Wednesday, May 31, 2006

THE PRODIGAL HAMSTER

The family of four was minding its own business, watching a game on TV . . . when suddenly, a powdered-sugar doughnut ran across the room right in front of the set!!!

AAAIIIEEE!!! But don’t worry, it wasn’t The Case of the Mysterious Levitating Pastry From the Twilight Zone. Underneath that doughnut was their long-lost hamster!

He had escaped a full month before. They had looked high and low, and finally held funeral services in absentia.

Apparently, the gray and white little rodent had lived on food crumbs left by the two boys all over the house, which became the subject of stern parental lectures about . . . leaving food crumbs all over the house. Although in this case, it was a good thing.

The prodigal hamster downed a whole bottle of water, and then slept for days, a wayward vagabond who, like Dorothy, could say gratefully, “There’s no place like home.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

RETIREMENTAL CASE

Here’s one of those email jokes that’s so true to life, you think you know this guy:


Dear Mrs. Fenton,

Over the past six months, your husband, Mr. Bill Fenton, has been causing quite a commotion in our store. We cannot tolerate this type of behavior and have considered banning the entire family from shopping in any of our stores. We have documented all incidents on our video surveillance equipment. Three of our clerks are attending counseling from the trouble your husband has caused. All complaints against Mr. Fenton have been compiled and are listed below.


Mr. Wally Zimbrowski
Wal-Mart Complaint Department
MEMO
Re: Mr. Bill Fenton - Complaints - 15 Things Mr. Fenton has done while his spouse is shopping:

1. June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in people's cart when they weren't looking.

2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

3. July 7: Made a trail of pineapple juice on the floor leading to the restrooms.

4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official tone, “Code 3 in Housewares” . . . and watched what happened.

5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and asked to put a bag of M&M's on layaway.

6. September 14: Moved a “CAUTION - WET FLOOR” sign to a carpeted area.

7. September 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told other shoppers he'd invite them in if they'll bring pillows from the bedding department.

8. September 23: When a clerk asked if she could help him, began to cry and asked, “Why can't you people just leave me alone?”

9. October 4: Looked right into the security camera; used it as a mirror, and picked his nose.

10. November 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, asked the clerk if he knows where the antidepressants are.

11. December 3: Darted around the store suspiciously, loudly humming the "Mission Impossible" theme.

12. December 6: In the auto department, practiced his "Madonna look" using different size funnels.

13. December 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled, "PICK ME!" "PICK ME!"

14. December 21: When an announcement came over the loudspeaker, assumed the fetal position and screams "NO! NO! It's those voices again!!!!"(And last, but not least!)

15. December 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door and waited a while; then, yelled, very loudly, "There is no toilet paper in here!"

Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Decoration Day!
May we never forget, and may we always be grateful!
God Bless America!

---------------------------------------------

WHERE THE CORN COMES FROM


This is Nebraska. We have corn. Ergo, these jokes about family:

I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport.

My son is 21. He'll be 22 if I let him.

My son complains about headaches. I tell him all the time, when you get out of bed, it's feet first!

I wish my brother would learn a trade, so I would know what kind of work he's out of.

My brother was a lifeguard in a car wash.

My brother then opened a tall man's shop in Tokyo.

My brother then bought 1,000 Japanese cameras. They all go "Crick.”

My other brother-in-law died. He was a karate expert, then joined the Army. The first time he saluted, he killed himself.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

GRADUATION: BEAMER GROWS UP

(F)or the joy of the Lord is your strength.
-- Nehemiah 8:10c

Our new little bundle of joy was nestled in my arms, just weeks old, with her two older sisters looking on, when she broke into the biggest, cutest, most radiant baby smile in the universe.

“Look at the beamer!” I exclaimed. I was thinking of the rays of sunshine that we see sometimes, beaming down from between high clouds. This was either the happiest little person you ever saw . . . or she had a little gas.

“Beamer” it was, though. And even though the nickname was occasionally mistaken for crass materialism (no, it has NOTHING to do with a BMW) or the semi-famous Beemer Standpipe in fabulous Beemer, Neb., which, ironically, was fabricated by my husband’s steel company many years ago, the nickname has grown up along with Eden Elizabeth.

In fact, the senior class recently voted her as having the “best nickname.” They see what we see. There’s a light that comes out of this young woman, and that light is joy.

She graduated from high school last week. During the whirl of festivities, I watched her interacting with others. What do you know: she got through chem, calc and Advanced Placement classes, and is STILL a beamer!

It’s striking how much of a sunbeam she really is: bright, light-hearted, and warm. She exudes personality. She just makes people smile. Always has.

Beamer has a special calling, a form of leadership you don’t see every day. She showed it in school, and on the elite softball teams on which she’s played. She’s one of those people who just knows how to be happy. She chooses to be. Happiness is a fading art. But hers is an example we all should embrace.

Her secret: she has never been afraid to be herself.

As a first-grader, she did a stand-up comedy routine for the school talent show. She wrote her own jokes, and came up with a zany costume. It was also a ventriloquist act, and involved a finale with her jumping down into the audience from the stage with a barrage of water-gun squirts. This would never pass in the post-911 world; back then, it was high humor.

She told her first joke, looking tiny on the stage. It had to do with a pregnant butterfly with stomach flutters. Nobody “got” it. They murmured, but nobody laughed. There was an awkward silence.

All of a sudden, the wackiest, most delightful laughter you ever heard came roaring out of a little boy who was mentally handicapped -- beloved at that school because he was good and kind and sweet.

He “got” the joke! His laughter was so infectious, pretty soon the whole gym was laughing with him.

Beamer was on a roll. Her act was a rousing success. Saved by another little beamer – another person who knew enough to choose joy.

Now Beamer is all grown up, and setting out for college in Minnesota, where she is going to play softball and pursue her dream career in communications. It’s an adventure, and a challenge. But we’re not scared for her one bit. She’s ready.

One recent Saturday night, her dad was out of town, and Beamer and her friends were grouped around our kitchen island having a snack.

I was up in bed. As I lay there, I could hear the sound of Beamer’s musical voice, saying something funny, and then the other kids would roar with laughter. Rapidly, she would say something else, and they would respond again, in hysterics. This went on and on.

It was like she was the choir director of joy.

I got a little teary-eyed at how little she’d changed and how much I loved her. I went to sleep with a smile, too.

How we need the Beamers of this world. How desperately important they are.

My prayer and my hope is that she can stay true to herself, and yet grow. May she find her place in the world, and continue to make it a little brighter, a little happier.

May she always be our Beamer, a joyous heart that reflects God’s love from above – and beams it back again. †

Saturday, May 27, 2006

PEACHY PARTIES

I’m not the only nitwit who gets stressed out putting on a decent party. Last night at yet another graduation festivity, our hosts spent most of the evening peering suspiciously at the Sterno cans under the two buffet servers they had rented for their sumptuous Mexican buffet. They jabbed sharp things at the lids to knock them off the cans like shuffleboards, and lifted off various layers of pans and warmers, trying to adjust the heat.

What heat, though? Those Sternos were cold as ice. So was my enchilada. But yum! It was good, anyway.

Reminds me of one of my Great Moments in Dignity: for a past party, I rented a buffet server a lot like theirs, only the Sterno worked just fine. TOO fine, in fact. The problem was, there were about eight different pans and lids and servers and things. I’m remedial on how things go together, but I did the best I could. Little did I know that I’d put the lid with the black plastic handle upside down, under the food pan but over the base pan, but close enough to the heat source so that the flaming Sterno MELTED THE BLACK PLASTIC HANDLE. It stunk up the place for a while. Everybody thought we’d burned the barbecue, and avoided that pan. Ah, me. At least the rental place took pity and didn’t assess a Stupidity Charge.

Then another friend made me feel better about running out of most of the party foods at our daughter’s recent graduation party, and stopping myself just before serving age-old FISH STICKS out of the freezer.

She, you see, had a similar experience with hordes of graduation party guests. They wiped out her generous buffet in minutes and threatened to cut up her kitchen counter and eat that, too. She found herself in her pantry opening a gallon can of PEACHES. Now, what she was DOING with a gallon can of peaches in her pantry is another story. And yes, I’m sure they went fast, to her great relief.

Just shows to go you: the real entertainment when it comes to home entertaining is what’s going on inside the hostess’ head!

Friday, May 26, 2006

MOAT-Y FINE PROBLEM-SOLVING

So we have the problem of the illegal alien invasion across the border with Mexico . . . plus the enormous problem of trying to raise the levees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina . . . and the frightening wave of man-eating alligators in Florida.

Here’s a triple solution:

1. DIG A MOAT ALONG THE MEXICAN BORDER.
2. REPOSITION ALL THE DISPLACED DIRT TO NEW ORLEANS.
3. PUT THE ALLIGATORS IN THE MOAT.

Voila!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

THE LOCUSTS CAME THROUGH

Far be it from me to refer to our friends, relatives and neighbors as “locusts.” But they swarmed to Eden’s graduation party the other night and ate us out of house and home.

They stripped the 100-piece shrimp plate clean in minutes. They devoured the festive skewers of chicken satay, and the 50 pungent barbecued riblets. They ate two huge pans of chicken flautas and a vat of specialty salsa. They even ate the jalapeno garnishes.

Furthermore, the freezer had been bursting with 80 individual raspberry-chocolate desserts, made by me at about 2 a.m. the night before, but about halfway through the party, they had vanished, too. I think I saw someone picking up the empty plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries and licking it.

Now, we had filler foods, like salad and veggie dip. But with an hour to go in the party, the formerly-groaning buffet table was now looking a little like the last day of school at 3:35 p.m.

Panicking, I opened the fridge to see if we had any everyday foods that were suitable for putting out. I had just picked up an age-old box of fish sticks when my friend caught my eye, winked, and tipped back her head to laugh.

Thanks a lot! No, not for ridiculing me for considering serving fish sticks. I saw the last of the jalapeno garnishes between her teeth!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

(DailySusan returns today from an unexpected “vacation” kayaking in graduation whitewater. It was great, but it’s also nice to come out in one piece on the other side in relatively still waters!)

AS SEEN ON TV?


(Today's DailySusan, available only to subscribers, depicts a green "chia pet" style hairdo and beard coming out of a Middle Eastern guy's head, with the phony brand name, "Shiite Pet.")

Saturday, May 20, 2006

STAND-UP SCHTICK

These funnies are from comedian Steven Wright (
www.stevenwright.com):

There's a pizza place near where I live that sells only slices. In the back you can see a guy tossing a triangle in the air.

I had to stop driving my car for a while. The tires got dizzy.

Do you think that when they asked George Washington for ID that he just whipped out a quarter?

The other day, I was walking my dog around my building -- on the ledge.

Some people are afraid of heights. Not me. I'm afraid of widths.

My friend Winnie is a procrastinator. He didn't get his birthmark ‘til he was 8 years old.

I don't have to walk my dog anymore. I walked him all at once. He was fun when he was a puppy. I named him Stay. When I'd call him I'd say, “C'mere, Stay! C'mere, Stay!” and he'd go like this . . . (FILL IN THE MOVEMENT YOURSELF). He's a lot smarter than that now. Now when I call him, he just ignores me and keeps on typing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

TONGUE TWISTERS

Try these out. Three times in a row. Aloud. Fast. Can you do it? I’m 0-for-3.

Peggy Babcock

Soldiers’ shoulders

Lemon liniment

Send in your favorites . . . if you’re not too tongue-tied.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A SCIENTIST?

Maddy, 6, was holding court about important things such as the incontrovertible fact that you cannot sneeze without closing your eyes. If you do, she solemnly declared, your eyeballs will come squirting out.

“Oooh,” I replied, duly impressed. “Why IS that? Why CAN’T you sneeze without closing your eyes?”

Maddy was perturbed. “WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE, A SCIENTIST?!?”

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

BUNNY WARS: MARIGOLD MUNITIONS

If you’re too wimpy to shoot ‘em and you don’t want to organize a male protein spill to ward them off, and you need your Irish Spring to ward off your own B.O. in the shower, note that you can also prevent bunny rabbit holocausts of your tender garden plants with . . . tender garden plants.

Another stalwart bunny war correspondent, broadcasting live from the trenches in mid-town Omaha, reports that for years, she has planted a border of marigolds around her vegetable garden and she hasn’t had a bit of bunny problems.

She reports that marigolds are a two-fer for the frugal gardener: you can also boil a tea from the flowers and put it in a sprayer to make a natural pesticide. Hmm! Maybe you won’t NEED that Irish Spring in the shower any more!

OR . . . you can give the whole garden thing up, and just rock your whole yard like they do in Arizona.

OR . . . you can petition the governor to get industrial development bonds to build a Bunny Casino a few miles away from your place, so they’ll all hop there and stay there. Anyone for a little Rabbit Roulette?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

BUNNY WARS: THE IRISH SPRING COUNTERATTACK

The neighbors already think you’re nuts. So there’s nothing stopping you from this method of protecting your garden from the ravages of the bunny rabbits:

Reportedly, shavings of Irish Spring bar soap work as a wabbit wepewwant.

So get out there with a paring knife and couple of green-striped bars, and start sprinkling the shavings around. Both the neighbors and the bunnies will think you’ve “gone leprechaun” and will put you on their loony bin watch list.

Monday, May 15, 2006

BUNNY WARS: DESPERATE MEASURES

Aha! I’m not the only one who does battle with the bunnies, trying to protect expensive landscaping plants and flowers from their ravages. But up to now, I’ve lost most of the skirmishes.

I’ve tried scattering dog hair around. Lame; scent disappears after the first rain.

I’ve tried cayenne pepper on the leaves. Double lame; they relish it!

Yes, I even purchased a pellet gun. But I was too much of a wimp to use it.

I’ve been resigned to letting them literally eat me out of house and home. But yesterday, the FINAL SOLUTION came forward from a practical garden guru who’s not afraid to take extreme measures in besting the rodent bulimics. Nonviolently, too!

In broad daylight, she escorts the men in her family out to where the plants she wants to protect are. They see their mission. Then, in the evening, she has those same males drink a lot, lot, lot of water ‘round about bedtime. Then they take the dog outside in the pitch dark for a last run . . . and then . . . well, YOU know . . . boys will be boys. . . .

Apparently, the Alpha Male scent is a great deterrent. Better living through chemistry! Take THAT, you cwazy wabbits.

If your alpha, or even zeta males, won’t cooperate in person out of some sense of propriety, then you can always keep an empty mayonnaise jar in the W.C. and tell ‘em it’s “for the cause.”

Sunday, May 14, 2006

PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF MOTHERS

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast;
but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
-- Proverbs 12:10

One Mother’s Day, I got myself a GUN. Motherly, huh? Well . . . I just wanted to BLOW AWAY all those pesky WABBITS that kept destroying my precious, expensive, hybrid hosta plants.

I took target practice on an orange juice can, and lay in wait.

Aha! Here came a fat, furry rodent, munching with guiltless gusto on a (sob!) specially variegated hosta. Frowning face set like flint, I took aim.

But I couldn’t shoot.

Had my maternal instincts come to the fore?

Was it because my husband had helpfully commented, “You’ll probably just wound him. You’ll have to take a hold of him by the ears, and . . . YOU know . . . (demonstrates ultra-grotesque neck-wringing action). . . .”

Naw. What stopped my murderous rampage was the worry: what would my CHILDREN think?

Be kind to animals. Model tenderness for all God’s creatures. It’s one of the mandates of motherhood. It gets tricky, though, when you’re up against four-legged terrorists. But oh! do kids love animals. And that’s good. Challenging, but good.

The other day, Maddy, 6, found a baby bunny in our back yard. My trigger finger itched as she loved him, cuddled him, and begged to keep him. She named him “Jack Bunny.”


We eventually convinced her to put him back, behind the iris, and kept our dog Sunny away. Next morning, Jack Bunny was gone! Hooray!

Minutes later, I was on the phone on an important call, and saw Sunny cavorting in the back yard . . . WITH A LIMP AND LIFELESS JACK BUNNY IN HER MOUTH!!!! She shook him violently, back and forth! She tossed him into the air and caught him! She rolled over on her back, lazily munching on his mangled corpse!

On one hand: PAYBACK! YESSSSS!

But on the other hand: AAAIIIEEE!!! If Maddy saw this. . . .

I zoomed outside . . . and whew! It was only a fake squirrel, a dog toy. My plants may die, but Jack Bunny Lives!

Darn it.

But my trials and tribulations are nothing compared to my dear neighbor Sharon. New to the acreage lifestyle, and wanting to add an animal to her daughters’ life experiences, she drove to a whole ‘nother town to pick up a free calico cat. The farm lady declared that she was lucky, since they’d rescued her as an abandoned kitten. So they named her “Lucky Karma.”

Yeah, well, she wasn’t the ONLY one who’d gotten lucky. She was P.G.!

Undaunted, Sharon called the vet and got the prenatal lowdown, all the signs of cat labor and so forth. Midwifing kittens? He laughed: “There’s nothing to it. Just let Mother Nature take over.”

So Mother Nature’s Helper set up a box in the storage room with some ratty towels. When the great moment arrived, her kids called every friend, neighbor and soccer pal available to come over and witness the wonder of birth.

Before long, the first tiny, rat-like kitten arrived. Sharon waited to see the kitty mom spring into action, cleaning and chewing off the cord, just as the vet had promised. Nothing.

The children, clueless, were still rapt with excitement. Soon enough, another popped out. Same thing: no cord severing, minimal licking.

The rat kitties were squirming around all over, and as they were joined by litter mates, it became apparent that the still-intact cords were getting all entangled.

With visions of her daughters’ new friends going CAT-atonic over dead kitties, Sharon frantically called the vet. He told her to tie off the cords with some dental floss.

DENTAL FLOSS?

With the formerly beaming young faces looking on, she sprang into motherly mode and became SUPER VET, tying, talking, cutting, and cleansing five tiny, incredibly squirmy, entangled newborn kittens.

In the end, the young and dazed mother cat took over her natural duties, sparing Sharon from nursing and licking fur as well, much to her relief.

And they all lived happily, and squirmily, ever after.

That’s motherhood for you. We moms are “MEOW-velous.” Look how “FUR” we go for our kids! †

Saturday, May 13, 2006

GRADUATION PARTY ESCALATION IS DUMB

We’ve started the rounds of the graduation parties again, and boy, they are better than ever. People are so creative and generous with the food and festivities they share with their child’s friends and teachers. The way families seek to honor their graduates is so heartwarming.

That’s the good news. The BAD news is, OURS is still coming up. Nine days, and counting. It’s GOT to be good.

So I was “encouraging” my husband to set up the hammock, replace the basketball hoop and put some air in the ball, place the softball bases in the pasture, park Maudie the tractor in the driveway to offer kiddie rides, and fire up the batting cage. . .

. . . and he said, good-naturedly, “What do you think this is, FUN-PLEX?” (that’s the local amusement park / arcade / go-cart joint)


Oh, out of the mouths of babes: Maddy added, “Or maybe DUMB-PLEX!!!!”

Friday, May 12, 2006

BROTHERS AND MOTHERS

This video reminds me of the process of taking our annual Christmas card photo. Maybe next year, we should send out a video with the “out-takes.” Happy Mother’s Day, everybody!

(Today's DailySusan was a funny video of two brothers arguing over taking a Mother's Day picture of themselves.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

IN THE YEAR 2031

According to a prophetic and highly silly email, in 25 years these will be the headlines:

Ozone created by electric cars now killing millions in the seventh largest country in the world, Mexifornia, formerly known as California.

White minorities still trying to have English recognized as Mexifornia's third language.

Spotted Owl plague threatens northwestern United States crops and livestock.

Baby conceived naturally. Scientists stumped.

Couple petitions court to reinstate heterosexual marriage.

Last remaining Fundamentalist Muslim dies in the American Territory of the Middle East (formerly known as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon).

Iran still closed off; physicists estimate it will take at least 10 more years before radioactivity decreases to safe levels.

France pleads for global help after being taken over by Jamaica.

Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking.

George Z. Bush says he will run for President in 2036.

Postal Service raises price of first class stamp to $17.89 and reduces mail delivery to Wednesdays only.

Results announced from 85-year, $75.8 billion study: diet and exercise are the keys to weight
loss. Average weight of Americans drops to 250 lbs.

Japanese scientists have created a camera with such a fast shutter speed, they now can photograph a woman with her mouth shut. (Hmmmmmmmmm)

Massachusetts executes last remaining conservative. Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.

Average height of NBA players now nine feet, seven inches.

New federal law requires that all nail clippers, screwdrivers, fly swatters and rolled-up newspapers must be registered by January 2036.

Congress authorizes direct deposit of formerly illegal political contributions to campaign accounts.

IRS sets lowest tax rate at 75 percent.

Florida voters still having trouble with voting machines.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

CLOSE, AND NO CIGAR

When you’re a workman entering the home of a family that owns a Labrador retriever, you’re taking an awful risk. Not that your hind end will get bitten, or that you’ll catch rabies. Noooo. THAT EVERY ITEM YOU OWN WILL BE SNATCHED AWAY AND CARRIED OFF!!!

The latest go-round for us was the fate of the poor carpenter who fixed our stairway. He set up his table saw on the driveway outside the front door, and carried cut sections of wood into the house from there. Naturally, he placed his supplies and everything he would need for the job around that saw.

I kept apologizing as I would come upon Sunny in the front yard with one of his workgloves, or a fragment of wood. She never chewed up and ruined anything; she just liked to retrieve things and hang on to them, in play.

But one day, she went too far: the carpenter smoked cigars after lunch. To be courteous, he only smoked them outside. While he was working at the table saw, he would hold a cigar in his mouth. But if he had to come inside for a moment, he would lay it down on the pavement so that smoke wouldn’t get in the house.

Well, the lure was too powerful for Sunny. One time, the carpenter came back outside, and she was cavorting around in the front yard . . . WITH THE LIGHTED CIGAR BETWEEN HER TEETH!

She romped. She frolicked. She even placed the cigar on the grass just a few feet away from the carpenter, tail wagging like mad, and dared him to try to pick it up. When he went for it, she snatched it away again and galloped through the yard, taunting him with it.

No, she didn’t take a puff. But my ears were smoking over her disobedience. The carpenter, though, thought it was a howl. And since it wasn’t one of his costly Cubans, he didn’t care.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

SOMEBODY'S THINKIN'

(Today's DailySusan was a cartoon showing the rebuilding of New Orleans -- only this time, everybody was building an ARK instead of a house.)

Monday, May 08, 2006

SLACKER MOM AT GRADUATION TIME

GULP! Over the weekend, I saw what some other parents were doing to set up a “shrine” of memorabilia for their son’s graduation party. You know those giant photo collages and keepsake displays that organized parents make. Sheesh! They’re making me look bad.

On these people’s kitchen table, spilling over into their family room, were stacks of photos and papers in neat categories. It looked like the Underground Command Center of the Strategic Air Command.

They had pictures of him from the delivery room, preschool, and individual and group pictures from each grade, K-12. They had personal letters written by his favorite teachers and coaches. They had some of his best school assignments from over the years. They had an entire computer disk filled with sports actions shots. They had a rosette made of all his swimming ribbons.

HOLY SCHMOLY! So far, I was making Beamer create her own scrapbook and her own graduation DVD, because she’s a lot better at those tasks than I am. Otherwise, I’ve been gardening so the place will look presentable, and I know what we’re going to have to eat at the party: what else, but my world-famous . . . OK, Class of ’06 famous . . . chocolate raspberry dessert.

But these shrines . . . how does a “slacker” mom compete? I know! I’ll display:

-- Her dad’s wallet with flies coming out of it, it’ll be so empty next year with three – count ‘em – three children in college or post-grad school.


-- A little piece of dented fender from the two – count ‘em – two times her precious car has been hit by other hormone-crazed teenagers this school year alone.

-- Her crutches from the time in third grade when she sprained her ankle on a trampoline minutes before our long-awaited trip to Cancun.

-- Her passport picture from that same trip. She was laughing when they took it. She looks like a deranged squirrel that someone just tickled.

Her “shrine” might not be dignified . . . but dang! It’ll be different!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

TYLER'S FIRETRUCKS

Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.
-- Matthew 5:8

Our good friends were living in Sheridan, Wyo., with their three small sons, when one day, adorable Tyler, 2½, starting walking at a slant and falling over, like a drunken sailor.

“Tyler! What are you doing, Buddy?” his mother laughed, thinking he was being silly. “Why do you keep losing your balance?”

“I can’t stand up, Mom,” was his reply.

Her smile vanished. He wasn’t kidding. She took him to the doctor. At first they thought he’d been poisoned, but the tox screens were clear.

Then the nightmare began in earnest: the CAT scan showed there was a mass on Tyler’s brainstem.

A mass!

A tumor!

Oh, my God!

But that’s all they knew without more extensive medical testing.

It was 3 p.m. on the day before the Christmas weekend, and most of the clinic staff had already left. The nearest facility with an MRI machine and spinal tap capability was in a hospital in Billings, Mont. It was two hours away . . . and they closed in two hours.

It was a total blur: she sped home and packed up bottles for Tyler’s baby brother, just three weeks old. She slogged his baby clothes from the washing machine into a plastic sack because there was no time to dry them. She tried to keep the baby happy, and Tyler and his older brother somewhat calm. Her husband picked them up with screeching tires, and they literally set sail for Billings. At the time, Montana didn’t have a speed limit. You can imagine.

All the way . . . every moment of that drive . . . they prayed. They got on their cell phones and called all their loved ones, everyone they knew, and got them to pray, too. It may be the only time in recorded history in which “prayers per minute” exceeded “miles per hour.”

They got there in time. Tyler went through all the tests, and spent the night in the hospital, where everybody fell in love with him. What’s not to love about a 2-year-old boy who was crazy about firetrucks, and chattered about his firetruck toys, and the firetrucks he’d crawled all over during his visit to the fire station, and how his grown-up cousin had let him try on his firefighter gear, and it was really, really cool.

Finally, Tyler dozed off, innocent and rosy-cheeked. They slept the fitful sleep of parents out of their minds with worry.

Next morning, the neurologist came in with the test results. He had a funny look on his face.

“Whatever was there, is gone,” he told the parents. “To be honest, I don’t know what happened. Maybe he had a virus. . . .”

Joy erupted all over everybody’s faces. They had no doubt it was the power of prayer.

They hugged their boys, and kissed them, and gathered up their stuff and started for home. They got the seats wet in the car with their tears. A couple of days later, they had the happiest Christmas ever, and then some.

Now fast-forward a few months. They were having supper. The older brother had some spiritual questions, as children do. He asked what heaven looks like, and whether his mom or dad had ever seen God, or talked to Him.

Before they could answer, little Tyler piped up from his high chair:

“I’ve seen God! I talked to Him, too!”

His parents exchanged glances, and smiled.

“Remember when I lost my balance and the doctors put me in that long machine?”

Hunh? They listened intently.

“I talked to Him then. He was really nice, Mom. He told me it was going to be OK . . .

“. . . and I should go on and ride some more firetrucks.”

Firetrucks?

Ride some more. . . .

They were so flabbergasted, they forgot to ask what God looked like. But that’s OK: they’ll see Him soon enough.

And something tells me He’ll have Tyler next to Him, and they’ll be riding in the biggest, shiniest firetruck you ever saw. I mean . . . it’ll be really, really cool. †

Saturday, May 06, 2006

NEVER TAKE ADVICE FROM THE MOM OF A GRADUATING SENIOR

I was commiserating with a friend about an arbitrary and capricious rule at our high school that looked as though it was really going to hurt her child. It’s a long story, but it looks like she is going to lose half credit for a class because of too many absences, even though she has turned in all the assignments and has a good grade going.

This youngster is a freshman. Her mom has several more years of getting along with the educrats ahead of her, and didn’t want to mess this up so that they’d hate her and make things difficult for her child.

“I’m so worried!” she confided. “What should I say? What will work?”

Our daughter graduates in a few days, and I’m a cynical, grizzled old veteran of situations like this. I don’t care about my reputation at that school anymore. I told her:

“Forget trying to persuade them rationally. Do the only thing that’s guaranteed to work. WEAR A BLACK LEATHER JACKET WITH NOTHING UNDER IT, AND HAVE IT UNZIPPED DOWN TO YOUR NAVEL.”

A few seconds on the clock ticked by before she knew for sure that I was kidding.

Ah, these younger moms . . . and ohhhh, brother . . . if these educrats only KNEW!!!

Friday, May 05, 2006

OH, THOSE WILD AND SCARY
MORNING KINDERGARTEN GIRLS

Maddy is going to take an arts and crafts class one morning a week this summer from her kindergarten teacher. Maddy and one other girl from the afternoon kindergarten class will join two girls from the morning class in this weekly excursion into the wonderful world of creativity. It’s also a way for a dedicated but highly underpaid teacher in a Christian school to make a little summer money, which we’re all for, and a great way for Maddy to meet some new kids.

But she expressed concern about that very thing. In fact, she was worried. Her little brows knit in consternation. She acted like she was afraid of the other two girls.

Maddy? SHY? The social butterfly of the western world?

Something was bothering her about those girls, all right. Finally, she spilled her guts. “The girls in the morning kindergarten class all have . . . CURLY HAIR!” She covered her face with her hands with a half-laugh, half-sob, like when you’re really frightened but you know you shouldn’t be.

Sounds like someone’s mother has neglected to teach her about . . . diversity?!?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

L.Z. AND HER IMAGINARY FRIEND, ELZO

Here’s a story by Maddy, 6, written as a special thank-you to her friend L.Z.,
a friend of our family who lives in Texas but was in town recently
and left a darling purple sack full of Easter games and prizes at our front door.

-------------------------------------------

L.Z. and her imaginary friend, Elzo, took a walk in the forest. L.Z. found a rabbit. Elzo found an owl. L.Z. went up ahead of the imaginary friend. L.Z. got lost. But Elzo sent the owl to fly overhead, and the bunny to hop forward, until they found her, and hugged. Then the imaginary friend found the end of the forest.

Then L.Z. and Elzo went on another walk around their neighborhood. L.Z. found a dog. The dog barked. The imaginary friend found a cat. The cat said, “Meow. Meow.” Then Elzo found a mouse. The cat almost got the mouse. L.Z. was soooooo worried about the mouse but she was happy that the mouse got away. The imaginary friend found a robin. The robin flew into the air, and the imaginary friend followed it to a tree next to a house and then, they walked up the sidewalk to the house. And then they went inside and they figured that that was their house. And the dog ran over to the house and the cat, and the mouse, and the robin and the bunny from the forest, all came. And the owl made a home in the tree by the house right next to the robin. Then, a turtle came to the house and a zebra came in to the neighborhood.

Elzo jumped up and said, “What are we going to do with all of these animals?” L.Z. said, “That’s a good question. Why don’t we start a zoo?”

THE END

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

PUNS BY THE PORCH

I don’t get out much. I have to make my own fun. Since it’s just me that I’m entertaining, I don’t have to work too hard, either.

Take our front porch. I am a gardener as well as a cornball. Last, but not least, I am the mother of four daughters. Someday, we’d like to get them married off, though, of course, it’s not a hotly-burning priority. They’re all still too young, and will remain “too young” until they are, oh, in their 30s.

But anyway, I planted some flowering plants together by our entryway that relate to our status as a home for four beautiful young ladies. It is funny to think about these plants as silent witnesses and sentinels as a long line of would-be knights in shining armor – OK, their dates – come and go.

First, I put bachelor’s buttons.

Next, I planted impatiens.

Next, I put maiden grass, guarded by a very large and imposing – protective, actually -- mum.

Finally, right by the door, there’s a victorious bridal wreath spirea.

Someday, inside our front entryway, I’ll put a potted plant to go with this whole progression. It’s a tall, sharp and spikey succulent: “Mother-in-Law Tongue.”

If there’s a “divorce plant” out there, I don’t want to know about it!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

WHUPPIN'S?

Someone we know who is very sweet and gentle has a temporary job doing research over the telephone. Under the direction of a college psychology professor, she is calling people out of the blue, and asking if they have any neck or back pain.

This is in a state in the Deep South. People have been basically pretty cordial. Sometimes, they’ve been amazingly revealing, too.

One time, a lady answered the phone in a deep, deep drawl and said sure, she had time to talk; she was just sitting out on her front porch. It sounded like a coon dog was howling in the background, and things were clanking (a still? farm implements?) with occasional shouts and screams (Hatfields vs. McCoys?). She interrupted the call briefly to shout, “You kids! Beee-have! YOU KIDS!!!”

Well, it painted a picture.

Then when it came down to the key question – did she have any neck or back pain – the lady said something like, “Lawdy, yes, I have back pain. It’s because of all the ___-whuppin’s my old man has given me. HEY, YOU KIDS!!! . . .”

The researcher thought it was a joke, and almost laughed. Good thing she didn’t. It wasn’t. She just recorded the response, verbatim, on the form, as she is supposed to do . . . and moved on to the next call.

Ah, telemarketing: who knew it had the timeless tragic themes of fine literature, like “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Gomer Pyle”. . . .

Monday, May 01, 2006

SCABBY CHICK?

We were at a party, and someone pronounced the space-arranging term, “feng shui,” as “FUNG CHOY.”

I knew he was probably right. He looked stylish. I couldn’t help admitting that I’ve always pronounced it, “FENG SHOOEY.”

His wife bailed me out. She looked even MORE stylish. Turns out that, a few years ago, they redecorated their home inside and out in a format known as “shabby chic.” You know: distressed woodwork, paint artfully rubbed off on some corners, certain kinds of fabrics that remind you of a very old English cottage with boatloads of charm. . . .

. . . but her friend misunderstood. SHE thought the new d├ęcor was “scabby chick.”

EWWWW! Wallpaper with roosters who look like they have leprosy?!? Throw pillows with fluffy chicks with red sores on their necks?

I wouldn’t even want to go in a home like that, not even to take a . . . PEEP. I’d . . . BAWK!