December 23, 2009

Christmas Family Photos

Ah, the family photo. A beautiful moment of time captured on a glossy 8x10. For most people family pictures are treasures, where everyone is dressed in their best and their beautiful pearly whites dazzle the shot.

Eh, not so much in my family. We keep the torture to a minimum and only do family pictures once a year. We do them at Christmas and we take them at home. There is no need to drag poor innocent bystanders into our craziness. We’ve tried on a couple of occasions to have individual pictures taken of our kids and we never left without a frustrated photographer or some weird pose that I compromised on to get a certain kid to take a somewhat normal picture. (I have a professional photo of Marky on the wall wearing a scuba mask and snorkel. His ears are bent down and the goggle part is completely fogged over, but he wouldn’t stop being difficult without knowing scuba gear picture was in his future.)

Lesson 40: professional photos of your children wearing dollar store scuba gear = white trash

We don’t feel guilty, however, asking our family and close friends to suffer through the nonsense. They know us; it’s not really a shock when my children act up when asked to pose for a picture. They have strict orders to just stand there and snap away no matter what is going on. That way, after about 20-some shots maybe, just maybe, we’ll have something we can use.

We’ve never achieved that “family photo”. It’s like a unicorn that I just can’t touch, or that lottery ticket that’s always off by two numbers, or that pregnancy test that always reads positive right when Adam gets promoted. You always have these grand ideas but reality is no where near what’s in your head.

Sure, I’ll admit it. I envision that beautiful picture where my kids are all smiling and wearing clothes that match. My boys wearing ties and my daughter in a frilly dress with bows in her hair, while Adam and I look put together and respectable all cuddled together with our well behaved children.

WAKE UP JESS!!!

No, our pictures are nothing like my visions. They are in fact, quite the opposite. They usually resemble some sort of out of control nightmare. We never attempted a family pic until Jet was born, but these are the results.

2005: Jagger was throwing such a tantrum about a Mario and Luigi doll that the only way we could get him to stay put was for Adam to hold him. In the photo that was “the best one” Adam is holding a screaming red-faced Jagger upside down. “Merry Christmas!”
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2006: Big surprise, Jagger is crying again. Bonus….Jet is crying as well,and Marky is giving psycho Jagger rabbit ears. Awesome. “Happy Holidays!”
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2007: Adam had to work early, so I took a picture of the boys. I had morning sickness and could seriously care less about how it turned out. Oddly enough, it’s probably the best photo I have of my boys.
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2008: Marky was in a REAL bad mood. He refused to even take down the hood of his sweatshirt. It wasn’t just over his head, oh no, he had pulled it completely over his face. He sat there blindly holding a screaming Jovie. My beautiful baby girl, remember the one in the frilly dress and bows? Nope, red-faced and hating life.
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2009: I finally gave up on the dream. If you can’t beat em’, join em’. This year we took a crazy picture on purpose and in addition to the Christmas card we gave out some of Adam’s delicious home-made spiced nuts to go with them. “Merry Christmas! From The Nut House” (Yes that is Marky's butt!Don't ask)
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Lesson 41: Christmas family photos that are always a hideous train wreck featuring screaming kids or their rear ends = white trash

December 19, 2009

Pedicure

Adam called me today and told me he scheduled me for a surprise haircut in honor of my 30th birthday tomorrow. That's right, today was my last day in my 20's. Not that I care. I'll be having my 6th baby soon and I always think people assume I started having kids at 12.

Excited, since it's been a year since my last haircut, I took a quick shower and made my way down to the beautician. I walked in and told them who I was.

"Oh, your husband scheduled you a haircut and a pedicure." the lady said with a smile.

My smile faded, "A what now?!" I demanded.

"A haircut and a pedicure?" she answered with hesitation.

"Are you kidding me?!"

It's not that I wasn't thankful for the present (I'd never had a real pedicure before), but he could have told me all the details. The problem was that my feet and legs were absolutely not presentable. Adam has been working from 9am-midnight every day except Sunday and I'm extremely pregnant and uncomfortable. I never have time to shave my legs nor do I really want to bend that way unless absolutely necessary. Not only have my legs not been shaved in over a month, but I haven't painted my toe nails since my brother's wedding on August 1st. Needless to say, all that was left were weird colored shapes on my big toes. Classy.

Lesson 40: going to your first pedicure with hairy legs and chipped painted big toes = white trash

December 7, 2009

Prize In The Box

I really miss the days when I could get a simple bowl of cereal with no surprises!

Lesson 39: pouring a bowl of cereal and having a dirty Hot Wheels car fall into your bowl with some added chunks of dirt = white trash

For all those who are wondering.....yes, I still ate it.

December 5, 2009

Jet, The Precocious 'Planer'

My third son Jet is the calmest child I have. He has never really given us any grief. Even my pregnancy was easy. I never had morning sickness, I didn’t feel tired, and the actual labor was short and sweet. As a baby, Jet rarely cried. He sat quietly, seeming quite content with observing his surroundings. When he did cry he had an abnormally deep voice that sounded ridiculous next to any other crying baby.

As he’s grown these past years, (he’ll be 5 in February) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Jet’s an old soul.” Truth be told, he really is! Now that he is able to express his wants, he often makes us laugh at what he thinks is “cool”. For instance, when he styles his hair, his two older brothers have the messy look, but he demands that his hair be parted on the side and combed neatly over. “I need my hair in a circle.” he tells us. He enjoys button down shirts, and when it came time to choose a backpack for school he chose one that resembles a briefcase. It has Hot Wheels on it, but he does in fact carry it like a briefcase even though it has a strap to go over his shoulder. He looks like a middle aged man on his way to the office when he goes to preschool.

It’s not only his appearance that is more mature than most 4 year olds, it’s also the role he’s taken in our family. At a very young age he took it upon himself to pretty much take care of Jagger, even though Jag is 19 months older. He learned how to work the tv, vcr, and dvd player when he was a little over the age of 1 so he was able to appease a screaming Jagger who melted down every time one of his favorite shows or movie ended. Jet would immediately toddle over and put in a movie he knew Jagger enjoyed, stopping his tantrum. He also has a hard time watching Jagger struggle with various tasks. When Jagger is doing work at the table with his TSS Jet gets in trouble at least once a day for whispering the answers to his older brother.

I’ve also noticed over the past year that Jet has become an authoritative figure to his brothers, definitely not Marky, but to the other two. I listen to them playing upstairs and I hear Jet listing the rules, and then occasionally when someone is out of line I hear, “Do you want to go to time out?” He’s never actually put them in time out. I would never allow that, but he has put himself in time out on a couple of occasions. I’m not exactly sure why. He does get in trouble when the boys are doing something undesirable and I ask them to stop, just to be told “Jet says it’s ok.” I always respond with, “Jet’s not the boss. I am!”

Lesson 37: your kids thinking your 4 year old is the boss = white trash
Other than being somewhat of a know-it-all, Jet is the sweetest and most helpful little boy you’ll ever meet. The one thing that makes me absolutely crazy is that he whines. A lot. It’s not really his fault. It was a crucial time for Jagger when Jet was learning to talk. It was the point where Jagger was at his worst. He cried and threw tantrums all day, which took up most of my attention. Since Jet was so easy going we rarely paid him any attention. Unfortunately, he learned that if he whined we immediately responded. Jet making any kind of fuss made us think there was something seriously wrong. Soon he only spoke in a whiny voice. Now that he’s a little older he doesn’t whine quite as much, but going from all the time to just 80% of the time isn’t exactly where I’d like to be.

I do want to tell you about his whiny voice. It is very distinct since he has that bizarre deep raspy voice. You can always tell when it’s Jet with a complaint. There is no mistaking it.

Anyway, on a beautiful spring day last year I had gone out to sit in my favorite spot, the rocking chair on the front porch. I rocked in the sunlight enjoying the vitamin D, since I had been deficient for so long after winter. I had the door and the living room windows wide open so I could hear the kids who were resting and watching SpongeBob. My cousin Brett (basement dweller) came out to join me. (Our family’s mood depends on the sun, so he often joined me in the basking.) We sat and chatted about trivial things until I heard Jet whining.

“What Jet?” I asked, not getting up from my chair. No response. I looked at Brett and shrugged. “Guess it wasn’t that important.”

A few minutes later I heard him again. “Jet, what’s the matter?” Still no response.

“What’s his deal today?” Brett asked.

“Who knows? Someone is probably looking at him funny.”

Again, Jet lets out another distinct plea. I was fed up by this point and got up from my relaxing place, going to the door to see for myself what was causing his grief. “What is going on in there?” I demanded as I stepped inside the door. To my surprise I see the boys sitting peacefully on the couch looking as if they were going to fall asleep. Jet’s fingers were in his mouth and he sat sniffing his blanky. I looked at them for a minute as they stared back seeming as confused as me. It didn’t look like anything was going on. They weren’t even anywhere near each other. Hmmmmmm, I growled. I gave them 'the eye' just in case, to let them know I didn’t appreciate being interrupted from my relaxation. (Which I never seem to get!)

I went back to my chair and resumed my rocking. “What’s going on in there?” Brett asked.

“I have no idea. They’re all just sitting there.”

“Then why does he keep whining?”

I shrugged my shoulders and rolled my eyes. Right as I do, I hear it again. I slapped my hands down on the chair arms and looked at Brett in a way to say, Can you believe this? He chuckled, “He’s being ridiculous today.”

I stood up and quietly made my way to the door. I was determined to find out what was really going on. I stood by the door in a manner that allowed me to see them, but they couldn’t see me. I watched Jet like a hawk. He sat motionless, completely zoned out on the nonsense that is SpongeBob. As I observed I heard it again, but oddly Jet didn’t move. I whip my head out and give Brett a confused look.

“What’s he whining about?” he asked, because he had heard the noise too.

“It wasn’t him.” I said bewildered.

“What?!” Brett immediately got up and joined me at the door. We both watched intently waiting for the sound to come again. Sure enough, a few seconds later, it came with absolutely no movement from my whiny son. We reeled our heads away from the door and stared at each other completely dumbfounded.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Maybe he’s a ventriloquist.” Brett joked.

If he was, at age 4 he put a lot of professionals to shame!

We both laughed, but that didn’t answer my question. We sat and listened to the sound as it rang out several more times. Realizing it was coming from somewhere at the top of the hill, I went up to investigate. It turns out, someone up the street was in the middle of home renovations and had been using a wood planer.

I walked back down the hill, laughing all the way. When I got back on the porch I told Brett what I saw.

“Are you serious? It sounds just like Jet whining!” He laughed.

A few minutes passed when we heard a louder version of what we had been hearing coming from the open window.

“Quit plane-ing!” Brett yelled to Jet.

Brett and I looked at each other for a minute before breaking out into hysterics. It worked on so many levels. Complaining….Plane-ing…..it was too perfect! We’ve used it ever since. Jet is our ‘planer’, and when he whines too much “Stop plane-ing” is what we tell him.

Lesson 38: having a whining child that sounds like carpentry equipment = white trash
My son’s whine may resemble the grating sound of metal on wood, but I wouldn’t trade him for the world, and I am so glad he’s part of our family!

November 29, 2009

More Car Trouble

It’s been a few weeks and we are still having some car trouble. Adam did successfully get his “new” car running. Brake lines were an easy fix. Unfortunately, we can’t fit our family in a Nissan Sentra. Sadly, the van is still sitting in the drive way, and Adam is working on it as I type.

We were getting by with our one tiny car and occasionally borrowing our neighbor Jackie’s car. She's been a real angel, letting us use her vehicle at the drop of a hat. Things seemed to be looking up until Thanksgiving.

Adam, being a chef, had to work on Thanksgiving. (Nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like going to a fancy steakhouse! Sorry if this is what your family does, but I personally don’t understand.) Since these kinds of people take my husband away from me and our children on all holidays I have to say:

Lesson 35: Going to a restaurant on Thanksgiving instead of celebrating at home with family = white trash

Sorry for the brief distraction, I had to get that off my chest. Anyway, like I was saying, Adam had to work Thanksgiving and on the way home at 9pm he was in a car accident. This was no ordinary accident. It is the type of accident that only my family is lucky enough to be involved in.

Adam was driving down the right hand side of the road. The left side was completely open. Adam took a quick glance at the passenger side mirror and saw headlights.

“Well this can’t be good.” he said to himself. Boy was he right! There, coming up beside him, half on the sidewalk, was a truck. The truck tried to squeeze past Adam, destroying the whole passenger side of our newly fixed, only driven for a couple of weeks, “new” car. It cut Adam off and drove up onto the median on the other side, slid down, and then came to a stop. Adam pulled off on the side of the road and called 911.

While on the phone, Adam watched as the driver jumped frantically from his car and ran to the back. He searched until he found a flashlight and a gas can, with both items in hand, he began to run around with no apparent purpose.

Adam sighed, “Oh boy.” He could tell this wasn’t going to turn out well. “Sir,” he yelled out the window, “you should probably get out of the road.”

The man turned to Adam, realizing for the first time that he wasn’t alone. “Oh, right, right.” he responded. He ran over to Adam. “I’m half black, half Mexican.” he felt compelled to tell my husband. “Can you drive me to my house? I have a doctor’s appointment at 9 am. What time is it?”

“It’s 9:30.” Adam told him.

“Oh crap, I’m late!” he yelled, beginning to run around again.

“No, sir, it’s 9:30 at night. You still have a good twelve hours to get there.” He told the man, trying to calm him down.

“Oh good. Can you take me home?” he asked again.

“We better wait for the police and the ambulance.” Adam suggested. He figured this man had bumped his head or was under the influence, which would definitely require some sort of medical or legal attention.

The ambulance soon arrived to Adam’s relief. Adam pointed them in the direction of the man and informed them about his odd behavior and that he had to have hit his head or something. They went over to the gentleman and began asking him questions.

“Are you allergic to any medications?” they asked.

“Bananas.” was his response.

They checked him out further, but found nothing wrong other than his bizarre answers. A little later, the police arrived. The man explained to the officer that his truck got stuck in cruise control and he panicked.

After the interviews, Adam and the man stood together, waiting for the officer to return. Adam was highly amused with the man and his incoherent small talk. He spoke of things like how he was nervous for the tow man because he thought when they started his vehicle, since the cruise control was stuck, it was going to "blast to the moon". He also spoke of how tall his son was. He said he was going to be 9 foot tall by the age of 20, but then told Adam that was going to be hard since he was already 22.

Adam’s favorite part of the night, by far, was when the man’s face suddenly lit up. He held his finger high in the air as if he had some sort of brilliant idea, and then ran back to his truck. After rummaging through his car he returned with his arms full.

“I feel really bad,” he said, “I want you to have these. I just got this cd." he held the cd up triumphantly, "Here’s a hat, a pair of sunglasses and a piece of hard candy.”

Adam stood dumbfounded. “Uh, I don’t want your stuff man.”

“But it’s really good hard candy!” he insisted.

Adam looked at the lint covered piece of candy. “I’m sure it is. I just don’t need any of that stuff right now, but thank you.”

When the ordeal was over, Adam was released to come home. A few days have gone by and we've done everything we can to try and get our car fixed. Unfortunately, after speaking to this guy’s supposed insurance company, they are telling us they don’t have him on file. Adam hung up the phone and told me the bad news. After a few minutes of silence, Adam stated, “I should have taken the hard candy.”

Lesson 36: accepting a piece of “really good” hard candy in exchange for car damages = white trash

November 21, 2009

Ode To The Basement Dweller

We've been basement dweller free for a little over a month now, and in honor of those who have dwelt in the completely unprivate depths of our spider haven here is a poem:

No one to help Adam with manly chores;
No one to watch kids while I run to the store.
No bumpin' Bronco driving up the hill;
No Alex running up our electricity bill.
No one to laugh at with a morning hangover;
No Brett to eat all the dinner leftovers.
No more Monday tubes and barbeques;
No soothing buzz of home done tattoos.
No one to yell at Jackie's barking pets;
No Friday night dance party with Marky and Brett.
No guys outside smoking around that ridiculous hobo fire;
No one to help fix my broken clothes dryer.
No one to torment and scare the kids;
and then tell me you're just giving them the biz.....(ness) lol!
No more fights between you about choice of music;
Poopy diapers aren't funny any more with out making Brett sick.
No smell of Axe coming out from the shower;
No burning toast in the wee morning hours.
No one for Adam to teach his two tricks;
No one to advise us on our movie rental picks.
No one to talk with when Adam's at work and kids are in bed;
No annoying guitar song being played to get stuck in my head.
And though I can now use my cellar
We sure do miss our basement dwellers!

November 15, 2009

Jude Dude

My youngest son (for now), Jude is one of the most unique characters you’ll ever meet. As a baby he started smiling before two weeks old and laughing way before any baby I have ever known. His sense of humor is off the charts and has always been that way.

Unfortunately, shortly after he turned 2 he moved into the boys’ room, and sleep deprivation has proved to be quite unbecoming on him. Not only did Jagger start waking him up at 5 am, but he couldn’t stand hearing his brothers downstairs playting while he was supposed to be taking a nap, resulting in him not taking one at all. My sweet funny boy has turned into a tired unhappy child who on most days I am convinced has been spawned by Satan himself.

Not only is he sleep deprived, but he also suffers from the small man syndrome. He has acquired the wee-gene from my father’s side of the family. He’s thin and short, which is a big contrast to his brothers who are all on the tall and muscular side. Somehow, despite his size, he has more testosterone than all his brothers combined. He walks around with his chest puffed out and talks in a deep manly voice, dishing out his demands.

He does still have his sweet moments where you can’t help but be overtaken by his charisma. When people come to the house they immediately fall in love with Jude. He pulls out all the stops for company. He bats his big beautiful blue eyes, speaks in his high squeaky voice (which is his actual voice), and laughs his laugh that is most contagious. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “I’m going to steal Jude.” And they are always very surprised when I say, “Please do.” (I never worry about it. They'd take him and return him before sunset. Trust me!)

Jude definitely has what my husband calls “the Johnston charm”. It is a gift endowed to all Johnston men, according to Adam. It’s a gift very similar to the Force. Supposedly all Johnston men have the ability to woo any woman. I personally think it’s a pile of malarkey. If this were true Adam would be married to someone much more exotic than me! (Even though I am quite a catch!)

It is quite amusing to see Jude around little girls. He flirts and presents them with gifts. Yesterday, my friend came to visit with her daughter who is close in age to Jovie. As soon as she was in the door, Jude wouldn’t leave her alone. He was up in her face giving her kisses, covering her with his blanky, and giving her his favorite toys. He leaned over and whispered sweet nothings in her ear. That’s when it happened. From his mouth came the best pick up line I have ever heard. He leaned in close, batted his eyes, and said oh so sweetly, “I poop in my underwear.” My friend’s daughter babbled happily and smiled, seeming to be taken by this intimate conversation.

“Wow, Jude’s got the moves.” I said rather embarrassed.

Lesson 34: your best pick up line being “I poop in my underwear.” = white trash

November 14, 2009

New Car

I’m so excited! After six years of being a one vehicle family, Adam and I finally got a second car. I can’t express how happy we are.

For those who don’t know, Adam works in another state. It only takes him an hour to get there, but it’s an inconvenience when small things come up like birthday parties, school functions, and going into labor! Not to mention when I pick Marky up (70 miles from our home) the kids and I are in the car for a minimum of 7 hours those days. We drive Adam to work, then come back home, wait a few hours then make the trek to pick up Marky, then come back home, wait until midnight which is when I wake up all the kids, load them in the car for the umpteenth time and go pick Adam up from work, then finally, we come back home. Ugh….I’m tired from writing about it!

I’m sure you see why a second car is a dream come true. A friend of Adam’s had a car he was trying to get rid of and we were all too happy to take it off his hands. We were going to take it no matter what it looked like.

When we got there I chuckled. It was a 1996 Nissan Sentra with only 74,000 miles on it. It’s missing the driver’s side mirror, a chunk of driver’s seat, and there’s a giant dent in the back where his daughter backed up into a fire hydrant. The bumper is adorned with fabulous stickers such as “Folk Festival” and “I heart Mountains”. It makes me feel as if I need to dred my hair and smoke from a hookah pipe while I drive down the road, but it ran and that’s all that mattered.

Adam took it for a test drive and when he returned he had a huge grin on his face. He got out of the car and said, “Please tell me the tape in the tape deck comes with it!”

“What is it?” I hesitantly asked, afraid to know.

Adam flashed me the goofy smile I love so much, “The Ghostbuster’s theme song by Ray Parker!” he exclaimed.

I laughed. The song that ruined Ray Parker’s career according to my mom, but to Adam’s delight it was included.

An hour later, Adam was driving it home as I followed in our van. Everything was great until five miles down the road when Adam pulled off to the side and got out.

I rolled down the window, “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t have any brakes.”

“Are you serious?”

“Uh, I’m pretty sure. They went straight to the floor and nothing!”

Adam crawled under the car and found that the brake lines were extremely rusted and one of them had fallen off. It had to be towed home.

Lesson 32: driving your new car for five miles and then having to have it towed home = white trash
This happened on Monday. Tuesday, Adam went back to work and requested a week of vacation so he could get the car running. He couldn’t wait to get started.
Friday, I got a phone call from Adam when he should have been on his way to work. This is normal. He gets bored on those long car trips and sometimes just wants someone to talk to. I answer and hear him give a little laugh.

“Guess what.” he says.

“What?” I ask thinking he’s going to tell me something funny.

“The van just died.”

…………………… *crickets*…………*tumble weed*…………………

“You’re kidding right?” I was hopeful.

“No. Everything was fine. Then the check engine light came on and it shut off. Now it won’t start.”

I sat dumbfounded, but was awakened from my stupor when I heard “kr-kr-kr-kr-kr-kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk” coming from the living room. I looked up to see Jet and Jude running away from the printer to hide.

“What the heck is going on?!” I scream.

“Let me call road side assistance and I’ll call you back.” I hear as I hang up my phone. I think Adam thought I was yelling at him.

These are the points in my life when I understand why some mothers commit themselves to the loony bin.

I walked over to the printer to see the screen flashing, “Call Epson”. I pushed the power button and turned it off. Curious, I turned it back on. Kr-kr-kr-kr-kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk……”Call Epson” ………..out comes a piece of plastic.

“Boys!”

I had gotten the boys some left over Halloween candy that was 50% off at the store the other day. They were individually wrapped gummy bloody body parts, eye balls, and brains, because you can never have enough edible body parts in a house full of boys. Each piece is also cradled in a sturdy piece of plastic to hold it in place in the wrapper. That is what my printer spit out.

“You don’t put candy wrappers in the printer!” I yell as my phone starts ringing again. I got up to answer it. It was Adam again.

“I think it’s the timing belt. I tried to adjust it but it still won’t start. It must be broken. The tow truck is coming to get it. I have someone coming to get me to go to work. Tell the tow truck guy to put it at the top of the hill. I don’t want the van to block in the car if it’s going to be cheaper to fix. I’ll talk to you later.”

I hung up the phone, not able to respond. My brain had blown a gasket and oozed out of my ear. I sat at my kitchen table staring into oblivion for a very long time. Then it happened, I began to laugh…..hysterically. At that point what else can you do? It was too ridiculous, the whole situation! I recovered in time to welcome the tow truck driver and instruct him on where to go.

Lesson 33: having two cars towed in the same week and not having a vehicle that works = white trash
At the end of the day I was happy it was just material things that were broken and not friends or members of my family, and even though things are extremely stupid right now there are still some things I am very thankful for.

November 7, 2009

Influenza With a Side of Pork

My family was one of the lucky groups of people blessed with the H1N1 virus. Oh yes, that dreaded flu that has everyone up in arms. With me being pregnant, Marky with respiratory problems, and kids that carry staph we were probably one of the highest risk families in the area, but we made it out alive.

I had called our family doctor a month before trying to get the kids vaccinated; they told me they weren’t giving shots to anyone under 18 this year. “Go to Walgreens.” was their solution. Unfortunately, that would have cost me $100, and we haven’t had $100 that didn’t have someone else’s name on it for months now.

The day after I fell ill my OBGYN’s office called to tell me they were offering the H1N1 vaccination. I chuckled and politely told them, “Thanks, but I’m currently in the process of vaccinating myself the hard way.” I could have used this swine flu protection a month ago.

I know we aren’t supposed to call it the “swine” flu, but I’m educated enough to know we didn’t get it from some bad bacon. Since we are still eating pork I think I should be able to call it whatever I want, and swine flu sounds so much more fun.

Now this particular illness really sucked. I’m not going to lie. Two of my kids had to go to the hospital, and all of them had fevers that reached 104.5 degrees at some point, but the awesome thing was that it was the most time my family has spent together in years.

The kids stayed home from school, Adam called off work, and I refrained from chores for almost a whole week, leaving us nothing to do but snuggle. Adam pulled up the futon mattress from the basement and nestled it into the corner of our sectional couch. We then brought down all our comforters, and the six of us spent the week laying around in our “nest” watching t.v. and eating out of the very large box of candy the kids had gotten from trick-or-treat the day before they got sick.
The one day Adam was tired of not being able to breathe and he said to me, "I have a great idea!" Phrases like this coming from Adam's mouth scare me. "I'm going to boil a pot of Vicks."
"Oh gosh." was all I could work out in the form of a sigh. I was too tired to deal with his crazy at the moment.
I know it sounds crazy, but it worked. After seeing what a fine job the half a tub of Vicks Vapo-rub did, he became more curious and decided to throw a Shower Soothers in the pot, or in "the brew" as he liked to call it. We spent the day in a mentholated sauna. I can only imagine what Jagger's teacher thought when she stopped by to drop off his missed work. My living room looked like a mortuary hosting the Up In Smoke Tour.

So, even though we all felt really crappy, I’m thankful that we experienced it together. I’m sure it will be something we’ll all look back on fondly......that's so sad.

Lesson 31: Looking back fondly on having the swine flu = white trash

November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

Ah, November 1st, All Saints Day. Being Catholic, I’m no stranger to asking these extraordinary people to pray for me. It’s like having friends on the inside, putting a in good word for me.

I’ve had experiences where it was apparent the saints are on my side. My favorite, by far, is my run in with St. Theresa of Lisieux.

My mom used to subscribe me to a great daily devotional called The Word Among Us. It had the readings for the day and a short reflection to go along with the theme. In addition to the daily readings, there were personal stories or biographies of the saints.

One month, the feature biography was about St. Theresa. At that point, I had never really heard much about her. The story told of how she desperately wanted to be a saint, and tried to obtain sainthood by doing small things of holiness. She is referred to as The Little Flower, and it is said that if you are close to her she’ll send you flowers.

At the time of my encounter, I was only a mother of four. My brother-in-law was our basement dweller, as he finished Culinary School. So, technically I still had 5 kids. Adam had recently upped his time at work, leaving me home with the kids more than usual. I felt really alone and unappreciated.

One particularly long day, after Adam had left before I woke up and still wasn’t home at 10 at night. I tried desperately to plunge the toilet of the worst clog in history. I remember thinking to myself as I broke a sweat, (I’m telling you, it was THE WORST clog of all time!) “This is what my life has come to? I’m a smart person. Why am I standing here overexerting myself on a toilet when no one here appreciates a darn thing I do? The kids treat me like crap and I take it. I’ve taken on some of Adam’s chores and he doesn’t seem to care.....I wanted to change the world dang it!”

Just then, the toilet gave way. I watched the water swirl down the big hole feeling relieved, yet unfulfilled. I was about to walk away when I noticed something pink coming out of the small hole on the other side of the toilet.

“Oh my gosh! I broke the toilet!” I said to myself. (Yes, I talk to myself. Don’t judge!)

I quickly ran and got the phone to call Adam.

“What do you mean you broke the toilet?” he asked.

“I think I plunged too hard and the insides are coming out. It’s pink and coming out the small hole across from the big one.” I told him.

“The insides? Honey, there are no insides. You’ve seen me take that toilet off twice and clean the whole thing, inside and out. There should not be anything pink inside of it. Don’t worry, you didn’t plunge so hard that it broke. I’m almost home. I’ll check it when I get there,” he reassured me.

When he got home we went up to the bathroom so I could show him the weird pink thing.

“What the heck is that?” he asked. “Did the kids flush something down there?”

I looked at him for a long while waiting for him to catch on, but he didn’t. “Honey, it’s pink! We don’t own…pink,” I told him.

“Oh yeah.”

This was very true. I’ve never been a girly girl. At the time, I owned more shoes with skulls on them than high heels. So, even with me in the house, it was very unlikely they could have found anything pink to flush.

Oh, of course……

Lesson 29: mom with skull shoes = white trash

“Get me a hanger,” Adam instructed, still hunched over looking perplexed at the mysterious pink thing.

After retrieving the hanger, Adam poked it and tried to get it to come out. A few seconds later the pink thing came loose and floated to the top.

“Is that a flower?” he asked.

Sure enough. There floating in the toilet was the top of a little flower. He got it out and put it in the garbage. Going back over to the toilet, he peered inside and realized there was now something thin and green. He stabbed at it with the hanger, but nothing happened. He finally went and got some forceps. He pulled and pulled. After a few minutes the green string gave way and a whole bouquet of pink plastic flowers pulled through the little hole of my toilet.

Adam held the forceps as the flowers dripped over the potty. “Did I just pull a bouquet of flowers out of my toilet?” he asked skeptically.

We both burst out in laughter. Adam peeked back into the toilet bowl, “You don’t think a rabbit is next do you? I’m telling you, if Sigfreid and Roy come out of there with a white tiger I’m out of here!”

Lesson 30: plunging your toilet so hard you make flowers appear = white trash

Seeing the little bouquet of flowers in my garbage can made me smile. They appeared right when I felt the most unappreciated for the small things I had been doing for my family. It was nice of St. Theresa to remind me that God found the things I believed to be insignificant, meant something to Him . It was also nice to know St. Theresa actually understands how I work. She knew I would enjoy a nice toilet bouquet to a real one any day. I needed the laugh!

So, today, I would like to personally thank all those saints who pray for me every day. I really appreciate and need it! You guys rock!

October 31, 2009

Secrets to Marital Success

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I wish my husband and I had a relationship like you and Adam.” Or, “You guys are so happy you make me sick.” Even at weddings I’ve had the couple say, “I hope we are as happy as you guys!”

Seriously?! Every time we hear this Adam and I chuckle to ourselves. It’s not that we aren’t happy, because most of the time we truly are, but we do have the same problems other couples have. We fight and get on each other’s nerves just like every other couple in the world. I think we’ve been lucky because we figured out a few things that make living harmoniously a whole lot easier.

First, my mom told me a long time ago to never mention the word divorce. Once you say, “Maybe we should get a divorce.” the other person will forever think that is what you want even if it isn’t. Adam and I took this advice and have never mentioned the “D” word, even at our angriest moment when we’re saying some really nasty things.

The next thing, we try really hard to put the other person first. When you do, your spouse feels so loved they want to do something special for you in return, and guess what?! Everyone is happy. I say we “try” because we don’t always do this. There are times when we are both feeling selfish which results in fighting and being critical of each other’s character, making the other person become more self focused. It can be vicious cycle, but one of us can usually break it quickly by doing some unexpected act of kindness that snaps us both out of our funk.

Now you are probably thinking, yeah I already knew all this. Well, there is something else. This one thing has solved most of our problems, and our secret is……Paper, Rock, Scissors.

That’s right. We have used this child’s game for as long as I can remember. We use it for all those little things that no one wants to do. I’ve heard a lot of couples’s problems and most of them result from one person carrying the load of performing all the unwanted tasks. When this happens it makes that person resent the other, resulting in all the selfishness I talked about earlier. This is where Paper, Rock, Scissors comes in handy.

A poopy diaper needs changed? Paper, Rock, Scissors. Someone needs to run to the store for one measly item in the rain? Paper, Rock, Scissors. A kid needs reprimanded and put in time out? Paper, Rock, Scissors. See how it works? It’s great because if you lose you have no one to blame but yourself. You should have thrown better!

Lesson 28: Paper, Rock, Scissors to solve marital issues = some sort of weirdo marriage
I know it sounds crazy, but if you are feeling like you are doing everything in your marriage, give it a try. You may find that even if you lose, those mundane tasks don’t seem quite as heavy.

October 24, 2009

Adam and His Tools

I sit here today writing, as I recover from an injury I accidentally inflicted on myself the other day. It was a beautiful and sunny, and I had walked outside to push a couple of my boys on the swing set. All I remember is stepping on the back porch then seconds later realizing I was lying on the concrete driveway.

“Mom, are you ok?” my boys asked as they ran to my side.

I couldn’t move my hand or leg at the moment and I felt a twinge of fear realizing I was injured and alone with 4 kids. How did I get here? I wondered. I looked back up to the porch and there it was.....Adam’s tools!

He had worked on the car a couple of days prior, and then put all the tools he used on the back porch instead of in the garage where they belonged. I had obviously tripped over the large fluorescent orange extension cord, because it definitely wasn’t big enough or bright enough to catch my eye.

Lesson 26: falling off your porch due to abundance of crap on it = white trash
I laughed to myself realizing that from now on, I finally had ammunition to get him to put his stinkin’ tools away. His tools have always been a thorn in my side. They are everywhere!

If any of you have a husband, I’m sure you’ll agree, most men LOVE tools! There are a few that don’t, like two of my brothers, the closest they get to using a tool is texting on their cell phones. Not Adam. Adam is a chef and still can’t get enough carpentry, electronic, and mechanics tools. When we go to Lowes he sounds like my kids at Toys R Us. “I need it.” He tells me in a whiny voice. After looking at the price tag I lovingly respond, “You don’t need it, you want it.”

Of course, with as much as he loves these random little trinkets, or large machines that I have no clue as to what their use could possibly be, you’d think he’d take better care of the ones he has. He told me once he “needed” a huge tool chest with a refrigerator in it. Huh?! He already has three or four tool boxes that are practically empty because he never puts his tools away.

I love him to death, and I am so glad I married someone who knows how to fix just about anything, but tools laying everywhere make me crazy. It wouldn’t be so bad if he would remember where he left them. One time he yelled at me because he couldn’t find the staple gun. He insisted that I had moved it. (Yeah, I just can’t wait for him to go to work so I can staple something!) A couple of months later I found it, along with a camping lantern, in his underwear drawer. I kid you not, in his underwear! When I told him I found it he jokingly asked why I had put it there.

Lesson 27: staple gun and lantern in your underwear drawer = white trash
To give you an idea of how ridiculous it is, I have taken an inventory of the tools in each room. It goes as follows:

Basement: 1 drill, 3 extension cords, 2 vice grips, 1 level, 1 hammer, 1 line reel, 1 box of screws, and 1 drywall scraper

Kitchen: 1 box cutter, 1 pair of wire cutters, 1 container of metal staples, 1 box of nails, 1 wall scraper, 1 dremel, 1 box of drill bits, 3 wrenches, 1 Phillips head screw driver, 3 cans of paint, 1 mini paint roller, and 3 mechanics tools I have no idea of what they are!

Hallway: In a decorative basket of mine, I found 1 flat head screwdriver, about 5 screws, a hammer, and some sandpaper

Bathroom: there was surprisingly nothing in my bathroom today, but I did remove a drywall trowel from our clean sheets in the linen closet a couple of weeks ago.

Our Bedroom: 1 gallon of paint, 4 paint rollers, 2 paintbrushes, 1 paint pan, 4 sandpaper blocks, 1 jigsaw, and a 12 gallon shop-vac (yep, the big one! Noooooo, it doesn't take up any room at all.)

The Boys’ Room: NOTHING! Are you kidding me?! They are men too. If there were ever any tools left in that room I’m sure by morning I’d find some sort of badly nailed together totem pole of toys and at least one child staple gunned to the wall.

Our Daughter’s Room: Jovie is only one and still in a crib, so Adam takes full advantage of the fact that she really can’t use her room yet. The poor child’s girly armoire is topped by 1 can of paint, 1 crowbar, 1 weird screwdriver (I couldn’t identify the tip), 1 bag of nails, 1 caulk gun, and 1 level propped up next to the armoire that is just as tall

So, I’m sure by now you can see why, although I do have a badly sprained ankle, I delight in the fact that Adam will be taking better care of his tools, and keep the eye sores out of my sight.

October 17, 2009

My Ultimate Cross

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. You may wonder why my oldest son Marky doesn’t have a name that begins with the letter “J”. The truth is I had him when I was 19 and he belongs to a guy I met in college. I only dated his father for a little over a month before becoming pregnant.

Lesson 24: getting pregnant to someone you barely know = white trash


What could be more shameful than that? Can she top it? Yes, she can! Another fact I hate to admit is that I also don’t have custody of him.

Lesson 25: a mother not having custody of her child = white trash


Now I know what you all must be thinking. You’re thinking I have to be some sort of crack head or prostitute because those are the only reasons a mother loses her child, but let me tell you, I know of some people who were drug addicts and prostitutes and they seemed to have had better luck than me.

I don’t remember much from my first mediating session. I do remember my mom telling me that morning, on the phone, to be sure to take a car seat because Marky would most likely be coming home with me. Surely no one would take a baby from their mother. WRONG!

I had no idea what I was in for. I was 20 years old, for crying out loud, why would I have any idea what it was like to fight for custody? I had recently gotten out of a relationship that was toxic to everyone involved. I was entirely too young and my mental and emotional state were too battered to be prepared for what I had to endure.

I don’t remember anything other than his dad telling me I was a bad mother and then hearing I no longer had custody of Marky. I’ve blocked the rest from my memory. It was the most painful thing I have ever been through. I blocked it the same way I blocked my motorcycle accident in 5th grade, which resulted in a concussion.

The next couple of years I fell into a deep depression, leading to mental regression and a drinking problem. My mom so lovingly calls this time and the year or so prior, “the dark ages”. I couldn’t see past the pain and embarrassment. I had given up on everything.

How did I recover? It took my grandfather to flat out tell me “Oh Jessie, get over it.” It was like being doused in cold water. I realized I was only a victim because I allowed myself to be. I had two options, to learn and become stronger or let it destroy me completely, and it had destroyed me long enough.

This was around the same time Adam and I got back together, and the pieces of broken life started to fall into place. I was able to obtain more visitation rights, which was wonderful. After I stopped blocking the pain and had come out of my nightmarish dream state, my lawyer explained that I could have had custody, but I signed my rights away. He said that he told me these things at the mediating session, but I seriously don’t recall anything like that. I really wish I had someone there for support who could have explained things in a manner my 20 year old emotionally drained brain would have understood, but there is nothing I can do about it now.

With God’s help, I have been able to heal and accept my path. I have learned so much from this experience, and have ultimately become a stronger person. It may not have turned out the way I would have liked, but it ended up the way it was supposed to. I may not know all of God’s reasons, but he does grant me little insights that humble me and make me say, “Oh, I see.”

One time I had a friend, who is very actively pro-choice, say to me in a snide manner, “Oh you’re pro-life aren’t you?”
I smiled and said, “Yes.”
For some reason she felt she had to plead her case. I don’t even know why this topic came up. “Well, you don’t know what it’s like for these women to be pregnant in a bad situation.”
(A lot of my friends forget about Marky because he’s not always around.)
I looked her in the eye and said, “Yes, I do.” Then I sat back in my chair and said, “Let’s talk about something else.”

This definitely hasn’t been easy, and I may only sleep well when Marky is peacefully perched in his top bunk in the room he shares with his only brothers, but I’m going to remain thankful that despite all the hardships I chose life.

October 11, 2009

Cereal

My favorite food of all time has to be cereal. When asked what food I would take to a deserted island, my answer has always been “cereal and milk”.

I love all kinds and brands, discriminating against none. I love the sweet sugary tidbits as much as the healthy ones that people tell me taste like cardboard. I actually have very fond memories of original Shredded Wheat. I know they like large rectangular bales of hay, but I loved going down to the kitchen, when I was very young, on a sunny summer morning at my Ma and Granddad’s house to partake in a big bowl of mature wheatiness. I would crumble the rectangles until it resembled a big hay stack, then I would cover it in milk and sugar, making it absolutely perfect and delicious. I felt so grown up.

I have obviously passed this love onto my children. It has to be my gene; Adam only likes Lucky Charms with whole milk (which we never have) or Cocoa Pebbles. Too bad for him those are the two cereals that aren’t permitted in my home unless on special occasion.

The reason for the ban started when my kids began to get up in the morning on their own. They quietly come downstairs, turn on cartoons, and snack on dry cereal out of the boxes. This doesn’t bother me. That is what it’s for, and with other various junk foods lying around, I’m glad they opt for the cereal. Plus, fifteen extra minutes of sleep before the baby gets up is always welcome.

Cocoa Pebbles were the first to be banned when, no matter what they did, the small granules of cocoa couldn’t help but be spilt in what seemed like every inch of my floor. It always resulted in days full of sweeping and picking these pieces (and sometimes piles) off the floor. I felt bad for Adam, but the Pebbles had to go.

Lucky Charms were soon to follow, after I would come down in the morning to find them eating Lucky Charms minus the charms. They even, on occasion, when they couldn’t reach that last marshmallow, dump the whole box out leaving nothing but the non-marshmallow cereal bits. We do still get it on occasion, but it has a special place on a shelf no one can reach but me. Jagger is the only one who has been permanently banned. I don’t think he’s ever even tried the actual cereal part. I told them a long time ago, if they don’t eat the cereal too they don’t get any. The rest of the kids obey the rule.

Things have gotten better over the years, but I have recently seen a decline. This is due to the fact that Jude is now old enough to join the older boys in their morning ritual. Jude, not having the fine tuned motor skills for eating cereal out of the box, or opening it for that matter, has caused a major increase in cereal accidents. All this week I have had to come down and vacuum the floor. He’s been worse than the other kids in the fact that he tries to clean it. Unfortunately, his method of cleaning is crushing it into microscopic crumbs and spreading it over the carpet, making sure it is an equally thick layer throughout.

Lesson 23: perpetual rug of cereal crumbs = white trash

Yesterday, it was a blanket of Crispix, today it was a very vast layer of Cocoa Krispies. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What is the difference between Cocoa Pebbles and Cocoa Krispies?” Well, let me tell you. Nothing! When I spoke of special occasion before, what I meant to say was really good deal! For all of you who don’t know, I am a coupon junkie. Coupons are like a drug to me, and the grocery store sales flyers are like my dealer, pushing me to buy things I really don’t want. Like Cocoa Krispies. Did I forget the consequences of having Cocoa Pebbles in my house? No. I just couldn’t deny the sale at Giant Eagle and the $2 coupon in my coupon holder, making the box of Cocoa Krispies 50 cents! I fought with myself in the store, but my pregnant belly reminded me of the delicious chocolate milk that was left in the bowl when the cereal was all gone and the box of forbidden food was in my cart.

I do enjoy seeing people’s faces when they see a cereal massacre. My cousin Evan had come down for the weekend for a visit a couple of weeks ago. When he emerged from the basement his eyes widened at the torn up Life cereal box and crumb mess that spanned the living room.

“What the heck happened here?” he asked.

I responded, “Oh, sorry about this, Jude is a cereal killer with no respect for Life.”

October 8, 2009

JaMarcus

Happy 10th Birthday to my beautiful first born Marky, or JaMarcus as he likes to be called when he's feeling sad about not having a name that starts with J.

October 4, 2009

Man Funk

Testosterone has always been a main staple in my home. Surrounded by one husband, four sons, and a constant male basement dweller, estrogen is hard to find. I was alone with my ovaries in a sea of man until I lucked out last year and had a daughter.

Finding out we were having a daughter was quite a surprise. We really thought Adam could only make men. In fact, when we got the ultrasound and were told the results, Adam swore at the lady.

Lesson 21: Telling an ultrasound technician to “Shut the *@#% up!” upon getting the results of having your first daughter = white trash

When we found out we were having another baby, we were hopeful that our luck hadn’t run out. It would have been wonderful for Jovie to have a sister. All the signs pointed to girl. Adam said to me, “I think you’re having a girl.”

“Why?” I asked.

In a very careful tone, he replied, “Well, you’re really broken out and you just aren’t glowing like you did with the boys.”

I stared at him, batting my eyes with attitude. “This is my 6th baby.” I dryly responded. “Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, the glow is gone.”

After going to my ultrasound a couple of weeks ago we found out that, yes indeed, the glow is gone. There, floating around in my uterus, flexing his muscles, was our 5th son.

Now, I don’t have a problem with having a lot of boys. Never a dull moment at our house, there’s always some sort of wrestling match, battle between Jedis and Siths, Nerf wars, fort building, or ninja competition going on.

Of course, there are some down sides to a house full of boys. To start, I would like to say that the men of my house are far more creative than most. Unfortunately, that is going to have to be a whole other topic of discussion.

The second is their crazy physical feats. This has resulted in limited furniture. We used to have a coffee table in the middle of our living room. After Jagger gave himself a couple of black eyes, and I caught him and Marky tap dancing on the glass panes on top, I got rid of it.

All four boys currently share a bedroom, which closely resembles a prison cell. They have nothing more than two sets of metal framed bunk beds. We never put in a set of closet doors in fear that they would break them in some sort of man brawl. They’ve also lost their light privileges after I caught Jagger hanging from the ceiling light fixture in their room.

We just bought our first couch this year, after almost a decade of used furniture. When the salesman asked if we wanted to spend extra money on scotch guard and reinforced structure features, we laughed in his face and told him despite all efforts, our kids will ultimately find a way to run it into the ground within a year. We figured we’d save our money instead of investing in a lost cause.

The other down side I’d like to talk about, ignoring the obvious food bill that hasn’t seen a pubescent teenage boy grocery list yet, is the man funk that is inescapable. All boys put off this pungent man odor. You can always tell a house that has a majority of men. It never has an aroma of flowers or sweet smelling citrus, no it usually smells like a combination of dirty socks and musk, unless you have teenage boys, then it smells more like sweaty jock straps and acne creams.

My house is no better despite all my efforts. I bathe my kids every night trying in feeble attempt to minimize the funk, but they wake up in the morning in their natural boy scent. I’ve tried Febreeze, Lysol, scented candles, and have Bath and Body Works plug-ins all over the house, but have only ever achieve a fruity gym sock smell.

Lesson 22: house with man funk stench = white trash

It gets disheartening at times as I lose the war, but luckily when things are at their smelliest, I have my daughter, whose curly hair has a natural floral scent. I hold her in my lap and sniff her hair that takes me from this stinky man dungeon to a field of flowers. Of course, you can never fully escape the funk, so it’s more like a field located beside a sewage plant!

October 1, 2009

Baby Factory

I've always had a feeling that I would end up with seven children. Even at a young age, when I didn’t like kids, people would ask how many I wanted to have when I grew up and I would automatically reply, “Seven.”, though the thought of it made me retch a little in my mouth. Being barefoot and pregnant and having a pile of kids with runny noses, Kool-aid moustaches, and dirty hands hanging off my hips wasn’t my ideal way of life. Unfortunately, I've always known it's God’s calling for me, and it is ultimately going to happen, no matter how much I fight it.

A stay at home mom with a half a dozen kids is a completely acceptable life style…..yeah, in 1950! In today’s commercial society it is totally taboo. If you have more than 2.5 kids you are considered irresponsible or insane.

No one has been happy to hear I’m pregnant since my third baby. My real father has been the most outspoken about his distaste for the whole situation, telling family members he’s going to neuter my husband, because, you know, he holds me down and impregnates me. Come on! He told me to stop after my 4th son, but I didn’t listen. The 5th baby turned out to be a girl, so it was acceptable. My dad then said, “Now that you have a girl, can you please stop?” Yeah, like that was why I kept having kids. I was at peace with having only boys.

The way things have worked out I have been consistently pregnant or nursing since 2002. My babies turn 9 months I start to sweat, because I know what’s coming. So, in May when I realized my monthly woman friend, that I rarely see, didn’t turn up, I wasn’t surprised.

Lesson 20: Being pregnant or nursing for 8 years straight = white trash

The only thing that confused me was that I didn’t feel pregnant. I have been pregnant 5 times and all those pregnancies had been fairly similar. I wasn’t sick, hungry, or tired. I told Adam, “I’m not pregnant.”

Adam looked at me with a skeptical grin. “Well, take a test anyway.”

I rolled my eyes. I think I know my own body, but there would be no living with him until he had proof.

On Adam’s next day off we decided to take all the kids to the Pittsburgh Zoo. We stopped at the store to pick up food and drinks to take with us (we’re cheap). I went in alone, because we don’t dare take all five kids into Walmart, not only is it chaotic, but Adam hates all the time I waste sanitizing carts and children. As I ran through the aisles (the kids’ patience in a car has a life of about five minutes) I decided to take a detour to the pharmacy and pick up a pregnancy test to get Adam off my back.

We went to the zoo and I never gave the test another thought. After a day of fun we pushed the envelope and kept the kids out a little past their bed time. (Having so many kids makes a routine necessary.) Unfortunately, my kids don’t handle staying up late very well. Their moods had waned from an excited high to an all time whiny low.

When we got home, I immediately ran upstairs with our hysterical 9 month old daughter, Jovie. She cried in her bouncy seat the whole time I took the pregnancy test. When I finished, I quickly put the cap on and threw it on the bathroom counter. I had more important things to do than stare at a stick of urine.

I summoned Adam and our 3 youngest boys upstairs to take a shower (they still needed help). My oldest son (who can shower on his own) yelled and whined up the stairs at me about some game system that wasn’t working. Adam’s eyes were huge as he pushed three crying boys into the bathroom, his look let me know how absurd the current situation had become.
I started the shower and helped Adam get the kids ready to get in. The ridiculous ado was so intense, Adam and I had no choice other than to yell to communicate. As Jagger screamed, he hung off the top of my pants, nearly pulling them down. Jovie’s screams had become ear piercing, Jet whined in the corner, Jude screamed wildly as he threw a tantrum, jumping up and down violently, and Marky was now at the door complaining once again about the stupid game, I peered over at the ominous stick. I looked up to see Adam looking at it as well, seeming satisfied with being right.

“Maybe it’s a mistake!” I yelled with a laugh.

Adam chuckled. “Really?!” he asked in a severely sarcastic tone. “I can name a few more!” he screamed motioning around at our children, now in a state of total meltdown. We stared at each other for a second before breaking out in hysterical laughter.

Learning you are having another baby, while your other kids are at their worst, is not the best way to find out…….trust me!

“Ugh.” I sighed. “I knew I was going to have 7 kids.”

Adam, being the optimist that his is, said, “Well, at least we’re almost done!”

“Oh no! Clayte’s going to kill me!” I exclaimed, remembering my brother’s wedding that was only a few months away. I had promised I wouldn’t be pregnant for it. How sad is that? People beg me not to be pregnant for their functions.

Knowing not many people would be happy to hear we were expecting our 6th baby, we considered keeping it a secret. You know, to change it up a little. We wondered how many people would come to visit and not even notice a new one in the mix. We were definitely entertained by the idea.

I personally didn’t want the negativity. Like anyone telling me they weren’t pleased was going to stop the outcome. Oh, you don’t think it’s a good idea?.....poof!…..I’m not pregnant. Sorry, never gonna happen. I told a few people I could trust and knew wouldn't judge me, like my mom, my best friend Jackie, and my cousin Brett. They of course were very supportive and happy, which was what I needed.

I am now 20 weeks pregnant, and everyone knows. I had a lot more happy responses than I expected, so I was pleased, but I also got a lot of flack from those who I knew were going to dish it out. Some people just don’t seem to understand why Adam and I don’t have a problem with our lives being completely wrapped in our family. We’ve chosen to surround ourselves with little miniature symbols of our love that fill our house and make our lives sing, and now that we have them, as crazy as they all may be, we can’t imagine life without them, and to limit the amount of love we bring into this world seems wrong.

I’m Jessica, and I’m a baby factory…….and proud of it!

September 26, 2009

Kid With The Poop Finger

Jagger came into the world screaming, letting everyone aware of his presence. Yes, he’s named after Rolling Stones front man, Mick Jagger, which is Adam’s all time favorite band.

For those who don’t believe a name defines a person, come to my house, my kids are living proof. Adam and I swear that as Mick Jagger ages and decays his soul is slowly creeping into our son’s body.

Jagger started out like any other baby (other than his apparent love of tantrums). He started to talk around a year of age, but at eighteen months his speech was replaced with what sounded like drunken British rock star jargon. We cursed Mick Jagger and tried to rebuke his soul out of our son. It didn’t work.

About a year later, after Jag had become quite proficient in walking, he developed a serious strut. He’s six years old now and still struts down the road. The first time he did it Adam looked at me and said, “What is that?!”

I responded with, “You named him Jagger.”

When Jagger’s speech deteriorated I began to suspect something was wrong. His doctor told me not to worry, and that he seemed normal. I tried to put it behind me over the next few years as I watched him tantrum more and develop his own language. Luckily, both his brothers understood it.

Finally, right before he turned 5, I took him to the doctor and pleaded with him to have Jagger checked for autism. I had done a lot of research on my own looking for an answer and he fit a lot of the criteria. His doctor still wasn't convinced.

I said, “He should be starting kindergarten this year and I still need his 3 year old brother to translate for me.”

“Oh.” He responded, finally realizing the severity of the situation.

He referred him to the Children’s Hospital, and we were lucky to get him in fairly quick. Jagger was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. He’s high functioning, but has a severe communication delay.
They talked to us about putting him in Special Ed kindergarten and our hearts broke.

When you have a baby, you think of all the great things they are going to do. You envision them having a normal childhood and becoming a well rounded adult. When someone tells you that the same child is going to be in Special Ed, all those dreams seem to shatter right in front of you.
The doctor did tell us that he would be the smartest kid in Special Ed, but needless to say that didn’t make us feel any better. We aren’t knocking the Special Ed department, it’s just we felt that it wasn’t a good fit for our son.
I remember leaving there feeling rather defeated. Adam and I sat in silence for about 20 minutes before he suddenly said, “He’s not going to Special Ed. I’d rather him be the dumb kid in the normal class than the smartest kid in Special Ed.”
I looked at him and smiled, letting out a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you feel the same.”
We both thought pushing him to do better was the best option. It wasn’t going to be the easiest, but it would be best for him in the end. We had never treated him like he had a disability and they told us that was probably the reason he was so high functioning. So, why change now?
We opted to have a TSS come to our house for 20 hours a week, and take him to speech therapy once a week. It was a crazy schedule, and his tantrums in the beginning were exhausting. (Especially for me, I was 8 months pregnant with our 5th child when we started the process.)
Luckily, we had a great support group. Our TSS was, and still is, a blessing, and our friends and family were there to push and encourage him during the times his TSS wasn’t around, not to mention all the prayers from family who weren’t in the vicinity.
With all these things combined, Jagger made more progress than any other child his psychiatrist had ever seen. When it came time to look into school, we knew if we took him to the public school they were immediately going to put him in Special Ed, due to his diagnosis, so we looked into private school. We weren’t sure if they would take him with autism, but we wanted to try.
Our neighbor referred us to the school where she taught. We made an appointment and took Jagger in to see what they thought. When we got there, they immediately took Jagger to the kindergarten room while we chatted with the principal. A little while later, he returned. They told us he sat and listened to a story and did a craft. They said they saw no reason as to why he wouldn’t persevere there.
Feelings of elation filled our hearts as we registered him for school. (I was also a little sick thinking about all the germs he would be swimming in, but I had a few months to mentally prepare myself!)
Jagger has been in kindergarten for a month now, and is doing great. He’s social and is doing wonderful in his studies. Unfortunately, for all of you that don’t know, one of the things kids on the spectrum struggle with is sensory issues. That is why Jagger is always in his underwear, or “going Hulk”, as he likes to call it. He doesn’t like the constraint of clothes. (Who does?!) He also doesn’t like it when he has dirt or sticky stuff on his hands. That kind of situation can start a meltdown. His TSS used to cover our dining room table in shaving cream and forced him to play in it for extensive periods of time, trying to curb his reaction.
This is where we started to have a problem. A couple of weeks after Jagger started school I got a phone call from his teacher (who is our neighbor, which makes this worse). I guess Jagger went to the bathroom and got poop on his hands. This resulted in him screaming and writing feces hieroglyphics on the bathroom wall. He wasn’t in trouble, they just wanted us to work on it with him at home.
I thought things were going good until Adam got home yesterday from picking Jet up from Preschool.
“I got called into the principal’s office today.” Adam said, as he walked in the door.
I looked at him and yelled, “NO!”
He nodded with a slight smirk.
“What now?” I asked.
He tried not to laugh and told me, “Well, you know how Jag is having trouble wiping his butt?”
“Oh no. He’s not wiping poop on the walls again, is he?” I asked.
“Well, that too, but….” He replied.
That too? I thought. Could it get any worse? Yes. Yes it could.
Adam continued, “I guess he’s not wiping good enough and when he’s in class he’s sticking his finger in his butt, pulling it out covered in crap, smells it, then says “Yep, that’s poop.” At least he’s not freaking out.” he shrugged.
I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there, mouth agape.
“They just want us to get him to stop, so parents don’t start calling with sanitary concerns.” he told me.
We didn’t want him to be the smartest kid in Special Ed, instead we got the kid with the poop finger.
Lesson 19: kid with the poop finger = white trash

September 23, 2009

T.P. Dilemma

Today I had company over and I seriously panicked about everyone using my bathroom. We only have one roll of toilet paper and it has to last us for the next three days!


Lesson 18: refusing bathroom privileges to guests in fear of running out of t.p. = white trash

So sad.

September 19, 2009

Duped!

Three years ago, we got a pamphlet in the mail. On the front was the Pennsylvania keystone in blue and gold, with the words Pennsylvania Housing something or other (I can’t quite remember) printed in the middle. Upon reading the pamphlet we realized this was a state run program that helped low income families and local contractors. It helped low income families acquire a loan to get badly needed home repairs. The repairs were to be done by local contractors, giving them a chance to do business in the colder times of the year when business was slow.

This sounded right up our alley. We desperately needed a new roof and heater. Neither one had been replaced since its construction in the 1930’s. Adam had grown extremely tired of chasing roof shingles every time we had strong winds, which happens quite often living on a hill like ours.

Our neighbors got quite a show one night when Adam realized our flashing, on one side of our house, had removed itself and had flown all over our hill. In his haste, Adam ran out of the house in his underwear. He ran up and down the hill, and into some of our neighbors’ yards, trying to retrieve the pieces of our home.

Lesson 14: Chasing pieces of your house throughout the neighborhood in your underwear = white trash

Adam and I decided to give this organization a try. A nice man came to the house to see what all we needed. Seeing we desperately needed a roof, and taking note of our fancy Sears brand furnace from 1930 that barely heated our house (We had $500 monthly heating bills when we were only setting the temperature to 62 degrees!), he agreed we definitely qualified for the program.

About a month later the ball had begun to roll. We qualified for a loan, and contractors were contacted. Within the week we got a new furnace. I couldn’t believe the difference! Our house was warm and our utility bill 2/3 less. A roofing company came and started with the plans for our new roof. We were so excited.

Then something peculiar happened. When we got our loan, the money was supposedly put into an Escrow account and money was to be taken out as the work got done. We were given a check to pay something and it bounced. Huh?!

This scared me. Why would it bounce? There should have been enough money left in there for a whole entire roof. I looked at Adam and said, “Call the furnace guy and see if he really got paid.”

Adam phoned him and we found that he had only received half of his payment, the other half bounced. I could feel my blood start to boil. We had four kids at the time and every penny counted. You mess with my money, you mess with my emotions!

Adam called the guy who organized the whole thing. The man who talked to us on a regular basis began to ignore all of Adam’s calls. I have to give Adam credit. He was quite vigilant, calling this guy several times a day.
“I don’t want him to forget about us.” Adam said with a smile.

Scared they were going to get ripped off too, we told the roofers, who had already done half of our roof, to hold off until they got their money. Needless to say, we still only have half a roof. We have the materials, they have been sitting in our driveway, covered in cob webs, for three years.

Lesson 15: three years of gutters full of shingles from the 30’s, a half finished roof, and a driveway full of unused roofing material = white trash

Adam went to a lawyer, but was told to get in line. Here, this guy had been doing similar things for years. He owed over a million dollars to various poor people and businesses. Adam came home feeling defeated. He called the furnace guy, who we had kept in contact with, and told him the bad news.

“This isn’t right.” the man said, “Someone should contact the news station or something. This has got to stop.”

He was right. All I could think about was that man driving around in his Corvette, and talking about his brand new in ground pool, while I had half a roof and no chance at the new gutters I needed. It made the momma bear syndrome kick in. You don’t steal from my family!

I contacted every news station in the Pittsburgh area. That same day a local undercover reporter e-mailed me. He wanted to investigate the story. He came to the house a couple of days later. We showed him the information from our lawyer, which showed the names of other various people who had been ripped off. He even went to the guy’s house and asked him how it felt to steal from poor people. The investigator called us laughing because the guy had locked himself in his garage for hours, trying to avoid the reporter.

The special aired a couple of weeks later. Adam and I got phone calls and e-mails thanking us from people who were just about to do business with him, but saw him on the news. Of course, we also got calls from friends and family from where we grew up who get the Pittsburgh news, who had seen us on the old boob-tube. That was embarrassing!

Lesson 16: friends and family seeing what an idiot you are on television = white trash

Despite the humiliation, we were glad we helped some. It also got those who had been fooled to rally together, and the Attorney General got involved. Of course when they did, they found he hadn’t paid taxes in several years and the IRS had to get involved as well.

Adam has had to go to a few hearings over the years, not for our own gain. We’ve known for quite some time we weren’t going to get the work done, and we are going to pay on a pointless second mortgage for the next 30 years, but we’re glad our misfortune saved some from the same fate.

There are days that I feel guilty about having a hand in putting this man in jail (which is where he currently resides). This man had a family, and I feel bad that they have to suffer. Then I look at that hideous pile of roofing, and the one gutter, full of old shingles, that is going to fall off into my neighbor’s driveway at any second, and I no longer feel too bad.

So, let this be a lesson to all of you. Don’t be na├»ve like Adam and myself. We had a hard time believing that people weren’t naturally honest and nice. If you are looking into getting house work done, please check the BBB. Do some research before diving into an agreement with someone you don’t know.

Lesson 17: check a contractor's background, and don’t let people take advantage of you, or you too can be white trash!

September 15, 2009

Smoking Cessation

I started smoking cigarettes at age 15. Why? I don’t know, but I can still remember the very first time I smoked.

It was a cold and snowy day in DuBois Pennsylvania, a quiet town full of nothing but banks and car washes. There were about six or seven of us girls, I can’t be sure, who had decided to go to the local ski lodge for some sled riding.

Somehow, during our innocent snow filled fun, the topic of smoking cigarettes had arisen. None of us had ever tried it, but we were all curious. Going to the bathroom, we discovered a cigarette machine. We debated and planned, chickened out, changed our minds about thirty more times, then came up with our plan.

Taking turns, we tried to conspicuously drop a quarter in the cigarette machine on our way to the bathroom. After we had deposited enough money, we fought over who was going to pull the ominous lever. The whole ordeal took about a half an hour. Finally, my one friend, who was always braver than the rest of us, angrily pushed past us and got the contraband. Though we had tried not to draw attention to ourselves up to this point, we all screamed and ran out of the lodge when the cigarettes hit her hand. Teenage girls.

We ran outside and hastily opened the pack. After we each had a cigarette in our hands, we realized we had no means as to light them.

“Hey, there were candles on the tables in there.” someone suggested pointing back to the lodge.

“Who’s going to go in there and light it?” asked another.

“Ugh! Just give it to me.” sighed my brave friend who had pulled the lever.

She went back inside, cigarette in hand, as we all waited nervously. A few seconds later she burst through the door.

“I did it!” she exclaimed as she put it in her mouth and took a drag. She exhaled and smoke emerged from her lips. We all decided to put our cigarettes back in the pack and just share one. The group of us took turns hitting it, feeling pretty cool. I remember it didn’t feel much like anything. I couldn’t believe it didn’t hurt like my elders had told me.

Ten minutes later we were still smoking the same cigarette. My one friend said, “Something’s not right. Why isn’t it going down?”

We examined the square and realized it wasn’t lit. The smoke we saw leaving our mouths had been our own breath, visible from the extreme cold. Realizing how incredibly stupid we were, we shared a laugh until it hurt.

“I’ll try again.” my friend said, disappearing back into the lodge.

I knew it was really lit this time, because she flung open the door coughing in a cloud of smoke.

“Here.” she choked, holding the cigarette out.

We were a little reluctant to take it, but eventually, we each took a turn, coughing our lungs out. It did hurt! It hadn’t all been a lie.

It was gone after everyone had two turns. None of us were sad to see it go. It left us light headed and nauseous. It’s amazing any of us ever tried it again, but we did.

A few months later I started to smoke on a regular basis.


Lesson 11: smoking at age 15 = white trash

I smoked for years despite my parents pleas. I didn’t stop until I got pregnant with Marky at age 19. Unfortunately, when he turned 1 I started again. Then, I quit when I found out I was pregnant with Jagger, but he was a colicky baby, and I was left alone most of the time, so I started smoking again. I thought to myself jokingly, “Maybe when I get pregnant with the next one.”

Jet came along and the smell of cigarettes made me sick. That was when I quit smoking for good.
I was lucky. Adam hasn’t had such an easy time. He started to smoke at age 12!


Lesson 12: smoking at age 12 SERIOUSLY= white trash

He’s made small steps over the years. It about killed him to not smoke in the house, but when we started having kids he began smoking outside. Another thing that proved to be a challenge for him was not smoking in the car. There are times, on long road trips with the kids, where he has to pull over at a rest stop and light up, but it has gotten considerably better.

He’s tried for years to quit all together, but he has never been quite ready. After Jovie was born he promised her he was going to quit. He was finally sick of smoking. He talked to his doctor and got a prescription that was supposed to help him in this seemingly impossible task.

To my dismay, the medicine cost over a hundred dollars, but I thought of all the money we’d be saving when he didn’t smoke, and it seemed worth it. Then I was infuriated when it sat on top of the cupboard for months. He was scared to take it after reading the side effects. (I personally thought he had changed his mind about quitting.)

Luckily, my best friend from childhood came for a visit about a month ago. She just happens to be a doctor. Not only has she prescribed it herself, but her mom had just quit smoking with it after having the habit for decades. Adam couldn’t put it off any longer.

He’s been taking the medicine for a week now. The first couple of nights he had a hard time sleeping. (Side effects included insomnia and weird dreams.) Adam has always been a sleep talker and walker and that gave me some concern, especially after the first night. I woke up to him pacing at the foot of the bed, flailing his arms, and yelling at fellow employees who weren’t there. (When he talks in his sleep, it’s always about work.)

“Oh no.” I thought to myself. I had visions of him going downstairs and thinking he had to butcher meat. So, the next day I hid all his knives. I put them in a place I thought he would never look.

The next night, there was more chef talk. He left the bedroom at one point telling some employee, “Wait a second. I’ll go check on it.”

I laughed to myself, and felt safe knowing the knives were in a secure place.

The next night was Friday, and Adam had to work late. I was already in bed when he came home. Waking me up as he crawled into bed, I said, “hi” and gave him a quick groggy kiss.

Knowing I was awake, he asked, “Why are all the knives in the washer?”

He had found my hiding place when he went to wash his chef uniforms. I can only imagine what he thought upon opening the lid to find every knife, along with our kitchen counter knife block, hanging out in the washer.


Lesson 13: knives in the washing machine to protect your loved one from chopping off his arm in his sleep = white trash

Don't worry, I’ve hidden them in a different place. So, if you get a minute, say a little prayer that Adam will finally be able to kick the habit. He needs all the help he can get. If you have extra time on top of that, say another one that he doesn’t find the knives! His limbs depend on it!!

September 12, 2009

Tubes

Being a lower-middle class member of society we have enough money to just squeak by each month, and extra money for things like eating out or entertainment are pretty much nonexistent. Adam and I never had a honeymoon, we've gone to the movies together 3 times over a 7 year period, and only go out to eat once in a great while for occasions like our anniversary or if we have a gift card. Our three youngest children don’t even know movie theatres exist, and we tell all our kids that McDonalds is for rich people.

Please don’t think our family never has any fun. We are just forced to be a little more creative. (Of course, not being able to go out does have a lot to do with having so many children!)

Sometimes,I dread the days Adam has off, purely for the fact that he seems to make a bigger mess than the kids. He has a great imagination, but it can get out of control. When he’s home the boys will get out books, pieces of Hot Wheel tracks, and a roll of duct tape. The end result is a living room full of race track that they use to race their cars for hours. We’ve had tracks taped to the ceiling!

We also take advantage of free things like public parks. My boys are all big Star Wars fans (I’m including Adam here), so one day we went to a hiking trail located at a nearby park. We packed up the kids and their lightsabers, and walked in the “jungle” for hours killing Wookies. (My sweet little boys all want to be on the Dark Side. It’s a tad troubling, but what are you going to do?)

Now I would like to take a minute to tell you about one of my husband’s most creative ideas that has brought us not only hours, but years of fun. It all started when my parents decided to move.

My mother and step-father owned a motorcycle shop back in the day. You’re probably thinking, “She was raised by bikers?!” I know that may seem trashy, but my parents are not your typical bikers. Do they live to ride? Yes. Would you see them in the street and say to yourself, “Biker.”? No.

My mom is currently a motorcycle safety instructor for the military. She is very feminine, and she never wears leather. (Unless it’s a riding jacket.) My dad is a motorcycle theory teacher at MMI. (Motorcycle Mechanics Institute) He sports a horseshoe hairdo, and didn’t get his first tattoo until Adam gave him one for his 50th birthday this past August.

Anyway, when they sold the shop 5 years ago, the buyer only wanted the building, not the inventory. My parents had no where to put the goods and it was way too expensive to ship it from Pennsylvania to Arizona. So, they asked if they could store it in our basement and garage. We brought the inventory here and tried to sell as much as we could on ebay.

We sold a lot of items, but some things like tires and spark plugs proved to be almost impossible to sell on-line. Adam did manage to sell some tires to local riders, but the others sat in our garage, and began to dry rot.

One beautiful fall day, three years ago, Adam futilely tried to clean our over stuffed garage. Pulling stuff out into the yard in an effort to reorganize, our lawn was covered in tires and large boxes. The kids spent hours crawling in and out of the tires, pretending to be in some other world.

Hours went by, and Adam was still at it after the kids had gone to bed. Adam’s brother Alex was our basement dweller at the time, who was summoned to help, and soon after he knew the kids would be asleep, my own brother (who lived at the bottom of our hill), his wife, and our cousin Brett came up to our house for our weekly barbeque. When everyone lived nearby, we’d pull our money together to get beer and enough food to feast for hours.

The guys went through each box, labeling, and placing them in the garage in some man order I still don’t understand. Towards the end Adam began opening box after box of tire tubes. Realizing we would never be able to sell all the tubes before they rotted, Adam borrowed a neighbor boy’s tire pump and inflated a few of the tubes. The guys had a good time throwing them at each other and putting them on and running into one another.

The night went on, but the tubes never got old. Then, out of no where Adam invented a game. We have one clothesline pole in our yard. It’s cemented into the ground, but has always been useless without its mate. Adam stood in a dirt ring, across the yard from the pole, where the kids swimming pole had destroyed the grass that summer.

“Hey, let’s try and ring one of these tubes around that pole.” Adam stated.

The guys threw tubes for two hours. Tubes flew everywhere. They went over the fence, into the garage, and straight up in the air, before someone finally got one to shimmy down the pole. When it did, they cheered with enthusiasm, and Tubes was born. It has become a game we play for hours and hours. Everyone has their own technique on how to get a ringer, but even the most seasoned of Tubes player can lose control in an instant and lob a tube over the fence.

I can’t even tell you how many people have participated in a game of Tubes, far more than I ever would have imagined. We now have a set list of rules, including extra points if you ring a player from the other team when they aren’t paying attention. (I’ve been rung a lot!) We’ve even had different versions. Once we set the poles (we put up a piece of pvc pipe on the other side of the yard when we have large groups of players) on fire, called Flaming Tubes. Then, Adam got a great idea called Sacks, where you throw a sack (dirt in a plastic grocery bag completely duct taped in a ball, with a duct tape handle for throwing) in an already tossed tube that didn’t make the pole, for extra points.

Lesson 10: motorcycle tire tubes + clothes line pole = white trash horseshoes

So, if you are ever in the area, stop on by and toss a tube, but be prepared, it’s addicting!

September 9, 2009

Jasper the White Trash Dog

Our dog Jasper, was quite different from any dog I have ever met. I met Jasper, who was already 3 years old, when I started to hang out with Adam in high school. (Adam got Jasper as a puppy when he was 12 years old.) I would go to his house most every day and be greeted warmly by his beautiful German Shepherd/Husky mixed buddy. Jasper was built like a Shepherd, but had pure white fur with dark doe like eyes. Upon my entrance, his ears, which usually stood up straight and proud, would lay back while he wagged his tail violently and whined for my attention. After Adam and I broke up, we didn’t see each other for three years, but when I came for a visit, after all that time, Jasper still remembered me. I got out of my car and he barked at me with intimidating vigor. Still down by the road, I called out, “Hey Jasper!” Immediately his threatening bark turned to an excited whimper as he tugged on his chain trying desperately to get to me. Once inside, he never left my side. His head in my lap for hours, looking up at me and letting me know that three years was way too long. (I agreed.)

After Adam and I got a place of our own, I went to Adam’s mom’s house to pick Jasper up and take him to his new home. As we left I remember wondering why his mom seemed excited to be getting rid of the mild-mannered dog I loved so much.

It wasn’t long before I figured it out. Adam never told me Jasper suffered from separation anxiety. The first time we left the apartment, we came home to find a pane of glass broken out of the front door and Jasper gone. We still to this day don’t know how he fit through that tiny rectangular hole. Did he have collapsible rodent genes we weren’t award of? Anyway, after a couple days of fruitless searches and many tears, Jasper turned up on the front porch 3 days later famished and tired. Did I tell you he wasn’t neutered? These little disappearances occurred every spring. Every time we see a dog that looks like him we wonder if they are one of Jasper’s illegitimate offspring.

Another thing he used to do, to get back at us, was his spiteful pooping. He loved to defecate in the house when we’d leave. It didn’t even have to be a long trip. One time I walked outside to get the mail, and when I returned I found a fresh steamy pile waiting for me. I looked at him and he stared back dumbfounded as if to say, “Whoops. I thought you were leaving.” Don’t even ask about the time he dumped in the heater. All I’ll say is there is nothing like coming home to the aroma of a freshly baked poop-pie.

Now, making bowel movements on the floor and disappearing weren’t Jasper’s only talents. This calm and loving dog had an alter ego when we closed the front door. For such a sweet animal, he acquired super strength while we were away, and on one occasion he had to have gotten the ability to fly.

When we first moved to Pittsburgh, we rented a beautiful house. The back porch was awesome, but it stood about a story and a half above the ground. Jasper loved the back porch and seemed quite content to sit back there when we weren't home. This worked for a couple of weeks until we found him running around the yard upon coming home. The porch was fine so we concluded that he had either jumped over the very tall railing or activated his rodent like ability to collapse his body and squeeze through the rungs. How he withstood that fall without breaking a leg is beyond us.

After the leaping episode, we decided to tie him up outside by the basement door. He really preferred to be outside, plus the added bonus of no urine in the house. This too was short lived when we came home to find the door rammed down and him sitting proudly on top of it. We weren’t sure how the door came to be lying on the basement floor until I put him on the back porch one day to scrub the kitchen floor. A few minutes went by when I heard a violent pounding on the door. I peeked out the window see my sweet dog head butting the door over and over again, until the hinges started to give. I quickly let him in and he looked scared, obviously not knowing I was still home.

Since we couldn’t leave him alone in the house and we couldn’t put him outside without losing another door, we decided to buy a cage. We bought one that was made primarily of strong plastic. The only metal on the cage was the door and lock. We spent $180 (that we didn’t have) and brought it home feeling like our problems were coming to an end. Needless to say, Jasper didn’t like his cage. He barked and cried when we put him in and he was still barking and crying when we came home.

One night, after Adam and I got home from work, we walked into our dark house and Jasper greeted us at the door.

“Who let the dog out?” Adam asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe Clayte came home and let him out.” I told him, thinking my brother, who lived with us at the time, had probably come home, let him out, and forgot to put him back in.

We were wrong. Adam turned on the light and we both screamed. Jasper’s poor face was covered in blood that was rich in color due to his light fur.

“What happened?” I asked as tears came to my eyes.

“Holy crap!” I heard Adam exclaim from the kitchen. He walked back into the hallway holding the lock that used to be on Jasper’s cage. It was mangled with stray pieces of plastic around it. Adam looked at me in disbelief and awe. “He chewed the lock off.”

“He did what?!” I shouted. The tears in my eyes immediately dried up as my thoughts drifted to that $180 we had spent three days prior. Feeling like I would have been better off flushing that money down the toilet, I no longer felt sorry for him. I got up and walked into the kitchen to see the destroyed cage. It was amazing. He chewed through plastic and metal and only lost one tooth. Who does that?!

I wish I could say that was the end, but it wasn’t. After we moved to our current address, and after his evening of barking, dubbing me white trash, he went back to using the living room as a toilet. I was terrified to leave him outside, since I was trying to show my neighbor I wasn’t white trash. As if the bodily fluids on my carpet weren’t bad enough, Jasper decided to try something new.

It was a beautiful summer day, Adam and I decided we didn’t want to turn on the oven, so we took our two kids to Pizza Hut. We were enjoying our family time together when a police officer came into the restaurant. As he scanned the room I jokingly asked Adam, “Is he looking for you?” We shared a laugh, but the gaiety of the situation subsided as the officer approached our table. Adam and I exchanged confused glances.

“Excuse me folks. I don’t mean to interrupt your dinner, but are you Mr. Johnston?” the policeman asked.

“Yes.” Adam replied feeling even more confused.

“Um….We have a situation. Your dog is on your roof.”

“He’s what?!” we both yelled.

“The fire department tried to get him down, but he keeps barking at them and we don’t want anyone to get bit.” the man explained.

I looked at Adam and mouthed, “The fire department?”

“I’ll be right there.” Adam told him.

I stayed at Pizza Hut with the kids while he ran up the street to deal with our little situation. When Adam returned he seemed slightly irritated. He sighed and began an account of what had happened.

As Adam pulled up the hill he saw police cars and fire trucks parked in front of our house with bystanders filling the streets watching Jasper, who had broken out the screen of our boys’ open bedroom window, and had then begun to prance on our porch roof like some sort of cocky reindeer. Adam went inside and up to the bedroom. He called Jasper in, and to his extreme embarrassment the crowd cheered and applauded as our imposter Rudolph made his way back inside.

Lesson 9: Dog on roof requiring the assistance of the police and fire departments= white trash

This became Jasper’s punishment of choice for us over the next few weeks. If there was even the slightest crack in a window he was making his way out on the roof. It got so bad we came home one day to a note from the police department that read, “Please stop putting your dog on the roof or we’ll have to press charges.” I laughed. Yes, that is how it went down. “Jasper, we’re leaving, get on the roof now!”

After that, Jasper went to live with my parents for a while. They lived in the middle of no where and we thought that would be good for him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good for my parents. After filling the sliding glass door track with feces, a run in with a porcupine, and night after night of incessant barking, my parents had had enough. We brought him home.

By this time Jasper was just shy of 12 years old. His whole life he had been as playful as a puppy if you wanted him to be, but after his return something wasn't right. He no longer wanted to go outside, not even to use the bathroom. He started going to the basement to do his business, even when we were home. He lay around all day, hardly noticing any of us.

About a month later a very large lump protruded from under his fur on the back of his right leg. We took him to the vet who found he had cancer. We took him home and cried as we realized what had to be done. He wasn’t going to get better and we couldn’t stand to see him in this state. As much as it broke our hearts, we had Jasper put down.

So, here’s to you Jasper, on the 5 year anniversary of your death, we still have never found anyone to take your place. You may have been slightly crazy, but you fit our family like no one else ever will. I hope as you look down on us, while prancing on your giant rooftop in the sky, I hope you know we still miss you, think of you, and love you very much.