead, in the bathroom scrubbing "stuff" off the baby as she is covered head to toe. Apparently, it happened early in her sleep and she didn't cry. Apparently, I kick ass a mother.

Fresh towel in hand, I scoop her up 120 seconds later and head back to the center of my demise- her bedroom. It smells... awful. Putting her back on the changing table, I realize that my stomach has turned one time too many and take off running to the bathroom- not before my arm hit the dirty diaper and it went

s p l a t

onto the floor.

Bennie is hanging out on the changing table. I am expelling last night's supper on the way to the bathroom. LMC is up front crying about a lack of waffle on her plate.

[side note: as I am regaling Husband with this story, he stops me right here and says: You left Bennie on the changing table?    .... insert crickets chirping over the phone from my end here ....  "Yes, yes I did," was about all I could get out. That and last night's supper]

After brushing my teeth, I cover my face with one of the perfectly folded washcloths on the counter and head back into the domain of stinky-ness. Bennie gets carried out under one arm like a sack of taters and a clean diaper is kicked out to the den. Naked sans the diaper- it'll do until I can get LMC off to school.

Walking and kicking with my sack of taters, I am stepping on 655 Cheerios. They are everywhere. In the hallway, the den, the carpet... strewn about. It seemed that LMC had the bright idea that Cheerios were portable, thus she could have those for breakfast.

[side note: As I continue to regale Husband with this tale, he stops he here and says, "So, I'm not coming home to a clean house?" ... nope. Not at all. Not even going to try and pretend that the Cheerios are the only disaster in this house. We carved pumpkins the night before and there might be pumpkin seeds everywhere. Yes, everywhere. My dad helped and thought it would be an excellent idea to tell LMC that we should save every single seed and plant them next year. I looked at him like he had gills and informed LMC otherwise. Tears ensued- from both mother and child.]

We pull into Parochial, two wheels spinning in the air, almost running over a pedestrian, and make the last drop off before the first bell. LMC gets shooed out of the car, water bottles and smushed Goldfish going tumbling out with her.

It was not until about 10:30 did I remember we didn't pack a lunch. By that point, I had cleaned up all bodily fluids from the morning and was sitting on my chaise lounge with bon-bons and the Cabana boy fanning me.

Always thankful that tomorrow is a new day. And afternoons aren't mornings. And that we invested in a large container of Oxiclean. Oh, and that I get my husband back on Wednesday. Very thankful for that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

33 cabinets and 17 drawers

My kitchen is large. There is a lot of storage space in this beast. I went from having 6 drawers to 17 and 5 cabinets to, well, 33. I must confess though, most of them are empty. It's not that I don't have the stuff to fill them, I lack the discipline to keep them organized.

Husband says it's me. I say it's him. Details.

After LMC's Halloween parade at school, I came home to start cooking chili for supper. Realizing that I had zero interest in a turkey sandwich (blasphemous in this household) for lunch, I put eggs on to boil for egg salad.

After peeling and cooling, I went for my food processor. Now, let's be perfectly honest- I own four different types of things that process foods. The big one, the little one, the one that attaches to my immersion blender, and the baby food maker.

Because every belle needs four food processors.

I go to pull out the big one and can't find the blade.
No problem.

I go for the little one and can't find the lid.
Not a big deal. Annoying, but not back breaking.

I go for one that goes with the immersion blender, but it is way too small for the job at hand.
Sigh.

I go for the baby food maker, but just put it back- because the lid is out of my reach.

Four food processors and enough parts for any one to work- if they were identical.

Looking in my drawers, I open my "things that cut" drawer, because- yes, I have so many drawers that I have one internally labeled things that cut... not to be confused with the things that measure drawer. There is also a utensil drawer, a gadget that attaches to appliances drawer, and a drawer full of kid silverware. My blade, when it comes down to it, is something that cuts- and that is where it should be.

And it isn't there.

I open my utensil drawer and the dang thing can't open because the five whisks that I have are all in a knot. No blade. And no whisks either- they all hit the counter, waiting to be unknotted and replaced.

33 cabinets open. 33 cabinets closed. 17 drawers open. 17 drawers close. All the while, I am pulling things out and setting them on the counter so that I can reorganize my kitchen.

The chili simmers.
The eggs wait to turn into something else.

Bennie looks at me and asks for the pepper.

Which reminds me, I have a spice drawer. Do I really need a spice drawer?

Oh, and the laundry is all over the counters. With the spatulas. And the chili.

Because I cannot find one last part for any one of my food processors to finish my egg salad.

I take everything out of every drawer, deciding that it is time to get some organization in this place.

The chili simmers.
The eggs wait.
The drawers are empty.

Sprite the Fish Cagle looks at me, cocks his eyes and says, "Glub?"

I have the wise idea that only doing the drawers would be smart today; anything else would be too much.

The chili simmers.
The eggs wait.
The drawers start to get put back together.

I pull out the foil and decide that I can redo one cabinet and put the foil in there. That would make sense and open a drawer for things that stir. Taking everything out of the practically bare cabinet above the sink, I put the foil and zippy bags up there.

The door won't close.

No problem. I'll move the glasses from Cabinet A to the now-baren Cabinet B. Besides, I can put spices next to the foil and open up a things that strain drawer.

So, two cabinets. I will reorganize four cabinets and 17 drawers today and get the rest done tomorrow.

The chili simmers.
The eggs wait.
The foil gets moved to where the glasses once were.

If it is not foil, zippy bags, or glasses- it does not have a home.

Okay, six cabinets. But, that's it. I will be done with six cabinets. Oh, and 17 drawers.

The laundry gets shuffled around to make room for the two funnels and three sieves that I have. My food processors get put away. The eggs look at me like I am nuts. Bennie is down for a nap that she is vehemently rebelling against.

Why am I suddenly starving? Right-- eggs. Egg salad. Where's my food processor? Right... the blade.

I wonder if I should move my wine glasses above the foil or keep them above the sink with the rest of the glasses? With the rest of the glasses- that makes sense. Next to the sponges and baby food jars.

Turkey gets pulled out and I make a sandwich while I continue this process. The eggs are forgotten about. The food processor pieces are now covered with laundry. Oven mitts find a home and rags get moved to the pantry.

Ice cream scoop gets put in with the things that cut -- because it cuts through the ice cream.

Bennie, who has given up on the nap, opens a cabinet door and pulls out the food processor blade. For once, she errs on the side of safety and hands it to me. I put it where it belongs and look at the eggs on the counter.

RIGHT! Egg salad.

But first, I have to get this kitchen in order. Because that it not where it is right now. Perhaps I'll write a blog to recount the last hour and how I was so efficient and woke up this morning deciding that today was the day to organize the kitchen.

And cook chili.
And make egg salad.
And catch up on 18 loads of laundry.

What was the egg salad for anyway?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Writing Letters

Do you ever write letters anymore? I mean an honest to Goodness newsy about nothing letter. Something our great grandparents had a fine art in and something our grandparents did once in a blue moon. Rarely did our parents write one and extremely rarely- do we. Other than a "thank you note" (which I get a little frustrated with), when have you pulled out your stationery and written a note to a friend of family member?

I love writing letters and I write to a handful of people of a completely irregular basis about a whole box of nothing. For the past five years, I have been writing (mostly one-sided) letters to my (ready for this?) second cousin... once removed. She was born in 1928, never married (as far I know) and lives in the same house that she was born in. The house is on a handsome lot and was a gift from her paternal grandfather to her parents in celebration of their wedding (the lot- not the house). Talk about a gift! Granted, her maternal grandfather gave her parents a chest of silver flatware. RIGHT?! I could handle either of those gifts.

Back to my point- I had been writing Ellen for about two years and not thinking much about it. I would write about what my daughter and I were doing in DC, send her copies of my blog, pictures of the kids, whatever. My letters never asked many questions- mostly just a little bit news about a whole box of nothing. One day, my dad called me and got the conversation around to Ellen and asked me about it.

Dad had run into Ellen's brother-in-law and, apparently, my box of nothing had been the Sunday dinner topic of conversation amongst these three old family members, brother-in-law and the two sisters for those past two years.

Sunday dinner, after church, they would gather over a traditional feast and Ellen would relay the adventures we Cagle girls were having up in DC. I had no idea and it enchanted me that my nothing was her something.

Every blue moon, I would find a letter in my mailbox from Ellen and her fine handwriting with Mrs. Husband Cagle inscribed above my address and her letter would acknowledge my news and tell me about her garden or her nieces. She has an amazing garden. She has wonderful nieces who travel (and make me a little jealous!).

My friend from Mobile writes me every now and again. We promised each other that we would become old ladies who wrote letters to each other. She is holding up her end of the bargain much better than I am. Her letters are beautiful and they are, like mine, a newsy box of nothing. They are cherished and I get excited when her exquisite stationery is amongst bills, junk mail, and catalogs.

She has exquisite stationery. Breathtaking. Someone designed an intertwined letters of her three initials and it will take... your... breath... away.

At one point in this world, a woman's worth could be told by her paper. Mobile still holds this as fact. I write so many letters, that I have a box of notecards from Target and an embosser that get the job done. My fancy stationery still gets used- but engraved Crane does not come cheap and is saved for special occasions or just when I feel a little fancy!

There is a letter to Ellen in my mailbox right now and another sitting by my computer that will get mailed next week. It will probably take me another month or two to write again. She fascinates me and there are 150 questions on the tip of my tongue. But questions are easy to ask and, sometimes, hard to answer. So, I give her my life and my family one 4x6 card at a time- hoping she gets equally excited about my notes to her amongst her junk mail and bills as I do when an envelope has my name on it.

Pick up a pen. Write a letter. Once you get one in your mailbox, you'll know the thrill and want to push it forward.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sprite gets a home

Husband hid his surprise really well when LMC brought Sprite in the door.

Did you know that fish need oxygen? There is a finite supply of oxygen in the Badge of Honor LMC held high for her daddy to see. We would learn many things about Sprite the Fish Cagle over the next two hours. Husband looked at me and asked, "Why did you buy a fish?"

Really? Do you really think that I bought a fish? No. I sat in line totaling over an hour and watched her throw twelve ping pong balls at 20-something glass bowls and internally begged the man to take some pity on her. I even contemplated bribing the fish keeper. That's how low I almost sunk. No. No I didn't buy a fish. Because if I bought a fish that would mean that I am a pet person and that I am certainly not.

That's what I thought. Instead, I said, "We won it at the carnival today! It was super cool. Tell Daddy about it!"

Husband and I look at each other. Do you know how to care for a fish, he asks. I respond with a question mark and mumble something about water having to sit out for a week and he mentions that the fish has to acclimate to the water outside of the bag. To answer the question- No. No we don't a flipping thing about goldfish. But, it's a goldfish- how hard can it be?

I google "how to have a goldfish" and found the mecca of goldfish websites. Eighteen steps between me and a goldfish, complete with diagrams and pictures. It's a goldfish. How hard can it be?

A second website eliminated nine steps. "Nine steps to a goldfish" -- This one talked about test kits and nitrate verse nitrite. I go back to my original statement: It's a goldfish. According to the second website, in one month and three hundred well spent dollars, I too, could have a goldfish.

Brother had a fish at one point in our life. He and a bowl. and twelve rocks in the bottom of it. It was some kind of fighting fish. When he looked lonely, we would put him in front of the mirror and he would run into the side of the glass bowl. Save PETA the phone call. Brother no longer owns a fish.

The one thing I mention to husband is that one of those mecca websites said we needed a fifteen gallon tank. Do you know how much water 15 gallons is? Please don't say fifteen gallons. Because fifteen gallons is a lot of water. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 pounds. Our new friend is tiny. For Pete's sake- he lived in a cooler with 600 other little friends before traveling to our abode in a plastic bag.

I reiterate: it's a goldfish and a free one, at that.

Husband loads the family up and we head to Pet Smart. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us- my mom is at a grocery store very near Parochial and kept wondering why she kept seeing kids holding fish in baggies and parents asking the store clerks if they carried any fish food. For the record: they didn't.

At Pet Smart, LMC was so excited about decorating Sprite's home and Bennie was so excited about seeing all kinds of animals that they were in stereo polyphony with: DADDY! dah-dee! DADDY! dah-dee! DADDY! dah-dee!

A foolish woman asks me if we need help.

"Husband- do we need help?"

Like a man asking for directions-- "No, we've got it."

I look at the woman and raise my eyebrows. She nods and says she'll be over there when we change our mind. Bennie and I round the corner to find that LMC has found all kinds of "flair" for Sprite's new home. A unicorn, rainbow, "girls rule" sign, pink treasure chest, pink castle, a tiara, partridge... pear tree... the usual.

Husband is a firm believer in life. This is shocking, I know. Even though he hunts- his shots are clean and nothing is wasted. No fish in his family was going to have a glass bowl for a home and a mirror for a friend. He was looking at beasts of aquariums- fifteen gallons, to be precise. At least he listens.

DADDY! A unicorn! dah-dee! pup-pee DADDY! sparkles! dah-dee! pup-pee DADDY! Bennie said there's a puppy? Where? dah-dee! pup-pee!

Husband looks at me over their heads and is contemplating laughing or screaming. He elects for laughing. I go find the woman who offered her assistance.... but found Philippe instead. Philippe loved fish and has several aquariums filled with all kinds of fish. Philippe got fish fever a few years ago and just kept adding to his lot.

Philippe was eager to help us.

Philippe recommended an 8 gallon tank- unless, of course, we too, got fish fever. We would also need two bags of rocks to help his biosphere. I kid you not, he said biosphere. I was too desperate for his help to tell him that was not the correct use of biosphere. Pauley Shore could confirm this. And flair. He didn't call it flair- I did. Philippe was unimpressed that I kept saying flair. He chose to focus on "accessories" for our fish, Sprite The Fish Cagle.

Accessories... flair... whatever-- they had all kinds of it and LMC was eager to fill the buggy with more ornamentation for Sprite the Fish Cagle. As Philippe and I walked off to discuss water treatment and food, she added more pieces to her home.

Fish food comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There's DHA tablets (DHA-- you know, that vitamin that comes from... fish) to make them smarter. Omega-3 pellets to enhance the DHA. Bloodworms, color enhancers, even phosphorus to make them glow in the dark.

"My brother had a fish when I was a kid and he had flakes. Do you still use flakes?"

Flakes... yes, Pet Smart carries flakes. Five minutes of telling me how little Sprite the Fish Cagle needs to be fed, he cautiously hands me the flakes- valued at $5.24. But, if I want the best of the best fish food, made by SUPER FISH for exceptional fish, it would cost an additional $.18. I up-sell myself on the eighteen cents to make Sprite the Fish Cagle an exceptional fish.

Can't call me cheap.

LMC and I negotiate which flair needed to stay at the store for next time (because... we'll be back...right? riiigghhhtttt) and which pieces Sprite the Fish Cagle could not live without and head to the register.

Dah-dee! Pup-pee! Dah-Dee!! Pup-pee peas? Dah-Dee! PUP-PEE!

In line we stand, LMC falls back on the large woman behind us who was buying cans of cat food on sale. They topple on the ground and LMC helps pick them all up. Not because the large woman couldn't bend down. Certainly not that.

ONE HUNDRED EIGHT DOLLARS AND SIXTY SEVEN CENTS LATER-- we walk out without a net.

Do you know you need a net to transfer a fish from his baggie to his new home full of flair? And you have to wash everything? I am starting to understand why Brother only got a bowl and a mirror for a friend for his fish as I start to dog-cuss my animal loving family.

Dad-dee? Pup-Pee?

Back at the house, Sprite the Fish Cagle is looking a little puny and not swimming so much. Oxygen must be running out. Philippe warned us to act quickly when we got home.

I wash everything, Bennie falls out of a chair, LMC spills her milk on Sprite the Fish Cagle's bag, and Husband looks at me like we all have gills.

Lacking the net and refusing to go back to Philippe and Pet Smart, Husband tries the pasta scooper to get Sprite the Fish Cagle out of his bag and into his new home. No dice. All that is left is an oversized  strainer that I use for opening and draining cans. In this moment, it was perfect for our problem. Holding our breath, we dump his current water down the drain through the strainer and drop him in his new home.

She swims. Like moths to flames, we stop and stare at this fish that now resides on our counter in an  aquarium with hot pink rocks, glow in the dark rocks, two purple plants, a unicorn, a treasure chest, rainbow, and a large girl-approved castle.

LMC cheers and starts putting stickers on the aquarium. We bought stickers for Sprite the Fish Cagle? What kind of spoiled fish is this?! Can we change her name to Supper?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sprite The Fish Cagle

We have a new member of the family-- and she is worth mentioning. Sprite The Fish Cagle. Her name is Sprite... The Fish..... Cagle.

Let's back up.

Today was the annual Parochial Carnival. Every year, Parochial organizes a day filled with carney fun for the students. There is a ring toss, face paint, dunk booth, corn hole, and a dinosaur dig to name the handful that come to mind. It is the only fundraiser that the school has. Understand me on this: the kids do not go door to door selling cheap trinkets to neighbors. The kids do not sell $6/roll wrapping paper like I did back in the day. All those things that other schools do to offset the operating expenses are not part of Parochial.

Thank the Sweet Lord-- as the parents rejoice.

Parents do not have to walk from door to door to see that each neighbor/almost stranger does not, well, that they don't .... you know, be uncool to your kid. Parents do not have to organize children in the parking lot at Lowe's hitting up cranky shoppers for their hard earned money.

Instead, they make an event for the school and put a whole bunch of fun things around it for both the kids and the parents. Oh, and they raise over $75,000 in doing so. Everyone gives a little and it turns the weekend into something big.

One of the many games they have is a ping pong ball toss. There are twenty-ish little fish bowls on a table, a fifteen minute wait, and three chances to win... a fish. And the parents cease rejoicing.

It was the most popular game today. More popular than the dunk tank, the rock climbing wall, and the Sumo wrestling suits. It was even more popular than the karaoke. Live, on stage, with real microphones, and an audience kind of karaoke-- with Let it Go on repeat. The only thing more annoying than Let it Go on repeat is Let it Go out of tune on repeat.

We found Cas in a loooonnnnggggg line. After a hug, she asked LMC, "Are you going to get in line to win a fish?"

LMC responded with a DUH look before hopping in line with Cas. Fifteen minutes later, Cas throws a ping pong ball as if she had been practicing for weeks. Plink. Lucky Cas (Lucky Cas' mom- more accurately) won a fish at 10:15. LMC was next. Three ping pong balls found their way to three different places that did not win anything more than a little candy.

This mom breaths a sigh of relief.

Face paint and a new head of purple hair, LMC asks to go try for a fish again.

Fifteen minutes.
Three chances.
More candy.

Mom- sigh of relief.

Cupcake walk, several bounces in the bounce house, a dino dig... and a third request of trying to get a fish.

Twenty minutes with kids holding fishes- those pesky badges of honor.
Three more chances.
More candy.

Mom- a sigh of relief and a twinge of sadness for the kid who can't throw a ping pong ball.

Lunch, dunk booth, around and around we go. It seemed everywhere we turned, another kid had anywhere from one to three (or even five) little baggies holding a little goldfish as the day started to come to a close. Those sad eyes look up at me and she says, "May we please go back and try to win a fishie again?"

"Are you sure you don't want to go cosmic bowling? Or another dino dig? Maybe ... anything?"

"No, please?"

I cave. We stand in line.

The line was the longest it had been. Everyone had a fish around us standing in line. They were all telling the tall fish tales how they won their fish. One kid swore he kissed the rim of one bowl before bouncing in and then out into the neighboring bowl. He had four baggies.

LMC looked at him in awe.
Internally, I rolled my eyes and contemplated cutting in line to sneak the fish keeper a five spot for one of the damn fish.

Finally, it's our turn. The man recognized us and told her to take two steps forward. Y'all, she was on top of the table.

Ball one... bounces over.
Ball two... apparently didn't count.
Ball three... She goes high and the man holds his hand up to hook it into a bowl. It bounces out... and then back in.

She jumps and screams. I scream and jump- both for different reasons. We gather our fish and I ask the fish keeper how to care for it. He looked at me like I had gills.

I am not a pet person.

The day is done. She is cracked out on cotton candy, nachos, and Sprite. Walking to the car, she decides that she drank a lot of Sprite at the carnival, so we should name the fish Sprite. Wait! Sprite THE FISH Cagle. And we will call her Sprite.

LMC, Sprite, and I hop in the car and head home to show off our treasure to Husband.

Think this story is over? Please. I'm only just getting started.