I hit a deer Friday night.  It somersaulted off my left front bumper and flew into the central Washington night.  As if my day hadn’t been eventful enough, I punctuated it with an 11:55pm roadkill exclamation mark.

That morning Nick, Noah, and I packed the Dodge Ram pickup truck full of all Nick’s possessions and took off on the long drive north to Seattle. We all knew this day would come, and finally it was time to collectively wrap our minds around the moment when we would drive away from the memories of radio flyers careening down big hills, and tree forts built into century old cherry trees, and of a golden van transporting a quarterback, 3 linemen, a receiver, and a golfer around the county on epic adventures. As a parent you know it is coming but you can never fully understand that moment until you live it.

It is no fun having to parent a “grieving” child across the cab of a Dodge Ram pickup truck, a long legged Ethiopian between us, going down the highway at 70mph.

I was much better by the time we got out of Clark County only to lose it again when Nick spotted one of his  best friends driving north on I-5, heading to his new volunteer firefighter position in Longview.  Nick told me to speed up and I did.  And for a good bit of time we drove side-by-side. Windows down.  Best friends. Wingmen.  Maverick and Goose.  And then his friend signaled right, and with one last wave and “I love ya, man!” he was gone and we continued to stay the course.  Heading north.

I wouldn’t give back that tearstain moment for anything in the world.

We arrived in Seattle a little after lunchtime. By that time the vibe of the city was beginning to creep into the cab of our pickup truck.  It was exciting, this new adventure Nick was on the edge of jumping into.  He is pledging a fraternity so our destination was greek row on the north end of campus.  I knew exactly where I was going since I had been to his house before, but I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter next.

Sorority girls.

Pods of sorority girls. No, masses of sorority girls. Balloons.  Daisy Dukes. Tank tops. Greek letters.  Singing. Chanting. Blocking traffic. It was like we had rounded the corner of Seattle urban vibe and unwittingly driven right into the middle of the Sorority House Apocalypse.  But instead of zombies with eyeballs hanging out of their sockets and jaws barely attached by a tendon thread our Dodge Ram truck filled to the rim with a dresser, a desk, a bike, a suitcase, and four big plastic rubbermaid bins was surrounded by perky, bubbly, cheery fresh faced  young ladies who were obviously thrilled to be a part of the U of W Rush week.  So, as we became (for the 3rd time) entrapped at another intersection (this time at the corner of 47th and 20th) while we waited for the Tri Delts to pose for a group photo in the middle of the road I did what any mom would do in that situation.  I madly blurted out a speed review of the facts of life.  In the time it took for the last tiny tank top with three triangles across the chest to clear the road I had made my point.  Maybe not as clearly as I would have liked.  But in my mind I could rest at ease knowing my 18 year old son knew exactly where his mama stood.

I wouldn’t give back that frantic mama bear moment for anything in the world.

Noah’s eyes were WIDE by the time we had fought our way through the latest episode of Walking Keds and found safe haven in Nick’s house parking lot.  I’m 100% certain they weren’t wide with fear though, if you know what I mean. We spent the next three hours getting Nick unloaded and set up, meeting his fraternity brothers, and just enjoying our last moments together before we had to say good-bye.

And then, there was that good-bye.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Its a secret society whose initiation into it is heart wrenching.  But when it has all been said and done, there is something  extremely gratifying  about seeing my son bound up the steps of his new house two at a time because HE is ready for this.  I may not be.  But HE is.

I wouldn’t give back that “go free” moment for anything in the world.

The tears began to fall as I drove away but the soft grasp of Noah’s hand on mine made it just a little easier because with that touch he reminded me that I may have just pushed my second baby out of the nest but my job as a mom was still long from being over.

I pointed our emptied Dodge to the east and drove across the Cascade mountains to begin the second half of my day.  Spending time with my Hannah in the middle part of the state.

The plan was to meet up with Hannah and her best friend Malia.   Malia’s housemates weren’t moved in yet so Malia had extra space for Noah and I to spend the night.  Unfortunately a first of the month miscommunication between Malia and her landlord led to her power being turned off just about the time we showed up on that late Friday afternoon.  It was all good though.

Who needs electricity anyway?

FYI on a DIY: A light made of a plastic milk jug that had to be emptied anyway because the milk would go sour by Monday and a headlamp turned inward really does work, just like Pintrest said it would.  

We sat under the glow of the 1/2 gallon milk jug for several hours just talking.

I wouldn’t give back those dusk into nightfall off the grid moments for anything in the world.

As the night grew older we decided  to drive to Manastash ridge to see if we could catch the Northern Lights.  We left the the smoothness of the pavement and bumped our way up a dusty mountain road until the glow of the city lights disappeared.  And we began our wait.  We had no idea what we were really looking for but still, we waited.   And we waited some more.  We never did see the Aurora Borealis that night.  Colorado might have. But we didn’t.

I wouldn’t give back  those star gazing, universe blanketing moments for anything in the world.

We headed down the mountain a few minutes before midnight. And that’s when I hit the deer, just a mile or so after the dirt turned to pavement again.  It came out of nowhere.  We all saw it but it was too late to do anything.  To us, and our truck, the damage was non existent.  To the deer, well, she wasn’t so lucky.

In all my moments of that moving my son into college day, the happy the sad the good and the bad, I can honestly say this single moment was the only one I would give back. Without hesitation or pause.

In a single heartbeat.












Holy Water, Batman!

DSC01450For the first time in many years I am sitting at my counter on a Friday morning without even the tiniest pang of anxiousness in my stomach.  This is how it is when your son no longer plays football on Friday nights.

I had been told Nick would suit up for varsity four years ago…my 125 pound 5 foot and a half foot more little boy…and I kind of scoffed at the idea until I was standing on the sidelines in LaCenter on the opening play of the opening  game of the season and #25, in a white jersey,  streaked by.  My #25.  My Nick.  I did what any mom who saw her fourteen year old son diving headlong into a scrum of stinky sweaty bearded men who had already registered for the selective service would do.  I screamed.  And I screamed a little louder than I probably should have in public.  But still, I screamed.  Two words.  Oh shit!

Suddenly my season of just hanging out in the stands with friends while I watched the backside of my son stand next to his manly-men teammates on the sidelines on a Friday night shifted and I was forced to be engaged wholly in what was going on inside that 100 yard long rectangle.

Not long into that same game our starting quarterback, a junior, left the game with an injury.  Our backup QB? Nick’s buddy Jess, a fellow 14 year old on a field of men.  I didn’t actually see it but I can guarantee when Jess’ mom Monique saw her son walk on to the field to take his first varsity snap her reaction was exactly the same as mine. Oh shit.

We lost.  45-6

The following week Nick and Jess suited up for varsity again to play Prairie.  Again Nick streaked by and Jess took the snaps.

We lost. 54-21

The Hawks played Tacoma Baptist the next Friday night.  How hard could a private christian school from 2 hours north hit?  Apparently hard enough to shut us out.

We lost 23-0

This losing streak kept building, one game after the other.  Mark Morris.  Tumwater. R.A.Long.

After every game  I would wait for Nick by the locker room door.  He was too young to drive.  He didn’t know any of the upper classmen to hang out with so I waited for my little boy to come limping out of the locker room and I would drive him home.  After a shower he would crash on the couch and we would talk about the game and then settle into an episode of Ghost Adventures where he would fall asleep exhausted about half way through. That was our routine on Friday nights four years ago.

The losing got to Nick and Jess.  I know it did.  It also got to me.  But I think it especially got to Monique.  There is a sense of responsibility when your son is in charge of executing the plays on the field.  Its a lot of responsibility for a fourteen year old to bare.

Homecoming was the next game. Woodland was our opponent.   Our Hawks were 0-7 on the season going into this game and it was a battle to stay out of last place in the league.  We had a chance against the Beavers. A slim chance. But a chance, none the less.

The Friday morning of Homecoming I got a call from Monique.  It was a quick call because we were both getting our boys out the door for yet another team breakfast before the big game that night.

“This is kind of crazy, Julie, but desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“What do you mean?”

“I sprinkled Holy Water on Jess’ jersey this morning.  He doesn’t know it.  You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

I remember pausing,  thinking, and then reacting.


I think Monique was a little taken back at my supportive reaction but the truth was I was watching my son take the hits and the defeats right along her own son.  First and foremost every time our boys walked out on the field I was scared for their safety.  They were still boys in this game of legalized assault among men.

We made a pact.  We wouldn’t tell our boys  we were doing this.  It was our own private mom way of coping.  A few years earlier Monique had gone to Lourdes and brought my family back a bottle of Holy Water. I pulled if off the mantle and while Nick was showering I stealthily crept into his room and sprinkled his jersey.  By the time he had put it on it had dried, the Holy Water absorbed into the fabric.

That night, under the halo of lights, I watched in complete amazement through all four quarters as our team held on desperately for their first victory of the year.

We won 14-10.

I caught Monique’s eye at the end of the game celebration huddle in the end zone and together we mouthed the words to each other, “Holy Water.”

Not quite in the habit of sprinkling Holy Water on my son’s jersey, I forgot to do it the following week when we played Washougal.

We lost 36-0.

For the last game of the season our boys travelled north to Tenino. And so did their uniforms sprinkled with Holy Water.  Very few parents travelled the distance on that cold rainy November night.  But I did.  And so did Monique. We sat in the weathered lumber stands most likely built by trees fallen on the spot during the timber heyday of the area.  And we watched them play their hearts out in the last game of their freshman year on varsity.  A blanket of fog descended on the field and enveloped our boys in the fourth quarter.  We hardly saw any plays from where we sat but in the end it didn’t matter.

We won 21-14

Now, our Holy Water plan wasn’t perfect.  Not by any stretch of the imagination. There were loses.  And in truth after a 2-8 record that first year, there really was no where to go but up. I have to admit though, at the end of Nick and Jess’ high school career Holy Water had posted a decent winning record.  20 wins. 12 loses.  But even more impressive?  Nick and Jess made it through just about every game without serious injury.  And in the end, if you ask,  that is why I found Monique’s Holy Water plan brilliant in the first place.  It wasn’t about the wins and loses.   It was about needing just a little something more to add to my already heartfelt prayers for our boys health and safety each and every Friday night during their high school football careers.

For me?  A little sprinkle of Holy Water did just that.



This morning I got an email from my cousin Mary and she asked a simple question, “How’s your summer going?”  I love loaded questions like that because then I can use my computer to paint a scene with my words about the little things that are too good not to forget but unless I am prodded I won’t write them down.  Simple questions like Mary’s are my muse to a bigger picture.

I told her I never wish my summers away although I do like my quiet mornings where I can write and concentrate on other things besides Nerf bullets and boys being duct tape to trees. I attached the picture of Noah duct taped to a tree at that point of the email and I realized the story behind this picture is just too good not to share.

So here is my email to Mary explaining the story behind the picture because  for those who know me, by now you know, there always is one at Barclay’s International Finishing School for Men (free tuition):

Noah brushed by me last week and casually asked how much duct tape it would take to tape him to a tree for 6 hours.

I half listened and said, “I don’t know.”

Then it became suddenly very quiet in this house. I set off to investigate and from my living room window I saw this.  I went out and asked them what their purpose was with this. Noah said he wanted to be duct tape to a tree for 6 hours. Like on Duck Dynasty.

I said, “Ok, fine.”

Sam asked if he could go play a video game while Noah was taped to a tree.

I said, “Ok, fine.”

Then I turned to Noah and asked, “You’re okay with this?  This? This being duct tape to a tree?”

“Yeah Mom, I want to do this.”

“Okay then.  I’ll be inside.”

I came out periodically to check on him, in the spirit of June Cleaver, and each time he was content.

On one of my visits I pulled up a chair and had a serious discussion in regards to trees and people of color and how in some people’s eyes this may appear to be history repeating itself. I talked about Billie Holliday and her song Strange Fruit. I talked about the impact of that song in the 20th century.  I talked about what was going on in Ferguson, Missouri. I hate to think I had a captive audience with my history and civics lesson, but I did. And he listened. As he always does about history and unfairness.

I walked away again to change the ink in my printer and left him contemplating life until the super wedgie he didn’t bank on, around 45 minutes into it, and the colony of ants that lived at the base of the tree began investigating the warm object hovering above their nest.  He began second guessing his 6 hour goal.

I walked out to check on him right when a neighbor was walking up our driveway. I had a brief second of fear of a visit from CPS until I realized it was Kevin, our 20 something neighbor who spent a good part of the past 10 years being a Barclay in spirit.  Another Eddie Haskell to my June Cleaver.

Noah casually glanced over his left shoulder and said, “Hi Kevin.”

Kevin smiled and said, “Good afternoon Mrs. Barclay. Hey Noah, whatcha doing?”

I looked back and forth between their casual conversation and interrupted their friendly greetings by saying, “He’s duct taped to a flippin’ tree Kevin…that’s what he is doing!”

Kevin’s response in a reminiscent tone, “Man, this just reminds me how much I need to hang out at the Barclays.”

June Cleaver. Over and out. I tapped Kevin’s shoulder and said, “Tag your it,” and went inside.

The next time I came out Noah was a mass of cut duct tape and ants at the base of the oak tree and Kevin stood next to him holding a hacksaw. The super wedgie had won. The colony of ants had won.

Kevin had freed him.

And the rest is finishing school history.

Except for the sticky lines of duct tape residue across his arms and legs. Those aren’t going away anytime soon.

Camp K


My heart is never fully with me during the month of July.  It hasn’t been, at least not since the summer of 1983.  That was the summer I walked through the gates of Camp Kiwanilong as a 19 year old counselor and under the shadow of the majestic fir trees of the northern Oregon coast and with the deep echoing serenade of bullfrogs across Long Lake I became Smurf.

First of all, for the permanent record, let me state this loud and clear, I did not choose the name Smurf.  I never liked the little blue creatures but when you have the last name Murphy that is shortened to Murph the inevitable nicknames, whether you like them or not, will happen. So on my first day of camp orientation, when the camp director asked me what my camp name was, I said something like, “Well some people call me Smurf, but….” but before I could go on to say I hated the name she energetically called out across Boyington Lodge in her robust tenor, “Smurf is in the house!”  and my fate was sealed.

Smurf was born.

My very first night as a camp counselor I stood in front of an entire camp and with my cabin group of ninth grade young ladies performed a medley of 50’s rock n roll songs that lyrics had been changed to fit the camp setting. Jabber Jaws. Melody. Frick. Frack. Harmony….my cabin group.  In my humble opinion, we brought the lodge down.  We were rock stars among the banana slugs. Diva’s among the crows. Idols among the lily pads.

I laughed and sang my way through that first summer.  I stuffed bandanas in my mouth and shoved bananas in my back pocket for a laugh at campfires. I swam in a murky cold lake without pause.  I sang the Crawdad Song through trails of padded pine needles as our camp of 100 marched in single file to Coffinbury Lake. I paddled a canoe across a moonlit lake while belting out Thelma Houston’s greatest hits.  I held a snake named Solomon, and liked it.  I made lifelong friends.  It was magical. It truly was.

But I also grew up that July. Fast.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned about Camp Kiwanilong is that from the first note of Reveille on the first day it opened in the early 80’s it funneled into its cabins many children on the northern Oregon coast who suffered from disruptive, desperate, and often time abusive homes.  It was my first exposure to life situations I had no concrete idea existed.   I learned about night terrors brought on by sexual abuse.  I learned about multiple personalities coming to life in an eight year old to cope with horrific abuse.  I learned about fear.  Neglect.  Injustice.   I learned how crappy human beings who call themselves mom and dad can be.  I witnessed vulnerable and it shook me to my core.

But I kept coming back.  Summer after summer.

Sparky, our camp director, was a gift. She educated me in ways those summers that no college course could ever teach. Rarely did she find fault in the  child.  She looked beyond the behavior and found the reason why in their homelife. And then she embraced that child all the more  and made sure when they were within the boundaries of our camp they were safe from whatever demons lurked on the other side of the gate.  She gave the most vulnerable children a schedule, a bed time, a wake up time, face time, three meals a day with lively conversation mixed in, home cooking, song, dance, laughter, fresh air, discipline, hygiene, patriotism, Gods grace, respect and love all under the guise of a summer camp.  She gave those children family.

Those who had.  Those who had not.  Every child thrived.

After our final campfire each week, on Friday night, we would launch Wish Boats into the lake.  The flat piece of wood about the size of a kitchen cutting board came to life during the day as each cabin decorated their own with ferns and lilies and whatever Mother Nature felt like providing during the month of July on the northern Oregon coast.   Counselors would sit down with their cabin group during the day and make a list of wishes.  These wishes would be read aloud by flashlight from the swim dock to the campers as they sat quietly along the elevated bank of Long Lake’s swim hole.  A  candle was lit on top of the boat and the boats were gently pushed from the swim dock into the calm obsidian water of Long Lake. It was a time for reflection.  A time for tears.   The wishes, for the most part, were innocent.  I wish for no more broccoli. I wish my dog had puppies.  I wish I could go to Disneyland.  But it was the other wishes, the anonymous wishes,  that broke my heart every Friday night because I knew the following morning we were releasing those children back into that world where it would be a battle to survive, let alone have their wishes come true.

The wishes of a vulnerable child don’t change over the decades.  This I know is true.

I didn’t get it as I was living it but I look back at my years at Camp Kiwanilong and realize how much I have based my parenting off of the ideals that were imprinted in me during my camp years.   I learned what it takes to make a child, my child, thrive.  It’s not trophies or awards or recognitions.  It’s not iPhones, headphones, or other technology. It’s not what other people hand out to my kids.  Its what I give to my kids.   It’s schedules, bed times, wake up times, face time, three meals a day with lively conversation, home cooking, song, dance, laughter, fresh air, discipline, hygiene, patriotism, God’s grace.

It’s respect.

But above all else it is love.


Back in the day…when hair was permed and shorts were short.














My career in teaching was spent in the tiny school district of Sherwood.   It most definitely was not the Sherwood of today where urban sprawl barrels toward the coast range.  Twenty-some years ago Sherwood was a small farm town where everyone knew everyones business. My first year in Sherwood was spent at the Intermediate School teaching Home Economics.  I learned that year that rough kids take Home Economics.  I also learned that year that rough kids need Home Economics.  I connected with these kids who were abused, thrown out and teetering on the edge between innocence and a free fall.   So the next school year I was asked to move up with them to Sherwood High School.  Although I was teaching Language Arts, in truth I was serving as the touch stone to my kids.

I had a core group of about 10 kids I welcomed into my classroom at all hours of the school day.  I also taught the general ed kids Language Arts and yes, Drivers Education, but it was my at-risk kids that captured my heart and consciousness.  It was also my at-risk kids who thought at the ripe old age of 24, I was in need of a husband.

The hunt for Miss Murphy’s significant other was on.

Mostly I laughed off their dating game comments.  I was happily single, living in a studio apartment in Tualatin, a closet full of recently purchased professional clothes with extra shoulder padding, and a new VCR.  Really, I was set for a good long time.  This independent woman lifestyle didn’t go over in the eyes of my students, especially when my Valentines Day came and went with not so much as a box of chocolates to show for what they thought was a worthy candidate for matrimony.  So on February 15th, 1989 they swung into action.

One of my duties as mother hen to my group of kids was to find them jobs that held some responsibility and trust within the school.  One of my young ladies, beautiful brown eyed Lisa, was the perfect candidate for working in the main office.  She was personable, bright, a people person.  She was also the front runner in the concerns of many that I would follow in the footsteps of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s spinster school teacher, Miss Beadle.  Lisa was a hopeless romantic beacon living in a shattered world of dysfunction.

In fact, on one particular day she came with a little more sparkle in her eyes than normal, sauntered up to my desk and smiled, and I remember this conversation as if it was yesterday, but she said, “Miss Murphy.  There is the hottest guy sleeping on my couch that you just HAVE to meet!”

Politely smiling I said, “No thanks Lisa.”  Meanwhile, knowing what I knew about my kids dysfunctional families my inner thoughts screamed, “Yeah, fat chance in hell I’d ever meet any guy crashing on YOUR couch!”

The next day Lisa again told me about the hot guy crashing on her couch.  This time she added, “He saw your yearbook picture  and wants your phone number.”

Again, I smiled and said something politically correct like, “I don’t think I should go out with friends of students.”  Inwardly I was yelling, “Holy crap, he knows what I look like!?”

Every day that week Lisa would give me an update on the hot guy on her couch as she went out the door to work in the office.  Every day I happily waved my fingertips as I shooed her into the hallway and then turned and mumbled, “God help me,” as I faced the rest of my students.

Sometime that following weekend I came home to a message on my answering machine.  From the “hot guy” sleeping on Lisa’s couch.  Holy Shit! He had my number!   His message was simple. “Hey, this is Jeff.  I’m a friend of Lisa’s family and she said you gave me your number to call you.  Maybe we could go out.”

“WHAT?” I screamed into my tiny living space.  “WHAT!”  Images of a motorcycle dude, tattoos, a halo of cigarette smoke, a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels passed out on a flea infested couch swirled through my head.

I had never ever EVER given Lisa my number to give to him. EVER!  I immediately erased the message and spewed curses Lisa’s way.  And then I panicked.

“Oh my God! He knows my number! He knows what I look like AND he has my number!!”

The rest of the weekend I think I closed all my drapes, unplugged my phone, hid from reality, and hunkered down alternating between watching  NCAA March Madness and Romancing the Stone, Pretty in Pink, and Top Gun on my new VCR while listening for an unmuffled motorcycle to pull into the parking space next to mine.

The following Monday I sat at my desk waiting  for Lisa to walk in my classroom with her usual sunny disposition.  When she came through the door she did not fail to deliver as a smile filled her entire face.

I scowled and gave her the stink eye.

“Did you get a phone call this weekend, Miss Murphy?”

“Why do you ask?”

“You know why…”

“Alright Lisa, straight up.  How did you get my phone number?”

“I have my ways.”


“Oh, alright.  I snuck into the personal files in the front office and snagged your file.  I got all the information off of that.”


“I put it all back.  I just needed your phone number to give to Jeff.  You two are perfect for each other.”

“You gave him MY phone number you swiped from MY personal file and told him I gave it to you to give to him?  You can’t do that! That’s a trusted position in the front office!”

“But he called, didn’t he?”

“Yeah but…”

“And he sounds nice, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, but…I CANNOT go out with him!  Especially now when you broke into files to get my number!”

As she headed for the door she smiled back at me, “That’s something you’ll have to tell him.  Not me.”  She wasn’t going down without a fight, I’ll give her that.

That evening when I came home there was another message on my machine from the “hot guy” on the couch.

I erased it.

This game of call and erase went on for a couple more days until finally I was caught off guard, distracted by March Madness, and when the call came through I picked up the phone without checking Caller ID and to put it in simple terms….I was snagged.  We talked about the game mostly.  But we talked for at least an hour. He had transferred down from Seattle and was crashing at a co-workers couch while he waited for his apartment to be ready.  He could hardly wait to get off the couch because, “These people are crazy.”

He had me at crazy.

On our wedding day I had so many things to be grateful for.  Family from near and far gathered. My friends from life held me up. I was marrying my best friend.  But sadly there was one thing missing.  Lisa.  In the 15 months between stealing my phone number and giving it to Jeff and our wedding day her life spiraled downward.  There was nothing I could do to help her.  I’ve heard it took some time, but she eventually did get back on her feet again.  Determination does that.  Strong will does that. But above all else being a hopeless romantic does that.





Two days ago while Noah and I were having yet another deep conversation at lunch  he asked out of the blue if he could get a parakeet.  Before he could even pronounce the final hard consonant sound of the three syllable word I blurted out a very firm, “Nooooooo!”

Of course the inevitable question followed, “Why?”

“Bad memories,” I joked.

“You seriously have bad memories about a bird?”

“Not just any bird,” I playfully shuddered. “But Ernie the Bird.”

Of course with that comment I opened the bird cage door to a flood of memories of a particular bird named Ernie who was my housemate (along with about 40 other sorority sisters) at Oregon State University.   And as I told the stories of Ernie the Bird, pooping on homework and mating with his own image in a mirror and engaging in low fly-bys that skimmed our scalps as he lived among a sisterhood of women in our charming white house on the corner of 23rd and Van Buren, the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop and Purple Rain looped through my brain.

I did a pretty good job of convincing Noah a bird was not the pet for our family so imagine my surprise when not but four hours later Zak came running in the house  with an orange Nike Zoom Field General size 9 shoebox calling out, “Look what we just found!”  I flashed back to an earlier conversation I had had with Noah.  One where while I was at my computer working  he had quietly tried to sneak by with a Rotel diced tomatoes and green chili can in his hand.

I asked, “Why are you carrying around a Rotel tomato can in your hand.”

He said, “I don’t know.”

I asked again, “Noah, why are you carrying a Rotel tomato can in your hand?”

He said, “Because.”

I said, “Noah…”

He said, “Okay, there’s a snake in it.”

I said, “There is NOT a snake in that can.”

He said, “Want to see?”

I said, “Yeah, I want to see.”

He lifted the lid of the can and, sure enough, inside the Rotel diced tomatoes and green chili can there was a baby snake.

I said, “Wow, there is a snake inside that can.”

He said, “I told you so.”

So as Zak stood there, an orange shoebox in his hands and a very excited smile on his face I rolled my eyes and said as I lifted the lid, “Let me guess.  A snake.” But guess what?  It wasn’t a snake.  Nope.  Staring back at me, inside that orange shoe box was Ernie the Bird reincarnate.  Once again, The Heat is On began looping in my subconscious as Prince rode across my mind’s eye on a bad ass motorcycle into a cloud of artificial fog.  I slammed the box lid shut and looked at Zak in shock.

“Where did THAT come from?”  I said in complete disbelief.

Oh sure, there may have been a “cute” parakeet inside that box but all I saw was a crow wanting to peck my eyes out.

Zak explained they had been walking toward the cul-de-sac and almost stepped on the bird in the grass.  By this time Sam and Noah had shown up and were asking, no begging those words most parents really don’t want to hear in their lifetime, unless the subject is D.B. Coopers hijacked money, “Can we keep it!? Can we keep it?”

“Damn,” I thought.  “It couldn’t have been a kitten. Or a bunny.  Or even a snake.  It had to be a parakeet.”  A PARAKEET!  I’m just glad Noah didn’t ask for a bear cub or alligator during our lunch time conversation. God only knows what would have appeared on our lawn.   I still think its a little freaky he even mentioned wanting a parakeet and then four hours later one lands on our property.  Really?

Why does this happen to me?

I don’t often use the term begrudgingly when I describe my parenting, but on this occasion I begrudgingly allowed the boys to make a makeshift bird sanctuary out of a cat carrier until we figured out what to do with the bird.

Good fortune shined upon me as one of Nick’s classmates offered to take the bird.  Bad fortune clouded over me as the same classmate called up and said his mom freaked out when he brought a bird home. Wise mom.

So.  Here I sit as the rest of the clan is at the fireworks stand buying this year’s July 4th explosives and I wait for Nick’s classmate to return the bird.  In our quest to find its owner I spoke with several neighbors and one graciously offered to pull a bird cage out of her attic for us if we needed it.

Today,  I needed it because I realized there’s got to be at least one time in my parenting life when my kids beg, “Can we keep it, can we keep it.” that I have to say yes.

But he’s not going to fly around our house and poop on homework.  And he’s never ever ever ever going to see his reflection in the mirror.  And the boys also agreed that I  have 100% naming rights.

So, his name you ask?  Hitchcock. Because his arrival into my world was very similar to the classic film The Birds.  Shocking, freaky and pretty much horrifying.  Well, not really, but when it comes to the subject of pet birds I tend to over exaggerate and become dramatic.

I like to call it…the Ernie Effect.


“I’m Bored”

Epic airsoft battlesThis is a story.  A true story of a mom’s first few hours of summer vacation.  I resurrect these words every June to remind myself, well, it could be worse.  I mean, I’ve had one son brings home a gallon sized zipped lock bag full of guppies in his backpack on the last day of school and another has filed  past with about 2000 pounds of linebacker behind him.   But in all honesty, its those nerf gun battle-Hannah conquering it all-days in my memories that are priceless.  I would welcome them back in a heartbeat.  So to all of you, the moms who know what the last day of school means, I mean truly means, I raise a glass of Merlot to you today, tomorrow, and 80 nights of summer that follow.   Salute!


June 2006

9:30 am- The warning has been issued. Lift the lid or pay the consequences. All for one/ one for all. Piddle on the seat…all those with “kibbles and bits” clean the toilets.

9:50 am- Check mouse trap…caught another one. Scream for Zak. Smiles while he releases trap and examines corpse. Observation from Zak: mice do not have time to lick lips clean of peanut butter when caught in trap.

11:45 am- No one ‘fesses up’ to the newly discovered yellow liquid droplets on toilet seat…4 toilets, 3 boys, 3 toilet brushes … toilets spotless

1:25 pm- First episode of snickering in reference to male body parts…documented first eye rolling of summer by Hannah.

2:53 pm- Blood drawn…dog chain swung by Zak smacks Nick in head. Investigate. Conclusion: Accident First Aid applied… time out given.

3:13 pm- 2.5 lb bag of M&M’s spill across floor…race between kids to consume before Duncan. First loud whistle from fingers to maintain order this summer.

4:27 pm Hannah proclaims “I’m bored”

7:14 pm James Bond theme resonates throughout house…major Nerf gun battle erupts…foam bullets flying…Sam mumbles Buonas Noches Amigo… shoots Nick in back with 16 shot rapid fire Nerf gun…picking foam bullets out of boiling noodles on stovetop…Hannah joins battle… new Bond girl??

7:46 pm Battle ends… Hannah triumphs … nothing spells (or smells) V.I.C.T.O.R.Y. like spraying brother’s protective athletic cup for baseball with Wild Honeysuckle Body Splash… Sweet Smell of Honeysuckle Victory permeates house, boys, Nick’s cup….

8:20 pm Merlot…

11:09 pm Calendar located… first day of school : 70 more days … tick tock tick tock.


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