Tuesday, August 12, 2008


School started this week and I can't tell you how glad we ALL are. It goes without saying that I am psyched. I've been marking down the days since the first "I'm bored!!!" of the summer holidays. But I was quite surprised by how ready my kids were to go back to school.

I was always that kid who anticipated school starting like it was the second coming of Christmas. I had to supress it until college, but it was there under the surface just bubbling under my "I'm too cool" attitude.

Well, my kids have followed in my nerdy footsteps! I am so proud...I think. Hannah could not have been more excited to start 6th grade and even after a close encounter with tears before school due to a stubborn locker, she is off to a fantastic start. It has been so fun to watch her social life start to open up as she experiences new freedoms and new friends.

Brandon isn't quite so openly excited, but if you look closely, you'll see his inner nerd as well. He is fueled by the fact that his teacher is the prettiest one in the whole school who he has been secretly hoping to have all summer long. Yea - she's sickeningly gorgeous - to give you an idea..the dads give each other high fives when they find out their kids have her as a teacher.

Anyway, the Runkel clan is off to a good start. I've been MIA from posting for a while after our month long trip to the West. I guess it took me a little longer than I thought to get back to normal - whatever that is.

I'm back now, and I leave you with this little jewel - just for kicks...you might have seen this, but it makes me laugh every stinkin time.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Ok, ok, I've been officially back from vacation since Monday morning (4:30 AM to be exact) - I just couldn't bring myself to really start writing again. I had good intentions, I promise, I just couldn't decide on which story to start out with.

Do I tell my loyal readers about the Baja jeep adventure where we literally did see the most beautiful place on the earth (and where Jenny ate it on a coral reef thereby exposing the fact that she's not so very graceful after all)?

Or do I tell them about getting unknowingly snookered into a 90 minute timeshare presentation at Sammy Hagar's beachside villa?

Or should I mention the guy at our own resort who insisted on strutting his "stuff" in nothing but an electric blue speedo and a matching Nacho Libre Mexican wrestling mask?

Hmmm...so many choices. I think I'll have to sleep on it. Suffice it to say, we're back and we had a great time.

Hasta Luego, mis amigos.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rice a Roni....(just try and not finish the jingle - I dare you)

Let me just say...for the record...San Francisco is one of the coolest towns I've ever been to. Literally.
We just spent four days there (in JULY you might note) and never once did I take off my sweater. In fact, I came this close to buying one of those $9.99 fleece jackets they sell on the street to stupid tourists like me but my pride held me back. I became one of those annoying people who no matter how cold it is and no matter how blue their lips are, won't admit that they are chilly.
As a team, ScreamFree worked at and attended the Smart Marriages Conference. It was four days of learning and networking - a great chance to see and be seen. I loved it, but I am warning everyone around me - I don't want to hear the words "needs" "intimacy" "connection" or "communication" for at least a month. I just don't think I can take any more cardigan talk (see "therapist jargon").
We got to meet some of the biggest names in the industry like Pat Love who wrote Hot Monogamy (yes, her name really is Love and yes, she sees the connection) and Gary Chapman author of The Five Languages of Love. You wouldn't recognize them on the street - or even in a bookstore - but at this conference, they were like rock stars. Seriously - everywhere they went, a buzz followed and swarms of grinning cardigans fell all over themselves to shake their hands.
I only stepped on one old lady to meet Pat Love. Oh, get over it - she was fine - her cane broke her fall.
This week, Hal and I are on vacation - a real honest to goodness vacation without kids OR LAPTOPS!!!!!! We are celebrating 15 years of marriage and we have three rules this week. We are not allowed to talk about:
1. ScreamFree
2. Our Kids
3. ScreamFree
Pray for us - there might be a whole lot of silence that first day. :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Borrow my Baby...Please

Has anyone out there heard of the newest reality tv show? It's called Baby Borrowers. It takes real teenage couples and has them live together and attempt to care for an infant one week, a toddler the next, then an adolescent, a teen, and then an elderly person.

Here are a few questions I have for the producers of this show:

1. Who are these parents who are going to allow their babies to live with teens for a week? Have these parents ever been around teens? Don't get me wrong, I think teenagers are great...as kids...as people. But as "play parents" to a helpless little infant? Hell no.

2. How did you choose the old person? Did you go to a nursing home and look for the most crotchety guy in the room? Did he want to go live with teens or did his family send him? Do they have to change his diapers?

3. Do they need two more kids? I happen to know a couple who are available - I could use a week off.

I haven't made up my mind about this yet - part of me wonders why these teens are interested in doing this at all. Why aren't they enjoying their friends? Visiting colleges? Lifeguarding at the pool? What teen couple is so serious that they wonder, "Hmmm... could we raise a family together?"

Then I am reminded that I was married before my 21st birthday. Come to think of it, maybe that's why I want to grab these teens and tell them to run for the hills. No reality show could do the whole marriage and kids thing justice. Don't get me wrong. I love my life and I don't regret a single choice I made - it just wasn't the easiest thing ever. Then again, easy isn't always better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Day at the Beach

I went to Decatur's Beach on the Block Party last Friday with my good friend Brandy and our kids. It sounded like a really good idea. Sand on the square, live music, inflatables, corn dogs. The kids and I were super excited about it all. But once we got there, I remembered something about myself that I all too often forget. I hate people.

Don't get me wrong. Individuals, I like. Small groups, that's cool. No, I'm talking about mass humanity and all the things that come along with that. When we turned the corner to Decatur square, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. The "beach" on the square was probably the size of my living room and it was ... and I am not exaggerating... so thick with people that you couldn't see the sand. It was the most ridiculous sight I have ever seen. Except maybe for this thing I stumbled across this morning on one of my favorite blogs: http://www.pregnancystore.com/zaky.htm

After losing two hours of my life, $60 of my money, and almost all of my sanity, we finally went home. Mental note: Festivals suck, no matter what any of you say. And sand just makes them that much worse.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Proud Mom Moment

My family is not obsessed with Indiana Jones...ok maybe just a little obsessed. But we're not completely gone. I mean, it's not like we still have Hal's old school Raiders of the Lost Ark sleeping bag, or the new Indiana Jones Life game, or incriminating photos of Hal dressed as his hero for Halloween. No, that would be taking things too far.

What's been funny to watch is that Brandon is about the same age now as Hal was when the first movie came out. And if any child ever looked like a carbon copy of his father, that would be my son. I promise, I did have some small part in the process of his DNA strand forming, but to look at him, you can't tell.

Anyway, point of this post? I'm getting there! Geesh, you people can be so impatient.
The point of this post is this...We are creating a monster. Apparently one who worships Satan.

My son recently discovered the second movie in the series, The Temple of Doom. (sidenote - save yourself the trouble of emailing me how this movie is too dark for a 9 year old - he had no problem with The Shining and The Exorcist, so this is a piece of cake) (second sidenote - if you didn't detect the sarcasm in the first sidenote and took me seriously, I feel really sorry for your kids when they become teenagers - irony....learn about it).

So, he's watching the movie - with his headphones on because mom is a little anal and likes her quiet every now and again - and from the other room I hear his little scratchy voice call out with passion, "Om nah shiva! Om nah shiva! Om nah shiva!"

I almost fell out of my chair because:
1. I didn't even know he was in the next room
2. He was chanting what the poor soul who is sacrificed in a pit of fire chants as he prays to his own devil god.

Good Parenting Lesson 101: Expose your children early and often to devil worship and you too could have sweet looking spawn who will repeat phrases like this in the most inoportune places, such as church or when on the phone to grandma.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Indiana Jones and The Last Garage Door

If any of you know my husband, you know that he loves (and when I say loves, read "has a tremendous man crush on") Indiana Jones. There are so many stories I could tell that testify to his devotion, but there are some things better left unsaid.

What I will tell you about is his little adventure yesterday which was inspired by Indy and which left Hannah and I laughing so hard that I really do think I pulled something.

On the way to Hannah's orientation, my cell phone rings. It's Hal, who is supposed to be following us in his own car. I answer and he says dryly, "Can you please turn around and come home now?" To which I of course ask, "Why?" His response? A cryptic, "You'll see."

So, I make the required U-Turn and head home expecting that maybe the Beast (our 1996 Honda Odyssey) has a flat tire or won't start...again. What I didn't expect to see was my husband with his nose pressed flat against the closed garage door and his foot trapped under it. The look on his face was at once priceless and pathetic as he just arched his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders. He was so adorable and so absolutely helpless that I almost left him there just because I could. But, I believe in karma and I think I owe him one for the pantyhose incident of 1997, so I hit the garage remote and turn him loose.

After Hannah and I stopped hysterically heaving from laughter, he explained how he ended up in a lip lock with the garage. He tried to be all Harrison Ford and sneak out from under the closing door after hitting the button, but alas, he is not quite so suave as his 66 year old mentor. As he was no doubt hearing the John Williams music fill his ears, his keys fell out of his pocket. I wish I could have been there when he attempted to reach in with his foot to retreive said keys - I guess he didn't have his whip with him and he was trying to make do. Indy would be so proud.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Today is the Big Day

Well folks, it has finally arrived...Hannah's 6th grade orientation. Today, she will venture over into the "big side" of campus where she won't have to walk in lines between classes and ... big thrill...she can sit with whoever she wants to at lunch!

I'm cool with all of that. I think she's ready. It's me I'm not so sure about. I'm simply not old enough to have a daughter in, gulp...junior high. I REMEMBER junior high for Pete's sake! I had a fully formed internal life by that point and my parents knew nothing!

I had crushes, I loved music, I had drama with my friends, I had teachers who were out to get me, I knew things that my parents could only hope that I didn't. How did Father Time let things get this far this fast? Seriously, my 6th grade orientation was only a few years ago, right?

Time to face the music. I'm getting older. The wrinkles are marching forward just as steadily as the mortgage payments. The thing I can't get over is that I still feel like a kid myself on most days. Is that normal or do I have some sort of Peter Pan syndrome? Who knows. The one thing I'm sure of is that I have to attend this thing today. I'll go, but I won't like it. I at least hope that the session for parents is helpful. Hey, maybe they'll talk about what to do when your 11 year old is posessed by demons or how to not laugh when she gets her eyes literally hurt from rolling them so much.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Four Minutes? Are You Kidding?

First of all, get your mind out of the gutter. Hal's not even in town, so that's not what this post is referring to. I'll save that for a much longer post, no pun intended.

No, this post is about the ratio of mental to physical energy that I spend on things. I know, I know, I just used the word ratio. Don't worry, I won't stay on the dark side of mathematics for long. The universe will only allow me over here for so long anyway, so we're all safe from that fate.

Anyway, like I was saying...the ratio. Ok, stay with me for just a moment so that I can explain.

I actually like doing laundry. I like sorting, washing, drying and even folding. The part that I loathe with every fiber of my being is the putting away part. So, here's what I'll do. I'll lug a nice clean basket of clothes all the way up three flights of stairs and unpack the freshly folded clothes into neat piles onto my bed. Good start, right? At this point, without fail, one of my children calls to me with a desperate plea of some sort.

"Mom??!!! These socks feel all funny."

"Mooooommmmm!!! Brandon is holding my book over the toilet again!"

"Maaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmm??? There's something that smells really really bad in the basement and I think it's moving!"

Now, readers, I am usually pretty good at allowing my children to figure things out on their own, but I guess deep down I hate putting laundry away so much that part of me would rather referee, so I invariably end up with the socks, or the toilet book, or the smelly basement creature (you don't want to know) instead.

Well, at that point, other things come into play and before I know it, I've forgotten all about my half finished chore....until bedtime. There are few things worse than walking up to my room at the end of a long day only to see piles of underwear and towels covering my place of rest. An unflushed toilet is one of those things, but again, that's for another post.

Here's where I lose all rationale. I am tired. I hate putting laudry away. I am angry with myself for not finishing earlier. So, like the logical person that I am, I toss the clothes back into the laundry basket and decide to do them in the morning when I am fresh. Can you guess what happens? For the next several DAYS, every time I walk into my bedroom, I see this pile of failure staring at me. I occassionally dig through it as I run out of clean things to wear, so that by the third of fourth day of this, nothing is still folded, let alone in neat stacks.

So, back to the ratio. Up to this point, I have spent the better part of four days dreading this chore. I now have to refold the dang clothes AND put them away. This time, I try a little experiment. After placing the clothes on the bed, I actually put them away - and I time myself just to see how long this arduous process takes me.

You know what I found out? Putting away a FULL basket of clothes takes me less than four minutes. It takes me longer to dig through the unfolded laundry to find clean underwear!!!! I am totally jazzed by the possiblilites. What kinds of mental feats will I be capable of if I extend this discovery to other realms of my life?

Mopping the floor?

Cleaning a toilet?

Writing that thank you note?

Seriously, I might be able to comprehend quantum physics or even my bank statements if I actually did the things I was avoiding rather than simply obsess over them. The world is my oyster! All because of a load of laundry. Who knew?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bridal Magazines. Seriously?

The other day at the bookstore (actually the same day that I encountered Mr. Tumnus) I had the misfortune of sitting next to two college girls who were thumbing through a three foot tall stack of bridal magazines.

Mind you, neither one of them had an engagement ring on and based on the loud and annoying conversation I overheard, neither one of them were even dating.

There they sat, misty eyed over $1000 dresses and china patterns all gushy about how one day, they would have the perfect wedding - as if that had any impact on the type of marriage that would follow. I wanted to walk over to them and say with a syruppy smile on my face, "You'd be better off spending that $1000 on marriage counseling. That's what you'll really need. Almost 60% of first marriages end in divorce, you know. Have a great day!"

Now, before you get the wrong idea, I'm not really a mean person. I just have really mean thoughts. I ususally talk myself out of them soon enough, and in fact, that's what I did while I sat there and thought about my reaction to Barbie and Muffy.

Once I thought about them for a while and put myself in their flip flops, I realized something. They weren't that much different than me - just younger. And more tan. All they want is a little hope. A little happiness. Ok, so they are looking at unrealistic scenes of marital bliss and thinking that if they buy the perfect dress, then the perfect guy will pop out of the woodwork as well. Yeah - it's ridiculous and shallow. But don't I do the same thing? Only I don't look at Bridal porn, I drool over West Elm and Pottery Barn catalogs. I see the outdoor parties with the perfectly color coordinated table settings and outdoor paper lanterns but what I'm really hoping for is a set of beautiful friends like the ones adorning the pages of these catalogs.

When I see the casual yet organized family room spread peppered with the sandy colored haired surfer kids smiling broadly, doesn't a small part of me actually believe that a cherry colored media center with labeled bins will get this for me? You'd better believe it.

So maybe I should lay off of the sorority set and realize that I'm just as bad, if not worse. I should know better. I have lived long enough to know that no amount of stuff can bring you happiness. Just like a dress won't bring the perfect man (because, news flash - he doesn't exist), a coordinated room of Pottery Barn furniture won't bring a perfect set of friends and a perfectly organized house. But to be fair, I think I should give it a try....just for the sake of investigative journalism.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Small Joys

There are small joys that I encounter every day. It is far too easy to allow them to slip by unnoticed and unheralded...and I do this far too often. On days when I at least take a moment to acknowledge these wondrous things, my life just seems better.

So, here is my list of small joys for today:

1. Muse.
This band kicks so much it's ridiculous.

2. Spanx.
Thank you Sara Blakely from the bottom of my cellulite.

3. Hannah's eyes.
They are the most spectacular color of blue green and they are rimmed with a dark brown circle that picks up these fantastic brown flecks and sparkles. Even when she's rolling them at me, I marvel at how perfect they are. And the best part is when I tell her that...as she's rolling them.

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's Official...Magic Shell is Crack Cocaine

Does anyone else think that it is highly sketch that Magic Shell ice cream topping is touted as a substance that "freezes" when it hits oxygen? I have always been suspicious of this claim and have therefore always avoided said item.

Well, I made the grand mistake of bringing my son to the grocery store after a long day at work and now, I have this devil sauce in my house. Don't ask me how it happened. I normally avoid the whole ice cream section like the plague that it is. All I have to do is look at fudge ripple and sure enough, my arse literally becomes fudge ripple. I have since told Brandon that he needs to become either a salesman or a lawyer. Dude can convince (read, grind you into submission) anyone of anything. So, here I am looking into the black hole of nutrition aka Magic Shell.

I resisted the loadstone rock for two whole days. TWO DAYS!!! And then I cracked. Like humpty dumpty (and now, thanks to my 0% body fat son and magic shell I actually look like humpty dumpty too) I fell off the wall. It started with the leftovers of Brandon's bowl. Just a curious taste, I thought. Oh, the arrogance that I could just taste such a substance. Two full bowls and one helluva sugar crash later, I was scratching my skin and jonesing for more.

Who invented this stuff? And why do they hate me so?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mr. Tumnus Likes His Coffee Black

So, a couple of days ago in order to get some writing done, I hired a teenager to watch the kids and I headed to the nearby Barnes and Noble. Even though my kids are 11 and 9 and perfectly capable of understanding the fact that I need one hour without being disturbed, something always happens to undermine that time. A remote control needs batteries, a hamster looks dead, a tv show is so compelling that I end up watching (curse you, icarly). It's always something.

Like I said, I headed to Barnes and Noble for a little peace and quiet. I love writing at a bookstore. There's always just enough noise to keep my head from exploding with silence and if I get stuck, there's a wealth of material for me to choose from as inspiration. Plus, there's usually a room full of people to laugh at...I mean observe.

So I sit down at a tiny round table and start to plan my article. I was getting ready to put my fingers to the keypad when something made me look up. I swear to you on the grave of Orville Redenbacher, there in front of me stood Mr. Tumnus. Now, if you are unfamiliar with the Chronicles of Narnia and the character Mr. Tumnus from said series, let me explain something - you and I can never be friends. Those seven books sealed my fate in the 6th grade. I had to do something involving reading and writing forever.

So, Mr. Tumnus is getting his coffee. He is about 5'2" tall, with a red goatee and a curly red mop for hair. He turns away from me and I promise you that his feet were cloven. Or maybe he was wearing brown leather boots. In any event, he looked to be about 45 and I couldn't stop staring at him. I was just waiting for him to pull out his umbrella and give me a wink before heading back into his cave by the lamppost.

But he didn't, he just pulled up a chair and sat down to read his book. I had to know what it is that fawns read, so I walked by casually on my way to get coffee myself. It was a travel guide to the secrets of Disneyworld! I guess everyone needs to go there once. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it just wouldn't compare to his homeland. Mickey's great and all, but he's certainly no Aslan.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ch. 6 The Saga Ends

I promise, this is the last post about the drama that is our squirrel problem. I'm worn out recalling all of the sickening details, plus, I've got to get to more important matters, like the fact that I saw a real live version of Mr. Tumnus at Barnes and Noble yesterday...no lie.

Ok, so Brandon and I are in full battle attire and we creep into my room to find out where big boy went. We look all around and then, just when we're about to throw in the towel, we find it....on the towel. I had hung a bath towel over my glass shower door and big boy had climbed into my shower and was hanging by his disgusting little rat-like claws from this towel that not too long ago touched the nether regions of my body.

Nevermind the fact that had I not known all of this, I very easily could have gotten into this shower stall NAKED and unsuspecting with a frickin squirrel. In all seriousness, I would need to be institutionalized for life had that happened.

Back to the story... Brandon and I devise a plan to trap him. We got a large rolling igloo cooler and decide to move the towel over slowly, open the shower door, place the cooler under the squirrel, dump the towel into the cooler, close the lid, and roll him out of the house. Sounds easy enough, right? I mean, what in this simple plan could possibly go wrong?

Don't answer that.

So, we bring the cooler upstairs, actually move the towel incrementally (with the squirrel hanging on it, mind you), open the shower door, push the cooler into place and line up together to push the towel into it. At that precise moment, all hell broke loose. The squirrel could sense his fate and so, like any normal rodent would do, he went completely insane trying to escape. He lept over the shower door (he was a flying squirrel after all), into my bathroom, under my bed, into my closet, up the wall, back into the bathroom, up Brandon's leg, out of the room, down the stairs and out the front door. This all happened in a matter of 30 seconds, in which I completely left my child stranded. I don't recall doing this, but when the beast jumped, so did I apparently. I didn't know that I could still move this fast, but in the blink of an eye, I was ON TOP of my vanity dresser while my son made like a statue and didn't move.

After our 30 seconds of sheer terror, we laughed (him) and cried (me) together as we tried to piece together what had happened. I still cannot believe that it touched Brandon - the thought of those creepy claws and bushy tail against my leg makes me gag to this day. But readers, as you have already figured out, my son is way more mature than me. He does sort of shudder every time he sees a squirrel in our yard and he has asked for a BB gun for his birthday. I think I might get it for him.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ch. 5 Face to Face With Evil

Hannah and I crept upstairs slowly and joined Brandon at the door to their bathroom. Sure enough, crouching in the corner was the devil himself. Ok, so it was a large flying squirrel, but it looked like the devil if you just glanced. He was sitting atop the counter (ew...) motionless, staring at us.

Like the protective, caring mother that I am, I made my 8 year old son reach in and close the door so that we could trap the little bastard. Surprisingly, Brandon did it without complaint. With the door closed and my heart beating irregularly, I called my old friend, Mr. Pest Man.

Turns out Mr. Pest Man no longer worked for said Pest Company that had my children's college fund, so he couldn't help me. Said Pest Company was closed, because of course, it was Sunday. Animal Control laughed at me and then told me that my best bet would be to "lure him out of the house with an unobstructed path and some food."

After calling my husband and cursing him for not being here to take care of this, and having him stifle a laugh himself, the kids and I geared up for battle. We closed all the doors upstairs, opened the front door, and blockaded any other exit that the devil could take. We moved furniture and stretched out blankets so that the only possible way he could go would be outside. Then I put on my squirrel armor. Wearing rubber gloves and large boots while carrying a broom and a toilet plunger, I boldly told my son, "Go open the door." I felt slightly bad for perpetuation the male stereotype of rescuing the damsel in distress, especially considering that I should be protecting him like a mama bear, but then I got over it.

Brandon bravely crept up the stairs, threw open the door, then flung himself back down the stairs and over the barricade to join his huddling mother and sister. We waited. And waited. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

For close to an hour, I sat there watching the stairs for the devil to leave my house, and for close to an hour, he didn't. Hannah lost interest in the whole thing and went to the basement to read. Brandon played outside until I made him go check the bathroom to see what was going on.

He was gone for a few moments longer than I expected and then he came back down with a perplexed look on his face. He asked me, "Mom? Did you leave your bedroom door open? 'Cause it's wide open now and I hear something in your bathroom."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ch. 4 Say Hello To My Little Friend

So after we spent the weekend at a friend's house (you didn't think I'd really sleep in the same house as the rodents, did you?) Monday finally arrived. The pest crew showed up right on time and started laying traps and putting the flashing all around the house. It took them SIX HOURS! They finished the job and assured me that all would be well. They now couldn't get out or in and the (no-kill) traps were placed all around the attic so that they really had no place to go.

My question was: If that blind baby squirrel could find its way out of the attic and into my kitchen, what was stopping a savvy disgusting rat from doing the same? Their answer: nothing.

So the kids and I went on vacation. We were scheduled to anyway, but the timing worked out nicely. The pest crew had a lock box on my door and they would check the traps every couple of days. By the time we got home, my house should be critter free. We met Hal in Houston for our Spring Break and to be quite honest, after telling my story a few hundred times, I forgot all about it. Soon enough, it was time to go home.

After our week was up, the kids and I flew back into town. Hal had to make one more stop on the road and he would meet us at home in a couple of days. We spent most of the day traveling and when we finally pulled into our driveway, we were all glad to be home. Everyone grabbed a suitcase and we walked through the kitchen door. The kids headed upstairs and I straightened up to stretch my back. As I did, something caught my eye. The lamp on my computer desk was on its side. I cocked my head like a confused puppy and scanned the rest of the desk area. The papers were scattered and the monitor was crooked. I walked towards the desk and peeked in the pantry. It was totally dissheveled. Boxes were on the floor, packages were opened, stuff was absolutely everywhere.

I quietly called for the kids and grabbed the phone, fully prepared to dial 911. I was certain we had been robbed. Hannah came bounding downstairs with her blond ponytail swinging. I was fumbling with the phone when I heard her say, "Hey Mom? Why are there little rocks all over the kitchen table?" Rocks?

Oh, no... I walked over to the table and sure enough, she was right. Little rock like turds were strewn all over the kitchen table. Upon further inspection, rodent sh*t was everywhere. On the desk, in the pantry, on the couch, in the hallway. I started to hyperventilate at the sheer thought of it. These freakin rodents had a Spring Break party in my house while I was gone! I half expected to find mini beer cans and kegs in the trash cans.

It was then that I heard the sentence that I hope to never...ever...hear again.

"Mom! I think there's something in the bathroom. It's looking at me."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ch. 3 Jenny Invents New Curse Words

Ok, so our last installment left our heroine bending down to pick up what she thought was a brown sock on the floor after just saying goodbye to the pest control guy who told her she had roof rats...can you see what's coming?

Well, I was actually on the phone with the office manager of the pest company at the time, arranging for the crew to come out and fix my roof. As I'm telling her my schedule, I reach down casually to scoop up this sock and as my fingers graze it...the flippin' thing MOVED. FAST.

What happened next was a blur involving me standing on the breakfast table like the old cartoons of Tom and Jerry and screaming toward the receiver (which I had flung across the kitchen) for her to send someone to kill the &(mailto:*@*&%&^# rat in my house.

Don't ask me how, but I managed to hop my way around the kitchen without touching the floor - I was like a lifesize version of frogger bolting from island to bar to keys to purse to OUTSIDE!!! I found myself running down the street panting and shaking like a leaf.

Thankfully, the kids were at a friend's house or I would have scarred them with my antics much more than the creature inside could have. I waited in my car (surely rats would have trouble opening the door, what with their little claws getting in the way and all) for the pest man to arrive back at my house. TWO FREAKIN HOURS LATER he pulls into the driveway and strolls into my house to save the day.

He walks in to the kitchen after hearing my breathless account of the drama armed with his trusty rat trapping tools and he comes out with a huge smile on his face. I didn't even want to ask, but I had to. "What?"

"um..ma'am, that's not a rat. It's a baby flying squirrel." He was carrying a box and he walked to the side of my house to set it down. Out hopped the vermin I was so terrified of. It could have fit in the palm of my hand and it was so young that it's eyes weren't even opened. It cheeped a cute little sound which I recognized from that morning.

I felt so conflicted. I was elated that my fingers did not touch a rat, but I was also extremely embarrassed by my lack of bravado and my two hours wasted while I huddled in the car. I turned hopefully to my pest man and said, "So, we don't have rats, we have squirrels?" (somehow the fluffiness of their tails makes them so much easier to stomach) and he replied, "Oh, no ma'am...you have both."

You would think, friends, that this ends my adventure with the furry little woodland creatures, but you would be wrong. For my story is just beginning. Tune in tomorrow to see how the "tail" unfolds...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ch. 2 A Close Encounter

So, it's Friday, and Hal just left for a week of travel. It's up to me to either take care of this rodent painfully squealing in my walls or find a cheap hotel for the week. I gave myself the mother of all pep talks and then I spent most of my time at work alternately researching rodent removal companies and real estate in my area. I finally found the courage to call one company but the guy was such an arrogant jerk that I decided to keep looking. He was one of those sad souls who enjoys making people feel stupid - I suppose you have to find some element of fun in your job and when you chase rats for a living, your options are limited.

Long story short, I found a company (whose website didn't disgust me with realistic pictures of rats eating babies) and arranged to meet a representative around 3 pm. When we went into the house together, I showed him where we heard all the noise - of course, it was quiet. I felt like I do when I take my kids to the doctor because they are deathly ill and as soon as he walks in the room, they are suddenly bouncing off the walls. I cried out, "I promise! It was right there! You have to believe me!!!"

To my simultaneous relief and horror, he believed me and after poking around in my attic and basement, he informed me that we most likely have roof rats. He thought that they got in from the trees surrounding our property. Apparently, the builder didn't put "flashing" around the perimeter of our roof, so there was a huge 4 inch gap practically flashing a neon "vacancy" sign to all creepy critters in the area.

So, he gives me an estimate on the work that needs to be done (so long college fund) and tells me that his crew will be back on Monday. I talked myself down from the rafters and decided that I could DO this. There's no way that these rats would come into the living quarters. They were more scared of us than we were of them....right?

As I was sitting in the kitchen trying to compose myself, I started cleaning up - I have always been comforted by organizing when things go wrong - and I was starting to feel better with each swipe of my swiffer. I got ready to sweep the floor and I went to move the small space heater to the corner of the room. As I touched it, I noticed that a small brown object was underneath it. Now, dear readers, you are most likely smarter than I - you can probably guess what this small brown object was. I, on the other hand, have the short term memory of a walnut. I was so engrossed in my cleaning, that it didn't even occur to me that this could be anything other than a wadded up sock (never mind the fact that it was in THE KITCHEN and no one in my family wears furry brown socks!!!).

So, I reached down to pick up the sock and ...

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of "Rodent Adventures with the Runkels"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Squirrels are from Hell

I have had some requests to tell "the squirrel story", so here it is. Warning: If you get creeped out (like me) by the sound and or sight of furry rodents - proceed with caution...

I used to think that squirrels were cute. In college, I used to feed them from my lunch as I ate on campus. I loved their tiny paws and their bushy tails. Now, I know the truth. Squirrels are satan's spawn. They are rats in thinly veiled disguises and I hate them.

There is, of course, a story behind this. It's a long one, so I will break it up into chapters for you.

Ch. 1 : The Runkels Hear a Friend

One lovely spring morning as Hal and I were headed to the office, we heard a strange noise coming from the hallway bathroom. It sounded remarkably like the sound of me typing these words - clicking, clacking, and scratching. We went in search of said noise and as we got closer to the sound, we also heard a high pitched squealing. I don't remember much else because I either fainted or ran outside - in either case, I found myself sitting on the front porch breathing deeply so I didn't throw up. Some....thing was stuck in the walls of my house. And here's the best part. Hal was headed out of town for 5 days.

to be continued...

So, I've Got That Goin' For Me...

I have to hand it to QVC; they are speedy in their delivery of goods. Less than 36 hours ago, I purchased Tony Little's Rock and Roll Stepper, and as I was eating my lunch (oh, the irony) it arrived on my doorstep.

I am giddy with anticipation. Just to think that with just 5 minutes every other day, I too can have a rock hard bootay that Tony can .... spank? Yep - that's the cover of the dvd that came with the stepper. Tony Little creepin on some coed's fanny. Who exactly is he marketing to with this cover? Am I, the female buyer, supposed to like this idea? So, let me get this straight... Not only do I have to fear falling off of this cockeyed stair stepper, but now I have to watch out for Tony Little's grab happy hands around every 1950s Studebaker car I see? Screw that. I'm sticking to my cookies and ice cream. At least I'll have my dignity.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Curse You, Tony Little!

I feel so dirty. I actually watched...and bought something from QVC last night. I was bored and feeling sorry for myself when in a moment of weakness (and after a huge bowl of ice cream mixed with crushed cookies) I flipped the channels mindlessly. I should know better. In the past, when I've channel surfed like a tv whore I've ended up watching old reruns of TJ Hooker and Saved By the Bell. Nothing good can come of it, I tell you.

Well, last night, I reached a new low. I came across a Tony Little infomercial and while I told myself that I would watch with the sole purpose of making fun of him, something odd happened. The sheer size of his enormous thighs and the sway of his ponytail hypnotized me and I ended up watching the entire infomercial. Sure, I laughed. How could I not. He was selling something called the "Rock and Roll Stepper" - an inane device that looks a little like a sled for midgets and he was surrounded by rock hard babes in lycra with fake tans and plastic boobs - all smiling their way through a "Rock and Roll Workout", Tony-Style.

Don't ask me how it happened, but somehow I ended up buying into his promises of health and happiness for just two low payments of $34.95. I bought the thing. It should arrive in 7-10 days and I'm not sure how I will explain it to my family. Maybe I'll tell them that we're adopting a midget and I want to get ready early.

You MUST watch the video of this, for the sheer visual of me trying to do this thing. My favorite part is the grandma they have in the back who is barely moving. You have to watch the whole thing so that you can hear the host tell everyone that buying this is better than saving for retirement. But I assume no responsibility if you end up being seduced by his 'tail as well. Don't come crying to me if you end up with one too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Six Little Ducks Went Out to Play..on I-85

Ok, so my morning started out with an extremely weird and disturbing event. After dropping the kiddies off at their respective camps (thank GOD), I hopped onto the interstate to make my way into work. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and Stevie Ray Vaughn was growling his way through The House is a Rockin' on my radio. All was well with the world.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something small moving across two lanes of speeding traffic and into my lane. The cars in front of me started to swerve; I gripped the steering wheel and leaned forward to figure out what it was that they were trying to avoid. When I got about 15 feet away from what I thought was debris, the little moving items came into sharp focus.

A mother duck and her six furry little ducklings were gingerly crossing 5 lanes of speeding Atlanta traffic and my wheels were about to break up the family, so to speak. I had enough time to think logically that swerving to miss this little group would be very very bad for my own health, so I fully braced myself for the inevitable sound and my ensuing nausea . It never came. Miraculously, my car went right over two little duckies as Mom looked on. I'd like to think that they made it all the way across with similar good fortune, but their chances weren't good.

Oddly enough, my first thought after barely missing them all was about guilt. I felt for the mama - she must feel so guilty for leading her innocent little fluffy ones into possibly the most dangerous situation possible. I wonder what her last thought was - if ducks have thoughts, that is. Maybe she was cursing herself for taking a wrong turn. Maybe she was blaming her man for giving her the wrong directions. Or maybe she just snapped and got sick and tired of all the quacking and squawking from these dang kids. Who knows? I am just glad that my tires weren't the ones to send them to meet their maker. I don't think I could ever play duck duck goose with my kids again.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Carpool, Unicorns, and Barack Obama

Carpool is an underrated parenting tool. True, you have to be willing to trade your clean car and peaceful commute for chaotic chatter and OKR (other kids’ residue), but I have found that it is well worth the sacrifice. Why is that? Because carpool has taught me more about my children than any other school related activity.

The other day, I was bringing home my kids and those of my business partner, Dave Markert. I had the radio on and a local dj was commenting on the fact that Barack Obama will likely win the Democratic nomination. I didn’t think anyone in the car was listening except me until my 8 year old son piped up and said with gusto, “Yes! I love ‘the rock Obama’. He’s just so cool.”

I was simultaneously surprised by Brandon’s enthusiasm for the candidate and amused by his mis-hearing of Obama’s name. I was about to correct him when my daughter beat me to the punch – but for reason far different than mine.

With a horrified gasp and raised eyebrows, our 5th grader Hannah lunged toward her brother. With all the urgency and seriousness she could muster, she whispered through clenched teeth, “Brandon!!! …..He’s a Democrat!”

“So?” came his reply.

“So?!?! Democrats just wanna take our money and send it to people in other countries!”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I wouldn’t have been more shocked if she had suddenly announced her intention to join the circus. Before I could address the propaganda that my innocent little prepubescent was spouting, a second voice from the peanut gallery chimed in. This time, it was from the other family represented in the car. Dave’s sweet nine year old daughter agreed with Hannah and added, “Yeah, you can’t be a Democrat. They don’t believe in God!”

After almost swerving off the road, I determined that it was time to step in. I took just a moment to compose my thoughts before laying out a careful explanation.

I said something like, “Guys, that’s just not true. Millions of both Republicans and Democrats believe in God and see their political choices as a way to serve Him. I know it’s sometimes hard to understand, but instead of just assuming something about all Republicans or all Democrats, it’s always best to get to know the individual and what they believe in. After all, everyone has their own beliefs. You should figure out the things that matter to you and find out what the candidates believe about those before you make up your mind.”

I was pretty proud of myself. I peeked in the rearview mirror to see how well my articulate little speech had landed. Some had blank looks of acceptance on their faces while others carried looks of confusion. Delaney, however, the youngest of the bunch, had a deeply pensive expression.

With a furrowed brow and an inquisitive heart, she asked, “So, do Democrats believe in unicorns?”

I stammered, “Um…. No sweetheart, I don’t think they do.”

Without missing a beat, she nodded her head and said confidently, “Well then, I’m a Republican, ‘cause that’s what matters to me.”

After Dave, Hal and I shared a good laugh, we agreed that most parents tend to steer clear of political discussions with their kids. Children are on their own to splice together the bits and pieces they get from the airwaves and in the hallways. We decided to be a little more proactive and we came up with three principles of politics to start implementing with our own families:

Model What You Don’t See Enough--Our kids will catch most everything we say, so let’s try to model political conversations the way they should take place - calmly centered on the issues at hand.

Let Our Kids Disagree with Us—encourage them to do so. Not only will such discourse grow their thinking skills and sharpen our own, it will drastically increase the mutual respect in your home.

Fight for the Right to Fight --Disagreement is not the issue—the issue is whether or not we can freely disagree without violence or hatred or dirt. Think of the change for this world if our kids grow up practicing ScreamFree politics.

Like I said, I learned a lot that day. I learned that kids are always listening. I learned that they need guidance in sorting out all of the stuff that they think they understand. I learned that apparently, my skills in unraveling complicated political intricacies need some work. And I learned that by matter of default, if nothing else, Republicans have a staunch supporter in the 2nd grade who is really hoping for a win this November, for the sake of all the unicorns out there.