Friday, November 30, 2007

Yeah You Told Me 'Bout the Time!

Today is our last NaBloPoMo post. Lo hicimos! Instead of writing about what an amazing, challenging, friend-making, soul-searching, blah blah blah experience this has been, I'm going to briefly share the topics and pictures I didn't have time to elaborate on during the month of November. Because the couple of times I didn't have a good, fleshed out post? It wasn't because I had nothing to say, it's because I didn't have the time to type it. I always have something to say.

Chloe (like her mother) has SO MUCH to say these days. I'm acutely aware of how communication at this stage has as much to do with her learning our language as it does us learning hers. I find myself surprised when other people don't understand her. It's so clear to me!

She also reads books to us all the time. She happily flips through the pages, telling us words from each one, then tosses the book aside with a casual "theeee in!" ("The end." Obviously.)

There were 72 balls! That will still probably get its own post.

Connor's best friend had his last day at Idlewild today. I am not ready to start thinking about the breaking up of old and forming of new friendships that will accompany the transition to kindergarden next year, so this really caught me off guard. Connor hasn't really reacted yet- we'll see how it goes next week.

This week at work has been awful. Ask Andria- she heard all about it, and listened politely even though her week was worse.

Those zoo pictures Chip posted a couple of weeks ago- there are stories to tell! But mainly I never got a chance to say Happy Birthday to my November girls, Delaney (age 3) and her beautiful mother Beth (born in the 1960s!)

Last night was Nickel Creek's last show probably ever, and Chip went to Nashville to see it. He took Connor and left him there (in Nashville, not at the concert), although I've been promised that he will be returned to me on Sunday.

My Thanksgiving cooking was fun, but a bit hindered by the fact that both kids stayed home that day. Chloe had been fighting a random fever all week, and stayed home all week. Connor thought spending the day at home watching TV sounded pretty bitchin', so he spent the week coming up with creative and heartfelt reasons why he needed to stay home as well, finally breaking me on a cold, rainy Wednesday.

I am not doing a Christmas countdown calendar this year. That is too much structure, even for me. Plus Connor's not going to be here on December First, and my OCD won't let me come to terms with that. (I had a hard enough time doing this for only 24 days instead of a whole month!)We're still making sugar cookie ornaments, though.

I hope everyone who participated in NaBloPoMo had a great month. Those of you who participated by reading my blog regularly- well, bless your hearts. I promise to leave you alone at least until Monday.

Theeee in!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pick Your Battles

Not Worth the Trouble:
Socks that match the rest of your outfit
Running in the halls at school
Tasting new foods
Watching too much TV
Meticulous hand-washing
Biting your fingernails
Playing video games

You'll Never Get Away With:
Interrupting when someone else is talking
Eating dessert if you didn’t have most of your dinner
Not saying thank you when something is handed to you/done for you
Demanding something rather than asking for it
Picking your nose
Saying no to/flat-out ignoring a parent's request

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Homestretch

Steph deserves a round of applause for the amazing amount of posting this month-- I think it actually averages slightly more than once a day at this point. I'm sorry I've left so much of this burden to her. In "real life" the ratio of my words to Steph's is about 1:100, and I guess this is true online too. I'm a complex man, see-- my pithiness makes me more mysterious. Right?

Anyhoo, more pics of pretty kids, some of them Chockleys, and some not:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Four Posts Left

For only the second time in our brief but prolific NaBloPoMo history, the Chockleys have nothing to say. But I'm posting anyway, damn it!

To keep you entertained by someone (since today it just isn't going to be us), here is a link-filled shout-out to the other half: the Daddy Bloggers.

The Fellow NaBloPoMoEr: Cynical Dad
Fantastic list of spelling songs. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

The Pro: Dad Gone Mad
Always fun, but calling the time out chair "The Penalty Box" wins me all the way over.

The Unexpected: The Sports Guy
I've read his column for years, and other than one small rant about the Wiggles he's managed to keep his kids out of it. Until now.

The Favorite: Urf!
My favorite Daddy Blogger even before he became my favorite Daddy friend.

The Love of My Life: Duh!
In his honor, here is another fantastic picture by Chip:

You guys sure do know the secret to turning on the Mamas- write about your kids, take gorgeous photos of your kids, make delicious fun of your kids. We're helpless to resist!

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's Time!

Boy do I love this time of year! I am a total Christmas nerd. I want to buy a present for everyone I've ever met, because I love you all and also because I love shopping. I wear Christmas-themed clothing, because I am a face painter as well as a former elementary school teacher and that's just what I do. I love to decorate, and wrap, and look at gaudy light displays, and come up with dorky holiday crafts projects for my family. And bless their hearts, they humor me. The little ones even wear the embarassing clothes I buy for them. (I can only talk Chip into Christmas pajama pants to be worn when we open presents Christmas morning.) I also have a diverse collection of Christmas CDs, which I put in when WRVR plays that stupid "Christmas Shoes" song. I'll go back to normal music on December 26.

Although I start my Christmas shopping in October, (or earlier-love that Target dollar aisle for stocking stuffers!) I don't turn to the non-stop carols and jingle bell earrings until after Thanksgiving. But the season really starts for me when I have my "moment," the first time each year when I'm totally overwhelmed by the feeling that this is it, that it's really Christmastime. And it happened for me, kind of early this year, last Wednesday when I stopped in the Fresh Market to pick up something I needed for Thanksgiving dinner. Just me and a few hundred other people who also needed some last minute groceries. And I knew- this is it! We're all here for the same reason, united by our preparations for the holiday. So I walked around the store with a goofy grin on my face, talking to strangers and hoping I was able to remind them that this is fun. I wanted them to be happy for a minute rather than anxious about getting all their cooking done. Because what's to be stressed about? It's just food! (A motto left over from my waitress days.) With enough wine, all of your meals will turn out fine. Who cares if Fresh Market is out of French bread? I left the store with a smile on my face and a bag full of Halloumi cheese, looking forward to torturing my family and friends with Stryper's rendition of Winter Wonderland and a candy cane t-shirt. It's go time!


I promise this won't be my "real" post for the day, but I really needed to share this with the world. Please click on that link, and read what it says, and feel free to follow the links in the article. Because. . .wow. It's fascinating enough to learn about this Spanish tradition, but then Pau? Breathtaking. I have spontaneously burst into laughter about a million times since I read this, including at the gym and on my ride home. I hope it brings you even a fraction of the joy it has brought me. And if someone can tell me what 14,000 Euros equals in dollars, I just might buy myself one to bring me joy on a daily basis.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Growing Up

I've always considered Connor to be a sweet kid. His heart is usually in the right place, even when his actions would indicate otherwise. He might do things that drive us crazy, but most of the time it is out of carelessness rather than from some malicious need to be a butthead. Lately, though, he has been intent on testing boundaries in a way that seems very self-aware. There is a lot of backtalking and arguing just for the sake of seeing what will make his parents' heads explode. (Sample conversation: C: Mom, it's freezing in here! Me: Well, go take off your short pjs and put on some clothes so you won't be so cold. C: It's not cold in here!)

While my rational mind knows that all kids test boundaries on their way to independence, a part of me worries that he is going to quit being a sweet little kid and start being a full-time jerk. I want him to continue to show respect for others and to feel genuinely sorry when he does something wrong, instead of being sassy and doing things wrong on purpose. I know it's not that dire, but I still feel like I've done something wrong. I guess it's hard to accept that he's growing up- I thought he would still be my little baby boy at age four, rather than a borderline teen.

Fortunately, I still get to see my sweet child for at least a few minutes a day- at bedtime. We snuggle together in his bed, singing lullabies and enjoying the undivided attention of the other. Connor looks me in the eye and talks about his hopes and fears and although that sounds deep and philosophical, the beauty of it is that it's not. He's not hatching diabolical plots, or worried about life and death- he just hopes Max will be at school tomorrow, or he worries that Santa might forget to bring him a Transformer. Normal, sweet, four-year-old stuff. And I remember, for just a few minutes a day, that he really is still my baby.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


At dinner I wanted to ask everyone to say something they're thankful for- something besides "family and friends". That's too easy! Sadly, I was so busy stuffing my face that I didn't get a chance to get this conversation going. Here are a few things I might have said- feel free to add yours in the comments.

1. Halloumi cheese at Fresh Market. I no longer have to pay iGourmet exorbitant shipping costs if I want to enjoy my current favorite cheese.

2. Friday Night Lights. Seriously- spend $20 and buy season one on DVD. It's more than worth it. The writing and acting are amazing- I felt personally connected to just about every character by the time we were halfway through the first episode.

3. Scrabble is much more fun when you're not playing it in person!

4. Cocktail Hour. It's nice to know that at least one night a week I will get to see adults other than my spouse and my coworkers. (Those of you with kids know how easy it can be to lose your social life.)

5. Microsoft Excel. At home or at work, I'd be lost without it.

6. The promise of 24-hour Noggin. Starting December 31, there will be cartoons showing around the clock on Noggin. I imagine there will be nights when this will help me out tremendously.

7. Living in America. I don't mean to sound like a dork, but I really am thankful to be an American. I know we have our troubles, but not once today was I worried I might get taken out by a roadside bomb. I also have running water and electricity. I'm not a big fan of our current government leaders, but in a little over a year this regime will be replaced peacefully rather than through a bloody coup. Sure there are things to complain about, but if you look at the big picture we've got it pretty good.

8. The internet. By reading and writing blogs, I've made wonderful friends. Through the magic of IM and email, I maintain close relationships with people who are around the corner and others who are hundreds of miles away. Thanks to Amazon, I won't be in line at JC Penny at 4:00 this morning. Also: my Yahoo Launchcast personalized radio station, TV spoilers and fan forums, BabyCenter emails, the current temperature is always displayed in my toolbar, fantasy sports through Yahoo, news- real and celebrity, takeout menus, sports blogs and news, Google Google Google!

9. Family and friends. You didn't think I was really going to leave them off the list, did you? Thanks for making not just Thanksgiving but all my days so great!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Veterans Day Parade

Last week I walked over to the Veterans Day parade, which runs down 2nd Street through downtown Memphis. This lovely exhibition, consisting mainly of high school bands and ROTC units, brings back lots of memories for me. See, I was a band nerd of the highest order, and marched in this very same parade many times. One year it was so cold, my metal mouthpiece actually stuck to my face when I tried to play.

Ok, I know that I may have just ruined the dead-sexy image you all have of me. I just felt it was time to let the truth out. I played tuba in band. There, I said it. To make matters worse, I actually took tuba pretty seriously. I was damn good.

Anyway, on to the pics:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Neverending Story

My children adore each other. I see it when Chloe and I go somewhere alone, and she turns to Connor’s empty car seat and sadly asks, “Boba sit?” I see it in the way Connor’s eyes sparkle when she calls him Boba- a special, made-up word for brother, a term of affection that belongs just to the two of them. I see it when he puts his arm around her in a tight hug, forcing her to love him even though she’s pulling away, obviously distressed by this overly-aggressive display of affection. . . “Hey Connor! Let go of your sister! Stop it! Don’t you hear her crying? She doesn’t like it! Seriously- STOP!” Sigh.

My kids may love each other, but not nearly as much as they love annoying the piss out of each other. (And, by happy coincidence, their parents as well.) In the Great Sibling Wars (ca 2006 - the end of time), Connor is most often the aggressor, although he usually believes he is acting in self-defense. “But she took my (insert toy name here)!” Took it from the toy shelf, that is. He can not bear to share his toys, even toys he has not played with or even seen in months. And while it is true that Chloe is most often interested in the toy her brother is currently playing with, her age and development level can explain away any seemingly aggressive move on her part. At least it explains it for her parents. Her older brother, after 20 months of hearing how she’s a baby and doesn’t know any better, has officially tired of that explanation and has moved to an “if-she-can-get-away-with-it-maybe-I-can-get-away-with-it” mindset. He is quickly learning that this way of living brings him nothing but grief, although I imagine the moment of transgression probably feels pretty good- at least for the 3.2 seconds between when he does it and when I descend upon him.

This weekend, I actually sat right next to him and watched the angel over his left shoulder (representing Respect and Obey Your Mother) lose a fist fight with the devil over his right (representing Continue to Piss Chloe Off). The consequences were swift and serious, but he’s lucky I stopped short of poking him in the eye with the pencil I was holding.

I know that this sibling squabbling is my reality for the rest of time. (I know this in part because my brother spent the majority of his recent visit trying to find ways to touch my knees.) Although I can imagine that someday the fighting will move from “testing limits” to “showing affection,” I really hope my patience doesn’t wear out before we get there. We haven’t even made it to the point where Chloe is a knowing participant! Soon she will initiate the acts of sibling aggression. I’m doomed. I just hope that in time they learn to fight these battles out of arm’s length of their mother while she’s working a crossword puzzle. I’d hate for someone to lose an eye.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Food! Glorious Food!

Way back when, before picky children and Weight Watchers dictated fixing up to four separate meals a night, before whiny children clung to my leg begging for some type of sustenance from the minute I walked in the house to the minute I slapped something down on the table, I used to love to cook. Big, elaborate meals, several times a week. Meals that took longer than 30 minutes to cook and longer than eight minutes to eat. I was much fatter then, sure, but I miss it anyway.

That’s why I love Thanksgiving- it’s a holiday that allows me to do about a year’s worth of cooking in one meal. I send the kids to school the day before and spend the whole day preparing food. Fancy food, comfort food, fattening food. Food that no one is sitting at my feet whining for. Food that I look forward to all year. I do this whether there is anyone joining us or not- one year I fixed a turkey, four side items, bread and dessert for just me, Chip and a five-month-old baby. We ate leftovers for two weeks, but it was worth it! And even though I generally cook something at Christmas, that holiday meal is just never as relaxing and cathartic as the one in November. Probably because food is the focus at Thanksgiving, rather than an afterthought at the end of a full day of stress and materialism. Plus there’s pro football on Thanksgiving. Perfect!

So tonight I’ll rush through cooking chicken breasts and making PB&Js, stressing about whether or not I’ll have enough time to cook the squash fries (40 minutes? OMG!), but I’ll be looking forward to Wednesday and Thursday when there is nothing on my schedule except cooking, eating and drinking. If you’re anywhere near my neighborhood next Thursday, come on by! You’ll find plenty of food and wine, and a satisfied cook who is willing to share both. As long as there’s no whining.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Scenes from the Zoo

Sorry, lions, tigers and giraffes-- I've taken tons of pics of you guys on recent trips. This time, I focused on other stuff...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Where We Are Right Now

Occasionally has trouble keeping his hands to himself.
Has been eating surprisingly well lately.
Thinks that Tylenol cures all illnesses, from a bad cough to indigestion.
Knows the words to a surprising number of pop songs.
Is fascinated that Santa and I have been in touch already. (By email.)

Can't wait for it to get cold enough to wear her pink fleece hat.
Is never hungry anymore.
Speaks in full (two-word) sentences.
Calls all of her grandparents "Mimi."
Knows nothing of Santa, just wants whatever her brother is currently playing with.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Chart

I am trying to get Connor to have better manners. I know not all of you subscribe to the southern "Yes Ma'am, No Sir" mentality, and that's fair, but I still need my child to ask for things nicely rather than saying "Gimme some juice!" And at the very least, I need him to NOT COMPLAIN every time I put a plate of food in front of him. (After telling my mother-in-law that not complaining earns a manners sticker, she cracked me up by responding, "That's a sad state of affairs you've got there." Hee!) So we set up a chart, which you already have or plan in the near future to make fun of me for, and he gets a sticker when he uses good manners without being prompted. Ten stickers earns him some little prize. That's the deal.

And how is this working out for us, you might ask? For the most part, this has been a success. Not only does he accept dinner without complaint, he has even started thanking me for fixing it! I know he has his eye on earning a sticker, but I'm pretty sure the no complaining part of it has been internalized. He also doesn't expect "stuff" from me as often. (That last trip to Target was rough, but he is getting better with the idea that he might get something after ten stickers rather than getting something now now NOW.) However, I can tell that he's looking at the bottom of the chart as a time when he might be let off the hook manners-wise, so I believe we will create a replacement once this one is filled up with stickers. Once he sees there is no end in sight, he might give himself over to his southern-ness and just be polite all the time. In my dreams.

There are other benefits as well. This morning, as we were getting in the car, Connor said, "I told Dad that he was the number one dad!" I told him that was great, now get in the car. "I also thanked him for. . .something," Connor continued, and it dawned on me that he was fishing for a sticker but trying not to ask directly for it. (Which is not allowed.) And so it came to pass that I was able to teach my son the difference between "manners" and "blatant ass-kissing" at the tender age of four. Behold the power of the chart!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Frog and Toad and Sweat

Three firsts today for Connor-- his first field trip, which involved his first bus ride and his first play. Even though some parents transported their kids to the Circuit Playhouse by car (fear of buses?) I specifically did not, because I wanted Connor to experience a school bus ride. You know, all the screaming, the paper airplane throwing, the wanton lawlessness of kids on hard benches with absolutely no semblance of safety restraints. I'm happy to say that these days, the kids actually sit in their car seats on those hard benches. After a bit of initial tearful fear of the unknown, I understand that Connor enjoyed his bus ride quite a bit.

When his bus arrived, he was amazed to see my car already there, even though I told him a million times in the past few days that I was going to meet him there.

We saw "A Year With Frog and Toad," a musical, which was actually very entertaining. Connor was fascinated most by the props and the sweat on the actors, among other things. He also imitated the odd accents of the actors, loudly and inappropriately, which greatly amused his classmates. The play ran almost an hour and a half, which definitely stretched the limits of the 4-year-old attention span.

After the play, the actors came out to answer questions from the kids. The first was, "How come y'all sing so much?" which is a question I often ponder when I watch a musical.

I'm always glad to get my kids all cultured up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Forgot One

Shannon's other favorite Connor story from the weekend:

We played a game of Memory- Connor and Shannon against me and Chip. Connor completely dominated the game, but also treated us to an impressive collection of trash talk. Everyone's favorite was when he got a match and yelled, "I beat that down, yeah!" Yep, that's my child.

Colors of Fall

All you have to do is take a second to look-- there's beauty all over the place. I find myself taking in the fall colors a lot more this year-- since I'm all in the "ooh, can I take pictures of THAT?" mode these days.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Uncle Shannon

Cullen turned 30 yesterday. His wife decided to surprise him by flying in his best friend, Shannon, to spend the weekend helping him celebrate. That worked out great for us, considering that Shannon is my brother and one of my favorite people in the whole world. His plane got in Thursday night, and we were in charge of picking him up. I invited Cullen over for dinner, and sent Connor to the airport with Mom since I knew he'd never be able to keep the secret. It worked- Cullen was surprised!

The boys played golf and hung out all day Friday and most of Saturday, but Saturday night we got together to "officially" celebrate the birthday. Although I was sad to leave the ravioli party without eating anything, it was worth it to hang with my bro and my now 30-something friend. After a full night of poker-playing and grossing Gina out with our dirty jokes, we brought Shannon home with us and he spent all day Sunday with us and Mom. The kids, Connor in particular, were thrilled to have Uncle Shannon around. No surprise, a day with my kids prompted Shannon to sleep about ten hours last night.
Here are Shannon's favorite stories from the weekend:
As soon as Shannon pulled on his Michigan ball cap, Connor was like, Mom, we're wearing hats- I'm going to need my Titans hat. Then he spent the rest of the afternoon going cross-eyed while trying to adjust the bill. Cross-eyed Connor is gold, Jerry! Gold!
While Shannon and the kids were playing outside, Chloe was trying to pet a neighborhood cat and it scratched her arm up pretty good. While Chloe was crying and being attended to, Connor descended on the cat prepared to make it pay for hurting his sister. We stopped him, but were all pretty proud of his protective instinct.
Connor, Mom and Shannon were at the store, and Connor worked himself into a frenzy over a box of rainbow-colored Goldfish. Mom told him that we had Goldfish at home, to just wait, and Shannon predicted, "Whatever- the word rainbow is going to come out of his mouth at least 17 more times." By the time they got to the check-out counter, Connor was at eight. By the time they got home, he was at twelve. And by the time he rushed in and breathlessly told me the story about how he was denied the rainbow-colored Goldfish, he was at 17 and Mom and Shannon were absolutely hysterical. Eventually they were able to compose themselves and tell us what was so funny. (This was also a good opportunity for me to step back and realize that sometimes when Connor is annoying the hell out of me, it could be entertaining if I would just let it.)

I just put Shannon on a plane, and the only reason I'm not crying is because I know he'll be back in about six weeks, and he'll have Carrie with him too. I already can't wait! See you in December!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Zanone Family Ravioli

For the past year, I've looked forward to the time when I'd get to help assemble the ravioli. It was even better than I had imagined. Chip and I always enjoy time talking and laughing with friends while our children play underfoot, but adding this culinary tradition to the mix made the afternoon truly special. We can't do it justice here on this blog, because the atmosphere is one that has to be experienced to understand. There was a sense of community and purpose that we don't often take the time to slow down and find in our modern age, something simple and pure about gathering together not just to eat but to create and share a meal from the ground up. I suggest that the next time you gather with friends to eat, don't ask them to bring a dish to share. Ask them to bring the ingredients, then take your time and enjoy some conversation and wine while assembling your meal together. Then continue that tradition every chance you get.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Happy Birthday Cullen!

You're #1!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Uh Oh

I just realized that I'm about leave the house, not to return until possibly after midnight tonight. So when, exactly, am I supposed to write an entertaining blog post?

In the next couple of days, I'll have lots of stories to tell: about making the Zanone Family Ravioli, about Cullen's 30th birthday, and about hanging out with Uncle Shannon. Today, however, I've got nothing good.

An addendum to yesterday's post: this morning at Target, Connor proved himself to be even more materialistic than his sister. I have never experienced such a frenzied buying experience. He wanted EVERYTHING he saw, and that was just in the clothes department! Chloe threw a few "mine"s in there as well, but Connor made her look positively tame.

We were at Target because we woke up today in 46 degree weather and realized that the shorts both of my children were wearing would not suffice. I could have sworn I had bought at least 7 pairs of long pants for each of them this fall! Thank goodness for that magical table at Target that has pants for $4.88 and shirts for $3.48. If not my kids would be naked. (And before you tell me we should just wash clothes more often, stop and ask yourself when, exactly, we have time to wash clothes more often.)

Be back tomorrow with tales of fun and adventure!

Friday, November 09, 2007


My daughter's mission in life, besides watching Dora the Explorer on an endless loop with her eyelids propped open by toothpicks, is to own everything in the world. I know this is no surprise, as all almost-20-month-olds fall in love with the word "mine." It's just particularly funny/horrifying (depending on my mood) this time around because of the sibling factor. When Connor was this age, if he said "Mine!" he was generally right. All the toys actually were his. But now that all those baby toys have been pulled back out for Chloe, there is somewhat of a gray area regarding what is her "mine" and what is his "mine." Billions of times a day, I hear Chloe start screaming "Mine! MINE!"after Connor has ripped whatever toy he recognizes from his youth right out of her appropriately-aged hands, showing her how the big kids play this game with a mature declaration of, "Yeah, that's mine." She will continue screaming as I conduct a pointless negotiation along the lines of, "Yes, Connor, that book was originally yours. But do you really need a book of baby faces containing five words total on ten pages of book? Really? Even if those words are red, blue, green, yellow, and pink?" This just spurs Chloe on, though, as she grabs toys and books indiscriminately, loading as much into her arms as possible while continuing to shriek "MINE!" Fortunately I know the way to pull us out of this downward spiral - I can always grab the remote and bring the warring factions together with the help of our favorite Latina peacemaker.