A Rainy Day With Thomas.

On Monday morning, nine out of ten Facebook Statuses in my feed were bemoaning a flooded basement, a flooded back yard, a flooded street, or a flooded everything.

Sunday was slightly moist around here.

And of course, that would be the day we had picked out to visit Thomas the Train.


It was the last day he was to be in Birmingham, so we couldn’t change our minds.

But Thomas was a non-negotiable – rain or worse. Because Noah has asked to return, nearly on a daily basis, since last year’s visit. It is pretty much his crowning achievement from the age of two.

“I REMEMBER riding on Thomas!!”, he said, at least a dozen times, as if he knew he shouldn’t actually be able to remember things from being two. “I REMEMBER getting the bracelet!!”

…because red Paper Bracelets are the best part of any event.

The rain did not lessen the palpability of Noah’s ecstasy.


Nothing could.


Thomas had gotten some work done since last year, and actually had a moving mouth and eyes, and cheeks so soft and realistic that when they moved, they looked rather eerily like we were in the cartoon. Making me wonder why no one has bought a small island and turned it into a Sodor Theme Park.

Thomas Moving

We skipped all of the other rather wet Thomas-y activities and went immediately to the awning to wait for our ride, which didn’t seem to upset the children at all.



And, thanks to the rain, the train was nearly all ours.


Noah got some quality time with the Conductor,


And after spending much time silently staring,


From every angle,


Being as still as he’s been for at least a month,


He rewarded me for making his dreams come true by making my dreams come true – and actually looking in the general(ish) direction of my camera for a whole. Thirty. Seconds.

Noah on Thomas 2

Noah on Thomas




He even let me see a quick glimpse of his true excitement,


And wanted to take a train selfie.


We all left calling it a success,


And now begins another 365 days of the question, “Is it time to go see Thomas yet?”

The Mystery of Fred.

Fred came into our lives at lunchtime on the last day of February.

We were having one of our many recent picnics in the front yard, enjoying the benefits of living in Alabama (early, lovely Spring), when he ran purposefully up the street, into our yard, caught Ali’s attention, then immediately rolled over to invite her to pet him.

It was love at first sight.


For both of them.


After Ali’s 72-hour ownership of Sam the Cat almost a year ago, she’s been melancholy about her extreme need for another cat.

And Fred seemed willing to comply.


Fred was an immediate puzzle for me to figure out. He seemed well-fed, tame, groomed, flea and infection-free, yet hungry.

He had no collar, but he was clearly used to children.

He seemed pretty happy to be an outdoor cat, but didn’t pass up the opportunity to attempt entry when the opportunity arose.

He was also quite hypo-allergenic, a fact I much appreciated.

But the MYSTERY.

Where did he come from?

How did he know my daughter needed him?

And, most importantly, how long would he stick around?

I reluctantly checked Craig’s List for Lost Cat listings, as well as watching out for signs in the neighborhood, but Fred seems to be wholly unlisted.

After having several neighbors all corroborate my suspicions that he was male (and one going so far as to say he was a neutered male, thank goodness,) Ali gave him the name of Fred, because apparently she likes strong, one-syllable male names for the felines in her life.

Fred immediately set up shop. With Sheldon-Like Analysis, he tried out each of our porch chairs and swing to find the optimal resting spot, then quickly made it clear that this one was Fred’s Spot.


He would disappear sometimes, but normally could be found on our porch.

He happily endured the children, both mine and the neighbor’s, taking part in their games and being the utmost of a gentleman.


He became a regular attender of our picnics,


Didn’t mind at all that Ali pampered him with treats,


And posed willingly for her finger-laden photography.


He even followed Ali up her favorite climbing trees.


Noah, however, was not as convinced of Fred’s Goodness.


Because, he explained, “Gramamma has a cat and her cat is mean.”

(He’s right.)

Whether Noah had a fry, a car, or his favorite brick (yes brick), if he saw Fred within 1000 feet, he would yell out,

“No Fred! Don’t take my fry! Mooooommmmmy!!! Fred is trying to take my fry!!”

“No Fred! Don’t take my car! Mooooommmmmy!!! Fred is trying to take my car!!”

“No Fred! Don’t take my brick! Mooooommmmmy!!! Fred is trying to take my brick!!”

Because apparently my Mom’s cat also has a problem with stealing bricks?

But Fred didn’t care.



As Noah thawed, he would work up the courage to run up to Fred, pet him, then run away, squealing with adrenaline.


And Fred didn’t flinch.


Fred also has human qualities, picking up food with his paw and eating it like a man – or at least when I rudely fed him straight out of the can.


(He usually gets dry cat food. But they give you one free can with every bag in hopes that your cat becomes a foodie and demands it.)

Ali proved herself to be quite the responsible pet owner in the most meticulous of ways. She fed Fred. She fretted over Fred when he went off on adventure. And she rarely let him eat a meal alone.


Or unfettered.


Even though Fred managed to daily throw his food bowl off the porch and somewhere in the far reaches of the yard, Ali would dutifully find him another bowl or retrieve and wash his thrown bowls. One morning we woke up and found that four bowls had been retrieved and put in front of the door. We immediately assumed that Fred was especially hungry that day and wanted us to know it. Then later realized that Chris had cleaned up the yard the night before.

Fred seems to be friends with the neighbor’s cat, as well – she steals his food, but he follows her around. In fact, we watched her tromp across the street and down into the storm drain. Fred watched too, then took off to follow.

I don’t know what they were doing in that storm drain, but whatever it was I’m glad they took it to a private place.

He’s recently acquired the habit of napping in my lap on sunny afternoons, and I often stare at the top of his head and wonder what secrets he holds.

Who owned you?

What made you leave?

What kids loved you enough to make you so comfortable with my little people?

Where do you go when you disappear for 24 hours at a time?

Will you leave my daughter one day, too? Once a leaver, always a leaver. And I don’t want any heartbreakers hanging around.

And so, I pet him a little harder, begging him with my fingernails to stay forever. For her sake.

Although I cannot seem to come up with a reasonable explanation for Fred’s very purposeful adoption of Ali, she did.

“Mommy, I think I figured out why Fred came here. I think his old owners had a picture of me and Fred saw it and scratched at it and scratched at it every day. And then one day he just had to set off to look for me until he found me, because he knew I was supposed to be his owner.”

And really, who can argue with that?

Ten Steps to a Southern Snowfall.

The unfathomable has happened.

We The People of Alabama have gotten two measurable snowfalls in the same winter.

Ten Steps to a Southern Snowfall.

I’ve always said that I want to experience one True Northern Snowstorm, but I also believe that every one of you northerners should absolutely experience one True Southern Snowstorm.

Because Southerners react to snow with a fantastic mixture of awe and hilarity.

I already told you how it goes down if we don’t know it’s coming. But when we do know it’s coming, it’s a completely different event.

Here are the steps to a True Southern Snowstorm.

1. 72 Hours Beforehand: It looks as if there might be snow!!!! Perhaps even two snow events back to back!!!!!!! All news anchors and meteorologists bring their sleeping bags to the studio, and the Governor goes ahead and declares a State of Emergency while it’s still warm out – just in case he’s unable to get to his Easy Button when we need him.

2. Forget school for the rest of the week, as well as medical care (except emergencies), eating out (except Waffle House), and any Church or social functions. We didn’t get snow until Wednesday night, but I didn’t leave the house from Sunday to Thursday – because there was nothing to do.

3. Wait expectantly for 48 hours, kids home from school and playing outside in the mild but snowless weather.

Finally, snow starts falling, resulting in wall-to-wall news coverage, weather radios blaring out warnings, families quickly bundling into their waiting snow gear, and general ecstatic hysteria.

Snowcitement m“The snow is deep enough to leave FOOTPRINTS!!!”

4. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds immediately multiply to hundredfold of their normal rate, vomiting photos of measuring tapes and rulers in the snow (some up to the four inch mark!!), deck furniture coated in white, trees covered in snow, and children with looks of ecstasy that could only be justified by Publisher’s Clearinghouse showing up at their door.


Okay, parents too.

5. News anchors fill up their continuous coverage (sometimes even forgoing commercial breaks due to the urgent nature of their information) excitedly switching between camera views of cities throughout the state and viewer photos of snowmen, snow angels, and bikini-clad women and shirtless men* laying in the snow.

(*Bikini-Clad Women and Shirtless Men are always in separate photographs, obviously. This is The South, after all.)

6. As the snow keeps falling, the news anchors begin using statements such as,

“Look at the football field in Slap Out, Alabama! It must have an inch of snow covering it by now. That looks more like Lambeau Field in Green Bay than a High School in Alabama!”


“Can you believe these pictures? I’d think they were taken in Antarctica if I didn’t know better!”


“I think we can expect a penguin to waddle through this LiveCam shot any minute.”


“The Mayor has announced that he will put in a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics!”

4. If it happens to snow at night, you either let your children stay up late or wake them up in the middle of the night to play in it, taking photos of adorable midnight snowmen.


7. After finally making the kids go to bed, parents stay up way too late, romantically gazing at the magical white ground covering.


And then they wake up super early and drag the kids out to play in the snow before it melts.


8. Southern Snow Play includes a frenzy of activity of every type of snow activity we’ve ever seen on television. In less than one hour, we can make a snowman, have a snowball fight, sled, make snow angels, have snow cream, walk around the neighborhood, take dazzling photos of the white magic, and in general feel like our life goals have been met.




Did I mention what expert sledders we are in the south?

Yes, that sled is being pulled by an extension cord. Isn’t that normal?

9. Before lunchtime, it goes back to fifty degrees and our snow melts away, leaving barely a trace of evidence of that which shut down our entire state for nearly a week.

10. Within 48 hours, we’re back at seventy degrees.

And all we have left are the memories. And the fifteen hundred photos. And the piles of laundry. And, if we had the forethought to build in the shade, a mostly melted, dirty, sad remnant of a snowman.

But we will never forget.