Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rock n Romp

My favorite opportunity to photograph frolicking kids and parents, and bands came around again this weekend.  This one was especially cool because my girl Garrison Starr played!  It's been a while since I've seen her play.  As I listened to her set, I thought about how much of my 20s I spent watching this girl sing her heart out.  Her music has always affected me in some undefinable, deep way.  It's really disheartening to know that someone like Garrison-- certainly the most talented musician I've ever been around-- is not just filthy rich by now, after 10 years on the road.  This fact leads me to two conclusions:  there is really no justice in the world, and the music biz sucks.

If anybody out there hasn't heard her stuff, go buy her records, immediately. All of them.  Here, I'll give you the link.

The show was just perfect, though.  This RnR was held at the Kerrs' house, which has an amazing backyard.  The weather couldn't have been lovelier.  Two Way Radio was great, as always...

Bluff City Backsliders were also fun...
The best part, as usual, was the community.  I think I speak for everyone when I say my kids always have a fantastic time at these things.  There were lots of first-time Rock n Rompers at this one, which is always great to see-- the Leeloys from Nashville, Beth Smith and her girls from Lexington, MS, CarrieJ from... cyberspace.  Thanks to everyone for making this event such a success.

You didn't think I'd leave you with just three pictures, did you?  Check out the rest here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Complicated Truth About Connor

Recently a family member said something along the lines of "The stories you tell on your blog are almost as clever as you think they are, but really- most of the time we just want to know how the kids are doing. That post about Chloe was great!" Here's the thing: the reason I tell clever little stories about Connor, rather than directly telling you what he's up to, is mainly because he is incredibly difficult and I don't want this blog to become too depressing. When I find myself frustrated by him, I write it down in a funny little tale in order to diffuse my anger or to force myself to see why I need to be more patient. But since you asked, here's a little unedited information about my first born.

When I write about how Connor doesn't really understand what movies are about, it's the nice way of saying that he doesn't pick up on subtlety, that he's never displayed an ounce of empathy, and that he's basically a tactless bulldozer. I understand that 5-year-olds are often very self-centered, but sometimes it just gets old. I can only say, "How do you think s/he feels when you do/say that?" so many times before the migraine sets in, you know?

I don't think he's mean-spirited, but his intentions don't really matter when he's insulting a friend's shoes by saying they look "old" or when he's breaking his sister's heart by ignoring her when she begs for a good night kiss. He just thinks he's being honest when he tells Chloe that her coloring is horrible- although I've repeatedly told him that scribbling is fine for a two-year-old, and that it is rude and hurtful for him to say otherwise. He simply can't help himself and has to tell me that I'm wrong, that her drawing is awful.

And that's our other main problem these days- he doesn't think anyone besides Connor knows anything at all. I write a story about how he's a fact-checker because it's easier for you to read than a story about how he's a disrespectful little brat. And he is- he argues and backtalks and contradicts everything that anyone says. Constantly. He has no respect for me, or for Chip, or for anyone else from what I've seen. When he gets in trouble for disobeying a parent, he never understands his part in it- it's just that we are mean. He doesn't ever think there is anything that he did that contributed to the situation. Nothing infuriates me more than being shown that level of disrespect. He simply refuses to listen to anything we tell him, even if it is a logical set of actions that he can take to avoid getting in trouble in the future.

I'm not putting this out there to solicit advice or make the grandparents worry. I've heard every different opinion on how to handle this, and I realize that it is just a part of growing up. I know that one day Connor will mature enough to understand other people's feelings, and to figure out how to stay out of trouble. But to answer the question, "How is Connor doing?" I can only be honest if I include those two main problems. They touch our lives every day, sometimes ruining hours at a time and sometimes just resulting in a stern "Connor, kiss your sister!" Fortunately, although they give context for the big picture, they certainly don't tell the whole story.

Connor seems to be really liking kindergarten. He is doing some reading, and is much more patient with the process of learning words now that he's doing it in a classroom setting. His after school care teacher pulled me aside recently to tell me that he's the smartest kid they have there. (I believe that if Miss M went there full-time, they'd realize he's only in the top two. But still, he's pretty smart. :)) He still loves to draw, and uses a lot of free time at school on that hobby. He does not really like to write, either letters or numbers. I think it's because he's a perfectionist, and he ends up erasing and rewriting until there is a hole in the paper while trying to get it "just so." It is really fun to see how much progress he's made in just a month of school. After the first year or so of life, the changes in our kids come so gradually- it's fun to see him progressing by leaps and bounds again. Today he is on his first ever field trip to the fair, with Chip as a chaperone. Much like everything else relating to kindergarten, it all seems terribly grown up.

Everything he likes is his "favorite," which seems about right. He loves to play video games, especially Marvel Ultimate Alliance which he plays with his dad. Somehow he is content to only play video games during Chloe's nap time, which actually works out really well. He's already making a long wishlist of superhero and Transformer toys to mail off to Santa, and he is patiently saving his nickels to buy another miniature Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. He likes to keep his room clean, although he doesn't like the process of cleaning it up. He's gorgeous and articulate and cuddly and even when he is being a tactless, disrespectful turd, I still love him more than life itself.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Far and Wide

Got my new ultra-wide angle lens a couple of days ago (Sigma 10-20mm if you're a camera geek). It provided quite a different perspective on Cocktail Hour this week...

More here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Family of Fact-Checkers

I come from a long line of people who can't stand to have a factual error sit unchecked. For example, if I'm talking to my mom about the kids and say "Connor" when I mean "Chloe," she absolutely has to stop and correct me- even if she understands what I meant and there is no one else involved who might have been confused by my error. She just can't stand that I said it wrong, and it has to be corrected. And I am so thankful, because I would be miserable to know the wrong name was just sitting there between us and no one had told me.

Although I'm happy to be kept in line by other adults, I am not happy to see this particular neurosis manifest itself in my children. I guess the problem, in a nutshell, is that my kids don't actually know the facts. They just know their version of them. But they assert them with the same certainty that a more knowledgable adult might. And I just can't let it go when they do.

For example, I might say, "Let's watch Diego. It comes on next." Connor is quick to tell me that he thinks Franklin comes on next. I could just let the TV play, and be proven right when Diego starts. But that's not how we do things.
"No, Connor, it's Diego."
"Actually, it's Franklin."
"Connor I am 35 years old and I know how to pull up the guide on the TV and I know how to read and I'm telling you the guide says Diego! It's Diego!"
In these situations, I can't decide what bothers me more- that Connor doesn't respect what I have to say, or the fact that he's wrong and refuses to acknowledge it.

This trickles down to Chloe, of course, which drives me crazy because there is no point in constantly correcting the details of a two-year-old's life. As long as she gets the general concepts, there is no reason to call it to her attention if she says Mommy's phone is ringing when it's actually Daddy's phone. Even I can refrain from throwing an "Actually. . ." her way. You know who can't? Her big brother. Chloe is the one person with a smaller knowledge base than Connor, and he knows it. And makes sure the rest of us know it. This bothers Chip because he thinks Connor is being a know-it-all. It bothers me because I don't want Connor to think I missed Chloe's mistake. It takes all my strength to let "Mommy's phone" hang in the air when it was clearly Daddy's phone, but my resolve weakens when someone implies that I missed the error. So I fuss at Connor, not for being a know-it-all, but for thinking that I'm not one.

That doesn't mean Chloe can't hold her own, although it often seems she's correcting herself while blaming the error on you.
"I had PopTarts for breakfast, Mommy!"
"PopTarts, that sounds great!"
"Actually, Mommy, I had cereal."

Maybe our fact-checker nature is based on ego. Maybe it's some form of OCD. Maybe we're just know-it-alls. The only certainty is that we all drive poor Chip crazy. He thought it was bad being constantly corrected by me for the last 15 years- now he's got three people doing it. I guess he had better get his details straight, or he won't stand a chance in this family of fact-checkers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sundance Kid

Like many families, we are happy to stick our kids in front of a movie from time to time, in order to enjoy roughly 90 minutes without any whining. Unfortunately, this plan never really works out for us. There are two reasons for this.

1. Connor is scared of everything that happens in every movie.
2. Connor has never followed a plot or understood a theme in five years of watching movies.

When Connor was two, his daycare teacher told us we might want to expand what we watch with Connor, because he got so scared whenever they watched anything in class. (Apparently she needed a break in the whining too.) Three years, later, he is just as unhappy with pretty much everything we watch. For example, last night we watched "Finding Lemo" (TM Chloe). Learning a lesson from our last viewing (roughly two years ago), we skipping the opening scene where the mom dies. Despite that, Connor still sat in my lap complaining about how he found the puff fish/friendly sharks/fast-moving current terrifying. When it was over, he made me swear to never show it again.

"But Connor, don't you see that the dad learned that you don't have to be scared of everything all the time?" I pointed out. "You really don't have to be scared when you know things will turn out okay. I mean, he doesn't get hurt, and he finds Nemo!"

He gave his standard reply to any plot synopsis. "Huh?"

This leads me to our other movie-watching problem. Connor watches a movie, acts interested in it, yet does not comprehend anything that has happened. Take the movie Cars. It is no exaggeration to say Connor has seen this movie close to 50 times. However, I'm quite sure Connor does not realize that Lightning MacQueen doesn't actually win a race at any point during the movie. Also lost on Connor is the fact that Lightning is kind of an ass at the beginning of the movie, then learns how to be a good guy during his time in Radiator Springs. In fact, if I try to discuss it with him after a viewing, he will vehemently deny that Lightning was ever anything but awesome. I've tried pointing out examples while the movie was on, but he still doesn't get it.

Someday he'll grow up and he won't be scared of movies anymore. He might even understand what's going on in them. For now, I'm content to get some house cleaning done while he sits in front of a movie- even if I don't quite understand what, exactly, is holding his interest.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chloe 2.5

Chloe hasn't gotten much press here at the ChockleyBlogs lately. Connor has dominated the news cycle with his big kindergarten debut, his week-long stomach flu, and his difficult attitude. Since Chloe turns two and a half today, I thought I'd turn the spotlight on her for once.

What can I say about Chloe? She is perfection. (Yes, I knocked on wood.) She loves her family and friends and teachers and Clark with unbridled enthusiasm. She is fiercely independent, but wants to help out with whatever you're doing as much as possible. She wakes up in the morning with a smile on her face, and pretty much keeps it there until she falls asleep. When something upsets her, it barely registers before she moves back into Happyland. She just doesn't have time in her busy princess schedule to waste on frowning.

And my goodness, is she a princess! She loves to play dress-up, and wear jewelry, and carry a purse, and SHOP. Chloe does the weekly grocery shopping with me, and it has become one of our favorite rituals. A couple of weekends ago, I mentioned it was time to head to Schnuck's. Chloe put her little hand up and said, "Woohoo! Shopping! High five, Mommy!" She usually grabs a purse and at least one of her baby dolls to take with us on these excursions. She loves her babies, and is developing a frightening level of interest in Barbie. (As long as we avoid Bratz dolls, I guess I can tolerate it!) It's like someone gave her the Girly Girl Handbook and she read it cover to cover, taking notes and nodding her head in agreement the whole time.

Chloe has got a mouth on her, like her brother and her mother before her. She talks all the time, almost always makes sense, and usually cracks us up. Our car rides home in the afternoon are completely dominated by Chloe's observations on the world around us, from laughing at things she misunderstands on the radio, to pointing out motorcycles to her brother, to asking "What's that? What's her? What's them?" about every person or thing to catch her interest along our route. But it's not just the ride home, it's also dinnertime, playtime, bathtime. . . Chloe is likely to provide entertaining commentary no matter what the situation.

She's gorgeous (despite the fact that her hair is ALWAYS a mess), she's entertaining, and she's like a little ray of sunshine in an otherwise stressful and hectic world. I can't believe she's already two and a half! And I can't believe she's mine. I love you, Chloe B!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Face(book)ing Reality

By now everyone knows how awesome Facebook is. I look at it a few times a day, and the greatest thrill is the mini-high school reunion I have online every day. I know what all my old classmates are doing, I’ve seen pictures of their kids and their vacations, I know where they live and who they married, I even know who they are voting for this fall. I feel like I know them at least as well as I did in high school, some folks even better! When I ran into one of these old friends at the Farmer’s Market recently, it was like no time had passed between us- even though I hadn’t actually laid eyes on her in about seven years.

The thing I’ve hated about the Facebook era, however, is having to see myself through the eyes of former classmates. At a real reunion, you have a chance to lose some weight, buy a new outfit, and perfect the story of how you invented Post-Its before facing the folks who knew you way back when. By the time people realize that you’re actually renting the apartment over your parents’ garage and working at Starbucks, you’re long gone. Then you’ve bought yourself another ten years before you have to face them again, either with a better reality or a more believable story.

But online, I am asked daily, “How are things with you?” You want to know how I am, on a regular, day-to-day basis? I’m boring! Generally I respond with, “I’m fine, still in Memphis, working at Rhodes, married, two kids, nothing too exciting.” I know- that’s a horrible response! But what am I supposed to say? How do I sum up the day-to-day “excitement” of my life on someone’s Facebook wall?

Sometimes I want to go the non-cynical cheerleader route, and say, “Everything is GREAT! I live in Memphis with my gorgeous, successful husband, who went to White Station (whatever!) and is now an attorney at a law firm downtown. My older child, a gifted, athletic boy named Connor, just started kindergarten, where he is busy teaching the other kids how to read. My preternaturally gorgeous daughter makes my days bright with her sunny outlook and hilarious verbosity. I have a job at my alma mater, Rhodes, where I spend my time preparing reports for the college President. I hope things are going well with you too!”

But sometimes I’m thinking, “Things are swell- my son just started kindergarten, and a month later we are still exhausted from the transition. He pretty much loses his mind each night about 7:15, but we get him in bed soon after so it’s not too bad. My two-year-old daughter is awesome, but I barely get to spend time with her because I’ve made poor financial decisions my whole life so I’m stuck working full-time rather than enjoying her while she’s still my baby. Oh yeah, that job is at Rhodes. I spy on people all day. My husband is a lawyer at a firm downtown, meaning he has to spend even more time in the car each day than I do. Did I mention we still live out in the Ridgeway area? You live in Collierville/Franklin/San Diego/Switzerland now, but I still live a mile from your parents’ old house. No seriously- I run past it when I do my 5K route! Isn’t that crazy?”

Amazingly, both of those realities are true. Every day, I simultaneously feel the highs and lows of life’s journey. It’s an exhilarating ride and until lately, I thought I had a handle on it. I’ve only recently realized that the real challenge in life isn’t living it, but summing it up accurately and succinctly in order to post it on someone’s Facebook wall.

Phoenix Roll

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


The first week of kindergarten, there was no homework. There wasn't even a note home about what they were working on in class. I assumed we were starting slow, and quite frankly I was glad. Soon enough, we started getting a daily conduct grade and worksheets that Connor completed at his after-school care. Last week he had a little book to read, and sight words to work on. Since he missed school Tuesday, we didn't get this stuff until Wednesday, and then we managed not to even go over it with him until breakfast on Thursday. It was basic stuff, though, and he had no trouble reading the book himself. I wasn't worried that we were slacking.

Sunday I saw the mother of one of Connor's best friends. This kid goes to Grahamwood, where they expect a little more out of their kids, and their parents, than they do at Snowden. This mother told me how each night they have read the book, gone over the sight words with flash cards, had him write the words, form sentences with the words, write five words that start with whatever letter they're working on (I don't even know if we're working on letters in Connor's class!), and on and on about how much they have done to make sure he gets into an optional class next year. "Yeah, but I sign Connor's conduct sheet each night!" I countered, mentally scanning my desk drawers for index cards with which to create flash cards.

Have I been too passive, and as a result laid a weak foundation for the entirety of Connor's educational career? Not a month into this, and I've already ruined his chances for future success. I guess I'll just start putting more money into his college fund, since he'll obviously never be a scholarship student. Hopefully I'll save enough to put him through some kind of trade school.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Duck Spring Roll from Mollie Fontaine

Now that the September ish of Health & Fitness is out, here are a couple of shots of a goooood appetizer...

Friday, September 05, 2008


Tuesday night, Chloe tried to climb on top of a TV tray. It collapsed under the weight of her huge noggin, and her face got busted up something good. It almost made me barf, although that could have been a leftover urge from cleaning up after Connor's stomach flu.

Ugh! Seriously though, I have to confess- her eyes aren't really that swollen. I just happened to get a perfect sleepy-eyed picture, and couldn't resist grossing you out with it. But the bruises are spreading- she's not as puffy today, but she's got the beginnings of two shiners. Unfortunately that picture hasn't made it from the camera to the computer, so I can't entertain you with that debacle just yet.

I love Chloe dearly, but she is not the more coordinated of my children. I'll just keep putting ice on it and hope there isn't any scarring. With any luck, one day she'll manage to get her nose job covered by insurance.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

All or Nothing

I struggle daily with the extremes of parenting. One minute I’m at work, completely away from my kids and missing them terribly. Then I go home, and the kids are fighting over space in my lap (pictured), and I’m dreaming of five minutes to myself. I can’t seem to strike a balance- it’s all or nothing for me as a parent.

Kristy tells me that I should practice “benign neglect,” perhaps reading a book while the kids play in the same room. It lets them know I’m there, but allows them to be a little independent. That sounds like a great idea, but it’s really hard to read when Connor hollers “Watch this, Mom! Watch this!” every 90 seconds, and Chloe comes over and announces, “The end!” while closing my book.

Last weekend I was excited to spend some time in Nashville. For one thing, it’s fun to hang out at my in-laws’. For another, it's fantastic to have three extra adults (Cory was there too) to help with the kids. It’s just about the only way I can achieve some type of balance- if the kids are outnumbered, I can occasionally sneak off by myself without worrying that my children will think I've forgotten them.

Just because I don’t want the kids physically attached to me the entire time we’re together, doesn’t mean I don’t need some love and affection from them. But it seems my kids have trouble finding their balance too- they often shun my hugs and kisses when we are around more interesting people, like grandparents, aunts or uncles. Last weekend was no exception. Finally, on our last night in Nashville, Connor requested that I tuck him in at bedtime. For a fleeting moment, we both understood how to love each other without ignoring or smothering each other in the process.

Then we came back home, where I promptly went to work and missed my babies, then came home and wished they would leave me alone. But I see how it can be done better. Part of it is found in coming home early a few days a week, which allows me time to play with them AND time to get stuff done for myself. There is room in our lives for both- they don’t have to feel ignored, and I don’t have to feel overwhelmed. And every now and again, I can find the patience to make room on my lap for both of them.