Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Tender Tennessee Christmas

Last weekend we got the holiday started with a trip to Shelbyville. Four generations opened gifts and ate tons of food and fought over Sherri's homemade hats and scarves.

As the week progressed, we ate breakfast for dinner with Di and opened a great present from him, Beatles Rock Band. Then we cooked for Tiff and Mark and exchanged presents with them as well.

On Thursday, Shannon, Carrie, Sherri and Roy came to town. We missed Cory and Chris terribly, but we still managed to drink lots of wine (mostly) and open lots of presents. In fact, we started a new tradition in which we opened grandparent presents on Christmas Eve so that they wouldn't get lost in the shuffle of Christmas morning.

Santa was good to us all, and we spent a lazy day playing video games, reading new books on new devices, shooting marshmallows at each other and baking things with the light of a 100-watt bulb. And then last night, I stayed up watching Elf and I cried at the end- not because Zooey's voice moves me, but because the big day was over.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Around the Web

Last week we learned how to make gingerbread houses with Stacey. I plan to leave the houses out for Santa to eat- they got touched a bit too much by grubby little hands for me to handle. It was a lot of fun!

The first day home with the kids was alright, although my back is really hurting again so that slowed me down a bit. I got them to run errands with me yesterday with the promise that we wouldn't have to go to any stores today. Should be a fun, lazy Tuesday! More on yesterday's food adventures can be found on Listwork.

All my shopping is done, and really has been for some time. Are any of you still shopping? Good luck if you are! Only two gifts left to wrap. I can't wait for Santa to come!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


All 9 of you who read this blog have probably already received this year's Chockley Holiday card.  (If you didn't, we suck, and I'm sorry.  Or maybe you suck.  Why don't you keep your peeps up-to-date with your current address?)

I planned out the place and the mechanics of the photo in advance, so once we got there I knew what I was shooting for.  You know, all the photographer stuff--exposure, lighting, framing.  But what I can never anticipate is how well my subjects cooperate, and this night I was not lucky in that regard.  These two were all hopped up on goofballs.  This was one of those photo sessions where I get like 2 decent shots and 50 outtakes. You received one of the decent shots in the mail.  These you didn't receive:

Friday, December 18, 2009

The First Decade

Recently I realized that both my brother and a very close friend moved away from Memphis about ten years ago. This was shocking, because I always think about it like they just moved, and will be back any time. But they really live in these other places! Ten years is a long time, and they are definitely established somewhere else.

But here we are at the end of the Aughts. (I’ve enjoyed calling them that!) It has certainly been fullest decade of my relatively young life. I’ve had fun glancing over all the “Best of the 00s!” lists out there and reminiscing. My favorite decade retrospective has been the “Decadium” series on Deadspin, written by Will Leitch. I found it fascinating that the stuff from 2000 seemed like a million years ago, but by the time we got to 2003 it was like all that just happened yesterday. (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that 2003 is when I had my first kid- since then, I have definitely entered the “time flies!” portion of adulthood.) It inspired me to write my own history of the Aughts.

This won’t be a retelling of pop culture milestones, or memories of the Connor’s first steps or Chloe’s first words. This is a retrospective of the happiest ten years of my life, the decade I’ve been married to Chip Chockley. On this day in 1999, I married the love of my life. Here are a few of the high (and low) lights of my time as a Chockley.

2000- I begin my teaching career at Snowden. Chip graduates from law school. We go to Cancun for a week to celebrate*. He gets a job at a firm I’ll call Asshole & Partner, PC. In the fall I move to Keystone Elementary in Rockin’ Raleigh. Chip celebrates our first anniversary by losing his wedding ring.
*Assume that any vacation we took this decade was largely if not wholly funded by Chip’s parents.

2001- We buy our first home in April. In May, my car dies and we add a car payment on top of the new mortgage. But no worries, unless one of us gets fired or something. Chip gets fired or something. I’m pregnant and really hoping he finds work soon. He does. Chip and I agree to keep my 5-yr-old cousin for a few months while his mom gets some stuff together. Chip’s sister is diagnosed with a kidney disease and goes off to college in New York City. 9/11 happens. I have a miscarriage. My cousin moves back home around Christmas. I talk Chip into letting me get a cat. We celebrate New Year’s Eve like nobody’s business, bidding adieu to the worst year in recorded history.

2002- We actually acquire Clark (the aforementioned cat) at the beginning of January. We start watching Alias. We get an HD TV. Chip turns 30. I have another miscarriage. I start working at Rhodes. I get pregnant and it finally sticks.

2003- We go to Austin to visit Scott and Amy the same week that this war we’re still fighting starts. The security on the trip is home is remarkably different from that on the trip out. Connor is born. I turn 30. We start paying for daycare and our finances will never be the same.

2004- We thank the heavens that we have a TiVo, as Chip is upstairs giving Connor a bath during halftime of the Super Bowl. Friends ends. We take Connor to his first political rally. We lose the election. I change jobs but stay at Rhodes.

2005- We’re finally ready for a long weekend away from Connor, and visit pre-Katrina NOLA for the last time. Connor turns two, and I convince Chip that it's time to have another one. We realize Shannon is right and start listening to Death Cab for Cutie.

2006- I don’t get to attend 311 Day in Memphis. I have a baby four days later. Rock n Romp debuts, a scant two weeks after Chloe does. An October trip to Seaside changes our lives forever, as all four members of the family realize we belong on a beach as often as possible. I start Weight Watchers.

2007- Prince plays halftime of the Super Bowl, but I have to watch it from a work conference. Chip becomes a picture-taking fool after getting a real camera the previous Christmas. My summer at work sucks thanks to a scanning project that scarred me for life. Another blissful fall trip to the beach erases the pain. We enjoy our first ravioli-making experience with the Alleys. We try but cannot sell our house.

2008- We spend our first long weekend away from the kids since having Chloe, but sadly we are not together. Happily, we are at bachelor/bachelorette parties- in the two most dangerous cities in the country! Tigers lose to Kansas. Shannon and Carrie get married. Chip stands in the optional school line at 4:00 in the morning, but we still get stuck on Snowden’s waiting list. Many tears/ulcers/gray hairs later, Connor secures a spot the Friday before Kindergarten starts. Kindergarten! Two beach trips, one with friends in the summer and one with unexcused absences from school in the fall. Totally worth it.

2009- Our beach trip is moved to summer, where we celebrate Connor's birthday and learn of Michael Jackson's death. The kids have been obsessed with him ever since. My career as a soccer mom begins, as Connor plays t-ball and basketball. Finally- iPhones! Cory and Chris get married. Tiffany and Mark get married. Shannon and Carrie get pregnant. And tonight, we celebrate ten years of wedded bliss at our favorite Memphis restaurant, Iris.

I love you Chip, and look forward to the next several decades by your side!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Suzy Snowflake

You might remember that last year, Chloe and Connor had competing Christmas programs. This year, Connor doesn't have one at all and Chloe's was moved to daytime. The one daytime in the month of December that I had trouble getting away from work. I was able to attend just the half hour program, but fortunately Mom and Chip were able to stay for the special holiday luncheon. Even better, Mom decided to spirit Chloe away for a fun afternoon of shopping and playing at Grammy's house when the luncheon was over.

I was so glad that Chloe got to leave, because Connor has had many cool opportunities for me to take him home early (class party, field trip, etc) and Chloe almost never does. The sad part is, she wouldn't have been disappointed if she'd had to stay at school, because she doesn't even expect it at this point. I wonder if that's because she isn't as needy as Connor, or if it's because she's the second child so she's gotten the short end of the stick most of her life?

Chloe has a spotty history with her school programs. For the first one, she cried in my lap rather than participating. For the second one, she sang and danced like a pro. How would it go this year? She started off a little apprehensive.

Once she got on stage, she was happy to see her family in the crowd. But would she sing? Many times in the past few weeks, she has serenaded us with perfect renditions of "Suzy Snowflake" and what is known as "The Chipmunks Song." But when asked to sing on demand, she either refuses or sings in her fake baby voice.

Her teachers spent the last week saying to me, "I hope Chloe sings Tuesday the way she's been singing in practice!" She was right in the middle of the stage, right in front of the microphone. We held our breath as the song started, then collectively exhaled as she opened her mouth to sing loudly, on key, with all the right words. We could totally hear her above everyone else. She ruled!

Although she was upset that I didn't record the grand finale ("We Wish You a Merry Christmas," sung by the Koalas and Penguins) on my iPhone, she did get the sense that it was her special day. We let her know how proud we were that she had overcome her nerves and sung in front of that big crowd. And we got take-out pizza (from Brooklyn Bridge- lordy I love that place) and had a rare mid-week living room picnic in front of the TV. It was a wonderful day, and my girl got to feel special.

Stay tuned for the next edition of "Chockleys On Stage" when Connor performs in the African American History program next February.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Spirit

We've been packing in the holiday activities lately- you know I like to wring every last drop out of the holiday season!

Last Wednesday, the four of us and Mom went to Starry Nights at Shelby Farms. AWESOME. My kids and I (and my mom!) love to drive around looking at light displays during the holidays, so this was a must-attend event for us. We weren't disappointed. Connor kept saying, "It's so beautiful!" over and over. And on top of seeing the cool lights, I got to sit in between the kids in the back and love on them for a half hour. It was $20 well spent.

On Friday, I went with Connor's class to see New Ballet Ensemble's Nut ReMix at Germantown Performing Arts Center. It was a really good production, with all ages and styles represented. Connor really loves dancing, so this was a perfect activity for him. I could tell that his history with So You Think You Can Dance really prepared him for what he would see. He didn't lose interest and had some knowledge of the styles of dance. It was fun for both of us.

Friday night, we went with Stacey and her monkeys to Snowy Nights at My Big Back Yard, and then to dinner at Dan McGuinness Pub. I suggest you read her accounts of these events. No need for me to write the exact same thing- she and I were in complete agreement! And I will definitely take the kids back to Dan McGuinness- the kids' meal was huge, so I think they could share one. At $4.95, it's a great bargain!

On Saturday and Sunday I made lots of cookies and sweet treats to bring to people at work. But my baking frenzy was interrupted Sunday by an event that will surely be made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie someday. We were invited to eat some choice holiday party leftovers at the The Compound, and upon our arrival we were informed that Kristy Alley planned to DO A CRAFT WITH THE KIDS. She had special supplies and everything! It was something I'll never forget- a true holiday miracle!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


What does the Chockley house look like around the holidays? Festive. I mean, we don't do the crazy lights outside, but inside, our halls are decked. And here's where I give Steph all the credit, because all I've done is take some pictures.

Whole Flickr slideshow here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Step Towards the NBA

Connor has always been a basketball star, receiving his first indoor hoop at the age of eighteen months and never looking back. We play inside, we play in the driveway, we shoot wads of paper into the garbage, etc. He has even told me he wants to be a basketball player when he grows up. However, he has never wanted to be on a team. "So do you plan on going to an office and shooting hoops when you grow up?" I've asked. And yes, that was his plan- until this summer, when we finally got him on a t-ball team and he fell in love with organized team sports. At long last, it was time to play ball.

I signed up for basketball through Idlewild in September and didn't hear anything until mid-November, when someone e-mailed asking for parent volunteers for coaching duties. Uh, no. I paid $80 so that someone else could coach Connor for once- not so that we could move our coaching from the driveway to a gym. I want to watch and enjoy, and so does Chip. We conveyed this sentiment by passive(ly?)-aggressively ignoring that email and waiting to get a call from whatever sucker they pulled in for the job.

We got that call, and two practices later we had our first game. Against Bing Hampton. (It was two words on their unis.) There were about 15 of them, and only 7 of us. Not to mention that one of our kids just randomly left in the middle of the game. And we already knew one coach wouldn't be there, but the other got stuck in marathon traffic and showed up more than 30 minutes late. I know I shouldn't complain, since he's just a volunteer, but everyone in Memphis knew there was a marathon. That's why responsible people like me looked up the route map and planned their trip to the game accordingly.

To reward our responsible planning, Chip got stuck coaching after all. He did a great job, eventually. He finally explained to the kids that they should pass at least once before shooting- right before the fourth quarter, which is coincidentally when we scored our first points! Oh yeah, we had our asses handed to us. The scorekeeper actually reset the board for each quarter, just to keep our kids from entering into a suicide pact after noticing it was 50-0 or so at halftime.

All in all it was an awesome experience- just how I imagined it would go. Connor played hard and had a great time, and learned a lesson about losing with dignity. (Did I mention they didn't keep score in t-ball? He didn't know he'd ever lost a game before Saturday.) Because Chip was coaching, I was given the camera. That's why these pics aren't that good. But hopefully you can still get the idea.

Look at my boy play D!

Ayden gets the ball stripped by #23, who took it the other way for a score.

Yeah, they had a lot of fun. Can't wait to do it again on Saturday!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Jelly of the Month Club

Recently I have been involved in a few discussions about how to rein in holiday gift expectations. Many people have said that they only buy X number of gifts, or only have their kids list X number of things on a wish list, so that their kids don't expect to get everything they see. Others limit exposure to commercials or toy catalogues or the aisles of Target so that their kids don't become too greedy and grabby and want-y. And I really appreciate those people, because I do not have that kind of self-control. There is nothing I love more than giving gifts to people, besides maybe indulging my kids. The only way I exercise any kind of restraint is by only doing it on holidays.

So yes, I am the kind of mom who lets her kids eat as much candy as they can stand on Valentines or Halloween. I decorate the house for their birthdays so that they'll wake up to a celebration, and keep it going the whole day through. And for Christmas, I make sure Santa totally spoils these kids. Yes, I have a budget. No, the kids don't get everything listed in their Dear Santa letters. But yeah, it's a total toy orgy at our house on Christmas mornings, fueled by the sugar from any and all candy that might be found in our stockings.

This works for us. A big reason is because we are totally reasonable on all non-special days of the year. One piece of candy after dinner, you can't have that toy unless you save up your allowance or put it on your birthday/Christmas wish list, etc. But special days are SPECIAL. That's as much for me and Chip as it is for the kids- in fact, we might enjoy it more than they do. Right or wrong, it's how we do things.

And there is your gift from me- by all means, look down your nose and feel superior because you aren't raising greedy heathens like I am. But don't say I never gave you anything!

Happy holidays!

Monday, November 30, 2009


When Connor was a toddler, he had a couple of episodes of night terrors. Although it totally freaked us out the first time, we read up on it and handled it okay the second. And that was that.

Then a few weeks ago, he got out of bed about an hour after he had gone to sleep. Chip went up to check on him (our kids NEVER get out of bed before morning) and found him running around the upstairs, giggling and talking jibberish, while holding his crotch in that special "I'm a boy and I need to pee" way. We tried to talk to him but he didn't respond- he was NOT awake, although his eyes were open. We finally guided him into the bathroom, and upon releasing his bladder his giggles became total guffaws- peeing was the funniest thing that had ever happened! We tried really hard not to laugh, got him back in bed safely, and closed the child gate at the top of the stairs just in case.

At the time we talked a bit about his night terrors, and how that was related to sleepwalking, and maybe it's just something he's prone to do. We didn't feel weird about then, but we did this past week when he had an episode that seemingly combined the two. We heard him get out of bed, and Chip and Roy went to check on him. Again, he had his eyes open but he was not awake. Only this time, he was HYSTERICAL. Screaming and speaking a mix of jibberish and phrases like"turn it off." When I ran up to see what was happening, he pointed and shrieked and acted scared to death. We got him to go to the bathroom and settle back in the bed, where he cried to himself until he was able to come out of it and go back to normal sleep. Chip watched him to make sure he was safe, then came back downstairs so we could compare stories.

Thinking back there were two other times when something like this had happened, but we didn't really realize what was going on. One was on a car trip, when he talked jibberish and couldn't explain to me what was wrong until finally he peed on himself and went back to sleep. The other was one time at his grandparents' house when he was wandering around upset until Roy held him to calm him down, at which point Connor peed all over Roy. As you can guess, our crack diagnostic team quickly realized that a need to pee seems to be the common thread to Connor's sleepwalking incidents. (The night terrors occurred when he was still in diapers, so I can't speak to those.)

This post has no point, other than to share with you what I've been Googling constantly this weekend and to tell you that you should probably make sure Connor pees before going to bed if he's spending the night at your house. So far he's only hitting the toilet in 50% of cases, so you might be in trouble if you don't. The good news is, this usually goes away by the time a kid is 15-17, so I've only got ten more years or so to be freaked out by it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scenes from Thanksgiving Dinner

The sacred tofurkey, in the last minutes of its noble life.

Immediately post-slaughter.

The real boid.

The chef.

Chloe says this Thanksgiving stuff is bollocks-- bring on Christmas!