• Flashback Friday: OOPS!

    Well, I certainly had my share of pictures to choose from in addressing this week’s theme.  In the end, I looked back at the year 1999 when it seemed like the boys were everywhere they weren’t supposed to be,

    like playing in the potty. One minute Drew and Porter were fine, sitting on the floor eating dog food, and the next moment I heard a lot of flushing from the kitchen bathroom. Drew discovered the toilet first, then summoned Porter, who was reluctant to leave his snack. Once he and Blue Bunny ambled over, they agreed that the combination of swirly water and my hysterics were fine entertainment.

    A couple of years later when we had our septic tank pumped, the Pickles (they have a monopoly on all the septic tank work around here) were amused to find not only the usual sludge, but also an assortment of Legos, dominoes and marbles in the tank.  They also removed several pieces of heavy paper.  I bet that if that hot Danny Messer from CSY:NY had been here to analyze those shards under the mass spec,  he would have identified them as Finn’s missing baseball cards.

    I like to take pictures that will remind me when I’m a grandmother (assuming the sex talk has been successful) that raising children was hard and messy. Here’s one of Porter.


    I told Porter not to run down the driveway but toddlers ignore you– it’s to prepare you for when they are teenagers. His nose took ages to heal, but Blue Bunny was with him every moment.

    I wasn’t as talented at taking OOPS pictures when Finn was small.  However, he did show a great affinity for cross-dressing which caused my father-in-law no end of distress.

    I thought the bracelets added an especially stylish touch.


    Thanks to all of you for your kind wishes about my back.  As I told Finn earlier, I really shouldn’t complain.  Anyone with this amount of hardware in her body ought to be hurting a lot more than I do, and I have far more good days than bad.

    The MRI didn’t give us a clear diagnosis but I’ve been to physical therapy where Jon, who saw me through rehab after my 2004 surgery, attacked my problem with enthusiasm.  He began by shoving his hand under my scapula and forcing me to turn my neck 270 degrees to the right,and followed that move with other contortions.

    The session was quite successful in that it was so painful that I left feeling like maybe I didn’t hurt so bad after all, because Jon certainly proved that I could hurt much worse.

    Additionally, it’s a sunny afternoon, we have about 24 hours before tornadoes come through, and I have a decent stock of Tanqueray, tonic and limes.   I believe I’ll pull out an unbroken wedding glass and toast the rest of my body for hanging in there.


    Join in with your Flashback Friday OOPS picture(s)! Instructions are here!

  • Flashback Friday: SNOW!

    I was trying to explain Alabama to someone recently, and I told her, “In lots of places, it’s harder to find a snowflake than it is a Democrat.”

    With few exceptions I leave politics out of this blog, so suffice it to say that while I shiver when it’s below 70 degrees inside or out, I love some snow and spend much of January through March praying for just a bit.  A little or none is what we usually get down here.

    I come by my love of snow honestly.  I have a faint recollection of it snowing when I was about five, and my mom dragging me outside to teach me a few things.  First she patted out a snowman.  We had barely an inch of snow on the ground.  My mom shaped the snow into two tiny balls and placed one on top of the other, but there were so many pine needles sticking every which way out of the snow that it looked more like a porcupine.  My mom was really proud of it and got out the Polaroid and I would kill to have a picture of that porcupine snowman today.

    (I don’t tell this part of the story out loud very often because I say “porky-pine” and Bill feels compelled to interrupt and say it’s “por-cue-pine,” and a beautiful childhood memory inevitably ends in marital discord.)

    My mom wasn’t through.  Next she showed me how to make two flavors of snow ice cream: the lemon kind where you got a bowl of snow and squeezed a lemon and sprinkled some sugar on top, and the syrup kind, where you mixed snow and syrup.  They were both delicious and I thought we should serve them at my birthday party.

    Surely there was another snow or two in my childhood, but the next one I can document for sure occurred in 1990 or so in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Bill and I were in law school.  I’d arrived at law school with long hair, but when Bill and I broke up one time I drove to Birmingham and got it cut short.  Compared to today’s styles it doesn’t look very short (in fact it looks quite bouffant) but it was oh so daring at the time.  More importantly, either the haircut or my sparkling personality lured Bill back.

    I got the gold hoop earrings in Turkey and a friend of a friend stole them.  I sure would like them back– they’re real gold and I bargained for them myself at the Grand Bazaar.

    This picture serves two purposes.  It proves the presence of snow in Tuscaloosa, and it establishes that the 80’s actually extended well into the 90’s, at least as far as fashion was concerned.


    Few events have been as exciting as The Blizzard of ’93.   It was a Friday in March, and there were rumors of a winter storm, but we were skeptical.  I went to the store and purchased wine, fresh Parmesan and rosemary, and rum.  Late that evening the sky turned green and it thundered and lightninged and started to snow.   The power went out.  The next morning, we woke to over a foot of snow.


    It was days before anyone could get around, and the temperature hovered around 25 degrees.  We tacked sheets over the window and doors and hunkered down in the den by the fireplace, our sole source of heat.  Bill cut down a tree in the back yard and we hauled it into the basement so it could dry out a bit.  Then he sawed it into logs which we brought upstairs so we could cook and stay warm.

    We made grits for breakfast, cheese grits for lunch, and grits topped with garlic, Parmesan and rosemary for dinner.

    After a day and a half we’d burned the tree and all the sticks we were able to find beneath the snow.  The previous occupants had left some ugly furniture in the basement and Bill cut that into firewood.  I have a sexy picture of him wearing only long underwear, sawing a chest into pieces, but I’m trying to respect his boundaries so I’m posting this picture instead.

    You can see the furniture stacked on the right and all our wet socks hanging over the fireplace to dry.

    We had to wait a long time before we saw any more snow, and then it was fleeting.  In 2000 we got about half an inch.  All three boys had come along.  Ever optimistic, I’d bought sleds one August so I’d be super prepared.

    I realize no one looks very happy in this picture (you do know you can click on most of these pictures to make them larger, don’t you?), but the reality was even worse.  Both Porter (clutching Naked Baby) and Drew were gushing snot and were not interested at all in the snow.  Finn rode the sled with Bill a few times, then came inside and fell to the floor crying from exhaustion.  I put everyone in bed for a nap and watched the snow melt.  I cried, too, because I hadn’t gotten the chance to make the boys any snow ice cream and I was afraid that what with global warming and all I had missed my chance.

    Last year we got a decent half day of snow when we were down in Gold Hill, and I wrote about it  here.  We did it up- snowballs, ice cream, the whole shebang.

    And then last weekend, we got my favorite kind of snow.  No weather people hinted about it days in advance, only to dash our hopes with two flakes and a grocery store fresh out of milk.

    This snow crept up on us all of a sudden, and we woke Sunday morning to covered ground and big fat snowflakes and a good five inches of outdoor fun.


    Snowball In Flight

    Innocent Fun?


    The Moment Before Drew Kicked Porter In The Eye


    It was exactly what I needed, and now I’m ready for spring.

    Go ahead, add your Flashback! Directions and upcoming themes are here.


  • Dog Food In The Dryer

    It’s hard to write coherently when things are falling apart all around you. Finn has the flu and is pitiful to behold. A boy who doesn’t have the energy to taunt his younger brothers is sick indeed.

    Last night I asked Porter to move the sheets from the washer to the dryer, add a dryer sheet and turn it on. When he did, an enormous rattling commenced. Upon inspection, I found a good handful of dog food twirling in the dryer with the sheets. The dog food was already dry. Using my well-honed CSI skills (I’ve finished Miami and am now onto New York, and why didn’t any of you tell me about that hot Danny Messer?) I deduced that Porter had dropped a pillowcase into the bag of dog food while making the transfer then thrown it in the dryer, oblivious to the kibble adhered to it.

    Boys. Teaching them to be self-sufficient is a tine-consuming process. “Check the wet laundry and make sure no strange objects or dog food are stuck on it” has now been added to the laundry check list.

    What started as a simple task well before dinner ended with Bill and the boys carousing in the kitchen, waiting on the Pasta Puttanesca to be served. It was a big deal when the Silver Palate cookbooks came out. My mom went nuts cooking dishes that relied on fresh, new ingredients instead of cans of cream of mushroom soup.

    Pasta Puttasnesca was a meal that my sisters and I adored, and my boys loved it, too.


    1 lb spaghetti
    2 35 oz cans tomatoes
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 tsp oregano
    1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup black olives, pitted and chopped
    1/4 cup drained capers
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    8 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
    1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
    2 T salt

    Boil water.  Add salt and pasta.  Cook until al dente.  Drain.
    While pasta is cooking, combine tomatoes and olive oil in skillet and bring to boil.  Add remaining ingredients one at a time, stirring frequently
    Reduce heat slightly and continue to cook until sauce has thickened to your liking.
    Serve immediately over hot pasta.

    I use a large can of diced tomatoes and a large can of puree, as I have boys who pick out chunks.  I increase the red pepper flakes and use Greek olives.  I made this a day ahead so I just had to heat up the sauce and boil noodles on a busy night.

    Speaking of self-reliance, it turns out that there is such a thing as teaching boys to be too self-sufficient.  I discovered this when both Drew and Porter brought home some sucky grades on their spelling tests.  I was particularly upset since I won the 5th grade spelling bee on the word “linoleum.”

    “What’s up with this?” I asked.  “Why didn’t you tell me you had a test?  I would help you study.”

    “Why would we tell you?” Drew asked.

    “You would help us study?” Porter asked.

    Then I realized that I’ve focused so much on having them do things for themselves that it never occurred to them to ask for help.  The last couple of months I’ve been on them like a flea on a dog asking about spelling tests, and I give them each a fake test.  They write the words they miss three times each and then are tested again.

    They may not be able to spell linoleum but they are improving.


    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Albert Einstein Needs Love, Too


    Don’t forget that this week’s Flashback Friday theme is Love, Look At The 2 Of Us.  For instructions on how to participate, see here.

  • Perils of the Urban Jungle

    The boys disappeared after school one day last week and returned, wheezing, dragging long poles of bamboo.

    “We found a jungle down the street,” Porter said.  “There’s tons of bamboo, and we used to want a tree house but now we’ve decided to build a hut.”

    “We’ll need more bamboo, though.  We don’t even have enough for one wall,” Drew pointed out.

    “That’s okay.  The jungle was huge and bamboo grows fast.”

    “Where is the jungle?” I asked.

    “Just down the street,” Drew said.  “Not next door but really close, which is good, because some of those poles are probably ten feet long.”

    I looked outside.  He wasn’t exaggerating.


    Although we’ve been in this house for eleven years and I’ve never seen a jungle nearby, I wasn’t that concerned about the boys harvesting bamboo from someone else’s land.  They’ll stick with an activity for an afternoon or so, but I didn’t foresee them gathering so much that anyone would notice.  I underestimated their desire for a bamboo hut, though, and by the fourth day they’d gathered enough to cover the deck.

    At that point, however, I was invested in the project.  The boys had spent hours visiting the jungle and returning laden with bamboo.  As a result,  I’d had four of the most peaceful afternoons I could remember.  They’d been worn out and ready for bed earlier, too.  I considered proposing a two-story hut, and maybe a sunporch.

    One day I left my builders so I could go see my therapist.

    During the session, my phone rang.

    “Mom, Porter was whittling a bamboo knife and he cut his thumb and it’s bleeding all over the place,” Finn said.

    I grimaced.  It was rush hour and it would take me a while to get home.

    “Listen to me,” I said.  “Wrap his thumb in one of my old kitchen towels and hold it on there tightly.  Now give Drew the phone while you do that.”

    “Hey Mom,” Drew said.

    “Hey baby.  I need you to be strong because your brothers get woozy when they see blood.”

    “Yeah, Porter’s already acting like he’s dizzy.”

    “Okay.  I want you to do two things.  Get two blankets, and put one on top of the sofa, and then you’ll use the other one for covers when you and Finn walk Porter to the sofa to lie down.”

    “Yes ma’am.”

    “The second thing is that I want you to get him a glass of ice water and put it by the sofa and make sure he drinks it.”

    “Why do you always give us ice water no matter what is wrong?”

    “It cures everything,” I said.  “Now you get the blankets and the water, and hand the phone to Porter.”

    “Hey,” Porter said in a tragic voice.

    “Hey sweetie.  You’re being really brave, and your brothers know just what to do.  They’re going to move you to the sofa and give you some water and I want you to keep that towel around your thumb.”

    “I will.  But I think all my blood is draining out.”

    “It is not,” I heard Finn say in the background.  “You’re totally exaggerating.  It’s barely bleeding anymore.”

    “Porter, I promise you that all your blood is not going to drain out.  I love you, and put Finn on the phone,” I said.

    “Mom, his blood is not draining out.  He’d be dead if that was happening and we’d be calling 911, not talking to you.”

    “Dude, remember that he’s the patient and you need to make a fuss over him.  Help him to the sofa and sit with him until I get home,” I told Finn.

    By that time my session was almost over and my therapist and I had barely scratched the surface of my childhood wounds, but I had others to deal with.

    When I got home, the boys were in the den.  Porter was lying on the sofa and Drew was forcing water down his throat.  Finn had put a bandaid on the cut and the bloody towel was at his feet.

    “I saved the towel in case we need to get stitches,” he said, gesturing at it.  I got a lump in my throat, realizing that the boys had not only joined together in rendering first aid, but they’d also remembered my rule: take the bloody stuff with you to the ER and you will get your stitches more quickly than the patient who arrives without gory props.

    I examined Porter’s thumb, and decided it would probably heal on its own.

    Here’s what he was making when he cut himself.


    Despite the injury, they’re still thrilled about the possibilities afforded by the bamboo forest.   They’ve made a spear and collected leaves for the roof.  When it gets a bit warmer, we’ll hang out in the hut like monkeys, soaking up the sun.


    Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: The Perfect Epithet


    Don’t forget the theme for this week’s Flashback Friday is “Remember It’s Inner Beauty That Counts.”