Category Archives: write

Ten Instagram Feeds That Make Me Happy!

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Are you on Instagram?  It serves as a mini-scrapbook of my life.  And my phone is always with me so it’s easy to capture the little things in life.  The picture above is the first photo I ever took using my Instagram app.  It’s a still life of my dresser at the time.  I love it because it says a lot about me.  My style is revealed in the sunglasses and jewelry box.  It shows that I love the color green and the scent of a good candle.  I also made the framed linen piece in the background to hang my jewelry on, so it reminds me that I am creative when I want to be.  I just love this picture.  You will find an entire community of creative people on Instagram from all parts of the world.  Here are ten of my favorites to follow!

1)  Christie Brinkley (username:  christiebrinkley) – I know. I know.  She’s a former supermodel.  Someone recommended her feed and I was skeptical too.  But she’s a darn good Instagram photographer.  Her shots of NYC are STUNNING.  She travels (most recently to Africa to take up the cause of saving elephants from harm and exploitation) and takes photos that are truly captivating.  She includes her personal life in her feed too.  And she draws some wonderful designs in her morning coffee.   I haven’t regretted following her at all.  She’ll fill your feed with beautiful things.

2)  Aerin Lauder (username: aerin):  If I could vote Aerin most beautiful Instagram feed, I would.  She’s near the top of my list of style icons.  The granddaughter of the late cosmetics tycoon, Esteé Lauder and daughter of Ronald Lauder, Aerin recently launched her own line of cosmetics and furniture & accessories for the home.  She is also the subject of a gorgeous coffee table book that should be arriving on my doorstep any moment!  Her posts tend to be beautiful still life images shot around her home & office.  Always exquisitely styled and timeless.

3)  The Recapturist (username:  recapturist) –  “Photography, preservation and micro-history of vintage America”.  That what his feed consists of.  Gorgeous photos of hotel and restaurant signage from an earlier era.  If you like old stuff, you’ll love this feed.

4)  BeachBungalow8 (username:  beachbungalow8) – She’s a creative girl who loves design, both retro and current.  She blogs at http://www.beachbungalow8.blogspot.com.  I find stuff on here ALL the time that inspires me.  Excellent feed.

5)  Plum Collective (username: plumcollective) –  If you love mid-20th century design, you will love this feed.  All kinds of mid- century furniture, lighting and design on this one.  Check it out.

6)  Kelly GoLightly  (username: kellygolightly) – In her words, it’s a “style guide for the modern-day Audrey Hepburns of the world.”  She’s gorgeous, has great style and reeks of vintage style.  She travels often and posts great pics from places like Palm Springs, Beverly Hills and Marfa, TX.  I swoon over her fashion sense & she knows how to throw a party!

7)  Adored Vintage (username:  adoredvintage)  Like vintage dresses & style?  Look no further.  You must follow Adored Vintage.  Sometimes she posts other things but the focus is vintage dresses.

8)  Liljeberg (username: liljeberg) – A Swedish feed that captivates you with letters and numbers, all photographed beautifully.

9)  Mrs. Lilien (username: mrslilien) –  One of my very favorite feeds!  I could honestly ask myself every day, “What would Mrs. Lilien do?”  I love her.  Her style, her love of old things, her appreciation of a good font; the list goes on.  And on.  She blogs at www.blog.mrslilen.com.

10)  Donald Robertson (username:  donalddrawbertson) –  Doodling, drawing, painting – he does it all.  The creative director for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics has one of my favorite Instagram feeds.  I’m wildly inspired by this guy.  He frequently shares photos of his wife, kids and home but most of his posts are his stunning artwork, often done with gaffer tape or just a few strokes of a magic marker.  He’s unbelievable.  Hard for me to go a day without looking at something he posts!

I hope you found at least two or three new people to follow after reading these.  I hope to make this a regular feature on my blog and I hope you’ll keep checking back to find more new good stuff!

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10 Things To Do In Ft. Worth, Texas

My daughter is now a college freshman at TCU in Ft. Worth, TX so I have found myself in this city quite a bit lately.  It’s coming full circle for me since my parents lived there when my mother was pregnant.  Until we went to check out TCU this past February, I had not been back.  I’ve now been 6 times in as many months and I love it more each time I go.  I’ve always been a lover of and frequent traveler to Dallas but I encourage you, if you find yourself in the DFW Metroplex, to give Ft. Worth a try as well.  You’ll be glad you did.

1)  I could do an entire list on Ft. Worth’s art scene alone.  Museums and galleries abound in “Cowtown”!  Exceptional ones.  World-class stuff, people.  But for this list I’m going to tell you to go to the Museum of Modern Art.  It’s an absolutely incredible place. Museum of Modern Art - Ft. WorthThe museum is surrounded by a crystal-clear reflecting pool that is stunning.  Peaceful.  Gorgeous, really.  And to reach it, you really need to pass through the museum restaurant, The Modern Grill.  The mid-century architecture makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in time.  I’ve heard the food is great but haven’t had a chance to sample it myself.  You should plan your visit to coincide with lunch.

The Modern GrillThis is one of my favorite installations at the museum & your children will be fascinated at every turn. These bands of letters move constantly and as you can see, the installation looks out on the reflecting pool.

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You can actually plan a day of museum hopping without ever leaving a three-block area.  Right next to the Museum of Modern Art is The Kimbell Museum & the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

2)  Eat lunch or dinner at Joe T Garcia’s !  It’s a fabulous restaurant near the Stockyards.   Legend has it that it’s the oldest Mexican restaurant in the Lone Star State.  Our daughter took us there recently on Family Weekend and we were impressed.  There are three choices on the menu:  Beef Fajitas, Chicken Fajitas and the “Family Dinner”.  Trust me, you don’t need anything else.  The chips and salsa are excellent and we had a pitcher of strawberry margaritas that disappeared almost as soon as our adorable, attentive waitress delivered it to our table.  Aside from the food, the outdoor seating area is HUGE and it’s like eating in a botanical garden!  Lush foliage, fountains and water features abound.  And we were even serenaded at our table.

Joe T Garcias

3)  The Coyote Drive-In.    Their slogan is “Fort Worth is bringing back the drive-in!”  That’s because people in Ft. Worth seem to have a wonderful pulse on what’s cool and seem well-versed on how to get things done.  One trip downtown will leave you with this incredible sense that you are in a progressive place that is at once aware of what it takes to move ahead and conscious of not letting go of the past.  You will find the Coyote Drive-In on the banks of the Trinity River on the edge of downtown.  There are 5 screens, a beer garden and I recently read that Ft. Worth’s first outdoor ice rink will be added.  Reviews are good.  They show kid’s movies too and what kid doesn’t need to experience a drive-in movie?  Read more about the Coyote here.

4) Check out the Ft. Worth Water Gardens, also downtown but on the opposite end from the Coyote.  I was staying at the downtown Sheraton in September and this is right across the street.  There are three distinct features:  a reflecting pool (huge!), a pool with fountains, called the “aeration” pool and a fountain that is like an inverted pyramid that you can actually climb down in.  It’s a fun place for kids to explore or, depending on which pool you choose and what time of day you’re there, a really peaceful place to hang out and enjoy a few moments alone.  These pictures show the three different features:

IMG_6090cpyAeration pool at water gardensreflecting pool from aboveReflecting pool at ground level

5)  In the fall, don some purple & catch a Texas Christian University “Horned Frog” football game at the recently renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium.  It’s impressive.  You might run into baseball great, Nolan Ryan watching the Frogs play.  The stadium was renovated completely between the 2010 and 2012 seasons, totally funded by donors with no bonds or debt.  Great care was taken to build the stadium into the ground so the Robert Carr Chapel spire would remain the tallest building on the TCU campus.  It’s a beautiful place.  Just learn the Horned Frog sign and school cheer before you go:

Rif Ram, Bah Zoo

Lickety, Lickety, Zoo, Zoo

Who, Wah, Wah, Who

Give Em Hell, TCU!

(It makes no sense to me either.  Just learn it.)

TCU stadium

6)  Catch a musical, play, symphony performance, concert……..SOMETHING, at Bass Performance Hall.  Just checking the current schedule, you can catch a variety of events/performers:  Clint Black, David Sedaris, Ft. Worth Symphony, Band of Heathens, Tony & Tina’s Wedding, the Doobie Brothers, Hungarian Folk Ensemble, etc.  The list goes on and the facility itself is blindingly beautiful inside as well as outside.  See?

Bass Performance HallMaybe before or after, you can enjoy a good meal at Ferre, an Italian chophouse right across the street!

7)  Buy yourself some real, leather cowboy boots.  One of my favorite western stores is Maverick Fine Western Wear & Saloon in the Stockyards.  You can find boots in any color or style, with stitching in myriad colors, in ostrich-skin, snakeskin, calfskin, etc. In Fort Worth, you can spend $300 on your boots or you can spend $5000.  I didn’t know that either but yes, you can.

Texas boots

8) Visit the Stockyards!  When I first began coming to Ft. Worth, I thought, “Why would I want my hotel to be beside the stockyards? I’m not a cattle farmer!”  Then on one of my many trips, my daughter and I decided to venture over that way because, after all,  JR and Jock Ewing traded cattle there.  Might as well see what the Stockyards look like.   I’ll admit that, yes, it’s a bit touristy.  But it’s just a really, really fun place to be.  There are lots of restaurants to choose from, a hotel or two (highly recommend the Hyatt Place – Stockyards), twice daily cattle drives, horseback rides, a weekend rodeo and should you so desire, on Sunday, you can attend Cowboy Church.  I could do an entire entry on the Stockyards and it’s such a great place to go with kids.  We actually stayed at the Hyatt I linked to above on our last trip and it was a wonderful experience.  Except I forgot my swimsuit and the pool is perfection.

Riscky's BBQ

Cattle Drive

Stockyards9) Enjoy a meal at Reata downtown in Sundance Square.  A Texas tornado destroyed the original location in 2000 but it’s back at 310 Houston St. and better than ever.  With four stories and 20,000 square feet plus a huge menu, you can’t help but leave satisfied.   The menu is inspired by real cowboy cooking and the Stacked Chicken Enchiladas will not disappoint.  Dine on the roof or at least go up for a drink before you leave to explore the rest of the Square.

Reata's Rooftop

10) Explore the West 7th Corridor!  This is one of my very favorite areas of Fort Worth!  It’s near the museum district so if you enjoy lunch at the Museum of Modern Art, you can have  a wonderful dinner here.  It’s walking distance.  (But should you drive —  there is plenty of parking in the parking structures.)  There’s even a Movie Tavern,  if you’d like to catch a movie and have a drink too.   Shop at WRARE, a unique home furnishings store.  I wanted so much of what they had to offer,  but Chuck was along too.  I did make it home with a very neat metal “B” to add to my collection.  There are sooo many restaurants, which you can see using the link above.  Be sure to end your night at Sweet Sammie’s, an ice cream shop where you can create your own giant ice cream cookie sandwich.  Yet another thing in Ft. Worth that your kids will thank you for.

I’m a firm believer that every city has a lot to offer if you look hard enough, but you won’t need to look long in Ft. Worth.  The dining scene is stellar.  The cultural district and the area surrounding TCU offers museums and a zoo plus too much shopping to even get started in a weekend!  Hotel rooms abound and I’ve scored some amazing deals on Priceline.  I look forward to each trip because I know I’m going to discover something new.  With our daughter living there for the next four years, you can expect more posts on “Cowtown” in the future.  In the meantime, take your family and check it out for yourself.

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This Too Shall Pass…

About a week ago, I was telling someone my current situation and they said, “Wow, you’ve had quite the crappy year!”  It kind of stunned me because when I think of this past year, I think that we got to go skiing for a week, my daughter and I went to Charleston, S.C., we had wonderful trips to FL for Spring Break and summer vacation, Ryder got accepted to TCU and became a Kappa there, we had a great trip to St. Louis, Chuck and I celebrated 20 years of marriage, etc.  I could seriously go on and on with the good things in our life.  What my friend was referring to, however, was my knee injury I sustained in Colorado on our ski trip, my mother’s house fire & my latest problem — I was recently diagnosed with SI (sacroiliac) Joint Syndrome.  Here’s the scoop if you want to read up on it.  But this is what’s been going on with me for, well,  a month this past week.

During the process of moving Ryder into her dorm at Texas Christian, I somehow injured, or re-injured, my back.  I am lucky to have a wonderful orthopedic doctor who saw me right away (Dr. Kenneth Rosenzweig) and even luckier that his years of experience led him to diagnose me with SI joint problems immediately.  It’s a condition that is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, sometimes for YEARS.  I cannot imagine.  It’s painful. Terribly.  For me, sitting upright is just downright agonizing.  Standing hurts too, but sometimes it’s a great alternative to sitting.  My doctor did my first round of steroid injections two weeks ago and the pain block worked for a few days, which in the case of this disorder, tells us that the source of the pain IS indeed the SI joints.  However, with this condition, the pain is not usually eradicated until after the second round of injections and sometimes the third.  My doctor has only had to resort to surgery for this once in the last 30 years.  We are on the right track.  Unfortunately he says this is one of the more severe cases he has seen.  Of course.  I excel at everything 🙂

I have had to stop training temporarily, have cancelled things that were going to require me to ride in a car more than across town, have become what I feel like is a huge burden to Chuck, & have had to ask people for help, which is WAY outside my comfort zone.  But it’s going to get better and thankfully one aspect of my job (photography, for those of you who don’t know me personally!) can be done flat on my back with my laptop.  I’m not someone who just enjoys doing nothing so thankfully I can still do needlework.

Saturday, I decided to get out and run to Michael’s and Wal-Mart.  Not a good idea.  I came home and collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day.  Sunday was a bad day.  I went to the ER for the second time since this began.  The pain gets really bad, to the point that I’m nauseous.  Electrical-like pains shoot down my legs and up my back sometimes, I have hot and cold sensations that are just freaky for lack of a better word.  Sometimes the pain medicine affects every other part of my body EXCEPT the part of my back that is hurting.  That’s always fun.  Other times, like last night, it works so well I’m actually able to move around & accomplish things.  Having been down for six weeks already in early 2013 when I tore my MCL skiing, the mental frustration with having my activity limited again is high.  I have a giant list of things to do to our house and of course, they have been put on the back burner AGAIN.

So wish me luck with Thursday’s injections.  Pray I plug along until Chuck gets home on Thursday night.  Did I mention he is out of town until then?  Fun times.  There are so many people dealing with much worse than this so I will get through.  But I’m living for the day that I am able to work out, drive where I want and sit without agony!

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Letting Go

Packing UpThere were so many things to think about this summer before THIS  ^  occurred.  “THIS” being the life-altering event of moving my first-born child and only daughter, Ryder,  out of our home and into her dorm room.  Out-of-state.  Six hours away.  In a much bigger city.  Where she only knows a few other students, and none of them particularly well.  I told myself it was exciting, which it is, and that she was ready, which I truly think she is.  But I might not have been as prepared as I thought I was.

I found plenty of distractions.  In June I had to take Ryder to orientation at TCU.  There was no reason to think about her leaving until she had been oriented, right?  And then not long after that she left for a 10-day trip to Italy.  No reason to stress while she’s relaxing in the Mediterranean.  I could do that when she gets back….might as well relax too!  Four days after her return from Italy was our family vacation to Florida, and we took two of her closest friends with us.  It seemed only logical to enjoy them & not fret about how much I was going to miss them.  But then DANG!  It seemed we had barely UNpacked our suitcases and we were busy packing big Sterilite containers and making sure we had duvets and pillows and necessities purchased.  It sneaks up faster than a tornado on a trailer park.  Now that I’ve been through it, I don’t think there’s any way to really prepare for the myriad emotions that you’re going to feel.

Ever the planner, I had assumed that with a move-in date of August 10th, we would leave on the 9th.  Well, be warned that those childhood friendships grow stronger in the months leading up to college, when the notion of existing without each other becomes real & they become very, very hard for your child to leave.  I got that because I, too, chose a university away from all of my high school friends and I set off on my own, not knowing a soul in the town that would be my college home for four years of my life.  If your child has friendships that move them this much emotionally, thank God for that.  I missed my friends terribly and when my daughter said, “I don’t want to go until the day I’m supposed to move in,” I understood.  I also thought it would be a chance to go on ahead & spend a night alone with Chuck to sort of decompress from the stress & drama of packing and getting ready to leave.  And be warned, with girls, there is drama in getting ready to leave!  Chuck & I loaded the Suburban to maximum capacity and headed for Ft. Worth on Friday.  Ryder spent her last night at home, surrounded by her friends, who made sure she was up at dawn and stood in our driveway as she pulled away.  I will be forever grateful to them for this & I think it was the perfect end to her summer because we, her family, will be in her life on a consistent basis for the rest of her life and those friends will head off in separate directions, making it harder to see each other as often.  I love them all as my own & I cried myself to sleep those last two (or three) nights, thinking that late-night pow-wows on my bed and girls strewn all over my living room on Saturday and Sunday mornings would be coming to an end, or at least be less frequent.  I was able to spend a wonderful spring break with Ryder and her friends and enjoy a vacation to Dallas with them this summer and I will always cherish those trips.TCU/Texas

The tension of move-in day was eased by the fact that TCU is a small campus with a very organized and dedicated group of people who made the transition from home to college life as easy as possible.  A friend of Ryder’s who was already at TCU had introduced her to her roommate and they had been communicating via social media since March.  There was absolutely no tension when we met – both of our families seemed to mesh immediately & getting their room set up was so enjoyable.  I think she’s off to a great start.  We took her to dinner that first night and she fell asleep in the booth at Macaroni Grill.  Afterward, we went on a whirlwind shopping trip to Target & back to the room.  She bid us goodbye without a tear and we headed back to our hotel, leaving her to sleep in her new digs.

Dorm room!We walked into our hotel that night & got on the elevator with a family who appeared to be leaving a wedding in one of the ballrooms.  There was Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad & a little girl about three with short bobbed brown hair and blue eyes, eerily reminiscent of Ryder at the same age.  She was twirling in her fancy dress and ballet flats and expressing joy at getting to ride on the elevator to the 4th floor.  We were admiring her cuteness & sharing that we had just dropped our daughter off for her first night at college.  As we got off the elevator the little girl got off and skipped ahead of us all, soaking in the wonders of a nice hotel as if it were her castle and she the princess who lived there.  As she got smaller and further away, we approached our room and I slid the key in the slot, took a deep breath & accepted the fact that I would end my night with yet more tears, this time a mix of sadness for what I was going to miss & joy for what wonderful things I know are ahead.

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44 Things………update!

Earlier this year,  I drafted a list of 44 things to do before I turn 44 years of age.  That happens on December 14, 2013.  Just a few short months, really.  I promised an update at some point along the way, primarily as an incentive to make myself accountable.  I think blogging it helped motivate me tremendously.

1. Try 10 new recipes.I’ve been doing a really good job on this one.  Banana pudding, easy lasagna, ebelskivers, hummus, etc.  I’ll be at 10 before I know it.  Then I’ll pick a day and share the recipes.

2. Complete 6 needlework projects.  (Finished one today!) – I’m not sure I’ll make it to six but I finished the one mentioned, have all but the background done on one and have gotten pretty far into another.  I also did a rather small one for Ryder and it just occurred to me that I never gave it to her 🙂  So yeah, maybe I will get to 6!

3. Be a more engaged parent.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in the room but not tuned in.  I need to improve this.This one is hard for me now that the kids are older.  They don’t want read to, they have no interest in my hobbies and I don’t play video games.  But I’ve been playing a few games and making a concerted effort to listen in a more intent manner when they want to engage in conversation.  I’m easily distractible, which doesn’t help.  But I’m making improvements.

4. Have a professional massage.  Or 2!

5. Volunteer at least 60 hours. – Getting there!

6. Paint 2 things at the Painted Pig.

7. Buy a pair of cowboy boots.

8. Visit my daughter at college! – We just dropped her off last weekend and have plans to attend family weekend in September, so barring something unexpected, I’ll easily manage to meet this goal.

9. YOLO board in Watercolor, FL on Hwy. 30-A. – We did this on our vacation in July and it was a great experience.  I want a YOLO board now and I want to find a place to enjoy the sport locally.  Success! CHECK!

10. Learn to make a great chocolate cake.

11. Successfully make “Cupcake Cafe” buttercream.

12. Design a crewel stocking pattern.

13. Save $1000 using coupons and rebates.This is not going so hot.  Need to step it up!

14. Blog photo tips on a regular basis.

15. Paint entire kitchen white and then go from there with kitchen decor….

16. Buy rainchains for the corners of our house.

17. Re-do/paint our front porch.

18. Make peace, or attempt to, with someone I don’t get along with. –  (I did this.  It’s overrated.)  – CHECK!

19. Learn to use Netflix via the PS3 without the assistance of someone 13 or under.  Or Chuck. – Wyatt pointed out that it’s just as easy if not more so, to use Netflix on my laptop so I guess I’ll consider this one a CHECK!

20. Climb Pinnacle Mountain again.  The hard side.

21. Take a vacation with just Chuck. – It’s scheduled for Labor Day weekend to celebrate 20 years!  Yay!  Fairmont Dallas, here we come!

22. Visit Eric & Stephanie in St. Louis! – We had a fantastic time even though it was a whirlwind trip to St. Louis and we only had time for lunch at Pappy’s Smokehouse.  But the food and company was great.  I had not seen Stephanie since she moved to Kentucky in 2nd grade!  And Eric since he left in junior high.  GREAT time!  CHECK!

23. Weigh 135.I’m steadily heading toward this goal but need to step it up if I do it before I’m 44.

24. Rewatch all Seinfeld episodes. – I bought season one to start.  May not get through ALL of them but you never know.

25. Read 10 books. – I’ll easily reach this goal!

26. Paint the living room.

27. Buy a desk for myself.Did it at IKEA when we took Ryder to orientation at TCU.  I had to compromise on color but it’s grown on me. CHECK

28. Compile dad’s Vietnam pictures into a book for him.  (I guess after posting this it won’t be a surprise.)

29. Open an ETSY shop.

30. Camp with Tcheanina and all our boys. – The summer has kinda of gotten away from us.  Didn’t realize how much other travel would consume my time.  But I haven’t completely ruled it out!

31. Start my “other” blog.

32. Photograph 10 dogs.

33. Draw & paint for fun.  On a regular basis.

34. Launch a black & white division of Buttry Photography. In progress

35. Organize my home completely.  Room by room. Closet by closet.

36. Keep a “good things” jar.CHECK, or in progress, anyway!

37. Visit Albert Pike Recreation Area for the first time since the flood.

38. Frame my needlework projects.I’ve had lots and lots of these done!  Yay!

39. Walk the dog more.Ummmm……

40. Have another trip with just my mom.She went to orientation with Ryder and me so if we don’t fit in another, I’ll count that.  Had a great time.

41. See 5 movies at the theater with Chuck.  Working on this one too.  Have seen a couple of them.  The Vow.  The one about magic. Working on this one too.  

42. Learn to make really good & pretty sugar cookies.

43. Keep an art journal.CHECK, in progress, but not as much as I’d like to.

44. Practice random acts of kindness.  26 at least.  For Newtown, CT. – I’ve done a lot of these.  Very proud of myself.  Anonymous, when possible and gives you a great feeling.

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Child-Rearing: The Fine Print…..

Some of you are contemplating having children, adopting children or, if you’re exceptionally desperate, perhaps kidnapping a couple of infants. (Take them back please; someday they’ll be hormonal and you’ll be searching for the address to return them to on anywho.com, and, besides, who needs a felony?)

Disclaimer:  I know some of you are struggling with being unable to have children and I’m in no way attempting to minimize that desire that burns within you to be a parent.  It’s real and it’s wonderful and it exists. And more than anything, I hope your dream comes true.  And most of that dream will be WONDERFUL!  Just don’t act like being shat upon at 3 a.m. is a moment you were waiting for & will cherish forever.  You may laugh heartily later but you won’t want to repeat it.  Now…..

Potential parents need beneficial advice, lest you think it’s all rainbows and unicorns.  It’s not.  Sometimes it’s poop explosions, vomit and bloody noses that never seem to end.  It’s baseballs-through-windows & broken limbs & stitches & Sharpie on couches.  It’s “everyone-but-me-has-a-smartphone-and-I-might-as-well-be-exiled-to-Tanzania.”  (Neither of our boys, 11 & 13 have them. They’re still here, functioning fairly normally – the boys, that is.)  As much as you plan to ‘cherish every moment’, no one enjoys a stream of pee in their ear canal or shit smeared on their brand new white J. Crew tee.  I know this.  Don’t try to sell me on that bullshit. You’re exasperated. You laugh about it later but you’re exasperated!

We need to get to a point in our society where we are honest about the reality of parenting and what it involves. We need to understand that some of the people who have had children and melted down under the stress were simply not prepared.  A lot of us weren’t. I’ve melted down A LOT!  When reading two freaking chapters on “What To Look For When You INTERVIEW Your Pediatrician”*, nowhere does the article say, “Be sure you find out which of his buddies was a psychiatrist because you’re going to need some scripts for yourself before your kid starts on whole milk.”  But it should.

No one is honest with parents-to-be.  No one tells them that it’s ok to complain.  No one told tells them that it’s not going to kill Little Johnny or Sara’s self esteem if they’re disrespectful to you and you tell them they’re being a miserable little asshat and that their game controllers will indeed reside in Dad’s office drawer for a week.  As a society we went through decades of being told that we need to build up our children’s self-esteem and let them know that they can do anything they set their minds to.  There’s some truth to this.  Help your kids find their talents and encourage them, yes.   I’m not sure how many of you watch American Idol auditions but sometimes we definitely need to tell our kids they can’t even carry a tune in the cargo hatch of a Range Rover and should suggest that maybe they pursue being a sandwich artist at Subway while letting better talents and abilities emerge. (Back off!  I know there are wonderful, pride-filled sandwich artists out there. Love me a turkey on wheat! NOT HATING.)  Maybe your husband was a great athlete, but if little Tommy isn’t loving going to the ballpark, he might be happier playing chess, or golf or making movies.  Be big enough and brave enough to let him.  And to let go of your dreams for him.  Pretty sure neither of my boys is going to be a professional dancer or golfer so why would I push them that direction?  Guide your kids.  Don’t live through them.  It’s ok to quit soccer or football.  Or cheerleading.  This is hard but no one tells you it’s coming.

The self-esteem movement is part of the undoing of America that we’re seeing.  It’s all about ME.  Oh trust me, my kids can be “all about me” quite often and I tried NOT to parent that way.  They get on my last nerve not considering others feelings before their own a LOT of the time.  I’ve tried and preached and gotten angry and  I’m admitting that I would love to change that trait but in all honesty, I don’t know what to change. I’m doing the best I can, praying, trying to be a great example and hoping maturity will help.  We live in an age with so many outside influences that our parents and grandparents had no concept of.  No, it’s not all happiness and family dinners.  They aren’t all going to make good, or God forbid, PERFECT, grades.  You shouldn’t expect them to.  Loosen the fuck up. Forgetting a thank you is NOT the end of the world.

Baby showers and presents and shower cake and decorating nurseries are exciting & nice…..I’m sorry, I meant “finger sandwiches & hor d’oeuvres”.  We can’t have sugar and gluten-filled cakes and punch at baby showers  anymore!  Harrows! Then that baby could be born with a BMI of 35!  Don’t even get me started on freaking PUSH PRESENTS.  Gag. (I think when I birthed Ryder, Chuck let me watch “ER” instead of the Cardinal game. That was my present. And it was the episode where a lady died in labor.  Thanks, hon.)  Pregnancy, birth & delivery all seems exciting and it IS but I’m thinking this dose of advice might be helpful in list form.  It’s not what people (except me)  write in your little book at the gluten-free shower.  Nap when the baby naps!  Make your own baby food!  It’s so easy and so cheap!  Just tell him you’ve already been up with the baby twice – he’ll NEVER know! ** And this handy, numbered list will be much easier to refer back to by number when you’re railing on me in the comment section:

1. Your kids & you will only come down with ‘projectile vomiting/simultaneous poop shooting illnesses’ while your husband is enjoying his business meeting at the Boca Raton Resort and Club drinking martinis brought to him by a lovely waitress named Fawn after he finishes his exhilarating game of golf on the links.

2.  You will at some time in your child-rearing years wonder if medication would help both you and your child.  Sometimes it helps your child.  It most always helps you.  There are, in fact, two kinds of people in this world: those who are properly medicated & those who should be.  This I know for sure, OPRAH, so shut up.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  You’d medicate your gall bladder if it wasn’t working properly. Or your heart.  Our ancestors used medication too, in the form of bourbon and martinis.  Our options are much safer.  You don’t have to feel like the world is closing in on you and it doesn’t have to be “just” post-partum depression or baby blues.  It can be when they’re 14 and want to go to the mall but they don’t have the right bra at that mall (because there are no visible tits on your child to begin with) so they need to go to Target and while they’re at Target they find three shirts they need and they have to have all three and you are such a BITCH because you set a budget of $30 and how is she ever going to not be laughed at when she goes to the PARTY & in that 30 seconds in Aisle 2, YOU JUST RUINED HER LIFE!  It can be then.

3.  Some of your child’s grandparents will possibly drive you stark-raving mad.  Because they will either tell you how to raise your child LIKE THEY DID decades before OR, EVEN WORSE, they will give this little smirky look like John Boehner gives Obama when he sits behind him during the State of the Union address & disagrees, which, much like with the grandparents, is every other sentence.  That look from grandma means, “Oh, you think you’re being so progressive making those babies do things like sit in car seats and not snack on raw weiners but YOU SURVIVED & YOU’RE PERFECT!”  Which ultimately means, “Look, America!  *I* raised perfection & my kid doesn’t measure up!”  This will anger you to no end and I applaud you for not smacking them.  This is one of the toughest things I’ve dealt with as a parent.

DISCLAIMER #2:  My dad and stepmom have never done this.  They may have disagreed a couple times with how we raised our kids but never raised an eyebrow and only gave advice when asked.  Imagine that – the ones that don’t express judgment get asked 🙂

4. Your baby may not like breastfeeding.  You may not like breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding is not the PERFECT food.  The food that works for YOUR child is the PERFECT food.  My daughter liked her bottles ice-cold, like most people like their beer.  A doctor told me I was crazy to feed her like that.  It could be traumatic on her infant stomach.  I told her to come over at 3 a.m. & help feed her.  That’s traumatic.  PERIOD.  Cold ones, it will be if it makes her happy.  Seriously though, go to a playground, ANY playground, right now and tell me which kids were breastfed and which weren’t.  (No fair, naming the 6 year old who is latched on to his mom lying across the park bench.  That’s a give-a-way.  And if you’re that mom, don’t be surprised when a line forms.  Kids are curious. That shit looks appealing.  To kids AND grown men.  Save that for your home quarters, please.)  But if breastfeeding is not for you, who cares?  I just wanted one person to tell me, “This is not necessary, you know.  Just quit.”  And finally someone did.  With Wyatt, I nicely said, “Please don’t tell me to breastfeed.  I’m very comfortable with my decision.”  With Brooks, I said, “Honey, did you pack that Koo-Aid here for junior in the diaper bag?”  There are no concrete rules with child-raising, except maybe to be honest with your pregnant friends, relatives, daughters, etc.  Don’t judge them.  Some things are just a personal choice and they’ve become a needless political platform.  We literally have organized groups that harass women who do not breastfeed.  I was a victim, practically stalked by a LaLeche woman.  I lived in Colorado at the time.  You have no business telling someone to nurse their baby anymore  than they have any business telling you whether you should wipe your ass front to back or vice versa.

5. People will judge how you educate your child.  There are so many ways TO educate your child.  Not every type of education is right for every child.  Our daughter did public education, K-12, though aspects of it were hard for me to watch.  It was her choice to stay and she did fine and is now off at a small university.  It might be right for your child.  Our sons go to a private Christian school because we wanted more individualized attention, staff & faculty that see individual differences in children and teach accordingly, friendly faces that act happy to see us & our kids instead of acting angry & exasperated.  We definitely LOVE less bureaucracy.  At this school, I’ve never felt a need to request a teacher, never seen a child grabbed by his arm and jerked, and the administration KNOWS my family.  I couldn’t tell you who the public LRSD administrators are on any given day and they certainly don’t know me.  It bothers me that people who have NEVER set foot on my kids’ campus judge it based on rumor & biased articles and have never experienced how it really feels.  That’s unfortunate.  It might be right for your child.  Some people have kids who thrive through homeschooling or online home education.  This would be absolutely no fun for either me or my kids.  I do not have it in me.  But my friends who do it?  I have them up on a pedestal with the inventor of the donut and people who can paint awesome portraits.  ULTIMATE ADMIRATION.  Maybe that’s right for your child.  But when you’re pregnant, no one tells you what a huge part of your life your child’s education will be beyond being sure they advise you to buy your home in a good school district.

6.  Sit down for this one.  You kids will hit adolescence.  They will lie.  (Yep.)  They will connive. (Yep.)  They will annoy the goddang hell out of you to do the silliest shit.  I personally would do high school over twice before I’d do 4-6th grade again with my daughter and sons.  They are hormonal.  They have no clue who they are or what they want.  They hate you because it’s cool to hate you.  Until they need you.  Then it’s cool, until they walk out the door and tell their friends with hair flip and eyeroll how much they HATE you.  (They will walk out the door, but bonus to you for your childrearing in their formative years if they shut it behind them.)  But wait,  none of their friend’s parents want to drive so you take the kids everywhere and pick them up.  The up-side to that?  You know where they are and what they’re doing.  It’s a pain but also, it’s time with those kids you can’t replace.  I cherish it now.  Oh, and sometime in middle school,  girls will want to dye their hair.  You’ll try to fight this.  I finally gave in.

“So, dye your hair.”

“Huh? Really?”

“Sure.  Dye your hair.”

They dyed their hair.  They dyed my hair, sink and walls too but it comes off.  There’s still a spot of dye on the ceiling but it just makes me smile when I see it.  They came out and showed me their dyed hair.  I couldn’t tell they dyed their hair but I said it looked beautiful, because in my eyes it looked absolutely perfect.  It will pass.  It will be hell and you will want to sell them, hide from them (done that – Priceline is great for this), and then damn if you don’t look forward to the happy moments again.  During adolescence they are few.  BUT THEY ARE THERE!

7. YOU WILL BE JUDGED!  Kids will talk to you like shit at this age and you will have other parents & grandparents butt in and tell you how to raise them or how “their kids never talk to them like that — not more than once!”  (I call bullshit).  Sometimes we don’t discipline our kids immediately in public.  It depends on the circumstances, severity and kid.  It’s really no one’s business.  Maybe when the offender gets home the video games are gone for three weeks.  Maybe we tie their hands behind their back at the table and gag them til we’re finished with our dinner.***  Whatever works. 🙂 Don’t let people’s opinions of you affect how YOU raise your kids.   Quite frankly sometimes we joke with our kids in a way that is horrifying to adults (sarcasm, advanced humor) & they stare as though we have them farmed out to be extras in porn or allow them to open for Andrew Dice Clay.  Expect judgment like this.  I didn’t see it coming and it was hard to cope with.

8.  The children will break 3/4 of everything you own in some manner.  They won’t care.  If you so much as chip the corner off one of their Legos by stepping on it with your boot, you, however,  will be subject to severe sanctions involving super glue (that after decades on the market, still fails to attach anything to anything except your finger to your lip)  or searching for “tiny pain-in-the-ass goblet from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Lego set – MINT condition” on eBay. Around 5th grade you grow a pair and throw all evidence of that shit in the trash when you break it, buried inside an empty can of vegetables that they would never touch.  Hint:  They can see them in the clear vacuum canisters 🙂

9. My final reality, because I’m getting sleepy is that when I had kids, I expected, when they were teens,  to be arguing over curfew, yelling “TURN THAT MUSIC DOWN”,  checking for alcohol, dealing with sneaking out,  you know, ALL the stuff you see in movies and on tv when teenagers are referenced.  Now, I’m not stupid enough to think my kid didn’t ever do anything wrong (BAHAHAHA) but for the most part, I think she and her friends have been honest about having designated drivers. She was pretty darn dependable about texting when she stayed over with friends.  We gave her freedom, put some trust out there and she stayed out of trouble, or, as a former teen, myself, I know that at least she was smart enough not to get caught….You’re probably expecting the worst during the teen years but I will forever value my dad’s theory to give me freedom and trust me until I screwed up.  Thank God speeding tickets were not considered screw-ups.

I could preach on, I’m sure, but just know that parenting is an amazing joy ride fraught with laughter, tears, frustration, anger, exhaustion, mass amounts of cash, pride, passion, and sometimes even boredom.  Some days you won’t like each other and THAT IS OK.  Some days you’ll lose your temper and THAT IS OK.  Most of us do the best we can and for the majority of us, THAT IS OK.

Footnotes:

*  I just asked my pediatrician if he takes AETNA.  You may want your interview to be more thorough.  But then my “birth plan” (remember we lived in Colorado – practically required) was: “1) Endure labor as long as I can. 2) Ask for drugs so I won’t feel it. ” Another lady in our class had one that was like 25 pages long and found it NOT funny when I asked if it included meal requests for the hospital stay.

**Okay, that piece of baby advice was mine.  Caught.

***JOKING! PUT THE PHONE DOWN.

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Lone Star Junkie

photo-9Most of you know that I have an affinity for anything Texas.  This past week I took my daughter to her freshman orientation at Texas Christian University, where she has chosen to spend the next four years, furthering her education & spreading her wings.  After my mother’s apartment fire, I thought she too could use a break from her daily grind and asked her to tag along with us.  We shared lots of laughter and had a great time.  Although Ryder, (along with everyone else attending) seemed a little uncomfortable the first day, things seemed much more relaxed on the second and the students seemed to be warming up to one another.  It’s a pristine campus with lots of school spirit (Go, Frogs!) & I think once she gets over the inevitable first few weeks of homesickness, she will fit right in and love it. photo-12 I’m also incredibly jealous of the array of gourmet food available to her in their “Market Square”.  They catered our meal the first night there and it was incredible.  Not the stuff the grouchy old ladies in hair nets served us on trays at my alma mater.  I hope she realizes how lucky she is to have the option of pork tenderloin and homemade mashed potatoes that are to die for.  I had hoped to have her do part of the driving while we were there, mainly so she would have some supervised experience driving in the city before it becomes her home.  She informed me on the way down that she couldn’t as she had let her license expire.  She said it casually in a manner that one might say, “Oh, darn!  I let the milk spoil.”  I suppose not getting worked up over things is a good quality but I would have appreciated a little more attention to detail when it comes to her ability to legally operate a motor vehicle.  (This has since been remedied.)  She also found her lost passport so she can travel internationally, drive legally & purchase lottery tickets.  Woo Hoo!

Our first two nights in Ft. Worth we stayed at a Radisson Hotel north of downtown.  It was quaintly situated between a Liq-O-Rama and a donut shop and a hop, skip and a jump from XTC Cabaret, should we get a hankerin’ for some nudity in the early morning hours.  Every other guest at our hotel seemed to be male and one particular guy appeared to hang out by the elevator and peer up from under the brim of his trucker’s cap when people exited.  Creepy. It’s Texas — at least a “howdy, ma’am” would have been nice.  There was one elderly lady who wore giant rings that hinted she might be able to tell my fortune for a small amount of cash.  The morning we checked out, as I was bathing in the tub that constantly drained as it filled, the couple next door got into a heated argument and my mother and I were extremely happy to use express check-out and head to the university for day two of orientation.

After breaking away from TCU with Ryder completing the steps necessary to be an official Horned Frog, we headed for Dallas and our second hotel, the Omni Park West.  What a change from the Radisson!  They spoiled us with service.  Nearly everyone 0n staff had an Arkansas connection and the accommodations could not have been more perfect.  We even had time for Ryder to nap and for me to lie by the beautiful pool before we headed to North Park Center and Maggiano’s Little Italy for dinner.  Well, not Ryder; she never woke up.  Take-out for her!photo-10

IKEA has gotten to be a regular stop on our trips to the Dallas metro area and I have to tell you, this time I was pretty much over it.  I knew what I wanted, got it and we got out.  It’s almost overwhelming and they rarely introduce new things.  Seems like the same stuff every time and the lights for my kitchen I wanted were out of stock AGAIN.  After picking Ryder up at the hotel and checking out, we hit Nordstrom Rack & got some great deals.  After that, we went to “Nordstrom Full-Price”  and Ryder shopped while my mom and I had a wonderful lunch at Bistro N, which is inside the store.  I do love a restaurant inside a department store.  So old school & so few left.  We then drove Ryder to Chipotle to get take-out (are you sensing a theme?) and headed back to Little Rock.  All in all, a good trip with minimal arguing.  The best kind of trip.

This Friday, because I have lost my ever-loving mind, I am going back to Dallas to take 4 teenage girls to see Tim McGraw on his Two Lanes of Freedom Tour.  I even gave up my ticket for a little time to explore the city alone.  I am indeed nuts but love Dallas.  I love it so much, Chuck & I are thinking we will go back for our anniversary in September for numerous reasons.  We had originally planned to go back to the hotel where we honeymooned, The Brazilian Court, in Palm Beach, FL.  However,  the airfare is a bit high when you can only stay for the weekend.  It just seems more logical to go when we can stay a bit longer.  Considering there are many things we would like to do in Dallas without the kiddos & TONS of great restaurants to try, I think we will hole up in a nice hotel there and explore stuff like the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, George W. Bush Presidential Library & possibly catch a Rangers baseball game.  We may just spend some afternoons poolside.  Twenty years is a long time; we have to do something.  We can do a lot for what we would pay in airfare to Florida.  One of our goals this year is to help each other check off items on our respective bucket lists and this would allow us to each have a couple checked off.  So I think Dallas it is.  I can finally introduce Chuck to Smoke’s wonderful brunch!

With Ryder living there as of August 10th, I may get my fill of the lone star state but right now I’m more than eager to explore!

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A Word on Abercrombie. And Probably Not What You’re Expecting….

The world of social media has been rife this week with criticism of Abercrombie CEO Mark Jeffries and his brash, controversial business plan to market only to the “beautiful people” — those who are thin and “cool” & good-looking.  At first, I thought, “how awful” and I completely agree that he’s a little off his rocker when he has quirks like this and himself could be described as less than attractive.  Might want to sweep off your own front porch there, double-bagger.  But then I got to thinking……..WHY is it socially unacceptable to exclude overweight people and not question how they got that way or why they got that way, yet completely acceptable to consistently demean and make blind assumptions about people, teens included, who are naturally thin?  Overweight people have every excuse in the book: She’s big-boned, her mother was built like that–it’s GENETIC, it’s a thyroid issue, she has a disability & can’t be active, she’s impoverished and uneducated and doesn’t know how to eat healthy, she has a sedentary job, NEED I GO ON?

Yet the underweight set?  They get: Well, she has to have an eating disorder.  She has poor self-image, she starves herself, bless her heart she must not eat, she’s DYING to be thin, I wonder if she’s anorexic or bulimic or BOTH, she’s EMO, do you think her parents are in denial?  Seriously. You have to see the double-standard in this.

I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you that had it not been for Abercrombie in the middle school years of my daughter’s life, she might well have run around naked.  Abercrombie was literally the only place that carried jeans small enough, yet long enough for her tiny frame.  Slim, long, XS, and even God forbid XXS (you’re cringing, admit it)!  There is a tiny part of me that is thankful that this asshole had his obnoxious business philosophy to aid my cool, beautiful daughter.  The loud music and horrid scents, I could have done without.

You might guess that I take this issue rather personally and you’d be right.  I’ve spent a good part of my child’s high school years defending the fact that she is “off-the-charts-skinny”.  I spent many years of my own life doing the same in reference to my own ultra-skinny frame. In fact, right up until I gave birth to the very child I ended up defending.  I remember being at Chuck’s family Christmas dinner three months into my first pregnancy.  I weighed 118 at the start of my pregnancy.  I was 25.  At this point I was probably around 130 lbs & I had eaten a large Christmas dinner at my own family celebration. Not wanting to be rude, I took a few small helpings of what his family had to offer.  His grandmother was the first to speak up and said, “Ain’t you gonna eat?”  I said, with a wan smile, “I am eating – I just had a meal with my own family so I’m not super hungry but this all looks so good.”  Always trying to please, that USED to be me.  She said, hand to God, “You never eat.  You’re gonna kill that baby.”  I was young.  I hadn’t had as many years of being demeaned as I have in me now so I looked to his aunt for support.  She and her husband looked at me and said, “You’re too thin. We never see you eat. It’s not healthy.” (Please keep in mind, they never saw me eat because I lived in Colorado and they lived in Missouri.)  I was crushed.  I felt at that moment like I had never felt before in my life.  I wanted to run, so I did.  Right out the sliding glass doors on the back of the house, into my Ford Explorer and back to my own grandma’s home where there was no judgment.  Just good food and acceptance of who I was and what I looked like.  Another of Chuck’s aunts and my mother-in-law came over to my home apologizing and making excuses for what was just blatant, mean-spirited cruelty and uneducated judgment of someone who, in all honesty, his grandma & aunt barely knew and had NEVER attempted to get to know.  It was, as Dr. Phil calls these little snippets of our life, a defining moment.  I tell this story for a reason………..Can you IMAGINE if I had walked up to his family’s dinner table and said to his grandmother, “You’ve got a lot of food on your plate there, fat ass!  If you keep eating like that you’ll have high blood pressure, heart disease, maybe even keel over from a stroke! Hell, I’m surprised you’re still with us.”  And then she could look to Chuck for support and Chuck could say, “No, really!  I bet you’re about to bust the scales.  Better cut back or you’ll be diabetic!  We see you stuff your face all the time!”  No one would have made excuses for us and they would still be talking about how rude we were today.

There is no difference.  I repeat, there is no difference.

As I said earlier in this post, I have spent 4 years defending my child’s weight. My child that I starved & had a birth weight of almost 7 1/2 pounds!  Never mind the fact that she had a negative weight percentile from about 4 weeks of age.  I joke that she would hold the record for longest-living, healthiest anorexic.  At her school, it’s ok to question the skinny ones, pull them in to social workers’ offices for interviews and accuse the parents of being in denial.  It’s ok to give little condescending looks to parents who have offered medical documentation from experts that their daughter is healthy.  It’s ok to give a pissy, half-hearted, “I’m certainly glad you are staying on top of things” response when you report, with great relief,  that your child doesn’t in fact have a life-threatening genetic disorder that makes her thin and could kill her and the medical experts have declared her “genetically thin”.  I’m so glad you are still able to hold out hope that you might be right & we’re in denial.  EIGHTEEN long years of denial, mind you.

What I want to know is this:  Where is the LONG line of parents whose children attend this school and weigh three times what they should with bellies and breasts pouring out of their tight-knit shirts and pants?  Where do they form a line to be interviewed and grilled and told, “We’re just trying to save your child’s life.”?  I can assure you many of them are closer to heaven’s door than mine is.  WHY is it not socially acceptable to question their parents and conclude that they have poor self-image and stuff their faces with junk food?  WHY is that not politically correct but harassing my child, myself and the Abercrombie CEO is noble?

There is no difference.

I agree that Mr. Jeffries business philosophies are crass, elitist and far from admirable.  He’s more than a little off the beam.  I’ll give you that.  But the fact that you are judging the consumers who frequent his brand & then patting yourselves on the back for being so right-minded is cause for concern in and of itself.  We might better serve ourselves as a nation if we just minded our own business.  Swept off our own doorsteps as I advised Mr. Jeffries to do.  We must realize that judging each other & our children for being thin is as horribly off-base as calling someone fat and lazy. “Beanpole” is as demeaning as “fatso”.  Both imply gross inadequacy.  I know.

If you remember anything after reading this, let it be this:

There is no difference.

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Change is good.

The other night Chuck & I took Brooks to his baseball game.  The boys have to be there early for batting practice/warm-up so we dropped him off and stole a few moments to go grab drinks at the nearby Sonic.  I love my husband dearly but one of my biggest pet peeves is going through a drive-thru with him.  Especially a drive-thru like Sonic that he goes to fifty or more times a year.  A drive-thru whose menu, WITH the exception of adding and dropping jalapeno poppers on a regular basis, has not changed since oh, we were in high school.  (OK, they added breakfast but we never go for that meal, so it doesn’t count.)  A visit to Sonic with Chuck goes much like this:

WORKER:  Welcome to Sonic, may I take your order, please?

CHUCK:  Ummmm……….yes……….I need a……ummmm……..

(Stares longingly at menu AS IF #1 He has never seen it before. #2 It’s filled with all manner of European delicacies to tempt one’s palate.)

WORKER (to herself, I’m sure):  Not that hard Bozo.  You got people behind you……….

CHUCK (after literally 50 FULL seconds):  Uhhhh, yeaaaah, I’ll have a Sonic burger with everything on it…….except cheese.  Well, no.  Make that a Sonic Cheeseburger with everything……

WORKER (undoubtedly rolling her eyes):  Would you like to make that a #1 meal?

CHUCK:  Uhhhh…….yes, with fries and a large sweet tea.  NO!  Make that a cherry limeade!  Yeah, a cherry limeade sounds good!

WORKER (tapping her fingers on cash register while looking away & chewing gum, I’d imagine):  That will be $7.85.  Will that be all?

CHUCK:  Yes.

ME (waving hand):  Me? Over here?

CHUCK:  Oh!  And a grilled cheese sandwich with two sides of pickles and a medium Coke.

WORKER (gritting teeth): Ok, your total is now $10.87.  Please pull forward.

CHUCK:  Oh, can I get tater tots instead of fries on that #1?

WORKER (in her mind):  “OH MY GOD, YOU ASSHOLE, PLEASE PULL FORWARD! AND THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING SONIC!  NEXT TIME GO TO THE ONE ON CHENAL!”

(in reality):  YES.  Thank you for choosing Sonic.  WILL THAT BE ALL???

CHUCK:  Yep, that’s it!  (as if it’s been a damn pleasure to serve him all along)

CHUCK (looks at me in horror):  WHAT TIME IS IT?

ME:  4:58.

CHUCK (losing at least 6 months off his life):  If we had been here at 4:00 the drinks would have been HALF OFF!

This is my life every freaking time we go through a drive-thru.  Every time.  Sonic, McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell….and God FORBID, he be presented with the choices at a KFC/TACO BELL combo.  Please, no.  YES, you can order from both menus at no extra charge, honey.

So, back to the incident at hand.  Every game night, the drive-thru at this particular Sonic is quite busy so we have some time to kill between the order and the delivery.  He’s mustering around in his wallet for bills and the console for change.  He gets out a brown, wood-tone card.

CHUCK:  Oh, I can really annoy you now with my super-annoying yuppieness.  Look at my Starbucks card.  Real wood! SUSTAINABLE.  From a rainforest somewhere.  (Touching it to my leg…)  Wanna feel it?

ME:  As much as I’d love to feel your wood in the drive-thru, we need to pull forward.  The game’s going to START.

Pulls forward and hands the girl his bills and change.

AND THIS IS WHERE I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.  I should have seen it coming.  Probably one of my biggest pet peeves in the giant, VAST, far-reaching land that is known as “Things that irritate the living SHIT out of Noelle,” comes this perennial favorite….

HE HANDS THE GIRL ELEVEN DOLLARS AND TWO CENTS.  Not $10.87, which is the total but $11.02, so that in this world where people are blowing up other people and dropping their kids off at school and disappearing for 11 years & surviving day to day on a handful of rice, my husband can get back a dime and a nickel instead of a dime and three pennies!  No pennies!  My GOD, we cannot have such travesty in our lives as PENNIES!

This bothers me for two reasons: #1  It’s an old man thing and he is all of 44.  (“Soon I’ll be 45!  Won’t be long!”  The man embraces aging in a way Estelle Getty couldn’t in her wildest dreams.)  #2  It’s just inconsiderate.

Inconsiderate??  What kind of an uptight bitch ARE YOU??  (I can hear you.)  YES.  Inconsiderate.  Because in this day and age, Cheerful Sonic Worker has a computer in front of her that’s sole purpose is to help move the drive-thru in an efficient and timely manner.  And my husband just totally fucked with that.  Now granted, the average high school/college student worker should be able to do that in their head.  Please keep in mind, however, this is not the Apple store.  These people get in a rhythm.  You catch them off-guard.  All in the name of NOT HAVING PENNIES IN YOUR PANTS!  Sometimes, you guessed it:  He does it JUST to see me get all worked up.  He’s sadistic like that.  Deriving pleasure from cruelty in the Sonic drive-thru.  Needless to say, now the girl is completely confused & somehow gives him back a dollar more than she should.

Then I say, “You didn’t tip her.”  So he gives her back the dollar and she thinks she’s been tipped, but she hasn’t because she gave us an extra dollar to begin with.  I don’t have the heart to tell her.  I’m horrified!  I still feel guilty about it.  At my funeral, I want people to say, “She was nothing if not a damn good tipper!”  Because I am.

And NONE OF THIS would have happened had I been driving.  None of it. 🙂

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Grandparenting 101 – Observations From The Other Side

DISCLAIMER:  This is not entirely based on my own experience but on many poolside & patio conversations with friends and fellow parents. Some of it is, however, personal.  

I’ll probably pay for this one.  I’ll be written out of wills.  And I hate that because I was so looking forward to being able to slather on the leftover cold cream that is probably bequeathed to me by my in-laws.  But Grandparent’s Day……can we just cut to the heart of what this is all about, o ye school districts, both public and private?  Grandparent’s Day is a day set aside to honor the grandparents of children in said school districts by sucking up to them with such sweetness and adoration that they will feel the urge to get out their checkbooks and donate thousands of dollars or buy a stack of books at the “not-coincidentally-simultaneously-held” book fair that is so heavy they have to make two trips to their Cadillac sedan just to get them home with the child.  This is just a sneaky way of getting grandparents to spend thousands, with the annoying added benefit of cluttering up the kid’s home & pissing off his parents.

My child?  My sweet little boy who DOES love his grandparents very, very much & even enjoys a good stack of books?  BOYCOTTED GRANDPARENT’S DAY. And I let him.  He’s no dummy.  When teachers tell the children, “After your performance & lunch with Granny, your grandparents have the option of taking you home”, my kid hears, “There is absolutely no point in going to school today.”  He’s probably right & so he is home.  My mom took it quite well, I’ll give her that. I’m sure she was disappointed because she loves my kids and loves being there for them.  Lately though, I’ve been wanting to bitch about grandparenting and the image versus the reality, so today Grandparent’s Day is providing me with that jumping off point.

Sometimes I get frustrated with my kids and I complain to Chuck, “This shit would have never happened on the Brady Bunch.  Those Brady kids would never pull a stunt like this.”  Or, “Carol & Mike would sooo know how to handle this situation.  What are we doing wrong???”  Chuck then pulls out the “You do know the Brady Bunch wasn’t realistic, right?”  I come back with “Of course it was realistic.  The Brady grandparents made ONE appearance on the wedding episode & after that did you EVER see them come get those kids so Mike & Carol could have a weekend of hot, uninterrupted sex?  No. Never. They got dressed up, were there for the big event & then they were gone.  THAT shit is real.”  (It’s also quite possible they knew Mike Brady was gay.)

Perhaps I’m jaded, because as a child I lived in the same house with my grandma and great-grandma.  I lived behind my best friend who had older siblings with children and those kids were over at grandma’s constantly.  The grandparents embraced it and wanted it that way.  I see a HUGE difference in what grandparenting used to be and what it is now.  The problem is that many (& I repeat MANY, not all) of the grandparents still want to do what I call “walk the grandparenting runway” —- grandkids in tow, dressed to the nines, waving the wave to their fellow lunch lady grandmas so they can then gloat that  “these are our grandkids…..aren’t they beautiful…….they make such high grades…….they are so good at sports…….”  YET, when it’s time to do the dirty work and take over for a weekend so the parents can escape, they suddenly have work to do, parties to attend, etc.

My dad gets a pass on this one because he is generously keeping the children Labor Day weekend so we can escape for our 20th anniversary.  He didn’t even have to be coaxed!  BUT, herein lies the difference in my dad keeping the kids and many of today’s grandparents:  While we are gone, unless it’s a serious emergency, we will not hear from him.  He will handle what comes his way and should he have a legitimate question like, “Where in the hell do y’all hide the extra toilet paper?”, he will send us a text.  Unless he’s already sitting on the toilet and then we may get a call.  If the kids fight, he doesn’t call us. He handles it.  Every little thing is not an emergency.  Never during the trip or after we return does he feel the need to tell us every little transgression that transpired in our absence.  He doesn’t greet us with 100 concerns over how the kids dress, talk, text, play video games, treat one another, treat him, treat the dog, bathe improperly, eat too little, eat too much, are rude, are lazy, etc.  We get NONE of that, because he understands his role is to be their grandparent and friend, not their parent and prison warden.  And most importantly, he does NOT shower them with gifts to win their love and approval.  He just treats them like kids he could not be prouder of and they can tell he just loves being part of their lives. He will reprimand them if necessary, like a good grandparent should, but he is not constantly preaching to them & criticizing all that they do.  So…….that said, I feel the urge to come to the aid of other grandparents or grandparents-to-be & list some advice for you.  Trust me when I say this will not only help your relationship with the grandkids, but your kids too!  And trust me when I say that I’m glad I won’t need to depend on an inheritance in my elder years, because I’m screwed.  But seriously, some tips:

1) If you have grandkids, I can logically assume you had children.  You got to choose their names.  Your kids get to choose their kid’s names.  Do not offer suggestions or assistance. Do not take it personally if your kid doesn’t name one of his after you.  It doesn’t mean they hate you.  They just hate your name, Gertrude.  And for God’s sake, do not tell your kids how much you dislike their choice of names.  Even if they picked something like Nakkole, Zephyr, or Stump.  As PAINFUL as it will be to watch them write a ridiculous spelling such as Gynniphyr on that birth certificate, it’s really none of your business.  (I fully realize I will have trouble with this one day should it happen to me. Yes,  I realize that. I’m saving these to refer to in my own grandparenting years.)

2) Do not attempt to influence how your children dress their kids.  I was never a frills and bows sort of girl and I didn’t really want my kids to be that way. Yes, even my daughter. As a child, it was, at times, forced upon me and I hated it with a passion.  I also never wanted a bow on my daughter’s head that would be visible on Google Street View.  Easter bonnets were terribly humiliating to me and I did not want one on my own child unless she wanted one.  Do not try to buy your grandkids clothing that reflects YOUR taste and then get mad when the parent doesn’t make the kid wear it.  As a side note, on one side of our family there seems to be a notion that if your children are given something to wear and you don’t put them in it and line them up for a portrait, you are being disrespectful.  This is not true.  Disrespect is doing something you know your child or “child-in-law” doesn’t like and then pouting because you didn’t get your way.

3) Honor the wishes of your children in how they raise your grandkids unless they go totally freaking bonkers with Scientology or become Wiccan.  What I’m referring to here is simple stuff.  If they don’t want their kids to have sugar, respect that.  If they insist in making their kids sit in car seats and wear seat belts, respect that even if your own children “BY GOD,  SURVIVED STANDING IN THE FRONT SEAT & TAKING NAPS IN THE BACK OF THE STATION WAGON!”  Also, I might point out, it’s the law.

4) This may be the most important one yet.  Respect who your grandchildren are.  Do not try to make them what you want them to be.  My daughter is one of the most independent, spirited kids I know.  She was never a girly-girl, never wanted to learn traditional girl things like sewing and cooking, enjoyed being alone & had her own tastes.  Respect and in fact, EMBRACE THAT, even if it’s not what you envisioned your grandchild being.  Can I shout this one from the rooftops?

5) Do not say things about your grandkids based on speculation, not fact.  This has been a huge issue in our marriage/parenting.  I could write a whole book on how the townspeople where I grew up thought I was spoiled.  As a result, we have relatives who immediately thought that my child would be overly indulged and turn out to be a spoiled brat.  It has been assumed that because my daughter gets to go to Italy on a senior trip that she is spoiled.  No one seems to take into account that she works her little butt off babysitting during the school year, works at the pool in the summer and has earned it by being a wonderful kid who made us proud all 18 years of her life.  We have never once told her she has to work; she just chooses to. It bothers me that she doesn’t get respected for that.  Those same relatives assume that my kids are crazy about my dad because he “buys them stuff”.  This has never been further from the truth.  I can’t remember the last thing my dad bought my kids that wasn’t for a birthday or Christmas. He does slip them a $5 or $10 bill now and then because, “A feller oughta have a little money in his pocket.”  So the gist of this one is really, “Mind your own business, don’t make assumptions and keep your mouth shut.”

6)  Realize that times have changed and circumstances are different than when you raised your kids. ( i.e. This ain’t the 70’s!) We get constantly criticized because we do not force all the kids to attend family gatherings.  Hell, we get criticized if WE don’t attend all the family gatherings.  Things have changed, people.  Schools are not as lax about kids being absent. OR, we may choose to put baseball first that weekend because our child made an obligation to his team and coach when he agreed to be part of that team & it’s not fair for him to not be there for them.  Our kids grew up in the city with friends all around and things to do & they may not want to go spend 4 days in a town of 1,800 that, and I quote, “DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A McDONALD’S!”  There is no need to take it personally, but if you constantly criticize a child, chances of them wanting to spend time with you decrease greatly.

7) Understand that once your children are married that they have AT LEAST two families to consider now & sometimes with re-marriage, 3 or 4.  Sometimes you are the one that there isn’t time for on a holiday and PLEASE consider the stress it puts on your kids when you make them feel guilty about choosing.  This one is basically a “Put your big girl – or boy – panties on & realize you don’t always get your way.”

8) If you take your grandkid to the movie, buy him popcorn.  If you take him to the County Fair, let him play games.  If you take him to the town festival, buy him a snowcone.  It’s the little things.  Chances are, if you could afford admission, you can get him a treat.  This is not spoiling your grandchild.  This is avoiding looking like an asshat in his eyes.  Otherwise, just don’t go.  Would you rather them remember that you bought them a grape snowcone or would you rather them remember that you were to cheap to buy one?

9) Don’t go the guilt trip route, ever.  With kids or grandkids.

10)  FINALLY, just enjoy them.  Stop worrying about perfecting them and just enjoy them.

You’re welcome.  Or not.  Your choice 🙂

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