Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's All in the Name

Connor found a roly poly and decided to keep it for a pet. "I can name him Roly!" Fantastic. As we set about creating a suitable tupperware environment for our new friend, Connor found another roly poly to add to the collection. "Now I have two! I can name them Roly and. . . Kent!"

Saturday, April 26, 2008

1950s Style

For the three of you dear readers out there who we don't see every Friday, I'm sure you've read here about Cocktail Hour, which we do every Friday. For an hour (or two, or five) every Friday after work, our families gather over wine, cocktails, juice boxes, rotel dip and frozen pizza. The kids run wild while the adults continue to develop our uncanny abilities to hold intelligent conversations while blocking out the din of our maniac children.

I've always thought of this tradition as kind of a throwback to earlier times, when people developed traditions, and when people slowed down enough to sit around a table and chat for a few hours.

This week, it felt like even more of a throwback-- since Kristy had to chaperone her school's prom, she had on a prom dress (which is really just a cocktail dress for kids who can't legally drink yet). The rest of us dressed up too (well, most of us)-- just like in the 1950s, when you just randomly dressed up whenever you visited someone else's house. Honestly, did you ever see Ward Cleaver or Rob Petrie without a tie? And didn't Lucy Ricardo always have on an awesome cocktail dress?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Clothing Wars

At night, while brushing my teeth, I call downstairs to Chip.

“Check the weather before you come up!”

I need to know the forecast so I can figure out the next day’s outfit while I drift off to sleep. I wake up in the morning and realize I fell asleep too quickly, before developing a clear plan. I look through the closet, rejecting anything that requires me to shave my legs, nixing anything sleeveless (it’s not quite time- I’ll give it a few more weeks) and finally deciding on something I don’t like. I iron it and move on.

While Connor finishes up breakfast, I ask if I can go lay out some clothes for him, to help the morning move along more smoothly. “Sure!” he says brightly. I know he won’t wear what I choose, but I go upstairs to choose it nonetheless. While digging through his closet, I hear screams coming from Chloe’s room, where her hapless father is attempting to dress her.

“I don’t want it. IDOWANIT!!!!”

It seems Chip is attempting to put her in a Rock n Romp t-shirt and one of those toddler skirts that has built-in shorts (but isn’t quite a skort). “She’s weird about those RnR t-shirts,” I explain. “I’ll take care of this.” We go into her closet, where she immediately picks out a new sleeveless dress. I break the sleeveless news to her. She picks a different dress and stomps off happily, content to run around in just her undies until the dress is finally forced onto her frame at the last possible minute.

Connor is upstairs at this point, eyeing the navy blue pants and green ringer tee (with navy blue rings) that I have picked out. He doesn’t want that shirt, he wants one that is the same color as the pants but with gray rings. (He has lots of ringer tees.) Once I point out how that shirt doesn’t really go with those pants, the rejection of my wardrobe choices becomes complete. “Camouflage pants!” he exclaims excitedly. Who am I to argue?

I go to put on shoes, and realize that those heels are too high for these pants. It’s too late to change the pants- it’s already 7:35 and there’s no time to iron a different pair. While I frantically try on several different shoes, Chip offers up some standard male wisdom.

“What’s the deal? All those shoes are black- they all look fine.”

I put on a pair that I don’t like, the perfect accessory for an outfit I don’t like, and head towards the car. Chip, in boxers and an undershirt, opens the door to help us outside. “Dude,” I say, nodding towards his state of undress. “We’ve got a fence!” he counters. He stands in the driveway waving as the three of us drive off, confined by our apparel and dreaming of running around the backyard in our skivvies. We take some comfort in the knowledge that he'll be in a suit soon enough.

I get to work and check the next day's forecast. It's never too early to think about tomorrow.

So Fresh and So Clean

Spring... a time for rain, mud, insects, shingles, pretty flowers...

And also a time for freshening up the blog, yet again. This time it's mainly to make it easier for us to work with, not to make it prettier for you fine folks. I'm not quite done tweaking it, but it should fix problems that some folks were having.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Scatological humor is definitely the number one laugh-getter at our house. (This is only because the kids have not yet learned the proper use of "That's what she said!") Sometimes it's intentional, as both kids know to declare "I farted!" and dissolve into a fit of giggles after doing the deed. Sometimes it's accidental, as when Chloe's budding language skills cause her to refer to all kitty cats as "shitty" and my mom's cat, Swoopes, as "Poops." (She also constantly declares that Clark's fur has poop in it, then cracks up. What is with her and the cats?)

Today I asked Connor if he wanted to watch a new Diego with me and Chloe. "Aw, I saw that one yesterday," he said, as if this was just another mundane episode. But then it started, and I was thrilled to realize that this one was about poop! Yes, the iguana was going to save the strawberry crop at Abuelito's farm by eating some strawberries, carrying the seeds in his stomach, and pooping them out at the farm. I was as attentive as I have ever been during one of these shows, all the way until the end when the iguana asked, "Are we almost there? I've got to go!" I laughed and laughed as the iguana ran around dropping piles of strawberry-seed-filled poop all over the place. "Hey Connor! You didn't tell me this episode was about POOP! This is good stuff!"

As I have mentioned, this is a serious topic in our house. Connor had apparently missed the point of the episode and did not appreciate what I was implying. He got as mad as I have ever seen him. "Mom! That was NOT about poop!" "Dude- that was totally about poop!" I rewound to show him. He not only didn't believe me, but accused me of lying and told on me to Chip. I was too busy laughing to be upset. He couldn't maintain that level of animosity when he saw how much fun I was having with it, so we spent the rest of the weekend mock-arguing about whether or not the iguana pooped out strawberry seeds. We even gathered outside opinions (Chloe, Grammy) on the subject of whether or not strawberries could grow out of poop. He continued to accuse me of lying, however, which showed me that he was still a little upset that I had ruined him on strawberries for all of eternity.

And sadly that was the highlight of my weekend, since otherwise I pretty much felt like shit.

Friday, April 18, 2008

TGIF Updates

Yesterday afternoon I started getting sicker, and barely held on through the end of the day. A brief list of things I screwed up yesterday:
I was supposed to tell Chip to call Max's mom at the end of the day to find out if the boys were at Max's or at the park. Instead I let him go to Max's, only to find out the kids were at the park. Oops.
I left this message yesterday afternoon, ". . .you can call me back at my office, uh, the number is . . . I should know this! Uh. . ."
I asked my MIL to give me a good time for the kids to call her, then called her 30 minutes after that time. Needless to say, she was not there to answer.
I put Chloe in bed in just her underwear without one last bathroom stop. Chip shooed me away and took care of the potty and the pjs.
At that point I watched The Office and went to bed at 8:50.

It didn't do me much good, though, since now everything aches. Scalp, eyeballs, neck, torso, legs- everything. It keeps me from getting comfortable, so sleep is difficult. I'm going to try again in a few minutes, though, because it's too hard to keep my eyes open. I still don't have a fever, which is strange since this is the sickest I've been in a long while.

But enough about me, what about the rest of the family?

Connor is starving. He has eaten as much in the last week as he had eaten in the month leading up to it. I'm expecting him to wake up one morning and discover that his pajamas became three inches too short overnight. His hunger has not, however, led him to try new foods. He is just eating a lot more of the same, and demanding a bedtime snack so the he doesn't go to bed hungry.

Chloe now sleeps in the big bed in her room. Much as you would expect, it was all her idea. She simply pointed to the bed and said, "I seep up dere." I guess I'll need to do some furniture rearranging in there sooner or later, but for now we're content to let all of her stuffed animals and dolls reside on the discarded toddler bed.

Chip has a doctor's appointment this afternoon, because we think he has shingles. That's right. I know he's prone to sympathetic illness whenever I'm sick, but this is taking it a bit too far. I'll let him update this update once he sees the doctor, because right now, frankly, I'm speechless.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Like the Weather

Today I am sick. My nose is running, my face hurts from the sinus pressure, my throat is sore, it hurts to blink, there is much sneezing, and my scalp is sensitive to the touch. On the plus side, I don’t seem to have a fever.

(Quick side note: It is a pet peeve of mine when someone removes a thermometer from a child’s ear, looks at it and says, “He doesn’t have a temperature.” That’s not possible!)

I have always resisted the notion that fluctuations in the weather cause illness. I don’t have any research to back it up, but prolonged cold weather, or cold followed by hot followed by cold, can’t possibly make someone sick. Can it? I always thought that things floating in the air- allergens, germs, what have you- were what caused illness. But this week, I’ve decided to give up on my not-well-thought-out hypothesis and go with the weather thing whole-heartedly. After all, it was 30 degrees Monday night and 72 degrees Wednesday afternoon. And by Wednesday night, I was sick. Coincidence? I think not.

I wish I were at home, in bed under the covers where the temperature is well-regulated, but instead I’m at work. I had things that had to be done, and despite my generous allowance of sick days, I showed up to do those things. As I’ve walked around coughing and wiping my nose on the back of my hand, I’ve gotten some dirty looks. But hey, what are these people worried about? I’ve got the window in my office closed. The way I see it, if I don’t let the weather in, they’re safe. For today, at least. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, and I can't be responsible for what all that dampness might do to the general health of the office.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Alfred Hitchock Presents

We knew there were some bees living between the brick and wood on one side of our house. Nothing earth shattering, something we thought some bee and wasp spray might fix. But no, that just pissed them off.

Yesterday evening my neighbor called me to alert me to this new development:

That freaked me out. I mean, I literally have chill bumps just looking at that picture. So we got a pest control-type person out to do whatever had to be done at whatever price he wanted to charge. While here, he discovered this:

Seriously! This is right outside our kitchen window, and I promise this was not there last night when we were eating dinner. The pest control guy was setting up the official removal with his field team (they'll be here tomorrow morning) and he said, "Bring your camera! You've never seen anything like this!" Great.

So if you need us, we'll be barricaded inside our house, hoping these things are gone in time for us to get to work at a reasonable hour tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

They Blew the Interview

In the last three months, I have had the opportunity to review many resumes and actually interview at least half a dozen candidates for the open position in my office. I was shocked to find that most of these people did not know the first thing about how to handle themselves at an interview. I looked up job interviews at MSN Careers before they came in, just for a refresher on what was expected. It would have been nice to think that any of the candidates had done the same! That’s my first bit of advice for those of you with a job interview in your future: Here’s some more, based on my recent experiences:

Typos in your cover letter or resume? Long rambling narratives? Why????

Speaking of resumes, if you paid someone to write yours for you, please read it before you come in. We’re going to refer to what’s in it during the interview. What’s in it is why we called you! Under no circumstance should you say, “I don’t really know what that is in reference to- I didn’t write it.”

And don’t lie on that thing- we’re going to find out. If you listed “Manager- Circle K” on your resume, it should be because that was your job title. Not because occasionally the manager left his keys with you and went home early.

Go ahead and read over the job description before coming in to interview. When asked, “How are your skills suited to this position?” do not reply, “Well, what does this job do?”

If you have a loud, high-pitched nervous laugh, do everything in your power to NOT LAUGH throughout the entire interview.

Prepare a few standard answers ahead of time. You know there are some questions that are asked by every interviewer- at least pretend like you have an answer. Do not say, “Huh. I’ve never thought about where I see myself in five years. I guess anything could happen- that’s a long time from now!”

Make sure that the people you list as references will actually provide a good one.

When someone asks you a question, answer it, and then please, please, stop talking.

Prepare questions for the interviewer ahead of time. More than half of the candidates said, “No,” when asked if they had any questions for us. Wrong! At the very least, ask me how I like working here. Ask why the last person left. Ask what type of manager my boss is. Ask what our timeline is for filling the job. Ask if we validate parking! Just ask something.

Do not repeatedly tell me that you don’t like interviews. Does anyone? Just because you have stated out loud that you are nervous and uncomfortable does not excuse a bad interview. It’s just made me think you’re an idiot.

It would be too much to ask that you look at our website long enough to learn anything about our organization. I won’t even bother.

Write a thank you note to each person who interviewed you. It’s standard! Send it the very next time the mailman comes by your house. Trust me.

Finally, you are going to be asked to sell yourself. This is also known as “giving you enough rope to hang yourself.” The question will seem innocent enough, something like, “Are there any questions you wish I had asked? Answer them for me.” “Tell me anything about yourself that you think I should know.” “Tell me about yourself.” This is the time for you to reiterate what you are good at, to tell me that you hated having to leave your last job when it was downsized because you had hoped to have a long, successful career there. Do NOT tell me that your parents are there for you if your kids get sick, about how your ex-husband ruined your credit, about how your last job was out by the airport and you don’t like to be out there after dark, about how you’ve “prayed over” this job and think God will do what’s right. (I’m hiring you based on your qualifications- let’s leave the big guy out of it. I'm really only speaking for myself here.) And most importantly, never never say that you used to be a mess, but you’re getting your life together and think this job might be the one you can stick with.

Keep your fingers crossed- for me as we try to fill this position, and for the future of this country. If this is the workforce, I’m suddenly glad to know there are no jobs available out there.

Monday, April 14, 2008

RnR Time!

That time of year again-- time for Rock n Romp! On Saturday, we had an awesome backyard, great weather and great bands. Go see Stacey's recap here for all the details. Thanks again to the Tidwells for hosting, thanks to the Flying Monkeys, The Harmony Brothers, and Dragoon for the rocking part, and thanks to everyone else for the romping part.

There's a slideshow of all the pics on Stacey's site, but here are a few of my favs anyway.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It Isn't Everything

I strongly believe that self-esteem is built by understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and becoming comfortable with yourself within that context. This is why I don't (always) let Connor win when we play games. And it's why, Tuesday morning, I chose to tell him the cold hard truth. "Son, I need to tell you that Kansas won that game last night- not the Tigers."

He started in with gusto, "What!?! They lost! Aw, man!" The pouting was severe. I took a deep breath and then, in a move contrary to my usual competitve nature, began the speech that only Moms and Little League coaches can get away with giving. "It's okay, really. No one can win every game," I said, maybe a little too brightly, but Connor was not interested in that load of crap. "But they should have won! I wanted them to win!" Man- I could not have agreed more. I continued to hold my ground, telling some lie about how, while of course I would have enjoyed a win more than a loss, I'm still proud of them, blah blah blah. Connor never really agreed with me, but he quit pouting and moved on so I didn't push it.

When we got to his school, every adult there was bitching and moaning about that loss. And at the end of the day I learned that even the Spanish teacher had gotten in on the act, teaching them to say "mad" in Spanish since we are all mad that the Tigers lost. What the hell! You people are supposed to be shaping the mind of my child. Can't you at least pretend that losing is okay? Use this as a teachable moment rather than an opportunity to encourage my child's burgeoning bad attitude. I've been pretending, and I'm not even the one being paid to raise him! Get on board!

I began the Mom/Little League Coach brainwashing again, seemingly from scratch, on the way home. As we drove down Central, I tried to explain to Connor that this was the University of Memphis, this is where the Tigers go to school. That's confusing, but he tried to grasp it. He pointed in delight to the sign on the side of a building that displayed the Tiger logo. "That looks just like our tattoos! What does the sign say?" I told him that it said "Thank you, Tigers!" A few minutes later he asked, "Mom, why did that sign say thank you? They lost!" Sigh.

This led to a much more productive discussion, one involving the numbers 38 and 2, one in which we talked about how the loss made us upset, about what the players might have learned from losing, what they might do differently when they practice, and so on. I think I broke through a little bit, that he understands it's okay to want to win, but maybe there are ways to handle losing.

Then we went home and practiced free throws.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Love and Rockets

At our house, it has long been the norm for the children to fight over “stuff.” Connor does not ever want Chloe to have anything that might ever have been his, no matter how babyish the toy might be. So he is constantly grabbing something from her- not because he actually wants to play with it, but because he wants possession of it. I think it’s just a way to assert his first-child, alpha-dog dominance, but even so I find it hella annoying. He has no interest in what Chloe has until he notices she has it. It is a constant power struggle.

Chloe does her part in the Battle of the Stuff by only wanting to play with whatever Connor is playing with. I think this can mostly be attributed to a serious case of older sibling worship, although occasionally she does it out of meanness. For the most part, though, she wants to be involved in what he is doing because he is just so darn cool.

Lately that has eased up a bit. It seems that once Chloe turned two, Connor decided she was close enough to a peer to be worthy of his attention. Suddenly, they are best pals who play together constantly. It’s amazing! Just like that I’m able to cook dinner in peace while Chloe and Connor color together, or jump on a pile of pillows together, or watch TV together. I had been told this day would come, but I wasn’t prepared for how wonderful it would be. They have even taken to having sleepovers in each other’s rooms, with Connor careful to make sure Chloe uses the potty and gets her teeth brushed before they retire. Just like in every new phase of their development, Chip and I just stand back and shake our heads in disbelief. It’s certainly a new adventure for us, every single day.

But the sibling closeness has caused the sibling rivalry to take a new shape. Instead of engaging in a normal round of “grabbing stuff,” their newfound familiarity has led to fighting that is much uglier in nature. It’s as if, after a good run of playing well together, Connor suddenly remembers that he needs to reestablish his dominance. He’ll turn on a dime, and just flat-out be an ass to his sister. He will ignore her screams and our fussing and just keep doing whatever mean thing he’s doing until we physically remove him from the situation. Although it makes me mad when he doesn’t listen to me (that's the fight he and I tend to have these days), I really can’t blame him for losing patience with a two-year-old. I can’t expect someone who is almost five to be more mature than that. Fortunately, Chloe has a short attention span and quickly forgets that he was mean to her. She’s usually more upset that he’s in time out when he should be fawning all over her instead. She’ll wait to kick him in the head later, getting revenge when it suits her rather than immediately.

Fortunately, the Mutual Sibling Admiration Society is a solid organization. The fits of venom, while startlingly ugly, are few and far between. They usually recover right away and go back to this strange, new world of children playing children’s games while the parents do parental things like wash the dishes or talk about what surprise our kids might throw our way next.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Somebody's Baby Boy

Last night, as I watched the National Championship with my almost-five-year-old son, I considered trying to sabotage his burgeoning basketball career. Even though he insists it's what he wants to do for a living, I'm not sure I can handle having him in that type of high-pressure situation- especially when he's just a (highly touted) freshman. Not only because he's my baby, but because as a fan I can't have his lack of maturity losing games for my team.

As Derrick Rose stunk up the first half of last night's game, and then was unable to redeem that fact by making two free throws at the end of it, the fan in me was furious. Furious! But as I started thinking about how he should be embarassed, and how I'm so mad, those feelings were overtaken by the mama in me. That poor baby! Expected to do so much when he's only 19 years old. Anyone who fusses at him should be ashamed.

Then the fan in me takes back over. If this kid thinks he can be one and done, thinks he can leave Memphis and play with the big boys in the NBA next year, then he deserves to be treated like the man he thinks he is. It's okay to be upset with him! But then Mama Steph comes roaring back out of me, causing me to yell at the TV, "You stay in school another year, son!" I want his mom to comfort him after the game, and tell him that she loves him. That she thinks he should spend another year leading a college team so that he can build the skills and maturity he needs to have a brilliant pro career. That she can wait twelve more months before she retires to live off his wealth in the big house he promised to buy her when he's drafted.

I need to start working with Connor on his free throws.

Monday, April 07, 2008

One Shining Moment

I wanted to take the time to tell you the story of my sixth grade self, the tiger paw buttons, and why the Tigers made such an impact on me back then. I also wanted to talk about the current players, and how they represent everything I simultaneously love and hate about Memphis. Then I wanted to urge you to not set anything on fire after the game tonight. But I've been busy so all I managed to come up with was this list, which I promptly gave away. Enjoy.

Go Tigers!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In Other News

In Connor News. . .
This morning, while Chip was in the shower and I was still in bed, a balloon popped downstairs and caused the house alarm to go off. Chip and I ran downstairs to investigate, him straight out of the shower with a face full of shaving cream and me on my bad ankle. We had a lot of adrenaline going, but not as much as Connor. The noise woke him up, and he hid in his room until the alarm got turned off and he felt it was safe to come out. “Are there bad guys in our house?” he asked timidly. It broke my heart. We went downstairs together to look around, and for me to explain to him how the alarm works. He said, “That made my legs really shaky. My hands are shaky too!” I told him that Dad and I got shaky too, and introduced the word adrenaline for him to store away for future use. A lot of kids know about bad guys from watching superhero movies, but only poor Connor actually imagines that they are coming in his house to take his TV. Man I hate living in Memphis!

In Chloe News. . .
Yesterday at school, Chloe BIT someone. That's right. She bit someone on the back hard enough to break the skin. (According to her teachers, Chloe “was having a moment.”) Wow. This is her first act of dental aggression, and I'd like to think it's her last, but I know better. I imagine the discussion we had last night about how biting is wrong will only cause her to try it again, just to see.

In Chip News. . .
Chip did not puke, get a lap dance, or lose his wedding ring while in Michigan. So he’s got that going for him.

In Stephanie News. . .
I got my ankle x-rayed, and nothing is broken. However, it is bruised in ways I’ve never seen, from my toes to up above my ankle on my leg. It was feeling better yesterday, but after running around on it while full of adrenaline this morning, it is a little worse today than it was yesterday. Wearing running shoes and an ACE bandage seems to be helping, though. Tonight the kids and I are off to Nashville, where they will play and I will do Statistics for two days. I think I'm getting the raw end of that deal, but at least I don't have to be in the office.

Go Tigers!