Big Nasty

With 450 miles left until we reach home, three of the five members of my family ate a sandwich called the big nasty.  Y’all pray for me.

I haven’t blogged in over a year.  Sometimes I hear music when none is playing.  I stopped writing because I stopped hearing that music.  But after time spent with the people I love the most, I can hear it again.

There’s good stuff to share. Some things have changed though. My kids are older, and the experiences, well, they’re a little more personal than that of when they were babies.  And as you know, I don’t do censorship very well.  So instead of not telling it exactly as it went down, I default to not telling it at all.  Disappointing, I know.  But imma try it. Just know that i’m afraid it may be like eating toast sans the jelly.

It’s that time of year when Clarke loads us up and we galavant across the country in search of  something to calm our unsettled souls.  It works.  The mountains of the San Juan National Forest have that effect on us.

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Clark and I are getting older. While the kids watched their DVDs, we scribbled a list of collected state license plates.  Clark almost had a panic attack when we rolled into Colorado and I couldn’t find our handwritten list. It was wedged in between the roll of toilet paper and the aspirin bottle in my purse.  Lordy.

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He’s going for an eye exam when we get home. He had convinced himself that the California truckers’ license plates said “California Porn Trailer.”  Thank you google for the clarification.

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We almost made it to Dallas before Cam asked if we were there yet.  That was two seconds before he screamed that his butt was about to explode.  Doodie called.

Along the way we checked in with my mom and the Bryans.  Clark talked them into making the trek with us, and he had a list of middle-aged family man tasks for them to check off along the way.  They humored him—bless it.

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We crashed for the night in the Comfort Inn of Las Vegas. New Mexico. After being misdirected to the wrong room, the front desk attendant ushered us into a room with the wet floor sign ajar in the door.  Clark raised an eyebrow, nodded at the clerk, and kicked open the door like Wyatt Earp—gun drawn.  The kids bounced past him—nothing out of the ordinary for us.  Daddy’s odd. After checking for cameras and fiddling the lock four times, he finally relaxed and came to bed.  Flopping onto the white sheets, he and I rolled to the middle of our sloping mattress.  We can do anything for one night.

The next day we Arrived in Pagosa.  The other travelers made it safely too.  It was time to party.  And we did.  I’m pretty sure that the only thing better than time spent in the mountains is time spent in the mountains with cousins.

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We woke up to a winter wonderland.  A very cold winter wonderland.  It was awesome.

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On the last day, mom treked out into the snow and we captured this.

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I haven’t seen her that happy in a long time.  And i’m Pretty sure that something magical happened for the Bryan family on this trip too.  God lives in the mountains. He shows up for me in a big way each year on this trip. And any time sissy can make it through a road trip with her brothers without inflicting them any bodily harm, we’re winning.

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Though it may have crossed her mind a time or two.

Clark had a surprise for the kids on the way home.  He drove us two hours off track to tour Carlsbad Caverns.

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As we walked along in the silent, majestic caves, my breath caught in my throat several times.    The caverns were formed by a reef and an ocean—and it’s not on the coast.  Sooo at one time the land as we stood upon it was underwater.

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And just as I was sinking in all of that fabulous beautiful miraculous American history, my attention was diverted by Koko’s  voice, “Guys, guys, look at that huge boobie!”

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Even nature has a sense of humor.  Nothing was broken by anyone who shares my DNA.  Score one for the Denneys.

And so, we’re heading home.  My current prayer is for safe travels, a sustained renewed spirit in the months to come, and that methane gas does not cause brain damage.

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No room for error

I love you. All of you. Yes. It needs to be said.

Today, many of my high school friends learned of the death of one of our own. She was young and beautiful, and she felt that there was no reason to keep on living. We’ll never fully understand.

But each of you, every last one of you, know this. I love you even though we’ve had our differences. I love you even though we haven’t spoken. I love you even though you wring out my nerves.

I remember THAT time, THAT hilarious moment, THAT heartache spent together. And I cherish it because it was real but also because we spent it together.

I love that you never shared that secret with anyone, that people roll their eyes when we tell that joke. That season of life was perfectly situated and timed. It was for us.

Time and circumstance separates people and that’s ok. It doesn’t make your experiences together any less genuine. Maybe its time we went to lunch again, maybe not. We don’t have to get it perfect. There is room for error in life. Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s ok. It’s gonna be ok. And I love you–still–to this very day.

 

 

Cactus

“Wowee!  Look at all those nipples!”

I couldn’t see Cameron, but the excitement in his voice frightened me.  My mind spun faster and faster with each step I took closer

“Mommy.” Loudly.  “Mom.” Louder.  “MOMMY!!!”  Too loud.

Shushing, “Cam,” my finger up to my lips.

Cam pointing, “Mom, those nipples!  It’s crazy.”

And there she sat, the most pitiful looking mama dog you’ve ever seen.

Koko is behind me excitedly bouncing up and down like a jack rabbit.  He’s so impressed that the words escape him.  But, without fail they always come.  And here they are.

“Oh, ohhhhh, Mommy, you know what?  Mommy, you know what? We should call her ‘Cactus’ you know Mommy, because she looks like a Cactus with all those…”

“Koko, I understand. Let’s go.”

I scurried inside the restaruant for two reasons. 1) Because I’m sure that the public shouting of the word ‘nipple’ one more time was gonna be more than one Lexapro could handle and 2) Because I knew how Cactus felt.  Suffering public humiliation at the hands of my kiddos is not new to me.

It’s happened more times than I can count, but there are several instances that were so very humiliating that they are etched into my psyche.  Like the time the kids and I were checking out at the Circle K.  There was a long line of customers behind us because Dylan couldn’t decide on a snack.  In an effort to assist the process along, I leaned over slighty to read the candy labels.  I had forgotten my glasses.  Koko took the liberty of raring his hand back, slapping me on the rear and making a loud “boing”sound as his hand ricocheted off my rump.  Shocked, I shot up and banged my head on the credit card machine.

It’s abuse, this public embarrassment.  And they tell everything.  Everything and some things that aren’t true.  I can only imagine what their teachers think of us.  Dylan told our neighbor that the reason we didn’t make church was because her mommy slept in. That, unfortunately, was true. Koko told another neighbor that he learned the word “shit” from watching Goonies.  Also true.  That one was daddy’s fault.  We’re guily and convicted.

But there will come a day, a day for payback.  A day when the tables will turn, and I will be beyond shame.  A day when I will wave loudly and wear that shirt with their name on it, and they will know what it feels like to turn red with humiliation.  That’s right little people, laugh all you want, but the Cactus, even though it looks harmless, is prickly.

36

Every year on July 29th, I have a birthday, and we mark the end of summertime.  Tomorrow, I turn 36.  Thirty five went fast.

I was distracted, busy, spent.  Something didn’t feel quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I was on the working mother merry go round, and I was too dizzy to realize that I was about to get sick.  So, after rolling off into the dirt, I sat up  and put the brakes on my busyness.

I managed the workload I currently had in front of me and vowed not to take on any new clients for 6 weeks.  A lot was changing.  My company had been bought out by another, so a brief hiatus was in order.  Instead of hyper-focusing on all the things I couldn’t control, I allowed myself permission to relax.  I prayed.

In the silence of no distraction, I realized how much I missed my family.  I saw them every day, but I wasn’t there.  I wasn’t present enough to listen to the inflection of each little voice chatter about nonsense, which in reality is truth raw and loud.  I was too tired to unload the dishwasher or fold the clothes.  I was out of balance.

For the week of my birthday, I scheduled vacation.  There were to be three days of that week where I spent uninterupted one-on-one time with each kiddo.  The kids called them “Mama Days.”  Thus was my last 72 hours…

The baby went first.  Most of his life, he’s had hand-me-downs.  I figured strutting around the house like a proud rooster wearing his “I get to go first badge” would be good for his psyche.  I was right.

But first, I had to visit my cardilogist for an annual checkup.  Cam didn’t complain.

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After all that waiting and chatting, we were hungry.  So, we grubed on a hamburger and a coke float.  It was scandalous.

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After I shot this, Cam slid his drink over to me and disappeared under the table.  Like a mole, he popped up next to me and plopped down.  “I would really like to sit NEXT to you mommy.”  So be it.

Cam had things on his Mama Day agenda.  The filth of my vehicle was bothering him, so we washed and vaccumed it.

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Next, for the real fun.  Bumper boats.

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Airplanes

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And racecars.

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And what day would be complete without a trip to the Home Depot?  We must inspect the lawn equipment and the vaccum cleaners.

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He must have said “I LOVE you Mommy” a hundred times that day.  It was “the best Mama Day ever!”

And then came the diva’s mama day.  She had her punch list of to dos as well.

First, we slept late and our daddy made us chocolate chip pancakes.  Buckling her seatbelt as we backed out of the driveway, Dylan proclaimed, “I feel so energized now.”  I breathed a sigh of relief.  We headed to the shoe store and made a fabulous purchase.

Nails were next.  Mani and pedi in LSU purple and gold.  We flipped through magazines and chatted.

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Then more shopping to some of our favorite places.

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We wheeled into the gas station just in time to purchase candy and snacks for smuggling into the movie.  We didn’t miss the previews.  And our popcorn lasted until the last 15 minutes of the show.  I attribute it to our mixing it with cheeto puffs.  Divine.

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Halfway through the movie, the power went out.  We didn’t panic, but took a selfie instead.

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It was a great day.  We sang loudly and out of tune in the car.  We sampled Cafe Au Lait.

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It was delicious (but I remember it being fantastic when it was served out of my grandmother’s demitasse cups).  Maybe we’ll add that to the list for another day.

We ate everything under the sun.

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And we arrived home late with a full spirit.

Koko will tell you that I saved the best for last. On his day, we hit the ground running–fast in a zigzag line.

There were games to be played.  Lots of games.  Chuckecheese and Party Central will have to restock their machines.  The ticket ninja was locked in high gear.

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But did he cash them in for some cheap trinket?  Nope. He’s smarter than that.  He’s saving (stockpiling) his ticket receipts to one day cash in on the big prize.  Stay tuned.  I’ll be 82.

After running around behind him with my jingling token cups, I needed a break.  A snack break.  A pizza break.  He was annoyed.

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But not even a ninja can fight of the lure of a Johnny’s breadstick.  We ate them all and went back to gaming.  Then we ran out of tokens, so we went to his next favorite place.

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The pet store.

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I gave birth to Dr. Doolittle.

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And then we were faced with a choice.  Should we go home?

Nah.

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Nothing feels quite like a strike.  It’s pure elation meets flexibility.

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For everyone.  No matter how old you are.  It was a fun-filled, animated day.

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It was perfect.

During the last three days, I ate more pizza than I will ever publicly admit.  But they are priceless calories that I do not regret.  I spent an obcense amount of money playing.  And I have never slept better.

I’m hoping that my last three days of 35 will teach my 36 what matters most.  Love.  Time.  Laughter. Hugs.  Tomorrow I will spend my first day of my new year with the love of my life.  Because of him, I was able to have this experience with my babies.  I plan to sit on the same bench with him too.

I will also spend time with my mom and sister, playing.  I think Dylan summed up our time together best when she was critiquing my driving.  She said, “Mom, I like you better as a passenger. Because you look at me and wink and we share make up.”  It’s a great reminder for me that I don’t always have to be the one driving.

Afterall, who will hold the fish?

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Dukes

We don’t know each other. We don’t. We only know what is familiar, the same. We know our reflection and those that may not share our genetics but they favor.  The unknown is scary, uncomfortable, so we build walls.

We make excuses, rationalize,stereotype. It’s in our nature. Prejudice. It’s the way of the world. We know that, but we put lipstick and a bow on it. She’s a fancy little prejudice–so fancy that you’d hardly recognize her as such. She keeps us comfortable and safe.

And then the wind blows a little. The bow is blown off and the lipstick is smeared. She’s revealed. In all honesty, she’s ugly and she’s standing right next to you pointing in your face. She knows who created her as does the crowd gathering around to see.

The last few weeks have revealed much about our country. As it turns out, we’re not as far removed from the past we felt we left behind. And in each American household, we’ve harbored our own version of made-over prejudice. We’re still living in our segregated boxes, but no one is talking about it.

Why can’t we all just get along? The question seems so easy to answer, but the solution is more difficult. We don’t know each other. Understanding takes effort, and we’re lazy.

It’s not just black and white, Muslim and Christian, gay and straight. It’s neighborhoods. Working moms verses stay at homers. School districts. Rich vs poor. You name it. We’ve all picked our poison–we’ve just dressed her up and called her pretty.

Last night we got caught in a rainstorm and drove to our friend’s house who live nearby. They are Muslim. We know the husband from high school. His wife is from Jordan. We had the usual greetings, walked through her yard talking about kids and plants. I asked how “things (were) going.”

“Not good.” Her English is broken. She explained how the last few years she and her family have really started to feel at home in our town. “People are nice–everyone.” She said. “But the last two weeks have been bad. I was in the grocery with my kids and a man, dressed nice, a rich man, was bothering us. I’m pretty sure he wanted to kill my kids.”

The mood in the kitchen turned somber quickly. My head was spinning. My God, how would I feel if someone wanted to kill my kids? At the grocery store? Because of how I was wearing my hair? Unbelievable. I could hear our kiddos giggling in the next room.

“I’m so sorry.” I said shaking my head. “The whole world has gone crazy.”

She fixed hot tea for the four adults and we ate cookies leftover from Ramadan. The men were watching some silly show on TV. I wanted to know more. In fact, I have been curious about the Muslim culture and religion a lot lately. Are we really that different?

I ask a lot of questions, but she’s too kind to act annoyed. I want to understand. I tell her about a book I’m reading “I am Malala.” It’s about a young Muslim girl who Wot in the face by the Taliban and survives. All she wants is an education.

Malala is Sunni. The shooter is Shiite. There’s a big difference. We talk about that. She tells me that the Sunni Muslims not only fast on their holidays but on the holidays of some other religions out of respect. They don’t report that on CNN. You know, the truth is always burried amongst the rubble. It’s the only thing that will set us free.

The trouble is, people have to try. We have to educate ourselves. We have to search for the truth. We won’t find the answers on TV or on the Internet. The truth is found in community and relationships with one another. We can’t be afraid to get to know what we fear. It’s just the unknown, nothing else.

Think about when your kid is afraid of the dark. What do you tell them? “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” It’s true.

Am I saying that there aren’t crazy people in the world? No. There are. However, being afraid will get us no where. Learn how to shoot a pistol. Get your concealed carry license. Fine. But hold your fire long enough to understand what you don’t know. We’re more alike than we are different.

Read. Learn. Communicate. Love. Share a meal. Ask questions. Put your dukes down.

This afternoon I was fixing a glass of iced tea. It was hot out, and I needed a refreshing pick me up. Delicious. So I asked Dylan, “do you want some?”

Without pause she said, “you know, I’ll take mine hot like Mrs. Heba drinks hers.” And just like that, a child shall lead them.

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Choose Joy

My grandmother has never been old.  She’s celebrated birthdays and taken her prescribed medication, but she’s never aged.  There’s that classic eye for fashion with which she’s blessed.  Her hair never really turned grey, and she smells like a comfortable blanket. That spirit of hers is as shiny new as the day she was born.

I think her grandfather described her best when he said, “it’s a good thing that Martha Ann pleases to do right, because she does as she pleases.” He was right, and as genetics would have it, there is a long line of feisty women in my family.

Long before grandmothers were picking their pet names, my grandmother chose hers.  She told my mother and aunts that she had a dream where little children were running circles around her chanting “money, money, money!”  She was sure that was to be her name, but she tweaked it a little.  Muney stuck.  It suits her.

Her life has not been easy, but she’s made it pleasant.  She cleans her plate because she was a child of the Depression.  Her grandfather was a Baptist minister and her mother died of cancer.  And just like my Dylan, she grew up with two stinky brothers.  Being strong-willed has served her well.  When it was rare for women to go to college, she pushed forward and graduated.  As a PE teacher, she raised 4 kids and worked–not the fashion of the day.  She miscarried twice.

My grandfather was a principal during integration, and they raised their family on two teacher’s salaries.  They were determined to show their kids the country, so they took family vacations to National parks in a tent.  My aunt Gayle only fell out of the station wagon, while it was moving, once.  By the time they stopped traveling, my grandparents had been to every state except Rhode Island.  In making do, they made great memories.

And then we really started to multiply–all in all, to date, there are (were) 4 inlaws, 11 grandchildren, 7 grand inlaws, and 16 great grands (with one on the way).  The legacy is astounding.  Our matriarch, our Muney, has seen to it that we all know and love each other.  And when I say “we all,” I mean WE ALL.  We know a lot about one another–maybe too much, but we tell ourselves that’s normal, because that’s how our Muney would have it.

I never met my maternal great grandmother, but my Muney likes to quote her often.  She retells “my mama used to say” stories.  They are mostly bite-sized bits of wisdom which settle perfectly into your unsettled soul.  They provide a little glimmer of hope–a little extra “get yourself up and go” when you need it most.  The most recent one she shared with us on our trip to Wyoming to see Ragan and Allie get married.  Muney said that her mama used to tell her to get up each morning, look in the mirror and to find some joy for  the day.  She chuckled thinking about it, and said “that’s not always easy to do.”  But I found it profound, because reflecting on her life that’s exactly what she’s done for each of us–helped us to find joy in one another.

My Muney has missed nothing in my life. Graduations, each birthday, my wedding, she made them all.  She made traditions throughout the year which keep us connected–almost like a habit we just can’t break.  She’s a smart woman.  It was by design.  The last big trip I took with her was to Las Vegas when my mom turned 60.  We were sure that she would go to bed early, so we announced that we were going to a dance club downstairs.  Turning around she replied, “Let me get my shoes.”  She was the hit of the establishment doing Quad City DJ’s “Train” around the bar.  She’s not gonna miss a moment of fun.

When Ragan announced that he was getting married in Wyoming this summer, we were thrilled.  Another trip.  Let’s do it!  Our plane took off from Dallas Thursday night an hour before the police officers were assassinated in downtown.  We arrived in Jackson Hole unaware of what had happened.  While the rest of the country stood on racial pins and needles, we were in the midst of one of the biggest moments in the life of our loved ones.  We had to choose joy.  It felt awkward.

Deep sadness and fear began to creep in the next day as the media unfolded the details of the attack, but there was a bridal luncheon to attend.  While the rest of the world stood still, we were forced to keep going.  I can remember feeling the same way when dad died.  How were we still functioning?  But with each day that passed, a peace began to settle in.  What were we to do but pray and trust God?  If we stopped and focused long enough on the horror of the madness around us, we too might choose hate instead.  It dawned on me during the reception that the line we walk every day is fragile.  How is it that a woman I have never met, who lived so long ago, had the answer to what our country needs today?  My Muney’s mama was right.  The answer is to wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and make a decision.  We are all capable of hate–all of us.  But we are also all capable of love.  It’s a choice.  It’s a habit.  It has to be intentional even when it’s not easy.

Something else happened on our trip.  My Muney started to age.  At 88, her body won’t let her take as many steps as she desires.  Her breath is more shallow, and she sleeps later than normal.  She told me that the day before the wedding, my uncle Nick took her to a chapel in the wilderness of a state park.  She said that she asked God for two things: no rain during our outside wedding and that she wouldn’t have a stroke and cause confusion for everyone.  He granted her both.

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On the last night of our trip, I started to get a little sentimental.  There were tears.  Had I been too sassy with her for being slow on our trip?  Had she felt disrespected?  Did she know how much I love her?  When I asked her through tears if I had hurt her feelings in any way her response was, “oh goodness, are you having menstrual issues?”

She may be aging people, but she ain’t dead!  And in the meantime, we’ll be choosing joy.

 

Big Ben

Dylan thinks that unicorn balloon animals toot rainbows. That thought was planted in her head by a middle-aged inappropriate clown waiting tables at the Magic Time Machine. Dylan holds onto details like her mother–especially fantastically ridiculous details. But I find that memories are made from fantastically ridiculous details. And family vacations are where those memories are born. Our latest vacation proves my theory.

We gave the kids a choice. It went like this, “Do you want to go to the beach? How about the beach? You know the beach, it’s fun.” In unison, they replied, “No! We want to go to Great Wolf!” So we overpacked and headed West.

Pure excitement is evident when you take off running toward the fun and face plant on the hotel carpet. We had arrived.

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Koko’s legs looked like the roadrunner’s. They never stopped spinning. After spending three days in this kid-infested establishment, I realized that if the Denneys created a hotel, it would be just like this one.

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On the first day we had to take two Caddyshack time outs: once for doo doo in the pool and the second for vomit. But the kids didn’t seem to mind.

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The next day, the slurpie machine exploded and the hotel caught on fire. I was in my underwear drying my hair when the fire alarm went off and we were forced to evacuate.

Each morning we awoke to a mouse in the snacks.

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But he was a friendly mouse.

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I’ve always said that it’s not a real party until someone throws up or cries. After being there less than twelve hours, Cam threw up on the never laundered blanket draped over the edge of our hotel bed. Once he regained his composure, he looked at me and said, “You know why I threw up? Because that water slide was getting on my nerves.” I couldn’t agree more. I would also recommend never touching that blanket.

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Dylan was in constant observation mode.

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After scanning the crowd of adults, some appropriately dressed and others not so much, she asked, “Mom, are 6 packs real?” We had to google it to prove that they did, in fact, exist.

Pat was trying his best to relax. At least his face was rested. Dylan noticed that too to which she hollered across the lobby, “look mom, dad has a mustache!” 

The resort was uncomfortably busy. The entire building and grounds were like a crushed ant pile. Cam spent his time pulling on loose arms. I think he dislocated several of my fingers.

After two days of relentless begging, we granted Dakota permission to complete MagiQuest. I can now positively assure you that there is nothing magic about the quest other than your calories consumed at dinner magically disappear as you race up and down the stairs after your hyena, I mean kid. 

Dylan spent her time eating at the dessert buffet. She said that if we lived here, she would come down every hour for a cupcake. That was after she dumped an entire plate of sweets on the freshly mopped floor of the restaurant. She didn’t even come back to the table. She simply circled around the mess and headed back toward the cart in one fluid movement. As she bit into a third cinnamon roll one morning her daddy raised an eyebrow. Sensing his disapproval she replied, “What? Don’t judge me. I’m hungry!”

After wriggling loose from the Great Wolf grip, we spent the next few days enjoying some Dallas flavor. The Perot Museum was fantastic.

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My priceless take away was the sound of Koko’s gasp each time he discovered something new and exciting. He would scurry from exhibit to exhibit ahead of the rest of us. We could hear his reaction through the partition. Pat looked at me and grinned. “That sound is worth the price of admission.” Absolutely. “Mommy, dinosaurs were real in the 1980s,” Koko stated matter of factly. I’m officially old.

Cam loved the Dallas Aquarium. So much to see. So little time. He looked like he was practicing morse code on the glass of each animal enclosure.

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But mostly, Cam just liked spending time with his twin. His awesome, cool cat, 36 year old twin.

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He can never get enough.

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I can’t say I blame him.

We rounded out the trip with a day at Dave and Busters. There was something for everyone. 

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Fast cars and shooting games for Cam.

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Guitar Hero for Dylie.

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The giant claw for Koko. He loves the classics.

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It was crazy fun.

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It was family fun.

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It was memory-making fun.

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I will always hold onto the memories made here. Especially, Dylan tripping over the suitcase in the dark on the way back from the bathroom. She had been brushing her teeth with lip gloss. And Pat trying to converse with the Spanish speaking housekeeper. Si.  Oh, and koko’s balloon animal bursting in the elevator of the Intercontinental Hotel. I’ll never forget the hearing loss sustained.

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I love these people.

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I love vacation. And I love the memories that will forever tickle my mind.

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Amateur

My chickens ran away from home today. I was working on their coop and let them roam. Once far enough from my reach, they turned the corner and fled for the woods.

“Dumb birds,” I thought. “Don’t they know how good they have it? Don’t they know that predators live it the woods?

They have the nicest coop in the neighborhood.

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The landscaping is customized to their needs.

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Lordy, Pat even installed two swings for our feathered friends two days ago. That’s right, I said a swing. And not one but two.  Seriously, what chicken wouldn’t want to live here?

Frustrating as it was, I did what any good chicken mother would do–I went looking for them. I found them, but we most certainly had a situation. Have you ever tried to help someone who has gotten themselves into such a pickle that you are certain that getting them out is going to be painful for the both of you? That was us– me and the Denneys chickens and one very ornery rooster (we’ve not decided if he’ll be a permanent resident in Denneyland yet.)

At this juncture, there were two choices: turn my back and walk away or push forward into the forest. I went in.  I’m pretty sure that my neighbor is going to post the “rescue” on you tube. 

I looked ridiculous. I was wearing Pat’s gym shorts and his black leather work boots. My 15 year old sorority social t-shirt was soaked with sweat and streaked with snot. Rule number one: don’t get chickens if you have allergies.

This is probably where I should mention that it was noon and 105 degrees. At this point I had been working for two hours trying to eliminate the fly problem my feathered friends had created. Come to think of it, the fly problem could very well have been the reason the birds decided to go on strike in the first place.

I was rake, wipe sweat, blow snot. Repeat. When the wind would intermittently blow, I’d catch a whiff of the stink bait Pat laid in the fly trap. I wrestled with a few strips of fly paper and filled the laying boxes with fresh rosemary and a vanilla little tree air freshener. Yes, I helicopter parent my chickens. I also happen to believe a lot of what I read on the Internet.

So there I was, dripping sweat, rake in hand, ducking through the woods in search of a lost Sunny, Lemondrop, Zomboss and Freddie.  With each step I took, 3 thoughts came to mind: please Lord don’t let me step on a snake, poison ivy is inevitable, and I’m gonna spank Freddie once I finally get my hands on him.

The brush was impossibly thick. I very quickly became aware of my size verses theirs. I needed a little person, a reliable, deft little person. Yep. Koko.

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I hollered over the fence for backup.

It only took us an hour to wrangle each bird into the safety of our neighbor’s yard. Pat came in to finish the job. I scurried out of the neighbor’s yard and into ours just in time to see Lemondrop being launched over the fence and land in our yard. No worries, they can fly once airborne, which creates a soft landing.

Freddie was the last to be captured and returned to the pen. I would have spanked him had he not looked so relieved to be home once again. As I closed the latch on the coop, the sky turned black and large rain droplets began to fall.

You know, sometimes we’re all chickens who wandered a little too far from home. I can relate to these birds–especially this week. They didn’t intend to get lost. They just did. It happens. I’m so glad God chooses to press into the woods after us before the rain comes even if it means a sore back and poison ivy for Him.

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Because at the end of the day, home is exactly where we want to be.

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My Dearest Amelia

As I write this, you are barely two weeks old.  You’re fresh and perfect and the entire world is waiting to see who you will become.  But there is no one who is watching more intently and with more love and concern than your mother.  Now, by the time you actually read this, you’ll be sixteen, and you will think that your mother is in fact, stupid.  She can’t possibly know anything about your life and how it feels to be you.  Honey, I’m writing this now to give you the truth when you need it most.  So here it is.

I met your mother in the fall of 1998.  We had both pledged Kappa Delta at LSU and were full of excitement and wonder as to what the world would bring to our feet.  It was equally exciting and terrifying.  In our sophomore year, I overcommitted to some volunteer activities, and I went to the president of the sorority to plead my case.  There was no way that I could be in charge of the philanthropy project, complete my school work and plan the 4 sorority bashes of that year alone.  Your mother, not knowing me from Adam, stepped up to the plate.  She said two words, “I’ll help.”  Those two words forever changed my life.

From there we planned 4 kick ass parties that spring and fall.  One of which, I dipped your mother on an empty dance floor, lost my balance and took a running leap to eventually land on top of her.  In the process, I managed to step on the train of her dress leaving her topless beneath me.  At that point she said 5 words, “Payton, get off of me!”  But she forgave me. See, that’s one thing she’s really good at–forgiveness.  You’ll need that later.  I should also add that we pulled off a successful philanthropy project where we raised money for Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana.  Your mother locked my keys in my car before the event started, so I guess, technically, we were even.

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Over the next three years, I developed the strongest women friendships I have ever known, and your mother is responsible.  See, when she said “I’ll help,” she really meant “and I’ll also be your friend.”  That’s who she is.  You’ll need that later too.

She introduced be to 3 Baton Rouge women– women who would become my sisters.

(I was going to insert a picture here, but SOMEONE (not gonna say who) was smoking a cigarette, and I couldn’t figure out how to photoshop it out.)

They are people who love me because they want to, not because they have to.  Oftentimes, they loved me when I was unlovable and certainly when I didn’t love myself.  Your mother, she brings people together.  It’s her gift.

So she worked through college to help pay her way, while the rest of us messed around and changed our majors.  She got accepted to dental hygiene school and graduated before most of us even thought of where to send our own resumes.  She’s a planner.  She’s tough, gets the job done, and makes no excuses.  That will help you as an adult but will really annoy you as a teenager.  She’s gonna tell you to get over it, and you should.

And then we all started getting married.  She bought the bridesmaids dresses, and hosted the showers, and attended the bachelorette weekend getaways.  All. Of. Them.

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She waited for her turn.

Your mother, her future unknown, was not satisfied with her career choice.  She knew that she needed to be able to take care of herself, so again, without excuses, she went back to the bank, got a loan, and began applying to PA school.

PA school was challenging.  And while the rest of us were settling into our lives and careers, your mother was still pushing forward trying to discover hers.  It was grueling and emotionally defeating, but she didn’t give up.

Next came the babies.  Elisabeth, Dakota and Dylan, Ila, Hampton, Cameron, Anna Claire, Rosie, and Harper.  Nine of them.  Nine.

And still, she waited for her turn.

Then along came your daddy.  They dated. A looooooooooooooong time.

She graduated and began working.

Until one day.  This happened.

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I’ve never seen your mother so happy.  All that working and waiting and praying paid off.  Your mother, she’s tough and she’s wonderful.  She’ll tell you that patience is something she had to learn.  And then God blessed all that faithfulness with this.

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You.

So, we did what we know how to do.  We prepared (with a party).

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And then we waited.  Again.

Until…

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Tada!!!

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It was the happiest day of your mother’s life.  She had dreamed of being your mommy since she was a little girl, and now, you were here.

So when you get mad at her, know that she understands you more than you know.  Life hasn’t come easy for my precious friend.  She wanted you, always.  She loves you infinitely still.

She knows how to fight for what she wants, but she knows how to pray too.  Don’t take it from her, take it from me.  Your mother is the best friend you’ll ever have.  She has been that for me–nothing less.  Just remember, when confronting her with something make sure she has had her coffee for the day and that she is not currently hungry.  Other than that, you should be fine.  And her cool odometer?  Off the charts on the fun factor, but we’re gonna leave those stories back in the year 2000 before cell phones had cameras (praise the Lord).

Much love my sweet, precious, tootie,

Aunt Payt

 

 

 

 

What have we done?

My six year old son can multiply–not like a gremlin when you pour water on it–I’m talking mathematics. Being an amateur to parenting school children, I’m not sure if that’s normal or not. But I remember studying multiplication in 3rd grade. While, I’m all for progress (especially in education) I do feel like our children’s activities are on steroids.

It’s actually something I’ve thought for a long time, but it wasn’t proven until recently. My mom delivered a box of my childhood photos after doing some spring cleaning at her house.

This is a picture of my 4th grade cheerleading squad.

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Compare to the cheerleading squads of today. In fact, they probably don’t even call them “squads” any more. But they most definitely are no longer doing thigh stands. Goodness, progress is needed. (Again reference above photo).

But my concern is when is it too much? As a kid I had the opportunity to try each of the following: tennis, cheerleading, gymnastics, dance team, ballet, piano, and softball. My parents allowed me to experience it all and decide which worked best for me. But I am struggling with this as a parent.

It feels as if my kids are entering undergrad and are being asked to decided their medical residency specialty. Each sport / activity requires multiple practices each week and then games throughout the weekend. The pressure of missing out on early exposure to a sport discourages kids and parents alike from participating later in childhood.

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems unfair to our kiddos. Here’s the truth, most of our children will not become professional athletes. We need good citizens who know how to throw a football at a family reunion–because they played in high school. We need business owners who were taught teamwork and what a shared victory feels like. We need well-balanced leaders who know defeat. Life needs variety not hyperfocus. And in my opinion, we all should know how to do a thigh stand and multiplication.

Let them play, please. The demerits aren’t necessary and neither is your loud attitude toward to referee. They are watching–after all your kids name and number are on the back of your shirt.