Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fashionable Hats?

When did ridiculous pieces of fabric and feathers stuck to your head become fashionable?   It looks like they took the bits off other hats and stuck them in their hair.  I’m of course talking about the Royal Wedding. 

I didn’t get up at 4am.  I didn’t get excited over Kate’s dress.  I don’t care.  I mean, it’s romantic.  It’s Cinderella.  It’s iconic.  Depressing – poor William going so bald at jus 28.  Timeless.  There are a million words to describe their union.  And many people will.  But oh my Lord at those hats.  Especially his cousins. 

What were those girls thinking?  Especially Beatrice?  I’m pretty sure this conversation happened.  I wasn’t there and will never know, but I am almost positive it went down like this:

Beatrice – Mom, I want to look like the ugly step sister in Cinderella.  You know, the one who thinks she’s fashionable but comes off as ugly and desperate.  Yeah, that one.
Fergie – Oh, well, there’s really only one way to appear as a desperate side show.  And you’ve already accomplished it.  Being my daughter.  No one cares. 
Beatrice – But MOM!  How can people talk about me unless I look absolutely ridiculous?  I need to appear to have a miniature deer’s antlers on my head. 
Fergie – Okay, okay.  I’m going to call a designer who does things for Dr. Seuss movies.  He’ll know just what to do.

Uncanny likeness, no?

Because, you see, that is the only explanation as to what she had on her head.  And why she thought it looked okay.  Googling™ has proven that she often wears stupid hats.  She’s known for it, I guess.   Stupid hats are something to be known for.  Better than the daughter-of- the- second-born-prince-that-nobody-cares-about. 

Please, oh please don’t ever let me have the need to dress like high society.  I’d fail.  I can’t wear leftover bits from someone’s old church hat.  All I can do is look at those pictures and say what I was taught to say if I didn’t have nothing nice to say – “Bless her heart.” 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away!!

We've had storms in Memphis.  Lots of them.  Every Monday for the last 3 weeks.  Thunderstorms.  Tornado warning siren storms.  Oh-holy-moly-the-house-will-blow-over storms.  I'm calling Auntie Em and getting my red sparkly shoes.  And so I made today's lunch in honor of the storms.  I'm quite the cheeky monkey.

Storm Bento -- Cracker "cyclone" with cloud turkey and cheese, Lightening cookies, cheese ball hail, and apricot sun (I'm hopeful)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The night smells happy

I love Spring.  It smells so good.  It’s as though the Earth comes alive not just in plants, but in odors.  Fresh cut grass.  Grills lighting for the first time.  Bubbles and sidewalk chalk.  They have a smell.  It’s a happy smell.  The smell of laughter.  Driving in Memphis on any Spring night, I smell all of these.  And it sends a calm through me.  Down to my toes.  It is the smell of the South.  All across the southeastern United States it’s as though Spring unlocks prisons.  People emerge into the sunlight.  Sure the sun was out during the winter, but not quite like the Spring sun.  And the smell of lawn mowers, hot dogs on the grill, and life emerging from winter.  Birds herald Spring.  And it’s visually obvious.  But for me it’s the smells.  I’m a smell person.

Smells have memories.  And never memories that make sense.  Freshly dug Earth reminds me of sweet tea with lemon.  My mom always had a glass if sweet tea with lemon when she worked in the yard.  Sautéing onions remind me of table forts.  My grandmother always cooked spaghetti when my cousins were visiting, and we always built a fort with the kitchen table and quilts while she cooked.  I always have a memory with a smell. Jelly beans and Peeps remind me of my Great Uncle L.S.  He was always so well dressed on Easter at my grandmother’s house.  Three-piece-suit nice.  He and my Great Aunt Lorraine always dressed overly nice on Easter.  It was always “look, we have money” nice too.  Bright pink lipstick nice.  Jelly bean smelling nice. 

Now I’m making new smell memories.  Slowly the new ones replace the old ones.  Candy corn no longer makes me think of face planting on the tile floor at McDonalds.  (We always went there after trick-or-treating and one year I fell off a stool and hit the floor, smearing my clown make up all over the tile).  Now I think of my kids and my best friends and their kids having fun going door to door at Halloween and getting SO frustrated they have to wait for their little brother.  Breakfast sausage is losing its memory of Sunday mornings and being replaced with family breakfast on the weekends with my kids.  But cigarette smoke – that’s always going to be the beach for me.  Playing in the sand while my mom sat under the umbrella reading and my dad stood in the water making sure we always came back up.  Someone near us was smoking.  Every summer.  I hope my kids have smell memories.  Good smell memories.  I hope that when they are all grown up they stop on a Spring night and say “this night smells so good” and think of a million great things we did this year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Easter!

Today's lunch is brought to you by the letter "N" for "Nothing healthy in this lunch at all" :)  But its an Easter Bunny lunch.  Not an "Easter" lunch, as that would involved some great focus on the ressurection of Christ.  But I'm all for the Hallmark-esque lunches than the story of Jesus lunches.  Makes for more colors and less weird looks.  Jesus is important though.  Really.  Don't let Peter Cottontail make you forget that.

Easter Bento: Apricots w/ fun sprinkles, Nutella Bunny Sandwich, Strawberry wafer cookies, Peep chick and jelly beans.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Obligatory Witty Attention Grabber

Social Media is fun.  Especially Facebook ™.   People are ten foot tall and bullet proof there.  They say stuff they’d never say to your face, good or bad.  They can nitpick every thought you have to the nth degree.  Simple statements of alcohol enjoyment cause someone to go on a rant about the freezing level of alcohol; witty observations start angry political debates; pictures of tattoos bring the self righteous to say vindictful things – and that’s just my profile and interactions in the last 3 months. 

But those are rare.  Most of the time the interactions are mundane.  Polite coffee conversation, my grandmother would say.  And it’s all the same.  90% of status updates and replies can be summed up quite nicely by the following interaction between me and my friend G:

G –something clever and funny.
            Me: smart remark to said witty status.
            G: Cheap shot to feeble sarcastic remark
            Me: stupid acronym to show my amusement
            G: random punctuation marks denote my happiness
            Me: guilt-ridden question about your offspring that is totally insensitive since I asked it on your facebook status instead of calling or writing?

And that sums it up.  Occasionally its more involved.  Usually, though, that’s it.  Superficial BS about life.  Or “copy and paste this if you want [insert horrible disease here] to end.  If you don’t you hate puppies and want them to die.”  Or something like that.  I love my mom, my kids, my siblings and puppies.  I hate cancer, AIDS, leprosy, and death by giant squid.  I don’t care what color my bra is, where I keep my purse or whether your mom made out with a penguin in the bathroom of my uncle’s house because the man on the moon told her to (which means something simply mundane like ‘I’m happily married with kids and born in September).  I don’t really care how your farm is doing, or that your castle siege was thwarted by a dragon, or that your illegal money laundering scheme for your fake Mafia needs help. 

So I’ll make my pointless posts and my friends will give their two cents, and then I’ll “LOL” and ;) and the like.  If you have a prayer request I’ll : ( and say I’ll pray when we both know that I’ll just keep reading facebook and forget.  I’m slack.  If your neighbor’s dog is lost I’ll repost it so all my friends 9 states away will know and can help.  Then I’ll post a picture of my kid.

When people post pictures of their kids people comment with “aww” and “: )” and “precious” … no one ever says negative things.  “Here’s sweet Petunia in the new dress grandma sent” never has comments like “Oh, holy hell that’s tacky” or “Did you mean to make Petunia’s hair look like a show dog’s?” or “why does your kid look more like your neighbor than your husband?”  Just the “aww, she’s so precious I could eat her up!” I do it.  I’m such a liar a lot.  And people have done it to me.  Because its facebook.  Because social media is such a funny little monster.  Repost this 10 times if you agree.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Normality Restored

Running a house with four children is a beautiful dance of organized chaos.  We go constantly to somewhere.  Gymnastics, dance, church, school.  We are always going.  And with Little Frog around things seems to move in two hour increments.  So being gone a week has crippled our house.

I fully believe in Clutter Gremlins.  These are the glorious creatures that destroy your house while you are out of town.  No matter how much I clean, I come home and it looks like the house was abandoned 10 years ago.  Dust, dog hair, dirt.  It’s all there.  The Clutter Gremlins do it.  Its like they sit there, waiting for me to leave for a few days so they can dump random particles into the air to create dust balls.  I also am pretty sure I have a giant fluffy hippo in my house.  They exist.  Furry hippos. Giant hairballs. Only something that large could create as much fur and dander and dirt as accumulates in my house.  That or 4 kids, 2 adults and 3 dogs.  You know, whatever you want to think.  I’m going with the giant fluffy hippo idea myself.  It seems like a nice scapegoat.  A furry hippo who loves to have paperwork.

Peanut and Bean must bring home 10 papers each a day.  The school is not concerned with how many trees gave their lives for this.  These papers are important.  They are reminders of the phone calls and emails that I already received about whatever fun events are going on at the school.  They are meaningless worksheets to fill time between the “well, we only need to teach what’s on the test” lessons the teachers are forced to teach.  We have lots of papers.  Throughout the week I stack them on the counter.  I stack them on the table.  I put them in chairs, on barstools, and my “important stuff” basket.  Every Saturday (or at least I like to think its every Saturday) I go through all the papers.  As I listen to the ghosts of the trees and ponder the pointlessness of it all, I throw it in the trash and regain my kitchen. 

But being out of town caused the Clutter Gremlins to show up.  They also gave each other free rides on my Fluffy Hippo. I like to think they had a Fluffy Hippo Rodeo.  It’s apparent by the balls of fur all over the floor in the kitchen that I found when we got home Friday night. We left in a hurry. Rushing out the door waters the paperwork piles so they can magically grow while I am gone.  When we got home I had paperwork shrubberies.  I blame Roger the Shrubber.  Ni!

Clark Kent had to go on a big mission for work Saturday, so needless to say I didn’t do my usual Saturday kitchen paper de-tox.  Then Sunday was “Let’s teach the children respect day” after church.  That involved all sorts of fun that taught my children two simple truths: 1) Respect is not requested, it is expected and 2) Never, never ever tell Mommy “No you won’t” when she explains your consequences.  Never.  Ever.  So Monday was moving furniture day thanks to my amazing amazing friend who saved my sanity and watched Little Frog for me.  It’s unbelievable what a little grown up conversation does for the soul.

So today was clean the kitchen day.  I combined all the normal kitchen cleaning into one day (I know, so Wonder Woman of me, right?).  It was exhilarating.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a terribly depressing thing that I get so much joy out of steaming my floors clean.  It’s a sign of being a mom.  It’s a sign that I don’t get out enough.  It’s a sign I don’t clean the floors enough, perhaps.  The children are crying, the dinner is burning, but DANG IT the floors are clean! Now I can return to my normal beautiful dance of chaos

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Road Trips and Five Year Olds

My car is full of glitter.  It seems to be on every tangible surface.  It is the result of one very, very long road trip.  And some Color Wonder ™ glitter princess paper.  It was to appease the five year old.

When I was little we took long car trips.  We rode at night.  My dad would drive and my mom would sleep.  Before we left we would get in our PJs and get a sack full of Hardee’s hamburgers.  Good greasy yumminess.  We had an old Chevy Caprice (I think) station wagon. 80s style.  My sister rode in the middle and I rode in the back.  We “buckled” loosely and lay down and slept. Sure it wasn’t the brightest idea, but it worked great and my parents were sane when we got to Florida. When we woke up we played Car Bingo.  Remember Car Bingo?  It was a way to make small children shut up.  I appreciate them now.  Those sane people.  Who raised insane children.

Why do we travel during the day with kids?  Because we aren’t night people.  We fall asleep.  Clark Kent and night driving = Superman and Kryptonite.  No lie.  So we get up in the morning and head out on the road.  Always making sure that we hit Atlanta, GA right at the perfect time to get stuck in traffic.  But then, what time in Atlanta isn’t traffic time?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Yeah, thought so.  So we go on.  What takes normal people 9 hours takes us 12.  Well, we’ve got the newborn and all.  But the kids are entertained.  Or so we think.

We’ve got the DVD player, the Leapsters ™ and DS ™ … all stuff to entertain.  But not for the 5 year old.  About 2 hours into this trip o’ fun, Bean loudly proclaims “I’m Bored!”  She doesn’t get it.  It’s not an amusement park, it’s a mini van.  And we’re not even making her play Car Bingo.  But the whining continues.  “Well great.  I’m just going to be bored.  There’s nothing to do” “Go to sleep” “NO!”  It’s like a horrible rap song in the van.  Bean is whining Little Frog is crying, and above all the bustle you hear: “Are we there yet?”  Yes, Monkey Man.  We are.  The middle of I-20 just outside Alabama is our destination.  Let’s all get out and play in traffic.

By this time in our trip the A/C on the passenger’s side is out and blowing hot air.  It’s a nifty trick the van does when we’ve been traveling a lot.  And only if it’s nice and hot outside.  My van loves me like that.  Not on regular days, but only on long car trips in the heat when the children are flipping out.  It likes to tell me “hey, Jess.  I know you’re already stressed out, so I’m going to just push it a little bit farther.  Its fun to be stressed and hot!”  So to appease the noise monsters I get the markers out at the next stop.  Grandparents who are wonderful bought all sorts of Color Wonder ™ stuff.  I am grateful.  I didn’t realize what “Glitter Paper” meant.  It means that any hope you have of not being iridescent just flew out the window.  It means that the entire square footage of your car will be covered in glitter.  It means that small little girls will take their hands, rub the paper and then rub their faces.  I can’t make that up.  They really did that.  Glitter. Everywhere.  Insanity.  Sparkly insanity.

But Bean is now happy.  For a bit.  And as she merrily colors her princesses the car fills with glitter.  Just call us the Cullens.  We glow like crazy.  36 hours later and I’m still washing glitter off Little Frog.  And I am pretty sure it’s a futile mission.  Every time we get back in the car there’s more.  Road trips are fun.  As fun as a sitting in a tub full of scissors (wish I made that one up).  But at least this time it was sparkly.  Sparkly torture.  This phrase sums up both my road trip and vampires.  Who’d have thunk? 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Funerals Are Funny Things

There are moments in your life you never forget.  I remember the Challenger explosion.  I remember the first day of middle school.  I remember the day my sister had surgery on her legs.  The first day of band camp in high school.  Graduation.  Starting college.  Meeting Clark Kent for the first time.  Saying I love you.  The births of each of my children.  And most recently the last time I spoke to my grandmother.  She was not coherent.  But it was the last time I saw her.  And I said goodbye.  Then she was gone.  I haven’t had much to say this week because I’ve been busy, we’ve been driving (and driving and driving and driving) and I’ve said goodbye.  Warning … I’ve got some stuff to say, and it’s not orthodox or polite or appropriate.  Bear with me.  It’s time someone said it.

Funerals are such funny things.  I know, that’s sick you say.  Well, they are.  People always say things like “she looks so good” at the wake.  And yeah, I guess she does.  And it comforts us.  But to me she looked like a shell.  A great big empty shell.  With some makeup and earrings.  Good?  Sure.  But not there.  Long gone, with Jesus.  It’s the way people deal, I suppose.  And the ones that say “I can’t believe she’s gone”.  Really?  She was 83, with horrible liver cancer.  Painful and debilitating.  I can believe it.  And I’m so glad she’s not suffering anymore.  I personally can’t believe she had to live that long.  I know I wouldn’t want to live that long like that.  Just so you know.  If I get really sick and can’t be healed, Lord have Mercy send me out to pasture and shoot me.  Hopefully that will be legal.  If not, I’m okay with it.  Tell the nice Police Officer that.  I’m okay with it, so it’s not wrong.  Perhaps my favorite is “I just want you to know how much she’ll be missed” YOU want ME to know that?  Yeah, I have inkling.  She was my grandmother.  Who I spent almost every weekend of my childhood with.  Got it.  But again, just trying to cope.  It’s like there’s a book called “Good Southern Comforting Words for Funerals” and we all just quote from it, ending of course with the obligatory “Bless your Heart”. 

I also love funerals because you get to see people that you either don’t know or haven’t seen since the last funeral.  “Hey Daryl.  How on earth are you?  Haven’t seen you since YOUR grandmother passed away!  How the heck are things going?”  And no apologies that both of you were family jerks and didn’t try to see how each other were the last 15 years.  No trying to catch up the last 15 years.  Just pick up like it was yesterday and talk about the old times.  Laugh and cry over the person that brought you here.  There’s always a happy story, a funny story, and a sad story.  And everyone tries their best to tell the funniest and stupidest things to make you laugh.  You’re all family, after all.  Even if you can’t remember who the heck they are and how they are related.  That’s what funerals do. 

So that makes me laugh.  Funerals are funny things.  Bringing together family in a way that the person who passed never could have hoped for in life.  As I watched my grandmother’s casket get lowered into the ground I couldn’t help but laugh.  One because I was stuck behind a car, behind a car, behind a car because Daryl couldn’t shut up.  Two because my grandmother the reunion planner finally got everyone together.  She’d be proud. And we celebrated in true Southern fashion ... we went to Ryan's all you can eat buffet.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Mimi with Peanut, Bean and Monkey Man  June 2008

Once, when I was three I spit in my grandmother’s face.  She promptly slapped me across the room without even thinking.  It was reflex.  She apologized, I’m sure.  And laughed.  That’s the way things were.  That was Mimi.  She was truly a phenomenal woman.

Born in farm country in upstate South Carolina in 1928, she was number 11 of 12 children.  Food was scarce and shoes and clothes were even harder to find.  But that was where she was raised.  In a family where mom was a seamstress and older sisters were up and married before she was even born.  She worked in a Cotton Mill from the time she was sixteen.  Running between the machines to thread them as they spun the cotton.  Phenomenal.  She worked from then on. 

She got married.  It must have been love.  He was 25 years older than her.  They opened a grocery store with a gas station.  It survived the flux of cars in the 60s, the gas shortage of the 70s.  She bartered with the gas truck men to get them to sell her gas.  She lost her husband in 1977.  Perseverance.  Solid as a rock.  Unwavering.  Those are the words I would use to describe her.  Hard as nails.  Practical business woman.  Those are words you’d hear others use.   Phenomenal. 

I remember playing at her house.  Getting yelled at for running up and down the hall for the millionth time.  I remember the smell of spaghetti sauce cooking on the stove.  I remember ham, potato salad, mac n cheese, and boiled eggs on Easter. Hide and seek with my cousins and watching recorded. Disney movies on VHS. Christmas Reunions with presents, food and fancy dresses.  Always fancy dresses.  It was a requirement to sit around at Christmas, eat lots of messy foods and ruin a perfectly wonderful dress.  And I loved it.  Every minute.  Pretending there were monsters under the bed, listening to Casey Kasem on Sundays, and the pound cake.  Phenomenal.

Every summer we had family reunions and we drove to Chester, SC to have family reunions.  We took lots of food and pound cake.  We played baseball, we loved on each other, and we saw people who hadn’t seen us in five years that would say “My, my, how you’ve grown!”

April 3rd, we said goodbye to this amazing woman.  My grandmother.  Dorothy Bessie Lee Smith.  Bessie Hill.  Bessie Smith. Mom.  Mimi. Tomorrow we lay her body to rest.  But she’s been gone.  She’s in heaven.  With Jesus.  Probably making sure angels are minding their Ps and Qs.  Above all else that Jesus calls her; He will surely call her Phenomenal.  How could he not?  That’s what she is.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Phone Phenomenon

Technology is really something else.  It’s amazing what we can do with phones, computers, video game systems and the like these days.  The effect they have on children is astounding.  There are millions of studies over the past 80 years on what technology does to children.  What they don’t talk about is the psycho-behavior phenomenon.  My children are angels.  Well, most of the time.  Okay.  I’m lying.  A good bit of the time they are mostly angels.  Overall they are entertaining, mostly well behaved children most of the time.  Until, of course, the phone rings.  My cell phone emits some sort of weird chemical, that when it is answered that makes my children go fool, as my dad would say.  Children who were just playing along together.  Children who were upstairs in the playroom getting along famously.  Children who were satiated and copasetic.  As soon as the chemical is released from the phone they go nuts.  Their voices suddenly raise three of four levels of volume.  They forget they are inside.  They lose any sense of rules or order.  The chemical causes chaos.  I don’t know how it works.  I answer the phone and my children – my precious quiet children – begin fighting with each other.  There is hitting, biting, throwing, screaming.  People get hurt, suddenly everyone is ravishing with hunger and the world is a dark and cruel place.  Martial law reigns.  The baby, who was sleeping soundly for hours wakes up as if on cue from some evil force.  The children who were for over an hour engaged in playing with My Little Ponies upstairs are suddenly downstairs attempting to see who can actually over talk the other.  And the one who just had snack 30 minutes ago suddenly is so hungry she is crying that she is starving and will likely waste away into nothing before I can get off the phone. 

My poor, poor children.  So neglected for the 5 minutes I’ve been on the phone.  Those children who I couldn’t have possibly gotten things for prior to the phone ringing, and who of course can’t stand to wait until I’m off the phone for whatever trivial item needs my attention.  As a good parent, I apologize to the person on the other end of the line over the screaming and gnashing of teeth.  I hang up and instantly the children are over all that ails them.  Everyone quits fighting, no one is hungry or parched, and they are back to playing quietly.  The baby quits crying and all is well with the world.  It’s a chemical released by the phone.  Or any communication technology.  And it’s not just my children.

Web cams are a wonderful thing.  We can talk to great-grandma, friends, grandparents, cousins.  You name it.  Web cams on the computer, web cams in the Xbox Kinect – we’ve got them all.  Put up the web cam and the children begin running around and screaming.  They feel the need to act like circus side show freaks.  As we watch the children on the other end (usually nephews and nieces), they act the same way.  As adults, we try to ‘ignore’ the chaos and continue the conversation with the adult on the other web cam as though nothing abnormal is going on.  Eventually everyone agrees this technology, while cool, is incredibly pointless while there are children in the room and we give up.  Almost instantly my angels return.  They are quiet and acting like their normal little kid selves again.  I’ll figure it out one day.   It’s odorless, colorless, and only works on people under 18.  Secret invisible kid-mind altering chemicals.  Punishing adults who crave conversation with other adults.  Somehow I think Steve Jobs is probably behind it.  He is the root of all that is evil, especially in cell phones.