Little Ditty about Charles and Kathleen.

Meet Charles and Kathleen.

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They live in bowl wrapped in a Kid’s Menu. Luxurious by snail standards.

Charles was the second new member of our household (pictured on the stick-like object). He joined our family in the early summer, when he was found washed up on the sidewalk after a recent downpour. The adoption of Charles happened immediately following the sad passing of Slimy the Slug, who had been Ali’s previous love.

(Turns out, grossness isn’t a factor in Ali’s choice of pets – it’s all about speed. As long as a pet is slow enough that he/she can never sneak up on her and surprise her, it’s perfect.)

Slimy the Slug met an untimely death. His autopsy (i.e. casual glance) indicated dehydration and possibly starvation. I’m sure I heard her ask me to please Google what she should feed Slimy. And I’m sure I murmured mm hmm in her general direction. But I may or may not have gotten back to her with the answers before Slimy suffered from the Unfortunate Drying Out Incident.

But snails.

Snails, y’all, are resilient.

Let me tell you about the resilience of The Common Alabama Yard Snail.

Ali was determined to take better care of Charles than Slimy, especially in the relationship category. Assuming that Charles’ Love Language was quality time, she carried him around the house with her in his tiny Rubbermaid container that I sincerely hope doesn’t get put back in my cabinet upon his death.

(“No that’s okay, honey – his home can double as his coffin, too. Why don’t you go ahead and bury him in that thing.”)

I often found that little bowl in the bathroom (if left behind after a joint trip because girls always go together and maybe Charles is a girl?), on the porch, in Ali’s bedroom, and, yes, on my kitchen counter.

I have declared more than once that a kitchen is no place for snails, but alas – Charles needs to be stimulated by different environments, you know?

In that vein, Ali began sneaking Charles out of the house – to see the world, to experience life, to sow his tiny little wild snail oats far and wide.

One such outing occurred on an especially hot summer Sunday. She put him and his container (no water included at the time, thank goodness) in her bible bag and took Charles to Sunday School and Kid’s Church.

Snails need The Gospel too, y’all.

She gave a few of her friends peeks at Charles and I’m sure wasn’t at all distracting from The Word being preached.

I, of course, knew none of this until she slipped up and mentioned Charles’ visit to church while we were on our way to lunch.

“Wait. You took your snail to Church??”

“Yes! And I need to take him into lunch, too, so he doesn’t get too hot in the car.”

“I’m pretty sure that restaurants don’t allow snails as patrons. See that sign? No Shirt, No Shoes, No Snails, No Business.”

But as she was peeking into her bible bag to check in on Charles and explain to him the harsh realities of this anti-snail world, she discovered that he was no longer in his Rubbermaid home.

Panic. Despair. Misery. Depression.

Throughout lunch, she fretted as to the whereabouts of Charles. Had he run away from his home, throwing off the warm, tender care of his eight-year-old master? Had he been stolen by a jealous Churchgoer, who had always dreamed of a snail for himself? Had he gotten lost in the crowd, confused and turned around by the various hallways and vestibules? WHERE WAS CHARLES.

After a long lunch (also known as three and a half lifetimes in Snail Years), we went back to the car. Ali flung her bible bag at me and begged me to dig through it and find Charles.

“I don’t know, honey…even if I do find Charles, he’s been in this bag in the 150 degree car for two hours…he’s most likely dead.”

“Charles isn’t dead! I’m sure of it! Please find him!”

I removed her bible…her various information sheets…her smuggled toys and jewelry. I dumped the dust particles out of the bottom of the bag. And there, the last remaining anything in the corner of her bible bag, was Charles.

His shell felt dry and as if it had been heated in a pizza oven. I saw no slimy traces of his head. I handed him to Ali to put back in what I was sure would be his coffin now, and told her sadly that Charles had died.

“He’s not dead! He just needs some water. He will be fine.”

“Okay honey…”

I contemplated the fact that my daughter was just the type of kid to happily have a dead pet for days or even weeks (they’re even slower when they’re dead), and that The Dearly Departed Charles was most likely in our lives to stay – at least for a while.

We got home and Ali quickly poured some cool water in the bottom of his home, then gave him some shrubbery to eat and a stick to crawl on. Then she left him in the bathroom for some much-needed alone time.

A few hours later, Ali called me into the bathroom.

“See, Mom? Charles is fine! I told you he wasn’t dead!”

Charles was happily (can snails be happy?) perched on his stick, antennas alert and looking as if he’d never experienced an Alabama car in the middle of August.

The next day, all of Charles’ dreams came true when, after a summer rainstorm that brings life and happiness, Ali found him his soul mate, Kathleen. Charles and Kathleen plan on raising their family in a cozy little Rubbermaid bowl and hope to travel the world together – because after all, they’re a sturdy breed of snail.

The Fabric of America.

Ali asked me to play with her the other day.

I agreed, as I was feeling a moment of Mommy Guilt over the fact that I am not the best playing-Mommy that ever was (actually I’m terrible at just sitting down and playing with my kids – I much prefer cuddling or reading or hiking or exploring.) So I vowed to play whatever she wanted.

She ran off to get set up, and when I entered the room, she announced that we would be playing crafts.

Crafts I can do. How did I know playing could be a potentially therapeutic type of activity? I expected us to be battling through another epically soul-sucking game of Chutes and Ladders. I should play more often!


Ali is overrun with craft supplies in need of using, as she discovered a few weeks ago that one of the art galleries I have Picture Birmingham products in, Naked Art Gallery, has a bin of “free art supplies” for the taking. She and Noah have since become that bin’s biggest customers. We had dropped by the day before and they had picked out a load of fabric scraps and other miscellaneous items, such as the ziploc bag full of beer bottle caps and wine corks that I didn’t know they’d snagged until after they had thoroughly handled and sorted each one without washing them first.

(Although now that I’m pondering it, I suppose beer bottle caps aren’t that germy.)

(Except for the ones opened with the consumer’s teeth.)



We started out making a mosaic – I cut the fabric into random chunks, then she glued them onto a piece of paper.

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But then – I realized. We could really take this craft up a notch.

Because we do love a good geography game in our house.

One of our favorite things to do at Mexican restaurants is create the United States out of tortilla chips (did you know that tortilla chips almost always break in the shape of one of the fifty states? It’s a true fact), so why couldn’t we do it with fabric swatches?


But then I remembered that I had a fantastic pad of blank United States maps (one of the most useful homeschooling extras I’ve ever bought), and realized they’d make a perfect template for my cutting – in case creating random swatches of fabric isn’t quite as serendipitous as breaking tortilla chips.


And so I began butchering the nation, one region at a time, and using each state as a pattern to then cut it out of the fabric I had been given.


I cut,


and Ali glued.


It was perfect for both of us – I find cutting out detailed patterns highly therapeutic, and what kid doesn’t find glue just as pleasurable? Plus, planning out the pattern to not let the same color touch each other too often as well as changing up the direction of the fabric was quite enjoyable for both of us.

We started at Florida, worked our way west, then headed to the midwest, and saved the worst for last – the northeast.


WHY do you guys have to have such ridiculously tiny states??


But, after two sessions of cutting and gluing and covering my living room floor with shards of fabric that will be present for at least nine days, we finished our precious map.


Ali wanted to make Alabama look special, so it was the only state we did in the floral print. Unfortunately, it looks a bit bloody. But it’ll do.


Later, because every craft is just an excuse to use Mod Podge, I brushed over it to give it a nice sheen, and to make sure no states escaped (although New Jersey made a valiant effort.)

United States Map Fabric Craft

So. If you need a fun craft to discuss geography while getting some therapy in the form of cutting or gluing, this project is for you. And it is five stays in hell less painful than a game of Chutes and Ladders.

It’s All In My Head.

I started using the LoseIt app again last week.

This seems completely unfair to me, that I need to count my calories, because I run nearly every day. I should get to eat whatever I want!! Anytime I want!!

But alas. That is the kind of logic that makes one need to get back to LoseIt.

Because exercise is stupid.

It is stupid because it doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as it feels like it should. I burn barely over 100 calories a mile, which is officially the biggest rip-off in the history of humanity. A mile should be worth a giant hamburger and a milkshake – not a piece of watermelon or a slice of cheese.

But my real reason for going back to LoseIt is that I haven’t been feeling great this summer. My brain has been functioning at approximately 10% of its normal processing speed – you might have noticed by the quality and quantity of my writing and interactions. I can’t process stuff, I can’t remember stuff, I can’t accomplish stuff, and I have trouble staying on task – something I’ve always excelled at. I’ve been trying to narrow down the causes to this breach of health, and my eating habits are on the list of possible causes that I sincerely hope I can rule out. Ultimately, it’s most likely another symptom of my Dysautonomia, but if I can find anything that helps me locate my brain, I’ll do it.

(Just picture me as Carmen Sandiego, searching desperately in Moscow, Brisbane, and Beijing for my missing brain. Because that’s totally how I picture myself.)

I’ve been to the doctor and they’ve run all the tests and they even gave me a new drug to (maybe) help me on my quest, but I know the mantra – the three main things that help Dysautonomia are regular exercise, outrageous water consumption, and eating healthy.

Two out of three should be good enough – haven’t I already changed my life enough? But NO. Dysautonomia is the worst. It is a master that demands everything be attended to. And so I am finally facing my diet – which has, admittedly, actually gotten worse since I started running. Because after all, every mile feels like a hamburger and a milkshake.

So I even tried the Gluten-Free Lifestyle – for a full twelve hours, y’all.

(It didn’t help.)

(Yeah, yeah I know they say you’re supposed to give it six months to start seeing a difference, but six months whimpering every time the basket of hot, buttery rolls is passed cannot be worth having better cognitive performance.)

After I discarded my Gluten-Free self, I moved on to a Caffeine-Free lifestyle. That lasted significantly longer – 38 freaking hours.

This second experiment in futility was my Mom’s fault. On the same day I adopted my Gluten-Free Life, I had been at my parent’s house and was feeling especially awful. Mom noticed I’d been drinking Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee, and after I left, she did a little research – turns out, Cold-brewed coffee has twice as much caffeine as normal coffee – 240mg in a Venti.

(They really should advertise this fact. I told Chris in horror of its insane amount of caffeine and he said “I gotta go get me some of that!”)


The Cold Brew, combined with the 5 Hour Energy that I’d had before my run that morning (200 mg of caffeine), led me (and my mother) to believe that I had severely overdosed myself in the caffeine department, and that perhaps all my problems were from an inability to metabolize caffeine and that maybe I should quit that mess.

Personally I was thrilled for a reason to put a pause on my Gluten-Free diet – that twelve hours had been rough – and I was starving.

(Things without gluten have about as much filling power as a single M&M has chocolate-craving-curbing power.)

My thrill left me the next morning. When I was desperately in need of a pick-me-up. And I also realized that I had not actually been gluten-free the day before because I had inadvertently snacked on Noah’s pancakes to collect my Mommy Tax, as I do every morning. So yeah. GF for twelve hours is IMPOSSIBLE, y’all.

But decaffeination isn’t any easier.

And what did I learn in those 38 painful hours?

– I cannot converse without caffeine.
– I cannot run without caffeine.
– I do not feel nice without caffeine.
– I am not nice without caffeine.
– A lack of caffeine makes me feel depressed. And gives me caffeine-lusting thoughts.
– Caffeine makes me a better person.

So, after trying to function without the nectar of life for 38 hours, I threw my caffeine-free lifestyle in the dumpster right next to my gluten-free lifestyle and decided that maybe caffeine in moderation is necessary for a healthy life, but caffeine overdoses are bad. “Because moderation is always the answer, right??”, I thought, as I sipped my first Iced Caramel Macchiato after what felt like half a lifetime of agony and pain.

As soon as that caffeine hit the back of my throat I started feeling better. I felt happy. I felt chipper. I once again had words to share with other humans.

And so, I decided to go back to what I knew wouldn’t kill me – a calorie counting lifestyle. It would keep me from eating crap (and also quickly made me realize how much crap I had been eating when I began to remember what types of foods maintain a 1,500 calorie diet), it would force me to eat more good-for-me stuff, and I could have my gluten AND caffeine. In moderation.

I’ll let you know if and when this is the clue I needed to track down that missing brain, gumshoe.

(In the meantime, I hope you can abide my meandering and sometimes sparse posts.)