December 21, 2009

About last night

So, we spent last night in the ER.  That was not a really good way to spend a Sunday evening and I would heartily recommend against it.  I would also heartily recommend against letting your three-year-old fall out of his chair at the dinner table and land flat on his back, with the back of his head against tile as the first point of contact.  Not good.

Your first sign that you're headed to the ER in such a situation is said child NOT crying immediately upon hitting the floor. Your next sign is that when said child does start crying it's more a blood-curdling, slobbery scream and he's telling you in no uncertain terms that he would like for his forehead to stop hurting because, as the screaming would suggest, it's hurting a lot.  The next signs came more slowly, over the next 20 minutes, but included the child begging to go to bed, acting as if he would now be vomiting and refusing to talk to us.  And then he started talking and it was kind of disturbing and not quite right. That's when we called Grandma and asked her to please drop everything and come be with Andrew.  (Grandma rocks, by the way. Not only did she drop everything to come over but she also cleaned up our entire dinner mess which was uneaten and all over the kitchen, making it possible for us to drag it out tonight and try again.)

The good news is that after a few hours in the local ER and a physician-endorsed catnap, he began to come around and we were eventually sent home with instructions on caring for a child with a concussion.  I'm thinking that I'll probably not be winning my mother of the year award now, since my son has a bruised brain and all. If there can be a silver lining to a sucky accident it is that he wasn't horsing around when it happened, he wasn't dancing on the table or doing something else he shouldn't have been and I was in the room but just not fast enough. Bad circumstances. 

The other good news is that he has been willing to take it easy today and his balance seems to be more up-to-par this evening. He also had the energy to help his brother with this project tonight...

These all started out under the tree.  They're now in the living room but they were calling themselves the Christmas elves so how do you put an end to that activity?

Also, right before bed,  he had the energy - when asked to please stop crying because something hadn't gone his way -  to say the following to me with a very serious look on his face. "Mommy, I cannot stop crying because every time you do something wrong, it makes me cry."

Definitely back to normal.

December 16, 2009


This evening, while discussing a trip to California to visit family, Thomas became very excited and announced that he would very much like to go visit Butch & RoRo's house because, and I quote, he remembers how much fun it was. I asked him what exactly was so fun and he replied quickly and confidently.

"When we visit California, I get up VERY early with daddy and I pull the little red wagon around on RoRo's brown floor and it's VERY loud and I get up VERY early there. I mean, like, REALLY early."

Yes, son, you do. So we have that working for us.

December 6, 2009

In your footsteps

I wonder what it feels like to have a mini-me living in your home? Maybe Mark could shed some light on that for us.  Consider Exhibit A:

He's as considerate as his daddy and as interested in the computer.  Mark uses the headphones to block us out listen to online content while he's at the computer. Thomas did it while playing the Old McDonald game for, I suppose, exactly the same reasons.

November 28, 2009

The jig might be up

After hearing rave reviews of kids driven to astoundingly good behavior because of it, I ordered the popular Elf on the Shelf book a couple of weeks ago.  I know of several kids who seriously clean up their acts when reminded that the Elf is watching and also, it just seems like a fun family tradition.

The basic premise is a book that tells the story of an Elf who serves as Santa's helper.  In the book, readers learn that the Elf comes to their house each morning to check on their holiday behavior and then reports to Santa on the household happenings, presumably to help Santa during his busy season as he keeps his naughty and nice lists. The fun is that the Elf is supposed to reappear in a different place within the home each morning, giving the youngest residents a reason to keep a look out for him. The book comes with a small stuffed elf that is yours to name and impress.

The boys and I opened ours last night and read the book, dutifully keeping the Elf in his clear case at the back of the book, as the story instructs you not to touch the Elf because touching him could prevent him from making his flight to the North Pole to report about your great choices.  The book also instructs you to name your Elf, which the boys did unanimously and without hesitation.  Wait for it...Scott. 

After the boys were in bed last night I intended to go up, free Scott from his case, and find a suitable locale for his first day in our home. I planned to make it someplace obvious to ease us into the habit of looking for him.  I was partly excited about this because I can envision years down the road, long after anyone is actually concerned that the Elf is watching, still having a fun game and tradition where we continue to hide the Elf, but obscurity of hiding location is what makes it fun.  (Just go with me here. My boys are getting so big. I have to believe that they'll humor me if I bribe them as they grow.)

Instead, I ended up lying down in Thomas' room because the poor child just couldn't stop coughing.  Predictably, I fell asleep and woke up at 3 a.m., when I stumbled downstairs in a daze.  I slept soundly until 7 a.m., when Thomas appeared by my bedside asking, "Where's the Elf?  I looked and I can't find him anywhere."


I played it off and assured him that the Elf must be around somewhere. A bit later, his brother appeared.  He was also asking about the Elf. He, however, had already looked in the box and discovered that our new friend, Scott, was still safely strapped in his holding chamber. 

Double crap.

I did a little of my finest tap dancing and they moved on with their Saturday.  Late this afternoon when they were outside I ran upstairs and ripped that little Scott from his twist-tie prison and placed him squarely on the shelves in front of where we read bedtime books. Subtle, right?

When bedtime rolled around we sat down for books and for several minutes no one noticed the little red-suited creature staring at us from across the room. Finally Andrew spotted him and was full. of. questions.  He was just positive that Scott had not been there earlier, despite my trying to convince him that he just hadn't noticed him there until now.  After some conversation we went on with the book we had selected but I noticed that Andrew just wasn't paying attention. He was busy staring cautiously back at Scott.

After books I took Thomas to his room and in his sleepy fog he told me he was going to get up earlier than Andrew so he could be sure to find Scott first. While enticing him to make wake-up time a competition wasn't in the plan, I was thrilled he had listened to the story and was ready to play along. As I was finishing up with Thomas, Andrew stuck his head in and said, "Mommy, when you come into my room I have some questions for you.  You need to get ready for a serious discussion."


I took a deep breath before entering his room and psyched myself up for what I was sure was going to be an inquisition about the jolly man in the red suit.  I was basically sweating and wondering, aloud, why I'm always the one who does bedtime.  I was also berating myself for having dragged us all downtown last night to see Santa be rescued off the roof of a local department store by the fire department.  He had seemed to be so engaged but now I was doubting whether his interest had been sincere. 

When I sat down on his bed, he looked up at me with the biggest blue eyes he could muster and said, "Mommy, we need to talk about that Elf."  I asked him what he wanted to talk about and he said, "He's really freaking me out."

Hmmm.  That's not quite where I thought this was going.

I asked what about Scott freaked him out and he said, "Well, I'm just thinking about this and there's no really no way that he moved out of that box by himself. I think a person did that and I'm worried how that person would get in our house and whether they're still here." For a split second I thought he was about to call me out but then those big eyes started to well up with tears and I realized he was just truly scared.

I assured him that there wouldn't be any reason to worry about that and reminded him that the book told us Scott had magical powers so it was just fun and we needed to go with it.  He nodded and tried to look brave.  Then he said, "I'm also kind of worried that I'm not on the good list and that he's going to know it now."

Now who feels like a creep?

We had some conversation about having a good heart and about living your life in such a way that you're always sure that others would have a favorable impression of your character. He seemed to get all of that but was basically still terrified. He was terrorized by the notion of this little red felt Elf floating around our house at night and not believing for a minute that some stranger off the street wasn't coming in and messing with us. I sat there for a few minutes and tried to talk him off the ledge, but eventually realized that if I left his room tonight telling him not to worry about it, he would anyway and that any fun of having the Elf on our shelf was going to be lost in his cloud of confusion, doubt and analytics.

I finally just leaned down and asked him if he could keep a very important secret between me and him.  He nodded, very seriously, that he could and pinky promised me. I went and got the Elf off the shelf and brought it into his room.  Then I confessed that he was indeed correct in his thinking that an eight-inch tall skinny Elf with velcro on his hands and feet couldn't move on its own.  And, I told him that I was the person who had moved it.  He promised me, through tears of relief, that he would not tell Thomas and that he would still have fun looking for the Elf each morning.  I think I believe him.

I'm left wondering how my inquisitive, left-brained child has gotten so big.  I'm a little heartbroken for him - and for me - because this is obviously the first of many mythical creatures about whom he'll have questions, sooner rather than later.  I'm also so proud of his logic and ability to reason and willingness to share his concern.  And, I'm a little amused that my kid-of-much-bravado was terrified of a toy Elf. 

So, tomorrow morning is the first test.  I've moved the Elf to a location that will require them to look a little harder and I'm hoping he'll do the right thing.  He still wants to be on the big man in red's good list so hopefully he'll choose to be a good brother and keep his pinky promise to me. In the meantime I'll be seriously hoping that that semi-loose front tooth of his stays put for another month. I don't know if I can handle the demise of the tooth fairy right now.

November 25, 2009

Giving thanks

Here's hoping that your turkey tomorrow will be as wonderful as our turkeys...

I took this picture tonight of the boys sporting their Thanksgiving feast finery from school. When asked what they were thankful for, they provided all the right answers; friends, family, Madeline, Mrs. Bowman, our house, etc. Andrew also wanted me to know that he's thankful for our food, even when it's food that he doesn't like and I make him take a bite anyway.  Thomas?  He's also thankful for Christmas.

We've been reminded this fall that we should always be thankful for good health, and we are. We're also thankful for our wonderful friends, near and far.  And, we're thankful for family that we would choose as friends.  We're so very lucky.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 16, 2009

Easy for you to say

Out of the mouth of Thomas...comes some funny stuff.  Today's favorites:


"I want to watch Briskercats, mommy."  "Do you mean, Aristocats?"  "Right. That's what I said. Briskercats." 


"I don't want to wash with soap and water. Couldn't I just use hanitizer?"


While stalling at bedtime:
"So, mommy.  After we put on jammies, can we go back downstairs and play?" 
"No, Thomas."
"So, mommy.  After we put on jammies, can we go back downstairs and play some more, please?"
"No, Thomas. Not tonight."
"But, mommy!  After we put on jammies, can we go back downstairs?"
"No, Thomas.  It's time for bed."
"I am listening Thomas. You just don't like my answer."
"So, mommy.  Now can you stop listening and give me a different answer?"

November 13, 2009

A bad day defined

This made me a few minutes late to work today. Of course, if I hadn't stopped to take pictures before I detoured, I could have shaved at least 90 seconds off my delay.  But, really.  How could I NOT have taken pictures of this?

This is a moving van that apparently went directly over the top of a roundabout down the street.  Until today, there had been landscaping and a sign in the middle of this roundabout.  I'm guessing the rose bushes aren't going to make it.

That's right.  Moving van on concrete.  I think this is known as being high-centered, no?  Bummer, dude.

November 12, 2009

Discuss amongst yourselves

Is this complete genius or completely big brother, creep you the heck out? 

November 4, 2009

A frightfully good time

It’s time for the obligatory Halloween photos and tales of another successful year of begging the neighbors for candy. Thankfully, the most haunting parts of our week were over by the time Saturday rolled around. (As previously mentioned, earlier in the week we were paid a visit by a virus that we’ll assume for my sanity was H1N1. If it wasn’t the swine bug then I’m sure we’ll get to repeat it all again at some point in coming months.)

Last Sunday was the school Halloween carnival and, sadly, Andrew was too sick to attend but Thomas and I went and bought two sets of tickets so we could win prizes for Andrew and prolong the wearing of the Spiderman costume. As you can tell from the pics, just having it on his person made him VERY, VERY serious. Crimefighting is not for sissies.

On Friday Andrew was well enough to return to school and enjoy not one but two parties with a costume parade at each of his schools. Regrettably, I have no photos of either of these in my possession because I haven’t received my Snapfish order yet, but he pronounced his skeleton costume “creepy” which was totally what he was going for this year. My baby is growing up.

For me, the highlight of Saturday was pumpkin carving. It was the first time that the anticipation of the activity hadn’t been more exciting than the actual gutting and cutting. We did something this year, however, that I had always disavowed. We carved pumpkins that were purchased at the grocery store. (Hangs head in shame.) I know, I know. Inexcusable. But, sometimes life just gets in the way.

Between perpetual rain, fevers and general unrest over the last week in our home, it just wasn’t in the cards to venture back to the pumpkin patch. Thomas and I had gone with his class and I thought we’d get back out with Andrew but alas, the only person it seemed to bother was me. The boys were thrilled with their ridiculously expensive, ridiculously large, ridiculously perfect pumpkins and we had a great time creating jack-o-lantern masterpieces.

Andrew did all of his own design work and most of his own carving, actually. (Don’t worry, grandmas. He wasn’t using a machete, he was well-supervised and still has nine fingers…)

After carving it was time for a quick visit to Great Grandma’s and then off to our friends’ for pizza and trick-or-treating. They were so anxious to get going that we sent them out to the trampoline to run off energy until it was time to hit the streets. I love this picture of Andrew, aka Mr. Bones, and our friend, Emily, aka Superwoman, as happy as kids should be.

Not to be outdone, Thomas and his buddy, Molly, spent a great deal of time on a glider, oblivious to the fact that Spiderman doesn't typically have time for such frivolity.

We returned home with more candy than any family needs but I guess that’s part of the drill. Thomas has discovered a previously untapped penchant for Reese’s peanut butter cups – that’s my boy! – and Andrew has learned he loves Laffy Taffy so we’ll call it a learning experience and just keep eating.

October 27, 2009

Grace in small things

A number of  big-time (read: they make money off this) bloggers have participated in a “Grace in Small Things” post theme this year.  I’ve loved following their posts and while I wasn’t really invited to participate, here’s mine for today:

1. Redbox – One movie, 24 hours, $1.  In the last 24 hours we’ve rented seven of them.  Yep, seven. It’s saving my sanity.

2. School pictures – the boys’ came home yesterday and gosh darn if they aren’t the really cute day brightener one needs when while everyone is coughing and having fevers and headaches.

3. The power of Vicks – Andrew is growing irritable about feeling flu-ish and was fairly irritating for a good portion of last night.  Then, at bedtime, he told me he loved me more than anything because I came back up to put Vicks on his chest. He’s forgiven.

4. Coffee – enough said.

5. Driveway repairs – we’re having the front portion of ours re-poured so we won’t have to accelerate to climb the car into the garage. The concrete truck came today. When Andrew and I were home. Hallelujah!

6. Boo! – being boo’d by neighbors.  The orange pumpkin full of treats and toys was a great mood lifter around here tonight.

October 25, 2009

I spoke too soon

In my last post, I mentioned that it was only Wednesday afternoon but it had been a, let’s see, I believe I said, “long-ish week” and that we were “holding on for Friday.”  I be so smart to type something like that.  I really had some nerve to tempt someone with that kind of language.

I think I posted that at around 7 p.m. on Wednesday.  At that time I had completed my conference commitments for the week, the kids were playing in the living room, the dinner dishes were cleaned up and I had successfully dropped my parents that afternoon at a hotel near the Kansas City airport, in preparation for their early-a.m. departure the next day.  It was cold and rainy but the big “to-dos” had been crossed from my list for the week.

At exactly 9:32 p.m. that very same night I received a call from Mark who was in St. Louis for meetings.  Upon answering, I could hear his friend Q asking him for the phone.  Mark and Q go back to approximately 1982 when they were teammates at KU and now work for the same company so I assumed they were out on the town in STL and braced for Q to entertain me on the phone.  He does that well. 

Instead, after a few seconds of polite small talk, Q informed me that he “had everything under control” and that I “didn’t need to be alarmed,” but that he had my husband with him in a cab and they were heading to a hospital as a precaution because Mark “wasn’t feeling well.”  Anyone who knows Mark knows that he doesn’t much do sick and that he especially doesn’t do doctors unnecessarily so despite Q’s attempts to downplay the alert level we should be at here, I was not feeling comforted. 

I’m under strict instruction by the patient in question to not overdramatize what happened on Wednesday night, but the basic story is that Mark was indeed not feeling well and was having some symptoms that might indicate he was having what Q described to me as a “cardiac event.” (SPOILER ALERT: He wasn’t.)

Awesome.  Let’s recap.  I’m in Lawrence with my sleeping children, my husband is in STL headed for an emergency room, my parents are in KC without a car and this isn’t feeling good. At all.

What followed was… harrowing.  (My word, no one else’s!)

It was harrowing for the patient who didn’t feel right at all but didn’t know why. He was subjected to a variety of tests and labwork over the next 16 hours that he spent on various cots and chairs in an ER where there were gunshot victims, drug withdrawals and other  heartwarming scenes playing out all around him.

It was harrowing for Q who was trapped in the ER of a sprawling urban hospital with a friend who was sick and the wife of said friend in panic mode at home. He was trying to keep me updated via text and calls, he was fielding calls from co-workers and eventually from Mark’s parents as well. I’m pretty sure he was never offered a cot so he sat in a chair all night and he even endured a nurse asking in all seriousness if he was Mark’s domestic partner.

It was harrowing for me because, well, I’m a drama queen and I was scared.

Here’s the amazing part. Within minutes of hanging up with my parents, who were my first call after I realized Q wasn’t joking around, I had calls and texts from Q’s wife, offering to come get my kids, to come and sit with me and just generally providing her patented brand of calm and wisdom.  Minutes later my friend Janice, who also works with Mark & Q, was calling on her way home from STL offering to come get me and drive me there while her husband stayed with my boys, or offering to get my kids, or probably offering anything I would have come up with for her to do.  My mom, who was stranded in KC and due to leave the country in 8 hours, was offering to call in my other friends to come so I wouldn’t be alone and yet, at first, just knowing that all of these people would come if I needed them to, was enough.

The hours dragged on and by 12:30 a.m. there was little news which was not comforting. My stomach was in revolt and I was slowly deciding that I wasn’t digging being alone anymore. From Q’s updates it was becoming obvious that they were in for a long night there.  When my parents called and said they had a plan to postpone their flight by 12 hours, rent a car at the airport and come home first thing in the morning I caved and asked them to come right then. And they did. Wow.

The upshot of all of this is that Mark is alright.  He was released at noon the next day and co-workers got Q home in time to see his daughter rock in her last regular season volleyball game. Another co-worker stayed behind and drove Mark home that afternoon.  Mark’s heart is, as we would have guessed, Tour de France-worthy and he knocked the socks off a stress test while running in khakis and dress shoes. We’re following up here on the unanswered questions and trying to lie low for a few days, but expect to find out that he’s in great shape.  My parents were able to rebook their flights for the next morning and they did a Groundhog Day where they went back to the same hotel and did the whole thing over again. All of us who didn’t sleep a wink that night are catching up and starting to feel back to normal.

And, here’s the amazing part: we have learned, in a way you never want to, that we have people in our lives who are better friends and family than we could have even imagined. I made exactly one outgoing phone call to my parents and one to Mark’s, and the rest were incoming and overwhelming. The boys never had a clue and we are blessed beyond measure.

I almost wrote this post yesterday about how I really had no clue that our long-ish week was about to get longer on Wednesday afternoon.  Good thing I waited because if I had written it yesterday it wouldn’t have included how Andrew woke-up today with a 102.2 degree temperature, wicked sore throat, cough and willingness to lie in his bed and watch movies. It’s probably premature to call it the flu, but gosh, it seems like he’s a little swine-y. 

The good thing is that on Tuesday that would have really sent me over the edge. Today, well.  No big deal.  We’ll just keep to ourselves and try not to cough on anyone until it passes.  Oink, oink.

October 21, 2009


It’s been a long-ish kind of week around here.  I do know it’s only Wednesday, but still.  We have marked a first this week where Parent A and Parent B needed to be out-of-town on non-negotiable business.  At the same time.

We saw the collision coming on the calendar months in advance and knew that there was no hope of either commitment changing so we had to enlist the help of the A-Team grandparents.  The boys are always fine in that situation. They get to spend lots of time with Grandma and PaRon and eat lots of cookies and drink Sprite after school and have pancakes on school days.  It’s me that doesn’t cope so well. 

My commitment was actually just an hour down the road so I did the 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. commutes to be able to sleep at home and relieve Grandpa and PaRon for the night.  It’s always better to sleep in your own bed but I am finding out that three days of that makes me tired. Mark is still gone so we’re just holding on for Friday. 

After three long days at my conference and many miles on the road in pouring rain, THIS is exactly the kind of news a girl can use to brighten a day that’s dreary on so many levels.  To this news I say, thank you USAF!

October 18, 2009

I hear your mom calling you

The boys have spent a great deal of time in the last week pretending to play KU football in the basement. The stairs are the locker room and they run down them into the family room yelling, “Here come your Kansas Jayhawks!”

Andrew has mostly been Dezmon Briscoe this week but after last night’s loss, is back to pretending to be Todd Reesing this morning. Thomas, though, is not as fickle.  He’s all Jake Sharp, all the time.  This has made him the subject of much teasing from his brother because Jake has been hurt and hasn’t played in the last few real games, making it hilarious to Andrew that Thomas would choose to be him. Further adding to that hilarity for Andrew is the fact that about 50% of the time, Thomas refers to himself as, “Jake SHARK,” which always prompts a correction from big brother “Todd.”

A few minutes ago, Thomas came flying upstairs and I said, “Hi, Jake. How’s your game today?”  He came to a screeching halt and told me that he couldn’t be Jake right now because Todd – aka Andrew - told him that Jake’s mom called and told him it was time to go home for dinner, so he would now need to be Kerry Meier.

With a brother like that, who needs your own brain?! 

October 9, 2009

Feel the love

The high school up the street from our house is the site of a lovely, new football stadium.  It’s kind of fancy for a high school football stadium with its limestone-lined bleachers, full-service concession stand, press box, brand spanking new turf and state-of-the-art lighting.  We can hear the band from our house so tonight – and last Friday night – we headed up after dinner to check things out at the new venue. 

It’s cold here tonight and we had no intention of actually getting out of the car to attend the game. We were just out cruising.  We had in mind that we would turn up the heat, roll down the windows and double park for a few minutes to see and hear the action.  Andrew had in mind that we would fight for a parking spot, pay for the family to enter the stadium, brave the elements and the crowd to find a seat, and really sit down and watch the game.

Fortunately, we’re still in charge…mostly.  We watched for a few minutes then Mark put the car in gear to head the ship home.

That’s when Andrew turned up the whine full-throttle and announced that we were the meanest parents he knew, what with how we wouldn’t let him sit outside without a coat to watch our local team being soundly defeated.  Telling us once that we were mean wasn’t enough, so he decided to repeat himself…a few times.

After about the third outburst Mark pointed to a bunch of police cars parked behind the school and said, “You’re right. We’re so mean to you.  We’re so mean that you might want to hop out and tell those police officers how terribly we treat you. Or, better yet, just call them.  Tell them how mean we are.”

…10 seconds of silence from the backseat…

Then Thomas pipes up. “We can’t tell the police that, Daddy,  ‘cause you didn’t get us pheletones yet.”

I guess we’ll add that to the list of injustices. 

September 28, 2009

Reading between the lines

While helping Andrew wash his hands tonight in our basement bathroom, I noticed that the mirror above the sink was a mess. 

ME: “I wonder what happened in here? It looks like this mirror has been all wet.”

ANDREW: “I don’t know, mommy.  It looks kind of like it would look if I had blown water out of my football coach’s whistle and sprayed it everywhere on purpose.  But, I didn’t do that.  It just looks like it would if I had done it, which I didn’t actually do.”

ME:  “Anything else you didn’t do that I need to know about?"

September 23, 2009

True love

Have I ever mentioned that I lurrr-vve this kid?  Click here to see why!

September 20, 2009

Rushing to judgment

I love to complain about my employment status.  For the last six years it has been a top-of-mind – all the time – kind of issue for me. I’m a working mom who is conflicted about that role on a daily basis. I’ll spare you the details of my feelings on the subject, mostly because anyone reading this has probably had to endure at least one conversation about it in real life.  Basically, I flip-flop and it’s complicated.

Part of my wishy-washiness on the subject stems from the fact that, despite my complaints, I have a pretty good situation going with my employer.  Over the last six years I’ve been able to work things out so that I’m not (technically) working a full 40-hours per week and I rarely have to travel overnight.  I’m admittedly a little spoiled by that. I am able to take both the kids to their respective schools each morning and get back in time to pick them up well before most of their friends depart for the day. The schedule is the saving grace. 

It’s also the big, fat problem when I’m out-of-town.  My flexibility means that we’ve built NO flexibility, nor the expectation for any, into Mark’s schedule.  That’s why when I realized I was actually going to have to travel to Washington D.C. for three days last week, it made me nauseous.  We always have to rely heavily on the grandparents and sometimes even sitters to make it work. I am always sure that nothing is going to get accomplished correctly while I’m gone and that everyone left here at House Hondo is going to eat McDonald’s three meals per day and cry themselves to sleep at night.  (That’s happened before. It’s not a totally unfounded fear.) 

I left at o’dark thirty on Wednesday morning and didn’t return until after dark on Friday night.  While I was gone I had, if I’m being honest, a really great opportunity to see our nation’s capital up close and personal, tour the White House, meet with Kansas’ elected officials and have a couple of good meals.

I returned after dark on Friday evening, fully expecting to walk into a sad scene – my deserved penalty for having left them all for three days.   I anticipated being ambushed by two kids, mountains of dirty laundry and a dirty kitchen.  Instead, I found two boys who were happy to see me but were, more importantly, just happy.  Laundry had been done,  there was food in the refrigerator, Andrew had been to soccer practice, both boys had taken share toys to school, and it appeared they had all even been bathed. Thomas reported that they ate Quizno’s every night but a little investigation proved that claim to be inaccurate.

I went to bed Friday night feeling a little like I wasn’t perhaps as important to the machinations around here as I had fancied myself and that my boys were growing up to a point I hadn’t fully comprehended.  That felt bittersweet.


We got up bright and early yesterday to head to the KU football game.  We tailgated – twice – and purchased the requisite $4 bottles of water and some nachos before we ever got seated. It was a beautiful day and the boys were well-behaved for our pre-game festivities and settled right into our seats, where they paid attention as the game started and seemed to be enjoying the beautiful day. 

The Jayhawks got off to a bit of a slow start, which it turns out was a blessing, because we had failed to mention and/or prepare for the small detail wherein there would be a cannon fired each time KU scored. At first they neither one seemed to notice. Thomas was wearing his standard issue bright orange ear plugs so we assumed he hadn’t heard it and Andrew just didn’t care. You know what they say about people who assume…

By halftime, Andrew was literally begging to go home. He said he was hot, he was bored, he was all kinds of things that would preclude him from staying at the game, which is all a little unusual for him.  Mark finally took pity on him and took both boys down to the concourse to cool off and find another drink. When they returned he had found more than a drink. He had also found out that the sudden desire to hit the road was all about the cannon.  From there, things went downhill fast. The Jayhawks came out ready to play and Andrew went from anxious and quiet to sobbing and loud, and Thomas followed his lead.  At little more than a few minutes into the third quarter we left. 

I was furious.

I was selfishly absorbed in the fact that we were about to walk out of a football game our team was winning, on a gorgeous fall afternoon, because our kids couldn’t cope with the noise. Fortunately for us all, my husband was feeling more benevolent and saw the bigger picture. We ended up back at our original tailgate and eventually headed home, well before the game ended.


Andrew loved hearing about my trip and poured over the maps and brochures I brought home. Thomas has spent the last two days carrying around his official US Capitol notepad and pencil like he’s an ace reporter.  They definitely got along just fine without me for a few days.  The only constant is indeed, change. While I’m hoping not to travel for work again anytime soon, they can all three handle it if I do. 

They’re also still little boys.  They’re still scared of loud noises and sometimes just want to be at home. Thomas hugged me six times and kissed me eight before I left to go on a short walk yesterday and I was greeted just as warmly from that return as I had been on Friday night. 

I should really learn not to jump to conclusions.  It appears I’m not obsolete just yet.

September 13, 2009

We should all work this hard

After many heartbreaks and unanticipated delays, the boys and I set-up the Uncle Milton’s Giant Ant Farm yesterday.  I did most of the setting-up because the ants come with warnings about their ability to inflict painful bites and that was a drama that we just didn’t need.

Anyway, it’s up and running and those ants are industrious.  This morning Thomas and I were watching them work – which is truly fascinating – and observing that they can carry pieces of sand that are larger than their own bodies.  They’re big ants so you can really watch them use their…ahem, hands?… to shape their new environment into their dream home.  We were gazing at them and I asked Thomas how he thought they were able to move such big things and after careful thought he replied. “They must put them in their pockets.” 

September 11, 2009

The ants go marching

Oh, yeah. The ants are on their way!!!


Uncle Milton Ant Shipment Notification‏
shipnotify (
You may not know this sender.Mark as safeMark as junk
Fri 9/11/09 12:44 PM
shipnotify (

Thank you for your order of ants from Uncle Milton Industries. We are emailing to inform you that the ants have left our facility and are making their way to your location as we speak! Please try to limit the amount of time the ants spend in transit by checking your mailbox everyday.

Thank you for choosing Uncle Milton Industries.


September 5, 2009

Lost in translation

Me: “Thomas, go ask Andrew if he’s ready to go on a bike ride.”

Thomas runs to the next room…

Thomas: “Andrew, do you want to go in the street like Daddy always does and then you will say ‘cock-a-doodle-do?’”

August 31, 2009

Brotherly love

Thomas has pretty much mastered the art of using the toilet these days but is still reluctant to actually venture off to the bathroom by himself.  Before dinner tonight he announced that he needed to go and his mad dancing skills indicated that he didn’t need to wait, but needed to bust a move. Mark and I were both busy at that exact moment so I suggested that he ask Andrew to walk in there with him.  Surprisingly, Andrew went willingly. 

A few minutes passed and I heard maniacal laughter, the sound of the toilet flushing and then looked up to see two boys jumping down the hallway into the kitchen with their underwear around their ankles.  But boy, oh boy, were they laughing. 

It was one of those where as soon as I asked, “What’s so funny?” I knew I didn’t really want to know.  Andrew was in hysterics and couldn’t even talk.  Thomas stopped bouncing long enough for me to ask if he had gone to the bathroom and he assured me he had, and that he and Andrew were very “tunny.” 

At this point he had Mark’s attention too.  “Tunny” often equates to, “naughty.” 

“I did make a potty and then we made an X,” he said, still laughing.

“An X?,” I asked.

“Yes, Andrew and me, we made an X when we both pottied at the same time.”

Awesome. I’m off to clean a bathroom.

August 22, 2009

Here's your sign

I recently celebrated a birthday that put me on the downhill slide to 40, and I'm now dropping my oldest at public school each morning. But? I'm still fairly agile, I'm using social media tools somewhat proficiently and I can even remember where I live.

That must be some type of medical miracle considering I'm now receiving this type of mail...

Maybe they know something I don't?

August 18, 2009

On being sure

I asked him four times if he was sure. I wasn't trying to harass him but I wanted to be certain I had given him every opportunity to change his mind. Or, to speak it in case he was holding back. We hadn't really talked about exactly how it would go this time and I just wanted to be positive we weren't rushing it. After the fourth time I asked, he looked me dead in the eye and said in a clear, calm voice, "Mommy, I'm SURE. I will be fine. I know where to go and I listened when they told me what to do."

And that's how it came to be that my oldest baby walked himself into school yesterday on his first full day of Kindergarten.

He climbed out of his buckle, gave me a hug and rarely-offered kiss, hopped out of the car -- slamming the door for good measure -- and then began his retreat into the building with his beloved Pokemon backpack bouncing along behind him. About halfway there he turned around mid-stride and gave me a quick wave as he flashed his best smile. I would like to think it's because he was just wanting to see me one more time but it's probably more accurate to assume that he knew I needed him to do that. I think it was for me, not him.

And then the principal held the door open for him and he disappeared inside.

I spent the next 15 minutes, as I drove to work, silently congratulating us on how prepared and ready he seems to be for this journey. Oh, and also trying to beat back the tears that seem perched just on the edge as he takes this starting Kindergarten thing in total stride.

He had an abbreviated day last week and Mark and I went in with him, waiting in the gym with the other 399 kids who obediently grouped themselves by teacher. He sat on a bench along the wall with his buddy, Josh, and they goofed around seemingly oblivious to the fact that their parents were lurking, watching expectantly, to see if they were "alright." They were fine. That day he barely looked back as his teacher entered the gym and ushered them to their classroom at the bell. That should have been my sign that yesterday was coming. And yet, I wasn't quite prepared.

I should have been. It's been clear for months that he was ready to move on, that he wasn't a preschooler anymore. We've known for six years that he would go to school just up the street and we really even stole an extra year by deciding to wait until this fall to start him there. We've attended all the meetings -- the ones at Stepping Stones and the ones at his new school -- and yet I feel a little blindsided.

I'm trying to remember that this is an exciting new beginning for him. He was assigned to a teacher who is nearly legendary. I've never heard a parent utter an unflattering word about her and his new afternoon teacher is wonderful too. She's quiet and calm and steady and all the things I'm not. I've told him that his new best friends are waiting to be made this year, and I believe it. But, my goodness. How could he be ready to walk into an elementary school all by himself already?

I am fighting the feeling that I have in some way let his first six years slip by, without enough fanfare, without enough togetherness, without enough being in the moment.

He came into our lives as a baby that was, in retrospect, such an easy one to please. But we were new and we didn't know. It still seemed kind of daunting because we were so clueless. Hindsight being 20/20, I can now look back on the stages we hoped would pass sort of quickly and all the sleep I regretted missing, and see that I can't, from this moment forward, wish even one second of it away -- the good, the bad or the ugly. There's plenty of all three of those with him these days and I'm trying to embrace the notion that even the ugly is worth my being present.

A couple of months ago, on a rainy Saturday when Andrew was exhibiting the bad and the ugly, I spent a day butting heads with him. Everything he did rubbed me the wrong way that day and, if I'm being honest, everything I did was having the same effect on him. After some outburst -- probably from both of us -- when I was wishing away the moment if not the afternoon, Mark commented that if Andrew and I had been the same age we probably wouldn't have been boyfriend and girlfriend. Truer words had maybe never been spoken.

This child is dramatic, mercurial and sometimes just flat-out irritating with his persistance in being the center of attention. Negotiating with him is sometimes, quite frankly, a bit like talking to myself in the mirror and I have occasionally feared that he inherited all of my least flattering personality traits. The difference is that I think there's a fighting chance he'll use all of those to propel him in this world. It's those same characteristics that drive him to walk into Kindergarten by himself, with a smile on his face and his backpack full of confidence.

He is also full of personality, in a way that I someday hope to be. He is sometimes surprisingly aware of who he is and, most days, pretty much alright with that. His curiosity is seemingly neverending and when he couples it with his ability to retain information, he can be a walking Funk & Wagnalls.

He's quick with a smile and he can strike up articulate conversation with kids and adults when the mood is right. He loves to have fun and he's good at it. He's sometimes appropriately cautious, but he's not typically going to let himself be left out of a good, old-fashioned fun situation. He likes to laugh and if he can make his friends or, better yet, his brother, laugh he seems to feel a real sense of accomplishment. He often doesn't know quite when to stop but by gosh, he's kind of hilarious as he crosses lines. He's a good friend. He has a sense of loyalty to his buddies that sometimes extends to me. When he senses that I'm going to be the odd-man-out in a family situation he frequently offers to stay with me, so I won't be lonely. We've never asked him to do the same for his brother, but I'm confident he would if the chips were down.

He's exuberant, enthusiastic, inquisitive and entertaining. I like him on my team.

So here we are. He has made it clear that he doesn't need me to hold his hand so tightly for this new adventure and in that message he leaves me with a choice. I can either be sad that time has moved so quickly and that I wasn't here for every second of it, or, I can choose to learn from his ability to make the best of every situation and be overwhelmingly proud of how prepared he is.

I'm guessing tomorrow morning will bring an even quicker exit from the car and that he's unlikely to turn around for a wave as he becomes more comfortable in his new routine. He's sure, after all. And I am too. I'm sure that he's not perfect, but perfect for us, and that he leaves me with only one choice -- to follow his example and to live without regret.

Tomorrow I won't ask him twice if he wants me to walk in with him. I will remind him to smile often, to listen more than he talks, to enjoy the little things and to go be sure. Then I'll vow to do the same for him because it's what he deserves and time moves too fast to do it any other way.

August 8, 2009

Summer school

Have you ever played "chicken"? You know, where you see who can forge ahead without flinching? I've been engaged in a bitter match for the last week. I'm playing chicken with my sister-in-law to see who will be first to recap the Henderson/Tucker Summer Vacation of '09. Now that I type that it looks like a really foolish game to have played, no?

It's a daunting task to recap a vacation that brought together 11 people under one roof for seven days. We're talking about a group of 11 brilliant, witty people that includes eight first-borns or only children and includes five people under the age of six. This was not a leisurely week at the beach, people. This was an action-packed stay.

Because I traveled the shortest distance -- from only the first floor to the second floor of my own home -- and because I had the fewest number of children for whom to care, I've decided to bite the proverbial bullet and end the standoff. I present for your entertainment the Henderson/Tucker Family Vacation of '09 Blog Post. My fellow family bloggers are both good. They're more concise than me and funnier too. I hope this will do it justice.

I'm posting no pictures here because I wouldn't know where to start, but there are some really good ones in this album. Go have a look-see.

The Henderson/Tucker Clan arrived at House Hondo on Wednesday, July 25. The following is a very abridged list of daily highlights and things we learned, saw and conquered.

Today we learned that Eric can overcome his fear of flying with the help of his good friend, Jack and that he will never book a ticket through Phoenix in the summer again. We also learned that blood is indeed thicker than most anything else and that explains how four kids who hadn't seen each other for six months could pick up and hit the ground running instantly. It was this night, when we sat outside voluntarily to eat dinner, that I began to allow myself to cling to the dream that the weather just might cooperate for this event. Most importantly, we learned that Cline Cellars makes a darn fine red table wine that they're selling in a little barrel now. There will be one permanently on display on my kitchen counter should you find yourself in the neighborhood.

Today we all met for lunch downtown and learned that trying to find a table for 11 was going to be a challenge from this point forward, but that as long as we were seated within shouting distance everyone around us would come to know our children well. We also learned that Butch had left his hearing aids somewhere that wasn't here and that's how he could eat with all of us and still smile.

After lunch we took the kids to paint pottery. We learned that soccer balls can be brown and orange -- thank you for that lesson, Thomas -- and that Jayhawks don't have to be painted blue and red -- we've forgiven you, Eric. Each child and Uncle Eric created awesome masterpieces that we picked up later in the week as fun reminders of the trip.

Happy Birthday, RoRo! The morning was spent looking around campus, visiting Aunt Claire's bench and then lunching at Yello Sub. Today we learned that it is possible to surprise RoRo with a birthday gathering and that if we didn't actually surprise her she's an excellent actress. Either way we had fun getting a group of her Lawrence friends together for afternoon dessert.

After those festivities we headed the group to the pool. Here is where we confirmed that Luke is a VERY tolerant baby as he chilled in the shade as the rest of us swam. Pool highlights included Uncle Eric convincing Andrew to jump off the diving board for the first time all season and Thomas and Claire making up great games to play together, oblivious the world was watching.

Because RoRo is a peacekeeping saint, we ate dinner that night at the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. It was probably not her first choice for her birthday dinner but the kids enjoyed it, despite Aunt Susan allowing a game of hide-and-seek to go out of control outside while we waited for our table. Again with that table for 11.

That night marked the first of several in which I had the pleasure of lining all four big kids up on Granny's camelback sofa in our loft and reading four books, one of each child's choosing. That was a daily highlight for me. I'm a sucker for clean kids in jammies who will listen to me talk.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Today we ventured bright and early to the Topeka Zoo, which never fails to be perfect for kids. It's not too small, not too big and the animals were all out enjoying the perfect weather. We learned that rain forest still stinks even when it's cool outside and that some people have no taste in sandwiches when Aunt Maria and I we selected Schlotzsky's for lunch. (We were self-appointed cruise directors and occasionally had some passengers balk at our food choices...oh well.) The orangutans and lions performed nicely for us and we really had a great time.

That afternoon was spent conquering a grill assembly and we learned that Uncle Eric and Uncle Mark work very well together. Those of us who were not needed (read: not invited) to help with that project ventured out for top-your-own frozen yogurt that we took to the Stickwork sculpture on campus where we had a dessert picnic. The kids were thoroughly unimpressed with it this time around but Thomas and Claire were endlessly entertained by the process of shaking out the blanket as we cleaned up. They acted as if it was a parachute and giggled hysterically as it floated down around them. The big boys were too busy playing dangerously close to Jayhawk Blvd. and watching the conclusion of a wedding at Danforth to notice.

For dinner Uncle Eric and Butch put the grill through its paces and we learned it was awesome!

This was a big morning. It's when we all took showers, we all combed our hair and we all brushed our teeth, all before 9 a.m., because that's when Lance arrived to take family photos. Actually, he didn't arrive until 9:30 but the cruise directors jokingly told RoRo that he was coming at 9 and she spread that word so Butch was pretty happy with us when he was ready at 8:45 a.m. for the 9:30 sitting. Ooops. The picture taking process was painless. Everyone cooperated and Lance was ultra-organized. I can't imagine it could have gone more smoothly. And? We only used half a bag of M&Ms and a few Capri Suns as bribes.

After that hard work we clearly needed more pool time. There was more jumping, some diving and more great pretending. We learned that it's more fun to eat on the sidewalk than a table when you have cousins around and that sunscreen does indeed serve a purpose...I'm talking to you, Uncle Eric.

In the evening we employed the services of super-sitter Erin to come help with watching the big kids while Eric, Maria, Mark and I went for an early dinner downtown and then, because we still had time until curfew -- aka bedtime for kiddos -- we had drinks and dessert where we could people watch and have uninterrupted conversation. It was definitely a top 5 visit highlight for me. It's lots of fun to have all the kids together but it was really good to be able to sit and really talk and it's always good to have so much fun with people that you would choose as close friends, even if they weren't related. What a gift. Here we learned that flourless chocolate torte should not be shared and cheesecake isn't.

This day was sent to remind us that it's still August in Kansas. Admittedly, it was a little warm. OK. It was hot and we chose this day to hit the Deanna Rose Farmstead, which is a really great place where you can feed goats and sheep, go fishing, ride ponies, see milking cows and generally do all kinds of really nature-y things in the middle of Kansas City's most suburban suburbs. Here we learned that Claire prefers cooler temperatures, as she told us she was, "breaking apart" because she was so hot and we also learned that goats and sheep will literally eat anything. I had a fearful moment when I wasn't sure the goat eating the tie on my shorts was going to let go and as I tried to swat him away the sheep that was trying to eat the map in my other hand was very persistent.

Uncle Eric and I took the big kids on a hay rack ride while Uncle Mark and Aunt Maria chilled -- as best you can when it's scorchingly hot -- with Luke, who once again earned his status as superbaby and the kids LOVED climbing up into a two-story barn and then sliding down the two-story slides back to firm ground. After we'd all had enough of the sweating we headed to lunch and then finally back home.

After dinner with my parents that evening we fired up the sprinklers and wading pool in the backyard and let the kids wear themselves out. We learned that evening that my brilliant idea to soak watermelon in rum was akin to purposefully drinking a bottle of turpentine so let that be a warning.

Since their arrival, the Tuckers had been hoping for a good thunderstorm. Tuesday morning delivered in the form of thunder from 3-7 a.m. and a power outage that had Mark and I literally and figuratively sweating it. It was feeling like we had too many people in the house to go without lights, or Spongebob. Fortunately electricity was again ours by the time most of us rolled out of bed for the day and our Californians had been treated to some impressive lightning.

Unfortunately the weather foiled our plans -- me and my co-cruise director -- to rent a pontoon boat for the morning so we punted and went downtown to acquire chocolates and Jayhawk gear before lunch. It's rumored that there might have been a few in our party who thought that putting five kids on a boat in the middle of a lake was a very poor idea to start with but since we never got to do it we can run with the memory of how great it would have been.

We did venture out to the Marina after naps and the kids fed the carp, which are as big as my thigh and as aggressive as you can imagine fish could be. Lake highlights revolved around a timely run-in with the Marina owner, who is a Henderson family friend. She filled the kids up with grape slushies and fish food and also had the great idea of putting Uncle Mark in a wheelbarrow then telling the kids push him up the dock to the parking lot. We learned that they're stronger than they look.

We wrapped up the day with more pool time and, when we got home, more group bedtime reading.

This was the sad day of departure. It was simply amazing that after seven days together the kids were still getting along and still wanting more time together. Claire and Thomas were just hitting their stride in their cooperative imaginary play and they were "cooking" in the kitchen up until the very last minute. Andrew and Zac had some rough moments over the week but they were few and far between and Andrew was in tears over them leaving when it was time for us to go to school.

Andrew would never tire of pulling Grandpa Butch's finger and Thomas would never tire of RoRo reading him books. I think it's safe to say that Mark and I would never tire of us all being able to eat great dinners together on the deck and have good conversation with people we see much too infrequently.

But, all good things must come to an end.

We arrived home that afternoon to a house that was far too quiet, and remarkably clean. (Thank you all!!!) I have so far found only one pair of flip flops and some Jo Malone samples that were left, which is really a packing miracle. We'll send the flip-flops your way and I'll send the Jo Malones right after I try each one. Just to make sure they're ok.

The kids are begging for us to visit California again soon and I'm hoping that we can stage a repeat of the Kansas Getaway again too. We love you all, thank you so much for your generosity, and are so glad we could learn together during our summer school session. We hope you'll come back soon to continue conquering Kansas!

July 29, 2009


Meet our new friend. This is "Bobo Monkey."

For coming up on a week straight now, this little man has insisted upon calling himself "Bobo Monkey" and as such has consistently referred to himself in the third person.

You make the call: disturbing trend or normal developmental phase?

July 23, 2009

Pass the ketchup

The boys and I had dinner tonight with a friend and her kids. This particular friend and I are approaching our 31st anniversary. In my world, this is what I would call an enduring relationship. We met in our first week of Kindergarten. Since then we've had life phases that saw us together constantly and some that didn't. But still, here we were, eating dinner with our kids.

It was one of those nights where you think to yourself, Whose kids are these and why are they calling me mom? I can't be old enough for them to belong to me.

That was perhaps exaggerated by the fact that after dinner we were headed to my friend's childhood home to a preview party her mom was hosting for her upcoming estate sale there.

Really. Am I old enough to go to a grownup party and are we taking these kids, who insist upon acting as if they know me, along? This is crazy.

After a quick dinner marked by asking small people (primarily the ones on Prednisone) to sit with their bottoms in their chairs, to please use inside voices and only two trips to the bathroom, we loaded up.

These kids really appear to presume they're coming with me.

We arrived at her mom's house, sprayed all the small people with bug spray and set them loose in the backyard -- in the same backyard that we were set loose in 25 years ago, back when this house was in the country and no one put bug spray on their kids.

Then I mingled. Another dear friend and I browsed. We actually both bought and paid with real money, not the make-believe stuff I used when pretending this house's pantry was an elevator.

Seriously. Who gave me a checkbook and why am I buying a bed for that cute little boy that keeps calling me mom?

After discussing the merits of a 36-cup coffee pot with -- not one, but two -- adult figures from my youth, and strolling through this house where I spent a fair amount of time during my childhood and adolesence, I was reminded that memories are about the people.

Good reminder. It's time to go.

I went to look for the kids and found all four of them running wild through the basement, having a seemingly darn good time.

They're crazy.

I rounded up those two rowdy little boys and brought them home with me. They were hot and sweaty and wanted to know when they could play with my friend's kids again.

Soon. Promise.

I arrived home and backed my sensible family SUV into the garage to unload the treasure I had found. I showered the two little people who were now making themselves at home in my house and put them to bed. Then I sat down and wondered, on the eve of my birthday, if I'm really that old.

Then I remembered something that had happened at dinner. My friend and I were deep in conversation -- so deep that we were forgetting to supervise the kids sitting with us. Somebody asked for ketchup. Someone else handed it to him. The two older ones began to giggle and we looked over to see that a little one had done this.

He wasn't scolded and instead we laughed and took pictures. It was kind of our fault - no one was watching these kids sitting with us.

Nope. Definitely not a grownup, and I wouldn't recommend holding your breath while you wait.

Now, a few hours later, it occurs to me that someday these kids might remember playing together, running through a yard with soccer balls, fighting over a board game, running around a basement. Them being good friends as adults probably defies the laws of probability.

I can still hope. Crazier things have happened.

July 21, 2009

I wo-wo-wo-wo-wonder

  • It's currently 66 degrees. The kids asked for jackets to play in the yard tonight. In Kansas. In July. We're certainly not complaining, but we wonder: Repayment for our April snow or prepayment for an August to come?

  • The boys are both on steroids to alleviate the asthmatic wheezing, shallow breathing and horrid coughing that's wracked their little bodies for the last few days. It's working. It also makes them crazy. We wonder: Prednisone, friend or foe?

  • Andrew's teacher announced her resignation today. He has only 14 days left in her room so they'll "graduate" the same day, I guess. She's been so good to Andrew and to our family. I had hoped Thomas would have her as his teacher too. I'm trying to be positive, so I wonder: Will the next one be just as good, or better?

  • We were so lucky that we had a new niece and new nephew born within a month of each other this spring. One of them is a sick little baby tonight. She's pretty darn cute. We don't like her sick. I wonder: If you have spare prayers and good vibes, would you send them?

July 15, 2009

Bound for Colorado

Do you know that when you employ the googles and the interwebs to search for the word "Colorado" in a song title, you'll come up with 31 of them?* There might be a reason for that. It's kind of beautiful. I get to vote on that since we just made the trek across I-70 to get there.

We journeyed west so Mark could meet up with a friend from his college days and ride in the Triple Bypass bicycling event. This day of riding takes participants from Evergreen, CO to Avon, CO, over three mountain passes. (One of my co-workers asked me several weeks ago, after looking at my Outlook calendar to schedule a meeting, if my husband was having surgery...)

The original plan, or lack therof, called for Mark to drive out a day or two in advance, do the ride, then come home. After some discussion about the logistics of him actually doing all of that alone, we decided the boys and I would go along and we would make a vacation of it. My first call after we reached that decision was to our travel agent, my dad, to inquire about how he finds such great condos time after time. Next thing we knew we had a two bedroom, two bath place selected in Frisco and we were all going to watch Mark attempt a very long bike ride over very tall mountains. A roadtrip was born.

The Henderson clan loaded up the gold truck last Tuesday and hit the open road, with about three cubic centimeters of room to spare in the car. Grandpa and grandma detoured to southwest Kansas to deliver great-grandma for a visit with her sister. In our car we had a bike, a toolbox, a bike paraphernalia duffel, four suitcases, two backpacks, a bag of food, a bag of kid activities, a computer bag and a sleeping bag all tucked safely in the cab. If I turned just the right way I could fully extend both my left and right legs over the bag full of wipes and Nutrigrain bars. We of course needed only a fraction of what was packed, but there's something to tempting about filling all available space on a driving trip. We're like boy scouts, I tell you.

We arrived in Frisco on Wednesday at noon and between then and Saturday night we packed in a fair amount of hiking, chipmunk feeding, paddleboating, alpine sliding, rock climbing and chairlift riding during four-and-a-half days. Mark and I both were able to catch up with college friends we see relatively infrequently and in there we also celebrated Andrew's 6th birthday and Mark rode his bike for an insane amount of time.

I know I'm prone to rambling here - it's kind of late - so you can jump into the Flickr set on the right to see photos of all the fun for yourself. I'm thinking it's mostly self-explanatory. What isn't totally explained in pictures is how proud we all were of Mark. He rode 80 miles of the steepest stuff that real people ride and was game to go to the park with the kids when he was finished. He was also smart enough to listen to his own body. He rode Vail Pass the first day we were there on his own and knew he could do it again so when his knee was screaming "stop" at him after Loveland Pass during the Saturday event, he wisely did. For that I couldn't be more grateful!

Our boys were great car travelers this time and we would willingly get back in a vehicle with them soon. Only one time on the drive home did I have to offer $2 in spending cash at the next truck stop if they would please take short naps. (Please don't judge. It worked.)

We kind of need a vacation from our vacation, but that's alright, because the boys had a blast. They will be talking fondly for weeks about when we four shared a bedroom and grandpa and grandma "lived with us."

(SPECIAL THANKS goes out to Grandma for handling the only trauma of the trip which we'll just refer to as the random puking incident and won't discuss any further.)

* Upon further inspection I've discovered there are actually more containing "Kansas" in the title, but most of them focus on the large metro to our east, so we'll still declare Colorado the clear leader.

July 6, 2009

Lions and tigers and...oh my

Thomas and I were in the car this afternoon, on our way to the doctor's office to obtain a ridiculously expensive tube of antibiotic ointment for his infected bug bites. (I'm already straying off topic but if you notice your child scratching his bug bites incessantly and then notice that they're taking on new textures and that the lymph nodes behind his ears are swollen up like rocks, they might be infected. Apparently this was not obvious to us at first so I waited a couple of days to do anything about it. Again, just waiting on my mother of the year award to arrive any day now.)

Ahem. Where was I?

Yes. Thomas and I were in the car and I asked him what they were learning about at school this week. He informed me in an enthusiastic tone, that they were talking bears. We chatted along about this theme and he shared that grizzly bears are big, brownish-black and that they eat a lot.

"What do they eat?," I asked.

"They eat grass and trees and weeds mostly," he said.

"Anything else?," I prompted.

"Yes. They also eat cars."

June 30, 2009


Our boys were invited to a pirate-themed birthday party a few weekends ago. We had lots of fun buying red bandanas, sashses and clip-on earrings. Thomas' favorite pirate accessory was, obviously, the eye patch.

He insisted upon wearing two and, like any good mother would do, once I relented I called Mark into the kitchen so we could both watch him stumble around like a drunken sailor. It only took him about 90 seconds to figure out this just wasn't going to work so he wore them on top of his head like sunglasses. All. Day. Long.

June 25, 2009

A follow-up from Uncle Milton

You'll recall that earlier this week I thought I had taken all the necessary steps for our family to have a going ant farm in the next month. However, I received the following communication from Uncle Milton this afternoon:

To: Susan
Subject: Concerning your Uncle Milton Online Order
Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2009 14:14:37

Thank you for your order! We have run your credit card and your order is all set to ship. Unfortunately, the weather in your area is too warm to safely ship at this time. We will keep your order on file until the weather cools enough to ensure your creatures will arrive safely. We will keep you posted on developments, and as soon as your order ships we will send you a shipment notification email. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Thank you,
Uncle Milton's, Inc.


Well, Uncle Milton, I do have a couple of questions:


From: Susan
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009
Subject: RE: Concerning your Uncle Milton Online Order

I appreciate your cautious shipping policy. However, you just shipped me ants earlier this week that roasted to death in my mailbox. Can you tell me what high temperatures you look for as a guideline and is it possible for you to hold-off on charging my credit card until the ants ship?


Uncle Milton and his peeps are fast on the response. Minutes later I had this...


To: Susan
Subject: RE: re: Concerning your Uncle Milton Online Order
Date: Thu, 25 June 2009

We apologize for the ants arriving in bad shape. We do our best to predict what the weather will be in your area prior to mailing it out, but sometimes they don't make it. We will wait to ship until the 10 day average for your area is below 85F.


So, by my math this means that my kids will have a working Ant Farm in mid-September. And, Uncle Milton will have my $14 until then as well. Until then we're pinning all our hopes on the lone living ant that Andrew and Mark have nicknamed Super Ant. Let's hope he really is!

June 23, 2009

The ants go marching one by one

Andrew went through a phase a couple of months ago where he was obsessed with the need for us to have an "alternative" pet. He loves Madeline with heart and soul - sorry, Madeline - but was feeling the itch for something more unusual. Apparently owning the most laid back, loving, overweight Australian Shepherd mutt that ever was just wasn't exotic enough for our young Jack Hanna.

Wisely, he initially tried this subject out on Mark. After several days of Mark declining to rush out and purchase a lorakeet, guinea pig or small turtle, he began working on me. I am normally a very poor target for this type of discussion but he came at me on Mother's Day and for some reason I was feeling just mushy enough that I was willing to entertain the topic, or at least willing to be entertained by the topic.

After some negotiations - which included me asserting that we will never knowingly harbor reptiles in this house - we narrowed it down to a goldfish or an ant farm. Mark was out-of-town and I was feeling a little sorry for myself on Mother's Day so I actually thought that getting a little fishbowl set-up sounded like a good afternoon activity. But, our little adventurer latched on to the Ant Farm concept.

The boys and I loaded up and headed downtown to the Toy Store where we selected Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm for the bargain basement price of something like $24.99. Everyone was delighted. Until we got home. That's when we figured out that we needed to send in a little voucher for the ants and, oh, it's going to take 4-6 weeks for them to arrive. Oh, and they needed an additional $4.99 for shipping. This was fun already!

Fast forward to yesterday when we journeyed to the mailbox and discovered that the much-anticipated ants had arrived. We were headed out to swimming lessons so we opened the padded envelope and put the small vial of ants on the counter next to the Ant Farm we had been staring at longingly all these weeks. I did notice as I opened it, that the envelope specifically said, right next to the cheery Uncle Milton's logo, that the contents should be kept away from extreme heat or cold. Conveniently, we were part of a National Weather Service-issued Excessive Heat Warning yesterday. At the time we retrieved the ants it was approximately 101 degrees. In the shade.

The evening progressed and the boys kind of forgot about the excitement of the ants. I kept peeking through the vial and noticed a possible lack of activity. Our new pets were definitely sluggish. Hmmm.

As I was leaving Andrew's room after the nightly routine, he remembered. He knew it was late and there was no chance we were going to collectively set-up the ant farm right then so he begged me to go do it myself and make sure the ants got enough water and food.

So, at 9:30 p.m. I began the process of assembling Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm. Sand, water, weird grains to feed them, etc. The directions suggested chilling the ants in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before attempting to put them in the farm because apparently Harvester Ants, which are approximately as big as my pinky finger, bite. Great. Icing them was supposed to slow them down temporarily so that they could be safely handled.

I removed them from the refrigerator, carefully opened the blue vial and then, quickly, dumped them into the top of their new homestead. You're all bright folks so I'm sure you've already guessed where this is headed.

You're right.

It seems that the all-expenses paid trip to Kansas in a padded envelope (aka sauna) was more than our Harvester Ants could handle. There is such a thing as too much spa time. They were dead. At first we thought that every last one of them had bitten the proverbial dust but it turns out that one lone ant survived. Sadly, it seems to be difficult for him to tunnel and do all the other fascinating things our new pets were supposed to do to entertain us when he's acting as a lone ranger. And, it seems relatively unlikely he'll procreate, seeing as how there's only one of him.

That's how it came to be that I was on the Uncle Milton's Ant Farm website bright and early this morning dialing up more alternative pets. This time they'll ship me two vials worth with some additional sand for a mere $14. Their website says the ants should survive nicely in temperatures up to 90 degrees so we're holding out hope.

Madeline has never looked better.

June 21, 2009

Numero uno

At the boys' school it's tradition that on the Friday before Mother's Day and the Friday before Father's Day, the Pre 2 kids have a picnic at a nearby park with their parent of honor for the weekend. The menu always features hot dogs, chips and strawberries and they always sing a group song for their parents and then deliver a gift that they have created during the previous week.

They don't always, however, deliver a beauty like this one...

This hat says it all. This dad is indeed #1. Happy Father's Day!

June 15, 2009

Crossing every "t"

We broke the exciting news to the boys during dinner tonight that our whole Henderson family will be visiting later this summer. Always about the logistics, Andrew immediately wanted to know where everyone would sleep.

Seemingly from nowhere, Thomas launched into a descriptive narration of how it would all go down.

He decided immediately that Claire will sleep with him in his room. He says that Claire will sleep in the big bed in his room and he will sleep in his small bed but clarified several times that she would indeed sleep with him, in his room.

Next he declared that Zac would like to sleep in Andrew's room and that since Andrew has a big bed, they'll share.

Almost as quickly he decided that RoRo and Aunt Maria will sleep in mommy and daddy's bed and after a little thought, said that mommy will sleep with them. He says our bed is big enough for "fhree."

Then he slowed down a little before deciding about Butch. Turns out, Butch will be sleeping on a couch. "Maybe the living room, maybe the basement."

Then we had to start prompting him. What about baby Luke? He thinks that baby Luke should sleep in a crib. In the basement. With Butch. And, that we should put some blankets in there since it doesn't have a mattress.

What about Uncle Eric, we said? Eric, it seems, will be sleeping outside on the trampoline. With daddy.

The best part? "Every morning all the kids will go run outside and jump on their heads."

So, that's something to which all of us should be looking forward.

June 11, 2009

Summer in the city

We're enjoying a cool, wet start to summer here and while we've had a few days lately that were downright chilly we aren't complaining because I'm sure the heat and humidity will find us soon enough. In the meantime, we're soaking up all the outside time we can wring out of each day.

After a late-afternoon trip to the library today, and a great outdoor dining experience downtown, the boys enjoyed some ice cream while we watched the world go by. How sweet it is.

June 8, 2009

Live blogging

Live blogging is defined by BlogHer as: Taking notes, photos, or recordings at lectures, conferences, and presentations of what was said and posting it to your blog.

Tonight's live blogging presentation is one in a series of installments courtesy of Thomas.

He is currently in his room, in the dark, tucked safely under two blankets, asking in very clear terms for more water. However, I am of the opinion that after consuming two small cups of milk during the post-shower routine, and then another small glass of water after books in his room, plus an extra few sips for good measure, it's impossible that he's actually parched. And if he is, we need to call a physician rather than offer more water, because no nightime diaper is equipped to deal with this level of hydration. To that end, I'm ignoring the following lecture he's conducting from his chambers...

"Someone needs to get me a drink right now."


"I told you that I am VERY firsty and I very need a drink RIGHT NOW."


"Could someone PEESE get me a drink. Right now."


"I said. I. AM. VERY. FIRSTY."


"Then I said, I need someone to get me a drink now, PEESE."


"I told you. I need a drink. A little drink. Now, peese."


"Then, someone needs to come give me a drink now."


You get the picture. He's a live blogger's dream with the way he has a consistent message but is continually refining his skills and his ability to mix up the delivery while staying on topic. He's going to be evaulated next month by another team of speech pathologists. I think I'll bring this transcript along to save them a few minutes' trouble.

June 2, 2009

In the sticks

Last night we took the boys on one of our favorite outings - a tour of campus. It was one of those beautiful June nights that can almost make you forget that we ever have really crummy weather here. The tour always has the same components, just in differing orders.

We always drive by Jayhawk Bookstore and spy the big Jayhawks outside. We also always make a pass by the Chi Omega fountain and the boys always ask if we've ever gone swimming in it and then they wonder when they can do it too. We swing by the Campanile and if we're lucky we hear it ring. Last night we were living right because we arrived in time to hear someone practicing a real piece on the chimes that went on and on complete with "do-overs" when he or she made a mistake.

That always leads to a peek at Aunt Claire's bench and we typically have a little football conversation as we look down the hill into the stadium. Daddy is a bit like royalty around here these days, according to my young lads, and as we talk football he just gets faster and tougher with every passing year.

Last night's trip held an out-of-the-ordinary purpose, though. We wanted to see this:

This is a "stickwork" sculpture that was funded collaboratively by the Spencer Museum of Art and other departments at KU, and created by students and Patrick Dougherty, a North Carolina-based sculptor.

This fascinating structure is created with 6,000 pounds of locally-gathered tree branches and it leans two-stories into the air, intertwined with an old elm tree that graces the corner of 14th and Jayhawk Blvd. It has eight arched doorways and being inside it made me feel like a bird, esconced in a nest. The boys loved touching it and we all loved seeing how intricately it's woven. It seems simultaneously and contradictorily permanent and fragile. It's worth a trip. Just bring an open mind! It's expected to last for approximately two years so get a move on.

May 30, 2009


The birthday bunnies (aka: PaRon and Grandma) came a little late for Thomas' birthday and a little early for Andrew's this year. That was by design because what they brought came in a big box and took several hours to assemble, and it's a perfect shared gift.

I'll let you be the judge of whether the boys like it.

We're jumping for joy around here! So far Grandma, Aunt Martha, Aunt Stephanie and I have tried it out. Oh, yes, and a few kids too.

About the only one around who hasn't taken a spin on it is our neighbor boy, who would love to try it and spends a great deal of time watching through the fence seen behind the trampoline. His mom isn't comfortable with him jumping on it, which I understand. We're working to build her confidence in our safety precautions because it's a sad sight to see a six-year-old with the imprints of fence boards on his forehead while he watches the fun from afar.