Wordless Wednesday, Only Friday, and With Words. So, Not Really.

Dane has a Tripp-Trapp chair. It’s made by Stokke. They’re Norwegian.

I purchased the associated seat cover. It comes in two pieces. The seat-back portion remains uninstalled.

Perhaps you’re curious as to why? I thought you might be. Allow me to share.

F***ing. Scandinavians.

Smooch -s

p.s. I lived there. If anyone would know, it’s me.

p.p.s. While I would love for Stokke to drop on by and pay me some cold hard cash for my ringing endorsement of their product, no, I did not get paid for my ringing endorsement of their product.

p.p.p.s. Sorry, Mom.

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Hidden Places

My father’s parents, before they died, lived in a rural area off Possum Kingdom Lake, just outside of Graham, Texas. They owned a chunk of land anchored by a double-wide trailer and a shed out back where my grandfather could build what seemed like anything. It was full of saws and drills and clamps and sawdust and was irresistible and terrifying all at the same time.

The trailer had at least three porches, not counting the carport. From the smallest one out back, I watched the blackbirds roost in the huisatche trees near the shed, but otherwise that porch went unused. We spent most of our time making peach ice cream and chasing wild kittens on the side porch and sitting in the splintered swing out front, watching the green and brown water of the lake glisten and stagnate in the blistering summer heat.

The back porch was a hidden place. You had to sneak behind the dining room table to get to it and then wedge open a door that creaked like it hadn’t been opened in fifty years, and even then only a kid the size of a green bean could slip through. Tethered to the porch was an old pitchfork-style clothesline leading the fifty feet towards the shed. There were burrs in the grass that kept you from venturing out there, and the possibility of snakes, and more than a little fear of the man who kept the shop.

I loved my grandfather but I was scared of him, too. I’m a fifth generation Texan, which means some of my forefathers’ hot-blooded, rustic-independent spirit has been buried under my love for designer shoes. My grandfather, however, was a tribesman of that earlier, unfenced Texas, where men still surged across the flats and hills and bluffs carrying nothing but sweat and leather, and later, the impenetrable grime and haze of oil, and beat the land into submission. They were proud, and untiring, and sometimes dangerous, and often honest to a fault. They lived fiercely. They may not all have had the vocation, but in spirit they were all cowboys.

Like most kids, I got in the way a lot, especially in a place where the most exciting thing to do was walk the gravel road to the lakeside snack truck and buy a frozen Twix and a Sunkist. There were more than a few times my grandfather mowed me down with a stare and a yard-long stream of dip spit. But there were hidden places in him, too. He called me Suzy, for example, which had been forbidden by my mother since birth. He built me a jewelry box, and a clock in the shape of an outhouse, and a pencil holder made of two blocks of wood with holes drilled into it for the pencils. All three of those are still in a box in my attic. And when I was seven or eight, he hung a swing from two pieces of yellow braided rope in the scrap tree in the front yard. I sat on that swing for hours. I’d talk to myself and pretend and sing to the rabbits and the turtles sunning themselves on the lakeshore and the tourists zipping by in their speedboats. Summer after winter after summer I would go back and that swing would still be there. I had a lot of cousins (and obviously, Aunt Brookie), but I always believed that no matter who used it, that swing was just for me. It was my hidden place with my grandfather.

When my grandfather died, I was a dangerously stupid nineteen-year-old college freshman. I was so busy with classes and boys and trying to figure out where the next drink was coming from, I never processed his loss. It’s been more than fifteen years, and I’m only now realizing how much I miss him. He wasn’t an ideal man. He had many faults and many faces and I’m lucky to remember the ones that I do, but he lived with fire and he loved with ferocity. I see his picture or sometimes just look at my dad and I remember the blackness of night and the screaming of the cicadas and the tree frogs, the wet-fresh smell of the lake under the sickly sweetness of Skohl, and I understand a little more about my commitment to hard work and sweat equity and taking no bullshit. And that some parts of me, of us all, are hidden, too.

Yee-haw, y’all.

Smooch -s

p.s. It’s funny the places writing takes you. I’d almost forgotten about that swing until I started writing this. And suddenly I realize it’s the center of my memories of my grandfather, and I miss him more than I have in a decade just sitting here, thinking of it. And I feel closer to him, too.

p.p.s. Yes, Possum Kingdom Lake is one and the same as the really awesome Toadies song that you’ll now have stuck in your head for the next hundred days. You’re welcome. -s

Upside-Down Funking and Other Musings.

No, that’s not a typo. MY MOM READS THIS, PEOPLE. Well, sometimes.

Y’all might’ve noticed I’ve been in an, ahem, funk lately. Focusing on the negative, feeling sorry for myself, yadayadayada. In the spirit of turning my funk upside down (which might not have any effect on my mood but would make for an interesting story over cocktails), I present the positive-focusing, endorphin-inducing, might-just-change-my-life-forever (or at least remind me of how good I have it) list of:

TEN THINGS THAT MAKE MY LIFE WAY, WAY EASIER

*Completely different from the list of Ten Needs of the SFB Mommyhood, mostly because none of these require kidnapping Tim Gunn or averting nuclear oblivion with a Mr. Clean product.

1. List-Making: Thank you, God, for all of your gifts, but most especially for Sharpie pens, engineering paper, my Drafting 101 prof who taught me how to number, letter and outline, and binder clips. Speaking of:

2. Binder Clips: Things I’ve used a binder clip for in the last week: bra closure, attaching a towel to the bottom of my Swiffer, hair clip (yes, seriously), massive tax preparation organization and diaper closure. Okay, that last one is an exaggeration but for real, y’all, IT JUST MIGHT WORK.

3. Starbucks.

4. Aunt Brookie: Aunt Brookie, I swear, is an encyclopedia of s**t that can go wrong with your kids and how to fix it. That might, in fact, be her Indian name:  She Who Fixes S**t that Goes Wrong With Sister’s Kids. Kind of like Princess Running Stream, but, you know. Not.

5. Naptime.

6. The Monster at the End of the Book, The Monster at the End of the Book Pt. II, Angry Birds, Fisher Price Animal Sounds, Fisher Price Puppy Parts, Etc.: I fought the smartphone for years (conveniently, those years were spent in Denmark where I didn’t really need one.) and OHMYGOD how wrong can one person be? Because even if I didn’t use my phone for anything but kid apps (because I promise I don’t have the EOnline app, uh-huh, RIGHT.), that would be enough.

7. My Mom and Dad: They’ve put up with me all these years, so I suppose they rate. 🙂 SMOOCH, Mmmm-Mmmm.

8. Any Whole Foods with a Hot Bar: I can cook five things. Of those, only four require the actual application of heat. Which means, I think, that I can only cook four things. You see where this is going.

9. Benadryl, Ny-Quil, Tylenol P.M. and Tequila: All of which have the magical power to HELP ME SLEEP LIKE THE DEAD.

and, FINE, I’ll admit it (but just this once, honey, don’t go getting all puffy and whatnot):

10. My Loving Spouse: Who, with his weird taste in sci-fi, bad jeans and muscle tees, completely negated my coolness, but who also manages to make me laugh when I want to throw something at him, picks up milk, pizza and Pei Wei whenever I ask, mows the lawn, makes a decent bartender and is the best dad I know.

Plus, he had a hand in this:

Whatever, dude.

Smooch -S

p.s. Linking up with Shasta (FAB, lady!) at The Good Life for Monday Listicles (because we all know how I love a good list).

Toddler = Brutal Dream Crusher, The Sequel

The sleep backsliding in our house continues.

Friday and Saturday wake-up times: 0600.

Today’s wake-up: 0530.

(Let’s not pretend I didn’t see this coming.)

HOWEVER.

Have I mentioned I have the best neighbors on. the. planet.? Why yes, yes, I do. AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY:

So I was in a total crappy pity party mood on Friday. Dane’s getting (the aforementioned) tooth (or possibly two) (I mean, COME ON.). We’ve been getting a lot of early-toddler no’s lately, but haven’t hit the toddler tantrum stage yet… until Friday, when he woke up at 0600 and spent the first twenty minutes of both his day and mine screaming because, oh, I don’t know, THE SCHOOL BUS DOESN’T SHOW UP AT OUR HOUSE UNTIL SEVEN A.M. (He’s sort of obsessed with buses. He does not get that from me.).

I get it. He doesn’t have control over his emotions. He’s not the adult. He’s an innocent toddler with a solid independent streak, but who still wants to be held, oh, 70% of the time. He lays his head on my chest every naptime and every bedtime and about 100 times in between.

I didn’t snap at him (Yay me, right? It’s good I’m the adult in this relationship). I might have sighed heavily a few times. I went for a walk with a friend and bitched about it for ten minutes with him in earshot, maybe. But other than being a little grouchy, I wasn’t too terrible. He was exhausted, is exhausted, but we had a busy day and he did fine. And yet:

I spent all day trying to figure out how to reconfigure my toddler. I see the dark circles under his eyes. I understand that the crying jag this morning had more to do with the discomfort in his mouth and the fact that he woke up at least half an hour before he should have, rather than that the bus was an hour away. And so I spent all day wondering: What am I doing wrong? Why do I suck as a mom? Why can’t I help him sleep? Do I need to move his schedule forward/backwards/sideways? Better curtains in his room? Lullabies on or off? Should we chuck it all and move to Hawaii? I sleep better on the beach, after all.

I try to find happy endings to posts (or at least, conclusive endings) (okay, fine, ENDINGS). I don’t really have one today (the pity party hasn’t completely ended. Sorry.). So instead, let me return to my neighbors, which, if you remember from 500 words ago and possibly the longest digression in blogging history, was the original hook. Friday afternoon, after Dane took a super short nap at a time when he needed at least a two-hour-er, I headed down the street to see the bus and, subsequently, my neighbor. I might have told her a little about my frustration. Here’s what she said:

“Want some wine? Or a Mike’s Hard Lemonade?”

If that weren’t enough, she went inside, got a big plastic cup and filled it up with ice and alcohol. And then put Dane in the swing in her backyard and pushed him around until he was all giggly and happy. Just as we were about to head home, her youngest son (five) came up and started pumping Dane’s arm up and down like a tire jack. Dane didn’t appreciate this, but y’all, I was busy, you know, GULPING MY DRINK (yes, while holding him on my hip) (insert unfit mother joke here). And instead of looking at me like (said) unfit mother (or calling CPS) (or possibly both), my neighbor just reached over, took Dane’s arm from her little guy, and poured the rest of her bottle into my cup. And that, my friends, is why we live in the best neighborhood in the block.

See y’all tomorrow, huh? Bright and early. 🙂

Smooch -s

Toddler = Brutal Crusher of Dreams. For Real, Y’all.

Perhaps you heard my wail of anguish this morning.

No? You must live in Canada. Or Portugal. Or possibly on the moon. (All this according to my husband. He’s a helpful kind of guy.)

Still no? Well, then, LET ME RECAP YOU, FRIENDS.

(Yep, it’s going to be that kind of post. I should really install oh sh*t handles on this blog. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Also, mom, dad, in-laws and any other foolhardy soul who has a lingering good impression of me, there will be cussing. Just, you know, FYI.).

Anyway, so:

THE SCENE

 0610 hours. Zoom in on tired mommy, head buried in pillow. Light in hallway switched on by helpful husband, sound of dryer door opening. And then, small voice:

“Mama? Mama? Mama? Mama? Mama?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

You see, I haven’t mentioned that for the last ten days – since Daylight SAVING Time, in fact – Dane has been sleeping until seven in the morning. This may not seem late to some of you, who have happy, late-slumbering children. Forgive me if I hate you (I promise, it’s only temporary. When Dane’s 17 and sleeping until noon, we’ll be cool.). My wee guy, however, wakes up somewhere between the ass crack of dawn and well before the rooster crows. And when Daylight SAVING Time rolled around, we up in the SFB ‘hood had the awesome idea of, you know, not changing a thing, and sure enough, Dane’s wake-up time shifted to SEVEN FREAKING ACLOCK, Y’ALL (also, pretty sure that’s not how you spell “o’clock,” but if you have an issue with that, get your butt up at SIX. A.M. TOMORROW.). And oh heaven, how we rejoiced.

And then.

Perhaps you know I have a THING with karma. Karma hates me. I know this, she knows this, the internet knows this, yadayadayada. As a result of my constant war with karma, I’ve been crazy careful to only sparingly mention the whole late-sleeping baby business to anyone, and even then have ended any conversation about said baby with -but I’m sure it’s just a short reprieve and/or we’re still expecting him to adjust. And that was true, too, for the first three or four days. But then three days turned into a week and a week into ten days and OHMYGOD Y’ALL HE’S GOING TO SLEEP UNTIL SEVEN ALL SUMMER AND I’M GOING TO GET MY LIFE BACK AND START RUNNING AGAIN AND NO LONGER DEPEND ON STARBUCKS FOR MY SANITY.

And then, and then.

Yesterday, Dane woke up at 6:30. Not too early right? No big deal. And then today, 6:10. And yes, sure, these two days could just be an anomaly or the result of my husband turning on the freaking hall light at six in the morning (he did), or that Dane’s dinner last night consisted of three strawberries and half a piece of oatmeal bread (it did), or even that Dane’s getting yet another tooth (he is and OMG can we please just get this kid dentures already, I’M. NOT. SLEEPING.). Maybe there was a noise outside his window or the moon was in Aquarius or a butterfly flapped its wings in Shanghai. But I know better. And so, tomorrow, when you hear the faint echo of a tormented mommy wailing outside your window, well before the sun has the temerity to show itself over North Carolina, or Canada, or Portugal, or wherever you are, let me just say in advance: Good. Freaking. Morning. Y’all. 🙂

Note fully dressed toddler squatting in my EARLY MORNING SHADOW.

Smooch -s

p.s. Thank you to Cynthia at Commonplace Crazy for sharing that “Daylight Savings Time” is actually “Daylight SAVING Time.” This information has allowed me to act superior to my family, friends and neighbors ALL DAMN WEEK. WIN.

Grace

The house I grew up in – the one I really grew up in, with the lime-green tree-pattern wallpaper in my room and green shag carpet – had a side patio off the hallway between my parents’ room and mine. My mom grew everything imaginable out there. When I was four years old, I found her out on that patio, looking through a box of photos and crying. I went to see her and although I don’t remember the exact order of what happened next, I know she picked me up, whispered something like I love you and smushed her cheek to mine. I remember her smell, too, but it’s indescribable, something I know more from instinct than olfactory response. My knowledge of these events isn’t so much recollection as an imprint of my childhood.

My mom learned what I so snarkily call mommyhood before she ever had Aunt Brookie or me. She was the oldest of six children and she helped raise most of them, and when I was very young, two of her younger brothers died. As a sibling and parent, I find that unimaginable. I don’t remember my older uncle, Larry, but I have some memory of Tim, who we lost when I was three. The day I found my mother on the patio, she was sorting through photos of him. Tim lived on our couch for a while; my clearest memory of him is that he once took Aunt Brookie and me to the zoo in his van. He smoked cigarettes and we went into the snake house. It may not seem like much, but it’s another imprint. Something that happened before I knew how to remember.

Tim died driving a water truck on an oilfield road in West Texas. My first job after college was as an engineer trainee in Odessa (the town that “Friday Night Lights” (the book) was written about and “Friday Night Lights” (the t.v. show) was modeled after). I worked a lot of the same fields. It was my first time to live more than an hour from my parents, and it was a remote, lonely place for a just-out-of-college twenty-three-year-old. I spent a lot of midnights driving down the same roads Tim did, with the coleche glimmering and the endless sky opening 360 degrees onto the flats of West Texas. I can tell you if you’ve never been to Odessa that the sky there will lay your soul bare. Whatever your sins are, they’re hard to hide from a badlands sky.

So I would be driving down these white gravel roads and the air would shimmer in the moonlight and country music would be on the radio and just for a fraction of a second I’d get a whiff of cigarette smoke and the rank alive smell of caged animals and glance in my rearview and justalmost see Tim there in the backseat.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not a new-age kind of girl. I don’t believe in ghosts and vampires and things that go bump in the night (anymore. sort of.). Tim’s presence in my life is more basic than supersition or belief system or scientific rational or bayou hoo-doo. He’s just here. All these (many) years later, I still feel him; right now, for example, I’m pretty sure he’s looking over my shoulder and laughing at me. And possibly wishing for a beer.

Dane’s getting big enough to start having his own imprints. He knows me by my footsteps in the hallway and the softness of my robe. He points to pictures of my mom and dad on the wall and says Mmmm-Mmmm for Mimi and Bumpa for Granpa. He points off into empty corners, too, and when I turn around all I catch is a glimpse of might-have-been. It could be anything: the curtains moving or the shadows and sunlight on the rug. It could be nothing. But I believe that children have grace in the most basic sense of the word, the gift of not having lost sight of things just beyond the midline of our vision. The same kind of openness and clarity that looks down on you from the West Texas sky. And so, I choose to think Dane is pointing at Tim.

We were eating dinner one night a year or two after I found my mom on the patio, and at the time I had a habit of eating my food one “portion” at a time: potatoes first, for example, and then peas, and then chicken (fried steak), etc. Mom was watching me and tears welled up in her eyes, and she said Tim used to eat like that. I think of that now and as a mother and a sister I not only wish I could go back and hold her the way she held me as a child, but that I could go back and see them all together, all six of them. I look at Dane and my nieces and nephews and remember the softness of my mother’s cheek and the acrid scent of an unfiltered smoke, and from those things, I find grace. And how lucky, lucky we are.


Smooch -s

p.s. Mom, I love you.

(Posthumous) Today in the Mommyhood, Day 507 (St. Patrick’s Day Edition)

Yesterday, a friend and I went downtown to run an 8k for St. Patrick’s Day. Never mind that I haven’t run anywhere but to the Whole Foods cookie bin in six months, because I’m pretty sure I’m invincible. Right?

So we get there and we get this magical end of the rainbow parking spot and we’ve been listening to Journey and Kansas and Britney and we’re all amped up and ready to go. And the square is full of festival tents and parade floats and beer drinkers and girls in green satin booty shorts and cowboy boots (like the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, only, well, not.). We head off to the bar sponsoring the run and on the way I’m noticing there aren’t really any, you know, runners there, and so we get inside and ask four different people about run registration and each person gives us an odd look until someone kindly points out that the run was, oh, March 3rd. Which I don’t know if you guys check your calendars much, but apparently WAS NOT YESTERDAY.

Our reactions, in order, were:

1. Incredulity followed by embarrassed laughter and mommy brain comments, and then…

2. Guilt and a brief discussion about going elsewhere to run, quickly cut short by the…

3. Dawning realization that not only were we husband- and child-free for TWO-PLUS HOURS, we were husband- and child-free for two-plus hours AT A FESTIVAL IN AN IRISH BAR ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY.

That right there, friends, is proof God loves us. Happy Sunday.

(The downside is we were at a festival in an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s day for two-plus hours and I hadn’t even washed my face, much less put on makeup, so no pictures. Instead, here’s one of my favorite places in Ireland…)

Glendalough. Yay, green.

 Smooch -s