The Dangers of Avocado.

There are certain foods that God created for the purpose of letting us eat toppings. Because toppings are a life blessing.

Potatoes, for instance. On their own, they’re not that exciting. But when you add butter and sour cream and cheese and bacon and maybe some bar-b-que while you’re at it, they’re the sparkling unicorn of food.

Tacos. Tacos are nothing BUT toppings. Which is why they’re never a bad idea. Especially when served in soft corn tortillas. Which is the ultimate topping wrapper.

Chili. Chili is an extra special topping food, because it calls for toppings and bottomings.

I use rice for my bottoming. Chris uses Fritos. Some people use crackers, or so I hear.

And for toppings, I’ve always used sour cream and cheese, but have recently discovered the splendor of adding an avocado to my chili topping repertoire. Because Avocado is kind of like my bacon – it’s perfect with everything.

I made a giant vat of chili last Monday night. We had a lovely family dinner, to which I invited my parents. Or I thought I did. I texted my Mom – I would have scrolled to find the text stream where I text both of them at once, but I had onion juice on my hands and really wanted Siri to handle my texting for me.

But mom never answered.

Later that night, I texted Dad.

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I felt bad for my text-only ways (a normal human being would have called her parents when not receiving a response to a dinner invitation), but we still had a vat and a half of chili left over (that’s the thing about toppings – they somehow multiply your main dish leftovers because you use so many toppings that you use very little of the actual product), so I told my parents to just come over the next night.

Tuesday night.

I rewarmed the chili, got out the voluminous options of toppings and bottomings, warmed up the cornbread, and prepared for another large family dinner.

The last thing I needed to do was to slice an avocado. I knew my Mom and I would be the only ones taking advantage of the world’s best topping, so I only grabbed one avocado out of the fridge and began slicing it open while talking to my mom.

I did my usual of cutting around the middle, and then opening up the avocado. But instead of my usual THWACK approach to remove the pit (the THWACK approach being where you THWACK the pit with the knife and then twist and pull it out), I did more of a THWACK-saw.

I do not recommend the THWACK-saw approach.

Because the avocado was softer than I had assumed and catapulted loose from the avocado mid-saw…but the sawing didn’t quit. And I was sawing in the direction of my hand.

And, as I was holding the avocado in my right hand, the sawing continued into my thumb. To the point where I definitely heard and felt sawing taking place on my thumb bone.

Sometimes physics is a real turd.

As one does when sawing one’s thumb bone, I screamed and dropped the avocado. I ran to get a paper towel to sop up my outwardly flowing life force and surveyed the damage.

The cut was long, thick, and vomiting blood. But oddly didn’t hurt…at all.

It’s gonna start hurting real soon. Just you wait.

I asked mom if I needed stitches. She took a look and told me to go let my father see it while she hunted down a butterfly bandage. He looked at it and was also uncertain.

…But it still didn’t hurt.

Mom bandaged me thoroughly, causing me no pain whatsoever. I decided to table the matter of my thumb because it wasn’t hurting and I needed to slice my avocado and then there was chili to eat.

Priorities, you know?

Chris wasn’t quite home from work, so I sent him a quick text to help him adjust to the possibilities that lay ahead.

“Just to mentally prepare, we may need to go to the ER later. I cut my hand de-pitting an avocado.”

He answered back, “Sorry. You did that last night, too.”

I pondered what he said.

HAD I cut my hand two nights in a row while de-pitting my avocado? This did seem vaguely familiar. Then I remembered that I had a bothersome cut on my index finger and I didn’t remember how I’d gotten it.

I had cut my hand the night before!

Do I cut my hand every time I de-pit an avocado?

This seemed oddly familiar as well.

Clearly I needed a new strategy for de-pitting avocados.

I prepared my bowl of chili and gave myself an extra serving of avocado. I deserved it, after all.

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But then I looked over at my mom’s bowl and she had not gotten any avocado.

Perhaps the adrenaline from the injury made me more frantic than usual. Or perhaps I’m just an insubordinate daughter. But I demanded of her, “Why aren’t you getting any Avocado? EAT THE BLOODY AVOCADO! …Err, I mean that “bloody” in the British sense. Not the literal one. Maybe.”

She quickly spooned herself some avocado onto her chili.

We ate, my hand continued not to hurt or throb or anything remotely uncomfortable, and I actually felt quite energized. Adrenaline really is magical – why haven’t they figured out how to make adrenaline pills yet?

After dinner, I drove up to my neighbor’s house whose husband is a doctor. He’d just walked in from a long hospital shift that I’m sure was delightfully fun, and I accosted him in the basement before he even got to go upstairs and kiss his family.

I brought a fresh tube of superglue with me, because I knew that in the past, when their kid fell and busted her head, they just superglued her back together, because superglue is the same thing as liquid stitches. Who knew?

(Also I love the idea of fixing a broken kid the same way you fix the broken kid’s broken toys.)

I peeled off the bandage for him to assess the damage. He opened up the cut a bit to take a look, and asked me again if it didn’t hurt at all? No, it didn’t.

He didn’t know why I wasn’t hurting, but because of where the cut was (going up my thumb right where it bends), he said that superglue wouldn’t hold it long enough to heal – I really needed a couple old-fashioned stitches.

I drove back home with my feeling-quite-fine hand, and we decided that Dad would drive me to the ER. After all, it might not be as easy to drive after a numbing shot or three in the hand.

Dad and I sat in the ER lobby and people-watched, communicating our terribly judgmental thoughts back and forth with our eyes. Who knew the ER was such a fascinating place? Probably everyone.

It was finally my turn, and the nurse asked me all the questions he was supposed to like, “Have you ever thought about self-harm? Are you sure you didn’t do this on purpose?”

“No. I just really wanted avocado to top my chili. Have you ever tried it? It’s delicious.”

“When did this happen?”

“Around 6pm. But I ate the chili before coming in. Because I worked hard for that avocado.”

He happily dumped me into a room, where a nice ER doctor came in and asked if I’d ever had stitches before.

“Oh yes. On my hand even! From sleepwalking.”

He then wanted to hear all of my various sleepwalking stories as he shot me up and tied three nice little stitches in my hand.

There was the time I broke my nose

And the time I got lost in the funeral home…

And that time I fought Captain Hook

I apologized that my current injury was so boring.

He ran out of the room to get something and I snapped a quick picture of his handiwork. (Click here if you’d like to see it. You’re welcome for the opt-out, queasy people.)

Then he finished stitching me up and told me he’d see me soon, then sent me on my way. And no, he had no idea why I wasn’t hurting, either.

But the moral of this story is, although there are countless useless kitchen gadgets that do various overly-specific tasks, this brand new tool that I bought this week will pay for itself in one use. Because ER co-pays are expensive.

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The Fight Against Clutter.

Editor’s Note: I acknowledge that this post is way too long. I apologize profusely for my inability to break it into smaller posts. However, as a token of my sorrow, I offer you loads of pictures of the mess that my life was/is. May you take comfort in that.

I could never put “Homemaker” on my resume.

At an extended family Dirty Santa party this past Christmas, I opened up a gift that contained canning jars, a “Pickles and Jams” recipe book, and various other jelly and jam making accoutrements.

My dad started laughing.

“What?!”

“I’m just laughing because you’re so domesticated and all.”

I defended my level of domesticity vehemently, but to some degree, he’s right.

I can cook (maybe even quite well), but don’t very often.

I can organize my house, but choose not to make that a priority.

I CANNOT garden.

I CANNOT decorate.

And those canning jars and books are still in the gift bag piled in an extremely messy closet.

(They’ll be really useful in about nine months. When it’s time to find new Dirty Santa gifts.)

With regards to my lack of home organization, though, it bugs me. Things pile up VERY badly around here. I’m not a hoarder – I just struggle to make time to throw away. And when I get busy, decluttering is the first thing to get left behind.

(And I’ve been busy for about…nine years.)

The two areas that annoyed me the most were the kid’s (okay Noah’s) play area in the living room (I despised looking at the mountains of chaotically stacked toys every night after they went to bed),

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and my office.

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I know. My office is horrendous. From it, I run all the books/HR for a small business, plus I run Picture Birmingham, blog, homeschool, do all of our personal finances, and it was the home for all my shoes and crafting stuff.

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But besides that, I actually hadn’t even used my office for anything but storage since the wreck – I’d moved the work necessities to our bedroom so I could work from bed since I couldn’t sit with my legs not elevated. So really, the office had just become a dumping ground.

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Although these two areas were by far not the only and possibly not the worst areas in our house (I’m looking at you, basement), they were the ones for which I desperately needed a plan.

Around the time these two areas started to annoy me the most, my dear friend Jamie posted on Facebook that she was having home organization help from a mutual internet friend, Tara. I had no idea Tara had such a magical occupation, and immediately began stalking her business. Within a week, I had her out to my house, and she literally opened every drawer, every cabinet, and every closet in my house, then took pictures of the worst of them.

(But only after I made her sign an affidavit stating that she wasn’t one of those neat freaks that assigns moral judgment to the non-neat. Because I’ve met those people. And they make me feel like Refried Roadkill.)

(Tara told me that she believed that everyone had different strengths, and just because organization and neatness weren’t mine, I had plenty of other strengths, and then she made a long list of said strengths.)

(Then I virtually kissed her.)

A week after her intimate encounter with my house, I texted Tara and said, “Um, by the way…I have a bonus question for you. You know my office? The crazy messy one with all the different stuff going on in it? Yeah. So we’re adding a person to our household and I need you to turn it into a bedroom.”

…Because one of our dearest friends, travel companion, and babysitter, Sarah, needed a place to live for a while, and we were absolutely delighted with the opportunity to add her to our family.

IMG_6640Those extra two kids are AJ and Tessa because this picture is from last summer’s beach trip. We’re not adding AJ and Tessa to our family, but if we could, my children’s lives would be complete.

A day later, Tara sent me a report, including a plan to turn my dumping ground into a bedroom.

GUYS.

It was an ELEVEN PAGE REPORT.

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…With links to what she wanted me to buy. And descriptions of how to rearrange my rooms. And promises to help me do all of this.

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And her pricing was about 10% of what I thought this sort of Fairy Housemother Magic would cost.

I devoured her report, clicked through those links so many times, and began feverishly trying to accomplish some the things she had suggested before she came out to *really* help me get things done.

Step One: First pass-through cleaning out the office – trash and sell as much as possible.

This represents $200 worth of random crap I found in my office and sold on eBay. Textbooks, Diaper Genie Refills, and more.

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After Day One of working by myself, my office went from this:

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To this:

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A lot still to go, but the progress felt good.

Step Two: Move living room furniture and PURGE KID’S TOYS.

The kid’s loved this part, because they found all sorts of lost treasures under where the couch had been.

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…Such as that half-eaten Ring Pop for which they’d been looking for so long.

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The decluttering of their toys took a bit longer.

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Tara had been very specific about what type of organization containers she wanted me to use, and OF COURSE the only place you could buy them in town was my favorite (nightmare) – Wal-Mart.

So the children and I had spent a harrowing 45 minutes in Wal-Mart matching lids to bins and I swore that I’d find them online – higher prices who cares – from then on.

The benefit of using all of these new containers, though, is that I got all my kitchen bowls back. The kids and their father had been stealing them for various Lego projects for years.

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My pile of now-emptied containers only grew, as did my pile of garbage bags.

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Step Three: BUILD SHELVES.

Oh, the shelves.

These were specific shelving/storage units that Tara wanted in my living room (she recommends them for most people because they’re fantastic.) The idea is that all of our books would be in one place, and ALL children’s downstairs toys must end up in the closed cabinets at the end of each day – or they go to Mommy Jail.

(The toys, not the children.)

(Maybe.)

I decided I would be a nice wife and attempt to build the shelves during the day so that my poor husband didn’t have to come home from work to build three giant shelving units.

I began the first shelf at 9am and I sent my first SOS text to my dad at 9:02am after opening up the boxes and seeing these bags of hardware.

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(That’s all for ONE of the three shelves.)

My Dad said he would stop by in a while, but in the meantime I gathered my feminine courage and set out on my own. Despite the 50,678 screws, the instruction novel specifically said no power tools. So I found a screwdriver and began sorting and attaching all the things.

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I made it all the way to step five before making my one and only mistake, but made it all the way to step seven before I realized I had assembled step five backwards.

It also took me ten minutes of staring at it to figure out exactly where I’d gone wrong. And then I dropped the heaviest piece on my leg, giving me a gorgeous knot and bruise that I still possess.

The next step had this note on it, which I believe was supposed to be encouraging but at the moment was quite the opposite.

IMG_7113A DAY?! I have two more units to build!!

By the time my Dad arrived at noon, I had the basic structure assembled, and needed a big strong man to turn the whole shelving unit over so I could assemble the back, then turn it back over so I could finish the front. Which is exactly the services he offered me – that and asking me WHY I WASN’T USING AN ELECTRIC SCREWDRIVER and pointing out that I really needed him to take a few pictures of me BUILDING THINGS.

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(Maybe his opinion of my domestication grew seven times that day.)

Dad left and I continued assembling.

After four hours and fifty minutes, I had completed the first unit.

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My fingertips were purple and my hands were bright pink, and although pride coursed through my soul, I swore I’d never put together another shelf in my life.

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I had to leave the house to go to my last(!!!) Physical Therapy appointment (visit #44, in case you’re wondering), and by the time I graduated from PT (yes, they sang the graduation song as I marched out of the clinic), I was empowered to build more shelves.

Because it’s MANIC 2016.

So I went straight home and began shelf #2.

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I had a little help this time…

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For approximately two turns of the screwdriver before he declared it too hard.

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But because my shelving timing was apparently perfect, Chris walked in the door from work at the exact moment that I needed unit #2 flipped over.

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Which he did. After he asked WHY AREN’T YOU USING AN ELECTRIC SCREWDRIVER?!

Shelf number two only took two hours and forty-five minutes – I was thinking I should go pro at that point.

For shelf three, I told Chris my hands couldn’t take any more pain. I would be the brains – after all I knew how ALL this should go – and he could be my muscle.

So he went and got the electric screwdriver. Of course.

And I told him what to do and how.

This lasted for about half of the shelf, and lemme tell you it was fun to tell my structural-steel-drawing engineer husband how to construct something, but then it was time for the kids to get to bed and so I took back the shelves so he could read bedtime stories.

Coming in at two hours and twenty-five minutes, the third shelves were built. Tallying up to a grand total of nine hours and fifty minutes, and spanning from 9am to 10:30pm (with PT and a couple breaks built in.)

BUT MY BEAUTIFUL SHELVES WERE BUILT.

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Step Four: Build Smaller Entertainment Center.

We’ve had our lovely television armoire for about fourteen years, and although we adored it, it was crowding our living room. Tara suggested a much smaller unit. After building three shelving units, this was a yawn for me. Because I’m a professional.

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Step Five: Giant Work Day with Tara.

Tara brought a helper and our goal for the morning was to get my office completely ready for Sarah to move in. And we did just that.

This included lots of shredding and throwing crap away,

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lots of donations,

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Hanging pictures while standing on safe and steady furniture,

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And busying children with putting books in rainbow order.

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(I enjoyed adding special touch shelves, such as this one, featuring Twitter signs from my sweet friend Katherine and a special purchase from Moist,)

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(And this one, featuring our favorite band and handwritten lyrics from them to our favorite song.)

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By the end of the day, my office was no longer an office.

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AND my living room was a beautiful, cozy new space.

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So. Sarah has moved in a week ago (my children are gleefully happy, as are Chris and I, to add her to our family for a while), I’m LOVING the progress in my house, the kids are doing fairly well keeping their toys out of Mommy Jail, and I’m trying to not screw it all up by allowing things to stack up.

I still have about 60% of Tara’s report to put into place, and I and hope to have her out about once a month for a while to force me to get it all done.

…But I still don’t plan on making any pickles or jams.

It Happened One Thursday.

Thursday

The date was October 1, and we were trying to get out of town.

Not right away, which was good as I hadn’t packed for anyone. But in the afternoon, leaving town was the plan.

Ali was going to my Mom’s for the weekend, and Chris, Noah and I were going to Atlanta for the annual trek to “Pop’s Race.”

But things had to be done first.

School, for one.

Errands.

Packing for people to go in separate directions.

So we began with school. It was early – I felt confident that I could accomplish all that the day needed. There were hours ahead of me! I had this.

After school, we drove to Target to get necessaries for our journeys. Ali needed to pick out a birthday present for her best friend, as she would be attending her spend-the-night birthday party while we were gone. And I needed things – because who doesn’t need things at Target?

No one. That’s who.

I’d grabbed half the things when my calendar on my phone beeped naggingly.

I didn’t remember having plans.

Then again, I didn’t remember the last time I’d checked my calendar, either.

I looked at the reminder. Children’s Theatre! We had a field trip starting in half an hour and I had completely forgotten about it. We’d missed the last play due to a nasty cold virus we’d passed around our family for two weeks – I could not stomach flushing another $21 of theatre investment.

So I sped up.

“Mommy! Why are you walking so fast?”

“We can’t keep up with you!!”

I grabbed a gift bag for the present, ran through the book aisle looking for the set Ali wanted to get her friend to no avail, sprinted to the checkout, and paid. No present – I would worry about that teensy detail later.

Miraculously, the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line next door hadn’t cranked up to its usual lunchtime frenzy yet, so I got the kids some chicken and sped downtown to adequately provide my children culture and sophistication.

Somehow, we made it to the play, The Reluctant Dragon, with 15 minutes to spare. Most likely because I key in every calendar entry 30 minutes early to plan on the fact that I will not look at my calendar, but whatever.

That 15 minutes gave my children ample time to be impatient, antsy, and far too wiggly for the theatre.

And then, right as the play began, Noah began to cough. Except not a cough – it was the juicy tuberculosis-meets-croup cough he’d had on and off for a month, in fact the very same cough that prevented us from attending the last Children’s Theatre play.

He did not sound uncontagious in the least.

And we were sitting on the second row.

I am positive that he coughed right on The Reluctant Dragon himself at some point, which might (rightfully) make him reluctant to act in children’s plays in the future.

On one side, I had friends. I whispered apologetically that he wasn’t contagious – he just couldn’t shake the cough.

On Noah’s other side, far out of my whisper-reach, were strangers. And the child closest to Noah was leaning on his mother to get as far away from Noah’s nasty lungs as possible.

The cough continued, without stopping, and becoming more urgent, throughout the entire play. The entire play which I did not watch but instead spent strategizing and restrategizing how I could get him out of the theatre without disturbing other people, but to no avail. We were solidly locked in. And there were no intermissions or breaks in the action during which it would be acceptable for me to cross in front of someone.

Could I jump over the row of chairs in front of me, which were all empty, to escape that way?

I was wearing a sundress. There was zero possible way to accomplish that awkward escape without showing my underthings to The Reluctant Dragon.

(Who, incidentally, had a very disturbing underthing problem of his own going on, as his costume was clearly designed for those not sitting on the second row.)

As I tried to not stare at the Dragon’s leggings-as-pants barely made PG-13 by a shimmering thongish covering of dragon scales, I willed the play to end so I could get my child out of this harrowing cough situation.

After approximately 2,357 coughs, they took their bows.

But then there was Q&A with the audience. And again zero ways for me to escape (gracefully.)

Noah sounded at this point as if he was certainly dying of a medieval plague that might have wiped out even the most reluctant of dragons.

Finally finally FINALLY, the questions ended. I pushed my children down the aisle and up the stairs, smushing them into the crowds of parents and children leaving the theatre, attempting to get out before anything worse occurred.

Except that I failed.

Because at that moment, as we were on the carpeted stairs amidst hoards of people, Noah’s cough reached the apex of its theatrical act.

And he phlegm-vomited a pile of ooze right on the stairs.

I panicked.

In half a second my mind went through all the contents of my purse. Did I have anything to clean this up??

I did not.

Except for maybe a feminine product but mopping up a pile of phlegm with a tampon did not seem like it would abate my humiliation one tiny bit.

Meanwhile, the hoards were pressing into us from every side – we had to move or risk theatre trampling.

I apologized in general to all of the people that had been pressing into my little brood at that moment and…I walked up those steps.

The guilt of leaving a pile of phlegm on the stairs beat my brow all day. THIS is the way I repay the arts? THIS is the kind of person I am?

Oh, the horror.

A truly good person would have tamponed that little mess right off the floor.

But I stuffed my humiliation and remembered that I had to get my family out of town. I raced to the bookstore for that present. As Ali browsed, I fretted. I had not planned on the oh-so-pleasurable theater outing when I thought I had plenty of time, and I still had 100% of our packing to accomplish. Ali took her time picking out books, then decided at the last minute that she’d rather get her friend a Lego set – something we could have easily grabbed during our Target sprint.

But no matter.

We drove home, Noah having zero traces of a cough OF COURSE, and I packed in a frenzy. I now only had an hour until Chris was to be home and we were to leave.

As I was packing the very last thing (I hoped), my neighbor and her two kids stopped by. Then my other neighbors saw that we were having a party and they walked over. And I found myself, a mere half hour before it was time to leave town, with a playdate at my house for six kids and three adults.

Because why not? I mean my son had only just phlegmed all over The Arts.

Chris drove up, the neighbors scattered, and we left.

And I managed to relax my shoulders sometime around the state line.