The Great Questioning.

Ninety-three percent of the relationship between a mother and her children is comprised of answering questions. The same questions. Over and over and over.

They never tell you that in the parenting books. Or at the hospital.

“This is how you change a diaper…and here’s how you get them to latch on…and you need to clean their umbilical cord stump like this…and are you prepared to spend the next twenty years of your life answering the same pointless questions on repeat?”

I guess it would be a bit overwhelming to find that out when you’re just trying to figure out how to properly hold a freshly popped-out miniature human.

But it’s true.

_MG_9955The question pictured is less adorable than it appears.

All children’s questions can fall into these categories:

1. What is happening next?

Examples: What are we having for lunch? When can we see Gramamma and Pop again? When will I lose my first tooth? How many days until we go on vacation again? When can I get a parrot for my birthday?

2. Can I have?

Examples: Can I have candy? Can I have that toy? Can I eat my pancake even though it dropped on the floor? Can I have random object that doesn’t exist anywhere in the known universe except in my head?

3. Why not?

Examples: Why can’t I stay up until midnight? Why can’t I eat candy for breakfast? Why can’t I have the random object that I just made up?

4. Will you get me?

Examples: Will you get me some juice? Will you get me a snack? Will you get me that box of stickers on the top shelf of your closet that will almost certainly cause a landslide of other random objects to pour down onto your head?

5. Are we there yet?

Example: I know we just pulled out of the driveway, but by some beautiful coincidence have we also just arrived at our destination?

6. What does that say?

Examples: What does that sign say? How about that sign? And that sign? And that sign and that sign and that sign and that sign?

7. What does that mean?

Examples: What does vasectomy mean? What does episiotomy mean? What does incessant questioning mean?


Questioning has always been the biggest hobby of the shorter members of our family, but lately, we have been plagued (and I do mean plagued – like the-land-crawling-in-locusts-plagued) with the first category of questions. Our two children seem to be obsessed with the future, and spend 99% of the present asking about said future.

I don’t think Chris quite believed me when I told him how bad it had gotten (“Like locusts in your ears, in your cereal, in your toilet, in your sealed water bottle bad, honey”), because when I suggested we have a family meeting about this problem, he seemed to think this too drastic a step.

Until the weekend came.

“I’ll answer all their questions this weekend”, he vowed.

I readily agreed. It’s not that Chris is normally unhelpful – he’s actually the most helpful sort – but fathers have the ability to completely tune out children – especially their steady stream of questioning – in a way that mothers can only lust after.

Chris took the family to the mall to see a traveling Lego exhibit. During the entire tour of the mall, he was barraged with the locusts flowing from our children’s mouths.

“Are we almost there?”

“Can we go to the hot dog truck next?”

“When are we going to eat dinner?”

“When I’m ten do you think I’ll be able to do a cartwheel?”

“Are we going to eat dinner at the mall?”

“Can I have a car when I grow up?”

“Can we go to Build-A-Bear and make a Minion?”

“Can we ride the train?”

He answered each question with a carefully measured level of patience and ignored my smug sideways smiles.

Finally, he started answering with, “Just enjoy the present, kids. No more questions about the future. We’re at the mall doing something special. Just focus on that.”

The questions then got modified to focus on “the present”.

“What is the next Lego exhibit we’re going to see?”

“When will we find the Lego White House?”

“When we grow up can we make giant Lego sculptures like this?”

My smile began to have giggling sound effects as I filled with glee at not being the only one to realize that our children had jumped headfirst down the rabbit hole of endless parental inquisition.

We piled into the car and Chris sucked in a deep, calming breath.

I went ahead and said it for him.

“We need to have a family meeting, kids.”

“Okay Mommy!”

“Y’all have got to quit asking so many questions about the future. We can’t always, or don’t want to always, answer them. We will inform you what is going to happen next when when choose. So. We’re going to have a code word that Daddy and I will say when you’ve just asked a question about the future, and you’ll know that code word means ‘we’re not going to answer that and you need to not ask questions like that ever, ever again.’ So – what would y’all like the code word to be?”

(We’ve done this code word trick once before and it was a great way to not feel like we were nagging all the time. Ali was having a problem biting her lower lip and was therefore pushing her two front teeth outward, making the dentist threaten early braces. So we came up with the code word “strawberry”, and every time we said that to her she was to quit biting her bottom lip. It helped break the habit and we didn’t have to waste syllables constantly.)

Ali: “How about Snickerdoodle?”

Me: “Too long. I’m going to be saying this code word A LOT. I need something two syllables or less.”

Ali: “Then just Doodle?”

Me: “We like Doodle’s Sorbet too much. Let’s not sully that name.”

Ali: “Okay. Could we use a car name?”

Me: “Sure.”

Ali: “Hmm….Honda?”

Me: “Honda is perfect. So anytime Daddy or I say ‘Honda’, you both know what that means. Right?”


It took approximately two minutes.

“Where are we going for dinn—“ “HONDA!”

Then, at dinner, “When I’m twelve can I get a kitten?”

“That’s like the biggest Honda ever.”

Then, after dinner, “Where are we going next?”


“Are we there yet?”


“Are we close to there yet?”


It hasn’t slowed the questioning yet, but Honda is calling and wanting their royalty check.

On Neighborliness: A Cautionary Tale.

It’s been three weeks since I may or may not have killed my new neighbor’s chicken, so maybe it’s okay to blog about now.

Time heals all wounds and all.

(Except for fatal ones. On poultry.)

Chris and I are very dedicated to neighborliness. In our last neighborhood, we had a lot of those super relationships where we waved and smiled at people every day but never knew their name, and after a certain number of months and then years, it became way too awkward to introduce ourselves. So when we moved to our current neighborhood eight years ago, we made a pact: we would be proactively neighborly from the first day.

(For the first year, we had a legal pad where we kept notes on everyone we met so that we could remember names and facts. Because that’s not creepy at all.)

This summer, we had new neighbors move in across the street. We immediately went over and met them, connected on Facebook, and let them know that we were available if they needed anything.

A few weeks later, Virginia, the new neighbor, told me that they were going on vacation for a week. As our neighborly philosophy dictates, I asked her if there was anything she needed me to do while she was gone.

“Yes, one little thing, if you don’t mind.”

No problem. I can handle little things or big things. I’m neighborly.

“Can you let my chickens out in the morning? It doesn’t have to be every morning – just when you think about it. I have someone else that will put them up each night and feed them – they’re just happier when they’re free range during the day.”

This seemed an easy request. After all, my Mom has dozens of chickens, providing her (and consequently me) with a regular battery of matter-of-fact tales of their mating rituals and hen-abuse and eggs-gone-awry. In fact, you never know what will lead to a story you don’t want to hear when at my parent’s house. Such as, seeing a nasty looking specimen in her basket of freshly harvested eggs.


Me: “WHAT is WRONG with that egg, Mom??”

Mom: “Oh nothing. It just came from an older chicken.”

Dad: “Can you imagine how that felt coming out?”

Me: “I don’t want to. You’re not going to….eat it…are you??”

Mom: “Sure I am! It’s fine.”

Dad: “I’m not.”

From now on that is how I will picture my own nearly 34 year old eggs – lumpy and covered in large pores – and will continuously weep at the declining of my womanhood.

“….so all you have to do is open their cage and let them out into the fenced-in area.”

I snapped back to reality. My neighbor’s chickens. Of course. NO problem. The kids and I can HANDLE IT. We rock neighborliness.

The next morning, I led my little troupe across the street. The children gleefully attacked their play set while I let the four chickens out and checked their water.

We repeated these steps for the next few days with no incident. I began to get to know the four very differently colored and sized chickens. There was the tiny one – was it even a chicken? And then the brown one, the speckled one, and the black one. The black one was the Mean Girl – every time I opened the coop, she pecked, squawked, and flapped at the other chickens in an attempt to be the first one out of their tiny home.

I pondered her personality further and realized that maybe she was just the Introvert. And if so, I totally understood her need for escape.

On Friday, I was leaving for the weekend and forgot to let the chickens out. I remembered later in the day, but didn’t worry too much about it, since Virginia had said to only do it when I thought about it. I was gone all day Saturday to the lake with some other moms, and I meant to ask Chris to let the chickens out while I was gone, but in the process of relaxing completely, it again slipped my mind.

Because the lake is where neighborliness goes to die.

On Sunday morning, I got a text from Virginia.

“Good morning. Are y’all at home?”


“No…I’m at the lake. But Chris is home – what do you need? I’m so sorry I forgot to let the chickens out!”

“That’s totally fine! It was just if it was convenient for you. But yes, if he is home and wouldn’t mind would you ask him to go open the coop? The girl that is taking care of them said that the black one seemed to not be able to get out of the coop yesterday and I don’t know if she is hurt or just being grumpy.”

I texted Chris and asked him to go let the chickens out, and promised Virginia that I would also go check on them when I got home that afternoon. Chris texted back that they all came running out, so I let Virginia know, and she was quite relieved to hear that nothing was amiss in the coop.

When I arrived home, I walked across the street immediately. As I strolled up to the fence, I saw three of the chickens at the far end, all pecking and socializing.

Which was the point that I realized I had not told Chris how many chickens should have run out of the coop.

That probably would have been useful information.

I searched the yard. The black chicken did not appear to be in attendance.

Not good. This is not good. No good at all.

With much dread, I bent over and peeked into the coop.

And there she was. On her side.


VERY dead.

My Poultry CPR skills were not going to help this situation at all.

What am I going to say?! A chicken just died on my watch!!

Not wanting to ruin some beautiful moment in my neighbor’s beach vacation, I texted her rather vaguely…


And then I went back across the street to get a garbage bag. I mean, I couldn’t leave her there…dead…in the coop…right next to the food. Maybe the other chickens were traumatized by the death and that’s why they were in the other end of the yard.

I fretted to myself how the chicken might have died and if it could be my fault. This didn’t fall into our neighborliness philosophy at all.

Or maybe the other chickens ganged up on her and voted her off the island…she WAS the mean one/introvert…

As I walked into my house, Virginia texted me – she was ready to hear the news, whether injured or fatal. I texted that the chicken was indeed dead, and that I would take care of it.

(I’m pretty sure that texting pet death announcements is the bottom rung on the neighborliness ladder.)

Chris instructed me to double bag my hands with grocery bags and double bag the chicken in two garbage bags so that no neighborhood wildlife would be tempted to retrieve a snack out of our garbage can, and so that I wouldn’t come down with some sort of Dead Poultry Disease.

I headed back, covered in plastic and carrying even more plastic, ready to perform the most environmentally unfriendly burial process in the history of chickenhood.

The other three chickens were back in the coop, pecking away at the food and unceremoniously stepping on their dead friend.

So they weren’t traumatized. And were more suspicious than ever.

I reached in and picked up the dead chicken, feeling the talons claw me accusingly through the bag. I dumped her in the trash bag, tied her up, tied her up again, and put her in our trash can on the way back home.

I felt my pocket buzz with a text, but there was no way I was touching my phone until I washed my hands, double bagged or not.

As I was standing at the sink, my phone started ringing. I quickly dried, glanced at the text that was begging me not to worry about the dead chicken, and then answered Virginia’s phone call.

“Please don’t pick up the dead chicken! I will get someone else to take care of it! I’m so sorry you had to come home from the lake to that!

I told her I’d already done it, and apologized for the bad news on her trip. She apologized that I had handled a dead chicken. I assured her that I wasn’t squeamish, and I was much more worried that I had been a factor in the death. She said she was sure I wasn’t – but did ask me to check with my Mom as to what she needed to do, if anything, for the other chickens, since we didn’t know the cause of death.

I called my Mom and told her the whole story. After assuring me that she didn’t think my misconduct had led to the death (most likely, she stressed), she said,

“Well. I think the best thing to do would be to put the black chicken in your freezer until Virginia gets back from the beach so that she can take the chicken to the department of health to get tested for diseases.”

In one simple suggestion, my Mother managed to find the limit to both my neighborliness and my squeamishness.

I am not putting a dead and possibly diseased chicken in my freezer, Mom. How about if she has another chicken die, she can take that one to the department of health?”

“Yes, that seems reasonable.”

Still feeling slightly guilty about The Great Chicken Death, I texted my friends that had been at the lake with me to update them. They texted back with much needed doses of encouragement and advice.


Advice which I have not, as of yet, taken.

A Matter of Taste.

We live adjacent to a really nice part of town.

“Adjacent”, in this context, is a synonym for “undesirable”, and that’s fine. Our quirky little neighborhood is unincorporated and we embrace that unincorporation. Without silly zoning rules to hold us back, we have such fineries as skateboarding half-pipes and 400-600 white pigeons in portable buildings in our back yards, and “natural areas” and sleds pulled by electrical cords in our front yards.


So it’s not surprising that some of our well-to-do neighbors are not always fans of our adjacentry.

I first became aware of the extent of their suspect fandom when I saw a new neighbor walking by. I was feeling oddly extroverted, and I flagged her down to say hello and introduce myself. She made sure that the first half of her first sentence clearly informed me that she lived “one street over” and that also, our street had an ant problem. And mosquitoes. And we should do something about that.

[We did. The Mosquito Authority does good work. Our mosquitos left and are probably in her yard which is why her house is currently for sale.]

Undeterred in my neighborly spirit, I asked if she had kids. She did, in fact, and their ages were uncannily compatible with Ali and Noah.

Which led to this conversation – one I shall hold dear in my heart for the rest of time.

Me: “Oh! Your kids are the same age as mine!”

Her: ”Yes, but – they’re in different…uh…districts.”

Me: “Oh, yes. Well, we homeschool. So we bought outside of a city school district on purpose.”

Apparently my explanation sounded like one-upsmanship to her, so she quickly retorted,

Her: “Oh, yes. I’ve considered homeschooling too because we just aren’t made for this system. I’m thinking we may go the [$30,000/year] private school route instead. My kids are just too creative for this [ridiculously sought after] school system. We’re just round pegs in a square hole.”

[Explanation brackets mine.]

So we know our place. And we keep our sleds-pulled-by-extension-cords on our side of the fence and happily enjoy The Kingdom’s delightful restaurants, shopping, playgrounds, and running trails, never forgetting that those lovely amenities are not ours. We are just travelers from a foreign land…a land that just happens to have exceedingly close proximity to Oz.

Oz, that has houses such as this one:

(Okay that’s a ridiculous (but true) example. Most are slightly more normal looking manors.)


But every now and then, it’s nice to know that they’re human too. And just because they paid three to 30 times more for their house than we did for ours, that doesn’t always mean that they have better taste.

(Although usually it very much means that.)

Such as, for one, this holiday display:

IMG_7968 2

And this mailbox, always my favorite example of Decking the Halls.


But those examples that I had always held dear faded when, on a run before Easter, I was jolted out of my happy place by this frightening appearance, staring at me from behind a bush.


I jumped back with a yelp, then cautiously peeked over the bushes again.


I quickly took inventory.

There was a tulle dress with pastel rainbow ribbon sewn to the hem.
A bouquet of fake Tiger Lilies.
A satin purse surely containing a weapon of mass destruction.
Bunny ears.
And, the most frightening part, a bunny mask with hollow eyes, nose, and mouth.



I held eye contact as long as I could, then ran (much faster) back to my car. Because one never knows when a creature like that might become sentient. And rabbits are fast. Even when wearing tulle and an extra pair of ears.

I was relieved when Easter was over and I could resume my regular running route without fear of having my heart torn out by that evil creature. I ran many miles without even noticing the statue, presumably because it went back to simply being a statue.

Until Saturday.

I was running toward the sun, trying to keep the sweat from burning my eyes, when I caught a glimpse of something ethereal. From another planet – surely. I turned slowly, then stopped running to take in what was the majesty of The Statue.


The first thing that struck me was that this was no rabbit.

This was a rooster.

Which meant that at Easter, there had been poultry pretending to be a rabbit. With four ears. Which was immediately more disturbing.

But now – now we have a cross-dressing pantsless rooster standing proudly who can’t see where he’s going and is quickly losing the flowers daintily wrapped around his hat.


It wasn’t as frightening as his previous dalliances, so there was that.

After my run, I looked up the Rooster Residence on Zillow, the premier tool in a serial-stalker’s repertoire. The rooster owned over 5,000 square feet of house, purchased fourteen years ago for nearly a million dollars, and clearly worth even more now, despite the somewhat suspect doorkeeper.

So yes.

Us county-dwellers have our quirks.

And we know where we belong on the food chain.

But none of us are dressing up our concrete cocks and making runners think they just entered into a horror movie.

So maybe – just maybe – we’ll hold our heads a little higher next time we go out to eat.