I Just Can't Quit Smiling!

"I Just Can't Quit Smiling"...this is what Rylee told me today as we set out for Disney's Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  Saturday would be our last in Orlando and we were going to make the most of it.  I knew that there were a few things that we HAD to do in these two theme parks that would finish our trip up perfectly.

Robby was finished working and actually accompanied us on our final day.  He and Caitlin were dragging a bit and finally they asked what I was on, because I will still so full of energy.  Caitlin had worn her pedometer for the past three days for a walking class that she is taking and it said that she had taken approximately 36,000 steps.  OK...I could believe that, however, I was still energized and I suppose it was due to the contagious excitement that Rylee was exuding.  Upon arriving at Animal Kingdom, Rylee and I danced through the gates to the sound of drums beating on the continent of Africa.  Our first stop was the Kilimanjaro Safari.  On this ride, we hopped in a jeep and headed out to see REAL animals grazing.  Elephants, cheetahs, rhinoceros, giraffes and many other exotic animals were seen and photographed by us on this safari.  Rylee thought this adventure was GREAT!  From there, we set out for the Kali River Rapids; this was found on the continent of Asia.  Before getting on this ride, I informed Rylee that we would probably get wet...very wet.  She smiled and clapped her hands with glee!  Once we were strapped into the ride, everybody was speculating about who was going to get the wettest.  I told Rylee that the ones who got the wettest were the ones who would have the most fun...OK, so let's just say, she and I had the most fun.  We got soaked and we simply looked at one another and laughed.  What a good sport...this kids had been such a tireless trooper all week long.  After finishing up a few more rides and lunch in The Rainforest Cafe', we left for Hollywood Studios.

There were a couple of things that I wanted Rylee to experience at Hollywood Studios; some live performances.  The first performance that we saw was, "Voyage of the Little Mermaid".  The theatre's special effects were great.  It was as though we were actually "under the sea".  Above our heads were waves and when they splashed, we got wet.  Bubbles floated down and music from the Disney musical wafted up as Rylee's face was split with a smile while she sang along with the cast and clapped her hands to the beat.  She was very impressed that these were "real" people on the stage.  After that, we had a little time before we had to be at our next show, so we decided to go the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground".  Taking her here for only a few minutes was probably a mistake, because she did not want to leave once we got there.  EVERYTHING was over sized, with slides being shaped in the form of trees and flowers, while giant spider webs and ants were calling to all of the small children to be climbed upon.  Dragging her out of the playground, we had to walk quickly in order to make our last show of the day and our trip..."Beauty and the Beast".

There's just something about Disney movies and the music in them...I just LOVE everything about them!  Call me a kid, myself, but I love the princes and princesses and talking objects and animals...and, of course, the "happily ever after" endings; OK, so I'm a hopeless romantic.  With all of this being said, it goes without saying that one of the things on my "Disney Must Do List" was to see "Beauty and the Beast" live.  A shorter version (25 minutes) of the original movie, it was performed in an outdoor theatre with a colorful cast of characters which included, Belle, The Beast (Prince), Gaston, Mrs. Potts, Chip, Luminier, The Wardrobe and other dancers and singers.  What a PERFECT way to end our "Disney Adventure"!

Although we were sad to see our "Adventure" come to an end, it had been a GREAT trip for both aunt and niece, alike.  I once had an old aunt who used to babysit me when I was a child; she was my favorite aunt.  Coincidentally, she was my great-aunt too.  Oh, we never went on trips together, but she did fun things with me and taught me how to make neat things.  I knew that every year on my birthday, I could walk to the mailbox, open it and find a card in there from her.  When she was in her 90's, she passed away. When I think of her, I have fond memories that put a smile on my face. It is important to smile every day and being with my 6 year old great-niece has reminded me of that.  Viewing life through Rylee's eyes for the past 5 days has made me realize how simple things in life...like a smile...can make the biggest difference in one's life.  Things...they don't matter.  What really matters is what we do with our lives and with other people every day.  I challenge you to go out and live life to the fullest.  Don't worry what other people think or say about you...stay true to who you are and laugh EVERY day.  Be like my 6 year old niece who told me..."I Just Can't Quit Smiling"!

How COOL Is It To Trick-R-Treat In Disney World?!

I woke up Friday morning less sore than I thought I would be, considering the amount of walking that I had done the day before.  I still was going to require a good amount of coffee (OK...and Advil) to get going.  As I planned to dress for the day, I knew exactly what I would be wearing.  Tonight we would be attending Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.

Rylee was planning on wearing her Jasmine costume, while Caitlin and I would wear the costumes we had brought from home...our witch's outfits.  Now, being the fashion divas that we are, we had to have cute witch outfits!  I had purchased both of us striped tights, tutus and these fabulous feathered witch's hats!  Where else can you wear something like that all day long and not have people look at you like you are crazy...I'm telling you, this is a GREAT place!  So, we all began to don our costumes, but I wanted to make sure that Rylee at least got a good breakfast in her before we left our hotel this morning.  Let me explain...OK, the morning we left Alexandria, I took Rylee over to where Robby was getting a sausage biscuit at the airport and asked her what she wanted to eat.  She looked at all of her choices and decided on...a corn dog.  Yep...and that was the way the trip began.  The next morning, we were trying to make it to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, when I stated that we needed to have breakfast before she went to the salon.  Upon entering a small deli, I began to rattle off the choices or items available for breakfast.  Most of these foods did not seem to appeal to Rylee.  Desperate to get her to eat something, I pulled a chocolate cupcake covered in sprinkles down and offered it to her.  She simply looked up at me and said, "That has WAY too many sprinkles on it."  Standing in line beside me, Caitlin said, "MOM...I can't believe you just offered a 6 year old that for breakfast!"  OK, OK...I eventually got her to agree to a fresh bread grilled cheese sandwich.  She didn't like that either...I bought her a bag of potato chips!  Well, they COULD be called breakfast potatoes, if that would sound better.  This morning, however, I redeemed myself by feeding her a bowl of cereal and a glass of apple juice.  After consuming this and packing up for the day, we headed out to Epcot.  It would be our first stop of the day.

At Epcot, we had two goals in mind...First, we were to attend a "Princess Luncheon" and Second, we would buy a passport and have it stamped in every country...and if we saw some more characters along the way, we would stop and get autographs and pictures.  I KNEW that we had achieved success, when Rylee told me that she was so glad that we had eaten lunch with the princesses.  This was another one of those "Must Do" things that I had planned.  A reservation had to be made and when you arrived at the castle in Norway, each royal family was seated for lunch.  While dining, the princesses of Disney World (Aurora, Snow White, Ariel, Cinderella and Belle) floated through the rooms to sign autographs and take pictures with each little girl.  I have never seen so many smiles and felt such excitement as I did as the princesses made their way around to each little girl's table.  THIS was an absolute "Royal Treat".  After spending most of the day in Epcot, we had to make our way back to The Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Halloween Party. 

We jumped on the Monorail and then a ferry to make our way back to The Magic Kingdom.  On the ferry, we began to see Halloween costumes everywhere; people were really going ALL OUT for this Halloween party.  Upon exiting the ferry and walking a short ways, we found ourselves squashed between literally thousands of party goers.  After eventually clearing the security check point and receiving our armbands, we were off to PARTY!  Now, I'm not sure what I would have done without Caitlin all week long, because she did two very important things for us...read the map and keep up focused.  She, herself, said that if she had not been there, Rylee and I would still just be circling the castle saying Ohhh and Ahhh.  So, with map in hand, she directed us to where the Trick-R-Treat candy stations could be found.  This party was FANTASTIC!  The characters were EVERYWHERE, dressed in their costumes too!  Music suddenly caught our attention and before I knew it...Rylee and I were out in the middle of a dance party , dancing with the characters!  OK...so, we were just drawn there like party magnets, but Caitlin got us quickly back on track and we continued to find more candy stations and ride rides.  Looking down at my watch, I noticed that it was already close to 11 pm; we needed to head back to our room.  Tomorrow was another day and we had to save some of our energy for the adventures I had planned for our last full day in Orlando.

As we got into the car, it did not take long for Rylee to fall fast asleep.  Picking her up, we carried her to the room, put her jammies on her and tucked her into bed.  Sleeping Beauty was worn out...but had experienced a FANTASTICALLY FUN DAY; she was sure to dream about princesses, characters and candy all night long!

Every Little Girl Deserves To Be A Princess!

Every now and then, I make a quite forceful statement to Robby..."Treat me like a princess...I want to BE A PRINCESS!  Hey, what can I say...EVERY little girl wants to be a princess and what better place for that to happen than DISNEY WORLD?!

This was day 2 of Rylee's Disney Adventure and it was "Princess Day".  After the late night before, I felt like a princess...The Princess and the Pea.  Yea, the bed that I had slept in had to have been one of the worst beds I had ever laid my head down to rest on.  My neck hurt, my back hurt and I definitely needed LOTS of coffee and Advil to start my day.  OK...does that prove that I may really be a princess too?  Well, princess or not, this day had to be just as fun and exciting as the day before...regardless of how I was feeling. 

Once I had decided to take my 6 year old niece, Rylee, to Disney World with me, I knew that there were several things we HAD to do while there.  One was making an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  For those of you who are not familiar with this, it is a salon specifically designed for little girls.  Before ever leaving for Disney World, we made our appointment.  Rylee was to have her hair, nails and makeup done there.  Upon arriving, we decided to also buy her a costume; she would wear it that day and also for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party later in the week.  Since she likes Ariel from The  Little Mermaid, I was sure that was the costume Rylee would choose...I was wrong.  She saw some other little girls wearing the Jasmine costume from Aladdin and that was it...she had to have it.  Of course, I had no problem buying it for her...along with the matching shoes...ANY princess MUST have matching shoes.

Rylee was given a pager while she awaited her entrance to the salon.  When it finally went off, she was taken to meet her fairy godmother, who would transform her into a princess.  Climbing into the chair, Rylee's fairy godmother proceeded to polish her nails, put makeup on her and then put her hair up.  Topped with a crown, she then took her "Magic Wand" out, waved it over her head and said, "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo...then POOF!  Glitter rained down magically on Princess Rylee's head.  At the end of the session, I saw the fairy godmother speaking in hushed tones to Rylee, while she was listening intently.  She was holding a Mickey Mouse hair barrette in her hand and before placing it in the back of her hair, she was explaining what each color represented; a different color rhinestone for each of the different Disney Princesses.  With a spin of the chair, Rylee was whirled around to see her transformation.  A huge smile spread across her face as she gazed at her refection in the mirror.

Upon leaving the salon, a princess sash was placed across Rylee's shoulder and then we were off to take quite a number of pictures.  Everyone who walked past her on the street referred to her as "princess".  She, of course, reveled in this regal attention.  This part of our adventure had been a success.  Later, on our way to dinner, Rylee asked, "Do you know what I wished for?"  I was not sure what she was talking about, until she stopped herself and said, "Oh...I can't tell you."  It seems that Rylee's fairy godmother's whisperings earlier in the day included making a wish.  She had apparently told her to make a wish, but not to tell anyone what the wish was or it would not come true.  I did not press her on this matter, but agreed that it must remain a secret.  Today had been a magical day...a day made for a princess and one that neither Rylee nor I would soon forget.

Traveling Is The Hardest Part Of The Trip...

Why can't I be like Jeanie and just blink and nod my head...or Samantha from Bewitched and twitch my nose...OK, I would even settle for a sparkly pair of red shoe to click my heels together with if I thought I could get to my destination more quickly.  Alas, I do not have any of these magical abilities, so I must rely on frustrating human methods.

It would prove to be a very long day...our travel day to Disney.  First, I am not really sure why we must ALWAYS book our flights to leave at the crack of dawn.  I don't believe I have ever arrived at our airport for a flight when the sun was actually up.  Case in point...our flight yesterday was at 7 am.  That meant that we had to BE at the airport to check in by 6...which meant that we needed to leave our house by 5:45...which also meant that I needed to wake up at 4 am.  Why, you may ask, must I get up at 4?  Well, let's see...I have to wake up, drink some coffee, put make-up on, get dressed and do any number of various household chores (wash the dishes, make the bed, take out the trash) before leaving. Robby, on the other hand, can be showered, clothed and sitting down drinking coffee and reading the paper in about 30 minutes flat...it is sickening.  However, we did make it to the airport on time...and with a 6 year old to boot!

Robby asked that everyone attempt to get their items into a small roll on bag to take on this trip...YEA, RIGHT!  That just simply was NOT happening for me and I emphatically stated that fact.  I was the only person who was given "permission" to check a bag.  Hey...things would not go well, if I was required to throw some essential grooming product into the trash at the security check point.  So, after practically undressing and filling buckets of our stuff to be x-rayed,  we made it through security...WHEW!!  That was a feat in itself.  On the other end of the state, things were not going quite as smoothly.  While all of us were flying out of Alexandria, Caitlin's flight was leaving from Shreveport.  Upon arriving at the airport there, she was subjected to a search that not only resulted in the confiscation of her hair and facial products, but also brought tears to her eyes...which THEN led to a personal body search!  All of this before 6 am did not make for a pleasant traveling experience.  I hoped that when we all finally met up in Orlando, things would begin to take a turn for the better.

Upon reaching Orlando (before even exiting the plane), I heard Robby on the phone with someone; the rental car place.  Wait a minute...we weren't renting a car...we were just going to take the hotel shuttle wherever we needed to go.  Apparently not any more...ugh!  Now,  we would have to go do battle with the rental people to get the car we wanted.  Well, we didn't get the car we WANTED, but we DID get one that would hold all of our luggage and that had to count for something.  We were now on our way to our hotel...and then to pick up our passes to the Magic Kingdom! 

Robby drove us over to pick up our passes for the entire week's events and then instructed us how to get back on the shuttle at the end of the evening.  He then headed back to attend the Market.  Caitlin, Rylee and I once again were forced to hop on another mode of transportation; the Monorail.  We had to get on and off two times before we ever FINALLY reached our destination; The Magic Kingdom.  Upon entering the grounds, all of the suffering that we had endured to make it this far, suddenly seemed worth it.  Re-energized,
we hit the ground running.  Picture taking, rides, face painting, ice cream...and one GIANT SMILE on the face of a very excited little girl.  Her enthusiasm was contagious...Caitlin and I got caught up in the whole "Disney Experience" and began to laugh and feel like kids again ourselves. 

As we drug (literally) ourselves back to the hotel room, we were beat!  After fighting our way through the throng of parade watchers, we made it back on the Monorail.  It couldn't have been a minute before I looked over to find our sweet little sparkly faced girl's head nodding.  By the time we were to exit, she was fast asleep.  Caitlin hoisted her up and we made our way back to the shuttle stop where we would eventually end up on our way back to the hotel.  With day 1 complete, we tucked Rylee in bed and then Caitlin and I made more fun plans for the next day.  I hope I will be able to move my body in the morning.  I suspect it is going to take lots of coffee...and a few Advil to get me moving.

To Market, To Market To See A...MOUSE?

Twice a year, our company goes to Market.  Last fall, the Market was in Atlanta and this past spring it was in New Orleans.  However, this fall, it will be held in one of the most FUN and FEEL GOOD places I can think of...Orlando!

Whenever I found out that Market would be held in Orlando, I knew just what I wanted to do.  Feeling that I already had my vendor contacts for my end of the business (Kitchen and Giftwares), I decided that I would go back to Disney World.  OK now...who out there could actually go to Orlando without visiting the Mouse's House?  Disney is such a MAGICAL place...why, no one could have a bad day there!  So, I quickly put my thinking cap on and decided that it would be twice as fun in Disney if I could find a young child to take with me.  That light bulb went off in my head again.  I knew exactly who I would invite; my 6 year old niece, Rylee.

Rylee is actually my great-niece, with her father being my nephew (my sister's child).  My mother only had two children...15 years apart.  Aha...now you see?  My nephew is only 4 years younger than I; he's more like a brother.  Rylee is his late in life child.  She is a very sweet, smart child whom we all adore AND she has never been to Disney World...the "PERFECT" person to take along with me.  Upon hearing the news that we would be traveling to Disney, my own baby girl, Caitlin also decided to skip a day of classes and join us there.

As time neared for our departure, I instructed Rylee to find a calendar and begin marking the days off until we left...she did just that.  In fact, the calendar was almost the same size as she is and her mother sent me a picture of her holding it with a huge smile plastered on her face.  Not only was she excited about visiting Disney, but she had also never flown on an airplane before.  When I talked to her about making her first plane trip, she quickly corrected me by stating that it would be her first AND second plane trips...her first would be going and her second would be coming back; I told you she was a smart girl!  So, for the past week, I have been busy making reservations and plans for all of the fun things we will do while in Disney World.

I became excited, myself, when I found out that during the week of Halloween, Mickey has a big party with Trick-or-Treating, a Halloween parade and a fireworks show!  THAT'S when I decided that we should go all out too.  I would head down to the nail salon and have my nails done up Ala Halloween and then thoughts of costumes began to dance in my head (OK...remember, I was a 2nd grade teacher, after all).  I had seen an awesome witch's hat somewhere in town...how GREAT would that be to wear to Mickey's Halloween Party?!  I would let Rylee choose a costume once we arrived.  She is a great fan of Ariel from "The Little Mermaid", so I strongly suspect that will be her costume of choice.

I spoke with Rylee's mother a couple of days before leaving and she said that Rylee told her that she was just going to have a smile on her face all day long at school.  So, as you are reading this, we are most likely half way to the Magic Kingdom.  And MAGICAL it shall be...for, how lucky am I to have the opportunity to experience Disney through the twinkling blue eyes of a child!

Pumpkin, Pumpkin On The Wall...Who's The Best Carved Pumpkin Of All?

I had this great idea...or at least I thought I did.  Several weeks ago, I decided to entice all of the kids home.  But how to do this?  Then, the light bulb went off over my head.  I would plan another "Fun Family Activity".  But that in and of itself would not be enough...I had to attach a word to the activity that would ensure everyone would be in attendance.  We would have a "Pumpkin Carving Contest".

Everyone who know us will agree that we are a very competitive group; thus the "contest" for the pumpkin carving.  The rules were quite simple:  Grab a pumpkin and a design and I would provide all of the tools needed to carve your pumpkin.  Excitement immediately began to build with the prospect of a family wide competition.  What I had forgotten, however, was the "chaos factor".  That is what naturally occurs when our big, loud, opinionated family gets together.

Thursday afternoon, people slowly began to trickle in...and that's when I realized one very important thing; WE HAD NO FOOD!  Robby had just flown in from being out of town all week and with me having been home alone, I just picked up a salad here and sushi there and therefore, had absolutely NOTHING for 9 people to eat all weekend long...THIS MATTER was of utmost importance.  I could definitely foresee a dreaded trip to the grocery store in my near future.  Little did I know that it would take place with a baby in tow.  I have to admit that I had totally forgotten how interesting grocery shopping could be paired with an infant.  Robby, Ryan and I were headed to the grocery store when the call came.  Justin was late leaving work, Sarah had Bunko and could we pick Parker up for him?  SURE!  I couldn't wait to see her.  We swung by their apartment, picked Parker up and then headed to the grocery store.  For some unknown reason, upon arriving there, I decided to take her out of her carrier and just hold her while we shopped.  OK...so, have you ever tried walking through a store toting a 13 pound weight?  I instantly regretted my decision to leave the carrier in the car.  However, on a more positive note, Robby and Ryan had to do all of the shopping, while I eventually had to find a seat in the coffee shop to rest my legs and back.  We finished up there and headed home.

Saturday morning dawned and I awoke to the smell of a gumbo cooking.  Robby was preparing for the day ahead; the LSU game and our pumpkin carving contest.  The Tigers started playing at 2:30 and the screaming and armchair coaching began in the den, while Halloween cupcake decorating was taking place in the kitchen.  By halftime, the pumpkins were being pulled out.  LSU was losing, frustration levels were running high...it was time to take our minds off of the game for a while.

I did more picture taking than carving.  Robby decided on a simple jack-o-lantern design; others were quite the overachievers where their designs were concerned.  We had a headless horseman, a spooky scene, a skull and crossbones, a skeleton and spider, the eye of the Tiger (who had now disappointingly lost) and even a miniature pumpkin with Parker's initials carved in it.  Remember, I said this was a "competition".  I had judges lined up and as soon as the carvings were complete, I sent pictures of each pumpkin to them.  By Sunday morning we had a winner..."Spooky Scene", carved by Caitlin and her boyfriend, Kevin.

Whew, what a weekend!  Dogs barking, baby crying, TV blaring, people screaming, pumpkin seeds flying, cooking, eating and a house FULL again.  Yes, it was definitely chaotic!  Welcome to MY WORLD...it's just another day in the life of a mom...and I wouldn't have it any other way!

So Many Diapers!...How To Choose One!

Years ago, there were not nearly as many diaper choices as there are today.  Oh sure, Pampers and Huggies are still available, however, when I went to purchase a package of diapers for Parker, I was quite overwhelmed at the choices.

Whenever Parker came home from the hospital, I began to be introduced to all sorts of new fangled baby gadgets...and Believe Me, there are a lot of those these days.  However, one thing struck me as very interesting; all of the many different types of diapers available for babies.  In fact, there were so many, that I had to wonder how an individual could even begin to choose.  The first one that Parker wore was called, "Sensitive Skin, New Baby Swaddler" (there's that word again!).  This particular diaper had a little curve cut out where the umbilical cord had not fallen off yet.  I had to admit that the little cut out idea was pretty ingenious; as was the use of the word "swaddlers" on the packaging...the marketing company sure knew their audience well.  I couldn't help but think of what a far cry all of this was from the diapers available to me when my children were born.

By the time my fourth child (Caitlin) was born, I had morphed into what some referred to as "Mother Earth" or "The Koo-Aid Mom".  Not only was I a stay at home mom and avid breast feeder, I had also decided that cloth diapers were the best choice for my baby; so much so, that I actually opened a cloth diaper service for a while.  I didn't always use cloth diapers, though.  Whenever Justin was born, I used disposables like all of my friends were doing.  And let me tell you...like fine wine, those disposable diapers have REALLY improved over time.  These improvements are what got me to thinking about a little "diaper incident" that occurred when Justin was a toddler.

Last week, Sarah, Parker and I all went out to choose carpet for the new house they are building.  Pulling into the parking lot of the building, I was reminded that this store had once been a very nice furniture store as well.  THAT'S what brought back the memory of the "diaper incident".  On the day in question, Robby and I were also out looking for carpet for our first house that we were building.  Justin was about a year old and I was already expecting David.  As we walked into this place of business, I felt a little uncomfortable, because although the salespeople were friendly enough, they also appeared to be a bit snooty too (you know what I mean...).  Taking Justin by the hand, we walked over to look at some carpet samples when a salesman came over to assist us.  As we were standing there discussing the carpet that we were interested in purchasing, we were suddenly interrupted.  In the midst of us, on the floor... out of Justin's diaper rolled a little poo-poo!  Yep!  I DEFINITELY would NOT kid about something like that.  You see, disposable diapers back then did not have elastic in the legs.  As you can imagine, that particular design issue was responsible for many accidents.  THIS accident, however, was UNBELIEVABLE!  As we stood there, all eyes fell to the floor...and we all just stood there for about a solid minute (or it seemed that long) looking at the "little package" that lay there waiting for someone to DO  SOMETHING.  That is when Robby, quite emotionless, simply looked at the salesman and asked, "Do you have a paper towel?"  Retrieving one for him, Robby then reached down, picked the "package" up...and HANDED IT TO ME!  OH MY GOODNESS...What was I supposed to do now?!  Hold it??  Stick in it my purse, the diaper bag??  Thankfully, I came to my senses and calmly asked where the restroom was located.  He pointed me in the directions of the stairs and Justin and I headed that way.  Once behind the safety of those bathroom doors, with said "package" deposited in the toilet and flushed, I sat down on the couch, fell back against it...and proceeded to LAUGH UNCONTROLLABLY!  What else COULD I do?

After somewhat composing myself, I again took Justin by the hand and we returned to the showroom where Robby and the salesman were just finishing up.  I still could not believe what had happened, but was also sure that it would not be the last embarrassing thing that happened to me as a mother.  THAT ended up being the understatement of a lifetime.  So, for all of you new parents out there, all I can say is, "Welcome To Parenthood"...your life will NEVER be the same!

Yippee! It's Fair Time...

Every October, the parish Fair arrives.  This sort of marks the fall season for us down here in the south.  To get to and from my house, one must pass the carnival scene daily during Fair week.  When my children were young, we never missed our yearly trip there.  However, as they grew older, we didn't make as many trips to the Fair; with the exception of when Caitlin was a cheerleader.  The cheer competition always kicks the first night of the Fair off.  Needless to say, it had been quite a while since we had actually stopped while passing those festivities on our way home.  This year would be different...we had another child in the family now.

Justin  called me earlier in the week to ask if we would like to go to the Fair with them.  It took me about a nanosecond to reply, "Heck yea...Parker would be there, wouldn't she?"  In the meantime, Ryan and Caitlin  decided to come home for the weekend as well; they would be going to the Fair with us too.  In all of my excitement about getting to attend the Fair after all of these year, I had forgotten one thing...the Fair was dirty.  Oh my goodness...did we really want to take our baby there?  And if we put her in her Cadillac of a stroller, the wheels would then get Fair dirt on them.  The night before, Robby and I had passed the Fair on our way home and there were literally hundreds of vehicles there.  These hundreds of "Fair Attendees" had hundreds of germs...What to do?  What to do?...I was now conflicted about attending the Fair.

Despite my worries, about dirt and germs, we all decided to head out to the Fairgrounds on Friday night anyway.  Upon arriving, memories came flooding back.  As we walked toward the barnyard, I couldn't help but remember Justin showing his 4-H pig, Mr. Oink.  Walking through the barnyard, I told Sarah that we too had a rabbit, horse, pig and chickens at one time.  After looking at all of the cute animals, the crew became hungry...the Fair tends to have that effect on people.  Off they went to get chili dogs and fries...Parker and I did not eat Fair food.  Parker was actually awake by then and I was enjoying talking to her.  After the carnivores were finished eating that nutritious meal, we headed to the Midway.

With lights flashing and plenty of noise, we entered the arena of games, rides and food.  Although they had just consumed those chili dogs and fries, I watched this unspoken agreement between Robby and Caitlin and knew exactly where they were headed  first...the sweet food concessions (MORE carny food?!).  Now, I wasn't quite sure that  was a good idea, considering Robby eats Tums like candy, but what the heck...let them go for it!  Of course, Robby had to purchase a candy apple, while Ryan (our dental student) remarked to me that he hoped his dad didn't pull an entire tooth out eating that apple.  Next, I noticed Caitlin pondering what she should order.  She could not resist the aroma of the funnel cakes, deep fried and covered with powdered sugar.  OK...I'll admit that I took a couple of pinches off of that funnel cake, myself; it was yummy!  As we continued to walk through the Midway, we stopped intermittently for photo ops...Hey!  This WAS Parker's first Fair, after all.  She finally became tired of riding in her stroller and I took her out.  Turning her back against me, she became fascinated with the lights.  And to my great amazement, all of that loud noise did not appear to bother her as much as it bothered me.

Dark was falling quickly, as we made our way back to our vehicles.  Poppi (Robby) was now holding Parker Ann, and as I glanced over at them, I noticed that they were gazing  into each other's faces.  I knew he hated to hand her back to her parents.  However, as he kissed her sweet little forehead, I heard him whisper a promise to her... Poppi would make sure that she got to ride a pony at next year's Fair.

Who Are These CHILDREN...And WHY Are They Being Allowed To Stick A Needle In My Mouth?!

I hate going to the dentist...REALLY hate it.  How ironic is it that my youngest son is in dental school?  This makes matters even worse, because he will now be trying to convince me that going to the dentist isn't all that bad.  Good luck on that, for I know better.

Perhaps if I didn't have to have something MAJOR done every time I walked into the dentist's office, it wouldn't be so bad.  What do I mean by MAJOR?  OK, today, I went in just kind of spur of the moment because I had cracked a little piece off of a tooth (not the first time that has happened either...).  There was no pain or anything, I just wanted to get it fixed before I left for a couple of trips.  I walked out with a root canal and an appointment to return for a crown!  MAJOR enough for you?  I think even if I weren't having this type of work done, there would still be several reasons why the dentist's office is not appealing to me.  First...getting shots in your mouth.  Second...the sound of the drill.  Third...tyring to swallow when they have goo in your mouth to make an impression.  Oh, and did I mention...GETTING SHOTS IN YOUR MOUTH?!

OK, so I went in today to have that little chipped tooth repaired and as soon as they called me to the back, my heart began racing...GREAT; they hadn't even done anything yet and I was having issues.  Then two young girls came in.  YOUNG girls...CHILDREN.  Was this take your child to work day or something?  Then, one child said to the other, "You can take this x-ray."  Hmmm...maybe they were letting them help out.  She took the x-ray with a little assistance from the other child and then a third little girl came in.  OH MY GOSH...what was this?  Where were the professionals?  I was beginning to get a little worried.  The third child told me that she was going to numb me up...WAIT...WHAT??  You're just a child...they let children give shots here at this office now?  Crap...I'm in deep trouble.  Before she "numbed me up", I reminded her to look at my chart, since I have to take a different medication; one that doesnt' cause my heart to race as much.  However, my heart was already racing at the thought of this little girl about to stick a SHOT in my mouth.  I made it through the shot, but they did have to blow me down with their air blower since I was getting hotter by the second.  I settled down and waited for the dentist to come in...surely HE was still the one who actually worked on teeth here.

Upon viewing my x-ray, the dentist asked if I had been having any pain or sensitivity in that particular tooth.  No, I just chipped it and needed it repaired.  So, the work began.  They put that paper bib on me and then he proceeded to give me several more shots!  With mouth wide, heart racing again and all these children standing around gawking at my open mouth, he began to converse with me.  I went along with it, although I knew this was just a tactic used by medical professionals in an attempt to get your mind off of what they were doing.  Every now and then he asked..."Are you doing OK?"  Yea...right!  Doing just peachy with drills buzzing inside my head.  Then I heard him say..."I need a pin"; at this point, I couldn't even feel the entire left side of my face.  Then, the lighter came out...this thing scares me a lot.  They use it when they get ready to cauterize your gums and if you are not very still, a spark may come off and pop you on the tongue...not to mention having to smell your burning flesh.  I closed my eyes tightly, held my breath and sat very still until that part was over.  Then the dentist brought out some sort of blue light...I'm afraid it could blind me (you know, like the lights inside of a tanning bed)...so I closed my eyes again, just peeking every now and then to see when the light is put away.  Finally, all of the equipment is put away, my chair is returned to a sitting position and the dentist looked me in the eye quite seriously..."I'm prescribing an antibiotic...and I want you to take it until it is all gone."  "Really?...OK, then."  One of the children takes another x-ray of the work that was done and then escorted me to the front desk.

As I stood at the front desk, the child was talking to the receptionist regarding the work I had done...and scheduling ANOTHER appointment.  This is where I interjected..."Excuse me, but do I have to come back?"  "Why yes, they explain...he did a root canal on you today."  "WHAT?!...Well, crap.  I guess that means I have to have a crown on that tooth now too, doesn't it?"  "Yes mam, it does."  After receiving my invoice for about $900, I solemnly walked to my vehicle.  My jaw and ear were already beginning to hurt. How odd that there was no pain before, but after an hour of drilling and $900 later, I'm wasn't feeling very well.  I suppose the worst part was over and I will just return later for my impressions and crown.  Then I remember something else...we were supposed to go to the Fair tonight; I guess this meant that there would be no caramel apple for me this year.

Oh, Don't Worry...It's Just A "LITTLE" Snake!

Let's get this straight right up front...I HATE SNAKES!  Don't even attempt to reason with me, insisting that there are some "good snakes" (what an oxymoron...) out there, because I am having NONE OF IT!  Even the mention of the word conjures up a mental picture and in turn causes the hair to raise on the back of my neck and chills to run down my spine.  Had my biology professor insisted that I dissect the snake in lab, I suppose I would not have graduated college, due to the lack of 1 credit.  You understand now...I SERIOUSLY HATE SNAKES.

Being a "snake hater" hails from my childhood days.  When I was 3 years old, my family moved from the city to the country.  During those formative years, I had many encounters with snakes; NONE of which were good.  Give me spiders, raccoons, opossums or armadillos any old day...just NO SNAKES PLEASE!  There were several incidents most likely that caused this snake phobia of mine.  One such incident I remember, was when I was quite young.  I was playing, going from the kitchen to the patio.  Turning to go back inside again, I noticed a snake stretched out across the length of the sliding glass door.  Jumping over it and back inside the house, I began to SCREAM!  Mother came running to see what the problem was.  By the time she arrived on the scene, the snake had slithered into the house.  Putting me on a chair, she instructed me to watch it while she ran to retrieve a weapon to kill it.  I called myself watching it, however, when she returned...the snake was nowhere to be found.  Mother called the exterminators, while I decided that I would NEVER leave the safety of that chair.  They came and searched our house from top to bottom, even looking inside chairs and taking the mattresses off of the beds.  That snake had simply disappeared.  They told us that it probably had just found its way out again...this was NOT comforting to me; I wanted to see the evidence that the snake was no longer in the house.  Therefore, for a very long time (years...), I looked around corners and under the bed covers at night...just to make sure that the snake was not there.

A couple of years ago, I had yet another "snake incident" that had me shaking in my boots again.  I returned home one afternoon to find a note on my kitchen counter, left by my housekeeper.  This was not unusual since she often did this to tell me when I was out of cleaning supplies.  What WAS unusual, however, was the P.S. at the bottom of the note:  "There is a little snake in your living room".  WHAT?!  OH MY GOSH!!!  I physically JUMPED up on that counter top, took a look around the room (for the attack snake) and then RAN out of the house!  With my adrenaline pumping and my heart racing, I got into my car and drove quickly down the road to a little convenience store.  Sitting in the parking lot, I dialed Robby from my cell phone.  I explained my terrible dilemma regarding the snake.  He didn't seem that worried about a snake sharing our home with us; it seems that he was on the golf course (that meant that he was NOT going to be of much help to me that day).  "What would you like for me to do?", he asked.  Ummm...let's see...COME HOME AND FIND THAT SNAKE AND KILL IT!!!  He told me he would call his father and he could come over and help me find the snake.

I drove back to the house to find my father-in-law already waiting in the driveway for me...at least HE was taking this matter seriously.  Upon entering the house, I decided to give my housekeeper a call to find out exactly where she saw that "little snake".  She informed me that she saw it by the chair in the living room...and it tried to strike out at her...OH MY GOSH; this was freaking me out for sure now!  So, then I asked, "How big was this LITTLE snake?"  She replied, "Oh...about 6 feet long."  THAT was NOT "little"!...and WHY would she just leave it there in my living room?  OK... to be fair to her, she was most likely as afraid of snakes as I was and really what COULD she do?  My father-in-law and I began our search.  We searched EVERYWHERE...even took a broom and ran it under the stove...got a flashlight...got on our bellies...NO SNAKE.  Had yet another snake escaped in my house...or left the same way it had entered? 

Well, I'm sorry to say that we never did find that snake.  Robby wondered if it even ever had existed...he said that the housekeeper may have imagined it (how can you IMAGINE a 6 foot snake??).  As for me?  I continued to look around corners and made sure I wore my shoes in the house, wondering if one day that snake would pop up and I could possibly step on it.  I was NOT happy without closure AGAIN regarding a missing snake in my home.  After a while, I stopped thinking about him and decided that perhaps he had indeed left the same way he had come in.  This fact, however, did nothing to change my feelings about snakes; probably made them worse...what is worse than hating snakes??  Hating them very much!

I Wanna Be An Italian!

Everyone who know me well, knows that I love EVERYTHING Italian.  So obsessed am I with Italy, that Robby and I decided for our 25th wedding anniversary, we would visit Venice, Florence and Rome.  I am now convinced that there is no lovelier place on the planet.

Before visiting Italy, I researched many things about the country...what to wear, historic sights to see, where to shop, what to eat...AND the language.  In college, I chose to take a couple of courses in French.  I don't really know why I chose French, except for the fact that Louisiana was originally a French settlement and we have a very rich French influence here.  I insisted, however, that my own children study Spanish.  In any case, I have always considered Italian to be the "beautiful, romantic language".  Robby believes that is because I watched "Lady and the Tramp" and listened to "That's Amore'" too many times as a child.  I must admit that I do love that Disney movie, but whatever the reason may be...I just wanna "speaka the language"; so much so, that I bought a set of "Learn to Speak Italian" CD's to listen to before actually visiting Italy.

I would pop those CD's in my car player as I ran errands and actually learned a few important phrases...or words, at least.  Robby requested that I PLEASE not attempt to speak using my newly acquired language skills once we arrived in Italy...reluctantly, I agreed.  Upon entering the country, I was relieved to find that most Italians spoke English quite well.  My "language studies", however, did allow me to have the ability read menus and signs.  So, you can imagine my surprise, when I caught Robby using MY Italian phrases and words to interact with the locals!  I tapped him on the shoulder and asked, "Ummm...WHAT are you doing?  You told ME not to try to "speak the language"...and now YOU are doing just that!"  Grinning at me, he replied, "I just got caught up in being here and...well..."

Still intrigued by the Italian language, I decided recently that I would get serious about learning to speak it more fluently.  I really didn't want to have to enroll in a college class, because if I missed a day, I would be behind.  Thus, my decision to purchase Rosetta Stone Italian!  I ordered this program on the Internet and anxiously awaited its arrival.  When it finally made it here, I put the box aside on my kitchen counter top.  I needed to wait to open it when I could concentrate on reading the instruction booklet (reading instructions is unfortunately, NOT one of my strong suits).  While it sat there waiting for my attention, several people commented on it with raised eyebrows.  Finally, Robby inquired into my purchase of the program.  I explained that Rosetta Stone was supposed to be the absolute BEST program in the world for learning a foreign language...but there was one thing that had REALLY convinced me to go ahead and buy the program.  He said, "Let me guess...it's the fact that NASA uses it?"  Although that was true AND it was a very good reason too, I replied, "No...it was the girls at the nail shop!"  There went his eye rolling again, as he awaited more of my explanation.  "Well, as Caitlin and I were having pedicures one day, I was telling her about wanting to learn to speak Italian better.  The Vietnamese girl who was doing my pedicure interjected by informing me that Rosetta Stone was the program they used upon entering this country."  I was  impressed because she spoke English very well...and THAT is what convinced me to purchase the program.

The plan was, that I would begin my home studies on the 1st of September.  Well...that didn't actually happen for several reasons.  First, I FINALLY opened the box to see what all was in it.  As I read the instruction booklet, I realized that there was a "voice recognition microphone"...hmmm...I had a very bad allergy at the time, which had caused me to have a terrible case of laryngitis.  I could barely speak, so I would have to put my lessons off for a week or so.  Then...well, I just got kind of busy with other things and the fact is...I STILL haven't started the program.  BUT, I do have good intentions and expect to begin very soon.  You will know when I DO begin to "learna the language" because I will try to include a few little phrases in my blogs...just to allow you all to also "speaka the language of love".

The Mystery Of...Who Hit The Truck???

Most people will agree that fender benders tend to come with the teenage driving territory.  My own children were no different.  However, the number of fender benders that occurred in our own driveway was quite remarkable.

Robby has this rule that absolutely drives him up the wall when disobeyed.  When parking in our driveway, one must pull all the way forward.  The reason for this is because when everyone is home, there are a lot of vehicles and if someone does not pull forward, they may block the garage...thus, blocking him in...and keeping him from moving his vehicle when he chooses.  I know, I know...this is not a big deal to me (and honestly how many times does he really need to move his vehicle?), however, this is one of his "pet peeves".  On the night in question, everyone was home...and THAT, in turn, made everyone a potential suspect.  With vehicles piled in the driveway, cooking and conversation going on, along with the television blaring, it is no wonder that this little incident occurred without a soul even noticing.

David went out to his truck to get his suitcase and came back inside to announce that his truck had been hit.  This announcement was made quite matter of factly, so no one ran out to inspect the damage at that point.  Then, he said, "Yea, I had to get in on the passenger side because the diver's side is dented in and I can't open the door."  No THAT got our attention.  I kept piddling in the kitchen while Justin sat Indian style with a knit hat on, typing on his laptop.  David then appeared to become a little more upset about the "dent" and stated, "It has blue paint on it; whoever hit me was in a blue vehicle."  Justin, never looking up from his computer screen, replied, "It was probably the guy who came to fill the gas tank out back...I think his truck was blue."  At this point, Robby decided to go outside and assess the damage.  Upon returning inside, he was NOT happy, remarking, "Somebody knocked the heck out of his truck.  There is no way they didn't know when they did it, either."  Justin piped up again, "I told you it was probably that man driving the gas truck who hit it."  After a good bit of discussion back and forth about that possibility, Justin finally convinced him that, that was what had happened.  "Get me a phone book...I'm calling the gas company...this is ridiculous!", Robby said.  About that time, Ryan sauntered into the living room...and discussion that was taking place.  Without ever raising his voice, he stated quite simply, "I bet Caitlin hit it; her car is blue."  All activity ceased, while every eye in the room focused on him.  WHAT?!  "No way", I defended her.  "She would NEVER hit a vehicle and just leave."  With telephone book still in his hand, Robby instructed someone to..."GET HER ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW!"  Of course, all of the boys were more than happy to do that; for to see their little sister FINALLY get into trouble was a moment in time they were going to truly savor.

We could only hear one side of that telephone conversation, but it was clear that Caitlin was indeed the culprit...she had committed the "driveway hit and run!"  She was told to return home IMMEDIATELY, and as he awaited her arrival, Robby paced the floor and mumbled under his breath possible punishments he intended to dole out.  She entered the house teary eyed...which had absolutely no effect on her father at that point in time.  He ordered her to her room.  As he shut the door behind them, three more sets of feet could be heard scurrying across the floor.  As I peeked around the corner, I observed her three older brothers eavesdropping outside her doorway.

The punishment was meted out...there would be no more driving for a while.  Ugh!  That meant that I would once again be responsible for getting her to and from school...almost a punishment for me.  Although the conversation was not pleasant, Robby explained, as usual, that there are consequences for every action.  If only she had come inside and explained what had happened, instead of heading to a friend's house to discuss what she had done, those consequences would have been different.  As it turned out, she never committed another "hit and run".  When she hit the tree at the end of our driveway some year later, she DID come inside to inform us of that.  Teenage drivers...what can I say?  It's ALWAYS something!

Giving Up Was NOT An Option...

Thursday night, as I was preparing for bed, Robby looked at me and said, "You're depressed, aren't you?"  I couldn't disagree with that assessment.  It had been a very long 24 plus hours looking for my little doxie, Annie.  I was missing her terribly and was not sure what my next steps toward finding her would be the following day.  We ended the evening with him commenting that he wished everything would go right for me, for an entire week.  I stated that if I found Annie the next day, everything would be OK.

Once again, it did not take an alarm clock to wake me Friday morning; I was up a little after 5 am.  After fixing myself a cup of coffee, I began to think about what I would do to attempt to find Annie.  As Robby was leaving for work, I asked him if he would mind driving through the neighborhood again...just to see if he could spot her.  He agreed to this and called me shortly thereafter to tell me that he had not seen her.  At that point, I decided to put a "Lost Dog" ad in the paper and also instructed Robby to call the animal shelter.  The next thing I would plan, would be a complete search of the woods...I was NOT giving up on finding her.  After taking measures that would get me jump started in locating Annie,  I silently prayed "puppy prayers" that God would just either allow her to make it home or allow someone to find her and call me.  I had put my phone numbers on the signs we had hung the day before, as well as the fliers, so I decided to go ahead and go to the gym.  However, before I hit the highway, I would also make a drive through the neighborhood...AND I asked Caitlin to do the same before she headed to town for the day.  I not only drove through the neighborhood, but also down the road a ways to the public boat dock...still no sign of Annie anywhere.  I headed out to the gym.

Upon arriving at the gym, my trainer asked if I had found Annie...because I had cancelled my session with him the day before, while searching for her.  I told him that I had not.  He told me that someone most likely had taken her.  Hmmm...that kind of made me mad.  WHO would just take a little dog that OBVIOUSLY belonged to someone?  I was having none of that negativity.  Just before entering my yoga class, my cell phone went off.  I  quickly answered it to find Caitlin breathless on the other end of the line.  She had spotted Annie running down the road and was about to go get her!  She hung up...I waited...she didn't call back and I couldn't stand it any longer.  I redialed her number and she answered by saying, "I've got her!"  Oh my gosh!!!  I couldn't believe it.  She told me that as she was leaving the neighborhood, she sat at the STOP sign and prayed, "God, please just let Annie run out in front of me somewhere.  We are all so tired and really want to find her."  As she turned to the right of the STOP sign, she spotted Annie running down the road...with a car coming up quickly behind her!  Panicked, Caitlin, ran out in the road to slow the car down, while Annie made it to the safely of her own yard.

Upon bringing her inside, Caitlin informed me that it was obvious that Annie had been wandering in and out of the woods for the past two days.  She was hungry, thirsty and very tired.  As Caitlin left for town, Annie was sleeping.  When I arrived home and opened the door, she bolted toward me, immediately began crying...and peed on the floor; she HAD bee traumatized, after all.  I picked her up and she laid her little head on my shoulder and didn't move.  She felt a little chilly and was sort of dirty, so I decided to give her a nice, warm bath.  Afterwards, I wrapped her in a big, fluffy towel and she and Sissy snuggled up in my lap.  Sissy apparently had missed her more than I thought, because she began grooming her (licking her ears, eyes and face), until Annie fell sound asleep.

Upon examining her, I saw many scratches and a rash on Annie's belly.  She most likely also had a few bruises or was just sore, because when I picked her up, she yelped.  I called the vet, who instructed me to watch her since she might be suffering from a slight case of shock and then he made us an appointment to check her over the next morning.  All afternoon, we sat and rocked.  Annie was tired.  It had been a long two days in the cold darkness of the woods for this little pup...and she was content to be back in the comfort of her owner's lap.  What had I learned from this incident?...for, learning from experiences is what helps us to grow as human beings.  First, I would not allow my doxies to play in the backyard unattended, until I had a chance to properly repair that gate latch.  Second, I would discuss having GPS chips put under the skin of both dogs...just in case.  Third, I am really more attached than I thought to these little darlings.  Oh, I knew I was crazy about them, but the possibility of never getting to see Annie again, made me realize how much they mean to me and how important they are to our family.  Their veterinarian charts and collars both include our family name...that is appropriate, for they ARE members of this motley crew we call a "FAMILY".

Stop Everything...One Of My Doxies Is Missing!!!

Somehow they do it to you.  Animals come into our families, and in doing so, become an integral part of our lives.  So much a part, that when something happens to one of them, we react quickly and intensely...they are after all, one of us.  Wednesday was one of those days.  My 2 year old doxie, Annie, got out of the back yard and is currently MIA.

There are 3 dachshunds in our extended family.  My son, Justin, was the first to acquire a doxie; her name is Charlie and she is 7 years old.  I liked Charlie and her quirky little personality so much that I decided to purchase one of my own; Sissy, who is 5 years old.  Annie, the missing 2 years old doxie, was not originally mine.  As many parents do when their child goes off to college, I too bought Caitlin a dog.  Make a note to yourself, if you are considering doing this...get a dog that you like, because it will be yours very shortly after the purchase.  I have many friends who have done the same, only to end up with their child's pet as well.  So, when Caitlin did not have enough time to take care of Annie, I brought her to live with me.  In doing so, I then became very emotionally attached to not only one dog, but two.  Anybody who knows me, can attest to the fact that these doxies are my "babies".  I have spoiled and pampered them beyond one's imagination; purchasing things for them such as treats, chew bones, sweaters and of course blankets (doxies LOVE to tunnel under their blankets).  At any given time, one can find these two fighting over a spot in my lap.  Now that it is clear of my love and devotion to these little four-legged members of my family, you will perhaps be able to understand my distress over Annie's disappearance.

Wednesday was a very busy day, I started out behind again due to the fact that I overslept by an hour.  However, by the time I was ready to head home for the day, I was asked if I could keep Parker for a little while, so Sarah could run a few errands of her own; I was, of course happy to do this.  After getting Parker packed up and arriving home, I ran inside to take Sissy and Annie outside to potty.  I NEVER leave them outside alone to do this.  So, after bringing them back inside, they were a little too excited about Parker visiting and I decided to let them out in the back yard for a few minutes.  Checking to see that the gate was shut, I then went back inside to rock the baby.  I went back, knocked on the glass panes in the door and both dogs came running; they were OK.  A few minutes later, I did the same thing, however, Annie did not come to the door this time.  I walked outside to find that Sissy had cornered our cat, Clementine, on a window seal, but there was no sign of Annie.  Glancing toward the gate, I noticed that it was slightly ajar; panic hit.  Quickly walking the perimeter of the house, I realized that she had most likely gone up the hill and through the woods behind our house, to the neighborhood.  Robby had just arrived home and agreed to go look for her.  When he returned, he had not found her.

The search did not end there.  Justin and I went back on foot through the entire neighborhood again, stopping to inform everyone we saw outside to be on the lookout for Annie.  One man actually thought he might have seen her, but didn't know which way she went.  It was dark by then and we headed home.  I was worried that Annie was most likely cold, hungry and thirsty...not to mention lonely for my lap and her family in general.  I was getting sadder by the minute.  After Justin, Sarah and Parker left, although it was dark, I decided to get in my vehicle and drive through the neighborhood one more time.  The whole time we searched, Caitlin had been sending me text messages to check on the progress of my search, offer suggestions for assisting in the search and inform me that she was about to cry...so was I at this point.  We did not find her on this last drive through of the night; we returned home around 9:30 pm.  Robby could see that I was becoming very distressed and assured me that she had probably made it to someones porch to sleep for the night and they would find her in the morning, see our phone number on her collar and call me.  I doubted this was true, but I knew that he was attempting to make me feel better...it didn't.

Robby, Justin and a friend of ours were all going fishing Thursday morning very early.  Generally when the alarm clock goes off before daylight, I reset it and sleep a while longer.  I could not do that today, because all I could think about was finding Annie.  The evening before, I had continued to go behind my house and call her name, to no avail.  I did the same thing this morning before I set out in my vehicle to see if I could spot her.  Still in my flannel pajama pants and t-shirt, drinking my coffee, I stopped  every person I ran into to inform them of my missing doxie.  I went back home, threw on some jeans, put a leash on Sissy and set out for the neighborhood again...perhaps Sissy could ferret her out.  Again we had no luck.  This went on all morning long until Sarah called and I remembered that I was supposed to go to lunch with her and Parker.  I left in hopes that when I returned, I would have a message waiting on my answering machine from someone who had found Annie; that was not to be either.

Caitlin was coming home after class and we had a plan.  We would up the ante.  We would put up signs at the neighborhood entrance with information concerning Annie, along with an offer of a $100 reward upon her return.  In addition to that, I would make fliers, including the same information and we would go door to door handing them out to EVERY house in the neighborhood.  Surely some kids out there would want that $100 reward and join us in our search.  This little task took most of the afternoon, but we had everything done about the time people were coming in from work.  Now was the hard part...we had to sit and wait.

Later, around dusk, Robby, Caitlin and I rode through the neighborhood one last time.  We saw kids on their bikes and a few on a four wheeler looking for our Annie.  It was time to go home.  We had worked all day at attempting to locate her and had put forth our best effort.  Waiting for the phone to ring would be difficult, because now it was really setting in...we may never find Annie.  Where was she?  Was she out in the woods somewhere or had someone picked her up and taken her?  I knew that she was missing my lap now, for sure and also her fuzzy blanket.  As I puttered glumly around the kitchen, I missed having her follow me around, trying to catch every morsel I dropped or lick the plates in the dishwasher.  I looked at Robby and said, "I want my Annie back.  I want her back right now."  He said, "I know...I do too."

Sitting here now, with Sissy alone in my lap, I feel very sad and lonely.  I miss Annie terribly and still hold out hope that tomorrow someone will call saying that they have found her or maybe she will just show back up here at home.  These little pets we acquire, slowly but most certainly wiggle their ways into our hearts and lives.  When we lose them, it's like losing a part of our very being.

The Exterminator

I was raised by my mother.  The summer before I started first grade, my father passed away after a lengthy illness.  I really don't remember my father at all, so over the years, I  have had to try to figure out what the role of the father is in a family.  This is my take on it.

A child starts out as just a twinkle in his daddy's eye.  After that...the REAL fun begins.  The "modern dad" is a more engaged, hands-on participant in child rearing.  He assists in the rocking, feeding, bathing and changing of diapers; although I will agree that 90% of the time these tasks fall to the mother.  So, if I would consider the mother to be the "caretaker" of the children within the family unit, I suppose the father would be the "provider".  Provider means more than just a monetary provider.  A father, (from my observations) is a provider of security, advice, entertainment...and of course finances too.  From what I have witnessed, I can also attest to the fact that raising boys, as opposed to girls, is QUITE different.  THANKFULLY, we only had one girl!

Robby and I have always been very conscience about making things fair and even regarding our children.  Treating them equally has always been important to us.  So, when Caitlin was born, Robby was determined to treat her "exactly like the boys".  Well, he soon realized that girls ARE different.  Although he has remained true to his word about equality in fairness of time, monetary items and speaking openly with all of the children, there was one thing in particular where Caitlin was definitely NOT treated equally...BOYS!  Robby adopted a very "old school" attitude concerning boys.  This was not a bad thing and he actually garnered a great deal of respect (if not fear) from many people.  Caitlin was not allowed to have a boyfriend in junior high school or attend any junior high school dances...with the exception of her 8th grade Christmas dance, which she attended with 3 of her girlfriends.  When she became a freshman in high school, actual dates were allowed.

I can still remember Caitlin's 9th grade Homecoming dance like it was yesterday.  The first rule was that she could only go out with a boy who was one year younger or older than she was.  Next, the boy who wanted to take her out, had to come "visit" with Robby.  By "visit", I mean that he was required to come to our house PRIOR to the eve of the event (it was CLEAR that coming the day before was a bad choice), sit down and talk to Robby.  The humorous thing regarding that freshman year, was the fact that no one was able to drive yet.  That did NOT change the requirement.  The date AND his dad had to come "visit" with Robby.  Caitlin and I were in her bedroom, peeking through the window blinds as we watched father and son make their trek up our driveway.  We learned after they left that the "visit" consisted of informing the prospective date of his duties.  He would be responsible for Caitlin at all cost AND would also be held accountable if she got into any trouble or if anything happened to her.  Then, turning to the boy's father, Robby stated, "And I will hold YOU responsible for your son's actions."  ALRIGHTY THEN...This first encounter set the tone for all others that would follow.  Caitlin was SURE that she would NEVER be asked out again.  Although that was not to be the case, she actually began to enjoy the role her father played.  He became viewed somewhat as an "exterminator"; he had the ability to get rid of unwanted pests.

As high school continued, so did the numerous dances Caitlin would in turn attend.  And EVERY (yes...EVERY) prospective date had to "visit" with the "exterminator", where he continued his traditional instructions concerning the responsibilities related to taking his daughter to an event.  On one such occasion, Robby's mother stopped by our house to inform us that there was young man pacing back and forth in our driveway.  Nonplussed, I stated that it must be Caitlin's Homecoming date.  Indeed it was and EVENTUALLY he got his nerve up to come to the door.  Nervously walking over to the "exterminator", he stuck his hand out to shake it.  Upon taking his hand, the "exterminator" very calmly looked at his watch and stated matter of factly, "It's a good thing that I'm not the President of the United States."  A bit confused, the boy gave him a questioning look.  The "exterminator" explained, "You seem to have a problem with time.  I think you were supposed to meet me here at 4 O'clock."  I heard the boy offer a nervous laugh in reply.  Piddling around in the kitchen, I smirked.  I hoped that this boy would not try to be a "funny man"; things would not go well for him if he chose that route.  Thankfully, he didn't.  However, he did explain that he had been with some of his friends discussing this upcoming "visit"...they had wished him luck and stated that they were glad it wasn't them because he a was a BIG, intimidating guy.  This was the perfect opening for the "exterminator".  Seated adjacent to the boy, he asked, "Tell me...who are some of your friends?"  After gaining this information, the "exterminator" simply informed the prospective date that he should consider himself fortunate because most of them would not find themselves even sitting where he was that day.  The conversation then turned to more important things...you will NOT take my daughter to any wild "after parties", if you think you need to drink, only do so AFTER dropping my daughter off...and if you find yourself having any problems at all, call me and I will pick my daughter up.  These conditions were agreed to...what could the boy say?  I suppose he could have jumped up and run out of the house!

With all of this this being said, I will have to say that it worked...the "exterminator" landed himself a reputation with young men (and their parents) around town...sort of like an urban legend!  One would think that things with Caitlin (who is about to now turn 21), would have waned a little...ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Men, now desiring to date the "exterminator's" daughter are still required to pay him a "visit".  Some may be astounded that this routine continues to exist.  The "exterminator's" reply..."This method is more necessary now than ever.  To the man who THINKS he wants to marry my daughter...he better make sure he KNOWS what he is getting into.  For when I become too old to watch over him and hold him accountable for his actions...I've got 3 sons (mini-exterminators) who will be glad to take the torch I pass to them."

My take on fatherhood?  It is a strange and wonderful role.  For all of the toughness involved in the role, there is also obviously a tremendous amount of love and caring involved.  Because, wouldn't it be easier to just not put forth the effort?  To let a child "find their own way"?  Yes, it WOULD be easier...but who said that being a father (or parent ) was supposed to be easy?  It is one of the most important jobs a person will ever have.  It is one's chance to impact a life and instill values that will potentially be passed down  for generations to come.

Hey, Honey-Do...Here's Your List...

There's nothing like hosting an upcoming event at my home to get my cleaning genes going.  For the most part, everything inside the house is OK.  However, there are always a "few" little things that require Robby's assistance.  That's where my "Honey-Do List" comes in.

Over the years, we have hosted many parties in our home.  I like to plan in advance.  For me it is all about getting things done ahead of time to create the perfect ambiance.  Robby, on the other hand, just comes up with these ideas on the spur of the moment (or maybe he's been thinking of it, but only chooses to share the idea with me last minute) and then expects me to pull it all together in just a few days...I'll say it again...MEN! (ugh...).  So, I've been telling him for WEEKS (that's being kind) now that the canister lights in the kitchen were burning out at an alarming rate; pretty soon, we would be cooking in the dark.  I would change them myself, except for the fact that my ceilings are very tall and I would have to use a ladder...AND, I really don't know how those bulbs pop in and out.  BESIDES, I tell him that I am like the shoe cobbler's children who go barefooted...we own an electrical company!  Thus, when we decided to host this party, Robby told me he would take a day off to do everything I needed done.  I know that you must be wondering about the "List".  Well, you see, he likes a "list" because he says he enjoys getting to scratch each item off whenever he completes a task (go figure...whatever!  I don't care, as long as it gets done).  So, needless to say...I made a "Honey-Do List".

Topping the list was those canister light bulbs.  Next, I just walked around the perimeter of the house, hoping to find inspiration for more chores to add to the "list".  Ahhh...yes!  The toilet paper holder in the master bathroom that was barely hanging by a thread to the sheet rock.  I had been asking him to repair this for quite some time...it was also added to the "list".  In addition to those items, there were some more things that I really wanted done, but would be pushing it...OH, WHO CARED?  I had the chance to make a "list" and I was going to put EVERYTHING I could possibly think of on it.

I walked out onto the back porch and decided it needed to be pressure washed.  And while he had that pressure washer out, he could just go ahead and take my four big area rugs out of the house and wash them too (hey, for months now, he kept saying...don't call the cleaners, we can do that ourselves).  Then, as I looked around, I saw the old swing that I had requested be thrown away this past summer; that also made the list AND in its place I wanted my concrete birdbath.  Now, the birdbath thing might be a deal breaker, because it weighs about 1,000 pounds and he and the boys have moved it MANY times for me over the years.  However, I thought it would look nice in that corner, filled with some pumpkins.  I gave it a try; I added it to the "list".  Oh my goodness!  While I was out there, I noticed the string lights!  I had put those in the trees by my fish pond and on an arch severeal years ago.  I wondered it they still worked...they made the "list".  I would have him check to see if they worked.  If they didn't...take them down and put new ones up (another iffy task).  This next thing would REALLY get him going...go out and chop some wood for my fire pit (Ha-Ha-Ha!  I told you it was all about the ambiance for me).

At last my "list" was complete.  Try as I might, I could not come up with another thing to add to it.  My expectations weren't too high, because there are always a few items that never get scratched off that "list".  But, I did give it the old "Honey-Do Try"!  Who knows...I may be surprised and be able to place a gold star on that "list" for a 100% Job Well Done!

Swaddle That Child!

I was once told by a college professor that the pendulum swings back and forth concerning trends in education. I believe that to also be the case in regards to child rearing. Things that were common during my years of raising children now appear to be obsolete.

Years ago when I heard the word "swaddling", I thought of the birth of baby Jesus. However, in recent times, I cannot seem to get another picture related to the word "swaddling" out of my head. It is a scene from  the movie, "Four Christmases" in which Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are visiting a very charismatic church service; he is playing the part of Joseph while her role is that of Mary. He finds himself so caught up in the enthusiasm of the congregation, that he begins forcefully commanding her to "SWADDLE THAT CHILD, WOMAN!" And THIS is all I can think of now, when I hear the word "swaddle". Throughout all of my daughter-in-law's showers, I kept hearing hushed whisperings regarding "swaddling". Robby finally took me aside one day and asked me what it meant to "swaddle" a baby. I simply stated, "That's just wrapping them up tightly in a blanket." And by tightly, I mean NOTHING can move, except their little head...sort of like a bobble head doll.

The other thing that seemed odd to me, was the instructions the nurses gave concerning bathing a baby. It would have never even crossed my mind to ask how often one bathes a baby. The nurses, however, instruct new parents to only bathe a baby every 3 days. REALLY? Hmmm...common sense (whatever that is) would seem to dictate that one MIGHT consider bathing it...let's say EVERY DAY?! However, my son (Dr. Dave) said no...that is not the "recommendation" (that's the word he uses to give me professional information these days); because, you see, a baby has dry skin. "Yea...but what about smelling like poop and throw-up?", I protest. "Oh, it's ok if you just wash them off with water; not soap", he says. Hmmm...how weird is that? HIM instructing ME on what to do with a baby?

Another tool provided for assisting in the care of a baby to new parents, is the barrage of Internet articles (the Internet did not even EXIST when I was birthing and parenting). Along with these articles, are also several books on the subject as well, that I find shall we say..."interesting". One such book is called, "The Happiest Baby on the Planet". This book suggests (from what I've been told...I haven't actually read it) that a baby really should stay in the mother's wound for an additional 3 months. What a clever idea...I wonder what MAN came up with that idea! Perhaps since that is not possible, this is where "swaddling" comes in (just a thought...). If you wrap the baby up tightly enough, you can trick them into thinking that they are still in their mother's womb. The other book that I've seen is, "The Baby Whisperer". Wondering if this was similar to the book entitled, "The Horse Whisperer" or the television show, "The Dog Whisperer", I was compelled to open it and check it out.  Browsing through this book, I noticed a chart on an infant's facial expressions, crying, etc.  Beside each item listed, was the possibilities of what might be wrong with the infant if they were exhibiting these signs.  For example, if a child is crying, they might be...wet...or hungry...or sleepy...or just plain bored.  Hmmm...WHO KNEW that I was also a "Baby Whisperer"?  Because I already knew those possibilities existed if a baby was crying.

I'm sure that the pendulum will continue to swing back and forth between the "trends of the day".  However, one thing remains constant.  Women have been giving birth to babies for hundreds of years.  And even if you are NOT a "Baby Whisperer", you CAN still have the "Happiest Baby on the Planet".  All you have to do is open you eyes, ears and hearts to your new little bundle of joy...and trust YOUR instincts. In no time at all, you will also be an authority on babies.