Monday, December 6, 2010

You'd Better Not Pout...I'm Telling You Why

This isn't what I was going to post today.

I'd had a pretty sucky Monday (is there any other kind?) and I was so very tempted to whine -- or even wine. But before I could pout or pour, I peeked into the living room to check on my eight-year-old son, who had been quiet long enough for me to grow suspicious. Perhaps he was trying to see how many Legos would fit up his nose? (Six of the small blocks; do not ask me how I know this).

Fortunately, I found him nestled quietly on the couch with a giant book about Santa Claus, reading by the soft glow of the Christmas tree.

"Mom!" he said, "You know how we sometimes see a man who looks like Santa walking down the street?"

"Um, yes?" I said.

"Well, this book says it might actually be the real Santa! It says Santa sometimes does that, and he leaves his red suit at home, so no one will recognize him!" And then he buried himself in the book again.

It was such a sweet moment, that I couldn't resist snapping a photo with my phone. The best part is that he was so entranced he didn't even notice:

Thank you, Santa. You reminded me tonight of life's truly important things - like the wonder of a little boy who believes in Christmas magic with his whole heart. I hope he always does. I hope I always do, too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


A prior Jenkinsmas: It completely dispels the Kentucky stereotype.
Happy December! I've recovered from my food coma enough to sort-of write, which is about as good as it gets here on the Porch. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. I certainly did, but my pants? Not so much.

That's what happens when you attend three different Thanksgiving dinners, three days in a row. Someone should have told me to shut my pie hole. For real. At least I now understand the appeal of jeggings, which let's face it, are nothing more than sweatpants camouflaged as jeans (and also? GENIUS!).

I enjoyed all the gatherings, but I especially love it when my side of the family gets together for holidays. You know those families who have only prim and proper conversation at the dinner table? We're not one of those. Thank goodness.

To be blunt, we ain't right, and that's never more clear than when the Jenkins kids are seated around a table somewhere, conversing about things that usually makes those who married into the family wonder how they were lured into our clan (answer: Chocodiles. We know how to get them. Be jealous).

We grew up in an older home, and my siblings and I must have been exposed to excessive amounts of lead paint. But it made us who we are, whatever the hell that is.

For your amusement, I present the following snippets from Jenkinsgiving:

Mom: Shall we toast to Sarah Palin and our North Korean friends?
Dad: I refudiate that!


Little Brother: So H. said she wants a toy dog that poops for Christmas. It's supposed to teach children to be responsible with their pets. The toy poop looks like Tootsie Rolls.
Me: What? The dog poops Tootsie Rolls?
Little Brother: No, I said it looks like Tootsie Rolls. If the dog actually pooped Tootsie Rolls, we'd be teaching our children not only to clean up dog poop, but to eat it. And that could be awkward at the park.


Dad: How do you work this remote? I want to watch the game.


Someone who is NOT ME, explaining to my college-age niece how I, er, I mean, someone who is NOT ME, raised their college algebra grade: I made an 'F' on the test, and I didn't think my grade was fair, so I went to the professor's office, and yadayadayada. I left with a 'B'.


Dad: Do I push this button? Which button do I push? The game is on. Anyone?


Little Brother: So if you have on gloves, you can type on your iPhone with your nose. Hey, B! Remember when you nose typed at the Christmas parade?


Dad: Why does he have three remotes? Hey! Is this the remote I use? Why is the screen blue?


Niece: Yeah, I love my butt, too, so why I am not wearing booty cutters every day?


Niece's boyfriend, who we'll probably never see again: Yes, I am currently working on a presentation for (a very popular mattress brand).We are trying to find a way to appeal to the 18-30-year-old market.
B: Lower the price?
Little Brother: I say you introduce the BowChikaBowWow mattress brand. The commercial has this guy with a bunch of chicks on his bed, and he's saying, "I don't get ANY sleep on this mattress {wink}."
Niece's boyfriend: [several pleading glances to niece with frantic hand gestures pointing to door]


Dad: Is it the red button? Do you press the red button to get to the game?


Mom: So you stuff a Cornish hen inside the turkey, and when dinner is served, you pull the hen out of the turkey and scream, "OH MY GOD. The turkey was pregnant!"


Sister: Can someone walk on my back? {a few moments later} Ohh, yeah. That's more like it. Do that again.
Little Brother: There's a package on my porch. Huh. Usually the mailman knocks.
Sister: Uh, yeah. I think he heard my back moans and was afraid to interrupt.


Dad: I'm gonna miss the #@!! game! How the *##$! do you work the $#@#! remote?


Little Brother: I think they should bring Short Round back in the next Indiana Jones film.
Me: But he'd be too big and old to be called Short Round.
Little Brother: I know. So they should call him Fudge Round.


Me: Yeah, that's nice, but I'm not buying an iPad until they add a phone app to it. Then I'll have the biggest freaking phone on the block!


Little Brother: Where did Dad go? Did he leave already? I was going to turn on the game.


Coming soon: Jenkinsmas! Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This is a Cry for Help

I haven't been sleeping well lately. Sure, blame my diet of coffee and Chocodiles, but I think it's because I'm a chronic worrier. I lie awake night after night, ruminating over the various horrors that could befall our world.

The following are only some of the troubling scenarios that haunt my sleep:

  • Bristol Palin will actually win Dancing with the Stars. Honestly, I thought it was a worrisome sign when my state elected Aqua Buddhist Rand Paul (I'm sorry, America. In Kentucky's defense, we eat a lot of pork rinds). Be afraid, people. Be very, very afraid.
  • Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt will procreate, resulting in an army of babies with flesh-colored beards who think they can sing.
  • My campaign to make MC Hammer's "Too Legit, Too Legit to Quit" hand gesture the Official Hand Gesture of the United States will fail. But you know what? I'm 2 Legit, 2 Legit 2 Quit. (And yes, I made the hand gestures. If you didn't, I don't even want to know you.)
  • I'll end up in a coma or vegetative state, and no one will ever wax or tweeze my face, resulting in a unibrow and goatee. Everyone will stand around my bed, laughing, pointing and calling me Menifer.
  • Hugh Jackman will get a [gulp] beer belly. Honestly, I can't...even...go...there..
  • We'll one day discover what Brett Michaels has under his do-rag. I'm thinking gremlins. Or Ross Perot. Same thing.
  • The government will put a sin tax on donuts, so I will no longer be able to compensate myself for this blog in long johns.
  • No matter what Stephen Hawking says, the Large Hadron Collider will create a black hole, and we'll be forced to confront the Romulans. Even worse, I'll have a bad hair day.
  • I will never go into puberty and grow boobs. (It's not too late. It ISN'T. Shut up.)
  • Radio stations will refuse air time to any musical artist who doesn't put the word "Shawty" in a song, resulting in Taylor Swift singing, "You're on the phone with Shawty. She's upset. Shawty's going off about something that you said. 'Cause Shawty doesn't get your humor like I doooooo."
  • Hostess will (a). stop putting Ding Dongs in thin foil wrappers, when everyone knows the foil wrappers make Ding Dongs taste better (and yes, this entire blog post was just an excuse for me to type "Ding Dong"), and (b). Hostess will stop selling Chocodiles east of the Mississippi. See, people? That actually happened, proving that my fears aren't so ridiculous after all.

Damn. Now I'm stressed out again. Time to go to my happy place:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Thanksgiving Table's Gonna Have Some BLING, Yo!

Dear Second-Grade Teacher:

I can explain the bright gold pine cone for my son's Thanksgiving art project.

As I've previously pointed out in a back-to-school post, I'm the frazzled mother who routinely screws up school paperwork; overlooks essential school supplies; and yes, occasionally sends her son to school with his shirt on inside-out and backwards (we were out of coffee that morning, okay?).

My teen-age daughter is still rolling her eyes about the paperwork I had to complete last month for her gifted education services. Turns out, I signed the section that read (in large, bold type no less),  "DO NOT SIGN HERE UNLESS YOU ARE DENYING GIFTED SERVICES FOR YOU CHILD." Umm. Oopsie! I had to scribble out my signature with a Sharpie and re-sign the form, which undoubtedly left the school counselors amazed that my daughter overcame her less-than-gifted gene pool.

And yes, last month I forgot to send treats for the class on my son's scheduled Snack Day. I saw the sticker placed prominently in his planner reminding me that I had forgotten it and children had gone hungry. Don't worry. Considerate boy that he his, Kyle handed me a special Enhanced  Snack Calendar for Doofus Moms to make sure I won't slip up when Snack Day rolls around this month:

(Psst. Please, for the love of Little Debbie, send numerous emails reminding me to send snacks Friday. Thanks.)

Okay, I'm not exactly PTO president material. Fortunately, my children are excellent students in spite of me. And they are always on time, clean, well-fed, well-read and prepped for tests. So we have that going for us, right?

Therefore, when my son pulls out his giant, shiny, gold pine cone today, please cut him a bit of slack. I know you sent the note home last week, informing parents that children need to bring pine cones to school by Tuesday for a Thanksgiving project. But in my keeping-up-with-busy-kids world, that was at least a Spanish test, a spelling test, a social studies test, a poetry recital, several youth play rehearsals, a youth assembly project, a lunch account balance reminder and a field trip permission slip ago. It might as well have been last year. Our wee parental brains can only store so much!

Thankfully, my kids usually keep me in line. As I was on my way out the door to go see my daughter's play last night, my son burst forward and grabbed my arm, "Mom! Mom! We didn't get a pine cone! I don't have a pine cone for our turkey project tomorrow!"

I saw the panic in his eyes. It was going to be Snack Day, Part II. There would be a giant Parental Pine Cone Failure sticker slapped into his planner for all the world to see.

"Okay, honey," I said, "Calm down. I'll go look for pine cones after your sister's play. I think there are pine trees by the school. But if we can't find one, don't worry. I'm sure the teacher will have some extras for kids who don't bring one."

"Noooo, Mom!" he cried. "You have to get one. You just have to! When we made the fall leaf art project, the kids who didn't bring leaves had to do an extra reading assignment while we made art."

His voice dropped to a panicked whisper, "Don't make me be one of those kids, Mom....don't..."

First, I award myself three shiny gold stars for remembering leaves for the previous art project. But clearly, the boy had to have a pine cone for school, or years of therapy were in store. (I mean, even more than he's going to need once he finds this blog.)

So after the play, my daughter and I went on a Pine Cone Quest. Yes, it was bitter cold out, and yes, she was only in the shorts she had to wear for the play, and yes, I was forced to traipse around in high heels, but we were on a mission. We would not let him down.

First, I explored the conifers all around the school where her play was held. No cones. Next, I drove around town, slamming on the brakes whenever my daughter screamed, "PINE TREE!" Then we'd jump out of the van and search the ground in the dark, to no avail. We also tried the trees in the city parks. Conifers? Yes. Cones? No.

"Why are there no freaking pine cones?" I asked the heavens, as my heels sunk into the soft dirt around the trees. "Why?"

"I know what happened," my daughter said, her teeth chattering, her knees knocking from the cold. "Some greedy second-grader snatched up all the cones in town, so he would have the best pine cone turkey.  I hate that kid! I hate him!"

Frozen and tired, my daughter suggested we try to buy a bag of pine cones. Surely we could find some in one of the mega stores. They would have bags of pine cones available for Christmas and fall decorating, right?


We searched three stores. My feet were killing me. And we still didn't have a single pine cone. In Target, I noticed a Christmas wreath bedecked with a few cones, but that was it. I told my daughter I'd distract other shoppers and security by breaking into a glee-worthy performance in the candy aisle while she pulled one of the cones off the wreath and stuffed it down her shorts. For some strange reason, she refused. She doesn't really love her brother, I guess.

"Can we please go home?" she said, "Maybe there are pine cones in our neighborhood."

So yes, dear neighbors, that's why I was prowling around your backyard at 10 p.m. last night. I wasn't peeking in your windows. I was looking for pine cones. But I love what you've done with your bedroom.

I came home empty-handed. That was it. I had to admit defeat. I told my son I was very sorry for the extra reading assignment. I had tried. But there wasn't a single pine cone left in all of our fair city, unless....

I had one last glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, I had an old Christmas decoration that might have pine cones on it. I sent up special pine cone prayers and headed to the basement. There, in the back of the dark, dusty, old coal room, an old Christmas wreath hung from the wall. What were those shiny things on it? I approached hesitantly. Could it be? Had the elusive Holy Grail been near all the time? Was I not going to be a loser parent, after all? Hallelujah! The wreath was bedecked in pine cones! It was a miracle!

I grabbed some wire cutters from the tool box and snipped the biggest, fattest pine cone off the wreath. I ran up the stairs and proudly set it on the kitchen table in front of my son.

"Ta-DAA!" I said triumphantly. "I present to you... one pine cone!" Then I waited for the praise.

"Uh, Mom?" Kyle said, "Um. Huh. That pine cone...well, it's gold."

"Yeah, I know," I said, "It came off a Christmas decoration."

"I'm going to have a GOLD turkey, Mom," Kyle moaned. "A GOLD one. All the other kids will have brown, normal turkeys, and I..I have one that's gold. And glittery... I think I'm just going to do the reading assignment."

What? I'd spent the better part of the evening hiking through parks, walking the length of super stores in high heels, stalking neighbors and fending off giant basement spiders, and he wasn't happy? Oh, heck no. He was going to take the gold pine cone to school, and he was going to like it.

"Kyle," I pleaded, "Just think. Your turkey will be extra special. It will be the turkey with bling-bling. It will be the cool, gangsta turkey that puts all the other, ordinary pine cone turkeys to shame...But most of all, please don't bring home another sticker in your planner reminding me that I forgot something!"

My voice dropped to a panicked whisper, "Don't make me be one of those Moms....don't..."

Kyle sighed and reluctantly stuffed the golden pine cone in his backpack.

So please, dear teacher, be kind when he makes his shiny, sparkly pine cone turkey. Quiet the other kids if they point and laugh. And, um, if you don't mind, remind me at least three times that his next snack day is Friday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm Changing My Name

Apparently, I decided to reward myself for my one-year blog-o-versary by taking a month off from blogging. My bad.

Really, I've been doing you a favor. For the past month, my thoughts have been more jumbled than coherent, more intense than lighthearted, more fall than spring - and I am so not a fall. So consider yourself spared a bunch of self-indulgent, melodramatic poetry full of cliche' metaphors about changing seasons and dying gardens and blahblahblah. You're welcome. (Note to self: buy Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp stat.)

Also, I hate to admit this because it goes against everything I believe as a writer, but for the past month, I have been self-editing my work before it ever hits the page. I once had a friend suggest that I write an anonymous blog, that I'd be more free to truly express myself if I didn't worry about what family members, friends and colleagues thought about my work. Puh-lease. I haughtily asserted that at 40, by damn darn, I am entitled to express who I am, without reservation. I don't respect people who hide under pseudonyms, and I've earned the right to write my story, my way.

Then I discovered my daughter's middle school friends are regularly reading my blog. In class, no less (Hey, this is Kentucky. At least they're reading!).

Well, shit shoot! See? Now you understand my dilemma.

Oh, it gets worse. Cool mo-fo Mom that I am, I drive a minivan (whatever. Haters gonna' hate). So each time I pick up my daughter from school, I end up with at least five other kids in the car asking for rides home or trips to Starbucks. Truly, I don't mind driving the short bus. In fact, I welcome the opportunity to know the kids my daughter hangs out with (who, I'm sure, are very, very, very good kids, who would never, ever, ever do anything remotely immoral, illegal or unethical around my daughter ... or ELSE).

While I'm happy for the readership (hook 'em while they're young!), my blog now lends itself to unfortunate conversations like this:

Daughter's male friend: Hey, Mrs. Reese! Thanks for the ride.
Me: No problem.
DMF: By the way, I just love your blog. That post you wrote on vajazzling? That was hi-larious!
Me: [Awkward silence]
Daughter: [palm to forehead]

So, so sorry, dear daughter. If it makes you feel any better, I just had a conversation with my mother that went like this:

Mom: What did you guys do this week?
Me: Nothing much. The football coaching staff and spouses had a get-together the other night.
Mom: Any special reason?
Me: Not really. Just trying to blow off some steam after a stressful season.
Mom: So did you all get naked in a jacuzzi?
Me: What the hell heck, Mom?
Mom: Isn't that how everyone blows off steam? They get naked in jacuzzis? I mean, that's what your dad and I do.

I learned a few things from this conversation. One, my daughter isn't the only one with an embarrassing mother (yet I doubt that discovering she also has an embarrassing grandmother makes her feel any better). And two, I am 99 percent sure my mother was kidding, but if she wasn't, my brother needs to bleach his jacuzzi post-haste.

Three, I just remembered that my parents read my blog. I am so screwed in trouble.

Look for a new blog coming soon to a pseudonym near you!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Top 10 Penned

In honor of my One Year Blog-O-Versary [throws confetti] I have compiled a list of 10 of my favorite posts from the past year. Is this self-serving? Well, duh. But hey! It's my blog-o-versary! If I can't celebrate by eating Chocodiles with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale while I lovingly comb Paolo Nutini's hair, I can at least compile a Top 10 List.

You know what my spouse said to me yesterday? No, of course you don't, unless you've placed bugs in my swagger wagon, and if you have, I apologize for all the singing. Anyway, he offhandedly remarked that my writing personality is considerably different than my actual personality. I said, "Uh, you're trying to say I'm not funny in person?" And he shrugged his shoulders and looked out the window.

True, I am kind of quiet. But it's the quiet ones you have to watch out for, right? And don't worry. If you meet me in person, I'll lug my computer along so that I can be witty and charming -- only my computer is a desktop, so my posture will be horrendous.

I tell that story because for the past year, the Porch has been a comfortable place to come out of my shell as a writer, and maybe as a person, too. I've written a little bit of everything: personal essays, memoirs, letters, poems, fiction, raps about Chocodiles (don't be hatin', yo!). Those who follow regularly (God bless you), know that the posts range from the lighthearted to the serious, the ridiculous to the raw. I write what I feel, and I guess you'll ultimately be the judge of whether that's good or bad.

Some have suggested I narrow my focus as a writer, and that's probably sage advice. But the joy of the Porch is that I don't have to pigeonhole myself into one genre or mood here. I get to play and romp (and occasionally cyberstalk luscious man candy) and it's all in good fun. (But, um, if any of you wanted to actually pay me for my writing, I'd welcome that. Really. Please. Kids need to eat.)

I hope it's been good for you, too [hands you a cigarette]. I can't thank you enough for putting up with me, sharing the Porch with friends and offering feedback during the past year. You're good people.

So if you're new to the Porch, I offer the following 10 posts (in no particular order) to introduce you to, well, me:

10. One Woman's Dream: An Urgent Appeal to the IOC
9.  A Letter from MidLife
8.  All That Glitters is Definitely Not Gold
7.  A Mother's Prayer
6.  B-B-B-Bats in the Belfry!
5.  This is How You Don't Get Asked to be Room Mother
4.  Fear Not
3.  Milestones
2.  My Real Resolutions for 2010
1.  Simply Thankful

Y'all come back now, ya' hear? You'll always have a seat on the Porch -- but not necessarily a Chocodile. Those don't last long around here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Blog-O-Versary to Me!

WOOHOO! Guess what I just noticed? I have officially maintained the Porch for one whole year! That's longer than Heidi and Spencer staged divorce proceedings for publicity purposes, so yeah, it's kind of a big deal.

It all began here this time last year. I'm not sure where it ends, but for the past 12 months, I've enjoyed the opportunity to write whatever pops into my head, be they musings about vajazzling or gardening or growing old(er). I hope you've enjoyed my multiple personalities, er, posts.

And no, it is not out of line for you to send me Chocodiles to celebrate my blog-o-versary. I'll be waiting .. on the Porch. See you there!

Friday, October 1, 2010

How I Ended the Cold War (or Oh My God, Honey, She's Delusional Again!)

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" ~ Ronald Reagan, 1987

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Whatever, Reagan.

While some might credit you for the thawing of the Cold War, I know better. I know it was, in fact, my talent at the Henderson, Kentucky, Junior Miss program in the fall of 1987 that eventually resulted in peace between the super powers.

How so?

When I was a senior in high school, I participated in the local Junior Miss pageant. Before you judge me, swimsuits were not required. If so, I would have known better than to get involved  -- not because I didn't have respect for pageant girls in swimsuits so much as I didn't have boobs to put in said swimsuits.

In the Junior Miss program, contestants are judged in the categories of scholastic achievement, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression. I'm not sure how I measured up in the first four categories, but man, I definitely nailed the last one. If it is one thing I can do, it is express myself (those who read this blog might disagree).

See, I have no real talent to speak of (those who read this blog might agree), so I decided, instead, to make a powerful political statement.That's right. Please keep in mind I had watched Red Dawn and Rocky IV at least 532 times each on HBO, so you can't really blame me. I was all jacked up on slick Hollywood propaganda!

So while other girls in the pageant played classical piano pieces, sang lovely songs from well-known musicals or performed ballet routines, I went .... another route.

I dressed in camouflage and combat boots, marched Soviet-soldier style onto the stage of that small-town middle school and danced to this little-known but totally friggin' awesome Corey Hart song, "Shoot Komrade Kiev."

I was so stoked to find the song on youtube that I actually used the word, "stoked."

In case you were too busy dancing to follow the lyrics (and who could blame you?), they include, "And when the story's finally told/That each man's heart was bought and sold/There was no enemy you see/Only the doubt in you and me."

How could that NOT inspire any compassionate, idealistic young American girl to shake her groove thang between American and Russian flags? Better yet, I culminated my performance by marching silently up to the judges and pointing a gun I'd formed with my fingers in their faces. Oh, yes, I did.

They were speechless, as was most of the audience. But I had made a formidable statement on behalf of Komrade Kiev and GI Joe. Shortly thereafter, the wall fell and the Cold War ceased. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Also, I was third runner-up. Someone close to the pageant later told me I was in the running "up until that controversial talent, young lady!"  But hey! What's a pageant title compared to a step toward world peace?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Recently, I was sitting at a football game with another high school coach's wife, who was trying to keep her preschooler happy with popcorn while simultaneously caring for her newborn daughter. Frazzled, she turned to me and asked, "This gets easier, right?"

I looked at my son, old enough at eight to help the team as a water boy, then scanned the crowd for my teen-age daughter, strolling around the stadium with her friends.

Just yesterday -- yesterday -- she was sitting beside me in the bleachers eating fruit snacks while I attempted to pacify her baby brother.

Now I sit at the games by myself.

By. Myself.

"Yes, it does," I said to her. "And all too soon, it will."

The young mother looked relieved. I, on the other hand, suddenly felt as if I had lost something. Something important. Something precious.

It's funny. When your first child is born, you cannot wait for every milestone: first smile, first laugh, first tooth, first step, first word, first sentence.

Before you know it, you're packing that first lunch box, and suddenly you burst into tears in the middle of your kitchen because your baby is going to preschool. And how can that be? How can she be so big that on the first day, she pushes you out of the classroom saying, "You can go now, Mom. I'm fine"?

Soon those lunch bags are packed for grade school, then middle school, then high school, where my daughter will be next year. And four swift years after that, lunch boxes become cardboard boxes and milk crates, filled with books and laundry supplies and toiletries for college.

Honestly, I can't even drive by the high school now without drawing a sharp breath, knowing my girl will be there soon, knowing how quickly that time will pass, knowing she'll be in college in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, if I'm by myself in the car, I even cry at the thought of it.

The other day, I was complaining about her constantly messy room, when my husband said, "You only have, what, five more years to put up with that?" and suddenly, I didn't care that she had two weeks worth of laundry piled on her dresser. I only cared that I had less than five years to fuss at her about it.

When my son was born, I was grateful that my daughter was old enough to start school, make new friends and create a busy world for herself, so that I had time to relish all of his baby moments, too.

I was not in such a hurry for him to reach his milestones. A more seasoned mother, I knew all too well how fast the world would absorb him.

Go slowly, I whispered, as he rocked on the floor on all fours, anxious to crawl into the big, wide world. Take your time, I pleaded, as he pulled up to the couch, grinning triumphantly. There's no hurry, I said, as he took those first wobbly steps away from me.

But children do hurry. They can't wait for the next phase, it seems. My second-grader is already pointing out the fourth-graders and saying, "Can you believe I'll be that tall soon?" And my daughter is suddenly asking questions about driving. (Incidentally, my son is also asking questions about driving, so I'm hiding the car keys.)

I keep searching store shelves for Keep 'Em Little Longer spray, but I've yet to find it. But maybe, if we're lucky, we can find a few moments when life seems to pause.

Yesterday was busy, and at 5 p.m., with supper looming and a sinus headache throbbing, I hit the afternoon wall. I just wanted to lie down on the couch and take a 20-minute nap. That's all. Just 20 minutes by myself on the living room sofa to refresh and recharge for supper, dishes, laundry and homework help.

I grabbed my favorite throw, curled up on the couch and closed my eyes, only to open them again when my son flipped on the lamp and plopped down beside me with a book.

"Um, Kyle?" I said, "Mom is trying to take a quick nap before supper."

"Go ahead," he said, "I read quietly."

Sigh. Okay. Reading is a quiet activity. I could still rest...

...until the flash of a camera startled me. It was my daughter, snapping photos of her frazzled Mom, giggling and insisting I use the (less than flattering) shots as facebook profile pics.

"Kelsey!" I groaned. "I'm trying to take a nap!"

They heard me, but they didn't listen. Kelsey dropped to the floor beside me and began to show me photos on her camera. Then somehow she and Kyle started talking about the kids' show, Dora the Explorer.

"You know what's ridiculous?" Kyle said, "When Dora says, 'You know where the banana tree is, right?' Um, Dora! You have a map! Use it!"

And Kelsey said, "For real! I mean, come on, Dora, if you can afford a talking backpack, I think you can swing a friggin' GPS!"

They both erupted in fits of giggles, Kelsey lying against the couch near my head, Kyle curled up at my feet. So much for my nap.

All I had wanted was 20 minutes to myself. I was about to angrily remind them of that when I paused.

My children were with me, laughing and loving. They actually wanted to be with their Mom.

It was then I heard softly the whispers of my heart.

Go slowly, it whispered. Take your time, it pleaded. There's no hurry, it insisted.

I'll have plenty of time for napping when my house is quiet. Today, I will relish the laughter.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bridging the Gap Between Generations

Today, I am so pleased and proud to introduce the Porch's first guest blogger, my daughter Kelsey. At 13, she already is a gifted young writer (um, no. I'm not remotely biased. That's crazy talk!). But you can judge for yourself when you read the piece she has prepared for a school ancestry project on my grandmother, Gladys Marie McCalvin Greenfield.
My grandmother, who died when Kelsey was only six, had a profound influence on my life, which you can read more about here. So it delights me that Kelsey chose her as the family member she wanted to study. After a great deal of research, Kelsey prepared the following monologue she'll present on her "MomMom" and graciously allowed me to share it with you. Kelsey chose to write about my grandmother when she was 15, orphaned, and raising her siblings in the hills of Appalachia during the Depression. She'll perform her monologue in her social studies class next week.

I am certain my grandmother will be smiling down on her.

A Monologue on Young Gladys McCalvin
By Kelsey Reese

(Enters room, yelling out the door) Jesse! I told you once before, hurry up, George is waiting for you out by the garden. (Turns to face room and realizes she has an audience) Ah, oh, sorry about that…I've been up hours prior to sunrise. I just haven't been able to sleep at all the past few days; I think I might be working on a head cold. Not that I get that much rest anyway, since Daddy passed a few months back. Not a lot I can do though. All I'm hoping is that gentleman who courts me to and from church, Dee Rice, will propose. Oh now wouldn’t that be a sight! (Chuckles) A husband is exactly what I need, someone to care for ME once in a while…but it's hard enough getting six-year- old Jesse to obey me; could you imagine a grown man? It's a good thing I have my older brother George to do the disciplinin'. But even he, at 17, still calls upon me. "Gladys do this, Gladys do that, Gladys I don't have the time, would you please? …"

I've taken the role of Mama, who passed away 4 years ago. I was only 11 at the time, so it was really hard. But I always trusted I'd have Daddy to lean on. Now I'm afraid that isn't the case. I'm sad to say my life, along with the lives of my brothers and sisters, has not been pretty. I suppose while I'm here I'll sit and tell y'all a bit.
(Sits on table and takes hair down from bun) I don't know where to begin…but I guess since my life began on October 18 in the year of 1918, that's where I'll start.

I do remember life for me wasn't always as rough as it is today. My daddy was a farmer and a coal miner. He had two big ol' farms and cattle galore. We had a nice house, but the absolute best part of our house was the beautiful organ. Mama played it almost every day and she was far better than I could ever dream of being. The music would fill the house and make everything seem okay, even if I was having a bad day.  That is by far the thing I miss most about her. At least I remember her. My youngest brother, Mac, was just an infant when she died.

Daddy worked even harder after Mama passed, and the younger kids began to rely on me, George and my sister Myrtle, who just recently became a teenager. I remember being the one to tuck all my brothers and sisters in, and Myrtle and I would tidy up the house with Daddy out working. Daddy supplied us with money to live off of, but over time, as demands grew, he became less "Daddy" and more "Mr. McCalvin." He worked hard for what was left of our family though, and I will forever love and respect him for that.

Daddy's recent illness and passing was a surprise, but we coped with it just as we did other hardships, and here I am today. My younger siblings are the focus of my life. I've told you about Jesse and George, they're the men of the family along with little Mac who's now 4. The girls would be Myrtle, who I've already mentioned, Pearl who is 11, Lucile age 9, and Nora, the youngest girl, who is 8.

My biggest fear for my family is the kids being put into orphanages. We have stuck together through everything thrown our way, and our strong family bond never lets us down. Sometimes the thought crosses my mind that maybe it WOULD be easier if there were fewer children to care for, but this family has lost enough. Parents, relatives, animals, land, everything…also, the more people we have in this house, the more people to work. Any little bit helps, even if it's just Mac sweeping crumbs up with a little brush.

Now, as most orphaned children are granted this, we do have a guardian. But she "guards" us in no way shape or form. As soon as she gained custody of all us kids, she sold off almost everything we had: most of the livestock, the machines, she practically got rid of our assets all together. Now we have to have other ways of making an income. For a while, we had two old horses and some cows. We keep a garden, and we would use the horses to plow it. And we sell blueberries, milk and butter. Grandfather sold the horses though, so now all we have is Ol' Molly, an old nag to ride to the store. She can hardly even handle that though, and her days are numbered.

I miss my Momma and Daddy very much, but I certainly do not miss Grandmother Minerva! She was a dreadful and hateful old lady, and even though the good Lord says not to hate, I'll admit it -- I HATED that old woman. I couldn't stand her one little bit. I remember her making me stand at the foot of the bed all day just so her poor little feet wouldn't get chilled. Every time I would (quotations with hands) "smart off" I'd get a smack and hear about what an awful child I was for speaking my opinion. I remember my mother spanking me once when I was throwing away a moldy jar from the cellar and told her how it resembled Grandmother's old wrinkly face. (Smiles fondly)

I do have a few good memories from my earlier childhood, believe it or not. The one that best sticks out in my mind would be putting a saddle on a cow and riding it like a horse. Once, the saddle even tipped over and I landed right in a briar patch. I think I lost half my hair that day pulling those prickly little things out. But that wasn't as bad as the time I ate some wild onions and found a steep hill to roll down. I don't think I've been so sick in my entire life!

There is one person who has stayed close to me through it all, and that is the good Lord. Now, I am certainly not gonna preach to you, but I do know He will guide me through anything. We get dressed up as well as we can every Sunday to go to church. Call us crazy, but George and I have decided to try to tithe our family's income. Sometimes it's easier for us to do that than other times but no matter what, you always have to remember, there is someone out there in worse shape than you are.

I recently had to drop out of school, and it was a very hard decision for me to make. Not to boast, but I am mighty smart. I skipped two grades, you know. I hate that I had to quit school, but we have to keep our family going somehow.

I know my family may seem big enough now, but it would have been even bigger if it were not for the 1914 fire. It was 4 years before I was born, but I've heard so much grief about it I feel as if I was there. The story is this. My mother had three children before George. By the time she was 20 she had Mildred, who was 4, Benjamin who was just a tad bit over a year old, and Luther, 4 months. Mama had been looking out the window one day and noticed the cattle roaming outside the fenced pasture. She figured the kids would be safe napping while she ran out to gather the cows.

While Mama was pursuing the cows, she glanced up to the house on a hill and saw it was submersed in the biggest orange flames you could imagine.  She raced back to the house as fast as her legs could carry her, but by the time she got up the hill, everything was gone -- the house, but far worse, the children.

Long after the fire was out, they still couldn't find Mildred's bones. She was the only child who left no trace of death. My mother has her own opinion on that. She claims the gypsies took her. You see, a while before the fire, Mama had taken Mildred on a trip. On the train, they met gypsies who were captivated by Mildred's beauty and grace. Mildred was also said to have the voice of an angel. The gypsies begged Mama to let them take Mildred and have them perform in their shows, but the answer of course was a big ol' "No!"

So, Mama blamed the gypsies for the fire. She said they had purposefully set the cattle loose so she'd notice, then once she was out of the house and occupied, they had come into the house and kidnapped Mildred, setting the house aflame when they left.

I'm not sure what to believe, but I know Daddy thought for sure she had perished in the flames. One day he was out behind the house crying for the loss of his children and he heard his perished daughter's voice say, "Daddy, don't cry." He musta' thought it was her spirit speaking to him. Mama heard about this story but didn't think the same. She still looked for Mildred everywhere until the day of her own death. She told everyone about it and tracked down every reported sighting of Mildred, but was never able to find a thing.

See what I mean? Life for the children here has always been hard. But, I can't stress enough how tough times are right now. I appreciate any help anyone can offer, and if someone can help out the McCalvin children and they don't, well, I find it to be a very selfish act.

The other day, for example, I was visiting with my aunt. She's certainly not hurting for anything. While rummaging through her bread box, I found some biscuits. I'll be darned if they were two days old. Now my aunt knows very well we kids ain't doing the best we could (not that we let on how rough it is. We're strong people, us McCalvins). But what does she do with those biscuits? She threw them out to her hogs, not offering us a bite! I can't put my agony over that into words. When people do something that disappoints me, you'll bet I'll let them know. I shot her dirty looks for the rest of the day and often grabbed my empty stomach whenever it would growl to hopefully let her know what she had done.

Even though that image haunts me, I have to say I'm not sure if anyone fully understands our situation. I haven't felt truly full in almost a year. Out here in Ashland, Kentucky, it is smack dab right in the middle of nowhere. Look around, what do you see? It's mountains and hills and grass and trees and farmland and the occasional creek or pond. We haven't got neighbors to see what we do on a day to day basis. Maybe if we did things would be different. Maybe...Maybe if people did see what kinds of work we do, people would help.

Then again, we are in a depression and it's a terrible time for everyone. That's what I've read from the covers of the papers on newsstands at the market. I don't spend any more money than necessary, so I never buy one. Occasionally I'll stop to read about President Roosevelt and I hear people complaining all the time I go anywhere about job losses and such things. We also hear lots about the war. I wish I knew more about the Nazis and everything else I've caught snippets of around here. I hardly get any social interaction other than church discussions.

You know…I'm just so glad I have this time to open up. Sometimes, there are days I look around and I just feel so sorry for myself. I want to scream at someone, whoever is putting us through this, and yell STOP. (Grow angry. Throw up arms, etc.) I can't DO this anymore; I can’t put my family through EVERYTHING. It's just not RIGHT!

(Breathing heavily) My sincerest apology for that…sometimes I just lose control of myself, as does everyone I'm sure. There aren’t many positives to how I'm living. Sometimes all the pressure from the countless negatives just builds up inside me and I have to let it go. Whenever I go around the kids, though, I'll have to put my smiley face back on and try to let them know that things could be worse, something I myself sometimes doubt. Then again, I'm not known for my happy-go-lucky spirit.

I'm going to be completely honest with you folks. We’re struggling to survive. All of us are hungry, and we're eating well if we get one loaf of bread for the entire family in a whole week. I do the work of an employed grown man every day except, of course, Sundays.  I haven't got many friends; even if I did I wouldn't be able to see them at all anyway. Every time I leave the house I have a child on my hip and another holding my hand...

Speaking of leaving the house, I have got to go water the garden, and as always, I have children to tend. Thank ya'll for listenin' a bit. I kindly appreciate it.

Goodbye now!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Project Duh

Newsflash! Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health completed an extensive study determining that hot dogs, bacon, salami and sausage are bad for you. And here I was preparing a bacon-wrapped hot dog stuffed in a sausage crammed into salami for the local Weight Watchers meeting. I called it the Artery Cloggy Hoggy Doggy (TM). It was gonna be, well, huge.

The HSPH study, no doubt conducted under the scrutiny of Captain Obvious, reminded me of another heavily funded study a couple of years ago that concluded men are -- and I can't quite believe this -- turned on by scantily clad women. I even saw it on CNN. Huh. At least that finally explains why my website, Hos Clothed From Head to Toe (TM), did not make me rich.

Next thing you know, the Dr. Brain E. Acks of the world are going to reveal cutting-edge studies informing us that water is wet; the sun is hot; Perez Hilton's name is actually a play on words; and shirtless Hugh Jackman melts my butter -- but not before tossing researchers lots and lots of our* hard-earned taxpayer dollars (*more like your dollars, not mine. I pay myself for this blog in donuts to avoid tax issues. And no, you cannot have 20 percent of my long john).

In the past, our astute university researchers have also determined that excessive amounts of greasy fast food have contributed to obesity; loaded handguns can be dangerous in children's hands; and Paolo Nutini is one delicious Scottish morsel. Okay. So I made up the last one.

As long as researchers are researching the ridiculous, I'd like to recommend the following studies:
  • Does my diet of bacon, donuts, chocolate malts, rare Hostess snack cakes and chips that end in O (Cheetos, Fritos, Tostitos, Doritos) make my jeans tighter, or do I really just need a new dryer? Yeah. I think it's the dryer, too.
  • Are Chocodiles merely "chocolate covered Twinkies", as some morons claim? I will fork over the funds for this study because true Hostess connoisseurs like myself know Chocodiles -- unlike plain ol' wannabe Twinkies -- are chocolate-coated joy, filled with creamy happiness. But I'm not biased.
  • Is Sarah Palin actually Shakespeare reincarnated? Palin has invented words like "refudiate" and "ubetcha", while Shakespeare introduced words like, "baseless" and "sanctimonious" into our vocabulary - almost like he knew they could one day describe the hockey-mom-turned-politician he'd come back as.
  • If Christian Bale yells "F--K!" in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Duh. Of course it does. It's Christian F--king Bale!
  • Will I ever be able to actually type the complete word, "f--k" without the "--"? (I'm betting against this. It's that whole, "Jennifer Ann, you are a Southern lady. If you are sitting in a skirt, please cross your legs. And for God's sake, girl, put on panties! You're 40!" upbringing. Sigh.)
  • In seventh-grade, would I have been asked to skate during the "gentleman's choice" at Skateway USA if I'd worn a bra size larger than negative-28 AAAAAA? Because I always wanted to skate to a REO Speedwagon power ballad, and no one ever asked me. Dammit. That hurts. And I can't fiiiiight this feeeeeeeling annnnnymooooore. You bastards. You know who you are.
  • Do ridiculous studies lead to equally ridiculous blogging fodder? I'm going to to out on a limb with this one, and say, yes.

        Saturday, September 11, 2010

        A Mother's Prayer

        There have been a few moments in my life when the emotions have been so strong, so overwhelming, that I shrugged off my cloak of daily writing insecurities and immediately - without procrastinating, censoring or editing - attempted to capture my feelings on paper.

        I wrote letters to my children the moment I learned of them; I wrote tributes to my grandparents when I lost them; and I wrote this, a letter to my then four-year-old daughter, when her world forever changed on a terrible day in September.

        Some of you have read it before, but I have never posted it from the Porch. I hope we all remember how we felt that September day. How we grieved, hoped, prayed and vowed collectively. How we shrugged off the cloaks of labels, denominations and red and blue. How that dark night, we were simply mothers, holding our babies, praying the world they grew up in would be a peaceful one.

        A Mother's Prayer: A letter written to my daughter Kelsey on the eve of September 11, 2001

        As I tucked you into bed this eve
        I wondered how the sheets--thin, flimsy, transparent--would protect you.
        Would the blanket, soft from so many washings,
        The teddy worn, dingy, tattered,
        Be enough this night?

        I arrived at your school early today.

        You were laughing on the playground
        Beneath a cloudless sky
        Not a single vapor trail tarnishing the sheath of blue.
        As I watched you swing, jump, slide through the morn
        So unaware,
        I realized the promise the day might have held.

        A day of baseball games, recess tag and lawn mowers
        Windows rolled down and sleeves rolled up,
        Not quite summer, not yet fall.

        Instead, it was a day of odd, quiet chaos
        As the frightened lined up for gasoline
        And bought ground beef, canned goods, milk, bread, and bottled water.
        Searching for reassurance, people crowded into the cinder-block ice-cream stand
        To hear the president
        And mumbled "bomb the sonsofbitches" or
        "God bless us all."

        It was a day of cell phone calls,
        Open churches,
        And closed businesses.

        I held your small hand and led you through parking lots,
        And I was ashamed that you completely trusted me
        For I am not the person I was when I went to bed last.

         I witnessed too much this day
        And my eyes are stamped with images of
        Thick black smoke
        And ash.

        I run my fingers through my hair continuously,
        As if the dust, miles away, somehow reached me.
        And old woman nodded at me today, her eyes haunted by another time.
        "You haven't seen this before," is all she said.

        I called my mom, my mother-in-law,
        My sister, my brother,
        Again and again,
        As if we could make ourselves believe
        The unbelievable.

        While carrying in groceries,
        Your father and I had stopped
        Dropped bags and held each other tight.
        We ate frozen pizza for supper,
        Not saying a word as the TV blared.

        Later I caught you peeking at the screen,
        And I drew you onto my lap, kissed your head
        And tried to explain what I still can't comprehend.
        I promised you the world is good,
        You are loved.
        You are safe.

        I nestled beside you in bed,
        Clasping your hand, warm and moist from the tub.
        I breathed your smell of soap and toothpaste.
        I sang your lullaby.

        We prayed.

        I told you America is strong and right, mighty and free.
        As you drifted away, I pictured America's mothers.

        We are blacktop roads, shotgun houses, and Spanish tile.
        Marble, loose shingles, and Bradford pears.
        Gated communities, brick ranches, and trailers.
        Three bedrooms and two baths.
        Geraniums, roses, and dandelions.
        Linoleum and sidewalks.
        Mortar and stone.
        Sand, salt, and dirt.

        Tonight as One,
        We held our children closer.
        We crept into your rooms many times
        As if you were babies,
        Fragile and new.

        We touched your cheeks and felt your breath on our hands,
        Warm reminder of life.
        We looked through the window at the darkest night
        Anxious for the sun to shine on us again,
        Silently weeping for the innocent lost
        And lost innocence.

        Tuesday, August 17, 2010

        It's Not F-ing Easy Being Green

        If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I have a wee bit of a crush on Christian Bale. And Hugh Jackman. And Paolo Nutini. And, yes, okay, Chauncey Chocodile (it takes a while to eat a Chocodile - if you catch my drift, and I think you do).

        That's a pretty prestigious list of hotness and/or delicious Hostess snack cake peddlers. I honestly didn't think anyone else merited my list of those-I-cannot-get-within-10-miles-of-thanks-to-restraining-orders, but I was totally wrong. Or perhaps that should be toadally wrong (that's not punny).

        A friend and mutual Bale lover (he's heterosexual*) recently sent me a link pointing out the uncanny resemblance between Bale and Kermit the Frog. Apparently, this has been circulating the tubes for a while, but I had somehow missed it. Regardless, I can't believe I never noticed Kermit's striking good looks. He's obviously Bale's froggelganger (someone stop me).

        I was raised on Sesame Street; watched The Muppet Show religiously on Friday nights; and saw every muppet movie ever created - including the horrifically bad Muppets from Space (you're not a real fan unless you endure muppets singing "Celebration").

        Sure, I liked Kermit and all but da-yummm. I can honestly say I never noticed how smoking hot Kermit is until I saw how much he looks like my boy Bale. After a little research, I learned the frog has some Bale badassiness, too. Here Kermit is losing it on set.

        Oh, Miss Piggy. I get it now. No wonder you've never really moved on. You know what they say: once you've had frog, you're not the same hog.

        Kermit just made my list.


        * - heterosexual, unless he can score with Christian Bale and/or Kermit the Frog

        Wednesday, August 11, 2010

        This is How You Don't Get Asked to be Room Mother

        It's back-to-school time already, and your child's new teacher has discovered you don't work full-time. She's already dropped a few hints at orientation about having you organize school parties and serve as a PTO officer.

        Panicked that you just got the kids out of the house and now you might have to join them and 27 of their classmates in school regularly?

        Don't be.

        Instead, follow my stellar, super-awesome, back-to-school mothering examples, and you won't have to worry about the school staff asking you to volunteer. You'll never have to say "no" to those sweet, puppy-dog-eyed teachers because you'll never be asked to help. With Anything. Ever.

        I accidentally learned how not to be involved last year, when I completed my daughter's middle school paperwork after a night out at a Paolo Nutini concert in Nashville. I drove two hours to Nashville that afternoon; attended the (amazing) Paolo concert, where I danced non-stop, shouted "I love you" to random musicians, tried to catch Paolo's sweat and possibly threw my training bra on stage; scarfed down some post-concert munchies at the Waffle House; and drove two hours home. That kind of outing was a rare treat for me, and after a long, fun night, I didn't get back until near dawn.

        Unfortunately, I had a full day of errands ahead me, so I couldn't go straight to bed. If I had been a young college gal, no problem. Heck, we didn't even go out until near midnight. But I'm old, as in, I-watch-CSPAN-for-entertainment and fall-asleep-by-10 p.m. old. I can't stay up all night anymore and function normally.

        Too bad I didn't realize this at the time. I was tired, but I thought I was mostly fine.

        One of my errands that day was my daughter's middle school registration. We arrived at her new school to  meet her teachers, who promptly handed me the requisite book of paperwork. Seriously. It's at least eleventy-billion forms requiring names, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, more phone numbers, emergency contacts and my second cousin's husband's inseam.

        I promptly sat down, rubbed my bleary eyes, diligently completed the forms and handed them to the school staff. Returning home, I decided sleep was necessary when I saw what I thought was Gary Coleman (God rest his soul) lounging naked on my kitchen counter. In reality, it was a half-eaten package of mini chocolate donuts, but I digress.

        Fast-forward a week into the new school year. The phone rings, and the woman on the other end identifies herself as my daughter's middle school counselor. She tells me she's been reviewing Kelsey's paperwork and has a few questions for me. Fire away, I told her.

        Counselor: First of all, Mrs. X. Is that, in fact, your name? Mrs. X?**
        Me: Yessss.
        Counselor: Okay. I wasn't sure. Is your name Kelsey, too? Or is that just your daughter's name?
        Me: Noooooo. My name is Jennifer.
        Counselor: You put down on the form that your name was "Kelsey".
        Me: Oh. Ha. Nope, that's my daughter.
        Counselor: And does Kelsey work outside the home full-time, Mrs. X?
        Me: Um, no. She's only 12.
        Counselor: Alright. You said Kelsey worked as a teacher at the high school.
        Me: No, no. That's her dad.
        Counselor: Is his name Kyle?
        Me: Wow. No, that's Kelsey's brother. Her dad's name is Jeff.
        Counselor: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Okaaaay. (Although I was on the phone, I could see her shaking her head at me.) And does her dad have a cell phone number?
        Me: Yes.
        Counselor: 'Cause you said his phone number was "7." That's all you put down. Seven. Can we maybe get the other digits?

        As her inquest continued, all I could do was giggle. I didn't know how to explain my lapses to her because I didn't think, "Well, you see, I went to a concert the night before registration and was out all night long" was going to help the counselor's first impression of me. I'm pretty sure she had me pegged as a meth head. Or an idiot. Or a meth head idiot fathered by my uncle brother.

        So I laughed, gave her the correct information, apologized profusely and hung up, knowing the middle school staff was undoubtedly wondering how such a bright girl came from such a dense mother. I was mortified, but there was a silver lining: No one at the middle school ever contacted me again to help with any of the school events. In fact, I'm pretty sure they posted my photo around the school district, warning staff of my significant lack of brain cells.

        Ashamed and embarrassed, I was determined to be a better, more-involved parent this school year. I did not attend any concerts the night before my kiddos' school registrations, and I painstakingly completed and proofread all the forms before handing them in to school staff.

        Why, I even rushed to Target as soon as I saw the first back-to-school commercial to buy all the required school supplies, so I wouldn't be one of those frazzled, impatient, last-minute parents elbowing other frazzled, impatient parents in the Crayola aisle the night before school starts.

        I was so proud of myself as I checked items off my son's second-grade supply list, conveniently mailed earlier in the summer by the school. This year will be different, I thought, as I filled the cart with glue sticks and composition notebooks. This year, I will be Super School Mom: faster at buying school supplies than any parent; more powerful than last year's PTO president; able to complete school forms with a single pen...

        So last night, on Back-To-School-Eve, I smugly filled backpacks with supplies purchased weeks ago. Both children had bathed, brushed their teeth and were easily on track for bedtime. Their outfits were carefully laid out on their dressers; their lunch boxes were partially packed; and their names were written neatly in all their bright, shiny folders.

        As I put the final items in Kyle's bag, he turned to me and said, "Are you sure we have everything I need, Mom?"

        "Of course," I said. "That's why I purchased everything early. Your Mama is smart!"

        But my Kyle is a worrier. That, and he knows his mother well. "Are you SURE?" he asked again.

        "Okay, Kyle, if it makes you feel better, read the list, and we'll check the items off as we put them in the backpack."

        List in hand, I sorted all of his supplies again:

        One pair of Fiskar scissors? Check.
        Three boxes of 24-count Crayola crayons? Check.
        Three dozen #2 pencils? Check.

        I was on fire!

        We quickly moved down the list:
        One large box of Kleenex? Check.
        A package of dry erase markers? Check.
        Pencil pouch? You betcha!

        One material/cloth covered binder that closes with a zipper? 

        Uh. What was that?

        One material/cloth covered binder that closes with a zipper?

        Oh. No.

        No check. Did you hear me? No check! Code Red! We have a Code Red, people!

        As a nervous Kyle handed me the list, I noticed it for the first time: the large, bold-faced type in the middle of the list informing me that I am, in fact, a total doofus. Here's a photo of the list, in case you need proof of my dooftastity:

        Yes, in case YOU, for some inexplicable reason, failed to notice the giant, bold, capitalized, exclamation-pointed type in the middle of the list (boy, that would make you some kind of an idiot, wouldn't it?), it reads:

        1 Material/cloth covered binder that closes with a zipper...must have 3 large metal rings inside. This is the MOST IMPORTANT item on the list! It is a MUST! If your child shows up on the first day of school without this VERY IMPORTANT binder, you are a sorry, no-good, piece of crap parent! We will frown every time we see you and think how incredibly heartbreaking it is that your child has you - a MORON - for a mom. WE'RE NOT KIDDING!

        Oopsie. Guess what school supply I didn't have for my anxious, type-A son, who so desperately wanted to make a great impression on his first day of second grade?

        Kelsey, so relieved it wasn't her who looked stupid this school year thanks to her mother's ineptness (at least not yet), doubled over in laughter when she saw the list. "Way to go, Mom!" she said, "You took a big ol' ride on the FAIL WHALE!"

        Needless to say, I rushed both kids out of their pajamas, hopped in the minivan and drove 80 miles-an-hour to the nearest office supply store, where I elbowed those frazzled, last-minute parents out of the way and paid a small fortune for the best darn cloth-covered binder that closes with a zipper and has three large metal rings inside.

        No way was I going to be the Loser Parent this year. NO. WAY.

        But it's safe to say I probably won't nominate myself for PTO President anytime soon. I bet after reading this, no one else will nominate me either.


        **My name really isn't Mrs. X, though that would be super cool.

        Sunday, August 8, 2010

        Please Stay Tuned!

        Sorry the posts have been sporadic at best this summer. The family has been home for summer vacation, so writing has taken a backseat as I've soaked up precious time with my favorite fellow porch sitters.

        And honestly, it's more challenging to write with Mario Bros. blaring beside me than I anticipated. On that note, how is Mario tough enough to bust through brick walls, and yet, get his ass kicked by a caterpillar? These are the things that keep me up nights.

        In spite of enduring endless Wii games; hearing "I'm bored" approximately five gazillion times; and refereeing arguments about who ate the last Eskimo Pie (um, I did, but don't tell the kids. It's way more entertaining when they blame each other), I have thoroughly enjoyed another summer with the kids, who are growing up far too quickly. But they'll return to school next week, and despite how many times I've wished for it the past eight weeks, I'll undoubtedly find myself sad about my quiet house (Shut up! I will, too! For at least five whole minutes!).

        When the gang gets back into a routine, I hopefully will, too. Then the posts should become more regular again. If only Jamie Lee Curtis could spoon-feed my blog some of that Activia yogurt to get it going .... I'll work on that.

        In the meantime, here's a couple of my favorite porchees, doing the summer porch thang. As you can see, we take porch sitting very seriously around these parts.

        Hope you have enjoyed your summer. Meet you back here soon!

        Friday, July 16, 2010

        Our Fun-O-Meters Are Running On Empty

        Normally, with its porch sits, cicada serenades and garden goodies, summer is my favorite season.

        While I have enjoyed those seasonal perks this summer, I've unfortunately had to contend with several family icks and cooties (remember when no one ever got sick in summertime? Yeah. Those days are gone. Thanks, Purell); van ailments (my swagger wagon lost its swagger, yo!); home issues (cha-ching); and a vacation from hell that rivaled the Griswold adventures (more on that in a future post).

        So I offer my sincerest apologies - and excuses - for not keeping The Porch up-to-date the past few weeks. I haven't forgotten about you, and I hope you haven't forgotten about me. Cue Simple Minds, please.

        To make it up to you, dear sitters, I offer my seven-year-old son's, er, graphic analysis of our less-than-stellar family summer. He drew some, um, bar graphs the other day to analyze the "fun" we've had this summer. He proudly showed me what he dubbed the Fun-O-Meters:

        Allow me to explain: the empty Fun-O-Meter on the left indicates the fun my son has actually had this summer (I'm told the "B" at the bottom stands for BORED, while the "F" at the top stands for FUN), while the shaded Fun-O-Meter on the right represents the fun he would like to have.

        My husband took one look at our kid's analysis and said, "Son, we'd all like a lot more fun in our meters."

        That's when I said I needed to go update my blog.

        Tuesday, June 22, 2010

        Facebook is Out of Control

        My teen-age daughter and I were perusing magazines in a local superstore earlier today when we couldn't help but overhear a conversation taking place in the same aisle.

        Here's a snippet of their chat:

        Girl One: I heard they were getting divorced, but I don't know if they are now. They were in here the other day and they were all up on each other.
        Girl Two: Oh, yeah. I heard they were getting divorced, too. I've been watching her Facebook, and I saw that one coming.
        Girl One: Yeah, but have you heard the latest? [dramatic pause] She's pregnant!
        Girl Two: OH. MAH. GAH.
        Girl One: MmmmHmmm. Preggggg - nant. With Number Three.
        Girl Two: OH. MAH. GAH. She hasn't put anything about that on Facebook, girl.
        Girl One: Duh. She doesn't want people to know yet. But I heard it from one of my other friends on Facebook who is friends with her, so I'm pretty sure it's true.
        Girl Two: What is she gonna do? She already has those two little ones. I thought they were stopping?
        Girl One: Well, we don't know it's his, now do we?
        Girl Two: Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm. Drama.
        Girl One: Are you coming to my Fourth of July party? They're supposed to be there.
        Girl Two: I'm gonna try to, if I can.
        Girl One: Well, you should come. You just know we're gonna have some drama this year...

        At this point, my daughter and I were covering our faces with magazines trying to hide our giggles. Why?

        [dramatic pause]

        Because the women having this conversation were two little white-haired old ladies.

        Yes, they were. They were 70 if they were a day.

        Facebook is out of friggin' control, man!

        Oh. Mah. Gah.

        Sunday, June 20, 2010

        Dad Takes the Cake

        It's Father's Day, and I owe my dad so much.

        Thanks to my father, I will always drive with my seat upright, keep a cautious eye out for deer crossing the road and never turn my music up too loud. Sure, these things might sound elementary, but if Dad didn't constantly advise me, who's to say what could happen? I might be prone to not flipping on my windshield wipers when it rains or turning my lights on when I drive after dark.

        In all seriousness, Dad's constant advice matters to me. Those words of wisdom let me know how very much he cares. Well, that, or he thinks I'm a couple of beers short of a six-pack and a horrible driver, but I prefer to think it's because he loves me and wants to protect me, no matter how old I am. For some reason, in my father's eyes, I'm still an eight-year-old in pigtails.

        To thank Dad for all he's done for me and my children, I naturally wanted to do something special for him on Father's Day. Unfortunately, Dad is one of those men who is incredibly uncomfortable receiving presents, and honestly, at 71, he has most everything he wants, anyway. Plus, he already has so many gift cards that his wallet rivals George Costanza's fat billfold (I love random Seinfeld references).

        After some debate, I decided to bake Dad his favorite dessert: a layered homemade banana cake with thick caramel praline frosting. At least Dad tells me my banana cake his favorite dessert, but I also happen to  know my sister-in-law baked him a chocolate pie today because he told her that was his favorite dessert. I think he's running quite the racket here, but I digress...

        Once the cake was baked, frosted and packaged, I called Dad to see if he was home (he lives in nearby town) so the kids and I could deliver his gift. The conversation went as follows:

        Me: Happy Father's Day!
        Dad: Happy Father's Day to you!
        Me: Well, okay, thanks, but I'm not a father.
        Dad: Whew. I'm tired, Jenny. I've been out in the sun too long this weekend. Your sister called to invite me to breakfast this morning, and I was so sleepy I thought it was your brother, so I called him and woke him up and told him I'd go. He had never called. But we figured it out.
        Me: Um, yeah. That's good. So are you going to be home for a little while?
        Dad: I don't know. Why?
        Me: The kids and I wanted to see you and bring you your Father's Day gift.
        Dad: Oh. Okay. I might not be here, though.
        Me: {sigh} So when would be a good time to bring your gift by? Should we come now or later this evening?
        Dad: Not this evening! I don't want you driving at dark.
        Me: Dad. I'm 40. I can drive after dark, you know.
        Dad: I'd rather you not
        Me: Okay. That's fine. We'll just come over now, then.
        Dad: You don't need to drive over now, either. It's too hot. What if your van broke down on the parkway? And you with those kids?
        Me: We'll be just fine, Dad. How about I just grab the kids and we'll run over and drop off your gift now? That way, if you want to do something later, you'll be free.
        Dad: Ummmm. I guess that'll be okay.
        Me: Okay. See you in a few.

        I grabbed his cake, the kids and my car keys and was headed out the door when the phone rang.

        Me: Hello?
        Mom: Jenny, I was just calling to tell  you that we'll come over to your house instead. Your Dad doesn't want you on the road today.
        Me: Mom, this is ridiculous. Dad told me how tired he is. Anyway, I was on my way out the door. Do you not want me to come over for some reason? Are you making those movies again?
        Mom: Don't be silly! Your Dad and I are on our way out the door. So we'll just come over there.
        Me: I'm getting a complex, you know.
        Mom: See you in a little while, sweetheart!

        Did I mention my Dad is the biggest control freak I know?! Anyway, they supposedly needed to run some errands in my town, so it made more sense for them to come here. Once again, I am beginning to think they suspect I'm the type who is too dumb to pull my head in before I shut the car window. For the record, I only did that once. Well, okay. Twice.

        At any rate, about 30 minutes later, Mom and Dad arrived, and I presented Dad with his cake. This is the conversation that followed:

        Dad: Thanks, this looks really good, but it's hot out there, and I'll have to leave it in the truck.Will the frosting melt?
        Me: I guess it could melt. It's butter-based.
        Mom: I think it will be fine. We'll put it in shade.
        Dad: I don't know. You see, I have to feed your mother. She hasn't eaten anything since breakfast {he rolls his eyes}. Then we have to go to Sam's Club. That's a long time.
        Me: Go run your errands and come back for the cake. It's fine. Really.
        Dad [to Mom]: Do you think I can trust them with my cake? What if they eat it?
        Mom [to Dad]: Well, you're the one who wanted to come by here first! I told you we should come on the way back!
        Dad [to Mom]: I didn't want to interfere with their plans. What if they have plans?
        Me: We're flexible. Someone will be here. It's no big deal. But if we weren't, you have keys to the house anyway, don't you?
        Dad [to Mom]: Do we have keys?
        Mom: We have keys, yes, but not with us.
        Dad: Dammit!
        Mom: Well, how was I supposed to know we'd need the keys?
        Me: You don't need keys. Someone will be here. The cake will be here. See you soon.

        Fast-forward another hour and Dad at long last returns for his cake.

        Me: I'm glad you're finally getting your cake. Happy Father's Day. I didn't mean for it to be such a hassle.
        Dad: What can I say, honey? If I can give you a little fatherly advice: Life is awfully sweet, but it's not always a cake walk.

        True story.

        Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you.

        You absolutely take the cake!

        Wednesday, June 9, 2010

        She's Got the Reeboks with the Straps!

        While looking through some old photos today, I stumbled across this little gem from my high school cheerleader days:

        Something is horribly wrong with this photo.

        No, it's not the huge, fried, 1987 hair, which we can all agree was totally awesome. No, it's not my uneven cut-off sweatpants shorts, though I certainly understand how you would guess that.

        And it's not my knobby knees, my bitchin' Reeboks (with the straps!) or the fact that I'm standing on a dude. (Incidentally, mad love to my friend J, who was our only male cheerleader and endured considerable grief for it. But the joke's on all the other guys because J spent his high school days with girls in short skirts on his shoulders.)

        You'll notice that the other three cheerleaders in the photo are actually wearing cheerleader apparel of some sort. One of them has on our official cheerleader uniform, while the other two are sporting cool T-shirts emblazoned with cheerleader logos because cheerleaders, being the elitist snobs that we were, wanted you to know we were cheerleaders. Our entire social hierarchy depended on you acknowledging this, so we wore the word "Cheerleader" on as many of our clothes as possible - even on the asses of our shorts. Recognize, bitchez!

        But me? What am I wearing? A lovely t-shirt featuring a beverage and the words, "Hunch Punch". Yes, that's right. Hunch Punch. It certainly doesn't do much to dispel the high school cheerleader stereotypes, now does it?

        We've got spirit!
        Your team's whack!
        Give me some hunch punch and I'll do the quarterback!

        (Actually, I did do the quarterback. Numerous times. But it's totally okay because I eventually married him).

        Did I mention this photo was in my hometown's newspaper?

        My parents must have been terribly proud.

        Monday, May 31, 2010

        We Remember

        They say a photo speaks a thousand words, so today, I'll let the photo I snapped of my 7-year-old son at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., do the talking:

         From my porch to yours, I wish all of you a wonderful Memorial Day.

        Saturday, May 29, 2010

        God's Jar

        It dawned on me that I haven't posted one of my melodramatic poems in months, friends. Tsk. Tsk. We can't have me not being melodramatic! I have a rep to protect.

        Anyway, this is one of my favorites and it seemed appropriate in light of the heartbreaking BP catastrophe in the Gulf. Oh, Greed: she is a terrible, terrible thing. As I watch our waters, wetlands and wildlife succumb to oil and poison, all I can think about is the old saying, "Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money."

        God's Jar

        He holds in glass a foreign land
        Where darkness dwells inside of man
        And fruit withers on gnarled trees
        In gardens sowed with mankind's seed.

        He peers inside and tears soon well
        As rain descends and oceans swell
        Fatherless men seek clemency
        Waters purge and shores recede.

        He shaped this place of life and death
        And was The One who gave it breath
        He fashioned man; is He to blame?
        Is His triumph, also His shame?

        The grace of God held in His hands
        His Son asks, "Father, what is that?"
        God lays it in his tiny grasp
        "Be careful, Son," is all He asks.

        A child of faith smiles down from high
        Across the stars, his laughter nigh
        He marvels at this world afar
        Tiny grains trapped in Heaven's jar.

        He shakes the jar and gazes in
        As water wipes the world of sin
        Then light imbues the once dark space
        And new life rises in its place.

        He holds in glass a foreign land
        Where waves caress crushed golden sand
        And sea oats whisper in the wind
        On shores barren of man and sin.

        © 2008 by Jennifer Jenkins Reese
        All rights reserved

        Thursday, May 27, 2010

        My Mom Rocks! (OR, This Explains A Lot About Me, Doesn't It?)

        Mamas, if they are good ones, are always picking us up, dusting us off and patting us on the backs. Although I'm (gulp) 40, my mom still sings my praises. Man, do I have her fooled or what?! Regardless, I love her (and dad) dearly for continually supporting and encouraging me.

        Look. I'm completely unbiased, but she really is the best mom in the world. Sorry if that makes your mom sub par, but I just tell it like it is. Don't blame the messenger.

        Need supporting evidence? Here are just a few of the many, many reasons why my Mom is the best: 

        She's my biggest fan. When I was a little girl, Mom sat through numerous dance, piano and clarinet practices and recitals. Although I clearly sucked at all of those things, Mom never complained about the time or money, always applauded enthusiastically and made me feel like a super star (<--- say that with Mary Katherine Gallagher-like emphasis, please). I think she also thought the years of ballet would keep me from falling down stairs so often. Someone owes her a refund.

        She has mad driving skillz. When I turned 10, Mom took me to an area mall to shop for my birthday presents. For some strange reason, a big chain drug store in the mall was selling hamsters (do hamsters serve medicinal purposes? Is that why Richard Gere used them? Hamster colonics?). I looked up at Mom with my much-practiced, big, brown puppy-dog eyes expression and she actually fell for it and bought me a hamster. During our 30-minute drive home - at night - during a storm - the hamster chewed his way out of the drug store's cardboard container and scampered around the car, just as we were crossing a long bridge high over a river. Miraculously, Mom didn't lose control of the car in spite of torrential rain, our screams and a hyper, panicked rodent underfoot.  

        She's always "Doing it All for My Baby." Mom went through what she refers to as her "MTV phase" with her four kids during the '80s. She would sit glued to the tube and occasionally yell things like, "KIDS! Come quick! They're showing 'Thriller' again!" She also developed a crazy mad crush on Huey Lewis and would drop whatever she was doing to run into the TV room and dance during his videos. Yeah. I didn't bring friends home with me much during those days, but I appreciated having a mom in the Bible Belt who didn't think music videos were evil.  

        She weathers the storms with grace. For my 13th birthday, Mom begrudgingly let me have a slumber party and invite all my girlfriends - both those I was close to and those I hoped to impress. She somehow piled a dozen of us into her Datsun hatchback (clown car, anyone?) and, with various adolescent limbs in her face and on her lap, drove us to the movies during a tornado outbreak. She wasn't comfortable with this arrangement, but I told her we HAD to go to the movies or I would forever be dubbed as the loser who threw the lamest birthday party ever. Later that night, Mom and Dad came downstairs when the storm sirens sounded and discovered a couple of 13-year-old boys hiding in the basement. Ummmmm. I don't know how they got there. (My friends were slutty). Although I was never allowed to have another slumber party, Mom calmly sent the intruders home and did not embarrass me in front of my friends. 

        She keeps me grounded. My mom grounded me for the entire summer vacation when I was a rebellious 15-year-old who was getting in over my stupid teen-age head. My older brother (punk) ratted me out and told her that a friend and I tied bedsheets together and climbed out of my second-story window to sneak out with boys (are you seeing a pattern here?). That was the last straw in a long list of teen-age offenses, and I was grounded for two whole months. Truth is, I was relieved - even grateful - for the punishment. I knew I was headed for trouble, and Mom gave me the perfect excuse to get out of it. I probably pouted and didn't thank her at the time, so I will now. Thanks for the boundaries, Mom. 

        She understands hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  The first time a (dumb) boyfriend broke my heart, I cried all day and told Mom I would feel so much better if I could take all of our relationship mementos and throw them in his face. Much to my surprise, she told me to gather his things in a grocery sack and meet her in the car. We drove slowly into his neighborhood, looking over our shoulders like two criminals as we approached his house. When no cars were around, she handed me the bag and said, "Go for it!" I jumped out and trashed his yard with love notes, photos, t-shirts and other relationship paraphernalia as Mom cheered me on from the sidelines. Satisfied, I jumped back in the car, tires squealed and Mom sped off like a mad woman. We laughed all the way home. It was considerably more therapeutic than ice cream. 

         She's good clean fun. After my sophomore year in college, I told Mom I wanted to get out of the dorms and move into my own apartment. She was concerned, but she supported me, even convincing my wary dad that I could handle the responsibility of being on my own. I couldn't afford a nice place by myself, and I noticed my parents' horrified expression as they drove me and all my belongings up to a decrepit white house with peeling paint, sagging gutters and cracked windows (sadly, that was its better side). Mom and I spent the entire day scrubbing every square inch of that filthy, roach-motel apartment and sprucing it up with plants, curtains, fresh bedding and pictures. By the time we finished, the apartment had come such a long way that we kept walking around it, marveling at our handiwork. To celebrate our inner Martha Stewarts, we went to eat at a local Italian restaurant, but we were so utterly exhausted from the day of moving, cleaning and decorating, that neither of us could summon the energy to talk. When we both nearly crashed face-first into our plates of spaghetti, we burst into a delirious fit of laughter and couldn't stop. Mom spent that first night with me, and we woke up in a terrible, but sparkling-clean apartment. As she and Dad pulled away the next morning, I'll never forget her looking back over her shoulder and waving. It was the first time I truly felt on my own in the world, and thanks to her, I was ready for it.

        She shoots for the stars. Mom is a total lightweight and mostly goody two-shoes who rarely partakes of alcohol. On a trip to Florida, Mom and I packed some wine down to the beach, where we sat sipping and talking. After a couple of glasses, we decided to head back to our condo, which was on the building's second floor. We began to ascend the stairs, and I stopped at the appropriate landing, but Mom kept climbing ... and climbing. I asked her where she was going and she said, "Back to the condo! Where are you going?" I swear, she would have climbed all the way to the top if I hadn't retrieved her. Good times. Good times.

        She's duckin' funny. My older sister moved into a lovely house in a beautiful country club neighborhood that backs up to a golf course - you know, the kind of neighborhood with very strict association guidelines about what can and can't be placed outside the home. So what did Mom and I do to welcome her to her new home? We went to the local Big Lots and bought the tackiest yard decor we could find: a big, concrete, bright yellow duck with googly eyes and an animated, cartoonish face. When my sister was out of her home one afternoon, we snuck over and placed the duck prominently on her porch, then giggled and high-fived each other like school kids as we drove away. Thankfully, my sister has a wonderful sense of humor and kept the duck (but moved it to the back deck).

        She always has time for me. Mom and I were leisurely perusing a large big-box sort of store one Sunday afternoon, picking up gardening supplies and  thoroughly enjoying our day of bargain shopping. Our cart was nearly full when a store employee came down the aisle, a bewildered expression on his face. "Excuse me, ladies," he said, "But what in the world are you doing here?" Duh. What a moron. Rolling our eyes, we told him we were shopping, of course. And that's when he told us the store had been closed for nearly an hour, and we needed to leave. Oops.

        She's got the write stuff. I love plenty of writers, but my mom is my favorite. She's a newspaper columnist who has a tremendous gift with words. She has long been considered another Erma Bombeck, and my childhood antics (and those of my siblings) were often reported in our local newspaper. Yep, she even wrote about the time I jumped off the carport roof at 13 and left my shorts dangling on a nail. You know how much fun it is to be a very sensitive eighth-grader and have the entire school know I was rolling around in my underwear and crying for my mommy? I'm not remotely bitter, mind you, but have you read the story about her Christmas grape tree?

        She's still got it. Last but not least, she wrote me this encouraging email about the Porch just last night. It might be the last one she writes me, once she realizes I'm using her messages for blog fodder. Sorry, Mom, but that's a chance I'll have to take:

        I was just catching up with your blog and as always am amazed at your spectacular writing and wit. I keep thinking, "Why didn't I write that?" But then again, I can always steal it. Copyright, schmapywrite.
        There was one disappointment, however.
        I thought you were referring to an entirely different kind of PENIS, so I was avidly reading along, even skipping whole groups of words to get to the dirty part.
        What a bummer.

        Love you,

        Of course, I told her I was sorry the PENIS didn't satisfy her and that she'd better not think for one second that just because she's my mom, I won't sue her ass if she steals from me.

        Like I said, we're close like that.