(A) or (B)?

Your kid texts you shortly after leaving for middle school in the morning, “Mom I left my project on the bus what can I do?”

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Do you (A) give him some tough love and reinforce his independence by telling him to go to the front office and ask for help, and when they are not able to offer anything other than “you’ll just have to wait until you ride the bus home after school” you explain that he has to be responsible for his mistakes (although everybody is human and everybody makes them); or

(B) call the county school bus company, get transferred to dispatch, explain the situation, hold while he radios the bus driver on the walkie-talkie, says she looked but found nothing, text your kid back with the bad news, talk your kid off the ledge because he worked on the project for days and will get a late grade if he doesn’t turn it in today, continue periodically trying to calm him down via text, an hour later decide to call the county school bus company again (wonder should you disguise your voice this time… but decide no, that’s weird and not believable because your British accent tends to fall off mid-sentence) and ask if you can personally locate and search the bus because the kid knows down to the row, seat, and exact coordinates where he left it, profess your undying love for the understanding dispatcher who goes out to the bus, looks for and locates the project himself, drive to the bus depot two towns over (thus missing the last group workout of the morning and you know you’re not going to the afternoon one now) to pick up the project, drive it to your kid’s school, and text him to let him know it is there for pick up, then come home and take a nap?

Yeah, me too.  I went with (A).  I definitely went with that one.  Oh, who am I kidding?  That nap was awesome.

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And he had a quiz in the middle of all of this!  You know it’s serious when juvenile humor doesn’t get a smile out of him.  Try saying ‘Boobie Washington’ a few times without giggling.  You can’t.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Yo’ Mama and the CIA

I told Sheepdog back at the very end of February that I was bored.  Bored of using my mad Tetris skills to load the dishwasher, bored with devising creative punishments for kids who do stupid things, bored by folding laundry (yes, even fitted sheets).  Bored of driving all around this overpopulated suburban utopia.  Bored by Netflix (gasp!).  Bored with writing, even.  Bored, bored, bored.  Just bored.  Pffft.

This is boring.  I'm bored now.

Sheepdog, being a manly man, went into problem solver mode and sent me away.  In March he put me on a plane to Key West and attempted to curtail my ennui with balmy weather, college roommates, and cocktails.  I had a good time.  I don’t do things half-assed, so Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag (that’s me being bored with reading children’s literature) just kept keeping on.  I came back from my long weekend happy, hungover, tired, and sick, … but still bored.

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Speaking of beach bags, I even tried shaking things up with an impromptu break in spring by taking a (partial) family trip.  Kids C, D, E, and I road tripped on down to the white sand paradise of Cape San Blas, where we roasted s’mores, dug holes to China with the cousins, and avoided sharks.  A great time was had by all (except maybe the shark), but afterwards I was still eh.

I spent April managing schedules, cooking and washing, and – of course – driving.  Why is there so much driving?  I decided to rally and crush my job hand-on-the-plow style.  In the life game of Rock, Paper, Scissors of Behavioral Traits, I supposed that tenacity would beat boredom every time, but it seems I was incorrect.

So by the beginning of May I was bored and wrong.  Even wearing my hair up in a high ponytail wasn’t helping.

And then I got excited.  About the possibility of a short-term, full-time job.

I know, right?  Who AM I right now?

You may be wondering what kind of insanity pool I would even consider dipping my pinky toe into, given that I am currently in the midst of actively raising and parenting five children and running a house while my husband holds down a very demanding and stressful career, complete with out-of-state travel and various coaching/ volunteering jobs.  I assure you, this job would be awesome.  And it would be hard, but we could make it work because it is only for a few weeks.  But I am sworn to secrecy about it and I can not tell you anything else about it while I await a hiring decision.  As I told the kids, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”

Now they all think I’m going to work for the CIA.

Just thinking about the possibility of something different has breathed new life into my soul.  I wasn’t even looking.  It simply presented itself and now I want it more than anything.  Even though I laughed until I almost peed while I updated and edited my resume.  It took a whole lot of Bondo to fill that 14-year hole in my work experience.  What’s another term for “overqualified ass-wiper?”

In the meantime, I am still a SAHM, and this week is the week of all things Mother’s Day.  I had a tea to attend on Monday, where Kid E recited a poem he wrote entitled “I Love You More Than…”  He included lots of homemade food items and our neighborhood water slide, for which I was very grateful, but Minecraft was suspiciously left off the list.  At least I know exactly where I stand with that kid.

Also this week, Kid D came home with a new repertoire of ‘Yo’ Mama’ jokes:

  • Yo’ mama is so stupid, she got locked in a mattress store overnight and she slept on the floor.
  • Yo’ mama is so short, you can see her feet on her driver’s license.
  • Yo’ mama is so ugly,  Bob the Builder looked at her and said “I CAN’T FIX THAT!”
  • Yo’ mama is so dumb, she played ‘Got Your Nose’ with Voldemort.  Then he killed her.

The kids and I roared with laughter as he told each new joke.  The other kids joined in and added their favorites as well.  Then somebody started machine gun farting or something like that, so I put an end to the stand up routines.

That night as I was tucking Kid E into bed, I was feeling nostalgic about him still being little and sweet and I felt the need to explain to him that Yo’ Mama jokes are actually people making fun of moms and he shouldn’t be mean.  And since Kid E is the sweetest kid ever, he said he understood and then he made up his own joke and then he grabbed my face and said, “Yo’ mama is so fast that she wins every race that she runs.  Like that, Mom?”

Exactly like that, kid.  I guess am totally winning, even if I don’t get that other job for the CIA.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Valentines and Date Night (Jesus-Approved)

It is no secret that I think most holidays are contrived by the powers that be to boost the economy through the sale of needless crap that does not actually mean that a person loves you.  There is most likely a Kay Jewelers in every mall in hell.  Gifts do not equal love.

Say that in your head one more time because it is important.  Gifts do not equal love.

Loving behavior equals love.  Lots of loving behaviors.  Over time.  And rocky terrain.  And loving behaviors on sunny days and during the fun stuff and in the middle of all of the excitement too.  Lots and lots of loving behavior equals love.  Gifts do not equal love.

I will, however, make an exception to my rant to allow sarcastic valentines to squeak in.  I can definitely get on board with these.  I might even go so far as to say that these valentines would count as a little bit of love.  May I suggest a few that should be sent from my family?

From Kid E:

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.08.46 AMFrom Kid D:

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From Kid C:

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From Kid B:

images-3From Kid A:

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From Sheepdog:

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Now that’s what I call love, folks.  Lots and lots and lots of love.

*****

A few weeks back I went online and purchased tickets to a predicted train wreck of a movie for Sheepdog and I to see this Valentine’s weekend.  The very popular book series that inspired said film had proven to be a key ingredient to a very memorable vacation for us a few years back in Cabo San Lucas.  Given that we are not going on that trip to Mexico this year, and the fact that Sheepdog tethers himself to the thought of that week as if it were an actual life source, I figured I would throw him a bone(r).  Mr. Grey will see you now.

And then I thought it would be nice to invite my sisters and their husbands to the theater as well.  So I texted them about it.

50 Shades text

Between happily married, consenting adults, that is.

Wish me luck for tomorrow.  Sheepdog’s not going to need any.  He’s got 50 Shades of Lucky coming his way.

Christmas Come and Gone…

In the history of Christianity and the modern world (and without thinking about it too hard), I can not for the life of me come up with another single day for which there are so many preparations, so much forethought, such grand anticipation, and so much egg nog.  The planning, the lists, the shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, stamping, mailing, decorating… all for ONE SINGLE DAY.  And it happens every single year!

I get it.  I really do…  I am trying to hold true to the real reason for the season, while still making special memories for my family.  Don’t overdo it, but don’t make your kids feel like freaks because all they got from Santa was an orange.  I mean, I read John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas.  I get it.

This year, I approached Christmas with calm.  I figured I’d aim for yin and things would all balance out in the end.  I had sprained my ankle in a freak (okay, slightly drunken) slippery, gravel road incident on Thanksgiving, so I had an actual reason not to do a lot of running around anyway.  I worked hard (fortunately, it didn’t take much) to keep the joy of Christmas in my heart every day and to spread that joy to all* I met.

(* Except for that one lady in the parking lot near Homegoods.  There was a bit of a car jam at the traffic light and she didn’t wish to wait.  In the meantime, my cell phone rang and I answered it manually before switching to Bluetooth.  The red light lasted for, oh, about a decade, so her impatience just kept mounting and mounting.  She directed it all at me and screamed through her windshield, “HANG UP YOUR PHONE!  I AM CALLING THE POLICE!”  I was like, “It is a red light.  I’m not even driving.”  So she all-caps yelled at me again.  I may have misplaced my yin a little when I yelled back at her (just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman), “Fine!  You’re calling the cops?  Great.  Tell them I said, ‘Hi’!”  Then I laughed out loud and mouthed to her, “You do see the irony in the fact that you are PICKING UP YOUR OWN PHONE to call the police and tell on me for being on the phone, RIGHT?”  And then the light turned green.  Merry Christmas, Lady.)

It has taken a full week for me to recover from my family’s awesome Christmas.  And it truly was awesome.  I am a very lucky girl.

Today is New Year’s Day.  It is the day that represents starting over and clean slates and all things NEW.  I am not a big New Year’s Eve partier anymore, so I usually wake up early on January 1st and I get to enjoy all of the newness by myself for a little while.  It is one of my favorite mornings of the whole year.

So, here for your enjoyment is the Swiger Family Christmas card for 2014.  I know I’m a whole week or so late, but it does say, “Happy 2015” on the back.  Technically, I guess I am scootching in on the tail end.

Swiger 2014

Swiger 2014 - back

But I’d like to think that I am actually sneaking in at the beginning of the NEW.  May 2015 bring you joy and hope and lots of opportunities to live the life that makes you happy.

Wish me luck for 2015…

 

How To Communicate With Your College Freshman During Finals Week

All across these United States, college students are fah-reak-ing out over finals.  The Stacks are full and their Starbuck’s accounts are almost empty.  Just hang on, kids.  It’s almost winter break.

I need to talk to Kid A about all kinds of things… money, schedules, where she plans to live next year, her grandiose plans for spring break vs. what’s really going to go down, etc.  But finals week is not the time to bring up such serious buzz kill topics.  This is the time to send love notes, supportive messages, and comfort food.

And fun text messages:

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.38.03 AM Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.36.54 AM

Please wish Kid A luck on her finals…

Traditionally Speaking

The question has always stumped me.  I have never come up with a really good answer.  My whole life, I have always been flummoxed when someone puts me to the task of explaining my family traditions or heritage-related stuff.  I guess it is because I wasn’t really raised in any kind of specific, culturally rich atmosphere.

We only spoke one language in my house.  I didn’t have a crazy grandmother always yelling things in Greek or Italian or Chinese at me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I definitely had a crazy grandmother.  It’s just that she yelled, “Dammit!  Who hid my cigarettes again?” and “Don’t be a beer counter, you little jerk!” in English.  Nobody came to America on a boat or was smuggled in a truck (or even flew here on a plane for that matter) for at least a few generations back.  We definitely didn’t celebrate any holidays that weren’t pre-marked in red or depicted in the monthly picture on the linen hand towel calendar in the kitchen.

If Snoopy wasn't drinking a margarita, how were we supposed to know to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

If Snoopy and Woodstock were slinging back sunflowers instead of margaritas, how were we supposed to know to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

There was always talk that my father’s side of the family was German along with some other Western European sprinkles (French, English) and my mother’s side was similar, minus the German, and somehow plus some Native American.  I think that my ancestors have lived on American soil for a really long time, but honestly I’ve never actually entered my credit card information on ancestry.com to confirm or find out otherwise.  I don’t know what is true and what is made up.  I have always just considered myself kind of a cultural mutt.  And I am okay with that.

Until Thanksgiving, that is.

‘Tis the season for unveiling your cultural relevance and family traditions.  The friends with whom we will be celebrating Thanksgiving asked how we could incorporate ours with theirs.  This year my parents and two of my sisters and their families are going on a cruise in the Carribbean.  I was just going to watch football and make stuffing from the box, so… um, just run with yours.  Most of my kids are working on homework assignments and projects that involve where they came from and how we as a family celebrate that.  I think that the kids are as frustrated about the family void when it comes to this subject as I was, so they are finally employing some creative license to get the job done.

Kid B was given the assignment by her Spanish teacher to make and explain a traditional, cultural recipe as it applies to her family.  She asked if she could instead make an old, family dessert recipe* that would represent our heritage, even though it had nothing to do with us maybe being slightly German-English-French-1/16th Cherokee.  The teacher said go for it.

So Kid B went to the grocery store and got the ingredients for cookie dough, a box of Oreos, and a brownie kit.  She mixed them individually, layered the cookie dough on the bottom, covered it with the Oreos, and then spread the brownie mix on top.  And, voila… a batch of “slutty brownies” was made.  Yes, that’s really what they are called due to the wicked threesome of ingredients.

According to family lore, you can make them even sluttier by adding a layer of dulce de lece before the brownies.

According to ancient family lore, you can make them even sluttier by adding a layer of dulce de lece before the brownies.

So now I guess, traditionally speaking, I can finally say we have a cultural identity.  And I am okay with that, although I do hope it translates to something a little nicer in Spanish.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

*Slutty brownies are not, in fact, any kind of old, family recipe.  I have never made them in my life.  As far as I know, they started going around the internet a few years ago.  They are both easy to make and sinfully delicious.  Kid B was just looking for an excuse to make them.

3/5

Originally, Kid A was planning to take a nanny job with three little kids in a nearby neighborhood for the summer.  But then she was offered a summer internship at my dad’s law firm in southern New Jersey.  She weighed her options: Babies or the beach?  Wearing t-shirts covered in finger paints and spit up or dressing up for an office job every day?  Living at home with your parents who are always complaining about money or staying with grandparents who basically buy you whatever you ask for?  Kid A is smart, has always been independent, and has had one foot out our door since she went to Spanish immersion camp the summer between her sophomore and junior years of high school.  Obviously she chose the internship.  She has been gone (with the exception of a long weekend when she came back to GA for college orientation) since the beginning of June.

Kid A and I texting a few short weeks after she left

Kid A and I texting a few short weeks after she left

Kid B was relied upon heavily during the house selling and buying phase of the summer.  Basically, she raised the other kids for us.  Well, she did along with all of the video game systems we have in the house.  Do you know what happens when you leave a 15-year-old in charge?  I’m talking no bathing until the weird smells start to offend, cereal/ peanut butter sandwiches/ frozen chicken nuggets as the “fancy” meals, and a glazed look in everyone’s eyes as a result of 8 – 10 hours a day of electronics exposure.  I wasn’t paying attention to how bad it had gotten until one morning, after dropping Kid B at the soccer field for training, Kid E and I were having a nice car conversation.  Then he asked me if I knew what a K/D spread was.  I did not, but said I could look it up when we got home.  Imagine my horror when I learned it was short for Kill/Death ratio (basically, how many kills you achieved before your character was in turn killed), tracked in Halo, a military science fiction video game.  Parenting Fail #1,024 for the summer.

Me:  Um, you know that this is a video game and you NEVER, EVER shoot anyone in real life, right?  Because when you die in real life, you don’t get more lives.

Kid E: Yeah.  Yes.  Of course, mom.  I know.  Everybody knows that.

Eh, they’ll survive.

Fortunately for everyone, I was quickly jolted back into a lead parenting role as Kid B had a trip of her own planned this summer.  She went to Europe to guest play with a team from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in an international soccer tournament.  She was gone for almost two weeks.  She traveled to several cities in Spain (including Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Madrid) as well as the beach in Biarritz, France.  She had the trip of a lifetime and didn’t miss home very much at all.  As a matter of fact, she admitted to crying on the plane ride home because she couldn’t stay there for the rest of the summer.

For me, the time with both Kid A and Kid B gone was amazing.  Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy both of them tremendously and love that they are my children.  But let’s be honest about the Catch-22 situation involved in raising independent, strong-willed, powerful women (which is my end game in successful parenting Kids A, B, and C, by the by).  There is the occasional tension and butting of heads between teenage girls and their mothers.  And I’m saying that in the nicest way possible.  Add in PMS, some OCD, the DMV, a deficit in R-E-S-P-E-C-T, plus a pinch of sarcasm, and you likely get one or more parties CRBT (crying real big tears).  I already knew it, but while they were gone I was hit once again by the fact that raising teenagers is really hard.  I’ve stopped counting all of my parenting fails with them.

Eh, they’ll survive.

But will I?

Oh, of course I will.  I used their time away to thoroughly enjoy the three littles (well, Kid C is not so little anymore, but you know what I mean).  We went to the movies and the pool and we played games and stayed up too late and went out to dinner (it’s much more affordable with less people!).  It was relaxing and light and fun.  No matter how many kids you start out with, it turns out having fewer is kind of a vacation.

But when it was time to pick Kid B up from the airport, we were all excited and ready for her to be home again.  Especially the ‘kids’ that she raised for us.

Kid B airport pickup

Now we are back to 4/5.  And even though it is only for a little while, I can’t wait for all of my chickens to be home.  Having Kid A go off to college in August will definitely be interesting.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

 

 

Time for a Check Up

I was at one of those trampoline jumping birthday party places with a friend recently.  While our kids played dodge ball and bounced out some extra summer energy, we had a nice talk.  She shared something with me and then added, “Oh, I hope that’s not TMI.”  I laughed and reminded her that she was talking to a giant over-sharer.  The conversation went on from there and my friend said something to me that others have also mentioned in the past, regarding the state of my marriage.

“I see you as such a strong couple, ” she said.  “You seem like very good communicators, and you make a good team.”

I thanked her, then reminded her of a very critical fact.  Yes, Sheepdog and I work very, very hard at our relationship, but it is far from perfect.  We fight, disagree, act selfishly or immaturely, and go to bed mad at one another just like everybody else.  We have different interests, hobbies, and schedules.  We have dealt with big and little struggles and we have been through counseling several times.  There was a time about nine or ten years into our marriage when we actually decided to get a divorce.  But then we let down our defenses and started enjoying each other and our family and decided that divorce was one of the dumbest ideas we had come up with in a really long time.

Even though we worked through that craziness, we occasionally get off track again we get to a point where we act more like porcupines than dolphins.

This is an excerpt from one of our recent conversations:

Sheepdog:  “What’s wrong?  Why are you so grouchy?”

Me:  “I’m due for my period on Saturday.”

Sheepdog: “You are either on your period, about to get your period, or just getting over having had your period.”

Me: (expertly executing the evil wife death stare)

Sheepdog: “What?”

Me: “I can’t hear you over the glorious sound in my head of me hitting you with a shovel.”

AmericanGothic

So close… if only it were a shovel and she got to hold it.

So, just like you would change the oil in your car every 6,000 miles, or you swap out the air filters in your HVAC system quarterly, or you check the batteries in your smoke alarms every six months, or buy new running shoes after 3 or 400 miles, Sheepdog and I felt like it was time for a marriage check up.  Yesterday we went back to counseling, and we will keep going back until we get things back on track.  And we are both very hopeful.

Today we celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary.  I say “celebrate” purposefully, even in the middle of a rough patch, because it is certainly something that we are very proud of.  It is hard to stay married to one person for a long time.  It is hard to stay friends with one person for a long time.  It takes a lot of energy.  People constantly change and evolve and life is hard and kids are demanding and work is stressful.  But Sheepdog and I are doing it, and we are committed to doing it for as long as we both shall live.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Dear New(ish) Neighbor Across the Street,

I planned to come by and say hello.  I intended to introduce myself.  I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood, and do all the welcome-y things that good neighbors are supposed to do, just like Mr. Rogers taught me (well, maybe not the singing and the acting out stuff with puppets and toy trolleys and such, but you know what I mean).  Sigh.  But I haven’t.  And now literal months have gone by.  And I feel really bad about it.

mr-rogers-hello-neighbor

I can make all of the excuses.  You moved in during Spring Break.  Spring Break!  During Spring Break this year I was busy in Florida hating the beach in the rain along with too many loud people inside of a too small house.  And then we got right back into school and activities and all of the things, so dropping by to say howdy to you fell to the bottom of my to do list.

Plus, you’re a dude.  And from what I can discern with my mad private investigator skilz, you do not have a wife but you do have a couple of every other weekend teen-aged kids.  What if you just went through an ugly divorce and now you hate all wife-type women?

And you rarely seem to be home.  I saw you walking your tiny dog in the mornings while I was waiting with the boys for the school bus.  But I never see you at other times of the day.  What am I supposed to do?  Sit on my front porch and wait for you to come home from work, and then go knock on your door?  What if you come home from work and immediately have to go to the bathroom?  I would be knocking and you would either have to poopus interruptus, or ignore me (because now I know you are home… I just watched you pull into the garage).  That would be so weird.  And not a little awkward for everybody involved.

I had a plan to bake you some brownies, which is what some very nice new neighbors of ours did when we moved into our house seven years ago.  But every time I bake a batch of brownies, somebody in this house eats at least one out of the tray and wrecks the possibility of gifting the whole batch.  OK, you got me.  I’m the one who eats them, but that’s neither here nor there.  And now I resent you a little bit for making it super convenient for me to eat brownies.

Then, I decided I would buy some Greenies treats or a toy for your dog.  I went to PetSmart down the street and I had a traumatic flashback to the time that I thought it would be a great idea to adopt two puppies at once, but I got so anxious that I had to return them after only 48 hours and my kids still hate me to this day because of it and I feel like a broken human being because I guess I don’t truly like dogs and the whole experience was just horrible.  Well, thanks for bringing that whole nightmare back up.

Maybe I will bring you a housewarming gift instead.  A six pack?  Maybe you don’t drink.  How about something crafty or homemade… soup mix or take out menus from local restaurants?  Something decorative or practical for the house… candles, a photo frame, a house plant?

A front door mat?

A front door mat?

OK, OK.  This is going in a weird direction.  I feel that I have made this way more complicated than it needs to be.  Let’s start over.

Welcome, neighbor.  Better late than never, right?  Here is my family’s contact information.  We’d love to get to know you.  Feel free to stop by anytime.

P.S.  I swear I’m totally normal.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

 

 

Mama’s Got This

Sheepdog and I had just finished playing a fantastic game of hide and seek late last night, when a text came in from Kid A.  A friend had alerted her that somebody just “hit” our driveway with shaving cream.

I like to refer to myself as "highly procreative" rather than "a slut," but to each his own.

I like to refer to myself as “highly procreative” rather than “a slut,” but to each his own.  D-minus for creativity, Class of 2015.

Ah, Junior/ Senior Wars.  A time when high school kids can play lighthearted pranks upon members of the opposing class.  A little toilet paper here, some shaving cream there.  Some call it a rite of passage.  Some call it fun and funny.

I call it stupid and a ginormous pain in my ass, especially when I am hosing off my driveway in my pajamas at 1 a.m.

The police department calls it vandalism, especially if it escalates.  Shit just got real, yo.  On your permanent record.

There are always going to be fartknockers who wreck it for everybody else.

Sheepdog and I do not condone Junior/ Senior War activity and we do not allow our kids to participate.  But I was alerted via Facebook that some juniors’ houses in the neighborhood got TP’d the night before, so I took precautionary protective measures in anticipation of my senior getting a little something-something, just because.  Cutting down the two river birch trees from the front yard a few years ago wasn’t going to be enough.  I tapped into my Jersey Girl/ Boardwalk Empire roots and asked myself, What would 3-Pops do?  But, since the answer to that question likely involved a baseball bat and some knee caps (not really my style), I decided to go a more technologically advanced route.

IMG_0271

If you mess with her cubs, you had better be prepared to hear from the Mama Tiger (Swiger, like tiger).

I love a good penis on the garage door as much as the next girl, but I am a little concerned that all of your penises (and there were many) look like cacti.  If you were drawing from memory, you might want to get that checked by a doctor, Picasso.

I love a good penis on the garage door as much as the next girl, but I am a little concerned that all of your penises (and there were many) look like cacti.  If you were drawing from memory, you might want to get that checked by a doctor, Picasso.

An apology would be nice, but I won’t hold my breath.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…