01 March 2015

Getting Knocked Down & Back Up Again

Some of the best advice I ever got: There’s no such thing as a good day or a bad day. There are only good moments and bad moments.

It’s taken me two kids to really fully digest that, and I think it’s so true. It also saves my hide on the regular. Just think: you’re having a great day with your short people, and then something happens. Either one gets in trouble or someone falls and starts crying or Mama loses her patience or temper and doesn’t respond properly, and BOOM. Bad DAY. But if you look at it all as MOMENTS, then that was just one little bad moment, and you can go on to reap a million more good moments before the next bad moment.

Because the next bad moment will come. You may as well go ahead and count on that.

One minute, I’m winning as a house frau. I’ve put in a full day at work, quickly done the grocery shopping, put a supper on the table cluttered with Crayons and Strawberry Shortcake dollars that everyone is excited about, done a little kitchen dancing and singing, bathed everyone – with bubbles! – and then the baby wants me to stand and rock him to sleep instead of in the recliner, and it’s suddenly all crashing down faster than this toilet paper tower.

Why? Well, because I wanted things one way, and he wanted things another, and just maybe my hormones have kidnapped the rational side of my brain, and so here we’re having a bad moment. A dumb one, even.

But we come back stronger. Do we have a choice?

We had so many good moments yesterday. Like listening to Katie ask me to read National Geographic to her before work, so we could holler “Cuscus!” together and laugh real hard. And Beau waking up happy and sweaty. And both kids wallerin’ in the bed with their daddy while I finished packing my bags for work…where Katie would yell out: “Hey, Mom!” every time I passed the doorway.

Last night, we actually found it within ourselves to laugh at the way that Beau grabs the cup from his sister in the bathtub, fills it with water, and then dumps it over the side of the tub. All faster than you can grab his dimpled little hands.

I mean our bathroom floor will have to be pulled up and left to rot until he moves out and we can safely re-tile, but it’s just money and looks, right?

Who ever knew that a giant package of toilet paper could be so entertaining? She hauled these rolls around from room to room for a few hours the day I took these pictures. She used them to build fences for her animals and herself and stacked them just to watch them fall.

It’s still a grand occasion when Mama comes home with TP to unpack. When I got home from the grocery store last night, she unpacked all the bags, as usual. Only this time, she wanted to play “store.” So she lined everything up in the middle of the kitchen floor and categorized everything by whether or not it came from a farm. And if you think I was able to navigate our tiny kitchen, which was supporting a giant baby Jumperoo and Katie’s farm fare last night, without sending jars of baby food and a package of elbow noodles skidding under the fridge, then we’ve never met.

I have trouble navigating a room without tripping on a good day with no breakable or squishable obstacles. (I’m looking at you, loaf of bread.)

By sit-down-at-the-table time, we’d discerned that the peas in bubba’s baby food came from a farm, the Skinner noodles came from a shaft of wheat, the cheese cubes came from a dairy farm, and Mama is headed directly to the funny farm.

See you there.

26 February 2015

Skittering - No Joking Matter

Occasionally, Brady will come home with an interesting, scary, or funny story from a day at the station or a day on the ambulance. I know he keeps a lot of it to himself, because keeping THAT life and OUR life separate is very important to his mental well being.

And that’s fine with me, most of the time.

I do missing knowing more about his days at work. I miss being able to picture where he is and what he’s doing. It does feel way more detached than any other job he’s ever worked. In prior jobs, I went to visit him constantly and often helped.

Yes, I was the fool girlfriend helping him muck stalls at the Brazos Valley Equine Hospital early on Saturday mornings. Obviously, it was all about those Wranglers, because McDonald’s bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits don’t taste better than sleep.

Many times, I’ve wanted to share the stories he brings home here, but I’m afraid I’ll do them an injustice or not remember enough. But what I can do is give the basics, and then, when Katie or Beau is reading this one day in junior high (assuming they care about what their mother writes, which of course they will, because otherwise: WHO WILL MAKE THE MEATLOAF), they can ask him:

“Hey, what’s this about cockroaches opening the front door of this apartment?”

And he can be confused over his cinnamon rolls and then remember the horror in vivid detail…and then put down the cinnamon roll out of disgust, so I can eat it.

Or at the rate his daughter is going now, so she can eat it and seven more.

But I digress.

One fine day, they were fighting a house fire. As firemen do. It was his job to be on top of the house with a chainsaw, so that he could cut a hole in the roof. So far, this is all fine and good. He knows all about chainsaws, and at least he was out in the air and not in the house with the smoke.

But then his leg fell through the roof.

And then the chainsaw THAT WAS ON AND RUNNING skittered and fell – as a result of him losing his leg to the roof – down towards the earth. Skittered makes it sound all cute and jumpy, but someone could have lost everything. Don’t they make horror movies about the damage that a chainsaw can do? (By the way…I don’t need real answers or details here…I’d like to be able to sleep again sometime before my kids hit high school.)

This little one has no true idea what her daddy really does when he goes to the station, while she eats waffles and diapers her Lambchop.

She knows how to ask him the night before: What are you on tomorrow, Daddy?

She knows to tell people “He’s at the station,” when they ask where Daddy is.

(The “dishwasher safe” claim here would be way more exciting if we had a dishwasher.)

(Use crayons to draw trails on your highchair trays. Kids love it! Sponges hate it!)

But she doesn’t yet fully grasp what he’s doing, even as we pray at night for God to bring Daddy home safely and for him to have a slow night of good sleep.

(Yes, I took a picture of her very first skinned knee. What?)

There’s nothing quite like hearing: “I hope Daddy doesn’t have a lot of runs,” said in a tiny voice. Right now, it’s just Katie wanting to know when Daddy is coming home and can she sleep in my bed tonight and has Daddy left already? And looking forward to the notes he leaves under her door.

One day, they will fully know what being a firefighter is all about; until then, we will pray for sturdy roofs and chainsaws that miraculously run out of gas every five seconds.

19 February 2015

Misty, Muddy-Colored Memories

I think I have discovered why it’s so hard for people to organize and track their pictures and to keep up-to-date with scrapbooking: it’s heart-wrenching. It’s too painful. Just shove it in the closet, live in the now, and maybe your brain won’t think about what was.

Besides…the now is pretty sweet.

But the memory-keeping…it’s important. I think. I guess. I fluctuate so much. It used to be important to me to print out photo books with accurate and funny captions, but as things have become more digitized, I’ve changed my mind about that. I feel that, as long as they’re available online somewhere, then there’s really no need to print out photo books that will just sit on the shelf.

This could mostly be because I CANNOT KEEP UP. With the invention of the camera phone, I am overrun with pictures. There isn’t enough money in the world for me to put all of my pictures in albums, and how would I cull out and decide between pictures of the most beautiful babies in the world?

Canvases or framed pictures or fridge magnets? Absolutely. Those are on display. I feel that’s necessary.

But printing out those photo books is just one more piece of storage for your pictures that takes up so much room. Wasn’t the whole point of being able to save pictures online to keep you from having to print the pictures and save them all over your house?

A month or so ago, we rearranged some things in our closet, and I discovered about a dozen old photo albums from high school/college days. I strongly feel the need to scan all of those pictures, so that they can be properly saved and filed.

But then what do I want to do with the albums? We don’t have a place to store this stuff, and we don’t have a place to display it. Not without being overrun with clutter. I really want to shred them.

All the blood just rushed from my mother’s face.

The memory-stories I find myself telling Katie every time she asks for a story “out of real life” aren’t the ones I have pictures of, usually.

Like how on some Saturday mornings when I was little, all four of us would cram into Daddy’s old brown truck and ride to the sale barn together or to the feed store. No car seats, no booster seats…just four people wedged tight, trying to avoid the stick shift.

Those trips were still during the Jack & Jill days. Please note Katie wearing one of our old Jack & Jill t-shirts. It’s amazing how stories wrap back around and find themselves. When I was there, I’m sure no one thought about me coming back around and finding the owners’ own and marrying him and then having babies to wear my old t-shirts.

On Sunday, we all loaded up the ark and rode with Brady while he went on his usual round of cattle checking and feeding. When Beau was still just a few months old, this worked quite well: we all got out of the house and into the sun, we got time together, Beau slept in his seat, Katie was stimulated, and Mama didn’t have to lose her mind that day.

However.

Times are a-changing. He’s 9-months-old now, and guess what? Sleeping in that seat? Not interested. Not when we can barrel roll around onto our bellies the second the straps are unclipped. Not when we can push up on our toes and hang over onto Daddy’s console in the front seat. Where we throw/drop/heave toys, bottles, pacis, and socks.

One might wonder why we’re unclipping the straps at all, but when we park for the cattle feeding and checking, everybody gets a free pass from the loony bin. Seatbelts are unbuckled, and short people are allowed to roam about the Dodge. Chaos ensues.

At one point yesterday, Brady was back and forth into his seat, trying to hook up to a trailer. Beau was listening to himself talk, I was sweating and trying to hold him, and Katie was talking into a Sonic Wacky Pack toy microphone she’d found on the floor of the truck: “Daddy! Your door needs WD40!”

Are your ears bleeding? Mine were.

Oh, and the A/C broke right when we were getting in the truck to go. A smarter woman would have backed away slowly and crawled back into her house. At least with the baby.

But I’d already PACKED. We were dressed. Clean. In.

I told myself: “Self, it’ll be fine.”

It was hot, is what it was.

The baby didn’t nap, Katie started to get car sick, and Brady probably could have done without all the requests for bathroom breaks. But we did survive, and now I REALLY know that next time, the baby and I will be better off at home. At least for this season.

Wonder if I’ll listen to experience next time or just follow The Cowboy Fireman wherever he leads…even if it’s straight into disarray. Any bet-takers out there?

11 February 2015

Going 5th-Wheeling

One summer back in 2012, despite our inability to tan properly or to tolerate the heat (that’s just the womenfolk), my family decided to take the 5th wheels on a little vacation to the lake. And us with a 2-year-old! Thank you, you’re right: we’re heroes of the highest order.

She packed everything but the kitchen sink.

Traveling with short people adds a whole new dimension to vacations. Like I heard someone say once: it’s just working off site. So true. So true.

But the sight is always so sweet and so cute and so innocent. So far, anyway. She was 22 months here. The face is still the same at 4, but everything has expanded exponentially. Her legs spill out of her bed at night, her arms can reach the higher shelves in the fridge now, and her hair requires its own zip code. Country music singer hair, as we call it.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, despite how it looks. We went for a big boat ride on the lake, we went out in Brady’s john boat, we ate junk food when Katie wasn’t looking and ice cream and fruit when she was, we sweated, we applied sunscreen, and we swam in the pool.

I think that was my favorite part. Watching her daddy help her move around in the kiddy pool…her serious as Congress and him in his cowboy hat and 12-year-old swim trunks.

I know they’re 12-years-old, because he wore them to my apartment complex in 2000 when I was staying at University Commons in College Station, fresh into TAMU. A whole group of us gathered around the apartment complex pool after dark and swam and laughed and generally acted jovial. And there he was…just a friend then…sitting in the lounge chair in a straw hat and those swim trunks.

They have pictures of cotton bolls all over them. Which seems odd to me now….

As we bopped over the water at a reasonable speed, I watched how much fun my baby girl was having and thought to myself, “Why don’t we do this more often?” It was a brand new experience for her – and one she probably won’t remember, unfortunately – and an experience that I’ve always enjoyed.

Then, I remembered the detailed packing list it took me four days to put together, the five days of packing after she was in bed, the laundry that I had to keep current, the grocery and dry goods list for the trailer, the actual shopping for said items, the prepping of the house and animals to be gone for a full weekend, cleaning the travel trailer, stocking the travel trailer, loading the travel trailer, and biting my fingernails to the quick. Not to mention fashioning a tent for the baby’s pack-n-play in the upper level of the trailer, closthespinning blankets to it to keep the lights out, and duct taping the skylight closed because HELLO. Don’t.wake.the.baby.

Oh that’s right. THAT’S why we don’t travel.

But we’ll have the pictures to show her what she did and how much fun she had. We’ll have pictures of her sitting and contemplating with her daddy and pictures of her eating Gerber cheesy puffs with her cap on backwards.

The entire time I squatted next to her at the front of the boat so that she could watch the water and other boats fly by, I held on tight and tried not to imagine what would happen if she decided to jump ship. I kept planning what action steps I would take to rescue her and save ourselves.

Do other mamas do this, or am I the weirdest thing in freckles?

The day I smiled at Brady for this picture and held tight to my one and only offspring, I couldn’t have imagined our life three years later, with Beau in my arms, too. With Katie as a big sister, running to check on him every time he bangs his head on something and giving him a kiss. She wants to smother him with big sister love, and he wants to bat her off and laugh about it.

Brady Beau loves the water. Bath time is monumental, to say the least. She always calmly enjoyed the warm water; he has taken it as his personal mission to wet every surface in the bathroom. As he romped and splashed last night, Katie quipped: “Brother, you don’t have to be so cowboy-ish in the tub!”

I die.

I don’t know where she comes up with this stuff, but I love it. She says she gets it from her Tupperware, while pointing at her head.

School is supposed to be starting soon for her…only about six more months. (Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe….) She randomly told me the other day: “Mama, I’m really gonna miss you when I’m at school.”

Then, through my inner panic, I heard her say: “And Beau is really gonna miss ME when I’m in school!”

Great. I hadn’t thought of that possibility yet. I’m always grateful for something else to worry about.

All in all, it was a really fun little vacation, and travelling with her made it fun and exciting in a new way. And as we pulled into the driveway late that Sunday afternoon, I seriously considered selling the entire trailer and all of its contents, as is, just so I wouldn’t have to unpack it.

10 December 2014

A Door, A Couch, A Kid

Welcome to another episode of this old house. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

This is a picture of my mama and her giant baby doll in her living room as a little girl, the living room of my maternal grandparents’ house, and MY current living room. That little brown rocking chair by the front door is the same one that’s in my parents’ living room right now; the one that Katie scoots up to the coffee table when she wants to sit and play or eat a snack in the middle of the action. If you look to the left, there’s a little round suitcase – it’s blue in real life – with the hinges facing the camera. It’s round. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and Lesley and I stored our baby doll clothes in that little suitcase. I can picture it now…all crammed in there and begging for oxygen.

Is that not the biggest baby doll ever? Steak and potatoes all the way for that one.

And here it is today. Well, this is what it looks like today, but those people are from about two years ago. It was tricky to find an accurate picture from just the right angle. That’s a very tired cowboy fireman on that couch. He started out trying very hard to watch Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse with his best baby girl that morning, but the sleep took no prisoners.

I dug back in the archives and found this little gem from 2010. The walls were stripped, the old door was out, and construction was in full force. Except for breaks to eat Lays potato chips, because HEY. We’re only hungry humans. No furniture here, no comfort, and no homey feeling.

I apologize for this picture. This was taken with an old cell phone, and it’s about the size of the top of a needle. If you lean forward and put your squinty eyes on, you can see that the new, red door is in with all the trimmings, the curtains are hung, the furniture was just thrown in haphazardly, and the flea circus T.V. is plugged in next to the DVD player. In the middle of the coffee table.

For starters, this has to be one of the hardest living rooms to arrange around. It’s small, a long rectangle, and it has FOUR doors leading into it. Yes. Four. One for each family member. The front door, the door to Katie’s bedroom, a doorway into the dining room, and another doorway into the kitchen. There used to be a doorway into the master bedroom in the only door-less wall, but we closed it up, because if we didn’t, it would be the first room with more ways in and out than actual walls to hang a picture on. It was just all these little necessary slivers of wall, just wide enough for a light switch.

It took us months to figure out a furniture placement, but in the meantime, I had a newborn baby and really needed to be able to watch I Love Lucy DVDs while watching her not sleep in the middle of the night and while watching her sleep in the middle of the day.

It was like Christmas Day for all of us when the cable T.V. got hooked up and functional.

Here’s Katie Jane, a few years younger than my mama in the first picture, lying in the couch by the front door. She tucked herself in with her Belle Barbie. When she was little, I’d get so excited that she would lie down and nap or fall asleep in these circumstances, but I figured out really quickly that this would ALWAYS only last 60 seconds, after which time she would leap up and say, “Oh! I waked up! Good morning!”

Yes. That.

And just because there weren’t enough pictures yet full of red doors, red curtains, and almost red leather (let’s work on that), here’s one Brady and I tried to take of ourselves with the camera timer set in December of 2010, after Katie was in bed for the night. It sorta worked. I’m loopy from the baby keeping me up, and he’s loopy from the fire academy keeping him up.

Why does everyone want us awake?

It’s a wonder we kept any of us alive.

So here’s the side-by-side. I guess if I went all out, I could have Katie dress up, sit up, and hold my mama’s giant baby doll, because you know she still has it, but quite frankly, I just don’t have the energy. I’m gonna call this good enough.

Here’s to history repeating itself.

17 October 2014

What I Wanna Know

I’ll tell you what I wanna know…what happened to my tiny toddler girl? She’s four now, and she’s so independent. She’s so grown up and doing so much by herself. I know some of it has been accelerated because of her brother’s arrival, but she was on the cusp of so much of it already, before he got here.

She had a dental check-up a couple of days ago, and it was the first visit where they used the electric tools on her and took x-rays. She took it all like a seasoned professional. Just stoically nodding yes to the hygienist and staying put in the dental chair with her pink sunglasses on her face.

We never wore sunglasses at the dentist’s office when I was little to block that glaring light. But then again, we didn’t watch a T.V. on the ceiling, either. Instead, I stared into the mouth of Dr. Wade’s trusty hygienist for years on end. She had a haircut like Janet on “Three’s Company” and wore yellowed glasses the size of binoculars. I knew exactly which of her front teeth had a chip.

I found this ironic for a dental hygienist. I probably would have preferred staring at cartoons.

How about that look? I can already hear my mother, my sister, and my husband: Gee…wonder where she gets those cutting eyes, MAMA. Yah, yah…I hear ya’. I’ll work on it. But maybe it’s hereditary.

Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

As I scroll through pictures from the past, when she was so tiny and barely able to walk around by herself, I wonder at my reactions. I’m really lucky to have a sister that shows up with a camera attached to her eyeball and takes pictures of our people and shares them with me. Especially when I hound her mercilessly for days to please send me the pictures and videos already!

If I’m not careful, she’ll quit on me altogether.

Anyway…I’m lucky to be in a good bit of the pictures, since Lesley is taking them for us most of the time. I see me watching my girl and looking at my girl. In a lot of them, I look very happy or elated or content or enthralled. In some of them, though, I look…well, normal.

I look entirely too normal. Untouched. Unaffected.

Too “this is every day and what of it?”

It seems so wrong to me now, looking back. Shouldn’t I have been over the moon in every picture? I didn’t know what I had standing right there in front of me. It’s amazing, really. I’m glad I’m able to appreciate it all now for what it was. Not that I wasn’t appreciating it then, but that’s just life. I’m sure if I was eating chocolate strawberry tarts from Christopher’s every day for breakfast, I’d eventually want to throw chocolate strawberry tarts under the nearest 18-wheeler and pick up a piece of toast, but since I don’t have them every day for breakfast, I start drooling just hearing a mention of them or passing by the restaurant.

*****

The top two pictures are from the buckle ceremony of her winter rodeo series. It was sponsored through the Grimes County Cowboy Church, so right after that Sunday morning’s church service, they presented all of the kids with their buckles or prizes. She was so proud to walk up there with her daddy and get her buckle.

Once we got back home, it was naptime…or, as evidenced on this day, Sing Naked in Your Crib Time.

I wish I knew how to put a video on here, so that all the world could hear this sweet babe singing “The Old Gray Mare.”

She ain’t what she used to be, you know.

The mare…not the baby.

Although, it fits: the baby ain’t what she used to be, either. She’s more. So much more.

25 September 2014

Snow White: The Toddler Years

This is my mother. Aged young. A few things stand out in this picture: the freckles, the black hair, and the whacked bangs. I really want to know if she cut them herself before school picture day, or did my grandma do that to her?

Mama…if you’re reading…comment, please!

She doesn’t look much older than my Katie in this picture. And now the little girl in this picture takes care of MY little girl. The little girl in this picture never could have imagined a blonde-headed little granddaughter that she’d eventually care for nearly every week day.

My mama – and her two older sisters – grew up in the same house that I live in with my family now. Her bedroom was Katie’s current bedroom. It all looks a little different now, but the shell is still the same. Can you imagine…two little kids laid in that same room, looking at the same ceiling…and now they spend their days together in that same house.

Mama always tells stories about when she was little and how much she helped her daddy, my grandpa. It’s sometimes hard for me to imagine my quiet, sweet mother hunting rabbits and feeding bobcats and working cows and beheading chickens and castrating sheep.

When she was little, as the youngest of three children, she was often used as a toy, I believe. One of their favorite stories to tell is of the time they had a box big enough for Patsy Jane – my mama – to fit in, so they had her sit in it, and they pulled her all over the house. She lost count of how many times her head was banged into a wall as they turned a corner too fast.

One time, my grandpa caught a bobcat. They kept it in a cage for a while, which meant they had to feed it. So my mama went out and hunted small rabbits to feed it. She soon discovered, however, that it wouldn’t eat an animal that had already been “killed” by a trap, so she’d tie a string to the dead rabbit and pull it a little, so that the bobcat would think it was alive and “kill it” himself.

Those country days were a little more REAL, I think.

Although maybe not. After all, I could never imagine my girl baby helping to clean dove after one of Brady’s hunts, but that’s exactly what happened. All four of us were at my family’s place, and he hunted while we swam. She rode home with him that night, and he immediately started cleaning his birds. She hung around for the action and even asked if she could TOUCH THE MEAT. Maybe because we just had dove for supper a few nights earlier, or maybe because she’s rough and tough, or maybe because kids are just naturally so curious, or maybe because kids are just gross.

Whatever the case, she touched it, and then she helped Daddy feed the wings to Rosie the Cat.

So I guess it’s gettin’ a little real over here, too.

09 September 2014

Just Another Donkey Day

Five or six years ago, Brady went on a trip to Montana. The same Montana where we went on our honeymoon two years before that. And he went without me. To our honeymoon state that I love.

Hey…I’m as shocked as you are.

He went to help one of his good friends, Jess, work cattle. It’s not so much that Jess needed the extra help as it was for the experience. Brady and another guy flew to Montana and then made the hours long drive to the middle of nowhere, where Jess’s family ranch is located.

This is a different Montana than what we saw on our honeymoon. On our honeymoon, we were surrounded by impressive mountains. Mountains that no one would ever call a hill in error.

Side note: it always kind of irks me when I hear people call the hills of Texas mountains. Those are not mountains. Mountains, to me, are bigger than life and often snow-capped…the kind you can’t see the top of out the side window of your car unless you roll your window down and lean your head out the side, puppy-style. Their summits get lost in clouds, and it always looks like the road you’re driving on is going to drive you straight into the side of one, but you never quite reach it….

I wasn’t there, but it seems to me that this experience must have been straight out of a Lois L ‘Amour western. It was just the cowboys, the horses, the cows, and the open plains. They gathered the animals in, processed and branded them, and then filtered them back out into The Big.

They were there in June, but I’m told the weather was perfect and pleasant; and if you’re wondering how I can remember so clearly the time of year, it’s because he was gone over our anniversary.

That’s right. He went to our honeymoon state without me. On our wedding anniversary.

But he did bring me back some beautiful jewelry to make up for it…though I didn’t need it. Truly, I was happy he got to go and experience the Montana side of cowboying.

At least, I felt that way until I had to handle all of his animals by myself, in his absence. Basically, it was just hot and grueling getting them all fed and watered every day. Until the Day of the Donkey happened. I think every bad day I have from here on end is going to be called The Day of the Donkey.

We had this donkey named Dinky - this already sounds like a children’s book – that Brady used to train his horses for tracking and roping…that sorta thing. Dinky was snow-white. Well, at least he would have been if he wasn’t covered in dirt and mud and burrs from running wild in Piedmont.

So while Brady is gone, states away (on our anniversary, in our honeymoon state), Dinky gets OUT. LOOSE. FREE. As in no longer penned.

It is now my job to put the donkey back in the pen in the heat of the day in the bald sun out in the middle of the biggest open pasture. Also, I was in dress clothes. Why am I always dressy when this happens?

This time, I was dressy because I was going with my in-laws all the way to Arkansas for my first nephew’s dedication. All of this ACTIVITY happened about one hour before we were scheduled to pull out of their driveway. Because WHAT BETTER TIME.

There I was, dressed to the 8 ½s, trying to pull a dirty donkey with a lead rope across the pasture, getting soaked in sweat. First, I cajoled. Then, I tempted with feed. Then, I prayed and pleaded. Then, I cursed the situation as politely as possible – hey, I’m only human.

AND HE MOVED! Guess I was speaking his language. He actually started to move forward, all the while giving me the stink eye. I’m not kidding you, we got about two yards from the gate, and he STOPPED.

Then, he grinned and lit a cigarette.

After he watched me cry for a while, he finally crossed the last two yards and went back in the pen. But just barely. I had to put all my weight into the gate to get it to close on his behind, which he refused to suck in. Then, I drug my sweaty and sunburned self to my in-laws, so that I could make a really good impression on our first road trip, just us.

Yah. So anyway. Montana. Love it.

I love this Piedmont, too, but only when it’s donkey-free.

30 August 2014

The Happiest Mug Shot You Ever Did See

Many times during our years together, I have been immensely proud of my husband. When he’s attempted risky business ventures, when he went back to school, when he graduated from TAMU, the day we got married, whenever I see the projects he’s welded, every time I get to introduce him as mine, and every time I watch him being a daddy.

And most especially when he finished the grueling task of becoming a Houston firefighter. It’s still hard for me to swallow some of the physical demands and literal fires they were forced to go through. And the running. My word, the running. They all ran so much and so far and so long, there was nothing left but bone, sinew, and muscle.

Brady ran his mustache smooth off.

They got up in the dark every day. They had to live in close proximity to the training academy, which meant being away from home five days a week, every week, for almost eight months. They had to eat a lot of bananas to keep from doubling over with muscle cramps. They had to run around the globe 700 times. They had to hurry up for everything. They had to read half a dozen textbooks. They had to take a written test EVERY SINGLE DAY. They had to drink stock tanks of water and Gatorade. They had to walk into things on fire on purpose. They had to climb seven story buildings and then repel their bodies down them from ropes from the outside.

And I don’t even know what else.

I can vividly remember the first time we went to the academy for an informational meeting. Spouses were encouraged to attend. Probably because they knew that our lives would be changing forever, too. They warned them about all the running and mentioned that yes, they would indeed be climbing that tower outside and that yes, they would indeed be setting all those train cars on fire.

I sat in that folding chair and got knots in my stomach. It didn’t seem to bother Lee Majors sitting next to me.

The mustache-less picture of him is from their graduation program. What an exciting weekend that was. They all wore their dress uniforms, and he walked across the stage and got a BADGE. A badge. Katie and I got to go on stage with him during the pinning, and you know what sister did? She wailed. I think I’ve written about that before….

He’s at the station today, as a matter of fact. A while back, I signed up for these text messages from a Houston news station. This way, every time there’s a big fire or something related to the fire department, I get a text message and can start sweating before I ever even hear from him. Nifty, huh?

They sent a text today that said: WATCH LIVE. Firefighters battle warehouse fire in South Houston.

Watch live? No, thanks.

I sent Brady a text: “Does this involve you?”

His response was just a picture of him in full gear with a smoked out warehouse behind his left shoulder.

I guess that was a yes.

I’ve had several people ask: doesn’t this scare you? Don’t you worry? Well, not unless someone asks me that, and then I start to think about it. Or if something tragic happens to another firefighter, of course. The rest of the time, mercifully, I am half asleep. Ha. I’m kidding. Kind of. Except not really at all.

I’m so used to him doing this sort of thing. As his friend Jeff says, “shaking hands with danger.” Getting on unbroken horses, welding from a hundred feet up, wrestling hogs…now he just gets paid to shake hands with danger.

Knowing that the fire department would never send the guys into a potentially dangerous situation unless it was absolutely necessary helps a lot, but ultimately, it’s because I trust him. I trust him not to do anything foolish. I trust him to use his brains. I trust his confidence and his toughness…both mental and physical.

I’m kind of surprised at myself. Of all the random things I worry about…not this? God only knows. I worry that the clutter in my house is worse than I think, but I don’t realize it, because it’s been such a gradual progression. I worry that I’ll never get to sleep or take a leisurely bath again. I worry that my teeth feel funny because of all the Coke I drink to stay upright. I worry I’ll have to switch to coffee when the Coke completely stops working. I worry that I won’t be able to put my Christmas decorations up with two kids under foot.

I worry that I’m nuts and someone will read this and suggest I be committed.

Back when I was pregnant and Brady was in the academy, I would sometimes go down to where he was staying in the travel trailer on a week night and stay with him until the next morning. We’d eat supper together, and then I’d quiz him for his test the next day. Then he would collapse into a deep sleep, and I would sit there looking at my fat ankles, worried that I’d oversleep the next morning and not make it to work a couple of hours away on time.

And then I’d worry that if I stopped at a Sonic too close to Houston for breakfast on my way, I’d have to use the bathroom before I got to work. But if I waited too long, I’d be close enough to just forget stopping altogether and arrive at work starving with no food in sight until lunch.

Yes, I bet strait jackets are kind of cozy.

In any case, the warehouse fire got put out, and the nice ladies that dance in the night from next door to the warehouse bought them all chicken sandwiches from Jack in the Box.

That’s about the most family-rated way I can think of to relay that certain piece of information.

He got home, he was tired, and then he got back up the next morning at 3 AM to do it all again. Here’s hoping today is completely void of any overzealous text message from Click 2 Houston.

24 August 2014

Quote of the Day

“My absolute favorite thing about today was all the stickering.”

~ Overheard from a 4-year-old with a new sticker book and lots of time on her hands.

Katie: not at 4-years-old, but at LOOK AT ALL THE CUTE-years-old

06 August 2014

He's Sprung a Leak

We’ve busted out the first bib over here! Not because we’re eating real foods…no, we’re only just 3 months, but because we are DROO-LING! Is it too early for teeth? Who knows? Every baby is so different. All I know is that we both come away sopping wet when I hand him to Daddy or put him in the bouncy seat.

Teething. There’s something to look forward to.

Which reminds me:

For the first four months of Katie’s life, she went to daycare. Part of the daycare experience was writing a letter to Santa to be published in the local paper. Obviously, at four months, she simply didn’t have the hand strength to write out her whole letter, only the “Dear Santa” part, so I helped fill the gaps. She was teething heavily at the time, and all I could think about was Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I’m so glad we all survived her teething…only to watch them all fall out here in a year or so. Does this seem like a lot of wasted energy to anyone else?

Speaking of wasted things, I’d like to bring up wasted resources: gifts, presents, etc. Shopping and buying cute pink things and plastic parts and battery-operated bunnies. It’s all useless, really. Our girl has a room full of toys and Barbie sets and ranch parts and enough horses for The Man from Snowy River’s modern remake. And really, who are we kidding: this stuff is not relegated to her room. It’s spilling out into the dining room, kitchen, and living room, too. Not to mention the bathroom. Nothing like finding a box of princess puzzles perched on the edge of the tub.

Although that’s really no more surprising than finding our whole family in the bathroom together at any given moment. It usually goes down the same way: Daddy is in the shower, and baby girl has to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. When a toddler says RIGHT NOW, you know that actually means 5 minutes ago, so everybody moves like lightning. So he’s behind the shower curtain, she’s on the throne, and I’m standing there holding the baby, in case she needs assistance. This is when I usually look around and realize that our entire family is in the bathroom together. Again.

The family that bathrooms together stays together, right? Somebody print up a t-shirt….

Anyway, when I got home from the grocery store yesterday, did she choose any one of those pink or plastic toys to play with? No. No, she didn’t. She played with red Solo cups and cotton balls. You heard me. She made an oven out of the cups to roast her marshmallows (cotton balls). So this year, for her birthday, I’m buying her Scotch tape, paper towels, and toilet paper.

She’s gonna love it.

The trick about it is you have to be really, super duper careful about what you throw away, because you never know if it’s actually a used toilet paper roll that belongs in the garbage or a telescope that’s meant for hunting Baby Redbird. And people, that is not a mistake you want to make. Trust me.

So for those near and dear to her preparing for her birthday, just bag up all the shiny stuff from your junk drawers. It’ll really get her creative juices flowing!

She’s gonna love that, too. Because really, she’s always happy, and she’s always excited for everything. Except Brother’s drool: “Bro, you smell like milk.”

02 August 2014

This Day Last Year

So. It’s August 1st.

I’ve been back in the Real World for about five days now. It feels a little bit like being dragged behind the back of a speeding boat…but without skis or a bathing suit. And I don’t know how to water ski.

I’m trying to hang on; if I let go, there will be a giant splash and flailing and breaking of limbs and possible drowning, right? However, once the hullabaloo is over, it’ll be all peaceful floating. So maybe the crash is worth it sometimes.

*****

Today marks my seven year anniversary at my place of employment. Thirteen years in the business total. The business that I never knew about or aspired to but that just showed up on my doorstep.

Daisies from Brady, because they’re my favorite. How common of me, right?

I don’t remember the occasion…birthday, perhaps? They weren’t apology flowers, as the guys in my office like to joke. We don’t really “do” apology flowers. Flowers for birthdays and for Stacey typing Brady’s homework while back at A&M? Yes, we do those kinds.

This day last year, I was celebrating my six year work anniversary. More monumentally, however, Brady and I had just decided to have another baby, God willing. We were sitting in a booth at the Chappell Hill bakery after a doctor’s appointment I had in Houston. We took the whole day together. The day was supposed to be all about that doctor’s appointment, but it ended up being all about that booth in the bakery and the Homemade in the Shade ice cream I ate after our lunch.

I’ve been buying that ice cream and inhaling it ever since. It’s the perfect blend of chocolate and vanilla, you know? Too much vanilla and I’d have to add syrup. Too much chocolate, and Brady and Katie wouldn’t eat it. Of course, that might be good news for me….

We kinda said that day it was now or never, if we were going to go for two instead of one. We listed all the pros and cons and ultimately decided that we wanted Katie to have someone. A Forever in Her Life to Support and Love Each Other Someone. Like Brady and I have in ours.

I know siblings don’t always get along, but a lot of the time they do. And a lot of the time, they really like each other. At least once they don’t live in the same house together.

Yes, I do always take pictures of the flowers I get, because they’re so beautiful and vibrant. They need acknowledgement. Also, I like to send a picture of the flowers I got to whoever sent them with my thanks, so they can see how pretty they turned out.

In any case, not to get too personal (I could get kicked off the internet for that statement.), but a week later, we were on our way to our new normal. That seems like so long ago. Is a year long? From words in a booth to a soul and a beating heart in one year: maybe a year is short.

Beau is here now. A boy. We feel like we’ve won the baby lottery over here, and I kind of always knew there would be a Beau in my life. Before Katie was born, we chose that name in case it was a boy. And here he is, almost four years later. He’ll be three months on August 8th, and he’s slept for 7 ½ hours the last two nights in a row. Of course, I’m guessing that streak is over now, what with all this typing about how I would really be relishing that sweet sleep if not for my husband’s nutty schedule that’s waking me up instead.

Waking up at 3 AM, leaving for the station at 4 AM, leaving at 5 AM to haul dogs across the country named Texas to get to El Paso. That sort of thing.

Are these quality photos, or what? These kind of gave me a roaring headache. We’ll just stick with daisies and wildflowers/weeds from the pasture, I think.

Everything is going well, and I plan to write more about Beau’s birth and my maternity leave soon, for posterity. I’m missing my babies like I’m missing a limb, I’m enjoying the return to a routine and a schedule, I’m grateful for my Wednesdays off, and I hope I can figure out how to give them both all the love and attention they need and desire. I hope it’s possible. I pray it is.

Brady is tired and working hard every day, but he’s having more fun than a barrel of pickles (as Katie says) with both kids. Katie loves her brother and thinks we need one more, so that she has “one to love on while Mama feeds Beau.” In case you’re wondering, I’ve told her to find a pony to love, because our house and family are full. And Brady Beau is smiling his big, toothless smile and grunting and drooling and blowing spit bubbles and generally being a piece of Heaven on Earth.

So, August 1st seems to be a good time of year. Here’s to seeing what 2015 has in store….

30 April 2014

Seven Words are Worth a Thousand Panic Attacks

“I don’t see her in her bed.”

How many times have I texted that to Brady in the last week or so? A handful. Remember the move to the big girl bed?

Well, I ended up having to move the video monitor onto the bathroom counter, so that I couldn’t see it from our room.

Because an addiction was forming.

I couldn’t stop looking at the screen. Right after we put her to bed, right before I went to bed, while I was doing stuff in our room, falling asleep, middle of the night… Not to mention that I kept having to unplug it to take it into the bathroom with me when I was home alone and going for a bath or a shower.

So when I do go in there and look at it and don’t see her: “I don’t see her in her bed.”

Where IS she?!

Usually, she’s either so buried in covers and flattened that I can’t discern her. Or she’s at the foot of the bed, all scrunched up, and lost. Or she’s on the rug in front of her bed, where the monitor doesn’t reach, or on the pallet that Brady or I may have made that night to camp out ‘til she fell asleep.

It’s a roll of the dice, really.

Of course, nothing is spookier than not seeing her, texting him (like what’s he gonna do all the way from the station?), and turning back to the monitor a few seconds later, and THERE SHE IS.

She’s doing this to me on purpose.

18 April 2014

My, How Times Have Changed

This is the very first Christmas card that Brady and I sent out, as husband and wife, six months after we were married.

Look at his grin. I know I’ve talked of this grin before, but come on. I think you can see why I can’t let sleeping dogs lie. When I think of my husband, I think grin, cowboy hat, sunflower eyes, a truck full of tools, big hands, and horse tack. Mostly because this needs to be rated G for Grandmas, little Girls named Katie, and Grandpas who might read this sometimes.

We both look a little older, a little more worn, and a little chubbier these days. (Just kidding, babe…and I’m pregnant, not chubby. Ha!) Not to mention the gray hair. On him, it looks quite distinguished and refined. I’m kind of diggin’ it. On me? Well, on me, it looks like stripes, and I’m wondering how long I can limp it until I become a regular in the Clairol aisle at Target.

And I might add that I’ve never colored my hair, so it’ll probably shrivel up and fall out with the first drip of color.

*****

This morning, about 1:00 AM, Katie woke up crying. My husband hopped up out of bed so fast, I thought he might have rocket boosters in his shorts. Then, I got confused, because he NEVER gets out of bed that fast when the baby wakes up. (We’re all picturing a 3-month-old, not a 3 ½-year-old, aren’t we?)

As I listened to them discuss through the monitor, I heard him calm her down, I heard the crying stop, and I heard her telling him about how her feet hurt. It’s been a couple of weeks since she’s woken up with issues; either she’s going through growing pains, or her feet are falling asleep because of the frog-like position she sleeps in…not sure which.

They had some back and forth, and then I hear: “Why don’t you just send Mama in here? And can you ask her to bring me a rag?”

A little diplomat at 1:00 AM.

When I got in her room, we cuddled for a bit, I rubbed her feet, and then she started to fall asleep. But not before asking, “Mama, can Brother hear all this?”

“Yes, I imagine he can.”

I told her I’d lay by her bed for a while, in case she needed me, and she got very quiet. After about five minutes, her voice shocked the darkness and gave me heart palpitations: “I love you. That’s what I need you for.”

And BOOM. I’m done for. There’s no way I can ever leave her room for the comfort of a bed – not even at 8 ½ months pregnant – after words like that. I went ahead and got comfy for the rest of the night, right there on the floor next to her bed.

About three hours later, I wake up to the feeling of something putting pressure on me. You might think it was the baby in my belly, but no…it was the baby on my side. She’d somehow slid out of the end of her toddler bed in her sleep and ended up with her head resting on the side of my pregnant belly, her bottom in the crack between me and her bed, and her legs still up on the bed.

Who can sleep like this?

Her daddy can, that’s for sure. That man can fall asleep anywhere. And these days, I bet I could, too. Gimme a rocky slab of concrete and instant drool.

I tried to maneuver out from under her, but she foiled me and ended up long ways against me, cuddling my arm. I could have slept like that all night, except – again – I’m over 8 months pregnant and CONSTANT TRIPS TO THE BATHROOM.

So I had to extract myself and put her back in her bed. In her half sleep, during this circus act, she whispers, “Watch that belly, now.”

What do you know?

A comedian, even in her sleep.

15 April 2014

Back to the Old Stuff

So. I’m gonna start by posting an update to my review of Jane Austen’s “Emma.” It’s possible – only maybe – that I spoke too soon. You see, I’ve finally finished the silent movie, but I’m still not done with the book, and I have to admit: the last third of the movie is very good. The romance and anticipation just draws you right in to their world.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t rewatch the movie just to get to the good part at the end, but I’m glad I watched it all the way through and experienced the ending at least once. Here’s hoping the ending of the book brings the same happy conclusion.

Anyway, nothing Earth-shattering here; just thought I ought to update that it wasn’t all slowness and requests for hearing aids while watching the movie.

And speaking of old things and writing,

please take a look at this recipe for wine. What kind of wine, I’m not 100% sure. And maybe it’s not even wine. It’s from an older gentleman that my husband was acquainted with that may or may not take untoward amounts of pleasure in pulling peoples’ legs.

But can you imagine if all of our recipe exchanges took place on 2x4 scraps?

That’s a bulky purse right there.

I can just see us walking around Brookshire’s with a 2x4 propped on the handles of the grocery cart, as we assemble our ingredients.

Want to exchange a recipe? Let’s meet at the backyard fence. So that we can saw off a piece of timber….

Just wanted to save an image of this recipe for posterity, in case we accidentally use it to start a bonfire and lose it altogether.