It’s No Picnic

I rolled over in bed this morning to find Lex smiling down at me in her mischievous way. It’s a look that tells me that she is up to something but has also decided to put off telling me what it is until we’ve fooled around a bit first.

I have no complaints about her strategy. None at all.

Just as my heart has decided to stop hammering in my chest, there was an equally pounding knock on our bedroom door. Lex slipped from under me and started stalking toward the sound.

“Psst! Lex!  Your robe!” I tossed it to her and she shoved her arms in it, then tugged it in place.  See, I had no reason to be grumpy about the kids interrupting things, but Lex was still…she was, uh, less inclined to accept an interruption. She took a deep breath and tied her bathrobe and pulled the door open to see who was there.

“Momma? It’s picnic day!”

“Picnic? What?” Lex turned back to me and shrugged her shoulders.  I thought for a minute and suddenly remembered that I’d volunteered us to accompany Mel’s class to the state park to see the buffalo and have a picnic.

I ducked under the covers to pull my tee-shirt and sleep shorts back on before climbing out of bed.  Our not-so-little ones were becoming too observant on their own. No point in painting them a picture by getting out of bed naked.  The last time I tried that was before we got Eddie. Mel saw me naked and immediately tugged on Lex’s robe to see if she was naked, too.  It only got worse from that point on.  I don’t think that I stopped blushing for a week. Lex, my hero, figured out a way to explain things that seemed right and natural to our little inquisitor while making sure that she understood that this was something only parents were allowed to do.

Still, she looked at us sideways for a while.  She had that same look on her face when she reminded us that the class trip was today and that we needed to go.

We assured Melanie that we were going to have her to school on time and that she could go downstairs and have cereal with Lorrie. I could hear Martha downstairs. Thank goodness that she remembered that I’d asked her to watch Eddie today.  I could hear her chatter with Lorrie and her welcoming Mel to the breakfast table. I could picture the happy expressions on my kids’ faces to have their beloved “Mada” to themselves.  She’d even come upstairs earlier and retrieved Eddie and he was happily singing to himself about “orsies and frucks”.

Lex closed the door behind Mel and slowly slipped her robe off.  The look she gave me was enough for me to instantly shed my night clothes and attack her before she even reached the bed.

“Wait, honey!” My libido was warring with my maternal side and I was quickly forgetting why Mel had interrupted us in the first place. “Lex, baby…” It’s a good thing we get up early on the ranch.  We didn’t have to get the kids to school for another hour.

For a couple whose been together since 1999, you’d think that we could tone it down a bit when needed. Heh!  We held hands all the way into town and then told the kids to go on in and we’d follow.  Lex parked the Expedition in a far parking space in the school lot and as soon as the engine was switched off, she started kissing the daylights out of me while my hands insisted that her buttons needed undoing.

The school bell rang and drew us back to the present.

We grudgingly arranged our clothes and headed to the school office to sign in.  The school bus was waiting, so after receiving our instructions from Mel’s teacher, we hopped aboard the bus and found our assigned seats.

The kids filed on and started chattering away while their teacher spoke to the bus driver and then took her seat. Once we were underway, Mel turned around and sweetly said, “Hi, Mommy.”

“Hi, Mel.”

“Hi, Momma.”

“Hi, Mel.”

Mel’s seatmate looked puzzled for a moment until her light bulb went on in her mind. “You have to mommies, right?”

Mel, the literal one, replied, “No. I have one Mommy and one Momma. See?”

The girl looked at Mel as if she had just explained our family dynamics to her in Greek, but settled down and turned her attention back to the teacher who was trying to distract the kids from the long ride with some children’s songs.

Janis Marshall, one of the other parents, caught my eye and her expression surprised me. It wasn’t a disapproving look, it was more of a, “Please don’t make me explain this to my kids,” expression.  I know that expression. I’ve used that expression on my own face when I just knew another uncomfortable conversation was about to be had with the kids.

After way too many rounds of “The Wheels On the Bus” and “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, we finally arrived at the state park. One of the rangers met us at the bus and acted as tour guide for the youngsters.

The hour before lunch was spent walking up to the pens where the local vet was examining some of animals and the ranger telling the eight year olds how the buffalo came to live in the state park.  They were told that after lunch, they’d go to a petting area where a new calf would be brought to them to see up close.

Lunch bags and juice cartons were retrieved and passed out to the kids. Mel, thankfully, was used to a ranching life, and so nothing really fazed her when it came to the animals and their bi-products. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the rest of the class who were raised in town.

It got to be a sort of chain reaction. One kid would retch, the next kid would follow, it was a nauseating domino effect that left Mel as the only child standing.  When even Mrs. Marshall and their teacher, Mrs. Kelly, turned green, the ranger suggested that they walk back to the ranger station where the children could be hosed down and sit under a cool air conditioner for a while.

Once they’d been rinsed off, the kids sat cross-legged on the cool linoleum floor and sipped on sodas to settle their stomachs. Mel’s seatmate was one of the first to recover. She spotted us talking quietly in the corner with her teacher and asked again, “So why do you have two mommies?”

Mel explained it to her, proudly and effectively. The children who were sitting by them listened and nodded their heads without a single complaint and asked thoughtful questions that Melanie happily answered.

We saw Mrs. Marshall approaching us and wondered what kind of reaction she was going to have to our daughter’s explanation of her family’s makeup.

“I could learn a lot from your daughter.” She took my hand and shook it gently.  “You’ve instilled in your child pride in herself, in her family, her home, even her pet goat she was just telling the children about. “

“Thanks,” Lex began. “We’re proud of our family, too.  And the children know they’re loved.”

“Oh, I can tell that.”

The air shifted suddenly and my mommy hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.  Our little orator had gone off in another direction and the few words I could make out were, “only Mommies can do that.”

“MEL!”

Amanda.

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.

“Amanda?”

“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.

Amanda.

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.

Amanda.

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.

Amanda.

Choclit,Mama!

Today’s blog is not for those with sensitive stomachs. Like me.

I don’t believe it. Jeannie and Frank are Lorrie’s biological parents.  I was artificially inseminated with Mel’s donor’s sperm.  Lex’s brother and a former one night stand of his are Eddie’s biological parents. So how is it, that each child, before they were two years old, reached into their diapers and announced, “Choclit, Mama!”

I ran so fast to catch Eddie before he did something awful with his ‘choclit’ that I my foot skidded on a Weeble. Weebles may not fall down, but mother’s do. Eddie stopped in mid smear to watch “funny Mama’. Lex heard me holler and came running into the room to find Eddie happily smearing his ‘choclit’ on his crib rails and stinking to high heaven, and me with one leg bent under me and the rest of me sprawled all over the floor.

It took Lex half an hour to clean Eddie and his mess up.  I’ll be on crutches for the next six weeks.

One of these days, we’re going to have a long talk with that boy.

Amanda.

Smoking Salmon – Part Three

“No!”

I followed Lex from the kitchen to the study where she plopped down in her desk chair and crossed her arms in defiance.

“You can’t make me!”

“Lex, you sound like one of the kids.”

She pouted. Then she glared at me. “Eating at Jeannie’s is…is—I might as well set a tire on fire and eat it. It would taste a whole lot better and it’d be a whole lot healthier.”

“Le-ex?  Come on now.” She glared at me again. “Not everything Jeannie cooks has to have health consequences.”

“Sure it does, mom!” Lori had slipped into the room unnoticed.  When she spoke up, Lex motioned her over and gave her a ‘high five’.

I sighed and started to rethink my strategy.

“Honey, Jeannie bought a cookbook when we were in Austin and she’s been practicing.”

“Is that why Teddy couldn’t come over yesterday? Uncle Rodney said he had a tummy ache.”

I ignored Lorrie and glared back at my wife. “Don’t say it, Lex.” I sat on the sofa, nearly feeling defeated until a light bulb went on in my head. “ You know, hon. Jeannie offered to cook over here if we couldn’t go over to their home.”

Lex shot straight out of her chair, took my hands, and looked me dead in the eye. “I used to think you loved me.” Then she dropped my hands and turned away. “I guess I was wrong, since you seem so keen on Jeannie poisoning me. Poisoning us all.”

I honestly can’t say that Jeannie’s reputation as a ‘killer cook’ isn’t well deserved. After all, if it can’t be nuked, her family won’t eat it, with the exception of the liberally served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cold cereal, and hot dogs. That’s about the extent of her culinary range.

“Lex, how is Jeannie going to get better at cooking if she doesn’t do it?”

“I don’t have any objection to Jeannie trying her hand at cooking. As long as she doesn’t burn down the house or make us eat any of it.”

“She’s making lobster. Rodney is grilling steaks and Jeannie is making lobster.” I rose from the sofa and went back to where Lex was seated at the desk. “You know you want it,” I said in my most sultry voice. I sat on Lex’s lap and started kissing her on her neck.

“You don’t play fair, you know that, right?”

Lorrie made a beeline for the door. “I’m outta here. You guys can neck without me having to watch.”

After a while, Lex decided that we could go on over to Jeannie’s. Rodney was pretty handy with a grill and we could always develop allergies to shellfish if Jeannie’s efforts turned into a disaster.

***

We went to Jeannie’s for dinner tonight.  Rodney had a good sear on the steaks and he grilled corn and vegetables.  Jeannie…well, yeah.

We never got to eat.  Maybe it was the lobster exploding when she put a live one in the microwave. Maybe it was the fire when the metal band on one of the lobster’s fins caused the microwave to spark when the lobster exploded. Maybe it was the cloud of smoke that made it hard to breathe in the house.

We all went to the diner where Francine gave another stab of flirting with Lex until she caught my eye and realized she was about to resemble that exploded lobster when I got through with her. Rodney ordered a steak. Jeannie was too distraught to eat, and the kids had the spaghetti special.

And somewhere in the dark, a small contingent of lobsters is making their escape to the highway.

Jeannie stirred the lemon around in her water-glass for a while and finally said, “Maybe I should have tried to make the smoked salmon.”

Amanda.

Smoking Salmon – Part Two

Amanda Speaks!

Smoking Salmon – Part Two

There is was. Right over the entrance to the delicatessen/imported tobacco shop. A trophy mounted fish with a lit cigar. Actually, it was supposed to resemble a lit cigar, but it was just a plastic piece that glowed on the end like a lit cigar.  Jeannie couldn’t stop laughing. I kept staring at it while trying to form coherent sentences.

Our day of self-indulgence had started out on not-too-good footing between making our local eatery’s waitress drop a tray full of dishes and then getting lost in Austin for lack of a updated map and no GPS. So we decided to let the fates decide and just drive aimlessly until we found something of interest.

This was it. On an old strip mall, about a mile and a half from the state capitol building, were a series of eclectic shops, two restaurants, one delicatessen, and a donut shop.  There was also a book store, a western wear store, and an ‘adult’ store that made Jeannie blush every time I pointed it out to her.

Back to the cigar smoking fish.  The Smoking Salmon Delicatessen and Cigar Shop piqued our curiosity and we had to check it out.  After executing a remarkable U-turn that allowed me to pull into a parking space a few feet from the front door of the place, we stood outside and studied the inside of the store through the glass windows. That was hard to do since there were signs and drawings that advertised their specials and genuine authentic Cuban-like cigars.

We went inside.  The atmosphere was old New York deli styled with a corner of the place decked out in shelf after shelf of pipes, loose tobacco, and Cuban-like cigars. We checked that out first. Not that we intended to smoke, but it was such an anomaly to see these two types of products under the same roof.

It turns out that the Cuban-like cigars were not from Cuba. Or the U.S.  I had no idea that China was one of the one hundred twenty-eight countries that produce tobacco.  But there, on the cigar band was “Made in China”.

We began to wonder what other surprises were in store for us and wandered back over to the deli part of the delicatessen to have a look.  There were kosher-like gefilte fish, artificially smoked salmon—how one artificially smokes salmon is beyond me, and dairy free cream cheese.  I got the attention of the woman behind the counter and pointed to the sign in the window that touted, “Authentic Kosher Delicatessen.”

“Oh,” she answered, “We picked that up when Reuben’s Deli closed last year.”

I was flummoxed. Jeannie only laughed. We’d had our share of kosher foods when we lived in California when we would visit the homes of some of our parents’ business associates. None of this stuff was even close. Not one to waste an opportunity for a good dare, Jeannie goaded me into trying some artificially smoked salmon, dairy free cucumber cream cheese, and a Pad Thai bagel. Considering everything, it wasn’t too bad. I held it down for at least nine minutes.

Amanda.

 

Smoking Salmon – Part One

My sister and I decided to go on a day trip to Austin together last weekend. We had no specific destination in mind. We just wanted to do some sisterly bonding without the kids and spouses.  My dad and his wife, Lois, elected to take Jeanne’s two, Teddy and Hunter. Martha and Charlie had Mel and Eddie while Lorrie went with Shelby and Rebecca for the day.  Lex had some appointments that might result in expanding our customer base for our cattle business and Rodney had patients.

So we were free. Not moms. Not wives. Just two sisters out for a day of indulging ourselves. The first thing we did was to make our escape while the kids were all still asleep. We got up at six and met at the diner to have breakfast.

Of course, Francine, who has been fixated on my wife since before I knew Lex, kept asking where she was and looking expectantly at the restaurant’s front door. After she refilled our coffee and picked up our breakfast plates, she said, “I’m sorry that gorgeous gal of yours couldn’t join you this morning. What all happened? Didja have a little spat?”

I was in the mood to enjoy the day, so I decided to have a little fun. “Lex is just fine. She’s sleeping in for a change.” Then I beckoned Francine to come closer and whispered just loud enough for Jeanne and her to hear, “I’m afraid I wore her out last night and again early this morning. But she was so doggone sexy, I couldn’t help myself. Besides, she kept begging for more.” Francine dropped the tray she was holding, and Jeannie snorted coffee out of her nose.

“You are positively evil, Sis,” Jeannie admonished as she buckled herself into the passenger side of my Ford Expedition. “I love that about you.”

I beamed. “Serves her right. She’s been lusting after Lex for years.”

But I digress. (I’ve always wanted to say that, but there isn’t much chance to do that on a ranch.)

But I digress. (Yeah, it does sound cool!)

But I digress. Austin was our destination. Austin was our playground for the day. We were going to own Austin, Texas! Yeah! But first we had to find our way around because we ended up on a toll road we don’t remember being there before and ended up way east of where we thought we were going.

“It’s your fault,” I said to Jeannie.

“Why is it my fault we’re lost? You’re the one driving.”

“You’re the navigator.”

“Who died and made me the navigator? I hardly come here. You and Grandma shop here all the time.”

“Well, Grandma isn’t here now, is she?”

“So?”

“You’re supposed to pick up the slack.”

“Listen, Amanda. You’re making up rules as you go along. I’m not the navigator.”

“You are if I say so.”

“Am not.”

“Are, too.”

Jeannie started rifling through the glove box and looking between the seats. “This is stupid. Where’s your GPS?”

“I don’t have one.”

“How could you not have a GPS? We have a GPS and we don’t friggin’ go anywhere!”

“I usually have Lex with me. She knows where everything is.”

“Well I wish she was here now.”

“Me, too.” We glared at each other for a moment and then burst into laughter. “Reminds me of when we were kids.”

“Me, too.”

“Alright. Let me find a place to pull over and look at the map. Then we’ll find an electronics store and buy a GPS, okay?”

“Okay. Just make sure we find one soon. I want to see my kids again before I grow old in this car.”

“Brat!”

“Stupid head!”

*Sigh*

Amanda.

What’s A Gelding?

There are various tasks that must be done on any ranch. Some of them are not fit for small children or sensitive stomachs. Castration of any male animal fits that set of ranching jobs that some might want to avoid at all costs. Especially the animals.

The children were out of school for summer break. Shelby and Rebecca were at the house. Shelby and Lex were going over the livestock count and were deciding the optimal time to castrate the bulls.

“Can I watch?” Lorrie’s asked excitedly.

Shelby looked at Lex, who looked at me, while Rebecca decided to pretend she wasn’t listening and thumbed through a magazine.

“Sweetie,” I said, “Why do you want to watch?”

“Well,” Lorrie went into her reasoning stance, the one where she puts one over on the grown folks. “This might be my ranch someday, right?” She waited for Lex to answer.

“Um, sure. One day. But you’re still a little young to be out there when we’re gelding the animals. Are you sure you want to be there? It’s smelly and not really pleasant to see.”

“Yes, Momma. Can I?”

We’ve had the facts of life talk with Lorrie in all its variations. Several times. Especially after that one time—but that’s another story. Lorrie knew the difference between the male anatomy and the female anatomy. So we weren’t worried about any new revelations along that line. “I’m okay with it if your Momma is,” I said, happily lobbing the decision back to my wife.

“Okay. Shelby, after most of the work is done, please come get Lorrie so that she can see how it’s done.”

“Why me? I don’t wanna be the one who explains it all to her!” Shelby protested.

Lex smirked, “It’s good to be the boss.”

Rebecca snickered at the pained look on Shelby’s face.

A few days later, castration was underway. The cries of the cattle could be heard from a distance, so we decided to see if Lorrie’s resolve was still firm. It was. So later that afternoon, Shelby showed up at the house and escorted Lorrie to our stockyard to watch the last of the bulls go through the process.

Mel was at Martha’s and Eddie was asleep.  I was upstairs taking a break and working on my blog. I heard Lex’s footsteps on the stairs and called to her. “Honey? Can you come here?”

“Right away, darlin’.” As she came into our room, she asked, “What’s up?” She glanced around obviously looking for something or someone needing attention.

“Nothing’s wrong, honey. It’s something I want to show you on my laptop computer.”

“Oh, yeah.” As she sat on the bed beside me, she noticed what was on the screen. “Hey! RockingWMom! I didn’t know that you were still writing a blog. That’s great, Amanda!”

She started to get back off the bed, so I grabbed her hand and tugged her until she was seated back next to me. Then I clicked on a few things to take us to the statistics page for my blog. “Look!”

“What are all those flags, Amanda?”

“Where my readers live.”

“People are really reading your blog? That’s great, but there must be at least two dozen or more flags showing. You mean to tell me that people from all those countries are reading your blog?”

“Mostly in the United States, Canada, and the U.K. But there are a total of 45 flags here. Can you believe it?”

“I sure do, love. I guess they like keeping up with our little family. Congratulations.”

Lex bent to give me a kiss but the echo of Lorrie banging the front door open stopped her in mid smooch.

“Mom! Momma! I’m going to be—”

What can we say, we warned her.

Amanda.

P.S. Thank you to all the readers who check in to read Amanda’s blog, wherever you may live.

Ghosts of Turkeys Past

Around the time that Lex and I had our commitment ceremony, we talked about our future and what it might have in store for us. We had no idea that all these years later, we’d be the mothers of two rambunctious girls and a toddler who could give us a run for our money any day of the week.

It’s been awhile since Jeannie’s great turkey disaster, when her self-cleaning oven turned itself on and ruined the turkey inside.  Of course, everyone who has ever eaten Jeannie’s cooking might claim that the oven sacrificed itself in our behalf since it had to be replaced.  Jeannie found an unusual recipe for stuffing—don’t ask—which made us even gladder that our holiday dinner consisted of cold cuts and store bought fried chicken.

But what about other Thanksgiving holidays in our home? What have they been like? I think I should talk about them by using the Richter scale. But I’ll just tell about some of them instead.

  • Our first Thanksgiving. My uncle Morris came to visit with his boyfriend who had an uncanny resemblance to man who played the television ‘Hercules’. What has happened to them over the years?  The boyfriend, Kevin, encouraged in part by the constant comments about his physical resemblance to the actor, started attending comic book and fantasy conventions where he was perpetually mobbed. Eventually, the ‘real’ Hercules spotted him and hired him on as a body guard/double.  Kevin left my uncle Morris after one convention and took up with a cross-dressing Wonder Woman imitator.
  • The Thanksgiving when Morris came by himself. Uncle Morris stayed a few extra days to make a trip to the northern part of the state where the Gay Rodeo was being held. He met a good looking rodeo clown, at least beneath the makeup, he was good looking, and he is happily involved with him to this day. He closed his office back east and now travels the circuit providing chiropractic care to the men and women of the rodeo.
  • Freckles, Turkey Hunter. When Freckles smells something tasty being prepared, she’ll go shopping. She walks on her back feet and looks like a little old lady checking out the kitchen counters. On Thanksgiving number nine, Freckles’ efforts were well rewarded. She used the dining room chair to jump up to the table and snatched the turkey by a leg and dragged it off to Lorrie’s room where she hid under the bed until every morsel was devoured. Jeannie couldn’t resist teasing that maybe Freckles was saving them from Amanda’s stuffing recipe.
  • Our last Thanksgiving: Stomach flu does not a tasty gravy make. Enough said.

So, now you know. Things we only dreamed about when we started our lives together pale in the face of our reality.  Having children is a deal breaker for most Holiday romance. Someone always has poopy drawers, a tummy ache, or starts fighting with a sibling. Or Lex has to be rescued from a muddy ravine where her horse or a cow or some other animal has landed on top of her when she was out doing work that she pays her ranch hands to do. Also, during holidays, unexpected relatives show up and confuse the daylights out of the children and exasperate the adults like when Jeannie’s former in-laws decided to drop in and question our adoption of Lorrie and make Mel think she was going to lose her sister.

Holidays come and go, but the reward is in surviving them. And we have. That’s a good thing, right? Next time, maybe I’ll talk about Christmases at the Rocking W Ranch and things you never ever thought you’d find beneath a Christmas tree.  And why the Santa Claus I hired to surprise the children was on the receiving end of a shotgun blast in the patootie.

Amanda.