The Summer Ticket.


Summer began this year before I completely realized what was happening. Usually the first day of summer is a day of huge fanfare and excitement (me celebrating raucously because I don’t have to teach my children anything of great import for a couple months), but this year it was sandwiched between mine and Chris’ anniversary trip, our last field trip, and the kids going to day camp for a week. So it took me a few weeks before I was able to slow down, breathe in, and recognize the glories of summer.

The kids, in the meantime, asked “When are we going to have our first of summer clock tower meeting?”

It’s amazing how quickly they can turn a one-time thing into a guilt-wracking tradition.

I didn’t have any great ideas or incentives for this summer – despite my attempting to employ my brain on the topic. Chris had suggested a few summer guidelines, but nothing worthy of a grand clock tower meeting.

Finally, it was at lunch with Not-Crazy-Renee where I was given THE brilliant idea of summer. I was bemoaning how many questions my kids ask every day (the recurring torture of my life) and how many of them are TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.

She suggested the most fantastic idea ever concocted.

“Why don’t you give them tickets for the number of questions they can ask a day?”



It was so staggering that I reached for my phone that very second to order tickets on two-day Prime shipping. But then caught myself because we were at Olexa’s and people do NOT order tickets while eating quiche at Olexa’s.

(I learned via self-imposed torture about what people do and do not do in the palace that is Olexa’s on my last visit. Four and a half years ago.)

But I remembered to order my tickets that night. When they came in, I quickly hid them from my kids because the mind-blowing sight of rolls of tickets would create SUCH A BARRAGE of questions that I might have to hop a flight to Brazil just to survive. (At least Brazilian kid’s questions are in Portuguese.)

Sunday night, we went to The Clock Tower – right at sunset for optimal meeting magic.


We sat down and went through all the boring stuff first. Summer bedtimes, amount of shows/iPad that could be enjoyed per day, what must be completed before shows/iPad were watched…

Then Chris unzipped the high-security bag and pulled out the most glorious roll of tickets our kids had ever seen up close and in person.

_MG_0172 Clock Tower Meeting

They were both immediately bewitched. Ali was probably in the middle of asking a question about the tickets when I snapped this picture.

We carefully explained to them that all questions aren’t bad. But most of the questions they asked were completely unnecessary, and many of the questions they asked they already knew the answer.

They would get 15 tickets per day. They would have to give me a ticket every time they asked me one of these unnecessary questions which included but was not limited to questions starting with…

“When can we?”
”How many days until?”
”Can I have?”
”Will you buy me?”
”When will we?”

When they saved up 20 tickets, if such a miracle could be accomplished, they could trade them in for a prize.

They both loved this plan. Plus, tickets. Tickets are marvelous. Tickets make all of life more fun.

The ticketing plan began on Monday morning. Chris sat the tickets up on an easel in the kitchen and it was the children’s responsibility to get their own tickets each morning.

IMG_8381 2

Ali was a quick and determined learner. Halfway through Monday she said, in awe, “I’m realizing HOW MANY questions I ask you that I already know the answer to! I’ve caught myself so many times.” She managed to slide through Monday and Tuesday while only giving me two tickets per day.

Noah soon realized how challenging this game would be for him, and began planning ahead for his next infractions.

<Silly question>
”Bring me a ticket!”
”I’ll go ahead and bring you two – one for next time.”

<Silly question, silly question>
”Bring me two tickets!”
”I’ll go ahead and bring you four.”

Noah was out of tickets at 2:20pm on the first day. At which point I realized that I hadn’t exactly figured out what to do when that occurred. Did subsequent questions count against tomorrow’s tickets? Do I not speak to said child for the rest of the day? Perhaps Duct Tape could be in order…?

I kept count of his overage for the day – he got to negative 11 tickets by bedtime. Chris the Merciful Summer Consultant declared that “Ticket Mercies should be new every morning – he gets 15 tomorrow morning.”

And so he did.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I rolled over to see two tickets lying next to me in the bed. I squinted, confused for a moment. Ah yes, I vaguely remembered Noah coming into my room before I was awake to ask me questions.

But despite the early start, he made his 15 tickets last until 4:40pm on the second day, and I noticed a significant amount of silence and a lovely peace about him. He was clearly trying his best to not let all of those questions come tumbling out of his mouth.

By Wednesday, Noah ended the day having performed a miracle true enough to warrant sainthood in the Catholic Church. He had five tickets left over.

My summer is going to be amazing.

Not-Crazy-Renee and the Big, Big Favor.

As all good adventures do, it all started out with a text. A text from Not-Crazy-Renee, specifically…right before she headed out of town for the holidays.

Renee Text Snake


Explanatory Footnotes for this text:

1. SBB refers to Snaky Butters Buttercup, Renee’s five-year-old’s pet Ball Python, who has grown a good deal since I last shared photographs of her.
2. She wouldn’t starve. Snakes eat once a week but she sometimes gets a two-for-one week when Renee misses a week. This was just discussed in the last Not-Crazy-Renee post.
3. Another neighbor’s chicken did indeed pass on to the wild eternal yonder (via a black trash bag) while I was on chicken duty. No one has trusted me with anything larger than Fuzzy the Betta Fish since.

So although I knew I didn’t have to feed a Python, by myself, with no instruction booklet, I’m always down for an adventure.

But this one worried me more than most.

I admit it: I was a more than a little nervous about my ability to not botch this up.

I mean, I like Snakey Butters Buttercup a good deal, and I’ve held her once and seen her fed twice, so obvs I’m an expert.

But what if the unexpected happened?

What if, when I pulled the top off, she took advantage of my newb status and suddenly leapt out of the cage and sprinted under a heavy piece of furniture?

Or what if she choked on the mouse?

I mean, what all could go wrong while I was alone in the house with a python, a mouse, two cats, and my children?

But despite my misgivings, I added Snaky Butters to my color-coded to-do list.


…and I asked Siri to remind me about meal procurement.


And so we went to the pet store – not a place I frequent often, due to my anti-pet status.

I did a slow walk around the store, looking for mice, while the children fawned over the adorable bunnies and gorgeous parakeets and in general upped their desire for pets by tenfold.

I walked to the counter, picked the guy with tattoos and gauged earrings (because he wouldn’t be grossed out by the fact that I was buying something alive that would soon be dead), and told him I needed one adult mouse.

He started toward the back of the store, and I followed.

“What do you need it for?”

“A snake. My neighbor’s. I’m feeding her while she’s out of town. Because I’m the best neighbor.”

He looked at me with distrust in his eyes.

“Do you even know how?”, he said rather condescendingly.

“I’ve watched twice. I’m going to call and let her walk me through it.”

“Do you know how to stun the mouse first?”


“You really should do it OUR way. You just put the mouse in a plastic bag THWAP it on the counter. And why does she feed the snake LIVE mice anyway? You know she can get them frozen.”

“Yeah, she tried that first. It didn’t go well.”

“I bet she just likes watching the snake eat live food. Most people do.” He waggled his eyebrows menacingly, implying that Not-Crazy-Renee has a sadistic streak.

We walked into a tiny closet that smelled of a twenty year collection of artisan mouse pee. As I choked and stumbled out the door, he asked “Do you want to pick out which mouse you want?”

“No. I just need a mouse.”

He reached in and grabbed a mouse by the tail as it wriggled, desperately trying to reunite with its family of 47. “If you want to really impress your neighbor, I can give you some tips about how to swap her snake over to frozen mice.”

“She’s really good at googling. I’ll let her do that if she wants to.”

He plopped the mouse in a flimsy box and headed back up front. “Okay…are you sure? My snakes used to eat live, but I’ve successfully moved them ALL to frozen…”

“I’m good. I promise,” I said as I quietly wondered how many, exactly, “ALL” meant.

“Frozen is cheaper….” He rang me up. “That’ll be $2.71.”

I think Renee can handle $2.71 per week of snake food.

We got out to the car and I realized that I didn’t have a secure place to store my wiggly, squeaky, rocking-the-paper-thin-box snake food on the way home. I didn’t trust the mouse (after all, they sometimes chew through their containment), and I didn’t want to put it in the seat next to me and then stop quickly and propel the box to the floor, setting the food free in a moving vehicle.

So I did the most logical thing: I handed a live mouse-in-distress to my five-year-old.


“Hold the box carefully. Don’t put your fingers in the air holes. Do NOT open the top.”

“Okay mom.”

On the way home, I listened to Noah and Ali’s running commentary on the new friend.

Noah: “His name is Dunlop.”

Ali: “If I were to make a movie about Dunlop, it would be titled ‘Dead Ahead’.”

Noah: “Dunlop smells like shrimp. Want to smell him through the hole? Ack! He keeps nosing me through the hole!!”

We pulled up into Renee’s driveway and I sighed with relief – we did not have a runaway situation.

I put Dunlop on the table and watched as he nosed his last airhole.


It’s the Circle of Life, Dunlop. The Circle of Life.


I put Renee on speakerphone, and I started rehearsing what I knew.

“Okay. I know I have to stun Dunlop, but first, I need to put SBB in her feeding box, right? How do I get this lid off?”

“Loosen the strap. If she’s under her rock, lift it straight up. Then find the metal hook in the windowsill, and lift her into the box with it. Did you find the hook?”

“I’ve already gotten her into the box.”

“Whoa. You’re quick.”

The hardest part was transferring Dunlop. He did NOT want to leave his cozy new home.

His tail snagged.

Then his little foot snagged.

The cat was waiting right under my feet to take care of any escaped snake food.

Finally, Dunlop was transferred, then stunned.

“Did he faint, Mom?”, Ali asked, intently attempting to understand all the steps of her first feeding.

“Yup. So he won’t bite Snaky Butters.”

I dropped the mouse in and Snaky immediately began constricting.


“It’s almost like they’re hugging!! ….. Why is she hugging him so LONG?”, Noah asked, quickly growing bored with the process.

Noah moved on to the kid’s riding toys, but Ali watched as Snaky arduously worked the apparently largish mouse down the hatch.




And then we were done.

And I immediately knew I had solidified myself as THE Number One Neighbor in The United States of America.

I’ll be waiting by the mailbox for my official commendation from The White House.

Not-Crazy-Renee and the Creepy Middle Child.

“How’s Not-Crazy-Renee doing?”

I’m sure you’re asking that right now, since that’s what all blog readers want to know when they see me. She is, after all, the all-time favorite blog character.

With good reason.

To answer your question, she’s doing fine.

She still feeds Snakey Butters Buttercup, her five year old’s pet python, every Wednesday night (or every other, if she forgets, and then Snakey gets a two-for-the-price-of-one night.) I was honored to be invited over for the grand event recently. I got to hold Snakey before the meal, letting her snake up my arm and waggle her tongue in my general direction. I was fascinated by how smooth she is – “scaly” doesn’t mean what you think it means. After that, I was privileged to watch as she gave little Mickey one last good hug, then swallowed him with less trouble than I have swallowing a french fry.

Everyone needs this experience with a python.

The week before I visited had been a two-for-one night, and I got this series of texts from Not-Crazy-Renee about the mishaps therein…






I know. At this moment you can do nothing but be intensely jealous that she’s my not-crazy friend and not yours.

Changing the subject.

Earlier this week, I agreed to do her family photos – you know, for Christmas cards and such. I do not do this for many people because OH THE PRESSURE of taking portraits. But I did hers last year, and her kids are super photogenic and therefore easy to photograph at their best, so I agreed.

Last year, her middle child, Jonas, was my favorite to photograph. He’s beyond adorable. (They all are, but he’s my favorite. Can I have a favorite?)

Besides giving me the precious shots I wanted,

_MG_8835 Jonas Fave


he gave me the best “OH NO YOU DI’INT!!” shot of all time:


Right? Right.

So this year, I expected more fantastical photos from him.

However. He decided to remove himself as my favorite and instead, offer me a different sort of treasure.

Out of the hundreds of pictures I took, I got maybe 5 good ones of him.

The rest were his apparent audition photos to be the next Hollywood Evil Villain Child.

He started out playfully evil. The Doofenshmirtz of bad guys.


Then he moved on to Cedric the Sorcerer.


From there he went full-on Joker…


And just a bit of Draco Malfoy.


(Positive he was casting a Cruciatus Curse here…)


But then, when it was time for family photos, is when it got weird.

I told him to smile,

And the kid turned into a …






We tried one more picture up against the ivy-covered wall. We all begged him to smile. And as his sister looked toward the heavens, looking as if she’d seen an angel,


He looked like he had seen something…

or was something….


quite different.


He may not be my favorite anymore, but he’s for sure ready for Hollywood.

Epilogue: In fairness and to soothe the nightmares I just provided you, I did get a couple adorable shots of him,



And precious shots of him with his siblings.




Also, I was able to make this fabulous music video, thanks to his superior inter-photograph dance skillz.

And then, my masterpiece of the year, was this sick beat…

(Y’all remember this post one day when Photographical DJing is a thing. Remember that I, and Jonas, were the pioneers.)

….so maybe he’s still my favorite. Maybe.

(But I’m only retracting my renouncement of him because he looked at me like this after reading this post…)