Showing posts with label the Southern experience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the Southern experience. Show all posts

Saturday, July 6

The redheads are always trouble

Should I bump blogging up on the priority list again? I'm feeling like I might want to. I used to post every weekday! I'm so busy enjoying my kids, and I don't want to bore everybody with "hey, look how cute my kids are!" every. single. day. Although, guys, my kids are so cute. I do have other thoughts and whatnot to share. I'm just in a bit of a cold spell I guess. 

*   *   *

Today we went on a spontaneous day trip with Paul and MacKenzie to Mt. Airy—the home of Andy Griffith, a.k.a. Mayberry, about 40 minutes north of here. I'd never been before, and frankly I was surprised and disappointed there were no life-size wax figures of Andy placed in various locations around town. That was a major opportunity missed, Mt. Airy. Also, I thought Ron Howard would be hanging around the candy store, or getting a Snappy Lunch, but no.

We did, however, purchase a piece of pie heaven at Heavenly Pies, where we bought an assortment from Miss Angel herself. As Barney Fife would have said, They were legit, yo.

A local sporting goods store advertised a going out of business sale, so we moseyed in for a gander (I'd started moseying and gandering from the moment I stepped out of the car). 

Since becoming a mother I'm even more sensitive than I was before, so I felt very sad for whoever's children it was who opened the sporting goods store and was now having to close it. My sadness didn't prevent me from purchasing a pair of Keen hiking boots for TWENTY TWO DOLLARS. Also two hardcore snow sled discs (in orange and green) for $4 each. We've lived in this house with a giant hill in the backyard and this is the year we're doing something with it, dadgummit. The snow will never again catch us unprepared.

*   *   *

Afterward we had dinner and our Heavenly Pies at Paul and MacKenzie's. Their daughter Lily and Ethan have been forging a strong friendship lately (thanks to a couple lunches and an afternoon play date), and tonight he was the knight and she was the princess.

When Lily resisted pausing their games for dinner, he held her hand and led her to the table, and on the way SHE. KISSED. HIS. CHEEK. He rubbed his cheek with a sheepish look on his face.

"Haha!" I chuckled. "That was an I-kind-of-liked-it-but-I-kinda-didn't cheek rub."

"Eh, I liked it," Ethan said nonchalantly.

"OH REALLY," one or more of the parents said, I can't remember, I was dizzy at that point.

"I'm going to marry her," he stated.

"I thought you were going to marry me!" I said a little too loudly.

"Well, things change," my five-year-old son replied. I think the rest of the evening went well, I'm not sure, I was unconscious for most of it after that.

At a recent play date with That Redhead.

*   *   *

Oliver is seven months old and sitting up and trying to self-feed every bit of "human food" (as Ethan calls it) he can get his hands on, which is all sorts of human food, because he's become Mr. Grabby McGrabberhands lately. He sits up on his own, scoots occasionally, is trying to figure out crawling, rolls himself over like it ain't no thing, and takes baths sitting in the big tub.

In that last photo, he's grinning because I don't yet know he's sitting in a blowout diaper with poo up his back. That'll teach me to put him in hipster onesies!

He is still pretending like he doesn't know how to sleep all night, and I'm like, dude. I KNOW you can. But I'm also sort of like, Your brother is moving on so if you need to snuggle me every 12 minutes or so, I'm okay with that.

Monday, March 26

Must Maintain Drink: two brief morality tales from The Big Easy

Last weekend I went to New Orleans with my friend Aubrey, one of Noah's shipmates. She and I had a grand time, which I'll share more about later, but I thought a couple of parables could help set the scene.

Mom, via text: Be careful on your trip, won't u?
Me: No i'm going to be reckless
Mom: I dont want u getting arrested and noah being thrown out of the program
Me: I'm planning on flashing my boobs as often as possible.
Mom: U wait until ethan is a teenager and u r worried sick when he's out and about. What goes around comes around
Me: I'm not a teenager. I'm nearly 30
Mom: Look before u leap
Me: Thanks for the advice. How much beer is too much?
Mom: It doesn't matter how old u r you r still my child. The fruit of your father's loins.
Me: That's gross. Shut it down.

Moral: Other than during Mardi Gras, most retailers do not accept boob flashes as currency, but maybe not even then.

* * *

Me, via text: I am trying to find a place for a discreet no 2 but this city is teeming with people
Noah: Dont they just do it in the street sometimes?

Moral: Actually, I think so.

Wednesday, January 11

Back to the normal kind of depression

Our first few days here were a bit bumpy. We returned our moving truck after dark, and the very next morning before sunrise Noah was up and back at work/school (swork? schwool?). Anyway, Ethan and I were stranded in the apartment for a few days while we figured out what to do about the transportation situation, since we only have one car.

Noah has gotten a bike. Actually, a second bike. Because we forgot our bikes back in North Carolina. Even though we specifically wanted to bring them. I know, monkey farts. Anyway, we found a great bike shop with exceptional customer service, and he bought a nearly-20-year-old steel-frame bike that he absolutely loves (you wouldn't know it was 20 years old, which called to mind this interesting article I read recently), and he's been biking to schwork every morning since, and loving it.

Meanwhile, I've had the car to putter around town, take Ethan to preschool, go to the beach, etc.

*     *     *

Today we had a rental washer and dryer delivered. Twas a lady deliveryman. And she hauled both machines up three flights of stairs on a dolly, by herself.

We got to chatting and I learned she's going to Navy boot camp in a few months. She has three kids, but she was a military kid growing up and loves the lifestyle and the benefits of joining. I assured her that being a little older (ahem) would actually be an asset, which we discovered when Noah, the grandpa of his class at age 28, excelled at boot camp.

The difference, I think, is that when you're a bit older, a bit more firmly rooted in adult life, and especially if you have a family, you know exactly what you're getting: a steady paycheck, fantastic health benefits, marketable job skills, etc. What's more, those things actually mean something by the time you're rounding 30, instead of being merely theoretical, as they are to a 19-year-old. Same goes for going back to school a bit later in life.

Did I mention she hauled both machines up the stairs by herself?

*     *     *

We're fairly settled in, we've had several of Noah's shipmates over to the apartment, Ethan's thriving in preschool, and I have vehicular freedom. Finally I've gotten over the harshest edge of homesickness and can devote my energies to the things that really matter, like judging myself harshly against my fit husband and the superhero deliverylady.

Tuesday, January 3

We whizzed along like a herd of turtles

Making a two-day trip as a small military family in a moving truck isn’t as Norman Rockwellian as it has the potential to sound. No wood-sided station wagon and Route 66 license-plate games for us! In fact, the truck smelled vaguely toxic, had virtually no sound insulation, and bumped along even the smoothest road like a cantering elephant with a limp. And the kid’s favorite game is pretending to hose other cars as they sped past. So less Norman Rockwell, more John Steinbeck: Reloaded.

We waylaid in Atlanta, where even the Sheraton Club Level (thanks, Richard!) features drapes lined in leopard print. I swear to you, the commercial promoting the local news team featured a muscular dude in a tight tank top and tattoo-sleeved arms, and a few other people gesturing sassily, I can’t really remember because I was too busy trying to figure out what the tattoo guy does. Anchorman with an edge? World’s most hardcore weatherman?

When we finally arrived at our apartment, approximately 400 hours after our departure from North Carolina, I was pleased with the place but in a dissatisfying, empty way. Like maybe when one goes on a date with someone really attractive but who has no personality.

“What am I doing here?” I thought as I watched Ethan relax in front of the computer playing one of his DVDs in our empty living room. I don’t know anybody, I don’t know this place, I’m 400 miles from our home of nearly five years.

But then later, as Noah and I put the legs on the dining room table, cracking stupid jokes and laughing contentedly, I remembered: He’s why we’re here. Also, the beach.

Sunday, October 30

Don't ask, don't tell

I thought I'd be blogging all the time, just like the old days, but raising a preschooler solo and spending 45 minutes a night handwriting letters kinda takes it out of me.

According to his letters, Noah is transforming into a completely alien creature who irons his underwear and takes pride in the crisp 45-degree angles of his bed sheets and receives recognition for his towel-folding skillz and gets mad at himself for improperly orienting his pillow. In short, the Navy is slowly and systematically making him into a Stepford Wife.

On the other hand, I've had to do a number of things that, in my humble opinion, have earned me a few "You're The Man"s:

  • Found myself shoulder-deep in a storm drain retrieving a crappy toy ring for a crying child
  • Found myself elbow-deep in a really gross submerged water meter after a nearby water main burst
  • Come to think of it, I've been elbow-and-shoulder-deep in way more things than I ever have been before
  • I've chopped wood more than once, on the old stump out back
  • I've started and maintained several fires (legally, in my fireplace)
  • I've killed bugs that looked threatening and caught and released others that somehow made me feel sorry for them
  • I've identified and interred a dead mouse (if you count "picking it up with a shovel and throwing it into the woods" interring)
  • I've identified and made my dad dispose of a dead rat (OMG GROSS)
  • I've suppressed tears more than once but was ultimately overcome most of the time
In reality, I think my level of pride in doing these manly things make me less The Man than it makes me A Gay Man, but whatever.

Wednesday, August 24

The times they are a shakin'

Lately I'm looking more and more like the Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe: Frazzled, surrounded by children...that's really all, though. I guess that was a bad analogy. I'm so tired I can't come up with anything better.

Since returning from vacation, we've been working hard to expunge any inappropriate resurgence of Vacation Ethan, but it's been difficult because our house seems to have been cursed by the anti-sleep fairy. None of us are sleeping well, Ethan's been waking up at least once almost every night, etc. It is a season of change, of course. Back to school, which affects Noah and his schedule, and which actually affects Ethan and me as well. Although not traditionally, for this semester I'm taking a hiatus from school. Partially because Noah will be leaving for bootcamp next month (!) and I'll be single momming it up in here, and partially because my biannual urge to Take A Principled Stand against the school (which is as user-friendly as a midcentury telephone switchboard) is now justified by what I consider exorbitant and ultimately prohibitive tuition increases. That being said, I'm disappointed.

I'm directly affected by the school season, though, because my friend Heather is also going back to school, and I've offered to keep her darling girl, Ava. Ava is 1.5 years old, gorgeous, and very laid back. Basically she's better behaved and less trouble than Bonnie. I'm thinking of dressing the Bonster in some of Ava's clothes and trying to send her home with Heather instead. Today, though, I also have my nephew Grayson while his Mommy's at work saving lives (nurse). SO. I have THREE kids today, and two dogs, and less than seven hours of sleep under my belt.

* * *

In other news, we had an earthquake yesterday (Duh, it's news everywhere). We're a couple hundred miles from the epicenter in Virginia, but for me—a seasoned earthquake survivor—I knew exactly what it was. Thought it was a strong gust of wind at first, the way the house groaned and listed, but when it didn't stop and the couch I was sitting on began to move beneath me, I was quite excited.

I haven't been in a discernible earthquake since we lived in California, the land of epic 'quakes (that's what people in the know call them). If you don't know what an earthquake feels like, the simple answer is: like nothing else.

There are different sensations, depending on the quake, as well. While things in your house will shake, typically the ground feels more like it's moving in tiny concentric circles, or sometimes it even feels like it's rolling the way a small wave does.

This one was so small for us that people driving didn't even know it happened, and my dogs didn't even react. Which, considering Cody's issues with irrational fear and frequent experiences of temporary dementia, is really saying something.

Wednesday, August 17

If I was a mentee, but my mentor is now my friend, does that make me de-mented?

When I was a college freshman steeling my nerves behind a facade of sarcastic humor and nonchalance, I had a professor who saw right through me. She had a timeless face, almost like a Lladro figure or a Renaissance-era painting, and what I stupidly considered a thick Southern drawl. (Oh, how foolish and inexperienced I was! Back then I'd never had neighbors who parked their John Deere in the middle of the yard all winter, or considered a whitewashed tire a fine garden planter.)

It only takes so long, though, for incisive words to cut through the distractions of voice inflection. And Dr. C had a lot to say.

She was the one who challenged me to be more honest in my writing. I was crushed by her (gentle) criticism, and mostly because I knew she was right. She prompted me to send some of my poems to literature conferences. She supported my friend Alicia and I when we started a literary journal. She was the one who made sure I, a college freshman, had an English Department–funded plane ticket and hotel reservation when I was accepted to a conference in Utah.

Probably the most challenging class I ever took in college was one of hers: Literary Theory and Criticism. Sounds dull, I know; it was anything but. By the time we enrolled in Lit Crit senior year, my classmates and I were a tightly knit coterie of honors students. Epic arguments abounded in that class. Foundations were rocked. Tears were shed. Heck, Dr. C nearly cried once.

She had our graded mid-terms clenched in her hands as she stood at the lectern, searching for words. She explained that we had done excellently as a class, but there was one person who did poorly. It was killing her. She lost sleep over it, she said. She tried to find a way to make it better, but she just didn't see how. People were groaning fitfully, Allison even announced, "It's me, I just know it!" but when Dr. C could stall no more and began handing back the tests, we were all holding our breath.

It was me.

I had misread one of the essay questions and answered it completely wrongly. It was as bad as the time I parenthetically referred to humans as "Homo erectus" in an essay for another class—only worse, because this essay was elegantly and air-tightly written around a totally erroneous thesis. I went to see her privately later on. We talked mostly about life, and almost not at all about the test.

Dr. C was the professor who pulled me out of senior seminar to tell me that another of my poems had won first place at the Southern Literary Festival. Although Dr. C and Mr. Dr. C (as we called her husband, also an English professor, mostly to try and get on his nerves in an ironical way) couldn't come, they had facilitated a trip that is still one of my fondest and proudest moments from college. Friends and professors came with me to accept the award at Mississippi College. We all blew off the second day of the conference to go bash around Oxford and meander reverently through Rowan Oak. (But not so reverently that I didn't filch a peach pit from the yard and attempt to grow my own tree, a descendent of the original.)

Aside from being a great encourager, Dr. C was something of a fashion icon for me. Comfortable jeans, black Birkenstock clogs, and blazers with the sleeves rolled up. Yes, I thought. I could live my life in that. Incidentally, at this very moment my black Birkenstock clogs are in the shoe basket by the front door, waiting to be slipped back on in cooler weather.

*   *   *

Dr. C is now signing her emails "Dana," which throws me off even six years since I sat in her classroom. Transitioning from respected teacher and mentor to friend—and colleague.

Dana got in touch with me about copyediting her novel, which is about to be sent out to publishers. Guys, it's fantastic. As I told her, it reminds me of Dan Brown but literary, of Neil Gaiman but more accessible. All that's about genre, though. The writing is thoroughly, beautifully, Dana Chamblee-Carpenter.

A very important character from the novel, Mouse, has been writing diary entries at  From a publishing perspective it's a brilliant move. Plus, it's super-fun and wonderfully written. I mean, imagine one of your favorite characters from a novel keeping a live journal. That is what this is. Go on and subscribe to it, and one day when a movie's being made of the book, you'll get special recognition in the credits. Okay so I don't have the authority to say that, but that should tell you how good this book is.

In other book-related news, I've reviewed Sapphire's latest novel, The Kid, which is the follow-up novel to Push, which was adapted into the Academy Award–winning film Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Get all that? This was not an easy book to read, aesthetically or thematically. Check out the review, and let me know if you've ever pressed on through a challenging book. Include the juicy details: what was the book, what was challenging about it, etc. Because I love book gossip.

Monday, May 23

Life Without You: The next three days

Continued from 


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dear N-to-the-oah,

I’m exhausted. I’ll just put it out there right now. There’s not a lot to report in the way of what we did: went to Epcot, rode Spaceship Earth (and heard it in English this time—Dame Judy Dench narrates, incidentally), rode the Nemo ride, went to Cirque du Soleil.

What I would like to revisit (literally and figuratively) is La Nouba.

It was weird. I get that it’s supposed to be a dream, and in that sense, it’s pretty cool. But it’s weird. Ethan handled it pretty well, though, and luckily we were surrounded by understanding women who didn’t mind a little noise (not that it was a quiet theatergoing experience by any means).  With about 15 minutes to go, he had had enough.

I whisked him out into the lobby—I didn’t want to be the person whose kid was responsible for causing one of the swinging acrobats to fall because of his repeated screams, “Lets get outta here”—where we ran into another mom and her 3-year-old daughter. They turned out to be from Liverpool, her brother- and sister-in-law were performers in the show, and she was a completely lovely woman. One of those people I instantly connect and feel comfortable with, which is rare. On reflection, I wish I had exchanged contact information with her.

Her daughter, Isabella, needed to use the bathroom. After a minute or two, Ethan wanted to go find them. He of course charged ahead and began peeking under stalls to find their shoes. Suddenly he exclaimed, “Oh, there ya are!” as I caught up to him. Out from the stall came not Isabella, but Nancy Carell, Steve Carell’s wife, aka Carol Stills on The Office.

I didn’t panic like I normally do when encountering celebrities. Maybe it’s because I was in Mom Mode. But I knew I had to confirm that it was her, so I could tell everyone with certainty that I had a bona fide Celebrity Sighting. After she washed her hands and as she was walking past me, I touched her lightly on the arm and said, “I’m sorry to bother, but did you play Carol Stills?” She smiled and affirmed. I then said, “I’ll let you get back to the show, but I just wanted to say I love[d] you[r character].”

That’s where my recollection gets a little hazy, and I want to remember that I complimented her acting instead of declaring my personal adoration, but nevertheless. She got the point. She then sort of laughed, and I think said thanks, and then—I remember this clearly—she said, “That’s so funny!”

Upon reflection I’m not sure what she meant. Was it just a spur-of-the-moment response tossed out by the relatively limelight-free spouse of a very famous comic actor? Or was it something else? Something more along the lines of, “That’s so funny…that’s you’d approach me at a completely inappropriate time, i.e. during a toileting experience.” Or, “That’s so funny…that you have the nerve to talk to me after your son tried to spy my lady bits.” Or, “That’s so funny…I was about to say that I love you too, because I’m a regular reader of your blog.” Probably the second one.

Oh well. If Ethan’s behavior hadn’t been horrific, I never would have met Carol Stills. The things I wish I could have said, if there had been more time and a better venue, like say a preplanned meeting in a coffee shop. I would have told her how much the show has helped me get through, as silly as it might sound. I’d tell her how much I appreciate her husband’s roles on TV and film, but how I also understand his need to step away from it. After that we’d dish about being moms and talk about our careers and become best friends. Then we’d finish our coffee and go win the Tour de France as the first tandem team in history.

Alas, that’s my own personal La Nouba. I guess I’ll just have to settle for saying that I met her, that she was lovely, and quite tall.

Love to thee,


Friday, April 8, 2011

Noah darling,

So this is it. Our last night not spent directly en route to home. Ethan had three tantrums today, 2/3 transportation related. Getting on the bus this morning to Magic Kingdom, when he didn’t want to leave Tom Sawyer Island (because he wanted to get all the bad guys), and getting on the boat at Old Key West to Raglan Road. Thankfully there were kind people in both the transportation situations who helped me manage the stroller while I managed the Tasmanian devil.

He’s just tired. So am I. I’m actually getting better at being numb to bad behavior, and handling it accordingly. It is what it is, as I always say. I wouldn’t say I’m bad at single parenting. I will say I prefer tag-teaming it. My only consolation for thinking about your time in boot camp and training is that we’ll be in familiar territory at home.

As much as he’s frustrated me on this trip, I’m in love with the kid. His facial expressions, the inflection and accent in his voice, his cleverness, his affectionate little spirit. He has a memory like an elephant (that being said, I was still shocked and impressed that he recognized our stop from the last trip at Old Key West). He’s precious. The challenging bits never last very long, and they’re always easier when there are other understanding people around to help, even if they’re strangers. Once, on one of our many trips to the playground, I thought that the truth of the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child,” outweighs the cliché of it.

Our time alone together, though, was largely rewarding. As we made our way around Tomorrowland looking for things to do, he kept saying, “Let’s go have some more fun!” He also peed in many bushes throughout DisneyWorld, because he’s afraid of the toilet flushing sound and it’s pretty much constant in women’s bathrooms. I kept expecting to get caught and reprimanded, but if anyone saw us, nobody said anything.

I can’t wait to see you, and not just because you can take Ethan to the bathroom.

Love to thee,


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dear Noah,

This is the letter for Saturday, but by now it’s already Sunday. From past experience I know it’s rarely a good idea to write after midnight (it’s five past one) because I’m typically so tired that the usual scaffolding of rationality has fallen from my Tower of Emotion. Yep, and based on the drama in that last sentence, that’s exactly where I’m at right now.

I am so very happy that this time tomorrow night I’ll be in my own bed, with you. I honestly have nothing left emotionally at this point in our week apart. All I can really do is recount what happened.

We were literally 10 minutes away from arriving at the hotel when your mom hit the other car. I was actually texting you at the time, so I didn’t see it coming. All I know is that we hit the car, hard, and something was dragging under your mom’s car. 

Ethan was absolutely fine in every way. He wasn’t even crying. I got him, Bunny, and my backpack (with the laptop and camera) out of the car and moved a safe distance away, into the center of the wide, grassy median. 

The people we hit were from Indiana, and they were very gracious. The police officers were very kind and calm and drove us and our essential luggage to a nearby McDonald’s, where we awaited a cab. (They couldn’t drive us to our hotel, because it was outside the city limits.)

It took the cab driver awhile to find us due to some miscommunications, but that was fine. While your mom was filling out the paperwork, I had called our hotel and had the concierge get me in touch with the cab service (once again, they couldn’t send their shuttle because we were just outside the city limits). I got Ethan an ice cream cone, then at the attached gas station we bought some mints and butterscotches (which Ethan has trouble remembering the name of; at one point he called them “buttercups”).

When we finally made it to the hotel, I immediately took Ethan down to the pool. A couple families who were apparently vacationing together had some kids around his age that he played with. They then offered us half a pepperoni pizza they had bought, which was wonderful since it was almost 7. When I texted my mom and told her about the pizza, she wrote back: “That’s nice. They will be blessed.” I laughed out loud. I was doing a lot of it at that point (hysteria, I suppose), and I can only imagine what the people at the pool thought.

As I lie here, somewhat achy and certainly exhausted, his little sleeping self next to me, I also can’t help but feel a little sorry that the intimacy we’ve shared this past week is about to be over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for normalcy. He’s a windmill when he sleeps. And he’s a bear to get to sleep without his own bed and familiar surroundings, especially in one-room hotel situations.

Tonight, though, after I’d turned out the light and we were lying cuddling, he wanted me to tell him about “his dreams.” I told him how we were at our house, and he was in his room with Daddy (and Adam, he said), having a rabbit fight. At some point, we also went outside to play with the soccer ball and the baseball, and I think even to shoot some hooks [ed. note: For Ethan, shooting hoops is "shooting hooks"]. I told him that Cody and Bonnie wanted to come into his room, but we said, "No way stinky buns." He, however, wanted them to come in. He must be feeling charitable. I also said that maybe a kitty cat was hiding in his bed again. And then the doorbell rang, and it was Nana and Poppy coming over to see him. He said he’d hide, and I said that Poppy would come sit on the couch to wait for him, and he’d sit on him thinking he was squishy pillows. Then the doorbell would ring again, and Bonnie and Cody would go barking, and we’d tell them to shush, and it would be KyKy at the door, saying he was home from Oklahoma because he missed us. We’d tell him to come on in, we’re having a party. I made cupcakes, but this time Ethan said the cupcakes should be yellow.

Then he turned over (sideways, really), and went to sleep.

For all the difficult things about this week, I am so glad I was here with our boy.

I love you,


Saturday, May 7


On Thursday evening Noah's brother, our sister-in-law, our three-week-old nephew and the family dog, Kingsley, moved into a house nearby, the backyard of which overlooks a quarter-mile-wide expanse of undeveloped land that directly connects to our neighborhood. Noah, Ethan and I have already blazed a trail across what Ethan refers to as "The Woods," a short journey nevertheless marked by such consequential topographic features as Ant City, The Gulch, and The Cheap Dresser That Somebody Ditched Out Here and Is Now Mostly a Heap of Moldering Wood and a Few Handles.

Nick and Jen have admitted it's pretty hilarious to see us emerging from the brush a la Field of Dreams, except instead of corn it's pine trees, thorn bushes and construction gravel we disappear and reappear from. To them it's funny; to our neighbors, it's certainly perplexing and possibly disconcerting, considering we've entered the woods only to come back an hour later with a very small infant and an excitable pug in tow.

I haven't yet explained to anybody what the heck it is that's going on. Part of me wants to push this until one of the neighbors just can't stand it anymore and is compelled to ask where we keep getting that baby from, and why. I'm sure they're also curious about the pug, but I can imagine discovering the baby's origin is priority one.


About six years ago, we adopted our cats. They were several months old at the time—an elderly woman who lived in the mountains discovered them and cared for them as long as she could, then handed them over to an animal rescue. Even though they weren't tiny kittens at that point, compared to our best friends' Ben and Alicia's cats Mamfa and Bandit, our cats were miniscule.

Truth be told, our cats looked normal. Mamfa and Bandit looked enormous. Comically huge. Granted, Mamfa was a Maine Coon and so naturally on the bigger side, but as compared to our petite fur balls, those cats looked positively ridiculous. In time we readjusted to their size, feeling less startled and prone to giggling every time we saw them, the way you get used to an acquaintance with goofy hair or a coworker with a loud, honking nose-blowing technique.

All this is to say, when compared with our nephew Grayson—who at three weeks has a belly larger than his waist and barely any cheeks in the diaper region—Ethan seems absurdly large.


He's still my baby, although I've noticed lately when we cuddle, his arms and legs spill out of my grasp while bony knees and elbows dig into my soft middle-bits. Instead of fat little hands pulling at tendrils of my hair, bony little fingers with dirt under the nails pry my eyes open and twiddle with my lips as I rock.

Last week, he stopped saying "Da-ee" and started saying "Daddy." Instead of calling his uncles Amma and Ky-ky, more and more he's addressing them as Adam and Kyle.

This time two years ago, he was still relatively immobile; just learning to walk, really. Now he dive bombs me in the gut from the back of the couch, barrel rolls down hills, climbs stairs, kicks soccer balls, and even swats whiffle balls out of the air with a baseball bat.

He's still my baby, but he's not a baby. And that is what makes this situation, this parenting thing, so completely and maddeningly and heart-wrenchingly ridiculous.

Thursday, February 24

Yet another in the endless battles of North and South: U.S. regions, Ireland, Korea, Back Yards

My two dogs produce more annoying behavior than the square footage of our house can handle.  I'd say one unnecessary howl OR one piece of laundry pulled out of the pile OR one chewed scrap of paper per day is all that can go excused when you calculate the pollution-to-livable-area proportions.

A couple of weeks ago, Bonnie got under our backyard neighbor's fence and was bitten by one of their two outdoors-year-round dogs. Since then, Bonnie and Cody have existed solely for vengeance. Don't mistake that for violence. My dogs aren't violent. What they are, is loud. And obnoxious. And unable to forgive and forget.

They spend most of the day running amok, unable to control their rage and thus taking out their frustrations on our home's interior: various forms of jostling each other and us; trash pulled out of the bin, dragged throughout the house, and chewed; nosing around in Ethan's room for inedible items to eat; cornering the cats and assaulting them with their frantic sniffing (presumably in a desperate search for information); practicing their take-down moves on each other; dog-screaming every time a leaf trembles within 100 yards of our perimeter.

Then when I can't take it anymore and let them outside, I succumb to a hypothalamic jolt of anger as I watch those two lummoxes high-tailing it up the hill to the far edge of the fence, where they shout what I presume to be the canine equivalent of yo mamma jokes, threats and epithets. It's all very tiring.

I've written to the president; it's only a matter of time before the U.N. steps in, please God.

Monday, February 14

If you are what you eat, then I'm headed in an unfortunate direction

A few weeks ago we bought a truckload full of split red and white oak from Noah's barber, whose cousin runs a tree business and sells the remains of dearly departed arbors on the cheap. That may be the most ridiculously Southern thing I've ever reported on this here website. Yeehaw!

Be that as it may, you can't beat a huge surplus of already-seasoned firewood (in case you didn't know, wood has to sit for quite awhile once it's been split so the sap and moisture dries out), for just $100. I tell you, we've had some blazes worthy of the Yule Log Channel. The countless evenings of glowing fires we've enjoyed sitting on the hearth, Noah throwing another log on and shouting "Burn, baby, burn!"

I know what you're thinking, but I promise you, we buy only locally grown, sustainably raised marshmallows. You guys, I've been roasting them by the thousands. Have you heard about the new "campfire-sized" marshmallows? They're enormous; at least four regular-sized marshmallows' worth of volume, and who knows how many mini-mallows' worth. (I feel another science experiment coming on...)

It's odd for a former city girl like me to feel comfortable wildly using resources such as ex-trees. Where I grew up, burning wood was a dangerous situation to be avoided according to Smokey the bear. And I only now just realized how odd it is to name the mascot for avoiding wildfires "Smokey." That's like making Stay Puft the official mascot of that insidious entity, the marshmallow industry.

Anyway, I've been eating so many marshmallows my back teeth are starting to hurt whenever I even look at the bag of them, which is kept conveniently on the mantle piece. Incidentally, this year I'm observing Lent by giving up meat and sweets. So I've got to get rid of them somehow.

Monday, January 17

Now featuring a Yeti


When Ethan and I were in the bath Saturday evening (something I try to avoid, now that he's learning about "pwivate pawts") he had this to say about Disney World: "It was a tiny bit scawy and a liddle bit loud."

Only when you have a two-year-old in tow do the many frightening bits of the world reappear as they haven't since childhood. The wicked witches are truly terrible; the loud booms of fireworks distract from their magnificence. Luckily, however, Ethan adored all the characters he got to meet: Handy Manny, the Little Einsteins, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald.






Almost-three is a great age to take a kid to the Magic Kingdom (especially in off-peak season). Nobody told this to the family at the table next to ours at Chef Mickey's, who had brought their daughter there for her first birthday. Her present? Repeated terror, each time a well-meaning character approached the table. When poor Minnie came bouncing through waving a napkin in the air like she just didn't care during one of the hourly un-birthday celebrations, the child let out a blood-curdling scream that sent Minnie dashing for the door.

There were a number of highlights—including Ethan and I dancing at Raglan Road pub with a professional Irish dancer...


riding Dumbo with Ethan for the fourth time as he shouted "Go up high!", laughing as Ethan asked to ride more "coasters" after enjoying Goofy's Barnstormer, to name just a few—but one of the greatest was that he was able to go there with all four grandparents, one great-grandparent, and two of his three uncles.




I must say, a January trip to Disney World has merits beyond nearly non-existent lines at the parks (we ran, literally, through the Haunted Mansion, Expedition Everest (which we had to ride twice, because the first time I was too busy screaming and cowering to see the giant Yeti overhead at the end) and Big Thunder Mountain lines, just because we could), and one of those is it sure helps you to get over the post-Christmas blues. (Noah loves Christmas so much that he starts getting sad about it being over sometime in mid-November, even though I forbid...forbidded?...forbode?....forbade him to act melancholy this year.)

We enjoyed a couple days of Christmas decor—including the Mickey head outside Magic Kingdom rendered in poinsettias—and witnessed for ourselves the extent of Disney magic when overnight the elaborate and fantastic holiday displays disappeared. We also really enjoyed some of the parks' upgrades, including the new Finding Nemo section at Epcot and the excellently re-imagined Spaceship Earth, which includes an interactive touchscreen as you journey through space and time to learn about the history of human communication. It would have been even better if Ethan hadn't chosen Korean as our language of choice on the touchscreen, for the entire ride a chipper and presumably informative Asian woman narrated through the speakers behind our heads.

I won't even mention that I was disappointed it was too cold to swim considering the rest of the country was blanketed in snow. What a time to escape to Florida, eh?

Tuesday, December 14

Fairweather fans

Eat, Pray, Lose: One Woman's Struggle to Live as a Fan of the 2010 Carolina Panthers, the Most Talented Team Who Never Won a Game

That's what I'm going to call my new book, a memoir about how being a Panthers fan helped me learn to deal with loss and readjust my definition of happiness.

Sunday we drove down to Charlotte to visit Jen (who, if you'll recall, now lives in a fantastic building overlooking the Panthers' stadium). We were invited to a tailgate party put on by the friend of a friend of a friend, which is a euphemism for "we crashed a tailgate party." The party had been moved indoors owing to Chicago-like temperatures, a fortuitous turn of events because the new location happened to be a lovely craftsman house in one of Charlotte's older neighborhoods.

I multitasked as we gathered in the kitchen: chowing down, interjecting a few well-timed jokes so as to justify my presence, and taking in the house's drool-worthy details without openly gaping at the crown molding, the furniture-like cabinetry, the built-in dinette, and the original hardwood floors.

"Look at those door frames," I whispered to Noah from the corner of my mouth. I lingered in the hall, glancing around surreptitiously on my way back from the bedroom where the coats were being kept. What a floorplan! I thought to meself. Then I returned to the kitchen so they wouldn't think I was casing the joint.

The lady of the house's husband decided he and a friend were off to the 1 o'clock Panthers–Falcons game, although they were going to leave early, because, he said, "There's a pro game on at 4 o'clock I want to see."

Jen, Noah and I decided not to buy tickets and attend when in the opening drive the Panthers fumbled the ball and the Falcons promptly scored a touchdown. We instead headed back to her apartment and enjoyed a comfortable afternoon in a luxury highrise, occasionally hearing stadium noise when we muted the commercial breaks.

Tuesday, November 30

Maybe if I watched horror movies I'd know that Rule No. 1 is Never Follow the Strange Noise Emanating from the Darkness

Commotion in the kitchen. Scuffling of claws. Noah's voice issuing commands sotto voce.

I slowly get out of bed and walk down the darkened hallway toward the kitchen. Noah's hand emerges from the shadows, spread and bright as a cave drawing in the dark.

"NO," he said forcefully, pushing his hand toward my face. "Everything is fine, but you don't need to see this."

I turn and walk back to the bedroom and calmly climb into bed.

Several minutes later, he comes in. "I was praying it was dead." And so he opened the conversation.

"What was it?" I asked casually.

"Bonnie was acting weird in the backyard," he said, "zipping back and forth and not coming when I called."

This would take a while. Whenever he avoids the direct question, I settle in for the duration.

"When she finally came running in, as she passed I could see something dangling from her mouth. I caught her by the hind end, and she dropped it. There was a thump. It was big, and it was heavy."

No point in asking more questions. In time, he'd answer everything.

"All I can say is, now I know how they felt in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, because she brought in a dead squirrel. Full-sized."

After that there was talk of length and weight, but I don't remember the details because I whited out as though someone had punched me in the nose. As I was coming to, I heard something about tinfoil and an unceremonious burial-at-sea into the woods on the other side of the fence.

"But don't worry," he told me. "Squirrels are the cleanest of the rodent family."

Wednesday, November 24

Celebrating my boys

There's so much to say about my solo trip to Chicago, and so much I'd like to remember. Like the sweet, warm baby smell of Judah Matthew...

...the pride I feel for Kim, who is already an outstanding mother; the love I feel for Chicago and the many people still there who have played an important role in my life. One small moment, though, stands out to me. On Saturday evening, I went to dinner with a good friend, Branson. Although we haven't spent any substantial amount of time together in...jeez, years...we had a great time. He's become a successful art director, an outstanding photographer, and an admirable dinner companion. Anyway, over dinner, Ethan came up as a point of discussion, and Branson caught me off guard by asking the rather direct but surprisingly difficult question, "What's he like?"

I've never had to describe my son before, in part because he's only now arriving at the age when he's a discernible little person unto himself. I lamely described how he's funny and dramatic (like how he slowly raises his hand(s) to cover his mouth when it's contorted with the pain of disappointment and reprimand), but I was sort of at a loss. Since that evening, I've been thinking about how to describe Ethan. So far, this is what I've come up with:

  • Everyday, he comes out with new words and expressions that prove he's taking in everything around him and creating meaning for himself. The fact that he calls people "Stinky Pete" (which, apparently, Branson's little cousin has called him) shows that he connects behaviors with words, and that some of those words can be used as insults or jibes.
  • He speaks prolifically, albeit in his own special patois. Since visiting D.C., he loves to build "statues" with his blocks. Towels are "tow-lows," flowers are "flau-lows," towers are "tow-eh-lows," tomorrow is "tamallow." All meat is chicken. Surprises are "plises," and must be edible to count. He loves "ships and salsa" when we go out for Mexican. "Eemies" (M&Ms) are a favorite candy, as are "Cwabby Pa-ees" (Crabby Patties). Acorns, which he collects devotedly, are "golds."
  • Speaking of speaking, his accent is a special blend of Southern (he drops the G's on -ing words) and Northern Irish (he often asks for me to change his bum rather than his diaper, he almost never wants to take a "wee rest," and Mountain Dew is "Mount'n Jew," while Mickey Mouse is "Mickey Mause," and house is "hause," etc.).
  • He loves books, and he reads several every night with Daddy. He often provides commentary mid-story, which he interjects with a forceful and repeated poke on the arm of the reader. 
  • The moon ("mooyn") is a frequent subject of discussion while out of doors, as are planes, train stations, birdies, bugs, "golds," horsies, and holiday decor.
  • His capacity for affection is overwhelming. Through his behaviors, it's obvious he understands love to be comfort, companionship, and concern for well-being. That's as good a definition as I've ever come across.
  • Bunny and Sammy the seal are his two most favorite stuffed animals—although he truly loves them all. We recently learned that Baby Bunny (a small, scarf-wearing version of Bunny) is the child of Bunny, who is Baby Bunny's mommy, and Sammy, who is Baby Bunny's daddy. We're a progressive household.
  • According to Ethan, rocks are a precious commodity, as are sticks and "golds," and he collects them all with dedication.
  • He almost always forgets something he really really needs as we're pulling out of the driveway, such as juice, a particular toy, his CD case full of movies, or just about anything else he can think of to forestall an efficient car trip.
  • Movies are a favorite pastime, although he almost always finds something "scawy" about each new movie he gets. It takes about three viewings before the "scawy" parts aren't so scawy anymore.
  • He also loves the "Too Stowe" (tool store, aka Lowe's), and refers to his toy box as his tool box.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to a lifetime of discovery.

Wednesday, November 17

Mouse at Home

In retrospect, his tone was far too casual.

"We have the kitchen," Noah said delicately, peeking his head into the bedroom, where I was already snuggled in bed with a book while the storm blew outside the bay window.

"Oh?" I said, glancing up. Enjoying a good guessing game, I ran through a number of possibilities, none more serious than, Should we bother resetting the microwave clock or wait until the storm is over?

"Yeah, uh, I opened the door to let Zoe in, and she brought in...a critter."

"A...critter?" My voice nearly a whisper, the room suddenly spinning as PTSD set in.

"A critter that's...still alive," he admitted reluctantly.

"Where is it?!"

He ignored my question. "A critter that is...a mouse..."


"...a mouse...that scurriedbehindthefridgeandIneedyourhelptogetitout."

Several minutes later, after Noah had revived me with a winning combination of smelling salts and an Epi Pen, he coaxed me into the kitchen, where he had supposedly contained the mouse with a blockade of throw pillows. I climbed across the kitchen table and chairs, then perched myself on the counter next to the fridge.

"You've already tried to catch it, haven't you?" I asked as I pointed the flashlight in the general direction of Behind the Fridge.

"Yes," he said in ashamed defeat.

"That's what the Tupperware and mixing bowl on the floor were for, wasn't it?" He didn't answer, but cast his eyes downward and got to work. I knew it was true; Noah's solution to most household problems is Trap It Under A Bowl.
As he began to shimmy out the fridge, I silently reassured myself that it was just a mouse. Mouse at Home, one of my favorite children's books, was an obvious resource for consideration. Unfortunately the book focused most prominently on lessons of friendship, industriousness and good citizenship—mouse etiquette and culture, if you will—rather than the basics of mouse behavior. As far as I could tell, the mouse in our kitchen wasn't wearing an apron and baking acorn cakes to share.

Just as I was wondering if mice can climb, a glass vase full of decorative rocks tumbled right off the top of the fridge and smashed on the floor at Noah's feet.

"Okay, I'm going to need you to carry me back to bed now," I told him. "I've done all I can do here."

I snuggled back into bed ensconced between Cody and Bonnie, confident that the dogs would alert me if any small rodents came into the room. Forty minutes later, after a lot of muffled thuds and some clinking of glass shards, Noah returned to the bedroom.

"I have some news," he said somberly.

"And...?" I asked. I hoped he was able to trap and release the poor creature instead of killing it.

"And..." he sighed, then gathered up his resolve, "And...I'm pretty sure the mouse is not hiding inside the fridge."

"THAT'S the news? That you're pretty sure that the mouse isn't inside the fridge? Where IS the mouse?"

"Well, I left the back door open, so I'm hoping that while the room was clear the mouse made a run for it." His earnestness would have been endearing if the subject matter involved less vermin. All I could do was stare, slack-jawed.

"Also," he added, "I didn't feed Zoe tonight, and I told her that if the mouse is still inside, it's her job to destroy it."

With that most reassuring plan of action, I overdosed on Benadryl and slumbered peacefully. As of today, neither droppings nor a carcass have been found ("Cats don't usually eat the head or tail," Mom helpfully informed me). But if I come across that mouse in the house, there will be droppings and a carcass for Noah to clean up: Mine.

Thursday, October 28

Threading the needle

On Sunday, Nanny passed out in church and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Monday through Thursday, I've been dealing with Hurricane Ethan with gusts up to Mommy-I-Hate-You miles per hour. For instance, this morning he tried to lock me in the bathroom, just because.

Are you guys aware of the solar storms flaring up in anticipation of the 2012 height of the 11-year solar weather cycle? I know what you're thinking: Who isn't? Japanese studies have shown (watch how I don't cite them specifically, because I can't find them, but I did read about this in my Mom's All You magazine) that solar weather this month can cause irritability and heightened stress levels in human behavior. If my house were the test lab, the hypothesis would be confirmed.

Oct. 28 Solar Twister

I'm a big proponent of blaming outside forces for things that go wrong. And now, science agrees!

So today I drove Ethan to my mom's house because 1) He didn't want me to change his poo diaper (Hey, kid, no skin off my Ashtabula!), and 2) His plan B (have Noah drive home from work to change his diaper) wasn't happening, so he opted for plan C: make Nana do it.

After the bum was changed, a long and winding neighborhood walk taken, and Little Lord Ethan situated himself in Nana's bed to watch a movie, I slipped out to come back home and let the dogs out. Forty seconds later, I encountered a grouping of three trucks (two pickups and one power company truck belonging to the local energy supplier who maintains a monopoly on the area but is taken by surprise every year when the ice storms cometh) parked in such a way that I couldn't get through

At least, according to my interpretation of the situation, I couldn't get through. But the superintendent of the building crew (who we'll call Crazy Woman) decided I had plenty of room to get through, which conveniently meant she didn't have to move her truck. The man she was talking with, to whom the other truck belonged, looked noticeably agitated and equally devoid of the stones to contradict Crazy Woman.

I, however, did have the stones. Instead of inching forward as the Crazy Woman insisted, I...let my foot off the brake and slowly rolled backward to give her some space to move. Passive aggression, FTW! But in my defense, I was too busy worrying over my impending and inevitable maneuver from neutral to first through a veritable gauntlet of multi-ton behemoths with a mere 8 centimeters of clearance. Thus:

See the tire tracks? That's foreshadowing.

Crazy Woman didn't take the hint, and actually walked into the road next to her truck (just a half-step and one twist of the ignition away from making my life easier!) and aggressively waved me onward, offering a supposedly generous but unsmiling "You can make it" as I craned my neck forward, practically pressing my forehead against the windshield.

Only one unfortunate screechy false start later, I managed to thread my way gingerly through the needle. Without even cursing under my breath! Or above my breath, for that matter. Curse-free maneuvering.

And then the greatest thing happened: A school bus came motoring down the hill toward the truck jam. No amount of gesticulating would solve that little vehicular conundrum. As I chugged up the hill leading out of the neighborhood, I saw the woman get into her truck.

Sweet, sweet vindication.
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