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.

The Varying Degrees of Tubing.

For family vacation this year, we went to a mountain “resort neighborhood” that might have been the most confusing place we’ve ever visited.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about yet.

While we there, my mom, Ali, and I decided to take a tubing trip down the river that ran through the resort.

The bus was frightening just to behold. But we realized we didn’t know what Bus Fear was until we were on the tiny mountain roads in it, groaning and jolting as it failed in the long ascents, and barreling as it felt way too much like a bus-tragedy-about-to-strike while going downhill.

But before the ride, we were left to sit on the bus and consider our future. Ali looked warily forward to the metal box hanging above the driver’s seat.

“Uh, mom, what does ‘Body fluids cleanup kit’ mean?”

My mom jumped in and started listing off all the instances that could cause a spill of bodily fluids on the upcoming bus ride.

This did not help Ali’s excitement about the ride ahead.

The Mayberry-esque driver bounded onto the bus and began to count. Loudly. Pointing to each passenger as he did so. It felt very much like a kindergarten class skills demonstration.

On the first count, he made it to 34. He threw up his hands and said, “Okay, let’s try again.”

Apparently, 34 was not the number he was looking for.

He started his second round with, “Okay. I got one guy standing up.” Then proceeded to count everyone sitting down, starting at one.

This time, he got to 31.

“Hold on, y’all. I gots ta’ get some help.”

As soon as he exited the bus, all 32 passengers agreed: he never counted the guy standing up. The guy that he singled out to remind himself to count. He was gone long enough for us to do an independent audit and discover that there were actually 32 of us.

He came back with a young guy that looked as if he could count. He quickly checked off that we were all there, and sent us on our way.

Thus began the barreling and groaning.

As we reached the top of a long country hill, the driver stood up, turned halfway around, and announced loudly: “Now I know we don’t have no real air conditioning, but this here is country air conditioning!!”

Then he proceeded to dance wildly, flailing his arms about to…create a breeze? All while the bus careened down the hill.

My cautious daughter gasped and let out a tiny scream.

My Mom, in an attempt to distract Ali, asked her what her favorite part of vacation had been so far. Ali was not ready for conversation. Her bulging eyes turned accusingly to my mom and she screamed, “I have no idea but it’s certainly not right now!!”

Once the driver took his seat again, he decided it was time for a chat.

“Okay. I’m gonna go ahead and go over the safety measures so that when we get to the river, we don’t have to do it.”

He then outlined enough information to print on an 8 1/2 x 11 laminated reference sheet.

“There will be three rapids. On the first one, go right. On the second, go center. On the third, go right. Oh – and there’s a fresh tree down over the river. I’ve heard the rapids will take you right into it – go left! DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR TUBE, and DO NOT GET OUT OF THE RIVER. The river runs through a gated community, and they don’t cotton to me comin’ to pick you up. They give two exceptions: weather and a medical emergency. If you have a medical emergency, exit to the right. If you exit to the left, there are no roads and I can’t come get you. Oh – and right after the third rapids, you need to start lookin’ for stairs on the left – that’s where I’ll be waitin’. That’s the only time you can exit to the left. If you miss them, and it does happen, DO NOT GO UNDER THE METAL BRIDGE. If you go under, you’ll find yourself in rapids that are NOT SAFE FOR TUBIN’, and you’ll have to be on the river for EIGHT MORE HOURS until you dump out into the lake and I can come get you. Got it?”

Everyone looked aghast.

So he continued.

“Oh – and do NOT take anything valuable on this trip. That includes phones. I had a man lose an $800 cell phone and I had begged him to leave it with me. This river will strip everything you care about away from you. Do you understand??”

Ali looked at me, partially horrified, partially judgey, since she knew good and well that I had my phone tucked into the top of my swimsuit.

We had talked Ali into this little adventure by promising (as the tubing employee on the phone had) that it would be a calm, relaxing float along the river – just like a lazy river! Except a real river! Neither the bus ride nor the bus driver’s ominous speech had made her feel confident in our promises.

We got out and began collecting floats and life jackets, and a worker yelled out at our bus driver, “Did ya bring any of the sticks back?”

“Naw, I forgot.”

“They woulda been real useful for the tubers! The river is movin’ REAL slow today.”

Um. Okay.

Ali grabbed a short stick for me as we got in, then I strapped our three tubes together with our life jackets. The float started off calmly, except for the 32 panicking people from our bus – everyone was a bit frightened at having everything they cared about stripped away from them.

Meanwhile, the river was barely moving. And I was doing way more paddling than I had in mind for this relaxing tube ride.


At the first bend, we approached the first rapids. We went right, remembering our right-center-right directions. They were calm, fun, and not at all stripping away of the things we cared about.

At the next bend, the second rapids. We went center, with the same slightly quickened water pace – just enough to make Ali say “wheee!!” with no fear whatsoever (which should indicate that “rapids” was a strong exaggeration.)


Notice the giant log my mom is holding? Yeah – she managed to steal that from the banks to help us get down this lake of a river.

We saw the third rapids ahead, right behind the freshly felled tree, and began to question ourselves. We’d only been on the river half an hour – it was supposed to be a two hour trip. Surely our trip wasn’t already over…

But there were no stairs on the left.

So we kept on floating.


After twenty rapids that were indistinguishable in ferocity from each other and three freshly felled trees, we determined that our driver’s difficulty in counting was not limited to the bodies on the bus.

And also, it didn’t look like two hour time limit was going to happen.

Ali was done after an hour and a half. We kept trying to encourage her, telling her that any minute we’d be spotting stairs.

After another hour, this wasn’t as comforting. She had her chin resting on her fist with a blank look of death-by-boredom on her face.

So I told her, “Tubing and Canoe trips are always a little longer than you want them to be.”

She jerked up and indignantly said, “A LITTLE?!?

Just past the three hour mark, after another set of rapids in which we repeated for the tenth time “Maybe THIS is the third rapids!!”, we saw it. Glorious, glorious stairs.

And about ten feet after the stairs, we saw the ominous metal bridge that promised a waterfall and 8 more hours of tubing.

“DO NOT!! MISSSSSSS!!! THE STAIRS!!!!”, Ali screamed at us.

We paddled with all our might, little branch and big branch, and secured our spot on the return trip of what was actually the part we should have been warned ominously about – the bus ride.

On the Growth of a Man.

Noah has been busy lately, growing up and stuff.


He’s become a puzzlingly model student (he has for his entire life held a staunch non-education policy), his imagination is running wild with ideas of commerce, and he got his first loose tooth.

He tried to play the tooth thing cool, just slipping it into conversation one morning.

“Oh by the way Mom, I have a loose tooth.”

He snarled his face into a grimace to attempt to hold the smile back.


But I knew he’d been waiting on that development for years, desperately ripping at his teeth even at three years old, so I reacted with a level of excitement that made it irresistible for him to keep his straight face.

He began working on his tooth, night and day, wiggling and tugging, determined to accomplish this milestone of adulthood as soon as possible. There could be time found for tooth wiggling even at the waterpark.


The milestone brought about philosophical conversations about what it meant, and I mean REALLY meant, as well.

“You can’t have kids until you lose all your baby teeth and get adult teeth.”

Way to set some goals, kid.

Meanwhile, he opened up shop. He became a restaurateur, setting up vast and detailed restaurants in his room. At one point, they were picnic tables outside a food truck, which he named “Rocket City Food Truck.” Later, he opened up a full-service restaurant in my living room floor – and yes, it stayed there for many days.


During the Olympics, he insisted that I create themed décor to encourage more patrons to come, hence the ringed tablecloths.

Nothing made him have to bite the inside of his cheeks to keep from smiling more ferociously than for me to yell out “Hey! Table 4 needs a coffee refill! And Table 6 needs more cheese biscuits!! Table 9 isn’t waiting ANOTHER SECOND for their check!!”


To attract a hipster crowd, he built a fantastically fancy Tinker Toy coffee maker. Not sure if it’s French Press or Cold Brew, but whatever it is, there’s some seriously snobby coffee getting made – and the kind you have to hold your mouth just right to pour.



As I was cleaning out some stuff, I found these perfect placemats for him to decorate,


as well as an order pad.

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…Because I’m pretty much the coolest hoarder there ever was.

His deductive reasoning is coming along nicely, too – last week, when trying to figure out why Not-Crazy-Renee didn’t answer my text right away, Noah philosophized,

“….Maybe she’s in the car…because she puts sunscreen on her kids when you don’t put sunscreen on us, so maybe she doesn’t text in the car like you do.*”

So yeah. According to Noah, Renee is a much more responsible person than me. All based on sunscreen.

* I do try not to text in the car. But sometimes when I’m at a traffic light, something has to be answered. And my father taught my children to (rightfully) fuss at me when I do. But that’s okay. They tattle on him driving WAY TOO FAST in return.

Noah has also busied himself asking me the tough questions of life, wrinkling up his nose and saying, “Mom, why do you smell like leggings?”


And, while watching the women’s gymnastics, inquiring, “Is there fire rings in the boys gymnastics?”

No, but there totally should be, son. And they should put you in charge of Olympic marketing.

After three weeks of working that tooth with the dedication of a Hyena picking clean the bones of roadkill, Noah came in my room one morning to wake me up, got in my bed to snuggle, and said,

“Oh yeah. I pulled my tooth out last night.”


“Wait WHAT?!? (His sister’s first tooth pull was full-on trauma. I didn’t know how to handle this casual news.) When??”

“After y’all put me to bed.”

“Why didn’t you come get us?”

“Because there was a 5 on the clock.”

“Wait a minute. So you woke up at 5am, pulled out your own tooth, and then went back to sleep?”


“Did it bleed??”


Did it hurt??”


“Where’s your tooth?”

“On my bedside table.”

“That’s amazing…”

“I know. So I’m going to leave the Tooth Fairy a note telling her to give me a hundred dollars.”


….The kid has a top-notch brain, without a doubt.