Saturday, December 5, 2009

Andy and the Toilet Incident

When Andy was little we made regular visits to the emergency room. That boy scared us so many times. Here are a few examples:
  • At his 2nd Christmas while visiting the Zieglers, I noticed that he was chewing on something. (Andy was always putting things in his mouth.) So I told him to open up so I could see. What I saw was a mouthful of blood and glass! He was chewing on a Christmas ornament.
  • I can’t remember how old he was when I caught him in the kitchen with medicine bottles and pills on the floor around him. I didn’t know what he had taken or how much. So…I gave him some Ipecac and called the Poison Control Center in a total panic. After telling them the kinds of pills that were out and starting to count, they told me he was in no danger. I asked why he didn’t throw up and they told me that it takes about half of hour. Half an hour?! What good is that?! Sure enough, about half an hour later I felt horribly guilty while holding my puking little guy. At this point I was pretty sure he’d swallowed nothing and was wondering what in the heck was going on.
  • We made multiple trips for steri strips and stitches from hitting the coffee table, wall, tub, etc. He once almost tore his ear in half when Tana pushed him off the bed. After a while, I felt pretty nervous walking into the Greeley County Emergency Room. My explanations sounded fake even to me!
  • The incident requiring the most stitches happened on a bicycle ride. After being warned repeatedly to watch out for the mud in the gutters (he was enjoying making tire tracks) he finally fell. I turned around to help him up. As I pulled my bicycle up beside him I realized that he was bleeding. His right handlebar was stuck in the left side of his neck! The rubber gripper had come off a while back and the exposed metal was sharp enough to pierce. I ran into the nearest house and called 911. It had stopped short of his esophagus and missed any veins or arteries. This ER trip required internal as well as external stitches.
After almost losing Andy when he was so young, it really scared me that he was so accident prone. I was afraid he would never make it through his childhood.

 On to the story…

Now, Andy is one of those males who can spend an easy half hour on the toilet. He has always been this way. In fact, we waited outside the Bramlage men’s bathroom for 10 minutes after the coliseum had cleared out once!

After one such episode when he was 3 or 4, I was in the bathroom to run the kids bath and noticed that he had forgotten to flush. Upon looking into the toilet bowl I was terrified to see that mixed in with the normal body waste were these grape-looking things.

To fully understand the terror I felt, you need to know that Todd had a cousin that died at a very young age due to cancer. The family would describe grape-like things that came out of her during baths and such. I had never heard of such a thing. But when I saw the mess in the toilet, I knew that Andy had cancer.

Almost hysterical, I ran to get Todd. We asked Andy what it was and he didn’t seem to have any idea. Of course, it surely scared him that I was so scared. I told Todd that I was taking Andy to the emergency room and that he needed to stay home with the other children. Then I got a glass from the kitchen, scooped up some of the offending material, grabbed Andy, and headed to the hospital.

The emergency room was empty that night (ah…the blessing of a small town) so the nurse took us to a room and I explained the situation. I knew all of the gals there, not just from our frequent ER visits but also from having their kids in class. After an inspection, the doctor was called. As we waited for him to come, I tearfully explained about Todd’s cousin and that I was terrified that it was the same horrible cancer. Several nurses came in and out to see this strange phenomenon. None of them had seen anything like it and they all seemed just as scared as I was!

Before the doctor came in, however, Todd came in.

While bathing Annie after we left, he noticed the toilet roll holder lying on the floor. This was not just a typical metal roll holder with a spring inside. It was a plastic slotted roll holder filled with scented granules. However, it was broken and some granules were lying on the floor and some were wet and bloated from splashed bath water. In fact, with some more water they could be bloated up like a grape.

Andy had apparently kept himself entertained on the pot by playing with this cool new toy.

Todd walked into the emergency room to see me and some nurses seriously inspecting a glass full of toilet water, poop, and scented granules. After an explanation (with broken toilet roll holder in hand), we left the ER to guffaws of laughter. But it was with great relief that we took our son and filthy glass back home.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Wedding Ring

I lost it. It's gone.

Last Sunday I went to the YMCA and realized I hadn't removed my wedding ring. So I took it off and put it in my cupholder. I remember thinking at the time that someone could break in and steal it. I very, very rarely remove it. That's the last time I remember seeing it.

That ring is more than just a ring to me. It's been part of me for over 15 years. The poor thing has been through a lot.

In the late spring of 1993, Todd took me ring shopping. First I had a to sign a hand-written contract saying that I would keep my mouth shut about it! The first store we went to was Woelk's Diamond Jewelers in Russell, KS. The first ring we looked at was mine. It was an original! We never found another ring that we liked as much.

Todd officially proposed to me over the Fourth of July that year. He only had the engagement ring portion because, as a poor college guy, the other part was still at Woelk's while he made the payments.

In August that year I started my first teaching job. It was rough being away for Todd for that semester but I was very busy coaching volleyball and being a single mother to a kindergartener. One morning I woke up and my ring finger was swollen up. Something had bit me during the night. The ring wouldn't budge and the swelling kept getting worse. School hadn't started and I had my girls doing two-a-day practices. After early morning practice I called Todd crying. Heath and I drove to Dighton and I had it cut off. It was traumatic!

The night before Todd and I were married, he went out with his buddies for his bachelor party--Todd, Mac, Jack, Hank, and Jeremy. They even met up with some Hugoton guys while they were out that night in Liberal. Jack and Mac got tickets that night for the "intent" of relieving themselves in the fountain on Main Street. (They got out of those!) When the guys got back to Jer's house, my ring was gone. In a panic, they started searching. The velvet-covered box was found on the floor. It had been chewed up by Shadow, Jer's German Shepherd. However, when they opened it my ring was still inside it without a scratch. I still have that box.

Since then it has rarely left my hand. The underside of the ring is thin from so much wear. Over the years I've cleaned many substances out of its nooks and crannies--everything from baby poop to cookie dough to hair product. In fact, it has become a tradition to sit at dad and mom's kitchen bar over the 4th of July with my sisters and mother and clean all of our rings together while we share stories about our year. Weird tradition, I know. (I never said my family was normal!)

It has been in numerous lakes and both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It has been made bigger and then bigger and, when my finger got thinner, I wrapped taped around it so I could still wear it until it was made smaller. I've lost a diamond that was replaced. I've had the prongs built up. Many people have commented on its uniqueness...and to this day I have never seen another like it.

It even has a flaw that only makes it more endearing to me. You can actually see the flaw with your bare eye. Anytime I got it cleaned or fixed or resized, I looked to make sure that my flaw was there. It was MY ring and MY flaw.

It's been there through our ups and downs. Wow, marriage is quite a journey. I know it's just a piece of jewelry, but it represents so much to me.

And now it is gone.

It's funny how my trust in God affects how I look at everything. Even this makes me think that after 15 years--raising kids, changing careers, moving, growing apart and together in the ebb and flow that is a marriage--maybe a fresh start is in order.

And, who knows, maybe one day God will make sure it's returned to me. In the meantime, I'll be perfectly happy with a band.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Funny Things My Kids Say--Part 6

The other day we were having company for dinner. For dessert, I purchased two chocolate chip cookie mixes. However, that evening I had a headache. Knowing that my daughter likes to bake, I called Tana up and asked her if she would mix and bake the cookies for me. She was happy to do so.

I laid down to take a short nap and try to quash the ache in my head. But too soon I was awakened by the smell of burning cookies. Lying there, I heard Todd hollering for Tana and listened as she removed the sad little things from the oven.

After a few more minutes, I got up to check out the damage. Yep, they were pretty burned.

What had happened? I wondered if she got distracted by homework or the computer. Did she forget to set the timer? Did she have her iPod going and just not hear? So I called her up to get the scoop.

I asked, “What happened to the cookies?”

Tana answered, “I only cooked them a little over 10 minutes…about 12 minutes!”

Hmmm… “Tana, the package says to cook them 8 to 10 minutes. Since you like chewy cookies, you should’ve taken them out at 8 minutes.”

And Tana answered, “I wasn’t sure how long to cook them since I doubled the recipe.”

I found that burnt chocolate chip cookies go down best when served warm with laughter.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer 2009: The funny, fearsome, and fascinating!

As far as my summers go, this one ranked up there. Rather than working on my dissertation or consulting on educational grant projects, I simply enjoyed the time with my kids. As I reflect on the last couple of months, I realize that we’ve had some interesting adventures and observations.

Both girls were participating in a softball tournament in town one Saturday. It was a hectic and wet morning. (The tournament was eventually cancelled due to rain.) Between the first two games, Todd went to the car to get some umbrellas when he noticed an older woman on her little Rascal.

The grouchy old lady had driven off the sidewalk and was trying to get her Rascal back up on the cement. Todd was passing a man with a dog on a leash and she was shrieking at him: “You need to keep an eye on your dog!” The situation got Todd’s attention and he turned to see how the man was handling this public scolding. The man turned around and yelled, “I’m blind! Okay?!”

That’s when Todd noticed the white cane and realized that this “seeing eye” dog apparently doesn’t yield to personal mobility vehicles.

Did you notice the large, fluorescent green, flying beetles this summer? Where did these things come from?!

One evening Todd and I decided to make a Walmart run. The kids love to come along on these excursions in the hopes of scoring a new toy or trinket. On this occasion, Annie and the little girls from across the street came running over to the yard. Todd told them that we were running to the store and Tana would be in charge.

Annie begged to come along but Dad was firm and told her she had to stay home this time. In reply Annie said, “Fine. We’ll just shake our butts and leave!” With that, the three girls turned and walked away.

Over the 4th of July weekend we all (except Lisa’s clan) went to Dad and Mom’s. While the grandkids set off fireworks, we all enjoyed the nice weather and each other’s company. With all of our families together, we always end up with lots of fireworks to enjoy. The kids have a ball lighting, laughing, and running.

Dad has a large cement slab outside the shed that doubles as a launching pad every year. With our folding chairs in a semi-circle, everyone had a great view. Of course, we were also telling stories and jokes as well as taking pictures. There’s always lots of laughter when we are all together.

Mike, Jessi, and Caitie were handling the larger fireworks. We had several mortars that were dropped in a tube so that they would shoot straight up. They were some pretty powerful explosives and made for a beautiful display. However, Mike accidently knocked one over after lighting it—facing directly into our chairs. Marc calmly said, “That’s not good.” Feeling like the world was going in slow motion, Mike yelled, “Ruuuuunnnnnnn!!!!”

Everyone scrambled except Andy who stood there like a deer in the headlights. There were also three of us still in our chairs—Brandee was taking Dad and my picture. We were totally oblivious to all the excitement until things started lighting up!

BTW—the picture of Dad and I is really good!

Speaking of Brandee, somehow she got on a “texting list” to get helpful dating tips for the single guy. Once every week or so, one of these little gems would come across her phone. Here’s a couple of my favorite:

If you have a pet, take a picture of it and put it in your wallet. If a honey asks if you have someone special in your life, take it out and show it to her.

When you meet someone new, tell her that you are 20 years older than you really are. Then say, “Don’t I look good for my age?”

If you’re talking to two honeys, don’t mack on either of them. Instead, get your swerve on and let them fight for your attention.

Oh, what great tips! I can just picture the chubby dork down his momma’s basement sending these to desperate men. Each of them ends with “For help, call…” and a phone number!

Tana and I went for many long evening walks. On one occasion a neighbor was outside scolding her dog. We’re not sure what the dog had done but laughed and laughed when we heard, “You’re just a furry sack of tators! Yes you are! You’re just a furry sack of tators!”

What in the world does THAT mean?

Jeff and Kim have a ghost that their children refer to as the “dark boy.” When we stayed with them over Memorial Weekend, I think we got his bedroom. Besides getting locked in our room FROM THE INSIDE one night, Todd found his Solo cup that he’d placed on top of the fridge had bite marks all around the rim the next morning.

One afternoon the kids and I went with Shanel and her kids on a day trip to Kanopolis Lake. It was the perfect day to go out there—hot and still. We took lots of snacks and floaties. While the kids played, we laid out on the water or on the sand.

I was out on my floatie enjoying the heat of the sun and cool of the water, when I noticed the stench of something dead and rotting. I looked around because it hadn’t been there before and nobody else seemed to be noticing it. The kids were on the beach digging in the sand with shovels and buckets. I vaguely thought, “Hmmm…I wonder if they dug something up?”

Within a few minutes they started screaming. Andy had a dead, rotting, fairly large fish on his little plastic shovel. The whole beach reeked with the horrific odor! Everyone out there was just thrilled with this discovery.

I had them go further down the beach, dig a hole, and bury it.

The people who lived here before us were antique collectors. In our backyard was a pile of old bricks from Kansas brick roads. This summer I used them to design and create a brick patio in our backyard that we will enjoy for many years to come.

One day we decided to go with Brandee to Manhattan for a day trip. The idea was to pick up her nieces and nephews so that we could all go swimming together. Well, it ended up being an eventful day. After picking up the kids in Wamego, we made the drive back to Manhattan only to discover that the pool was closed. So, we drove back to Wamego to swim in their pool. After about ½ hour, the kids had to get out because there was a floater. No, not a dead body. Fecal matter in a pool requires a bit of sanitization before the swimmers can return.

What a day—lots of driving with little action! When we dropped the kids back off at home, their parents were there. We visited for a few minutes then headed out to the vehicle. On the way, one of the kids said, “Andy ate some dog food!” We were all outside at this point. I looked at Andy and said, “Well, what did it taste like, buddy?” Then I chuckled because I knew they were expecting a totally different reaction from Mom. Then Andy responded, “Just like every other dog food.”

After the laughter died down, I was able to inquire about his dog food sampling history.

As Tana and I were walking tonight we had a great time recounting our summer stories for possible inclusion in my blog. We also tried thinking of a title using different letters and finally decided on “F” even though Tana thought that beginning the school year this way might be a bad omen. It’s funny--sometimes our walks are completely quiet with both of us lost in a comfortable silence filled with our own thoughts while other walks are a gabfest punctuated with giggling.

Man…I’m blessed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The 4th of July!

The 4th of July is my favorite holiday.

Every town has their special “day” or event. In Salina it’s the River Festival. In Todd’s hometown it’s Satanta Day. In Tribune it’s the Greeley County Fair. But in Hugoton it is the 4th of July.

The morning of Independence Day starts early in Hugoton with events at the park and a parade. As a child, I remember eagerly anticipating this morning each summer. Our park was beautiful—full of large trees which provided lots of shade, playground equipment, and the pool. There was always a dunking booth, cake walk, three-legged race, face painting, sack race, turtle race, egg toss, sawing contest, ring toss, and bingo. But some years brought interesting new ideas. I remember one year when two people took turns sitting on a horizontal pole over a Port-a-Pit and pelted each other with padded sticks until one fell off.

The morning always ended with a swimsuit beauty contest. Don’t get too excited—the participants were all under the age of 6! Dressed in their cutest swimsuit, little boys and girls would parade around the pool getting introduced over a loud speaker as spectators crowded around the chain link fence to get a good view and take pictures. Although I remember participating in this event, I certainly didn’t win.

When Domino’s opened (not the Pizza chain but a tasty little burger joint owned by great guy that had this for a nickname), my family began the annual tradition of walking there from the park and eating lunch together. Nowadays, this requires a pretty big table—not to mention a race with the Stegman’s, who at some point started the same tradition!

Somewhere along the way, the boys quit coming to the park with us and began their own little tradition of golfing with Dad all morning while Mom, my sisters, and I chase the kids around the park and have fun catching up with old friends who have returned for the annual festivities.

By this date each year, wheat harvest was complete and my folks and their friends were ready to unwind. We often got together with friends for some type of party. The parents sat around in lawn chairs while we blew things up all afternoon with big metal coffee cans full of firecrackers. At some point, one of my brothers-in-law brought a potato gun. After that, the boys worked together to design and build another one to perfection. From that year on, as my sisters and I played with the kids, the boys shot the potato gun. It always cracked us up that they laughed long and hard after EVERY shot! This led up to Tana’s famous line to Aunt Casy (probably at about 4 years old), “I love fireworks day. I love potato day.” Mom learned quickly to stock up on potatoes and cheap hairspray.

My hometown always put on a great fireworks display at the Babe Ruth baseball diamond. I remember being impatient for the baseball game to end. Between the game and nightfall there was typically a coin hunt in a pile of hay. With my asthma, I never got to participate in this exciting event. Everyone would park out there and sit in the stands, lawn chairs, the pickup beds to “ooh” and “ahh” at the sight. It always ended with an American Flag that would light up for a few seconds before fizzling out to signal the end. In the last several years this has been held at the Dirtona Raceway but most often at the high school football field where spectators sit in the bleachers and are often treated to some type of entertainment prior to the display.

Back at home, the fun really began. This is when Dad drug out the night fireworks that he had purchased. Grown men are just like excited children when it comes to fireworks! Typically we had a driveway full of friends and a huge stockpile of things to light up. In town we simply lit these in the street. Now that my folks live in the country, we use the cement slab by the shed—unless it’s been a particularly dry summer. My husband and brothers-in-law share that same ornery gleam that my Dad always has in his eye when it’s time to light ‘em up. The grandkids all take turns helping with this task with shrieks of fear and excitement.

Over the years, we’ve deviated from this typical schedule on occasion. Many of these years, work kept someone away. One year Heath was recovering from surgery in Wichita and we watched the fireworks over there. When the twins were babies, I remember being exhausted and staying at Dad and Mom’s to watch from the window while everyone went into town. Of course, I’ll never forget the Independence Day weekend of 1991 when we lost Thad, Carrie, and Delbert. Remembering Thad’s ornery grin will always be part of this day for me.

So many have given so much to give us the freedoms that we enjoy in this wonderful country—the United States of America. I know that I was blessed to be born in this country and raised in Hugoton, Kansas. No wonder this is my favorite holiday. Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Just for the record...I only got sent to the Principal's office twice while attending Hugoton Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. Both times Brooke was in with me!

In 5th grade we were in Mr. Calvert's class. Brooke and I sat in the back left corner with Shannon and either Jana or Rene in front of us. Over in the back right corner sat the trio of Billy, Darren, and Jeff. They loved to torment us. We, however, also found little ways to get under their skin. (I remember, for instance, calling them "Lilly Beeper" and "Karen Dark".)

I'm going to side-track for just a minute here because I LOVED Mr. Calvert's class. Here are some highlights from that year:
  • We listened to music often--Flying Purple People Eater, I love a Rainy Night (I can picture Thad and Lance on the front row singing this and bobbing their heads back and forth!), The Tide is High...

  • Jolly Ranchers--these were our "prizes" for different activities.

  • Short Stories--I remember going to the the little custodial closet to record my short story on a cassette player. At the end of the year we walked to his house for a field trip and listened to all of them! We thought they were all so funny.

  • As we walked back to class from PE, cutting across the playground, Aaron punched Brooke which knocked the wind out of her, which made her pass out! She was at the end of the line and nobody realized it! Did we make it back to the room and see her out the window or realize it before we got back in? I can't remember...

  • Select Choir--I was an alto and Brooke was a soprano. However, after we were given our seating assignments, Brooke and I decided we needed to sit together. So we sat on the back row of her section. Apparently Mrs. Stahlman had forgotten where we were SUPPOSED to sit. We both sang high soprano from then on. It was NOT pretty!

  • Shannon put a tack on Brooke's chair as a joke. When Brooke came back to her seat, she was talking to me and put her knee on her chair. That tack sank all the way into her kneecap. It was pretty tramatic for all of us girls!

Back to the story...

The devilish trio was often tormenting us. Since we all sat at the back, they would say things that Mr. Calvert could not hear. I don't remember ever tattling on them but we were sassy enough to retaliate occasionally.

On this particular occasion, we were working with clay. (Mr. Calvert must've had a good understanding of Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles even back then!) As the boys were tormenting us, I made a clay face. Then I said to them, "This is Jeff's face!" and I smashed it. They proceeded at this point to hurl obscenities our way. I remember our response to this clearly because I thought we were so clever. We said, "We have mouths, too. And Mr. Begley has ears!"

The next day I came to school and sat with my little group in the common's area waiting for the bell. But while I was waiting, I got called to the Principal's office. Apparently three young men from my class had went to visit him with some concerns. Mr. Begley asked me about making the clay face and smashing it. I, of course, started bawling and admitted to this heinous offense. Then he told me that they had indicated that I was making fun of his ears. What?! I tried to explain our clever response between my sobs but don't know that he ever understood what really happened.

As I left the office, Brooke walked in. The color drained from her as she looked at my tear-streaked face. She really thought she was in for it! When I got back to class, Mr. Calvert pulled me aside to see if I was okay. I was so embarrassed that I was crying so I wanted to justify my tears. My response was, "Casy hit me!" (Years later I told Casy about this little untruth. She was mortified!)

My second offense was on the bus in junior high. We were headed to a track meet or a field trip somewhere. Brooke and I were sitting together and this time we were being tormented by Brian and Lance.

I had made a trip to Bloodharts right before we left so I had one of their cute little sacks with Precious Moments characters on them. This particular sack had two sweet little girls hugging one another. We wrote Brian's name and drew an arrow pointing to one girl then wrote Lance's name with an arrow pointing to the other...then handed this back, seat by seat, until it reached them on the bus.

Brian went home that evening and gave it to his mother. The next morning she went to see Mr. Krueger with the little bag in hand. Brooke and I got 15 minutes of detention. We served it with pride.

Friday, May 29, 2009


My summer started today at 1:00. It could not have been a more beautiful day, either.

I've always loved the summers. Growing up in Hugoton, my sisters and I walked, rode our bikes, and skateboarded all over town. There were a few summers, when Lisa was still little enough that she rode on the back of Mom's bike, that I remember taking family bicycle rides. Dad would head up the group while Mom brought up the rear. We had a specific path through town that we took. I loved those rides. Dad always started a game of tag with us older girls. It made Mom so nervous to watch us swerve at each other.

As I got a little older, I remember waiting patiently for 2 o'clock to roll around so I could go to the pool. We were there almost everyday all day. We had this pea green Ram Charger (we could remove the top) that was Mom's summer ride. It had a roll bar so it was also the sand dune cruizer. I'm not sure why my Dad and his friends thought it fun to see who could climb the steepest dune!

In junior high I got my learner's permit. I can very clearly remember that first summer of driving--Ranae and Tammie were in town and Footloose was the HOT soundtrack of the summer. Any time I hear one of those songs, I think of grinning at my cousins while getting used to being behind the wheel!

High school summers included babysittng the Crawford boys and swimming. Little Brett and I had lots of fun! Of course, going to the pool in high school had absolutely NOTHING to do with swimming. My best friend, Julie, also babysat. We always coordinated our schedules to do things together with the kids.

Summers in college were busy with classes. I was in a hurry to get out and get a job so I always enrolled full-time and worked. However, Heath and I found time to go to the Hays neighborhood pools quite often--followed by a Sonic drink or a TCBY yogurt. I also always took 2 weeks off to go home and see my folks and Lisa for a while.

After my first year of teaching, I remember the exhileration I felt when the realization hit me that I had 3 months with my son! Todd and I were married the previous March and right at the beginning of the summer we found out that we were going to have a baby. That was a special summer. A summer that was just focused on Heath (and our new puppy, Tandy). In Healy there was a small community pool that we paid to use. Plus we spent many evenings watching Heath pick dandelions in right field.

Summers in Tribune were very busy. The kids were growing and our family was growing. I actually managed the pool the year I was pregnant with the twins! Tana was 3 and could swim like a fish...a dark little blondie! We always had to take Barbie along with us to the pool. Later in Tribune, we bought a bigger house right across the street from the pool. It was heavenly! We had a big, beautiful and shady back yard where we spent most of our time. Summers in Tribune were filled with bike rides and long walks in the evenings.

At first the walks included a double-stroller, but as the years went on we watched our kids move to bikes with, and later without, training wheels. They love telling the story of Mom hitting a pothole and going over her handlebars before landing on the pavement with road rash from my toes to my forehead. They think it is so funny that I lost my little front granny basket during that fall! I proved my toughness by finishing that bike ride even though I was a bloody mess.

In Salina we live by a dike that has a walking trail on it. That 2-mile long trail see us come up and down almost every evening--usually with the little ones on their bikes. The second summer we were here, Heath and I wore ourselves out with daily workouts as he was getting ready to go into the Navy. Our pool adventures now typically involve a drive to a nearby town to play at an aquatic center.

I'm so excited for a new summer with my children and the warm sun. I look forward to the upcoming adventures we will take and the memories we will make.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Funny Things My Kids Say--Part 5

One day this past week I had to leave the house early for a meeting. I'm very blessed to have my sister, Casy, living only about 2 blocks away and she agreed to help me out by getting my 10-year-old twins, Andy and Annie, to school for me.

After loading them in and buckling up, they headed down the road with "Ring of Fire" playing on her stereo. This recording artist helped make up the soundtrack of our childhood. If you've read my other posts, you know that there are several. She decided to quiz my children to see if I've been raising them properly to recognize his voice.

She turned up the song and asked, " you know who this is?" Andy said, "I know this one!" Then he got a look of concentration on his face as he tried to think of the name. As they drove further, Casy asked again, "Who is it?" Andy answered again that he was sure he knew, he just needed a few minutes to think! Annie, on the other hand, sat quietly just listening to the music and contemplating the question. A little closer to school Casy offered, "I'll give you a hint. His initials are the same as Jesus." Andy was so frustrated that he couldn't think of the name!

As they pulled into the parking lot, Casy exclaimed, "It's Johnny Cash!" Andy replied, "Oh Yeah!" while Annie finally piped up with "What is Jesus last name?!"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mostromisms Part II

Besides just having names for things, my family also has phrases that were commonly used. Heath posted one of these on his return home to San Diego after his recent visit. I'll start with that one.
Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jig: Any time we went somewhere, when we returned my parents would say this. I'm not sure if this was a Mostrom thing or something that came from my mother, a Phifer. Without even thinking about it, when we return home from a trip I say this to my own children. It actually comes from a little nursery rhyme that I never heard until I was grown.
Skin the Rabbit: When we were very young and Mother would help us undress, she would have us raise our hands in the air. As she pulled our shirt or dress over our head, she would say, "Skin the Rabbit!" Again...I'm not sure if this originally came from my Mom or Dad. Of course, by the time I had my own children it had been many years since my Mother had helped me undress. But the words out of my mouth were always--Skin the Rabbit! One day the kids and I got to talking about this phrase and I realized just how GROSS this saying actually is... especially since I've witnessed a rabbit being skinned. It's not a pleasant sight!

Do you realize that my fist is bigger than your whole face? My Dad used to hold up his fist near our face and say this when we were being belligerent as children and young ladies. Never do I remember my father raising a hand to any of us, so this was always said in jest. If we had really done something that called for correction, we all agree that Dad just had to give us "the look" that said he was disappointed. Then we crumbled...

Pitiful: My Mother's favorite singer is definitely Elvis. All of us girls spent hours and hours listening to the King sing from the "Music Room" (that eventually became my bedroom). Whether Mom was cleaning house, exercising, or enjoying a visit from a friend, Elvis kept her company. Dad, of course, was a little jealous. Elvis was not called "The King" by my Dad, he was called, "Pitiful." For example, one might've heard my father say, "Do you want to listen to Pitiful?" or "Is your Mother listening to Pitiful again?"

Gary and the Girls: We had a full size van that was used for family outings and vacations. Wow...we had lots of great times in that van. In fact, from the top of the World Trade Center in New York City we looked down at it and joked that it was probably getting broken into--then when we got down, it HAD been broken into! The leather tire cover was custom-made for my parents and read, "Gary and the Girls." I remember Dad complaining as we were driving down the road that young men would be straining to look in. It took us a while to realize that their idea of Gary and the Girls was not a father, mother, and young daughters!

Boz: My Dad's friends have always referred to him as "Boz." My sisters and I have asked before where this nickname orginated and, of course, we've heard some pretty far-fetched stories from his friends and brothers. Maybe he's just had this nickname for so long that nobody even remembers anymore where it started. When we got older, we used to ask Dad why the van didn't say something like "Boz and the Babes!"

Slop the Hogs: My parents often work together in the kitchen and they also did so when we were young. Usually when a meal was ready, my Dad would round us up for dinner by hollering, "It's time to slop the hogs!" or "Let's slop the hogs!" Again, this was something we heard so often we never even thought about it being so RUDE until we were older.

Oh some point I will need to work on some of our own Tylerisms. One just never knows what might come out of Todd's mouth!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


It's funny how when you are growing up, there are things that your family does that you don't realize are unique to just your family. Here are some of them for the Mostroms.

Silverbars: We had a swingset in the backyard that was homemade. Someone hand-welded thick pipe together and added the attachments for swings and even a glider. It was then painted silver. So, we called them the "silverbars". On the playground at school I wonder if my friends ever thought it strange that I would say, "Let's go play on the silverbars!" To me, it was another word for swingset. I spent hours on this thing growing up. In fact, there are lots of pictures of me as a little toe-headed toddler riding a swinging horse and grinning from ear to ear. They just don't make them like that anymore.

Pig: I don't know how this got started, but the absolute filthiest thing that we could call each other growing up was "pig." Mom said later that since we thought it was a dirty word, in her book it was a dirty word. When we used it, she knew we were cussing each other, and we got in BIG trouble. Isn't it interesting how words can provoke such emotion?

Gudgurl: This one started when I was very young, in fact, probably before I was even born while Mom was potty training Casy and Susan. When we would succeed in pooping in the toilet, Mom would exclaim, "Good girl!" or "That's a good girl!" We didn't realize that our mother was praising us for saving her from cleaning up a mess. Instead, we thought she was telling us the name of this nasty stuff--and that she was excited about it! For years I thought "gudgurl" was a nice name for poop. As in "I need to gudgurl." My mom thought it was cute, and that this sounded much better than the alternative.

Bud Buddies: Dad and Mom always had lots of friends who were always lots of fun. One of these couples was Ron and Gloria White. Each couple had three daughters and soon each had a fourth. It was an interesting coincidence and one that led to lots of shared time together as families. Their girls (in order by age) are Barbara, Brenda, Kelly, and Kristi. Kelly and Casy were the same age and so were Kristi and Lisa. Brenda and Susan were pretty close in age and had similar personalities. When we met them, however, I was very young so I was always paired up with Barbara who probably had to keep an eye on me. The were our "Bud Buddies". I'm not sure where the term came from but it is what we always called each other. Ron's girls were still growing up when he died suddenly from a massive heart attack and Gloria never remarried after losing the love of her life.

Gary's Polka: My Grandpa Mostrom (Grandpapa) played the accordian by ear. This is a complicated instrument with many strange keys and a very large, awkward size. Once he heard a song, he could play it. As a child I didn't realize what a unique and special gift this was. When he and Grandmama were young, they played dance after dance with her on the trapset. One of the songs they played was "Gary's Polka". Gary is my father and this song was written and played solely for him. To us, this was just another fun polka that my Grandparents would play. Although we have old recordings of them playing it, I often wish I could hear it live once more.

Stirrin' Stick: Dad was a farmer. All of us spent time helping him with different tasks in the fields. One of the more time-consuming ones was "changing water". Before pivot irrigation, we would load aluminum pipe on a trailer and it would take three of us (a driver and two pipe-movers) to lay the pipe to water the fields. These pipes had gates on them that could be opened and closed as needed to sufficiently water each row. What a chore this was! Often the gates needed replacing, the pipes stubbornly wouldn't fit together easily, and little animals (from rabbits to snakes) would be inside. Once laid, the water was started and would make it's way from one end of the field to the other. Later, Dad would "check water" which meant that he drove along the other side and listed the rows that needed more water and the rows that were fully watered. We would then go back out with a "stirrin' stick" to close and open gates as needed.

Opening these little gates by hand would be silly. Besides the fact that they were often very tight and hard to move, you never knew what little critter may be down there! The tool that I most often used to complete this task was simply a golf putter. Dad had several thrown in the back of the pickup. But THE "stirrin' stick" was an old tractor tire iron--perfectly rounded to conform nicely to the shape of the pipe. This was a precious tool to my father. To this day it hangs in his shed, a reminder of all of the time he spent walking through his turnrows and tending his land.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Wedding Reception

What a great weekend. It was amazing having my whole family—parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews—in Salina to help us celebrate! Wow…it is so hard to get everyone together. Plus, it was Caitie’s prom so everyone got to see her all dolled up.

The whole Greenway clan was able to come with the exception of Jeffrey’s family. It certainly felt like a reunion! It meant so much to Heath to have all of us together to celebrate such an important event in his life.

My favorite moments…

*As Heath and Stefannie were enjoying the first dance of the evening (I Love the Way You Love Me by John Michael Montgomery), the little ones started circling them on the dance floor. I thought it was so sweet to see them looking up with big grins at the happy couple—and then they whipped out Silly String and blasted them! I didn’t even see it coming! They were covered with the stuff. Immediately afterwards, Stefannie yelled, “Gina, this had to be YOUR idea!” Well, it wasn’t. Stef soon made it a priority to solve this little mystery. All fingers eventually pointed Tiff and Seresa. I should’ve known! When Stef asked them, they simply said, “Welcome to the Scrue!”

*Brooke’s middle child is an amazing dancer! Hmmmm…must be from her dad’s side. ;)

*One of Heath’s best friends was diagnosed with cancer right after high school. He graduated one year before my son. I remember Heath making the trip to take him for treatments in Denver at least once during his senior year. We were so scared. Josh came from Nebraska to celebrate with Heath, bringing a sweet girlfriend. He looked GREAT! Several times during the evening, he danced with this old lady. Two and a half years have passed without cancer now. It’s been a rough road. It amazes me that he has traveled it with such strength and grace. With such a tender heart, it should be no surprise that he and Heath have a close bond.

*It’s 10:30 Sunday night and Stef’s best friend from Michigan, Candace, is still in bed! I asked them if they made sure she was breathing…lightweight.

*When the evening was winding down, Brooke rounded up her family, said her “goodbyes”, and headed for the door...and then Paradise by the Dashboard Light (Meatloaf) came on and THAT plan went out the window! She made a beeline for the dance floor! I thoroughly enjoyed singing and dancing with my old friend. It’s been too long. In that 5 minutes, the last 25 years disappeared. There we were…in her basement, strobe light flashing, and giggling like little girls. Priceless.

*Aubrey (my niece) caught the bouquet while Josh caught the garter.

*Keegan, another one of Heath’s high school friends, also made the trip. I hadn’t seen this young man since graduation. At some point late in the evening, Keegan just walked right up to me and handed me his keys as if to say, “Here they are, Mom. Get me home safely.” I laughed and pocketed them. Good choice.

*Lisa and Kris know EVERY WORD to Ice, Ice Baby! Hey….DORK!

*Chad is a pretty quiet guy. As the boys were growing up, we got to know this laid back, red-necked, big-hearted kid. In fact, when I took Heath to his first concert (Aerosmith!), Chad came with us. He was in rare form last night! I didn’t know Chad HAD those dance moves! I had the pleasure of dancing with him to several different songs. He would just find me every now and then and say, “Come on Little Momma Tyler!” We found this so funny because the boys used to call me “Big Momma Tyler” when they were in high school…but Chad knows that I’ve been working hard on my health and fitness. As we sat at the table today watching video from last night, we had to back up several times to repeatedly watch him doing the “worm”. His comment was, “Now that’s a big worm.” I think he was hurting today…

*Mike and Jess were our DJs. They were perfect! It was great to have our own music to dance to—everything from the Cha, Cha Slide to Jerry Lee Lewis to 80s hair bands to Jump Around! Very cool….thanks guys!

*My family is big on toasts. Any time we are all together celebrating an occasion, we toast the event as well as the participants. Heath and Stefannie made the first toasts last night, expressing appreciation for the event and his family. I was up next. Of course, I love my new daughter-in-law very much. It was my pleasure to publicly welcome her to our family and remind her that this family (the entire Mostrom clan) is a great one. Next, Todd took the microphone. All of you that know my husband also know that he is a private and quiet person (in mixed company). He had been thinking about his toast all day and knew exactly what he wanted to say. He said, “When you get married you need to have the role model of a great marriage to guide you.” And then his emotions took over. It was very moving to watch him continue, voice cracking, with something like “I knew that we had that in Gina’s parents. So, Heath and Stef, learn from Grandpa and Grandma Mostrom. You’ve got some great role models in them.” He told me that there was more that he had wanted to say, but the words just left him in that moment. Those are the BEST toasts, though…right from the heart.

*I’m pretty sure that a spot of grass in our yard will struggle to survive thanks to Heath’s college buddy, Ben.

*Early in the evening when we were trying to get the dance going, I asked Mike to play Home Sweet Home (Motley Crue) so I could dance with Heath. This is my very favorite song and one that I know Heath also really likes. After all, Todd and I also took him to see the Crue when he was 17—the age I was when I saw them for the first time. During this dance, Heath confessed that he had played this song multiple times the week before in anticipation of coming “Home”. It was very sweet when Todd pulled Stef out on the floor to join us for this dance.

*Man, I wish Tom had been here. Hmmm…I think this friend of Heath was the one who started the whole “Momma Tyler” thing. He, however, is in the Coast Guard and was unable to get away. Come see us when you’re in Kansas, Tommy Boy.

*When Heath and Stef cut their cake, they gently started reaching toward each other to share a bite. Then Stef made a sudden move and before we knew it they both had cake up their noses! The pictures of this are hysterical! Picture 1—smiling lovingly at each other, cake almost to the other’s lips. Picture 2—eyes closed, cake shoved blindly, and grimacing. Oh goodness. They both had to go the bathroom and clean up and blow the cake out their noses before they could continue with their shared drink of champagne. Todd kidded them with, “Most couples don’t need to take an intermission!”

*Although we had planned to have the kids watching movies in the other room, they preferred to dance along with us. Mom said today, “I don’t think anyone there had any more fun than Emma!” I think she’s right. Kris and Lisa have their hands full with that 4-year-old firecracker.

*Todd’s smoked pork (42 pounds of it!) was delicious. I am so lucky to be married to a man that loves to cook…and is so good at it. Emeril…eat your heart out!

We ended the evening by making sure that everyone made it safely to their destination. Most of the 20-somethings crashed at our house. Having Heath and his friends hanging out in our house certainly brought about some feelings of déjà vu. As they slowly got around and left today, I was struck by their expressions of thanks and promises to stay in touch with us. These kids that were like part of our family have now grown into wonderful young adults. With Heath being so far away, I’m sure they were conscious of the fact that it may be a long time before they will get to see him again.

Memorable evening...special friends...great family.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Loss of a Mother

Mac called this morning. His mom, Jan, lost her battle with cancer during the night.

Nothing can prepare you for this. It doesn’t matter how old you are. As I think about my best friends, I realize that many of them have already had to face the pain of losing their mothers. I just can’t handle the thought of it.

Susan and I shared a room when we were very young. I remember one night, lying in our twin beds, we got to talking about “what if” dad and mom were to die. As that conversation evolved, it led us to the realization that one day our dad and mom WOULD die. Our little minds just could not bear it. The tears started flowing and as this reality continued to sink in, we became hysterical. I can vividly recall running into the kitchen (where my parents were probably enjoying those few precious quiet moments when the kids are all tucked in) wailing. It took our parents quite a bit to get us calmed down, reassured, and tucked back into bed. But sleep didn’t come easy that night. My mom still remembers that night, also.

Billy was one of my very best friends when I was young. In fact, back then (probably even before school-age) he told his father that he was going to marry Gina Mostrom. We spent hours playing with Terry and Jimmy in our neighborhood. Losing his mother, Sharon, to cancer was so tragic...especially since I really didn't understand what was going on at the time. I just remember watching my friend (along with his older sisters and father) struggle with a broken heart. I'm sure that througout the years he, Marcy, and Kathy have yearned for just one more hug and kiss from their mother.

Not too many years later, a good girlfriend of mine lost her mother, Becky, to breast cancer. As we grew up, I often thought that it was unfair that Brooke had to face life without the guidance and support of her mother. As the oldest of three, Brooke had some big shoes to fill...and she did so with grace and style. Her trust and faith in God was so inspiring to me. She still inspires me. Her mother would be so proud of her accomplishments...and her beautiful girls.

Although I didn’t get to know Tiffany until high school, she had lost her mother at a very tough time in ANY girl’s life—junior high. I had not been there to go through that pain with her, but I could still feel that pain even as she grew into an amazing woman. When five crazy college women decided to take a Spring Break excursion to Vegas, it was in her mom’s old car. She still had it. We made some great memories in it. Maybe she was with us.

My younger sister Lisa married Matt just prior to being discharged from the U.S. Navy. She fell in love with his whole family in Wisconsin, including his mother. Pat was definitely a second mother to Lisa. This spunky little lady always had a smile on her face and a great story to tell. She lived--really lived--right up to the point when breast cancer stole her away, breaking many hearts in the process.

My very best friend was able to care for and comfort her mother, Shirley, through a sad battle with Raynaud’s Disease. It was torturous…for both of them. I was able to visit them in the hospital not long before her mom's death and was horrified at the cruelness of this affliction. Julie was so brave for her mother. She told me much later that the hug I gave her at her mother’s funeral was the only time she ever remembers me hugging her. Since I consider myself a “hugger”, this completely surprised me. I guess sometimes we feel so close to those that we love that we don’t feel the need to physically express our love. That is one mistake that I no longer make.

I met Jan on the same day I met Jeff (Mac) and Todd. After all, we picked the boys up at their homes in Satanta in Tiff’s Trans Am that day. She was a teacher and I always enjoyed my visits with this bright and vibrant woman. When both she and Larry retired, they were able to do some traveling together before and after her battle with breast cancer. Man, we thought she had it beat…until just this past fall. At a KSU football game Larry and Jeff told us that some tests had come back that indicated that the cancer had returned—though it was now in her bones. How quickly these last precious months flew by.

I know that statistically men die younger. In my personal experience, however, this has not been the case. Too many mothers of those that I love have left before we were ready. But I suppose one is never ready to lose his or her mother.

Go give your mom a hug today or at least give her a call. Keep her in your daily prayers. And be grateful for the time you have with her…it is never enough.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

They Say We All Have a Twin Out There

Teaching high school for many years gave me several interesting experiences. When I was teaching high school in Tribune, one day some of the ornery boys in my class were snickering and whispering and looking at me curiously. Where in the world did this come from? I thought that I must've just been the butt of a dirty joke or something. I didn't know. Anyway, I continued to notice it with other boys in the hall. Something was definitely up.

Right before lunch, I had one of these boys in a class and I asked him to stay for a second. With everyone out of the room, I asked him what was going on. Looking quite uncomfortable, he told me that while a group of boys were messing around together over the weekend, a bunch of them were surfing some inappropriate websites on the computer and came upon my picture. I assured him that the picture could not be me. But, he insisted…and told me that I might want to take a look. (At this point, I am thinking this is funny! These boys must have vivid imaginations.) So, I asked him for the website. Of all things, it was! (This was even funnier to me since I was teaching teens!)

So, I sent him off to lunch and I looked it up--in the name of research. There I was, on my knees, elbows on the floor, derriere in the air, grinning at the camera, without a stitch of clothes on! On the home page of this porn site!

Now...let me back up for a second. Of course, it was NOT me. But she looked so much like me that it was scary. At the time, my hair was long and highlighted and even this looked identical in the picture. I saved the image on a disk then went down to talk to the principal. Thinking it would be best to head-off any future accusations, I told him about my morning and he about fell over when I showed him the picture and told him that it was NOT me. Thank goodness that the model was posed such that the important parts were not visible. He was a good sport and chuckled. The picture made the rounds to the other teachers and we all had a good laugh.

The next day, I copied and pasted the image on a computer-generated Valentine's Day card for Todd. When he opened it up, he exclaimed, "When did you get this picture taken?!?!" I said, "That's not even me!" He studied it pretty closely. Thinking it would be funny, I even showed it to my parents. My mother said, "Gina Michelle!!" Oh know you’re in trouble when mom uses your middle name!

I still have that image saved in my old files. After writing this story I had to pull it up and take a look, thinking it surely didn’t look that much like me. Oh but it does. Who knew I could've had a career in modeling?

By the way, shame on you if you clicked the link to that site! I, however, had to see if it was still in existence. It is. However, my lookalike no longer graces its cover.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fifteen Years and Counting

I met his friends before I met him. Tiffany invited me and my 3-year-old son over for a BBQ with the gang. She knew I didn't get out much and she wanted me to meet some new people. Jeff (The Macster) was grilling the food and was trying to get a count of people to purchase the steaks. Tiffany told him, "Gina will have a steak but Heath will probably just want a hotdog." Jeff was assuming that "Heath" was my boyfriend and was thinking that this guy must be a weirdo! I think he was pretty surprised when I showed up with my little man.

That same summer, Tiff talked me into going out with the girls one evening. While waiting for her to get around, I browsed through her boyfriend's yearbooks. Nonchalantly, I pointed to a guy in one of the pictures and said, "He's cute." I could just see the wheels in her mind start turning, "Oh my God! He's coming to school here this year! You've got to meet him! Oh my God! You'll love each other!" Whooaaaa! Slow it down... The idea of a blind date was pretty scary to this single mom.

But, a blind date is exactly what Tiff and Macster arranged. My first date with Todd (the tall, dark, and handsome guy from the yearbook) was dinner at the bar in Moscow, a shed party with the locals, and hot-tubbing at my parents home. The next day Mac took us up in his plane for a private tour of Southwestern Kansas.

When school started back up a couple of weeks later, Todd was quick to call and set up another date. With our common friends and instant compatibility, everyone knew that we were a good match. Even Heath seemed to fit very easily into the gang (otherwise known as the Scrue). He became known as "The Boy", a nickname that Todd still uses for him today.

One day in the Spring of 1993, Todd got a pen and piece of paper to write out a contract. I didn't know what he was up to and he wouldn't let me read it until he was finished. It turned out to be a signed statement that I, Gina, would not tell anyone that we were going ring shopping that day! That Fourth of July weekend when we were visiting Hugoton he asked my father if he could marry me. Then he officially asked me at my parent's home.

The night before our wedding, the boys went to Liberal for a Bachelor Party. Todd was staying at Jeremy's (his best man) home. Jer had a big beautiful German Shepard named Shadow that we all loved. Macster and Jack got themselves in a little trouble that night with Liberal's Finest when they "considered" relieving themselves in the public fountain on Main Street. Thank goodness the judge believed the "considered" part! (I'll never forget that they came home from college to fight the charge and, when they won, celebrated with ice cream from the DQ!) The boys had a great time and a late night. When they got back to Jer's house, though, my wedding ring was missing! Immediately an extensive search took place resulting in the discovery of a chewed up ring case. Shadow had apparently mistaken it for a new chew toy. I can just picture the boys crowded around as Todd opened it up to find that my ring was somehow still inside and in perfect condition. That ring box is in my top drawer to this day. The next afternoon Todd married a couple of people...both me and Heath.

Taking on a child was a huge responsibility and I'm sure it was very scary. I remember watching "Tool Time" one evening and Al was babysitting the Taylor children. The next day he told Tim that it was challenging because he hadn't experienced the bonding that took place in those first few months and years of life. Todd just blurted out something like, "That's it! I missed that part! I feel just like Al!" I know it wasn't always easy. By June we were expecting our first baby together.

Tana was three when we found that we were going to become parents once more. The sonogram was scheduled but Todd was going to have to miss it because he needed to get to Satanta for Macster's Bachelor Party! I told him to go ahead. In those early sonograms you can't see much anyway. But we were surprised when Baby A and Baby B both had their first pictures taken. There was NO WAY I was telling Todd this over the phone! That afternoon I drove down to Satanta, sat my husband down at Mac's folks' house, and gave him the news. He was ecstatic! Everyone was.

With the twins came a very, very busy schedule. Actually, just the fact that we had four children kept us busy. The next several years were filled with kids' activities, the monotany of daily routines, and a constant quest for more sleep. But Todd was always up for this challenge, working hard all day and coming home to help me in the evenings.

In the last few years, Heath has left for college and then the Navy. Tana has turned into a young lady. Andy and Annie have hit "double digits." (This quote from Annie on their last birthday, "Now we're all in double digits, Mom!") The schedule is still busy but the kids' needs are no longer as demanding. I notice Todd enjoying teaching his kids to cook, taking Tana to learn to drive, and showing our children in general how a good father raises his kids.

This month, on March 12, we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Heath called the other day and Todd came in with the phone saying, "It's the Boy!" He's enjoying so much seeing the man that Heath has become, the man that he helped raise.

Thanks Tiff. Thanks Mac. Your little blind date gave me a beautiful family...a beautiful life. I'll always be grateful for this Todd.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Day of Terror

It was summer. I've always enjoyed my summers with the kids so much. This summer had been particularly fun because Tana was getting ready to start Kindergarten, could ride her own bike (with training wheels), and was a heck of a swimmer. The twins were at an adorable age--18 months. The Greeley County Swimming Pool had a zero-entry smaller pool for little ones. We had a double stroller that I was trying to wear out with long walks every single evening. Our little summer routine was perfect.

Tana was usually the first one up after Dad went to work. She was never very demanding--usually just content to turn on some cartoons until mom got up. With the twins still in cribs, mom usually had to get up fairly early. Thank goodness for long summer afternoon naps!

Heath was not home on this day. In July, starting when Heath was fairly young, he would go out to Hugoton to "help" Grandpa with wheat harvest. I know that Heath cherishes these memories of farming with Grandpa. This tradition continued throughout Heath's high school years.

With the baby monitor next to my bed, I slept pretty light and woke either because Tana came to tell me "good morning" or one of the twins had made some noise indicating they were awake. I came upstairs and peeked in on the twins. Sure enough, Annie was standing there holding on to the side of her crib, ready to be swooped up and loved. She was so sweet with curly brown hair and that dimple. I took her to the changing table and, while I was changing her into a fresh diaper, I glanced at Andy. Apparently he had just woke because he was still lying down but his eyes were open.

I picked up Andy and took him over to the table. Now I was juggling them both. When I finished changing him, I had one snuggled into each arm and walked into the family room. Tana starting asking me something, I was trying to round stuff up for breakfast, Annie was holding on, and I realized that Andy was slipping out of my arm. Silly boy, he was old enough to hold himself up while I multi-tasked! As I adjusted to get him in a more comfortable position, I really looked at him. The morning had been so busy that I had been distracted and never really gave Andy a good look. His eyes were glazed over, he was NOT holding on to me, and he was drooling.

I felt like I had been punched in the gut. After running back into the living room, I sat both him and Annie down. Andy fell over. Tana has always been very attentive and knew right away that something was going on. I don't know what words were coming out of my mouth. I'm sure I was trying to will Andy to snap out of it.

Immediately I ran to the phone and dialed 911. Then hung up. This was not happening. Nothing was wrong. I was over-reacting. With the phone in my hand and Tana watching, I sat Andy up again and begged him to be okay. I will never forget Tana saying, "He's okay, mommy. Nothing's wrong. He's okay." She was willing it to be true also. I called 911.

When the dispatcher answered, I told her that Andy was unresponsive. That's all I remember saying. It is a small town and everyone knows everyone. At that time we lived 2 blocks from the hospital and about 4 blocks from the courthouse. The Sheriff was at our home within seconds.

With all of us still in our pajamas, I had made it out to the garage. I was asking myself, "Why didn't you just drive him to the hospital?" The Sheriff took Andy from my arms and asked me if he was still breathing. Still breathing?! Well, of course he was still breathing! Honestly I'd never thought about him NOT breathing. My brain was not functioning properly. Andy's lips were turning blue. I'll bet a minute had not gone by when the ambulance got to the house. Immediately they took my son and sped to the hospital. I ran in the house, pulled on sweats, slipped on some flip flops, grabbed the girls, and sped after them.

Things are a little fuzzy from here on out. If you've ever been through anything this frightening, you probably know that time no longer holds any significance. It just does not move at normal speed. Your brain must pick and choose what it will process because the bulk of it is in a panic. I know that every wonderful doctor in our attached clinic was there, though. I remember seeing someone give Andy shots and he didn't even flinch. His little body just laid there on that hospital gurney. His oxygen level was down in the 70s.

I told someone that I needed to call Todd. We didn't have cell phones back then. It's amazing how quickly the area filled with concerned people. News travels so fast in a small town. I called Todd at work and one of his employees got him. When he picked up I said, "Something is wrong with Andy. We're at the hospital." He never answered me. He was gone. Later when we talked about it, he said he knew from my voice that something terrible had happened. He had just ran out to his pickup and sped into town as fast as he could drive. It was only 12 miles. He was probably there with 7 or 8 minutes...but during that few minutes I understand that I asked people around me, "Where is Todd? Why isn't he here yet"" several times. I remember someone saying, "Gina, you just called him." I couldn't believe that. Time was so messed up.

A mother of two of my students was there. She worked at the courthouse and had immediately come over when she heard something was wrong. Her daughter, Crystal, had just babysat the kids the day before. She hugged me and said, "It's going to be okay." I lost it. I remember yelling at her, "NO! It's NOT okay! Did you see him? He's NOT okay!" I've often reflected on that and realize that it was finally at this point that I let myself accept that this was really happening...that something was terribly wrong with my Andy.

Crystal also got there quickly and I remember quizzing her about anything the kids might've gotten into the day before. We just had no idea what was happening--or why. Had he gotten into something poisonous? Andy was always putting things in his mouth. Had he had a seizure? What was going on? How were we supposed to counteract it if we didn't know what it was? I know that she was also terrified.

God had us in Tribune for a reason. I firmly believe that Andy was in the best possible hands on this day with Dr. Bob Moser, Dr. Wendel Ellis, and Kathy Bangerter. Truly, they saved my son's life. Not just these doctors, but the quick response of the Sheriff Steve Schmidt, the EMTs, and the hospital staff. God had sent angels to watch over my child.

Reinforcements from Garden City were called. When the doctors felt Andy was stable enough, I rode in the ambulance with him for the 90 miles to this larger town. By the time we got there, Andy was more responsive and his oxygen level was back up to a safe level. I don't think the doctors there ever believed what we had been through. They could find no evidence that anything was wrong with Andy.

With so many unanswered questions, believe me when I say that I didn't sleep soundly. Within weeks, we took Andy to a Neurologist in Denver. It was decided that he must've had a seizure. However, the tests indicated that Andy had never had a seizure. Still we had no answers.

It took months and months for us to sleep soundly again. Often in the middle of night, I would enter the twins room and feel there little heartbeats and warm breath on my fingers. If they were ever too still, I would wake them.

To this day, we don't know what happened to Andy that morning. What we have been told is that if I had slept a little longer that morning, Andy would've been a SIDS baby. His body was just, for some unknown reason, shutting down. God had other plans.

Today Andy is 10. He's the smartest ten-year-old I've ever met, actually. He has this incredible understanding of things and a hilariously witty sense of humor. I can't imagine life without him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Visiting the Arch

When Heath joined the Navy we were able to take the whole family to St. Louis to witness the "swearing in" ceremony at a St. Louis Cardinals game since Heath was part of the "Cardinal Company." We knew that this experience would be something that his little brother and sisters would never forget. Watching the respect that was shown to these boys and their families was pretty moving.

Since we were making this long drive, we decided to make a mini-vacation out of it. While in St. Louis we took the kids to Union Station, the Arch, and yes, the Budweiser Brewery--we had to take Annie to see those Clydesdales.
The Arch is a beautiful and interesting monument. A museum at the base has extensive information on Lewis and Clark. But like most visitors, we were most excited about riding to the top. We purchased our tickets and got in line.

There are 4 or 5 little cars that are hooked together so that they all can be pulled up to the top. These cars are extremely tiny. In fact, people with claustrophobia are warned prior to entering. The cars will hold up to five and there were five of us--Todd, Tana, Andy, Annie, and me. So, we piled into our little car where we here knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder, and hunched over to keep our heads from hitting the rounded ceiling. After our door was shut, I told the kids that nobody better fart. Then I jokingly told them that if someone did, when we got out we should all place the blame on Dad with our disapproving looks. We shared a good laugh...and then started up.

Once we got to the top and climbed out, we all enjoyed the view of St. Louis. It really is an amazing view. The room up there is fairly small--long and narrow. There are rows of windows along both sides with a short carpeted wall that slants outward. This allows you to lean forward and look out the windows, giving you a strange airborne sensation. The kids looked out every which way and we pointed out different landmarks to them.

After a while, I decided to go ask the attendant on the departing side of this small room when the next "train" would be going down. As I walked between and among the 15 to 20 other people milling around up there to get to the attendant, I found myself engulfed in a horrible stench. Someone in that small, poorly-vented space had passed gas.
Being a proper lady, I pretended not to notice and proceeded to ask my question. The attendant let me know that it would be just a few minutes. As I turned around, there was Annie. Annie was 8 at the time and, apparently, not as concerned about being a proper young lady. I'm sure she also had the little joke I'd made on the way up at the forefront of her mind as the the smell hit her and I was directly in front of her. So she loudly convicted me, asking "Mom! Why did you fart?!" I didn't let myself look around as that would imply guilt. Instead I smiled and very calmy said in a patronizing voice, "Annie, I didn't." However, she immediately, and loudly, replied, "Yes you did!" I looked around. I wasn't going to argue with Annie over this topic and needed to see what the damage was. The first person I looked at was the attendant, a young man. He was looking right at me and dryly said, "That's quite pungent." I can't even imagine what look I had on my face at this point.

I grabbed Annie and we went to the rest of our family. As we got in place to get in our little car to go back down, I relayed the story through my laughter. On the way down, we were in hysterics. Between the laughs and the tears, Annie did receive a scolding for saying such a thing in public. I'm sure it was hard to take me seriously, though. We all decided that the smart-mouthed attendant was probably the actual culprit!

About a year after this event, however, Tana admitted to the crime. Little stinker!

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Daughter, My Princess

What a great day. After sleeping in (until 12:45!) I got around and took Tana out to goof off.

This week the twins are visiting my parents so Tana will get some very rare "alone" time with Dad and Mom. We started taking advantage of it as soon as we got back from dropping Andy and Annie off. Our special week together began with a late dinner at Napoli's then the movie, Just My Luck, that features her favourite (yes, I intentionally spelled that the British way!) band, McFly.
When Tana was born, Heath was almost 7. He was thrilled to have a baby sister. Up until this point, he had been an only child. Although it was an adjustment for him, there were enough years between the two that sibling rivalry was never an issue. I have some very precious pictures of Heath holding Tana. He looks so proud.

Tana was a gorgeous baby--absolutely gorgeous. She was born with the platinum blond hair that she still has today. We were so surprised when this very straight hair became curly a few years ago. Her eyes were a very definite and striking color of blue. Now, however, they are an incredible green shade with multi-colored flecks. But her most interesting feature was certainly her button nose. Where in the world did this come from? I remember laughing that you could see right up her nose because it was so turned cute.

My Principal at the time, Jenny, came by to see Tana and told me that her daughter (one of my students) had told her mother that, "That baby is an angel, Mom. Really, she looks like an angel!" I doubt that Amanda remembers telling her mother that, but I will never forget her mother telling it to me. My volleyball team even threw the baby shower for her. What a special group of girls. I loved it when they "oohed" and "aahed" over her. Now when they see her picture on FaceBook, they can't believe how grown up she is!

Tana was certainly our little princess. I'm sure Heath would even agree. We all doted on her. At the age of 8 months, she was wanting to walk. She would stand up and hold onto things and take steps. By 9 months, she was walking without holding anything. It was amazing--yet so strange to see such a little baby walking around.

We moved to Tribune when Tana was a year old. She quickly learned to maneuver the steps in our bi-level home. Tandy, our boxer, was her pal. Tana could hug, climb, and maul that dog. We realized, though, that we made a mistake in naming our dog and our daughter such similar names. After calling Todd's grandma to tell her about an upcoming weekend visit, we got a call from Todd's mom. Grandma had called her to ask why in the world we would be planning to leave our baby home alone in the backyard for the weekend! Oh my...

The summer that Tana was three, I managed the Greeley County Swimming Pool. We spent many, many hours at the pool. Heath already loved to swim and Tana really learned to love it that summer. By the end of July, she could swim well and was allowed to go off the boards. Mom spent that summer growing...with the twins due in January.

On Halloween I got put on bedrest. Tana loved having me home even if I wasn't supposed to do much. She got to sleep in and play in her own house all day. Those were some special weeks with my daughter. It didn't last long, however. The twins came 5 weeks early on December 4. Tana had no idea how much her life would change.

Honestly, I had no idea how much the twins arrival would affect my little princess. All of a sudden Dad and Mom were busy, busy, busy with two new babies. We were exhausted. Heath was old enough to be involved in multiple activities so we were constantly dragging the kids everywhere. I remember noticing her personality changing but feeling incapable to do anything to stop it. It was a tough adjustment for my Sugar Pie...a very tough adjustment.

Tana has always loved the twins...she just missed the attention that she had gotten used to as the baby.

I remember Heath's friends in high school being annoyed with her when she was between 9 and 11 years old. They didn't want her bothering them. I used to laugh and say, "One day you'll come visit Heath when you are all home from college and Tana will walk in the room and you'll be sorry you weren't nicer to her!" They would all insist that this would never happen. Hmmmm...when Heath is home next month and his friends come to town, it will be interesting to see their reactions.

She has always been smart. Her fifth grade teacher told me once that Tana was the kid that all of the others wanted to be friends with because she was so nice to everyone and didn't participate in the "mean girl" stuff that starts happening at about that age. Thankfully, Tana has never been sucked into this destructive behavior that many girls succumb to...however, I'm sure she has been a victim of it.

Our move to Salina was hard on her. In a paper she wrote this year, she described the move as very difficult especially during the already awkward years of early junior high. Actually, this move was hard on all of us and I was wrapped up so tightly in my own concerns that I didn't realize how much she struggled during this time.

However, we found the right neighborhood, church, friends, and school. Tana blossomed and Tana became a young lady...a witty, smart, gorgeous, loveable, Christian, healthy, happy, fun-loving young lady.

Over the last several months, my daughter and I have felt more at home in our new city with our new lives. We are getting to experience again the very strong connection that we had when she was so tiny. It's funny that music helped bridge this gap. As I read over my blog posts, I guess it shouldn't surprise me. Music, obviously, is strongly connected to my emotions and relationships. As I started to listen more to her music (McFly) she started to listen more to mine (Elvis, Bruce, and a multitude of Hair Bands). My opinion started mattering to her. We began to work out together. Secrets were shared. Private jokes were started. Plus, we could sing along to each other's music.

So today, the second day of her special week alone with Dad and Mom, we enjoyed a late lunch together and then some shopping. I'm not talking about grocery shopping or toilet paper shopping, just fun browsing for nothing in particular. I got a ring stuck on my finger at Kohl's and we both had to bend over from giggling so hard. When I finally worked it off and put it back on the display case, it was smothered in lotion. We stopped at Sonic for large cherry limeades. We hit the mall to pick up her new contacts. Lastly we stopped by Merle Norman to select some of our favorite over-priced makeup and fight over the "free" gifts.

But, it wasn't so much what we did but how we did it. We laughed a lot today. But I was also able to give her some serious advice on the challenges of being a teenage girl. She listened to me share some things that I went through when I was younger...things that I hadn't shared before. I love the way she says, "Oh Dear!" rather than choosing other less tasteful expletives.

Am I my daughter's friend? No, I'm her mother. I will always love her, listen to her, cry with her, and laugh with her...but I will also hold her accountable and have high expectations of her. She is really something. She's growing up so fast. Spending time with her now makes me feel like the princess.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Legend: The Babysitting Fiasco

Like most preteen girls, I did my fair share of babysitting. I didn't particularly like it. Often I found myself scared to death because my mind would get carried away with thoughts of ghosts or potential burglars, not to mention Michael or Jason (think Halloween and Friday the 13th)! So, I would tuck the kids in and turn the TV to something funny...then hope that the parents got home before the station shut down for the night. Some of you might not realize that we haven't always had 24/7 TV!

Back then my parents took part in a square dancing club. The four of us girls were fortunate enough to be included in this excitement. My dress was yellow gingham. I remember that Gary Wallace's parents also made him participate. We were just thrilled that our parents found it so cute when we would square dance with them. I also remember that the Harper kids were often there, however, Tom and Darlene didn't make them dance! On this particular night, the Nichols didn't have a babysitter to watch their two boys during the square dance, so my parents asked me to do it. I must've been in about the 6th grade.

I had a good time with their little boys that night. I remember reading to them and getting them tucked into their beds. With the Nichols out with my parents, I knew I was in for a late night. So, I curled up on the couch and found something funny to watch...I think it was Improv. And then I fell asleep.

Back then I was a pretty hard sleeper. During this little nap, I dreamt that I was playing with my best friend, Charla. This caused me to be confused when something woke me. With the thoughts of Charla still in my mind, I had in my head that I was spending the night with her and was dismayed that I had fallen asleep while still in my school clothes. So, I took them off and started looking for my suitcase to change into my pajamas. There I was, stumbling around in my skivvies and searching the front room for my stuff, when headlights in the drive jarred me back to reality.

It is at this point that the following thoughts went through my mind: 1) This isn't Charla's house! 2) I'm babysitting two young boys! 3) I'm naked! 4) The parents are home!

Now I had to make a decision. I knew I didn't have time to get my clothes on before they came in the house. Where do I go to get dressed without being seen?! With the obvious choice being the bathroom, I ran straight to the kitchen. My mind was just not yet running on all cylinders.

When the parents came in the door, Judy entered the kitchen and yelled, "Eldon, don't come in here!" That poor woman helped me get dressed while I rambled on through my sobbing about my dream and thinking I was at Charla's and trying to find my pajamas.

I don't remember how I got home that night...whether my folks picked me up or Judy drove me home. I was pretty traumatized! But I know that they never, EVER, asked me to babysit again.

My entire family still enjoys bringing up my "Adventure in Babysitting" during family gatherings. I have to wonder if the Nichols also enjoy telling the story of coming home to find the naked babysitter.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Legend: Short Stories--Cones and Cowbells

Some of the "Legends" from my childhood can be told in just a couple of sentences. So, I've grouped several of these together. Again, these are stories that are legendary from my childhood and repeated often at family gatherings.
We often used to go to Amarillo to enjoy a family weekend. Dad and Mom always got a nice hotel with an indoor pool and other family amenities. My mother was raised to dress well and on this weekend was wearing a new suede jacket. She has always been a beautiful and classy woman. While walking across the pool area to get to the on-site restaurant, Mom noticed a body floating face-down in the hot tub. Without even thinking, she jumped in to pull the limp body out. However, the kid was nearly scared to death when this crazy woman interrupted his relaxing swim by yanking him out of the water.
Actually, I'm not sure who was more scared...but I do know who was most entertained. The pool area was FULL of people, not to mention the restaurant that opened into this area so that diner's could watch their children frolick in the water. It all happened so fast that I just remember hearing a SPLASH and looking over to see my mother fully-clothed in the hot tub. She was so angry that we were laughing...


Before my parents bought a van, they had a pickup with a topper. Although we can't imagine having our children ride back there in this day and age, that's how we went on vacation back then. Seatbelts were not required. We would just fill up the bed of the pickup with blankets, pillows, books, and stuffed animals then put on the topper and we were ready to hit the road. But the topper was also handy for trips around town when you had more people than you had seats.

On this occasion, my Uncle Dean was in town from Washington state. For some reason (I don't know if they were forced into it by my Mom and Aunt or if they had the idea on their own) they decided to take the kids to the Jet Drive-In for ice cream cones. So, they hopped in the front of the pickup and us kids (all SEVEN of us) piled into the bed of the truck. After picking up the cones, we started back toward the house.

An interesting fact about Hugoton is that it was built with a drainage system that includes canals. We loved the canals as kids because they made a great place to skateboard and ride our bikes. Not to mention that when it rained, we had a blast playing in the fast-moving water. Dad's shed was right beside the entrance to the canal (where water would drain from the roads into this system) and it was just a short couple of blocks from the house. On this particular day, that entrance to the canal called my father's name. In a split second, he realized how fun it would be to drive through the canal, up and down the slopes, with his brother and all of us kids in tow. Wow...just like a roller coaster.....with ice cream cones! You can just imagine this mess.

I can't resist throwing in a quote from The Wedding Singer here: "They were cones!" LOL!


We had a little Honda XR75. Actually, Dad still has this little motorcycle and we still enjoy riding it! But we all had little bumps in the road to error-free riding...including the time (probably the same weekend with the ice cream cones above) that Mom and Aunt Janice were sitting on lawn chairs in the yard watching the older kids ride. As they chatted, Casy headed toward them...and kept slowing down...and coming...still not slowing... And finally, "She's not stopping!" and the two women bailed out of their chairs right before being plowed over because Casy forgot where the brake was!

We used to go to Clark County Lake often with the Suttons. Bill loved to fish. That is the thing I remember most about him along with his trademark sideburns and mustache. On this particular trip, I decided to climb the hill by the campsite. I think I was in the first grade and I remember how hard that hike was and how high it seemed. I got to the top and was thrilled at the view but when I looked down, I froze. This was the first time I realized that I was scared of heights. After trying to coax me down for quite a while, Dad or Bill came up and carried me down. That hill was known in our little circle from then on as "Gina's Mountain" as name by Bill Sutton.


When Lisa was little, mom and dad couldn't keep track of her. She was a climber (on the roof, top of the swingset, in trees) and an adventurer. When we would go somewhere, we would often lose Lisa. So...they bought a cowbell and put it around her neck on a purple leather strap. I wonder what in the world strangers thought when they saw this stray child running around with a cowbell clanging around her neck! I didn't think it was weird at all. All you had to do was listen for the DONG DONG DONG and you could find her. My folks had some innovative parenting techniques!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Legend: The Death of Casy's Bunny

My family has many "legends" that we retell often from our childhood. I've decided that these stories need to be passed on. This first is the death of Casy's bunny.

I was young--I would guess about 4. Dad and mom had just built on to the house and my oldest sister (she loves when I call her that), Casy, got their old master bedroom with her own bathroom. At that time, I shared a large room with my older sister, Susan. Lisa was the baby so she had her own little nursery.

Casy and I fought all the time. We couldn't stand each other. Lisa and I were the same way when she got older. And even later, with so many years between them, Casy and Lisa also had this type of relationship. Susan, however, was the peacemaker. We all loved Susan. Anyway, Casy brought home a baby bunny. I have no idea who gave it to her or why. But I DO quite clearly remember her telling me to LEAVE IT ALONE! She made it clear that I was not even to go into her room. And then she was off...because eight-year-olds are very busy people.

But...four-year-olds are very curious people, and I had to see this cute little bunny. So, I went into her room. Now, she probably had it locked, but we had a metal comb with a handle that fit perfectly into her lock and also the bathroom lock for easy access. I can still picture that comb but I don't ever remember anybody using it on their hair. Goodness...a metal fine-toothed comb would rip your hair out! So I made my way into her room and then into her closet where she had tucked the bunny into a cardboard box with some grass (for comfort) and lettuce (for food).

He was so cute...just a tiny little guy. Things are a little fuzzy from here. Afterall, I was only 4. So, I'm going to stick to the facts. Casy got home and had what she refers to as a "Fatal Attraction" moment when she realized her bunny was missing and found her toilet overflowed. I don't know WHY I was immediately a suspect, but she got mom and they came to find me. When asked if I knew where the bunny was, I told them that the rabbit couldn't swim. (I've never been a very good liar.)

The assumption has always been that I was trying to teach the bunny to swim, and when he failed, I flushed him down. However, I believe that it is entirely possible that the bunny died of natural causes and I thought that a burial at sea (or the Hugoton Sewer Pond) would be totally acceptable...maybe even honorable. Okay, maybe I'm stretching it a little. Honestly, I don't remember the fate of the bunny. But, I do remember that Casy was devastated...and furious! And also that my mother had to dig a bunny carcass out of the sewer pipe. This did nothing for our already tenuous relationship.

This little story is very often thrown in my face at family events...minus the screaming and tears. Everyone now seems to think it's hilarious that I would flush a bunny--including my own children.