Category Archives: Kids – I really do love them

Math is Hard [insert whining voice]

This One is Too Small

This One is Too Small

After several horrible months in our teeny-tiny apartment, we have finally purchased a home.

Because I’m not confident of my ability to make any logical decisions right now — for example; I took the inheritance I received from my father and purchased a black hole of problems in a vintage camper — I hired a design company to help me with the remodel.

Even though, I’m pretty confident I could have made this


Into this:
And this:
Into this:
I could never go any further with the plan.

Not only does the design team supervise the demo and construction, they also help with the decorating.

To assist them with their plan, I had the contents of one of our storage units, (the one that held all our furniture) delivered to the new house. I instructed the moving crew to line my items up in such a way that the design team could view all of my precious possessions  — like the coffee table made from an old wooden hardware cabinet or the eight foot tall antique secretary given to me by my mother-in-law — and then they could decide what was worth keeping and what should be relegated to the basement.

Turns out, none of my junk worldly goods are going to fit into the new hip, modern, design. Really? Not even the rusted head of a broken sledge hammer I kept in our living room? So much for the tiny thread of hope I held that I had good taste.

The one thing the design team loved and said they planned to put over the mantle in the hearth room, is this painting – which they called. Portrait of a Man.

Portrait of a Man

Portrait of a Man

I love Portrait of a Man, because it was painted by our son (my step-son) and  because it is a picture of our other son (my birth son). However, I don’t display this picture in a place of prominence because, our two daughters (my step-daughters) might be offended by a large exhibition of “my” son.

So, for years, Portrait of a Man has lived in my basement  because of all the agitation it could cause in our blended family.

Being a step-parent is a delicate operation and I work hard to balance our out-of-balance family.  Photos around the house are counted and re-counted. A picture of Husband with his son should be balanced out with a picture of Husband with my son.  A picture of me with step-daughter’s kids should be balanced out with a picture of me with my son’s child.  Christmas is a mathematical nightmare.  Do I use the number of presents as an equalizer? Or is it the amount spent on the present?

If I apply my blended family calculations to Portrait of a Man, and with the following givens:

(a) = painted by step-son

(b) = picture of my birth son

(c) = does not include step-daughters

(d) = no good will come from this

Then, (a + b) might equal zero. But, I’m pretty certain (a + b) – (c) =  (d)

Explaining these calculations to my friend, Kerry, she posed a question I’d never asked myself. “Do you really think your grown kids give a damn?”

Is that (f) in the equation?  Dang. Math is hard.

My Husband is Trying to Kill Me in His Sleep

Homicidal Maniac

Part-time Homicidal Maniac

Recently, my loving Husband has taken up the habit of trying to kill me in his sleep. Not in my sleep, in his sleep. Trust me, I’m not doing a lot of sleeping right now.

It started a few months ago when I awoke to him shouting, “GET OUT OF HERE!”

Startled, I sat up in bed just as he went crashing into my pillow, where he promptly wrestled the stuffing out of the poor thing.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the time Husband is a soft-hearted teddy bear.

Homicidal maniac (also known as Grandpa) tuckered out from hike

Actual homicidal maniac (also known as Grandpa)

One time he trimmed our dog’s toenail too close and was so emotionally traumatized by the thought of injuring her, he refused to ever do it again.

We once had a raccoon in our house and after animal control trapped it in their net, he got all choked up thinking about “what will happen to the little guy.”

And, after watching Marley and Me he sobbed so loud I had to turn the TV up.

I’m sensing a theme here that has to do more with animals and less with humans. But, let’s continue anyway.

Husband has always been a sleep-talker, or should I say, sleep-arguer. Maybe this happens to all spouses married to lawyers but it’s a little alarming to me.  For example, I shake husband’s shoulder to say “Roll over on your side, you’re snoring” and he sits up to explain to me in his courtroom voice that “obviously I’m already on my side because this (insert Vanna White-type sweeping hands) is the center of the bed and I’m (more sweeping of hands) over here.”

He drops onto his back to continue his sound sleep, and his obnoxious snoring. I spend the rest of the evening tossing and turning while I struggle to compose a snappy retort. (I have yet to come up with one.) In the morning, he remembers nothing of the events that transpired in his sleep and cheerily kisses me good morning.

I’m learning to sleep with one eye open, but recently missed the rustling sounds that indicate a possible attack. I awoke to husband’s hands wrapped around my forearm, attempting to strangle it to death. I’m not sure what demons are chasing him, but I have to admire his willingness to turn and fight.

I remember a time I was walking with my small nephew, Josh, when his much older and taller cousin, Ben, jumped out and yelled “BOO!” Josh immediately grabbed his walking stick and poked Ben in the eye. While I, without a care for my poor little nephew, turned and ran [similar event here], only stopping when I heard Ben cursing a blue streak. (This  story also comes with the added joy of spending the rest of the vacation shouting “Arg, ye matey!” at Ben in his eye patch.)

But, I digress. In fact, I think I’ve digressed during my digression. This is what happens when you put a sleep-deprived writer/wife in front of a computer.

P.S – if any of you are in Kansas City – come and check me out next Friday (not THIS Friday, NEXT Friday) at this performance:

WTF Logo

A dramatic and comedic reading by The WTF Writers’ Group
Bob Chrisman, Jessica Conoley, Teresa Vratil, and Dane Zeller
VALA Gallery
5834 Johnson Drive, Mission, Kansas, 66202
Friday, May 17, 2013
7:30 PM – 8:30 PM

How did I get my skis in that position and I didn’t know my legs could do that

I’ve written before about my travel adventures and how, just maybe, I’m not the most fun travel companion you’ll ever come across. For example there’s Neckties, Nausea and Nudists and Karma’s a Bitch, Man.

Ski Bunny

Ski Bunny

Last week, Husband and I traveled to the mountains of Colorado for a free ski trip, provided by our daughter, Alison.  Although I’ve only taken one lesson and that was fifteen years ago, I had it it my head that I’d look something like this.

Okay, maybe I didn’t have a matching ski suit like the woman in this picture, but I did manage to pull together something.  A pair of  pants that my husband had outgrown and a jacket that was a hand-me-down from my friend, Mary.

So, instead of looking like a Ski Bunny, I ended up looking like a Ski Lump.

Ski Lump

Ski Lump

But, I was fairly warm and courageously optimistic that things were going to go as planned.

We took the gondola to the top of the mountain. Husband waited with five-year-old granddaughter to begin our swooshing down the slopes, as soon as I’d finished a few practice turns.

Because I’m not a complete idiot, I started out on the bunny slope, along with Alison and our three-year-old grandson. Four trips down the slight decline and up the magic carpet with the other toddlers, and I was ready for my first run.

Husband and five-year-old took off. I studied them as they glided gracefully one direction, then slid into a turn and coasted the other way.

I gave a push with my poles and, full-speed-ahead, skidded out of control — straight for a snow cliff. Everything I knew about stopping, flew right out of my head. I tried helicoptering my arms in backward circles but, oddly, that didn’t work. So, I did what I know best. I fell down.  Not in a graceful way, mind you. But, in a, “how did you get your skis in that position/I didn’t know your legs could do that” kind of way.  A nice snowboarder stopped and released the skis from my boots so I could untie my legs.

Not to worry. I’m a trooper. I got up and tried again.  And again. When I asked five-year-old how she thought her Mimi was doing, she only frowned and shook her head.

Somewhere along the way, as I crept down the slope in snowplow position, the world began to spin around me, my clothing felt too tight for me to breathe and I was pretty sure I was going to throw up.  I paused at a tiny flat area and told Husband I thought it was time for me to give up.

Here’s the thing about skiing. You can’t just quit in the middle. There’s no way to get off the mountain, except to ski down.

Talking with the ski patrol, we came up with a plan. I’d have to make one more short run toward a ski lift. The open air lift would take us up the mountain, so that we could catch the enclosed gondola, that would take us to the bottom of the mountain.

“Short run” was all I needed to hear. I bent my knees, tucked myself into race position and skied straight down the slope. I then stumbled onto the ski lift where five-year-old suggested to Husband that he  might want to put the safety bar down in case Mimi fell off.

The higher we went, the more the world spun around me and the harder it was to breathe.  I gritted my teeth and made it to the gondola, then managed to make it to ground level without spilling my guts. I struggled the hundred yards from the gondola to the condo and spread out on the bathroom floor.

Twenty minutes later, Husband came in and looked down at me. “Do you think I should take you to the emergency room?”

[Darth Vader Voice] – “Yeeessssss.”

I returned from the emergency room, not with a sexy issue, like a broken leg that would enable me to sit around the fire pit telling and retelling the story about my wild run down a black diamond slope…Ski broken leg

but, with Acute Altitude Sickness.

ski oxygen mask

It required that I walk around with a plastic tube stuck up my nose and toting around a green metal canister on wheels.

I couldn’t even approach the broken leg people to share my story at the fire pit, for fear I’d blow them all up.


I’b Been Sick Wid a Code

I feel really guilty for not posting to my blog for two weeks, but I’b been sick wid a code.

And since I’ve had nothing to do but lie around thinking about ways to make myself more miserable I’m going to share some of my worst thoughts.

When I was a kid, I remember Mom sitting beside me keeping a cool rag on my head as I moaned in pain from strep throat or holding my hair back as I threw up.  She was that kind of parent.

Unfortunately for my son, I was not that kind of parent.  As I’ve said here before, if you’re ever in need of medical care – don’t call me.  While Phineas leaned over the toilet spilling his tiny guts, I’d be in the hallway calling out “Poor baby!  I’m sorry! [gag] Let me know when you’re done.”

Which reminds me of another miserable memory of my first attempt at drinking. I consumed an entire pint of peppermint schnapps.  My boyfriend – later to be my husband and even later to be my ex-husband — was afraid to be caught by my parents so he pushed me through the front door, ran back to his car and drove home.  I’m told I spent the rest of the evening worshiping the porcelain throne (as my dad called it), but I can’t say I remember it.

The next day, Dad sat me down in the living room.  He’d set up a TV tray in front of him with a blue Tupperware tumbler and a glass.  Picking up the tumbler he said, “You know, Teresa, some people’s bodies are like this plastic cup.”  He threw the cup across the room where it bounced off the fireplace, sounding in my alcohol soaked brain like cannon fire. “They can do whatever they want to their bodies and they will be fine.”  Then he picked up the glass. “You? You’re more like this.  If I throw this glass, it’s going to shatter. Is that what you want to do with your life, Teresa? Shatter it?” I was so thankful for his great advice; I ran to the bathroom and threw up.

And here’s another story to prove my wretchedness.   When Phineas was in his first year of college he came home complaining of stomach pains.  Assuming he’d experienced an evening much like the one I described above, I put him in bed and left town.  He called several hours later to say the pain was worse. I called my good friend, Sharon, explaining that Phineas was probably just hung over, but could she go check on him.  A call from her confirmed that she believed he was very ill.  In fact, she was driving him to the emergency room.  When I arrived, the doctor took me into the hall to say that Phineas was suffering from appendicitis and that immediate surgery was required.

Here’s where I wish I could tell you my sweet mother inhabited my body and showed me what to do.  Instead, The World’s Worst Mother spent ten minutes trying to convince the doctor that Phineas had a really low tolerance for pain and he’d be fine.

Fortunately for me, the doctor ignored my motherly unconcern and took my son in to surgery, where they removed his appendix right before it ruptured.

Why am I sharing these horrible stories about myself? Because I feel guilty – REALLY GUILTY – for not writing my blog for two weeks and, as every good Catholic knows, penance is the only way to a guilt-free life. Besides, you wouldn’t have read this if I’d printed three Hail Mary’s and two Our Father’s, would you?

This Game Called Spoons

I survived the family vacation, but I’m not sure I can say the same for my nephew’s kids.

When he and his wife arrived with their four, very well behaved, little girls they looked something like this.

Good Girls

They sat quietly, shared their toys without complaint and volunteered to clean up.

However, after the residents of Crazie Town taught them how to have pillow fights, how to rip the winning Slap Jack card from their little sister’s hand and how to shout taunts of “DRAW BABY, DRAW” while playing vicious games of Uno, they looked like this.

Bad Girls

As I was apologizing to my nephew for his daughters latest Slap Jack fight, he said it reminded him of the time he came to visit Crazie Town as a kid and we played some evil game called Spoons.

“Spoons?” his eldest daughter asked.  “What’s Spoons?”

“Oh, nothing,” I said.  “It’s kind of like musical chairs only with cards and spoons.  You probably wouldn’t like it any way.”

Five minutes later she quietly sidled up beside me and laid a stack of spoons on the table.  “Teach me this game…” her eyes searched mine, hungry for knowledge…”this game called Spoons.”

I hesitated, not sure if she was ready for such an evil activity because here are the “rules” as they are known in Crazie Town.

1.  Remove all chairs and pull dining room table into the center of the room.

2.  Place spoons (one less than number of players) in center of table.

3. Players stand around the edge of the table.  Note:  Taller or gullible people are to be assigned the corners.

4.  Shuffle several decks of cards together and deal four to each player.

5.  Dealer draws one card from the deck.  He/She keeps it toward their match or passes it face down to the next person who picks it up and does the same.

6.  When a player manages to get three of a kind they calmly reach for a spoon, as does everyone else.

7.  The spoon-less person earns a letter toward the spelling of the word S-P-O-O-N.  (Or the spelling of LOSER, IDIOT, etc.)

In Crazie Town, rule number six is…shall we say…negotiable.

I remember a game where my older brother chased me through the dining room and kitchen, up the stairs and into the attic where he wrenched the winning spoon from my hand.  For some unknown reason, this was ruled “Fair Play” and thus, the game of Full Contact Spoons was born.

My first Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s family almost ended in a trip to the emergency room when he thought it would be funny to sweep all the spoons onto the floor.  Husband and his daughter chased a spoon across the living room, bumping into a large bookcase that would have crushed them had someone not grabbed it at the last minute.  (Said person never releasing control of their precious spoon, of course.)

I once taught the game to a dozen, quite civilized, British people who, within ten minutes were standing atop a fifteen foot long antique harvest table wrestling and screaming for spoons.  The tournament came down to two men, my husband being one of them. The other being a proud gay man.  (As an aside…this proud gay man loved to sunbathe nude.  The first day of our trip, he came strolling out of the house naked and plopped himself down next to my husband whose only reaction was to ask “could you point that thing the other direction?)   But I digress.  On this particular evening of the Spoons game that came down to two men, we quickly chose sides and stood behind our Olympians shouting our support.  Year’s later, the results are still disputed and arguments deteriorate into who saved whom in what war.

Is that the kind of activity in which a little seven year old girl should be participating?

My better judgement did prevail and my niece left the family vacation for home without the knowledge of This Game Called Spoons.

At least until next year.

I Can’t Believe She Threw Me Under The Bus

Running Away to Aunt Lorena’s House

I took a drive to Crazie Town last week to visit my Aunt Betty Lou in her nursing home.

Every few months her facility schedules a family care meeting.  It’s an opportunity for them to explain how their $7,000 a month fee is being used to make my aunt’s life better.  The meeting is good, because if you ask her, they use the money to find new and interesting ways to irritate her.

I walked into her room to find her sitting in her wheelchair, arms crossed across her chest and a major pout on her face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I told them I didn’t want to use the walker, so they deserved it,” she said.

“Uh, oh.  Deserved what?”

“That woman came in to help me to the bathroom and the whole time I was telling her I didn’t want to use the walker, but she said (and here my aunt scrunches up her face and talks like a baby) ‘Your family says you’re supposed to use the walker.’  So, I didn’t really have a choice, did I?”

Now my face was scrunched up.  “And what choice was that?”

“I threw my walker across the room.”

I chuckled.  I mean really, what’s funnier than a tiny old woman throwing a temper tantrum?

“Come on,” I said.  “We better get to the meeting.”  I let Aunt Betty Lou stay in her wheelchair (I’m no dummy) and rolled her into the conference room, which was filled with staff from the facility.  Immediately she assumed the arms-crossed, defensive position.

When we all settled in, the head nurse smiled at my aunt and asked, “How are you?”

Betty Lou snorted and then replied, “How am I supposed to know what day it is?”

“No.  I said, How ARE you?”

My aunt paused, looked at the ceiling and then lowered her gaze.  “I don’t know how old I am, but I was born in 1926!”

Aunt Betty Lou sat quietly through the rest of the meeting while they talked over her, telling me that “Miss Betty” liked movies but hated bingo, she loved having dessert with dinner then often came back later for a second helping and that she’d gotten into a bit of a kerfuffle with another resident when the woman had tried to cut in line for a manicure.

Flipping through pages and pages of documentation, the nurse noticed there was an item left blank on her form.  She leaned across the table and shouted, “Betty, do you brush your own teeth?”

Aunt Betty Lou paused and looked around the room in terror.  “Well…I, well…”  And then her gaze landed on me and her eyes lit up.  She reached out, pointed a crooked finger my way and said, “Teresa ran away from home.”

A room full of accusing eyes turned my way (well, except for Aunt Betty Lou’s.  Her eyes were filled with satisfaction.)  I couldn’t believe she’d throw me under the bus like that.

I was six-years-old and really mad at my mom, so I packed up my little suitcase – yes, family, I’m going to tell the truth  (for some reason, they love this part of the story) – I packed my suitcase with every pair of underwear I owned.  That was it.  No clothes.  Just underwear.

“I’m going to Aunt Lorena’s house,” I said.  “Because she loves me.” I stomped off, up the driveway and out onto the dirt road in front of our house.

I’d made about 10 yards when Mom came out onto the porch.

“You know,” she said.  “It’s a long walk to Lorena’s house.  Maybe you should eat some lunch before you go.”

I stopped walking but didn’t turn around.

“We’re having some of Betty Lou’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes,” Mom said and then I heard the squeal of the screen door as it opened and the sharp bang as it slammed shut.  Within two minutes I was back inside, sitting at the table on my chair stacked with telephone books, shoveling mashed potatoes into my mouth.

As I sat in the nursing home looking around at those accusing faces I thought for one second about throwing Aunt Betty Lou under the bus by bringing up the walker-tossing event.  But I realized that, much like a 6-year-old, an 86-year-old just needs to throw an old-fashioned temper tantrum once in a while.


Share my blog with someone!  Did you hear me?  CLICK SHARE!  Otherwise I will be forced to hold my breath until you do and when I pass out and hit my head, it will be your fault and frankly, I wouldn’t want you to carry that shame around.

Butter Gall

Butter Gall

I like to try new things and this week was no exception.

Okay, I really don’t like to try new things and this week was no exception.

My grandson and daughter-in-law invited my husband and I to go bowling.  Now, I’m no slouch at this game.  In fact, I recently beat my brother, Mike.  Did you get that, Mike?  I beat my older brother MIKE (that’s his name) at bowling.

We get our shoes and hurry to the lane.  My 9-year-old grandson is excited to get started and he throws his ball down the alley.

I’m up next.  I pause and align my feet with the appropriate arrows.  I move my ball into the optimal position and step forward.  Here’s where I tried something new.  Instead of just throwing the ball down the lane, I decide to try bowling my entire body.  I release the ball just one second late which causes me to step over the foul line where I instantly become Wile E. Coyote peddling my feet on the highly-buffed hardwood as if I’d just run off the edge of a cliff.

Observers tell me they thought for one moment I was going to save myself, but that was not the case.  SPLAT–I crash down on my tailbone and then fall back, hitting my head on the polished hardwood.  As I slowly glide, spreadeagled down the lane toward the pins, I think I hear my father’s loving voice from my childhood.  “Oh…honey…you know you’re not coordinated enough to play a sport.”

I make it to my hands and knees and crawl back to my seat.  I shake my head in attempt to bring the scoreboard into focus.  I think I see a 1 next to my name so, trying to pull some dignity out of the situation, I say, “Well, at least I didn’t throw a butter gall.”  I look around at the six people staring back at me, blink my eyes until they return to the original three people and say “Ha, ha.  Butter Gall?  I meant to say Butter Gall.  Wait, that’s not right.”  I struggle to figure out what order the letters should go in.

Just as my daughter-in-law suggests an emergency room visit I come up with the right words.  “Gutter Ball!” I shout.  “At least I didn’t throw a gutter ball!”

Unfortunately, I can’t say that for much of rest of the game, ending with a pitiful score somewhere under 50.

The good news is – there’s nothing funnier to a nine-year-old boy than watching an adult slip and fall.  Right now, my grandson thinks I’m hilarious.