What’s That Sound: Volume Eleven(ish)

Having a boy child is often a confounding situation.

Like, how does this happen?


And more importantly, after it happens, how does one hang up their coat, look at a sucker stuck solidly to the hoodie, and say “eh, I’m good.”?!

This kid.


So let’s document the inner workings of such a powerful mind.

On a typical day, Noah wakes up before me, plays in his room until eight zero zero am (the exact moment he’s allowed to wake me), then comes and climbs in bed with me and starts asking questions. Because it’s best to get a jump on the day’s inquiries as soon as possible.

Most of his questions I answer while still asleep. Sometimes they wake me up enough to make a mental note to write them down when I wake up enough to open my eyes.

Such was the case for Monday’s line of questioning.

“Hey Mom, when do people get telepathy?”

“They don’t.”

“Yes they do – you said everyone gets telepathy.”

“Noo….telepathy means you can hear people’s thoughts. What are you thinking of?”

“When you stop liking your parents.”

“Oh. That’s puberty. Somewhere between 10 and 13.”

“Okay thanks.”

In the car, the kids sometimes team up on me…

Ali: “What’s a stepsister?”

I tried to explain it, but everyone became even more confused, so I resorted to an example.

“If I died and Mr. David died, and then Daddy and Miss Ashley got married, AJ and Tessa would be your stepsisters.”


Noah: “So would we live at their house or ours?”

Me: “I’m DEAD in this scenario. Ask your father.”

Lesson Learned: One must be careful that fake stepsister scenarios don’t sound too appealing.

Noah gasped at breakfast with the excitement of a eureka moment.

“I just figured out why Gramamma’s cat was so mean!!! It was striped!”

Ali: “So….? It wasn’t mean because it was striped….”

Noah: “No! But it was actually a tiger!!!”

Every now and then, a “HEY MOMMMY!!!!” post-bedtime callback is award-winningly original.

Such as this one….


“Yes, Noah?”

“When did you and daddy first date? How old was Pop? How old were you? I wasn’t even in your tummy yet – I was just an egg. I have eggs in my tummy. No I don’t. Ali has eggs in her tummy. But they won’t hatch for a long time.”

I was having a lovely quiet moment on the porch. I was wondering why Noah hadn’t disturbed me yet but was not curious enough to find out why.

After several long, quiet, questionless moments, I went inside to refill my water.

At which point I heard the repetitive screaming emanating from the bathroom.

“Moooooom! I need toilet paper!!!!”

Ignorance is always bliss.

Noah: “Would you like a mint?”

Me: “No thank you.”

Noah: “Do you need anything at all?”

Me: “Yes actually. I need my eye drops.”

Noah: “I don’t know where those are.”

Me: “I can tell you…”

Noah: “Nah, I’m good.”

Having a beginner reader is such joy.

“Hey mom! I just saw a store called The Butt Barn!”

“…or the Boot Barn.”

….incidentally we were also next door to Hooters. But that’s more of a Boob Barn.

And one story about Ali…


“You remember that time you asked me what I am going to do differently as a parent? Well I thought of one.”

“Yeah? What is it?”

“Well if my kids want something, they’ll have to come up with the money. I’m not just going to buy it for them.”

“Do I do just buy you things?”

“Sometimes. I think.”

….And my daughter has articulated the literal definition of Peeing in One’s Wheaties.

On Discovering Michigan.

On the First of July, I and my six fellow small group ladies found ourselves in the great state of Michigan. We take a girl’s trip once a year, and whether it is hosted by an Irishman in Bugtussle, includes a contest to find the highest heels in Unclaimed Baggage, or involves the breaking of my elbow and finger, it always embodies adventure. This year’s girl’s trip was located in Michigan so that we could also help decorate for and attend the vow renewal of one of our small group couples, Kelly and Jon.

But we weren’t exactly sure what Michigan had in store for us, to be honest. There were dozens of lakes in south Michigan, but none of them seemed to have heard of the idea of renting out their lake dwelling to hoards of Alabama Moms. Finally, in an act of pure desperation, I rented the one and only place I could find within a 50 mile radius of our destination – and it was a farm.

I was more than a little nervous about this choice – none of us had ever stayed at a farm in the middle of nowhere and what would we do? Where would we get groceries? Would it feel strange?

Our first steps into Michigan were not great. We flew into Detroit and waited for over an hour for the rental car we had reserved months in advance. When they finally found a Tahoe (from another lot) and drove it around for us, her smell wafted before her, and a vapor surrounded her as if the entire board of the National Cigarette Lover’s Convention had ridden cross-country immediately prior. We quickly surmised they’d gotten her from the “Do NOT Rent These Vehicles Out” lot, and we named her Estelle.

So our hour drive from Detroit to farmland included all the windows down, six girl’s hair tangled up with each other, and double buckling – because no one could stand to sit on the back row of cigarette fog.

Our farm, however, was surprisingly gorgeous. The house was bigger than it’d looked online, and we found out that the adjoining Tennis Court and Indoor Pool were reserved solely for our stay.

The farm was owned by an enterprising couple who lived next door. He’d wanted to make some extra money, so he built a tennis court on which to give lessons. She wanted an indoor pool, so he built that for her, and since they were building a new building, they made it twice as long and also created an event space. I’m not sure when they added our rental house to their collection of buildings (and 200 acres of farm land), but their oasis in the middle of miles of crops was a fascinating and peaceful place for a bunch of moms to relax.

The indescribable quiet that comes from being a mile from your neighbors brings with it a sense of peace that we’d never experienced in Birmingham. And the back deck, shaded from the afternoon sun and perfect to enjoy the dry and cool July-in-Michigan air allowed us to watch the rabbits hop by. By the time we’d eaten dinner at 9pm (before sunset) on that gorgeous back deck, we’d made our decision: our small group definitely need to buy a commune farm and move to Michigan.

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After dinner, I announced that I was going on a sunset walk. It didn’t take long for everyone to follow me down the long, quiet, flat road.

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As the sun disappeared, we began noticing a good number of fireflies.

And then the magic happened.

As dusk descended over the miles of fields, we saw that there were millions of fireflies, flying and blinking in waves of astounding beauty. It was impossible to fully capture on video, which made it somehow all the more magical. I tried to photograph them, but it didn’t even begin to capture the sheer number of fireflies before us.

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At least one, and maybe more that one someones, might have cried a bit at the reverence of the moment.

It was such a simple, yet overwhelming beauty.

We started the next morning off with a walk / run / cross-training challenge.


IMG_9164Pretty sure they were the first humans to ever do push-ups in that particular corn field.

To say running the roads around our farm were different than the roads in Birmingham would be an understatement. The gravel beneath our feet and the ability to see for miles at a time was bizarre and delightful. Each “block” was a mile on each side, which made running around the block ridiculous yet interesting.


I even found my favorite roadside snack, a mulberry tree, so that at least was familiar.

IMG_9203Why yes I actually eat berries from trees on the side of the road. You would too if you knew how delicious mulberries are. Unless you confuse it with Nightlock.

Since we had an entire tennis court reserved for us, I decided we needed to use it.

I convinced Kristin to play with me, and we were magnificent.


After a few minutes, we decided we’d keep score by “how many times can we hit the ball back and forth – who cares how many times it bounces first.”


We set a high score goal of 10, but after 45 minutes and a bucket full of balls (many hit over the fence – home run!!), we’d only scored a 9, and called it a success so that we could go hop in the indoor pool to cool off after our super sportsing.

That night a storm came in and snatched the sunset away from us,

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but experiencing the drama of a storm in the plains was totally worth it.

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Our farm house looked like it was absolutely about to take off, and I felt more than a little bit like Dorothy.

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I passed our landlord on my walk, who said “It’s something, isn’t it? But it’ll pass right over and miss us. It always does.”

“But my radar shows it’s definitely coming right here any minute…”

“Yeah, but it won’t.”

I was sure he had to be wrong because my radar is always right in Birmingham. But he was not. All that drama and it barely sprinkled, allowing us a second night of firefly magic.

The next day was all about decorating for the Vow Renewal.

Or, more likely…decorating ourselves.


Because when there are bushels of tulle lying around, someone is going to end up with a Bow Bigger Than Their Butt. It’s a rule.

At one point, the groom’s sister-in-law was unsuccessfully attempting to hang lights. They were heavy and not staying in place, and she asked if I knew where another ladder was so I could help her.

“No…but…I don’t mind cuddling with you.”

I mean we’d known each other for a whole five minutes so why not.

I climbed her ladder and nestled my face into her armpit to hold the lights up while she tied them off. I forgot that I have extremely unfortunate balance, and I started to fall straight backwards, guaranteeing to take the lights, the pole, the ladder, and the sister-in-law with me.

Just in time, a guy I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting yet stuck his arm out and caught me. And then stood there for the next five minutes, holding me up while I held the lights up while sister-in-law tied them off.


About two hours later I discovered that this was Paul, the bride’s brother.

Hi Paul, nice to meet you.

Thanks for keeping me from breaking my everything.

After stealing greenery from roadside shrubbery and decorating until we could decorate no more, we went back to our farm and prettied up.


The Vow Renewal was perfect and lovely,


and we stayed on our best, most reverent behavior.


We had “allowed” Jon, the groom, to come to our farm house two nights prior and cook for us and kill a wasp for us and do our dishes for us, so of course we had to get a picture with our Farm Boy.


(We tried to convince our husbands that from here on out we would have to take one of them along to be our personal valet, but I don’t think any others were willing to hear and see and live through all that comes with Girl’s Retreat.)

Right as the reception got good and kicked up,


Three hot air balloons happened to fly overhead.

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Michigan is, indeed, full of magic.

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We caught one more sunset on the way home,

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Lydia caught me catching said sunset,

Sunset Shooting in Purple Flowers

And I captured a couple of moments of our last evening, again filled with millions of friendly fireflies that avoided my camera lens.


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The next day we drove Estelle back to the Detroit Airport and gladly abandoned her for eternity, hoping that Michigan also has some sort of magical car rejuvenation process for her sake.

We found the legendary light tunnel in the airport, and I yelled out, “Quick! Do a Charlie’s Angels pose!”

Everyone ran out and posed, and at the last second, Lydia showed us her true hidden talent. Why yes, she’s had five kids. And yes, she can still do the splits.

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…which led to the star of the photo actually being Shocked Christen – and who could blame her. We all felt like Shocked Christen in that moment.

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Christen managed to hold it together for as second take, but it could never compare to the raw emotion of the first shot.

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As soon as we made it back to the Birmingham airport (where it was currently storming) and had our final group hug, we desperately wanted to be back in Michigan. Would we go back to the farm if we could? Absolutely. Would we live in Michigan if we could? At least for the summers.


Dear Michigan: Let us know if you’re looking for a group of reverse snowbirds.

Let Freedom Spew.

It was the Fourth of July.

I had woken up at some crazy early hour to check out of our Girl’s Weekend rental house (more on that later), drive to the Detroit airport, and fly home. That night, we had our annual fireworks watching “party” planned, for which thankfully Chris had made the preparations and done all of the organization.

We have this fantastic spot we’ve been going to the last three years. Every year, we have a different group of joiners, and most are usually last minute deciders. This year ended up being the biggest crowd yet – over 20 people circled around our spot in the top of the Children’s Hospital parking deck that directly faces our city’s fireworks extravaganza.

IMG_9435Plenty of other people not-with-us came later, as well – we just tend to get there first.

 Chris brought Watermelon, Ice Pops, and Gummies. Noah and Ali each packed additional snack bags. My Mom brought adorable little strawberry shortcakes in tiny Mason Jars (she’s been a Living Breathing Pinterest since before the Commodore 64.) We arrived at 7pm, two hours before the fireworks show, so the children had plenty of time for running and playing and screaming and racing. I got tired of my kids asking if they could have another ice pop, so with grand flourish and holiday cheer, I announced “It is a night for snacking freedom! Eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You don’t have to ask me for anything.”

Being that we have a strict 10:30am/3:00pm snacking schedule at home (created solely to get them to never ask me if they could have a snack ever again), this was huge news. Both children lit up with The Cheer of Independence and began snacking with the fervor of the Declaration signers themselves.

(I assume there were some spectacular snacks at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The passionate throwing off of Tyranny cannot happen without a good measure of gluten.)

(And I can totally see John Adams being on a gluten-free diet and Alexander Hamilton brattily working in a few overt jabs his way during some awful Hamiltonian 16 hour speech.)

As it approached the 9 o’clock hour, Chris convinced Noah to come sit in his lap for the actual fireworks. Flush-cheeked and sweaty, Noah was obliging – perhaps needing a moment of stillness more than he knew.

I was sitting next to them, my camera tripodded and my phone controlling the shutter so that I could get long-exposure photos with as little camera vibration as possible.

The fireworks began, and we all oohed and aahed. They seemed to come in odd spurts – not the usual nonstop onslaught of previous years. But no one had brought a radio to play the accompanying music, so we murmured that it must have to do with the rise and fall of the melody.


170704f-FireworksYou can see the rest of my fireworks pictures on my Instagram account or Facebook Page.

Then the fireworks stopped.

No grand finale, no obvious ending – they just fizzled out.

It was odd. I mean, I’ve been watching this fireworks show all my life and I know how long it should last and what an ending feels like, and it was clearly short and lacking of ending.

The hoards of people waited around in the parking lot for a few moments, staring impatiently at Vulcan, waiting for the show to pick back up. Then they started leaving.

Something just wasn’t right. So we sat there a little longer, waiting.

Still nothing.

I took my camera off my tripod so that it didn’t get knocked over just as I heard Noah say to Chris,

“I just swallowed a little throw-up.”

Chris sent him to get his water bottle, and said to me, “Too much snacking leads to vurping. Good life lesson.”

Noah crawled back up into Chris’ lap and began to cry. Then wail. He couldn’t say why, he didn’t know what was wrong, he was just sobbing with all his little boy heart.

…Until he leaned over and vomited, nearly on the shoes of the guest sitting next to Chris. (Quite possibly on his shoes and he was just too nice to say so.)

Right as he did, the very tardy fireworks finale ramped up.

Chris quickly shuffled Noah back behind our group, and as the finale popped and banged with color and flourish, Noah did the same. It was the most immersive surround-sound experience anyone could ever wish for.

Heave, crack, gag, bang, vom, pop, splatter, cheer.

Chris and I found ourselves on either side of Noah, helping him lean out, wiping his mouth with voluminous amounts of paper towels, and covering his puddles with more paper towels to prevent passerby trodding.

In between pukes, Noah would cry and scream “I HATE THIS SO MUCH!!!”

After half a dozen heaves, Chris and I made eye contact. And with our eyes dancing in the light of the lovely fireworks behind us and the moisture of the terrible vomit before us, we simultaneously burst out laughing.

I mean how can you not.

Parenting is the most hilarious affliction.

We quickly stifled our laughter for Noah’s sake, and went back to guiding his ice-pop-soaked half-digested fries to the ground.

Chris said that he had it handled and I should really try to get a few photos of the finale. I ran back over to my tripod, slapped my camera back up, and hastily tried to grab a few shots, right as it tapered down and ended – this time, with proper fanfare. I managed to get one single non-blurry finale shot.

170704b-FireworksVulcan’s explosions were so much more attractive than Noah’s, but approximately equal in color variety.

I went back to also-tapering Noah to comfort him, apologizing to our friends as they carefully filed past Noah and his freshly birthed lakes.

“Good night. I’m sorry. Hope you had fun. Happy Independence Day! Watch out for that puddle!”

Chris took all our stuff back to the car while I sat and rubbed Noah’s back. He stared ahead of him, looking like the miserable puppy dog that he was.










“Why is it pink? I had green and blue ice pops…”

We had to walk through all of the vast amounts and varieties of food that he consumed that night to track down the color of his output, but he seemed relieved when we’d figured it out.

“It was the red JELL-O!!!”, he said with eureka.

We all made it to the car without further incident, gave Noah a bag in case of Dear-God-No a car emergency, and I sat in the front, downloading and editing pictures, while we zero-miles-per-houred it in the parking lot traffic.

When we finally made it to the exit, we could see the left turn we needed to make, which fortunately was down a clear road with no traffic, but there was a truck quite unnecessarily blocking our way.

Chris calmly ignored it for a few moments, but finally started muttering under his breath about the utter rudeness of this individual that could clearly back up or go forward to allow us a much needed exit and as-quick-as-possible return to home with our Puke-Risk kid.

…Which eventually led Noah to inquire, “Hey Mom, we’re too young to call people jerks like Daddy just did, right?”

So what did we learn from that night?

a) If given no guidelines, our son will binge himself to vomiting like a starving dog who finds a Costco-sized bag of Alpo.

b) Rudeness is, at least in the Callahan household, apparently a privilege of aging.