Elvis almost left the building

Author: natalie  //  Category: Life with children

This will probably read like an episode of the Tom and Jerry cartoon. Such is my life –never a dull moment.

Gasp! Pant! “My hands are shaky and my knees are weak! I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet! . . . My heart beats so it scares me to death!”  I just ran upstairs faster than I ever thought possible. (Mental note: My workouts need to become more strenuous if I’m going to survive many more of these moments.) It’s quite startling to hear what sounds like a herd of buffalo upstairs followed by a loud CRASH . . . particularly when the herd is at school.

While enjoying some peaceful moments home alone, save for the dog wrapped around my feet, a cat, and two caged hamsters . . . You know where this is going, don’t you?  I recognized the sound even though I’d never heard it before. Who knew a wood-shaving explosion would make such racket?

Let me back up for a moment and remind you that Shadow, the black cat, arrived at the Whatley Estate on Halloween 2008 and adopted us. In return, I forced him to give up his tomcat status. He doesn’t have much to do with me, and I guess I can’t blame him. His distance aside, I love and take care of him in the same fashion as the rest of my clan.

Then, three months later and in a very weak moment, I allowed my daughter to buy a dwarf hamster. The following day, I was back in Petco with the middle child purchasing yet another hamster. It would’ve been unfair for the youngest to have her own pet in her room, or so the middle child protested, anyway.

Now, back to the show. Halfway up the stairs, one crazed, black feline shot past me making a beeline for the back door. Seeing no rodent dangling from his teeth, I allowed him to pass (like I could have stopped him –guilty feet move fast). Topping the stairs, I glanced down the hall and spotted the wreckage –wood shavings and a tangle of hamster-cage pieces. It was bad enough knowing my daughter would be inconsolable, but worse, I was going to have to admit Jeff was right. Elvis, that’s the hamster’s name (don’t ask me, I just work here), was nowhere to be seen.   

Back downstairs, I glared at one wild-looking beast as I scooped him up and placed him outside.  He didn’t put up a fight, and for some reason I sensed he was sorry. Prior to “the incident” I’ve found him on many occasions perched in front of the cages seeming to enjoy just watching his little friends. I don’t know, maybe he was eyeing lunch as Jeff predicted when the hamsters came home.



Cleaning supplies in hand, I approached the ruins. Much to my surprise, I saw movement in a pile of wood shavings. Elvis was alive! He looked a little stunned; I was afraid to pick him up thinking he’d certainly be in “defense” mode and sink his teeth into my hand, so I gently touched the top of his head with my finger. Before moving the wood shavings to get a better look, I prayed the little guy had no puncture wounds. He checked out just fine . . . Whew! Close call. I performed the “happy dance” because a) Elvis did not leave the building, and b) I wouldn’t have to tell Jeff he was right. 

Since “The King” was only “All Shook Up”, can we let this be our little secret? Thank you… thank you, very much!




© 2009 Natalie Whatley

April makes this girl look foolish

Author: natalie  //  Category: It's all about me

I’ve mentioned before that April is my favorite month. Believe I even said that April in Texas is about as close to perfection as it gets, for me anyway. I love it! But those who must live with me pretty much suffer a month-long embarrassment.  Ever watch the squirrels this time of year, bouncing around and obviously feeling frisky?  That’s me – a little nutty, and I’m not talking acorns.

When the time changed last month, I came right out and admitted that my internal clock housed one crazy bird – the cuckoo. And the arrival of the cuckoo is a sure sign that spring has sprung. It’s true that I, stick-in-the-mud first-born that I am, get a little demented in the spring. Call it spring fever, but I think my children would fully agree that April just likes to make a big old fool out of me—long past April first.

See, April brings out my inner child. I like to drive (look up momma-mobile in the dictionary and there will be a picture of my vehicle) with the windows down, hair blowing in the breeze and the music loud enough to drown out my singing voice or more specifically, lack thereof. Oh, and I like to keep the beat by playing the drums on my steering wheel.  Even worse, I like most of what the kids today like in music. My children appreciate your sympathy. Scooter rides shotgun unabashedly, provided I roll his window down so he can look cool too.

I guess I should be careful and try to at least maintain some decorum since my face is plastered here and my name identifies other family members.  Nah!  That’d be boring. Besides, I ran in to a rather sweet gent last week who’s known me for a good while and he said, “There’s a girl who writes in the newspaper . . . favors you quite a bit.”  I chuckled and told him that “girl” was me. And bless his heart, (Yeah, I’m a southern gal, and no, feminism did not teach me to be offended by the “girl” title or much else for that matter) anyone who refers to my tired, aging-rapidly-through-teenager-raising self as a “girl” puts a little spring in my step. But I digress, the point is: Maybe people will see me acting a fool and not make the connection. I mean it is possible with the humidity low and all; it’s amazing how different I look on a good hair day.

The sunshine mixed with a breeze: I’m an addict.  I have to soak up all I can before it gets sweaty hot. Then there’s that minor detail of the kids being home during the summer. The backyard isn’t nearly as peaceful once school lets out. I know, sunbathing is a big no-no now, and yes, my very youthful-looking mother, Linda Rowe, has cautioned me against its destructive forces. But I’m a tad hard-headed. A girl has to have at least one vice.

I could stand a whole year full of Aprils, but then again I guess it’s so special because it’s fleeting . . . sort of like the childhood of my inner child.  

 © 2009 Natalie Whatley

Eggs-tra! Eggs-tra! Your basket eggs-plains a lot

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, National


I’d like to know what’s in your Easter basket. Allow me to eggs-plain. Easter-basket favorites eggs-pose personality traits. If you’re off on an eggs-cursion to hide yours, please don’t eggs-clude yourself from the fun. Don’t have an Easter basket?  Get one, or for entertainment’s sake pretend one eggs-ists and eggs-amine its contents before reading further. Determine which item you like best, and I’ll eggs-plore your psyche. It’ll be egg-citing!

Are jelly beans eggs-emplary in your opinion? Your hard eggs-terior shell houses firm but sugary resolve. If you like run-of-the-mill beans, you’re an unfussy, simple sort –easy to please and easy going.  If eggs-otic gourmet flavors fall more in line with your eggs-pectations, you enjoy the eggs-travagant things. But, if you’re one of those who uses the “recipes” on the back of the bag to create eggs-orbitant concoctions for your discerning palate: well, there’s an old coffee-shop joke about how you can tell how big of a pain in the backside someone is by how many descriptive words it takes to make the order. Same goes for you if the taste you eggs-pect involves mixing more than two beans. Do you ask the family to gather the black-licorice ones and save them for you?  You eggs-hibit math-book-like qualities  . . . you got problems! Those are eggs-tremely yucky!

Like chocolate bunnies?  White chocolate variety?  While it appears you’re an eggs-alted one, you’re actually quite the renegade because white chocolate is not chocolate at all. Milk chocolate bunny?  You eggs-ude sweet, smooth ways while being somewhat of a conformist eggs-ample.  Dark chocolate? It’s all the eggs-tolled health rage right now. You’re probably a smug health nut who eggs-ercises and makes others feel guilty for eggs-posing their bodies to the more impure forms. But here’s the real eggs-amination: Do you bite off the ears first? Freud would say you feel as if others don’t really hear you eggs-press yourself. Then there’s the question of hollow versus solid. Those eggs-pound on themselves. Where else could you get such, ineggs-pensive, eggs-pert psycho-analysis?

People who like Peeps egg-cel on a psychological level, but are a little fluffy in the head. And since eating those cause eggs-treme sugar concentrations in your blood, mosquitoes are eggs-hilarated by you. (Buy some Peeps on clearance after Easter and feed them to everyone else at this summer’s family barbecue. The bugs will eggs-clude your less-sweet offering.)

This year, I saw edible Easter grass in stores.  If you’re enjoying some of that (and I can’t imagine it tastes any better than the real thing), then I can only eggs-trapolate that you have a deep-seated desire to eggs-ist in the bovine realm. Moo!

If robin’s eggs are eggs-actly what you crave, you look tough on the outside, but crumble to powder when another human eggs-acts pressure.

Real, hard-boiled eggs or plastic? Ornate dye jobs or a quick dunk? Decals or no? Weird sayings in wax crayon? Don’t like all your eggs in one basket? Those type of “issues” eggs-ceed my previously eggs-aggerated capabilities. Maybe you should seek professional help.

Whew!  I’m eggs-hausted, and I bet you’re ready to eggs-coriate me. I have an egg-cellent eggs-cuse for my eggs-asperating behavior: Just call me Humpty Dumpty. And you can eggs-hale because what I found while eggs-cavating your basket was lost in the eggs-plosion.  Happy Easter!

© 2009 Natalie Whatley

Prickly thoughts can ruin sense of smell

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

While a writing gig such as this one is loads of fun, there are times when the thorns of the rose garden we call life distract me to the point of having nothing amusing, meaningful, or sarcastic to say.

I know many don’t like sarcasm, but like a T-shirt in my possession says, “It’s one of the services I offer.” I can smell irony miles away, and have been known to taunt people. It doesn’t help that I’m married to someone who has the ability to hold his own in verbal sparring matches – keeps my skills honed.

But lately, the briers of real life – cleaning dog snot off the floor (poor Scooter and his allergies), mountains of laundry, kids’ homework, attempts at meal planning/grocery shopping and teen angst – are working against my creative process.  I get my best ideas while performing manual labor and/or worrying about things over which I have no control. There’s been plenty of that, and . . . nothing. Well, nothing I should say out loud – you’d think far less of me.

As I fold socks . . . OK, socks aren’t really folded, but you know what I mean. And, raise your hand if “folding” socks for several people makes you nutty. All my guys are wearing the same size now; sometimes it’s difficult to determine the owners. I’ve heard, “Buy all the same, and divide them up.” Won’t work.  Some people, I’ll refrain from naming names, pull theirs off in the strangest places and miss having them laundered. That would leave one person, who provides 99.987% of the family income, without clean socks. (Yes, I did the math. And the answer to your burning question: No, money doesn’t come with all this fame.) He wouldn’t stand for it. Another well-meaning person said to use a permanent marker and put initials at the toe. We weren’t looking ahead or thinking of socks when naming our boys. They all have the initials JLW. Maybe I could try numbers.

Anyway, I got off on a tangent, but was about to say that while I fold socks, and other items for that matter, some crazy stuff pops into my head. Most of the time, things come to me in the form of questions.  If I knew the answers my mind would rest and allow more inventive thought, or at the very least make me feel sane. I’ll provide below a sampling of what goes on inside my noggin, but I must warn you: these are weighty matters.  

Will my children ever brush their teeth without being hounded? And, do at least a decent job before the third round? What is that smell in my son’s room? Why is there soap smeared all over the shower walls? Why is the door on the hamster cage, with an opening large enough for the cat to squeeze through, open when kids are away at school? Isn’t that paper on the kitchen counter the homework we worked on until eleven last night? How many days can my son wear his contacts without removing them for cleaning before a nasty infection, or heaven forbid, blindness sets in? Who ate the last Pop-Tart and left the empty box in the cupboard?

Minor annoyances?  Absolutely. I try not to dwell on them, lest they become real thorns in my side and cause me to miss smelling the roses.

© 2009 Natalie Whatley