Off to the Races.

“Hey Eli, would you like for me to tell you where to stick it?”

These are the jewels that you hear when you travel with a three-year-old and a six-year-old boy.

(No, Noah had no idea what he was saying. Yes, he said it in the kindest, sweetest little boy voice ever. Yes, I laughed heartily.)

So. Boys.

If you take them to a Mexican restaurant, there will likely be double dipping.

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If you let them loose in a double hotel room with a balloon, it will assuredly feel like you’re trapped in a two-foot box with 563 espresso-hyped hamsters.

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But then, if their granddad shows up, they will miraculously become still, tiny little angels.

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My sister-in-law Lindsay and I ditched our three daughters and took our two sons to the races in Atlanta. My Dad is a Tech Inspector (i.e. he takes the cars apart before and after the race to check for cheaters) for a series of races formerly known as American Le Mans but recently purchased by NASCAR and given the unfortunate name of Tudor. Unfortunate when two small boys are involved, anyway.

“HA! TOOOOOTER!!”

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But regardless of unfortunate naming choices, our sons experienced ecstasy that day.

They got to walk through Pit Row with my Dad,

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Where racing teams told them secrets,

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Taught them how to cut zip ties,

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And in general enthusiastically entertained our children.

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There were cars to BEND OVER and look into (you really don’t realize how small race cars are until you see them next to a three and six year old),

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Lifts to ride up and down,

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Selfies to photo-bomb,

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Other people’s selfies to watch happen,

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And drivers to avoid.

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Dad yanked this driver(?) out and said “stand here with my grandsons.”

Driver(?): “But I’m not important!”

Dad: “I know that, but they don’t know that!”

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Poor driver(?). I think he’s important, too.

Noah remembered from last year where our team allegiances lie, though. He even remembered how to copy my sing-song fan-girl voice really well, going super high at the end of, “We’re going to go see Patrick Dempseeeeey!!!”

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But, alas. Another year, another lack of Dempsey in our lives. He was there somewhere, though. Just not there with us.

Meanwhile, back at home, Chris was convincing Ali to go running with him on the coldest day of the year so far,

Ali Running

And my brother JC was attempting to figure out how to manage curly hair.

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We had the better end of the deal.

We found a place by the fence to sit for a while,

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Which really ended up in us doing everything we could to contain our sons.

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And get their eyes to rest on the racetrack for at least two seconds together.

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Thankfully, there was a bounce-house at which we ended our day.

Which, by the way, my experience at the bounce-house was a highly improved activity with earplugs.

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Correction: ALL of life with boys is highly improved with earplugs.

Case Closed: The Mystery of Fred.

I am not the kind of person that can leave a mystery unsolved.

Uncle Joe had to be found.

Dr. Pepper TEN needed to be explained.

It was an absolute must that I tracked down my twin.

When someone hacked my PayPal account, it wasn’t good enough to just fix it. I needed to find the people who did it. And report them to my Sheriff’s department, their Sheriff’s Department, and the FBI.

Even recently, there was a naked man on the loose in Birmingham…taking selfies at a busy intersection…with a camera on a tripod.

And what did I do? I had to figure out who he was.

And what followed? A really bizarre twitter conversation between me and an extraordinarily strange person.

(He would like to clear up the report that he was using a tripod. It was actually a GoPro Camera on a Monopod. He also didn’t run away into the woods – he had a getaway car. Because these are the important facts of this particular event.)

But it doesn’t matter if the answers are boring or weird – mysteries beg to be solved. And I cannot rest until they are.

And so, the mystery of Fred the Cat has been eating away at me since he showed up at our house in February – no way to be solved, no clues to run on, no tags, or anything else that could bread-crumb me to his secrets.

He comes and goes regularly, visiting other houses where he takes on other identities. Despite the fact that the neighbors that called him Cocoa moved away, leaving him down one food source, he looks healthier than ever, clearly getting fed by who-knows-how-many suckers taken in by his charm and boyish good looks.

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And my children adore him. Fred, the friendliest cat that ever lived. Fred, the glorious companion to Ali’s childhood. Fred, the only cat that will climb a tree on command. Fred, a member of our family.

Fred the Cat in a Tree

But despite over half a year slowly ticking by, we still had no clues as to where he came from or why he so purposefully chose us as his family. (I know he has many families but he makes us feel like we’re the most important to him. The boy is a charmer.) We even took him to the vet after he had gotten hurt during some spring storms. They treated his wounds and checked him for identity microchips, but still nothing.

Until two weeks ago.

When the neighbor’s nanny, a good friend of mine, casually said, “Oh! I meant to tell you. I know where Fred lives.”

The earth ground to a halt and my heartbeat attacked my ears.

“WHAAAAAT???

How could this be afterthought kind of news? This is groundbreaking!! This is the mystery that has eaten away at my soul for eight long months!!! THIS IS….okay already tell me what you know.”

She has a friend further down the street that has also fed Fred for over a year and a half (calling him by an unknown third alias), and long ago, Fred had a collar, so she knew where he actually lived, a block away.

She has even taken Fred back to his house when he had vet appointments, and because…Fred’s real owner was unhappy with the neighborhood status of Fred’s meal plans, as we are all as a group keeping him from staying home.

(The owner would likely be super-thrilled to know that I also treated her cat to a $200 vet visit, kept him inside for 24 hours to let him heal, and applied antibiotics to his eye for seven days. Oops. Sorry, neighbor.)

The problem is, the other non-owner neighbor will take Fred back home, but by the time she gets back to her house, Fred has beat her there.

Because Fred likes neighbors. Fred likes multiple meals. Fred is clearly an extrovert. And a player.

Oh. And….Fred’s name is Mowgli.

Fred lounged in the monkey grass on the edge of our lawn, indifferently listening to his life story.

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We tried yelling the different names in his general direction.

“Hey Fred!”

“Hey Mowgli!”

“Hey Cocoa!”

“Hey Cat!”

He responded to them all identically. Which is not at all. Because he’s a cat.

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So he will remain Fred at our house.

The mystery is solved, but the exultation of finally knowing the truth is, I must admit, somewhat overshadowed by the sadness that he is not indeed our cat.

Although I seriously doubt that stops him from acting like it.

The Baby Book of Burning Questions

Today is my birthday. And how should one always celebrate one’s birthday? By looking through one’s baby book, of course.

Wanna look over my shoulder?

Oh goody – I hoped you would.

(Originally shared May 2, 2010.)


When Ali was born, my Mom allowed me to take out a semi-permanent loan of my baby book for comparison purposes.

And I’m quite positive that she is going to promptly cancel my loan after this post.

If not from this post, then in fear that I would one day post “The Bathtub Pic” of baby me, my brother JC, and my Dad.

Don’t worry, Mom. I know that no one wants to see that.

(Including me.)

(Mom, Would you like to come pick that picture up, please?)

Anyway. My baby book: IMG_9155

The poor book looks older than me. It’s missing its cover, the pages are all yellowed and pitiful, and the sticky that’s supposed to be holding the pictures and captions in place destickified years ago.

But I still love looking through it – I don’t remember any of the events pictured, since it stops before I got old enough for memory (really, I’m just impressed that I, as the second child, even HAVE a baby book – so no complaints regarding the longevity of its continuance), but what it does do is bring back memories of looking through it as a kid, and my thoughts about the book at that time.

For instance, my biggest beef as a child was that my brother was ALL up in my baby book, and I wasn’t in his book one. single. time.

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When I was young, I just knew that my parents did this simply to spite me as the middle child, but as I’ve matured to the ancient age of 28 33, I do realize that he was around for my baby book, and I was not around for his.

And I can accept that.

And what helps me accept that is that I get to laugh at the way they dressed him. Sure, I was in smock, but he got to wear full German Lederhosen:

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Now. Back to me. As a child, I was always confused by the picture on the right:

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I just couldn’t understand how I was walking at one month old, but baby books don’t lie. So obviously, I was.

Then there are the hippy photos of my Mom, which coincidentally always had that orange-ish tint to them, something that none of the other pictures had.

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It’s almost as if the orange photo tint was some sort of aura that wafted off of hippyish people…

But as I continued through the book, I remembered why I was so upset about JC being in my baby book.There were whole pages of pictures of JUST him.IMG_9173In MY baby book!

Next are the pictures from my first Easter:IMG_9182
Correction. Pictures of my brother and my cousins on my first Easter.

My baby book, people!!!

I was relegated the the bottom corner of the page, not good enough to put in the cute cousins shots with the rest of them, I suppose.

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At least JC was in smock. There’s always that.

And at least my little brother isn’t anywhere to be found in my baby book – I can hold onto that small victory, even if he wasn’t born until years after my baby book was yellowing with age.

Oh wait. Unless you skip to the very last page, where he can be found, in a photo taken years after all of the other photos.IMG_9219
It’s almost as if they wanted to make sure I knew I was the middle child or something.

But.

Aside from my Middle Child issues, the most puzzling page in my baby book was from the May after I was born.

I am nowhere to be found on this page, nor is my Mom. We weren’t even in the same state when the shots were taken. The photos are from the Indianapolis 500, and brought unlimited hours of puzzlement and confusion to my childhood years.

There were three pictures:

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There was my Dad…

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My Dad’s friend’s wife…

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And my Dad’s friend.

Or, rather, my Dad’s friend’s shirt, since that’s all I ever noticed.

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What does that even mean?!

And what in the WORLD does it have to do with MY baby book?

Some questions, I fear, are best left unanswered.