Monday, August 31, 2009

too italicized for my own good

Why hello there.
There are some things we need to discuss. Various odds and ends and quite frankly I'm feeling very italicized right now so you will be seeing a lot of emphasis in the next few paragraphs.

You have been warned.

(Something I hate about blogger: the near impossibility of just italicizing as you go --- you always have to go back and italicize which is why I resort to CAPS LOCK in order to keep the emphasis but continue the flow of writing. Ugh.)

First thing: there was this wonderful experiment that the brilliant M took upon herself a while back - she'd read a really great book (Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos) and wrote such a stunning review of it that she proposed we do an online book club, of sorts. One time only - we each read the book and then came to her blog on a specified day to find posted questions that we could then respond to in the comments. It was like reporting to a book club as your schedule allowed instead of having to find a babysitter and arrange for a ride and also stay out way too late and feel so tired you want to spit in the morning. On the flip side, it was something of a tricky business for the dear M to moderate. I loved going in and reading the new comments and thinking of my own responses--- the day went by way too quickly for me.

Right now I'm reading a fantastic book (also suggested by the marvelous M), The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel. It's sweet and touching and incredibly interesting--- all the while being written in the most marvelous way. Kimmel has a way of writing characters that you want to cry over, they're so flawed and human and loveable. This book... has me thinking of questions, it has me formulating answers, it has me pondering over themes and images. AND I DESPERATELY WANT TO TALK TO YOU GUYS ABOUT IT. So here's what I'm thinking: shall we try it? Can we co-opt M's idea and try it here at The Creamery? You guys read this book (I PROMISE YOU WON'T REGRET IT --intended caps lock there, I mean it so much). And then at some day in the coming month (or two?) we'll meet back here and I'll have some questions that we can discuss in the comments. What do you think? Would you be game? I do not make book recommendations lightly (except when I'm recommending that a dear friend's SENSITIVE MOTHER READ A BOOK ABOUT A PRIEST WHO HAs A HORRIFIC TIME ON AN ALIEN PLANET). Amended: I don't make light book recommendations now. So, in earnest: this book is so good. You read it too! (Oh, and if I might make a suggestion: don't read the Amazon book description. Just don't. Read the book and find yourself surprised.)

So that thing up there was the first thing I needed to talk to you about. The second thing is this: I've been thinking about putting the follower's widget somewhere over there on my sidebar. I've been thinking about it for months. Do you know what has me stopped in my tracks? (This is awesome and very patently Whimsy.) What has me sputtering around and not adding the widget is that I don't know what I want to call it, them, um, YOU. You, followers, I don't know what to call you. We at The Creamery take our vocabulary very seriously and we don't think that "followers" works for anyone who has chosen to "follow", um, The Creamery. ANYWAY. So far I've come up with the following (stop saying THAT WORD) possibilities and I thought that maybe you'd like to help me think of a term? Or vote? Or something? Because I can't make up my mind. So far I've got: The Creamies, The Dairy Section, ...are these stupid? Does anyone have an idea? Should I just move on and stop overthinking it? Yes?

Moving on... we're headed out of town this week. Down to Portland and then on to San Francisco. Back in about a week. I am feeling strangely calm about it. Which worries me, because I have this theory that all my FREAKING OUT tends to exhaust the possibilities of BAD STUFF that can happen. Like, if I worry about it, it won't happen. Let's test my theory, shall we?

That's it for me. Some random weird stuff that doesn't fit together but it's swimming here in my noggin and now it's swimming in your noggins.

You're welcome.

Friday, August 28, 2009

just say yes

There are no less than three sippy cups currently residing in our fridge. They contain, in order of fridge placement: water, milk, and some heavily watered-down Vitamin Water. I would argue that that last one, the Vitamin Water one, is actually water of the regular variety with an itty bitty splash of the Vitamin Water (in the flavor of C, btw, if you care).

The reasons for the sippy hoarding:
- Because she didn't drink it all at breakfast (milk)
- Because I thought she might like a cold drink when she wakes up from her nap
- Because we were both in the kitchen (me: chopping peaches to freeze, her: playing with a stack of silicone cupcake liners) and when I opened the fridge a very lonely bottle of mostly-drunk Vitamin Water rolled onto the floor and into Alice's happy hands

She grabbed the bottle and looked at it for a while, stunned by the pinky color. Pink. It's gotta be good, right? So she motions to me and then starts pulling on my pants leg until I look down. She's gesturing madly to the Vitamin Water and saying her version of "water" which sounds more like this: BABABABABABABA.

My thoughts after looking at the label and then the minuscule dregs of remaining Vitamin Water: Sure. Why not?
And this: Who am I to say no?

... Who am I to say no? Well, her mother, for one. Another human being, for another. Hopefully her friend one day. But again: who am I to say no, when she hears so many no's throughout the day?

No. Don't eat the crayons.
No. Don't eat the cat.
No. Don't stand on the chair.
No. Don't throw the blocks.
No. Don't put your fingers there.
No. You cannot eat the Clorox Clean-Up.
No. Let's put that away and get ready for bed.

No, No, No.

I think she deserved a YES. I decided to push for a YES for the rest of the afternoon.
YES let's go outside.
YES let's play on the grass.
YES let's eat some peaches.
YES let's roll around on the living room floor.
YES let's sing.
YES let's wear pajamas on our heads.
YES let's not worry so much.
YES let's have fun.
YES let's laugh when Mama makes a funny face.


Now. What are you saying Yes to this weekend?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

last night: wishing in a darkened house

So it goes and it's another night when I'm so exhausted I can barely stand. Chip is traveling this week. I miss him. He carries my weight on his shoulders when he's here and doing so gives me so much lightness of spirit I want to float. With him gone, the heaviness of the house, the yard, the mail, the closing of the downstairs window at night, the giving Alice a bath, the putting Alice to bed, the reading to Alice from Goodnight Moon, the cleaning up downstairs, the giving a treat to the cats, the cleaning out of the cat box, the laundry, the dishes, the being the Face and the Hands and the Legs and the Heart of the Whimsy Family falls to me. I am not strong enough to do it all by myself. Mind and spirit, emotion and sense of humor--- all of these fail me in Chip's absence. But it's beyond the simple sharing of weight that makes me miss him. It's a bone-deep ache. It's missing his heart and hands and face.

Alice and I went to Target this morning. As I was driving home, she was quiet until we reached our street and then she started to just sing for Chip--- call for DAAA-DEEEEE! DAAA-DEEEEEEEE! It broke my heart into a hundred pieces.

As I pulled her out of her car seat I explained that Daddy was working. That Daddy was not home. That Daddy wouldn't be home for a few more days. She quieted down until just before her bath when she started to call for him again. I tried explaining again, that Daddy was working. That Daddy would be home Friday night, but it was like she thought she could just will him into existence.

Would that I could do the same.

So tonight...
I am wishing for my friend
my partner
my honey
my crazy-making goofy guy
my guitar-playing talentfest
my number-crunching superman
my deal-making bargain shopper
my beyond-patient sweetheart
my movie-quoting wunderkind
my most excellent driver
my best father Alice could ever ask for
my softness
my heart
my dearest
my favorite person in the whole world.

... Please come home to me soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

toddleronia travel tips #1

An occasional series to aid the stranded non-native traveler in Toddleronia.

On Speaking Toddlerese...

The typical Toddler appears to not only be hesitant to explain their native phrases, but actually forgets the meanings and intended nuances of their native tongue once they embrace the rigors of English (though this is found to be true for other languages as well).

To the best of our ability, we have used a limited phonetic spelling for most of these terms in order to better recreate these phrases with accuracy. Please keep in mind that Toddlerese is very much a living language - one that changes daily. The Native Toddler is nimble in his/her use of the language and readily changes denotation, pronunciation, and connotation without notice to non-native speakers.

boo = "Baaa" from a sheep. Also intended for paci and stuffed animal "Hurp" which appears to be a stuffed dusky blue monster with yellow eyes.

bo = Blanket, blankie, The Woobee.

da-dee = Daddy. The superhuman male equivalent to the "mom-mom" (see below). Some distinctions between the two: while the "mom-mom" is required near by to complete certain impossible tasks, she does so without the fawning adoration of the Toddler. Her duties are clear, her work is never done, and the Toddler carries on. The "da-dee", on the other hand, is the magic kiss-everything-better-by-his-very presence persona, and is especially useful for heinous owie-kissing. The Traveler should be aware that explaining that the "da-dee" is at work does not appease the Native Toddler when he or she is requesting an audience with said "da-dee".

Diss = This. See "sum"; as it appears to be used interchangeably.

Eww = Ear.

hoT = (emphasis on T) Hot. We have witnessed the usage of this term change, in that it originally was used to indicate a stove specifically. In recent trips to Toddleronia, we have seen the Native Toddlers use this term to indicate other HOT items such as chicken nuggets and the exhaust fan from a laptop.

LALALA = The Sesame Street character Elmo. Be aware that requests from the Toddler for this "LALALA" (specifically those who are saying LALALA while also carrying a small red Elmo doll) indicate a viewing of the television show, "Sesame Street". The Traveler should stay in close contact even after he or she has fulfilled the Toddler's request, since at any moment the Toddler may decide that he or she HATES Maria with a fiery passion or that The Count is the most boring boring to ever bore; when this happens, the Toddler will react with swift discrimination and begin madly pointing and screaming at the television, thus requiring the Traveler to either fast forward through the offensive material or start a different Sesame Street program without the offending characters.

mom-mom = Mama. While the meaning of this term should be fairly clear, we have observed the Native Toddler use this term to also indicate Extreme Displeasure, Loneliness, and Pain. It is our theory that the Toddler believes that the "mom-mom" can materialize out of thin air, whenever required, to solve a problem--- if you can envision a cross between the fabled Fairy Godmother (complete with wispy sings) and the all powerful Wizard (complete with magic wand), you will come very close to understanding the Toddleronia concept of the "mom-mom". In most cases, the Toddler is requesting that the "mom-mom" complete if not impossible tasks then very near improbable tasks - on a daily basis. Feats such as serving perfectly heated (but not too hot) chicken nuggets the second the Toddler requests them; unpopping a balloon; unripping a book; finding a very-much-lost stuffed animal; etc.

raaawr = Lion, tiger, bear, anything remotely ferocious including buffalo.

rowrow = This term refers to the song, "Row Row Row Your Boat", but is used to convey that the traveler should SING. SING RIGHT NOW, regardless of location (grocery store, church, the doctor's office). The Traveler will enjoy the fantastic variation of possibilities that the Native Toddler may be requesting all the while continuing to demand ROWROW!! ROWROW!! (complete with furrowed brow) The Traveler would be best served to start singing Row Row Row Your Boat and then continue on through Itsy Bitsy Spider, Popcorn Popping, and Rubbery Ducky to find which song the Toddler is actually requesting.

shooo = Shoes. Usually accompanied by a single shoe the Toddler is carrying in his or her Kung Fu Death Grip. Upon mention of "shooo", it is customary for the Traveler to help the Toddler don his or her shoes, though the Traveler should be wary that the Native Toddler likes to hold his or her shoes as much as wear them. And many times the Native Toddler does not have a clear notion that in order to wear the shoes, he or she must let go of them.

'side = Literal meaning: outside; intended connotation is used to convey any and all outside activity, i.e. going in the car, traveling to the store, walking around the backyard, walking down to the mailbox. The Traveler should be wary of the many uses for this word, since the mere mention of it can send the Toddler into fits of glee that just as quickly become the screams of distress when the Toddler discovers that his or her assumption of "side" has been mistaken, i.e. the Traveler takes the Toddler down to the mailbox when really the Toddler thought that they were going to the store. (see also: "shooo" since these can be used interchangeably with very similar results.)

sum = Some. Does not actually indicate portion size, but rather to express the Toddler's desire for whatever the Traveler may be holding at the moment. Foodstuffs, specifically---though we have observed the use of this term for straight pins, wallets, cellular telephones, a large bag of Weed and Feed, as well as many other non-food items.

tose = Intended meaning is toast, though we have found that this term just as easily applies to all bread-like substances, i.e. bread, crackers, flat kitchen sponges. Keep in mind that this "tose" is very similar to "toesss" (see below), which does create a great deal of confusion when communicating with the Native Toddler.

toesss = Toes.*
* Cultural note from the authors: beware that the Native Toddler, when enticed to discuss "toesss" will attempt to bite the visitor's toes with rigorous jaw workings. It is useless to remind the Toddler that such a thing is not done in the general world, since in Toddleronia it is considered High Entertainment, regardless of the discomfort for the visitor.

tow = Two. Used in conjunction with "one" (English translation) when the Traveler refers to "one", the native, well-rested Toddler will count "TOW". When the Traveler then says "three", the native, well-rested Toddler will count "TOW"--- so on and so forth through the numerical chain. It should be noted that the distinction is made for the "well-rested Toddler" since other, less well-rested Toddlers will respond to the traveler's "one", "three", "fourteen", etc. with a SCOWL followed in quick succession by a scream that will shake the ear drums of any persons within a mile radius.

UH UH UH. = A strange and ambiguous term that continues to baffle us - although extensive research has been done to find a specific meaning for this phrase, it is not forthcoming. With that said, we have some theories regarding the use of this term, in that it indicates the desire for an unreachable object, activity, or otherwise Unattainable Thing. Travelers should be wary when the Toddler resorts to the use of the UH UH UH in that it indicates Extreme Displeasure and is possible that the Toddler might decide to strike out at the Traveler if his or her need is not met without further delay.

The authors would like to remind fellow travelers that this is, by no means, a complete list and only reflects the author's travels in a very limited portion of Toddleronia. As we progress further into the deeper reaches of the territory, more language helps and short cuts will reveal themselves, we are confident. Until then, we wish you safe travels.

Monday, August 24, 2009

moving up, in, over, out

Perhaps the Mama is trying to take pictures

Of some sheep cupcakes that she made over the weekend


But the Bean is thinking that SHE'D much rather be

The object of the camera's affection

Sitting on the chair

Until maybe it's not so interesting


And much better

To be down

On the floor

Where the toys are

The end.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches must be cut into squares (fourths) or rectangles (half).

Tuna sandwiches (made with tiny sweet pickles cut into bits) must be cut into triangles - either four tiny triangles or two big ones.

No jelly. Only jam. Ever.

Corresponding chip of choice:
PB&J = Nacho Cheese Dorrito
Tuna = Cool Ranch Dorrito
Ham = Lay's Sour Cream & Onion

Watermelon. Served frigid cold, never room temperature.

Blueberry muffins as a side dish to Mom's Meatloaf. Don't ask me why, but the pairing is delish. (Also suggested: baked or mashed potatoes, a garden salad, and corn. When you add in the meatloaf and sweet blueberry muffins? Oh HEAVEN.)

Toast with cereal. Always and forevermore.

Butter must be applied to toast while the bread is still piping hot, so as to fully melt the butter. If there are any non-melty butter parts on room-temperature toast it is judged to be UNWORTHY OF CONSUMPTION.

Do not even think of adding ice cubes to orange juice. It is wrong. As is adding ice cubes to MILK (I know you're out there, you can't hide from me, weird ice cube milk drinkers!). The following juices are considered strong enough to carry an ice cube: apple, fruit punch, lemonade.

Nuts do not belong in ice cream.

Other things that don't belong in ice cream: apples, raisins, gummy bears, hard candy of any kind, and the entire flavors RUM RAISIN and BASEBALL NUT. Also, especially WALNUTS.

Mom's apple pie and no other. No offense, but I can't STAND Other People's Apple Pie.

Speaking of apples, they must be CRUNCHY and SWEET. Mushy apples are tossed directly into the compost bin. Never eat a Red Delicious. They are Fruit Filler in all holiday baskets and no one ever eats them. Ever.

Now. What are your food rules?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

beef stew

Whimsy's various and sundry beefs...

I listen to Sting when Chip is not around. He is NOT a fan of The Sting, and I am. His reason being related to mumble-something-mumble-someone-that-I-used-to-know-who-sort-of-looked-like-Sting so we don't even much TALK about the dude because that one vein in Chip's head starts doing a bulgy thing and then he says that Sting is a hack. Though maybe not in those exact words. Anyhoo, I was listening to Sting's jazzy live album All This Time yesterday afternoon and something really bugs
me about the live jazzy version of Roxanne. It's about a, um, hooker, right? Some lady of the night and the dude who is singing the song (he-who-shall-not-be-named) is begging her not to put on the red light, right? This is not Deep Song Lyrics town. We can understand EVERYTHING that's going on in the song, and yet Voldemort--I mean Sting, he's singing his jazzy little heart out and then gets to this part late in the song, begging Roxanne not to put that stupid red light on, and Mr. S, he actually TELLS THE AUDIENCE that "she did it anyway". It makes me feel dumb for him.

* * * * *

I have an issue with Target, love mecca and favorite happy place in all the world for Whimsy. Target, you have severely disappointed me. I totally understand their whole rebranding of their Target-plain-jane stuff. It's fine, right? We all do it form time to time--- try to make ourselves look cooler and start going by a snazzy younger name (Up and Up, anyone?). What I don't get, what I CAN'T
forgive is that they are now CHARGING MORE. The lotion that I used to get, the NotEucerin which rocked my world for a mere $4 per bottle (compared to ELEVEN DOLLARS for Eucerin)--- take a look.

What makes this worse is that they didn't even bother to HIDE the fact that they just added a nice $3 raise on that there SAME bottle of lotion.

* * * * *

We were watching the movie Congo the other day (shut up, it was a slow night and there was NOTHING ELSE ON) and I started thinking about Amy the Gorilla who can communicate using sign language. They have that awesome (and improbable) electronic backpack that she carries on her back with the super duper glove thing for her hand, and it magically translates Amy's signs into spoken words.

Here's what I think: if they can create that crap for an animatronic gorilla in a fake movie about killer white gorillas who will bash your head in to defend their ridiculous city of gold, why the HECK can't they make something like that for my child? Tell you what, national merit scholar/scientist who is surely reading this blog: you create it and I'll split the profits with you, seeing as how I came up with the brilliant idea (by copying a movie). You make the impossible science work, I'll use it with Alice.

Because surely as I am sitting here, the communication gap between me and my offspring is slowly melting any remaining brain matter I have (and dearly need) and causing it to trickle out through my ears. It's... epic how little I understand right now. With the pointing! And the UH UH UH (which, I know, you heard about it yesterday, but still)! And the mad gestures for something that I can't even fathom (though if this is all about her wanting to wield the bottle of Clorox Clean-Up with bleach(!) then I'm thisclose to giving it to her just to stop the screaming)!

So yes, the backpack glove thingy would be very welcome in the Whimsy household right about now. And might help me to keep the last bit of working brain matter I have whole and intact.

* * * * *

(Am beginning to think that I need to keep a List of Grievances on my person at all times so as to be able to fully remember my Irritations. Because I'm coming up all blank and glassy-eyed, and the last item barely counts as a Grievance and is much more along the lines of Weird Things That Bother The Whimsy.)

* * * * *

There is something deeply chalkboard-scratchingly IRKSOME about doing this one task every night, and I can't come up with a proper reason as to why it bugs me, and it's such a weird little glitchy tick that Chip hardly even helps me out with it (because it just makes him laugh until he spits when I do complain about it). Here it is: I hate turning off the overhead fan in the hallway bathroom. HATE. With a deep-seated, white-hot-seething RAGE, HATE. We turn on the fan because it's right outside Bean's room - so once she's down for the evening, the fan gets switched on while we putter around the house: put dishes away, watch TV downstairs, generally make a little bit of noise. It's a nice noise buffer, you see. Once we get ourselves upstairs and hang out in our bedroom, the fan is supposed to be shut off. But I hate doing it. HATE. I will stall and beg, do everything EXCEPT turn off that blasted fan until ther eis nothing else for this body to do except wander back down the hall and flip the switch. It's not even HARD TO DO. But I hate it. And it deserves to be put in this list because it is one of the things that makes my nightly routine so weirdly ANXIETY-RIDDEN.

Now that I've unburdened myself to all of you, it's your turn. Tell me what's bugging you, and if you'd be so kind--- can you please turn off the hallway fan? Thanks, you're a doll.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

not much to see around here

I gave myself a blog vacation day yesterday and was about to take another, but had second thoughts. This is what comes from errant second thoughts: nothing good.

Chip rubbed my neck and shoulders for nearly fifteen minutes last night and it was heavenly. And then he said, "I'm probably not doing much good. I'm going to stop now." Oh, please don't.

I am dipping into another bout of sewing machine madness. I'm not sure if it's the weather or my mad desire to have curtains up in Alice's room (ones WITHOUT pins in them, call me crazy) or just plain Crazy. Actually, I do know what it is: Just Plain Crazy. Clearly.

Last night I spent twenty minutes positioning and repositioning white fleece dots on a red fleece background (a future soft pillow to put in Alice's room - she doesn't sleep with one unless you count Herp and we haven't talked about Herp here yet but we will because he deserves his very own post - but anyway, Alice loves a good smooshy pillow to roll around on the floor with and she's particularly fond of this red fleece and who am I to not oblige her?). So I kept moving these dots around, hoping to find placement that would feel right. My goal: haphazard without overlapping, no discernable pattern, devil-may-care without having anything look messy, I don't ask for much, right? After moving the dots and pinning them for the 17th time I asked Chip what he thought, "Oh I can see a pattern." Another five minutes moving them around and again with Chip's response, "Um... yeah, still a pattern." So another five minutes of repostioning when I finally just stopped myself, took a breath and told him I was done. And this: "I hate myself." So then Chip looks at the dots... my final design... and he says, "Yep, still see a pattern."

Yesterday Chip spent the entire day wearing half a mustache. He had shaved half of it off during his shower and sort of forgot the other half. Until about eight hours later.

We've hit a particularly heinous stage in mother-daughter communication that I'm calling the grunt-scream-and-point (not necessarily in that order). It goes like this:

Alice (toddles into kitchen and begins to madly point in the general direction of the kitchen cabinet): UH!!! UH!!! UH!!! UH-UH-UH!!!
Whimsy (dragging herself into the kitchen to discern what magical item could possibly be denoted with UH): What do you want, sweetie?
Alice (more pointing, appears to be gesturing to the butter dish): UH!!! UH!!!! UH!!!
Whimsy (grabbing the butter dish): Are you telling me you want BUTTER? I don't think you want BUTTER. How about some Chex? (pulls cereal box out of cupboard)
Alice (with the bitter face of RAGE): NONONONONONONONO!!!!!!!!! UH!!! UH!!! UH!!!! (shakes hand in front of my leg as if to say, again, ABSOLUTELY NOT, WOMAN)
Whimsy (continues to grab various items and gets the same finger waving screaming NONONONONO until she finally just walks away): I don't know what you want, duder.
Alice: SCREAM.

It's a non-stop laughfest around here, folks. I refuse to be short order cook or butler/maid person serving a pint-sized Mussolini who can only jesture and scream. But... it's sort of taking my will to LIVE. It's not just in the kitchen, either. She walks around the house and starts pointing to imaginary UH UH UH items all the time. I secretly wonder if she's seeing these invisible horns of plenty that are carrying all the most favorite items in her universe and I'm all, "What?"

One day Alice is going to ask me about dumb things I did once-upon-a-time. I'm going to show her this post. Dumb enough.

One day Alice is going to ask me if I ever put weird pictures of her up in public areas for all the world to see and I'm going to show her this post. (And then I'm going to tell her that I was a wonderful, patient mother and she owes me some very large favors. The noise that goes along with that face isn't so great.)

This is what comes from blogging when you should be taking a vacation day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

this wingless bird

Let me close my eyes and come back

with one less question, without this need to know
the real meaning of the fish who belongs

in water but insists on growing feet,
about the persistence inside this wingless bird

who longs to remember flying in her dreams.

From Tell Me About the Laughter of Angels by Amy Uyematsu

The full story:
Part one.
Part two.
Part three.
Part four.
Part five.

This is the casualty of remembering, bringing up the bitter as much as the sweet, swirling them together into a brown mass of tangled strings--- each one waiting to present itself as a singular thing, something to give back to the moment and say Yes, this is what you were. This is what you are. This is what you mean to me. The problem, of course, is that nothing can ever fully define the moment the way you experience it. Nothing good. Nothing bad. Nothing perfect. Nothing can fully encompass your body and soul in one single word, no matter how hard you try.

This is part six.

After picking up the various antibiotics and Benedryl's and Gatorade's at Walgreen's (Ding! Score another one for a random drug store stop!), we headed up into the mountains. Climbing higher and higher on Chip's already battered lungs, he drove silently sweating, hoping that the antibiotics would soon give him relief.

At 8,200 feet elevation, the YMCA of the Rockies is an impressive sight. It's a sprawling complex of
various buildings erected anywhere from 1940 to now. Think children's sleepaway camp from the movie Meatballs. And families. Families everywhere connecting and playing and talking and enjoying each other. The Rocky Mountains tower in the backdrop of every building, never letting a person forget that they are surrounded by majesty.

Driving into the complex, we didn't notice any of it. We were focusing on getting through the next minute, the next hour, getting ourselves on the other side of the trip.

Chip stayed in the car with Alice while I went inside to check us in. When I asked the student from Paraguay who was checking me in, what cell service was like this high in the mountains, she made a face and waved her hand from side to side, "It's good and bad--- not always the same." I wasn't hopeful.

I wasn't hopeful twenty minutes later when we were finally in our room --- Chip laying on the bed, arms over his head, barely uttering a single word, telling me that his head had never hurt so bad in his life, that he couldn't breathe, that he was honestly worried he was going to die (coming from Chip, these were not idle words).

For the next hour, I did my best to keep things normal, nearly shouting WE ARE THE WHIMSY FAMILY, WE WILL SURVIVE. I was doing a decent job of it until I found a box elder bug the size of a quarter crawling haphazardly through my suitcase. I screamed. Chip leaped off the bed, suddenly aware and focused and incredibly ready to defend his family from the (sure to be) rabid cougar that must be crouched in our doorway (considering the volume of my scream). I just pointed madly into the depths of my suitcase as the creature scaled some of my skirts and started to contemplate hanging out on top of Alice's pink dress. Chip jumped into the fray, caught the beast, and took it outside. When he walked back in the door he was a different man. The sudden flood of adrenalin must have done what nothing else could: it knocked his headache down to a nice tolerable dull roar.

I had my Chip back, and I was so happy.

We are thankful to that bug, that awful, brown, scaly, creepy-crawly bug. We are thankful for it. It changed the trip for us.

What also changed the trip: the family talent show that took place the next evening. We'd done our best to pull things together mentally and physically that first morning in the mountains, knowing I'd be meeting a lot of people, wanting above all else to put on a brave and happy face, hoping to not disappoint any expectations.

They were wonderful, the entire lot of them. From Phylis and Bill, calling us the night before to check in with us, see how we were doing, make sure Chip was okay. They were so warm, so generous, so kind--- as they'd been from the very beginning. They treated us like family with no questions or limitations to their concern. I started to feel warm for the first time in a few days.

By that night, I had really been honestly dreading the family talent show. I knew that Ana had pu
lled something together (she wrote a children's story about the farm, and wanted us to make animal noises), but me being the uber ridiculous control freak that I am, didn't understand what we needed to do exactly for our part of the story and I kept worrying that I'd look and feel stupid in front of so many people I didn't know.

As things started up, it was everything you can expect from a family talent show: the goofy singing, the skits, the corny jokes. When our turn came, I felt exactly as odd as I knew I would, standing there not saying anything, feeling pretentious and weird, knowing that I didn't fit in here any more than I fit into New York high society or Idaho potato farmers or Northwest salmon fishermen or a family of California winery owners. It was in the moments that followed after, watching another skit and thinking about how easy it was to float high above the crowd, knowing that I fit here only by the blood running in my veins that I started to think about the movie About a Boy. It's based on the Nick Hornby book by the same name - and if I was smart and pulled-together at this point, I'd go pull my copy of the book off the shelf and see if this scene is in both the book and the movie - and therefore I'd be able to cut the movie out of this reverie altogether and look SMART. But I'm not pulled-together and quite frankly, this is one of those rare movies that does a decent job of living up to the book, and if I'm being super honest, I'll tell you that it was the MOVIE that I thought about in this moment that is taking me entirely too long to recount. So the movie? About a Boy? With Hugh Grant? It's about this thirty-six-year-old Londoner, Will, who is selfish and self-centered and admittedly shallow and perfectly happy to stay that way. He meets a 12-year-old boy Marcus who forces him to change. Early on, Marcus has Will over to his house and is hoping that his hippie-hairy-sweater-wearing mother will marry Will, the only single guy he's come across. Will is certainly not interested in Marcus' mother. She is earnest and worried and way too sensitive where he is fly-by-night, concerned only about what other people think, and too plugged into what's cool to seek anything other than that. So Marcus and his mother, they're singing at the piano-- Killing Me Softly. Which Will narrates is killing HIM softly. Because as they really start to get into the song, the feel of it, they do the dreaded singing with their eyes closed, which is just too painfully committed for Will. He says that "you have to mean it to sing with your eyes closed." And sitting there in that multi-purpose room surrounded by a good three-quarters of the M family, they all meant to be there, they meant what they were singing about and how much fun they were having. In this respect, they were singing with their eyes closed and I was Will, standing there in the back of the room with my arms pulled around me, wishing I was anywhere else.

It's a commitment, being in a family. You share yourself, who you are, with these people. You sing the songs with your eyes closed. You wear the hairy sweater because it's something you like, not because you're trying to impress anyone or make a statement other than Hey, I like this sweater.

And here I was, doing my best to be ignorant and miserable, to stand above and beyond--- to limit my interaction because I was afraid of the commitment of closing my eyes and waiting to see who else would be singing along with me. Am I making sense? This idea that I had done
everything in my power to be miserable, to not trust my foothold, to not trust the people I was with and what their reactions to me would be.

I looked back on the days that had passed by and I could see beyond my own limited judgement
s and recognize the generous hospitality of Bill and Phylis and their family. I could see Phylis crawling on the living room floor to hide behind a chair in order to play peek-a-boo with Alice. I could remember Naleta telling us how much she was enjoying our visit. I could feel her hand on my arm as she offered us one of their brand new Labrador puppies. I could hear Bill's voice on the other line of my phone, asking if Chip was doing okay, worried that we were alone and offering us the option to meet up with everyone that evening. I could see only kindness--- no matter if it came from a hand I didn't know. Kindness just the same. Most of all and of course I could see Matt standing in front of his family just a few moments prior, before Ana started reading the story, telling everyone how proud and happy he was to have me there next to him, his sister. A sister they'd been searching for for such a long time.

As I thought about this business of singing with your eyes closed, I knew that I'd been blind precisely because I'd been doing everything I could to avoid shutting my eyes. I felt ashamed.

"And I don't know what difference it made, this sudden flash. It wasn't like I wanted to, you know, grab life in a passionate embrace and vow never to let it go until it let go of me. In a way, it makes things worse, not better. Once you stop pretending that everything's sh** and you can't wait to get out of it, which is the story I'd been telling myself for a while, then it gets more painful, not less. Telling yourself life is sh** is like an anesthetic, and when you stop taking the Advil, then you really can tell how much it hurts, and where, and it's not like that kind of pain does anyone a whole lot of good." -Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I wish I could tell you that I was different for the rest of the trip, that this epiphany changed how uncomfortable I was feeling, but I can't say that. I am slow to catch on to things when they have anything to do with how I'm behaving. You can ask Chip and he'll tell you that it takes me about 437 tries before I get it right, and by "right" I mean that I still mess up. A lot.

The rest of the trip was a blur, but I felt different. I felt changed in a way that I know is going to last into the next trip, and the next. I can't stop myself from being so fussy, it's part of my genetic make-up (and I know this to be true because I witnessed a BRILLIANT interaction between Matt and Buddy about getting to the airport to allow for enough check-in time, etc. And in this case, "Matt" was me, and "Buddy" was Chip and it was THE EXACT CONVERSATION THAT CHIP AND I HAD HAD JUST A WEEK EARLIER. I turned to Chip, "Thank you for loving me."

In the end it doesn't matter that we didn't have anything near consistent cellular service for three days, even when Chip stood on the hill behind our lodge, turning in circles to catch an errant beam of blessed technology. It doesn't matter that when we descended the mountain a few days later, I had half a dozen messages from people trying to reach me. In the end it doesn't matter that we were both suffering from the immense altitude, huffing and puffing five feet to stop as we gasped for air, watching ten-year-old boys outdistance us in lap after lap. In the end it doesn't matter that our bathroom smelled... off-putting, to say the least. In the end, it doesn't matter that the humidifier wouldn't work that first night because I didn't have any salt to add to the water, so I took forty-five minutes to stand hunched over a small bowl, pulling individual salt crystals off Alice's hard pretzels, hoping I'd harvest enough salt to do the trick (I did, and it worked, and the next day Chip borrowed a salt shaker from the cafeteria, looking every bit like the cat who caught the canary when he pulled the tan salt shaker out of his pants pockets that night).

Maybe in the end what matters is this: Matt standing in front of his family, with me and Chip and Alice by his side-- proof of the journey he and Buddy had made to find me. And me, standing in a room full of people who look like me, who can tell me stories of Connie and Buddy, who can tell me something about the blood in my veins.

When I started this journey, I told you that it was a story with no beginning and no end, a story that crossed through so many others that it was difficult, at times, to find the exact thread to foll
ow. In truth, I've wondered how many times I've dropped the string only to pick up the wrong one anyway, to follow it until it led me to a brick alleyway I was never intending to explore. The necessary and painstaking steps to follow it back out, to walk through causeways and over bridges that I never imagined, that I never wanted to see. Doing these things has brought me here, even now, to a place I don't quite understand.

But I guess that's how it is, that's how it will always be: we are all in the middle of our stories hoping to witness the beauty while avoiding the pain, and hoping, above all else, to find a way out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

things with teeth

When we last saw Whimsy...
Part one.
Part two.
Part three.
Part four.

So Denver. Not what I expected. I was thinking John Denver with cowboy hats and turquoise jewelry and Aspen ski-fancy. I was expecting WEST and instead I got MIDwest. There's nothing wrong with that, but the fact that Colorado is a FARMING state never seemed to enter my head, even though I knew we were heading to a FARM for Part Two of the Epic Pilgrimage Journey to the Homeland Whimsyfest Extravaganza 2009 (shortened to "The Denver Trip" for my nearest and dear).

My anxiety levels were starting to peak on Friday morning, the day we were heading out to Bill's ranch. I got quiet. It's what I do. I also got Uber Control Freaky, which is also what I do. The whol
e jokey-false-teeth-removal-at-breakfast kind of tipped me off and over the edge of sanity. Chip had said that he felt really close to Buddy, and that things were going really well (we were eating EGGS at this point), but you know, it's not like he'd share Buddy's TOOTHBRUSH or anything. Which is when Buddy laughingly pulled out The Teeth and laughed that he used a different kind of toothbrush anyway.

First thought: !!!!!

Second thought: !!!!

Third thought: This simply is not happening.

Fourth thought: !!!!

Which is when I zoomed back in on the conversation and realized that I was missing some rip-roaring fantastic story about having dental work done in Juarez, Mexico.


This is when I started kicking Chip underneath the table. Hard. MAKE IT STOP, MAKE IT STOP, MAKE

That was me, silently pleading while the whole room se
emed to zoom in and out of focus like it does in those horror movies with the violin screechy soundtracks. I swear, the entire space-time continuum was in on the joke because the seconds slowed down until they weren't even ticking by and if I'd wanted, I could have made four laps around the restaurant ON MY KNEES and Buddy would have still been telling us about that horrible dentist IN JUAREZ, MEXICO. (I'm weird about the dentist anyway, but when I start to think about a DENTIST in MEXICO I can't help but picture some guy working out of the back of his pick-up truck wearing a pair of blood-stained coveralls as he wields a pair of rusty pliers, and in my mind there are wild Mexican goats standing around willy-nilly.) So I had the time to picture ALL OF THIS, IN GREAT DETAIL (with the GOATS), and also have the following conversation with Chip (TELEPATHICALLY --- BECAUSE WE HAD ENOUGH TIME TO ALSO DEVELOP SUPER-SENSORY CAPABILITIES)
Whimsy: Are you dying?

Chip: Yes, I am, a little bit at a time. Are you okay?
Whimsy: No. Of course not. I am already dead. You are speaking telep
athically to my reanimated corpse.
Chip: Do you want me to ask him to stop telling this charming story?
Whimsy: Yes. And also-- RIGHT NOW.

Which is when the record scratchy sound came blaring into my ears as I simultaneously yelled


So Buddy, he stops, waits a beat-- apologizes, "Oh! Of course!"
AND THEN HE KEEPS TELLING THE STORY. "So then this dentist..."

Which is when I pushed myself away from the EGGS and the table, threw my napkin on my plate, and said that I'd be back. I don't think I've ever walked so fast to a bathroom in my life

It took a little while for me to calm down, standing in the bathroom stall and wishing th
at they had a stall with a little couch and some kleenex for just this occasion. Wouldn't that be perfect? I mean, it's really specific and specialized, but particularly for a hotel I think it would be widely used: the non-potty stall. For crying. For feeling upset. For trying to recover from weird moments that really range up there in the Weird Moments Hall of Fame. Because such a stall does not exist, I cowered awkwardly in the corner of my stall, breathing really heavy and trying not to cry, wiling myself to calm down and keep it together.

It was later, after I'd gone back to breakfast and Buddy had apologized profusely, and we'd checked out and gone to pick up our rental car (we'd be driving in separate cars to Fort Morgan becaus
e Buddy would be later returning to the airport to get Matt, Ana, and Emilie) and we were headed to the ranch that Chip held my hand and reminded me of something lovely--- this was when I realized a very important and strangely forgotten fact:

This pilgrimage was putting me in a very confused place--- I felt scared and lost in the sheer gargantuan size of the journey. Whoever we were meeting, whoever we were getting to k
now, no matter their connection to me as a person or as a daughter or as a sister or as a cousin or as a niece, none of these people could ever question who I am. What makes me, me. What ties me to the stories I tell or the bonds I've made. Chip held my hand and looked into my eyes and patiently reminded me that no matter what happens outside of Us: me and him and Alice, we're family. We know each other. We're blood. A sense of place, a sense of belonging--- it doesn't come from the outside, even if it's being given with open hands and a sweet smile. It comes from within.

No matter where you are.

I feel like we've reached a part of the story where everything starts tumbling downhill faster and faster and there's not much I can do to stop it. It felt like we were crossing the thres
hold of the sixth circle of Hell even as everyone around us was smiling and happy and feeling just AWESOME that we were all there together.

I worry about anyone reading this recap now, especially the people who were there--- Buddy and Matt and Ana, and how they might feed bad (please don't). Actually, when I think about it, even the best trips can feel like you're entering the sixth circle of Hell. I mean, no matter what you do, bad things happen, and sometimes it's the bad things that define a trip. And even though there were all kinds of wonderful bright spots, it's those bad things that you remember later when you're thumbing through the trip in your mind. When Chip and I took our first big vacation together it was like this. We went to Florida and despite all of Chip's best efforts, our hotel was CRAP and that first night was CRAP and we actually ended up sleeping in separate beds because they'd given us a room with two double beds and the sheets were so scratchy and awful neither of us could sleep right next to each other for the itching and the bed creaking. I remember the next morning Chip was really feeling terrible. He said, "When you talk about other trips you've taken, things you did before you met me, all of your trips sound fantastic. This one SUCKS." And that's when I started to laugh. I let Chip in on the joke right after, explaining that EVERY trip I've ever been on had HORRIBLE stuff happen. Stuff that made me want to run home (most memorable: my travel partner TOTALLED OUR RENTAL CAR IN SCOTLAND BY DRIVING OVER A SMALL BOULDER--- a rental car for which we had OPTED OUT OF THE INSURANCE, because hey what could POSSIBLY happen...). The thing is, you don't turn right around and come home. And given enough time, you laugh about the awful stuff. The awful stuff mellows in your mind and sheds this funny patina over the trip, actually endearing the trip to you.

The other thing is, I would never want to hear the unabridged version of any trip my friends have made to come see me. I'm sure they could tell some WHOPPER stories about me, my house, and/or getting so sick they want to die. What I'm saying is, I'm giving you guys the very good, the very bad, and the very very ugly--- you're getting the mostly unabridged version of the story and I'm crossing my fingers that no one hates me at the end.

Whimsy is NOT a country girl.

The word we're looking for here is city slicker. Say it in the most sneery way possible because yours truly is something of a northwest dwelling brat. I mean, every summer we spent time on my Grandpa's dairy farm in Idaho. I enjoyed it - but I enjoyed it because it was quaint and different and sweet. I didn't have to milk cows or bring in alfalfa or do anything related to cow poop. Winston grew up on that dairy farm - and he was equally comfortable talking about hay and cows in the pasture and irrigation rights just as much as he was comfortable talking about the traffic in Los Angeles and the crime rates in our town and the city zoning for commercial buildings. It was all the same to him, but I never absorbed any of the country stuff.

Driving out to the ranch was like watching the last bits of safety slip by the car windows. With every fence post and every pick-up truck we passed, I felt like I was shrinking further into myself. I worried about where we'd be sleeping, what the bathroom would be like, if I would have anything to say to anyone. We were heading to see a large family of folks who don't watch TV or movies (I'll let that little nugget sink in and we can talk pop culture references and my DEPENDENCE ON THEM later).

Lucky for me, here's Chip in fine form reminding me to breathe all that beauty in, deep:
We're passing a huge cornfield with nothing but greenery and the lazy flat blue horizon off in the distance...
Chip: (motions to the corn whizzing by his window) Man, that's some REAL heartland crap, right there. You know? Awesome. (smiles, nods) Just awesome.

Which brings us to...
Whimsy is NOT up on the proper hunting terminology.

The ranch is another fifteen miles outside of Fort Morgan. So once we'd reached Small Town, we still had another fifteen miles to go. (Picture Whimsy gripping the car door with white knuckles as she marks any vestige of Civilization pass by her window.)

It was lovely. It really was--- with the softly undulating fields of wheat, and the cornflower blue sky, and the horizon stretching around us in a giant circle.

It was also peaceful. Quiet. Nothing but wind and the gentle rustle of grass and the distant call of cattle.

We pulled up to the ranch house, a big open place, but modest. A well-loved house Bill built for his wife and five children. Three of those kids are grown and living elsewhere, but they return often with spouses in tow. We ate dinner with the entire family every night we were there.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.
While I was busy worrying about bathroom conditions and sleeping arrangements, what I should have been concerned about what this:

That would be one of the two additional residents of our bedroom.

So yeah, they're a big hunting family. When we walked into the living room it was the first thing I noticed (how could I NOT):

Sheep and rams and elk that go Moo
Bears and snakes and mountain lions too!
Heads of every shape and size

Mounted on the walls, each one a prize!

What I was thinking: !!!!!
What I said: So, um, did you guys... like, catch all these... um, dead-animal-head-thingies? Wow.
That's... a lot of animals.

Then they told me that Bill's wife, Phyllis, actually "got that mountain lion,
there, herself". In case you were wondering, THE ENTIRE MOUNTAIN LION WAS THERE IN THE LIVING ROOM.

Alice (making the kitty sign, points excitedly): KITTY!
Me (pushing her hand down): Yes, baby, that's a KITTY. She's not going to lick your hand like Phoebe does.

After that introduction it was hard to focus on much else. I kept imagining that Phyllis was probably headed out behind the house to wrestle our dinner with her BARE HANDS and would come back in to make some cookies. SHOT A MOUNTAIN LION, indeed.

I don't have to recap a lot of conversations from the time at the ranch because there weren't many. I mean, really. This is a family that works hard. That plays hard. That laughs hard. That knows what someone means with one or two words and doesn't have to say much beyond that. They discuss the harvest, how things are going with Nathan's combine business. They talk about bringing in crops and the price they're hoping to get. They quietly walk through the living room carrying shotguns because they're going to "head on out to hopefully catch that coyote tonight" (true story). There isn't anything quaint or bashful or self-conscious about living the life they do. Because it's what they do and who they are. I loved that they welcomed me and Chip and Alice into the warp and weave of their life and didn't offer any explanations no matter how many exclamation points the city-dwelling townies might have running through their heads.

Life is life, and it's different for everybody. I could offer a thousand judgments and try to make it sound funny but ultimately under the careful scrutiny of Fairness and Understanding and Time, they'd collapse in on themselves to become what they are: judgments. There are a million things that Chip and I do here in Seattle that would be mind-bogglingly STUPID to hard-working ranc
hing farming folk. And the same is true here. I mean, there were dead animal heads on the walls. EVERYWHERE. It was a little bit freaky. But again: TOTALLY NORMAL TO THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THAT LIFE.

In case you wondered, a dead deer's chin (FLURPS!) is soft, in a wiry sort of way.

Whimsy is NOT well-rested.

Our first dinner at the ranch? FANTASTIC. Whatever Phylis did to kill the cow WITH HER BARE HANDS (kidding!)--- she did it with some finesse. Because the food was absolutely perfect. Steak, corn, a bunch of things I can't recall. Something she called "dessert pizza" which was basically a pate sucree fruit tart. I really had to stop myself from laughing about how perfectly ironic and stuffy some people can be (Martha Stewart: pate sucree fruit tart with kiwi! Phyllis Mountain Lion Slayer: fruit pizza!). After dinner, everyone sat around the table and talked a little. It was something I mentioned to Chip later on as we were trying to sleep--- those first conversations are always so tricky. No one really knows what to say - me to them, them to me. No one wants to pry or be rude. No one wants to say the wrong thing. Instead, they don't say anything. Chip and I didn't want to intrude so we listened to the guys at the table (close family friends and farm hands that were helping with harvest).

The first night of sleeping there in that double bed was a little bit uncomfortable. See, Chip's sore throat was quickly blooming into something Otherworldly. The air conditioner treatment (thanks to yours truly!) had combined with Chip's resident (but usually mostly dormant) asthma to create a cocktail of viral loveliness. That cocktail had then mixed itself with Hay Fever of epic proportions to give Chip the worst case of breathing trouble he'd ever experienced. Of course, none of this was exactly apparent on Saturday morning. But he hadn't slept much the night before (neither had I), and he was feeling, shall we say, poorly. Alice was also a little out of sorts thanks to a continuing and nagging case of Not Getting Enough Sleep.

We woke up. We ate some breakfast. We got in our rental car and drove the twenty (!) minutes into town. I needed to make another (count 'em) Target/Walmart/Walgreen's/Random Drug Store Whatever's Handy to pick up some Claritin for Chip, something amusing for Alice, and an ample supply of infant Ibuprofen. The three of us were so ridiculously miserable. We didn't know what to do. You know what you do when you don't know what to do and you're staying outside of Fort Morgan, Colorado? You have your husband drive to a park, a park where there are some Latino people having a birthday party (complete with a pinata). You laugh until you cry when your husband exclaims, "MY PEOPLE!" Then, the three of you, ALL THREE OF YOU INCLUDING THE BABY, fall asleep. In the car. For a half hour. (Note to Buddy: that's what we were doing for so long when we went into town, we fell asleep outside some random park where a nice Latino family was trying to have a birthday party for their kid.)

We actually felt better after the napping. We stopped off at a different park with a million ducks. Then we went to the grocery store and bought some food for Alice, some milk for the family, and
headed back to the house.

Alice ran around the living room and pointed a million times at that darn mountain lion. Alice was a saving grace. When you don't know what to say to someone, an adult person, it sure is easy to bond with Alice. They were wonderfully, deliciously, adorably goofy with her. Phylis and her daughter got down on hands and knees to play peek-a-boo. Bill tickled Alice until she did her belly-laugh. The guys, every single one of them, was sweet and gentle with our little Alice Bean. She's a great ambassador.

Whimsy is NOT a good conversationalist.
By that evening, I was looking forward to the food (seriously, Phylis did not disappoint), but I was worried that things would be quiet at dinner. So with Buddy's help (he brought up the awesome incident of THE TEETH), Chip and I started to talk about us and our life together. I am not a good conversationalist when I'm feeling on the spot. But let me tell you, given the chance, I can make fun of Chip and tell Chip-related stories until the cows come home. He's a FUNNY DU
DE. And he's even FUNNIER when you're married to him. We told them about how we met, including the fact that CHIP BROUGHT HIS ROOMMATE WITH US ON OUR FIRST DATE. We told them about Fred and Wilma, the largest and most heinous spiders we've ever battled (CHIP HAS EVER BATTLED). We told them about Chip asking the diaper seminar lady how often he could expect to get "poo material" on his person while changing diapers. We told them about how, after Chip's painful knee surgery, I essentially YELLED HIM UP THE STAIRS AND INTO BED in order to avoid the humiliation of having my new in-laws see my semi-unconcious husband lying prone on the hardwood living room floor (Chip: It was the most comfortable floor I'd ever been on and I didn't want to go anywhere, anytime soon. But Whimsy scared me. She was tiny, but boy did she sound MAD.). In short, we told them every embarassing story we could muster in order to get people to laugh and be comfortable with us. We are ALL ABOUT the deep humiliation if it brings some humor into the room.

It worked. They laughed, they smiled, they shook their heads. There was this one point when I was talking and I noted that we'd been talking, just Chip and me, for the last half-hour--- and Phylis's daughter said that they didn't mind. It was fun, it was funny. It was nice to let them see us for who we are, to know that we are goofy and make dumb mistakes. But it was still hard--- it was basically the in-person version of sharing this blog with someone and asking them to know me based on what they read here. It's never the whole story. It can't be the whole story. There is editing and someone making a choice to leave something out that was particularly unfunny or painful or weird.

The actual, real, knowing of a person takes time. A lot of time.

Whimsy is NOT a nursemaid/stellar multi-tasker.

It would appear that I was a little self-involved during this time, because in between all of my stress and focus and worry about the sleeping arrangements and looking forward to Phylis' next meal, I glossed over the fact that Chip was getting increasingly, and deathly, ill. By Sunday morning Chip was wheezing so bad I could hear him across the room. His face was pale and slick with sweat. He looked terrible.

He said, "We need to go to urgent care. Now."

So that's what we did. Because now it also looked like Alice was suffering from the same allergy--- her eyes were red and watery, swelling shut as she tried to blink. She was sneezing and couldn't breathe. We packed up the car and made arrangements to meet Buddy and the rest of the clan (the whole lot of them) up at the family reunion at the YMCA of Estes Park (we will be covering this little YMCA jaunt in the next installment, because: Yes and Oh boy).

The closest Urgent Care was over 90 miles away. NINTY MILES, PEOPLE. The closest Urgent Care. Almost-triple-digits-of-miles AWAY.
Chip: I feel bad for anyone who gets sick.
Whimsy: Just drive. Don't think about how you feel like you're about to die.
Alice: **Whimper.**

It was the longest car ride of our lives. I sat in the back with Alice as she tried to literally cry her way through sleep. Chip told me later that the conscious effort he was making to actually take each breath was maddening. That he was worried he was going to simply stop breathing altogether. That he was worried he'd end up leaving Alice and I in the middle of the Colorado countryside, husbandless and fatherless. Longest car ride of our lives, I'm telling you.

What made it even longer? When we got to the Urgent Care Mecca 90 miles away and found that THEY HAD DECIDED TO UP AND CHANGE THEIR SUNDAY HOURS AND WOULDN'T BE OPEN FOR ANOTHER HOUR AND A HALF.

We drove to Walmart (Ding! Another random Target/Walmart/Walgreen's/nameless drug store visit!). Chip sat limp and lifeless on a bench near the pharmacy while Alice and I tore through the store to pick up necessary supplies (humidifier for my sick family, eucalyptus for the humidifier, pretzels for Alice, children's Benedryl in case the doctor okay'd it for Alice's allergy attack, adult Benedryl for Chip, four boxes of kleenex for the copious amounts of snot the two sickies were generating). When we returned to the Urgent Care we were the first ones in the clinic door. We got Chip and Alice checked in. And then we proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. Because even though they opened at noon, apparently there were no doctors there for another HOUR.

And then, we saw a cranky nurse tech dude who made Alice VERY upset when he insisted that she put the little blood pressure finger squeegie thing on.

After the screaming, the PA seemed to appear magically, out of thin air. And then she agreed with our assessment: very bad allergies for both patients, severe bronchitis in Chip's lungs along with some other kind of nasty infection (YES, DUE TO THE AIR CONDITIONING; AGAIN: THANK YOU TO WHIMSY.). Benedryl and antibiotics all around!

So it was, finally and after many prayers and pleas that we SURVIVE THE DAY, we headed up the mountain to Estes Park (8,200 feet altitude). Exhausted, sick, and not in the least prepared for the YMCA.

Part six on Monday wherein we visit gigantor bugs, marvelous ingenuity, and the life-saving effects of adrenilin.