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.

A Proper Fear of Snow.

The thing about living in the south is that we’re kind of…afraid of snow. We don’t handle it well, as I’ve told you many times, and so it’s hard for us to imagine it as a risk-free endeavor. I mean, we LOVE snow, but if we have snow, it’s a “sit at home and enjoy it” event – not a “travel around and do normal stuff” and certainly not a “travel on roads that are already precarious except now they’re covered with snow and ice.” We equate that kind of behavior with such actions as running up to a bear and sticking your head in its mouth just to check out what a bear uvula looks like.

As I returned to North Macedonia in December – my second visit to the country in 2019, I was slightly terrified of snow and ice, but also laughing at myself for being so fully self-aware of the limitations to my southern imagination.

I tried to downplay it to Chris, who wasn’t traveling with me. “I think it’s just snowy in the villages in the mountains, not the cities. I’m sure it will be FINE. We might not even go into the villages. Who knows.”

But when I found out that we would indeed be visiting a village in the mountains on the day we arrived, immediately after a 24 hour flight, and I saw the video of what the village roads currently looked like, I began imagining how very terrifying a bear’s uvula actually was.

I traveled with my friend Christen, and we were headed to visit our friend Kelly, who was in-country for three months. Our flights were exhausting and had very little breathing room. We were not blessed with an extra seat or even half an inch of legroom on our transatlantic flight. We did not sleep a wink, and here we were, in Europe, 24 hours sans sleep, and now it’s morning – it’s gonna be a while until we get to bed. We were exhausted, but we were in EUROPE. One finds a way to trudge on.

We drove from the airport to our friend’s house, had fifteen minutes to turn it around and change out of our day-old Alabama-weather flying clothes and into the bizarrely innumerable garments that would be suitable for a European mountain village jaunt – more clothes than I wear in Alabama all winter long combined.

(One thing I did learn in 2019, from visiting Chicago in January and Macedonia in December, is how to dress when it’s *actually* cold outside. I now know that you can actually dress to stand to be outside if you know about the pieces of clothing we haven’t yet discovered in the south. (When it does get cold down here, we just assume there’s no way to be outdoors unless you’re running and therefore creating your own heat source. Who knew?! There are WAYS to endure the cold.) So I learned the definition of “Parka” this year and found out that you can get scarves warm enough that they serve a purpose other than annoying your neck and complimenting your outfit.)

So we put on our warmest clothes over the top of our long underwear, then came our parkas, our scarves, our hats, our boots, and then we did a few stretches so that we had the strength to lift our feet while wearing 150 pounds of clothing. A few minutes after arriving, we set out for the mountaintop in the large, safe van with our driver who was a resident of the country, thereby making us completely, totally safe.

The roads in Macedonia seem to have been engineered to be approximately 30% too narrow for single car to pass through, yet somehow they Knight Bus their cars skinny and can fit three cars side by side on the road – one going one way, one going the other way, and one stopped in the middle of the road while the driver runs into the hardware store for a minute.

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(One takeaway I’ve had from my two visits to the country is to quit worrying so much about how close I am to other cars in America – based on their ability to get within a booger’s width of each other, I’ve got MILES between me and the rest of the cars.)

So the roads are narrow. They’re also winding, and, when going to a village in the mountains that rise up immediately from the city, are precisely cliff-side – with no barriers other than the skinny cows and horses that free-roam the mountainside.

190421 macedonia IMG_0379 sHere were some horses we passed on one of those narrow, winding, cliffside roads in April – back when there was no snow to complicate things. 

Our driver laughed at our fear as we climbed steeply up the mountain and first hit ice, then snow, then deeper snow. He assured us that the roads were perfectly safe and it could be much worse – when the roads get too bad, the village residents just park their cars in the road and walk into the village. Did we see any abandoned vehicles? No. The weather was fine.

We made it to the village safely,

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enjoyed the spectacular views through our sleep-deprived, grainy eyes,

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We visited the village school and brought American treats and handmade gifts from our kids to give to the precious kids.

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And then it was time to go.

We were STARVING.

We were zombies.

It was time for dinner.

And at some point we’d really like to attempt that thing called sleep again, would-you-please.

So we pulled out of the village, heading out again on the snowy roads. I looked out the windows and ached to call a “hold on a minute” so that I could jump out and get pictures of the sunset/dusky winter wonderland. But I was hungry and I knew everyone else was too and we were cliffside – I didn’t want to slip-slide away off the edge.

THEN we passed a small herd of cows, headed home for the night. (Our driver slowed down, letting the cows rub us with their udders as they scooted past us on the impossibly narrow road, and laughed as he commented “See? The cows DO come home.”)

But as the cows made their way around us and our driver attempted to bring the van back up to speed, the tires slid.

Then we started sliding to the right – of course we would slide toward the cliffside.

THIS WAS ONLY OUR FIRST DAY IN COUNTRY! It’s not time to die yet. We haven’t even gotten to eat a single meal!

The tires slid again.

We fishtailed sideways again.

Our driver was mumbling from the front seat, saying something about how this never happens.

Then he said “Time to get out and push!”

And he meant it.

The passengers all disembarked, carefully stepping between the car and the mountainside. He tried again now that he was free of all our weight – no luck.

So we literally got behind that big old van and we pushed. And we pushed and we pushed.

IMG_2157 2I swear the edge was edgier than it looked. Or at least it certainly felt like the uvula of a bear to my southern sensibilities.

And the van did nothing but slide closer to the edge.

The driver got out and said “We will need the chains!”

I got my camera out and decided it was time to at least get those snowy winter wonderland pictures I wanted. It’s not like know anything about helping with snow chains.

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Just then, another herd of cows came by. It was as if they wanted me to take their picture.

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They were drama cows if there ever were drama cows.

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The men had tire-shaped chains laid out on the snow by now, and were looking at them quizzically with their arms folded. Clearly there was nothing us womenfolk could or would add to the situation, so we began to walk.

Then we did some quick calculations, converting meters to miles, and realized that, if we didn’t mind trudging uphill in the snow, we could actually walk to the delicious dinner that was so loudly calling out our name.

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And maybe, just maybe, our walking to dinner would really light a fire under the men to hurry up and get that van up the mountain – before we ate all the good cheese.

And so we began to walk. On one of those narrow, curving roads where we were now brushing our udders against the oncoming traffic. Somehow, inexplicably, the higher we got, the less snow there was. And the faster the cars careened toward us.

But we were on our way to dinner. And who doesn’t need a brisk hike after being on a plane for 24 hours?

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Just as we walked into the parking lot of the dreamy restaurant, the men pulled up behind us in the van. They had done it – with a little help from their (village) friends.

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And we lived happily ever after, eating all of the amazing cheese. And no southerners fell off the mountain that night due to snow. Even if we did stare into the uvula of a mountain moose.

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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.