Fool of a Took and the Five Stages of Grief


Summer is almost over. Here at Shafer Haus we’ve spent a portion of nearly every day at the pool. It’s an excellent bargaining tool: The kids know that if they let me work in the morning, our afternoons will be spent splashing away (while I ogle a lifeguard that would make the PERFECT Rein, but that’s a blog post for another day) (don’t judge me. I’m not being a cougar. It’s research. For a book I’m writing. RESEARCH, PEOPLE).

The three older kids do so great at the pool – they know the rules, they play together, I don’t worry about them too much.

And then there’s Took.

See, here’s the thing. We didn’t name her after just ANY hobbit. We named her after the ornery hobbit. The headstrong hobbit. The impulsive hobbit. Annnnd that’s what we got. She’s ornery. Headstrong. Impulsive. (She’s also loyal and adventurous and brave, much like Pippin. My God, I love this kid.)

But taking her to the pool is going to freaking kill me. Seriously. Labor Day can’t come fast enough.

After contemplating it I’ve come to realize that every time we go to the pool – EVERY DAMN TIME – she goes through similar stages as a person who is grieving. But not just once a visit. OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL WE GET IN THE CAR TO GO HOME.

There’s STAGE ONE: Denial and Isolation. Don’t touch her. Don’t talk to her. Don’t look at her. And for heaven’s sake, don’t you dare try to help her. That whole thing about how breathing in water will make you drown? She doesn’t buy it. She’s pretty sure it’s a well-fabricated lie made up by THE MAN to keep toddlers like her under their parent’s thumb, unable to have ANY FUN AT ALL at the pool. My little water revolutionary begins squirming her hand out of mine the SECOND we walk into the Y’s facility. By the time I’ve kicked off my flip-flops and dropped our bag, she’s managed to get free and is sprinting into the water. I chase after her, shouting over my shoulder at the bigger kids to stick together and NOT DIE. Somehow I manage to lunge for Took at just the last second before she gleefully toddles to a watery death.

STAGE TWO: Anger. At this point she is pissssssssssed off. I hold her, face to face, and tell her she has to let me help her.

She answers with a shrieking, “Bawawawa joopiejooopie bo-bah sis-ah,” which loosely translated means YOU’RE SUFFOCATING ME WITH ALL YOUR LOVE! LET ME BE FREE LIKE MY BROTHERS AND SISTER! YOU ARE THE OPPRESSOR!

“Tough taters, alligator,” I reply. “Momma’s gonna help you.”

Her shrieks elevate to a volume that will literally make your ears bleed. I’m now getting judgmental looks from nearby moms and sun worshippers. The lifeguards act unimpressed. Rein is doing one-armed pull-ups on the frame of the water slide.

STAGE THREE: Bargaining. Eventually the screaming dials down (even Took has her limits) and we swim over to the edge of the pool. She climbs up and sits and pulls my face close to hers. “I bah-boo watoo me-me SPASH! SPASH! Okay?” Translation: Let me just jump in real quick and see if I can sprout a tail like a mermaid. I promise not to die. Okay?

“You can jump,” I say, “but I’m going to catch you. You’re too little to do it by yourself.”

She stares at me a minute, then shakes her head sadly, which leads us to…

STAGE FOUR: Depression. Her chin is down. Her lip is out. Her hands are covering her eyes. Life is so unfair. Life is so completely unfair. I hug her and tell her everything will be alright, that we can have fun in the pool together. She shakes her head no. There will never be any fun at the pool until she is allowed to go it alone, free as a dolphin swimming under a rainbow off into the sunset…until then,

STAGE FIVE: Acceptance. “Do you want to go sit on a towel?” I ask her.

She nods yes.

I perch her on my hip and we make our way back to our bag. I spread out her favorite towel and we sit side by side. Sometimes she’ll climb up on my lap and cuddle, but most of the time she fixes her forlorn gaze on the water and its inhabitants.

“What are you thinking?” I ask.

“A-gleebo-gleebo foamy-moo,” she answers, very serious. I get why you won’t let me swim alone, but it’s a bummer.

“I love you,” I say.

She looks up at me, those crazy blue eyes shining. “Wub you?” she asks.

“Yep. Always, no matter what.”

She grins. “Watoo?” Water?

“Sure,” I say.

She’s up on her feet in a flash…and we’re back at Stage One again.

Later, when we’re still in the parking lot of the Y, I text the Hubster:

When you come home, BRING WINE.


MOTHERHOOD MONDAY: Even Wheat Jesus Can’t Save You

wheat jesus“Mom, I poop.”

This was Took, sitting in her carseat after hours of driving from Estes Park on our way home. We were somewhere in western Kansas, near Hays. I looked at Thomas; he cocked a brow at me. We were hauling ass, desperate to put the seven-hundred-odd miles of the trip home behind us, and all Took had been wanting to do for the last three hours was run. “I run,” she’d kept repeating, oh-so-sweetly. “Daddy?” she’d ask. “I run?”

But somewhere along the way, her tune changed. “Mom-mom-mom-mom-mom,” she now chanted from her carseat. “I poop. I poop. I poop.” (Notice that she addresses him when she wants to run, and me when she has a poopy diaper. Mom life. Sigh.)

There was no smell in the car, but that didn’t mean anything – sometimes those sneak-attack poops are the worst. Up the back and around the track, and trust me, in a car-seat? A poop like that ain’t fun for nobody.


“We better find a place to stop, just in case,” I said to him.

“Starbucks?” he asked.

“I’ll check,” I said, grabbing my phone.

(Poor Starbucks. Your bathrooms are way cleaner than gas-station bathrooms, which means that when the Shafer’s need to stop off somewhere, we are going to HUNT YOU DOWN.)

I was skeptical as to whether or not we’d find one. I mean, we were in Hays, KS. Literally the middle of nowhere. I was pretty sure even Wheat Jesus (my fellow Kansans know what I’m talking about) couldn’t help us find what we needed.

But then, MIRACLE! Maps on my iPhone showed that there was a Starbucks in Hays! I quickly asked Maps to route us there, and we were soon on our way (with me dreaming of a latte and a chocolate croisant)…

…to the Fort Hays University campus. Where I’m sure there is a Starbucks during the school year, but during the summer? Out of luck, suckers! Now we faced a choice: Go find a gas station and pray the bathroom wouldn’t be a terrifying rectangle of filth, or change her diaper picnic-style in the grass.

Easy choice.

We found a shady spot on campus and parked. Took’s anthem switched from “Mom, I poop!” to “Daddy? I run! I run! I run!” almost immediately, her little legs kicking wildly as the Hubster pulled her out of her carseat. She was squealing in a pitch that by all rights should have shattered the glass of the mini-van’s windows. Kudos, Chrysler, for making your windows toddler-screech-proof. “I run! I run! I run!”

“Not yet,” he said. “Let mommy change your diaper.”

Let mommy change your diaper. I snorted and gave him a look that said YOU OWE ME FOR THIS. He grinned.

It was all she could do to hold still while I stripped her down on a blanket in the grass…and wouldn’t you know it? Nothing. Not even a little splatter-art from a less-than-confident toot.

“I run!” she pleaded.

“Just a little,” I said, pulling her britches back on. She was off like a shot the second I let go.

There were tears when we put her back in the car, and I can’t blame her. The stretch of I-70 from Denver to Salina can be brutally monotonous. Even with the twenty-seven DVD’s your big brothers packed.

“I sad,” she said, cradling her stuffed chipmunk who she’d actually named Sad. Only two and she’s already soooo dramatic.  “I sad,” she repeated, stroking it’s fur. “You Sad. Us sad. I run. I poop.”

The miles ticked by and the sun began to set, lighting the sky on fire behind us. Her whimpers continued for a full forty-five minutes until they turned into full-on tears. “I sad!” she repeated, on a loop now. “You Sad. Us sad. I run! I poop!”

“Uh, Mom?” my oldest called from the back. “I think she’s serious.”

“I know she’s sad, Liam, but there’s nothing I can do about it. We have to get home. We can’t stop every hour for her to run.”

“No, I mean, I think she pooped. Don’t you smell that?”

I turned to look at him, and was hit in the face by a wall of stench that could have rivaled any feedlot in the country. I KID YOU NOT. How I’d missed it that long is beyond me.

We zoomed past a green sign that announced the next town was in 42 miles. “Can she last that long?” the Hubster asked, gagging a little as he said it. “Nevermind,” he answered himself, rolling down all four windows and pulling the car over.

A herd of cows was grazing near the fence. Their moos were low and content, and who could blame them? The grass was emerald, the sky a thousand different colors, and the breeze was cool and sweet. It was a perfect evening. Perfect, you know, save the diaper that less than an hour ago had been pristine and light as a cloud. Now it was bulging as if the entire contents of the Hoover Dam had been magically transported into its confines.

“You want Daddy to change you?” I asked her, inwardly grinning, very much enjoying the fact that the Hubster was going to get stuck with the real bomb after he’d tried to pass the first one off on me.

“No!” she stated. “Mommy poop.” She lunged for me, throwing herself out of his arms and into mine.

The Hubster’s smile was wide, making the whiskers of his beard stand at attention. “Jerk,” I said, taking her from him. “You officially owe me a foot rub.”

“Sure, honey.” It’s summertime and the living is easy for the dad who gets out of poop duty.

I got down to it, grateful I’d thought to lay out a sweater on the seat before I started changing her. Up the back and around the track and my goodness she’d done a thorough job of things.

A few minutes later she was clean again and I was emptying the entire contents of my beach-scented hand sanitizer onto my hands. FYI, beach-scented hand sanitizer + Hoover Dam Diaper ‘Splosion DOES NOT = Beach Smelling hands. Not high tide beach, anyway. Low tide, maybe.

I turned to The Hubster who had Took perched on one hip, showing her the cows.

“I moo?” she asked him.

“Moo,” he answered.

She grabbed his beard and pulled his face toward hers, puckering for a kiss. I wrapped my soiled sweater in a plastic bag.

We drove home.




Ugly Undies, A Wasp-Hag, and a Three Hour Nap

Untitled 23Brace yourself. This post isn’t for the faint of heart (or for those who aren’t interested in what Myndi’s undies look like).

So, like every normal woman on the planet, I own a GodAwfulUgly pair of undies that I absolutely love. Mine are brown with giant white polka dots. They’re truly hideous – we’re talking cornea-melting-you-can-never-unsee-that hideous. But they’re soooo comfy and they’re soooo old which means they’re soooo soft (all virtues the Hubster considers invalid. KILL THEM! he says. KILL THEM WITH FIRE!).

A few weeks ago it seemed like a good day for my favorite uggo undies. I had tons of work to get done before I could start packing for our family vacay, which meant my ass was going to be planted in a chair most of the day (UGH). But that blog schedule wasn’t going to fill itself up, and being the Capricorn that I am, I had decided to dig in my heels and get it all done. In one day.

This was a job for (enter cheesy announcer voice here) GIANT BROWN AND WHITE POLKA DOT UGGO UNDIES!

The Hubster groaned when he saw what I was wearing, and knowing his wife and her Capri-compulsive tendencies, muttered, “This can’t end well. It never ends well when you wear those.” He was so right, but for all the wrong reasons.

Everything started off with a bang. I pulled my most comfy yoga pants on over my polka-dotted-comfort-grammies. I threw on a sports bra (because when you’re embarking on a writing marathon you need chesticular support, duh) and a tank. I fed the kids a fabulously nutritious breakfast (FRUIT LOOPS, ANYBODY?), and downed a protein shake giant cup of coffee (twice). Then I sent the offspring outside and headed to my writing cave where I started a load of laundry (the smell of detergent gets my creative juices flowing), and BAM! BAM! BAM!

I cranked out three blog posts. CAPRI-KICK-ASS-CORN MYNDI, Y’ALL!

Myndi deserved a coffee break. (Yes, more coffee. Always, more coffee. I tried to love tea, but it turns out tea is just hot water lying about being as awesome as coffee. Tea, you lying bastard.) So, more coffee.

I poured myself a cup and headed outside to enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine (because, let’s face it. Sometimes us writers can get a little pasty and vampirish only without the hot bods and irresistible mysteriousness. Mostly I’m pale like the undead, with dirty hair and a thirst for COFFEEEEEEE…and sometimes rum). The kids squealed in delight (terror?) at the sight of their mother (holy crap she’s actually outdoors!), and I headed over to what shall now be called The Rocking Chair of Doom.

The Rocking Chair of Doom is a teakwood rocking chair that’s older than the hills. It desperately needs a coat of sealant (or to be thrown in the trash – we’ve patched and repaired a thousand times to keep it together). I hate the damn thing, but the Hubster loves it, so we keep it. I don’t know what on earth possessed me to sit there, but out of all the chairs on our patio, it’s where my butt landed. The Hubster believes it was the Evil Undies (his words, not mine. I still love my polkies). He believes they saw an opportunity to bypass my caffeine-addled brain and take over my whole body. Whatever. It doesn’t matter how it happened, it just did. My butt planted on the cracked teakwood seat of the Chair o’ Doom and


wait a second

oh crap

oh crap

oh crap

that’s not a splinter



By now I’d begun screaming and hopping all over the place, trying to make my way to the back door while simultaneously yanking off my yoga pants in an act of desperation. Because there was no splinter in my ass. No, I’d been stung, by some evil hag of a wasp.


Now my yoga pants were down around my ankles and I stumbled into the kitchen praying our neighbors weren’t home to see my polka-dotted derriere tripping around the back yard. Ithurtsithurtsithurtssobad!! See Myndi turning circles like a dog chasing her tail trying to see the sting. See Myndi get dizzy and tumble into the kitchen table like a drunk striptease gone horribly wrong. See Myndi trying to bend in ways only seasoned contortionists can bend in an effort to see if the stinger was out because HOLY CRAPBALLS HER ASS WAS ON FIRE. See the alarmed expression on her oldest sons face when he finds his mother pirouetting like a Weeble and screaming like a toddler having a tantrum (because even for me this is strange behavior).

“Stung,” I panted. “I got stung. On my butt. Can you see if the stinger is out?”

He looked at me. He looked at my undies (my hideous, hideous undies) and quickly looked away. “Um,” my twelve-year old hero said. “Um…let me go get you a mirror instead.” He bolted like the seven watchmen of Hell are after him.

I’d been abandoned by my child, the first little human I brought into the world. Trying not to dwell on this secondary emotional sting, I tried to remember what I always do for the kids when they get stung, but my brain had turned to utter mush. When Liam returned with a mirror I was on the verge of mixing bleach and ammonia and chanting in a foreign tongue.

“No, mom,” he said, handing me the mirror and putting the chemicals away. “You need milk. And baking soda.” He heaved a heavy sigh, as if he just realized there was no one to save him from his fate of having to doctor his own mother’s bum. “Hang on.”

While he opened the fridge I summoned the courage to look at my fiery polka-dot clad ass. The world began to spin. Just below my cheeky flesh was a red and angry welt that was swelling like a hot-air balloon with ‘roid rage. No sign of a stinger, thank Heaven. I stumbled to the medicine cabinet and fumbled through that chaos (our medicine cabinet resembles a tiny war zone) until I found our very last Benadryl. Finally! Some luck!

“Here you go,” Liam says as I dry swallowed the little pink pill of goodness and a couple Advil. He had a small bowl of baking soda paste and a washcloth drenched in milk. Before I could ask him to help, he ran – and I mean ran - back outside. Guess he wasn’t willing to accept his fate. Grumbling and trying not to tip over, I applied it myself, grabbed an ice pack, and headed back downstairs. The pain was starting to abate and I could feel my Capricornarian self returning. I saw no reason why I couldn’t hit my word count on my WIP, and fold a load of laundry, and do a little ironing…

Three hours later I woke up on the floor, drool crusted on my face, an ice-pack on my brown-and-white polka dotted bum, and Took coloring on my arm with a permanent marker. Thank you, Benadryl.

The Hubster asked if I was going to throw the undies away after the bad luck they brought. I told him that if the wasp-sting really was their fault, then they were the best undies ever, and that I’d never throw them away – even if the elastic in the waist goes out and the crotch gets holes.