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 Life and Times of Busy the Bee.

Eli is my seven-year-old nephew.

Eli is a fantastic kid, mind-blowing in intellect and often infuriating in adventure. He is intensely curious about the world around him and has very little impulse control. As such, there is nothing I adore more than hearing my sister-in-law Lindsay’s rundowns of his daily pursuits.

Last week, those episodes included microwaving Cheetos for three minutes with the vision of creating melted Cheetos for breakfast, attempting to make “Dog Juice” for their yellow lab, Layla, by soaking dog food in water and then pouring the newly-bloated dog food down the kitchen sink, and opening his sister’s birthday presents on her behalf.

(I’ve begged Lindsay to be a recurring guest-blogger for years but I think Eli most likely poured chocolate milk on her computer as a legitimate experiment long ago.)

Eli also has a very special bond with animals and insects – if ever there were a child Doctor Dolittle, it is Eli. He remembers every fact he’s ever learned about any creature, and watches shows like Wild Kratts religiously to continually gain new knowledge.  His desire and ability to befriend all living creatures even extends to cockroaches, whom he insists make wonderful pets.

(He is wrong.)

Lindsay and I took our combined brood of five kids to a playground not long ago. It was a particularly hot summer day – the kind that all of the mothers cling to the shade of the pavilion and are constantly shooing the children out of said pavilion because “We’re at a playground for goodness’ sake and we didn’t bring you here to complain about the heat and sure it’s hot but you’re supposed to be playing!”

Unlike the other kids, Eli didn’t seem to be weakened by the heat. In fact, he was quite caught up in…something. What exactly is he chasing around? What’s he staring at?

Oh.

A bee.

Lindsay was off to take another kid to the bathroom, so I felt mostly responsible for preserving Eli’s life and well-being until she returned – a grave responsibility indeed. I called him over and asked what he was doing.

He ran over with a sweaty, beaming face as if his life had recently been made complete and stuck his finger out at me.

“Look Aunt Rachel! He’s a Carpenter bee. His name is Busy. He lives at my mailbox at home and follows me everywhere I go. He flew behind us to the playground. Busy would never sting me – he’s a nice bee. And I’ll tell him not to sting you either. Busy, don’t sting anyone, okay? There. Now Busy won’t sting anybody.”

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Although I was skeptical about Busy’s stated place of residence, he did look oddly happy crawling on Eli’s finger during his entire monologue. The bee seemed curious and…was that a bee-version of affection? It certainly seemed so.

There was one other Mom currently seeking shelter under the pavilion – one that I did not know. She became very nervous during Eli’s explanation of his new pet and suggested that Eli needed to be careful – he was likely to get stung. Eli turned to her and insisted that Busy would never sting anybody, and besides he was a Carpenter bee and Carpenter bees do not sting.

“I’m not so sure of that…”

She picked up her phone and Googled Carpenter bees. She reported back decisively that Busy was indeed a Carpenter bee, but she was definitely a “she” (because she was missing the male’s yellow head spot) and girl Carpenter bees do sting (but she left off the rest of the sentence usually found when Googling female Carpenter bees, which is “…but they very rarely do so.”)

The whiny pavilion-dwelling kids who heard this news nervously slinked off to the playground while Eli continued insisting to this bubble-bursting stranger that Busy was NOT that kind of girl and she would NEVER sting.

Meanwhile, Busy lazily went back and forth between flying in circles around Eli and landing on his finger in a familiar manner.

When Lindsay returned from her quest and got up to date on Busy and Google and the clear friendship that had blossomed in her absence, she instructed Eli that he must take Busy to the top of the hill and allow her to fly away before someone got stung.

Eli sadly stomped up the hill and squatted down at the top, having a long conversation with Busy, ending in an impassioned “Go, Busy! Just Go!!”

I watched as Busy would fly away for about five seconds, then come right back to Eli.

After a few attempts, Eli quietly left the hillside and went back onto the playground, Busy still following him. He played, with Busy alongside him, for at least twenty minutes. It was clear that Busy was just as attached to Eli as Eli was to Busy, and us Moms mused aloud that maybe Busy did love Eli.

Until she didn’t.

And Eli ran screaming and crying to Lindsay, holding out his rapidly swelling finger.

“SHE STUNG ME!!! HOW COULD SHE?! WHY WOULD SHE?! SHE PROMISED SHE WOULDN’T!!”

Eli cried, partially because his finger was swelling and turning white, partially because he was heartbroken over the great betrayal of Busy the Bee, and partially because he knows all the facts about all the animals – and he assumed that the sting meant that Busy now had to die. Lindsay comforted Eli and I Googled to confirm that, as opposed to honey bees, Carpenter Bees actually do not die upon stinging.

But for once, all of the animal facts in the world could not mend Eli’s broken heart that had been stung by the bitterness of betrayal.

He crawled out of Lindsay’s lap and spent the rest of our visit to the playground squatting sadly under the slide, head and shoulders drooping, mourning the loss of a best friend.

But there are many more bees in the world.

And Eli will not be deterred in his future attempts at friendship.

Infusion-Induced Insanity.

On our last few hotel stays, Chris and I have discovered a magical commodity that hotels sometimes offer: fruit infused water.

Displayed beautifully in a large dispenser with multi-colored fruits, three recent hotels have had it in the lobby, with those lovely little clear plastic cups that make everything taste better.

One hotel even made with cantaloupe and cucumber. The fact that Chris raved so magnificently about this concoction was even more ridiculous – he’s spent his entire life disgusted by even the smell of cantaloupe and avoiding anything that had too “cucumbery” of an essence.

But yet. When combined and allowed to let water seep through its veins and then wet his parched throat after a long run, it was as if he had hiked across Alaska and found the Fountain of Life.

Speaking of which, all three times we’ve found this wonder happened to be directly after a long, hot run, which may have interfered with our objectivity with regards to the wonders of infused water. Because we both stood in the lobby and gushed over it being the BEST THING WE HAD EVER TASTED.

Sweating, me in leggings as pants, once even in matching running shirts, we felt more like Todd and Margo than we ever, EVER wanted to experience.

“Who drank the last of the infused water??”

“I DON’T KNOW, MARGO.”

Todd and Margo

But regardless of the obnoxious category our water pleasures put us in, we were hooked.

Last week, on the much anticipated day of July 15, I eagerly logged onto Amazon for what they promised would be the best day of my life: Prime Day.

“Better than Christmas!”, they said.

“We’re going to give you everything we have for mere pennies!”, I read.

I looked forward to stocking up on all of the things nearly as much as Noah looks forward to asking me every day how many days it is until his birthday.

But, as was the rest of the world, I was sorely disappointed and drowned in the betrayal of Amazon’s gigantic campaign of false advertising.

Prime Day actually went something like this:

Ugly necklace you’d never wear – 20% off!!

Violent video game for a system you don’t own – $5 less than usual!

Need a wooden wrist watch? Of course you do!! Only $999 – just for Prime Day!

I wept over the wasted anticipation that I had set aside for Prime Day. And it was dead to me.

But right before I clicked with a vengeance off of the page, a deal came up for fruit infusing water bottles.

Memories flooded over me of the miraculous hydration powers of infused water and I jumped with excitement. Finally! A Prime Day Deal I can actually use! I clicked through to buy Chris and I each a water bottle and immediately started fantasizing about all of the amazing subtly fruity concoctions that I’d prepare for us, therefore upping my Wife Stock by at least 30%.

But of course, the deal was “sold out”. Which means that I had to (and absolutely did) pay full price for those bottles (full price which was even $1 more expensive than it is now). And then I bought a fruit infusing pitcher to boot.

You win, Amazon. You. Win.

They arrived over the weekend, and I couldn’t wait to attempt to make lovely water as if I were a Marriott Hospitality Specialist.

The pitcher had a large sticker on the outside of it touting all of its benefits, and the two bottles had delightfully Google-Translated labels on their boxes,

funny translated labels

I solemnly promised not to approach my bottles to a stove or to allow the bottles beat the sidewalk or collide the pavement and,etc,. Then I dismantled them and began washing. When I got to the pitcher, I started peeling off the label, because labels are evil.

Except that it wasn’t the nice peel-off kind of evil label. At all.

It was the type with the thick paper outer layer, the thin paper under layer, and the absolutely psychosis-inducing gummy layer. The kind of gummy layer that only squishes around when you scratch it with your fingernail and attracts every dirt particle in the house to instantaneously turn your pitcher into a dull, gray, sticky bug trap.

I scrubbed.

I rubbed.

I alcoholed (the label – not myself, although it might’ve helped my growingly-obsessed mental state.)

I scrubbed.

I hot watered.

I scrubbed some more.

I alcoholed again.

I considered the fact that there was probably an oil for this problem.

As I stood at my sink for this eternal span of time while my children moaned for lunch and my messy house glared at me from every angle, I appreciated the irony that I was spending my day on a label retraction instead of the more pressing matters that were not, as the label was, making me lose my mind.

I finally gave up and perhaps more than forcefully than necessary dropped the pitcher.

Then, to make myself feel better, I wrote my first ever Amazon review.

Amazon Reviews

Somehow, this releasing of words fueled me to be able to go on with my life, and I filled all my new pretties with lovely fruit and cold water and began shaking them vigorously (like Shake Weights! With Fruit!) to expedite the infusion process. Chris and I drank great quantities of melon-and-cucumber water, plum-and-cherry water, and quickly poured out grapefruit water (because despite what hotels had taught us, nasty bitter rinds infuse, too.)

Fruit Infused Water Pitchers and Bottles

We learned that infused water is delicious, is not delicious to children, speeds up…ahem…digestion, and makes us very happy – even if we haven’t just been running in the July heat.

But every time my hands stick to my children’s hair when I hug them, and every time I find a fly that is hopelessly fused to the palm of my hand, I remember and curse the horror that is the outside of my eternally sticky pitcher.

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