Exposѐ at city hall

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Note: A person who shall remain nameless put me up to this April Fool’s gag.

It’s no secret that I explore the lighter side of life through this column, but this week I feel obligated to expose a critical situation in our fair city. Please bare with me as my serious side seeks to undress an issue that has been skirted for far too long.

 I’m unable to put my finger on the exact cause of our nakedness in clothing retailers, but it’s a complaint I hear often from my children, and many locals alike. Some new stores have helped Baytown take some baby steps in the right direction, but I still find myself too frequently traveling an hour out of town to satisfy the fashion needs of my family. In the realm of any mother’s life, this is totally unacceptable.  

Spring editions of my favorite magazines have arrived in my mailbox with articles on freshening up my wardrobe for the season. I’d love to do just that, but the kids’ activities and upkeep don’t allow the time to travel, and shop.

 When I do venture out shopping with my three children in tow, it’s not exactly what I’d call an enjoyable experience; it’s full speed ahead, and the sooner I can say, “Mission accomplished”, the better.  I know what all the men are thinking. “Just pick up a few things while you’re out with the kids.” Yeah, right. All mothers know that shopping for yourself alongside kids guarantees a quick trip to insanity (especially if the children are of the opposite sex), and is to be avoided at all costs.

 My local shopping efforts to avoid spending a large portion of the tiny “Mommy” budget on gas have left me frustrated. I return home empty-handed, and irked over time wasted. Much of what I’ve found in my size is either what I affectionately refer to as “maw maw” attire, or garments only suitable for pre-pubescent females.  What’s a thirty-something mother, desirous of appearing tasteful, fashionable, and younger than she really is, to do?     

The stripped-down result of this matter is that I have nothing to wear. My family is reminded of that fact frequently when they ask me to go places.  That excuse is starting to wear a little thin, thus the reason I’ve decided it’s time to publicly reveal sentiments regarding our retail shortcomings.

Please join me Tuesday, April 1st, as I kick off the “Bare it all at city hall” campaign by appearing on the steps of city hall in the buff.  Drastic times call for drastic measures. We can parade down Market St. and Texas Ave. carrying signs, and chanting catchy protest slogans. Together, we can create a visual that’s sure to grab the attention of potential developers, and city officials alike.

I realize there’s that pesky section 21.08 of the Texas Penal Code regarding indecent exposure to contend with, but we can all plead insanity by reason of having to shop with children for far too many years.   I’m sure we’d all be quite stunning in jail-house stripes, but I must admit I’m not at all worried about doing time.

 Mama didn’t raise no fool.

© 2008 Natalie Whatley

This is my brain on Benadryl

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National

Happy Easter, Baytown! 

In an effort to put together something coherent and clever for your Easter- Sunday perusal, I set out researching Easter-y things.  I came out on the other side of two hours, with a strange conglomeration of information, no direction whatsoever, and feeling a bit stressed. I strive to maintain some standards, and to say I wasn’t ”feeling it” this week would be an understatement.  

With the pollen count reaching infinity, I’ve been in a Benadryl-induced fog for well over a week.  I also feel compelled to remind you the kids are out of school, and Jeff’s off from work for spring break; short of locking myself in the bathroom, I haven’t had much alone time to work on my weekly offering. I’m certain I’ll look back on this article, and say, “What was I thinking?” Then I’ll remind myself that I wasn’t. I couldn’t. Clear as mud, right?  Here goes.

I know I’m not alone in thinking Easter seemed to come early this year; it did.  Since the middle ages, Easter has been observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on, or before March 21st.  Given that, the earliest possible date for Easter is March 22nd. Easter hasn’t fallen on that date since 1818, and won’t do so again, until the year 2285!

This year, Easter falls on March 23rd, and it won’t fall on this date again until the year 2160.

The latest possible date for Easter is April 25th. Easter hasn’t landed on that date since 1943, but will do so again in the year 2038. I think I have a good sporting chance of making it to that one.  

Before anyone e-mails to set me straight, I am aware that the calculation rule stated above is for the Western Christian churches. The Eastern Christian churches follow a different method. I’ll not confuse the issue by delving into the details. Let’s just say there have been efforts made over many years to reach an accord, and folks were unable to agree. Imagine that.  My mind is still reeling from trying to understand it all. Feel free to look it up at your own leisure.

Switching over to an entirely different subject (I warned you that I was not thinking clearly), I found that the Jelly Belly Candy Company has been selling  Bertie Bott’s Jelly Beans. (Warning: Don’t read the next few lines if you have a weak stomach) Partitioned neatly inside the 1.6 oz. box are jelly beans of the following flavors: earwax, bacon, dirt, spinach, grass, booger, sardine, black pepper, rotten egg, earthworm, soap, spaghetti, and last, but certainly not least, vomit. Yuck! And who was the person who taste-tested and knew what all those things should taste like? Double Yuck!

How do I know that every man who just read this is looking for a box right now? I pity the poor unsuspecting soul who picks up a few of these out of the bowl on his co-workers desk.

I think I’ll avoid jelly beans until I’m thinking a little more clearly.



Give me a break

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

Spring break is finally here, and my offspring couldn’t be happier.  The much-needed hiatus from the grueling homework and extra-curricular schedule is always nice. However, the time off will be a mixed bag for me.

This week will be a precursor of what’s to come this summer – a little taste to whet my appetite. The euphoria I’m feeling over not having to drag them (or me) out of bed in the wee hours, deal with bickering over the bathroom, and run the roads from 2:00-8:00 p.m. will be short-lived. I’m simply not hungry for squabbling siblings, and I’m speaking from experience when I say that I’ll need a break after spring break.

Gosh, this would be so much more fun if I was writing to all of you from a posh, tropical resort instead of going off on a rant about how I anticipate the week “going down”.  Our esteemed financial advisor (me) ruined everyone’s plans by announcing some months ago that since we’re putting braces on one, and buying a truck for another, we have just enough money to stay home and enjoy each other’s company. 

Within the first 24 hours, there will be a major disagreement amongst my little darlings over exactly what constitutes spring- break fun, and where to allocate the time and money provided.  Adding to that monumental issue is the sad fact that my children have been cursed with two first-born stick-in-the-mud parents.  My and Jeff’s finer points don’t rest in leisure-time activities.

When it comes to making entertainment decisions, our house is as much divided as the Democrats and Republicans. Jeff and I are the evil conservatives, and our children represent the more free-wheeling Democrats. Unfortunately for the kids, we are the party currently in control of the house and fiscal matters.

Jeff took the week off as well, so we’ll have all sorts of family fun.  I’m almost giddy just thinking about it. Misery loves company, and I can’t think of a better person to share all that (sibling) love with.  I predict that before the week is out, we’ll all be reminded of the truth in the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”.

I don’t mean to sound as if I don’t enjoy the company of my family. It’s just that I’ve become jaded by spring-break past. As a young, inexperienced mother, I started off with visions of sunshine, backyard fun, butterflies, rainbows, and Hallmark moments.

Those dreams shattered over the years as I dealt with bickering, “I’m bored”, and playing cops and robbers so realistically that 911 was called. Don’t worry, there were no real injuries, but the “good guy” hung up on the operator before he made an actual report, and learned that the police still show up. How about that? The officers even stayed to chat for a few minutes; I think they realized they may have been needed at my house for a whole different reason.

I’ve decided I will survive.  My middle child has actually provided the answer to what will save my sanity: Time goes by much faster when he’s NOT at school. Funny how that works so well for him…I can’t seem to catch that break.



Winds of change

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas, Issues, It's all about me, National

At the beginning of this year, I set out on a mission to locate the parts of me that became dormant as I traveled back through early childhood with my children.  Each day, I nudge my three fledglings out of the nest and remain “on call” should there be any in-flight problems. They rarely need me during the weekdays, so I’ve had some time to work on “getting a life” and making some changes to some fairly long-standing routines.

Starting a personal campaign for change during a high stakes national-election year was not at all good timing on my part. I must first confess to being a political junkie. It’s a piece of genetic code I’m sure some close to me wish hadn’t crossed the cell wall. Even worse, legal training has taught me to poke holes to the point of irritating even myself. Recent local and national politics has been more than enough to keep my mind occupied.  In essence, I’m far too distracted by all the external stimuli, and can’t get focused on my own agenda.  

Nationally, we have the war on terrorism, immigration, energy woes, and healthcare weighing on our collective minds as we move to elect a new leader. The polarization over solutions to those colossal problems has been astounding.  I’ve watched the primaries in utter amazement as stalwarts on both sides of the aisle crossed over to vote against the candidate viewed as the more formidable opponent. I’ve not seen anything like it in my voting tenure.

Locally, our new city manager and sitting council members are aggressively pursuing much-needed change. There’s angst over garage sales, crime, the hunt for a new police chief, Texas Avenue, upcoming city council elections, possible barge terminal,  and thrown on top for good measure: Goose Creek CISD’s  opening of a third high school. We can at least be thankful the rezoning process is complete – I’m afraid that would have been the coup de grâce. Looking at the reactions, Baytown is a textbook case in resistance to change.

Within my own walls, I have a teen getting through his first year of high school, and learning to drive; a fifth grader leaving elementary in mere weeks; and a little girl stressing over taking the TAKS test for the first time. The teenager flips back and forth between being an adult and a child; I never quite know which one I’m dealing with, and I’m starting to see symptoms of spring fever in all three. Then there’s me fumbling around in a stupor searching for a long lost alter ego. It‘s difficult to motivate others in maintaining focus, when I’ve been unable to do it myself lately.

Russian writer, and author of War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy said, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”  That explains my inability to hone in on what I’m looking for, and points to why I’m feeling so overwhelmed. Too many big things are up in the air and the winds of change are gusty.

I think I’ll borrow my son’s kite and head outside. “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” ~Winston Churchill


© 2008 Natalie Whatley

Sick of uninvited guests

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home, Life with children

There are a couple of vagabonds running around town, and I hear they’re looking for a place to stay. You may have already served as a gracious hostess (yes, I’m going with the feminine form of the word – we all know who handles these two), but I’m closing the blinds, and telling the kids not to answer the door.


Their names are Ralph and Earl. They show up with no advance notice, and very much uninvited. I dislike these slippery scoundrels so much because they take great delight in turning my world upside down in 24-hour increments. Plus, they’re just plain mean.


They bring fever, cramps and nausea, and go about making dreadful messes they claim are accidental. Earl finds it very amusing to interrupt my cleaning by holding my son’s head way down in the bucket and kicking him while he’s down.  


As if that wasn’t enough, a very specific menu consisting of ginger ale, saltine crackers, Jell-O, chicken soup, and Pepto Bismol is demanded. Feed them something they don’t like, and you’re in for a nasty little surprise.


Even the dog succumbs to their unethical and vile ways. I’ve asked PETA to get involved, but they’re too busy doing celebrity-fur watch to be concerned.


 Sometimes Ralph comes alone, leaves, and tells Earl it’s his turn.  Earl always decides he’d rather stay in another room of the house. I suppose that’s the prudent thing to do since Ralph leaves an odor that only heavy cleaning and time can erase. 


Having chased these malcontents through my house, I realize they have absolutely no respect for my belongings. My furniture, carpets, linens, clothing, and the interior of my vehicle are all trashed with projectile accuracy. They have a knack for hitting things that can’t be easily cleaned or replaced.


The bathroom, which must be sanitized over and over, is their playground. They enjoy taunting the children, and making them believe they can make it down the hall to the bathroom before the unspeakable happens. They never quite make the intended destination. Close, but I’ll spare you the details.


I know what you’re all thinking: this woman is on her way to sainthood, and a reward surely waits. You’re right. After they’re done with the children, Ralph and Earl announce they’ll stay just one more day in order to spend some quality time with me. I tell them I really don’t have the time, but they insist.


Nearly paralyzed by sheer exhaustion, I manage to throw a party as they prepare to leave. The beds are stripped and remade with fresh sheets, every surface in the house is wiped down with a bleach solution, and a meal fit for a king is prepared. I’d like to give them an even more elaborate send-off, but I fear that will only encourage them to return.


I know they’ll be back. They’re watching me, and waiting for the most inopportune time to show up. People that conniving make me sick.

© 2008 Natalie Whatley