No Man’s Landfill

My 43rd birthday – yesterday- started at about 4:15 AM with Felix wailing.  His grandfather had given him a dreamcatcher keychain.  It had been Precioused.  In the night, one of the feathers had fallen out.  Disaster.  I wrestled him on to the couch where we both went back to sleep, sans feather.  He slept through my alarm and me getting ready for work.  I did sneak the dreamcatcher out of his fist, glued the feather back on, and returned it to his sleepy little hand without him cracking an eye open.  Call me the dreamcatcher fairy.  Mad mom skill point.

When I went to work, I had to get ready for landfill duty.  I’m not usually that sentimental about my birthday, but there was something kind of wrong about the idea of spending a chunk of it running around a couple of landfills.  “Hey, Laura!  What’d you do for your birthday?”  “Why, I spent it on a landfill, of course.”  See?  Sounds bad.

Honestly, I was afraid I’d get as depressed as I got the Friday before.  I’ve been to landfills loads of times.  This time felt different.  “Debris” and “white goods” and “e-waste” all sound so sterile and clinical.  Then you see these impossibly huge mountains of rubbish and what would normally be cardboard boxes and broken pallets and empty paint cans are people’s mattresses and couches and floorboards.  And that little girl’s doll mixed in with all the other flood debris… I came home Friday very sad.  I didn’t want to feel that sad yesterday.  

It’s reallyblike trying to photograph the Grand Canyon. You simply can’t capture the scale.

When I got back to the office, my boss took me out for lunch.  That was nice.  He didn’t have to do that.  I spent the rest of the day doing stupid paperwork.  There’s nothing like extra government involvement – the Feds this time- to generate an excruciating amount of red tape.  Seriously, I spent almost as much time on paperwork and accounting for time and mileage as I did performing landfill oversight. It’s bonkers.

After that, I picked up my kids from their schools. I only kinda sorta had to cook.  I had a turkey breast in the slow cooker.  My kid brother sent me a beautiful flower arrangement.  It was waiting on my doorstep when I got home.  It’s loaded with hydrangeas- one of my favorite flowers.  I haven’t gotten flowers in ages.  I’m normally a “why spend all that money on cut flowers when you can buy seeds or a plant even cheaper” kind of girl.  These made me feel good.  Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age.

The rest of the evening consisted of Pinot noir, reading tons of sweet messages on Facebook and Instagram, making silly Snapchat pictures and belly-laughing with Stella, and watching Gotham.  Not a bad birthday, landfills and all.

And now it’s time to gear up for the big stuff: Stella’s party, our first ever plane trip with the kids to see my dad, Halloween, and the rest of the holiday season.  Things always happen so fast.

Gourmet popcorn in Powerpuff colors, of course!

Things Are Not Always What They Theme

I’ve barely had time to breathe lately, things have been so busy.  I haven’t had time to read blogs much less write many.  Sorry guys!  I promise it’s not that I don’t care.  It’s time for Daisy Scouts again -started yesterday.  And now there’s landfill duty, which will be revisited later, no doubt, but suffice it to say all of the flood debris has to go somewhere and my agency is the guardian of landfills.  And it’s birthday season.  That’s a biggie.  Will wanted me to take off Monday.  I didn’t need to (work) but couldn’t say no (my husband’s birthday).  I’m so behind.  So, so behind.

Speaking of birthdays, Stella’s party is coming at me like a damn freight train.  No, more like one of those Japanese bullet trains.  And this year feels different because she’s older, her friends are older, and I think the expectations are higher.  What’s more, she’s actually picked a theme that makes sense: Powerpuff Girls.

We’ve had themes every year.  The first 3 were my doing, since she was too little and completely at my mercy.  After that, I started to ask for her input.  It didn’t always make sense.

Her first birthday was at the beach.  We got a nautical cupcake and left it at that.

Her first birthday was at the beach. We got a nautical cupcake and left it at that.

Her 2nd party was Yo Gabba Gabba themed, with a bounce-house and a huge reminder that it's still hot as balls in Louisiana in September.

Her 2nd party was Yo Gabba Gabba themed, with a bounce-house and a huge reminder that it’s still hot as balls in Louisiana in September.

Her 3rd birthday was farm animals and Hello Kitty accouterments.  This one was great.  And it bears mentioning that the farm these animals came from went underwater a few weeks ago.  Beyond sad.

Her 3rd birthday was farm animals and Hello Kitty accouterments. This one was great. And it bears mentioning that the farm these animals came from went underwater a few weeks ago. Beyond sad.

I’m still not sure why she wanted a Lightning McQueen party when she turned 4.  Sure, she’s seen the movie but didn’t seem to actually enjoy it.


Last year, she wanted a My Little Pony Party.  Oh, and she had to wear her Princess Captain America dress.  Sure, we’ve watched My Little Pony.  For like 5 minutes.  She seemed absolutely bored with it, and usually would scream “NO!” if you tried to turn it on.  And she’s never watched even a commercial for the Avengers.  Doesn’t make sense.


This year, she finally picked something that is timely and corresponds with something she actually watches.  She loves the relaunch of the Powerpuff Girls, and even enjoys the reruns on Netflix.  Brilliant.  I even put a picture of them on her bo-bo handmade invitations I took to school in a rush after the 3+ week flooding delay.

You know what?  There’s not merde out there currently commercially available for Powerpuff Girl party supplies.  Dammit.  I found a few things, but the rest will have to be generic superhero pop art kind of things.  I thought I had solved the cupcake issue (since none of the local cake places do Powerpuff Girl cakes) by trying to draft my brother-in-law’s girlfriend to help; she has mad baking skills and could no doubt help me whip up some kind of Powerpuff-ish cupcake topping thing.  She’ll be in Tennessee and can’t do it.  The night before is Open House and I can’t do it.  Dammit.  And as previously stated, I don’t have time to spend hours on Pinterest researching some kind of ass-hattery I couldn’t pull off anyway.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.

And Felix?  He’s already talking about wanting a McQueen/Beethoven cake next year when it’s his birthday.  Seriously?

Ok, artsy friends.  You have until February to draw or otherwise create a picture of Beethoven driving Lightning McQueen.

Ok, artsy friends. You have until February to draw or otherwise create a picture of Beethoven driving Lightning McQueen.

In the meantime, if I’m sporadic reading and writing, don’t hold it against me! I’m still here and I miss y’all!


I Plead the Filth

You know how as parents there are certain things you have to “let go” of in order to keep your merde together?  I have loads of things.  One of those things is my car.  Sure, on the surface it’s not terrible.  I keep the big trash, such as fruit snack wrappers, picked up. I even keep a plastic bag in my door panel so that I can tidy up while sitting at stop lights or carpool.  It’s like one of those Magic Eye posters.  As long as you don’t look too hard, it’s a beautiful world.

This is a true confession.  Don’t judge.

A couple of weeks ago, Stella started talking about seeing ants crawling around in the car.  They weren’t fire ants, as that would have inspired hysteria.  She claimed they were tiny little black ants.  I honestly thought she was full of shit.  She’s developed bug phobia lately, and tends to be a little sensitive.  Why would ants be crawling around in my car?

I finally started noticing how much detritus was in the back seat.  Fruit chews, M&Ms, popcorn.  Ok, it was gross.  Unless you were in the novel version of Cujo (Remember when the mom and kid had to make their little bit of picnic food last in case they were there a while?), all that food sitting around the floorboards and between the seats isn’t useful.

So it was time to clean the car.

Oh. My. Glob.  Y’all, it was awful.  I’m a disgusting person and horrendous mother for having my children sit in a traveling insectarium.  There were tiny ants.  And some kind of weird tiny beetle.  I found popcorn with tunnels eaten through it.

These snacks from my JapanCrate may be ok.  They look angry enough to kick the ass of any tiny ant or beetle they come across.

These snacks from my JapanCrate may be ok. They look angry enough to kick the ass of any tiny ant or beetle they come across.

It’s since been taken care of, and obviously I now know better.  I won’t say there will be no more food in the car, but there will be immediate cleaning of any spills.  Bugs are for the birds.

Her majesty cannot ride in a bug-infested chariot.  That simply would not do.

Her majesty cannot ride in a bug-infested chariot. That simply would not do.

Worry Up and Wait

I suppose you could say I’m high-strung, a worrier.  My mind is constantly scanning the horizon for things that need to get done or acquired, with a priority and due date attached to each.  On one hand, I think it’s impressive and helps keep my world from becoming a chaotic rats’ nest of filth, dirty uniforms, empty pantries, and missed birthdays.  On the other hand, it’s kind of exhausting.  Something will pop into my mind – today, it’s Halloween and how I must put all of our events on a calendar so we can make sure we hit the stuff we want most to hit (yesterday it was table covers and plates for Stella’s upcoming birthday party, and where can I get the stuff the cheapest).  Once that alarm has been triggered, I can’t turn it off until I do the thing – whatever thing.  I can’t even hit snooze.  Sometimes a brain dump helps – pouring out items or sentence fragments on a piece of paper or the white board in the kitchen.  Sometimes not.

Stella going back to school again has caused some new items for the brain dump.  Last year, she ate the cafeteria food like most other kids.  This year, she’s on the ADHD meds and won’t eat much if anything, so I’m packing lunches, horrible lunches, full of the most nutritionally vacant yet kid-friendly fare you can imagine (or not).  There’s pepperoni, beef sticks, summer sausage, black olives, Cheetos.   My rationale is that I’d rather her eat something and maintain her blood sugar than nothing at all.  But now there’s an extra lunch to pack each night.  And since I’m a wanna-be overachiever, I have to include a cute paper napkin and an encouraging note and cartoon on a post-it.  The notes are no biggie.  The cartoons are problematic.  I suck at art, usually drawing such goofy and nonsensical things as Talking Sandwich and Cactopus.  Any artsy types who wanna send me some post-its, let me know.  I clearly need help.

Not particularly inventive OR well-executed.

And then there’s the usual worry about Stella.  Will she have a good day or act a fool?  Will other kids pick on her?  I must admit, though, knowing she has such a phenomenal teacher is helping so much with that.   Each day, I’m more and more impressed.  Tuesday, the first day back since the flooding over 3 weeks ago, Stella left her lunchbox at school.  Hey.  She’s a (still) 5 YO with ADHD.  It’s going to to happen.  As I dug out her older stained lunch box from last year/summer camp, her teacher messaged me with a picture of her lunch, saying not to worry.  She totally didn’t have to do that.  Goodness knows the Harpy wouldn’t have.  I think if anything, this year will illustrate how much more evil that woman was than we already thought.

Still in keeping with school and Stella, now there’s also homework to contend with.  So far it’s been a breeze. Stella did so well on her first spelling pretest, that she moved straight to the “challenge” words.  They are not challenging, at least not for her. I’m so grateful that she’s finally in a position where she can truly excel.

Felix? He’s the exception. That little dude is the most easy-going little boy you can imagine. My biggest worries about him are whether not I’ll be able to find the requested Beethoven birthday cake for his party next year, and whether or not I should warn his school that he ate 4 heaping bowls of yogurt and blueberries this morning for breakfast.

#3 on its way to be a helluva #2

All of the above is only the tip of the iceberg of what swirls in my mind.  There is also my job, upcoming travel, the holiday season, Will.  I suppose this is my justification for enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day.  Now if only I can stop worrying about needing new wine glasses or my liver……

Where DO you find a Beethoven birthday cake?!

Chip Off the Old Rock

I graduated with my geology degree in 1998 from the University of South Alabama.  My degree took a while, mainly because I changed majors very late in the game to geology from special education.  A hell of a departure, no?

I loved college.  Sure, there was stress and drama from time to time, but as with so many majors, I developed a camaraderie with my fellow students, bonding over projects that seemed like hell itself at the time.  Crystallography was obnoxious.  We spent hours and hours, often late into the night, studying blocks.  My son would love it.  One of my best friends from school and I bonded while trying to find a good place to pee in the woods while on a field trip studying an outcrop in the middle of nowhere.  Good times.

I’ve stayed in contact with one of my former professors and friends and follow the geology club on Facebook.  I pass on job information when I hear of something, and once talked to some of the majors about being an environmental regulator.  

These wonderful people heard about the flood and the schools that got hit. They have reached out far and wide to geologists all over the place, gathering rocks and minerals to make up kits to send over.  Many of the professors are also offering extra credit to students that pick up school supplies to send to the kids that got theirs wiped out.  This warms my heart, this generosity from a population notorious for their lack of means.

I’m so proud to have graduated from such a wonderful, supportive place.  This is also a fantastic illustration of innovative ways to help flood victims.  Thank you!

Every Once in a Pile

I’m blogging with you today from my car, drinking an ill-gotten cup of iced coffee.  I reached one of those moments as a mother whereby I realized if I didn’t get out of the house for a few minutes, shit might get ugly.  Don’t get me wrong: my people weren’t doing anything unusually  obnoxious. It’s only that as an introvert and after three straight days of togetherness, I just can’t take any more.

 The noise. The noise gets to me. I reach a saturation point where it simply becomes impossible for me to put together a complete sentence. It must be something like what it would be like to have ADHD.

I’ve been wanting to blog very badly. Not because I had anything particularly meaningful to say, it’s just that this tends to be a release valve for me.  I did try yesterday to sneak off to my bedroom to write down a few things. Within about 45 seconds, I had every member of my family in there with me and at one point piled on top of me. I began screaming that I was claustrophobic and they were trying to kill me.

It actually has not been a bad weekend. Will and I even did something yesterday that we’ve never done before-we hired a babysitter. I know that sounds insane given that Stella is about to turn six years old. I suppose we’ve been relying on my in-laws too much. The reality is that they have many other things that they put their time and energy into and my kids take a lot of energy.  Trust me, I know. But Will and I are pretty desperate for a sense of balance. Like so many other couples, we only see each other at the end of the day when only the dregs of us are left over after work and watching kids. 

So yesterday our very first babysitter arrived at our house. I think it went OK. Will and I went out for a cocktail and saw Suicide Squad.  No one was crying and screaming when we returned home a few hours later. I think we will have to do that again.

Cocktails and Pokemon is a serious combination!

As for everything else, Stella finally goes back to school tomorrow. Work will resume for me tomorrow without having to worry about where Stella is that particular day/week.  I am so ready to get back into some kind of normal routine. 

But that brings me to all the other stuff that’s on my mind and the minds of everyone else down here. Things are not normal, and they won’t be for a long time.

My sweet mother recently sent me some money and demanded that I go get a pedicure. I think she realized that I was feeling pretty burned out and needed to do something nice for myself. While I was there, the two Vietnamese ladies that were working on me indicated that they had lost everything in the flooding. I ended up tipping them the same value of the service. I went back the next day and gave each of them a $50 gift card.  Yesterday, I took Felix for a quick and cheap haircut. The lady cutting his hair had 4 1/2 feet of water in her house. She also got a big fat tip.

You simply cannot get away from this thing. And again, I’m one of the lucky ones. But it is hard to see everyone in your community suffering so greatly. I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but if anyone out there is capable of helping in some capacity, please consider doing so.

And with that, I’m going to close. I’m going to sit here in my car and sip my iced coffee for a few moments, enjoying blessed blessed silence. Have a wonderful week. 

‘Til Death Us Do Art

I don’t do well with rapid-fire change, to be fair.  I guess I’m kind of Rainman like that.  I need to get a bit better at rolling with punches.  Most of the moms and general “carers for others” that I sit back and admire are the ladies (and gents) that can have a dozen people pop in to their homes unannounced and somehow manage to put together a delightful lunch using only breadcrumbs and some canned tuna, meanwhile managing to tidy up the house or at least pretend not to even be worried about it, meanwhile managing to come up with the most insane, creative, and messy activities for the kids,  mess in the house and clothes be damned.  I would be  breathing into a paper bag, sending someone out to Little Caesar’s while I scrubbed the commode and all the toothpaste off the mirror in the kids’ bathroom (how that even happens I don’t know), cussing under my breath about pop-ins, and putting a nice movie on the TV for the kids.

Unfortunately, this is what my kids have been doing too much as of late - screen time and devices.  Not good.

Unfortunately, this is what my kids have been doing too much as of late – screen time and devices. Not good.

Things are happening rather off-the-cuff here due to the flooding.  This morning, Stella starts art camp.  I realized about an hour ago that I’m a nervous wreck.  To be fair, the Art Council puts on summer camps all the time that have a very good reputation.  Furthermore, this place and all the other wonderful places that are scrambling to put on these “pop up” camps for all the kiddos with no place to go were only operational a few weeks ago, and getting back into the routine should be pretty easy.  Furthermore, 2 of Stella’s friends from her old school are attending, and she’s happy about that.  Furthermore, my office is only 2.5 blocks away.

So why my anxiety?  Maybe because an hour ago I got an email reminding parents to pack rain gear, as they’ll be walking around downtown and it might rain (and Stella does not currently own a raincoat).  Maybe it’s because my daughter is in a building I’ve never set foot in myself.  Maybe it’s because she’ll be with adults I’ve never laid eyes on before, and I know nothing of their credentials or backgrounds.  Holy shit, I must be a monster of a mother to send my kid out into the world and just trust that it’ll be ok.

Breathe.  It will be ok.  But as I said, anxiety.

Stella was so excited about this last night she could barely sleep.  By the end of last week/this weekend, we were all so incredibly sick of the sight of each other.  She was bored.  I was bored and becoming more anxious about the crap building up at work.  Felix was Felix.  That kid is unflappable.

As I said, unflappable.

As I said, unflappable.

Felix and his old friend, "Cactus Beethoven."

Felix and his old friend, “Cactus Beethoven.”

This will be a good thing.  We’ve been talking about trying to find her art lessons, anyway.

We just got a new roof on our house.  During the onset of the awful flood-inducing rain, our roof started leaking badly.   At one point, we had water dripping through/across our electrical junction box.  Will was up on the roof with tarps in the middle of it all, getting soaked.  It’s costly, but will be ok.  And given how much others have lost, I’m grateful that only a roof needed replacing.  And we knew it was a ticking time bomb, anyway.

And today is mine and Will’s 7th wedding anniversary.  I am calling it the Year of the Shingle.   I think we’ve been together  (as in dating/cohabitating) for 13 years?  Or is it 14?  Damn.  I should know that.  A good friend offered to take both kids for a couple of hours Saturday, so Will and I got to have a bit of a celebratory lunch.  That was nice.  She, incidentally, is the kind of off-the-cuff mom I admire.  Stuff just doesn’t seem to stress her out.  While the girls painted and swam, she gave Felix a fancy mop bucket to play with.  That was perfect.

So happy neurotic Monday, everyone.

We did manage to visit a botanical garden Sunday....

We did manage to visit a botanical garden Sunday….


Hands Up Don’t Chute

I think I’ve angered my mother-in-law mightily?  Why, you ask? Because she sent my daughter home with this:

Sure, it seems innocuous enough.  How can anyone be offended by such a sweet, classic board game, right?  I must be a crazy bitch, right?

 With Stella’s school system being closed due to floods, my MIL has been helpful watching her the past couple of weeks so that I could manage to get to work at all.   And with their return to our house each day, I’ve been regaled with stories of Chutes and Ladders marathons. It was their thing – late summer days at Oui Oui’s playing Chutes and Ladders.

Oui Oui pulled a fast one.  Now Chutes and Ladders lives at my house.  I honestly didn’t think much of it at first.  It’s easily been 35 years since I indulged in a round of the greatest game on earth.  I clearly blocked it out, it’s so painful.

There are certain games that one can’t play once one has a job or any other kind of responsibility, as they’re simply too time-consuming.  Risk comes to mind, as does Monopoly (or is it Monotony?).  I am putting Chutes and Ladders on that list.  Each game is an eternity.  And just when you think it’s over and there’s a winner, and you don’t even care who won just as long as it’s over, the would-be winner lands on that big F’ing chute and the whole thing starts over.  It mocks you.  It teases you.

Somehow  it is more offensive that it’s the special Dora edition.  Stella always wants to be Dora, and her opponent has to be Diego.  To hell with that. I was Backpack.

I may leave the game out one night.  Maybe a cat will pee on it, or maybe Felix will turn it into some kind of machine or Precious the spinner.  And if you see Oui Oui, apologize for whatever it is I did. 

Honey For Nothing

I need to write about something normal for a bit. I strangely feel guilty about that, but here goes…
As I’ve mentioned, due to local current events, there has been a whole lot of extra togetherness lately. It hasn’t necessarily been the good kind of togetherness, such as a fun family road trip or one of those times when everyone, large and small, is actually well-behaved, at peace, and not deliberately irritating the living shit out of each other. It has been gritted-teeth, don’t touch me, don’t you want to visit Siberia togetherness. A lot of it. A. Whole. Lot.

Blinded by togetherness

I noticed last night that I was referring to members of my family as “honey” a lot. This is not normal for me, as I’m not a gum-chewing waitress with a beehive on an old sitcom. Sure, I have pet names for my people. But this “honey” was not family-member-specific.

I was using it most often with Will and Stella. I was doing it so much that on a couple of occasions Stella asked which “honey” I was referring to: her or daddy.

So much togetherness will make you puke

Extended togetherness such as we’ve experienced lately can result in epiphanies. I’ve had one. Out of our family, Will and Stella are probably the two most provocative. That’s not to say I don’t have days when I’m downright bitchy and spoiling for a fight, or that Felix never goes up to his sister and wallops her on the head for no apparent reason. But Will and Stella have this certain je ne sais quoi which causes them to piss with people. I don’t even think they know they’re doing it. Maybe it’s the ADHD and they’re bored. Regardless, it’s earned them the shared title of “honey.”
Maybe it’s a southern thing, like our infamous “bless your/his/her heart,” which often means “you’re so f’ing stupid and pathetic I honestly don’t know how you manage to chew your food and see at the same time.” We need some space. Honey needs to go.
Bless my heart. I need a vacation. 

Good Chip Lollipop 

How’s it going out there?  I’ve been off my usual blog schedule the past couple of weeks, both writing and reading. It’s not that I don’t care.  I suppose I’ve been distracted.  We all have.  I also don’t want to contribute to any kind of flood fatigue that people may be feeling, being constantly bombarded by sad stories of waterlogged loss.

What I DO want to do is talk about how amazing people have been.  I really have to think long and hard to find someone over the age of 12 who hasn’t helped in some way.  Some have pulled people from the water.  Some have cooked.  Some have washed strangers’ clothes.  Some have ripped up sodden carpets and toted waterlogged mattresses to the curb (I understand you need to rip it open a bit to allow the water to drain or it’s too heavy).  And the donations and fundraising…..

I have had numerous donations now – from my blog friends, family, friends of my family who only know me as so-and-so’s daughter and mother to those cute children Stella and Felix.  I have been able to give the three teachers flooded out at Felix’s school envelopes full of cash.  I bought cases of diapers for a diaper drive, so many that I needed help to carry them to the donation site.  I bought fistfuls of gift cards for families at Stella’s school and some of Will’s colleagues.  I have donated to help my own colleagues – over 115 households in my agency alone suffered damage.  And I have more to do.  I’m calculating what’s next, how to do the most good, have the biggest impact.  And it’s thanks to the generosity of others.  If you’re out there and you’ve contributed – to me or to anyone down here – thank you!  There is a lot of need and much to be done.  Coming together and chipping away is the only way to fix it.

I think it’s safe to say the slog is only beginning.  My daughter’s school won’t start for over another full week.  Luckily organizations are throwing together pop-up camps for kids so the parents can work.  Stella is going to an art camp next week.  Things are so busy and hectic that I haven’t even had time to feel anxious about how she’ll fit in, will she act out.  I’m just grateful that we’ve found a place to go so that I CAN work and get the hell away from my children for a while.  Sorry.  Too much togetherness.

Everyone is feeling cagey.

But it is just one illustration of how impactful a stupid rainstorm has been.  Roads -still- closed.  Schools and buses flooded.  School shut down for over 3 weeks and even longer in some areas. Parents unable to work or focus because of a sudden lack of childcare.  Local traffic, already abominable, made worse by the influx of contractors and debris trucks.  Stores running out of gloves, bleach, dehumidifiers.  It’s unreal, even  2 weeks later.  It will take months – maybe years – for all of these homes to be repaired or rebuilt.  And it’s hard not to get a bit anxious and paranoid about that invest in the Gulf.  I honestly don’t know how we’d manage something like that now.

The Dude is about the only unfazed person in the southern half of our state these days. Nothing bothers him except turning down Beethoven in the car.

So continue to hold us in your hearts and thoughts.  Help if you can.  We’ll be here chipping away.

Taken on the way to a playdate. Stella wanted to know “why the earth is covered in junk?”