I’ve got 5 angry red claw marks running down my shoulder. I’d forgotten about them til water hit ’em, but they are the raised, welty kind that sting and aren’t going away anytime soon. I suppose they were to be expected, considering I’d spent my free time today blow drying the business end of one surprisingly soggy rabbit with my hair dryer. Manchild’s white rabbit, Hops, has been having a bit of a personal problem with her back door grooming, and it has resulted in some clumping of debris. I’d been cutting it off all year, but since I scraped her tail skin with my scissors yesterday I informed Manchild today that she needs a good soaking. Thankfully, this rabbit has had several Fairs under her belt and is quite familiar with the sink. So long as we keep the water low and specific to the back end, she tolerates us and doesn’t up and die (some do).
Seeing as how I am now full time employed, the task of supervising the rabbit washing fell to my husband. Both Schenanigans men did a great job! But outdoor rabbits take forever to dry, and after sitting in the foyer all day on her wet bits, I knew this was getting us no where. Moments later I was standing in the bathroom, watching clumps of rabbit hair stick to my shirt and smelling the tantalizing odor of warmed wet bunny butt, while contemplating my life choices. I certainly did not miss getting this white rabbit ready for the Fair in 2020, and since Manchild is a 4-H drop out (he found his people among the Cub Scouts), this should be my last time blow-drying this rabbit. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!
Being that it is February in Maryland, and the weather is somewhere in the 30’s, I made sure Hops was good and dry before a quick trim of her nails and then sending her back out to her hutch with Manchild. Manchild is actually a rabbitlord. He rents Hops to his sister. What does she pay? She has to feed and water the rabbit daily. What does she gain? Unlimited access to Hops whenever she wants to show her to friends or visitors (Girlchild has two HUGE rabbits that are harder for little kids to carry). It’s kind of a brilliant arrangement, since Girlchild has to be outside every morning to feed her own rabbits, and Manchild sucked at daily bunny care. Everyone wins here, especially Hops (who likes to eat daily).
However, this week Girlchild is on vacation. I don’t know if she got tired of us, the scenery inside these walls, or a combo platter of the two, but she arranged a 3 day getaway at my mom’s house and took her school tablet with her. She’s living the only child dream life at her grandparents, and periodically calling to tell us the last meal she ate, or what they baked, or how late she stayed up. The girl looks totally happy on our calls, and I’m a little jealous I didn’t think of it first!
But someone has to keep the home fires from burning stuff, and with Captain Schenanigans going out of state for work this week and next, and my new job keeping me hopping convincing patients I am not a telemarketer, it’s hardly vacation season over here. I’m glad Girlchild had a chance to miss us and regroup with her introverted little self. Everyone deserves a little spoiling now and then, and virtual school is the perfect time to do it! Manchild wouldn’t leave my side if you pried him with a pointy stick (thank you very much Covid), so at least one kid is taking advantage of the situation!
Did I mention she’s coming home with CUPCAKES?! A definite bonus to vacationing with Grandma. You don’t get that kind of service with AirBnB! I know she misses me, but that’s good for her. Everyone should get a chance to be homesick once in a while. Helps you grow and gain some perspective, dare I suggest appreciate the mama God gave you. Also helps that mama ease into the idea of a little more space in between. An idea she’s not too keen on, either. But for now, baby steps towards adulthood are big enough for us. I’m looking forward to welcoming my girl (and her cupcakes) back home again and into our fold. While she may grow big and leave one day (or even return to a classroom everyday), today is not that day. While we all resisted that first month, I gotta say, I kinda like my Covid lifestyle. And rotating personal vacations is not the worst idea I’ve ever heard… 🙂
So I’m officially a full time employee again, for the first time in ten years! It’s a remote gig, so I get to work from home in my own little basement office (which I happily share with the camping gear, holidays decorations, and one efficient little sump pump). It’s a bit low on light, and the cat periodically comes in to hunt for mice in the storage space behind me, but it’s better than the card table beside my bed that I had been using, so I’ll take it!
I was super excited about my $4 thrift store find of a Grandmother clock! It chimes on the hour and keeps time beautifully. SO FUN! Unfortunately, when you orient to a new job during Covid, you do a crap ton of Zoom calls. Fun fact, Zoom calls and Grandmother clocks (let’s throw in sump pumps while we’re at it) do not mix well at all! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to lunge for my mic button in the midst of a conversation at the top of the hour, or on a particularly rainy day. The chimes are clearly audible through the mic (I’ve asked) and while I did post this pic on Facebook, NOT.ONE.PERSON. pointed out the error of my ways. C’mon hive mind, you’re letting me down!
But life is all about adjustments, and this season is no different. I can not tell you how many times I have opened my door to find both kids and the family dog lined up outside my office, each with a laundry list of needs, complaints, and general grievances. As if their father were not completely available upstairs. As if all problems were somehow assigned to the mother of the household, dontcha know?
But the line up was short lived, at least for Grover dog, who quickly found out that the door knob to my office was installed backwards by the previous owner. This means that one swift shove by nose or by paw, and that door swings open wide with no regard for who’s doing what on the other side. This is how one black and white house cow crashed my one-on-one meeting with the CEO of our company! Yeah, good times. He just wanted to be closer to mom… and maybe my portable radiator.
As per our usual method of operation, we pulled this office together with limited cash output. We had the table, Native table cover, and radiator already. I bought a small second hand table lamp for $3 at Savers, some dollar store cactus decorations, and snagged a used office chair my neighbor was giving away. My kids made me art, and the small silver framed picture of my Beloved is a favor from our wedding thirteen years ago!
Things have been chugging right along, I’m over the hardest part of orientation and am closing in on becoming independent in my work load. This is a pretty crucial part of the nurse case management learning curve. I was starting to get my footing with this position, and feeling a pretty good about it all.
Manchild came down to visit me this week while Captain Schenanigans was virtually meeting with the school board about home schooling. I welcomed him to my corner of the house, then tilted back on my hand-me-down desk chair and thought again that despite having no arm rests, I was thankful it reclined. Actually, it does not. In the blink of an eye I was bottoms over tea kettle due to my broken chair deciding it was finished providing services. As I fell over backwards, my son’s eyes went HUGE and my foot kicked over the radiator. Manchild jumped back, fairly certain the entire house was now going to engulf in flames and we’d end up living in the barn. Thankfully, kerosene heaters are merely a childhood memory of my grandmother’s house to me, and this very safe radiator only needed to be set up right and we were back in business. So long as I liked standing.
Since the day I started this new job, by the time my work day ends I am mind numbingly blasted. Add to that the fact that it’s cold outside. It’s usually dark. I am generally hangry after work, and I’m not interested in going anywhere when the day ends! This makes obtaining a new desk chair (and finding energy to blog), kinda difficult. But you know who does have a sporadically used, super lovely, comfy desk chair? Captain Schenanigans, Manchild’s full time homeschool teacher! Now Captain has launched his own AV company, CMD Technology, for which he does use his office. But not during daylight hours what with his child education side hustle. SOooooo… now we have joint custody of the chair. Today is my day with the chair, and I am happily enjoying every bit of these arm rests and squishy seating. It’s like a throne for professionals. I feel like such a grown up!
In my defense, I did check one store in person for a chair, of which they had one sad little armless model that was cheaply made and had no lumbar support, sitting alone in a box on the shelf. No, thanks. I hesitate to order online without testing a chair (not to mention it would take 6 months to get here with our sloth-speed mail service these days), but am starting to see no alternatives. Second hand office chairs are usually mostly broken, and I need something for the long haul. This is just one more thing on the long growing list of stuff that will have to get done “sometime” since I’ve started working full time. Committing to 40 hours a week away from your life really does take a chunk out of your “getting stuff done” time. I’m still not quite sure how the rest of the world does it!
As for the remainder of my chair, well, we’re not exactly fill-up-the-landfill kinda people, and believed there was still more to be done with the parts. And by we, I mean Manchild. Once he spied that broken seat he called dibs and launched into orbit by sitting in it with his knees in the air and his back on the floor, full on astronaut style. Manchild was instantly the pilot of his very own space ship of one. Later in the day I found him using it as a gaming chair while doing spelling games on the tablet. This morning there were fights as Girlchild wanted a turn in the broken chair, and Manchild was not sharing. Seriously, fighting like junkyard dogs over broken furniture, this is what we’ve come to? Apparently, yes. So Commander Girlchild got a wooden folding chair, laid it on it’s back on the ground, and commanded her own spaceship. Because she could. Because she’s Girlchild.
I did try to throw out the remainder of the stand and wheel base of the chair, but again was met with resistance from Manchild. To his credit, those wheels could easily repurpose into some sort of S.T.E.M project of homeschooling merit. In reality, we live at the top of a very steep hill with a boy with a very high pain tolerance. I gently suggested he house it in the garage (rather than my living room) for the time being, and will let his father handle the situation when it re-arises. What? I can’t handle everything? I have work to do, you know!
I find it very hard to believe that the same God who created dogs, then turned around and made cats. I see no evidence of similar character traits between the two. Generally, one can see the figurative fingerprints of a creator or author among all their works of art. But not here. Both species have 4 legs, fur, and generally a tail. That’s as far as they get, according to me.
Take for instance Grover dog. Our gentle, patient, and loyal House Cow. He’s dependable, comforting, therapeutic, and an excellent playmate. 🙂
Compared to Jax, our tabby Barn Cat, who managed to weasel his way into the house every evening and for large portions of the day. He sleeps where he’s not supposed to (like on the pillow I removed from my bed DAILY to avoid headaches), gives you his belly during head scratching but bites you if you pet it, and STILL demands his breakfast at 5am despite the schedule change NINE MONTHS AGO!
At first it was gentle nudges and little mews, reminding us to get up and feed him before work/exercise, despite the whole world shutting down in March. No, he would not be content to wait another two hours for a more reasonable time for his meal. ‘Cause he’s a cat. He then started nipping fingers that dangled over the human bed, and knowingly raking his claws down the sides of the ONLY NEW CHAIR in the whole entire house! Everything else came second hand, claw it all you want. But no, this yellow terrorist singles out my new cloth desk chair, conveniently located next to the bed, and attempts to shred it like cheddar until you can no longer take the sound of your one nice thing being destroyed. I tried covering it with a blanket, but clever the clever jerk would stick his demon paws up under the blanket and stretch waaaay high to get that extra good ripping sound! Only at 5am. Never after breakfast, never any other time of the day. Just. 5. AM!
As the weather warmed for the summer we began locking Jax out over night. When someone is unemployed, it’s a little rough to have a cat reminding them every morning that they have nothing to get up for. Thanks a heap, feline. I see why you were a rescue. But even from the porch, Jax ruled the morning routine with an iron paw. While we humans could no longer hear him, Grover the black and white dummy could, and he would wake us up each morning to lead us to the back door to let the cat in. Yes, the cat was using the dog to do his bidding. Stupid loyal canine! I love him, but he’s an idiot.
So when Jax started using Grover as his pawn to wake us up, we began making him a better offer. If Grover could stay quiet and calm about the cat crying on the back deck (who, BTW, is a phenomenal hunter and obviously not starving), we’d let him into the comfy human bed and he could sleep-in with the people like a good dog. It worked. For a while.
Then the weather got cold and our barn cat got crafty. He began slipping in while we let the dog our for the final drain of the night. Now he was back in the house and it was too cold to kick him out. We moved the new chair out of our bedroom and now when he cried in the wee hours of the morning, we ignored him. Some days we’d get up and shut him out of the bedroom, but then we have to shut all the kid’s doors, too, or he would go wake one of them up! He plays dirty.
However this week… this week our rescued problem child has kicked his breakfast demands up to a new precedent of annoying. He has located the table in our room where intercom system is for speaking with someone in the basement, and presses on the Page button. This makes an ear piercing ring blasting all humans from their sleep! Yesterday, THREE TIMES between 5am and 6am the cat had literally paged us to feed him breakfast. I have never hated a cat so much as that moment! SERIOUSLY?! No other time of day. Just before breakfast.
In a pre-emptive strike, last night we closed the door to the kid’s rooms, closed the door to our room, and went to bed cat free. We were gonna be winners! Except our House Cow had fallen asleep on the sofa and wasn’t ready for his nightly migration to the bedroom doggie bed until about 3am. At which time he began pawing the closed door every three minutes for an hour until one of us let him in. He’d clearly been trained by the cat.
Had I not been the kind of person who commits to keeping whatever animal I bring home for a lifetime, I may be having a few second thoughts about pet ownership right about now. However, that was never an option. They are mine for good, for better or worse. Kinda like marriage. Except married people know better than to wake their spouse up at 5am demanding breakfast. At least, the ones who stay married do!
Today on the way to work, I dropped my 8yr old son off at his grandparents with no more than a math book and a lunch box carrying a bag of ham! BAG. OF. HAM. That’s what he wanted to eat for his noon meal. Nothing else. Now, to be fair, there were actually two bags of ham in that lunch box. One for Manchild, and one for his grandparents (I mean, it was a 10lb ham, and sharing it now counts as Social Studies, right? #HomeschoolRules). I had no doubt Grandma would probably help him round out his lunch with a few healthier sides, but in the hustle of the morning, a bag of ham worked for us!
I remembered when my kids were little. We were told things like: hold off on starting solid foods until they’re 6 months old, start with yellow and orange vegetables they have the least allergens, stop the bottle at one year old and switch to a sippy cup, and above all else no sugary drinks! We followed ALL that stuff. We obeyed the rules, we read the literature, and weighed the pros and cons on everything.
As the kids grew, we relaxed. We had an amazing public school, we always had a parent home to greet them off the bus, we ate home cooked family dinners together every night. We were raising tiny humans the best way we knew how. With lots of love, a firm Jesus following foundation, and just enough independence to let them explore a taste of freedom. It was good. They were good!
Then 2020 hit, and things got real bad, real quick. I remember prepping our rental house to sell just before Covid was on our radar. With time and money running out, and the stress of pulling up miles of carpet (all those stinking staples and nails), painting with complaining kids in tow, and beating the clock before the mortgage was due again life felt AWFUL. I clearly recall our relief at closing that now the hard chapter was closed, and we could breathe a sigh of relief! Ha. That was January 2020.
But now that gentle sigh of relief seems to be coming around again. While Covid is ramping up, and our financial situation remains questionable, we aren’t afraid. Our schools never opened, so there is no fear of them closing again. Our kids each enjoy their virtual or home school set up, and we know what quarantining looks like. I’ve lived through having Covid, gotten a better handle on the work from home thing, and have learned how to handle being an introvert who is never alone. We see God’s fingerprints all over our lives, and know we are being held tight. Hope has floated back up to the top again, and we are joyful.
As the days are getting darker much earlier in the evenings now, we’ve begun to string Christmas lights around our living room. The lights bring me so much happiness as they add warmth to the darkness, and like many others this year, I can not wait for the holiday season to begin! Yes, it will all be odd or different. But so what? Tradition can be good, but tradition can also be immobilizing. Let’s spice it up a little and try something new this year? I’m ready for an adventure. I don’t want the same menu and schedule as last year (as if that were even an option anymore). If the perfect square meal were laid out, I’d opt for the bag of ham in a second!
I have friends who have already put their Christmas tree up. Last week, actually. Why not? Half the excitement about celebrating Jesus’ birthday is the anticipation of looking forward to the celebration. You can start that when ever you want to! Girlchild is ready now. Captain Schenanigans still needs a little more time. Lights he can embrace (if it means a happy wife), but the tree before Thanksgiving is more than he can wrap his head around, and that’s OK. But that’s not true for everyone. Go ahead and put yours up early, walk on the wild side one year, see what happens?!
There’s only another 8 weeks left in 2020, and while the whole world seemed to bottom out in the middle of the year, I think we can finish strong. Different. But strong. Because we are being held by a God who is stronger, and change, while often painful, can also be an adventure.
I’ve always considered parenting to be a complex mix of a lot of help from God and a generous dose of Stockholm Syndrome (where hostages form a bond with their captors). This weekend did northing to alter that mindset. This weekend was “Girls Weekend” in Schenaniganland. Captain Schenanigan and Manchild were off to a Cub Scout camp out (only about 15 minutes away I learned after camping ended). Leaving Girlchild and myself looking forward to a quiet, easy, weekend that included eating Chinese food, watching movies, going to Tractor Supply, and eating Chickfila. Not that complicated, which is my favorite way to do things!
We’d originally invited one of Girlchlld’s friends and her mother to come have Chinese with us, and then the friend would spend the night. That would give me a night to sit upstairs and read in bed alone while the two chatterboxes entertained themselves doing tweenage type things in the basement. But on Thursday I learned the camping trip was only one night, starting Saturday at noon.
Re-adjusting my expectations of alone time, we planned a full evening with friends, and figured out how to allow Manchild to play with the girls a portion of the night, then sequester him away with Daddy playing Mario Cart for the rest of the evening to give the girls their privacy. It totally worked, and having Captain around for dinner allowed the grown-ups to talk through our pending kitchen renovation- something our friend had just completed in her own home.
So bedtime rolls around and the girls are all chattypants down in the basement, I can hear them until about midnight. Anytime another child sleeps in my house, I sleep even lighter than usual. Because I never know how comfortable how they are coming to get me if they feel scared, lonely, or sick. It’s awkward to walk into your friend’s parent’s bedroom if you need something during the night. So I always sleep prepared to launch out of bed if I hear trepedous little feet coming down the hall. It’s not a particularly restful, but my goal is to avoid tears and create fun for my daughter, not wake refreshed. Therefore, I hear every move everyone else in the house is making, waking several times a night, thanks to the cat and dog.
Sometime during the night a figure creeps into my room and I wake up immediately. It was Girlchld, climbing across me on her way into my bed, telling me she’s scared. I question her about leaving her friend alone in the basement only to learn that this was NOT in fact Girlchild, but rather Manchild instead. Apparently in my daze in the dark, I can neither tell the height or voice of my children apart. I make room.
At precisely 4:50am Girlchild yells up the stairs to ask if they could feed the dog and cat and start their day. Whaaat?!? This is the same kid I have to dragggggg from her slumber at 8:30am on school days, after I start waking her at 7:30! The answer was an overwhelming no from her father, followed by a strongly encouraging message urging them both to go back to sleep. Thankfully, they complied. Manchild rose before the whole house and fed the relentlessly persistent cat and dog, then set in on video games. I roused in time to tend to the neighbor’s dog alone (which Girlchild and I are both sitting together) and start work by 8am. If I have to work 5 hours on Saturdays, at least I can do it from home, praise God!
So I answered phone calls from the public and the children fought over who was blowing who up on Minecraft. The Dynamic Cub Scout Duo had loaded the car the day before and were anxiously killing time until 12:45pm. When you are up at 7am, that is a lot of hours to waste before getting to do what you are looking forward to. Especially when you are an eager eight year old boy.
After the morning drug by, the menfolk departed and I forced the girls outside. They both looked a little rough for riding the old couch all night, but that’s just kinda the effect sleepovers have. No one expects their beauty sleep on a worn out sectional with a large mutt, who insisted on spending half his night sleeping beside one girl, then switching over mid-way and spending the rest of his slumber with the other. They loved it!
After I got off work at 1pm we made a trip to Tractor Supply to pick up a belt I had ordered Girlchild for Christmas. I had no idea how I was going to pick it up with Girlchild in tow during one of our usual treks, when my friend advised me to take both girls together so Girlchild could be distracted by her sleepover buddy. Sleepover buddy was informed of the plan, and played her part flawlessly. I picked up the belt, checked out alone, and Girlchild was none the wiser.
Fast forward past dropping of Girlchild’s friend and heading back to the house, now it’s time to pick up Chickfila. I foolishly thought the Chickfila line would be shorter for a later dinner than an earlier one. I was so, so wrong. We got in line at 6:15p. The line wound past the parking lot and back through an intersection with a set of stop signs, backing up traffic in two directions. It was bad. Though we love the food, this is why we don’t eat much Chikfila in our area.
We got our food at 7pm. Yes, FORTY-FINE minutes in the Chickfila drive through, and Girlchild’s order was wrong. I understand how the employee misunderstood what I said, reviewing the conversation with Girlchild. But either way she ended up with 4 nuggets instead of 4 strips, which is a big deal for a 10yr old girl. SO, we were told to park in a spot and wait, which we did. And she ended up with a free brownie, so Girlchild was thrilled.
After leaving Chickfila, we headed home and set up shop in the basement. Our tradition on these Cub Scout camping weekends is to watch Thirteen Going on Thirty while we ate. Tradition, because this is the second time we’ve done it, naturally. Things were cruising along smoothly until Girlchild got up and went to the bathroom. Along the way she found that nature had called for Grover-dog as well, but in our absence he opted for the hallway. And evidently he was sick.
We gathered up the soiled, stinking carpet and attempt to flop the pile of goo into the toilet. It didn’t work. In major, major ways, did it fail! In various places.
Now Girls Night has turned into a janitorial festival with Girlchild using Lysol and paper towels while I am using Odoban and the hose on the front porch with the contaminated carpet draped across a rocking chair. The night had certainly taken a turn from our original plans!
Leaving the soggy carpet on the front porch I joined Girlchild and clean the bathroom for a second time in 24hrs. The stench was overwhelming, and I used some of the gardenia body spray I handed down to Girlchild just to make it tolerable to breathe. Girlchild was determined to finish her movie as scheduled, so we soldiered on with our estrogen fest and ignored to staggering aroma of mutt gut.
After the movie we headed upstairs and got ready for bed. One of the perks of Daddy being a way as that Girlchild got to bunk with me in the big bed. Grover invited himself to join us, having been forgiven for his illness, and climbed up into the middle of the bed. Then halfway through the night, he threw up in the blankets and got himself uninvited. Then retches again in the hallway during the walk of shame to the backdoor.
Girlchild is sleepy and bleary eyed, only vaguely aware of the situation. So I kept the lights low and did the clean up in the dark, marking this as officially the worst Slumber party I had EVER attended! Then I stepped in another wet spot, and wanted I want to quit adulting.
The next morning I rise early to walk the neighbor’s dog. It’s one street over so I lightly attempt to wake Girlchild, then leave a note on my pillow explaining my whereabouts. I figured she’d still be asleep when I got back. I was wrong.
I was still trying to catch the neighbor’s shy pupper in their living room when Girlchild called me sobbing over being abandoned. Obviously the note had not been found, and she woke up hysterical. Upon hearing of my current situation, she offered to bring Grover down as emotional reinforcement for the scared pup. It worked, thank goodness.
By the time we were done watching church on the couch at home, it was only 10:30am, but felt much later. After two nights of interruptions and hours of sleep deficit, I was on autopilot.
Then the menfolk returned. They were chatty but dragging after a cold night in a tent. Girlchild filled them in on all the fun they had missed here, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s truly all she saw. The good times. The dog vomit, broken sleep, diarrhea team clean-up, parental abandonment, basement stench, and 40hrs in the Chickfila line for a messed up order all fell off the scales as she weighed in on the highlights of her weekend.
She saw the weekend that she wanted to have, and I was happy for her. Something about growing up makes you see more bad than good, but I pray that we all look for the good more often. Because it’s all there if we wanna see it, if we’d just lift our eyes.
Somehow, in the midst of the chaos, I’ve skipped my September post. I know why. I generally only post about happy, funny stories in my life, and in this season, there just haven’t been many of those if we’re being honest. My husband was laid off due to Covid in July, and I have more than doubled my work hours- including Saturdays (something I thought I left back on the Reservation during my floor nurse days in the Navajo hospital). So while I don’t have any hilarious antidotes to entertain you with, I do have some rather grateful ways in which God clearly showed up for us.
For starters, I am quite thankful that I was able to pick up needed hours at work so readily. While Covid-19 was the reason my husband lost his job, it was also the reason the Health Dept was crying for people to help test the public for Covid, and answer the Covid Hotline. I was able to salvage our income by doing both, rather quickly.
Also, we got a chance to test drive homeschooling. It’s something I’ve had lots of other friends do and encourage me to try. I admit I was curious, although we all know I don’t have the patience for it. But since my husband was home launching his new business, he was readily available to teach Manchild (Girlchild opted to do virtual school through her public school) in all his ADHD glory. It’s been great for Manchild, who is loving this type of learning. Unfortunately, Captain Schenanigans does not have the personality to continue his teaching career, as he needs people like the rest of us need oxygen. Once public schools in Baltimore County opens up, you can bet both Schenaniganlets will be back on that big yellow bus and the Captain will be conversing with grown-ups again full time!
I finally get to work from home. While I have always thought my cubicle based nursing job could easily be done by home, the Health Dept is nothing if not resistant to change. But there’s nothing like an old fashioned pandemic to grease the wheels of change, and get everyone scampering home to hole up. There’s been no word on opening up again, and that works for me. While I still have been going into the office weekly to close charts, not having to report on time has been lovely.
We’ve also gotten to save some funds, which is always nice. We trimmed the fat in our budget to the point that we were actually squirreling some income away. Won’t last forever, I know, some expenses can only be put off for so long.
There is freedom for this year’s holidays to look like anything we want! Since no one has a clue what November brings, we don’t feel obligated to do whatever we did last year, or the year before, for Thanksgiving. This year, we are visiting family (we already had Covid, and are banking on a few months of immunity) in their new home that we have never seen in Michigan. We’ve never had Thanksgiving with Captain’s sister before, everyone had their obligations, but this year? It’s pure chaos, so why not!
We’re all sleeping in. While we slowly all became nocturnal last spring when school closed, and then slipped into summer, we’ve had to up our game with the start of school. But without lunches to pack, library books to locate, shoes to un-knot, homework to finish, permission slips to sign, and lunches to pack, we’ve got nuthin’ but time on our hands in the mornings! We’re waking up much later, and find ourselves ready to start the school day before the school is ready for us. It’s crazy. Girlchild is totally digging this virtual school thing, since she gets to eat lunch at home and snuggle with her dog any time she wants. This Friday, she never made it out of her pajamas! Just didn’t turn her camera on. While she was dreading this year big time, she has found it to be much better than she expected. Praise Jesus! No one wants a grumpy 5th grader complaining all semester. Also, since we were getting up later, I let Girlchild enter her first barrel race competition in another county, that was a LATE night home. Twice. She was in 10yr old girl heaven!
The pets are happier. No kidding! While I work from my bedroom, both the dog and the cat push their way into the room on a routine basis, and we all take our seats for the work day. Every. Time. They love not being alone all day (and having a quiet space away from the ruckus of my children). We have probably walked the dog more in 2020 than in the other 2 years of his life combined. Lunch break exercise is now the norm.
Let’s not forget that 2020 has been the year of home improvements, across the country! Before the lay off we managed to replace our old wooden deck and separate stairs with Trex decking, created a beautiful little frog pond from an old dog pool, added a new flower bed or two, and several fruit trees/shrubs to our front yard. My flower beds have never been so full, and my garden so big, as this year when I had nothing but time (well, until July). I’ve drug home more kinds of flowers than I can count, and this year when I had a million False Dragonheads blooming wildly in Raven’s purple, I had to admit I was surprised at how they. “Uh, you kinda went into a frenzy”, Captain Schenanigans explained to me. Oh well, you can never have too many flowers I say, and next year I can take it easy.
And let is not forget the copious amounts of family togetherness times we’ve had this year. Lots and LOTS of family togetherness. While there were plenty of times this introvert longed to just be alone for 10 MINUTES, I do realize the gift I am being given here. We will never have this much time to just be together at home ever again. I’ll take it!
This isn’t all of the blessings we’ve received in 2020, and it’s been a brutal summer for sure, but these are a handful of the times I’ve noticed the blessings in the difficulties. I feel closer to Jesus now more than at any other time in my life, and that alone makes it all worth it!
I have never had a little brother. But after growing up with 2 older brothers, marrying a little brother, and giving birth to one, I can kind of put all the pieces together. While I have heard little boys described as “Noise covered in dirt” (which is about right), there needs to be an extra dose of teasing, tormenting, and general annoyance for amusement’s sake to qualify anyone as a little brother.
Manchild is by far the best little brother I have ever seen. He’s nailed all the necessary point, and then managed to wrapped them all up in a bow of snuggley affection I still can’t mentally balance. This boy thinks nothing of whipping his light saber thought his older sister’s hair with a smile on his face, absorbing her pitiful jabs in his shirtless ribs, and turning a deaf ear to her whining complaints. But in the time it takes you to say “Tattle-tail”, he can wrap his arms around her and tell her he loves her. It’s staggering really.
The thing about little brother’s vs. big sisters is their ability to aim their talents. Girlchld can boss like a champion, but it’s a skill she generally reserves for Manchild. Manchild, however, shares his little brothering abilities equally throughout what ever space he may be occupying. Aiming is not really his strong suit, in every applicable sense of the word.
Case in point, Manchild has a new BB gun. It’s fairly mild and can not break the skin at point blank range. I know this because he proved it to me the very day he got it by shooting himself in the thigh as we sat on the porch swing. A beautiful little purple bruise erupted there not long after, and it smarted for sure. But he was right, no broken skin. Now the neighborhood can relax, right?
Fast forward to Manchild shooting targets one balmy Sunday evening near the garden. If the garden runs north to south, Manchild was facing west. I paid him no mind as I chatted on our red porch rockers with a visiting neighbor. Tink. Tink. Pause (He missed). Tink. Manchild’s targets are the recycling in the bin beside the house. It’s fair game.
The next day I tend to my garden, very excited about the pending vegetation and dreaming of the variety of melons Girlchild proudly planted. We straight sew most everything we grow to save money, but it costs pride instead. I have to accept that despite my magic weapons of rabbit manure and core gardening practices, literally EVERYONE in the neighborhood will have a better looking garden before I do. Because they buy good looking plants, and plant them. Boom. Instant source of pride and joy. I get there eventually, but later in the season and long after the newness of spring has worn off. Did I mention we’re a corner lot with a lot of foot traffic? I spend HOURS in there readying the soil, and all the dog walkers know it! Just an extra dose of humility, in case I start running low… somehow.
I spy some melons that are looking good, out first of the season (WOOT!) and pick them up for a better look. Huh. They have bug holes in them! This makes me sad. I’m not surprised, but still disappointed. I take the melons in to the house for further inspection. I wondered if the bug was still in there, and decided to cut one in half to see if I could get a glimpse of the intruder. I once bit into a peach from a farmers market and found the worm still inside. Beats half a worm, I guess. But I wanted to see what made this hole.
I slice the melon open and find an egg. That doesn’t make sense. Upon further inspection, it looks funny. It’s a perfectly round egg, and seems a bit smooth to be made by nature. I reach in and pop it out to feel the sac. It’s suddenly VERY familiar and not and egg at all!! It’s a BB! There are BB holes in my previously healthy melons, which are no longer healthy or happy. Suddenly, neither am I! Captain Schenanigans had to be summoned and some new boundaries for friendly fire were established that day. Stinkin’ lil watermelon sniper! That boy…
I think little brothers thrive off the angst of big sisters. As in, it makes them grow bigger and stronger like nutrients and sunshine. While scrolling through my gallery for the melon pic I had been saving for weeks, I came across these little gems. Girlchild, doing her very best to get Manchild to smile for the camera, or heck, even look at it, so that we can have a nice Christmas picture. She plays her part so well, and tries so hard! Nope. Didn’t happen. Look at her trying to turn his little face…!
Lest you think they are all bad, while little brothers do love to tease, sneak, torture and do whatever it takes to make older siblings yell, they can also be very sweet! Especially when you launch yourself off your scooter and need to hobble to a neighbor’s house for a bandaid. Manchild to the rescue for his favorite princess…both to help and irritate.
But, alas, every little brother, Lord willing, grows up. And those irritating days of endless poking and jabbing don’t last. One day they grow up, and you know what? Little brother’s make the ULTIMATE daddies! Talk about wrestling and light saber battles, oh my goodness! Little brothers are born to be dads! But until they get there, us mama’s and a few good big sister’s need to gently show them their place. And it is NOT in a tree at a family graduation party, dropping leaves on my head while I recline for 5 minutes with my Diet Coke. THAT is not where little brother’s belong!
To be flat out honest, I have never had a big sister. Nor have I ever been one. But gauging what I can from raising one, it’s without a doubt a full time gig. It demands constant supervising, a loud voice, and a strong sense to justice. Especially if you, like my daughter Girlchild, feel like you have a mother who needs a bit of extra support from you as she tends to dance the line of competent disciplinarian (her opinion, not mine). In situations such as these, the role of the Big Sister becomes highly involved and often quite loud, as you step out of your bounds and into said parent’s, since they shall clearly never make it without your input.
Case in point, recently our family took a little safari bus tour of the wildlife at Penns Cave in Pennsylvania. One of the rules of the bus, and of every bus you will ever be on for the rest of your life actually, is that you must keep your arms inside the bus. It’s a given. Another vehicle or object could come to close and wham, just like that, you lose your arm. Or so we’ve all been warned.
However, this was a very controlled bus loop with everyone going the same direction. There were wide open pastures where we were literally just in a field, looking through a fence at bison. Nothing to threaten one’s body parts for miles acres around. But this did not stop 10yr old Girlchild from informing her 8yr old brother Manchild that his arm was most definitely NOT inside the window. Add to that imminent threat of danger the infuriating fact that you very own mother is seated right beside you, and while she can quite clearly see Manchild in the seat in front of her, has yet to set the situation straight. She appears to be happily gazing at bison instead.
“Mom, Manchild has his arm out the window. Mom! Mom, his arm isn’t inside the bus!!” Girlchild loudly persists (as her mysteriously silent father sits beside Manchild). Then helpfully repeats her mantra until she has successfully verbally aided in the recover of her brother’s arm, and it has reclaimed it’s proper place inside the bus. Crisis averted. Parental frustration is simply an unavoidable byproduct, not the problem of a Big Sister. Score one for the Big Sister.
Call it admiration, appreciation, or straight up Stockholm Syndrome, but Manchild sure does love his Big Sister. When he’s not bruising her, he is wildly defending her with a scarily reckless abandon. This weekend, Girlchild and Manchild were experiencing an old fashioned seesaw at a playground. Gravity being the friend that it is, injured Girlchild as she attempted a dismount. As she climbed off crying, and explained what happened, Manchild caught wind of the situation. Feeling a touch theatrical, Manchild launched his 8yr old fists upon the recently vacated seat of Girlchild’s end of the metal seesaw, and unleashed his fury. The seesaw, being a seesaw, dipped lower and lower as Manchild punched it for hurting his sister…until he relented and it swung upward and it clocked him right between the eyes on the center of his forehead. Four days later, the fading bruise still makes me laugh. An entirely avoidable injury, yet not in Manchild’s book of punishable offences. Chapter one starts off with hurting his sister…
While I do appreciate Girlchild’s Big Sistering at times, like when she informs me Manchild has something in his mouth that isn’t food or is being too rough with her dog, I do jokingly call her Mini Mama. Between the both of us, Manchild seems to be turning out okay (punching see-saws aside). On one day of our stay in Pennsylvania I was lounging in our rented home and Manchild was antsy to go somewhere. I told him to take the $5 bill out of my purse and head down the road to the table of produce and wares an Amish family had set up in their driveway. Considering it was mostly vegetables, jelly, baked goods, and soap, I didn’t really care what he came back with. We’d use it eventually. Manchild happy sets off down the road, money in his fist and independence in his heart. He’s adventure bound!
Moments later my boy returns with a bag of ginger snap cookies, and a bar of soap. Doing a quick calculation in my head, I asked him about the remaining $1.25 that should be leftover.
“Oh” he replied casually, “I told them to keep the change. I knew you wouldn’t mind, and they seemed like they could use it.” He smiled at me as my jaw dropped. Now, maybe he just didn’t want them to know he couldn’t quite manage the math to know how much was leftover. But I think at least a part of this growing child sensed this family could a few extra dollars, and knew that we had some to share. He certainly had no fear of my reaction at his volunteering me to bankroll those around him. I’m proud of the decision he made on the fly, whatever the reason. I certainly could find no fault in it. He was absolutely right. Between me and Girlchild, this kid was gonna turn out right.
While much of Big Sistering involves keeping the youngers in line, some of your time is take up with making sure you have your fair share of the spotlight. No matter what the ruckus, that spot light ought not move too much off target, or higher ups should be notified. Logic and reason are innocent bystanders. During our vacation, Manchild had been indulging on cookies without feeling the need to notify anyone else of his consumption. As a result, Manchild became a spewing fountain of regurgitated vanilla cream cookies (this is why I don’t buy this stuff at home), as he moved through various rooms of the rental.
While Captain Schenanigans tackled the bedroom, I took on the project of cleaning up the living room. The more we cleaned, the madder Girlchild got. Finally, as I tucked her into bed that night I asked what was bothering her. Her reply? “The entire time Manchild was throwing up no one was paying ANY ATTENTION TO ME!!!”
She was absolutely right. Situation be damned, her attention was stolen by a younger and she wasn’t having it! Corrections needed to be made to ensure her Big Sister role was held intact and with the respect she demanded. Stomach contents were no match for birth order! That’s what Easu illustrated in Genesis, right?
But for as lone wolfy as the Big Sister role may feel at times, our family definitely wouldn’t be complete without her. Only Jesus knows how many more injuries Manchild may have sustained without his hovering Big Sister’s watchful eye (we’re not gonna talk about how many injuries Big Sister may have brought upon herself from Manchild due to taking her role a bit too seriously). Big Sisters are a class unto themselves. A rank I will never join, though probably ought to learn more about in order to help relieve the self appointed burden they often choose to shoulder. Bless their little hearts, they only want fairness. Well, and control. Absolute and utter control.
It was so hot and steamy in there that I could feel sweat drip down the back of my calves. CALVES! Whose calves sweat anyway? Certainly not mine before, there’s nothing touching them. Except the plastic Tyvek hazmat suit I was inside of, which breathed about as well as a ziploc bag. Plus my face mask kept steaming up so that I’d have to use a tissue to wipe it clear in order to see out of it. But I’m not thinking about the rising temperature of the day, or even pending dehydration. I’m waiting for the next car to pull up.
Months ago, when Baltimore County had opened up drive through Covid-19 testing centers I “volunteered” (still paid, but not a part of my normal duties, and no one would force me to do it) to test. After 16yrs of telephonic desk nursing, I just wanted to feel like a real clinical nurse again. So I volunteered, twice actually, and I waited. And waited. Finally, I found out who was scheduling the testers, e-mailed her myself, and pushed to be put on the schedule. There were school nurses, and community nurses who could no longer do home visits, also being used in line ahead of me. But I wanted to be able to look back 30yrs from now and I say I got involved, so I did.
My first morning showing up at the testing site I found myself at the Donning Station where all the clean supplies were ready and waiting. I was given a white, plastic based hazmat suit to step into, and there were firemen waiting to duct tape my base layer of purple plastic gloves to my suit. They made sure to fold back small tabs on each piece of tape so that I could remove them myself afterwards.
Next came the blue plastic apron over my head, arms through, tying in the back. Then my mask (I had driven to the fire department to be sized for it last month), hairnet, pull my hazmat hood over my head, place the plastic face shield on my head, and finally, a second pair of plastic gloves. For the next four hours I would not eat, drink, or use the bathroom. Unless I wanted to waste PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and have all eyes on me as I doff my garments, then re-don them upon my return, as everyone else continues working and toughing it out. No thanks, I’ll wait.
We all have jobs, and are assigned to one of six lanes of traffic. I am paired with another nurse, who quickly teaches me the simple test requirements of the lab kit we are using that day. Today’s kits were manufactured by Labcorp, and only required a Q-tip to be inserted less than an inch and rotated for 15 seconds per nare. Much less painful than the original test kit, requiring a long swab to reach the back of the sinus cavity through the nostrils. That one hurts! But each day we use whichever kit we are given and proceed according to directions.
In the beginning the time moved fast. We nurses only test, as there are other people who fill out lab slips, run the samples to the cooler, direct traffic, and monitor supplies. I hear stories of the week before, when there were about a thousand people in line (literally) and the cars were turning around and leaving because the wait was so long. It was the first day you didn’t need a doctor’s referral to come. Meaning, the first day people without insurance could be tested.
This day, about a week after that, the line was starting to space out and we even had 5-10 minutes between cars in our lane to sit down. My feet hurt. The guy next to me, the one who took my photo so I could remember this event even though I’m unable to have access to my phone, is a volunteer from the community. He works in HR during the day, and his mom raises standard poodles. He tells me about birthing poodles. His job here was moving the giant orange cone from in front of each car that tells the driver where to stop. It sounds boring, but the following week no one filled that position (the racism riots in the country took the National Guard away from directing traffic into our lanes, so those roles had to be filled first, and we ran out of volunteers), and it was a major pain to do it in gloves. You don’t want to touch the traffic cone in potentially COVID-19 dirty gloves, but once you touched it the gloves weren’t really clean either, so at what point in the testing process could you touch the traffic cone? It is ridiculously hard to put two plastic gloves on over top of each other, spraying hand sanitizer between pairs. I felt bad about all that waste.
The following week, the line was even more sparse. Administration added an hour to our shift (ugh, it’s now June and Baltimore is heating up), and cancelled the second shift. There is a longer wait between cars, so I start asking questions to those who have been here since the beginning. The (white) people with insurance all came at the start of the pandemic, which explained why I am now mostly seeing immigrants, undocumented, and as always, the elderly. They scare us with their driving. The other nurse and I each test kids in forward facing car seats, and they don’t even cry. But those two were the only little ones to come through. Not many children.
The process is that when a car comes through the gates to the fairgrounds they are given a piece of red paper placed on the windshield for each person in the car needing testing without an appointment. A green sheet for everyone needing testing with an appointment. Then they are to follow the lane of cones to the testing building (the Cow Palace) and there someone directs them into one of our six lanes. They drive in, a sign is held up telling them to turn off their engine (for our safety) and keep the windows up (for everyone’s safety). Place your drivers license up to the glass for ID and test result contact info. Phone numbers and birth dates are verbally confirmed through the glass. But people get confused and love rolling down their windows. By the time we get them to put them back up (the people taking contact info only have an apron and mask on) the information is usually captured on the lab slip, and it’s time to be swabbed. So I hold up a sign asking them to roll the window back down. For some reason in the new cars that don’t require a key in the ignition, NO ONE can put their windows down without starting their car. Now it’s a safety hazard again. We had one old lady come in to test without putting the car in park. Heaven knows how much she could see over her mask, let alone if she wasn’t feeling well.
But so far I have yet to see anyone cough or complain of symptoms. Most are just returning to work and need a negative test result. In my contact tracing training by the CDC online, a person must be within 6ft of an infected person for 15 minutes to be considered exposed. I spend an average of 40 seconds with each person. Even in a car of multiple people (and the truck I had to crawl into the rear middle seat to reach the toddler in a car seat), I spend less than 5 minutes total exposed before we send them on their way. I’m not worried about exposure with all this PPE. I hand each person a paper bag with information in it and instructions on retrieving their test results online.
It is the PPE that makes testing so physically brutal. All nurses know what it feels like to go 6-8hrs without food or bathroom breaks. But to have a plastic mask on your face for even an hour is much more uncomfortable to me than those days as a busy floor nurse. Especially on a slow days. Slow and uncomfortable is the worst. Having air on your face makes a huge difference when doing a task, it’s kinda surprising.
But the lines are slowing down considerably now, and more urgent care clinics are offering tests, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the County testing centers close sooner rather than later. I sure hope so, because July, in Baltimore, in a hazmat suit, is a lot to ask. We close 15 minutes early and head to the Doffing Station. We stand in trash bags as the firemen assist us in taking off the dirty layers first, then the clean, and finally, we keep our mask and face shield and spray them down with sanitizer and bleach wipes. We’ll use those masks five times, or until they fall apart. I stick mine in a ziplock bag, where it will stay until next week. Any germs I missed will be long dead.
There’s water, soda, and boxed lunches for the workers. I never make it out of the parking lot before I eat and drink. Mostly drink. The eating there is just to avoid the ruckus that awaits me at home. I still have cases to work and calls to make for my real job. But the most important thing I will be doing for the rest of the day is re-hydrating. I’m blasted! But I’ll happily do it again next week. After all, it isn’t everyday you get to be a part of history.
I know I look grumpy, but I’m just tired and needing water.
I can not tell you how many times, and for what assortment of reasons, I have thrown live cats at my husband. But let me assure you, in 12 years of marriage, no animals have been injured or abused. At the most, some were left mildly perplexed.
See, it all began with Family Game Night. A compromise with the children who begged for a Family Movie Night, but due to their desperate pleas to be allowed to swim in freezing cold water during winds strong enough to elicit a small craft advisory, dinner was an hour and a half later than usual. Not enough time for a movie. But, thanks to the creative powers of public schools and the endless limitations of online education, the children had a new game they wished to play with us instead called Find It. The rules were simple. One person calls out something the others must locate from anywhere in the home, and present back to their lap. First one to Find It wins, and becomes the caller. It’s pretty easy online. It’s annoyingly harder when you are all in the same room with the same objects!
It began with me requesting something that starts with the letter Q. That transpired in to Manchild asking us to find something “old”, and Girlchild asking us to find “a nail polish color that would look good on Grover dog.” That lead to Manchild rummaging through her bedroom (she is the onlyone in the house owning nail polish), which to her abject horror, she learned about only after he brought her the requested polish. Am I the only one not seeing the benefit of thinking things through here?
But the real winner tonight was when Captain Schenanigans asked us to bring him a live yellow cat. Of which, of course, we only had one. Jax. And there were three of us. So, I lay on the sofa and watched the children tumble their way down the stairs to search the den, or Girlchild’s room, or anyplace mircofleece has been tossed down. After a moment of silence, I remembered the cat bed was in MY room, just down the hall. I stand up, and begin moseying down the hall just as the first child bounds up the stairs, and down the hall behind me. I reach the cat bed first, extricate the feline from said slumber containment unit, and hold him high above my head.
By this point, the second child has crashed into the room and has joined the first kid jumping at my shoulders. I am just hoping my arms are longer than the cats legs, as his claws and my eyeballs are dangerously close to one another. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to be in a “thinking clearly” sorta mood at this point. Cat high above my head with his belly soft and limp, I start my retreat to the living room with one dangling yellow cat, who seems to be stretching at an alarming rate!
By this point the young ’ems have figured out they are not tall enough to reach our prized pet, and have started a defensive technique instead. One of my loving children, I strongly suspect Manchild who tackles like an NFL player, throws their arms around my waist, launches all their weight against me, and attempts to drag me backward. The other, I believe though I can’t clearly recall in the fog because at some point I started closing one eye to protect it from any swinging claws, seems to be alternating between hanging off my shoulder with grabby hands, and joining child #1 in their tackling attempts. At this point I have 166lbs of opposition pressing against me, and 10lbs of confusion hanging above my head, and my arms are getting tired.
I lock my elbows to protect my eyes, and slog forward into the dining room. My footless onsie pj’s are sleek against the sweaty mitts of my offspring, and their hands slide down my waist as I walk. I think I see a flash of my husband’s red shorts near the finish line and joy surges in my chest. But when I look up he is gone. Darnit!! I’m not sure I can go any further, and he just added another 4 feet on to my expedition (later he admitted to coming into the hallway to watch the noisy racket like some smug spectator, but refused to assist my win, choosing instead to hustle back to his recliner and make me complete the entire journey). For this he shall pay.
I narrowly make it through the dining room, pivot 300 degrees on my right heel and face the corner of the living room. I then hurl the cat with all my might at the no longer smug looking man comfortably observing from the lounge chair. Shockingly to us all, after a complete 180 of yellow fur though the air and around the corner, this priceless tabby is gently caught, safely and snuggly, in the massive arms of Captain Schenanigans. There’s no meowing or clawing. Truth be told, Jax doesn’t seem all that worked up about his flight!
Jax the cat did opt notto stay in the room with us upon gaining his freedom, he seemed to have time sensitive things to attend to in the basement after all. However, later in the evening, as I found him lounging upon Captain Schenanigan’s pillow in silent revenge, he really appeared no worse for the wear. For as much as I feared his claws digging into my flesh as I carried him like a shedding torch though my home, I never actually felt anything sharp. So while lesser cats may have panicked and clung to my wrists, it may be entirely possible that Jax the Charming has become used to our schenanigans, and even developed a low grade tolerance to the ruckus that becomes us. I know I sure have!