Monday, September 27, 2010

My Acceptance Speech...Cue the Music

I won (coerced) an award from my friend, Mark, over at Our Simple Lives. **I would just like to point out that Mark has fewer followers but receives WAY MORE COMMENTS. Just sayin'. Not that you people are lame on the commenting or anything. I would never come out and say that. Let's just say it might be the quality, not the quantity, you know? Like he has loyal followers. Not that you people aren't loyal. I would never come out and say that.** Anyway, he won the award from Jason, at The Jason Show. And if you visit their blogs and wonder what my connection is to these two gay bloggers...what can I say? We have a lot in common....families....humor....the love of gay men. I'm freaking versatile that way. And that's what the award is called. The Versatile Blogger Award. Here it is.

According to Webster, Versatile means "embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills." So yeah, that is me. It is a nicer way of saying I can't stick to any one subject or topic or whatever on my blog. Which is totally true. People tell me I need to make my blog more definable. "You're a writer! You need to have a Writer's Blog and talk about writing!!" Talk about depressing. Yes, I am a writer. When I'm blogging it usually means I tried to work on my novel, failed miserably, and ended up blogging instead. Just shoot me now. And when I'm in the Just Shoot Me Now kind of mood - I don't generally want to get all blabby about writing and how to write and writing themes and methods and other writers, etc. It was so stupid of me to try to take on fiction. I've never published fiction. And now that I've taken on fiction, I'm not publishing ANYTHING because I don't want to work on anything else.

"Make it like your old column used to be! A funny Mommy Blog thing!" "Old" column being the key part of that statement. I quit writing the old column. I found that sometimes doing funny on the keyboard was about as easy as kissing a snake. Pressure. Being funny is hard. I'm really not all that funny. Ask my kids.

"Be an inspirational homeschooling blogger!" Sometimes I can pull this one off. But again, if I'm blogging, I'm usually ignoring something else. Or five somethings elses (yes, I know that's not right - sounds totally off - another reason why maybe I shouldn't attempt the writing blog). If I'm sitting here blogging, I guarantee you that there are no teenagers nearby doing algebra. Little people are running around totally insane, medium to bigger-sized people are sleeping or hiding or texting or gaming or facebooking. Stellar homeschooling.

So mostly what I do on this blog is ramble while procrastinating. Usually? Blogging means my world is in total chaos and my house is falling apart around me. That's what's going on. So I ramble. And apparently, it makes me Versatile.

Part of the deal with the Versatile Blogger Award is that I'm supposed to pass it on to other bloggers. I'm also supposed to share 7 things about myself. I've honestly tried and tried to come up with 7 things you might now know about me. But I think I've shared everything. That is a shortcoming of mine, by the way. The over-abundance of sharing. My dad reads the blog through one squinted eye while groaning....(that's right, dad, i know you read it).

Seriously, I can't think of anything. Nothing quirky like eating breakfast out of the same Cool Whip bowl for decades (Mark you are a weirdo). No confessions like Jason's big whopper that he's never tried marijuana (we won't go there). Nothing!

Let me see if I can squeeze something out, here.....squeezing....squeezing....

1. I voted for Ronald Reagan 1984 because the president of the Young Republicans on my college campus invited me to a mixer and he was totally hot (and that is why the voting age should match the drinking age in this country. He even gave me a bumper sticker.) GOD I'M GLAD I FINALLY CONFESSED THAT.


2. I'm afraid of the dark and when Jeff's gone the Little People are forced to sleep with me.

3. I watched Bruno and laughed the entire time.....but I'm ashamed of myself.


4. I know so many useless factoids about the Red Hot Chili Peppers....the albums, the tours, the band members (both former and current)....that seriously....if they knew about me they would probably be slightly alarmed. I've said before that I'm not a scary fan - but that probably isn't true. I would probably be scary to a Chili Pepper.

5. I have never been off my own continent.

two more to squeeze out....okay I'm now consulting Ellie're obsessed with drug addict guitarists and RHCP. I said that one already. Oh, well, you frighteningly considered dreadlocks for awhile. I've mentioned that on the blog, before. Oh, well, I got nothing else for you. That's depressing.

Camille says, "You're very smart, Mom!"

Well, that is a little known and certainly a rarely acknowledged fact, so...

6. I'm very smart.

Now I'm consulting Joel, who just crawled out of bed. You're funny and I get my funniness from you - you take real things that happen that aren't that funny and then when you say them you make them funny even though they weren't. Now stop talking to me. That is kind of called embellishing and non-fiction writers do it all the time and it isn't actual lying, especially when it is necessary to get through my day.

Now I'm asking Jasper. You get mad. Sometimes you're not, though. And when I ask you for something you ignore me. Woot! That would work if this were the Mother of the Year award, but it's not.

Still got nothing. Oh wait, Ellie's chiming in again. The first thing she said had to do with bathroom habits and I'm not bloggin' it. But now she's got a couple of good ones. You know how you think you breastfed Quannah Parker in a former life? Ooh! That's a good one. It really is. Although it is only a minor suspicion of mine. I'm not certain of it or anything weird like that. I mean, don't get me wrong. I had some connection with Quannah Parker in a previous life, just not sure I was his mother. So we're not going with that one.

Now I'm asking Jeff what he thinks a good factoid is about me. You're young and rebellious at heart. Okay, he had me at young and rebellious....the "at heart" thing indicates I am not physically, in actuality, young. Sigh. But we'll go with it.

7. I'm a rebel.

Now - to give this to another blogger or two.

I'm going to go with my friend over at My Spiritual Journey because she is versatile spiritually speaking....probably other ways, too. We are actual-physical-real-time friends. She is a beautiful writer. I can read about her beliefs and her journey and relate to it, enjoy it, soak it up, without feeling even slightly strange about my own lack of faith or spirituality. Her worldview and religious views are extremely broad and encompassing and welcoming and all of that stuff that usually is difficult to reconcile within a particular church and a particular faith.

Next, I'm going with Pam over at the Dayton Time. 'Cause she's pretty much my favorite blogger. She's a mommy blogger - a homeschooling blogger - a Tolerant Christian blogger (I have to point this out because in my world the two do not always go together) - a crafty gal (this fascinates me) - a baby-wearing, cloth diapering hippie (yay! me a few years ago) - and she is HEE-LARRY-US.

Okay, I don't want the religious folks to get all the glory, so I'm also giving it to Bore Me To Tears. Because I can. And because she says things I don't dare and I really appreciate the heck out of that.

Whew. This was a lot of work. Winning things is never easy.

Signing off as a Lucky Weiner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not The Kind of Chick Who Can Light Her Own Lantern

I went to a writer's conference on Saturday with my beta reader (shout out to Amy!) and it was on a college campus. It's a college campus I'm kind of familiar with having recently organized and attended a homeschooling conference there. I also happened to be a student there for two semesters but that was way beyond recent.

I arrived 10 minutes after registration began and 20 minutes before the first session was set to begin. Woot, right?


No place to park. Seriously, no place to park. After circling the obvious areas in a line of fellow writers (also looking for places to park) for about 17 of the 20 minutes I had before the first session....I took off for other areas. I went to the parking lot at the conference center because I knew where it was and I knew there were places to park there. Once out of my car, however, I hadn't the foggiest idea of how to get to where I needed to be. And I was out of time...registration was already over...and I wasn't feeling particularly adventuresome.

I started walking. I knew the general direction, after all. I walked through a parking garage and came out the other side, arriving at a dead end. I went up some stairs and came to a little catwalk thing that dead ended at what looked like a locked door. I turned back around, not sure of where to go next.

I called Jeff. When we'd had the conference, I knew he had run all over the campus - maybe he could tell me how to get from one end of it to the other. I hated calling him, though. It seems I'm always lost and calling him.

"Why didn't you call me sooner?" he asked. "I could have told you where to park and it would have been closer."

"I was trying to be a big girl."

"Oh, babe, you know that usually doesn't work for you."

Okay, so he wasn't trying to be a jerk and he wasn't really serious but he wasn't entirely kidding, either. I hate this about myself, but I am not really capable of more than the occasional bout of successful big girl posing.

Jeff, of course, led me back to the door, which turned out to be an elevator. He talked me around the tennis courts, alongside a creek, over a bridge, and landed me squarely in front of the library, where I needed to be.

I don't want to give the impression that Jeff is the Man of the House and I am the Little Woman of the House or anything Majorly Weird Like That. I don't FEEL like The Little Woman. But I am periodically quite helpless and I hate it.

When we went camping (you know that trip - the one where The Man of the House lost 4 out of 5 of the Little Woman's children on a mountain top), our friend and her two kids went with us. No husband. And she was over there popping up her own tent, turning on her own little propane stove and whipping up meals, lighting her own lantern yada yada yada. And Jeff commented on it and I felt suddenly inadequate and said so. He tried to make me feel better by saying something like, "You're just not the kind of chick who can light her own lantern."

In my defense, Jeff once singed his eyebrows off lighting a lantern thanks. I'm having enough body image problems at the moment - not ready to give up my eyebrows for a little bit of illumination.

I don't think I'm a girly-girl. I don't know how to differentiate myself from a girly-girl, exactly. But I know one when I see her and I'm not her. But I'm not a rough and tough farm girl, either. In fact, I'm neither rough nor tough nor any combination, thereof.

Over the past weekend we were at my sister-in-law's house and my brother-in-law, a longtime farmer, was talking about a woman who bought some of their land and is farming it, herself. He was singing her praises because she gets out there and bales hay, works on fence lines, digs post holes, and a bunch of other impressive stuff. I am equally impressed by this girl. Really, I am. I live on a farm. I know that because we have cows and stuff. But she and I are not in the same galaxy.

During the course of the conversation with my brother-in-law, I mentioned something that had happened while Jeff was gone, something that to me had seemed like a Humongous Catastrophe of Enormous Proportions (can't remember what it was at the moment) and he laughed and said, "Now, don't you know how to take care of that when the boy's gone? You're a farm girl." Of course, he was grinning.

But it goes beyond getting lost or digging post holes or lighting lanterns. The sad truth is, I once left the television on for three days because Jeff was out of town and I didn't know how to use the new remote. Before you judge me too harshly, I'm pretty sure I had a newborn at the time and only 1/3 of my brain cells were functioning. But still. I know pathetic when I hear it.

I'm secretly thinking I might be one of those women who can't take care of things. Who wants to be that? I mean, what if Jeff DIES or something? Will I be that poor woman sitting in the dark because she can't change a light bulb? Well, probably not. It won't be totally dark. I would, of course, have the meager lighting provided by the television. You know, the one I WOULDN'T KNOW HOW TO TURN OFF.

I think that I just feel so full of obligations and responsibilities that I passively aggressively and unconsciously just refuse to take on any more. Does that make sense? But how can I raise strong, independent children (particularly daughters) if I don't feel strong and independent, myself?

Amazingly, I seem to be doing so. Maybe it is one of those cases where the kids look at a parent and say, "God, I don't want to end up like THAT." Whatever. I'm tired of pondering it at the moment. I'm getting hungry. Somebody needs to fix me some lunch ;0).

Signing off as a Somewhat Helpless Sardine Mama

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Others Are Among Us And Coming To A University Near You

My dad brought over an issue of Time...the one about schools. The article is called "A Call to Action for Public Schools" and talks about a new documentary that makes a compelling case for urgent reform. Urgent! Reform! Should start by hassling homeschoolers trying to get into college.


We're in the middle of the college application process. And yes, all the schools we're applying to accept homeschoolers...and make them jump through a few hoops, too. Like I have time for that.

If you homeschool, you've heard people say things very similar to the following:

You guys are great homeschoolers. I'm just concerned about the OTHER homeschoolers.

You know, not all homeschoolers are as conscientious as you are. There are OTHERS.

I think we all need to be worried about those kids who are at home but not REALLY being homeschooled, you know? The OTHERS.

Well, your kids are obviously doing okay, but what about the OTHERS?

I'm sorry, but where's Sawyer? If I'm going to have to constantly be on the lookout for The Others, dangit, I want Sawyer on the set. Preferably without a shirt.

Once, while at an Odyssey of the Mind tournament, my friend sat in the school cafeteria talking to some other Odyssey of the Mind coaches, all of whom were public school teachers. Upon hearing that she was a non-teacher coach of a homeschooled team, one of them said, "Homeschoolers? Wow. Well, you're obviously doing your job with your kids. I'm just concerned about the homeschooled kids whose parents aren't really giving them a good education." To which my friend replied something along the lines of, "You're obviously doing your job. I'm just concerned about the public schooled kids who aren't receiving a good education."

Hello! Of which there are documented gazillions!!! When did Public School get the great reputation here? Now, I'm not saying that there aren't good schools (there are) and great teachers (there are) and kids who are receiving excellent educations (there are) - I'm just saying that it takes work and it isn't a given. By a long shot - it is not a given. The statistics and research and test scores and endless articles like the one in Time prove it.

Homeschoolers, on the other hand? Are, according to research and statistics and articles, doing extremely well. They're leading the nation in standardized test scores (including college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT) and they're doing it consistently. They're doing well in colleges and universities and tend to graduate within four years, in contrast to other students who either do not graduate or take longer than four years. They win the stupid spelling bee, the geo bee, and god knows they freaking RULE at all the Bible contests around the country. Also? They are kind of like rock stars at Odyssey of the Mind (just kidding - but my teams tend to do really well - so do the school kids). People, where are the OTHERS? Where are they? I run around with a zillion homeschoolers, meet new ones all the time, go places and do things and I have never run into this horribly uneducated group of mindless misfits whose parents are sitting at home with their feet propped up feeding their kids candy, sodas, and a steady stream of Jerry Springer reruns. If you qualify, please contact me! I've been DYING to meet you!

Anyway, there are so many of these Others running around that colleges and universities are Majorly Suspicious of homeschoolers. So even if your kid has a great SAT or ACT score? You're going to be required to do a little extra to prove they're not too ignorant to consume massive quantities beer and Ecstasy on campus like all the other kids. You're going to have to provide a list of textbooks used, editions, authors and teachers....a sample of an actual Lab Report (because nobody could EVER fake one of those!!) and take a few extra SAT II Subject tests. An almost perfect score on the critical reading portion of the SAT doesn't prove anything - please have her take a Subject Test that school kids do not have to take so that we know she can read. Okay. But if the scores don't mean anything then why do we have the test? Just wondering. Not that it matters. Jumping through hoops is fun and exciting and thrilling. Makes me miss public school.

Now then, you know how there's always a twist at the end of a good story? Here's my twist. We are The Others. (insert evil laugh.) That's right. It is 10:00 in the morning and my kids are still asleep. It is mid-September and we have not yet started doing any kind of remotely consistent or recognizable schooling.

In my defense, I was going to start trying to get everyone doing something a little more formal last week - because quite frankly - Grilled Cheese Chick was making me feel like sh*t with her schooling of the children over there on her blog. I'm pretty sure she will burn out any day now - but don't tell her I said that.

So, while Ellie played Rachmaninoff on her piano, and Joel played Guns-n-Roses on his guitar, and Jeff played Pearl Jam on his (all in separate rooms but all still within hearing for me), I pulled the three younger kids away from prop-making for their puppet show in order to "start school." It is good to start with the younger ones because they are still kind of into me at times and will go along with crazy hair-brained schemes like readin' and writin'.

"Camille," I said. "Let's do some math. We have a math book around here, remember? You did some of it last year."

"We're doing school? Yay!" LOVE HER. "Let me get my stamp collection!"

"No, no," I say. "I've scheduled a math lesson."

Camille returns with her massive stamp collection, courtesy of my cousin in Missoula, Montana. "Mikey sent me a Bhutan stamp and I was supposed to learn about Bhutan and I never did."

Sigh. Fine. "After Bhutan we'll do math, right?"


An hour later, we'd done a lovely little report on Bhutan. It was fun. She made a cover sheet, printed up maps and flag pictures and stapled the whole thing, put it in an envelope and addressed it to Cousin Mikey. Mikey, by the way, is a retired army colonel, not the cute little freckled cousin you're imagining.

"Now for math," I said.

"Mom!" Jules yells. Jules is always yelling when he's not mumbling. "We need to do this soon!" He throws the Witte Museum Member Magazine down on the table. "They're doing a bug thing and they're showing old bug movies and I want to see the old bug movies."

Okay. They're not doing the bug thing yet, and they're not showing the bug movies yet - that is all coming up soon - but Jules has Aspergers and wasn't going to get off the bug movie topic. He started in on all the old scary bug movies they're going to show outside in the fall and it does sound like fun. Then he starts talking about the movie "The Birds" and how old stories aren't scary compared to today's scary stories. I wanted to bring up math, which can be horrifying for me, but I knew he wasn't having any of it as long as he was on a roll, which he was.

"I beg to differ," I said. "Old stories can be terrifying. Let me find that book of Edgar Allen Poe stories...."

"Edgar Allen Poe?"

"You've heard of him, right?"

"Yeah. He's mentioned in the Beatles song I am the Walrus."

Well, it totally figures Jules would know something like that (and he's right) but that was all he knew. I found the book, and we read The "Masque of the Red Death." Camille listened in and they were both spellbound through the entire thing. (I don't mean to toot my own horn but I am an awesome read-alouder. You should hear me do Hank the Cowdog.) Jules admitted that it had been a little scary, and he was really into the language and the descriptions and how Poe managed to scare the pants off of you with basically one scene. He wanted to read more Edgar Allen Poe.

While we were discussing The Masque of the Red Death Joel crawled out of his cave. "Hey! I know that story!" he said. Then he went on to describe the prince, the party, the disease that wiped everyone out...and I wanted to know when he'd read Edgar Allen Poe and he was like, "Huh? That happened on a level of Halo." (Maybe it wasn't Halo. Maybe it was something else. But Halo is what he's into at the moment.) I had to laugh. My dad is concerned about how much time Joel spends gaming, watching cartoons, reading graphic novels, etc. He is my pop culture kid. But the truth is that you can be discussing anything from economics to politics to religion and Joel is going to say, "On the 4th season of Family Guy, episode 16, Peter blah blah blah blah" and it is always relevant. Maybe we're not having social studies or history in a formal setting, but Brian the dog is teaching Joel everything he ever needed to know about religion or the 60's or the Bush era. His education is in good hands. The kid knows stuff, and his curriculum is now officially better than anything the State of Texas is using.

Jasper? Never got into the scene that morning. Every educational model has its annoying and determined drop-out rate, no matter how small percentage-wise. And I have mine. Jasper dropped out in kindergarten and he's apparently not reached that point in his life where he examines his goals and says, "maybe i should go back to school...."

Anyway - the math book eventually got opened, Camille realized it was about 25 more pages of double digit addition with carrying the tens and said, "Don't they ever do anything new in this stupid book?" At the same time, when I tried to skip ahead she had a heart attack because she doesn't like to skip ahead but she didn't feel like doing double digit addition so she tossed the book back from whence it came. Which is why I'm glad she's not in school.

All in all, it was a morning spent in creating and exploring and discussing, learning.

So. We are The Others. Don't tell anybody.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Survival in the Wildnerness...or Something Very Similar

So last year at this time, I posted about Garner State Park. There are pictures in that post - none in this one, sorry. Anyway, this year was pretty much the same as last year....minus Schnitzel, of course. Also, we had a little adventure. (Sorry, Mark, I've no idea how many words I'll use to tell this....just scroll down and sigh).

Survival in the Wilderness.
I usually hike with the familia. But I really, really, really wanted to write, instead. And the beautiful, empty campground seemed like a lovely place to do it. So Jeff said he'd take the crew by himself, because he is good that way. I must admit to some minor misgivings, though. Don't get me wrong, Jeff is a total outdoorsman. He can handle himself in pretty much any kind of emergency - he's like that Man Vs. Nature guy. No problems there. So I had every bit of confidence that he could hollow out an ice cave, or collect water droplets, or propel down a cliff using his belt, or set a compound fracture or deliver a baby or handle any of those other minor inconveniences that might pop up unexpectedly on a 2-hour hike through the Texas Hill Country. My misgivings were more along the lines of his being able to keep track of everyone, because let's face it, he doesn't do it on a daily basis. And I do. And it ain't easy.

Jeff tends to make assumptions about the kids' strengths and limitations that are not necessarily correct - like assuming that the teenagers have brains. Or that the little people have reasoning skills and attention spans that will allow them to digest and maintain instructions. But hey, it is a short trail and they've hiked it, before, and I REALLY wanted to write. So, off they went, loaded down with water, snacks, and Ranger on a leash. It was Jeff, another adult friend, and 8 children (and I'm counting the 18 and 17-year-olds as children). The last thing I said to him as he walked off was, "Come back with all of them, please."

Yes, that was foreshadowing.

Our friend returned first, and she had her 7-year-old son and my Camille with her. "Hmm," she said. "The others aren't back yet?"

"Should they be?" I asked.

"Oh, no, not really," she said a little too casually. "I thought they might be ahead of us, that's all."

Now then, wouldn't she know if they were ahead of them or not? Did this statement send up a red flag? Maybe. I carry such constant anxiety around with me as the mother of five kids that it is hard to tell.

After about 40 minutes or so, Jeff comes walking up, totally drenched in sweat. I mean drenched. And totally alone.

"Did you find them?" our friend said. To which he replied, "They're not back yet?" And I was like WHAT? And it totally hit me. He was alone because he had LOST THE KIDS. Not one or two of them, either. The whole gang of them.

He looked at me, gasping for breath because he had just freaking run through the trail two more times, "Calm down, it's okay...."

I am known for a lot of things and maintaining any sense of calmness in an emergency is not one of those things. And I'm talking about when someone leaves the milk out. So the first order of business among Jeff and The Friend seemed to be calming me down. Which pissed me off because HELLO MY KIDS ARE MISSING. And my dog.

I'm not sure what all I said, but I know I was hysterical. Also? Blaming and finger-pointing like a mad woman. Which Jeff and The Friend expected because they know me and everything.

Now then, I mentioned that Jeff is a survivalist, right? Really tough guy, etc. One of his survival mechanisms is the ability to rationalize incredibly irrational things. Actually, he isn't that great at it. Because it never makes sense. But you've got to give him points for trying because try he does, and some amazing sh*t can come out of his mouth with a totally straight face as he explains things like how he lost six kids and one dog on a mountain. And I was having none of it.

"They're big, smart kids," he said. "They'll be fine until we can find them."

"Excuse me?" I said. "I know these kids personally. They are not smart and only some of them are big. Jasper is missing. Jasper is missing! Jasper is freaking-oh-my-god MISSING!!!!"

"He's fine. He was with Joel," he said.

Like THAT was supposed to make me feel better? Jeff actually stuttered a bit on that one.

"Joel recently set our place on fire!" I said. "I would have felt better had you said you'd last seen him with the dog!"

"The dog is with Jules," Jeff said. "Or at least he was." Well, there was almost half a brain right there. And I pictured my poor little Jules (age 12) having an Asperger's panic attack (which he did, according to his sister).

"Oh my god oh my god oh my've lost my baby. YOU FREAKING LOST MY BABY!! He's just a helpless newborn and he's with Joel of all people..."

"He's not a baby, he's like six-years-old or something really close to that. They'll be fine. Also, they're not lost." He pointed to the mountain to my right. "They're somewhere up there. They made it up the hard, steep part...I saw them that far..."

"So now they're just needing to come DOWN??? By themselves??? Is that what you're saying? They're supposed to come down that mountain by themselves?"

"It's a very small mountain. It's actually more of a large hill. And actually, I'm pretty sure I know where they are..." He pulled out a map and started blah blah blahing me with lines on it. "They're not on this trail - I know because I freaking ran it two more times - and I think they turned off here and will come out here." He pointed to a place on the map.

"You mean they'll come out there if they live. Do they have a map?"

"No. I have the map." Gulp.

"At least they took water."

"Jasper didn't want to carry his water, so I have that, too."

Thank goodness it was extremely cloudy and overcast.

"Helicopters! We need helicopters!!" I ran to get in the van because I apparently thought I knew where I could find a helicopter in a pinch. Jeff chased me down. He was calm. Which infuriated me for sure.

"Listen, babe," he said in the hopes that using a term of endearment would make me forgive him for losing my kids. "I'm going to walk the trail I'm pretty sure they're on..." you know, if they hadn't fallen to their deaths down the steep side of a cliff "and you just stay here."

Uh, don't think so. I abandoned my search for rescue helicopters in order to search for my 100% wool hiking socks because the last thing anyone needed at time like this was blisters. Just as I found them, I heard The Friend shout, "Here they are! I see them!'

The first thing I saw was Ellie smirking down the hill. She was already communicating with me telepathically and what she was saying was, "Oh my god mom, calm down." They were strolling, like they were just out for a walk in the park.

I didn't initially see Jasper. And this was my nightmare - because I really did figure that all the big kids would make it out - but that they would then begin the whole We Don't Have Jasper - You Have Jasper scene. Luckily, that didn't happen. Jasper, who is one of the sharper tools in my shed THANK GOD, took in his situation and stuck like glue to Joel, who to this day may or may not know that he has a brother named Jasper. "Hey Mom!" Jasper said. "Did you miss me? 'Cause I was LOST!!"

Then the Big Blame Game began, whereby Jeff started yelling at the big kids that he had told them this and that and they were supposed to wait at this rock to eat smoked oysters and why didn't they wait and what the hell were they thinking and they'd all agreed to that meetup spot and they had gotten him in Big which point the big kids said what they usually say when someone is talking to them, which was, "Sorry, are you talking to us?" Hence the whole communication problem as experienced on the mountain and Basically Everywhere Else.

Joel said the scariest part was that he kept thinking he heard helicopters. He said he personally planned to hide from them if I had dared to embarrass him in such a fashion. "I wasn't going to call out the helicopters..." I said sheepishly.

"Yes, you were," said Ellie.

Whatever. Everybody made it out safely. And over the course of the next couple of hours, each and every one of them came to me, in private of course, to say it wasn't his or her fault, and then tell me exactly who's fault it was. Jeff, as a survivalist, knew to take full blame, and he did, although he often amended it with several buts....However, I really do think he understands now why I am so freaking paranoid. It is actually hard work to keep five kids in sight and out of the emergency room. And I do it every day. In some ways, now that they're bigger, it is easier. In other ways, it is harder, because they think they are Way More Awesome than they actually are.

Apparently, what happened was simply Jeff and The Friend walking with two of the smaller guys, bringing up the rear, with the other kids asking if they could go on ahead and being granted permission to do so if they agreed to stop and wait at White Rock, where they'd planned to stop for a snack. And Jasper begged and begged to go up ahead, too, and Jeff said okay and WHY WHY WHY is beyond me but I'm past all that. And apparently, they did stop at White Rock, or they said, maybe it was Painted Rock, because both of those spots are on the trail....they don't pay attention to details, but they waited something like 45 or 10 minutes at what may or may not have been the appropriate rock before becoming bored and deciding to continue on without a map through various forks in the trail.

At a certain point they realized they were probably lost. Jules became quite frantic as in frantic like possibly they'd left Garner State Park entirely and were now on The Island and really and truly LOST in another dimension with only a can of smoked oysters and some crackers. Fourteen-year-old Harlan (not mine) tried to calm him down by reminding him that they were fine because they were with an adult. At which point it dawned on Ellie that he meant her because she just turned 18 and can now vote. She responded by laughing, which probably didn't fill Jules (or Harlan) with confidence.

Anyway, the most worried person was me, and I only worried for a few minutes because Jeff and The Friend made a secret pact on the mountain that I should Know Nothing. How they got Camille to keep her mouth shut is beyond me, but if the kid shows up with a new pair of shoes next week I'll understand why. And believe it or not, I'm grateful that they decided this. I hate to worry - it is the worst thing in the world for me. Poor Jules worried less intensely but for a longer period of time, and I am sick about it. The rest of them? We were fine. We knew which side the campground was on. We could see the river winding below. We knew we had to come down one trail or the other to get there... And they were right, of course. It really was Jasper and Jules I was most worried about - one physically and the other emotionally.

Later that day we drove to the beautiful Frio River to swim. I was just about to comment on a steep area that was marked off with Red Warning Signs...."THIS AREA CLOSED DUE TO FREQUENT ROCK SLIDES...STAY AWAY" when Ellie casually says, "Oh, that's where we came out. Right there." She pointed to a rock slide that they had mistaken for a trail. Sigh.

Later, as we sat around the campfire, I was still kind of mad and Jeff was still kind of on edge but we were trying to relax and I looked over at him, laughed, and said, "Dude, you left your baby. Again." Because that is another story. And I'm going to tell it now because it is slightly relevant and somewhat entertaining.

We were dropping Ellie off at a theater to watch a friend perform in a musical. Jasper was like 18-months-old and crying in his carseat. Jeff got him out of the carseat to give him a little break and carried him as he walked Ellie into the theater. The other kids and I waited in the car. Jeff came back out empty-handed. Where is the freaking baby? I wondered. I watched Jeff cross the street, walk to the car, open the door, take one look at my face, slam the car door, walk back across the street and re-enter the theater. Ellie's friend, Sarah, said to him, "Dude, you left your baby."

Jeff re-emerged from the theater carrying Jasper, walked back across the street and to the car, opened the door, put the baby in his carseat, and drove off insisting that he hadn't accidentally left the baby in the theater.

" intentionally left him in the theater?"


Like until this day.

So that's what I'm dealing with here.

Dude, you left your baby, has since become an awesome catchphrase. In fact, feel free to use it any time you leave your baby in a theater or on top of a mountain. It's not copyrighted.

Well, there were actually more stories from the trip - maybe I'll share them next time...but then again, I really should get back to some homeschooling topics so maybe I'll share about our experiences in creating a transcript and portfolio for Ellie. Either way, I need to stop now before I break one of my own world's longest blog post records.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It Was Perfect, Except For The Spotlights And The Dead Body

I've been scarce. I freaking love being scarce. I was busy being scarce at the beach again. Again! I know. But this time it was different because I was sans children.

I get a break approximately twice a year. Once in January for our anniversary, and then once in summer. Jeff handles hospitals along the Texas Gulf Coast so while he works I play. It is massive awesome. We were gone for Three Entire Nights. I think we've only done two before - so that was really really really really cool.

Camille went to a friend's house and she has 9 kids so I don't even think she knew she was babysitting...I probably could have dropped Jasper there, too. What's one more? But Jasper went to his friend's house a couple of times during the three days to give the teenagers a break. Ellie told me that she doesn't think Joel/Jules went to bed the entire time we were gone (and by the way they looked I pretty much believe her). And both Camille and Jasper were sick by the time we returned, the house was trashed...but totally worth it.

We stay in a hotel that is on the beach. It has an outdoor bar right on the beach, as well, and we like to sit behind it and watch the moon rise over the surf. On the first night, we were sitting there on the concrete wall, kind of sneaking our own cocktails, waiting for the moon to come up. Glorious night...warm...not too windy. We noticed that there was a lot of traffic on the beach, cars driving up and down, and then we were totally illuminated with our illegal cocktails by a Police Spotlight. Then we noticed the firetruck in the parking lot. And all of the uniformed people on the boardwalk. And then we heard a frazzled guy saying, "We don't know where he is..." to a police officer and we were like Wow What Is Going On? And Jeff says casually, "Maybe that guy has lost his kid."

WHAT? I became totally fixated on a Missing Child Scenario and I was ready to go all Baywatch and begin swimming out into the surf because I tend to assume the worst right off the bat. I was a mess. I kept wringing my hands, watching all the uniforms and spotlights and just generally becoming very undone in wanting to know what was going on and if somebody's child was missing. Because if a child was missing we all needed to be running around with our hair on fire. Seriously.

"Go ask the cops what's up," I said to Jeff. He didn't want to. "They've got it all under control," he said. Then he appeared to become RELAXED. With a possible missing child situation. At which point I told him it was going to be very hard for me to, shall we say, become romantic, if there is a missing child. He sighed. "Fine," he said. Then he sauntered off to play the part of Nosy Bystander.

He came back looking very relieved. Jubilant, actually. "No missing kid!" he said as he sat back down next to me. "Somebody just called into the hotel saying they'd seen a dead body in the surf and so now they're looking for it." He took a swig of beer. "Want to take a walk on the beach?"

You know, the one the cops were combing for a DEAD BLOATED BODY. Uh, no thanks.

Missing Child Fixation transferred easily into the Dead Body Fixation. Jeff, figuring out pretty quickly that the Dead Body was somewhat of a major buzz-kill for me, found it necessary to make a second inquiry as to the progress of the search. He came back telling me that it was a suspected prank call. (I'm still not sure if he made that up, or not...but the excitement died down pretty quickly among the searchers, who eventually left.)

But the excitement didn't end there for us. No siree. Just as the national guard quit shining spotlights in my face, Jeff stood up to wipe the sand off his rear. We were on a concrete wall-thing, that had like 3 steps leading down to the sand. There were a bunch of chairs stacked up on the sand, against the last step, that was about three feet up. Jeff's foot slipped. It was total slow-mo. He had time to say, "Oh my god, I'm effing falling..." before he went down to the first step. He bounced a total of three times, allowing for the guttural expulsion of three separate F-Bombs, before landing face down in a push up position between the last step and the stacked chairs. Later he excitedly recounted (because for him, the fall was a bigger deal than the missing body)"I was like in the forward dog position!" He thought he was all Rambo with it. In his mind, I know he was like a hollywood stunt man. I'm not going to tell him any differently. (And by the way, it is the downward dog position but who would correct yoga lingo at a time like that?)

He was scraped up pretty good but managed to re-perch himself on the wall, resume his pale ale consumption, and enjoy the rising of the moon amid the glory of the fall.

The next morning (and the following 2) he got up super early for work, and before dressing, ran down to the beach to set up my umbrella and chair. He even packed a little ice chest for me and charged up my IPod. But before you think he is 100% Sweetness, let me just say that on the 3rd day he looked at the surf and yelled, "Look! Oh my god, a human head!" I totally flipped out. I looked out onto the surf and guess what? A human head. If you haven't seen me get excited...let me just say that I once completely disrobed on our front porch (to the horror of my sons) because Joel told me I had a grasshopper on my back. He's never done that again, by the way. So anyway - a human head floating in the surf - I was a little worked up. Also? In the surf. With the human head. Before I actually drowned FOR REAL, Jeff came clean by shouting, "It's just a coconut! Jesus, calm down!" Ugh. I could have killed him. I spawned children with this man and everything. And that explains the behavior of at least a couple of them.

Anyway - great time. I'd like to say I'm re energized but nah.

We have a lazy Labor Day weekend planned. Jeff made Palak Paneer for dinner tonight - don't know what he has planned for the rest of the weekend, but I'm sure it will be good. I'm a lucky girl most of the time.

Signing Off as a Laborless Sardine Mama