The 2012 Small-Town 4th of July Parade Recap

If you want to get a good seat at my hometown 4th of July parade, you’ve gotta get there early. And hard-core parade junkies like me aren’t going to let a little heat get in the way of snagging those front-row (or front-curb) seats. So this year, Husband dropped me off uptown two hours early so, being the glutton for punishment I am, I could guard our regular spot, in front of Chris’ Photography and one of the too-many vacant storefronts on the north side of the square.

Loaded up with four chairs, a beach towel, water, sunscreen, candy bags for the kids, a book and a camera, I was a little surprised when I saw that there were still many curbside spots left. Then I glanced at the east side of the square, where the buildings and awnings provided shade for an already crowded group of parade watchers, and realized that this was because most people in town weren’t stupid. And apparently I was. No matter that it was already 98 degrees at 9:15 in the morning and that I was settling in for a good two hour sunbath before the parade even started. It was tradition to sit in this spot! Sure, we could never understand the parade emcee on the loudspeaker here; it wafted over in Charlie Brown’s teacher-esque “waah waaaahs.” And sure we had a perfect view (and if we were lucky enough to be downwind — smell) of the porta-potties across the street in the courthouse parking lot. But it was tradition. And we didn’t need a pretty view, or shade, or to be able to hear, in these here parts. We were tougher than those east-side dandies.

At 9:30, as I was wiping the sweat out of my eyes, I started to rethink tradition.

But fortunately for me, tradition was saved when Chris (of Chris’ Photography fame) opened up her shop and invited me to come guard my chairs with her in the comfort of her air-conditioning. She did not have to ask twice. If she hadn’t offered, I’m pretty sure when the rest of my family showed up at 11, all they would’ve found in my chair was a puddle, along with my corn-cob pipe and stove-top hat.

The parade provided some old favorites as well as some new additions. And as always, a few head-scratchers. For instance, we always have an abundance of old and classic cars. But apparently the definition of “classic” has become a bit liberal. If this is the standard, I’m pretty sure my 1976 Chrysler Cordoba with the robins egg blue “pleather” interior from high school would’ve looked pretty sweeeeet in the parade route… I’m not entirely convinced that this person wasn’t just trying to find a place to park.Coming in under “old favorites” were the walking Spam can (apparently getting a bit big for his aluminum britches now, he refuses to walk in the parade and demands to ride like royalty)…

the choreographed shopping cart routine performed by the Fareway grocery employees (I’ve heard tryouts are cut-throat!)…

and of course (we ARE in Iowa, folks!)…lots and lots of tractors.

“I don’t need no stinkin’ umbrella…I don’t care how hot it is!”


The kids tried to keep cool while darting around for candy. It was so hot that the bubble gum being thrown out by parade participants was already melted, which was as awesome as you imagine it was. Here my poor nephew, who was making his first appearance at our parade, tried to keep cool with a wet washcloth. Heat exhaustion, peat, uh, mexhaustion…it’s never too hot to celebrate our country’s freedom, people!

The poor saps giving away Freeze Pops in the parade never knew what hit them. Here, Boy #3 tries to eat his in the 3.4 seconds before it turned into hot grape sugar water.

I don’t think this poor guy realized he wasn’t really in the Civil War. Really, dude, we’re a free, united country now. You can just wear a pair of shorts and a tank top!

“If I don’t see at least one politically polarizing float, I swear I’ll jump!”


Whoa, man, take it easy! Here you go! (I don’t even think I get this one. Must mean I’m one of the “dummies”…)

You say you want to see animals? We’ve got animals! Nah, it wasn’t too hot for them. The marching band? Yes. A horse wearing a heavy saddle and carrying a 230-pound man for several miles on hot concrete? Nope.

(He was carrying a gun, so I don’t think the horses had much choice in the matter…)

Horses weren’t the only animals that paraded through town. We also saw goats…

and corn dogs…

Zac Galifianakis even made an appearance and showed off his karate ninja skills!

And of course, George was there. Who’s George, you ask? No idea. But he is counting on our vote. For what, I’m not sure either.

Like most parades, our town offers up some coveted awards every year for entrants.

And every year they win the “Best Use of Color” award.Those Red Had Ladies just think they’re soooo coool.

I think this float won the “Best Use of Duct Tape” award.

And my favorite parade entry this year, by far. In fact, I am bestowing my own award to them: “Most Enthusiasm.”

Are we having fun yet?

Thanks for reliving the 2012 4th of July Parade with me. Stay tuned for a review of our carnival!

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July, friends! I hope you’re all spending the day with your loved ones, exercising those freedoms that only America offers!

If you’ve been with me for a while, you probably know how I spend my 4th of July — hanging out in my hometown, which is also now my residence again. The parade…the fireworks…the carnival… I love it all. This morning I’m heading out to plunk myself in front of Chris’ Photography on the square, our “usual” spot, to watch the parade. It’s only supposed to be 103 degrees today, so this year I will have the delight of watching the parade dripping wet with sweat. YES!

I will be taking lots of photos so that I can share our small-town celebration with you. Until then, go ahead and enjoy one of my accounts of past Independence Day celebrations!

4th of July 2011

4th of July 2010

4th of July 2009

4th of July 2008

Getting there is half the fun

airplaneIt was finally here, the day I’d been anticipating since December 6, when I swallowed my fears and doubts and registered for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. I would be heading to Dayton, Ohio, where Erma lived and taught at Dayton University, to run elbows with the Bombeck family as well as some of the most talented and funniest writers in the country.

No, I wasn’t nervous or anything.

As I finished (Well, started and finished; it’s me, you know!) packing my bag late the night before I was to leave, I decided I should print out my flight itinerary. And that’s when I saw it…

Departure from DSM: 8:34 p.m.

Yes, it said “p.m.,” as in “not a.m.”

I will admit — I shouted a few words that Erma Bombeck probably would not have approved of. How could I have booked a flight for 8:34 p.m. instead of a.m., especially for a trip that I was so excited about?

I decided to go ahead and proceed as planned the next morning. Husband would drop me off at the airport (an hour away from home) on his way to work. Surely I could catch a standby flight. How many people could possibly be flying out of Des Moines, Iowa, on a Thursday?

So at 7:15 a.m. I trotted up to the United Airlines counter hopeful that the flight I had intended to book a seat on wasn’t full.

Of course it was. As were every other flight to Chicago that day.

The United representative was sympathetic, but her hands were tied. “This is very unusual,” she said. “I’m not sure what’s going on today, but every single flight is overbooked already. There are no standby-eligible flights at all.”

Of course there weren’t.

My optimism starting to fade, I got a little teary-eyed as I pictured the day that was ahead of me: hanging out for the next 12 hours in the airport just to board my flight and arrive in Dayton after midnight instead of meeting keynote speaker Alan Zweibel, of Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame.

I even considered renting a car. It would only take me 10 hours to drive. But after finding that the large rental companies were all rented out (of course), and getting a quote from some fly-by-night rental car company for $500-some odd dollars for a one-way trip, I decided that probably wouldn’t be a smart choice.

So I made myself comfortable, wiped away my tears and settled in to get some work done while I had time to kill. Surely, that would make time go quickly.

10:18 a.m.


Fortunately, Husband felt sorry for me, even though my own carelessness had gotten me into this mess, and offered to come pick me up at the airport to spend a few hours that afternoon in his classroom. At least I’d have a change of scenery. He even took me out for an early dinner after school got out before he dropped me back off at the airport and headed home. What a good guy.

Finally, after what felt like 12 hours (possibly because it was 12 hours), I boarded the itty-bitty plane for the first leg of my flight to Chicago.

The flight went smoothly, and we landed at Chicago on time.

And we waited. And waited. Finally, the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said, “Folks, we’re going to have to wait here for a while before we disembark. Seems that the computers are down at O’Hare, and they are having to do everything manually.”

Of course they are.

Nothing like being stuck on the runway of a teeny plane after 10:00 p.m. when by now I was supposed to be rubbing elbows with some of the funniest writers in the country. It was fantastic.

After my fellow hostages and I were finally released, I had to make a mad dash through O’Hare to catch my flight to Dayton. And when I finally found my gate, I was told that they’d reassigned us to a different gate, clear across O’Hare, because of the computer issues.

Of course they had.

So I pulled up my big-girl pants and ran, once again, to my gate. Something was finally in my favor — sort of. The computer malfunctions had delayed all of the flights, so even though I was late, I hadn’t missed the plane. But it did mean I would get in even later than I was supposed to.


By this time, I was completely disheveled and could barely think straight. All I wanted to do was get to my hotel, catch some sleep and be ready to actually participate in the workshops the next day.

When we touched down in Dayton, I will admit, I got teary-eyed again. This time, they were happy tears. Or tears of exhaustion, I’m not entirely sure which. I got off the plane and followed my flight-mates through the eerily deserted airport to the baggage claim area. As I waited, and waited . . . and waited for my brown suitcase to roll past me, I started to get a sinking feeling. No, it couldn’t be…

When the conveyer belt finally stopped, three of us were still standing, bagless and hopeless. We asked the only worker we could find what we were supposed to do, and he ushered us into his office to fill out the “lost luggage” paperwork.

I was the last one to fill out my forms, and by the time I was finished, the airport was completely closed. Fortunately, the guy helping me was friendly, and after telling me that the hotel I was staying in didn’t have shuttle service this late (It was after 1 a.m., after all), he walked me out to the cab stand. I was literally the last customer to leave the airport.

Of course I was.

I climbed into a minivan with an angry-looking young man who seemed not at all happy with his life behind the wheel, and I went the 20-minute ride in the dead of night in complete silence, thinking, “I’m pretty sure this is how some women end up dead.”

After arriving at the hotel and paying my friendly cabbie $40, I nearly collapsed at the front desk, happy to finally be there but wishing I actually had some luggage to accompany me. I gave the person at the counter my name and explained that I had called in earlier and told them I would have a late (extremely late) arrival. And she proceeded to tap the keys on her computer for way too long, her brow furrowed in a look that said, “I don’t dare tell this crazed woman that we gave away her room.” A Seinfeld-esque moment indeed. (“You see, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to keep it.”)

Finally, after literally 10 minutes, she came up with a room for me. At that point, I would’ve probably slept in the linen closet, (Maybe I could make a toga out of sheets to wear the next day, too!) but it was a room. A real room. Next, I asked her if they had any toiletries I could have since my luggage was MIA. I did have a toothbrush and makeup in my carry-on, but no deodorant, hairspray, anything else of that nature. She looked a little flustered, went into the back room, and came back with a little baggie of toiletries for me.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but we only have men’s deodorant.”

Of course you do.

“I’ll take it,” I said.

When she handed me my room key, I looked at it and laughed: 665. Yep, I was about as close to hell as you could get.

After having to sleep completely in the nude (which is not something I’m extremely comfortable with, if you couldn’t guess) so I could wear my clothes again the next morning, I woke up after a restful three hours of sleep and realized why I’d scored that room: the thermostat didn’t work. The only two temperatures were frigid and sweat-your-ass-off, even if you only adjusted the temperature by one degree.

But no matter. Finally, I’d made it. And even though I had to put on dirty underwear after I’d showered, along with a T-shirt that was completely wrinkled and had evidence of various airport foods all over it, and even though I had to comb through my wet hair with my fingers and smell like an old man with my Speed Stick deodorant — I’d made it, dammit.

And I had to think, as I rode down the elevator to start my day, that Erma would’ve made a good story out of this.

Airplane photo credit 

The humility in a crappy dog

DogAs I begin typing the phrase, “Has this ever happened to you?” I realize that it is probably a moot question. Either you don’t live in a disgusting house like I do, or you’re too smart to admit it publicly. That’s cool. I respect that.

But as I am apparently not too smart to publicly air my shameful ways, I will go ahead with my story…

I’m running late to volunteer reading to needy children deliver the print-outs of Rhode Island’s state bird, tree and flower (red rooster, red maple and violet if you’re wondering) that my own needy child forgot to mention he needed until we were leaving the house this morning. I was writing like a fool all morning, frantically trying to finish projects by their deadline for once, and I didn’t even get to jump into the shower until after noon.

Growing up on a farm helped me perfect my get-ready-in-5-minutes-or-less routine. Because there was always a drought or an impending drought looming, we could only fill the bathtub with enough water so that the bottom of the tub was just barely covered. As soon as the water reached the back of the tub, we had to wrench those knobs to the right as fast as we could or risk the dreaded “wasting water” lecture. (Believe me, no one wants to hear that.)

Needless to say, when you’re bathing in barely a 1/2 inch of water, you’re not going to lay back and linger.

And don’t get me started on how pointless it is to try to add bubbles.

But never relaxing in the tub for fear of frostbite conditioned me to now shower quickly and efficiently. And, let’s face it, I don’t have a lot to work with, so beautifying myself after the shower doesn’t take long either.

So this morning afternoon, I was in and out of the shower, dried my hair, brushed my teeth and was finally feeling fresh and human when I opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom.

And felt something squish beneath my foot.

And saw my dog sitting nearby with a sheepish look in his eyes.

Nothing like stepping out of the bathroom all fresh and clean right into a freshly laid turd.

Why does my dog see our home as his toilet?

The part of me that likes to look on the bright side and see the best in everyone (and everydog) thinks that maybe it’s because the dog is too timid and polite. He doesn’t want to disturb us to let us know that it’s indeed potty time. He lets us go about our business while he does his in the hall.

He just doesn’t want to be a bother.

Maybe he somehow inherited it from me, the one who never wants to speak up or put anyone out.

The one who walked into her fourth grade classroom on her birthday (of all days), threw up on the floor and then proceeded to wait my turn for 5 minutes in the line that snaked around Mrs. Mattock’s desk to tell her that I just threw up. (5 minutes ago.)

However, when examining this theory I have to remind myself that the dog not only poops inside when we’re busy doing other things, but also right after we’ve taken him outside and walked around for 5 minutes precisely for that reason.

So maybe it’s not that he’s just too nice to interrupt our lives.

Which, frankly, makes me feel a little better. He would have to be pretty dumb to think that taking him outside to do his deed would be more of a bother than scraping his deed off my foot.

At least he’s not dumb.


Aye, there’s a possibility. And we’ll throw “poorly trained” into the ring as well.

Crap, why does it always fall back on me? (Literally.)

But on the bright side (because there always is one), it’s hard not to be humble when your cleaning dog poop from between your toes…

The Easter Farm Cat Miracle

Easter sunrise crossWhen you grow up on a farm, you learn the hard truths about life and death at an early age. And when you have rampant inbreeding going on in your farm cat population, death (not to mention mental disabilities and never-before-seen genetic mutations) becomes a guest that drops by way too often.

Such was the case on our farm. For several years we would experience a population explosion spurred by cats who apparently had extremely overactive (and undiscriminating) libidos. Mothers were breeding with sons, grandfathers with granddaughters… When we tried to plot out the family tree the branches became so twisted and gnarled that we finally just gave up and declared our farm a cat commune with very loose morals.

Then, out of nowhere, one cat would get sick, and the weakened immune system that seems to plague the genetically inferior would rear its scrawny head. Pretty soon all we’d have left were our memories. Well, those and the battle scars we wore on our arms from carrying out cat food to EXTREMELY hungry cats who weren’t smart enough to actually hunt on their own.

So it probably shouldn’t have bothered me that much when I stepped out onto the porch one Easter morning and found that a scraggly black-and-white tomcat had dropped dead there overnight.

But despite their flaws and idiosyncrasies, I loved all those mangy cats. And I didn’t think it was fair that he should die on Easter. It was a special holiday for me, second only to Christmas, and this cat’s thin, stiff body made it really difficult for me to enjoy stuffing my face with Peeps, going back for seconds on Grandma’s baked beans and secretly jumping in with the baritones to echo “He arose” in my deepest voice during my favorite Easter hymn.

I’m pretty sure I cried all the way to church that morning. I’m also pretty sure that I told my Sunday School teacher, as well as anyone else who would listen, my lamentable story. My sisters probably didn’t carry on like I did. I was always the melodramatic one. And the fact that one of my sisters went on to major in zoology in college leads me to believe that she had that whole “circle of life” thing down much better than I did.

Pulling into the driveway after church, I was still mourning the loss of this poor demented cat. So when I trudged back onto the porch, you can imagine my incredulity when I saw that another member of the cat commune had, in fact,

Death…birth…somehow it all made sense in my young mind. It was, I was sure, an Easter miracle.

No, the sick farm cat was not resurrected, but there was new life, and I felt peace believing that our cat had at least died on Easter for a higher purpose.

What about you? What are your Easter memories? (Bonus points if they involve dead farm cats!)

When I attended BlissDom last month, I had the opportunity to talk with staff from Hershey’s about Easter. They are creating the first-ever virtual Bunny Trail to connect people through stories, tips and traditions about Easter. How fun is that? Check it out at

[Disclaimer: I am sharing this Easter story as part of the Hershey’s virtual Bunny Trail, and in exchange I will receive Hershey’s product. Mmm…Cadbury Creme Eggs…]

Image via flickr
photo by: cwarnercarey

Valentine’s Day Before and After Kids

Valentine’s Day Before Kids:

You and your love muffin meet for drinks after work. You  play footsie under the table for a bit, then head to your favorite restaurant. (Of course, you made the reservations weeks ahead of time to ensure a table.) After ordering, you gaze into each other’s eyes and talk turns to when you first knew you were in love. Your love muffin breaks out into a poem that he just composed on the spot. It’s so brilliant it makes you cry. (But not so much that you make those horrible sobbing noises or your mascara runs down your cheeks.) Sweet, sexy tears. When your entrees arrive, you gladly share with him, and he with you. You even hold your fork out to him as he takes a bite. You each save half of your entree so you can relive the dinner at work the next day, and then you order off the dessert menu. You relax with a glass of wine and remark on all the other happy couples enjoying a nice Valentine’s Day together. At the end of the night, you cuddle together, the only sound being the beating of two hearts…as one.

Valentine’s Day After Kids:

Your husband arrives home to find you scrambling to finish up some work, while the dirty dishes still on the counter from the night before indicate that no forethought has been given to tonight’s supper. Your husband plays “Family Feud” on his iPad while you check emails on your laptop. For an hour you hem and haw about what to do for supper until you finally decide to head to the local steak and pizza joint, with two of your boys in tow. Apparently the restaurant didn’t think it would be busy on Valentine’s Day, so you wait for 20 minutes for a menu while trapped in a booth with two boys who are hopped up on Valentine’s Day candy. One of the boys is literally bouncing. Your husband distracts one boy with secret codes and math problems, while you watch the other boy wipe his runny nose and smear snot across his cheek. You then carry three snotty tissues to the bathroom to dispose of them, wash your hands and dry heave. After finally getting menus and focusing two fidgety boys enough to choose their dinner, you wait some more. The bouncing boy settles down to draw ninjas and attack serpents until he loses his pen to a dad with a geometry problem on his mind. The boy then fixates on a young couple across the aisle, who (of course) were sitting on the same side of their booth. The boy tells you in a not-even-close-to-quiet whisper that the “weird people” are staring at him, when in fact it is he staring at the weird people. The food arrives, and you find yourself having to remind a 7-year-old not to eat spaghetti with his fingers. He then reverts to sticking his lips clear down into his glass of water because his lips are chapped and the spaghetti sauce makes them burn. You wolf down your hot beef sandwich so you can get out of there quickly to avoid further embarrassment. No such luck. After paying at the counter, you all begin walking out the door when you notice not only is one of the boys not wearing his shoes, but he has on one black and one white sock. When you finally return home, exhausted and full, you bark at your boys to go to bed and continue yelling into their room for the next hour, “Be quiet!” then “Shush!” then “Shut it!” then “Okay, you must WANT a spanking for Valentine’s Day!” Your husband and you collapse onto the bed at different times, push over the snoring dog and squeak out “Love you…” before passing out.

Hope your Valentine’s Day was snot-free!

Image from bizior

What I have in common with cruise ships

So, you heard about the cruise ships that had to dock over the weekend to “decontaminate” after being hit by a norovirus outbreak? Well, here on the S.S. Boogers & Burps last week we were docked for the same reason. Oh, yes. Good times were had by all. Especially by the captain of this ship, who seemed to bear the brunt of the attack. (And yes, of course I’m talking about me!)

It started Wednesday right after lunch. At first, I thought that the Mexican food I had just snarfed down was not agreeing with my “sensitive” stomach. (For the record, I’m being “sensitive” to my stomach by calling it “sensitive” and not “pansy-ass” as I’d really like to call it. Seriously, if I’m going to have to turn 40, get fat and develop cystic acne, could I at least enjoy some cheese while I’m going down the toilet?!) And speaking of toilet…

Kidding. I won’t share with you the gory details — yet. But once I started having the chills and whole-body aches, I knew these were no mere digestive issues we were dealing with. It was a full-on viral attack, and those bugs were kicking butt and taking names.

And then came the burps. Truly, I only tell you this because they were so crazy loud that I really wish I could’ve had the strength to record them. I was burping like a freakin’ sailor. I mean, those babies were large and in charge. Each time one would erupt from me I was both a bit frightened and more than a little amused.

I spent a good 36 hours at least in my bed, which I usually had to share with a puppy who didn’t seem to get that I was not in the mood to play “bite the hand” or — my favorite — “hey, let me get my fever-riddled body out of bed to chase you down the hall and rip the dirty sock you just snatched out of your mouth.” I was really starting to miss having the energy and undizziness to even do stuff I hate, like washing the dishes and putting away laundry. That tells you just how crappy I felt.

On Thursday the burps started to subside a little, and I thought maybe I was getting better — but then all of a sudden things went south. Literally. I was stuck on the poop deck, without a paddle.

Finally, after surviving on Saltines and warm 7-Up, I found my sea legs sometime Saturday morning. Then it was time to begin assessing the damage. Not only did the captain look like something the catfish had dragged in, but the ship had suffered extensive damage as well.

Cleanup estimates are still being totaled.

Here’s hoping you steer clear of this one!


The Christmas Appendix

When I awoke four days before Christmas, visions of wrapping paper and baking projects were dancing in my head not, contrary to how my day would turn out, non-essential internal organs.

In fact, it wasn’t until after supper that evening that I even gave the appendix a fleeting thought. I know, how selfish of me.

No one thinks about the lonely appendix at Christmastime.

Boy #3 had been acting fine. (Well, normal, anyway. I’m not sure I would describe any of my boys’ everyday behavior at home as “fine.”) He ate his supper of made-from-scratch chicken and noodles, fresh rolls and homemade pie frozen chicken nuggets, an apple and a handful of Christmas cookies kindly given to us by one of those “good moms” who doesn’t just buy the ingredients to bake at Christmastime but actually bakes.

Shortly after consuming his highly nutritious meal, he began complaining of a stomachache. And it got worse. Then he started telling Herky, our puppy, to “eat my stomach.” Which, yes, is really weird.

Of course the first thing we think of with stomachaches at our house is poop. (Remember, I have four boys, counting Husband…) So Boy #3 thought he should try that and see if it helped his stomach.

Well, he did go (because I know you were dying to find out that part), but his stomachache kept getting worse. He curled up on the couch until Husband got home later that evening, and we knew something was really wrong when Husband picked him up to move him and Boy #3 starting screaming, “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

Now, we probably should’ve taken him to the hospital right then and there, but we did what any good parent would do and decided to watch an episode of “American Horror Story” first and then check on him to see how he was feeling. (Seriously, people, it was getting good!)

To my credit, I did look up “appendicitis” on WebMd while I was watching my show…

After the show was over, I told Husband to find out which side of Boy #3’s abdomen hurt worse. Yep, it was the right. And then Husband picked him up and tried to get him to walk and Boy #3 made the saddest face and gave the worst pained cry I’ve ever heard him make.

Then I cried.

So after calling my mom to come stay with Boys #1 and #2, who were asleep and clueless to what was going on, Husband and I took Boy #3 to the ER.

Gotta love a small-town ER. We pulled up to a dark entrance at the hospital and Husband said, “Is it open?”

“Of course it’s open!” I said. “It’s an emergency room!” (And I was really hoping I was right!) We did, however, have to push a button to let someone inside know we were out there so they could turn on the lights and let us in.

And so began the workup. We were at least familiar with the facilities, having been there just a month before when Boy #2 dislocated and broke his little finger. (Can’t wait to get these ER bills!) Boy #3 did pretty well, putting on a brave face. That is, until it came time to take blood and put in an IV.

I knew it was going to be bad. Real bad. What tipped me off was the memory of having to literally hold him down just two months earlier so a nurse could administer the Flu Mist. As in, the little thing that just squirts a little mist in his nose. Not even a needle involved, which we thoroughly explained to him. Didn’t matter. It was kicking and screaming the whole way. So yep, I figured several needles and three vials of blood was not going to go over well.

Aaaand, I was right.

This time it was Husband, a nurse and me, all holding down poor Boy #3 as he screamed and screamed. And screamed. (He did warn us, though. “I’m gonna scream!!!” he said. And that he did!)

“I’m better! It doesn’t even hurt anymore! I can go home!” he tried to bargain with us during this torturous procedure for everyone involved.

It just sucked.

But he got through it, and I got through it, and the doctor was able to determine that he did have an elevated blood count and could also give him some Vicodin for the pain. Sweet, sweet Vicodin.

It was about this time that Boy #3 decided to become completely obsessed with watching TV. You’d think we didn’t own a television set, let alone two XBOXes, a Wii and two computers! When the technician came in to take him for an X-Ray, he wanted to know if there’d be a TV in the X-Ray room. And later, when we found out we were going to have to go by ambulance to the children’s hospital in Des Moines, 50 miles away, he was bummed to learn that no, the ambulance does not have a TV in it either.

It was about this time that it hit me that this was a day that I woke up and decided, “You know, I don’t really think I need to shower today.”

Granted, I don’t make myself all beautiful every day since I’m mostly at home right now, and I may only wash my hair every other day, but I do shower daily. It makes me at least feel fresh and clean and, well, human. But of course, I had so much on my to-do list to get ready for school Christmas parties and cleaning the house and wrapping presents that I thought showering was one thing I could do without.

And when I was riding in the ambulance at 2 a.m. feeling (and looking) completely scurvy, I was really regretting that decision.

That was the first ambulance ride for both Boy #3 and me, and I have to say, it wasn’t like I expected. Much bigger inside than I thought, and way bumpier! The EMTs were so good, though. They turned the lights on the whole ride up, even though they didn’t really need to, and they even sounded the siren going through part of town, even though the streets in our small Iowa town were not exactly bustling at 2 a.m. (I’m not sure we even saw one other car.) Boy #3 was impressed, to say the least. (Although he would’ve much preferred if it would’ve had a TV, too.)

The ride up gave me some time to reflect…which wasn’t necessarily a good thing considering I wasn’t sure how long we would be up there, I was supposed to run the Christmas program, including craft and treats, in Boy #3’s classroom that day, my house was still a pit and I hadn’t managed to wrap one single present yet. And Christmas Eve, when we were celebrating with both of our families, was now only TWO days away.

But of course those thoughts left my head as soon as we arrived at the hospital and I remembered what was really important right now — getting Boy #3 better.

After arriving in our room at Blank Children’s Hospital, Boy #3 was relieved. “Mom, it has a TV!” he said. By this time, it was after 3 a.m., so programming was slim pickings for a 7-year-old, but I still had to make him turn it off after we’d settled in at 4 a.m. so he could get an hour or two of sleep.

Husband and I spent the first of two comfortable nights on a pull-out “couch.” Actually, it was more of a pull-out bench because it was built into the wall, and it only pulled out to about one and a half beds instead of a double bed. And whoever slept on the pulled-out part had to cling to the other person so as not to roll off, as there was nothing really supporting the mattress and it sloped down at about a 45-degree angle. But at this point, we probably could’ve gotten some shut-eye on a bed of rusty nails, we were so exhausted.

Boy #3 didn’t get to have surgery until around noon, and since they had the pain controlled with medicine, he was then plagued by how incredibly hungry he was. I felt so bad; he hadn’t eaten or drank anything since around 6:30 the night before, and he’d been asking for water since probably 11 p.m. He was adamant that he wanted a hamburger when he got out of surgery and was allowed to eat again. In fact, after coming to after surgery, the first thing he groggily mumbled was “Hamburger…”

All’s well that ends well, right? It was frightening at the time, and really difficult to see our little guy in so much pain, but he breezed through his laparoscopic surgery, his appendix hadn’t yet burst, my sister scrounged around in my dirty house and found me some clean clothes and brought them to me so I could shower, Boy #3 managed to eat a hamburger AND French fries for supper that night, and we were home on the afternoon of the 23rd.

Despite the stress of the ordeal, there was some light that shone through, and afterward I felt very grateful that he had something that was easily treatable and without long-term effects. I was so impressed with the hospital, too. They make it as enjoyable as it can be for kids, and they did everything they could to ensure that he could be home when Santa arrived.

It was also very touching to see how worried Boys #1 and #2 were about Boy #3. My in-laws brought them up to visit the night of his surgery, and they were so sweet to Boy #3. In fact, I’m not sure they had EVER been that nice to him. Boy #1 got right up when the food arrived and arranged his tray, cut up his food for him and made sure he had everything he needed. Boy #2 read all of the cards to him that his classmates had written and sent up. Boy #3 must’ve really noticed, too, because just yesterday he was complaining.

“Mom, how come when I was in the hospital, my brothers were so nice to me, but it only lasted for like TWO DAYS and then they started punching me again?”

“Honey, that’s just what brothers do,” I said. “But the fact that they managed to be nice for you for two whole days shows you just how much they love you!”

I managed to get the house at least presentable for Christmas, wrap all of the presents (foregoing any concern for creativity or  presentation at this point, of course, my only goal being to conceal the gifts inside) and even make a cheese ball to take to my in-laws on Christmas Eve. I was apparently running on adrenaline, caffeine and Christmas spirit! Boy #3 was able to attend our Christmas celebrations, and even though he walked like a little old hunched-over man, still play with his cousins.

I’m sorry that Boy #3’s appendix wasn’t able to spend Christmas with us (or any Christmas again, for that matter), but I would like to thank it for its years of service. It served him well (I’m assuming, considering I’m not really sure what the appendix actually does) for seven years, and it was kind enough not to burst so Boy #3 could be home with his family on Christmas.

Here’s to an ER-free New Year!

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