The Boxes

God is in it all. The mundane, the crazy, the life-altering zesty life things that come at us every day. But how often do we see it? This blog was about sorting boxes but the God Echoes would not stop coming. They are in italics. You can read this piece with them, or without them, either way.

Boxes. Boxes and boxes. In these boxes are memories. Baby shower cards and diplomas and finger paintings. Coins and yearbooks and a newspaper from the day each child was born.

I am not a saver by any stretch and my beloved children will tell you that I am practical to a fault. So why are there so many boxes on my dining room table?

In all fairness, I blame my mother.

Back in ye olde days of April, when the world was ending, my mother’s somewhat panicky voice – the one that lives in the back of my head – spoke up:

What if?

What if I lose the last fifty years of memories to fire or earthquake or some other chapter of Revelation? To locusts or rats, or *gasp* outdated tech?

What if the world ends and I haven’t organized it yet?

We can’t let that happen.

And so, in April, I gathered every box from the basement, attic, and closets. Cleared out under the bed and emptied my cedar chest with one goal in mind: turn all of this overwhelming why-did-I-save-that pile of flotsam into a future-proof time capsule.

A little Noah’s Ark.

When the world as we knew it was going to end, God thought it was important to bring the past forward into the new future, too. My fifty years counted. Noah’s 600 years counted. For better or worse, we can’t act like they didn’t happen. God does not erase our past, He offers a better future. The mosquitos and the ants were on the ark.

I opened the first box and lifted out an infant onesie, covered in tiny yellow bumblebees, stained on the front, snaps in place, and I was undone.

And now I know how Noah must have felt on the other side. And why he needed a drink. We don’t get to go backwards. Be still, my heart.

The child that wore this tiny scrap of fabric is no longer interested in it, but I was transported instantly to a place where he was. I was holding the memory for him. Literally.

If there are parts of our past that are too heavy to carry, poop that happened in the infancy of our relationship with Him, entire boxes of memories we would rather forget, know that He holds those closest to His heart because it represents how much you’ve grown. He wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

My memories will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to me. And that’s okay. I would like to keep them, please, just not in so many boxes.

It’s nice to know God has an attic that stretches to infinity. I’ll let Him keep the boxes.

The next generation has no concept of my anxious task. Their memories go directly to the cloud.

You see? Safe. Likely decorated that attic door with a rainbow or two. Typical proud parent.

Mine are in a cloud, too. A dust cloud. I march my memories, two by two, across the scanner, and this, too, results in another memory.

The Year Mom Sorted the Boxes.

It took Noah over a hundred years to pull the ark together. He probably paced himself. I guess I shouldn’t whine about six months.

The little time capsule, filling and thrilling, reminds me that life is full of good memories when you stop and pay attention to them.

And now I can carry them on a lanyard around my neck, close to my heart.

Mom always said, “Look where you’re going.” Since the past is not where I’m going, I will only spend a little more time looking down instead of up. Whatever happens next, my past and my future sit safely in the cloud. And we will not be forgotten.

He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isa 40:11

Toot-in-Common’s Curse

Many know the legend of the curse that follows those who dare disturb the sarcophagus of Toot-in-Common. Few have dared to approach it. None have dared to open it.

For many years, people circled the area, knowing that foul deeds and fouler air were contained in the bowels of the ancient tomb. What treasures must be locked away in there? What mysteries hidden in the depths of the forbidden zone?

One intrepid archeologist risked her reputation and her life by venturing where no man had gone before. Well. A man or two had obviously gone before her to build the thing. And yes, what they buried involved another man who should have died for the plan to work. Somebody somewhere had to curse the thing.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

There were strange markings in the walls that she couldn’t decipher. Patterns in the tiles plastered above the cavernous entry. Mold grew in the corners in a black spidery gesture that unmistakably beckoned the wary explorer to come closer. She looked carefully for a trap. There was nothing here that could sustain life. The smell was a mixture of damp clay, stale air, and sewer slime. The floor shifted with her weight and creaked. The wind outside moaned in warning. In the dim light, she stepped closer. The sarcophagus was buried here in the dry rot. She could feel it.

Waving to her team of hired thugs, she moved into position. She put on gloves, a mask, and protective eye shields. On her signal, hammers fell against the stone that encased her prize. She reached for ear plugs. Shrapnel flew through the chamber, filling the air with dusty debris. “Stop!” she cried, lifting a fist. “Time to use the chisels.” With detailed precision, the last of the stone was chipped away, revealing the edges and smoothly polished target of her ambition.

“Yes,” she said, running her gloved hand over its alabaster surface. “You’re mine.”

She turned to look behind her. There were three intricately carved storage chests. Taking up a mallet, she smashed through the front panel of the one on the left. “Empty!” she cried in frustration. She broke open the one on the right. There was nothing inside but a cracked cistern, oozing thick, black offal. She backed away quickly, signaling to the minions to cover it up. With one last desperate swing, she cracked open the central box. She moved her boots out of the way just as odd shapes and parcels began spilling at her feet.

“Bag it,” she said. Time to sort her treasures later.

Circling slowly, she knew what she had to do. Others would hear about this as soon as she left. They would follow, curse or no. The credit was hers and hers alone. She would remove her prize and destroy the place behind her. She took photos first. Proof for those who might scoff later. A tease for those who hadn’t been brave enough to go after it themselves. Cowards.

Workers lifted the huge sarcophagus from the bowels of its encasement and gingerly moved it towards the entry as others took up hammers again. “Level it,” she said, and took the first swing. The cavern wall opened immediately, gaping wide as huge chunks fell away on their own. Through the rubble, black slime began crawling from hidden recesses above the ceiling and down into the room. It percolated from the holes in the floor, bubbling up in anger. The alluvium of a thousand years rose to challenge the intruders and surrounded them in stench.

There, in the wall, was the source of the curse. It pulsed with the remains of a thousand human hands, dripping with stripes of brown, green, and yellow stalactites. A sulfurous decaying mass began to slide towards her. It was offended by the carrion birds who had entered with irreverence to pillage and destroy. The curse had been released and she felt the air hum with its static. They stampeded for the exit. “Bleach bombs!” she cried, staggering towards the fresh air.

Hubby was waiting outside. “I almost died in there!” she said.

“I told you so. You had to do it, didn’t you?”

“I still might die. What happens when you breathe all that?”

“Leave it alone, I said. We can hire a professional, I said.”

“A professional is who built that bathroom in the first place. A man who did a lazy job with the plumbing and left it dripping for the last 30 years in the wall.”

“Where did you find my hammers? I hid the hammers.”

“At least I got the tub out in one piece.” Kid #5 stood there and pointed to the dings in it. She tried not to feel defeated.

“I hope you’re happy. The bathroom’s destroyed. Now we have to rip out the mold and it goes in every direction.”

“Yes, I’m happy. The place is like death in there.”

“Please don’t touch the toilet. What did the toilet ever do to you?”

“Toot-in-Common can stay. It’s the only thing that worked right anyway.”

“Thank goodness for small blessings. I’m not good with rivers running through the house.”

“Well,” she said, “at least I can find out what’s been falling behind the cupboards for the last million years.”

Someone’s retainer. Someone else’s diaphragm. An enema. Floss. Meds. Qtips. My sanity.

I might just light the thing on fire and rebuild from scratch. I mean. She might. She’s a crazy archeologist with a torch, you know.


Hot Diggity


Don’t open this. You were warned.

Security Breach

Last week, we woke up and discovered that we had been victims of a home invasion robbery.

Foolishly, we had left the back door open to the night breezes and everyone knows that a flimsy screen door doesn’t stand in the way of a determined burglar.

The door opens onto a balcony and only scaling the walls to the second floor will put you a position to know whether the door was actually open. We thought we were safe.

Afterward, my daughter remembered seeing a movement from the corner of her eye two days prior, a quick shadow in the evening gloom, hanging around our garage and disappearing when she turned to get a better look.

He was casing the joint. Waiting for his moment. Admiring the goodies he imagined were inside.

The dirty rat broke into our home in the wee hours on Monday and took his time wandering around, deciding what he wanted.

I shudder to think we were all deep asleep and heard nothing. What if our bedroom doors had been open? What if we had heard footsteps and gone to investigate? I can only promise you one thing for sure: I would have taken one look and run into the streets shrieking. To my shame, I would have left my family in the house asleep and hailed a cab headed for anywhere else.

I’m helpful like that.

Instead, I staggered into the kitchen that morning and saw the destruction left in this guy’s wake. He obviously took a joy ride through the place. There were big, fat rat droppings everywhere, and puddles that glistened in the early light.

I did an about-face and shrieked for Hubby. Bad enough I had valiantly fought the ants all summer, now we had rodents. Maybe roaches are next. We did find that scorpion once. And termites are common here.

Best to burn the house down and start over with a concrete tilt-up and a gallon of caulk.

What’s the world coming to when you risk dying of plague in your own house?

My sweet Hubbs went into the kitchen while I showered even the thought of rats off of me, and he covered everything in sight with Lysol. All of it. To soak. The droppings got fatter.

He threw away the food that was on the countertops and wiped most of the rat bits from crevices and told the kids that making peanut butter sandwiches for school was totally doable on our new, clean sofa. Probably. Then they all left.

I threw everything in the area made of fabric into the washing machine on the hot wash/extra rinse cycle, and pushed the go button. Shrink if they must, but I’m not carrying leptospirosis into the world on my spandex and starting a pandemic.

What if the rat was still in the house? What if he was hiding under the washing machine waiting to jump me with his sharp little incisors and scratchy scrambly claws when no one was around to save me? The thought kept me motivated. You’ve never seen such discipline. I poured a gallon of bleach and an ounce of water into the mop bucket and shined every bit of floor. The ants were very confused. I considered washing down the walls and ceiling.

There was no police report I could file. I had no witnesses, no suspect in cuffs, no video surveillance, and our alarm system hadn’t been activated that night. Certainly not at three inches above floor level. The police couldn’t help me, but I have the right to bear arms. I loaded up on rat traps.

When we visited the animal shelter three weeks ago, I had looked around for an anteater, which is definitely my first choice of pet, but they mostly had cats and dogs. They did have a horse outside.

And a cage in the lobby.

With a rat in it named Ginger.

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

To every other little bride
Who has a “Bob” to please,
And says she’s tried and tried and tried
To cook with skill and ease,
And can’t! – we offer here as guide
Bettina’s recipes!

To her whose “Bob” is prone to wear
A sad and hungry look,
Because the bride he thought so fair
Is – well – she just can’t cook!
To her we say: do not despair;
Just try Bettina’s Book!

It’s been 100 years, ladies. And I want to know. Can you cook yet?

This little gem, circa 1917, is on my bookshelf, a wedding present from Hubby’s younger brother who stole it, I am sure, from a distant great-aunt’s box of cookbooks, gifted partly in jest and partly in fear that I would try to cook a chicken without looking inside of it first…again.

Written in chapters with roman numerals, the book follows the first year of Bettina and Bob’s wedded bliss as they keep house in a bungalow during the roaring ’20s, somewhere in America. Through dialogue with friends and family, we discover that “new fashioned breakfast foods are for feeding the stock, not human beings!” We learn what Bettina keeps on her “emergency shelf”: cans of pimentos and tuna, jars of dried beef, marshmallows and macaroni, a one-pound box of salted codfish. With a thousand ways to please a husband and three of them are “Jellied Beef”, “Radishes”, and “Peanut Butter Sandwiches”, I’m confused.

But what can you expect? When an engagement is announced, it’s toasted with…grape juice. Like. Until 1933. And, fresh out of World War I, “dainty, delicious, and simple” are the words of the day. This can be interpreted as: tiny little portions. Her flower arrangements are bigger. Good thing dessert is included almost every night. Bettina meets Bob on the porch as he returns from work each day, she in her apron, he in his spats. Recipes for “Tuna Loaf”, “Prune Souffle”, and “Ham Timbales” support their complete happiness.

Bettina is quite accomplished in economy (“I always try to use the oven for more than one dish if I am using it at all”), so you won’t find her spending all her allowance on the gas bill (“open fires are so nice”), and full of advice on how to use up those leftovers in the icebox (croquettes, salads, molded, or en casserole). She can remove ink stains with sour milk, heal burned fingers with olive oil, and cleans her steel bread knife by dipping it into the dirt in a flowerpot. I laughed at her newfangled “fireless cooker”, then pondered her jars of jellies and pickles, but when I read her conversation about how to get rid of ants…I got in line. Talk to me, Betty.

“Mrs Dixon was dressed in a trim street costume, but under her veil Bettina could see that her eyes were red, and her lips quivered as she answered, “Forgive me for coming so early, but I just had to. I know you’ll think me silly to talk to you confidentially when I met you only yesterday, but I do want your advice about something.”

“Why my dear, of course. I like economizing; it gives me an opportunity to use all the ingenuity I have.”

“Frank and I’ve lived in a hotel but – lately he’s been so different. Why – he hasn’t been at home with me two evenings a week – ”

“You must be dreadfully unhappy,” interrupted Bettina, “Why, Bob doesn’t like to be away from home any evenings at all.”

“But you’ve just been married!” said Mrs Dixon tactlessly. “Wait and see how he’ll be after a few years! Why, I can’t cook a thing – I can’t even make coffee! Frank says if he could only have one breakfast that was fit to eat – ” and she buried her face in her handkerchief.

“Why Mrs Dixon!” cried Bettina, cheerfully, although her heart was beating furiously. “Your trouble is the easiest one in the world to remedy! Your husband is just hungry – that’s all! You do just as I tell you for one month and I’ll guarantee that Frank will be home every single minute that he can!”


7 T-coffee
3 T-cold water
1/2 T-egg white
4 1/2 C-boiling water

  1. Scald the coffee pot
  2. Add the coffee, cold water and egg-white
  3. Mix thoroughly, add the boiling water
  4. Boil two minutes
  5. Allow to stand in the pot one minute
  6. Serve
  7. Brace yourself

Wherein Mistakes Were Made

It was a rough week. Mistakes were made.

I made a big one at work, wherein the people involved were very nice about it.

I made a small one at home, wherein the people involved were very not nice about it.

But here’s one nobody knows about, and as three mistakes in one week are quite enough, thank you, I will tell it and be done.

I was so happy.

After a long day at work, I was finally out in the sunshine, walking between rows of potted plants and trees in a small, local nursery.

It has been years since I’ve had a reason to wander a nursery. My old house had riots of asparagus, corn, zucchini, voluptuous fresh tomatoes. My new house doesn’t even have soil.

It’s built on clay, decomposed granite, and ant hills. It’s surrounded by poison oak, cactus, and gophers. What grows here was planted deeply into a hole in the bucket it was purchased in and requires ridiculous amounts of water, fertilizer, and prayer.

House plants are my consolation prize.

Hm. This place wasn’t as amazing as I remembered it.

There were obvious gaps in the merchandise.

A lone man sat on a bench with his cell phone. He looked up briefly when I walked through the gates and asked in Spanish if I were looking for someone.

“No,” I answered with a big smile, “just looking around for some succulents, thanks.”

Maybe if he got to work instead of being on his phone, this place would look better.

I wandered up the slope, enjoying the fresh air, seeking inspiration.

Another man approached me, “Are you looking for something?” he asked.

“Well, I actually just need a couple of five gallon planter buckets, but I’m also looking for something really different for my house.”

He gestured to the far corner of the nursery, “There are lots of buckets we aren’t using back there,” he suggested. I think. My spanglish isn’t what it used to be.

I cheerfully trudged further into the wild, tromping through the hummus in my work shoes, remembering days of shovels and pitchforks and the smell of earth. Discreetly, I was looking for price tags but there were none. Maybe they were on the bottom of the pots?


In a clearing, next to a ramshackle chicken coop, was a mountain of discarded planter buckets. On the other side was a rubbish pile. A rat ran past it and into a rusty can.

Slowly I turned and peered into a tattered plastic green house, withered vines slumped in the doorway.

There was no breeze, but I felt a chill.

It occurred to me that there were no other people in the whole place besides me and the two quietly observant men. Taking in the overall state of decay, my smile faltered a little.

Grabbing the two nearest buckets, still marked from whatever they had held in a prior existence, I squared my shoulders and marched up to the men.

“These will do,” I said, (regardless of the bugs or plant disease they held), “Where do I pay?”

I looked around for the sweet little shed I remembered from my murky past, the place where I once bought 2,000 ladybugs. The place with a cash register. I saw only a picnic table covered in debris and a tightly closed up shed surrounded with pots.

They really let this place go.

He indicated that the buckets were free and I assured him with large smiles that I would come back when I had a better idea of what I was looking for.

Like fighting cocks. Or maybe some medical marijuana.

My disappointment was deep when I told my mom about it.

“That’s so sad,” she said, “It sounds like they are going out of business. That nursery has always been there.”

And it wasn’t until 2am that it occurred to my brain that perhaps I had made a mistake.

The next day after work, I took another drive across town.

I drove slowly past the empty, shadowed nursery. It just didn’t make sense.

Clarity, however, was waiting around the corner.

There in blazing color, buzzing with customers and bursting with greenery was…The Nursery.

The street, the entrance, the parking area, the shed, the fence, and the gates were identical to the one around the curve. Same large trees, benches, and pots everywhere.

I got out and walked around, admiring flowers. Passing the cashier shed, wind chimes called out to me softly. I camouflaged my blush in the bougainvillea.

I had walked into someone’s backyard and acted like it was all for sale.

And being good neighbors, they were willing to take my money.

January and The Joy of Good Enough

Hi, my name is Jolie and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I have OCD and ADD, which means everything has to be perfect, but not for very long.

I will sneak into your living room and line up the pillows on your couch.

I will rewrite a sentence until it begs for mercy.

And I will definitely have some great ideas on how to organize a pantry.

If there’s one thing I love, is being bossy highly opinionated full of great ideas.

January is my achilles heel. I look at the rest of the months and I’m ready to make my lists of great ideas.

Self improvement. Home improvement. Be a better mom. Be a better Christian. Be a better wife. The month explodes with resolutions, challenges, goal setting, and trend setting.

I’m usually too busy starting things to finish things.

“Yes!” I cry, “I can do it all! I will finally stop being so darn lazy and inadequate!”

All I have to do is apply more mascara, lose five pounds, get up an hour earlier, have sparkling grout in the shower, meditate daily, call my mother….

Perfection will always lean on the doorbell.

Pour a cup of tea and sit with me for a minute.

I have learned to let it go.

Honey, a lifetime of fighting the uphill battle between a clean house and five kids should have taught me that. You will never call me a quitter.

But it was leaving the house and the kids that proved to me “letting go” was an option.

Did you catch that one thing I just said? The lie? The bit that snuck in here and acted like it belongs?

It was the whisper scream: “I will finally stop being inadequate”.

THIS is what I “let go”.

Believe me when I tell you I can be (if I wanted to) lazy, but the guilt of inadequacy drives a lot of us right off the deep end.

I should have folded laundry in drawers, not under the table in heaps.

My family should be prepared and cheerful on Sunday mornings, not filled with “Hurry!” or “Find your shoe…why do you only own ONE shoe?” or “I don’t care what you just put in the toilet, we’re leaving NOW”.

My marriage should be romantic get-aways and nurturing conversations, not stale chips on the couch, binge-watching Psych.

But it all happened and surprise! Not only was I not suddenly inadequate, but I was handed the key:

You are good enough right here right now. Even with one shoe missing. Deeply loved. Just for sitting there.

Let that just sink in like a baking soda paste for a moment.

What happened – in my quest to have and do everything I thought I needed to be a good wife, mother, human – was the recognition that I already had it. All along.

My self of ten years ago would laugh herself silly over this revelation and continue scrubbing the grout without skipping a beat.

And so I release you to discover these things as well, if you dare. I let (because I have this choice) my kids choose, cook, serve, and clean up many meals now. They boil frozen hotdogs, serve them on bread with a side veggie of ketchup, and tell me all about their day. I sit there exhausted and deliriously happy to see their faces and hear their chatter and not once question why my socks stick to the floor.

I look around and I am just so grateful. Over and over and over.

I’m getting rather good at it, because practice makes perfect…er, good enough.

Time for Tea!

Princess and the Pea

“For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? Nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.”

So says Deuteronomy 3:11.

A lot of things were destroyed in these Deuteronomy wars, but apparently the giant iron bed was spared as a tourist attraction.

This is Moses the Meek kicking butt here, and I’m super excited because it reminds me that the giants in my life are not going to be a problem…but maybe their beds are.

There comes a time when you are ready to buy a bona fide bed. Usually it’s after all possibility of kids climbing into it with you has passed. When there are no diapers in the house. When the sheets are so thin you can’t tell the design on them anymore and you are tired of keeping the bed frame that holds up the mattress from putting holes into the wall that it was shoved up against.


I was forty-some-odd years old and ready to graduate to a “big girl” bed, one with a pretty headboard and decorative pillow shams. Hubby watched nervously as I poured through websites and catalogs.

He wasn’t going to sleep in a big girl bed.

Sure enough, I fell in love with a beautiful canopied contraption from Pier One.

It went way beyond four-poster glory. It was sleek and sophisticated. It was handsome and versatile. It could be dressed up with flowing organza and twinkle lights or slicked down in houndstooth and down-filled leather bolsters.

Not that I had a preference.

It was freaking expensive.

Hubby broke into a cold sweat when he saw me click the beauty into the website cart.

He begged for one week to come up with an alternative.

“As long as it doesn’t come from Costco,” I replied, setting the cart aside.

Immediately, he found “a practically new identical bed” on Craigslist.

Willing to save money on the bed meant I could splurge on linens. Right?

Suspicion came too late.

Instead of my graceful elfin fairytale, we were staring into the maw of a gutted tank.

Hubby thought it was, in sheer cubits, the manliest thing he’d ever seen. This was a bed to rest your war boots on.

Or corral elephants in.

Quite possibly it was the final barracks of Og.

The Ammonites must have kept it in storage until Spanish Crusaders carried it across Europe and into the new world, along with horses and cannons and smallpox.

I imagine it easily held the entire ship’s crew.

We dragged the iron bed home in pieces and reassembled it in the bedroom where it took four mighty men (okay, three strong guys and one weakish woman) to coerce it into position.

The mattress lies on crossbars of steel.

Our tile floor is softer.

You have to be one tough giant to sleep on this bed.

“That’s it, I’ve had it,” I said one morning to the Hubbs, “This bed is ridiculous. I’m tired of waking up with half of my body gone numb. It takes an hour before my shoulder stops hunching up into my ear.”

“But sweetie,” he replied, twisting his neck back into position, “you need a firm mattress for a bad back. I can feel all my vertebrae moving into position as I go to sleep.”

And once he’s asleep, the vertebrae keep moving in a desperate attempt to find a place of rest.

The man’s going to be a hunchback.

Cursing the Crusaders, I went shopping.

I began with an extra-thick mattress cover and a down-filled duvet.

I found a foam gel memory mattress topper.

I grabbed a microfiber king-size pillow top.

That mattress was covered like a layer cake and rose another cubit.

I frosted it with fresh clean sheets, four fat pillows, a colorful quilt, a soft fleecy throw, and wrapped it all up with creamy silk drapes tied at the corners.

All I need is an elevator, and we’re set.

And maybe side rails are a good idea for when you graduate to a “big girl” bed.


Gambling for Guests

A homemaker is a gambler.

She gambles every time she makes something new for the family dinner.

She gambles on whether Hubby will throw a fit over her new short hair cut.

She gambles on whether the car will run out of gas before she runs out of errands.

So it’s only natural that when she has incoming house guests, she invites Lady Luck to join her in the linen closet for a game of bluff.

Four of a Kind would be lovely but Two Pair are all I can realistically ask for.

The gamble is finding the right combination of sizes, colors, and pieces that will go onto the correct configuration of beds.


Our large family has no shortage of beds. The girls have twin beds with rolling trundles that pop out when needed and the boys have twin beds that can combine into a king size, and we have a queen size bed that just sort of moves around between rooms.

I really don’t know how that happened.

But she lives here too.

Depending on who our guests are, I may need to take my game up a notch, as the kids donate their rooms for the occasion.

The girls have bedding that is coordinated but comes with an array of unique pillows, stuffed animals, college blankets, clip-on headboard lamps, a couple of candy bar wrappers in the duvet and possibly some pocket change under the mattress.

One daughter always makes her bed. One daughter never makes her bed.

The boys share a room that is completely stripped of toys, trophies, or trinkets. Instead, their room with two beds and two nightstands has a central sacrificial burial mound where a week’s worth of laundry (clean and dirty) mingle with sports equipment, gym bags, school papers, shoes, cell phone chargers, backpacks, and empty gatorade bottles.

When I tell them to clean up they use a skip loader and put it all into the closet.

None of them will use a top sheet, so the fitted sheets get worn to rags and the tops are brand spanking new. The quilts are somewhere in the middle.

My linen closet takes a good beating but we manage to make it work.

I reach in and pull out a king top and a queen bottom. Okay, double or nothing. I grab another blue sheet and two twins and a pillow sham fall out.

I decided to toss all of my dice at once, gut the shelves, and look for the Royal Flush.

I lined up the kings and kept a set in yellow. I hunted down all of the queens. Only the brown set stayed. Because only the brown set had all the pieces. I discovered I had twin bedding for a dozen beds, but only if those beds needed a random top sheet or pillow case. So I stacked matched four piece sets for six twins, tossing out the kickers.

I had to find a blanket and quilt to each set. By now I was surrounded with linens.

Let’s see…two twins equals a king….

“I’ll see your sheet and raise you a bed skirt.”

It was then that I decided to raise the stakes even higher. When your son hits 6’2” and his feet are hanging off the end of his bed, you have to get what they call a twin “long”.

That or buy him nice ski socks.

I had a hot tip on some sheet sets at a discount warehouse, so I went to investigate. I found a lovely 500 thread count Egyptian cotton set marked down by 70%. It’s pink and yellow, but it’s new and it all matches. Maybe it’s a long shot, but no one needs to know if he’s sleeping on flowery sheets, right?

No? Fine. Scratch that.

I shuffled the deck and found one with tiny green seashells. Score!

Turns out, twin “long”s aren’t the popular size, but for us they’re the ace in the hole.

Oh. You’re coming over for the weekend? Suite!

We put jokers on the couch.


The Pig in the Pot

I just crammed an eight pound pork roast into a three pound Crockpot.

I’m guessing here because the darn pig piece wouldn’t quite fit. I was putting a square pig into an oval hole.

Why do the butchers do this?  Does anyone make a square Crockpot? Would it still be a “pot” if it had corners?

My mom used to bake bread in large coffee cans. The loaves were round. It’s still “bread”.

Don’t they know we’ll be getting the kids out the door to school in the morning and then remember we were going to toss something into old faithful because it’s going to be “one of those days”? So we yank open the freezer door, rip open the rock hard meat chunk and go to plop it in, and….it comes screeching to a halt because the thing won’t fit.

Just a corner is still sticking out.

The clock is ticking.

“Get in the car!” you shout to the kids, “I’ll be right there!”

Now it’s down to you, the pig, the pot, and a kitchen variety of options.

I did the only logical thing that didn’t involve a hammer or a blowtorch. (You have those too, right? Mallets are for beating a chicken breast into chicken fried submission, and the torch is for lighting the birthday candles or caramelizing Barbie’s feet when she needs to be tortured when Mom’s not looking.)

Turning the pot to “High”, I gently balanced the lid on top of the roast in the pot and put the heaviest thing handy on top of the lid.

Then I ran out the door.

There’s a good 2-3” of water in the pot. The hot steamy water should melt the pig just enough to bend that corner into the pot. Or at least enough so that when I return I can whack that non-conforming pig bit off and commence the cooking.

It feels good to have a plan.

Later, upon kitchen re-entry, I discovered that the pig had melted just enough to leak juice over the edge of the pot as it plopped into submission. Naturally.

After cleaning it all up and claiming victory for dinners everywhere, it occurs to me: I legally had this raw meat sitting “out” for three hours. Sort of frozen, sort of steamed. This is where my mom’s voice runs across my inner forehead like a ticker-tape, all in capital letters.


If you think for one minute I’ll be starting over here, you’ve got another think coming.

I could season it with a couple dashes of Lysol and essence of bleach, but instead we’ll go with the original plan and cook the phooey out of it all day.

I’ll call it a luau. If I were to be authentic, we’d be pulling this bad boy out of a pit dug in the ground where it was surrounded with rocks and dirt and the bare feet of natives.

You’re lucky we’re not pulling bits of gravel out of our sliders tonight, so there.

Kiwis are Coming

There’s a poem in the smell of pumpkin pies baking and how a gentle Santa Ana wafts it through every window.

In my house there’s an energy that sparkles from a skylight full of sunshine.

Welcome, fall. Finally.

My kids are excited about this weekend because company is coming and that means a few givens around here:

  1. The kids will be kicked out of their bedrooms and then have to turn around and deep clean the floors, beds, closets, ceilings and bathrooms to prepare for our guests’ arrival.
  2. That mom will holler about this until they leave for school and then do it all herself.
  3. That kid #3 never gives up her room for company because she still has a soul and wouldn’t wish her room on anybody. She did take a stab at cleaning it anyway. The lizard living under her bed wasn’t pleased.
  4. That mom will be so engrossed (and grossed out) by the state of her house that she will be found, hours into cleaning the fridge, down in the den throwing Nerf darts viciously into the closet and muttering to herself about ant poison and not forgetting to buy toilet paper.
  5. The fam forgives this normal routine in anticipation of feasting like kings for three days.

There may be sheets hanging in our windows and trash bags suspended from the ceiling but by George, we’re having a carne asada fiesta tonight and three pies in case someone feels peckish at midnight and the boys are arm wrestling over whether we have french toast or waffles for breakfast.

Our guests this time are the Kiwi cousins and as we haven’t seen them in almost five years, all the kids will be reacquainted over swimming pools and Lego piles.

We’ll listen to their opinions of Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (last two days) and what it feels like to fly around half the planet from New Zealand to California. I’m guessing the snacks will be assessed.

We aren’t necessarily a huge family anymore, my people are drifting on the continental plates spread out over this big blue world and in the suburbs of my own backyard.

More than ever, I’m glad we have a revolving front door. Family is anyone who walks through it and sits down for some tea and pie. Ya’all come.

Next week, we’ll go back to cold cereal and frozen hotdogs and cobwebs and squalor.

But today, the house is clean and there’s real food cookin’ and the towels are as fresh as the autumn breeze.