Thursday, June 28, 2012

50 Shades of Sealy

I have a theory that you can tell exactly how long a couple has been married by what is in their bedroom. Eyebrows, eyebrows.

Get your minds out of the gutter this isn’t 50 Shades of Grey; I’m talking about their mattress and the sleeping arrangement that goes with it.  

Marriages like mattresses change over time. In the beginning they are small and springy. As time goes on they get bigger and pick up a few lumps and broken springs along the way. A few years later they are sagging in the middle but comfortable. Below I will outline the three distinct phases of marriage by mattress. 

Phase one. Ah, wedded bliss. The first few months of marriage finds our happy couple with a small but springy mattress. Sleeping arrangements include constant contact at all times. The newlyweds can’t go for 10 seconds without being snuggled up together like two love birds in their feathery love bird-ish nest. Somebody cue the violins. However, this revolting phase doesn’t last long. At some point one or both will realize that air is needed to breathe at night and that having someone’s face in your armpit or foot on your back is not conducive to a good night’s rest. The couple then retreats to their separate corners.
Excuse me while I gag on how adorable these two are.

Another thing that happens during this critical separation period is the realization that your new spouse may enjoy sleeping conditions that you do not. Take for instance Buns and myself. It became clear to me early on that Buns is ¼ Polar Bear. He needs the bedroom to be at roughly absolute zero to be comfortable while he sleeps. This being the case he throws the windows wide open in the middle of winter, has the air conditioner on full blast in the summer, and regardless of the season has a fan pointed directly at the bed on the “wind tunnel” setting.

All this would be fine except for one small detail. He has also mastered the “tuck and roll” maneuver which is the act of taking the sheet and quilt that covers both of us, tucking the edges between his hands and knees and then spinning 360 degrees at high speed so that he is wrapped completely and I am left with nary a thing to cover myself with. Once the “tuck and roll” had been completed I would wake up a few minutes later with teeth rattling and frostbite creeping up my extremities.

The first few times this happened I would gently shake him and ask for the blanket back. It immediately became apparent that he was like a bear in other ways as well. He hibernates while asleep and gentle shaking does not even solicit a snort of comprehension. Frustration would set in and nights would soon find me ripping the pillow out from under his head and chucking it across the room. Then, when he would grumpily get up to go find it I would steal the blankets and do a tuck and roll of my own. Outright tug-o-war would ensue as we both fought to keep our share. Separate bedding was the only answer and it continues to this day.

Phase two. Enter children. This phase is the one in which the small cozy bed is generally upgraded to a larger model for one reason. As soon as children enter the equation your bed is not your own any more. Every night there will be at least one or two kids, assorted toys, and possibly even a dog or cat who will make an appearance and shove you out to the nether regions of your sleeping space. Even if you are lucky enough to move up mattress sizes you will learn how to sleep while balancing precariously on the ½ inch of foam at the edge of your bed.

This is also the phase where mysteriously when you climb into bed at night you find 27 Goldfish crackers have somehow migrated into your sheets and taken up residence. Springs in this part of life are taking a beating as the bed is used as a trampoline for toddlers. “Look mom, I can do a front flip!” Teens also find this to be the premium hang out real estate while playing video games and the pizza stains are there to prove it.

Phase three. Children have grown up and pets have been banished to the living room. The couple is finally able to sleep alone on their comfy saggy bed without interruption. The only problem is that by now due to arthritis, middle of the night bathroom trips, or insomnia neither one of them is in the bed much at the same time. What usually happens is that one person abdicates to the couch or guest bedroom so that they can both get some rest.

Then they die.

Just kidding. Here’s the part where I restate my thesis statement and bore you all to death. So instead just know this, ice cream is yummy, fireworks are fun, and make sure to invest in your mattress and your marriage and hopefully you will both get out with just a couple of broken springs and some pizza stains.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Where Angels Fear to Tread

It may be noted that on occasion I have been accused of having Bovinophobia. That is, an irrational fear of cows. I do not like cows, and have been known to engage in high pitched screeching when unexpectedly coming face to slimy nose with one when say on a river float trip I came around a bend where one might be blocking the way while it was getting a drink.

I would argue that it is not irrational to have such strong feelings about those of the bovine persuasion and the following story will go to show the nefarious natures of these depraved beasts.

They're giving me the evil eye right now!
When I was a kid, I loved visiting my Grandparent's farm. I lived in town and so the fresh air, green fields, and animals were like an amusement park to me. The farm also had the usual compliment of assorted cousins around to keep things interesting. 

One particular visit found me in the company of my cousins Aaron, David and Sarah. As was the custom, I was expected to pipe down and follow the crowd in whatever it was we were doing that day. Be it swimming in the canal or having a dirt clod war in the corn field, trying to ride the pigs or building a fort on the back lot.

It was decided that day that fishing in the neighbor's pond was in order. There were rumors of monolithic catfish there and we all wanted to be the one to reel one of those monsters in.  The trip would require a lengthy walk down a winding and dusty country road. My oldest cousin Aaron, who we lovingly nicknamed Sasquatch because of his height, offered up that he knew a shortcut to the pond. All it required was crossing a cow pasture that was located on a hill just to our south. I knew that pasture to be filled with a herd of cows whose temperament was somewhat like that of a  pack of wild pit bulls. I immediately expressed my displeasure with the idea by whining but was immediately silenced by the icy glare of my companions. “We’ll just jog across and jump the fence at the bottom of the hill” said Sasquatch, “those steer won’t bother us.”

As we approached the rusty wire fence, I saw that the herd was on the far side of the pasture contentedly eating grass. They looked up at us with innocent cow eyes and and soft black noses as if they were posing for an ice cream ad. The aura around them was absolutely non-threatening in every way. World peace, hearts, and cows all wrapped up in one. As David held the fence apart for me to climb through he said “see, there’s nothing to worry about.”

I tentatively stepped through and carefully watched the herd for a reaction. There was none. I then took a few steps still ready to bolt back through the fence should one of those cows make any sudden movement but they just stood there placidly chewing their cud. Hmm. Maybe I was overreacting. As we reached the half-way point across the field I felt myself relaxing and enjoying the sun shining on my face.

It was then that I heard thunder.

I scanned the sky expecting to see rain clouds rolling in but there were none. I then looked over my shoulder at the exact time that my cousins did and in horror viewed the black and white stampeding mass of horns, legs and other cow parts coming at us like a tsunami of cows.

As a group we levitated off the ground and took off towards the bottom of the field in a high speed blur. Since I had the shortest legs and was bringing up the back of the blur, I witnessed my cousins leap over the fence at the bottom of the hill one by one as gracefully as antelope in the Serengeti leap over small streams.

I felt my heart pounding out a distress signal as I took a mighty leap and began to sail over the fence, the bovine freight train only inches behind me, blowing hot air and cow snot down my neck. As I reached the apex of my jump I realized with radiant joy that I was going to make it.

Photo by Horia Varlan
It was the split second after that realization that the barb-wire fence reached out, grabbed my pant leg, flipped me upside down and bounced my head on the ground soundly several times.

By some miracle the fence had taken pity on me and deposited me on the other side of the fence from certain doom. I hung there, hot tears of self pity rolling up my forehead, shredded pant leg mocking me and a very mean cow blowing it's hot stinky breath in my face.

So what is the moral to this tale of cows and woe? It could be that regardless of who is bigger or older, more powerful or educated it is imperative that you make your own decisions and stand up for yourself when you know what is right. It could be that it is important to know your own limitations. But mostly it is that cows are sneaky and mean and you can't trust them any farther than you can throw them.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Filthy Flea Bag

It is a well known fact that my husband Buns is a sucker for strays. Stray dogs, cats, birds, people, it doesn’t really matter what species. Anything that is lost or hurt is immediately picked up and brought home. It is one of my favorite things about him but over the years it has caused me some grief.

One lost soul in particular was a tabby kitten that snuggled up against his ankles at the local Baptist Fish Fry one year. Nearly starved and obviously discarded it was more than Buns could bear to leave him there. He was scooped up and brought home where he would go on to become my greatest mortal enemy.

The kids bestowed the name of Lonestar on him since we were newly moved to the great state of Texas and it seemed appropriate. That moniker didn’t last long though. Because of his antics and deplorable personal hygiene I began calling him Filthy Flea Bag. It was shortened and soon he was just Filthy.

After a few days of food and medical care Filthy’s true colors came out. He was bossy and vindictive, holding grudges for long periods of time and spent days planning his revenge. One of his favorite pastimes was to wait until our four year old daughter was sleeping and then go and curl up on top of her face. It was a constant battle to keep him away from her.

We thought that possibly having him fixed when he was old enough would settle him down but if anything it made matters worse. The vet told us in no uncertain terms that Filthy was the most well endowed cat he had ever seen. That surgery was the greatest loss of his nine lives and he never forgave me for it. He decided from that moment to go into open warfare.

He came home and refused to use his cat box, preferring instead to do his business behind my brand new kitchen counters. We were still in construction at that time and so there was an access point in which I would have to climb under and reach as far as I could to clean up the gifts he left me back there. The smell was beyond dreadful.

When I would get after him for tearing up the back of the couch he would wait until I wasn’t watching and go and spray any clean laundry he could find in the laundry room. If you reached down to scratch him behind the ears he would lay open you hand with razor sharp claws. He also thought it was necessary to mark his territory constantly, including my brand new car in the driveway.

His reign of terror extended outside of the house as well. All of the neighborhood cats were firmly under his control. He was the kingpin of a large group that put on loud musical productions outside my bedroom window nearly every night. One night after a particularly long serenade I grabbed the broom and headed out into the dark to break it up. As I charged around the back of the house I came face to face with Filthy sitting on a window sill. As I shook the broom at him he just sneered at me as if to say “critics” and hopped down and sauntered off into the night.

No doubt about it Filthy was one tough cookie, using up several of his 9 lives in short succession. One day he unwisely decided to take a nap behind the tire of my brother’s pick up truck. When Scott got in and turned on the engine Filthy felt no need to move and so the truck backed up right over the top of him. Incensed that his nap had been interrupted he took off across the yard and disappeared for several days. We searched in vain for him and came to the conclusion that he had gone off to die, but about a week later her strolled back in the front door, right as rain.

So many times after one of his escapades, as I ranted and raved that I was going to take him to the pound or do worse to him, my sweet little daughter would look up at me and plead “Oh please mom, Filthy will be a good cat one day you’ll see.” Each time I would take a deep breath and say, “Bella you’re right, we can give him another chance.”

From I can haz cheezburger.
One night after several years of his tyrannical rule, he came into my bedroom, something he had never done before. He hopped up on the bed where I was reading and in a normal and loving cat way snuggled up against me and wanted a scratch behind the ears. I was flabbergasted but complied with his request. He stayed there for several minutes and acted like the sweetest, most adorable feline I had ever encountered. It was like he was apologizing for all the mayhem he had caused and wanted to make peace with me. “You’re not so bad then are you Filthy?” I said. He then hopped down off the bed and walked out the door.

The next morning we found him dead next to the front door.

I know death bed repentance doesn’t work for humans but I hope it does for cats. Bella was right, he finally had been a good cat even if it was only for a couple of minutes and I hope that counts for something in the grand scheme of things.

It’s funny, Filthy taught me that you can learn to love your enemies and maybe even forgive them, even if they are constantly going to the bathroom behind your kitchen counters. Anyway, he will certainly never be forgotten.

Rest in Peace Filthy.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Operation Scrub Brush

When you live in a home with two teenage boys, a husband and a three year old darling who is still in the throes of potty training it is important to know how to clean a bathroom. Bathrooms can be a literal minefield of unpleasantness if you go in unprepared which is why I have prepared the following plan for those who may come behind me.

First of all, as with any military operation, reconnaissance and planning are the critical first steps. You may want to delegate the fact finding mission of the terrain to a subordinate but I always advise doing this step yourself. Carefully enter the area and survey the surroundings. Make sure to carefully note all escape routes. Should the operation begin to go south you will need a quick exit strategy. Also record the severity of the destruction so that you will bring enough supplies in with you to complete the operation successfully in one try. You never want to have to leave once you have started and come back. It has been well documented that multiple exposures to that kind of horror can cause serious psychological problems later on.

Once you have collected pertinent information and formulated a plan of attack, the next step is to gather all of the needed supplies. This may include but not be limited to: elbow length rubber gloves, Kevlar toilet brush, Clorox Wipes, broom, mop, pressure washer and gas mask. A homemade holster for the wipes is a wonderful tool in quick draw situations. Don all of your gear and prepare yourself for battle.

Before you enter the bathroom I have found that visualization techniques will help to calm any nerves that may begin to surface. Close your eyes and envision a field of beautiful flowers. Inhale the fragrance. You will need this as you enter the war zone. Once you engage the enemy never show fear. It is bad for the troop’s morale to hear you wailing in despair or gagging uncontrollably.

The best course of action is to hit the areas of least resistance first. This will boost your confidence and give you the courage to move into the really stomach turning portions of the operation. The sink is generally the safest area to begin. The mirror and washbasin should go down without a peep. Your quick draw capabilities may be tested here if a stray hair wanders into the arena.

Quickly move from the sink to the bath tub. Remove the hairball from the drain with gloved hands and throw it in the wastebasket. Proceed to wipe the grime off the tub with your trusty wipes and then rinse by turning on the shower. While that is going on now is the time to pick up any laundry that may have been abandoned on the floor. Be careful here, the laundry may look innocuous but there may be a hidden grenade in the form of underwear in the pile. Deftly place the laundry in the hamper and then return and turn off the shower.

You may be feeling pretty good about your odds at this point with half of the operation down, but now is not the time to get cocky. The battle of the bowl is the next stop on your liberation of the bathroom. Move to heavy artillery, the toilet brush will be your best friend here. Carefully wipe the top of the tank with your wipes and then move down the seat. 

As you lift the seat remember to show no fear! 

You may want to close your eyes but it is imperative to keep you eye on the target. Squirt in the toilet cleaner and then scrub the rim of the bowl. Don’t forget to wipe the base of the toilet, you will be surprised at the number of enemy combatants that are hiding there. Finish this portion by whipping out the scrub brush and cleaning the inside of the bowl.

With the main campaign over all you have left before exiting is to sweep, mop and take out the trash. This should be completed without incident. As you leave the battlefield with your trash can full of the spoils of victory you may expect a ticker tape parade and shouts of gratitude from the inhabitants of your home. More than likely you will be greeted by blank stares and the usual “what’s for dinner?” question.

I'll bet the neighbors love these people...
Regardless of your family make up, cleaning the bathroom is one of those important “must do’s” in life. A thankless yet satisfying job if well done and one that you might as well learn how to do well since you will be back again for battle next Saturday.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Does This Shirt Make Me Look Like White Trash?

About the same time that my oldest son David had managed to unknowingly and flagrantly insult a member of the Primary Presidency in our Ward (see my post “The Weekly Bird” for the details of that adventure) his little brother Andrew was working on his own project that would vault him into infamy and cement my reputation in that Ward as a somewhat crazed and less than ideal mother. Andrew was four and adorable, just as rambunctious as his older brother, and liked to see people get riled up if at all possible.

Every year for Mother’s Day the Primary children sang a few songs for the entire congregation. It was guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye as those sweet voices sang songs like “Mother I Love You” and “Families Can Be Together Forever”. Everyone looked forward to it.

Mother’s Day Sunday dawned as a sublime spring day. Birds were singing, bees were humming and my little boys were freshly bathed, in pressed pants and white shirts, ready to go to church and sing like the angels they were.

I left them standing by the front door for exactly 4 ½ seconds while I went to the other room to get my purse. When I returned, Andrew was missing. I called out “Andrew, get in here. We are not going to be late again!”

He nonchalantly strolled into the room from the kitchen, his pristine white shirt completely covered in chocolate syrup.

The peace of Sunday morning shattered into a million pieces as the thoughts in my head came barreling out of my mouth. “AARRGHH!!!” I yelled. “Would it be possible for us to go to church just once without looking like white trash!” I was met with the standard mischievous grin.

He was hurriedly scrubbed down and thrown into a wrinkled old shirt. As usual, we arrived at church 10 minutes late and had to sit in the very back of the overflow in the gym. When the kids were called to come up front and sing I whispered to Andrew “please be reverent”. He dutifully folded his arms and walked behind David up to the stand.

The singing was beautiful and on cue all of the mom’s in the audience whipped out their Kleenex to dab their eyes including me. The kids were then invited to return to their parents. Instead of walking back Andrew took off at full speed. David who was behind him yelled at the top of his lungs “mom said be reverent!!!” and took off after him, tackling him in the aisle.

They both went down in a shrieking tornado of flying fists and kicking legs. A stunned silence fell over the entire room as 150 people looked on. This lasted for oh, I don’t know, about 3 years, or so it seemed. I finally got myself together enough to shove Buns out of his chair to go get them.

I was sure that the next speaker would get up and say “and now Brothers and Sisters, this is what happens when you have a terrible mother” but he didn’t. In fact several people laughed. The meeting went on as usual and my red cheeks finally regained their normal color.

Maybe the rest of the day would be ok. After church I was approached by the Primary President, a lovely and kind woman. She stopped me in the hall and said “Brenda, I’m concerned, Andrew told me today in Primary that you said his shirt made him look like white trash.”

Andrew & David

 Oi vey. 

Those boys knew how to have fun and give their mother a hard time. It hasn't changed much in the ten years since and I love it. Humility is a built in benefit of motherhood and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have however learned, that anything I say will be repeated at the most embarrassing possible moment and used out of context and so I watch what I say. I also have learned to laugh at the things that happen when you have four awesome, energetic, little kids around. 

Even when one of them de-pants you in front of everyone you know. But that's another story.



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tales of a Teenage Twit

In conversation with my two adolescent sons the other night they asked me a pivotal boy question. “Mom, are all girls crazy?”

Let’s be specific here, we were talking about teenage girls in particular and the fact that they tend to be “stalkers”. Now the term stalker is serious and should rightly be treated with the levity it deserves. What we were referencing was normal teenage girl attention and twitterpation towards individuals of the opposite sex. So for my purposes I’m going to call them Twits.

These are regular Twits and not the Twits on Twitter, although it is possible to be both. I was a Twit before it was cool. I can only image what I would have been like if social networking had been available back then. (Head on desk.)

My personal journey on the road to Twitdom began in the 8th grade with a poor boy named Beau who I called and hung up on 4,758 times in 2 month period. I just wanted to hear his voice and never had the nerve to actually speak to him. This was just before caller id, *69, and cell phones came into being and ruined that activity for girls everywhere. I still remember the phone number… his poor family. 

With the kibosh put on the ring-and-hang-up, my friends and I moved on to covert operations. This included stealing corrected papers out of the school boxes of some of these guys, as well as carefully documenting their daily movements through school, work, church, and athletics so that we could just happen to run into them as often as possible. “Wow, I can’t believe I’ve seen you, like, 12 times today. What a coincidence.”

At the end of every day we would spend hours either in person or on the phone going over every detail of what had happened in regards to our targets that day. “He asked me to hold his sunglasses at band practice, he must like me!!!”  

The weekly church dances were another opportunity for contact. We would move in flocks back and forth from the gym to the bathroom to either revel in the joy of being asked to dance by the flavor of the month or cry on a sympathetic shoulder when snubbed. The bathroom was also our hideout when one of us was experiencing the same kind of attention we were dishing out.

Later on as driver’s licenses began being obtained the twitting included driving past the homes of the boys we liked at regular intervals. Every Friday & Saturday night after we had concluded the goings-ons for the evening we would drive past the home of someone that one of us was currently obsessed with, just in case he might be getting in at that exact moment.  

My dear friend Shauna had a particularly long-lasting crush on a boy and we made a habit of buzzing his house 2 or 3 times before going home. One night on our way back from seeing a movie with some other friends we realized that Shauna had fallen asleep in the passenger seat. Like clockwork we drove to the house and pulled to a stop, I leaned over and pulled the door open and several of us shoved Shauna out onto this boy's front lawn. We then quickly pulled the door shut and roared off into the night, laughing hysterically.

Don’t worry, after a quick turn around the block we went back and picked her up. I’m not sure I’ve ever been completely forgiven for that but she was a terrific sport about the whole episode.

Luckily the rotating roster of boys that we followed around never seemed to be too interested in us. I can’t imagine why. Age and maturity eventually set in and we finally adopted a philosophy that was summed up in a song Shauna’s mom taught us.

Here’s to the boys the we love
Here’s to the boys that love us
But the Boys that we love
Aren’t the boys that love us
So to heck with the boys here’s to us!

So the answer to your question my sons is yes, teenage girls are crazy. And what a fun and exciting time of life it is.



Do you have any tales of your own?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pomp & Circumstance

One of the really fun things that I get to do as a member of the local school board is attend graduation exercises every year. Not only do I get to attend but I get one of the best seats in the house. Right up on the stage facing the graduates and their parents. It’s a phenomenal seat not because I get to be up where everyone can see me, there is usually a fight between several of us for the back row, but I get to look at the kids as they march in and see the glowing faces of their parents out in the stands.

Best Friends- Graduation1994
As “Pomp & Circumstance” plays and the graduates come in there is a tangible feeling of hope, excitement , and even fear in the air. This is the culmination of something important to these students and their parents and a defined coming of age moment.

While watching the crowd it is impossible not to see the connection that graduation has to the past and the future. It is one of those times when you reflect upon the time of your own budding adulthood and the possibilities that were before you.  Then the mind immediately looks forward to the short years before your  own kids will be crossing that stage.

The cycles of life continue on. I am now in the space of time where my parents reside in my memory. They never get any older than they were when I was graduating senior and I think that will be the case with my kids as well. What is the picture of me that they will keep in their minds eye?

There were goals that glimmered on the horizon when I was 18 that were never realized. But as I look back on the years since that time I don’t regret any of it. Some of it would have been easier if I had better choices but in all the happiness and trial of everyday life I was learning important truths and cleansing some major character defects out of myself.

Maybe every few years we should all go to a graduation and listen to the speakers as they talk about hope for the future. There is hope as we all move through the stages of our lives and much to look forward to. Not only that, each of us has done things that we can be proud of and it is nice once in a while to soak in the love that such events produce.

Congratulations to all the graduates of the world, past, present and future.


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