Diary of a Tired Mom – The Please No More Words Edition

It’s been a weird month for me.

My subconscious wants to write very badly – I have dreamed about writing blog posts multiple times in the past month.

And those dreams have not been limited to when I was asleep.

When I got my first dose ever of “the gas” at the dentist, I was so trippy that my entire being was spinning out in staticky, multicolored, 8D spirals, and as the galaxies orbited what was left of me, I began realizing deep truths such as “I don’t even exist anymore. But I faintly hear the dentist still drilling on my teeth. I wonder if she realizes I don’t exist anymore. Someone should tell her she’s wasting her time except it can’t be me because I don’t exist anymore. But wow this would make a great blog post. Wait until I describe these new colors and sensations to the world. It will CHANGE IT.”

(Right after that, I came back to existence enough to rip off the gas and vomit three times.)

(I’m pretty sure my dentist will not allow me to have such services again.)

So yeah, a weird month. But despite my desire to write, I have had a rough month health-wise, so I haven’t been able to write. I’m getting better, so I’ll try to document some of my jotted-down notes from the month.

(Except not the rest of my thoughts from the dentist’s chair. Because those would change the universe too drastically and I’m not ready to pull the rug out from under y’all like that.)


Tiers of Childhood Monologue.

In case you haven’t noticed, kids talk a lot.

They ask a lot of questions, tells the same things over and over, and LOVE to, once they can read, tell you everything they are reading.

The prime ages for this phenomenon, I believe, is between 6 and 10. Which helps me understand a little more why toddlers are middle schoolers are my jam.

(But, Noah is the snuggliest nine-year-old boy that ever lived, which entirely makes up for his endless words. Most of the time.)

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(Also he’s prepared for anything. Which comes in handy more often than you’d think. Though I did tell him I was afraid this particular preparation belt would keep me from having grandkids if he fell at the wrong angle.)

Car rides are especially difficult for words with me, because the multi-tasking of operating a large machine AND listening to my kid (because I learned long ago that I am entirely incapable of tuning out any words ever) is tricky. So I have tried to hone the quality of words that come out in the car.

And so, there needs to be a helpful chart – a continuum if you will – of the things read or narrated to a parent while said parent is driving.

Level Negative Ten: iPad narration. I DO NOT CARE what your Monsters are singing about. THAT IS GREAT that you just killed all your Minecraft villagers and goats, but is it really? Did those angular goats really deserve that slaughter? But whatever you want to do to the goats, do it – just don’t tell me about it while I’m driving. (We even have a family code word (more on that later) for QUIT NARRATING YOUR IPAD GAME TO ME.)

Level Negative Eight: Unnecessary and/or repetitive questions about the future. This seems like a placeholder in conversation that my children love to use to fill space. Thankfully Ali learned my terror of answering questions about the future a couple years ago and ceased doing it most of the time, but it’s still a favorite hobby of Noah’s.

Level Negative Six: Jokes from a joke book. Or worse, jokes they know and have already told you ten times. Jokes are excruciating 99 out of 100 times. But then there’s always that one joke that catches you off guard and actually makes you laugh, which makes it not so bad.

Level Negative Two: Trivia books and Guinness Book of World Record books. These facts, read aloud, can be sometimes interesting. But then they seem to read the same pages over and over and they begin to feel like jokes.

Level Positive Two: Hearing about the books they’re reading, or their school books. I like knowing that they’re interested and involved in what they’re reading. Although Noah sometimes gets too involved in his history book, throwing his book on the floor and screaming at our forefathers for their prejudices, poor decision making, and foolish life-ending dueling. But that can be entertaining as well, giving this oration an overall positive rating.

Level Positive Four: Family Feud Cards. This is the one random Car Conversation Savior that I’ve found I enjoy. Someone got these for Christmas, and Noah loves quizzing Chris and I on Family Feud categories. They’re actually entertaining with the same magic that Family Feud is entertaining as a show – magic I don’t necessarily understand but appreciate nonetheless. But what makes them most fun is the children’s uncertainty about whether they’re inappropriate or not when they don’t understand them.

I present this example:

Noah: “Name things that start with the word ‘skinny'”

I snorted. My first thought was “Skinny B**ch”

I wondered if it was on the card, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask.

Chris and I got a few right, then trailed off.

Noah: “Do you give up?”

Us: “Sure.”

Noah:”There’s only one left but I think it’s inappropriate.”

Me: “Oh here it comes.”

Noah: “It’s ‘Skinny Late’ with Two T’s.”

Chris and I thought for a second, then exploded with laughter.

And immediately dared each other to go into Starbucks and order a Skinny Late with Two T’s.


I’m learning how to live with an apparent extrovert.

I held out hope for a long time that Noah was just an outgoing introvert, but the evidence continues to suggest a strong strain of extroversion. The amount of sounds that need to come out of his mouth at all times is staggering. It’s mostly questions but also comments, sounds, random thoughts, and just a stream of consciousness.

As such, over the past few years, we’ve created a collection of Callahan Family Code Words. I only have to say one word, and he knows exactly what I mean, rather than me having to use up all my words telling him to use less words.

Here is the legend to the Callahan Family Code Words. We haven’t copyrighted them, and so we offer them free to help you, too, have a less verbally overwhelming life.

Rubiks – “You’re making random, repetitive, completely unnecessary noises and I let it go for a while but I now need you to cease.”

Honda – “That question is either a.) a question about the future, b.) a completely unnecessary question, or c.) you’re just out of questions for the day because you’ve asked more than my brain can possibly handle. So I’m not answering it.”

Blubbermuffin – “NO ONE wants to hear your narration of your iPad game. If you don’t want your iPad to disappear forever, you’re gonna have to keep your mouth shut while playing.”

Banana – “Quit using your mouth and start using your eyes. We’re on a hike forgoodnesssake can we enjoy the sounds of nature PLEASE.”

The nicest part of these words is that I have to be less rude as a mother. There’s much less emotional content to just say “Honda” rather than “FOR THE LOVE DO NOT ASK ME ANOTHER BLOOMIN’ QUESTION, CHILD.” He knows what I mean and he accepts it without emotion. AND, the magic of the code word keeps him from arguing with me – it just ends the conversation.

But despite my code words’ helpfulness, I do assume this blog post has fully informed you of where my headspace has been going and why I haven’t had any words left for writing.

The Calamity of Educational Gaps.

Sometimes people ask me how I know what all my kids need to learn in their homeschool education. “How do you make sure there’s not a gap in their learning, or be assured that you didn’t forget anything?”

Since I was homeschooled, and know very little about the pre-college group education scene myself, I suppose I could ask the same thing back – how do you know your kids don’t have gaps? My Dad was sick a lot in the fifth grade and totally missed fractions – but was an absolute genius in the construction, mechanical, and art genres without them. (Fractions are totally redundant, apparently.)

But, if we’re being honest, there were gaps in my education.

For instance, I somehow made it to the ripe age of 17 before I had ever heard the word “turd”. It’s not that I didn’t know much worse stuff, but somehow that particular word had slipped through the cracks. When my boyfriend/future-husband used it for the first time in my presence, I actually had to inquire as to its definition, and it took me more years than you would think to find where it went in the order of profanity – somewhere between “silly” and “butthole”, I think – but I could be wrong. I believe that being able to line up all the words in order of badness is one of those developmental processes that once the age passes that you’re supposed to perform that cognitive task, you can’t get it back. Like learning to skip. Or speaking eight languages.

So yes, sometimes there are gaps.

Thankfully, sometimes other kids fill those gaps in for your kids, and it’s always amusing when you find out, via another kid, where your kid’s gaps were.

Last Wednesday was one of those gap-filling days.

We took one of Noah’s friends, Levi, home with us between events for a little while, and in the car on the way home, Ali, who incidentally was in the process of turning thirteen that very day, was delightfully narrating a made-up choose-your-own-adventure for the two boys. Ali was choosing Day One of Thirteen to prove that teenagers were amazing and she wasn’t done enjoying entertaining her brother and his friends yet.

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So it went something like this.

Ali: “Levi. You just came up to a bridge over a river or a normal path. Do you choose to walk across the bridge, or the plain path?”

Levi: “I choose to walk across the bridge.”

Ali: “You got to the middle of the bridge, but there was a troll under it. He just jumped up onto the bridge and is blocking you. What are you going to do?”

Levi: “Kick ‘im in the nuts!”

Noah. Lost. It.

He started screaming with cackles and repeatedly saying the phrase over and over. Like me at 17, he knows much worse things – he knows all the biggie words and we’ve had The Birds and the Bees talk. But the melodic beauty of “kick ‘im in the nuts” was clearly a first-time experience for him, and I as his mother was nearly as happy to get to witness this developmental milestone as I was his first steps. Except oh yeah – I wasn’t responsible for Noah or Ali’s first steps so I didn’t see either of them. But at least I got kick ‘im in the nuts.

Fifteen minutes later, while in line at Chick-Fil-A, this was the toned down version of his ongoing mirth over this amazing phrase:

(Note A: We were also behind a car with a BUTS sticker on it, which is the name of our local trail running club – Birmingham Ultra Trail Society. Hence the “butt” in front of us.)

(Note B: That was newly thirteen-year-old Ali trying to calm them down. While her much more mature mother was sneakily recording the entire thing.)

I cannot explain to you the level of joy that Levi gifted my son with that day by teaching him such a useful tool, and I will be eternally grateful for his filling in the gaps of my educational system.

And, on the way home, Noah offered in-kind information to Levi, because we in the homeschool community work together to help each other.

Noah: “Do you know about the Wright Brothers?”

Levi: “What were they right about?”

Noah: “No, their name was WRIGHT. With a W.”

Levi: “Oh. No. I haven’t met them yet.”

Noah: “No, they’re dead. You can’t meet them. But they invented the airplane.”

Levi: “Oh! Cool.”

Although I’m sure that Levi would have learned about the Wright Brothers soon enough on his own, I feel like this was a completely even informational gap-filling trade. But in Noah’s mind, Levi definitely brought more to the table.

Epilogue: Kicking the troll in the nuts did not work. The troll told Levi a riddle, which he got wrong, so the troll ate Levi. But thankfully, trolls eat humans whole, and Levi caused a bit of trolly indigestion, and so the troll threw Levi up and Levi was able to make an escape, albeit a bit covered in Troll Bile. The moral of this story is: trolls don’t have nuts. Or it was a girl troll. Or I guess we don’t really know enough about this particular troll situation to accurately draw out the moral.

On The Consideration of Being a Pet Owner.

You know how kids go through that stubborn phase where they will absolutely not try anything you want them to, for no other reason than because you want them to?

“Seriously, son. You will LOVE this dessert, made with all the things you love – chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, and more chocolate.”

“NO. I WILL NOT TRY IT.”

Whatever kid. I’m not going to shove sugar down your throat. 

And then, a month later, completely out of the blue and in no way related to any recent opportunities, the kid says “You know what I’d really love right now? A s’more. Mom when can we get s’mores? Can we have a s’more now? Hey do you think you could go to the store and get the ingredients for s’mores? I’m super craving a s’more.”

And you’re all like WHAT THE WHAT YOU ILLOGICAL BEING I TRIED TO OFFER YOU ONE OF THOSE A MONTH AGO AND YOU ACTED LIKE I WAS GIVING YOU MONKEY BRAINS SERVED ON AN ARMADILLO HALF SHELL.

That’s exactly how it went down with Noah, and I, and snakes.

I guess most of you don’t revere snakes on the level with s’mores, but we all know that I do. I’ve long held a great fascination and bordering-on-obsession with the species. And last year, we found snakes on almost every hike we went on – it was The Year of The Snake. Multiple times I was able to identify the snakes with 100% certainty so that I could pick them up and hold them, and I let the other children we hiked with hold them as well, and in some cases experience the delight of allowing said snake to wrap around their arm (all while I kept tight hold on the head.)

But my kids? No way. They wanted to have nothing to do with it. They didn’t scream and run away but they were NOT going to be touching, observing closely, or  experiencing a snake’s immensely cuddly qualities.

Fast forward a year. We haven’t seen hardly any snakes on hikes. And so it makes perfect sense that this year, Noah would decide, entirely unprovoked and without any experience whatsoever, that he
a.) Loved snakes,
b.) Desperately wanted to hold a snake (and regularly got irritable when I couldn’t locate said snake on a hike,) and
c.) Wanted his very own pet snake. AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

WHAT. THE. WHAT.

Why do children have to be so freaking weird.

But because of my own personal love for snakes, my enthusiasm over having someone to share my feelings with trumped my frustration and his craptasmic timing.

So we began by visiting our local quirky pet shop that specializes in reptiles, the only place in Birmingham where you can walk in without an appointment or a plan and end up with a large snake wrapped around your neck in ten minute’s time.

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When we arrived, the rickety screen door was open, and sitting a foot from the entryway was a teenage girl with a very obese skink on her shoulder. A giant tortoise was free-roaming one room over – the room that held the collectible toys. Yes, this was where we wanted to be.

We were there for an hour. In that hour, Noah held four different snakes, was fully educated on all sorts of things about pet snakes and snakes in the wild, and fell head over heels. As I watched his eyes, I saw them gain an amount of LoveLight that I’d never witnessed before in my son.

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A week later, after Noah having talked about his experience incessantly for said week, we took Chris back with us. This was the kind of decision that needed to be Father-Approved WAY in advance. Because I love snakes. Noah loves snakes. Ali likes snakes enough to say that she’s fine with Noah having one as a pet as long as it doesn’t keep her friends from wanting to come over. But what about Chris? He’s never really been on the snakey bandwagon. One could only hope that our obsession somehow softened the scaly blow for him.

We started out by asking to see The Big Snake – we’d heard of it on our last visit, but his cage was being cleaned on our last visit, so we couldn’t lay eyes on him.

As an aside, my own obsession with snakes started 21 years ago with a massive snake – a snake as big around as a large child. I met this snake when I was in Cyprus. He was in a rickety cage with a screen door latch and a crack in the opening. The whole thing looked like he could huff and puff and blow it right over any old time he wanted to. The thrill of seeing such a magnificent, gigantic creature so close to me and so able to squeeze me to death was oddly addictive. Perhaps I’m a Reptile-Specific Adrenaline Junkie.

So walking into a closet in Birmingham with no lightbulb (“The snake got in a fit and knocked the lights out the other day”) to see a snake the width of a telephone pole was right up my alley. We turned on our cell phone flashlights to see the cage at the back of the closet – or rather, the cage that was the entire back wall of the closet. Sure enough, he was delightfully huge. When inquired as to what he ate, they said “Oh, you know. Rabbits or Gerbils.”

…which explained the small furry animal section in the back of the pet shop. What a brilliant recycling program.

Then we went to the baby Ball Pythons, which is the kind that Noah wants. The employee handing him to Noah said that this particular snake was the only one that hadn’t eaten that day, so don’t worry if he was a little nippy.

(Noah: “I wanna be bitten by a snake!!”)

(Seriously. What happened to my son.)

As we held him, I inquired as to how many snakes the salesman personally owned.

“Oh I have 53 in my bedroom alone.”

“Umm…exactly why does one need 53 snakes in ones bedroom??”

“Because I’m working up to having 3,000. Because then I’ll have enough to breed them and make $150,000-200,000 a year. That’s what I’m going to do when I retire from here.”

I was then distracted entirely by the practicalities and the math involved here…

3,000 snakes means 3,000 mice a week. Except that he told Noah when you’re raising breeding snakes, you feed them every 5 days. So that’s 3,000 mice every five days. How do you keep up with who has had their mouse? Don’t you spend all day every day putting mice in tanks? And how do you possibly get that many mice? Is there a bulk mouse superstore somewhere that I don’t know about? Does CostCo have a Mouse Room in the back? Or is a mouse delivery service? Can you get 3,000 mice via Prime Shipping? That would be a fun overturned truck to see.

Now.

As for the explanation as to why one would do so well breeding Ball Pythons….

Ball Pythons are really popular right now – the most popular pet snake. They’re docile, they’re easy, they don’t grow too big (2-5 feet at full size), and breeders are creating some really wild and wacky colored and patterned Ball Pythons by breeding them with albinos and playing with genetic mutations. While a plain old Ball Python can be $50, a Morph can be $6,000 or more.

If you want to see all these bizarre creatures (there are ones that look like rotten bananas, ones that look like orange sherbet, ones that look like calico cats…), I recommend browsing the Morph Market. Careful – it might take the rest of your evening. They are FASCINATING. (At least to me.)

The thing is, though, I just have a bad feeling about the market for Ball Python morphs. What if it tanks like the Beanie Baby market? What do you do with 3,000 Ball Pythons in your bedroom alone at that point? I mean sure, it really makes for an interesting bullet point on your online dating profile, but…

Back to The Pet Shop.

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We moved on to a “teenage” Ball Python, to experience how they feel once they’re nearly full-size. This was the one I insisted Chris get his feet wet with. And I don’t mean by peeing on them in complete fear, but he might have come close.

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Actually he handled it all very well and said he was open with having such a creature live in our house.

Finally, Noah really wanted to hold the larger Python he’d held last time – one that gets bigger than his Ball Python ever would. 

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The first thing the snake did was wrap around Noah’s neck and give it a little love squeeze. Noah’s reaction – one of a calm statement – “Ouch. He’s squeezing my neck.” and quiet “yeah.” when I asked if he wanted him moved – sealed the deal for me. This kid was ready for ownership.

He doesn’t have one yet – we’re making him wait until a little closer to his birthday to make sure the obsession sticks. But we’ve pretty much decided. Even though we’re a staunch no-pet family, snakes are easier than fish. You only have to feed them once a week (which we’ve practice with Not-Crazy-Renee’s snake), and if you leave home for vacation, you just leave them and they’re perfectly happy to be left alone to digest last week’s mouse. They don’t shed (except for their skin, that is), they don’t pee on furniture, you don’t have to let them outside, and they cuddle really well.

But for now, it seems like True Love.


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Ali just needs reassurance that it won’t keep her friends away.