Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sick Day Photo Shoot

One of my original works was recently selected for inclusion in the prestigious "Urf! Masthead 2008" Collection. This made me realize that it's time to stop being so modest about my considerable skill and start displaying my work elsewhere in public. The ChockleyBlog Gallery owners agreed to host my first exhibition:

Boy Who Doesn't Know How to Correctly Apply Chapstick

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lost In Translation

Chloe, being one year, 23 months and 10 days old, knows a lot of words. They live in her head, waiting to surprise us with impressive verbal comprehension. Unfortunately, at this age, these words are not always able to free themselves from her brain with much clarity. Those of us who live with her are able to understand her, although to an outsider it might sound like gibberish. Example:

Chloe: MY doh doh sinny!
Me: Sure, I'll get you some Dora candy.

Sometimes, however, I find myself stumped. It's stressful for both of us when that happens, although as the mother of a daughter I am always fully aware that any shortcomings are mine, and she is not now nor has she ever been at fault. Just last night we had this conversation:

Chloe: Iwah sight gack.
Me: Huh?
C: Iwah sigh gag!
Me: You want what?
C: Sigh kag!
Me: Psychic?
C: Site gak!
Me: Sidekick?
C: (piercing shriek)
Me: Can you show me?

She took my hand and led me into the kitchen, all the while repeating her demand. I stood in front of the pantry, naming a few items, then said, "Chocolate?" to which Chloe replied with something along the lines of "Hell yeah!" I handed her a Hersey's Kiss and said, "There's your chocolate. I'm sorry it took me so long to understand you!" Immediately her face darkened and she thrust out her lips witha a "No no NO!" I panicked, realizing that I hadn't cracked the code after all. I warily made eye contact, nervous about just how much damage this setback was going to cause. She regarded me for a moment, full of contempt and pity, then gave me a sly smile, shoved the chocolate in her mouth and ran off to watch TV.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Things Are Just Smurfy Around Here

I am home, again, with a child who is sick, again. Connor is fighting a cold that has left him snotty and a little puny. He spent most of the weekend moping around on the couch, and this morning he just couldn't deal with the stuffy nose and cough, or the lack of sleep caused by them. So he's spending yet another day on the couch.

His illness has not put a damper on his budding sense of humor, however. He has been working hard on his jokes, and I believe that they get a good response from his peer group. His teachers say he is the kid who clowns around until all of the other kids at his table are cracking up (rather than paying attention to the teacher, of course) so I imagine he's pretty funny in their eyes. I know his fake burp cracks Chloe up every time. I'm sure that bit kills in the Idlewild lunchroom.

Sadly, I'm not four years old, so I often find his humor a bit grating. His latest schtick is to pick a word, and then to stick it randomly into sentences in place of the appropriate word. For example, when a character on a cartoon says "Thank you very much," Connor apes with a "Thank you very Mommy!" and a giggle. I'll give him the requisite smirk and nod of appreciation for the effort, but by the tenth time he has inserted "Mommy" into a sentence -or sung an entire song, replacing every word with "Mommy"- I have to leave the room or risk discouraging him with my obvious boredom. (I imagine this is how you people feel a few that's-what-she-saids into an evening with me.)

Soon Connor and I will make a trip to Walgreen's to find some kind of cold medicine that will, either by curing his cough or by rendering him unconscious, allow him to sleep through the night. I'm tired of taking unproductive days off of work, I'm tired of Connor's grumpiness, and I'm tired from the long nights listening to Connor's coughing. But most importantly, I think this extra day is all the time Connor needed to perfect his new routine. It's time to get him to school so that he can unleash his comic genius (and a whole lot of phlegm) on a room full of Madisons and Kelseys.

Friday, February 22, 2008

February Funk

Things making me miserable these days:
1. My job. Why is filling this position so hard?
2. The illnesses constantly suffered by at least one member of my family for the last three weeks.
3. The lack of regular sleep caused by #2
4. The stupid cold-but-not-cold-enough-to-be-interesting weather that is keeping us indoors.
5. The way #2 and #4 have conspired to keep me from getting regular exercise.
6. The extra five pounds I'm carrying around my midsection because of #5.
7. The fact that #2 and #4 have made me miss a lot of work. You'd think, based on #1, that I'd enjoy that. But somehow it just makes #1 that much worse when I get back in the office.
8. The whining that comes with #2 and #4. Not just from the kids, but from all of us.
9. Coming to terms with the fact that I am not a natural blonde.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Little Kids

When I was an elementary school teacher, the fifth and sixth graders were on one hall, the third and fourth graders on the next. We all shared a bathroom, and occasionally my fifth graders would show up at the same time as the third graders. I would marvel at how small they looked, at how amazing it was that in only two years these little kids would be big, grown-up fifth graders. Sometimes I would wander down the first and second grade hallway, openly gawking at the tiny people sitting at the tiny desks. When my cousin entered the Kindergarten there, my mind was blown even further. I wondered how someone so small, helpless and immature could possibly be expected to pay attention in class, to learn his phone number, to use glue successfully. He seemed like such a baby! How did those teachers have the patience?

Then I had my own kids, and I learned some patience of my own. But I forgot how little those third graders had once seemed. I saw each milestone, from rolling over to walking to using the potty, as just another indication that my babies had grown up too fast and were really no longer babies. Especially Connor- as he has matured and learned advanced vocabulary and skills, I have been quick to see him as a big kid. And being a big kid means big responsibilities. I expect him to share with his sister, to obey his parents, to not whine too much, to stop crying just because he has the wrong bathtub toy.

One day when I found myself frustrated by his inability to live up to those big expectations, a wise friend said to me, “Stephanie, he’s just a little kid. He’ll grow out of that someday, but not when he’s four.” I cried for about a half hour after that conversation. Of course! How did I lose sight of that already? He deserved more patience than I had shown him that day, and probably on some other days as well. I was expecting him to be ready for the fifth grade hall, when he wasn't even ready to use the glue. So I've learned that when I get frustrated, it's best to stop, take a deep breath, and listen for Sassy's voice in my head. "He's just a little kid." I'd better enjoy it while I can.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Because I'm such a joiner, I had to get in a food list. There are plenty of foods I prefer not to eat, but not many that I simply refuse to put in my mouth. Here's a list about my very least favorite food, and the conditions under which it might pass my lips.
1. No raw tomatoes.
2. No chunks of tomatoes.
3. Salsa is okay, as long as it's not chunky and I don't actually scoop any tomato chunks onto my chips.
4. Ketchup- absolutely not.
5. Pizza- I prefer white sauce/olive oil/pesto to red sauce, but as long as there is more cheese than sauce I can handle it.
6. Spaghetti- eh. If there's a lot of meat in the gravy, I can do that, but not just regular marinara.
7. I would rather be punched in the face than have to even watch someone else eat tomato aspic.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Playing in Chockley Lake (the big puddle that forms in our driveway after a big rain) is soooo fun...

...until you fall flat on your face in it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How the Weekend Played Out

Friday morning we woke up with two fever-free, hungry kids. Connor wasn't totally his normal self, but by the afternoon he was outside playing basketball.

I wasn't doing as well as the kids. I like to get as much done as early as possible when I've got something big going on. I had spent Thursday researching what time all the stores I needed to go to opened, so that I could get as much done before lunch as possible. Instead, I was at home pacing the floor and waiting on Chip to get home. I could have spent that time cleaning up, except that I had two kids at home who were working to destroy any progress I might make on that front. But Chip got home by 10:30, and I was able to get everything done in plenty of time. Tiffany came over a little early to help with a few things (she received requests like "Can you go upstairs and wrap the present I bought for this shower?") and I did need Gina's help to get one plate of food ready, but by 7:00 everything was where it should be. We had a really fun night, and the Millfills got a lot of good presents.

At 12:45 am, Mom called to see if anyone was in good enough shape to drive to her house and pick up Connor. It seems he woke up with a bad nose bleed. Once he realized blood was all over his pants he refused to sleep in those pants, but once he got the pants off he refused to sleep without pants. You can see his dilemma. The only answer to his problem was to scream and cry and beg for his Mommy. Chip went and fetched him, and I got him into acceptable pjs and tucked safely into his own bed without further incident. Poor guy! He had a rough couple of days.

Speaking of rough, I spent the next morning cleaning up from the party and seriously regretting staying up until 3:30 am. Shannon and Carrie, unburdened by children of their own, slept long and hard while the rest of us were up in the seven o'clock hour. Eventually I managed to get a shower and get dressed in time to greet the Chockleys and ooh and aah over Sherri's fantastic new haircut. Mom and Tiffany came over and we all headed down to the O.B. at 2:00 for a ladies-only bridal shower.

This shower was also loads of fun, mainly because I had no part in preparing for it or cleaning up after. It was also nice to see all the family friends who you generally only see at parties like these. The Millfills made out like bandits at this party, which is always fun. I think having their first two parties really made the wedding seem more real, like it might actually happen. I know sometimes when you're doing all the planning it's hard to imagine it will ever come together. A full set of Calphalon cookware does wonders for a frazzled bride-to-be's mindset.

So Shannon and Carrie were having a fabulous weekend and then WHAM! Shannon woke up Sunday morning with the stomach flu, way worse than any of the rest of us have had it. Fever, vomiting, the other thing, the headache that comes with dehydration- the full compliment of stomach flu symptoms. He spent the whole day thinking he would get past it and they could get in the car and go, but by mid-afternoon he realized there was no chance. Carrie called in a sub, emailed some lesson plans, and they settled in for another night in Memphis. Hopefully it will run through him in 12 hours or so like it did for the rest of us, and they can get on the road tomorrow.

We had a perfectly lovely Sunday morning with the Chockleys and evening with Carrie, but we'll save that for another blog post. I don't want Shannon to think I'm rubbing it in.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Our Big Day

Valentine's Day 2008 started full of excitement and apprehension, all directed towards the Sweetheart Ball Connor's class was having in honor of the holiday. Connor was excited that he got to wear a tie to school (as dictated by the invitation- the girls would be in "frilly dresses"), give a girl a rose, dance, and eat the chips we dutifully sent to the party. I was apprehensive about this insane display of rigid gender roles and courtship in a class of four-year-olds. I had also been worried that Connor would experience some type of female rejection way too early in life, until I realized that there were twice as many girls in his class as boys. That made me feel a little better about this whole bizarre situation, but not much. Feminist friends of all generations (from mine to Mom's) urged everything from my attendance at the dance to boycotting in protest. In the end I did neither, because Connor was too excited to stay home and I had something at work I couldn't get out of anyway.

We sent the kids off to school (Connor in a tie and Chloe in a corduroy dress, in solidarity with all the non-frilly girls in the four-year-old room) and continued on to very busy days at work. Mine involved interviewing candidates for one empty job and and training a new employee in another. Chip spent the whole day in a mediation. I was lucky enough to enjoy a lunch of waffles and sausage with my friend Katherine's brother, sister, and brother-in-law before my day was interrupted by this call from daycare:

Tanzy: Stephanie? This is Tanzy (Chloe's teacher). I'm calling for Kathy (Connor's teacher)- it seems our boy is throwing up from one side of the classroom to the other!
Me: (audible gasp)

This conversation was problematic for several reasons. One, my baby boy was sick and I wasn't with him! Two, I could not afford to leave work AGAIN (last week I missed an afternoon on tornado alert and another whole day when I had the stomach bug). And three, I was planning to spend all day Friday getting ready for wedding shower I'm hosting tonight. Now I'm going to be spending Friday getting ready for a shower AND cleaning up vomit.

I went to get the kids, finding a pathetic Connor sitting in his classroom in a long-sleeved t-shirt, shorts, dress socks and shoes. I forgot that two days ago Connor had spilled juice on his jeans and been sent home in his spare pants. I had arrogantly not sent another spare pair immediately. At least I had forgotten to take home the shorts that had been left at school since summer.

I got a sickly Connor and a wild Chloe into the car for the long trip home. We had barely made it past the Fairgrounds when Connor started barfing into the plastic bag provided by his teacher. (Hey- those things aren't so bad after all!) As all moms in need tend to do, I immediately called Kristy. "Are you at home?" I asked, while turning into her neighborhood hopefully. She dashed those hopes with a quick, "No- why?" Why? Because I was hoping she would wave her Kristy wand and remove the offending plastic bag and its smell from my car while hypnotizing Connor into holding off on the barfing for the rest of the ride home. If anyone could do it, she could. But I was on my own. I (sheepishly) found another plastic bag in my trunk for Connor to keep with him "just in case," wiped his mouth and nose, and continued on our way.

The rest of the trip was uneventful- almost. About a mile from my house, as I crossed Ridgeway on Quince, Chloe began spewing pink Valentine cookie chunks all over my back seat. She barfed and barfed while Connor assured me that he was still holding on and I frantically dialed my mom's number. "Please drop what you're doing and meet me in my driveway! I am in over my head! I can't figure out how I'm even going to get both kids out of the car by myself! I WANT MY MOMMY!" We all met in my carport two minutes later. I struggled to get the disgusting mess that Chloe had turned into out of my car, out of her clothes, and into the house while Mom helped Connor avoid his clothes while he threw up all over the carport. Awesome.

Ten minutes later Mom was back at work, Chloe and I were in new clothes, and Connor was writhing around on the couch in misery. He had a fever of 102 and could not accept that fact that his mother, who supposedly loved him, would deny him the gallon of apple juice he so greatly desired. A few ice chips later and Chloe was barfing again. Fortunately, she didn't have any kind of fever and really remained her normal self throughout the ordeal. Chip finally got home from his long painful day and helped as much as he could. By the time Uncle Shannon and Aunt Carrie got to town, the kids were safely tucked away in bed, full of Gatorade and well on their way to recovery, leaving us to watch Lost in peace.

Now all that's left to be seen is if I can get the house clean and the food fixed by the time 20 people show up at my house at 7:00, despite having two almost-well kids running around the house. Let's hope I manage to make Martha proud. And that Chip gets home soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stepping on E's Toes

A list for Aunt Katherine: My Favorite Grammy Moments
1. Morris Day and the Time, y'all!
2. When Vince Gill poked fun at Kanye West's arrogance.
2a. When the camera went to Kanye for a reaction shot and I narrated what his seatmate, Rita Wilson, was thinking. "Ooooh suh-nap! Wait, why am I sitting next to Kanye West?" Then I laughed and laughed. Man I'm funny!
3. Realizing how awkward Alicia Keys is when not behind the keyboard.
4. Anything related to the Foo Fighters.
5. Rhapsody in Blue
6. When we flipped over to "The 100 Most Outrageous Moments of All Time!" during a commercial and saw this clip.

Things Connor Said After 7:45 This Morning That Caused Us To Be Late:
1. There's something sticky in my hair
2. I have to poop

Things I Tried at McAlister's That Were Actually Pretty Good
1. French Dip
2. Mashed Potatoes with Gravy (two thumbs up)
3. Chocolate chip cookie
4. Sugar cookie
5. PB&J

Things I Tried at McAlister's That Were Remarkably Bad
1. Hot dog

A list SAM has already heard: Songs I Heard on the Way Home and Knew All the Words To
1. Self-Control -Laura Brannigan
2. Boyz N the Hood -Dynamite Hack version, but still
3. Head To Toe -Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
4. Gold Digger -Kanye West
5. Back in the High Life -Steve Winwood

Kids In Connor's Class
1. Jack
2. Ayden
3. Madison G.
4. Madison H.
5. Madison K.
6. Briley
7. Stella
8. Rosemary
9. Kyle
10. Kelton
11. Kelsey Bra.
12. Kelsey Bro.
13. Peter
14. Hayley
15. Eight other kids he's never mentioned, but I was told to send 22 valentines so I assume they exist

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Baby Steps

I am a Democrat, which means I'm contractually obligated to worry about the environment and do my part to "green" things up. I do feel that everyone can do something in their lives to make the earth a better place, but I don't think it's up to me to tell you what should fit into your lifestyle. I am also not going to lecture you for not doing enough, or for picking the wrong things to do. I'm no evangelist. I think that every little bit helps, so if you take the time to recycle all your Bud Light cans but you still drive a gas-guzzling pick-up truck, I'm not going to complain. No one can do it all- just do something.

Lately I've decided I need to stop using so many plastic shopping bags. (I can't put down the Ziplocs, though. Sorry.) At the grocery store, they default to plastic bags but if I mention it several times up front they will put my groceries into paper sacks. Then I recycle them. I've thought about trying reusable bags at the grocery store, but I come out of there with a lot of bags each week. I'm just not ready to figure out the logistics of that.

The other place I see a real need is at Target. They don't even offer paper bags at Target, so I was pleasantly surprised to see "official" reusable Target shopping bags. Another opportunity to save the earth from a couple of plastic bags on a weekly basis. Or so you'd think. Unfortunately, it seems Target did nothing to inform its staff of the purpose of the bags, leading to the following two experiences:

When I first bought the bags, I had the cashier ring them up first and then I started tearing the tags off "so we can go ahead and use them." The cashier ignored me and was steadily putting items into plastic bags until I said, "I think those can fit in here- let's use them instead of the plastic bags, okay?" She looked at me in utter amazement. "You want to put your stuff in those?" Wow. I explained to her that it was kind of the point, so she just shook her head and filled up my bags.

On my next trip, I handed the bags to the cashier before she started ringing things up. "I think it should all fit in here," I said, thinking that surely Target had sent out an employee memo by now. She turned the bags this way and that and finally said, "Where are the tags on these?" I told her that they were mine. "These are free?" she asked incredulously. Sigh. No, I explained, they are mine in that I bought them and now I bring them with me every time I come. They are REUSABLE. She seemed okay with that explanation and proceeded to take my dishwashing liquid, stick it in plastic bag and stick that bag inside my reusable bag. "No no no!" I quickly said. "But I don't want this to leak in your bag," she said. "But that defeats the purpose!" I countered, realizing again that Target had never actually bothered to explain said purpose to its employees.

Eventually we got the bags filled up, and I was able to convince her that I could just carry the big box of diapers by the built-in handle rather than by the handle on a plastic bag. (Like I said, it's about doing what you can. And I can't do cloth diapers. But at least I'm not carrying the disposables home in a plastic bag!) I'm starting to think I should write a letter to Target. I don't expect their employees to start using reusable bags, but I think they should have a general understanding of why someone else might.

My next goal? Move closer to my work so that I don't use a gallon of gas each day on my commute. But then I'll still have to use a gallon once a week to get out to Target. If I take my bags with me, that ought to all even out. At least that's the way I understand it to work.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Because For Me It's Fun!

I find it fascinating that poor Sassy has been struggling with writing lists lately, since I am constantly writing lists in my mind. Here's an example.

Interesting facts about the vehicle that rode my ass for most of the trip to work this morning:
1. Dodge Ram pickup truck
2. Mississippi plates
3. Two red window decals
4. Both decals said "Ain't Skeered"
5. Maroon

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Ok, if you read this blog with any sort of regularity, you know that I've recently developed a love of photography. It's a hobby that is a bit more compatible with being a dad of two than my previous pastimes (playing in bands, tinkering with home theater/audiophile stuff that are LOUD, drinking heavily, etc.). After Bwana's hand-me-down Nikon came my way a little over a year ago, I jumped in and decided to learn everything I can about photography.

A less-recently-developed interest for me is good food. I guess you'd say Steph and I are "foodies." Even back in the days when we both waited tables (B.M.)(that stands for "before marriage", not "bowel movement," though those two must be somehow related) we spent a disproportionate amount of our income on fine dining. Back then, we'd each make $70 in tips on a Thursday night and then go have a $100 meal somewhere on Friday night. Somehow we got our bills paid...Now that we have kids, I'd say that amount is a bit less disproportionate, but we still love food and wine.

Stacey, who shares our love of food and happens to write for various and sundry publications in Memphis, recently got me my first gig as a photographer. She took me along on an excursion to three Memphis restaurants, reviewing one dish at each. It was a ton of fun-- I quickly got good at pretending to be a real photographer. I'm pretty happy with the results, as was my belly. (Wait--I didn't mean I ate the photos, I meant the food was good.)

Stacey documented the full outing better than I can-- check it out here. Thanks a ton for the opportunity, Stacey-- it was really fun. Now, does anyone else need me to come take a picture of their Fruit Loops or Lean Cuisines? If so, would you mind paying me a lawyer's salary? Thanks.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Report from Southeast Memphis

Yesterday I got a call (on Kristy's cell phone!) during lunch informing me I had until 1:30 to pick up my kids, because schools were closing due to the chance of some bad weather. A quick look at the radar showed storms that hadn't even reached Little Rock yet, so like a good Memphian I shook my head in amazement and went to collect my kids. We had a lovely afternoon off- I voted while the kids visited with Grammy, Connor and I played basketball while Chloe played in a puddle of water, we made Valentine's cards for the grandparents, and we danced along to Lazytown.

Sadly, things took a turn when the tornado sirens started going off and I was forced to turn the TV away from Diego and over to Dave Brown. Fortunately my insistence that we sit in the closet distracted them from their anger over missing the end of their show. Chip came home not long after, and we sat in the middle of the house, away from outside walls, and listened to the weather reports. Tornadoes, hail, and damaging winds were all around us- Southaven, the Hickory Ridge Mall area, Nonconnah at Winchester- but our neighborhood managed to make it through unscathed.

We were able to have a normal dinner and bedtime with the kids before turning our attention to the mall. The Hickory Ridge Sears was missing a wall! We weren't going to let that opportunity pass us by. Once sure the kids were asleep, we got in the car and headed over for some looting and shooting. Chip kept the car running while I dodged bullets and grabbed a new dishwasher and a nice pair of slacks. We got back home before the kids even knew we were gone.

Another line of storms came through around 10:00, so we held our breath for another half hour until we were sure it had passed and we felt comfortable drifting off. Connor woke us up later in the night, needing help recovering from the nightmares I knew he'd end up having after an afternoon spent listening to sirens from inside a closet. Hopefully he wasn't too traumatized, because living in Memphis means that every spring we have to deal with the threat of tornadoes. But he'll probably end up like me, just as scared of them at age 34 as I was at age four.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Juvenile Delinquents

Most of the kids you see here are not Chockleys, but they're still relatively cute. They invaded our house for the Superbowl party, and I just wanted to have mug shots in case anything came up missing.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Two Month To Do List

Fun things to do between now and April:

Make some food and buy some beer before the Super Bowl starts
Make sure Connor wears pajamas and brings whatever else he needs to bring for the "P" party at school
Make sure Connor wears a tie and brings whatever else he needs to bring for the "Sweetheart Ball" on Valentine's Day at school
Host a shower for Carrie and Shannon
Attend a shower for Carrie and Shannon
Have a lovely visit with the Chockleys
Watch movies nominated for Oscars
Watch the Oscars
Attempt some landscaping
Celebrate 14 years of being more than friends with Chip
Put up a fence in our backyard
Attend a coworker's wedding
Put my house on the market again
Lose five pounds *
Buy a bridesmaid's dress
Celebrate Chloe's second birthday
Find a good deal on plane tickets to A2 for the wedding
Celebrate Sherri's birthday in Nashville
Tear up downtown Memphis at Carrie's bachelorette party
Nurse hangover from Carrie's bachelorette party*
Visit with Aunt Cory, either here or in Nashville
Hopefully send Chip to Detroit for Shannon's bachelor party

*Possibly not fun but included anyway