Our Last Year

I interviewed my oldest and dearest friend in an airport yesterday for fun, and I typed up part of the transcript from that. The giggling, some gate change announcements over the loudspeaker, a couple boring stories and a few awkward pauses have been edited out.

The interview was at the airport because we were coming home from our families' vacation in Florida. I almost fell and died.

The interview was at the airport because we were coming home from this. I almost fell and died.

 

Kyra: In conducting this interview, I am going to pretend that you are a stranger because I feel like that would be a more interesting way for readers to get to know you. Could you state and spell your name for me, please? 

Lacey: Lacey Billings. L-A-C-E-Y B-I-L-L-I-N-G-S.

K: Good work. You’ve passed the first test. So, how long have we known each other?

L: About 12 years.

K: That’s ridiculous. It’s been a long time. This whole stranger thing is going to be difficult. Actually probably impossible. It felt like a good idea no more than five minutes ago. Anyway, what’s the story of how we met?

L: It was the first day of first grade. We were out on the playground and you were up on the top of the slide, and you said, “Do you want to see me jump off this?” And I was like, “Uh, yes.” And you were like, “Well, I’m not gonna do it.” And then you ran away. And then I was so excited that I made a new friend.

K: And we’ve been friends ever since. Transitions are hard, so I’m not even going to try. How many days has it been since our last nonsense?

L: That’s a good question. I’ve been trying to remember our last nonsense, but I can’t think of any recent nonsense we’ve conducted.

K: What a boring friendship. We can’t even remember our last nonsense. The only nonsense I can remember is when we went into your sister’s room… Would you like to tell that story?

L: The pony story? Well, she was playing with her ponies, in her room, by herself, and we were in her closet, spying on her.

K and L(in unison): Of course.

L: And when she left, we put a bunch of dinosaurs and spiders and monsters on the ponies and made it look like they were eating them. It was pretty cool.

When we talked yesterday, we seemed to have forgotten this little late elementary nonsense.

When we talked yesterday, we seemed to have forgotten this little late elementary nonsense.

K: So it’s been like, nine-and-a-half years since our last nonsense?

L: Yeah, not too bad. Not too shabby.

K: We follow our No Nonsense policy a little too well. So, what’s your fondest memory of when we were going to school together?

L: Out of all the years?

K: Yeah, out of all eight of ’em.

L: Well, I’m trying to remember things that happened. I remember you threw up one time in first grade. And you cried. And then you were running out of the room to find Mrs. ____. That wasn’t a fond memory though. I’m just brainstorming here… That was really sad.

K: Yeah, it kind of was. But my homework–it was the letter writing worksheet for the letter Q–fell into my puke so Mrs. ____ didn’t make me do it. It was the best day ever. I wish school worked like that now. If you can’t think of any of our fond memories we’ve made, you could just describe the outfits you wore in third and fourth grade. Those are my fondest memories.

L: Okay, I can do that. In fourth grade mostly, I was really into gauchos, and I was really into Crocs. And some days, I wore gauchos with Crocs. And knee socks. But don’t tell anyone. Knee socks, Kyra.

K: Were you into turtlenecks, or was that just me?

L: No, that was just you. I was never really into turtlenecks. That was one of the strong points I had. I was really in to those leather clunk shoes–you know the ones with the buckles?

K: Yes, I had those awesome ones with the little charms on the ends.

L: Ugh, yeah. I was so jealous of yours.

K: I know. They were probably the best leather shoes I’ve ever owned. Private school probs.

L: Oh, I do remember something! Remember those poles underneath the slide? We used to spin around them. We called it “flying,” but it was basically pole dancing.

K: Yeah, I remember. You were really good. I guess you could go into that as a career if you need a back-up.

L: Probably, but anyway I was “flying” around the pole and wearing those leather shoes and the creek was right behind us and both my shoes flew off into the creek. And so my mom had to bring me new shoes. She brought my tan felt shoes. Those were my first favorite shoes. I had them every single year. You could get them in three colors, too: They came in tan, burgundy and navy blue.

K: Sexy.

L: But I was so mad. My mom would only let me get the tan ones. I wanted the burgundy ones so bad. I mean, burgundy’s like the best thing ever. Especially on those felt duck shoes. I don’t even know what to call them.

K: Yes, felt duck shoes are the best kind. Okay, so one more question. Why do you think we’ve been friends for so long? What is our secret? Seriously, I really want to know. Why are we still friends?

L: Hey! That’s kinda rude!

K: Hey, I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just curious. What’s our secret?

L: Um, well, first of all, we’ve known each other for like, 12 years, and we were in the same small class for eight of those years. Our familys are good friends. We vacation all the time together. And we like each other, I think?

K: Haha, yes we do. I think also we like the same television shows.

L: Yes, yes! That seriously has a lot to do with it! It’s been a huge part of our friendship. Psych, Monk, Wonder Years, Raising Hope, The Office, all the others.

Imma fruit fly. Imma cup fly. Another one of our favorite shows was Hannah Montana

Imma fruit fly. Imma cup fly. Another one of our favorite shows was Hannah Montana

K: Star Wars, although you were a lot more into it.

L: Hey, hey now. That was a long time ago.

K: True. But anyway, we’re going to be friends forever, right?

L: Yeah, but after we graduate we won’t really see each other. This is going to be our last year, Kyra.

K: Wow, thanks for reminding me. Bye, bye, childhood. It’s been a good run.

L: There it goes, down the drain.

K: What a bummer thing to end the interview on: “And then, our childhood ended.”

L: And we went our separate ways.

K: And we never saw each other again. End recording.

Our 12 year friendship, summarized.

Our 12 year friendship, summarized.

 

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My Biggest Fan

Pink and silver streamers on my Barbie bicycle handles flow in the wind as I peddle hard on the uneven pavement, trying to see how long I can keep the slightly elevated training wheels from touching the concrete below. Behind me, my dad maintains a light jog, and we keep on that way until we reach our special place: The Dream Meadow.photo 1

The day I was born, my mother was supposed to be taking finals for law school. That’s a little difficult to do when you’re in labor. She missed two exams while having me, and her study group met later that day at the hospital. Somehow she made it through that semester and the next several, passing the bar exam and receiving a well-deserved degree. To say I’m impressed is an understatement–law school is hard enough without a baby.

Also the day I was born, my father was an anxious mess. He went down to the cafeteria at the hospital to get some juice, and when he came back, I was just beginning to come out into the world. He was caught off-guard, so he did what any young new father would do upon walking in on his wife giving birth–he fainted. My mother’s and the doctors’ attention shifted from the task at hand to the unconscious guy on the chair in the corner of the room. My parents’ differing reactions to my new existence still pretty well summarize our respective relationships.

Because my mother juggled classes and me during the day, my dad got to deal with me before and after work and on the weekends while my mom studied. He was a 22 year old X-Ray Technician, also taking a few classes. As a new father, he had no idea what he was doing. But that didn’t stop him from trying.

On Saturday mornings, my dad would painstakingly gather as much of my towheaded wisps into a hair-tie on the top of my head. After helping me into a bright pink outfit of some sort (in my later toddler years, this would be replaced by blue denim overalls), he would take me out. Money was tight, and he was creative. The pet store became my zoo, public parks my swing set. And after a long walk in the evenings, my dad would read to me. And read to me. And read to me. We went to the library almost daily because I memorized the books quickly. Usually on the third go-around, my dad would just turn the pages as I recited its contents. That’s where the Dream Meadow comes into play.

I was about three when, in the continual desperate search for more books with which to lull me to sleep, my father purchased a $1 box of quality children’s literature from a garage sale. One of the books in the box was about an old guy and his dog. I think both of them ended up dying. There was a meadow involved (not in their deaths–just in the story). Since an overgrown field was located near our house, I named it after the meadow in the book. My dad and I used to go to our Dream Meadow and throw rocks at a fence. Fond memories.

I can't find a decent photo of just my dad and me from the last five years. Mostly because the two yahoos next to me in this family photo keep interrupting.

I can’t find a decent photo of just my dad and me from the last five years. Mostly because the two yahoos next to me in this family photo keep interrupting.

After we could read no more books, I would sit on my father’s lap and watch baseball. The man loves his Kansas City Royals. He secretly ensured that my first name would start with “K” and my middle with “C” so I could go by K.C. Haas if I ever felt the desire. (I actually went by K.C. briefly during the summer after fifth grade, but people always thought it was spelled “Caysi,” which got old pretty quick.) It was during one of our late night baseball marathons that my dad had what he still will refer to as his crowning moment as a parent.  I was two-years-old, snuggled up against him, watching the Royals lose to (insert MLB team here). He told me it was time to go to bed. I said, “One more inning, Daddy.” My dad let me watch the next inning, and when he tells that story, his chest swells with pride that his two-year-old daughter not only knew what baseball innings were, but also requested to watch another.

Seventeen years and two more children later, my dad has come a long way from the nervous fainting 22-year-old who thought of his favorite baseball team while naming his newborn. He is much more mature and sophisticated now. Among other things, I credit him for my love of Monty Python, fart jokes and Dumb and Dumber. He’s the man behind much of who I am, from my love of reading to my sense of humor.

My Kids Will Read This and Laugh

Push it out your you-know-what. Let it suck on your boob. Clean up its excrement. Listen to it cry (and cry and cry and cry and cry).

And that’s just the beginning.

At this point in my life, I am not interested in having my own child, possibly ever. Speaking as an adolescent, I know I would not like to be on the receiving end of some of the terrible things I’ve said and done to my mother. I appreciate her for listening to my tirades, enduring my selfish, bratty behavior–and loving me anyway. But, the truth is, I’m not sure if I could do the same for another human being. I’ve actually thought about it quite a lot, so I made some lists.

Reasons I do not want to have a child now or ten years from now:

1. Kids are expensive. Babies can be really cute, but sometimes they look like potatoes. Regardless of your kid’s appearance, you still must purchase food and clothing for her. Even when your child is being an absolute brat, you can’t stop paying for her needs, unless you want the state to take her away from you. Babies need cribs and toys and mushed-up baby food slop and tiny spoons for the mushed-up baby food slop and blankets and onesies and diapers and more diapers and wipes and changing tables and strollers and bottles and high chairs and car seats and binkies and all sorts of other stuff (like containers for the mushed-up baby food slop). Then, they outgrow these things and require replacements. Children are a black hole in which you dump large sums of money, never to be seen again. And when (or if) they move out, they still might want money for food and somewhere–or someone–to do their laundry.

2. Kids are ungrateful. So as a parent, you pay for your child’s needs and sometimes more than that. You try to get her a good education, fun toys and nice clothes. You organize birthday parties and play dates, go on adventures and class field trips, watch her terrible magic tricks and awful animated movies, but for what? For your child to be upset about the color of sucker in her gift bag or the lack of a specific dessert in the house. Kids are often ungrateful little snots who only say “please” and “thank you” to get what they want.

3. Other people are mean. Among parents, children sometimes seem like a competition–a battle to see whose combination of DNA will be the first to say the ABC’s, make a soccer goal or graduate top of the class. If your kid does something wrong, sometimes other people think there must be something wrong with you. People are judgmental and gross, and kids are just another way for them to let you know.

Reasons why I think people have kids:

1.  They haven’t thought it through. Having a child is not like having a cat. You can’t just dump a lot of Fancy Feast on the floor, close the bedroom doors and leave your kid alone for the weekend when you need to get away. Also, your kid might not be the mini me you always wanted, and she won’t be a cute little baby forever. In fact, puberty will happen, and your kid will probably look and act gross for a couple years. Are you prepared to deal with that?

2. Kids might bring love, emotions and lifelong connection. I mean, yeah, I suppose kids offset some of their negative qualities by doing something sweet every once and a while. They definitely love you when they’re little, and even if they feel distant during the teen years, they could totally swing back around and become lifelong friends. In other news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that it will cost an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child born last year for 18 years. 

Right now, I’m not prepared to deal with issues mentioned above and others unmentioned. Knowing my mother has loved me through many of the circumstances that make me averse to the idea of my own personal motherhood just increases my respect for her. On this Mother’s Day, I want to thank my mom for persevering through my potty-training, my unclean room, my unkind words, my junior high drama and my college concerns. Based on precedent, I know that she’ll always be there for me when I need her, and I know that I will always need her. If I ever settle down and decide to have children, I hope I can be half as gracious and loving as my mother is to my brothers and me.

My Brother: The Charmed Genius Metrosexual

My eleven-year-old brother Ian rushes into my room. He is sporting his North face jacket, his skinny jeans and his gray vans. His fiery orange hair is spiked to perfection, and I can faintly smell his Old Spice body spray and deodorant.

“Kyra! I had the worst dream last night!” He looks at me earnestly with his deep blue eyes. “People were throwing stuff at me because my brands were clashing! I was wearing an Adidas shirt and Nike shorts.Together.  IN PUBLIC. It was horrible!”

The kid has always been stylin'. Brand-clashing is a reoccurring nightmare.

The kid has always been stylin’. Brand-clashing is a reoccurring nightmare.

This outburst is not an uncommon one. In stark contrast to my 13-year-old brother Noah, Ian is  a complete fashionista. If you asked him, he would blame his style sense on me because I used to dress him up like the sister I always wanted. It is important to note, however, that I stopped putting dresses on him when he was two, but he continued to put on said dresses until my parents made him stop at age five. His favorite colors used to be sparkly pink and sparkly red. I never questioned his sexuality, however, because he’s never not had a girlfriend. Actually, as I type this, he is pestering me to get off the computer so he can meet up with his latest lady friend for their date on Club Penguin. We’ve decided he’s probably a metrosexual, but I will love him no matter what he decides in the future.

Here I am, indoctrinating him with fashionista thoughts from an early age.

Here I am, indoctrinating him with fashionista thoughts from an early age.

When he was two, Ian was invited to an all six-year-old girl birthday party at which the party-goers debated over who was “Ian’s special sweetie.” When he goes to summer camps, he comes home complaining about herds of females following him around. Right now, he is flirting with three different classmates, but his relationships are not exclusive because he is also interested in girls he meets at church and on vacation.

Ian is all the drama most families have in total, but packaged into one ginger-headed 11-year-old. Before he was born, Noah and I kept to ourselves. I played with my toys in my room and Noah played with his toys in his room. We came together a few times a day for for polite conversation at mealtimes. Ian changed all of that.

A  rare, lovey-dovey moment. Noah appreciated Ian's existence early on because he could steal Ian's pacifiers to support his own binky addiction.

A rare, lovey-dovey moment. Noah appreciated Ian’s existence early on because he could steal Ian’s pacifiers to support his own binky addiction.

I remember a time, not too long ago, when my parents would punish Noah by making him play with Ian for a set period of time. Ian can’t be alone. He craves and demands constant attention. When I was younger, this got on my nerves. It still gets on Noah’s nerves, but I now find it endearing.

Ian copies my every move. He idolizes me and wants to spend time with me. He cries almost monthly because he doesn’t want me to go away to college and leave him. He’ll come into my room, hop on my bed and ask me about my day. He’ll make me a smoothie and give it to me as a surprise for breakfast. He asks me about my plans for the future, and, the more we talk, the more I find many of his goals emulate my own.

Ian on a recent sibling dinner date. He is quite possibly the slowest eater on the face of the planet.

Ian on a recent sibling dinner date. He is quite possibly the slowest eater on the face of the planet.

Ian recently got into Mensa. His teacher regularly comments on his papers that he “had the best answers” or the “top grade” in the class. He just took first in a county-wide math competition. He wins 10k races against kids who are years older than him. He is an incredible young man, and I could not be more proud of him. I am so glad he is in my life, and I get all excited and bubbly inside when I think about getting to watch him accomplish impressive things in the future.  For now, though, he’s just my dorky little charmed genius metrosexual brother.

Then

Then

now (actually like seven months ago or something, but we don't ever take family pics anymore)

Now. (actually like seven months ago or something, but we don’t ever take family pics anymore)

Oh, The Places I Went

With a title like that, this blog post only gets more creative and original. I went all sorts of places last year, so I made a bunch of slideshows. I am not a photographer, so I hope the subjects of and scenery in my photographs will compensate.

SPRING BREAK–CRUISE

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SOUTH CAROLINA–OUTER BANKS

One of my best friends invited me to go with her and her family to the Outer Banks. I went, obviously.

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FLORIDA–FORT MYERS BEACH

My family went on vacation with our close family friends, and it was awesome.

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TEXAS–DALLAS

I went to Dallas this summer for the Gloria Shields Publications Workshop. We also went to Six Flags.

I took a solid one picture in Dallas, and it was at 6 Flags.

I took a solid one picture in Dallas, and it was at Six Flags.

COLORADO–GREEN MOUNTAIN FALLS

My family likes to run, so we went to Colorado over Labor Day Weekend to run the American Discovery Trail Marathon Relay.

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MASSACHUSETTS–BOSTON

I went to Boston for the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention. To see some hot Bostonians of whom I took creepy pictures, check out this post.

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My Cat is Actually a Demonic Cow

I am in the fetal position in the corner of my bed, pressed up against the wall. I am crying, but no one can hear me. I just want to go eat a turkey sandwich or maybe some Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but I can’t. Eyeing the closed door to freedom directly opposite me, I decide to attempt another escape. I tentatively lower my left leg over the side of my mattress while fearfully clutching my purple comforter. All of a sudden, a streak of fur shoots out from under my bed and sinks its teeth into my Achilles. I scream and withdraw my foot as the monster retreats into the recesses of its lair, only emerging every so often to reassert its dominance by leaping up and biting me.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories consist of my cat viciously attacking me. I can remember running and sobbing to my parents and hearing them tell  me that I was “being dramatic” and that there was “no way Mia was trying to kill me.” Only after they saw her stake out the bathroom for a  post-shower assault on my shoulder did my parents finally believe my horror stories.

My cat prepares to bang her face against the glass of my gerbils' tank. The gerbils and I think it's hilarious when she does this.

My cat prepares to bang her face against the glass of my gerbils’ tank. The gerbils and I think it’s hilarious when she does this.

To be perfectly honest, a cat wasn’t my first choice. I wanted a dog, but owning two un-potty-trained Yorkshire terriers when I was five had traumatized my mother, so I geared my energy toward convincing my parents to bring home a sweet, loving, baby kitten instead. When they finally agreed, my family journeyed across town to The Lawrence Humane Society and naively adopted what we thought to be an innocent five month old kitten.

Mia was innocent for the first few weeks, maybe even the first few months after we brought her home, but then she evolved into a territorial fiend. She conquered visitors’ shoes and attacked the owners when they attempted to reclaim their footwear. No intruder was safe from her needle-sharp teeth, blood-curling hiss and declawed paws. She assaulted anyone from small children to grown men. Even today, when my grandma comes over to feed my cat while my family is out of town, she carries a broom to beat the demonic feline away if she approaches.

I took this picture, left for six hours, came back and took the same picture.

I took this picture, left for six hours, came back and took the same picture.

After 8 1/2 years, Mia has somewhat calmed down. Because I hit her on the head with a dictionary a couple times in self defense, she no longer stalks me. In fact, Mia doesn’t attack too many people anymore. She is getting older. Her gait is now uneven, and sometimes she moves like every step is more difficult than the last. That’s probably why she only rouses herself to switch sleeping locations or to go to the litter box.

Because of her 25 lb frame, my nine year old cat isn’t capable of doing the average “cat” pastimes without injuring herself or breaking something.  She can no longer gracefully jump on  a ledge or hop on a bookshelf without missing the ledge or breaking a shelf. She’s too lazy to chase a flashlight’s beam. Her obesity and age make her much easier to find these days. If she’s not pooping or eating, she’s sleeping on my bed or drinking out of my toilet. If she isn’t doing any of these activities, she’s probably making out with the living room rug.

Mia gets camera shy when I try to take pictures of her drinking toilet water or licking the rug, so this is a rare snapshot of her in her natural habitat.

Mia gets camera shy when I try to take pictures of her drinking toilet water or licking the rug, so this is a rare snapshot of her in her natural habitat.

Everyone in my family is pretty indifferent to my cat’s existence at this point except for my dad. My father loves Mia. He loves the way her stomach flops back and forth, nearly touching the ground when she walks. He loves when she weaves in front of him, meowing pitifully for him to feed her in the mornings. If he thinks no one can hear him, my dad talks to my cat like he’s cooing to a human baby. My dad’s enjoyment is one of the only reasons we keep our real-life Garfield around.

After I finish typing this blog, I will perform the weekly ritual of washing Mia’s butt because she is too fat to lick it herself. Then I will brush her fur so that later this week I will only have to lint roll my jacket once instead of twice. As I perform these tasks, I will quietly wish for Mia’s demise, but tomorrow morning, I will wake up early enough to listen to my dad whisper to her while he pours her kit and kaboodle into her Aristocats food bowl, and I will hope that she sticks around for a few years more.

My cat is a plus-sized feline model. Sporting her small dog sweater, her confident pose shows that her weight does not make her any less beautiful.

My cat is a plus-sized feline model. Sporting a small dog sweater, her confident pose shows that her weight does not hinder her beauty.