Next Stop: Batty

Hangin' by a thread, here. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pox Revisited

(Republished from 2006 because you didn't read it the first time, did you? Hmmm???)

Chicken Pox, Baby! We thought we had thwarted them with the miracle of modern medicine, and then they showed up anyway, ready to PAR-TAY! Taylor, then 7, told me her ear itched. Well, lots of people's ears itch from time to time, don't they? I mean, is it written in the Good Mommy handbook that you have to drop everything every time one of your kids has an ITCH? Lord, when I THINK of all the things that have itched around here...

So, her ear itched. I didn't think much of it. Next day, it still itched. I looked at it. It was red. I slathered stuff on it. Next day, the other ear itched. "What we have here," I announced, "Is an allergic reaction to some new shampoo, soap, or hat." Taylor gently reminded me that we didn't have new shampoo, new soap, or a new hat. But since the alternative theory was that my ear-scratchin' daughter had fleas, some part of me chose the allergy theory; it had a nice, clean ring to it. Slathered stuff on the offending ears -- with love. And, ummm... sent her to school. (Oh, stuff it -- like YOU never made a mistake in YOUR life!)

I did actually plan to pick her up early from school and take her in to the doctor that afternoon, but the doctor's office put me on hold, and I couldn't go into Target without losing the connection, so... I hung up on the doctor and chose Target. Hey! I was on hold for a long time, Sister! I was on hold so long that by the time I got the appointment, I bet school would have been over anyway. I mean, rashes come and rashes go, but those end-of-season sales are a get-'em-while-supplies-last kind of a thing. Wrapping paper, 99 cents. See my position?

Next day, ears itching, neck and face itching, doctor can see us at 11:45.

Here's the problem with doctors today: they make so much money, you can't even BRIBE them anymore. I mean, I offered that doctor $50 NOT to tell me it was chicken pox and she LAUGHED at me! Very funny. And what about your nice VACCINE, Doc...HMMMM? What the heck happened? And by the way, I'm no expert, but those don't even LOOK like Chicken Pox to me. Don't you think it could be some sort of allergic reaction...maybe to a...hat?

The problem with doctors today is they think they're some sort of EXPERT.

It's never a good sign when they fumigate the exam room after you leave and tape that yellow CAUTION stuff over the door.

So, it turned out that everyone on the PLANET but me knew that innoculated kids can still get the Pox. A watered-down version, though. Remember when WE had it? You know what the average number of lesions was? 300 to 400. Holy avian itchies! I can still smell the Calamine. Taylor only had 20 or so. She was still very uncomfortable and I still felt bad for her, but I had to fight like hell not to say, "You call that the CHICKEN POX?! Hah! That's nothing. I SPIT on your chicken pox! When I had it, I was so itchy, Nana wrapped my hands with duct tape and chained me to the bed to keep me from scratching! And we didn't have your Cherry Flavored Benedryl, either. No! We didn't need no stinkin' Benedryl. It was hell. I still have the scars. Wanna see them?"

So, there we were. Kid felt fine except for the itchin', yet she was contageous as all hell and I guessed as a responsible adult, I was supposed to make that MY problem and keep her home from school all week. That's what the doctor said (despite a SECOND generous offer of cold hard cash). If you ask me, this is why the vaccine was developed in the first place: to save us from having to stay home with our infected kids. And here was the rub (or the scratch) -- we were really just stuck with each other, she and I. No playdates. No restaurants. No errands. No Blockbuster. No trips to the liquor store to get mommy some good stiff stuff. No, little miss Typhoid Taylor was quarrantined and therefore, pass the Ben and Jerry's, so was I.

Actually, at the time, Super Pox Girl had a crunchy, lefty, Waldorf school and natural fibers mommy who almost never let her watch TV (I told her it rotted her brain while I counted the hours until I could plop my widening ass and fully rotted brain in front of that week's Project Runway.) Anyway, she was MAJORLY tv-deprived, so all I had toen do was declare open season, and that Partridge Family lunchbox on ebay could've be MINE before I heard from her again.

EXCEPT... by Tuesday, she was TV cranky, and by Wednesday, she was done...D-O-N-E... with tv, computer, playing in the street, etc. Now, this seven-year-old was generally wonderful. She was a joy. She listened and behaved and all that other stuff which will no doubt contribute to her body-piercing, pot smoking REBELLION later on. So, I liked having her around. The problem was she didn't really like having ME around. Well, that's not quite right. She liked me. I was her Mommy. I smeared stuff on her Pox and made her grilled cheese -- AGAIN. But she was, like, REALLY SMART (not enough TV), and keeping her occupied meant having to be able know... THINK and stuff. Who wanted to do THAT day in and day out?

I tried. I really did. I got her some new...what do you call those things?...BOOKS. I broke out a new LEGO set I had been saving for that someone-has-an-oozing-communicable-virus kind of a day. These new LEGOs, by the way! SO COOL! There are all sorts of tiny two-way hinges and ORANGE pieces and eyes and WINGS. Love 'em. We played with those until we hated them. We looked up ATOMS and MOLECULES on the internet because she wanted to know if atoms were really moving around in our Silestone counter top. And really...WHO THE HELL KNOWS? I mean, I GUESS so. Atoms are the building blocks of life -- or the circle of life (no, that's Disney)...or the building blocks of matter...or of manmade kitchen surfaces, I suppose. It broke my heart to see her give up on her mommy's lame-ass explanation and resort to staring at the countertop, hoping to catch an atom moving. We made Jell-o. We took the dog for a walk and squinted against the sun as we felt it warming our now-pasty skin. But eventually, I just ran out of steam. I didn't know what to do, and she didn't know what to do, and we pretty much hit bottom when my poxed petunia sat crumpled on the family room floor wailing: "Oh WHY CAN'T I CRY?? I WANT TO CRY!! BUT I CAN'T!"

That's it. Big gun time. Finally, I announced, "Taylor, we are going to decorate the treehouse." We got out of our jammies and put on those CLOTHES thingies. Loaded up the wagon with whatever seemed cool-treehouse-ish. I got out the power tools (and let me tell you -- it takes A LOT for me to do that). Hooked up three extension cords and headed out to the world's greatest treehouse (built mainly by my dad and surely visible from space).

Here's Taylor's cool "ancient" treasure map showing treehouse and treasure.

God, we had fun. We put peacock feathers in a flower pot. Hung a big orange-framed print on the wall. Suspended those plastic dudes with the tangled parachutes from the ceiling. Made pegs from twigs and hung canteens on 'em. Installed a xylophone and a bell shaped like a pegasus. Fashioned a perch for a stuffed parrot I had bought at a yardsale (HAD to have it). Screwed this little gumball machine thingy to the treehouse table (otherwise, it'll find its way to the woods and anthropologists will find it in the year 2278 and think its some sort of incubator or primitive transporter or something). My girl was BEAMING. She was giddy. She learned how to change the bits on a power drill. She told me she could imagine staying in the treehouse forever.

The child could stay in the treehouse forever.

Smiling as I remember that day: the laundry sat soggy and molding in the washer, the dishes didn't get done, and we had leftovers and frozen veggies for dinner. And I had a GREAT day at work.

Yes, The Posts Below are OLD, but...

...some of them are still worth a chuckle, so READ ON. I plan to re-vamp (this means I "vamped" before? How cool and vaguely racy!) and start writing again. Took time off to start a company, run it, sell it, move to South Carolina, where I am well and truly LOST-O-LA. Stay tuned. This oughta be good.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Artist Trading Cards!!

My friend, Kate, has gorgeous red hair. That has nothing to do with this post, actually, but I intend to say nice things about Kate periodically because she's one of the six people who READ MY BLOG -- religiously. And here's another nice thing about her: she makes "crack potatoes." That's what one friend calls Kate's cheesy potato casserole because once you take a bite, your life becomes all about GETTING MORE. Damn that Kate, damn her! If only I had never tasted the crack potatoes!

And while we're on crack (well...not ON crack, but you know...), here's a little narcotic that my other pusher, Shelley, laid on me last week: ARTIST TRADING CARDS (ATCs). Oh, sweet Mary and Joseph, save me from the artist trading cards!

They work like this: people create little pocket-sized works of art, and then trade them all over the country (or the world?). Each piece must be the size of a baseball card, pokemon card, or other trading card (3.5"x2.5"), and anything goes. Photos, collages, paintings, drawings, doodles, etc... Here's the best part: the only way to get one of these little gems is to TRADE another little card for it for it. One can surf the web and fascinate oneself with as many cards as one likes, but one must break out one's CRAYONS (or whatever) to actually acquire an ATC.

It took me approximately five seconds to decide to make one. My girls and I used to play a game where one person makes a simple scribble on a page, and the other person has to find a picture in it and develop that picture. We've made some pretty whacky stuff. So, I decided to make my first cards using the scribble technique. Each card started as a scribble. It's a great way to let go and stop thinking so much. I love it when I don't have to think!

I had completed about a half dozen goofy cards when my girls (5 and 8) announced they wanted them (my biggest fans, those two!). "Well," I explained, "You can only get these by trading them. You have to make some cards."

GREAT! They loved the idea, and the three of us lost hours and days working on these little scribble masterpieces. Creating and trading original art with my girls -- what in the world could be better? I think my 8-year-old may even recycle some of her infernal Pokemon cards and cover 'em with tradable art. This makes Mommy happy. Makes Mommy want more. Damn crack cards.

(This is Carly's "Magic Window.")

Steve, who provided me with some of my scribbles, says he is going to have to make some cards because the girls keep getting his favorite ones of mine. If that guy sticks with me long enough, he'll be an artist yet! And if I keep working on his politics, why...he could be perfect before long.

You can find out a bunch about ATCs here. Or, google it. These cards provide a nice impetus to spend just 10 or 15 minutes doing something creative.

Taylor's "Dude."

I haven't traded any cards outside of my home yet. Want one you see here? MAKE ME A CARD! Fun, fun, fun.

I know! Why don't you come over? We can invite Kate, and she can bring her potato casserole. We can make art and get fat on cheese and potatoes together. Like smokin' crack, only WAAAY better.

Friday, April 07, 2006

10 Times I Refrained From Cursing

Man, am I good. You don't even know how good. I have only said f---ing in front of my children once. One time. In a restaurant. In the midst of telling the adults at the table a story. I just forgot the kids were there! did not look good. But that was once. ONCE. My friend Bonnie was there. She was thoroughly aghast. But she, of all people, ought to know what a challenge it has been for me, this parenthood-induced clean language thing. I like the F word (sorry, Mom). It's a good word. I like almost all of the other words, too. But now that I'm a parent, I don't use them anymore. Even at night, when they're in bed, I'm so used to being clean that I forget to cuss. I just carry right on with the "darns" and the "dangs," and for no good reason. I call that reformed.

And if that doesn't impress you, here are some recent occasions on which I did not curse:

1. When dinner was really, really late because the dog ran away and we had to chase his ummm... doggie buttocks... all over the neighborhood, and then I dropped the entire pepper mill into the pot of boiling pasta water, thereby splashing scalding water onto myself -- and then, like an idiot, REACHED INTO said boiling water to retrieve the fudgety-fudge-fudge-fudging thing.

2. When the same dadgum dog ate three pounds of home-made BLUE play-dough and vomited NINE TIMES throughout the house. Yes.

3. The most recent of approximately 678,499 times that my 5-year-old has grabbed my breast as if it were a doorknob. And yes, it was during my period. It's as if she 'd like to check first: "Mommy, are your breasts tender today? Great! Let me at 'em!"

4. When I mistakenly shampooed with hand lotion at the Savannah, GA Marriott. And then had to spend the day -- sporting my fetching aloe vera and lanolin hair -- with Steve's family.

5. When they bumped Desperate Housewives for the olympics, and then it turned out to be pairs ice dancing, of all things. Pairs ice dancing all by itself is enough to bring a person to cuss. And if you don't watch Desperate Housewives and do watch pairs ice dancing, get off my blog. I've had it with you, Missy.

6. That time George Bush opened his mouth -- pick one.

7. When I saw that huge pile of horse poo-poo at Historic Williamsburg MILISECONDS too late, and Carly stepped squarely in it. Then, she grabbed my breast to steady herself while she lifted her foot in order -- not to scrape the sh-t off, but to gleefully smell it. It was, after all, the best flirking thing that happened to that child all day.

8. When our premium got raised because of those people who I rear-ended on Reisterstown Road back in October. At about -2 miles an hour. We were STOPPED at a red light, and then the light changed and they started to go and then they stopped. So really, they front-ended me! In their piece of ka-ka car. And puh-lease. There was no damage to their car. Their was no damage to their persons. (If you're reading this, you mean Reisterstown Road people, shame on you! It's not nice to lie. God was watching, and I pretty much hope you burn in H-E-double toothpicks!) And our insurance company PAID OUT seven THOUSAND dollars to these people. (See how FLAT that is?? You really need the F-word in there, just between "these" and "people.") (And come to think of it, you really need one between "thousand" and "dollars," too.) Okay, this whole jerks-who-I-rear-ended-and-why-I-should-have-left-the-scene-
of-the-accident is a blog post for another day.

9. 2:30 PM, one kid sick, other kid waiting at school, and the car won't start. And nary a cuss from me. I know. I have already ordered my halo from Amazon.

10. I have to strike the following dirty words from my vocabulary as well: don't spill it. Why? because when I utter the words, "Don't spill it," THEY SPILL IT. Most recently, blue gatorade, strategically spilled on the couch in such a way so as to hit not one, not two or three, but FOUR cushions. Four. Flippin'. Cushions.

Now, enough with the words about dirty words. Here are some nice words. You know the four cushions with the blue gatorade? Guess who took care of that mess. Steve. What a giving, thoughtful, selfless, rockin' thing to do. Makes me think of another F word I like -- one that really looks good on my dog chasin', shoe-poo scrapin', gatorade scrubbin' guy: Father.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Twenty Things...

Dear Taylor and Carly,

Here are 20 things I want you to know about me:

1. I have reported for a newspaper, edited a magazine, helped to run a non-profit, secured many hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money, taught writing to high school and college students, sung in a professional choir, counseled college students on academics and life, and managed a staff of 40 and a budget of $500,000. And when I quit this last one to raise you, I began the most difficult, most important, most wonderful job of all. No kidding.

2. In high school, my best two friends won "Queen" and "Miss Congeniality" in a pageant I didn't enter. And then they stood in their crowns on my front porch, and told me they didn't want me to go with them to the fair. And it really, really hurt.

3. I married my very best friend, and if you ever choose a life partner, I hope you will do the same.

4. I struggle with trying new things because I don't like change. But every single great thing that has ever happened to me came just after I stepped off some cliff or another. I want you to take risks in life. Do the thing that scares you most. Otherwise, why are you here?

5. When I really lose my temper and yell at you, I know it scares you, and I always say I'm sorry. But that sure isn't good enough for me. So I also say a silent prayer, asking for the strength to be an adult for you (no matter how silly an adult!) -- an adult who can get angry without getting scary. God and I, we're working on that.

6. It took me 37 years (and counting) to truly learn the following: sometimes you have to do what you don't want in order to get what you do want.

7. I never, ever had thin thighs. But the thighs I have are me. I love 'em. Treat your body nice. LOVE it. It'll love you back.

8. I always have a better day if I build in at least 30 minutes to do something creative.

9. I completed a 20K race when I was 28. Your dad and I trained in the rain and through the cold winter. We often ran before the sun came up, or after it went down. We often ran instead of doing what we really wanted to do, because we wanted to be prepared. That race is one of my favorite memories. The experience taught me that I can do just about anything I decide to do.

10. I am going to write a book one day that will get published and lots of people will read it. Dream big, girlies.

11. I am a sailor, and always will be, even if I never set foot on another sailboat. Water, wind, and waves are in my blood. What is in your blood? Be who you are.

12. I always wanted to be a famous Broadway star. Sometimes, when I'm alone in the car and singin' to a soundtrack, I still pretend I am one. Singing uses my body and my brain in a way that makes me feel supremely alive.

13. When I was a teen, I thought if I could JUST have the hair that Shelly Franco had and the clothes that Sue Trifoso had, I would be happy. I thought no one understood that. It wasn't that my folks didn't understand; they just knew I was wrong. Looks and clothes really don't make people happy. But it can be hard to believe that when you're a teen, I know...

14. At bedtime, when I lie with you and say nothing, I am really just waiting for you to talk. These are the times when you really tell me things. And I work so hard to just listen without trying to fix, or teach, or correct. These are the times I hope you'll remember, and keep telling me things. I'll listen. And if you ask me to, I'll listen without saying a thing in response.

15. There are so many times when I am in awe of you. God gave you both such HUGE spirits. Taylor, the way you try despite your fear or misgivings knocks me out -- every time. Carly, the way you try despite other people's warnings and nay-saying makes me more proud than you'll ever know.

16. I make lots and lots and lots of mistakes. Some of them, I can fix. Some of them, I can't. Some of them are small, and some are big. One time, after a really big one I couldn't fix, I ended up in a church in Salzburg, Austria. It was a toursit attraction, but there were no other tourists there. I was tired from all my mistaking, so I laid down on a pew. And then, some nuns began singing the most beautiful simple music I have ever heard. I couldn't see them because they stood behind screens, but their music reminded me that God loves me no matter what mistakes I make, and I can always start again. And when you make a really big mistake (you will, you will), God's not the only one who will keep loving you -- your dad and I will, too.

17. I'm not big on churches, but God is the real deal for me. That old kids' grace says it all: God is good. Where you see goodness around you, and it moves your heart, that ain't no accident. That's what I think.

18. Sometimes, you and I have big adventures, like building a treehouse or going to the ocean. But the simple times -- when we're washing the car and spraying each other with the hose, or drawing pictures together, or cleaning our rooms and finding old memories, or watching a toad, or snuggling the dog -- that's when I think to myself, "yep...this is exactly where I want to be, and right now I have everything I'll ever need."

19. I have written these things down to show that I'm just a person, like you. I have been a kid, and made mistakes, and had hurt feelings, and nurtured big dreams. Just like you. You're not alone. Your mama has been there.

20. I love you more than anything else in this world.



I hope Michelle, from "la vie en rose...A Sweet Life" will be flattered, and not offended, that I was so moved by her letter to her own children, that I decided to try it myself. And thanks to my sis, Shelley, for showing me Michelle's letter in the first place.

Friday, March 17, 2006

On Lemonade Stands

My feeling is this: the more lemonade stands, the better. This one started out with a bag of broken costume jewelry I had picked up at a thrift store for $2. When I presented it to the girls, they immediately divided the booty, each picking a piece in her turn. With the pieces and some beads and yarn, they decided to make "new" jewelry. Since it gave me time to empty the dishwasher and clean the counters -- and only cost $2 -- I was loving this activity.

Until...they announced their intention to sell their creations from the end of the driveway. As I surveyed their sparkling array -- necklaces of broken earring parts and purple plastic beads -- my heart sank a little. How was I going to break it to my budding artists that no one was going to pay money for this stuff?

Shame on Mommy. Letting cynicism get the better of me like that.

Luckily, I decided to hold my tongue when the jewelry sale idea came up. Held it again when my little entrpreneurs priced their creations at up to $1 -- EACH!

Together, and without my help, they lugged two little tables and two chairs out to the front yard, carefully laid out their wares, advertised prices, and set up our play cash register. Then, they sat. Noon on a Tuesday. This was not going to go well. I had visions of helping them lug everything back inside in a matter of 20 minutes, and began crafting a "these will make great Christmas presents" consolation speech.

But Lo! A customer! Dawn, a friend and neighbor on her way home in her minivan, pulled over, God bless her, and bought a necklace or two. What a sweetie. The girls were beside themselves. Then, someone else stopped. Later, they ran inside to grab snacks and to make keychains for their prospective male customers (and a delivery truck driver did go for that). I brought out some lemonade to make the picture complete, and before we knew it, the time was 2 PM and students were walking home from the nearby high school.

I have to say, seeing the teen set in their low-rider jeans and their Abercrombie tees stop to chat with the girls and to remark at how "cute" they were boosted my hope and faith in humanity. The track team ran by and lamented that they had no cash on them, so the girls made a sign: "Lemonade FREE for runners." Positive community relations. Good longterm business strategy.

Some adult walkers said they'd stop by on their return trip. My little one said they could do credit if they wanted, since the red plastic cash register had a slot for cards. Gotta love that kid. She later hand-picked a necklace for our neighbor, Dan, to give to his wife, Diane. He got away with that necklace and 2 cups of lemonade for a mere $2. Diane later called to let the girls know how much she liked her necklace. That woman has two small boys and is about to have another one, and she took time out to call. So did Dawn. The truck driver who bought the keychain claimed he didn't have the right change and insisted the girls take $3. Meanwhile, our dog ran away and they boy across the street helped us catch him. When I gave the boy (our babysitter's brother) $5 for his trouble, he promptly spent it at the girls' sale.

And this is what lemonade stands teach all of us, isn't it: kids can do anything they set their hearts to, and there will always be good people around to cheer them on. I have always had a complete inability to pass a lemonade stand by -- now, I know why. It wasn't the lemonade; it was all the sweetness that came with it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On Tomboys and DELURKING

Is there another word for "tomboy?" I've got one of them there tomboys, and the term is supremely irritating to me (because it grants implicit weight to the notion that there are certain activities, likes, and sensibilities that are "normally" reserved for boys, and certain ones that are for the girls). What a load of pink plastic ka-ka that doubles as Positively Peach lip gloss! Toys R Us even has it all separated out by aisle. McYuk's gives out "girl toys" and "boy toys" (though not the GOOD kind of "boy toy.") And just take note of this for the next 3 or 4 visits to the golden arches: the "girl toys" are nearly ALWAYS passive, and the boy toys nearly always DO stuff. What the hell is up with that? Makes me want to confiscate the toys the minute they enter the car, take them back OUT of the car, and place them squarely under the front tires. I know, if I were a better feminist/ pissed off consumer, I wouldn't even go to Micky D's, and yes, I read Fast Food Nation and yes, I saw Supersize Me. And, in truth, I take my kids maybe 5 times a year. It's because the Happy Meal really does make them happy, damn it! And a chocolate shake is quite a nice pick-me-up for Mommy.

My girl likes space, and climbing trees, and knights, and swords, and bugs, and snakes, and danger, and spies, and forts, and exploring, and rock collections, and jokes about farts, and pants, and snowball fights, and performing magic, and superheroes. How awesome is that? But she kind of...umm...stuck out a bit at school, where most of her female peers were being raised on Lizzy McGuire, Cinderella, and MAKE-UP (for crying out loud), and felt they knew what a girl should be...and it wasn't snakes and snails. When we moved our girls to a Waldorf school -- where kids aren't supposed to watch TV or videos, or play on the computer -- my little "tomboy" suddenly looked and acted a lot like the other girls in her class -- girls who were getting mud on the knees of the corduroys and just being seven year old KIDS.

Pardon my French, but what the (insert French expletive) are we DOING to our fabulous, strong girls??? I know...I also have a girl that was born to love dolls and twirly velvet dresses. And she wasn't socialized to be the soft, frilly way she is. God just picked that for her. But God ain't gonna make her no PRINCESS when she hits puberty, and he ain't gonna give her an 18" waist or perpetually shiny hair, or impossibly perfect skin, or enough money so she can SIT ON HER ROYAL ASS for a living. And really, what else do these Disney princesses have going for them? I mean, with the possible (yet flimsy) exception of Mulan, what have any of these sparkly bitches done for us lately? And Barbie, too. Barbie can kiss my fuming ass. When girls are "playing Barbies," does anybody save anybody? Teach anybody anything? Discover anything? Solve anything? Earn anything? Does Barbie do anything? No. How can she, with those molded high-heeled feet?!? We want our girls to be her?? Really??? I'd sooner have my girls learn about gravity and aerodynamics with her by pitching her and her capris off a ten story building. And on the flip side, the boy "action figures" (at least they have "action" built in...) save lots of people, but they usually do it by blowing things up. Go figure. Where would the boys get the idea to destroy things? Could it be the various weapons that come with the dolls?

Okay, I can't decide if I feel better now, or more upset.

And speaking of upset, if you people don't start commenting (delurking) so that I know anyone is reading this I swear I'm gonna hit the Ben and Jerry's, and that is not a good thing. I mean, if just, oh, six or seven people were reading my thoughts on vomit and bear shit, I would feel so validated. This is SOLID STUFF, people. My husband, who wants to get laid, even said so. And I fixed the comment moderator thingy so anyone can comment at any time. And I'm not bluffing about the ice cream. I have fatty foods, and I'm not afraid to use 'em.

So, go ahead, stick up for Barbie and Belle...or slam 'em! And let's come up with an alternative to "tomboy." It'll be fun.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bad Bear! Bad, BAD BEAR!

Friends #27 and #28 (Kathy and John) came last week for a sleepover -- brought their kids, their dog, a big bottle of red, and Kathy's prize-winning apple chocolate cake. Oh my, oh my, that cake was good. But even better than the cake was the following story:

Kathy and John met in Mexico while trying to save the world. They fell in love, got married, and went on a posh and pampered honeymoon in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Yeah, nothing says young love like the buzz of a mosquito in your ear and a complete and utter lack of SHOWER facilities.

Actually, I think the honeymoon in the wildreness thing is a pretty cool testament to the strength of their relationship. Steve and I would have ended up with an annulment. Did I ever tell you about our second anniversary when we went canoeing in the New Jersey Pine Barrons? Yeah. Portaged most of the way due to drought. Bumped into 83 Boy Scouts in 25 canoes -- and never shook 'em. Sprayed gallons of bug spray in an effort to rid ourselves of pine flies -- only to find out that the little f---ers LOVE bug spray. And somehow -- I don't know how -- it was all Steve's fault. Oh, how I LOATHED that man! (Loathed him for a good 5 to 10 minutes when the only way to discourage the flies was to build a fire, and we discovered that the Scouts, like a plague, had stripped the land of every stick, log, dry leaf or shred of bark which could have been used to feed a fire. I wanted to burn the boys themselves, but Steve wouldn't let me and oh, how I loathed him for it.)

But I digress. So, there are Kathy and John, canoeing and camping in Minnesota, bathed in the warm glow of newlywed bliss. The waters are sparkling, the birds are singing...the bears are watching. Yes, BEARS. Gotta love the bears on the honeymoon. Apparently, bears are certifiable PESTS in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildreness. On their way in, Kathy and John were advised by Mr. Safe-In-My-Little-Green-Hut Park Ranger to treat the bears like pests. Shoo them, yell at them, scare them, make them go away.

Am I the only one who thinks "shooing bears" is a super bad idea? I mean, do they just hand out the Park Ranger credentials to anyone willing to wear the funny hats and the knee socks with the elastic holder-uppers? Shoo the bears. They're not squirrels; they're BEARS. And "scare the bears." Please. Let me see...bears = big, carnivorous dudes with many teeth and property rights. Kathy and John = THE OTHER WHITE MEAT. Yeah, I can just imagine all the bears shaking in their big, black, furry, spectacularly clawed boots.

But I digress. So, guess what happened? Yep. Kathy and John smooched and paddled and smooched and paddled until it was time to find a spot to camp for the night. A cursory inspection showed no signs of bears in their chosen little love nook. One is supposed to look for claw marks on the tree trunks and bear scat on the ground, says Mr. Oh-So-Helpful-In-The-Funny-Hat. If this story were about me? The statement, "If you don't see claw marks on the trees, you're probably okay," would lead me straight to the Marriott, please pass the key to the minibar.

But our intrepid explorers, Kathy and John, are snuggled in for the night in their nylon (i.e. NOT bear proof) tent, when SHOCKINGLY, they hear noises outside. They take a peek and WONDER of WONDERS! It's a BEAR! Now, it's that special time in the honeymoon when we "shoo the bear" and "make the bear go away." So they yelled at the bear from inside their tent. But the bear, being... oh, A BEAR... was not dissuaded by the little talking drumsticks in the little tent. That bear went right on helping himself to Kathy and John's pack, which was hoisted up in a tree for better bear access. That's when Kathy saw the bear going after the Snickers bar stash, and something inside her snapped. My friend Kathy then RUSHED THE BEAR, "Bad Bear, Bad Bear!," and GRABBED THE FOOD FROM THE BEAR, "Bad, bad bear!," and then HIT THE BEAR. At this point the poor bear, appropriately chastized, took off...

...only to return later, prompting a very naked, very white John to CHASE THE BEAR through the woods with his spikey red hair and his skinny, glow-in-the-dark butt.

The next morning, a slightly more thorough inspection of the campsite revealed trees with more claw marks than actual bark, and enough bear poop to sink a ship. They had camped in the heart of Bear Central and had lived to tell the tale, Snickers intact.

If you didn't LOVE this story, drink a liter of red wine and read it again.