Three Little Words

There was a time in my life when I was a super hero, at least where my kids were concerned.  I was the brave and fearless Mommy that was always at the ready to banish the monsters that go bump in the night with a fist full of foo foo dust, heal a boo boo with a swiftly placed magic kiss or scoop up all three kids to save them from the thunder monster.  But alas, those days have passed.  My kids are all grown up.  It’s sad to say but gone are the days of simple problems easily fixed with a hand full of foo foo dust or a strategically placed magic kiss.

Sometimes I am sad watching my children struggle through grown up life problems knowing full well there is not a thing I can do to “fix” them.  I have no super powers in the land of adults.  My cape is invisible and my arsenal of magic is ineffective in banishing the real world monsters that traipse through the lives of my children.

In the middle of the day I got a phone call from Jess.  This is not unusual since she and her sister, Christi, call me when they are driving home from work.  The minute I said hello, I knew there was a problem.  My “I’m not a baby” child who would walk on water so that no one would ever say she couldn’t do something had a slight tremor in her voice.

Jess is due to have her first baby in 5 weeks.  For a first time Mom, these are pensive times.  Everything in Jess’ little body is foreign at this point.  Every ache, every pain suspect to its nature.  There is the constant fear that something may be wrong with the baby.  There is the constant fear that labor will come and because she has never done it before, she will not know what is going on until it is too late to make the hour drive to the hospital.  Nightmares of delivering her precious bundle of joy on the side of interstate 24 keeps Jess on high alert at all times.

Jess was having some lower abdominal pain and the doctor wanted her to come in right away.  Chambliss, Jess’ husband and the new father to be, was in a meeting at work and could not get away.  Chambliss made the suggestion that Jess call her Mom.   I dropped the work I was doing and was out the door.  I was waiting for Jess when she pulled in.  As she walked across the parking lot I could tell from her body language she was worried.  When she saw me she straightened her posture.  It reminded me so much of when she was a little girl.  She would be scared or upset but when she saw me she would always stand a little bit taller and raise her chin in defiance—there was no way she was going to let her Mom say she was a baby.

Luckily for little Mr. Tanner, but somewhat unlucky for his Momma the pain was being caused by a bladder infection.  Luckily his grandma got to be there and hear his precious little heartbeat for the first time.  Relieved that nothing was wrong, Jess and I got in our separate cars and drove out of the parking lot.  Jess was relieved that nothing was wrong with her baby.  I was relieved, that even though my baby was a grown woman getting ready to have a baby of her own, that there was nothing wrong with my baby either.

Super Mom

Driving home I smiled to myself.  The kids may have grown out of foo foo dust and magic kisses but three little words made me know that the Super Mom Cape was still on active duty.

“Thank you Mommy.”

The List

December  22.  It’s drizzling and cold as I head down the driveway.  I get to the corner and double check for the thousandth time to make sure I still have custody of “THE LIST”.   I have rushed around all morning trying to get ready.  I pulled the 3000 cookies I made three weeks ago out of the freezer.  I dug through the tubs that I brought back from the beach for the 1000 candies that I made while I was there knowing full well that this day was coming.  I put together cookie boxes, lined them with paper and began stacking the homemade treats inside.  Luckily I only have to put together the goodies that are going out of town in this round.  Once this part of the task is accomplished, I run upstairs to gather all the Christmas purchases and pile them on the bed.  Now I cross my fingers and begin to sort, making piles on my fireplace hearth for each person on my list as I go.  I breathe a giant sigh of relief when the last item hits its appropriate stack and I confirm that all presents are here and accounted for.  Ok, except for Dave.  I haven’t actually purchased his Christmas gifts just yet but since we gave each other the pool at the beach house as our gift I figure I can knock out the little things in just a little bit of time and that is exactly what I have left, a little bit of time, so frankly, life is good in Kaeland.

Just as Dave pulls the last of our suitcases out of the back of the car I start filling it up with the boxes and presents that are going to my very much loved ones out of town.  Rushing back into the house I do a quick appraisal of the kitchen, bedroom and back hallway—yep, yep, I have it all.  I jump in the car and check for the list, yep, yep I’ve got the list.  Its 1:00 and now my list says I have to:  Go to the bank (because some people on my Christmas list think cash is always the perfect size and color);  Go to the Dollar Store ( I have thus far neglected to put together the 8 stocking for the kids (yes, I still do stockings but that is a subject for another story all together); Go to Petsmart (last year I was an “on top of it” puppy grandma and made homemade doggie treats shaped like gingerbread men for the pups for Christmas.  This year I am a “running maniac with her hair standing on end” puppy grandma so the out of town puppies will end up with store bought treats shaped like Christmas trees.); Go to Best Buy (very last minute gift); Go to World Market (no stocking is complete in the Allen house without chocolate filled Pandas); Go to Fedex (Thank St. Nick for Fedex.  If it wasn’t for this amazing company there would be no way that these boxes would get to their destination and by Christmas Eve to boot!).

My biggest challenge was the stockings.  I grabbed a cart in the Dollar Store and began tossing in anything I found amusing in multiples of 4 if they were girl or boy things or in multiples of 8 if they were universally funny things.  With no time to run home I lined the back hatch of the car with the bags I was using for stockings this year and began carefully piling my purchases into them.  I garnered more than a few curious glances but who can blame them.  The sight of a little blonde woman with frizzed out hair standing in the rain soaked parking lot muttering to herself as she rummages through bag after bag is something that you just can’t look away from.


The List

At ten minutes to 5 I scream into the Fedex parking lot on two wheels.   I jump out of the car and open the back.  It is at this point I realize that with the added purchases along the way I have two boxes completely overflowing with Christmas Cheer.  I close the hatch and run into the building.  Surely Fedex will have boxes that they can sell me at some extraordinary rate that probably have a surcharge attached for those desperate enough to be sending their packages out on December 22nd who also have the nerve to show up without a shipping vessel.  Luckily I was absolutely correct.  There are a myriad of choices in shipping vessels available for a price.  The man that was working the counter was amazingly helpful and within a half an hour I was walking out the door.

When I walked in the back door laden down with takeout food for dinner,  I was walking on cloud nine knowing that I had conquered THE LIST and the packages were safely on their way to our out of town loved ones.  That is until I met my Mother-in-Law in the kitchen and was promptly informed that I had not remembered to get the gifts that she had under the tree to send out with our packages.  Oops, guess what I forgot to put on THE LIST.

Oh, well—Happy Holidays Everyone!  May your days be filled with the merry chaos of family and friends!

Mommy Community Service

When the kids began driving, I made it perfectly clear.  I  DO NOT pay for speeding tickets.  Jess, our youngest, was the first to come home with a speeding violation.  Being raised with a Mom that would terrorize you with some awful punishment and a Daddy that would give you a cookie during your time out, Jess quickly sought out her Daddy for help.  She explained the fact that the cop should not have been sitting at the bottom of a hill and therefore the ticket really was not her fault.  With rightful indignation of his daughter’s entrapment by our local’s finest, those two little birds headed off to the courthouse to “take care of it”.  I was not happy.   Dave slyly ended our vigorous argument by saying that he paid for the ticket out of his allowance money and it was his money to spend any way he wanted.

Fast forward a few months and we find Jess, once again, sitting on the side of the road with blue lights flashing in her rear view mirror.  This time, Daddy did not come to the rescue.  Jess, being a lowly college student existing on Ramen noodles and cup of soup obviously did not have a couple hundred extra bucks lying around to shell out for the fine.  Without her Daddy safety net, Jess was stuck having to come to me for the money to pay the ticket.  Needless to say, I was less than thrilled.  I briefly thought about not paying the fine, but even though Jess looks amazing in orange, I wasn’t about to have her sporting a county jump suit just because she was found to be in possession of a lead foot.   So I paid the ticket and sentenced her to Mommy Community Service.

Police car

What, pray tell, is Mommy Community Service?  This is where you take whatever money you have had to expend on a child’s less than responsible behavior then divide it by the current minimum wage (which is what their current job skill level will bring in the open market).  The result is the number of hours the child will have to spend with you doing something that is totally what you want to do such as gardening, going to the plant store, spending hours in the wallpaper store having the child pull the heavy books on and off the shelves as you sit casually perusing their content and my absolute favorite, shopping for household items such as family room furniture, a mirror for over the bathroom pedestal sink and hunting down patio furniture.

Jess just had the fateful luck to pull Mommy Community Service when I was beginning to look for a double chaise lounge for the patio.  Jess and I spent hours scouring every patio furniture shop in Middle Tennessee.  Jess was in charge of taking pictures and keeping copious notes on each piece I found interesting, including manufacturer, dimensions, price and location.  Amazingly just as the final hour ticked off her community service time we went back to the very first shop we went into and I purchased the first double chaise lounge we had seen.

Fast forward five years.  I am headed to the beach house in Florida for a week by myself.  I ask if Jess wants to come down with me for some girl time.  I told her I would be making sure things got done for the new pool we were putting in and it would be great fun to go into Panama City and look for patio furniture.  Her answer was quick and succinct, “Oh, Heck No.”

Oops, I guess she is still traumatized by her stint in Mommy Community Service.

Drum Roll Please……

So far I have been a very good grandma-to-be.  I was successful in not blabbing to everyone I knew that Jess and Chambliss were expecting their first baby until we were given the green light.  Then, of course, it was Katie bar the door.

When I came home from Florida in August to start my bowling leagues, I took Jess shopping for maternity clothes.  She didn’t have much in the way of a baby bump yet but I knew that by the time I got back in October that she would  probably be in need of some roomier clothing options and didn’t want to miss my chance to spoil my little Mommy-to-be.  I was a very good shopper that day helping picking out cute things for Jess while consciously avoiding the tempting little jammies with the cute little feet in them.  I did succumb to the tiny little foam beach sandals but hey they rang up for a buck ninety-nine.  Frankly if it’s not over five bucks, I don’t think it should count anyway.

Then I get a call while I am still in Florida from Jess—they are going to have a dinner to reveal the gender of the baby.  She wants to know if David and I can be there.  Nothing in this world would keep me away from such an amazing moment.  Back in my day we would have to wait until the child was born, then wait for a phone call, word along the grapevine or a birth announcement in the mail to find out what gender someone’s baby was.  Now it seems like a miracle that at 20 weeks they can zoom in on our precious peanut in the womb and get a clear picture of the goings on.

We had so much fun sitting in a restaurant with both sides of the family eagerly awaiting the news.  Jess handed out cute little scratch cards.  From the very beginning, my mother’s intuition had been very adamant in my head that it was a boy, yes definitely a boy.    It was an awesome moment when our coins scratched through the silver coating to reveal a black moustache!

Hooray!  Our little peanut is going to be a boy!!!!!

Its a Boy

What’s Fred up to This Summer?

Fred (our spoiled rotten female golden doodle) has had an action packed summer.  She spends her mornings strutting her stuff on the beach, meeting and greeting everyone along the way.  She is the self-appointed bird eradicator, diligently chasing off any bird within a 10 yard radius.  She has perfected playing ball in the surf rinsing the sand off before she puts it in her mouth.  She has survived a bite on the mouth received while attempting to give kisses to a pigmy rattle snake that was taking a nap by our pump house and miraculously lived through a serious case of bloat that had us making an emergency run two and a half hours north to the nearest emergency dog surgery center.  During her recuperation she realized that Grandma and Grandpa go to bed earlier than David and I, so she slowly softened their little hearts to the point they let her snuggle up on the end of their bed until we go to bed hours later.  Fred has made so many friends on her walks on the beach that she has been called by name and swarmed by a group of teenaged girls while getting ice cream at the Trading Post.  But her greatest and most adventurous accomplishment of the summer is learning how to kayak.  It took a few false starts to get the 50 pound four-legged land lubber into the small plastic kayak but once she got the hang of it she was totally all in.


Fred and Dave Taking a Spin in the Kayak

Fred and Dave Taking a Spin in the Kayak

Fred Loves her Life Jacket

Now on days when the waves are gently lapping the shoreline you will see a man in a bright red kayak with a giant golden-doodle wearing a sporty black and red life vest slowly paddling by.

Fred Loves her Life Jacket

Fred Loves her Life Jacket

A random lady sitting on the beach one day got up from her chaise and walked to the water’s edge just as Dave and Fred were passing by.  She summed up the experience for Fred in one simple statement that she yelled out to Dave.  “Hey, that dog is smiling!”

The Snake Crusader

Just a small amount of preamble.  I live in the downtown historic district in my real life.  I have a nice little house on a nice little lot.  I have a flower garden and some grass for the dogs to run and play.  The wildlife at my real life house has consisted of a couple of wayward mice, a possum that terrorized our garbage can for a few weeks, a squirrel that climbs the house and looks in my office window while I work and  birds that make their nests in our gutters, sit in the tall trees behind the house pooping on our cars and occasionally get inside the house and having to be retrieved with a butterfly net.  Last September, David and I bought a house on a somewhat undeveloped cape in Florida.  We now have a house on the beach on a cape where the scrub oak out-number the people and a traffic jam is when two cars are trying to pull into the trading post at the same time.  While this is technically not quite “rural” living, it is about as close as these two city dwellers will ever get.

I woke up one morning to David screaming my name in his panicked “something bad has happened” voice.  He came slamming into the bedroom—Fred (our spoiled rotten female goldendoodle)  had been bit by a snake!  I bound out of the bed and captured Fred in the bedroom with me and made her lay down on David’s side of the bed and elevate her head on his pillow.  Her muzzle had already begun to swell.  One quick internet search and a phone call and we were on our way to the nearest Vet’s office.  Within 30 minutes Fred was being evaluated. The vet explained to us that Fred had been bitten by a pigmy rattle snake and had asked us if we had killed it.  We answered a resounding “NO”.  We are peace loving, live and let live kind a folk.  Not to mention that we are city folk and therefore have no experience “killing” anything more exciting that a cockroach or wasp that was unfortunate enough to come into our house.  The vet looked at us like we were crazy while he explained that these snakes were invasive and dangerous and that he personally kills them on sight.  Fred was given several shots and sent home with a 10 day supply of medication to take twice a day.   As we drove home, I explained very carefully to Fred that she was a “city” dog and that these “rural” creatures do not take kindly to being kissed directly on the lips.

Armed with righteous indignation and the seal of approval of the vet, David was determined to defend the honor of his beloved Fred.  He grabbed the only instruments of death that he owned, a golf club.  Seeing David pull out his weapon of choice my first response was “That better not be my club.”  Frankly I just didn’t want to be reminded of this incident every time I had to hit my approach shot to the green.  Reluctantly David put my club back in the bag and procured a golf club (a 4 iron to be accurate) from his own bag.  Using a golf club to bludgeon the poor snake to death seemed cruel and frankly maybe just a bit beyond our competency level.   I knew we would need something sharp that could quickly lop off its head.  Digging through our limited implements I came up with a piece of PVC sharpened to a point whose customary use was to hold a fishing pole on the beach.  I’d like to think it was my 1/8 Indian blood that helped us track the snake to the corner of the pump house but more than likely it was that we started at the place where Fred got bit–either way we found the snake lurking in the shadows of the pump house.

David has become empowered by his new found snake eradication skills.  He has purchased a flat ended shovel and now keeps a constant vigil on the yard but to his dismay has yet to find another snake.  He has even gone down our street to eradicate a snake that was laying in the path of his parents and their daily walk.  I did have to draw the line at him adding the entire street to his containment area.  I can only imagine what our few neighbors would think watching David skulk slowly down the street wearing  shorts and  a pair of green gardening boots carrying a long handled shovel.

“Don’t Tell Anyone.”

Frankly these three little harmless words will strike terror into any true southern woman’s heart.  “Not Even Your Best Friends.”  Okay—now we are talking full tilt emotional meltdown.

In an effort to keep up my end of the bargain, I simply just stopped talking to anyone.  Much easier—nothing could possible slip out if I just don’t talk on the phone; don’t call my brother or sister-in-law; don’t go to Jr’s for food; don’t go outside where I will see the neighbors or the mailman; don’t text or go on Facebook or write a blog.  I can do this, I will prove to be a good secret keeper.

So this is how my days went—no outside communication with anyone that wasn’t business related.  Inside, I was turning cartwheels and running in circles with my hands waving above my head but outside I was business as usual, calm, cool and collected.  I was doing great!

Then the worst thing happened.  I accidentally planned a shopping trip with my Mother-in-law, Jackie and my new daughter-in-law, Kathleen!  Yikes, there was no way I was going to make it with those two through a clothes store where so many little things could be admired! In an effort to minimize my potential for failure I narrowed the trip down into shopping for housewares.  We went to Bed Bath and Beyond to look at sheets.  I thought kitchen goods would keep me safe but I was presented with numerous opportunities to blow my mission.  I was very careful to make sure that anything I was looking at was absolutely NOT related to the secret for fear my excitement may blurt the words from my mouth even if my brain was screaming for me to cease and desist.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity but was in all actuality slightly less than a week, the gag order was lifted!  So now with great excitement I tell everyone I see—-

Jessica and Chambliss are having a baby!!!  That’s right, sometime in mid-February we are getting something with that wonderful new human smell.  People are asking me how I feel about being a grandma.  My response is:  I am absolutely beyond any measure THRILLED to be a grandma!

Now I can hardly wait for the little “Peanut” to get here.  Boy or girl I know that between me and Vicky (Chambliss’ Mom and the second half of the Super Grandma Club oooh and I forgot David and Dick, the Super Grandpa Club who will surely get into the action) this poor little kid will be decked to the nines, hugged to the hilt and spoiled just short of being rotten.  I’M SO EXCITED (insert cartwheels and hand waving here).

Happily Ever After

Calm, eerily calm.  That is the only way to explain how I felt on our drive to Charleston for Matthew and Kathleen’s wedding.  Maybe it’s the fact that I had made the list, checked it twice, torn up the list, remade the list and checked it again.  Yep, all the ducks appear to be in a row.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the by-product of having three weddings in 15 months.   All of the Allen children have gotten engaged and married in the past two years.  David and I  have worried about monsoon rain and cold in Florida the day before Jess’ wedding only to wake up and find a glorious day awaiting the wedding festivities.  We have flown across the country during a Government shutdown with no venue for Christi’s wedding only for the Governor of Utah to fund the state park system at the last minute so that the wedding went off in the Arches National Park without a hitch.  David and I have run a gauntlet of emotions and frankly we have come out the other side happier and stronger (if not slightly poorer) people because of the experience.

David was the official officiate for Matt and Kathleen.  He was honored and terrified when the kids asked him if he would perform their service.  He spent months perfecting just the right amount of reverence and humor for the ceremony.  One of the unintended perks of living with Dave’s father who has Alzheimer’s is that on their daily walk, David was able to try out his various versions of his ceremony.  Dad was the perfect audience.  He never got bored and said he had heard that part before and he if he laughed David knew he was truly humorous.

Sitting at the end of the pier that jutted out into the Charleston Harbour watching as the man I love most in the world walked our son through the vows of his marriage, I realized, not for the first time mind you, that am truly the luckiest woman in the world.  After months of planning and picking; picking the perfect engagement ring; picking the perfect dress; picking the most beautiful bridesmaids dresses; picking a perfect venue; picking the most beautiful flowers; I knew that there was one perfect pick of the whole event and that was when Matt picked Kathleen to be his wife.

Now Dave and I have the honor to sit back and watch the “Happily Ever After!”

Mr. and Mrs. Allen

Mr. and Mrs. Allen

Matt and Kathleen

The Flower Monkey Strikes Again!

Over the past few months the back bedroom of my house, which was originally Matt’s bedroom, then an office, then a guest room has morphed itself once again into an all- out flower shop.

My mother-in-law, Jackie, has spent countless hours in that room over the last few months.  Jackie was a florist in her life before retirement so it was with great glee she accepted Matt and Kathleen’s request to do the flowers for their wedding.

Slowly but surely white plastic bags full of brightly colored flowers, glittery ribbon and shiny glass vessels began to fill the room.  My demure little blue and white room exploded into a kaleidoscope of red, blue, gold, and green!  Peeking in one day, I realized that the dreaded flower monkey had left the debris of its stomach all over my back bedroom.

As the days to the wedding have ticked down, Mom has been in full force florist mode.  She has spent countless hours wiring, arranging and fluffing the debris that the flower monkey left behind into graceful, elegant flower arrangements.

Along the way she has had several helpful assistants.  Matt and his grandma came up with a way for the centerpieces to stay on the bases—who would have thought of using industrial magnets!  Kathleen spent hours scouring the internet in search of just the right pictures to act as guides for the bouquets and arrangements.  Stephie, my niece, Jackie’s granddaughter, Matt’s favorite female cousin, and Kathleen’s maid of honor came down from Chicago and spent two weeks being her Grandma’s ever faithful worker bee on the flower farm.

Grandma and Stephie

Grandma and Stephie

Flower Central

Flower Central

Amazingly, with 5 days to go before we head out to Charleston for the wedding, Jackie has managed to transform all the flowers, ribbon, bows and sparkles into beautiful centerpieces, elegant bridal party and bridal bouquets,  as well as  various decorations for the wedding and reception.   Everything has been packed into tubs and is now sitting in my back hallway awaiting their transport to the big day.

This morning, looking into my demure little blue and white bedroom at the back of the house, no one would believe that just a few days before the flower monkey was alive and well living life large in that room.

29 Years

June 1st, 1985.

David and I had bought a beautiful, run down, in desperate need of TLC Queen Anne Victorian house two months before our wedding.  The only thing that had not been re-muddled in this house was its staircase.   The natural wood was so beautiful that David and I decided to use it as the backdrop for our pre-wedding photos.

The morning of the wedding our house was abuzz with all things wedding.  All the groomsmen were on the third floor getting ready; all the bridesmaids were on the second floor getting ready.  I was in our master bedroom getting ready—but where in the world were David and Matthew? David had decided since Matthew was going to be his littlest groomsman that he would be in charge of getting him ready for the wedding.

Ten minutes before the photographer was supposed to be at the house to start taking pictures I still had not seen David or Matthew in the “getting ready” areas of the house.  Finally, getting nervous about whether they would be ready on time I slipped out of our room, down the first few stairs of the staircase and peeked over the railing.  Low and behold, what do I see?  Yes, sir, right there in the middle of the living room floor, minutes before the photographer is set to come through the front door, I see my future husband and my child sitting less than two feet in front of the TV in their underwear watching the pet parade!

For those of you not aware, once a year the people that live in the LaGrange area of Illinois pick up their pets, put them in costumes, buggies, baskets, strollers, floats, and  other various ensembles and parade them down the main drag.  It is such a popular event that it is actually televised on WGN.  So there sat David and Matthew, fully enthralled by the various animals and their glitzy costumes completely unfazed by the fact that a wedding was attempting to happen all around them.

At the last second, David scooped Matthew up and ran up the stairs yelling “Don’t wait for us!”  It was like a miracle.  When the photographer rang the bell, Matthew was all decked out in his little tiny tuxedo.  David was showered, shaved and dressed in his wedding tux.  I would never have thought it possible.

Dave and Kae Wedding Day

The pictures went off without a hitch.  The wedding was perfect.  The reception was lovely.   The honeymoon was glorious.

And so it seems this is the base scenario that has run through my life the last 29 year.  Me pacing around as the clock on whatever event ticks closer to lift off with David running out of the room at the last minute yelling behind him, “Don’t wait for me!”  only to have everything turn out to be wonderful after all.  Crazy or not, I would not trade a single day of the last 29 years.   I am looking forward to bouncing through the rest of my life holding hands with the most amazing (and sometimes exasperating) man I’ve ever met.