Monday, April 13, 2015

The Tumult and Shouting

... when the tumult and shouting 
of the rabble of reviewers 
and gossipers dies, 
The Great Gatsby 
will stand out as a very extraordinary book.

-Max Perkins

First things first: who is Max Perkins?  I am kidding!  I know you're desperate to know the outcome of last Monday's inspection of Trey's truck, so . . . . . . the truck is still with us.  Though I don't love it nearly as much as I love Jack Bauer, the Tundra will also live another day.  The folks at the dealership fixed whatever was ailing the truck for free.  I don't think it was officially still under warranty, but has been a recurrent maintenance issue they've seen in this particular model, the official name of which is, I believe, Toyota's Huge Man Truck XL.

I only half-heard Trey when he explained the truck situation to me last Monday evening because I was mentally preparing for a trip to Dallas.  I registered enough to know we weren't going to be buying a car, & continued making my mental packing lists.

On Tuesday, the kids & I went to Brookshire's to do the typical trip grocery shopping.  You know, milk for now, milk for later.  Being a forward thinking person, I wanted to avoid the agony of returning home, exhausted from a road trip, to discover no milk in the fridge/expired, foul-smelling milk in the fridge.  So, after putting the "milk for now" in the buggy, I dove back in the large fridge & dug through the milk display to find the latest possible expiration date I could so we'd have viable milk in the fridge when we returned home.  I am that woman the grocery stock guys just LOVE.

With a cart packed with kids & groceries, I had one more task to complete before I could pay & exit the store.  Trey called Tuesday morning & asked me if I happened to be headed to Brookshire's, because the odds of that being the case are always fairly high.  Since I usually avoid outright lying to my husband, I told him that yes, I was planning a grocery run later that day, at which point he surprised me by not rattling off a long list of groceries, but instead delving into this long spiel about tax exemptions, of which I heard about 70%.

Basically, if you have exorbitant medical expenses in the course of a calendar year, like say, several trips to PICU due to a diabetes diagnosis & the subsequent expenses of caring for a diabetic child, you can possibly receive a tax break.  In an attempt to get our ducks in a row & be totally legit with our taxes, I visited the Brookshire's Pharmacy & signed HIPAA forms for myself & the kids, freeing the kind pharmacy folks up to produce a detailed list of every Rx we filled last year (Trey, being an adult, has to sign his own HIPAA form).  I've included this fascinating tidbit of last week's grocery run to tell you this: guess who filled zero prescriptions last year?  Me.  Isn't that the most mom thing ever?  I will certainly use this information next time Blue Cross & I have a showdown; they will hear about my Rx free year that saved them tons of money.

With the groceries purchased & the HIPAA business out of the way, I had decided to stay home Wednesday & finalize everything for Thursday's morning departure.  A small glitch was thrown in my plans when Reagan & I were invited to go to the movie Wednesday afternoon.  I accepted the invite; I thought it would be odd to have to explain that I couldn't leave the house to take Reagan to the movie because I'd planned to stay home all day & wash everything we own & vacuum the whole house because we were planning to go out of town Thursday.  But I mean, come on, you know?  I can live in the house with the dirty clothes & the dirty floors, but goodness, if I am going to be gone overnight, well then it bothers me to no end knowing the dirtiness I've left behind.

Here's Reagan & I with our Junior Mints . . . 3 servings in one box, FYI, at about 35 carbs a serving.  You always want to share the box of Junior Mints they sell at the movie; your future self will thank you.

I did manage to check off most of the items on my trip preparation list before Thursday morning rolled around & Nana picked us up.

*This is an alert that what follows is heavy on the photos, light on the deep thoughts/interesting stories about HIPAA forms.*

To begin, here are Reagan & Henry on their inaugural Dallas treks:

And Mr. Henry:

Okay, flash forward to last Thursday.  Here we go.

Henry about five minutes after we left:

And Reagan, who insisted she too was asleep & wanted her picture taken:

After an unceremonious arrival & unloading of the vehicle, we all ate dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.  I took no pictures as there was considerable crazy happening at our table most of the meal, but I can recommend the Chicken Madeira.  Also, the cheese pizza on their kids' menu has eighty-eight carbs, however, it's a large pizza & half of it should suffice for most children, & children for whom half the pizza does not suffice should be made to eat half the pizza & a salad or some non-starchy vegetables.  Just a friendly tip . . . from a woman who counts carbs in her sleep & did not fill one prescription last year.

We began Friday, our first full day in Dallas, in much the same way many of you likely did, with an oral reading of several passages from The Great Gatsby in celebration of the ninetieth anniversary of the April 10, 1925, publication of Fitzgerald's work.

No, actually, we spent the entire day celebrating Gatsby's publication at a fantastic mall spending money, the irony of which I think F. Scott would appreciate.

Lunch in the food court from Paradise Bakery & Cafe.  Note Reagan's face:

And the face post-lunch in the Disney store, which is directly across from the food court & at which she stared & pouted while I made her eat:

Her selection, at long last, some Jake & the Never Land Pirates figurines:

I should tell you that my Aunt Kathy, who lives in Dallas, met us at the mall.  While Reagan & I spent some time alone, Kathy strolled Henry around the mall in hopes of him finding sleep.  He did not sleep, but he sat quietly & gawked, & that worked too.

A selfie on the merry-go-round which, thankfully, Reagan only wanted to ride once:

The reason for the solo merry-go-round ride was her desire to ride the escalator, which we did three or four times.

After the escalator fun, I told Reagan it was mommy's turn to do fun mommy things, & so she agreed to ride in this nifty red contraption the mall makes available to people who are (1) willing to part with $5 & (2) not afraid of germs.

I traveled to Dallas with a dress I ordered from Nordstrom.  I ordered it hoping it would fit beautifully & I could wear it to my sister-in-law's upcoming wedding.  It didn't fit beautifully, so I returned it to Nordstrom.  Reagan behaved incredibly well while I traipsed through Nordstrom, Macy's, & Dillard's looking for a dress.  I even tried a few on in Dillard's, but no dice.  

I do love to shop, but dress shopping is this whole other thing.  I tried on two dresses with potential in Dillard's.  They both fit, but they both had a fatal flaw; one dress was basically backless, as I realized once I had it on & felt a draft, & the other was slit way, way too far up the sides for a woman who has two kids & professes to love the Lord.  That's why dress shopping is this whole other thing: so often a  dress is perfect except for one detail that shifts it from the "church service/wedding guest" category to the "I might be willing to go home with you tonight" category.  Needless to say, Friday was a total dress-shopping bust, but Reagan & I had a great time together.   

Our last stop Friday was the kids' shoe department in Nordstrom.  Reagan insisted she'd seen children with balloons in the mall, so we inquired & learned that balloons were available & totally free for kids in the Nordstrom kids' shoe department . . . the balloons were free; the shoes my mom bought her grandkids were not.  Clever, Nordstrom, clever.

Friday's dinner was eaten at Gloria's, a great Mexican restaurant where I drowned my dress woes in chips & salsa while Henry discovered bean dip.

A little sibling bonding time watching Daniel Tiger on the iPad before bed Friday evening.

If you look closely you might see a balloon string:

Saturday, I was wiped when I awoke, but I had a dress to find, so I showered & fed my kids & powered through a long, long day.

We first visited what I am tempted to call a furniture store, except that furniture store in no way describes the Nebraska Furniture Mart.  They do sell furniture there, but they also sell everything else in the world - appliances, grills, TVs, computers, Subway sandwiches, & decorative knick-knacks, for starters.

I am always a sucker for decorative knick-knacks, & so I walked away with this painted bird & this tiny distressed stool . . . because the bird needs a perch:

Yes, he's joined my bird pictures hanging over the china cabinet.  I'm sure you loyal readers well remember last fall's fascinating saga of my acquisition of my china cabinet & the bird-picture-collage that hangs above it; perhaps we'll relive that on a day when I have fewer pictures to share. 

The kids were happy to spend time in the Nebraska Furniture Mart because, like the mall, they offer child-friendly transportation, & they offer it for free!  Beep, beep!

Oh & Nana bought them toys, too:

The small babes were irate over missing nap time when we left the furniture mart, & so my mom dropped Reagan & I off outside a Dillard's & drove around hoping Henry would rest & recoup.  Jessica was also lapping the greater Dallas area in hopes of a similar recouping period for Maisie. 

Reagan & I, meanwhile, played around with a few hats, looked at some dresses, & then visited a Starbucks.  At this point, I'd resigned myself to dress failure & solidified my resignation with a latte & a cake pop.   

Reagan asked that her picture be taken to mark her good behavior while the two younger ones continued to protest their long day of shopping:

Saturday's dinner was surprisingly pleasant.  After a total meltdown that had us headed home for a  PB&J dinner, Henry sobered up when my mom popped a Baby Einstein video in the car's DVD player.  Fairly convinced Henry wouldn't embarrass us, we all enjoyed dinner at The Black Walnut, which features three big pieces of fake food near the front door.

Post-dinner, fake food photo shoot in their matching nautical outfits:

Henry was saying "Apple," because he insisted the large fake red bell pepper was an apple:

No fake sleeping on the drive home Sunday:

So, on to the answers to your burning questions.  First, yes, I found a dress.  I actually found two dresses at a Dillard's on Saturday.  Both dresses made the trip home with me, & a final decision will be made about wedding attire once shoes & jewelry have been evaluated.  Second, yes, I did miss the Gilmore girls while I was gone & was eager to return to the drama of Stars Hollow when I finally climbed in bed last night.  I am on the horns of a binge watching Gilmore girls/book club obligation dilemma that you'll likely read more about in detail later.  The dilemma is not yet upon me, but being a forward thinking person, I see it ahead.

Finally, Max Perkins was F. Scott Fitzgerald's editor.  The above quote was included in a letter from Perkins to Fitzgerald two weeks prior to the publication of The Great Gatsby.  It may've taken a handful of decades, but Mr. Perkins was proven correct in his editorial judgment, though sadly I don't know to what extent Fitzgerald took Mr. Perkins' words to heart.  I suspect Fitzgerald did get lost in the tumult & shouting, or rather, tried to drown it out with booze.  I grieve when I think of what he might've written had he lived a few more decades.

Don't get lost in the tumult & shouting.  Fitzgerald died fifteen years after Gatsby was published; he was forty-four years old.  According to this Los Angeles Times article, his last royalty check from Scribner's was for $13.13.  I'm not suggesting that attempting to shop & dine in the greater Dallas area with three children in tow is the equivalent of writing a masterpiece such as Gatsby, although now that I think about it, the two activities share a few commonalities . . . there's a certain madness necessary to undertake either endeavor, & both require ample supply of the strong drink of one's choice.  

Anyway, whether you're a writer plugging away but seeing no return on the time & energy & emotion you invest, or a grandmother seeking picturesque moments with your (completely uncooperative) grandchildren, or a mom struggling, dizzy & deafened by the tumult & shouting, don't quit.  Don't accept defeat because after four years of harping on it, she still doesn't always say Yes ma'am & No ma'am.  Don't hang your head because your typically laid back, smiling toddler completely loses his cool in Dillard's while your mother wrestles him to the ground as you make one last ditch effort to find a dress to wear to your sister-in-law's upcoming wedding.  You know, hypothetically speaking.  Don't brand yourself a fool for traveling with two young kids because they are, at present, unable to articulate for you how much fun they had & the memories they made that they'll call to mind in ten or twenty or thirty years.  Don't get lost in the tumult & shouting.

This hangs on the wall between the kids' rooms at our house:

This hangs on the wall outside Maisie's room at her house:

My mom had them made for us.  Jessica & I lost a cousin a long time ago.  I can't believe it, but it's been almost twenty years; I wrote about her death in more detail here, almost four years ago.  You Are My Sunshine was sung at her graveside.  I have a handful of good childhood memories of her, with her, & I am thankful for them.  I'm thankful I spent time with my cousins when I was young.  I think about her occasionally as I watch Reagan & Maisie & Henry.  Her face, her megawatt smile, pops in my mind when I'm tired, & I think I am nuts for hauling two kids to Dallas so they can fight over their cousin's toys & fight over whose balloon is whose & end the day with a rip-roaring, kicking & wailing fit in Dillard's.  Tumult & shouting, tumult & shouting.

A few unlucky patrons in Dillard's might remember the emotional breakdown, but Henry won't.  Reagan & Henry will remember getting a balloon in the shoe department at Nordstrom, & playing with Maisie's toys, & scooting down the steps at Maisie's house, & I will always, even when both girls are grown, remember Maisie's sweet baby voice calling for Rea Rea.

I am calling all these sweet memories to mind now as I wash our dirty clothes & mentally prepare myself for tomorrow's return to school, ignoring the tumult & shouting in my house that apparently followed us home from Dallas.  I hope you ignore the tumult & shouting in your world this week, remembering that critics are often wrong, & the true beauty & worth of something is not always immediately obvious.  Keep plugging along, dear reader.  As Henry would say, Choo-choo.


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