Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tangling With a Turtle

We love visiting the botanical gardens. It is one of our favorite places. The kids love it because of the train, the great children’s area, the butterfly house, etc. I love it because they get plenty of exercise without realizing it, lots of fresh air, and are totally exhausted by the time we leave. Win/win, folks.

We have been members at the gardens for years and enjoyed many hours of nature’s bliss. Here’s a picture of them in years past:

This day was no different, really. We were having a marvelous time exploring the fish pond, playing in the ball pit, having a picnic lunch (which of course was the highlight since I packed them lunchables…crackers, deli meat, and cheese. Why didn’t I think of this ingenious business idea?).

Anyway, we had a great time and decided to wrap up our outing by taking a stroll thru the peaceful and beautiful butterfly house. It just happens to be the largest enclosed butterfly house in the country, by the way. Only the best for my babies, you know.

It really is lovely. A waterfall gently cascades into a small pond. Gorgeous flowers at every turn, sweet little birds of some kind waddle along the ground, monarch butterflies everywhere you look…it’s a little piece of heaven.

The feature attraction of the butterfly house, of course, has always been the turtles. Cute little box turtles reside in a small enclosed area, munching on strawberries (to the great delight of my girls), wandering in the grass, and doing whatever else box turtles do. The kids adore being able to pick them up and muster up the courage to touch their (nasty) little feet. I always just smile and pretend to be a lover of nature and its creatures and stay a safe distance away.

On this particular day, however, there was an excited buzz in the air. Olivia had spotted something unusual, never before seen on our many visits to the butterfly house.

A huge, gargantuan turtle had emerged from the pond (where they almost always sit on the large rocks sunning themselves and are out of reach) and was happily wandering throughout the shrubbery and flowers.

Now you must understand that my oldest daughter is an extreme animal lover. Really. This is the child who would be quite happy to turn my home into a rescue shelter for strays and wouldn’t mind a bit being known as the crazy cat lady with felines taking over our home. She loves lizards, fish, hamsters,

dogs…you name it, if it is not human, she probably wishes she had it for a pet (because her little sisters as pets is not working out so well. They are very difficult to train).

“Mom! Mom! Look! One of the big turtles is out! Can I pick it up? Please?”

And this is where the critical error was made, folks. In all my infinite wisdom as a mother, I said yes. It’s a turtle, I thought. Harmless.

Oh, the delight that was hers as she happily scooped up the biggest turtle she’d ever been around! A huge smile on her face and the admiration of her sisters and friends, Olivia was in turtle bliss.

I’m sure you can imagine what’s in store. We all know that bliss with animals can never last very long.

About a minute into the turtle holding, after all the other children had approached and touched his shell, laughed at his ugly claws, and (wisely) turned down offers to hold it themselves, Olivia was still thrilled. She was chatting happily and looking at me as she spoke.

It was like a scary movie where you realize what’s going to happen before the victim does. I watched, helpless to stop the scene before me, as that turtle opened its mouth, revealing a sharp “beak” searching for something to clamp down on. Yep. That turtle didn’t even hesitate. Olivia’s finger got just close enough and he chomped down on it.

Now if you know anything about large turtles, you know they don’t let go. Here’s Olivia, yelping and screaming and crying as this huge turtle holds onto her middle finger for dear life. Olivia jerks her hand hard enough to shake the turtle off, but this caused her skin to be ripped as he was thrown to the ground, making the pain much worse.

It may have been the last deed of that turtle’s life. If turtles have 9 lives like cats, I’m pretty sure he used most of them right then. He was thrown to the concrete with such force that he bounced. I’m sure he was never so thankful for his shell.

After a quick clean up and insisting that she not look at the wound (if you’re a mom you know that the sight of blood makes the screaming exponentially worse), we headed for home. The botanical gardens had suddenly dropped considerably in the popular attraction category. We still haven’t been back and no one has asked to go.

Turtles. Who knew? Seems like kind of a random thing to have happen to your child, doesn’t it? But I can tell you this: it will be a cold day before any Webber women want to hear the story of the tortoise and the hare. In fact, we all now cheer for the hare and hope the tortoise gets run over by a semi. Or made into soup. Or dies a slow death stuck on his back (these are my 7-year-olds’ wishes, not mine. Do not email me, animal people. I’ll just delete it :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Coming Out of the Closet

Most of you know about the recent tornadoes that swept through my sweet home Alabama. It was a terrible day and I don’t mean to make light of the immense suffering and tragedy that so many experienced, but I do want to share what was going on in the little Webber corner of the world that day.

As a native of Huntsville, I have grown accustomed to tornado sirens and watches and warnings. Up until that fateful day, hearing my child frantically saying she needed to go potty alarmed me much more than hearing sirens. We have warnings all the time around here. However, eventually I just could not ignore the potential for danger.

I emptied out the game closet underneath the stairs, lined the walls with our couch and chair cushions, put the girls’ bike helmets on them, and herded everyone in. The power had already gone out from the first round of storms earlier that day, so there we were, stuffed in the closet, armed with Tinkerbell lanterns and a pig flashlight that oinks every time you turn it on (we were the picture of good safety preparation…I don’t think we even own an adult flashlight).

Picture this if you will. It’s dark in there. It’s hot. It’s cramped. The pig is oinking continually. The girls are starting to get unhappy in these conditions. They’re hungry. They’re thirsty.

But it was about to get immeasurably worse.

One word: HANK.

Olivia quickly realized that her precious puppy was not in the closet. He was roaming the house, risking life and paw, left to fend for himself through whatever was coming our way.

This just would not do. She begged and pleaded and I saw the emotion on her face when she moved closer to her Tinkerbell light. What could I do? We might lose our home, but to lose the puppy would be an unbearable loss. So, as any good mother would do, I (reluctantly) agreed to bring Hank in the closet with us.

Things were going okay at first. Hank, just happy to be with us and trying to figure out why in the world we were in the closet, panted and sat quietly with Olivia. That lasted about 2 seconds, then he was bounding all over everyone, licking everything in sight, chewing on little fingers and toes, and being in general a maniac.

I decided it was worth the risk to leave the safety of the closet long enough to get him a bone to chew on in place of my children, so I ventured out, deciding to also get the kids a snack. I quickly made my way back and handed out the treats. This worked for about 1.2 seconds before Hank was going bezerk again, climbing on the cushions, stealing the girls’ snacks (which caused huge uproars of yelling and screaming) and finding ways to get his rear end right in our faces.

But even then, things were not as bad as they would be.

There is a quality about little Hank that is not exactly endearing. In fact, it has been an ongoing problem ever since that fateful day when Hank joined our family. I’ve tried to reason with him that he really needs to work on this, but it seems like this problem is here to stay.

Hank suffers from chronic flatulence.

It is bad. Really bad. He can clear a room faster than a room full of daddies trying to avoid changing an awful bomb of a diaper. It is as though Hank survives on a diet entirely composed of beans. He has made the kitchen smell so bad that we cannot eat our dinner. He has so poisoned the air in the minivan that my youngest begins heaving in her carseat and all the humans in the vehicle stick our heads out the windows while little Hank calmly sits in the back.

This was one of those moments. There we were, fearing for our lives, praying for protection, when suddenly the very air we were breathing became life threatening. It hit us at once, like a wave of poison gas forcing us to choose death by tornado or death by asphyxiation.

Leighanne, of course, began gagging. I could just picture her throwing up on my couch cushions. Olivia and Lauren were coughing and begging to be let out of the closet. Hank was just sitting there, illuminated by the Tinkerbell lantern, tongue hanging out and what could only be described as a smirk on his face.

I had a deadly decision to make: suffocate, or take our chances out of the closet where we would face certain death if our home was hit.

They say adults should put on their own oxygen mask before helping others. I chose to come out of the closet. I made my children stay put. I burst out of the open door, gasping for fresh air and waiting for the wave of nausea to pass.

And so, I am very pleased to say our little puppy was protected and safe that day. He continues to struggle with flatulence, but our hope is that one day, some day, we will be able to be in a confined area without 1.) being mauled, or 2.) wishing for a gas mask.

That is my story of the tornado day in Alabama. Praying for those who are still putting the pieces of their lives back together. Also praying for Hank to stop eating beans.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mailbox Mix Ups

I’m raising a criminal. Really. My two-year-old has a problem.

Mail fraud.

We live on a nice little cul-de-sac. There are just seven other houses grouped with ours and we love the freedom a quiet cul-de-sac grants us. It’s kind of cozy and quaint. We’re like a family and the kids enjoy great freedom to run around and play.

This freedom has proved too much for Leighanne. She has recently begun doing this:

Exhibit A...not our mailbox
Exhibit B...also not our mailbox

Exhibit C...still not our mailbox

It’s becoming a problem. She absolutely delights in darting from mailbox to mailbox. She happily opens lids, examines letters, sometimes licks letters, plays with mailbox flags, and has even been caught switching letters from one box to the next. It’s great fun to her.

I witnessed this criminal behavior going on just yesterday afternoon. I looked up to the sound of Lauren yelling at the top of her lungs.

“Leighanne! Stop opening mailboxes! You’ll have to go to juvey!”

This somewhat baffles me. I have no idea where my child learned about juvenile detention. Have I threatened it during more intense parenting moments? I don’t recall using that term. Even I draw the line at scary threats. Nonetheless, Lauren has begun regularly pointing out to all of us that her baby sister is almost certain to serve time with other law breaking youths such as herself.

I’ve noticed as well that they have been playing “jail” quite a bit lately. Yesterday they even got out all my spare keys (the ones I have no idea what they go to but don’t want to throw away) and pretended locking each other in their “cells”.

I am getting a bit nervous about their infatuation with criminal life.

If you discover some bills are overdue or you’re missing important invitations, look no further. The criminal mastermind of mailboxes dwells in my home.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Truth About Family Time

Some of you readers out there are first time parents. You are swaddling your sweet smelling newborn and dreaming of the fun outings and adventures you will have as a family. You will be inseparable, gazing into your spouse’s eyes with love as you hold hands with your precious little one. You’ll introduce your
children to the wonders of nature and relish the joys of watching them discover the world.

Then you go on your first family outing and all that gets thrown out the window.

Recently the kids had a couple days off from school for Easter. Not being ones to waste valuable time off, we discussed our options and decided rather than travel, we would spend our day at a nearby park, playing and hiking on the mountain.

Don’t get me wrong. It started out GREAT! Beautiful day, perfect temperature, everybody pleasant and excited.

We spent time on the seesaws, experimenting with combining our weight as teams to see if we could balance it out (seesaws were NOT on the top of my list as a child…you can figure that one out). We hiked down to a little waterfall (which was fairly stressful for this mama as I watched my girls walk around on very slippery rocks), we enjoyed

a little snack…it was a wonderful morning! This is a family day for the books, I thought. We are such good parents.

And then, in keeping with Murphy’s Law, reality soon caught up with us.

First, Lauren discovered that I had failed to pack an entire lunch for them, just snacks. This was completely unacceptable. She nearly wasted away before our very eyes.

This is the look of love she bestowed upon me for my little stunt of poor packing.

Next, Olivia had what she will describe as a near death experience. After checking out the waterfall, we climbed back up and the girls enjoyed walking around in the (very) shallow (I mean, 3” or less) creek that fed into the waterfall some 30 yards away. Again with the slippery rocks. Just as I warned her to be careful, down she went, falling HARD on her right hip.

“HELP ME! HELP ME! I’M DYING!! DOCTOR! HOSPITAL! AMBULANCE!!” (I am not exaggerating. There are witnesses who can back me up on this.) There she is, on all fours in the 3 inches of water, terrified and convinced she’s going to be carried all the way to the waterfall.

As good parents, we immediately both ran to rescue her and assure her she was not, in fact, facing imminent death by drowning. She will have none of it. This is the look of love we were bestowed for nearly causing her demise.

And by the way, as we were in the middle of our rescue operation for Olivia, Hank took the opportunity to wander to the nearby picnic area, where he proceeded to rob an innocent little girl of her ham sandwich. Took it right out of her hand and without so much as a thank you, gobbled it right up. I am sorry to say I do not have a picture of the look of love we were bestowed by the hungry child’s mother.

And finally, not to be outdone, Leighanne found clever new ways to make up for her mother’s failure to pack an acceptable lunch.

Maybe pine cones are high in fiber? I don’t think she enjoyed it as much as the dirt she scooped up to sample.

And so we called it quits on the family outing time. One mad as a hornet because she wanted an eight course meal served right there on the mountain, one mad as a hornet because her pants were now wet and muddy and her negligent parents had nearly let her die, and one surprisingly pleasant (even though she had puncture wounds in her mouth from her pine cone snack).

Ahh, family time. This is the stuff memories are made from.

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