Category Archives: Family


We have bugs.

They’re all over the place. A grasshopper in the kitchen. A beetle in the living room. A fly in the playroom. Even a moth in the freezer.

It does not please me that we have so many, but I want my daughter to get a good education. Her grade on her Science project depends on it, so we have bugs—temporarily.

And we are actively recruiting more bugs, preferably ones we’ve never seen before. The bigger the better. She’s hoping to find one of those giant cockroaches that hisses. If she does, I’m calling our realtor. I can have the house packed in 48 hours.

Each time she finds a new bug, she catches it in an empty peanut butter jar. She observes it for a few minutes then hastens its demise by adding a cotton ball soaked with a few drops of acetone to the jar. It doesn’t take long. She likes to do play-by-play of the dying process for me, usually while I’m around food. Her favorite part is when the bug is lying on its back, signaling with one leg that the end is near with periodic twitches.

My husband and son have gotten into the act as well. They help her find and catch creepy-crawly things, watch them die with her, and threaten to send me into a bona-fide mental breakdown by tossing the creatures onto my lap. It would only take one.

I hate bugs. That’s why I keep the sugar in a canister with an air-tight seal and don’t allow candy stashes in the bedrooms. That’s why I was especially upset the other night when my husband presented my daughter with a prize he’d caught while she was at school.

“Cool!” she said, turning the jar to get a better look. “Where’d you get it?”

My husband smiled, obviously pleased with himself. “It’s one of those bugs that lives in the basement.”

My head whipped around. “What do you mean by ‘lives in the basement?’”

He cocked his head as if my question were a silly one. “That’s one of those bugs that lives in the basement,” he repeated.

“I wasn’t aware we had any bugs living in the basement.”

“Everyone has bugs in their basement.”

This was news to me. News I haven’t gotten over. And now, not only am I aware of the phantom bugs I’ve never seen that I’m told live and breed in our basement, but every day I’m confronted with the assortment of dead bugs we have on display in peanut butter jars all over the house.

Creepy. I’d prefer a good book report any day.


The other day we took our cat, Pete, to the vet. Overnight, he’d gone from limping on his front right leg to hopping on three legs. Pitiful.

We expected he’d stepped on something sharp or had been injured roughhousing with our other cat. We were concerned he might have an abscess. Poor baby.

Our attempts to examine the paw resulted in him hissing at us and threatening to bite. Obviously, he was in terrible pain.

Suddenly I felt bad for refusing to share my strawberry yogurt with Pete that morning. It’s his favorite treat. The guilt was overwhelming.

I called the vet and fortunately they had an immediate opening. We coaxed him into the pet carrier and whisked him away to receive the medical care he deserved. We prayed we weren’t too late.

After the doctor examined the patient, he confirmed our cat had a sore paw. He assured us it would probably be fine in a few days and gave us a syringe filled with medicine. Just squirt it in the cat’s mouth, he said. Or on top of his favorite food. He sent us and the cat home to take a nap.

When we got home, I scooped a spoonful of strawberry yogurt into a pretty little bowl and mixed in the medicine. I sat the bowl on the floor and called kitty-kitty. Pete hobbled over to the bowl like a dead man walking and sniffed. I held my breath. When he began to lap up the yogurt I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe he’d make it after all.

The moment he finished the yogurt, he licked his lips and scampered off into the living room. He found his favorite ball and had himself a rousing game of “Pounce the Ping Pong” – a game that requires four fully-functioning paws. It’s a fast-paced game, violent at times, and he played until he wore himself out. Then he jumped up on the couch for a bath and a nap.

Amazed that he’d made such a quick recovery, I googled the name of Pete’s medication. I had to know more about this miracle drug.

The more I read, the more I realized we’d been scammed. Turned out, the clear liquid in the syringe was nothing more than a kitty aspirin. It hadn’t even had time to kick in before Pete began romping around like a three-year-old on a sugar high.

I still don’t know whether to be mad or impressed that Pete is that smart. All I know is it cost me $56.00 and Pete got the yogurt he wanted. All I can say is this:  Don’t mess with me, cat. I’m on to you…


My husband gave me a little job to do while he’s out of town. He handed me a piece of paper with some numbers on it and asked me to buy new tires for his car. Four of them. Fortunately, this is not the first time I’ve been sent to buy something I know nothing about.

 When I was in high school, my mother sent me to a sporting goods store to buy my older brother a cup for football. My younger brother heard us talking and said he needed one, too. I didn’t ask why one needed to be medium and one needed to be large. And I didn’t understand the difference between an athletic supporter and a cup until I got to the store and learned the latter is not something to drink out of. On stormy nights I still have flashbacks of the clerk’s explanation. I think he must have gone a year or two to medical school. 

Ever since that harrowing experience, I’ve insisted on full disclosure before I agree to go shopping for someone else to buy something I know nothing about. I make them write down exactly what they want. Size, color, inseam, diameter, tensile strength, thread count, octane content, length, height, width, square inches, decaf or regular, with or without deodorant and for crying out loud make it legible. The model number is good, too. I’ll take the SKU number if you’ve got it.

 As is turns out, this is an especially good rule when it comes to tires because—and I’m not trying to be funny here—they all look alike. Round. Black. Rubbery. So I was a little annoyed when I discovered my husband ignored my policy. 

I handed the impatient clerk the paper with the information my husband wrote down. He clicked on his computer for a minute, swung the screen around to face me and began speaking in sales-ese. He droned on and on about the virtues of the models he recommended—any one of which, he asserted, would be an exceptional choice. He bragged about tread depth and treadwear expectancy. With one brand we’d save fuel because new technology resulted in a tire that rolled more easily. Really? It’s round. It’s a tire. What else would it do but roll? 

He claimed another tire offered exceptional traction on icy and slick roads. Oh? I may not know much about buying tires, but I know enough to not expect exceptional traction when driving on ice. 

He wrapped up his pitch by showing me samples, spinning each in a full 360 for my inspection and encouraging me to touch the tread. Then he looked at me expectantly, waiting for my decision.

 Buying  a cup for my brothers so they could play football without risking their future procreative privileges was a breeze compared to shopping for tires. I tried to choose. I really did. But my head was spinning like a flat tire on an icy road. I gave up, came home and put my feet up. 

Sorry, Honey. You’re going to have to buy your own tires. But if you ever decide to go out for football, I’m your girl.


We’ve had a little miracle here at the Allen house. Actually, five little miracles. After weeks of waiting and anticipation, and praying that the kids would get to witness the birth, Honey had her kittens on April 1.

Tension hung in the air on that Sunday morning when she began having contractions. They weren’t regular or hard enough to produce kittens, so we made the decision to go on to church. My daughter sketched Honey and her prediction of five kittens during the sermon. I have to admit my mind wandered as well, and I hoped more than once we weren’t missing the big event. After the service, we skipped the coffee and muffins and raced home, the same question on all our minds. We found Honey as we’d left her, perched on top of an old microwave cart, looking out the window. We were happy and a little disappointed at the same time.

That afternoon, around 4:30, I was sitting with her, dozing off and on, when I noticed a significant contraction. Five minutes later she had another one. Five minutes after that she had a stronger one. I knew it was time.

My son sat nearby at the computer, working on a book report. I told him the big event was about to take place and he’d better go notify his father and sister. Soon the whole family gathered around Honey, staring at her undulating midsection. I’ll spare you the gory details, but about an hour later the first kitten was born. My kids, 14 and 11, sat in amazement as they watched the birth. Their smiles told the story – I didn’t have to ask what they thought.

In order of appearance, we have one calico, three grey kittens (the third of which has a tan mask just above his eyes) and one mixture of white and orange tabby. All healthy. All beautiful.

The miracle of new life has brought a few changes to our routine. Before school, the kids take turns scooping litter, giving Honey food and fresh water, changing the pillowcase in the bottom of the laundry basket. But mostly, they sit and watch Honey care for her kittens.

Besides enjoying the baby-stage of the kittens, I hope they’ll learn something more important. When they watch the kittens nursing from their purring mother, falling asleep as she snuggles close to protect them, receiving momma’s kisses as she keeps them clean, I hope they will understand that Honey’s selfless devotion to her offspring—a 24/7 endeavor—is motivated by a mother’s love. I hope my kids will imagine that when they were infants they were cared for in the same tender manner. Adored. Beloved. Cherished. Because they were.


We recently took in a pregnant stray cat. On purpose. Temporarily. 

Kim, an acquaintance of mine, works with a local cat rescue group. These kindhearted folks track down abandoned pets and feral cats around apartment complexes, businesses and neighborhoods. They find foster homes, like ours, where the animals are cared for and loved on until they can find a good home for them. They also rescue cats from shelters to prevent them from being euthanized when their time runs out.

Honey is one of the cats they rescued.

My daughter, Sarah, and I have talked about fostering a pregnant cat for a couple of years now. At age 11, she loves all things soft and furry, especially things that sit on your lap and purr. So do I.

The cat arrived two weeks ago. Kim said we could name her. For a week, we observed her behavior, got to know her personality. Sarah posted a list on the refrigerator with all the suggested names. Over dinner last week, we had a vigorous debate over the possible names. It rivaled the upcoming presidential election in terms of loyalty to individual candidates. After a vote, “Honey” emerged as the winner. We all agreed that because of her color, and because she is so sweet, we’d made a fitting choice.

The plan is that once the kittens are weaned, Honey will go to another foster home. After her milk dries up she’ll be spayed and then, after she recovers from surgery, she’ll be put up for adoption.

Now, don’t tell my husband, but I’d like to be the first in line.

I know…I know. We made it clear to the kids that we couldn’t keep any of the kittens, no matter how cute they were. We already have two cats. They understood. So I shouldn’t even think about it, but…she is the sweetest little thing.

When the time comes, I sure am going to miss her. But at least I’ll have the peace of knowing that we made a home for her during her time of need. And in this ever-darker world we live in, we will have done one small thing to combat the notion that life—any life—is dispensable, rather than a precious gift from God, worthy of love.


     We don’t have Kodak moments at our house. We have near misses, disasters, and fish stories. We often sit around the dinner table recalling the ones that got away.

     “Honey, remember the one of Zachary holding Sarah the day we brought her home from the hospital?” my husband reminisces.

     “Oh, yes.” I nod my head, remembering. “That was precious. Too bad the camera battery was dead.”

     We have no pictures of our daughter feeding herself cake at her first birthday party because the flash wasn’t turned on. I can’t show my son the photo of him winning the sack race on Field Day in Kindergarten because I left the camera at home. And a picture of me, posing with a very handsome Canadian Mountie, never made it home because my husband dropped the film when he was changing rolls and it went over Niagara Falls. He still swears it was an accident.

     When we finally got a digital camera we thought things would change. We have striking photos of our trash sitting at the curb, me coming out of the shower, and the cat using the litter box. The kids took those.

     Occasionally, I miss not having pictures of Christmas morning, the day the cat had kittens, and the time we were on vacation in Colorado and saw the double rainbow. But somehow, there are pictures in my mind of all these important life events. Many are probably in sharper focus and more beautifully framed than the photos would have been. They are stored away where they can’t be destroyed by flood or fire. There are no fingerprints on them. And I don’t have to spend hours putting them into albums to enjoy them. I just close my eyes.


In our family we pray together at dinner time. It’s supposed to be a reverant time to take a moment to thank the good Lord for all the good things he’s done for us – to show our gratitude for his blessings. But I noticed lately that we often rush through the prayer, as though it’s simply a ritual that must be endured before we get around to why we really came to the table in the first place. Especially if we’re eating in front of the TV we’ve been known to dive in to our food so we don’t miss any of the program and squeeze in a prayer during a commercial. It hurts to admit this, but it’s true. In short, often we show more enthusiasm for our preying than for our praying.

So here’s what I decided to do about it. Tonight at dinner, there will be no TV. Instead of having the family sit down with a plate full of food in front of them, I’m going to have them sit at an empty table. While stomachs growl and mouths water, we’re going to talk about what it would be like if our pantry and refrigerator were empty and we had no money to buy food. I’m going to ask my kids to imagine going to school hungry, or having no sack lunch to eat. I’m going to share with them that I’ve noticed all four of us falling into an attitude that lacks sincerety when it comes to showing God how grateful we are to him for what we have. We’re going to ask God to forgive us and then we’re going to thank him, sincerely, for our evening meal.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE:  The family looked at me like I was a little strange when I called them to the table and there was nothing on it. They complied when I asked them to sit down, but they looked like I might announce the death of a close relative or reveal I had been diagnosed with an incurable illness. I explained my conviction that we’d gotten off track with our mealtime blessings. Their faces grew sober as I told them about my post today and asked them to join me in a sincere apology and prayer.  One by one we told the Lord we were sorry, asked forgiveness and thanked him for the privilege of having plenty to eat before enjoying our dinner. I think they got the point. And I pray there will be a renewed sense of gratitude here at the Allen house.