The letter Z.

Ah, the letter Z. I thought I’d never see the day.

It’s the last day of April. It’s the last day of the 26-day A to Z Writing challenge. This challenge forced me to constrain each post within a letter. I wrote each post around 9 pm at night, not knowing exactly what I would write about until my fingers hit the keyboard.

There are some posts that make me cringe re-reading them, such as the letter L and the letter G. I could have written them funnier if I had more time to think.

Some posts did statistically well. The letter R is the most popular. My personal favorite is the letter M.

Before I get to Z, let’s recap.

The letter A – Awe.

The letter B – Baby Got Back.

The letter C – Chocolate.

The letter D – Drag queen.

The letter E – Emma.

The letter F – Fifth grade.

The letter G – Grocery stores.

The letter H – Hairy butts.

The letter I – Ice cream.

The letter J – Jockstrap.

The letter K – Kate.

The letter L – Lead foot driving.

The letter M – Motherfucker.

The letter N – Nice.

The letter O – Oh Emma, Oh Kate.

The letter P – Parenting.

The letter Q – Questions.

The letter R – Revenge.

The letter S – Scott.

The letter T – Thank you.

The letter U – Underwear.

The letter V – Vodka in Preschool.

The letter W – Wife.

The letter X – “You are here” X.

The letter Y – Yellowstone National Park.

The letter Z.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

You may think of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah as an expression of happiness. Or due to its sappy usage by Disney you may think of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah as an expression of happiness in a sarcastic way.

When, in fact, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah is a song from Disney’s 1946 movie, Song of the South. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Speaking of Mickey Mouse – I got a story for you. I always have a story. I hoard stories until it’s the perfect time to tell you I got hit on by Mickey Mouse. 

Yes. You heard me.

My family is a “Disney Family.” From 2nd grade to college, I went to Disney World every other November. It’s the only vacation destination I knew growing up – Orlando, Florida. I’m not complaining. I was one of few kids in my school that went to Disney World every other year.

And then I wasn’t a kid anymore and Mickey Mouse hit on me.

I was an awkward early teenager eating dinner with my parents, three younger siblings, and my aunt Mary at a Disney World restaurant. It was one of those restaurants where the characters stop by your table to sign autographs and smile for pictures. All communication is through hand gestures and body language.

Goofy stopped by and posed with my brother’s Goofy hat. Pluto stopped by and pinched my baby sister’s cheeks. And then Mickey Mouse walked up.

Mickey stopped dead in his tracks and stared at me. He held his heart and got down on one knee.

Oh my God, my dad is right here, you pervert behind the mask.

Mickey got up and walked up next to my seat. He rested his Mouse arms on the table and cupped his Mouse chin in his white gloves and stared at me. I ignored all fake-eye contact. I picked at my chicken as the family laughed. Mickey took a piece of my chicken and held it up like he was going to feed me.

Oh, hell no, Mickey. You’re not feeding me.

I took the piece of chicken from Mickey’s hand and fed myself. My dad clapped. Mickey held his heart again.

“Mickey’s in love with Julie!”

I glared at my brother. Mickey pet my hand.

You sick pervert.

By this time the rest of the restaurant was watching because Mickey is the star when you’re at Disney World. Mickey wouldn’t even look at my siblings or my parents. Kids yelled for him. He ignored the kids. Mickey stood up. He knew every person in the that restaurant had their eyes on him.

He put his hand out, making it clear he wanted me to stand too.

“Do it! Do it for Mickey Mouse!”

“Mickey’s in love!”

“Shut up, JON! Mom, help me!”

My mom and my aunt laughed.

I stood up.

GODDAMNIT. 

Mickey pointed at his nose.

I shook my head. I didn’t understand what he was doing. The wait staff gathered around.

Great.

Mickey pointed at his nose again.

“I don’t get it.”

One of the wait staff said they think Mickey wants a kiss.

“WHAT!! NO! WHO’S UNDER THIS MASK?! DAD, STOP LAUGHING. YOU DON’T KNOW WHO IS UNDER THIS MASK. SINCE WHEN DOES MICKEY ASK FOR KISSES? DAD, HELP ME!”

My dad had tears in his eyes from laughing so hard. He couldn’t even talk.

“Give Mickey Mouse a kiss!”

“Mickey Mouse is hitting on Julie!”

“Do it! Do it!”

I hate my life.

I kissed Mickey Mouse on the nose.

Pervert.

Mickey’s nose wiggled up and down and side-to-side. Mickey started clapping. He held his heart again and walked off.

Finally.

“That wasn’t even funny. Is everyone done? Let’s go.”

We finished up our dinner. I stood up, getting ready to go.

Fucking Minnie Mouse showed up out of nowhere. She stomped over to my family’s table. Her hands were on her hips. The restaurant fell silent.

OH. MY. GOD.

My eyes got huge.

My siblings’ mouths dropped.

“MINNIE MOUSE! UH-OH! THIS IS GUNNA GET GOOD!”

“SHUT UP! UGH! THIS IS SO ANNOYING!”

Minnie pushed her nose in my face.

“I didn’t….I didn’t do anything.”

Minnie threw her hands up in frustration. My family got up and we left the restaurant.

I let my family have it.

“Oh yeah, real cute. Dad, why are cheering on some pervert under the mask? Why didn’t anyone say anything? This is Disney World! Since when does Mickey hit on teenagers?! This is so embarrassing. I can never come back here.”

“Yeah, because Minnie is here ready to kick your ass.”

“UGH!”

One by one, we filed on to the escalator that took us down to the pavilion level. My mom yelled.

“LOOK! Look at Mickey!! He’s coming outside of the restaurant!”

Everyone turned around and looked up. Mickey stood at the top of the escalator and blew his nose with a napkin. His head hung down and he cried. He took the napkin and waved a sad little wave.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. to the man behind the mask. 

___________

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The letter Y.

I had another piece I wrote on this rainy Saturday. It was about staying young. Then I decided it sucked and thought this one is much better.

Originally written July 23, 2015.

The Land of the Free.

The letter Y.

Yellowstone National Park.

Raw America.

Untouched land, sitting four miles over a volcanic hot spot. Geysers spew. The bigs roam free – elk, bison, moose, wolves and the great grizzly bear. The only shots fired are with the click of a shutter speed. Winters are brutal. Summers don’t exist.

The Burton family decided we would take a break from our family vacation in the Florida Keys. We headed north to a place we have never been. The land of the free. America. Old Faithful. Red, white and blue.

Red, white and blue flashing in my rearview mirror somewhere near hour 8 on our road trip to Yellowstone.

South Dakota Highway Patrol Officer: Ma’am, the reason I stopped you today is did you know you drove past me on the highway and didn’t move over? Did you even see me?

I glared at our friends’ car driving by, honking, with a camera phone out the window.

Me: Uhhhh…Yes. I saw you. I guess I wasn’t paying attention?

Officer: You do know if you see flashing lights on the side of the highway, you need to move over.

Me: Yeah, yeah I knew that. My mother-in-law got a ticket for that once.

I dug through my wallet for my driver’s license.

Officer: Do you have registration and insurance papers?

Me: Um, this is a rental. I don’t really know…

Scott handed me our rental paperwork.

Officer: That will do. Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to step out of your vehicle.

Me: Wait, what?

Officer: Can you follow me to my car? I want to explain the law in detail with you. It’s loud on this highway and I want to talk to you.

Me: Huh? You want me to get out of my car. Walk along the side of the highway. And then sit in your car?

Officer: Yes, ma’am.

I glanced at Scott. He looked confused.

Me: Uh, ok.

I walked in front of the officer.

Officer: Just sit in the front seat there. That will be fine.

I looked over his car to make sure it was a highway patrol car. I looked back at Scott. I opened the passenger door and sat. The driver’s door slammed shut.

Officer: So where are you headed?

Me: Yellowstone.

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Officer: You have quite a drive from Kansas.

Me: It’s taking longer now.

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Officer: Let’s see Julie. Burton. Are you related to the Burton Snowboards?

Me: Nope.

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Officer: And who is that man up there? Your husband, I assume?

Me: Yeah, his name is Scott.

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Officer: And those are your kids?

Me: Yes, two little girls.

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Officer: I see. And what does your husband do?

Me: He’s Vice President at a medical software company.

Officer: And what do you do, Julie?

Me: I’m a writer.

The officer stopped punching numbers in his computer.

Officer: Oh. Uh, so does this mean I’m going to end up in the papers or something?

Me: Yep.

Officer: So back to the law you broke. I want to explain to you that whenever you see flashing lights on the side of the road, you need to move over a lane. Especially on a highway. This is a four lane highway. You need to move to the next lane. If this was a two lane highway, you would slow down to twenty miles under the speed limit. The goal is not to injure anyone along the side of the road here.

Me: Kinda like when I walked along side the highway?

Officer: I pulled you over for breaking the law, ma’am. You need to move over a lane and make way for others when you see a car pulled over to the side.

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Me: I believe I was more concerned about my speed at the time.

Officer: I clocked you at 81 in an 80. Do you understand the law you broke, Julie?

Me: Yep. I understood it when you were at my window too.

Officer: So where are you staying at in Yellowstone?

Me: Montana. My in-laws rented a house.

Officer: Oh, no camping then?

Me: Not this time.

Officer: I took my wife and kids out there to camp. Watch out for the bison. They’re everywhere. And they’re dangerous too.

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Me: That’s what I heard.

Officer: It’s crazy how many animals you will see.

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Officer: And the bears. Oh man. I won’t camp there again. They get a little too close. You have to keep your food far from your tent. It’s not my thing.

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Officer: So what are you guys going to do if you’re not camping?

Me: Oh, I don’t know. I definitely want to white water raft. I love the thrill of danger and going really fassst uhhhhm… I’ve never done it before.

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Officer: Yeah, that’s pretty fun.

Me: Oh! And I really want to try fly fishing.

Officer: Really? Fly fish? Not many women do that. Man, I could never get my wife to fish.

Me: Yeah, fishing is our husband/wife thing, I guess. We just got back from the Bahamas last week. And we got an invite to fish in Costa Rica with some friends. We went to Dominican Republic last year. I caught my first white marlin. So this fly fishing will be interesting.

Officer: REALLY?! A marlin? Yeah, I want to fly fish. But I decided that will take up too much of my time. I’ll just wait for retirement.

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Me: Well, at least you have some pretty views here in South Dakota. Is that where I am at?

Officer: Yes. Ok, world traveler. I printed out your citation here.

Me: Damnit.

Officer: You can mail the fine to this address in South Dakota. It’s not due until mid-August. That should give you enough time to enjoy your vacation and get back to Kansas. If you would like to plead not-guilty, you must appear at this courthouse at this time.

Me: I’m not coming back to South Dakota.

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Officer: If you would sign here for me, saying you understand you broke the law.

I signed.

Officer: Here is your driver’s license back. And you’re free to go.

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I opened the door and slid a foot out.

Officer: Have fun in Yellowstone!

Me: Thank you.

I slammed the door. I opened my driver’s car door. Then slammed the door again.

Scott: What the hell took so long?

Me: I said thank you, Scott.

Scott: What?

Me: He gave me a ticket and I said thank you. I hate it when I do that.

Scott: You got a ticket? How much? You were in there for 20 minutes! Did he do anything to you? I was about to get out and see what was going on!

Me: I don’t want to talk about it. No, he didn’t do anything. He just talked my ear off. Thank you. Jesus. Thank you, officer. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, Yellowstone.
Thank you, Yellowstone.

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Thank you.
 

___________

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The letter X.

There are few words in the English language that start with the letter x.

The letter x is more of a symbol than an actual letter.

X means kisses.

X means “sign here.”

X means multiply.

X means “marks the spot.”

X means 10 in Roman numeral form.

X means “you are here.”

The letter X.

X – You are here.

You are here in my writing room, on my laptop screen.

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When we built our house, Scott suggested I have my own room to focus on my writing. He calls it my writing room. It’s behind the kitchen. It’s really just a smaller living room with its own fireplace. But the room echoes what I love.

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That’s my white marlin I caught off the coast of the Dominican Republic. He looks much bigger in Kansas. He’s made out of fiberglass. My writing room does not smell like dead fish.

I just mentioned you’re in Kansas. Overland Park, Kansas. It’s not as bad as you think. Look at any of those “best cities” lists and Overland Park is always on there. Kansas is lovely.

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That’s a real sunset in my backyard without filters. No one really talks about the times heaven opens up over Kansas. Everyone stops and stares. It’s a secret every Kansan knows but never brags about. But I’ll brag. I don’t care.

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This is not my backyard but I had to include a field of Kansas sunflowers. Did you know the sunflower turns its face towards the sun? That’s why they’re always looking the same way. Sunflowers know about the sunsets too.

I don’t know what you look like. I guess it depends on what I’m writing. But most of the time you’re female. You are probably married with kids. But that’s just a guess. I’m not sure how you found yourself here in my writing room but I’m glad you did. There’s always someone to talk to in my writing room.

It used to be strange, writing to people I’ve never met. It’s hard to judge your thoughts when I can’t see you or hear you conversing back. Maybe that’s one reason I feel like this room can be too much “me” when I also want to hear about you. I worry about that – I don’t want to seem egotistical. As much as I write, I am a good listener.

I am assuming you will stop by when your schedule allows and tell me a little about yourself.

But now I must go. I have a friend picking me up for a yoga class in about 30 minutes. The class is called Namaste and Chardonnay.  I’m going for the chardonnay.

___________

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The letter W.

Hi, I’m Julie. I’m married to Scott. We have two daughters, Emma and Kate.

We are the Burtons.

Unless it’s September through December.

Hi, I’m Julie. I’m married to Christine. We have three daughters – Emma, Kate, and Elle and two sons – Wyatt and Lane.

We are the Burton-Bentons.

The letter W.

Wife.

I met Christine years ago at a Eric Church/Kenny Chesney concert. We ran into each other in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. We realized we were neighbors, of all things. She told me my house was on the way to school and she could tell I had a husband who hunts. She said her husband is a hunter too.

We became good friends after that fateful meeting in the Arrowhead parking lot. My first time in Christine’s house lead me to reach for my cell phone to text Scott, – “You need to come over here and meet these people. She showed me their room of death and they have a deer feeder in their backyard. Get over here NOW.”

The next week, Christine posted a picture on Facebook. It was a picture of a bottle of No-Scent soap with the caption “Fall has arrived. My house stinks.”

That’s when I fell in love.

I now pronounce you hunting wife and hunting wife.

Our husbands are outdoorsmen. If you don’t know what that means – it means they hunt. A lot. It’s not just a hobby. Their soul belongs in the woods. If we lived during the 1800s, we would be the fattest in all the land of Kansas. I never thought I’d meet a man with more hunting stories than Scott. Yet, Christine found that man and married him. I couldn’t believe my luck in such a friend – a wife, excuse me. A wife. 

Christine and I put our heads together to show the world our lives as hunting wives. They’re in the form of memes because that’s all I do now. We don’t lead an easy life but in the end, we all live happily ever after.

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___________

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The letter V.

When you write about your life on a blog for eight years, the stories start piling up. Some are bad, some are good, and some are just there to save you from a hard letter during the A to Z Writing Challenge. I already wrote about the difficulty of the letter V.

The letter V.

Originally posted February 9, 2011. Emma would have been a 4-year-old preschooler and Kate would have been about 18 months.

Emma has show and tell on Friday. This week’s theme is “something that starts with a V.”

Could there be a harder letter? X, maybe? I sent a group text to my immediate family for help. This is what they replied with:

Vacuum

Violin

Victoria’s Secret catalog

Heidi’s Vase – Heidi is my parent’s dead dog sitting in an urn, not a vase. Nice try.

Vibrator

Vino

Vodka

Victoria, Posh Spice doll

Veal

Vaccine

Veil

Viagra

Just bring something purple and call it violet.

Voluptuous breasts in a magazine

Vagina

Vaseline 

Her Aunt Jessica – her Valentine.

Vehicle

Vicks Vapor Rub

I can’t send Emma to school with a Victoria’s Secret catalog or my parent’s dead dog’s ashes. I’m going to go with my brother’s suggestion and have her bring “something purple and call it violet.”

The letter U.

I’ve been waiting for the letter U.

I wanted to write a post on this but never found the inspiration. It’s a personal subject matter. It’s one of those subjects that creeps up at the age of 35 and it makes me wonder if I’m doing it right.

The only way I know if I’m doing it right is if I pull your pants down.

The letter U.

Underwear.

What kind of underwear do you wear?

I mean, obviously, if you’re a guy you will have a completely different answer than what I’m wearing. Scott wears boxer briefs. He always looks good in them. He has the perfect bubble butt and you should really check him out sometime. He could be an underwear model.

I’m 35 and still wearing a string up my butt.

Ladies, are we still wearing thongs?

I started wearing thongs in high school because my best friend, Patti, wore thongs. It felt weird for a few weeks but then it didn’t feel like anything anymore. The stringier, the better.

High school Julie, college Julie, just married Julie: Thongs were acceptable and encouraged.

Pregnant Julie and postpartum Julie: I was still in my early 20s. I didn’t know any better. In fact, a string up my pregnant butt made me feel like I could still fit into something. I left the hospital in a big ‘ole pair of granny panties with an ice pack stuffed down them. I thought my thong days were destroyed with the rest of my body.

Nope. I bounced back to my old ways.

Pregnant Julie again: The string up my pregnant butt was stretched even more. To threads.

And now, age 35 Julie: All I have are thongs. I have thongs from high school. I don’t even know how they survived 18 years. Holy shit. 18 years? I’m too old for thongs. Am I too old for thongs?

I tried “normal” bikini cut underwear. I can’t do it. It’s too much fabric. I feel like I’m wearing two pairs of pants and who needs pants anyway. At what age do women stop wearing thongs? I’m sure I’ll hang on to my drawer ‘o thongs from 1999 and roll those right into the nursing home in 40 years.

But really – what kind of underwear do you wear? I’m curious. I can’t exactly pull your pants down. But I sorta pulled my own down and that’s why I never wrote about this until the letter U showed up.

Oh but before I leave, it’s not called panties. It’s called underwear.

___________

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The letter R.

Robbed!

I was robbed. I was ripped off.

The letter R.

Revenge.

I had a garage sale today. It was my first garage sale.

I’m a believer in signs before impending doom. My sign was at 7:30 this morning. I opened my garage door and looked at my blank slate – an open driveway. It was ready to be filled with tables full of house decor, books, American Girl doll accessories, and kids clothes. There were several paintings, dining room chairs, and a twin bed.

I walked down the driveway to post my “Garage Sale” sign and there it was – the omen – a pile of dog shit in the middle of my driveway. I kicked the small logs with my shoe. It smeared because it rained the night before. I ran inside the house and grabbed paper towels.

There I was, at 7:42 a.m., scrubbing shit off concrete like Cinderella.

The day went well. I didn’t even need to haggle because I lowballed every item. A woman asked me if the American Girl earring holders were American Girl’s brand. I said yes and showed her. She bought one for her daughter.

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I looked at the other one after she left and thought, “oh, she must only have one daughter.”

At 12:07 p.m. traffic slowed down and I decided to bring in what I had left.

Gone. The other American Girl earring holder was gone. I looked in the yard to make sure it didn’t blow away. I looked through the baskets I set on the table. Nothing. Someone stole my $3 American Girl earring holder.

For that three dollar American Girl earring holder payment, I will go to bed knowing I am sending three dollar karma their way.

Three dollar karma: karma that isn’t detrimental. It won’t make someone suffer. But it might just be enough to ruin a person’s day. Oh, I don’t know – kinda like someone STEALING FROM THEIR GARAGE SALE.

  • I hope you wake up with a pimple on your butt. When in the sitting position, your body weight will painfully press on the pimple and you have to adjust the way you are seated.
  • I hope you have to listen to your dog slurp its crotch at 4 a.m. The disruption will keep you awake until you have to actually get up out of bed a few hours later.
  • I hope your cookies are cleared from your computer. I hope you can’t remember every lower case, upper case, numeral, and special character correctly to re-login. You will be forced to click “Forget password?” every time you login somewhere.
  • I hope you forget your headphones at the gym.
  • I hope your cat brings you a tick tonight while in bed. A tick you can’t reach in the middle of your back.
  • I hope the next time you sit on a plane, someone farts next to you. Why someone else and not you? So you can smell the inner bowels of someone else’s anus and then worry that the rest of the plane thinks it’s your stinky ass.
  • I hope every time you go out with friends your own age, your friends get carded and you don’t because you look old.
  • I hope the next time you drink a few beers, you suffer through a 3-day hangover so bad that water makes you gag and Taco Bell doesn’t even sound good.
  • I hope your sunscreen is expired and you get sunburn blisters all over your body and brand new baby wrinkles are born.
  • I hope your favorite Netflix show you’re into only has one season then cancelled.
  • I hope someone steals from your own garage sale.

Thank you for your business.

___________

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The letter Q.

You thought you’d catch me on a “hard letter.” NOPE.

The letter Q.

Questions.

Facebook questions. I saw these questions circling around Facebook. I love them. I will stop and read answers every time. It shows a side of people that I don’t normally see.

40 odd things about me. ** Copy and paste your answers to the comments here or on my social media so I can read them!

1. Do you like blue cheese? Love it.
2. Coke or Pepsi? Coke.
3. Do you own a gun? I don’t personally own one but there are guns in my home, in a safe. We do not own handguns. I don’t believe there’s a need for them. Totally cool if you do – don’t start that argument. Go outside and do that.
4. What flavor Kool-Aid? My favorite flavor – cherry red. *Name that song!
5. What do you think of hot dogs? I’d rather have a brat. I’ll eat hot dogs after a few beers.
6. What is your favorite TV show? I don’t watch a lot of TV. If I do, it’s always sports. For now, the Kansas City Royals.
7. What is your favorite movie? Forrest Gump.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Hot coffee. Sugar and half & half.
9. Can you do a push-up? Yes.
10. What’s your favorite jewelry? My wedding rings. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry.
11. What is your favorite hobby? Writing. Reading. And fishing.
12. Do you have ADD? No.
13. Do you wear glasses? I do at night and when I take my kids to school in the mornings. I wear contacts most of the time. I’m wearing glasses now.
14. What was your favorite cartoon? Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Inspector Gadget.
15. Name three things you did today. Finished up The Letter P. Tagged my garage sale things. Stopped by my sister’s house to drop off a dress (and played with my nephew, William.)
17. Current worries? I’m worried Scott might be landing in heavy thunderstorms in about an hour or so.
18. Current hates? Mornings.
19. Favorite place to be? Fishing in the ocean.
20. How did you bring in the New Year? A neighborhood dance party to 90s rap. Whiskey.
21. Where would you like to go? England. I’ve never been there. I would love to take the girls there and watch them come back with accents.
22. What is your favorite board/card game? Cards Against Humanity.
23. Do you wear slippers? Yes.
24. What is your favorite color? Purple.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Hell no.
26. Can you whistle? Yes but not PE coach whistle.
27. Where are you now? In my bed.
28. Would you be a pirate? Only if there’s rum.
29. Favorite food? Mexican.
32. What’s in your pockets? No pockets, just pj pants.
33. Last thing that made you laugh? Scott sent me a text before he took off – he told me he ate healthy while out of town. Then he sent me a gif of a smokin’ hot male model posing in a Speedo.
34. What’s your favorite animal? Cats.
35. What’s your most recent injury? Stella, our labrador retriever, jumped up on me and scratched my leg when I asked her if she wanted to go to the doggie park. There’s a huge gash on my quad and now it’s bruised.
36. How many TVs are in your house? 3.
37. Worst pain? Labor pain.
38. Do you like to dance? Only when I’m alone.
39. Are your parents still together? Yes.
40. Do you enjoy camping? Love it. S’more?

___________

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The letter P.

You guys, I fell asleep writing this last night.

I kinda want to leave it how it is because it slowly doesn’t make any sense which is exactly how life goes. I won’t do that to you. I’m re-writing P. And now I have Q to write today too and this is the point where I regret starting this A to Z writing challenge.

I struggled with P yesterday.

P is inappropriate – penis, poop, period, puberty, pimples.

P is boring. Pregnant. Oh, hell no. Pinterest. Meh. Purple. I don’t know. Pancakes! I suck at turning pancakes. There. That’s all I have on pancakes.

I decided to go with the mother of all Ps.

The letter P.

Parenting.

Parenting is a broad subject. I mean, what are we talking about here? Helicopter parenting? Newborn parenting? Teenager parenting? Biological vs. adopted parenting? Mothers vs. fathers? Step parenting? 

I’m not an expert. I’m not an expert at anything really. Even writing – am I an expert? “NO!” shouts every English teacher. I’m definitely not an expert on kids. I have two. I only know my own experience.

Unsolicited parenting advice on the school-age years? Maybe it’s more of a heads-up.

That’s the letter P for you.

  • If you have a daughter, you will need a bonnet. No, not for cutesy pictures when she’s an infant but for school dress-up projects. I don’t know why no one ever told me this – there are times in your kid’s school life that they will need to dress up like a pilgrim, the wax museum project, or a Civil War era woman. There’s always a bonnet and long skirt involved. Start looking now. And get your son a top hat.
  • It’s totally cool that your 2nd grader doesn’t know how to tie shoe laces. I still need to teach Kate. No one from the school has said anything to me about her velcro shoes. We’re cool.
  • Opposite sex parents are heavily favored. If you lost the lottery in passing your sex gene along, the school helps make it all ok. The father-daughter dance. The mother-son Kansas City Royals game. What about the mother-daughter? I’m special too, damnit. Oh! No, I don’t want to volunteer to plan an event.
  • Summer camps are worth every penny. Sure, it’s hard to shell out $400 for a 4-day, half-day camp for two kids but it will feel like a two-week vacation. Start saving money now. These things should have been paid for in February of 2014. The kid’s summer camp is a breath of fresh air in the middle of summer. A glorious Monday through Thursday in half day solitude. Bonus! Your kids will be exhausted.
  • You’ll ugly cry on the first day of Kindergarten. You’re a newbie parent. Us older parents – we get it – it’s a sad day. I give it one year and you, too, will be toasting your kid off to first grade with a coffee in hand, a skip hop back to your car, and the biggest smile on your face that will rival your wedding day.
  • After-school activities might just kill you. Financially and emotionally. Dinners are quick. Weekends are gone. It’s fine. We’re all fine. We totally have a life. I heard some great advice from my ear doctor – what? – cherish the time in the car. It’s really the only time you have trapped in an enclosed space with your school-aged kid. Use it to talk to them and tell them, “in my day, I didn’t have iPods to play with in the car so talk to me.”
  • Don’t you worry. If you have daughters, they will talk to you. And talk. And talk. And talk. WAKE UP! She’s talking again. I don’t have sons so I don’t know if they talk as much but the rumors are they don’t. I could be wrong, maybe it’s school-aged kids in general. My kids won’t shut up. I’m rambling. I’ll stop.
  • Long division will appear in your life again. It’s complete bullshit.
  • Foreign languages start earlier. This may vary from state to state or even district to district. My kids speak Spanish. They started learning Spanish from a girl named Dora in preschool and they never stopped. They know everything I learned in middle school. Middle school teachers no hablan ingles. By high school, my kids will be fluent in yelling at me in Spanish cuss words and I’ll be giving them the blinking Dora stare.
  • By the way, it’s called middle school. If you dare drop the words “junior high” your kids will scream at you. “No one says that anymore, mom! Stop it. That’s embarrassing.”
  • Practice equality with the kids. Your kids will remember. Kids won’t have any memories from before ages 4 or 5. Only you will remember your baby’s first step or your toddler using a plunger to plunge the potty training toilet. The school-aged years are fun because not only do you remember what happened but so do your kids. If you eat lunch at school with daughter number one, daughter number two will find out by recess. She won’t confront you that day. Oh no. She’ll file that shit in her brain. She’ll confront you months later and will threaten to tell her teacher that her mom plays favorites if you don’t eat lunch with her too.
  • Practice creativity because the parent projects are heading your way. Oh, yes. You will have homework such as printing off pictures of the family at midnight or interviewing Google headquarters. The parent at-home projects are 50% of your kid’s grade. The other 50% is to show off your parent skills in the hallway. I saw that on Pinterest, nice try. 
  • Remember that lice is not a medical threat. Lice isn’t a medical threat but it will make you want to set your house on fire because an arson charge is easier to deal with. Stop scratching your head. You’re fine.
  • Get a calendar. The school calendar will become a full time job. You won’t be able to memorize anything; it’s overwhelming. You will spend at least an hour of your life per week filling in spaces. If you let go of the calendar, your crazy mom will show because your life and your kids’ lives will collapse.
  • Dress your kids in something you would wear. My point here is that you will naturally want to make your kids’ lives better than your life at that age. I will never forget the day my junior high math teacher pointed out to the class that I was wearing roman numerals all over my shirt and she was so proud. The class busted out laughing and I’m just going to die right here in that memory.
  • Get a backbone. The insults are coming. You will be called the worst mother ever by your daughter and your daughter doesn’t even know why.
  • “Hi, this is the school nurse calling…” This is how your day gets ruined. Plus a doctor’s bill.
  • You’re always exhausted. Unlike new parents, you sleep through the night undisturbed. Doesn’t matter. You will fall asleep in bed while working on your favorite hobby. Parenting – it’s like magic.

___________

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The letter O.

Oh Emma, Oh Kate.

Is there any other O than Oh?

In high school, I worked at a day care. A red-headed mom picked up her 4-year-old red-headed son. Her son said something to her that made her laugh. She looked me in the eye and said, “when you have your own kids, write down the funny things they say. You’ll forget as soon as they say them so write them down. I keep a notebook in my purse. It’s hilarious.”

My 17-year-old self never forgot that motherly advice. That little boy is 22 years old now. I always wonder if his mom kept her notebook all these years. I don’t remember their names and even if I did, I doubt she remembers me. I hope that 22-year-old red-haired boy has a book of his own quotes to read.

I’ve been writing down what my daughters say since Emma was two. It started as an email to family members then found its way to my blog. The mom was right – I forget almost as soon as it’s said. I have to write it down fast.

This is my 80th blog post titled Oh Emma, Oh Kate. I always wonder if it will be the last. I worry one day I’ll wake up and Emma and Kate will be adults. The world won’t be funny anymore.

Yet, somehow they seem to top themselves without ever trying.

The letter O.

Oh Emma, Oh Kate. 80th edition.

___________

Emma: Let’s play hide and seek in the dark outside.

Kate: Hold on, let me download this heat sensor app on my iPod.

___________

Me: Emma! Where are your soccer cleats? Help me look. Do you know where they are?

Emma: Do I look like Siri?

___________

Kate started rolling her tongue.

Me: Where did you learn that?

Kate: (rolling tongue) Beginning of a Pitbull song.

___________

Kate busted into my room on a Saturday morning.

Kate: WAKE UP!

Me: UGH.

Kate: Mommy! Look!

She walked up to the side of my bed.

Me: Kate, I don’t have my contacts in. I can’t see you that well. Get closer.

Kate rests her stuffed boobs next to my head.

Me: What the?

Kate: Grew me some big ‘ole boobies! HA!

Me: Put my bra away, NOW. Get out.

___________

The girls needed some new flip flops for summer. I took them to Old Navy for some cheap pairs.

Kate: UGH. Why did you take me here?

Me: You need some flip flops and they’re cheap here. And I don’t know your shoe size unless you come with me. Your feet keep growing.

Kate: I mean, why did you take me HERE? I want everything. I want this. This too. Oh, and this. These are cute. This was a bad decision to take me shopping with you.

___________

Inside Old Navy’s dressing room.

Me: Cute shirt, Kate! Let’s get this one. A little cold shoulder top. Love it. Clearance too!

Kate: Yeah! (Kate shimmies)

Me: Are you shimmying?

Kate: I love shimmying in this shirt.

Later that night. Kate wore her new shirt.

Me: Show daddy your shirt.

Kate shimmied.

Scott: Are you shimmying? Do you know what that is? Don’t do that.

Kate: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just showing my shoulders.

Scott walked off. Kate shimmied at him behind his back.

___________

I was writing on my laptop in bed one afternoon. I could see the girls playing hopscotch from my window.

Emma: YOU LOSE, KATE! I WIN!

Kate: (stares at Emma. Walks off to my outside master door. Drags the welcome mat over near Emma, hurls the mat at Emma’s back, then crosses her arms.)

Me: KATE! I SAW THAT!

Emma: MOOOM!

Me: I know. I saw. Kate, did you just hit Emma in the back with a welcome mat because you lost?

Kate: No. I hit her because she won.

___________

I took Kate on a sushi date. We talked while we waited on our sushi.

Kate: Let’s play truth or dare.

Me: Ok, truth.

Kate: Have you or dad ever picked your butt in front of a video camera?

Me: No.

Kate: Wrong. I saw an old video of you picking your butt.

___________

We were at Scott’s parents for dinner.

Kate: Daddy and I were playing softball in the house and daddy hit the sailfish on the wall with a softball.

Me: SCOTT!

Nana: Oh, Scott.

Scott: Kate, why would you tattle on me?

Kate: Because I can tattle to your mom too.

___________

Me: Hey! Emma! Girlfriend, bring your empty plate to the sink!

Emma: Oh, I thought someone would do it for me.

___________

Scott practices softball with Kate every night.

Scott: Ok, so what is your take away for tonight?

Kate: That I like myself.

___________

Scott sent a video of Kate hitting softballs to his friend, Hunter.

Scott: Hunter said Kate hits better than his own son.

Kate: Obviously.

___________

I poured myself a glass of wine in a darkened kitchen after the kids were in bed.

Emma: Seriously, mom?

Me: AH! You scared me, Emma!

Emma: This is what you do when we sleep?

___________

Me: Go to bed.

Kate: No.

Me: Uh, yes. Go to bed.

Kate: You wanna make an ice cream run?

Me:

Kate: You like that, don’t ya?

___________

Me: Go to bed!

Emma: No!

Me: Yes. It’s 8:30.

Emma: It’s really 7:30 with the time change.

___________

The girls went upstairs after school one day. It was silent for about 20 minutes.

Me: Scott, do you hear how quiet they are? They’ve been so good lately. No fights.

Emma: KNOCK IT OFF, KATE OR I WILL HOLD YOU DOWN AND FART IN YOUR FACE!

___________

Kate: Mom! Stella got into your bathroom trash and now there’s those white things you put up your butt all over!

(Tampons)

___________

Emma: Wouldn’t it be cool to paint on toilet seats?

Me: Huh?

Emma: Like quotes in pretty handwriting. Like, “Have a seat. Take your time.”

___________

Our neighbors’ were out of town. But their kids were home with their grandma. She’s a good grandma. She always plans some kind of activity for all the cul-de-sac kids to participate in. We received a note at our door.

Me: Cool! A St. Patrick’s Day breakfast! Have the kids come by anytime from 7 am to 9 am on St. Patrick’s morning for a green breakfast!

Kate: 7 AM? I’ll be sleepin’. Guess, I’m coming over at 9.

___________

Kate walked in my room, brushing her teeth with my toothbrush.

Me: Gross! Kate! That’s my toothbrush!

Kate: Emma put my toothbrush in the toilet so I’m using yours.

___________

Kate: Can we make a leprechaun trap?

Me: A what?

Kate: You make a trap and the leprechaun leaves you money.

Me: Uh, we’re not Irish.

Kate: Our neighbors do it.

Me: Are they Irish?

Kate: They’re from Colorado or something.

___________

Scott: Kate, pick up your shoes!

Kate: Knock it off. You’re mommy’s teenage son and don’t pick up either.

___________

I pushed through radio stations in the car.

Me: Ugh, Justin Bieber. I don’t like him.

Kate: Why?

Me: He’s doesn’t seem very nice.

Kate: Well, his music makes me feel nice.

___________

Kate: Hey mom! Will you check my cursive on the computer?

___________

Scott put Kate to bed.

Scott: Good night, Baby Got Back Becky.

Kate: Good night, little nipples.

___________

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