Saturday, April 10, 2021

My Little Coo-Coo Bird.

My daughter Cameron has a few phobias. They are as follows:  

Being late.
Being late.
Being late.

Living with Cameron is like living with a living, breathing, walking, talking, tick-tocking coo-coo clock.


A morning before school might go something like this....

“Mom - It’s 7:20!”

“Mom - It’s 7:21!”

"MOTHER - It is 7:22!”   

The coo-coo bird then emerges from its home and starts flying frantically around the house flapping its wings. We’ve all become accustomed to the chirps of the little coo-coo bird. It’s hard to even hear her anymore - poor bird. Poor pretty, pretty bird.

But next, her little head explodes. She hyperventilates all the way to school, as I yell at people to get out of my way and the anxiety in the car grows to such a level that I think it could power all the school buses in town.

School starts at 8:00 am. If Cameron is not there by 7:40, her tiny body releases so much cortisol that it comes out her eyeballs in giant, gushing tear drops.

I don’t know what happened to this child to produce so much anxiety. I think she was just born with her clock-set fast. We’ve had timing issues from day one. Her due date was January 12th. She arrived on December 24th. Coo-cooing and flapping her way into the world TWENTY-ONE days early.

I don’t understand this kid. I am not like this kid. I cannot believe I birthed this kid. If an event starts at 8, I will roll in at 7:59. I consider this on-time. Cameron would consider this behavior as offensive as a fart in an elevator. And that’s how she sees me - as one giant fart in an elevator.

This year, Cameron has been a member of the middle school dance team. This is a good sport for her as everything is on a perfectly timed 8-count.

On Saturdays, the team competes in small towns about 2-3 hours driving distance away from our hometown of Jasper. This requires a very early departure of 5am. So…basically they leave in the middle of the night.

The night before her first out-of-town competition, it was decided that Justin, my husband, would be the one to take her to the bus in the morning. This was excellent news for me, I could sleep in and then drive later to watch her compete.

Her bag was packed. Alarms were set.

Strike that. Alarms were not set.  

Cameron believed that Justin would wake her up. Justin believed that Cameron would wake him up. And I….. could not believe any of it.

At 5am, my phone rang loudly beside me on the nightstand. I looked over to see the name of the dance coach glowing at me in the dark. I didn’t have to answer the phone to know what had happened - somehow, those two, had overslept.

I jumped out of bed, answered the phone and assured the coach that we would be there in less that 5 minutes.

Strike that too. The coach later informed me that it went something like this:

Ring! Ring!


Coach: Hello?? Abbie?? Are you guys…


Coach: So do you think you can be here…



Coach: Hello?

And then Cameron - poor poor Cameron. My little coo-coo bird looked like her wings had been clipped. I picked up her bag and we raced to the car, with me apologizing, comforting, and reassuring her all the while cussing at Justin.  When you can do this - both scream and comfort -  you have reached the top. This is a very advanced mother/wife maneuver.

But I still had one more maneuver to execute. To get out of our neighborhood and onto the highway, I needed to make a left out of the drive, another left and then a right. That was too many turns.

There was not a second to spare. If I cut through our backyard, I could hit the neighbor’s driveway and be emptied straight out onto the highway. There would be no lefts, no rights. It was a straight shot. Was there even a decision to be made?

I backed straight up and hit the gas to take us through the yard.

Why weren’t we moving?

Then it hit me. It hit me like the mud that was spinning up and hitting the windows. It had rained. A lot. I was in the yard spinning ruts into the ground. Cameron was raining tears inside the car.

I backed it up, gripped the steering wheel and yelled a perfect 8 count: 5,6,7,8 Let’s goooooo!
This time I made it. I gave a fist-pump into the air as I hit the highway and raced to the high-school.

We sped into the parking lot like we just had taken in a good old-fashioned southern Indiana muddin’ adventure.

Little dancer faces pressed against the bus glass windows as Cameron barreled out of the car.

“Bye! Cameron - good luck honey! See! We made it just fine!” I yelled after her as she ran out of the car glaring — not once glancing back.

She got on the bus. I watched it pull away. I exhaled.

She had made it. She was likely irreversibly psychologically damaged but she was on the bus.

Then it hit me. Not only had she not brushed her teeth, she also hadn’t gone to the bathroom and was facing a 2.5 hour bus ride. This was not an advanced mothering maneuver.

Later many attempts were made to understand why Justin had not set an alarm. I could only understand this: I had, indeed, married the dumbest man alive. But also the most forgiving, as not a word was ever spoken about the ruts in the yard.

Later that day, I watched Cameron dance with team. They danced with precision to an 8 count. They came in first place. She had been, and was, in perfect time. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Fish Food.

My daughters are less than 2 years apart. The early years were challenging as days were spent wrangling a toddler and nursing a baby.  Through all of the challenges, I held on to the hope that one day their reliance on me for everything would ease and that they would grow to rely on each other as playmates and friends. I pictured myself reading a book while the girls played together in the yard.

Fast forward 13 years to last night.

I walked up the stairs and heard them laughing. These were not giggles. These were big belly-laughs that begged for air. Though it was late, and I wanted them to sleep, my heart melted at the sound. It was welcomed music. The day had been rough….assigned chores had gone undone or uncompleted. There was yelling. Phones were yanked. So many tears. Listening to their laughter gave me hope. We could start again tomorrow. 

I leaned in for a closer listen.

Hadley: I’m making a voodoo doll. And I’ll stick pins all over her.

I’m puzzled. Why is this funny?

Cameron: You’re a psycho….but what’s a voodoo doll?

Hadley: It’s a magic doll, and she’ll feel the pain.

Cameron: Does it really work?

Hadley: I hope so.

They cackle in unison.

Hadley: I wish we had a chimney.

Cameron: Why?

Hadley: We can shove her up it.

Cameron: Yes! It’s called ‘The Reverse Santa Claus.’

Me! Oh. My. God. They’re talking about me. They’re plotting to kill me.

Hadley: Wait! I’ve got it. We’re gonna ‘Carol Baskin’ her.

Carol Baskin is featured in the Netflix docuserius Tiger King. Carol is a big cat ‘rescue’ owner, who is accused of killing her husband and feeding him to the tigers.

I do not recommend it for teenage viewers.

Cameron saw just one problem with Hadley’s ‘Carol Baskin’ plan. “Wait!” she said. “Hadley, we don’t have a tiger!”

But Cameron also had a solution: “We’ll just have to chop her up. Didn’t they use a meat grinder in that show? Do we have a meat grinder? And then! We can feed her to Bubbles!”

Bubbles is our beta fish. They’ve plotted to turn me into fish food.

I was headed to bed. Now I can’t sleep.

Their laughter will surely fuel nightmares. My sweet little babies. Where did I go wrong?
Did I feed them too many food-dyes? Did I let them watch too much TV?

Well, I definitely shouldn’t have let them watch Tiger King.

My dreams of them relying on each other as friends and playmates has gone awry. They’re now co-conspirators in a murder plot.

I’ve got no where to hide. We’re quarantined and those little monsters are coming for me.

If I go missing, someone check the fish bowl.

My final resting place.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ice Cream Trumps Running.

Hadley recently came home with a form to sign up for the middle-school cross country team. I swiftly threw it in the trash. 

Hadley will not walk across the hall to throw her dirty underwear in the clothes hamper, so I think cross country running might be a bit of a stretch. I've watched her attempt to throw something in the trashcan, miss, and then decide she doesn't want to bend down and pick it up so she keeps on walking. I've seen Hadley have her sister, Cameron, put socks on her, because Hadley didn't want to bend over.

Running is everything Hadley hates. It requires effort. It's outside. It will make her sweat. 

Before I knew better, I once signed Hadley up to run in a child's "just for fun" run. At the time, again, before I knew better, I was really into running and wanted to share the joy with my daughter. Clearly I was suffering from an endorphin over-dose because running is horrible. But I put the poor kid at the starting line, told her to run when the gun went off.  I was waiting on the sidelines, maybe just an 1/8th of a mile into the course, when I saw her run around the bend. She looked terrified. She looked like she was being chased by a serial killer. She made eye-contact with me, glared, ran swiftly under the rope and abandoned the race. 

"What are you doing?" I asked her. "You're in the middle of a race! Get back out there!"

"It's horrible mom!" she said. "It's hot. I can't breathe. I might be having a heat stroke."

"Hadley, you have literally been running for two minutes. You haven't had time for a heat stroke! Plus it's only 75 degrees. When you have a heat stroke, you can quit, but for now, get back out there!!" 

"Nope," she said. "Not doing it. You can't make me and I'm done."

Well, the girl is decisive. 

We left & went to Dairy Queen. She needed to cool down from her heat stroke. Ice cream trumps running. 

Yet I was not giving up on her. Last year Dubois County introduced Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is a program that teaches girls about self-confidence, supporting each other, goal-setting and more through running.  Well, Girls on the Run, let me introduce you to Hadley Rumbach.

Hadley participated in the program and didn't hate it. That is a rave review from Hadley Rumbach. I love my tiny hater. She's all tightly-wound and guarded, but when she opens up, the love is mega-big. Her mega-big love would not be opened up for Girls on the Run. Perhaps Hadley could be the founder of Girls at the Diary Queen, where she promotes and encourages girls to give up and eat their feelings.

The culmination of the Girls on the Run program is a celebratory 5K. This is not competitive. This is about "girl-power." Hadley wanted nothing to do with girl power. The 5K intimidated her to her core. I get it. Staring down the barrel of 3 miles, can look pretty dangerous. Nothing dangerous about the Dairy Queen except the calories. However, she trained throughout the program for the 5k and she was prepared to run it.

The day of the race, I stood with her at the starting line. I had agreed to run along side her as her running buddy. I was happy to have the job. I figured, if I was beside her, she couldn't duck out of the race. 

When the gun went off, my tightly-wound Hadley exploded. She began sprinting as quick as her legs could carry her - in the opposite direction. 

She didn't even look back.

"Where are you going?!?!" I yelled after her. "We're supposed to be going the other way!!"

"I know," she yelled back over her shoulder while running at full speed. "I'm too scared to do it!"

"Buy you are doing it!!! You're doing it in the wrong direction!" I screamed. "Turn around."

She stopped running and I caught up with her. I'm not sure if I was out of breath or had no words, but we just stood there.

Then without speaking, we took off, together, in the right direction. We caught up with the group and finished the race.

There has been no running in the Rumbach household since that day. We had to press the pause button on the running theatrics. 

Hadley then decided to press play.

"Mom, where's my cross country sign up sheet?" she asked. "I need you to hand that in."

Oink. Oink. Did pigs just fly?

"What?!?!?" I asked. "You want to run? On purpose? I threw that paper in the trash"

"Mom!!" she said. "Why would you do that? Why would you think I wouldn't like running? You didn't even ask me! God!"

It must be really tough for Hadley to have such a stupid mother.

So, I dug through a weeks worth of garbage, dusted off the form. And signed Hadley up for the Jasper Middle School Cross Country Team. Perhaps out of a trash can on Gregory Lane will rise the greatest cross country runner the school has ever seen.

Whatever happens, however this season progresses, I do know for certain that she won't take the easy way, she will not make it easy on herself - or me.

She'll get side-tracked, side-lined and might even stop for a snack at the Dairy Queen, but she'll get there and the path she takes will be one that is all her own. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The World's Largest Gummy Bear

My daughter Cameron turned 9 on Christmas Eve. 

A Christmas Eve birthday means that she is showered with presents for two straight days. She loves every gift she receives, but there is no gift that anyone could give Cameron that would thrill her more than cold hard cash. Skip the toy aisle, skip the craft kits - put some dollar bills in this kid's hands and she lights up like a Christmas tree.

I have no problem with my children receiving money as presents.  I welcome the opportunity to raise smart, thrifty consumers: I have my work cut out for me with Cameron.

I think she might be allergic to money. As soon as it's placed in her tiny hands she starts itching.  And this is no ordinary itch. This itch is relentless, unforgiving, painful - probably like herpes or crabs. My child receives money and starts behaving like she has an std or a drug addict.

"When can we go to store?"

"Will you take me to the store?"

"Are you leaving to go to the store?"

"I need to buy a new shirt."

"I need to buy a new bow."

"Nevermind, I need to buy candy."

"When can we go to the store?"

"I think I want to buy a swimming pool - and then I want to buy a narwal to put in it. It is the unicorn of the sea, you know."

These phases are stuck in her brain on repeat. She says nothing else. She talks of nothing else until every dime is spent. When she was given $30 by her Great Grandma for Christmas, I was happy for her, but then braced myself for the onslaught of requests from Cameron. I knew she'd come at me - so she could spend! spend! spend!

And she did. 

This time, she was after the World's Largest Gummy Bear. Where does one get the world's largest gummy bear? Where else?

According to Amazon, the World's Largest Gummy Bear weighs 5 lbs and is 10 inches tall. It is 1000 times the size of a typical gummy bear. It contains approximately 1 million grams of sugar and enough dyes to cause instant autism. However, it is gluten free.

The world's largest gummy bear does not come cheap. Price tag? $30.00. Yes, $30 for a gummy bear.

Cameron did not see this as a problem but as a sign.

"Mom, I have exactly $30 so I am supposed to buy it."

I tried to reason with her that a lot of other things also cost $30, but she would hear none of that nonsense.

I offered Cameron many reasons as to why the gummy bear would be a bad purchase: it was unhealthy, unnecessary, and over-priced. But she heard nothing I said - perhaps she had tiny gummy bears stuck in her ears.

I suggested reasonable alternatives:

"Why don't you buy a few bags of gummy bears and save the rest of your money?"

"Why don't you buy that small gummy bear on a stick we saw at Wal-Mart? That looked good."

"Why don't you buy the World's Largest Gummy Worm? It's cheaper."

"Why don't you just set your money on fire?"

No. No. No and No.

I then got sneaky. I took her to Wal-Mart and suggested she bring her money in case she saw anything she might like. Though we were "officially" looking for a birthday present for Cameron's friend, I was hoping that if I took her up and down the toy aisles, she might see something else she wanted and cave. Nope. 

I realized then that not only was fighting against the World's Largest Gummy Bear, I was also fighting with the World's Most Stubborn Child.

Cameron checking out the toys at Wal-Mart. She's not taking the bait. The bread in her hand? That's a day-old loaf of French Bread that she's buying for a dollar. She says she needs it in case she goes to France?
Finally, I just said no. No to the World's Largest Gummy Bear and no the the World's Most Stubborn Child. It was ridiculous, expensive, and just plain unhealthy. I told her I didn't want to hear about it anymore, so, really, what choice did she have but to write me a letter?

It read:

Dear Abbie,

I think I have the right to spend my money as I chose. I'm more than half way to adult hood. Just cause I'm a kid doesn't mean I don't know all the things that could go wrong. I try to be mostly positive on the gummy bear. I don't care if I spend all my money! I'm doing this for all the kids that have been put down by there parents. I'm doing this for america! Please please say yes for america!


I realized then I couldn't infringe upon her right to gummy bears. So I said yes. I said yes to the World's Largest Gummy Bear. Yes to Cameron and yes to America.  

The World's Largest Gummy Bear arrived on our doorstep. Cameron ripped into the package and started in on its ear. The thing was so damn chewy she couldn't break through it - she started gnawing and shaking her head back and forth like a mad dog with a toy. Great - the gummy bear gave her rabies. I had suspected this might happen.

She took the gummy bear and hid it in her room. I have no idea where it is. This is for the gummy bear's own good.  

Though I hate the gummy bear, I've decided not to take him for granted. In a few years, she'll probably be hiding cigarettes and her boyfriend in her room and I'll wish for World's Largest Gummy Bear to be my World's Largest Problem. 

God bless Cameron. God bless the gummy bear and God bless America.