A Meandering Tale of Aliens, Lizards, and Art Appreciation.

Ali drew a picture of an alien.

It was a quite nice alien – friendly, geometric, and with wildly fascinating fingers.


Yes, a perfectly fine alien.

She showed it to me that morning. I praised her delightful drawing and we moved on.

It became a long day, much in thanks to her little brother. Whining, arguing – the works. Thankfully, Ali was quite agreeable and obedient, as is her usual state, but Noah more than made up for that. By that afternoon, I needed a moment.

By myself.

With no little people anywhere nearby.

So I purposefully marched out to the front porch swing – my favorite place these days.

Two seconds later, two little people followed me out. I quickly shut that mess down.

“I need a 15 minute break. I need to be alone, I need it to be quiet, and I need you guys to go inside and let me have my break. I’ll be back inside in 15 minutes.”

“So I can’t stay out here?”, Noah asked in a whine.

“Definitely not.”

They both turned and went inside.

I breathed a long sigh and leaned my head back, enjoying the first calm moment of the day. Which lasted exactly five seconds. Until I heard the screaming from inside. And then crying. And then a lovely duet of crying.

My Mommy Justice Meter bubbled over.

Fifteen minutes! That’s all I asked for – FIFTEEN MINUTES. How hard is this?!

I stomped inside, where they were both standing, crying, barely in the door because that’s as far as they’d made it before everything went to handbasket.

“WHAT happened? WHY are you crying? WHY couldn’t you give me my fifteen minutes?!”

Noah: “She punched me right in the chest!!!”

Ali: “I’m so sorry! I don’t know what happened – I just lost my mind for a minute!!”

Well THIS is a turn of events.

Immediately I knew that something had precluded this rare mauling of her little brother, so my first response, biased though it may seem, was to ask Noah,

“What did you do to her??”

Noah: “I told her that her alien picture was dumb.”

Me, still in the selfish state of mind: “So now I have to think of consequences for two kids instead of my fifteen minute break. Go to your rooms.”

Ali, ever the people pleaser, felt terrible. “I’m so sorry for ruining your Mommy break!”

Poor kid.

It’s really one of those moments where you feel like the justified thing to do would be to praise her for all the times she actually didn’t punch her brother in the chest when he very much deserved it. I mean, if you don’t lose your cool and punch your little brother until the 4,001st time that you could have lost your cool and punched your little brother, shouldn’t you get a prize rather than a punishment?

But alas. That’s not the way the world works. And even if you’re 99.99% responsible, that .01% can be a booger.

So her consequences had to do with not getting to play with a friend later that evening, and she readily accepted it, her guilty conscience starved for something to assuage her self-loathing. We had our usual talk about forgiving yourself, and moved on.

The next day, I had a lunch date with a friend. Since the day before had been fairly rough, I extended my lunch date into a run by myself afterward. I needed quite a few moments of silence, after all – my 15 minutes of porch time had accrued interest. On my run, I spotted the most peaceful looking lizard, lying on his back as if she were sunning herself. Were it not for the puncture on the left side of her abdomen, I might’ve thought she really was just taking a beautiful day’s nap.

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I knew she deserved some major props for her pose. I kept running, but began thinking about what would fit her situation. I decided on one of those 1950’s sun-reflector things.


So I re-routed, ran to Rite Aid, bought a pack of Juicy Fruit, and began my run back.

Except that when I got back to her location and opened my pack of gum, I discovered something horrendous: gum manufacturers have quit making silver wrappers! I hate gum so I had no idea they’d gone all paper – and this deception did not make me hate gum any less.

This ruined my entire plan. What could I do with paper wrappers?? Nothing!

I confessed my sad, sad failure via text to my roadkill friend, Tanya. I had failed. I had lost a point in our game. I was the worst.

But she wasn’t going to let me give up that easily. No, she exhorted me to use my brain. Take a minute and figure out what I could do with what I had, even though I’d been thwarted.

Her pushing me to strive forward kicked my brain into motion and I came up with a plan. I ran back to my car and grabbed a pen, then made a book out of the actual gum. Because why not.

I got her all set up just so, then took her picture.


This work of art was titled “When the Reading gets Too Steamy.”

I ran off and left her, as an art installation, where I’d found her – in the entrance of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. We don’t know how many patrons got to appreciate her beauty before she was scraped up and disposed of – or better yet until a predator enjoyed eating her and then having a refreshing Juicy Fruit chew afterward – but I do hope she was appreciated for the beauty that she was.

Of course, Tanya appreciated the work of art very much. But I also sent her to Chris,

Who, in a rare out-of-character move, criticized my art.


But we quickly got things worked out between us and found out it was a text misunderstanding.



But at least he acknowledged that he was no better than his son, and totally deserved a hard punch in the chest.

I Still Hate Dogs.

I love ALL of God’s endlessly imaginative creatures.

In fact, I’ve been on an animal finding bender lately.

(And not just dead ones.)

I stalked a giant, pizza-pan-sized snapping turtle down a creek near my house,

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(He even had spikes on his tail! I now understand Super Mario. BOWSER WAS A SNAPPING TURTLE.)


I’ve been LOVING getting to know the exotic Mediterranean House Gecko family that’s moved in on our porch – or rather, the Dad lives on our porch, eating all the night bugs,

FullSizeRender 51They’re a bit worried about all the immigration debates. They crawled a long way to get from the Mediterranean to Birmingham, Alabama.

And the babies live in our garage walls. They’re the most cuddly geckos you’ve ever seen.

IMG_5411Of course I put this one back as soon as I finished his complimentary newborn photo sesh.

The giant fishing spider we found while fossil-hunting fascinated me, and I didn’t even mind the Black Widow Spider Tanya found downtown while we were running.

(I mean of all the places I go in the woods and it’s downtown that I see my first Black Widow? Whatever, nature.)

(And you’re welcome for the lack of spider pictures in this post. You know who you are.)

The tiny creatures I find are my favorite. Like the hike we took where we lost count at 80-something baby toads – because toads are best when they’re miniscule (just like humans),

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And also baby lizards – not quite as cute as baby geckos, but I try not to give them complexes.


I stalk butterflies sucking the last of the nectar out of the fall flowers with their straw-like proboscises.. (we’re studying Botany this year – don’t I sound smart?)


And I stalk teeny tiny baby alligators that cross the road in front of us in South Alabama…


(Yes I totally got out of my car to photograph this adorable baby while my kids freaked the freak out…)


And my favorite run all season has been the one where I saw two snakes (one of which was a cottonmouth and I yet again misidentified him as harmless and followed him way too closely to get good pictures) (which I’m not sharing yet again because I’m a good person) and this guy, a fighting Crawfish, who let me know he was ready for battle, although he did trip and fall twice while trying to put up his dukes and make a backwards hasty retreat at the same time.


So can we all agree that I really appreciate, adore, and regularly ponder the goodness of God’s creation in the animal kingdom?

Except dogs.

I’ve already laid out my main reasons for my feelings on dogs. But let me share with you what happened this week, which further cemented my eternal feelings of canine animosity.

Every Monday afternoon, Noah and I have exactly 55 minutes to waste while Ali is in gymnastics. It’s that perfect amount of time that is way too long to sit in ones car but too short to go most places.

Fortunately for us, there’s a beautiful park nearby that is right next to the Cahaba River. You can climb the boulders, skip rocks, find crawfish, appreciate the beauty of the wiggly snail trails in the dirt at the bottom of the river bed, and in general appreciate the beauty that the Cahaba flows into Birmingham.



Every time we go, there are dogs and their owners there.

And, it seems, dogs lose any and all sense of obedience and proper behavior when in or near a river.

Last time, we got jumped by two dogs. And both owners, despite my telling them that my son does not like dogs (for reasons such as this), continued to let their dogs jump on us until we left.

This time, there was only one guy and one dog at the river. They looked calm and quiet, deeply involved in their game of fetch. I had high hopes. But we walked the opposite way down the river bank anyway.

After thoroughly exploring, Noah really wanted to check out the island that the man and his dog were on, an island normally not in existence since the water is usually higher. Since it was a rare island, I reluctantly agreed. We walked out to it, purposefully walking away from the whole dog situation.

And it worked.

They continued to play fetch while Noah and I explored.

…Until Noah made the fateful mistake of throwing a rock into the river.

We were so far from the dog that he should have been out of earshot, but no. He heard. And he assumed that Noah very much wanted to play fetch with him.

He bounded by Noah and I and into the river, retrieved the rock, and began jumping on Noah.

Meanwhile, the dog owner was repeating in a calm voice, “Watch out – he will jump on you.”


Dog owners of the world. How about when your dog is actively jumping on my kid, and my kid is screaming, try the words “Come! Sit! Stay!” instead of “Hey watch out there because my dog will invade your personal space and leave muddy paw prints all over you and he might slobber your face while he’s up there because clearly he’s taller than your son so hey you might want to watch out.”

Watch out?!

How is that helpful?

By “watch out” are you just letting me know “Hey! I’m not going to do anything about my dog and we both know you can’t/won’t, so let’s enjoy watching together while my dog clobbers your son into the river!”

These were the thoughts going through my mind as my voice was actually being quite generous (and lying) and saying “That’s okay – he threw the rock – I’m sure the dog was confused”, so I didn’t notice right away that the dog very suddenly changed focus, having grown bored with terrorizing my son, and leapt over to where I was standing and up onto my torso.

I flailed backwards a bit, now covered in mud and the perfume of nasty wet river dog, and began to lose my balance. I flailed more, as the oh-so-helpful dog owner kept quietly repeating “Watch out – he will jump on you.”

I caught myself from falling, but in the process dropped my phone. And we all four watched it bounce, bounce bounce into the river.

At THAT point, the psychotically calm dog owner lost his cool and screamed out an obscenity. He, I, and the dog all dove for my phone.

(I mean an iPhone is as good as a rock or stick for a game of river fetch, so why not?)

I got to it first, pulling it out of the bottom of the creek bed (it was shallow but the phone had still been completely submerged), and began shaking the water out of the headphone jack.

Dog owner apologized and asked if it was okay.

Noah asked if it was okay and said this is why he didn’t like dogs.

I turned off my phone and told them both as much, having heard that the frying of electronics happens because they’re left on while wet.

Dog Owner fumbled around in his pocket and said “Let me give you some contact info in case it doesn’t come back on.” But I was too shaken up, too muddy, and smelt too much of river dog to want to deal.

So I shook my head, turned around and began walking away, and said “That’s okay, have a nice day.”

Yeah. I told the guy to have a nice day.

I’m a southern girl. It’s what you do. It was the most Bless Your Heart statement I could muster at that moment.

Then I realized that the whole dog attack thing had probably taken longer than I thought, and on top of that, I didn’t have a phone I could turn on to see what time it was, and I had a kid I needed to pick up from gymnastics.

So Noah and I took off running.

Which I’m sure didn’t look strange AT ALL.

We made it to Gymnastics at the very moment Ali was let out of class. After securing my child, my stress from the whole ordeal began to catch up with me and I felt quite a deep sadness at the prospect of forever losing my Apple Appendage.

“Tell Ali what happened, Noah.”

He regaled the tale to her, with five year old dramatic flair, reiterating again how much he didn’t like dogs, and she gasped at the prospect of my phone being roadkill.

Or riverkill, as it was.

We went home and I put my phone in a bag with desiccant packets (something I keep around to pack my camera in after an especially humid sunset), and I tried to not stare as it decided whether it would live or die.

After two hours, I couldn’t take the suspense any longer.

I removed it from its isolette in iPICU…

Then I turned it on and…..

It worked.

The dog had failed at frying my phone.

But he had not failed at further cementing my feelings toward his species.

The Highs and Lows of Camp.

In June, I planned my first ever Week Off Since Becoming a Mom. Or at least, five days straight of 9am-4pm Vacation.

Noah is finally old enough to go to our church’s fantabulous multiple award-winning summer day camp (where every week has a different theme and it’s complete kid wonderland and I’m a little jealous every morning when I drop them off), and therefore, I was going to have a week of bliss.  Or more likely, a week of work and catching up on all the life that a million Hey Mommys a day keep me from getting done. Still blissful.

But then I got sick halfway through the week. And I spent an entire day chasing down x-rays. And just like that, multiple days of my First Week Off were robbed from me.

But Noah had such a good week at camp. Like really – it had some sort of magical effect on him. He’s introverted and too shy/embarrassed to do ANYTHING in large groups. To the point that he adamantly refuses to participate in Sunday School in any way. March around the walls of Jericho? No thanks. Pretend to walk on water? Not gonna happen. And he’s so introvert-fried after church that he won’t speak to anyone.

Based on proportions, I assumed that camp would leave him unable to speak for hours – after all, his slightly-less introverted big sister had always needed recovery time after camp. There’s a lot of kids and a lot of activities.

But no.

Every day, Noah got in the car bouncing off the ceiling and telling me about all the glory of camp.

And then, on Thursday of that week, he won Camper of the Day – for being wise and participating.

AND THEN, on Friday of that week, he won Camper of the Week(!!) – for being wise and participating.

I was so stunned in this sudden U-Turn in my son’s personality that I began reassessing my school choices for him.

Would he do better in a classroom? Or would a classroom be like Sunday School? What sort of magical spells does camp use to turn my son into a bubbly, agreeable, participating model student? Could I hire his camp counselors to teach him to read? And algebra?

Because he did so fantastic and my First Week Off got snatched from me, I decided to give them another week of camp later in the summer. I was due to try again for my vacation – ahem, I mean – to let my children have another glorious week of camp.

On their first week, the theme had been Build Camp – specialized around Minecraft and Lego, something my children are amply knowledgeable about. Ali dressed up as Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie, borrowing all the components of my previous Wyldstyle costumes and blowing me out of the water at how much better she was at the Wyldstyle attitude than I.




She won the costume contest, obviously.

Noah didn’t dress up that week because he didn’t want to go on stage. Participation has its limits, after all. But he was determined that he wanted to attempt this superior level of camp on the second week.

(And also we told him we wouldn’t buy him the costume he wanted unless he promised to go on stage. So there’s that.)

The second week we chose for them was Jedi Camp. They are not as knowledgeable about all things Star Wars – Chris had begun their Star Wars education earlier in the year, but hadn’t gotten very far yet. But he was determined to teach them everything they knew before camp began, so he combined the strategies of watching another movie and giving them cliff notes on everything they hadn’t gotten to yet.

“I had to tell them. I couldn’t let them go to Jedi camp not knowing that Anakin is Darth Vader.”

“Of course, honey.”

I didn’t care what he told them – I was just thrilled to retry an attempt at having my First Ever Whole Week Off Since Becoming a Mom.

I had caught up on a lot of work the last attempt, but this week filled up more with meetings and lunches and runs, but I had one Very Special Day planned. It would be Wednesday. It would be all day, requiring the use of an early and late camp pass for the kids.

I would be taking an epic adventure. It was to a stunning cave in North Alabama with unbelievable vistas that I was dying to photograph and explore. I recruited a couple of friends – Amanda the Frog Kisser and Not-Crazy Renee – even requiring that Renee get all day childcare. There would be no children getting lost in our caving adventures.

On Tuesday night, the kids were happily scrambling to make the last preparations to their costumes – Ali would be an unnamed but quite stylish Jedi, and Noah would become Darth Vader. I, meanwhile, was scrambling to complete my Epic Adventure Plan Details. They were hyper and giddy, I was happy and giddy.

We put them to bed early, as is the requirement to have enough energy during camp week. Everyone was fine. Everyone was happy.

Until 10pm, when Noah woke up crying. Chris and I looked at each other oddly. Our kids used to be wake-up-during-the-nighters, but it had been at least a year since that had happened. Chris hopped up the stairs and I listened as Noah’s wailing tale of woe drifted down the stairs.

“I had a bad dream about camp and Minecraft and Lincoln Logs!!!”

Chris calmed him and put him back to bed and came downstairs.

But then at 10:30, I heard the toilet flush. Which meant Noah hadn’t gone back to sleep.

This was when I began to suspect something else was afoot. Because Noah doesn’t sleep when he gets a fever. And I fretted.

I snuck into his room. And found that sneaking was not necessary as the kid was still wide awake. And emanating heat.

He rolled over and began talking maniacally. “I almost cried when I went to the bathroom because my neck hurt and it hurts to swallow. Hey Mommy, can you still think when you die?”

There’s not much more unsettling than your kid popping out with a death question when they’re running a 102 degree fever.

I gave Noah Tylenol, got him as comfortable as possible, and then texted my friends.

“I think Noah’s sick. I’m so so sorry. I will have to cancel our caving plans.”

Indeed. He woke up the next morning still feverish, and with every sign of strep throat. I broke the news to him as I was cuddling with him.

“Hey buddy. You’re sick. You’re not going to be able to go to camp today.”

His face crumpled into devastation. He began crying. Then he suddenly quit crying and said “I don’t think I feel like going anyway.”

We dropped Ali off at camp and then headed to the Pediatrician’s office.

“Well. It’s either Viral or Bacterial. I’m guessing viral.”

I really should have bet him money because I knew his guess was wrong. It was SO strep.

He left the room, came back, and said, ‘’Well how about that. It is strep!”

We received our shot and went home to spend the day binging cartoons.

Noah got off the couch after a couple of hours of quality Slugterra watching and asked to put on his Darth Vader costume and go outside for a minute.

And he just stood.


And sat.


And loped around in full-on Depressed Darthness.

It might’ve been the saddest thing I had ever seen.

Good mom that I am, I photographed and posted his sadness on Facebook. Because it was adorable sadness, after all.

And because of that, that Wizard of Camp himself, Camp Director Jonathan, saw the pictures. And when Noah and I went to pick up Ali, Noah 120% asleep in the backseat…


Ali whispered to me, “Noah won.”

I whispered back. “Won what?”

“He won Best Costume on a Sick Kid. I have the medal for him.”

“That’s awesome!”

But she didn’t tell him when he woke up. She waited until we got home, where she found a gift bag and tissue paper and wrapped his medal for him into a glorious package. She brought it out on the porch for him to open.

And Depressed Darth was no more.

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He was healed right then. It might’ve been the giant shot in his leg earlier that day, but it was probably the medal.

Later that night, I told Chris, “I think we were tricked. Noah didn’t want to go up on stage, so he licked some kid with strep, then didn’t have to go on stage, still got his Darth costume, and WON. If he’d have actually gone to camp, he would’ve never won. Did you see the pictures? Did you see how many identical Darths there were? We’ve been PLAYED.”

Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.

The world will never know.

And as for me, I will try again next summer for my First Whole Week Off Since Becoming a Mom.