First Day of School, 2015-2016



Horrible, blurry cell phone pictures taken by a farsighted + nearsighted woman at 6:30am. I’m happy they even exist. One of these days I’m going to buy a simple point and shoot.

These signs. I don’t know where I came up with the idea because I did this on Mikey’s first day of pre-school. We’re talking pre-blogging, pre-pinterest, and pre-social media if you can remember that far back! I had this great idea to document on the first day of each school year what Mikey and his future siblings wanted to be when they grew up. It was going to be great, decades later, to see what they wanted to be in 1st grade versus 3rd grade versus 6th grade.

Fireman! Police officer! Doctor! Teacher! Paleontologist.





Every darn year since pre-kindergarten. I can’t get Mikey to change his mind! I try to switch up my questions, like a detective trying to trap a suspect.

“Hey, Mikey, don’t you want to do something with music?”


“Ok, what do you want to be when you grow up this year? You know, it’s okay to change your mind.”

“I know.”

I joked on my personal face book page that after all this, he’ll end up a high school PE teacher.

“With a buzz cut,” my friend Kendra replied.

School-1Because Nico has a buzz cut and it’s awful. He went to the barber shop without me, clearly. He came home like a freshly shorn sheep and it was all I could do to keep from recoiling in horror. All he needs is a banjo, shifty eyes, and a wayward gene or two to complete the backwoods picture. Horrible. I hate it. No one likes it except Nico, and he doesn’t like it. He loves it.

Every morning he wakes up and says, “Do I still have my awesome buzz cut?”

Yes, dammit.

“Mom, this buzz cut! I don’t have to brush my hair, or dry my hair, or do anything except feel my awesome buzz cut!”

Oh, don’t I know it!

Nico’s hair is a tragedy, but at least he takes career waffling seriously like a true American should. He’s wanted to be an astronaut, a paleontologist, and now a zoologist. My favorite, though, had to be last year. He had me write “undecided.”

College will be interesting.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

Music Mikey


Last May, at a ridiculously early hour, Mikey and his music partner performed at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association regionals held at Cal Baptist University. They played well, scoring an Excellent, despite Mikey playing with a reed that looked as if it had been gnawed on by a rat. He didn’t have an extra reed because he “forgot” them. The Mister flew home to grab them only to discover that when Mikey said he “forgot” his extra reeds, what he really meant was that he “lost” all his extra reeds. His music he didn’t bring because, “I have it memorized.” I welcomed the news like a fart in church.


His partner took it better than I did, probably because his sound wasn’t poor. I’m not sure what sort of wizardry he did with spit and tongue, but he managed to mask he was playing through what amounted to swiss cheese. Can I just say love Mikey’s partner? She’s such a sweet girl, very academic yet still fun, and she made sure her new dress matched her Superior ribbon from their first performance. I mean, honestly. When I pointed out how well they matched and asked her if she planned it, she gave me a huge grin, patted her ribbon and said, “Obviously, Mrs. Kendall!”


Fact: performing at a private university with a music department is nothing like performing in the science lab of a high school in a bad part of town. Even Mikey noticed the difference, and he gives decor the same attention he devotes to spelling homework. “Velvet curtains!” he exclaimed. “This is way nicer than the plastic skeleton!”


The judge this time around was very nice. Much nicer than the judge they had for my Mom Moment, if I do say so myself. He actually seemed to enjoy children and humans in general!

As for me, I only had two Mom Moments. One you can hear in the video. The judges always pick on the mom! The second is just ridiculous. I was trying to take a picture of the kids with the music building in the background. I may have repositioned them several times, with the last time requiring me to step on what I thought was a stable valve box. It wasn’t. I ended up dropping into 6 inches of mud and water. The picture, my favorite of the day and which I get bonus points for taking while falling, isn’t of smiling faces that say we’re so proud all our hard work paid off! It’s more like OMG Mrs. Kendall almost ate it or Ladies and gentlemen, that’s my mom.

Regional Festival | 2015 from Jules on Vimeo.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

Now What

I think I’m going to regret this post. Then again, I might not. I have a history of asking for help and receiving advice beyond what I imagined. This may be one of those times.


Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

We’ve been on vacation in Lake Tahoe for the last couple of weeks. On Monday we went to the community pool to swim and have lunch. Nico went into anaphylactic shock after eating a veggie burger and garlic fries. We were transported by ambulance to Reno. He’s fine; I’m not.

That’s the short version of events. The longer version involves a great deal of paragraphs and whimpering on my part. Forgive me, lend me your ears, and tell me it’s going to be okay.

The boys ate their lunches in lounge chairs 10-feet away from us because the pool was so crowded. I read a book while I ate and occasionally looked up to make sure they were okay. They were.

Nico called out to me when he was done and asked me if he could go swimming. I looked up and noticed his naked chest covered with sandwich crumbs. I mean, honestly. I couldn’t believe he didn’t notice he was covered in food. Normally I would have him clean himself off, but for some reason I felt like I had to do it. I called him over and nudged the Mister so he could share a chuckle with me over our carefree, messy son. Had I not called him over, he would have been in a very crowded pool when he went into shock. My head would have been in a book.

As he walked up, I noticed his lips looked different and that he had welts around his mouth. He also had crumbs all over his face, so my first thought–trying not to panic–was that there was hot sauce in the burger that “burned” his skin the way orange or lemon juice does when not diluted. The Mister agreed with me.

I asked Nico how he was feeling. “Great,” he said. He wasn’t lying, but in the rolodex of Worst Possible Scenarios I keep in the back of my mind is his old allergy to nuts. I decided to ask the lifeguard for Benadryl.

They didn’t have any, and if they did, they weren’t legally authorized to dispense it. Fair enough, so I walked back with Nico and asked the Mister to go buy some at the store down the street. He was almost out the gate when I called him back.

“I’ll do it,” I said. “And I’m bringing Nico with me.”


If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison’ it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later.”
― Lewis Carroll

I started walking towards the car, thinking I would pick up Nico when he reached the gate. Suddenly, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted him right next to me. I walked back and together we crossed the parking lot. Nico was inexplicably crying, saying he was afraid he was going to be allergic to all his favorite foods and that he would never be able to eat veggie burgers ever again. Dramatic, but I thought he was being 8 years old. No 8 year old wants to leave the pool to go to a pharmacy. I’ve since found out that an “impending sense of doom” is a sign of anaphylactic shock.

We were 10 yards from the car when I felt an urge to run. It felt like someone was pushing me between the shoulder blades, forcing me to move faster. I dragged Nico behind me as fast as I could without hurting him and told him could sit in the front seat as a treat. Really, I was satisfying my urge to keep him as physically close to me as possible. I’m glad I did. I noticed him scratching his palms.

It took us 5 minutes to get to the pharmacy, with each minute bringing a more alarming, more difficult to ignore symptom. By the time we pulled into the pharmacy parking lot, he was coughing uncontrollably and his skin was a bright, angry red from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his feet. There is an urgent care next to the pharmacy. I parked in the first spot I saw with all the finesse of a 15 year old without a learner’s permit.

We walked into the urgent care and that is when everything escalated. They took one look at Nico and called the paramedics. They gave him an injection of antihistamine strong enough to knock out an adult and hooked him up to the monitors. He was hypotensive and tachycardic (low blood pressure, high heart rate), his oxygen saturation level was dropping, his tongue and throat were swelling shut and he was scratching his eyes so hard the nurse debated restraining him. I could no longer deny what was happening.


I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The Benadryl started doing its job by the time the paramedics came. Nico’s condition was still serious, but they felt good canceling the helivac (I blanched when I heard it was under consideration) and said we would be safe going by ambulance to Reno. The hospital across the street refused to take us, and rightfully so. They aren’t equipped to handle cases like Nico’s.

We reached the hospital safely and quickly, with Nico monitored the entire time. At the hospital he received more medicine and steroids. After a few hours of observation, we left with 4 prescriptions and an epi-pen. Anaphylaxis lasts for days (tack that on to the many things I learned that day) so he has been on medication and steroids every 6 hours until today. Now he takes one medication daily. Dropping down to only one medication is nerve-wracking enough, but the news I got from the food vendors today was enough for me to officially declare that I am beside myself with fear.


I wish I hadn’t cried so much!” said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out.
I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears !”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I’ve been in contact with Nico’s pediatrician and allergist since Monday. He has an appointment in July once all the medication is out of his system, but the assumption has always been that his nut allergy returned or he developed a new allergy to another nut. Ergo, we were told to abstain from nuts until he completed testing. The Mister met with the catering company that produces the food for the pool and has pictures of every single item he put in his mouth, along with the ingredient labels. There are no nuts and, according to the catering company, no nuts in any of the items on the menu.

There are eggs, wheat, soy, and dairy ingredients, but no nuts. When the Mister told me this, I demanded to see the pictures and read the ingredient sheet myself. No nuts. I read it twice and then one more time. I looked up at him and said, “Well, shit. Now what?”

Now what? We were going on the assumption that there would be a nut somewhere, but there isn’t. Nico has wheat, dairy, and eggs frequently and soy regularly. Could one of those caused the anaphylaxis even though they haven’t before? He’s had all the above–minus the soy–since Monday and nothing has happened. But he’s also been on mega doses of anti-histamine. As it slowly leaves his body, can we expect him to have another “event” (I can’t even call it by its real name)? What can he eat? What is safe? How am I going to handle the 8 hour car drive home, where we will be crossing stretches of dessert with poor cell phone coverage and no nearby medical facilities?


If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Nico’s appointment is the week of the 21st, and I need to figure out what I can feed him safely until then. And because I know someone will ask–I did–I can’t feed him meat. I asked him if he would eat meat, just a little, until his appointment. He started crying and said, “Please don’t ask me to do that.”

Here is where you jump in and say this very same thing happened to you last year, and this is how you handled it and lived happily every after.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

The Fine Art of Negotiation

Mikey: Nico, get out of my face.

Nico: I’m not in your face.

Mikey: Nico, please! [tap tap tap]

Nico: …

Mikey: Dude, I can’t see what I’m doing. [tap tap tap]

Nico: …

Mikey: Oh my…Nico! You’re hovering! It’s annoying. Stop.

Nico: I’m not hovering.

Mikey: Are you seriously [tap tap tap] kidding me right now? [tap tap tap] I can feel you breathing. Stop hovering!

Nico: But I want to see what you’re doing!

Mikey: [tap tap tap] Too bad. Go away.

Nico: Dude, I can’t see what you’re doing if I go away!

Mikey: Not my [tap tap tap] problem.

Nico: Okay, how about if I hover from a distance?

Mikey: [tap tap tap]

Nico: Well?

Mikey: You can hover from a minimum of 10 feet away. [tap tap tap]

Nico: Dude, I can’t see anything from 10 feet away!

Mikey: [sigh] Fine. You can hover from a distance but that means I can’t feel you breathing on me at all. If I feel your breath, you’re done. [tap tap tap]

Nico: Yes! Okay, move over. I need a better spot to hover from a distance.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.