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.

When The Intersection Rule Failed Us.

In our hiking club, we really only have one rule. (Aside from the obvious rules like don’t pick up snakes but CERTAINLY don’t scare them away because Miss Rachel will definitely want to see them and photograph them and maybe pick them up if she’s mostly sure they’re not venomous.)

The one rule is this: Stop at every intersection.

This rule is a rule because it is a regular occurrence for the kids (especially the older ones but sometimes the younger ones) to run ahead of the adults, who can sometimes be dragging a toddler behind them or on their back or hanging off their legs like a monkey.

On the particular hike for which this post was recorded, I was taking on the responsibility (and fun) of being hiking buddies with Elsa, my favorite first cousin once removed. (Please don’t tell my other first cousins once removed. This is between us.)

…As an aside, I googled and now understand very well what the difference is between a second cousin, first cousin once removed, third cousin, and second cousin once removed. Would you like me to explain it?

(I know you would. It’s fascinating and makes so much sense.)

It all depends on what level you’re on with reference to each other. The same level means that you share a grandparent, great grandparent, etc. A level apart means that my grandmother is your great grandmother. Following so far? So, first, second, and third cousins are all on the same level. First cousins share a grandparent. Second cousins share a great-grandparent. Third cousins share a great-great grandparent.

(Fun Fact: Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip are third cousins: their shared great-great-grandmother is Queen Victoria, who incidentally was married to her first cousin, Prince Albert. Because the British are weirder than Alabamians.)

Removed cousins are on different levels. First cousins once removed happen when person A’s grandparent is person B’s great-grandparent. So another way to look at it is you are first cousins once removed with your cousin’s children. You’d be first cousins twice removed with your cousin’s grandchildren. Got it?

…So back to Elsa, who is my favorite of all of my cousin’s children.

Elsa is four, and she’s just starting to grasp hiking expectations, rules, and standards. So she asked me, “Aunt Rachel, (because “First Cousin Once Removed Rachel” is pretty long for a four year old), what is an insterstection?”

I explained carefully that an intersection is anytime you can go more than one way on a trail. If you have to choose directions, it’s an intersection. And it’s very, very important that you always wait at every intersection for the adults, because if you chose the wrong way, and we assumed you chose the right way, you’d be lost, and it would be hard to find you.

She silently pondered my words, an unspoken gravity resting between us of what it would be like to be four and lost in the woods.

We plodded ahead, perhaps a tenth of a mile behind the big kids. As we came up a hill, we saw the big kids all piled in a semi-circle at an intersection. It was a “T” intersection, with a bench sitting opposite of the T. A teenage couple was sitting on the bench, and it appeared that they were having a silent standoff with our kids.

Then the teenage couple stood up, walked toward us, laughing slightly, politely said hi to us, and took off down the trail.

As we reached the children, they were all coughing, waving hands in front of their faces, gagging, and complaining in general about what was the worst skunky smelling cigars they’d ever smelled.

Yeah. That is not a fog of cigar smoke you’re standing in, children.

Our Stop-At-The-Intersection rule had…

– Forced the children to stand in a thick cloud of pot smoke,

– Created an awkward staring/social interaction, because the poor high teenagers had no idea why 10 children had just crowded around them in a semicircle.

(They’re probably still puzzling about that. I bet every time they get high they’re all like “yo, man, remember that one time, when all those kids surrounded us like they were the freakin’ Marine Corps or something?” “Yeah man. That was….weird.”)

– Totally killed their buzz.

Were the children better tempered for the rest of the hike?

Chill, might one say?

Perhaps.

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So maybe The Intersection Rule didn’t fail us after all.

(Then again, twenty minutes later, Noah did get exceptionally hangry and demanding as to why I hadn’t brought SNACKS on the hike, so the dreaded munchies may not have been worth it.)

The Perfect Puddle Fail.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with puddles lately. Which is convenient, since we just had a Tropical Storm come all the way up the middle of our state.

(Granted it wasn’t a Tropical Storm when it reached me, but it was still pretty dang wet.)

I don’t usually get hung up on getting a specific shot, but in my head I’ve had this “perfect” puddle jump for months that I just needed to capture.

The original idea was to be directly above a child who was jumping down into a puddle while looking at the puddle, and get the top of their head and body going down, but their happy face in the reflection of the water.

(I don’t know if that makes any sense but it’s BEAUTIFUL in my head.)

However, this particular shot, I have discovered through scientific analysis, is impossible in a Physics sort of way.

It turns out that puddle reflections are super tricky – sometimes they’re in color, sometimes they’re in black and white, and if you’re directly over the puddle shooting down, they’re not there at all.

I spent parts of three days trying to get this specific shot, with much help from my kids (especially Ali, as Noah prefers contrariness.) But I haven’t been happy with the results.

I even named this entire night of photos “Failed Puddle Jump.”

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I mean they were cool, but they weren’t what I wanted.

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I was puzzled by myself, because I’m really not usually this particular and specific with my photography. But there was just SOMETHING missing. Something I had to capture. And these weren’t it.

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So I tried again Tuesday at The Botanical Gardens. Ali was all in, so we shot several rounds of jumps while Noah whined and loitered in the background.

I was fairly happy with the results – Ali looked completely dreamy in a few – but they still weren’t *quite* there.

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Tuesday night, Chris took us all on a surprise End Of School Year Celebration Night. We ate dinner at a new restaurant, then he took us to Target and gave us each gift certificates to blow on whatever we wanted, then we went up to a downtown parking deck for me to get to shoot the sunset. I was informed that this was the third of four stops, the fourth one being another mystery stop.

While we waited on sunset, I noticed that there was a perfect puddle. And Noah was in an especially amenable mood. So we worked on getting my unattainable shot.

We tried it from one angle.

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Oh yes. The reflections were in color (aided perhaps by the fact that he was wearing the outfit in which I’ve nicknamed him “Dayglow.”)

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Then another angle, and it was even better.

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We were SO CLOSE.

After circling the puddle and studying it with all of my analytical geometry skills intensely tuned in, I finally decided on the perfect angle/lens combination to shoot with the fullest city backdrop.

I realigned Noah and humbly requested his ongoing participation…

“Just one more time! And by one more time I mean as many times as it takes to get it right.”

Shockingly, he was all in. “Okay, but let me take off my shoes real quick. They’re getting super wet.”

No problem.

So he backed up.

We rechecked the angles.

I gave him leap coaching (“one leg out – not a hop – a leap”), and we lined up the shot.

He took off.

I snapped.

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Yes! Yes! It’s going to be PERFECT!!

…But then his lack of shoes suddenly and quite violently caught up with him.

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He slid straight through that Public Parking Lot Puddle, coating his butt with the layers of slime from decades of tires and shoes and bubble gum and spit and who knows what other unspeakable bodily and non-bodily fluids.

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He came out the other side looking like a bog had attacked his backside, and also crying and holding his shoulder.

I feverishly rooted around in the back of the car to find a towel, but only found a blanket – good enough. I wrapped him up and checked on the rotationary abilities of his arm – it still functioned, and he had calmed down.

Then I checked my camera.

And WE GOT THE DANG SHOT.

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And we all lived happily ever after.

(Except his shorts.)

(And possibly his puddle jumping career.)

(And also there is the issue of my Mommy Guilt.)

(But Mommy Guilt never goes away so you might as well get the shot if you’re going to suffer from it anyway.)

The End.

p.s. – My apologies to the Ice Cream Shop that was our fourth stop. I do hope we didn’t leave any Parking Lot Bog behind in your cozy booth.