Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Real Romeo and Juliet

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a (NIV)

They have been together for over 65 years.

Man and wife…partners…lovers…friends…teammates…parents…soul mates.

The first death was slow. It began with small things, little forgotten details of their life together. Where items were located, places they had known, people who were friends.

Then he forgot their children and grandchildren. There were moments when he would remember, times when she could ask him “Eddie, do you remember your boy Ray” and he would say “well, yes!” Now that their 65th wedding anniversary is approaching, even those brief glimpses have disappeared.

She misses watching basketball and football games on television with him. She misses sharing details of her Sunday School lessons. She misses her buddy.

Mary is a pragmatist, if nothing else. She looks at life through clear, wide, eyes. Enduring life’s deepest pain, she has still always managed to forge ahead. When they lost their daughter to an infection following a battle with cancer, she moved ahead, even though a part of her felt ripped out, shredded, never to fully heal. When her mother was old, helpless, she and Eddie moved her in with them and provided the care needed until she passed away.

Being an only child probably help mold her into an independent, free-spirited dynamo. The only time she struggles is when people underestimate her.

Dementia, Eddie's disease and Mary's burden, is a confusing, maddening, cruel enemy. There is no cure. There is no way to get back what has been lost. And when the person who knows every curve of your body, every nuance of your expressions, and every thought you have before you are able to speak the words is lost to dementia, it feels as if your other half has died. Only their body is still breathing.

She is scared of not being with him. Even though every memory is gone, his heart knows her. In the darkest hours of the night, he reaches for her. He smiles when he sees her face. His heart remembers and they are still connected. She sees and feels it every day. In their home, HIS home, he is the happiest and the safest .

This is why she wants him with her. Mary knows best and those who have the joy and privilege of being in her home during this time understand that she is in control. She knows her own limitations and every step of the journey she has asked for aid when needed.

She has the help of Hospice, home health services, and family members. She has been responsible with money over the years and can pay for some private help. Mary journals as an outlet, something most therapists would applaud (although she doesn't need a therapist's approval; somehow, she just knows that this is important) and has an impressive base of support through their lifelong church.

She has identified the specific times when she needs the most help and has found a way to plug in resources. They have neighbors who will come over with the simple ring of the phone.

Mary makes chocolate chip cookies every week as a gesture of gratitude towards Peter, her primary home health care worker, and this writer. I am her granddaughter; another caretaker who has been blessed with the privilege of seeing this woman's love and commitment in person each and every week since Eddie came home from the hospital following a broken hip last February. I joke with Peter, telling him to "stay out of my cookies". The joking, the love of her cookies, and the camaraderie between her helpers makes Mary smile. Eddie can be a great deal of fun as well. He may have dementia, but is far from catatonic. In fact, most days he chatters more than a women's quilting group, tossing in a large dose of unrecognizable German for good measure.

Soon, Peter's job will change, taking him away from Mary. She worries, but knows through her faith and wisdom, that answers will come if she keeps her eyes open. This could mean more pressure from others to place him in a facility.

Many people don't understand how she does it. But that would infer they are actually asking the question of themselves, i.e. "could I do it?". For most, the answer would be "no". But then again, most people aren't Mary...most couples don't share what Eddie and Mary share. They are the last of a generation, a generation where commitment and hardship had different meanings. Mary has no problem asking for physical help. She understands the need for someone to help her assist Eddie from the wheelchair to the bed on those particular nights when he seems to forget how to stand up. She fully understands the financial benefit of having Hospice and the VA involved so that she isn't paying out of pocket for Eddie's Depends and wipes. But make no mistake, just because you are reading this and thinking "Oh My God, I couldn't clean up someone" doesn't mean it bothers her one bit. You see, she loves him. These are simple human acts. Mary doesn't give it a single thought. She does it because he needs it done, because she can still physically do it, and because there isn't another human who exists who will do it with the care and devotion she will.

Sometimes I watch them together, silently across the room, trying to hide within myself because to witness their affection is almost overpowering, almost brings me to my knees in humility. She still holds his face in her hands, nuzzles nose to nose, and she kisses him while he smiles sweetly and adoringly up at her. These are acts that occur not just every once-in-awhile, but many times every day. I don't know who taught who to be so affectionate and openly loving, I only know that Eddie passes that same affection on to me, by holding my hand and saying things like "Oh, I love are just so beautiful....oh thank you so are the best, just the most wonderful boy". The gender confusion? Who cares. He's kind and gentle to everyone but saves the kisses for the beautiful bride his heart still remembers.

The first death for Mary has been the death of his memory. She knows a second, final death, is still to come. This is why she treasures their remaining time together, even if it is so different from their previous life.

Eddie's heart needs those deeply hidden life memories close to him, every day. He needs to feel safe and Mary needs to know he is safe. They have been together their entire lives, and the most cruel thing that could ever happen would be for them to be separated, particularly when there is no reason. I watch...I see...and I know. Mary can handle this.

Never, ever underestimate the power of human connection. Marriages that fail are missing this. Never, ever underestimate the power of human touch. Humans wither without it. Eddie is thriving, as much as this horrible disease will allow him. The reason is his connection...the reason is her touch...the reason is his partner.

If you want to see true love in all of it's beautiful and wondrous glory, see Eddie and Mary. Their love is absent all of the vanity, jealousy, selfishness, and immaturity that is so prevalent in relationships today. Look at yourself - look at your partner - and ask: could I do this?

Mary can. Because she loves him.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What do One Direction and Barry Manilow Have in Common?

Marah would hum.

She isn’t a verbal child. She doesn’t speak of how she is feeling or tell you her emotions. She’s like her father in that respect and sometimes it can leave a mother frustrated, wanting details. The one sure way I could always tell she was content, at peace, and her happiest is when she would quietly hum. It is the most beautiful sound in the world to me.

You have to look at her behaviors to get a picture of what she’s thinking, feeling, enjoying, disliking…you understand. Take her favorite band, for instance. I know that other than soccer, One Direction is her favorite thing in the world by looking in her bedroom.

She has a few photos of friends, a radio, hair/makeup/jewelry items on her dresser, and clothes scattered everywhere. That’s it, except for her walls. They are almost completely covered with posters of the band One Direction.

When she gave us her birthday list in March, “One Direction Tickets” were the only items requested.

So began a four month long quest to obtain One Direction tickets for Marah’s birthday. Some idiot decided it would be a good idea to place those tickets on sale a whopping SIXTEEN MONTHS before the actual show. SIXTEEN MONTHS for a band who markets to fickle tweens. SIXTEEN MONTHS for a band who, at that time, had only existed for twenty months and whose members, at the time, were still in grammar school.

Well played, idiot, well played. The gamble paid off, and in the Kansas City area it became the hottest and hardest ticket of the year to obtain.

First I went to the Sprint Center web site and tried to purchase tickets. This is when I discovered they were sold out. The Eagles are going to be here in the fall. You can still buy tickets to see them. The Eagles haven’t sold out, but freaking One Direction has.

Then I checked Stubhub and Tickets for Less. Ouch. They were asking hundreds and hundreds of dollars for tickets that began at under $30 for face value. Craigslist was no better. It appears “market value” is whatever the ticket brokers are asking with another $100+ added in for good measure. I knew then that Marah was most likely not going to be seeing One Direction this year, but I couldn’t quit obsessing over it or trying to figure out a way to get her there. Why?

Then it hit me: Barry Manilow.

Have you ever been out with adult friends, enjoying cocktails, and played the “first concert” game? It’s not really a game, more of a “who was your first concert” and the “winner” is the person who attended the coolest show. The loser, of course, is always me; always. This is because my first concert was Barry Manilow. My friend Tavish always wins in these instances. No one can touch her “my parents took me to see Janice Joplin when I was eight months old” story. I’m so jealous.

I was in the 7th grade and it was the early ‘80s. A sensitive child, I would listen to “Weekend in New England” , “I Write the Songs” and "Mandy" over and over again, feeling all the sadness of the world encapsulated in these three slow songs. Yes, I was a deep and emotional tween. Don’t mock me, I know how pitiful this was.

I had little contact with my mother, even though she lived in the area. Her 6th husband Dave, in an attempt to win points with her parents (who, by the way, were also my Grandparents/guardians), bought tickets to take me to see Barry at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kansas. I was in heaven, even though it was a little weird knowing I’d be spending an entire evening with my mother and Dave. At the same time, it was cool. Mom was taking me to my first concert.

Fast forward to 2013 and my therapist friends can probably diagnose this obsession with making sure Marah’s first concert is spectacular: mommy issues. Just when you think you’ve tackled all of them, eh ladies? In addition, I never want Marah to be the laughing stock of her social group for having the most humiliating “first concert” story. I still carry the scars. To fully appreciate "said scars" click on the link. This is exactly the version of Copacabana I witnessed...float, pineapple, and flamenco shirt included.

I’m a planner when it comes to events; must come from years of stalking KU basketball. Around the time of Marah’s birthday, Bruno Mars tickets were going on sale. He’s regularly in the top 40, so I pounced and was ready on the appointed day and hour, managing to buy two floor seats just after the tickets were released. You can still purchase Bruno Mars tickets, by the way, but the FLOOR seats are sold out. SNAP. Momma did good.

Next up was how to utilize the Bruno Mars tickets to obtain One Direction tickets and I figured it would be easy: simply post on Craigslist that I had floor Mars tickets and would swap for even the worst One Direction tickets. Sounds good, right? Until my twelve year old began to hem and haw that she kind of wanted to see Bruno Mars too and didn’t want horrible tickets to One Direction. We had a long heart to heart (I spoke, she listened) after which she fully understood she would only be seeing one band and needed to choose: One Direction or Bruno Mars. You can guess the answer.

I contacted my half sister in Los Angeles, who is one of the hottest rising female DJ’s in the industry. I wasn’t too proud when I told her “what good is it having a family member in the biz if you can’t ask them for leads on One Direction tickets?” Marah was thrilled when Cat called to say she might know someone who works with one of the band members. I won’t lie, visions of back stage passes & images of my baby girl with her favorite rock stars passed through my mind. Then I smacked my own face and came back to reality. Alas, the LA connection wouldn’t bear fruit.

My initial Craigslist posting resulted in zero responses. In the meantime, I began checking Craigslist monthly, then weekly, and then daily. It was educational. One seller was asking $800 for two tickets or they were willing to trade them for a four wheeler. Such is life close to Missouri.

Another seller shared that they had purchased the tickets and were now going on a mission trip; they were asking hundreds of dollars above face value, were firm and unwilling to negotiate, and would only accept a check (huh?). I’m sure they had prayed about it.

Another seller was asking $7,000 for her two tickets. Assphinctersayswhat?

The best was the seller who wrote “I will be willing to take $1500 apiece but I would really like $2000 for them”. It was at this point, after months of looking, that I finally snapped and sent a reply via Craigslist that read:

Well, frankly, I know you'd be WILLING to take $1500....but since you'd really LIKE $2000, hell, I'll just go ahead and give you $4000 for the pair. I'll even throw in the family car and the dog while we're at it!! Would you like our house as well? How about the kid's college funds???? I mean seriously, it's only the cutest boy band ever to emerge from Simon Cowell's ass. Of course, I'm joking. What the hell is wrong with you???? NO ONE is going to give you FOUR FREAKING THOUSAND DOLLARS for two tickets.

The seller did not appreciate my advice, and responded:

If your(e) not going to make an offer please don't respond. Frankly, I know people who have worse seats then I do and have made $5,000 for one ticket alone. Also, these boys are very popular so some people are willing to pay an arm and a leg for these.

I have searched and searched for One Direction amputees in the Kansas City area but have yet to find a single one. If and when I discover them, I call dibs on the novel; THAT is a story worth telling.

Two weeks before the concert, I reposted my original “Bruno Mars/One Direction swap” offer and was elated when someone emailed me, offering to trade lower level 1D if I’d add additional cash. The amount was more than I was willing to pay, so I counter-offered (which, by the way, I’m horrible at doing – I’m the fool who never haggles at garage sales, never haggles at the market when travelling, and who has “I’ll give you whatever you want” tattooed on my forehead). I had a heart to heart with Marah, explaining that we might be making head way but that if she wanted to go she was going to have to have some skin in the game and put in her own money.

She’s tight, Mr. Krabs tight.

This child must love 1D, because she gathered up babysitting money she had hoarded and painfully (I could tell by her expression) gave it to me as part of the barter.

We waited…and waited. I didn’t hear back from the Bruno Mars girl and assumed she was going to wait it out to try and get more money.

In the meantime, more and more people started posting on Craigslist begging for tickets. One mom said she has no money and her little girl's dad had just had brain surgery. Some shared that they would have to pay for a hotel and gas, and aunt/grandma/cousin all want to go would someone sell them six tickets cheap? Some of them were even offering LESS than face value, not realizing that face value doesn’t reflect the fees attached, which can amount to over $30 (thank you Bruno Mars for teaching me this). In spite of this, or rather because of it, the sellers weren’t coming down in price.

Then my Bruno Mars girl emailed me (she’s “mine” now, LOVE HER). She accepted the offer, only “she” wasn’t a “she”. “She” is a “he”. We met in Lawrence, where he lives, and as an identifier I described myself as “red KU t-shirt, long brown hair, 40’s”. He described himself as “Asian guy”. My friends are offended because I keep calling him “Asian Guy” but THAT’S how he described himself!

Asian Guy had purchased the 1D tickets “as an investment” and was tired of haggling. I think he’ll sell the Bruno Mars tickets and still come out way ahead. Did I mention how much I love him? He was impressed that Marah had contributed to the transaction.

Now I know this is getting long, but the story can’t end here.

I found myself standing outside the Sprint Center at 5:30 pm on Friday night, sweat dripping down my back and cleavage, girls shoulder to shoulder shrieking at the drop of a hat, wondering how to document this event. To pass time, since my daughter isn’t one for chit chat, I began a series of texts to myself, describing in part the horrifying outfits, the completely un-cool Roseann-looking parents, and the shrieking.

It appears current fashion has returned, sadly, to the 80’s. Tight daisy duke shorts that button around the middle of the waist are the rage. Only most of the girls wearing these monstrosities are either vampire pale or Honey Boo-Boo full figured (or both, shudder).

The girl in front of us was wearing 1970’s style British spandex leggings, black and white striped, with two huge openings on the back thigh portion. I’ll attach a photo since her confidence can only be appreciated with a visual. Marah went berserk when I pulled out my phone to take the photo, telling me I was humiliating her. I replied loudly “honey, any person who wears THOSE in public is begging to have their picture taken! Now step back and let me get this!” The mother in front of me turned around, sporting a huge smile, and said “Exactly!”


We finally made it into the arena and I was impressed that we could purchase an endless tub of popcorn. This came in handy when we stumbled upon two of my friend’s daughters. One of them tore into the popcorn and by the time I was able to wrestle it away it was time for a refill. She must’ve been fueling herself for the main event; I know I was.

Marah waited inside while I went to refill the popcorn tub. While waiting at the counter, I noticed that the beer taps weren’t covered with cups so I said “No way! Can I get a beer?” The guy filling the popcorn said “sure” to which I responded “I may actually survive this night after all!” As I pulled out payment, he waved away the money, grinned widely, winked, and said “this one’s on us to help you get through the evening”. Can I get an "Amen" brother?

The shrieking was everything you would imagine, and then some. Fay Wray must’ve been in attendance (or that annoying actress from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). At times, I was in pain and had to jam my fingers so far into my ears that when I pulled them out they contained tiny bits of brain matter. The band members made comments along the lines of “wow, you guys are really loud” with no small amount of irritation. Marah, a quiet child by nature, was annoyed.

In spite of all that, the show was actually great. The girls got everything they wanted and then some. The band had a really cool floating stage, they ran around talking in their adorable British accents (and the one Irish accent, as Marah would so curtly remind me), they sang all of the favorites, and the techno aspects were spectacular. It’s been a long time since I saw a pop concert and this old girl was impressed. One Direction was a first concert that Marah can proudly talk about thirty or forty years from now and I will always cherish this memory.

As we settled into the car for the ride home, sitting in the quiet air conditioning and wriggling our toes to stretch tired feet, I heard a sound that still makes my heart sing.

Marah was humming.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Guns & Us

George Zimmerman will be acquitted. This is my prediction.

Years of working within the court system taught me something about the law: it is relies upon facts, evidence, and reasonable doubt. Based upon everything I’ve read about the trial, a jury will be hard pressed to find him guilty of the specific legal definition of 2nd degree murder. Involuntary manslaughter would’ve made more sense….. then again, I wasn’t privy to the evidence used when the charges were filed.

This isn’t why I’m writing about George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin today, though. I’m writing about them because there is a much larger, massive elephant in the room that we aren’t talking about: our own personal responsibility.

It’s no secret that conceal and carry permits are on the rise or that gun sales went viral following the mass shooting of children in Newtown and the subsequent request by the President to go back to the drawing board regarding gun safety regulations.

I’ve noticed the gun fever in my simple day to day life. I recently flew on a plane next to a couple who were avidly perusing gun enthusiast magazines and eagerly discussing the next purchases they were going to make.

I went to lunch with my best friend and her co-worker. When, in the course of the conversation, the co-worker was asked if she was planning to get her conceal and carry, she replied between sips of Mocha “Oh yeah, it’s so cool. I’m, like, sure I’ll be getting it soon.”

Groupon has a special sale price for the Conceal and Carry Class.

Facebook has been oozing with Red State lingo, such as “pry from my cold dead hands”. Photos of cute pink handguns are even making the rounds.

And, sadly, the dialogue continues to be dominated by Team George and Team Treyvon….both sides so certain they know what happened in the final waning minutes of that night, both teams so sure that the case is about restricting gun rights, that it’s about racism, or that it’s about self defense.

The dialogue needs to be about us. It needs to be about facing our current laws and how each and every American plans to deal with the reality of hand guns.

We have a second amendment. Until someone can miraculously make a trip back in time to talk to the Founding Fathers, we can never truly know how they would respond to today’s technology, today’s attitudes towards guns, and today’s interpretation of their monumental Constitution. If you claim to be the holder of this knowledge then you are lying. No one can completely know, particularly when so many constitutional scholars interpret the wording in the 2nd amendment so differently. I have my own opinion, but that doesn’t mean it is completely correct.

That leaves us with one glaring thing we can control: ourselves.

So here are my general thoughts.

If you are a parent, start teaching your child today, yesterday if possible. Teach them to never raise their voice or get into any type of verbal altercation with another American. The consequences could mean the end of their life.

Teach your child to never, ever, walk at night alone.

Teach your child to assume, always, that every person they pass on the street, in the mall, on campus, and on the highway is in possession of a conceal and carry firearm and that the person will be willing and eager to use it.

Teach your child from the moment they are born to control their anger. If you see signs early on that this could be a problem for them, get professional help. Down the road, it could mean the difference between a confrontation with a gun or another day of living.

If you are thinking to yourself “just teach them to get their own gun” then please stop reading now. Not every American wants to carry a gun, NOR SHOULD THEY HAVE TO. Your thinking is part of the problem.

If you possess a conceal and carry permit, use George Zimmerman as an opportunity to ask yourself “what would I have done”.

Ask yourself if you are the type of person who responds to situations with emotion or caution. Are you calm, cool, and collected or are you prone to hysteria and excitement? Do you have a short fuse?

Ask yourself why you want to conceal and carry and be honest and reflective in your answers. Do you live or work in a dangerous area? Are violent crimes on the rise or have you or someone you know been the victim of a violent crime?

Ask yourself if you truly feel competent in the use of hand guns.

Ask yourself if your guns are safely secured, in a manner that allows you to access them in an emergency but that also keeps them secure from others.

Ask yourself if you could live with the knowledge that you killed an innocent person, or any person for that matter.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, a few things are certain. Treyvon Martin’s parents will never have an opportunity to teach their son the importance of the saying “safety in numbers” or the importance of assuming every stranger possesses a handgun, will be willing to use it, and should therefore be avoided at all cost.

Zimmerman will spend the rest of his life replaying that night in his mind, for he is the only person alive who knows what happened…..who knows what he was thinking…..and who has to know, within his deepest soul, that if he had listened to the true professionals - who intimated he should remain in his truck and said they were on their way - Treyvon Martin would most likely still be alive today.

Yes, maybe possessing a gun can save you from the bad guy. Yes, the second amendment guarantees some level of gun rights and as long as it is legal, each and every one of us has the right to conceal and carry if we so choose. But neither the constitution nor a gun can guarantee common sense, a clear head, or the level of respect so vitally needed on the part of any person in possession of a weapon so deadly and originally created for one purpose and one purpose only.

Until we can find a way to guarantee those un-quantifiable but potentially life-saving human qualities, we can only control ourselves. By warning our children it's not just the bad guys we have to fear, but also those around us so intensely concerned with "protecting" themselves, and by making damn sure if we conceal and carry that we also dig deep to make sure we are worthy and wise of possessing such a potentially life-ending tool.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Charles, Tents & Grit Man: Chapter 5

Americamps pool....where Charles tried to drown Brody. So here we are, knee deep into the Richmond summer in an RV park stories, and I've stumbled upon a few of my favorites. I'm going to try an experiment. I'm posting the emails I sent without editing them. This is big now, for your reading pleasure...with MANY grammatical and possible spelling errors (helps the reader get into the feel of my mindset at the time).....Chapter 5.

We've met a new family here in the park. They are so nice; three kids and the youngest two are adopted. Steven is 7 and just beautiful. I'm not lying - huge dark eyes with long thick eyelashes and this North Carolina accent that will melt your heart. His younger biological sister is Amelia and she's very delayed. I don't know the diagnosis but she only speaks through sign (although she can hear) and as an infant they didn't even believe she would walk. The oldest daughter (not adopted) is, I'm ashamed to say, the "stalker" I mentioned in the first email (note to Marlys: WAIT before making judgements about people). Her name is Micah and she's 12; very sweet girl but also a bit delayed socially according to mom. She has this knack for finding 4 leaf clovers and has brought me 5 so far. I'm hoping this means good luck?

They left to go home to North Carolina for a week (dad is working here so they are staying all summer) and Marah commented the evening they left "I miss him!" Oh My God! Are you serious??? She's SIX years old!! She woke up this morning and said "I had a dream about Steven". Any advice??? She doesn't want to leave the camp to go on adventures with me and Brody if Steven is around. It rained three afternoons this week and they used our walkie talkies to stay in touch. He'd call and she'd say "let's talk later, I have things to do".

One afternoon, I walked up behind them, unseen. The other kids were going "oooh, gross!! Marah's eating her buggers". She makes me so proud - I mean, that's talent and a stomach of steel! Maybe she can have a career with Jackass The Movie when she's older! Not to be outdone, beautiful Steven pipes up and says "I like to eat mine too!" Maybe they truly are soul mates.

Steven's mom, Anna, approached me on Wednesday and said "I have something I want to tell you that is a little disturbing". I'm like "Oh shit, Marah tried to kiss Steven. I'm going to kill her!!" Nope, not it. She said her husband had an employee (he's here putting in telecommunications lines) who is 19 and was arrested for the third time last week. They won't bond him out and he's very pissed off. A large man tracked her down in the RV park a few days ago and handed her a piece of paper containing the names of their kids, their phone numbers and their the camp site info. He had been in jail with this kid; the kid gave him the information with instructions to track them down and ask for bond money. Anna said the guy followed the instructions and then, on top of it, asked them for money for himself!! He then rented a camping site a few places down from them. Whoooeeee!!! The tent people move, I'm just getting comfortable with the idea that there aren't really an pedophiles near us, and then this. I ran a search of the ex employee's name and he isn't on any sex offender maybe things are good? I expect this story to keep getting better.

So Charles (by now I shouldn't have to explain who he is) was actually playing with Marah and Steven a few days ago. His camp is about twenty campers down from us and no adult is ever to bee seen. I've "heard tell" that is mother is always on the lookout for him, which could explain why she drives by our site ten+ times a day. Not that I'm counting. I like being in the long termers have to keep each other up to speed.

So anyway, Charles comes strolling onto our property (hey, we're paid up through June!) and wants a drink out of the cooler. The kids have open access to it: there is water, fruit juice boxes, etc.....and also a few special survival drinks that I had forgotten were in the bottom. Charles wants a drink and I say "sure, go ahead and grab one". He reaches in and grabs a Corona. Marah says "Mom, Charles is having a beer!" I reply "No, Marah, he's not!" Charles says "I drink beer with my dad all the time." I say "Go home Charles; if I was your dad, I'd be drinking with you too." (seriously, I didn't really say that...out loud anyway)

Americamps path...where Charles' parents drive fast trying to chase him down.

I'm attaching a picture of Steven (eh, hm, back to me in real time: I'm not posting the photos of the boys on my blog - pretty sure if I was a parent of them that would make me angry) and am really wishing they would return to the camp. Getting pretty tired of the "what day is it mom?" and "when is HE coming back?" For some reason, I kinda like the kid. It may be his deputy dog "Noth Carlana" accent that reminds me of, dare I say it, ("dare, dare" for those Blazing Saddles connoisseurs) ROY. The OTHER smiling little angel next to Stephen is, you guessed it, Charles. Now, I kept telling him that we LOVE to take pictures of people we meet on our travels and he was just loving the attention. I couldn't ever get a good shot of that tooth, though, and after some time I realized how completely horrific it was that I wanted to photograph this kid (ok, he DOES have a mother after all) so I could show all my friends his blemish. I mean, he's just sucking it up, grinning as big as he could - never knowing he's the focus of my emails. Not to give you the wrong impression....he's really pretty rotten....but is sure cute lookin' when you can't see that black tooth, isn't he!

Two more stories and then I'll end this. We have summer passes to King's Dominion, which is Paramount Pictures them and water park, so I've taken the kids several times to the water area. Brody just loves it there!! (remember - he was two during this time) Yesterday, before I can even find a chair or get situated, he's in the water. A few seconds later I look up and he is literally SHOVING every kid on the slide stairs out of the way. He's so little that most of them didn't realize what it was that was even pushing them; he's also small enough to avoid detection by the life guards. Next thing I know, he's made his way to the front and his high-tailing it down the slide. I had this immediate vision of Napoleon in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure . Remember when Napoleon hit the theme park and was a real butthole to everyone as he was trying to hog the slide? That's exactly what Brody looked like!! I started laughing out loud and everyone around me was staring. The other thing that makes me laugh is that when he has to poop (which always happens in the pool - I think the water relaxes him - hey, I completely understand!) he gets on his hands and knees in the main thoroughfare and starts to get this really, how shall I describe it, intense look on his face. If I attempt to approach him, he begins screaming at me "NO, Mommy!! Go 'way!!" with his little hand shoving me away. It's almost like the Heisman forearm move or the old "talk to the hand" motion. He always picks a very conspicuous place where EVERYONE can see him, right in the middle of the kiddo traffic lanes. Just be glad he's not in any of the Johnson County pools. He's currently running around the trai....I mean RV, naked and he's just peed on the floor. I have less than 25 square feet of carpet to monitor and he's soiled it (better than my leg, eh?). By the way, I'm lookin' pretty rough. Time for another Corona before I go clean.

King's Dominion little kid's swim area

Final story, since this is getting long. We went into the mountains today to hike up some water falls. The kids were real troopers because it's about three miles up (they petered out at about the two mile mark). It was absolutely beautiful, as you can imagine the Blue Ridge Mountains would be. On the way down, I'm cruising along, all "in the moment" when the world is perfect, the view is unbelievable, my kids are healthy, Brian is wonderful, blah blah blah, when BAM!!! I fall down these rugged steps right on my ass and right in front of another family. MY family, behind me, is laughing like crazy. There's mud all over my backside, I'm skinned up and so sore that it's taken a TALL glass of wine while typing for me to feel less stiff. On our way there this morning we stopped at a diner in town that Brian eats at regularly. The waitress sported a mega '70s doo but she was so sweet! She called us "sugar" and "baby doll" and "darlin'"! After we left, I asked him if she usually works there. He said "Sure! After you took Brody out to the car she told me thanks for bringing in the family. The guys on the job eat here and always come back saying 'I was Baby today and he was Sugar'!" (no comments about my punctuation - it's hard putting a quote within a quote)

Just before leaving the restaurant, and this is not a story for the faint of heart, I took Marah to the lady's room. She sneezed pretty loudly while she was going potty. I went in the same stall after she was done. As I'm sitting there, I look down and notice a massive wad of phlegm on the floor right in front of me and I realize my six year old daughter coughed this out while peeing!!!! How many times do I have to say "cover your mouth"???? At the same time, there is a waitress in the stall next to me (there are only two stalls) and she is panting, and huffing, and grunting as if she's in labor. My gag reflex was at def con 5 by this point so I hightailed it out of there before she could finish her bidnez.

Tomorrow is Father's Day....have a wonderful day with your husbands/dads/grandfathers and please reinforce with your kids/nieces/nephews/godchildren the importance of covering one's mouth while sneezing and of NOT eating one's own buggers (or anyone else's for that matter). Awwwww, the joys of parenting. Take care ladies!!

P.S. One caveat (don't want to offend anyone): the comments on the Chevy Cobalt from earlier were strictly related to the shape the car was in after all the miles of rental driving it had been through - so if anyone owns a Cobalt please do not take offense. Also, the Dodge Neon that I'm now driving is a super lil' car (for all you Neon owners) and....other than those times when I jerk the clutch and throw the kids forward so that their seat belts latch up (that's funny - Marah hates that)....we are cruising in that little guy!!

P.P.S. Both children gave me legal permission to share these tales. True story - I made them sign a liability clause so we won't have to pay for therapy after humiliating them.