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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Flea Market

My parents kidnapped LMC for a weekend at the beach- just the grandparents and the little Cagle. I was really happy to see her go off with them and get some one-on-one time that is so very, very rare.

Not to mention that it gave me four days with just me and Bennie as Husband was on call for those same four days. Think of a four day call as the opposite of vacation. He packs a bag with a toothbrush and a few changes of clothes. That's where the similarities end.

Me and Bennie! I was determined to not sit around the house for four days- anything could happen! We were girls on the go. We headed to the park, snuck into a secret opening of a new store in town, made it to Mass, headed to the river and the river market. We were everywhere.

And then I had a gumption that we needed to go to the flea market. Let me be perfectly clear: we needed to go the flea market.

Needed. As in we should have gone yesterday.

The last time I went to the flea market was eight years ago. Husband and Wife were engaged and a party was being thrown that night in our honor-- a redneck/white trash party. Husband, Wife, my cousin/maid of honor, and Husband's best friend headed to the flea market to get some airbrushed t-shirts for the event.

My cousin was a little, uh, under the weather (shall we say?) that morning. We had to wait about thirty minutes to get our prized possessions. In that time, Cousin/Maid of Honor looked at me and said, "I think I'm gonna be sick."

Husband walked her to the bathroom where a sign was permanently hung: Caution. Wet floors.

Deeming that neither safe nor clean- they head to the car. On the way, in the dirt parking lot, amongst strangers-- Cousin can hold it back no longer. Expelling all from the night before between two cars, she rallies and returns to the air brush booth. She even paid an extra $3 to get M.O.H. added to the back in purple. While nothing about this moment should be dwelled upon, it really set the mood for the day and the impending redneck shower.

We did it right.

Bright and early this past Sunday morning as the ninth bell rang, I started to stir. Grabbing Bennie, we loaded up and ate breakfast as we drove the fifteen minutes to the outskirts of town and the red roofed flea market.

When the rusted old silver minivan cut me off at my exit, I should  have taken it as a sign. Instead, in my mind I thought, "This should be fun- I bet they're going to the same flea market that I am."

They were.

I parked next to a dilapidated, burnt out Lexus and some 1972 El Camino-esque roadie. My Tahoe is almost 10 years old and my stroller was so new, it still had the plastic on it. I'd fit right in. These would be my people.

Knowing I had found a secret gem in the flea market, I walked in.

You know what I learned about the flea market in those 45 minutes?

People still smoke. And cheap cigarettes smell worse than expensive ones. Who'd'a thought I could tell the difference between a Pal-Mal and Camel by whiff alone?

They sell fake Crocs at the flea market. Normally, they're $6. Today though- they were $4. But since I had a kid with me, I could get a pair for $3. It made me wonder if I could haggle him down to $2 just for the sake of haggling.

I could.

But, the thought of popping those Mock-Crocs out of the sealed plastic bag and placing them on precious Bennie's clean toes made me shudder. I moved past the $2 Mock-Crocs and found myself face to face with vinyl art for my car.

Well, I needed to investigate that. Vinyl art for my car? I could do one of those stick people families that are everywhere. See? these are my people- literally, painted in vinyl on the back of my car. Me, Husband, LMC, Bennie, Nameless Baby Boy... and it would be c-u-s-t-o-m-e. I'm throwing the "e" in there for effect.

Turns out custom-e vinyl art (that is picked from a big book) is not that cheap. I move on. Stick people families aren't my style, anyway.

A man with a Vietnam Vet hat and a cane had a booth just outside the door of Building G. As I walked out, a woman asked, "How much 'dis iron?"

"5!" he called back... and then continued, "Goes to $6 in two minutes."

Well then- that's one way to negotiate. Must have learned that little tactic from Zig Ziglar.

Sure as the wind blows, she started screaming to her husband, "Bobby- Quick! Get my purse. GETTIT! NOW! I gotta get the iron before the price goes up."

Sonofagun if that Vietnam Vet didn't sell that iron for $6. He was also selling broken dishwashers. They were going for $35. Price was going up to $50 after lunch.

Rounding into Building H, the flea market really started to fascinate me. I could get a tattoo, tire cleaner, and pre-packaged Hanes socks in Building H. There were also hand-made afghans and little knit dresses. Next to the old lady afghan booth, a man was selling "Ladies thongz $3" and "Kingmaster" "Linjerie" (their spelling, not mine) for $5. I leered at the $1 toothbrushes and $.75 deodorant. Bennie kept her hands in her lap and her eyes forward. City kid knows the rules.

"Hey, Pretty Lady!" I hear.

Surely, this voice was talking to me. While not looking my best, I am-- at the very least-- put together and have makeup on for a change.

"Pretty Lady!" I hear again. I look around. He wasn't talking to me.

He was, however, talking to the slightly overweight braless woman whose boobies were hanging down to her hip bones. All 48 hairs on her head were standing straight up, having not seen a hair brush in probably a few days. Her shorts were a little snug in the seat. She, too, looked up. He was apparently talking to her.

"Pretty Lady! You look like you need this deodorizer for your car. I think I can let this go for $4."

Y'all. I kid you not, this was a glorified evergreen tree on a string. And you know what she did?

"$3.50 and ya got yerrself a deal."

He hemmed and hawed before taking her $3.50 in change and she proudly walked off with the car deodorizer. I was mesmerized by these people. No longer could they be MY people. My people would negotiate better.

Heading into the last building, it held used tires, "antiques" made of the finest pressed wood money could buy, and an Elmo doll that I actually contemplated purchasing for Bennie for about twenty seconds. The airbrush booth was on the end. Remembering that funny, funny day so long ago, I headed down there to discover that the air brush booth was gone and had been replaced with an Indian man selling electronics with a sign that said, "Make sure merchandise works before leaving premises. No refunds. No exchanges. No excuses." {it really instilled confidence in the customer}

I turn to leave and saw the ladies bathroom with the same permanent sign: Caution. Wet Floors.

Good tip.

Maybe I won't be back next week, maybe these won't be my people. Maybe this is not a diamond in the rough- rather, just rough. But at least I now I know.

And I know where to get a tattoo, vinyl decals, and $1 VHSes. And overpriced irons. And some, ahem, real nice "linjerie."

All valuable things to know.



Monday, October 6, 2014

That Kid

Bennie has found her way to nap time, thank goodness. I am sitting with my feet in cowboy boots- crossed and propped on the counter. It feels good. Real good. The kitchen: wreck. The laundry: Mount Everest. The music: loud and Celtic. The day: excellent.

That kid gets into everything. I clean the kitchen- but she just messes it up faster than me. Before you volunteer the novel idea of locks on the cabinets- think for just a minute as to how many cabinets are in this kitchen. I count 16. At $5 a pop (for the cheap ones)- I am just too cheap to spend it. Especially since I know me, and I know Husband. We would not be the best at locking them back after dog-cussing them to get them unlocked. Besides- it would just be something else for her to figure out how to destroy.

It is cheaper and easier to buy new Pyrex. Besides, I probably own too much cookware as it is.

But, this kid. She kills me. I want to yell at her but am too busy laughing to get it out. For instance, the other day...

Climbing in the cabinets, throwing broken glass, and trying to get into the fridge- she tornadoes through the kitchen with both speed and efficiency. I was busy making a breakfast of scrambled eggs. Why should I not leave eggs out on the table for an extra five minutes? They are in a crate and have some sort of anatomical shape that makes them hard (but not impossible) to break. They were out of reach.

But, really-- What's out of reach when it comes to a tornado?

Scrambling the eggs and asking sweet Bennie to load up, I turn around expecting to see a cherub sitting in her high chair, patiently waiting for me to place her tray and fill it with fresh scrambled eggs. Her halo polished and hands folded would have been a little too much to ask.

You can expect to see a lot of things. What you will not expect to see is that almost two year old standing on the kitchen table, holding an egg in each hand as she jumped up and down singing her ABCs. 

The scrambled egg pan hits the floor with cooked eggs splattering everywhere. Bennie peers over the edge of the table and a loud, "UH OH" escapes her mouth. "Uh Oh, Mom-Mom," as she looks at me, still holding her raw eggs.

Aaaaa Beeee Seeeee Beeee EEE EEEE GEEEEEEE!

And she goes back to dancing.

That kid. God better bless her, because I want to almost every single day. A mother's love-- it runs deep.