Wednesday, May 31, 2006

One phone call

By Deana Nall
Baytown Sun

Published May 31, 2006

Just one phone call.

That’s all it took to get me to spend the first Saturday morning of the summer in a dunking booth.

But it wasn’t just any phone call. It was a phone call from Fred Aguilar.

In addition to his role as president of the West Baytown Civic Association, Fred is quite possibly the nicest guy in Baytown. So when he called to personally invite me and my family to the WBCA End of School Party, I really couldn’t say no. He could invite me to a tractor pull and I’d probably think it sounded like fun.

“My wife and I always enjoy your column,” Fred said when I answered the phone Friday.

That, my friends, is known as “The Butter-Up.” Then, after describing what was planned for Saturday’s event, Fred stepped in for what’s known as “The Kill.”

“And we’re having a dunking booth, if you’d like to volunteer,” he said.

I quickly weighed my options. I could spend Saturday hanging out at home in my jammies. Or I could volunteer my time to help make the day fun for West Baytown kids who have worked really hard in school all year.

“OK,” I said. “I’ll be there.”

Resigned to my fate, I showed up at the tree-shaded Bergeron Park in the heart of West Baytown. The first thing I noticed was the dunking booth, which was surrounded by members of the Baytown Fire Department.

“Oh, great,” I thought. “This thing hasn’t even started yet and someone’s already drowned.”

To my relief, the firefighters were just filling the tank with water. Once it was up and running, Fred — being the great sport that he is — was the first to climb in. He didn’t stay dry very long.

Then it was my turn.

“Attention!” blared a voice on the loudspeaker. “Deana Nall from The Baytown Sun is now in the dunking booth!”

“No!” I wanted to shout. “Don’t come over here! Go get a snow cone! Or get your face painted! Go celebrate the end of school somewhere else!”

But it was too late. They started lining up, and then I saw a ray of hope. Most of them looked like elementary school students.

“I just might stay dry after all,” I thought.

Boy, was I wrong. You wouldn’t believe the throwing arms on some of these kids. One girl, who couldn’t have been older than eight, sent a ball squarely into the dunking booth’s target. That water was cold.

“Little League,” a fellow volunteer explained to me.

Oh. Well.

Eventually, my turn was over and I climbed out of the tank to walk around and dry off. My husband and two girls were busy taking in the party’s offerings, including moonwalks, train rides and hot dogs. Kids and parents were everywhere. Fred had told me that a couple thousand people usually turn out for this event, which the WBCA has been having for four years now.

West Baytown has some of Baytown’s oldest homes, beautiful churches, and community leaders who care enough about their kids to throw them a free party at the end of the school year — just for fun. This is my kind of neighborhood.

So hang on to my phone number, Fred. I might just get dunked again next year.

Deana Nall lives in Baytown with her family.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Good Life

OK -- this is the life. Chad's done with school, I have no looming deadlines (except my column, but I'm so used to writing those that it hardly counts), and we got a summer membership to the neighborhood pool. We are determined to get our money's worth so we are planning to go just about every day it's open. Oh -- and we have a freezer full of Pop Ice. I've had worse days.

Julia and I have recruited Chad into our Nancy Drew cult. Chad and I had given Julia the "Danger on Deception Island" PC game for Christmas and she and I got hooked. Since we finished that one, we've also solved "The Haunted Carousel," "Secret of the Old Clock," and "Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon." Now Chad has gotten into "Secret of Shadow Ranch" and the three of us are trying to solve it at once. We all have separate games going, so it is kind of confusing. Julia's also loving Nancy Drew books. In fact, she just finished "The Secret of Shadow Ranch" today. We're anxious to see if the game turns out like the book did. Anyway, the games say they are for ages 10 & up, but even for 34-year-olds -- they are hard! They really make you use your brain.

Check out this cool Nancy Drew lunchbox from 1977 I found online!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


By Deana Nall
The Baytown Sun

Published May 24, 2006

Summer's almost here!

That means it’s time for snow cones, sunscreen and waiting in line for the Bolivar Ferry.

It’s also time for stay-at-home moms like me to have their kids home. All day. Every day.

Let me be honest. My 20-month-old’s last day of Mothers’ Day Out was last week and, oh, how I grieved that day.

Of course I love my children. But I also recognize the fact that I am a better parent if I get a break from them every once in a while.

Apparently, the schools need a break from our kids, too, because they all shut down for the summer. Tomorrow is my 7-year-old’s last day as a first-grader. Then she and her baby sister will be mine. All mine. For 10 weeks. Ten weeks that will, in large part, be unstructured.

This is part of my problem. I thrive on structure and sticking to a schedule. I didn’t know this about myself until I gave birth to Julia and then stayed home with her for six weeks. There is no structure involved in taking care of a new baby. They just sleep and eat whenever. I don’t do well with “whenever.” I nearly lost my mind.

For this summer, I’ve tried to plan things to keep us busy. Julia has two weeks of swimming lessons coming up. She also has lots of friends with which to arrange play dates. She’s going to camp for a week in July. We’re getting a membership at our neighborhood pool. We’ll also be participating in the summer reading program at Sterling Municipal Library.

That should take care of Julia. It’s her younger sister that I’m worried about.

If you haven’t met Jenna, picture blonde curls and blue eyes. Now, put them on the Tasmanian devil. That’s my child. Who can demolish her bedroom in mere seconds? Who lets us know she’s done with dinner by hurling her plate against the wall? Who grabs knives out of the drawer and runs through the house with them? Who throws my grandmother’s heirloom jewelry in the trash? And who is so dang cute that she gets away with every last bit of it? Our little Jenna. And believe me, sometimes I need a break.

The problem is that it’s hard to find summer activities for toddlers her age. If they did have a weeklong baby camp, I’d be the first to sign her up.

The next best thing to baby camp, however, is Granny and PaPa’s house. It’s just a short drive across Houston, and it’s staffed by a couple of people who have an uncanny ability to forget how draining a 20-month-old can be.

“Please, please bring her over,” my parents plead on the phone.

“We’ll be right there,” I yell, frantically throwing stuff into the car.

Jenna really is a very sweet child. She’s just ... well, “active” is a good way to put it. And she won’t even hit her “Terrible Twos” until August. But by then, she’ll be back in school two days a week. I have her first day at school already planned out. I’m unplugging the phone and going back to bed.

Just wake me up when she turns 3.

Deana Nall lives in Baytown with her family.

Myspace friends and summer

I'm up to 21 friends on Myspace now. And I actually know most of them, which makes the Top 8 kinda tricky. If you're not part of the Myspace world, the Top 8 can be the source of a whole lot of drama. I've managed to avoid it so far.

This is Julia's last week of school. Jenna's last day was last week. This means that today, I'm doing laundry. WITH JENNA. I'm trying to get the house picked up. WITH JENNA. I'm trying to finish up my column for tomorrow. WITH JENNA. I'm actually writing about my sorrow over school ending for my column so I won't say any more about it.

Hopefully this summer, we'll work in time to go here or here. And on Julia's last day of school this Thursday, we're going here.

So it should be fun. But right now, I need to go clean up the kitchen. WITH JENNA.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Goodbye, Alice in Wonderland

I got this CD for Mothers Day. Warning: The fourth song on the CD has a cuss word at the very beginning -- as my ENTIRE FAMILY found out in the car on the way to church Sunday morning.

Anyway, my favorite song so far is the title track, "Goodbye, Alice in Wonderland." I love its honesty on its search for self-discovery. Reminds me of my twenties.

Here are the words:

It's four in the afternoon
I'm on a flight leaving L.A.
Trying to figure out my life
My youth scattered along the highway

Hotel rooms and headlines
I've made a living with a song
Guitar as my companion
Wanting desperately to belong

Fame is filled with spoiled children
We grow fat on fantasy
I guess that's why I'm leaving
I crave reality

So goodbye Alice in Wonderland
Goodbye yellow brick road
There is a difference between dreaming and pretending
I did not find paradise
It was only a reflection of my lonely mind searching
For what's been missing in my life

I'm embarrassed to say
the rest is rock and roll cliche
I hit the bottom when I reached the top
I never knew it was you
who was breaking my heart
I thought you had to love me
But you did not

Yes, a heart can hallucinate
If it's completely starved for love
It can even turn monsters
Into angels from above

You forged my love just like a weapon
And turned it against me like a knife
You broke my last heartstring
You opened up my eyes

So goodbye Alice in Wonderland
Goodbye yellow brick road
There is a difference between dreaming and pretending
That was not love in your eyes
It was only a reflection of my lonely mind wanting
what's been missing in my life

Growing up is not an absence of dreaming
It's being able to understand the difference between the ones you can hold
And the ones that you've been sold
Dreaming is a good thing
Cause it brings new things to life
But pretending is an ending that perpetuates a lie
Forgetting what you are seeing
For what you've been told

Truth is stranger than fiction
This is my chance to get it right
Life is much better without all those pretty lies

So Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
You can keep your yellow brick road
There is a difference between dreaming and pretending
These are not tears in my eyes
They are only a reflection of my lonely mind finding
They are only a reflection of my lonely mind finding
I've found what's missing in my life

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Nan Jacobson

Nan Jacobson was a woman at our church who died of cancer Sunday night. Her funeral is today. Last night I dreamed that I saw Nan. I asked her, "What was it like when you died?" She replied, "It was like Chuck E. Cheese times 20."

I realize going to Chuck E. Cheese is a lot more fun for kids than it is for adults, but I like to think that in heaven, we become kids again.

Anyway, I think the message was that Nan is having a very, very good time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A day in the life of a chaperone

By Deana Nall
The Baytown Sun

Published May 17, 2006

Well, I almost made it through the school year without chaperoning a field trip.

But then the year wouldn’t have been complete, now, would it?

On Monday, I boarded a school bus with my daughter Julia and the other top Accelerated Reader points earners from Travis Elementary.

If you are not familiar with the Accelerated Reader program, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: If your child reads a lot of books during the school year, he or she gets to win cool stuff and may even get to go on the AR field trip at the end of the year.

Last year, the trip was to Barnes and Noble and then to play miniature golf. This year, we went to the Main Street Youth Theater’s production of “Anastasia Krupnik.”

To be honest, I was glad I got to go on a field trip this year. Because I gave birth ten days into Julia’s kindergarten year, I had to miss that year’s field trips. Goose Creek has a policy banning younger siblings from attending field trips — even if they can’t hold their heads up yet. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, but when your baby must be affixed to your body every two hours, leaving her with someone else for a day presents a logistics problem.

So this year, I was ready to get on the bus. Except for one problem: Julia loves to sit in the back, and bouncing around on a bus across Houston’s freeways isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. And the box mounted on the wall above the driver that said “BODY FLUID CLEANUP KIT” really didn’t help my outlook.

But we all survived the trip and enjoyed “Anastasia Krupnik,” which was a funny play about a fourth-grader facing some major changes in her life. Then we moved on to Hermann Park for a picnic and playtime. This is when the real work of “chaperone” began.

When you go on a child’s field trip, you are not just a chaperone. You are also a bathroom-finder, a drink-opener, a retainer-keeper, a shoe-tyer, an argument-resolver (especially if you’re in charge of girls) and a target of a group I like to call the “Heypokers.”

Heypokers are the kids who think that if they stand there and say “Hey! Hey! Hey!” and poke you long enough, they will eventually get your attention. Their technique is actually quite effective, since it is so annoying that you will do pretty much anything to get them to stop. I can usually handle one or two Heypokers at a time, but being attacked by a mob of them can be pretty overwhelming.

Heypokers are not bad kids. They’re just Heypokers. They’ll probably grow up to be telemarketers, bless their hearts.

After a beautiful afternoon at Hermann Park, which almost made me wish I lived in downtown Houston, we re-boarded the bus and made our way back to Baytown. As far as I could tell, everyone kept their body fluids contained, so we didn’t need the cleanup kit. A mark of a successful field trip, if you ask me.

Although this field trip really was fun, they are not always for the faint of heart. If you think field-trip chaperoning isn’t your thing, remember that there’s an easy way out. Just keep having babies.

Deana Nall lives in Baytown with her family.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mothers Day and the Shoe Planets

Earlier last week, Julia had said to me, "Please stay in bed late on Sunday." I said I would try. So Sunday morning, she came and got in bed with me, grabbed the remote, and turned on the TV. I said, "I stayed in bed late like you asked me to." She jumped up and said, "Oh, yeah! I'll be right back!" She brought me a homemade card (a blue heart, since blue is my favorite color) and she and Chad gave me the new Jewel CD AND the Nancy Drew PC game Julia and I have both been wanting -- "Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon." This will be our fourth mystery to solve. They are really fun and HARD. They are for ages 10 and up and I've just now gotten up my nerve to play on the "Senior Detective" level.

Oh, and all that stuff was from Jenna, too. She was just kinda oblivious.

Then my parents came over after church and we celebrated Mothers Day and my mom's birthday, which was the next day. That night, I had to stay up until 12:30 finishing Monday's deadlines, and then I got to spend the day with Julia and a bunch of other kids on a field trip. I'll probably write my columns about it for tomorrow so I'll skip all the details for now.

And last night, I had a SHOPPING EPIPHANY. We had been at the mall and were on our way back out through Sears when I saw my dream sandals at 50% off. I had seen them a few years (yes, YEARS) ago in a Spiegel catalog for 80 bucks. It goes against everything I believe in to pay that much for shoes, so I forgot about them. But not really. A few months ago, I saw the same exact ones in Sears for $40. But I held off again, being the ultra-cheap shopper that I am. About a month ago, they went on sale. But not quite enough. Did I mention how cheap I am? Then last night, they were 50% off, and the only pair left was MY SIZE! (This same phenomenon happened to me in another shoe-buying experience a few months ago. I believe when the one left is in your size, it's a sign from God that you are supposed to have it.) Let's recap: $80 shoes that I loved but waited patiently for, and I got them for $21.60, including tax. The shoe planets were aligned in my favor!

Friday, May 12, 2006

True Confession #10

I like to watch that "Cheaters" show.

On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED note, Chad said some nice things about me (and posted cute photos of our girls) on his blog today.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fat Day Guidelines

By Deana Nall

The Baytown Sun
Published May 10,2006

So there I was, finishing up my Brownie Batter Blizzard from Dairy Queen, when it happened.

The Blizzard that had looked so yummy on the sign moments before was now sitting in my stomach. Oh, my. All those calories and fat grams had to go somewhere. I felt my thighs expanding inside my jeans. That's when I knew.

I was having a fat day.

Yes, even we "skinny" girls have fat days. They sneak up on us during the most unexpected moments. And they are more unsettling than bad hair days, mismatched clothes days and "I'm-not-wearing-makeup-and-I-just-ran-into-my-old-boyfriend-from-high-school-at-Kroger" days.

There is no logic involved when it comes to having a fat day. Those jeans that fit like a glove last week? Or that little black dress that looked terrific on you yesterday? On fat days, they just hang in your closet and laugh. Then the next day, they fit again. It has got to be the cruelest of nature's practical jokes.

The worst part about having a fat day is that it usually brings on a depression that can be remedied only by a Brownie Batter Blizzard from Dairy Queen. And then it just starts all over again.

Steve Vaught of San Diego was having a fat day, and you know what he did? He took off walking. Across the entire country. He started in Oceanside, CA, over a year ago and made it to New York just this week. During that time, he's walked almost 3,000 miles and he's lost more than 100 pounds. He even got to be on the Oprah show.

The 40-year-old husband and father has a website chronicling his journey at He says he's gone through 15 pairs of shoes, 12 pairs of pants, three shirts, 30 pairs of socks and two near-nervous breakdowns.

He says one of them happened on his way through New Mexico. I used to live in New Mexico. Believe me, I understand.

But he kept on going. As I'm writing this on Tuesday, he is nearing the George Washington Bridge that will take him into New York City.

Although inspiring, Vaught's endeavor is a little drastic and I don't really recommend leaving your spouse and kids to spend a year walking across the country.

But there are some things you can do. And I've compiled them in this handy guide called "Deana's Guide to Surviving a Fat Day" or "How to Function When All You Want To Do Is Smack That Smirky Grin Right Off Little Debbie's Face."

1) Don't be so hard on yourself. Fat days happen to the best of us.

2) I don't recommend putting anything around your waist that requires buttoning and/or zipping. Your husband's sweatpants are a much better option.

3) Do not even consider trying on swimwear until your fat day is over. I mean this. I am not responsible for anything that may happen if you ignore this guideline.

4) Keep in mind that the picture of Little Debbie on the box only shows her from the neck up. You're probably skinnier than she is.

And just remember -- there's a skinny day coming.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Risky Business

I don't think my admiration for anyone has ever plummeted so rapidly as it has for Tom Cruise. I used to love the guy. I loved him way back when he barely had a speaking role in "The Outsiders." Now I think he's a Froot Loop. And I hate even saying that, because it gives Froot Loops a bad name.

Anyway, what a crazy week I have coming up. Really it's just the beginning of the week. I have a magazine article and a newspaper column due Tuesday. I'm also having Bunco at my house that night. OK, who else does this? You're part of a Bunco group where the point is to just relax and have fun, and to really not go to too much trouble, and then when it's your turn to have it, you freak out and clean the whole house top to bottom and cook food you don't usually cook for even your own family. I do this every year. This year I'm making salsa. How many times have I made salsa for my family? An armless guy could count them on his fingers.

That reminds me of a story. About ten years ago, Chad and I were living in an apartment in Bryan, TX. One day I was doing laundry and trying to open the door to the community laundry room while holding a full laundry basket and a big ol' bottle of detergent. As I was struggling, someone walked by behind me and said, "Can you get that?" I replied, "I guess I need to grow another arm." I turned around to see who I was talking to and it was a guy WHO HAD NO ARMS.

A rather awkward silence followed.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Artist

Last night we got to go to an art reception in which Julia was one of the featured artists. It was a fundraiser for the Lee College ceramics department. Julia had taken a "Kids at College" art class a couple of months ago and got to paint a platter for the fundraiser. Other artists included the other kids in her art class, art majors at Lee College and Lee College faculty and staff. The platters were auctioned off last night. It was very exciting for Julia, who has switched her career ambitions from marine biology to art. You can go to this website, scroll down to #16 and see Julia's platter. It shows a bid for $10 from before the event, but we bid $20 at the event. I hope we got it!

Before the auction, we ate at Someburger, a GREAT locally-owned burger joint, where Jenna acted like a complete nutcase the entire time. An older couple sitting near us mentioned that they had ten grandchildren. Chad said, "You want another one?" The man looked at us without cracking a smile and said "No, thanks."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Life as a Kid

Isn't it great when your kids can help you out? I've had a ton of work lately so Julia wrote my column for me this week. Enjoy!


By Julia Nall
The Baytown Sun
Published May 3, 2006

Presenting life as a kid!

Since Mommy is not writing her column this week, I get to! And, if you haven't guessed who I am by now, I'm Julia Nall.

OK. So here's what happens in the mornings. You know how moms and dads always say, "Have a good night's sleep?" Well, when my dad and mom wake me up and I don't want to get up, that's because I didn't get a good night's sleep. So whatever happened to "Get a good night's sleep?"

And also, when I wake up too early in the morning, they say "Go back to bed." But on those nights, I did have a good night's sleep. So I guess I can't win.

Then I have breakfast, which is usually pancakes or oatmeal but rarely cereal. Although I like cereal and pancakes way more than oatmeal. To tell you the truth, I don't really like oatmeal that much.

Then they say to brush my teeth. So I spend a few minutes brushing my teeth. And they say, "Hurry up!" I'm just trying to keep my teeth healthy!

When I'm putting my shoes on, how do they expect me to tie them when the shoelaces have broken off? Now that is another story that happened in school.

When I'm trying to find my shoes, I can't. I don't have that good of a memory. I took them off after school the day before. How could I remember?

At school, I usually get a headache trying to do the word searches or the ABC order because they're always so, so hard.

But then the fun part -- recess! Except for when we have to sit out the entire time, which rarely happens. If we don't go outside, we usually free draw or do work. And the work is usually pretty fun. And sometimes we read.

On library days, if you couldn't find your book or didn't finish it, you get to read a magazine. Pretty cool, huh? What's even cooler is that we can work in the library instead. And everybody loves that.

During P.E. time, we usually go outside, but the part where we do stretches is dreaded. Everybody in my class dreads stretches. At least that's what I think. On Wednesdays, we have to do laps around our school track. This is called Tiger Laps. We have to do two, three or more.

When I get home, I usually like to invite friends over. When I can't, I play on the computer or hang upside down on my head.

At dinner, I love ramen noodles. I usually eat them, or sweet potatoes and broccoli. Mommy and Daddy like meat but I don't like meat at all. Except for sausage at George Daniels, very, very crispy bacon and pepperoni.

At bedtime, sometimes I stay up with a flashlight and read. But sometimes I just doze right off. Then it's morning and the cycle goes again and again.

That's what it's like in a kid's day! Mommy's column will be back next week.

Julia Nall is a first-grader at Travis Elementary.