Another Rainy Day

I listened to Rodney’s phone ring while Lex shouted curses behind me.  “Rodney, pick up. C’mon, Rodney. Pick up the phone.”

“Hello? Amanda?”

How do you sound nonchalant when your better half is moaning and cursing no more than ten feet behind you?  “Um…”

“What did she do now?”

“What do you mean?”

“What did Lex do? I can hear her all the way over here at the clinic, and I don’t need the phone to do it.”

I was glad that Rodney couldn’t see me blush.  Or see what I was wearing. Or wasn’t wearing.

“She had an accident.”

Rodney snorted.  “Really? That is so unlike Lex. What did she do this time?”

Lex twisted her knee, while trying not to stumble over a hay bale that fell on her head when she tripped over the pitchfork that she knocked over when she threw her hat toward a hook on the wall and missed and knocked the pitchfork over and I jumped and accidentally released the trap door to the hay loft and barely got out of the way in time. One got Lex. Now…how to tell Rodney without revealing that I was naked at the time.

“It was raining.”

“And she slipped in the mud? I told her she needed to get new boots. She wouldn’t hear it. Told me that she’d had those boots for fifteen years and would wear them another fifteen years.”

“Listen, can you just come on over?”

I heard Rodney sigh. Then he agreed to come on out to the Ranch as soon as he had a chance to finish locking up the clinic for the day and pick up Jeannie.

“Rodney is coming over, Lex. How’s your knee?”

I could see that it had already started to swell up.  It was easy to see, because Lex started undressing the moment she saw me in the barn, waiting for her with a bottle of champagne and nothing but a smile on my face.  That’s the other reason she tripped. She was hopping up and down on one booted foot, with her jeans around her ankles, trying to shed them without tearing her eyes away from me, in mid question, “What’s the occasion, love?”

It’s amazing how fast a pending romantic evening can dissolve into an emergency call to my brother-in-law, a frustrated and injured wife, and me, suddenly remembering that I am still naked, and then running around the place looking for the rest of our clothes.

“You know, Amanda, the last time we had our clothes off in here?”

I blushed.

“You’re blushing? After all these years, you still blush?”

I guess I needed to come clean.

“The downpour today reminded me of when we first met, and how that weekend, I tried to help you feed the cattle.  Remember when I fell off the hay bale and you caught me?”

“Yeah. The first time we kissed.”

“The rain reminded me of that. I started feeling nostalgic, so I set up this little rendezvous for us and sent the kids to stay with Martha and Charlie for the evening.”

“That’s so romantic, Amanda.” Lex reached for me, and winced when she twisted her knee again.

“Careful, honey.”  I found my clothes and dressed. Then I got Lex’s shirt off the ground and helped her dress.

Lex buttoned up her shirt and asked, “I’m still naked from the waist down.”

I tried to anticipate how much longer it would be before Rodney would get here. Then I ran to the house and got Lex’s bathrobe. Back in the barn, I helped her to put it on.

“Rodney thinks you slipped in the mud. And that’s how you hurt your knee.”

“Uh, huh.”

Lex has the most devious grin. “So what are you going tell him? There’s no mud in here.”

“Oh I took care of that, too.” And reached for the bucket I’d brought with me along with Lex’s robe.


“You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, love?”


Guess What’s Coming For Dinner?

I found Lex hiding in a closet.  “Too late for that, don’t you think, love? Everyone pretty well knows you and I—”.

“Quick! Shut the door. I’m not going”.

“You are going, you big baby.  C’mon, sweetheart. You don’t want everyone to think you’re wuss, do you?”

“I’m not a wuss. I’m just not going. I have more important things to do.”

“Like making sure that there are no monsters in the closet?  How long will that take you?”

Lex grumbled as she pushed the clothes she’d been hiding under to the side and got to her feet.

“You know I love Jeannie and Rodney, right?”

I nodded.

“But this is Jeannie we’re talking about. The woman can’t make a peanut butter sandwich without sending someone to the hospital.”

“Sent you to the hospital. How does a person get to be nearly forty years old and not know they’re allergic to peanuts?”

“Martha always cooked for me. I never knew what a jar of peanut butter looked like.  How was I supposed to know?”

I shook my head as I realized my beautiful wife had gotten me off track.  “Lex. You used to break wild horses.  You’ve faced down cattle rustlers. You have children. What are you so scared of?”

“Okay. So, Jeannie has cooked for us before and it didn’t go too good.”

I nodded in agreement. “But, remember, Jeannie took those adult Ed cooking classes at the high school last summer.”

“Amanda, didn’t even the teacher send her home with takeout menus?”

“That was supposed to be just until she learned her basics.” I started ticking off the subject matter on my fingers. “1. How to boil water.  2. How to treat scalded flesh. 3. How to use a microwave. 4. What can be safely cooked in a microwave oven. 5. How to put out a microwave fire.  6. How to treat burns. 7. Why the fire department should be number one on your speed dial. 8. Why the poison control number should be number one on your speed dial. ”

“What exactly was the name of this class, Amanda?”

“She said it combined cooking, health, and safety.  Seemed perfect for her.”

“Did they ever get around to the cooking part?”

“Yes, but Jeannie did miss the first few lessons.”

Lex’s eyebrows arched in challenge because she expected the worse.  I couldn’t meet her gaze because I knew what I was about to say. So I hung my head as I answered, “The school district had to clear it with their insurance company after the microwave thing.  Apparently, Jeannie didn’t know that you were supposed to take pop-tarts out of the foil wrappers before reheating them.”

The laughter that ensued made any further conversation with my wife completely impossible.

Now, about those raccoons.

It wasn’t Jeannie’s fault.  She cooked fish for dinner.  Pan fried rainbow trout. How was she to know that a family of raccoons had taken up residence in the crawl space under the house?




Patience? What Patience?

Alright, everybody knows that I’m not the most patient person in the world. Between caring for our three children and a grown up Lex, I don’t have a lot of time to spend on anything that needs more than a little knowledge or expertise. Which is why the following happened.

“Amanda! Stop! What are you doing?”

“I’m about to throw this video player out the window, that’s what I’m doing.”

“Honey? Do you want to talk about it?”


“That was you I heard cussing up a blue streak, wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” At that, I put the Blue-Ray player back on the entertainment center shelf and plopped down into the desk chair that sat nearby. “You know how you get when you’re cooking?”

Lex looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded at me. “The cussing?”

“Yeah. Well, I found what makes me curse like a sailor.”

“Sweetheart, what I heard coming from this room would make a sailor blush.”

In spite of my frustration, I had to laugh.

Lex walked over to the entertainment center and picked up the box. Then she sorted through the various cables the electronics store salesman had sent home from me when I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about when he asked me what kind of input and output connections were on our television. “So, maybe we could try installing this thing together?” Lex’s brow furrowed, and she sighed. “I can see your problem right here.”

“You can? What is it?”

“Well, you have too many cables and not enough things to plug them into.”

“Uh, yeah, I knew that already. Which cables go where? That’s’ what I want to know.”

“Hmm…okay, I know what to do now.” Lex looked triumphantly at me and tucked the new player under her arm. She walked over to the window and opened it wide.

You know something? My wife could have been a quarterback. She hurled that DVR right out the window and through the kid’s tire swing. It bounced a few times and then smashed into pieces against the fence.

“Feel better?”

Lex grinned at me and said, “Yes I do. You?”

“I’d say that was one fine throwing arm you have there, honey.”

Then we called Martha and asked her to watch the children. We got into my SUV and headed back to town.  That night, we curled up on the couch together and, with the children stuffing their faces with popcorn, enjoyed a 3D animated movie. No DVR needed. We’d came home with a 3d smart TV with a built in disk player. At least that’s what the salesman said we got as he refunded us the cost of all those cables.

As for me. You turn it on and hit some buttons on the remote control. While I’m confessing things, I might as well add that Lex kept me from hurling the remote control right out of the window when I couldn’t get it to respond to any of the buttons I pushed. She opened it up and said, “Hon, the batteries go this way.”


Psycho Dog

Can someone tell me why I thought it was a good idea to encourage Lorrie to take on the responsibility of taking care of her friend, Allison’s dog while their family took a short vacation to Galveston? Why? Why did I do that?  What was I thinking?

Of course, those are the questions that Lex asked me when I conveyed Lorrie’s request to her when I drove down to the bunkhouse with her last week. “What I’m thinking, honey, is that Lorrie is ready for more responsibility and I think it’d be a good for her to take on this responsibility. And it’s only for five days. What could happen?”

So, with Lex’s cajoled agreement, we gave Lorrie the permission to dog sit. On the way back we talked about the extra supplies we’d need and I assured Lex that Wanda and Dirk would bring everything that was needed when they brought the dog over…this afternoon.

“Today? You’re kidding me, right? Why am I just hearing about this?”

The reason Lex was just hearing about it was because Lorrie had just gotten off of restriction for getting mad enough at her sister, to tell her that she was not from the planet Earth and we were waiting for her ship to return for her.  That’s the funny thing about our Melanie.  If you told her something believable, her skepticism would kick in and she’d question every word you said. But make it outrageous, and she’ll fall for it every time. And freak out. Which she did. And we had to show Mel her birth certificate so that she knew she was born in Texas and not from ‘Planet Zongo’.

Back to dog sitting.

Day One of Taking Care of Max

Max is a Russian Wolf Hound.  We didn’t know that. And we didn’t know that the favorite activity of a Russian Wolf Hound is being a couch potato. And we didn’t know that Russian Wolf Hounds don’t bark very much and don’t go all excited when someone enters the house. But they are curious.

He arrived with little fanfare and immediately claimed the sofa in the den for his personal space. Freckles was completely intimidated and decided that discretion was the better part of valor and hid in Lorrie’s room.

The screaming started when we forgot to mention his presence to Martha and Charlie. Martha brought over a casserole that she baked for us to try. It was a new recipe. She walked in, as usual, and went to the kitchen to put it on the counter by the stove. Then, Max, the Wolf Hound, decided to see who this new person was and left his comfy spot in the den to go check the new arrival out.

Martha had her back turned when she heard a dog panting. She said later on that she thought something must be wrong with Freckles since she assumed that it was our dog panting so heavily.

She turned around.

Day Two

Freckles would only leave Lorrie’s bedroom to go outside. We finally lured her out of her room with pig ears.  She loves pig ears. So does Max.

We wanted the two dogs to become acquainted. Lorrie was convinced that with the right inducement, they would meet and Freckles would be just fine.

So, pig ear by pig ear, Lorrie lured Freckles out of her room, down the stairs, and into the den. Then she tossed one by the sofa where Max was reclining and he jumped down to get it. The movement caught Freckle’s attention.  Her eyes grew wide, her mouth gaped open and then she did three things simultaneously, two of which had to be cleaned up with a steam cleaner. The third thing she did was do a complete 180 degree turn in mid-air and bolt right out of the den and back up the stairs.

Day Three

We let the day finish out and then got the brilliant idea to bring Max up to Lorrie’s room.  Russian Wolf Hounds are not territorial. Rat Terriers are.

Day Four

Another day of cleaning carpets and a very unhappy rat terrier.

Day Five

We put down a plastic tarp underneath some newspapers in the den and decided to give one last try to ‘socializing’ Freckles. Max, to his credit had been an ideal addition to the family. We managed to convince little Eddie not to ride him like a horse and he finally quit trying to climb on Max’s back. Max ate his food, asked to be let outside when needed, and fell in love with our Mel, who wanted us get one for us. “But we already have a dog, Mel.”

She wasn’t convinced that Freckles, especially the way she’d been behaving lately, was a good enough reason not to get another dog.

So, there we were all gathered in the den. Then Lorrie brought out the bag of pig ears. That got both dogs’ attention.  We scattered several pig ears around the room, and suddenly, Freckles went from a terrified rat terrier to a crazed pig ear gathering lunatic.

She raced around the room and, one by one, took each pig ear just as Max was about to get to it and sat on them. When Max would turn to go for another pig ear, she’d race to it and take that one too. After several turns of ‘this is mine, not yours’, Max reclaimed his spot on the sofa and with a sorrowful expression, watched Freckles pick up each pig ear and race out of the room with it, and come back for another one. We couldn’t stop laughing at her. She’d give Max a threatening look, as if to say, “You come down off of that couch and I’ll make you into a pig ear,” and went about snatching the last of them up.

Once she had them all, we went to the hallway and found Freckles sitting by the stairs, but there were no pig ears in sight. Lorrie called Freckles but she wasn’t moving. Finally, Lex picked Freckles up and found, underneath her, were all the pig ears that Freckles had hoarded.

Saying Goodbye

We missed Max the moment he rejoined his family and they drove off. Freckles stood at the door and watched them drive away.  Lorrie bent down and hugged her dog and told her that she loved her, even though she was a psycho dog. And that became Freckle’s nick name, “Psycho Dog”.

Still, she’s ours and we love her.


All I Want For Thanksgiving Are My Two Front Teeth


That name should be enough to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who likes food and depends on it to live.

Lex and I were in the den when the phone rang. Lex put it on speaker since the caller ID said it was my sister phoning. “Hi Jeannie, what’s up?”

“Um, I know that I have a poor track record in the kitchen, but I was wondering if I could help prepare something for Thanksgiving dinner this year?”

Lex took one look at my reaction and promptly put her hand over my mouth. “Be nice,” she whispered. “She only wants to help.”  Then Lex removed her hand, cautiously.

“Sure, Jeannie. We’ll think of something you can make.”

“Um, well, I was thinking maybe I could make the stuffing this year. I found a recipe online that looked like I could do it.” We could hear the pleading to be forgiven for past cooking disasters and it touched my heart.

“Stuffing? I love stuffing.”

I glared at Lex when she said that. Nice job, sweetheart, let’s encourage her to make something that could cause us all potential indigestion, at the minimum. So I asked her, “What kind of stuffing?”

“Cornbread. I saw a recipe for cornbread that called for using real corn. Not just cornmeal.”

Why, oh why, don’t I just beat myself over the head with a cast iron frying pan right now, rather than encourage my sister to take on a potential disaster? “That sounds interesting.”

“It does. And I found a really great bargain online for the ears of corn.” She seemed so proud of herself when she said that.

“And I’d be proud to try it out,” my dear demented wife said. I love you Lex, but I will kill you in your sleep for this.

One week later, we were all gathered around the dining room table. Martha brought her wonderful pumpkin and mincemeat pies. Shelby and Rebecca joined us and brought apple salad, which, I may say, was delicious. The kids helped to make cookies the day before, since they were all out of school. And Lex’s cousin, Ellie and her partner, Kyle, brought home baked rolls. Go, Kylie! I thought she was only good with car engines and tools. But the woman can bake!

Jeannie and her family arrived and she proudly unwrapped the stuffing for us all to see.  We took a whiff and decided that, while unusually colorful, it didn’t smell toxic, so we’d go with it.

When dinner began, I was curious and had to taste my sister’s stuffing. It really did smell good, so I didn’t hesitate to take a nice sized bite.


I screamed. Lex jumped out of her chair. Jeannie immediately started apologizing. Martha got a cold, wet towel from the kitchen. The kids frantically started asking if their mommy was okay. I was crying, nearly hysterically, when my hand came away from my mouth with pieces of my two front teeth in it. And Kyle immediately got her keys to drive us to the hospital.

My diet, until they can put the implants in, is tea, Jello, and baby food. I talk with a lisp, and my poor wife has been completely sorry and sympathetic and has taken all the blame for encouraging Jeannie to cook.

I guess I should mention that the bargain that Jeannie got on corn was for the decorative kind that can be used either for decorating a Thanksgiving table, or for smashing bricks.


What’s A Little Chin Hair Among Friends?

The shriek made me come running up the stairs.  Lex had awakened with a headache that morning, so I asked her to sleep in while I got the kids up and ready for school. The cereal had just hit the bowls when the largest, “What the fuck?” I ever heard made me dash out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

I ran to our bedroom and into the master bath where I found Lex glaring at herself in the mirror. “Are you alright?” Lex didn’t move from her position of being nose to nose with her reflection. I looked around the room, but nothing seemed out of place. Lex hadn’t been injured lately, so I didn’t expect to see blood or bruising.

“Look at this!” Lex pointed to her chin. I moved closer to do just that. “Don’t look!” she commanded.

“Honey, you’re going to have to decide if you want me to look or not.”

She continued to stare at herself in disbelief.

“Lex, you’re making me nervous. What’s going on? What is it you want me to see, or don’t want me to see?”

She slowly turned in my direction and pointed at a spot on her chin.  Her face was one big pout. “Amanda, I’m getting old.”

“Well sure, Lex. We both are. And we have three kids who are determined to make it happen faster.” I reached for her hand so I could see what she was distressed about.

“A chin hair?” I suppressed a laugh. “Okay, so you have a chin hair. The first of many.”

My sister once told me that I wasn’t very good at comforting others. Like the time she fell from a tree in the back yard and instead of helping her up, I sat there and pointed to all the places where she was scratched up and bleeding until she passed out from the sight of her own blood.

Back to present day and my wife who had stomped back into the bedroom and sat on her side of the bed, her arms crossed.  I followed her into the room and made her uncross her arms. Then I climbed up on the bed and proceeded to kiss her on her chin where the offending hair was. Not soft, but not stubbly, either.

“Honey, we’re both getting older and our bodies are changing.”

“You still look sexy, Amanda. Not like…” She waved her hand near her face. “This.”

“Thanks, love.  And for your information, I still find you incredibly sexy.”

“You do?”

“And it wouldn’t matter if you had one chin hair now or the hundreds you could have by the time you’re sixty.”


Like I said, my comforting skills could use work. Lex’s eyes were huge and I could tell she imagined herself with a full beard.

“Look at me, sweetheart. Look at my chin.”

“I don’t see anything.”

“I pluck.”

“You what?”

“Pluck.  I have chin hairs, too. But I’m a blonde so you don’t notice them. Besides, I pluck them out.” I got off her lap and went to the bathroom to retrieve a pair of tweezers from a drawer next to the sink. I came back in and said, “Okay, love. Close your eyes. I have a surprise for you.”

When Lex had her eyes closed, I quickly used the tweezers to yank the hair free from her chin.


“You can open your eyes now.”

“What did you do? That hurt.”

“This.” I held up the tweezers so that she could see that the hair was gone.  Then I led her back to the bathroom to see that the hair was, indeed, gone.

She sighed and touched her face to be sure it was smooth again. Then she looked at me and gave me a smile. “Still sexy, you say?”

“Very.”  I slipped my arms around her and began to explore neck and shoulders with my lips. I let my hands wander until I could hear her moan.

Lex picked me up and carried me back to the bed before shutting the bedroom door.  When she laid down next to me, I started to remove her night clothes and enjoy the feel of her back and her bottom, completely forgetting that we had kids to shuttle into town.

Suddenly, my hands stopped roaming except for the right hand which kept feeling one particular spot.

“Amanda? What are you doing?”

I used my index finger and thumb and gave what I’d felt a little yank.  It was a hair, about a half-inch long and, naturally, I had to show her what I just plucked from her butt.

Yeah, I know. My comforting skills could use some work.


My Most Colorful Relative

Sometimes, teachers should consult with parents before they go off half-cocked and hand out homework assignments that are guaranteed to cause an emergency meeting of the Board of Education. While they assume they are handing out harmless exercises, those harmless exercises could wind up blowing up in the teacher’s face.

The school secretary phoned to tip us off that Lorrie would be sent home with a note about some inappropriate remarks she made during her 7th grade speech class. The class was taught by a teacher who was unfamiliar with our family. She was part of an outreach program to bring big city teachers into rural areas to provide a better, more rounded curriculum to our rural students.

Although I applaud the effort, I can see where a lack of familiarity can lay the foundation for a whole string of misunderstandings.

As usual, Lex and I immediately made an appointment for that afternoon. Lorrie was seething when we saw her in the principal’s office where we instructed the secretary to have our daughter wait for us. After consoling Lorrie, Lex and I headed on to the speech classroom to have a talk with her teacher.

The first thing that came to my mind when I entered the classroom is that the teacher could pass as a cheerleader and probably had been one during her school years. Another thing that struck me was that she seemed way too innocent to be teaching a bunch of hormonal preteens and it was likely she would ask to be reassigned to kindergarten the next year where the most challenging thing is keeping the children from slipping in their spilled finger paints. When we shut the door behind us, she turned to greet us. There was a flicker of incomprehension on her face when Lex and I both approached the front of the classroom.

“Good afternoon. I’m Mrs. Fenwick.  I’d like to speak to the mother in private, so if the one of you that isn’t Lorrie’s mother could wait in the office?”

Lex shot a look at me that amounted to “Batter up!” and we both planted ourselves in two of the front seat desks.

Since Lorrie looks more like Lex than she does me, she took the lead while I folded my hands together on the desktop and tried to look more innocent than I felt.  Lex nodded in my direction and said,  “Anything you have to say about my daughter, you can say in front of her mother, too.”

Profound confusion.  Yes, she was the proverbial deer who was mesmerized by the headlights of the 18 wheeler semi that was about to mow her down. It didn’t help that Lex’s smile could light up a runway.  As for me, I smiled graciously and asked, “Please tell us what the problem is.”

“Um…I…huh? Oh.” The dawn broke. “You are both her mothers? That’s very generous of you to have an open adoption, like that.  I guess when Lorrie said she was adopted, at least that much was true. Which one of you is the adoption mother?”

“We both are.”

“Oh,” she blundered, “I thought maybe one of you was her real mother. “ She stared off into space for a moment and then said, “Oh! You’re those people! I heard—”

Lex started to rise out of her chair and I quickly reached for her hand and tugged her back down.  My smile had turned into “if looks could kill.”

I broke the stalemate. “Now to the subject at hand, Lorrie doesn’t lie.  So if you have an issue with something she’s said, maybe we can help you.”

Lex cleared her throat when it became clear that Mrs. Fenwick was having a hard time figuring out where to start. “Maybe you could tell us what this is all about? What was going on?” Lex reached into her jacket pocket and tossed a folded paper on the teacher’s desk. “Why you sent this note?” Lex was doing an admirable job of holding her temper.  I wasn’t. Maybe it was Mrs. Fenwick’s inexperience. Maybe I just thought she needed to widen her horizons to allow a little light in, but the young teacher was seriously getting on my nerves. So I was more than agreeable to Lex continuing the interview.

“Okay, so nod if I have this right.  You gave the children a speech assignment.”

Mrs. Fenwick nodded and then found her voice. “I asked the students to write a short speech about their most colorful relative. “

“Oh, lord.”  Lex and I looked at each other at the same time and wondered if the woman was taking any heart medicine, because she’d best swallow some now.

“Tell me, did she talk about her uncle, the ex-felon, whose son we adopted?”

“What? No. Huh?” The teacher’s eyes widened.

“Her mother, here? Who I rescued from a rain swollen creek when her car went off the covered bridge on our ranch?”

“No, it’s…I’m sorry. She talked about her grandmother?”

“Which grandmother? She’s had three.”

The teacher glanced at Lorrie’s notebook paper and said, “Elizabeth.”

Lex let out a low whistle.  I brushed my bangs back away from my forehead and wondered which things Lorrie had chosen to share with her classmates.

Mrs. Fenwick cleared her throat and said, “According to Lorrie, her grandmother was crazy?”

“Crazy enough to get locked away in a prison for the criminally insane,” I offered.

At this, the teacher sat heavily on the edge of her desk. “What?”

My turn. “Well she did burn down our house.  And, she hired a hit man to kill Lex. Thankfully, she wasn’t successful that time. “

“Lex, remember when she got that financial guy to steal all our investments, hon?”

“I remember, Amanda. At least he did the right thing and put back as much of the money as he could before Elizabeth had him killed, too.”

“My God! Are you all Mafia? Hit men? Stealing investments? Arson? What kind of family are you?”

Lex just smiled like the Cheshire Cat.

“Never mind that.” I said, “What did our daughter have to say about it?”

“She said that her grandmother kidnapped her, and that you didn’t rest until you found her. And that you ran over her grandmother with your truck and killed her. Not that I meant to, but the outcome was the same.”

“All true.” Lex settled back in her seat while the teacher rose and went to stand behind her desk. “So then, why is Lorrie in trouble, exactly?” Lex asked.

“Well, um, for making up tall tales instead of doing the project honestly.”

It’s interesting to watch color actually drain out of someone’s face when they realize they are in it over their heads.

“Mrs. Fenwick,” I said, “Lorrie wasn’t lying.  All those things are true.  My mother went insane and brought about her own death. Everything Lorrie told you is true.”

Lex stood up and held out her hand to me. “Amanda, we’re done.  Mrs. Fenwick, I’m sorry you were unsettled by our daughter’s speech, but every word of it was true. We’re done here.”

I thought about it for a moment, and then decided Lex was right. Lorrie had chosen to share information about her most colorful relative at her teacher’s request. She had done the assignment.  That’s all we needed to share.

“If you didn’t like the content, maybe you should find out a little more about your students before you ask them to share personal information that might make you uncomfortable.”

“I, uh.  I’m sorry. I couldn’t imagine how any of the things she shared were true.”

“Well, now you know.” I smiled before adding, “Although, I have to admit that the things our family has experienced over the years are enough to fill books.”

“I’ll correct Lorrie’s grade and apologize to her tomorrow.”

Lex looked the woman right in the eye to make the seriousness of what she was about to say next evident to the teacher. “Lorrie is in the office waiting for us, so you might like to take care of that now, instead of letting her go all night thinking that her teacher is convinced she’s a liar. Especially when…”

The teacher had the good grace to accept responsibility. “Especially when I gave her the assignment.  I wish I’d saved that until after parent’s night and had met you first.”

“Well then, let’s start over. My name is Amanda Walters. This is my wife, Lex.  Lorrie is our oldest child and we all live on a working ranch, the Rocking W.”

Lex held the classroom door open for us to leave the classroom. “Feel free to ask us if you would like to know more.”

We accompanied Mrs. Fenwick to the office. Lorrie was seated by a window with a library book in hand and was staring out of the window with a glum expression.  The tears brimming her eyes broke our hearts.

To Mrs. Fenwick’s credit, she approached Lori and got down on one knee and apologized profusely for assuming Lorrie wasn’t telling the truth and asked if she could make it up to her. She assured Lorrie that she had completed the assignment and would get an ‘A’, after all.

The two of them continued to talk in subdued tones until they were both reaching for tissues and wiping their eyes.

Lex and I looked at each other and I whispered, “Okay, love, she’s off my shit list. How about yours?”

Lex nodded and then helped the young woman up off the floor. Lorrie left her spot by the window and went directly to Lex and gave her a huge hug.  “Thanks for believing me, Momma.”

“One thing we know about our Lorrie,” Lex grinned, “You don’t lie, although what you do say could give a person a heart attack.”

As she turned from Lex to hug me, Lorrie said, “But that’s my job, Momma. I’m a kid.”

I love my family.


The Great Jell-O Mold Caper

Never mind that  no one, nobody, not any living human being has made a gelatin mold since the late sixties or early seventies—the early seventies only if they didn’t get the message any sooner that molded Jell-O scares babies and small house pets,  and are usually made with things no one would otherwise eat.

I remember hearing the cook at my parents’ opulent California house talk about the gelatin molds that my mother insisted on serving to my parents’ equally snooty nouveau riche upscale circle of wannabes and friends. We kids were considered too unsophisticated and unworthy to have any, to our relief. Of course, she had to put her own pretentious twist on the dessert so that only those who were trying to impress each other would dare to eat it.

Lemon Jell-O with a ring of black caviar on a bed of salmon in a mold shaped like a fish.  Orange gelatin with truffles shaped like a pig. There was no limit to what my mother insisted could be done with Jell-O.  According to the cook, if it was stinky and expensive, it got featured in gelatinous form.

When Barbara, the cook who lived with us until my early teenage years, told me about the lobster bisque gelatin mold, I just knew I’d never look at sea food the same way again.

Well, here we are years later. It’s nearly forty years since those copper and aluminum forms have disappeared from the back corners of second hand stores.

A few weeks ago, my dad got a call that some things from the house in California were in storage and that no one had claimed them or inquired about them since my mother died. Oh. Yeah. Her precious things that she didn’t want harmed while she was plotting the destruction of my family and trying to financially ruin Lex.

A crate arrived at my dad’s and we all convened in his garage to see what was inside. Why my father didn’t just have it burned…but, he said, “There might be some things of value, or from your childhoods that you might want to keep or pass down.”

Excuse me for sounding ungrateful, but these are things that my mother had safely locked away while she pillaged and plundered our emotional well beings for the last decade of her life. Okay. Fine. Let’s see what there is in—gelatin molds?  A crate full of molds. All shapes and sizes. Gelatin molds. Really? A crate full of gelatin molds. I hate to speak ill of the deceased, but my mother had been bat-shit crazy for years!

Martha, who seemed to be the only one who knew what to do with the things, took one of the larger ones home and promised to make a dessert we would all like. And she did. It had lime Jell-O, whipped cream, a light sponge cake, more whipped cream, more Jell-O and cherries dotting swirls of whipped cream on the top.

Well now, if it’s going to be like this, I say, bring them back! Let’s have more desserts like these. No shrimp or shredded carrots in my Jell-O. I want whipped cream and sponge cake.

We were gathered around the dining table, “mmming” and “awing” over the light, yummy dessert, when Eddie started making sounds like a race car. Everyone was distracted by their desserts, so no one noticed that he was sitting in his high chair, spinning a bowl of Jell-O upside-down on his head. “Vroom, vroom”.

I pretended not to hear either Eddie or the mumbled curse words that Lex uttered when she realized that I was not about to abandon my dessert to clean the little guy up.  Lex cleared her throat a time or two, but I pretended to be so lost in the dessert that I was beyond reaching.  Lex went to the kitchen and returned with a towel and dampened washcloth, armed to do battle with our son’s jello covered head and, now, torso, since he managed snag a bit of his sister’s treat and rubbed it on his tummy.

He’d already finger painted the wall next to his high chair with the whipped cream and cherry juice.  And a glob of dessert, just right for his little bare feet, had landed close enough to the chair so that when he was taken down, he was able to plant his feet in the mess and squish it between his itty bitty toes.

Oh what the hell.

Lex will clean him up.


“Mmm? Isn’t this a wonderful dessert? Thank you, Martha.”

“C’mon, Amanda. Are you going to make me clean this mess up all by myself?”

“But you know, Martha, it comes no where near your apple pie and peach cobbler? Think we could have some any time soon?”

Martha was snickering and Charlie was pretending to scrutinize the ceiling’s paint job.

“You’re not fooling me, Missy!”

“Of course, that would mean I’d make that fried chicken you like so well, Charlie.” I am a horrible, horrible woman. But I’d had my turn already that day when it was cottage cheese and peaches in the bowl that spun on Eddie’s head.

Suddenly, Lex leaned in very close, until she was close enough to my ear to nibble on it.  I shuddered. She always has that effect on me. Zero to ninety in a split second of her touching me.

“You know, Amanda. I may just be too tired tonight to go any further.”

She chuckled as my eyes widened and Martha leaned into Charlie and whispered, “She’s toast”.

“Why, Master Edward Walters! What have we here? Lex, why don’t you go finish your dessert and I’ll clean our son up.”

I hurried off with our little guy and, for the second time that day, plopped him down in the tub and started running the bath water while undressing him.

I could hear the laughter from the dining room at my expense, but I really didn’t care.  If my wife ever bit gently on your ear the way that Lex nips on mine and whispered what she whispers to me, you’d know why.


Eddie Being Eddie

I wonder if Eddie’s cousin Teddy will ever forgive him for his latest, “I hate socks!” move. Jeannie had a birthday party for Teddy, and of course, all of his cousins, classmates, aunties, grandparents and extended family members were there.

Jeannie, bless her heart, made his favorite flavor birthday cake–chocolate with marshmallow frosting. Then she wisely had second thoughts and had a local bakery deliver one that would actually look like a cake, taste like a cake, and be edible like a cake.

Jeannie’s cake went to the local state park as a treat for the buffalo.  We distracted her after we saw one buffalo walk up to the cake and take a sniff of it and start to turn around.  I won’t go into further details about how the buffalo decorated the cake on his own.

Back to the party. All was going well. We made sure that Eddie got a nap beforehand, because nothing says desperate mothers like a two o’clock in the afternoon birthday party attended by a toddler who usually naps at that time.  He had the cutest little jeans outfit on, and we managed to distract him from tearing off his socks the moment we dressed him for the event by buying him brand new cowboy boots.

As I said, the party was going well. The older kids were playing outside and roasting hotdogs and marshmallows on the open pit fire under Rodney’s supervision. The younger ones were pinning tails on donkeys, taking whacks at piñatas, and filling up on baby pizzas and Popsicles.

Lex placed the cake in the middle of the dining room table and then helped us round up all the kids for the traditional singing of the birthday song and lighting the candles.

Eddie had been wandering from adult to adult, relishing the attention that his cute little dimples dictated, with the grownups mistakenly calling him “angel”. He seemed to have survived the afternoon, thus far.  We all had.

The kids began to sing Happy Birthday, and Teddy was in his glory at the attention. Earlier, I’d fixed a concoction that I remember being called “frappe” when I was a kid. Made of sherbet and ginger ale, it was a kid’s own elixir. I had loved it when I was a kid, and I was sure that the birthday celebrants would enjoy it with the cake, as well. It had large blocks of sherbet floating in it, and so I didn’t suspect a thing until I ladled the first glassful and poured soggy pair of brown boy’s socks into the first cup.

‘Happy Birthday to you’ turned into a chorus of “Ewyewww! Gross!”

How Eddie got his cowboy boots off and his socks in the punchbowl with no one noticing, I’ll never know. And how he maintained his angelic expression on his face while the adults roared with laughter and the kids demanded Kool-Aid instead, I’ll never know.

But this I do know this: He’s wearing sandals from now on.


From The Land Of Running Waters

We invited my dad and Lois to our home for Super Bowl Sunday. We were in the den watching the half-time commercials when my dad said that he remembered how, when he was a kid, his favorite beer commercials were the Pabst Blue Ribbon commercials that featured cartoon bears. He sang the jingle, “From the land of running wa-a-ters.”

Of course, we just stared at him and chuckled when Lois stuck another hotdog in his mouth. He faked having hurt feelings, but, honestly, everything he sings sounds like “Jingle Bells” anyway. So he’s used to the treatment. My poor, tone-deaf father.

When Mel was a baby, he decided to rock her to sleep. When she was mostly asleep, he decided that he’d try out his lullaby singing.  Mel promptly woke up and started screaming and crying. When he held her closer to try to soothe her, she promptly upchucked all over his shirt. No one could convince him that Mel just had gas, but he vowed never to sing another lullaby.  Funny thing was, when Eddie came to live with us, he tried again. With the same results.

So, on this particular day, he tried the old beer commercial jingle, and out of nowhere, Freckles appeared and barfed on the den carpet.

We had just gotten it cleaned up when Mel burst into the kitchen, where I was pulling cold sodas out of the fridge.

“Mommy, Momma!”

“Mel, calm down. What is it?”

I think my voice might have sounded impatient, because she stopped in her tracks and put her finger in her mouth and mumbled something. So I put everything in my hands down on the counter and bent over until I was at her level.  “What is it, Sweetie?”

“There’s water everywhere upstairs, mommy!”

“What?  LEX!!!”

Lex came in from the den with dad and Lois right on her heels.

“What? What’s going on?” my wife demanded.

By that time, I was moving quickly toward the staircase. “Mel says there’s water everywhere upstairs. I’m going up.”

“I’ll be right there. Let me get the tools from the hall closet.”

By the time I got to the head of the stairs, I could hear Eddie’s voice as he sang “no no socks”. I could also hear wet, slapping sounds. I rounded the corner to the hall bathroom and found the floor flooded and a young Master Edward Lee Walters sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor in nothing but his training pants and t-shirt. He was slapping at the water on the floor, and laughing and singing.

Lois nudged my dad aside and carried in a stack of towels to sop up the water. The tub was empty, but it was clear that the toilet had overflowed. In the toilet bowl, there was one of Eddie’s socks swirling in circles.

I picked my sodden child up and sat him in the bathtub to strip him and give him a bath.

“No sock, Mommy,” he said, and proudly pointed to the toilet where dad was using the toilet plunger while Lex was supervising each plunge.

The light dawned.

“Eddie, honey? Did you flush your socks down the toilet?” Lois asked.

“No socks!” He wiggled his toes and grinned up at me.

Fearing the worst, I asked, “Eddie, how many socks did you flush?”

Okay, so I somehow expected my toddler to be able to count. “Mel, can you go see if Eddie’s sock drawer is open and tell me how many socks there are, please?”

Mel’s footfalls could be heard as she ran down the hallway. A minute later, they could be heard running back in our direction.

“Mommy! No socks! Like my brother said.”


The plumber just left and billed us his Super Bowl rate, which is three times his normal weekend rate.

The bathroom floor is finally dry, and, fortunately, will not have to be replaced.

Eddie is asleep upstairs, and Mel is on Lex’s lap while we watch the DVR’d version of the game we recorded.

Lois and I started washing a load of damp towels in the washing machine and had taken seats at the kitchen table to enjoy some hot tea.

The front door opened and Lorrie came in, having spent the afternoon and evening at Charlie and Martha’s. She plopped herself down on one of the kitchen chairs and pouted. “I hate Super Bowl Sunday. It’s boring!”

I noticed that Lorrie’s complexion didn’t look good and was just about to put my hand on her forehead when dad strode into the kitchen and began singing, “From the land of running wa-a-ters!” Then he pulled Lorrie up out of the chair and gave her a hug while still singing the jingle.

“Uh-oh,” Lorrie said.

And history repeated itself.