There was a time when Connor kept mistaking sexy, sexy women for me. (It's a cross. I bear it.)
(She and I do have a similar set of, uh, eyes, so I can see how he could have been misled so easily.)
(Read the story here.)
(Silly boy. Don't you know that I have blue eyes, not brown? Otherwise, she is, of course, a deadringer, I must say.)
(Read the story here.)
Last weekend, Jim, Connor, and Natalie sat together, watching football. As a play ended, a camera swooped in for an up-and-under shot of a cheerleader, whose midriff was all sorts of tan and taut and toned.
"What would you like to find for Mama?" Jim asked Connor.
"Hmm," he replied.
"What do you think Mama needs most?" Jim asked, spurring Connor's thinker along.
"Well, what she needs most of all is laundry-folding robot."
(I do, I do. He is so right. I do.)
"That might be tough to find, but it is good idea," Jim agreed. "What else could she use? How does Mama spend her days?"
"Well, mostly getting frustrated with Natalie and driving us around," Connor noted.
(I love how he misplaces the blame, as far as my frustration is concern.)
And although I know that I shouldn't put my mad detective skills to work to figure out what Jim and Connor came up with for me, what is a girl to do? Sleuthy old me, I know just what the boys found for me: the stunt double that I have been pining for. Oh, happy day.
Connor arrived home from school on Friday with a backpack full of holiday-themed art projects.
Here, we have his mug on a wreath, fit to be tied:And here, he elfed himself:(I'll admit it: I snort—in a lady-like fashion, mind you—every time that I look at Connor Elf. Jim and I have thought from day one that Connor resembles a wood nymph, so the elf—complete with hippity-hoppity legs—is just perfect.)
But, even better, is that Connor's drawing resembles the découpaged, avant-garde, er, masterpiece—yes, that's the word that I was searching for: masterpiece—that I made as a five-year-old kindergartner, way back in the day:Same age, same grade, and we even have the same feet and the same smile.
Follow the links below to see more of our artistic endeavours.
We have been listening to heaps of Christmas music 'round these parts. I used to be all about the holiday music that I listened to as a child: Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin. You know, the biggies.
My ears are tired.
This year, we're listening to Ray Charles, Keb' Mo', Zee Avi, Sheryl Crow, Michael Bublé, The Puppini Sisters, and Jack Johnson, among others.
That Jack Johnson, he just might be my folk hero, a guitar-slinging one at that, all because he sings the best version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ever.
He makes his way through all the usual lines about Rudy's nose and the teasing he endured, the request that he serve as a headlight of sorts, and the other reindeer's change of heart when they realize, hey, he's got something that we want. But then, Jack Johnson sings,
Well, Rudolph, he didn't go for that.
He said, 'I see through your silly games.
How can you look me in the face
When only yesterday you called me names?'
Well, all of the other reindeer, man,
They sure did feel ashamed.
'Rudolph, you know, we're sorry.
We're truly gonna try to change.'
This old girl—who, during Natalie's biting phase, told Connor to say "Thank you," and not "That's OK," when Natalie apologized with a pouty, downcast, "Sowwy, Con-nuh"—has played the song over and over and over again. Because, really, that is some of the best character-building stuff, right there: Stand up for yourself. Confront the tormentors, the bullies, the kids at the playground or bus stop or playing field or dorm who tease you because your nose or freckles or smile or height or weight or speech or ethnicity or gender just don't suit their fancy. Hold them accountable. Don't let them get away with it. And, most of all, respect and honor yourself enough to do that.
Chompy Natalie's biting Connor wasn't OK, and we did not want Connor to acknowledge her apology with a "That's OK," because, whether or not either one of them was consciously aware of it, by saying, "That's OK," Connor might as well have said, "Why, yes, Natalie, do feel free to bite me any time your frustration gets the better of you. I'll keep accepting the hurt and the pain. Go on, now. Set your teeth right here, sister."
Acknowledge the hurt. Demand an apology. Accept the apology with a thank you and move on.
Anyway, Jack Johnson. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Give it a listen.10 Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
I've said it once, and I'll say it again: There is no such thing as a "quick stop" when little ones are in tow.
Yesterday's shopping escapade: I snap a photo of the Santa portrait, not realizing that the fire extinguisher behind me is reflecting in the glass pane that covers the portrait. Only once I upload the photo do I see that St. Nick looks so very prepared should he get distracted while roasting chestnuts over an open fire.
While making tracks toward the store's exit, a metal bin with sparkly snowflakes painted on it catches my eye. Natalie and Connor are attending a friend's snowflake-themed birthday party on Saturday. Maybe the bin could serve as a tote of sorts for the gift I've purchased.
I struggle to wrest the bin free. It's handle, which stands upright, like the handle on a basket, reaches right to the bottom of the display shelf above it. I turn the snowflake bin on its side, and, as I finally have it in my clutches, the metal shelf that it was wedged under gives way. (The snowflake bin's handle, it seems, supported the left side of the shelf. Genius.)
Christmas decor falls to the floor. A metal angel: Decapitated. The star atop a ceramic Christmas tree: Shattered.
A sympathetic shopper at the other end of the aisle looks and yells, "Run! There's nothing to do now but run!"
Another shopper, whose sweatshirt bears the words NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW, says, "I saw what happened. You're not at fault. You're not liable."
Witnesses, I think to myself. Good.
I line up the fallen items on the floor, against the lowest shelf, placing the angel's head at her feet; the bits of the star, at the base of the tree. I wander off, Natalie's hand in mine, to find an employee to let him or her know, "Clean up. Aisle three."
I spot one restocking ornaments in the next aisle over and make my way toward her. Natalie, whose mood deteriorated rapidly an aisle or two ago when she mistook another woman for me and reached for her hand, pushes over a six-foot-tall Christmas tree. No warning. No tantrum as a preamble. She just steps up, extends her arms, and gives it the old heave-ho.
(Full disclosure: It was a purple Christmas tree, so it kind of had that coming. But, still, no "Timber!" crankypants?)
Thank goodness there were no ornaments or lights on the tree. There were, however, two dozen other Christmas trees in its path, some forest green, one hot pink, one lime green, one bright orange.) As I scurry to stop a domino effect, I have visions of a store manager escorting us out. Again.
I upright the purple tree and scold Natalie, all the while avoiding eye contact with the older couple watching me but pretending to look at ornaments. I tell the store employee, "There's broken glass, it seems, in the next aisle," and Natalie and I take our long overdue leave.
As we skulk home, listening to Michael Bublé sing White Christmas, I realize that I had put down the snowflake bin while keeping the Christmas trees from toppling and had forgotten about it completely. Ain't that the way they say it goes.
About those trees: Purple? Hot pink? Lime green? And bright orange Christmas trees? Just where do I shop?
I've never been one for even slightly scary stuff: I don't know how the Wizard of Oz ends. (Once those flying monkeys come out, I'm done.) I haven't ever gotten past the part in Alice in Wonderland where Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole. (So, you know, the first scene.) I'm delicate.
Natalie seems to be, too.
She and I went to a craft store last week, just for a bottle of Mod Podge. We left with a hodgepodge. (I'm not so sure that I like it when that happens.)
About a dozen of the store's aisles were dedicated to Christmas and all of its trappings: dishware, wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, greeting cards, trees, tree skirts, ornaments, garland, wreaths, wall decor, lawn decor. Oh my.
Natalie studied all the thousands of ornaments, and I do mean "all." She peeked down another aisle as we strode by and, seeing all the green and red and silver decor, she looked up at me and whispered, "Santa Claus is a real man." Then, she tiptoed back in the opposite direction.
That night at dinner, apropos of nothing, Natalie stopped eating, pouted like no one has ever pouted before, and whimpered, "I don't want Santa in our house."
I needed just two minutes last week to reply to an e-mail regarding something HUGE that I have been working on. I needed my sweet little doting urchins to let me sit in the office alone for just those few moments so that two minutes wouldn't morph into 20.
"Oh, I know!" I said, "You can write letters to Santa!"
"Oh! Yay!" Natalie grabbed the plastic tote of crayons, clambered into a chair at the dining room table, and started scrawling away.
Connor stayed put, sitting on the floor, playing with Holly and Liza. He glanced at me, amused, and said nothing.
"C'mon, Connor. You, too," I said, beckoning him toward me, exaggerating my gestures and making him belly laugh.
His face flushed a bit. He smirked.
He knows, I thought. He has figured out this whole Santa Claus farce.
"What's up, Connor?" I asked, not wanting to let on that I think that he knows. "Why don't you join Natalie?"
"Hmm," he said, standing up slowly, still smirking. "Well, I suppose."
He sat across from Natalie and took a crayon from the pile.
I scampered off to the office to make the most of my stolen two minutes.
Two days later, we three listened to John Lennon's Imagine. Well, Jack Johnson's rendition of it, anyway. Connor sang along, but then swapped out the lyrics for his own: "Imagine there's a Santa."
Click the links below to read more about the evolution of Connor's doubt.
the man. the myth. the sledding.Lori has won the T. Michael Studio gift certificate. She wrote, "Nothing can compare to Natalie's need for comfy mittens for her 'fums,' but I did see several great things on the T. Michael website. Happy Holidays to you and your family!"
Thank you, Lori. Send you address, and I'll get that gift certificate out to you in no time. :)
We've had a handful of rainy, cold days here, and Natalie has been all about her muck boots, wearing them with jeans and skirts, dresses and pjs and, even, just undies.
She walked beside me from the living room to the front door, and she was not walking gingerly, let me tell you.
It is icy cold here. My hands are chapped. I shiver perpetually. I'm goosebumpy.
Bringing sexy back. That's me.
I pile on the winter duds when I take out the pups. Those two little redheaded snippets are seemingly impervious to the cold and take their sweet time outside: romping, taking care of business, rooting for truffles.
(What else could they possibly be doing when they plunge their wee little chocolate-chip noses down to the roots of the lawn?)
Sometimes they just sit, one behind the other, and watch the world go by. Airplanes. Birds in flight. The fifty-some-odd ducks on the pond. Holly and Liza could sit for hours, just taking it all in.
That would be sweet and pleasant and enjoyable in autumn and spring. It isn't so pleasant in the high 20s, low 30s of early December. Not for this girl, who thinks that 83 degrees just might be the perfect outdoor temperature.
This afternoon, I just couldn't take the frigid air any longer—it hurt when my goosebumps so much as touched the denim of my jeans—so I slipped into my big-of-waist, long-of-leg flannel-lined jeans. I thought for sure that I wouldn't need to bring out the big guns until mid-January. But here we are: It's early December, and we still have a big old chunk of cold weather to conquer before warmer months make their way back around the calendar.
I realized this afternoon as I stood shivering in the yard that I so totally get that whole northern-states-to-southern-states snowbird thing. Jim calls Florida "Southern Long Island" because so many from the northeast flock to the Sunshine State upon retirement. My paternal grandmother did. My parents have. Several aunts and uncles have. I understand the lure of that now: The older I get, the less I tolerate the cold.
I haven't always been so difficult persnickety frail delicate: I used to be hardy. I grew up in New York, where snowfall didn't instill panic like it does in places that see less snow, less frequently. (Bread! Milk! Toilet paper! Need it! Want it! Got to, got to, got to have it!) I skated on frozen ponds. I swooped down hills on my Radio Flyer. I tobogganed. I dug tunnels through six-foot-high snowbanks. I made snowmen and snow angels and snowballs.
I romped. I tromped. I reveled in the messy white stuff.
I loved how fresh snow, free of footprints, sparkled under the moon. I liked how sand scattered by sand trucks looked like brown sugar sprinkled on top of white sugar. And I liked how that made me want to scurry home and make chocolate chip cookies from scratch.
No more, I tell you. Ice that once slipped me up and shattered my elbow makes me all sorts of anxious. Snowy, icy roads that sent my car spinning make me edgy.
And nothing makes me want to crawl up under an electric blanket more than the thought of the layers upon layers of winter clothing, the cold, the wet, the eventual numbness that encouraged me as a kid to tell my playmates, "Yeah, you know what? My eyeballs? They've frozen. Notice how I'm just, like, staring? I'm thinking that it's probably about time that I go inside. Drink some cocoa. Defrost. Emerge from the hat and hood, scarf and mittens, coat and snow pants, boots and multiple pairs of socks. Bend my arm at the elbow again; my legs at the knees."
This evening, Connor bundled up in a heavy coat. He donned a beanie and his hood and mittens. I wore my thickest, warmest gloves, fleece-lined jeans, a shirt, a sweatshirt, and one of Jim's fleece zip-ups over all of that. (I didn't want the pups' nails and teeth to mess with my scarf and coat, and, well, to be completely honest, Jim's fleece zip-up was so large on me that I could draw my hands into the sleeves and keep them all the more warm.)
Natalie scurried about, dressing herself: Coat. Chunky knit hat. And muck boots, just because she can.
I heard her say to herself, "My mittens! I need my mittens!" And then she galumphed into the kitchen.
Natalie has no mittens, no gloves. I haven't bought her any because the process of helping a little bitty hand into a glove, navigating sweet tiny fingers into their proper places is surely one of the most patience-testing tasks ever. The hands ball into fists. The thumb can't ever seem to find where it belongs. Each finger is in the wrong slot. The digits are naked mole rats, blind and lost in the dark tunnel that is the glove.
So, Natalie has no mittens, no gloves. (She does, however, have a lovely selection of chunky knit hats. So, you know, there's that.)
But back to the story. Recapping, Natalie declared her need for mittens.
"Natalie? What mittens?" I called.
I heard a clang.
And then a bang.
And then my little resourceful miss rounded the corner, wearing the little red gingham oven mitts that she uses with her play kitchen.
I melted, bitter cold temps and all.
"We really need to buy some new mittens, Mommy." She scrunched up her face. "These tickle my 'fum,'" she explained, mispronouncing "thumb."
I know now to put mittens at the tippy top of Natalie's needs/wants list. Tell me in a comment one item that is on your list of wants or needs. One commenter will win a $30 gift certificate good for a purchase from T. Michael Studios.Timothy Michael Kelly makes custom carved plaques and home goods from slate that he has reclaimed from buildings and barns built during the early 1800s through 1900s.
We have the "No Soliciting" sign and love it. Rustic. Classy. One of a kind. Just perfect.
Submit your comment by this Friday, December 9. Connor will draw a comment from a hat that evening. I'll post the winner's name, and I'll contact him or her by e-mail. If you'd like two chances to win, like bug and the sweet banana on Facebook.
Many thanks for reading my little blog, commenting, and sharing!
Ready. Set. Go.
Dinnertime at my childhood home: Little House on the Prairie has just ended. My sisters and I finished our homework an hour or so ago. The five amber lights of the wagon wheel chandelier—yes, you read that right—reflect in the country kitchen's bay window.
Egg noodles, beef stew, green beans, and dinner rolls steam on five dark brown plates. Dad puts a stack of Neil Diamond records on the turntable. (You read that right, too. I'm a child of the 70s.) Each night, Solitary Man, Forever in Blue Jeans, and Kentucky Woman bellow through our house.
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show began every night just as my father began to pour milk into a trio of glasses. And every night, he would put down the Sunnydale Farms half-gallon carton, clap and dance around the table, singing, "Pack up the babies, grab the old ladies, and everyone goes."
My father claps loud. Windows rattle. Plates jump. Our German shepherd, Herné, scampers to the living room, her nails clacking and her feet slip-sliding on the gold linoleum. The floor seems to bounce with Dad's dancing. My sister Bobbie sticks out her tongue, giggles, and claps along with Dad.
That happened every night for years.
I had grand plans for Thanksgiving. Well, grand for low-key me, anyway.
We spent the long holiday weekend in El Paso, where Jim's parents and some of his siblings and their families live. I envisioned Connor and Natalie playing with their cousins and bundling up to walk to a nearby playground. I saw myself talking with my sisters- and brothers-in-law and helping to prepare dinner. I wanted dibs on potato-peeling. I love peeling potatoes.
I imagined us holed up in our hotel room at night, me in my comfy-cozy flannel jammies; Connor, Natalie, and Trouser snoozing the night away. I figured I'd address our holiday cards while watching movies with Jim and eating Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia right from the carton.
So much for grand plans.
Our holiday cards—which were due to arrive early in the week—never showed up due to a printer error, as well as a shipping error, and I spent most of our visit hunkered down in the hotel room, snuggling a plastic bowl, courtesy of a stomach virus. No potato-peeling for this girl. No Cherry Garcia either. Just me, my jammies, and my bowl.
Before the stomach bug made its grand entrance, I did get to just stand in a doorway of our hotel room and spy on Natalie and Connor while they watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.And once we arrived at the Linney house, Jim found an old basketball and he and I tried to out do each other on the basketball court. Connor pedaled a Big Wheel between us, and Natalie set up an obstacle course of pine cones.When Jim went inside to help his mom with dinner preparations, someone—who may or may not have been me—gave the Big Wheel a whirl.
Let's just say that it has been a while since this old girl has rumbled across pavement on a Big Wheel, let alone one that lists starboard.
Watching me out the kitchen window, it didn't take long for Jim to realize, "Yeah. You know, I do. I really, really do. I want to be just. like. Jenny." And so, he took a spin on his niece's old bicycle, flat tire and all, with Connor in hot pursuit.
An afternoon piano concert followed.
The word on the street is that Connor and Natalie did make it to the playground, after all.And they watched Cinderella alongside their Grandpa Linney and played tirelessly with their cousins, Austin and Aden.
Not too shabby.