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.

Say Yes to the Dress!

When Christi got engaged, I flew out to Phoenix for a few days and hit what felt like every dress shop in the area.  Our days were filled with yards of white fluffy fabrics, shock from the stickers attached to them, lots of laughter and yes, just a few tears from Mom.

When Jess got engaged (the same summer as Christi) I asked her if she wanted to go to Atlanta to shop for a dress when I got home from Florida in a couple of months.  We could have a girls weekend and hit as many dress shops as possible and try on as many dresses as the sales ladies would allow.   Unfortunately for me, Jess is the take charge type and was chomping at the bit.  Truth be told she probably had her dress picked out since she took her classes to become a certified wedding coordinator in college.  On the 12 hour drive home from Florida she told me she made an appointment in Lebanon for the next morning, would I be able to come.  I got home in the wee hours of the morning, slid into bed for a few hours then was back in the car and on the road to Lebanon bright and early in the morning.  I knew my Jess.  She had done her research, found the dress she liked, found out where they sold it and procured an appointment to try it on.  I knew in my heart this was a one shot dress shopping deal and wild dogs couldn’t keep me from being there to see my Peepers the first time she put on her wedding gown.

Now Matt has finally popped the question to Kathleen and we have another dress shopping opportunity.   I debated for about 30 seconds about asking Kathleen if she wanted to go to Atlanta to look at wedding dresses.  She was thrilled.  We set a date and Kathleen started getting appointments in various shops.  As soon the word got out, our party started to grow.  First, Stephie, (my neice, Matt’s tied at the hip cousin and Kathleen’s  maid of honor) said she could fly in for the weekend, Kathleen’s sisters (Summer, Lindsey and Lauren)  joined us, then her two aunts (Linda and Kathy) and her cousin (Annie), then her two nieces (Madison and Jordan), then her best friend and her daughter (Marybeth and Brooke).  As we pulled out of the driveway we were a caravan of 14 women getting ready to take Atlanta by storm.

I wasn’t sure how herding this many cats would work out, but for those of you that know me, you know that cat herding has become one of my unwanted super skills.  We herded in and out of dress stores; followed my annoying GPS as it did figure eights around an Atlanta subdivision; stalked shoppers in the Peachtree Mall for parking spaces; tried on a bazillion bridesmaid dresses finally finding the absolute perfect one; traipsed through the Coca-Cola Museum where Madison dared me to taste every flavor of Coke sold in the world.  I did, she did—it was wonderful!  At the end of the day we all piled in to our hotel room, broke out an assortment of snacks that only 14 women can come up with and watched one of the funniest movies I have seen in years.

The absolute best part of the entire weekend was that we all got to see Kathleen cover herself in all things lace and glitter.  I feel so lucky to have been there as the young girl I have known for years found the perfect dress.  I saw her face light up and knew that this was the dress that made her feel like a princess.

It was unanimous—we all said yes to Kathleen’s perfect dress.


Spacing is Everything

30 years ago as David and I embarked on the journey of parenthood we felt it was imperative to space our children correctly.  We wanted to make sure they were spaced far enough apart that they could each be independent but close enough together that they would be good playmates when they were little and peers as they got older.

I didn’t want two kids in diapers at the same time.  I wasn’t about to spend all day moving from one dirty diaper to the next only to have to go back to the first all over again.  We didn’t want two kids in cribs at the same time.  This was just plain cheapness on my part.  I had a nice oak crib set and saw no need to go out a buy a second crib only to have to go out and buy a single bed set in a couple of years.  Way back in the day of this decision making we lined up the years to come.  We thought about what grades they would all be in at what time and how this would affect the “Parental Chauffer Service”.  We thought about the day each of the kids would want to drive a car.  If we spaced them correctly, we could buy one car and the three of them could drive it until the wheels fell off and never have to actually “share” the car.  We thought about what age they would start dating and how each could cross this line into semi-adulthood untethered by the next youngest sib.  Being the oddball planner that I am, I even thought about how the spacing would affect us when they were all grown up and ready to get married and start families of their own.  After hours of discussion and writing of timelines it was determined that about 2.5 to 3 years was the optimum child spacing in the Allen household.

So, how’d that work out for you…….

The potty train left the station just as scheduled and even though it had a few extra stops along the way I can say that I was never traumatized by having two children in diapers at the same time for any great length of time.  Each of the children was moved seamlessly to a big kid bed about a month before their new sib was to arrive.  No fuss no muss.

School went off without a hitch.  The kids breezed through elementary and into middle school.  The only snag in the plan was when Matt went to high school at MTCS and the girls were still in elementary/middle school at Cason Lane.  Matt still grumbles about being dropped off at the corner and having to cross what he lovingly refers to as “the frozen tundra” to get to the school.  Good thing he wasn’t from the older generation that had to walk 5 miles in the snow with no shoes on a 90 degree day to get to the one room schoolhouse.

But this is where the wheels came off as they say.  There was no way for me to know that Matt would grow up to be a gear head and that I would have a friend that would have a garage kept 1966 Ford Mustang up for sale just when Matt was ready to learn to drive.  Needless to say, Matt still has his Mustang in his garage and each of the girls got a different used beater when it was their turn to learn to drive.  One item on my detailed timeline that was overlooked was that Christi graduated and left for college they year that Jess turned 15.  After 6 years on not having to take the kids to school, pick them up, or drive them to gymnastics or a friend’s house David and I found ourselves dusting off our chauffer’s hats once again.

We have now entered into the marriage years.  What was a neatly laid out plan of having each child have their own independent block of time in which to get engaged, plan a wedding and say “I do” has gone horribly awry.  Jess, our youngest, actually ended up getting married first, which completely Fu barred the entire timeline.  Instead of having a nice leisurely pace to the nuptials of our children it has been more like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  Christi got engaged in the summer, Jess got engaged a month later.  Jess got married in April, Matt got engaged in the fall, Christi got married in October and finally Matt is getting married in June.  In our perfect little timeline we laid out 6 years for the kids to get married.  In the real world all three of the kids will have gotten married within 15 months of each other.

All I can say is now that my neatly laid out timeline has been destroyed…..let the grandchild flurry begin!!!