The story of Flash



Last Thursday Martin got a new car.

Not new, but new to him.

My car is now his car.

He inherited the Toyota Highlander — complete with 210,000 miles, a bent axle, a broken door handle, and an interior completely defiled by children.

“Here you go,” I said, jangling the keys.

“Thanks,” Martin said flatly.

“Now you promise to take good care of it, right?”

“Just give me the keys,” he said, grabbing them and trudging across the parking lot.

“I’ll follow you home, okay?” I shouted from my new car.

My new car.

We’d talked for ages about replacing the Highlander, and more recently, when it acquired some four-digit repair bills.

Not to mention it’s falling apart. One window is broken, and a rear door handle has been pulled clean off.

missing handle

To open door, knock on window…and hope a kid answers.


Then there’s the trunk-door hatch: it likes to brain people in the wintertime. When it’s freezing cold, the hatch’s hydraulic arms lose tension.  So you open the trunk, begin to load/unload, and — without warning — the door slams down, delivering a concussive blow.

And speaking of the trunk, there’s that trunk troll issue: we don’t have any extra seating, so we stick additional adult passengers in the trunk.

Have I made my case? New car needed. We were looking for something 3 to 4 years old, less than 40,000 miles, and no minivan. We test-drove a few models and narrowed the pool of contenders.

And then one day I snapped.

Not just like that. There were cumulative factors, several bad days that led to snappage. But one particular afternoon the kids were acting like maniacs, the horse lost another shoe, the dog rolled in deer poop, Brynn was screeching her head off, and I was helping Cayden look for his homework — which he dropped somewhere in the grass. I was looking down, walking in circles… like a crazy person. Or like someone concussed by the Highlander’s trunk door.

In that moment of chaos, I glanced at my sweatshirt. My new sweatshirt — already a favorite. It was riddled with moth holes.

A moth turned my sweatshirt into swiss cheese. Now that was the moment of snappage.

Suddenly, a 4-year-old car with 40,000 miles wasn’t good enough. I wanted nearly-new and no economy model. I wanted a nice car, out-of-budget, with unnecessary accessories. Redundant running lights, wood trim, remote keyless entry, air conditioned seats. I needed that. My butt needed to be cool when I drove.

Martin didn’t know what to say about my luxury-vehicle lust. It didn’t fit my frugal track record.

He thought it was a phase and would pass. He thought that, until I asked for a ride to pick up my new car. (Which is a 2012 GMC Acadia, if anyone’s still reading.)

At the dealership, the guy tried to explain all the accessories and functions until Martin interrupted. “Just show her the gas and brake. That’s all she needs.”

On the way home, Martin and I talked over the phone from our respective vehicles. (And there’s another state law that I’m no longer violating. No trunk troll, and I talk on a hands-free device. Apparently, that’s been a law for three years.)

“It’s so nice,” I crowed to Martin, as we looped the beltway. “Where are you?” I asked. I was driving so cautiously, I’d lost sight of him.

“I’m up ahead,” he replied. “Can’t you see the cloud of dirt and dust? That me, driving Pigpen.”

And that’s how we named the Highlander, after 8 years. Pigpen.

As for the new car, Martin wanted to name it right away. “How about Shiny? It’s so shiny!”

“No,” I said. “It won’t be shiny once I hit the gravel drive.”

But it will be flashy, even with a coat of dust.

For the time being, Flash is still pristine. Because I don’t let kids near it. In fact, I don’t drive it. I’d like to drive it, but since I’m chauffeuring kids, I drive Pigpen.


But when the next snap moment comes, I’ll be in a better frame of mind.

I’ll be sitting in Flash. With the seat coolers on.



Chitty, Pigpen and Flash. Not pictured, Big Rig


(PS: I don’t mention Little Zippy, but he was blog-worthy 4 years ago. Click here for that post. Little Zip is still roadworthy. I saw him last year; he still bears the deer dent.)


Nicknames with stick



We once called Hadley, “the Barbarian.”

Fortunately, kindness trumped her darker side and she shed that moniker. (And Hadley never embraced that nickname.)

Her sibling, however, is a different animal. The following is a verbal exchange between a relative and Brynn:


“What’s your name?”


“Brynn what? What’s your last name?”


“What…? No, your whole name, sweetie.”

I am Brynn.

“That’s your first name. What’s your last?”

I just TOLE you my last name. It’s ‘Zilla!’ … I AM BRYNNZILLA!


She is.

Don’t look into her eyes. She’ll take you down.


Kids and Forage


File this post under “kids grow up so fast” category.

Actually, I hate when people say that.

And trust me, they say that a lot.

Not as a declarative but as a warning. As in, “Oh, enjoy those cute kids of yours, because it all goes by soooo fast….” And then the person pats Brynn on the head and adds, “and this one’s such a little cutie…”

And I want to say: “Hey! Are you one of those morons who tries petting zoo animals between the bars because they’re so cute? Are you one of them? Don’t touch that kid — she might bite off a digit!”

But I never say that. I just nod appreciably and say, “Oh gosh I know, they do grow up so fast….”

And then I silently will that person to get a flat tire….


Anyway, back to kids & forage.

Every summer the hay fields around us rise from ankle-itching depths to waist-high waves of stems and seeds. Next door, Chet and Paula always round-bale their field (yes, I used “round bale” as a verb…)

And there’s something about those mammoth servings of livestock sustenance — scattered in bristly pasture — that draw us out of the woodwork. One neighbor, who trains Labrador Retrievers, always calls his dogs to bound atop the bales. The barn cats slink out to investigate. And our kids venture out and scramble aboard.

This year I took some photos and dug out past pictures.

This one’s from June, 2008. Cayden was 2 years old, and on my hip that’s Hadley, 8 months…



Here’s present day. Mind you, this picture isn’t staged. There must be something about a round bale that screams, “push me!”




Back to ’08, Cayden and baby Hadley




And the two of them today.




Except that now there’s three. Remember, the little cutie? Don’t be fooled… never stick your fingers through the bars of her cage…


Left to right: Brynn, 3, Hadley, 5 and Cayden, 7



While the kids were getting into position and I warmed up my camera, Hadley spotted a bug and expressed concern.




Without missing a beat Cayden told her not to worry, adding “it’s just a blood-sucking arthropod…”




Good one, Cayden….