Iron Boy


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Lessons from The Alchemist

Posted by Mary Webb on January 1, 2015 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it," the king of Salem shared with Santiago.

I read those honest, beautiful words four years ago at this time. They were the quintessential breath of fresh air. More refreshing words have never been written, not counting, of course, most of the sage wisdom of those Angelou and Morrison prose queens. Out of respect for inked jewels like the king's words, I have tried to stay true to them over the course of this time, and none more so than in the year 2014.

I'm nothing if not candid, so let me say that, at the beginning, I was a little like the crystal merchant Paulo Coelho included in his masterpiece: I knew all the things I should be able to accomplish, but I didn't always want to do so. In layman's terms, I wanted to talk about it more than I wanted to be about it. So, last year at this time, I called myself on my own bullshit. I was being irrevent to words that stirred my soul, not to mention I was dishonoring God because when you know better, you're supposed to do better.

Doing better wasn't exactly it, because I wasn't do bad to begin with. Doing different things, however, was just my size. The year's theme was to just do it before I could find a reason that I didn't deserve it or it just wasn't for me. Admittedly, I still started small. If you can remember, my New Year's Resolution was to buy fresh flowers for myself each week and to make a different alcoholic beverage each holiday. Most of my bunches were the $3 bouquet. But for the amount of cheer and decor they brought to my home, those $3 were among the best I ever plunked down anywhere. Some weeks, I was like, What the hell? Give me the $9 bouquet? My only regret was that none of them came from an actual florist (they were always part of my Saturday run to Rouse's to grab make-it-through-the-week necessities), and I never got any of my favorites -- tulips -- because you're definitely not going to find those in the grocery store.

No worries, though, because that's what 2015 is here for.

As for the mixology, the nerd in me had a blast learning something new. (I even ran the category last night in Jeopardy's Pick Your Poison category.) The king's words were true even here. My first beverage of the year -- the Happy F***ing New Year's -- was made up three of my all-time favorite liquids --Red Bull, red wine and vodka. 

Turns out, I had good reason to drink last year as I embarked on my graduate school journey. Sure, I'd been putting it off with the whole teacher and single parent deal. But, there was some apprehension about not being able to cut it. Masters level work certainly wasn't going to be something I would accomplish with my laissez-faire scholarly habits. (This is the person who decided to take a nap each time she took her ACT test.) When a teach grant just fell into my lap, I considered something else Mr. Coelho wrote: Every blessing ignored becomes a curse. I did the paperwork before Christmas break was up, and days later, I was a student again. A straight-A student (for the first-time ever), I might add, though I was sweating bullets that I was going to finish one point from an A in the research class I took this past semester. 

In the vein of just doing it and worrying about it later, I also learned to swim last summer. I shared with you before that I have been petrified of water for what seems like my entire life. And yet, I didn't want to walk in a spirit of fear a moment longer. When I made up my mind to do it, by golly, I did it. (Yes, I did use a very country colloquialism. When I made up my mind to do that, it was without worry about who was going to make fun of the way I speak.) I shed that layer of fear like you would a mink coat on a July day in New Orleans, and I haven't looked back. So much so, I zip-lined in Las Vegas and rode some roller coasters in Orlando without crying and very minimal screaming in the event of the latter.

Which brings me to my next thing. I'm always saying where I'm going to go when the kids get older or I get some money or I have someone to go with. Last year, I decided it didn't matter how old the kids were, I could scrounge up enough money to go where I wanted (some of the places, anyway), and I had the best person of all to go with -- me. I didn't let people possibly talking about me leaving my kids behind keep me. When we couldn't fly, I didn't let distance daunt me. And the secret being safe with me about the funky, good time I was fittin' to have was answer enough for folks who tried to dissuade of going that long way with just little old me. I'm already thinking of Miami for Memorial Day, Charlotte, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and San Antonio for the summer and San Diego for next Christmas, as I've decided, based on the kids' reaction and their receptiveness to the fact that there would be nothing under the tree, though that wasn't true, that travel might be our gifts for the foreseeable future.

But, the most significant limb I went out on was with my writing. I have been saying I wanted to make my living as a writing for as long as I can remember. Even when I was a journalist, I didn't think I was living the honest-to-God meaning of what I'd said. And, then I wrote a book and have been cowardly resting on that laurel ever since, though I know that story really wrote itself. A get-around-to-it-when-I-can blog does not a writer make, either. So, to prove myself to me, I took a writing class last summer. That timeframe was the most straight-up I had been to my craft in a long time, and it showed. With discipline, I wrote every day. With even more discipline, I rewrote every day. And, with total honesty, I slashed and slashed, parted with words I loved, but which were weighing down an already heavy story. I know I did my thing, though, because when I closed out my class' reading with the piece I had been working on, collectively, the audience sat stunned for a few seconds by the story and the powerful delivery of it before they started to roar and cheer for me. I'll tell you something. Their applause is the only narcotic that has ever influenced me.

So, as I plunge into 2015, I feel that the universe is still conspiring on my behalf. I'm planning on nailing the breaststroke, taking up golf, taking those aforementioned excursions, finishing summa cum laude, buying a home and planting a garden, meeting my godly soul mate, finishing that book, and perfecting a martini. Mostly though, I am going to live a better life.

Note: Other drinks of 2014 are as follows:

SuperBowl Punch for SuperBowl Sunday

Strawberry Bellini for Valentine's Day

The Courtside for NBA All-Star Weekend

Southern Hurricane for Mardi Gras

Emerald Rain for St. Patrick's Day

Jolly Joker for April Fool's Day

Bourble for Palm Sunday

Pink Bonnet and Easter Cocktail for Easter (because I couldn't decide between the two)

Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby

Mojito and Spanish Sangria for Cinco de Mayo (because I couldn't decide between the two)

two drinks for Mother's Day, of which I can't remember the names

one for Memorial Day with blue curacao, but same outcome -- can't remember the name

some grandaddy drink with scotch for Father's Day

an American flag drink for Independence Day, and I learned a neat trick to get the alcohol to be layered by color with the blue curacao, vodka and grenadine

white peachy Sangria for Labor Day

a Santa Maria, a Nina and a Pinta for Columbus Day, which is not a real holiday, but still a reason to drink

a Vampire Slayer and a Witch's Brew for Halloween (because, you guessed it. I couldn't decide between the two)

good old-fashioned champagne for my birthday

an Army Ranger for Veteran's Day

something with cranberries for Thanksgiving, though I regret that I didn't do something with Wild Turkey

and a Poinsettia for Christmas

And, back at it last night with a orange and cherry champagne cocktail.

Coming of Age

Posted by Mary Webb on December 17, 2014 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

In the last two weeks, Quentin has demonstrated to me that he is becoming a better and better navigator of his own life. I had been trying not to do too much steering of my own, though I was leery of the incredibly choppy waters in his wake.

The first event centered around the losing battle I had been having with him about standing up for himself. His primary concern was about getting into trouble at school and with me. Sure, it's possible he'd get a day or two in these zero-tolerance times we're going to school in. But as it related to me, if he wasn't the culprit and had first tried other methods in defending himself, there would be no extra penalty at home. I even went so far as to share this logic with him: A bully only bullies people he/she thinks he/she can; generally, those people think he/she can, as well. It's like that picture circulating on FB of the animal (I can't think of which one) that has a rope around its neck and is standing in a docile manner, even though the rope is not tied to anything. Quentin would free himself from the bullying epidemic when he wanted to. Sure, he might get a lump or two in the exchange, if things came to blows, but it would be better than being on the receiving end of a one-sided and never-ending back-and-back-again.

He stayed stuck on the fear of disciplinary actions at school, however.

I'm not sure what made him crack that Tuesday, but he did. A student who had been harassing him for the better part of the year was his opponent. (This particular student had the nerve to come grinning stupidly in my face and taunting Quentin when he earned a detention at the beginning of the year becausehe forgot his card.)

The boy shoved Quentin out of his way, trying to get in the line to exit the class. When Quentin asked him why he did it, he said he felt like it.

So, Quentin felt like slapping him across the face.

My inner angel said he could have let it go, since he merely lost his balance, but didn't fall. Maybe just shoved him back. My inner devil was pumping her fist and cheering,
"Right on, son!"

But that wasn't the end. When they got into the hall, the student began to talk about Quentin's mama. I'm sure this has happened umpteen times before, but perhaps it affected my child differently since this student actually "knows" Quentin's mama. Quentin couldn't see it for the randomness that equates to "Yo, Mama" retorts.

So, he slapped him again.

He did end up getting a day. And, he was petrified I'd add to it at home. Except to tell him the second slap was uncalled for because it never matters what someone says about me or him, for that matter, I didn't add anything, and he served his day on the day he participated in the Ladies Leukemia League luncheon. The student has stopped bothering him and even cornered me one day to apologize for messing with my child. "Oh, no worries, honey," I said, managing to keep "...'cause you know if you do it again, you'll get slapped again" to myself. Best lesson was that, as uncomfortable as it may be, defending one's self is sometimes necessary.

The second occurrence was last week at the school dance. I had to chaperone, so that meant the kids had to come with me. The dance was for middle school students, so I actually bought Quentin a ticket. Part of me was like, Why do that when he's only going because I have to go and will probably stick to me like glue? The other part of me was like, You know, Mary? He might pleasantly surprise you and get his full money's worth out of that ticket?

Well, I was absolutely right...on both accords.

When we first got there, he would not get out of my shadow. The more I coerced him to go mingle with his classmates, the more reasons he found not to. He had to tell me something. He wanted to get something from the snack table. He had to tell Jory something. He was still eating. He had to tell me something else. He didn't know anyone.

When he did finally go out, he wanted Jory to tag along with him. Finally, I called it quits on my duty, told Jory we were going home and broke the news to Quentin. I thought dread would flood his eyes, but he just shrugged and nonchalantly said okay. That was followed by a big (I can't say toothy grin under the present circumstances), but he seemed to be enjoying the prospect of aloneness.

"I'll be back to pick you up at 9:45," I said, but he had already disappeared into the crowd.

I wanted to stay and watch him from afar, but my presence would be counterintuitive. Besides, it was past my Friday after-a-long-week bedtime.

Jory looked a little disappointed, so I took the opportunity to share with her how it was time for her to cut Quentin from her apron strings because she's worse than I am when it comes to him. She didn't say anything, like she was chewing on this idea for a minute. Before she could develop an angle to cut me off with, I added, "Besides, it won't be long before you'll want to go to dances without having us tag along with you."

This satisfied her, along with the fact that she could curl up on the sofa with a snack and watch the rest of Beezus and Ramona, which I started recording for her before we left. I laid down for a quick nap, but not before making sure my phone was near enough that I'd feel the vibration when someone called to tell me to come and get Quentin because he couldn't take it anymore.

I slept until my alarm went off, instead. I hustled Jory up so we could be first or close to it in the pick-up line.

I'm not sure who was beaming brighter as they walked to the car -- Quentin or the security guard who looks out for my son.

"Mama, I had me a good time after ya'll left. When is the next dance?" he clamored.

That was the subject throughout the rest of the weekend.

Though it was a repetitious, it was a welcome reprieve from worrying about when my son is going to come into his own.

I Can't Believe She's Only 7

Posted by Mary Webb on December 8, 2014 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

In answer to his position on the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln once made the following comment to one of his political advisors: "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."

I think subconciously I have done this. But more importantly, I think God has conciously guided me in this way. The most prominent example I can supply of this is the birth of my daughter. With it just being Quentin and me for four years, I had truly sought to keep this one-child quota my life design. When I saw those pink lines on that pee-pee stick, I sat down on the toilet and took a long, hard cry. When the doctor confirmed it, I smiled that fact smile so long, my cheeks ached. Certainly, there were things I could have done to change the situation, but that would not have been right. So, I just got on board with the idea of having two childen.

Words cannot say how blessed and grateful I feel that I was on God's side, instead of him being on mine. It has been an absolute joy to watch Jory grow up over the course of these seven years. It's an additional joy to think back over them.

One of my favorite things to reminisce on (as is Linda's) is how, as a baby, JoJo used to pat her chest. Yes, pat her own chest, like she was self-soothing. Kind of reminded me how Synclaire James on Living Single used to rub people's backs and quietly chant "Woo, woo, woo". Jory would be patting and sucking her Nuk. I see now that was her first sign of independence. Baby girl continues to hold it down, too. I often joke that if something happens to me, she's in charge; Quentin doesn't put up a fight.

But not only would she pat herself, she would caress and stroke my arm or hand or face while I held her. I remember that it always seemed so reassuring. I probably perfected my own student touch by the way she did it. This was probably the first show of her nurturing spirit. She always takes care of her big brother. In the midst of his recent oral surgery, Jory was around the clock suggesting it was time for his ice pack, meds, pillow fluff, salt-water rinse and repeat. I almost put her on full-time duty and nestled into my pillow on auto-pilot.

And that child has always had the eye of a hawk. She will watch me do something one time and have the hang of it. To this day, I listen to her "teach" her class and realize she's a consummate professional. I assigned her to be Mama's computer guru. No sooner than I did, Mama was getting on the Internet more successfully and more often on her own. The only thing I had to tell Jory was to stick to the I Do, We Do, You Do model where she taught something, she guided her grandmother through practice of the skill, and then she left her on her own to do it. I say this because Jory always wanted to jump right in when Mama got stuck. I had to explain to her that she needed to give people wait time to process their thoughts because not everyone is as brilliant as she is.

Speakng of, she has made straight A's since she started school. I love how school is so important to her. I am no dummy myself, but it took me all the way to the graduate level to even attempt this feat. I guess I'm following in her footsteps.

She does a fair amount of the same herself. For her last report card, she had to have leopard print ballet flats like mine. I immediately assented. Prior to that, she had been begging for a pair of red Chucks like mine. I kept telling her that wasn't practical. She pointed out that I had a pair. I pointed out that I only really wore mine to school when they were my school colors, which is the reason I'd bought them in the first place. She continued to ask anyway. Leading up to her birthday, she kept asking for them. Somewhere along the line, I figured, What the hell? If she wants to be like me, why not? She could do way worse. If it's her heart's desire to have a pair of red Converse, she's definitely worth it.

I'm glad I went ahead and got them for her. She squealed the loudest when a partial unwrap showed the small picture of the tennis shoe on the side of the box. Seeing her that happy made me infinitely more so.

These seven years have been the best of my life. Can't wait to see how the next seven unfold. 

Forget Christmas! All I Want for Thanksgiving is...

Posted by Mary Webb on November 25, 2014 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I have this philosophy of life, and I'll admit very early on that it's extremely elementary. Probably because I developed it at an elementary age. Nevertheless, I stick by it because I feel there's some truth to it.

Basically, it goes something like this: Whatever hand we're dealt in childhood, we get the opposite one as adults. If you were rich and carefree as a child, you have to work for things when you get older, and if the latter was true as a child, financial success will come to you more easily as you get older. If you were an ugly duckling as a youth, you grow into a beautiful swan later in life; if you were already a swan, it'll be your time to morph into an old duck.

I've already admitted this is not the brightest philosophy going, but there's some reality in the simple principle. I think I hold on to this notion because when I think of all the suffering Quentin has endured in his short 11 years, I know his season of ease has to be everlasting. What else do you tell a child who was expecting to have six teeth pulled last week, but woke up to a nearly bald mouth because there were 12 extracted, instead?

Speaking of what to say, when Quentin did look in the mirror at his mouth and shuddered horribly, I finally found worth in a shocking dental ordeal of my own. Several years back, the dentist recommended getting two crowns put in. Having no idea what that was, but not wanting to disagree with the expert's opinion, I acquiesced. After she had drilled out the decayed teeth, I poked around my mouth with my tongue and felt only shards where two teeth should have been, I asked her why my mouth back there felt so bare.

"It feels like just pieces of teeth because that's what it is," she said calmly, so calmly that she thought I was the strange one when I burst into tears.

"Why are you crying, honey? This is totally normal. I see worse than this all the time."

"Normal for you to be working on a mouth that looks like it belongs to a crackhead. Not normal for me who has always taken care of my teeth and not even had a single cavity until well into my adulthood."

The look that registered on his face was probably identical to mine that day.

"I thought it was only going to be six," he shrieked.

"Yeah, I thought so, too. But I guess he determined he needed to take more. And it's better doing it all together instead of having to come back and go through this all again."

He shook his head, more like he was getting used to the idea of his bare gums than he was to anything I was jabbering about.

Well, that was easy enough, I thought to myself.

Should have known the battle wouldn't end there. As if I wouldn't figure out that double the teeth most likely meant double the pain, Quentin made a point of moaning in agony. When I was on my way to the pharmacy to fill his prescriptions. When I was on my way to retrieve more ice for his bag. When I was getting more Sprite wash down his meds. If the noise he made could have transferred itself into velocity, we would have been projected right into the new year.

I was started to come undone. But then, I remembered he was just a child. And, my child at that. There are several people who could tell stories about how evil I was the year I got strep throat right before my birthday. Those same people could tell you how much more evil I was when I broke out in hives from the pencillin I was given when I begged my mother to take me to the ER because, ironically, I just couldn't suffer anymore. Those same people might also want to mention how they almost committed a homicide when I got the bright idea to go and take a bath because the calamine lotion and oatmeal rub they made for me felt icky. They couldn't dry me off and reapply the potion fast enough to soothe me because of the donkey I was acting about how on fire my body was without it.

Mostly, I remember that this child has seen more than his fair share of physical anguish. Enough is enough already.

But then I thought about what the first day back at school would be like for him, and the torture started anew. Should I caution him not to smile or do it behind the hand like Ms. Celie? Should I equip him with lines like: My teeth got extracted by a dentist. What's your hot-ass breath's reason for being a yuck-mouth? Should I tell him not to worry because no one can really see it unless they're all in his mouth? Should the conversation be an ensemble of all these things?

The dentist said the permanent ones will grow in quickly. I'm praying he means before next week, but it's considerably doubtful. I'll just double-check when we go for our follow-up tomorrow.

Even more than I want that to be speeded up, I want the duckling/swan changeling to occur. I see Quentin in the future, and he's this tall, mocha-colored drink of water. He's dashing and has a fabulous pearly-white teethed smile that surely stops heartbeats. He's intelligent and gentlemanly and funny and wise and sensitive and generous. He's a policeman/judge/mechanic/plumber/artist/gourmet chef/little league coach/volunteer firefighter. He's an amazing father and loving husband and still goes to church every Sunday with his mama. Simply, he's enjoying every ounce of life that was robbed of him as child.

So, what will the conversation be?

"Quentin, in this season of thanksgiving, let's be thankful that the doctor was able to do what he needed to do, we had insurance to have it done, the swelling started to subside only two days in, you were feeling well enough to eat chicken nuggets the same night, Maw-Maw Nona was able to take care of you while I was at work, you still got to go to your dad for a few days, I let you off reading for a few days while your mouth healed. Did I forget anything?"

He'll think for a long while. But when he's unable to come up with anything, he'll say I had it covered.

I'll say there's one more thing: "Thank you, Lord, for always blessing and keeping Quentin while he's on his way to becoming that swan!"

Forty and Fabulous, Already!

Posted by Mary Webb on November 11, 2014 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

So far, I love being 40! I feel like I'm really good at it already.

Of course, I've had 39 years of experience, and it's taken all of those years to make me ready.

I'm thinking three birthdays in particular made me decide to go to Vegas anyway when, one by one, my good friends announced their inability to join me: When I turned 7 and couldn't don the clown outfit my mother custom-made me for a make-up Halloween event because I was so sick; the birthday I turned 20 and a shot of pencillin to cure me of the strep throat I acquired when I insisted on going to Sheriff Foti's Haunted House in City Park that ridiculously cold Halloween night (what's with that day and my birthday, huh?) broke me out in hives because, it turned out, I was allergic to it; and the birthday I spent a few years ago on Bourbon Street following an LSU-Alabama game where I got pick-pocketed.

The morning I left was a calamity of errors. I went and did the strip search to go through Terminal C when my gate was actually D. Strip Search, Part II, this time complete with a scope of my hands because innocent-looking people could be the potential terrorists, I guess. Then, in my second event of not paying close attention that morning, I almost did my pre-boarding business in the little boy's room. When I realized and diverted to the proper restroom, it was nearly a case of peek-a-boo when a lady bust in on me because I didn't have my door shut properly. This was all followed by my breakfast flying out of my hands and onto the floor when I turned around and someone walked into it.

Years of being an undercover blonde (too many incidents to choose from) has definitely taught me not to sweat the small stuff. A) It's not that hard to take off boots and a jacket and empty pockets. B) I've seen what the little boys are packing. C) The lady has seen what I'm packing. D) That sausage biscuit was probably going to crumble when I ate it, even if it hadn't made contact with the floor.

The flight being delayed was out of my control. Besides, I spend a good portion of my life line at the store, to pick up my prescriptions, at the hairdresser and doctor, for my kids to pick up their things without me asking, for the Saints to play without giving me a headache, heart attack, and a ringing in the ears from all my cussing.

Hell, I'm waiting for another delayed flight now that I'm heading back.

I kept telling myself I'd be too scared to do it -- zipline, that is. Because I've cried/screamed/panicked on multiple roller coasters. I still think about the 7-8 heavy-ass rafts I slugged to the top of the water slide in Waveland where Fr. Mike took the camp counselors every year after camps and who had to bring them down because I kept getting up there and changing my mind.

But while I was being harnessed, even the two hulking Mexican gentlemen who were trying to scare me, didn't. I was feeling only two things: calm, like I got this (Learning to swim this year has really taken some major fear out of me) and a small twinge of regret that I didn't do the upper line. And, it wasn't anxiety, just fatigue that prevented me from waiting that long.

Oh, well! It'll be the first thing I do when I go back. How about that for being forward-thinking at 40? That just goes along with some other F's I'm feeling: fabulous, fun, fit and fierce!


Movie Madness

Posted by Mary Webb on November 4, 2014 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)


I'm anal. I know this. Yet, acknowledging and admitting this doesn't cure the condition.


That's why, two weeks ago, when I discovered I would be off from work on Election Day, aside from the obvious (exercising my right to vote), there were only two things on my mind: making the necessary appointments (mani, pedi, wax) to get ready for my birthday in two days and catching up on movies with the kids.


I don't know which was killing me more -- the ratchet state of my nails and feet or how way behind we are with movies. I would say movies, but you had to see my digits. (So not me.) I would say my digits, but we were almost three movies in the hole. (Again, so not me.)


Let me explain myself. The mani/pedi appointment backslid because I just had zero time on the two-week mark last week. Which worked, or so I thought, since I'd be fresh for the Big Day. But as that third week wore on, I almost couldn't live with myself.


Now about the movies. Again, it was just time and life sucking me dry on movie-going. That and the fact the movie makers were heaping movie on top of movie like my professors kept heaping due date upon due date. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day premiered almost a month ago on Oct. 10. No haps that weekend because I was in Pineville for class, and the kids were visiting their dad.


Then, The Book of Life dropped the very next weekend. Leading up to that second movie coming out, I was already pulling my face, hair and anything else with give about not seeing another movie on the weekend it dropped. (I mean, I'm anal. Maybe even a wee bit OCD. I would have to see Alexander... first.)


But then, Quentin's migraines started, and he spent that day in the ER. Saturday, he was full of meds and feeling better. And, for a split second, I entertained the idea of celebrating with a movie. A more level head prevailed. Remembering a movie that the kids and I saw once, where we all promptly fell asleep, made me rethink that thought. With nights of no sleep and just one day of feeling better, staying home and resting seemed a better bet.


Then, two weeks ago, our luck switched. At the Halloween event at Lafraniere Park, Jory won free passes for an early screening of Big Hero 6, which comes out this Friday. It was for Saturday past. That you're reading this now, you know we didn't make it. But, here's what I was thinking: If we saw that then and a movie on Election Day, we'd be just one movie down. Still something to feel some anxiety over, but nothing to stress about in pyschotic fashion for three weeks until Thanksgiving break. No wait! Maybe end of Thanksgiving break because Quentin is having oral surgery and will need a couple of days to recuperate.


And, I'm pretty sure there's a movie opening around Thanksgiving, but I don't want to get myself all worked up and have one of those Snoopy crying jags.


Let me explain why this is even a huge deal. You know how tennis shoe fanatics know the drop date of the new Jay's and camp out to cop them? Well, in another life (pre-children life), I was like that about music. I had to get all my CD's on new music release Tuesday, or I didn't feel accomplished. (I know. Anal, huh?) Well, post-children, that semi-neurosis has been transferred to animated movies.


So, back to Saturday and how it was an epic fail, at least as far as the movies go. The kids and I walked in the breast cancer walk with my school. Maybe it was the weather (friggin' cold after a pissy-hot October). Maybe it was the wait in the cold (Another race had to be cleared out before we could start). Maybe it was the toll of the weeks of being pulled in 50 directions (welcome to the first semester of true solo-parenting, plus grad school, Prime Time, and auxiliary team commitments). I will not say it's age because I simply don't believe that.


But, here's the deal: We wouldn't have made the 10 o'clock movie start time because of the race going over what I had budgeted for. If things had worked out accordingly, I was too wiped out to go. It took a nap right after the race, a very early night, a time change and another day to make a full recovery.

So, here we were Tuesday, Election Day. we went to see Alexander...., and it just is what it is.

I still want to gnaw my nails in desperation, but now they're finally done. So, I'm going to have to chill and be grateful there's Netflix and RedBox. 

At least, I got all packed and didn't have to stress about that.

There's No Treat, Just Trick This Halloween

Posted by Mary Webb on October 29, 2014 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Things are never easy, even when they are.

I thought I had gotten over like a fat rat the afternoon we were leaving the theater after seeing The Boxtrolls. Jory and Quentin spotted a little girl wearing a box as a costume. I think she was Eggs like the movie's protagonist, but I honestly can't recall. I'm usually good about details, but all my attention went to the kids, who were squealing, "I want to be that for Halloween!"

Bingo! Jackpot! Cha-ching!

That statement was gold! Like payday! On holiday break! While a 40% off sale is on at The Limited AND Banana Republic!

A Halloween where I wouldn't shell out upwards of 60 bucks for cheaply manufactured costumes that would be used twice at best? I'll take it. The only thing that could rival my euphoria was the Valentine's two years ago that fell during the kids' week-long Mardi Gras break.

I just kicked back and kicked my legs up metaphorically for Halloween 2014. All I needed was two boxes from McDonald's or Family Dollar and the cut-outs of some box of food at home, and I was set.

But then last Thursday, I got a text from a friend of mine. Things went south starting there. She was inviting my kids to not one, but two Halloween events...beginning the next night.

Why was that a problem, you ask? Because I didn't have the boxes yet. Quentin and Jory had both been sick the weeks before, so I had my hands full with that. If I didn't get a handle on Quentin's migraines (and this was before the seizure!), we wouldn't even need them.

I should have checked my friend about texting during Scandal -- commercial or not -- but a) I do it to her when I can't contain my reaction until the next morning and b) I honestly didn't get it until the next morning because I fell asleep early that night.

So, it was just hours before the first event when I solicited Linda's knowledge.

"Um, does the post office selll big boxes," I asked, knowing I surely didn't have time between professional development seminars and Quentin's oral surgery consult to scramble for boxes.

She dragged the story out of me and berated me for waiting until the last minute. The fact that Halloween was a week away and, barring the invitations, I would have been way early getting them that week was lost on her.

Linda directed me to a box supply place a stone's throw from work. One of those places I've seen a million times, but to which I've paid zero attention.

"Boxes are expensive," Linda admonished.

"But not as expensive as costumes. so don't piss in my Cheerios!"

Expensive? Ha! $7.35 for two boxes. Free Corn Flakes and Ritz boxes at home. Winning! Even if I splurged on a couple of Ace bandages for them to use as sleeves, I'd still be winning.

(Insert Vincent Price Thriller laugh here.)

Traffic was crazy getting from across the river from Quentin's appointment, but it was enough time to cut up two boxes and slap an emblem on them. Then, I realized I had no box cutter; a knife would work if push came to shove, but I figured trusty ol' Linda would have one. Like clockwork, she "just so happened to have one in her desk." She was more than happy to bring it to me, mainly because she wanted to come and laugh at my project.

"Why didn't you paint it or...something?" she inquired.

"Because my kids are not bourgie Boxtrolls. They're some cross-the-track Boxtrolls. Your kids be some suburban Boxtrolls. You know I don' t have that kind of talent, energy or inclination.

"But you and your daughter, who's surely going to get her kicks out of this, are invited to get this together for tomorrow's event. My kids are happy, so I'm happy."

And, they legitimately were. Until we got where we were going and a) "people are laughing at me".

"They're laughing because they think your costume is a clever idea, not at you per se."

And, b) some people who obviously hadn't seen the movie or were too old or out-of-touch to keep up with animated flicks, didn't always get their costumes.

"Oh, look! I get it. She's a box of cereal."

Even though they really felt like the idea was original when we enlightened them, the idea of having to do so was getting on Jory's nerves.

Also, what I gained in inexpense, I made up for in practicality. The kids had to take off their costume for each game they attempted to play. Quentin just never seemed to get the hang of the idea that he'd have to put his candy down in order to get his arms through the box. It's like he thought if he set it down for a hot minute, someone was going to come and jack him. Sort of pointless since there was candy to be had at every turn, and it was all free.

By the end of the night, he was thinking of just wearing last year's mask the next night; Jory was going on and on about how she couldn't be a Boxtroll on Halloween for school because they take tests that day, and she wouldn't be able to take a test in the box. And, I was just plain and simple wore out.

The next night, Quentin did what he said he would do, and Jory pouted about the box hurting her neck. She thinks she's slick, though. She waited until we got to the school to refuse to wear it.

I'm slicker. I refused to pay for her to get in until she wore it. We sat on the bench for a good 45 minutes while Quentin trunk or treated. In that time, I explained to Jory how the next night, I'd have Christine pick Quentin up and take him. She and I would just stay home since I was unable to enjoy the festivities anyway. When my friend arrived, Jory figured out I wasn't bluffing about the rest of the night or the rest of the Halloween season for that matter.

After all this, do you know I still opted to carve a pumpkin for the first time this year? Pretty much, it worked out the same way. Once they knew I was about to scoop all the pumpkin out by myself, they ditched me. They'd come check on my progress here and there, but I was really on my own.

Next year, it's a bag of rocks and a Charlie Brown ghost costume for everyone.

Dizzy is the New Stomachache

Posted by Mary Webb on October 23, 2014 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

If orange is the new black, then "Mama, I'm dizzy" must be the new "Mommy, my stomach hurts."

At least, it's been an infectious (more like infecting) refrain in my home since the day Quentin uttered it a few weeks back. With the sudden occurrence of migraines last week, it went into heavy rotation. Mostly, it was Jory putting that needle on the record.

I think I catch her drift. I remember from a conversation I had with Quentin years ago while we were visiting with my brother in D.C. It was the summer following Quentin's transplant. Jory was about 18 months then, and I felt like I was making up for time we lost when much of my energy and attention went to my sick child.

I don't remember exactly what I was doing when Quentin sourly commented that I must love Jory more because I did everything for "that baby".

"Like what? You mean change her diapers? You want me to put you in some, so I can the same for you?"

"No," he mumbled.

"You want me to bathe you like I do her?"


"You want me to feed you like I do her? What I do her?"


"What? Put little cutesy bows in your hair?"

He didn't answer.

I had worked myself into a frenzy by now. It seemed from him not understanding how grueling the prior year had been for me juggling a sick child, newborn, work and all else life throws at you.

Fast forward to last week when Quentin's migraines began out of nowhere. I noticed early on that the higher and longer Quentin wailed from his room and the more I walked a groove between my room and his, the more things Jory needed my assistance with. Like her homework. Jory usually does her homework while I'm tutoring and just shoves the sheet I need to sign under my nose while I'm preparing dinner.

Like what color to color her bunny. Blue.

Like what color to color her chicken. Orange.

Like what color to color her...

"Um, Jory, sweetheart, I'm a little busy right now. Why don't you make executive decisions about the crayons and let me see what you decide."


Seconds later, "Mama, look what color I colored the monkey."


"Mama, look what color I colored the cow."


"Mama, look what color I colored the giraffe."

"Jory, they're great! All of them."

"But you didn't look at all of them."

"You're fantastic, so I know they will be, too."

Believe me, I hated to do this, hated to make her feel second-best, less-than, not-as-important, but try as I might to change this, I'm only one person.

I said a silent prayer when she made me an offer I could actually execute: cuddling in a hot bath together. Normally, I would have flat-out refused. I needed a hot bath to unwind; she needed my undivided attention. I know I napped on her, but because I never let go of her, she didn't give me a hard time.

The soak must have been relaxing for her, too, because she went straight to sleep when we got out.

That left me only Quentin to deal with. And what a night that was!

A restful night gave Jory renewed energy. Where she had sulked about missing school a few weeks back when Quentin had dizzy spells following the termination of her seizure medicine, when she found out I was skipping school to take Quentin to the ER Friday morning, she was on the verge of tears about "being scared to go to school alone".

No way was I setting myself up to be holed up in the ER with Quentin's incessant moaning and Jory's inevitable whining about being bored and having nothing to do. He acted enough of  buck fool behind that IV and MRI, believe me.

I did realized, however, that I was setting myself up to have her glued to my hip...after an entire day in the ER....after consecutive days of little or no sleep.

Hence, the first talk of dizzy.

Perhaps, I should have scared her off with the threat of an IV poke. It would have saved the middle of the night "sore throat".

Even though my head had just hit the pillow after getting up to bring Quentin his meds, I almost had to take both hands and scoop my head up. I realize I can only shoo her off so many times before I cause her to develop a complex.

Thankfully, it was as painless as doling out one marshmallow to her. I gave her two for good measure, as well as make her feel thought of and loved. I'll admit it didn't hurt that maybe, just maybe, I'd make it through the rest of the night.

I didn't. Quentin wanted to come and sleep with me.

"Your bed makes my head stop being dizzy."

That word again.

Jory must have felt that she wasn't being effective enough with her dizziness because she did two things. First, she woke me up every hour the next night with several issues: dizziness, fear that I was going to let her catch the bus home from Camp Challenge next summer like I told my company earlier that day, and some other things I was too groggy to hear or recall. Second, she became legitimately sick, throwing up several times Sunday, including right outside of church and having a stay-home day of her own Tuesday.

Yesterday morning, she woke up and asked me to check her temperature to determine if she could go to school that day.

"Boo, everyone's going to school today."

Turns out, that wasn't exactly true. Dealing with so much dizziness led to dizziness of my own.

The Way Fall Break Used to Be

Posted by Mary Webb on October 6, 2014 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)


Whenever my babies and I have a long break off from school, it makes me a little anxious. I worry that I won't get any pleasure out of it because they'll be acting crazy.


I was even more concerned than usual at the onset of this fall break because for the past couple of years, mine hadn't coincided with theirs. Maybe they'd use these four days to make up for lost time? And, as if I needed evidence of this, three things went wrong the day the break was to begin.


First, a co-worker suggested a delivery from Cafe Roma for lunch. I acquiesced, but when I went to grab my debit card, the slot in my wallet it usually rests in was as empty as a politician's address to the people. A quick retrace of the night before's spending and I realized it was probably still in the bag Quentin's prescription came in. Why they put it in there just because you go through the drive-thru, I'll never know. Problem is, I had just forced him to take the trash out that morning. At least it wasn't pulled to the curb. The only reason I called my nephew Melvin who'd be at my house mid-day to retrieve it was because I was afraid I'd forget by the time I made it home. For the sob story he told his mom about having to dig through the trash, I should have just put an alert in my phone and called it a day.


Speaking of hating, the next thing involved Melvin's mother, my dear sister Linda. Though she is my first and foremost audience for tales of school life and working in the trenches, and though she used to be part of the same hustle, she's one of those people who begrudges these few days I'm off, even though she knows I earned them. I shared with her my plans to kick off fall break that night with the Jazz in the Park series in Armstrong Park. Cyril Neville's Swamp Funk was headlining. She'll say her text was for information purposes only, but I know she reveled in it just a wee bit. It was a picture text that read: Due to inclement weather, Jazz in the Park is cancelled this week, but we will reconvene next week for more food, music and dancin' in beautiful Armstrong Park. Y'all stay dry out there!


Okay, so I'd just go straight home and catch my Jeopardy taped from last night with time left over to watch that day's game in real time and count down to Scandal and my merlot. Nada! I saw it as soon as I got home. The time on the cable box was stuck on 10:26, though it was clearly headed for 6:00. I had to call friggin' Cox that very minute. Who knew how long it would take them to fix the problem? As much as I'd hate to miss Jeopardy, missing Scandal would be, well, scandalous. Lucky for me, there was some signal miscue, but they were able to get it unscrambled without too much trouble.


Meanwhile, I had assigned my children to do their chores that night, one day earlier than the destinated family chore night. The thinking was if we got it out of the way that night, we'd have a real, true break. Quentin went with it, but Ms. Jory hemmed and hawed and sighed and kept having these melodramatic arm flops like it was the end of the world when I called her back to pick up one more thing on the floor. If you don't want me to tell you nothing, do everything you need to do, so I won't have nothing to tell you.


When we did get the house situated, she found several more reasons to outright cry or to come stand right in my space on the verge of tears, just dying for me to ask her what was wrong. In case you're wondering, I never found out because I never asked. A) I was on fall break. B) She never minces words when she's booking people, so why the guessing game that night? C) I don't have any patience. I never have. And, I never will if acquiring some means I have to waste it on foolishness.


So if you count Jory's dramatic antics and Scandal not heating up fast enough for me, I guess I'm up to five signs it wasn't going to be the best of breaks.


The sixth thing happened on Friday. And, it centered around Jory again. No, back up. Both kids got a spanking early Friday morning. Days later, I don't remember why. I do recall, though, that Quentin got himself together; Jory did not. She started off at Speedee. I already resented the fact that I was spending any part of my break on something as mundane as an oil change. But then she started whining about how hungry she was because there was a vending machine. Chic, we are first in line, we live around the corner, and I'm making breakfast as soon as we get home. Plus, you're going to want to buy a concession at the movies later.


You know what? It's your money. Spend it on that stale PopTart if you want. I'm not spotting nobody nothing at the movies. (Yes, I realize that's a triple negative. I am on fall break.)


Guess what? More whining! For what now, I didn't know. I had just told her she could do what she wanted to do. My fingers were itching to snatch her.


Before the movies, we made a run to the Riverwalk. I had a 20% off coupon at Gymboree, and they were running a $12.99 and under for everything in the store promotion. With the way her butt is growing (and I mean that literally), she needed fall clothes in a bad way.


Now let me ask you, on the off chance you're the only person getting something on this shopping trip, who do you think should be on their very best behavior? You, right?


Not Jory. She kept running and jumping and dragging her foot like a zombie. Just things that make my nerves bad. (Okay, my nerves always bad. Things that make my nerves worse.)


Finally, I had had enough.


Very calmly, I said, "You're not getting any lunch."


"Why, Mama? What am I doing?"


I didn't answer, but strangely, she picked that moment to start walking normalliy. I let her normally walk to the food court with us. I asked Quentin what he wanted. He picked Raising Cane's. She was as quiet and still as a mouse, her show of trying to redeem herself. Too late!


She didn't say anything when only two bags and two drinks came out. She just followed us to a table and tried to busy herself with checking out the scenery. One thing I will say about baby girl is that she might push and push and push, but she will accept her consequences without putting up too much of a fight. Quentin pushes less, but he is holy hell when it comes to getting what he deserves.


I don't know which I prefer.


I had planned to run her to the house to make a quick sandwich before the movies, but swallowing those chicken tenders while she had nothing was like swallowing turpentine. I kick myself for feeling this way because she has to learn. Nevertheless, I got down to my last tender and last few fries and told her to come over and get them. She thanked me profusely and ate them in the most civilized manner possible.


The day ended pretty well.


Let's just say not so much on the break. Today, when she asked for a snack, I reminded her she couldn't have any.


"You know, I haven't had a snack the entire fall break," she commented.


To sum it up, the rest of my break went to punishing Jory from snacks, finishing my research paper, writing my first case study, helping Quentin with the social studies project he called himself not doing because "he was too nervous to present it", and trying not to seriously hurt Jory.


All that, and oh, remembering when fall breaks used to be a break from school and all of that.

Spreading Himself Thin for a Cause

Posted by Mary Webb on September 30, 2014 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)
On this day, the last day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I want to tell you why I celebrate this month year-round.

Obviously, you know Quentin is a childhood leukemia survivor and that Jory was the donor that saved his life. That's our story, but we closed that chapter quite some time ago. The moment Quentin's transplant was deemed a success, we starting writing another one -- one that centered around more children getting to write the second act of their lives.

My family wants more children to be able to walk up to their moms while they're washing dishes and just say "I love you" and give them a hug for no reason other than expression as Quentin did me tonight.

My family wants more brothers and sisters to lay and bed together watching television and sharing conspiratorial laughs as Quentin and Jory did the other night.

My family wants more children to bring home glowing progress reports as they did yesterday.

And when faced with the alternative, my family even wants children to complain of dizziness since they've been taken off their seizure meds as a way to dodge taking out the trash.

That's primarily why I find myself in the "jam" I'm presently in -- fundraising simultaneously for two leukemia-related organizations. First, Quentin reigns as kid president of the Ladies Leukemia League. As part of his royal kingship (sounds good, so go with it), he (and, yes, HE is actually doing it) is selling raffle tickets. The items include an iPad Air, an iPod Touch and a Razor E125 scooter. Tickets for the tablet are $10 or 3 for $25. Tickets for the MP3 player and scooter are $5 or 3 for $12. Each would make a great Christmas present, and the drawing will be held during the holiday season. So, you have time to get your dollars together, as well as a good reason for purchasing them. I'm asking for your help. It is greatly appreciated.

Additionally, again this year, Quentin is the Honored Hero for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk. The walk this year just happens to coincide with my 40th birthday. So, if you were thinking of sending me something to celebrate my big day, consider making a donation on our page instead. If you weren't thinking of sending me something to celebrate my big day, you can still make a donation online. Either can be done at and entering my name or our team's name, which is (what else?) The Iron Family.

Someone mentioned to me the other day that everytime they see Quentin, they smile at the miracle he is. I know exactly how that person feels, and yet, it's indescribable. It's something I want as many other people to experience as it relates to their loved ones.

It's said that to whom much is given, much is expected. It's incumbent on us to act on behalf of other childhood cancer fighters in the midst. And, I thank you in advance for whatever your heart might be moved to do on either accord.