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updates on various topics

+ I’ve been subbing like crazy this school year.

Generally, I cap my subbing at 2nd grade, but the 3rd and 4th grade teacher caught me in a moment of weakness and I couldn’t say no. My “moment of weakness” on this particular day was we were meeting for the first time. I wanted to make a good impression and stay on her good side for the year, so I said yes then regretted it for the next three weeks. I like the little kids who ask questions like ”Do elephants eat bugs?” and read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I don’t like to dabble in the bigger kid world where I never know what kind of questions I’ll be asked. As I suspected, I should have asked what I’d be teaching before agreeing. When she texted me the information, she casually slipped in that I’d be teaching about the Trinity. There are entire church conferences and debates among great religious leaders about the workings of the Trinity and I, OF ALL PEOPLE, get tasked with teaching it. I suspect Karen purposely made her appointment three hours away on Trinity teaching day to avoid teaching it herself. I showed Christopher the chart I needed to fill out with the kids and said, “I have literally never seen this diagram before in my entire life.” He pulled up his sleeve and said, “I have a tattoo of it.” He does indeed and it’s in Latin to boot. I asked that he sub for the sub at Bible time but he didn’t take me up on it.

I’ve also subbed for 2nd and 1st grades several times. Three years ago when I subbed for the first time I brought a list of jokes to lighten the mood. There hasn’t been a time I’ve subbed since when I haven’t brought jokes. I’m on my third year teaching some of the kids and they’ll tell the new children what to expect when Miss Sarah with her pencil earrings comes rolling in. My reputation precedes me. One mom stopped me in the hallway and said, “Sadie was so excited you were teaching because she loves to come home with jokes to tell all week long.” I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud of my legacy. Honestly, it’s almost gotten out of hand. They want to hear jokes all day and not do any of the work. Yesterday the teacher had joke time in the schedule. I might include this picture in my Christmas card.


+ Annabelle and Christopher went to a church retreat for 3rd-6th graders last month. I was not included as she wasn’t interested in both her parents attending as chaperones. Rude. I buy all her meals, take her to every single event and what do I get? Told that she doesn’t want me to snuggle on the bunk with her in front of her church friends. It was the first time in almost 10 years that I’d been home alone for the weekend. I seesawed between certainty that the bus would have a firey crash or she’d drown in the ocean, and wishing they’d be gone longer so I could get more done. I finished painting the living room without having to worry about anyone stepping in my paint bucket. I ordered Chinese food and watched Virgin River without Christopher’s commentary. The living room was a truly peaceful oasis to relax in with my dumplings after a long day of hard work.
The guard cats kept a close eye on the place at night. No shenanigans were going down on their watch. They were ready to take names and kick butts all weekend.

+ I helped with a medieval feast in Annabelle’s class last week. Gus’ mom said all the food she was bringing would be themed and I knew had to keep up with her. I had never met her, but I had to keep up with her! I almost bought tiny castle-shaped bundt pans and made 16 castle cakes surrounded by a chocolate mousse moat. I wasn’t signed up for a cheese dish, but I was going to use my crown cookie cutter to make cheese crowns. I was spiraling fast and needed to reel it in. I settled for the chocolate mousse and no castle cakes. Our feast book said lords and ladies ate pudding. They may not have eaten pudding made with Hershey’s cocoa and half and half, but I was in the general vicinity of authenticity. I did bring gold champagne flutes that really added to the ambiance. Gus’ mom made a fire-breathing dragon out of vegetables and beef jerky, as well as a medieval boat from a loaf of bread and thin pretzel sticks for oars. That’s the kind of party dedication I admire.

Eleanor, Alice and chickens

Written April 27th but never published because evidently I don’t know how to push the right buttons.

It’s been a busy season for Annabelle Sesame Lee. Within the same week she was Eleanor of Austria for World Day at school, a five of hearts playing card and flower in the Alice In Wonderland play and we finally celebrated her birthday. I brought her to HobLob to get supplies to make Eleanor’s headpiece which she insisted she wanted to make herself, but she later asked me to do it. “I need some quiet time. My schedule is too busy right now.” Same, girl. Signed, your chauffeur, chef, maid, and hot glue gun operator. 

I’ve never been a fan of Alice In Wonderland and I wondered if seeing my favorite child perform in it might chance my mind about the story. It did not. I still dislike it just as much as ever. It’s so chaotic! But she was precious (says every parent even when their child plays a blade of grass) and I sat through all three shows. Her flower costume really tickled me. She wore a straw hat covered in flowers and a pink tutu. She hasn’t worn a tutu in 48 months much to my sorrow, but the second the director says to wear one, she’s all, “Mom! Don’t forget! We have to pack my tutu in my bag! We need all my costumes pieces!” Maybe Miss Vickie can also bring back bows as part of our daily life.

In final AB news, she had a very small birthday party this year. After much deliberation, she settled on wanting to bring two friends to the roller rink. It took a significant amount of coordination between us three moms to nail down the date and time only for the rink to permanently shut down three days before the party. Back to the drawing board we went. We picked a new location which meant a new time frame and working with a new development on the part of one of the guests. If she was having more kids I wouldn’t have tried so hard to work with everyones schedules, but she was only having two and I needed to make sure both were there. You know who ended up not being there? ME. Her mother. The amount of guilt I felt will never leave me. I was there for the birthday lunch, cake and presents but had to leave for work and couldn’t go to the river aquarium with them. I don’t care about the riverquarium, but the fact that I wasn’t there for every second of her party made me feel awful. There was no one to take my shift so I had to go. I’ll hold onto this until the day I die. She will forget by next week.


I may be late to the gift giving portion of our 12th anniversary on Saturday. I don’t have a gift for Christopher yet but it’s not for lack of looking. It’s partly for lack of looking but not entirely. I’ll tell myself I need to look into it then get distracted by the grocery list or the cats throwing up or improving my Tetris score. Someone decided that the traditional twelfth anniversary gift is linen or silk and you know what no man I know wants/needs? A linen or silk gift. Christopher doesn’t want a silk bathrobe and he certainly doesn’t lounge by our nonexistent pool sipping a watermelon daiquiri in a linen shirt. I asked AB what I should give and she giggled and said, “How ’bout some lennon underwear?” which really confused me. Three days ago she told her guitar teacher she didn’t know who John Lennon was and now she was saying I should get underwear with his face on it. Turns out she was mispronouncing linen. Elizabeth suggested I buy him a couple of Silkie chickens.

Move over, linen and silk. John Lennon underwear and chickens are the new twelfth anniversary gifts.

March Madness

It’s only the fourth day of April, but I think I already peaked for the month.

I decided on a whim a few weeks ago to fill out a March Madness bracket. I know NOTHING about basketball. I don’t even like it. It’s too squeaky and the constant movement on the court feels very chaotic. I file my decision to do the bracket under “mindless tasks to keep your mind busy so you have less time to think about all your problems, but all your problems are still there and you can’t stop thinking about them so you’re still anxious.” What a relaxing place to live. While my bracket efforts did not take my mind off my worries, I’ll tell you what did take my mind off things for a while- winning the whole kit and caboodle on said bracket. I threw names down on that paper with no research or thought, but low and behold my predictions came true. I went from 16 teams down to the final winner.

Sadly, I did not enter my bracket into any sort of betting pool so I am none the richer, but I’ve told everyone about my success and am beyond tickled about the results. I’m going to ride this high for weeks. I didn’t go to the grocery store and the washing machine needs loading but so what? I won March Madness. Who cares that it has no impact on my real life.

In other, significantly less lucky news, I had a kidney stone last month. How’s that for a plot twist? Thinking it might be a negative side effect from medication, we drove all the way to Atlanta on a Sunday to be seen at the fertility clinic. The doctor on call told me, ”Maybe you’re gassy” which I assure you wasn’t the problem. I wouldn’t spend 6+ hours in the car in severe pain if that was it. We got home and I drove myself to our local emergency room. I had to explain to everyone that I was not gassy so please don’t tell me to take GasX; that won’t work. For the love of everything, give me some good drugs. The triage room was not close to the actual emergency room and the man who walked me and a small group of other patients over to it was evidently practicing for the Boston marathon. He walked us outside, down the ramp, and across the concrete with the speed of a gazelle being chased by a cheetah. I limped along like the cheetah’s already wounded prey. I never got a room, but instead sat in a row of chairs separated by curtains. For hours on end, I listened to several people come in for what I’m sure were important issues to them, but seemed minor enough that my extensive WebMD knowledge helped me solve most of their issues. Several hours and three prescriptions later, I had the diagnosis of a large kidney stone. I went to the urologist later that week. The only other females (wearing shirts that said “urine good hands”) were the nurses. It was me and eight old men in the waiting room. What a humbling experience.

Speaking of all things medical, I binged all four seasons of New Amsterdam on Netflix in an embarrassing/impressive amount of time. A medical drama will reel me in hook, line and sinker. I don’t care how unrealistic it might be. Give me several good-looking doctors, a tragedy and I’m there with my blanket and bowl of chips. It took until the middle of season four for me to get grossed out and look away. I like to think I’ll be a brain surgeon in my next career so a little blood and organs seen on a screen don’t bother me. I am very upset about a big breakup at the end of the last episode but I’m predicting big things for my favorite characters.

After all, I did correctly predict the March Madness winner. I’m basically a prophet at this point.

sea the world

Last Friday, Annabelle and I took a trip to SeaWorld with church. Twenty-three children from the 3rd-5th grade Sunday school classes, four parent chaperones and one saintly children’s director boarded a charter bus and headed south.

The director gave a little speech before we left about behavior expectations, and she mentioned how while there was a bathroom on the bus, it didn’t need to be used all the time. I love her and she’s great with kids, but that statement was throwing pearls before swine. Every single child visited the bathroom at least once, if not three times. None of them could resist the urge to use a small bathroom on wheels while going 72mph. I know that each child went to the bathroom several times because they all asked me for permission to go. I was sitting closest to the children by a mere 8 inches. The next chaperone was less than one literal footstep away, but I was the first point of contact and was therefore the one who got asked every single question. Every time they needed something from the overhead compartment, asked to go to the bathroom, had a question about snacks, needed help with their charger, asked about the bathroom, wanted to know how much longer before we got there, was there anyone in the bathroom, etc etc etc, they asked me. I didn’t know I would be doubling as a flight attendant when I signed up to go. My friend and fellow chaperone was hunkered down in the front seat with her book and thanks to my hard work, she got through 175 pages without one disruption. 

I’ll tell you what else I didn’t know when I signed up- the sleep hours or lack thereof. I wasn’t expecting a spa environment, but I also wasn’t expecting to be told by the SeaWorld workers that they’d be waking us up at 6am to start the day. That was conveniently left out of all Caren’s planning emails. 

We got there right before SeaWorld closed for the day. Two workers were assigned to our girls group for the night and they gave us a private tour of the park. The boys group slept by the beluga whales and we slept by the dolphins. The whole time I thought about how when I was younger I wanted to be a dolphin trainer thanks to Lisa Frank. My younger self would not have believed my good luck in spending a night with the dolphins. They never stopped swimming and with the exhibit dark but the tank lit up, it was extremely relaxing. I loved it.

We weren’t allowed to go up to the bathroom alone while the park was closed, so the employees had to accompany 18 girls and all our accouterments up the walkway to the bathroom to change. We left a little trail of socks and underwear in our wake. Some of the girls were organized. My child dropped her shirt in the toilet and left her pajamas on the counter of the public bathroom. That’s why she didn’t go on this trip without me.On Saturday, we split up according to who wanted to do what and our group was the low key group. Shocker shocker, AB was in the low-key group. We went on a few rides, but mostly we enjoyed the animals. My fellow chaperone, Sarah Beth, and I had those girls in line. Everyone had a buddy and we were constantly counting heads. One adult was in the back of the group and one in the front. No one would get lost one our watch!We had eight girls in the morning and eight girls several hours later when we joined up with one of the other groups.

No one did get lost on our watch, but someone got lost mere minutes after we joined up with the boys and that someone was my Annabelle. My little ball of anxiety and worry, lost in a crowd. I’m not going to assign blame but if I was, I’d point your attention to the third chaperone who took over as our leader.  He booked it into the crowd walking so fast there was no way to keep the children together. The system Sarah Beth and I had perfected with our girls went out the window and into the sea turtle tank. Somehow in the shuffle, Sesame ended up ahead of the group. I went back to look, the dad went ahead and Sarah Beth stayed with a gaggle of children all giving advice on what to do. Thank the Lord, Annabelle was not alone. She was with her buddy and together they found a janitor and were borrowing his phone to call me when they saw the rest of our group. I have never been so thankful I drilled my phone number into her head for such a time as this. I didn’t tell Christopher about the small mishap until we got home. “BTW, I did lose your one and only offspring, but here she is safe and sound!”(God was in a crazy mood when He designed the stingray face.)

I went to SeaWorld when I was around 15 and have told Annabelle stories about the orca show and beluga whales for years. I love getting to bring her to the same experiences I had.

We returned home with all 23 children, four parents, one saintly children’s director, several new stuffed animals from the gift shop and the free souvenir of having lost a child. 

This is your night to shine

Last Friday, Christopher and I volunteered at Night to Shine.

I spent weeks deliberating and second-guessing my outfit. Christopher hadn’t tried on his suit nor did he have a bowtie until the day before and he wasn’t concerned about it one bit. I was on the bowtie search committee. Other than no pink or brown, I had no guidelines which wasn’t helpful. I went to a local store that sells suits, ties, and the most bejeweled and embroidered men’s shoes and belts you’ve ever seen. Everything in there was bright, bold and the place of Dolly Parton’s dreams. It was outside anything Christopher would wear but I loved it. I refrained from getting him a bowtie with a crown or rose pinned to the middle. It would have fit the occasion but he’d never have worn it.

It’s not an exaggeration that it took me two hours to do my hair that day. I straightened it with the round brush but it looked too flat, so I added curls with the curling iron. My hair doesn’t hold fake curls well so they all went limp. That required me to use the straightener to fix that problem. School should have been canceled for the day so I could fully devote my attention to my hair issues. I couldn’t properly focus when I had to be answering questions about the Revolutionary War simultaneously. NTS was hosted by the church associated with Annabelle’s school and held on the school/church property. The students helped fill the guest’s gift bags and were involved as much as they could leading up to the big night. Sesame had also gone to volunteer training with us so she was well aware of what the event was (a prom for those with special needs). Every time I sighed or made a complaint about my hair, she’d said, “You know, Mom, it’s not about you. It’s about them and making them feel special.” She wasn’t wrong, but I also wanted my hair to look good! After all that work, my job was partly outside in the rain and my hair got messed up anyway. Pride goeth before a bad hair day.

Christopher was part of the shoe-shining crew. I didn’t get to see him in action, but a picture of his hands polishing a man’s shoes made it to the big recap video so apparently he made an impression. I wasn’t sure he’d make it at all. We had 227 registered VIP’s and you know who wasn’t one of those guests? Christopher’s shingles. That’s right. The week that we have a Big Event, his body said, “LOL. JK! Let’s throw a wrench in your plans and give you a disease for which there is no medicine unless you take it within 18 minutes of the onset of symptoms.” It was touch and go for a while there, but he pulled himself up by his suspenders and polished away.

I was on the red carpet. Of course, I was. Was there ever a more perfect spot for me and my rose gold sequined shoes? I was delighted the whole entire night.

After the men got their shoes shined and the ladies had their hair and makeup done, they rode in limos around the church and were announced to the crowd before walking the red carpet. We clapped and cheered like they were stars. My friend’s daughter and I waved our blue pompoms and cheered until we were hoarse. Many of those people had never been celebrated at all, let alone with an entire night catered to their special requirements, and it was so touching to see them respond. One man had so much fun in the limo they drove him around four times. Another man liked the attention of walking the carpet and asked to do it several times. Each time we cheered like it was his first time and his face lit up.

After the red carpet, the guests went to activities and games, the dance floor and karaoke, a meal and their crowning. All the men were given crowns and the girl’s tiaras. Night to Shine says “All kings, all queens, all loved by God” so they try to make everyone feel special, loved and included regardless of their capabilities.

We couldn’t stay for the whole event because of space and security reasons, but I’m so glad we got to be involved in a small way. It wasn’t much of an effort on our part but it made a huge difference for them.

Plus I got to wear sparkly rose gold shoes and I don’t care what AB says. I did that for me.

things of late

We recently had Spirit Week and AB’s class dressed up as the 101 dalmatians. I made the ears which I thought were so cute, but Sesame took off immediately when she got into school. “Mom. I can’t be wearing those in the building! I can only wear them in the car and the parking lot!” I’m so glad I spent all that time cutting and gluing! Last week was the 101st day of school and she had no desire to dress up as an old lady so we recycled the shirt which was very handy. I didn’t bother asking if she wanted to wear the ears. I knew better.

Every Sunday after church we go out for coffee. Some Sundays we get a snack from the attached gas station and have a snacksperiment. Not to name names, but these two can be the weak links in the family when it comes to good taking pictures. Not that I think I’m a photogenic goddess, but I know about angles. These two roll their eyes and/or heads, make faces, and insist they’re smiling when they’re not. All I ask for is one nice picture! When I finally get one, I show anyone and everyone and use it for everything for the rest of the year.

Our church has recently gotten involved in an organization called Sleep In Heavenly Peace which provides free beds and bedding for underprivileged children. Christopher went with a group to Columbus several months ago to make the beds and they brought back several to distribute in our area. He and AB were part of a bed delivery before Christmas but I wasn’t able to go. On Saturday the three of us along with a few people from church went to a home downtown to bring two beds. Seeing children who previously had to sleep in bed with their parents or on the floor because there wasn’t another option isn’t something AB was familiar with so I’m glad it’s something she can experience. I think it’s important for her to be exposed and for all of us to be reminded how fortunate we are. Hopefully this ministry will grow and we can continue to help.

Another thing I think is important to teach is good-natured smack talk. Christopher has no smack talk or competitive nature which is exceptionally boring. I alone carry the role of handing the smack talk torch to the next generation. We’ve been on a big badminton kick which has given me and Annabelle lots of time to practice our best smack talk phrases. One she’s most proud of is, “I hope you brought a lawn bag because my score is going to be so high it’s going to mow over your score.” It’s a bit of a mouthful but she’s on the right track.Annabelle told me she knows the F word. I asked her to write it down for me and said she wouldn’t get in trouble. She wrote “freak and fraud.” It will be a true zinger the day she uses one of those F words and calls me a badminton fraud.