• Flashback Friday: There Once Was A Place Which Promised Happy Hours

    It didn’t just promise Happy Hours – it delivered, affording mothers throughout the Tiny Kingdom five hours of peace and giving three, four and five-year-olds days of kindergarten bliss.

    Here’s the graduating class of Happy Hours kindergarten in 1973.

    5yoHappy Hours

    (click to enlarge)

    We learned all sorts of important life skills at Happy Hours. We learned how to cut with pointy scissors, how to stop eating the jar of paste, how to go all the way across the monkey bars without stopping and not to hang on them upside-down on the days you wore a dress.

    See the clock in the background? We probably couldn’t read that.  We didn’t focus so much on letters and numbers and real school stuff.  The teachers at Happy Hours wanted to make sure we knew how to share, how to get to the bathroom on time, to say please , thank you, yes ma’am and no ma’am.  That’s what everyone learned in kindergarten back then.

    When you were five, Mrs. Sillaman, who owned the school, was your teacher, and she ensured you were ready to make your way in the world.  Everyone graduated  well-versed in a variety of songs and dances, including “Way Down Yonder in The Paw-Paw Patch,” “Skip To My Lou,” and the Hokey-Pokey. We memorized and recited the 100th Psalm every Thanksgiving after we’d made hand-turkeys.

    There was one kid in my class who said everything like it was a question? And Mrs. Sillaman made him repeat every sentence without the inflection on the end? And even at that young age I thought I might be capable of murder?  And I cannot for the life of me remember which child that was to identify him, which is probably best for all concerned.

    I remember plenty of the others, though.

    I suppose everyone who moves back home experiences this– the people from your past pop up in unexpected places.  Today’s Flashback Friday has shown me just how much our lives are interwoven.

    The boy on the end of the front row is Archie, and he and I went to school together through high school. You know the kid who could fix the film projector when it broke down and then grew up to be a computer genius? That’s him. He also married a gorgeous blond-haired, blue-eyed girl who was several years younger than we are. She Jazzercises with me, and has the tight ass and firm thighs that come along with that activity.

    Now that I’ve complimented her I suppose it’s a convenient time to confess that I remember a certain boy-girl party in the 7th grade where Archie and I flirted and danced. I don’t think I kissed him, but I sure thought about it.  I actually had a crush on his older brother, Charles, but figured that any male from that family (and there were several) would do.

    Despite growing up with brothers, Archie now has three blond, blue-eyed daughters and is hugely outnumbered in his household. Dude, I feel your pain. Sometime we need to trade: you can come to my house and play the Doorknob/Fart game with my boys and I’ll go to your house and braid hair and sprinkle glitter.

    The red-head on the other end is now a judge. Happily, he’s not the judge who has a daughter that Finn decked in the face in second grade. He has a boy Finn’s age and they are great friends. He also has twin boys who look exactly like he does in this picture.

    In the second row, the boy in the red and white stripes (which are probably meant to be crimson, for all the Bama fans out there) is now a successful insurance salesman with a lovely wife and children. I cannot believe I don’t have any dirt on him, as we ran in the same circles.  Thank God I showed some restraint with someone.

    I’m in the middle in the blue dress, and next to me is Katie Stroud.  I played with her a lot.  Her mom looked a lot older than my mom and wore her hair piled in a bun on top of her head, and long skirts, like a German hausfrau.    I couldn’t picture her wearing the flashy bikini my mom sported.  Hairstyles aside, I thought Katie’s mom was great because she let Katie have an E-Z Bake Oven, while my mom told me I could use the real oven and be happy about it.  Katie and I probably made 1000 saucer-sized chocolate cakes at her house through the years.

    John is next to her.  He played football at Alabama.  Several of my friends kissed him in high school, but I didn’t.  Today he owns Greek restaurants and sushi restaurants which both rock.  Bill and I had a wonderful dinner at his fancy sushi restaurant, Ginsei, and sat next to a guy who was wooing a Greek medical student.  She was hot, his lines were witty, the rock shrimp were luscious and we drank two bottles of wine while we eavesdropped on their date.  Space between tables is not the restaurant’s strong point.  The wooer is now engaged to someone else, which is a whole ‘nother story, but I hear that the med student is the most eligible Greek in town so she’ll be totally fine.

    The first guy on the last row is Steven, and we had one date in high school.  (Just to show you the connectedness of the Tiny Kingdom, he’s now married to the sister of someone I practice law with, his mother lives around the corner, and his brother’s mother-in-law lives down the street.)

    Steven and I went on a double date with his mother and Fred, her now husband.  At that point they had been dating five years or so, and my parents knew that we were at the movies with Steven’s parents.  Fred had some sort of car trouble, and I got home five minutes after curfew.  My parents were way uptight about the curfew, and I intend to be the same way.  There were no cell phones back then, and Steven had the pleasure, which he assures me he has never forgotten, of walking me to the door, where he was met by my dad, clad only in his boxers.

    My dad was unforgiving, Steven and I were horrified, and his mom and Fred were in the driveway waiting on Steven, either laughing or making out.  I should ask her.

    The next guy, Brad, was your typical Bad Boy.  Not the sexy kind of Bad Boy, just Bad.  We carpooled with Brad.  His mom had pale skin and blonde hair and the look on her face when we picked him up for school was one of pure relief.  I sympathized; that’s the look I had on my face when we dropped him off.  He kicked girls and teachers, threw tantrums, refused to color when it was time to color and he was the worst dancing partner.

    I couldn’t remember the name of the next girl, but Paige, in white, says her name was Arden Ripple.  My God!  What an awesome name!  It’s my personal belief that she changed her name to Angelina Jolie and became obsessed with children, but if not, I hope the real Arden Ripple will let us know what she’s been up to.

    Paige gets the award for least changed, despite birthing five boys.  Oddly, she looks even more like herself today in the 3 year-old class picture than she does here.  Sigh.

    The boy in the brown and white stripes is Lee and he has a great recollection of the Happy Hours gang.  In fact, he wrote that he painted the tree on the far right and Archie did the apple tree next to his, which he felt was inferior.  He knows that a girl created the tree on the left hand side and remembers thinking it was awful.  Archie commented that the girls were totally responsible for painting all the bunnies.

    The boy in blue is named Duvergne.  You pronounce it “Doo-vern.”  Clearly that’s a French name, but I remember my mom insisting it was Spanish.  Whatever.  Foreign languages were not her thing.  In 6th grade all the kids in the Tiny Kingdom take ballroom dancing lessons at Steeple Arts.  I did it, our parents did it, and Finn did,too, though Bill was unsure when he would ever use them, as he grew up in Auburn and has never had to do an impromptu foxtrot himself.

    Duvergne has not lost his love of the dance; he was one of the ballroom aids during Finn’s class.  When I told Finn that I’d known Duvergne for 35 years he about fainted, because I’d been telling him I was thirty for quite a while.

    Here we are at four:


    (click to enlarge)

    I’m in the middle again, with pink and white.  The boy in blue by my knee was named Blair, and he had the longest eyelashes ever.  I’m sitting next to Dana Goldblatt, who has disappeared.  It’s a shame, because I went to her house after school a lot.

    Dana told me that if we touched the tips of our tongues together a fairy would appear and we could boss her around.  We tried it several times but we never got a fairy.  You might think it’s gross to touch your tongue to someone else’s, but the great thing about Dana was that she was also a big fan of eating Gleem toothpaste, so the tongue-touching was a minty experience.  Generally we’d get home, have a snack, eat some Gleem (I didn’t swallow), go outside and touch tongues, and spend the rest of the afternoon on the swings.

    Here we are at three:


    (click to enlarge)

    Archie’s on the second row, and he’s whooped. Paige, John, Russell, me and Katie make up a happy back row. It looks like we couldn’t draw trees, but we were able to cut out Easter Eggs with our safety scissors at that young age.  Even then we were headed for great things.

    I’m not sure how the girl in the green and red in the middle row got to be in this class.  Kathryn lived behind us, and her mom was in my mom’s wedding.  I know for a fact that she was only two-and-a-half.  She must have been a toilet-trained prodigy to have been at Happy Hours.

    My family did a lot with her family.  They had a poodle named Celia, and Kathryn had two little brothers who were always climbing on furniture and bleeding.  I thought they were gross.  I was too young to see an omen when it was right in front of me.

    To her right is Allen, in the Peter Pan collar.  We carpooled with him, too, and he was always late.  Their maid would walk him out to the car with his lunchbox and make sure he got in the Chrysler safely.  In high school, his sister and I were hookers.  I don’t mean the kind of girl who sleeps with an older married man with children, hoping he’ll buy her a fancy new Lexus.  We were Dorians together, on the dance team, and we hooked arms when it was time for us to do high kicks.   I’d go to her house to change between the football game and the party afterward, and one time Allen walked by the room where we were changing and saw me in nothing but my fishnets and my bra.  I screamed, he screamed, and we didn’t talk again for years.

    I’m sure if I sat here longer I could bore you with more kindergarten tales, but really I’d like to encourage the other graduates of Happy Hours to click on “comments” and let us know where you are and what you remember.  In particular, if you know what a paw-paw is and why you put it in the basket, please chime in.


    Join in with your own Flashback Friday! Directions are here.

  • The Slimy Way My Garden Grows

    Hoards of readers have written to ask about the finer points of vermicomposting, whether I was joking when I said I was keeping the worm bin inside, and how the red wigglers are faring.

    Those of you who didn’t know we have a full-blown worm farm in the house can click here for the story of the genesis of this operation.

    It’s no joke– Squirmy and his friends reside in the area once known as “the living room” but now known as “the ping-pong/laundry-folding/worm room.” The space we used the least has now become a hub of activity, now that we stored the fancy rug and candlesticks and have games to play, work to do, and worms to care for.

    The weather has been a bit nicer lately, so I’ve taken the bin outside so the worms can get some fresh air, and that’s where I took these photos to demonstrate the latest in composting with worms. Squirmy and his friends eat, poop and reproduce at an astounding rate.

    As you’ll recall, they live in a set of stacked bins, and when they’ve munched everything in the bottom bin, you add one to the top and start adding food scraps to it and the worms climb up to the food and work on that tray.

    Looking at a working tray is not going to take your breath away.  Once you lift the lid and pull aside the newspaper, what you see is a conglomeration of food, shredded paper, dryer lint, coffee grounds, dry leaves, and anything else you’ve stuffed in the bin.

    working tray And if you dig into the mass a bit, you’ll find worms.  Thousands of worms.  You have to take their picture quickly or they’ll burrow back down to finish their eating or pooping or lovemaking.  Single-minded, these worms. workingworms

    The tray below is much more satisfying to look at.  The worms are about finished with it, so it’s mainly full of compost.  Actually, it was totally compost, but I had so many worms crowding the upper tray that I stuck a little food from the top tray that was almost completely digested, and added several hundred worms to see of they’d get fatter when they have more room.  No one has suggested this is a good or bad idea; it’s just a wormy experiment I’m conducting.  It’s better than trying to magnetize them with batteries, for God’s sake. IMG_7419

    Here’s a closeup of the compost.  Look at that rich soil!


    The fact that it’s really worm poop grosses out my boys.   Yes, the boys who announce, “Don’t leave yet– I gotta take a big dump” when we’re already late for drums.  The boys who brag about burping and farting simultaneously.  The boys who love to yell “frank ‘n’ beans” just before disrobing.

    Of course, in every crowd you have some hedonistic ones and the worms are no exception.  They lurk in the tray at the bottom, which is intended only to catch stray compost and worm drippings. bin1

    Dude, you pour the liquid from that tray onto your garden and you will see some pansies that look like they’ve been hanging out with Jose Canseco.

    Anyway, the horny worms that just want to make love and don’t want to do their fair share of eating and pooping hang out here. They hide on the sides of the tray. Every once in a while I have to gather them up and dump them back in the working tray. wormsfromtray

    “The orgy is over– back to work.”

    So far I’ve mixed the compost with water and watered my winter plants, which have all perked up like the steroidal pansies. When it’s time to change to warm weather plants, I’ll incorporate the actual compost into the soil. I’m giving vermicomposting two thumbs up here. It’s easy and entertaining, depending on how exciting the rest of your life is.


    Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Blast From The Past: Potty-Training Nomad Style (contains rear nudity)


    Don’t forget- this week’s Flashback Friday theme is “There Once Was…”

  • Help A Tourist Out

    I need all present and former Birmingham natives to pay special attention to this post, for we are called upon to help a visitor from the North make the most of her stay in The Magic City in April.  Here’s what Mindy told me:

    I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now and love your writing. You are always humorous and entertaining and real. My husband has to go to Birmingham on business in April and I am thinking about tagging along. If you have a minute, can you send me any thoughts on hotels, restaurants, things to see and do? I will be on my own during the day and will need to stay in an area where I can see the sights, shop, etc. on foot.

    I asked Mindy for more details, because if there’s one thing Birmingham is lacking (besides snow), it’s public transportation. I also wanted to know more about her interests.

    My husband will be going to meetings all over the city, and he will have a vehicle so I was hoping to find an area to stay in where I could get around on foot. We will be staying on for a couple of days after he is done, so can hit any sights that require a car then. We have four kids under 8, so this is an escape for me. Weather permitting, I could happily park myself in a lounge chair by a hotel pool with a gin and tonic and a good book, but also interested in good food, good wine and some shopping but not the malls, necessarily. Also a history buff – noticed both the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Civil Rights Institute on the city website.

    Fellow citizens: let us help Mindy plan a perfect trip to Birmingham.  Because she’s escaping from all those children, she needs a day to sit by the pool and relax.  Where should she stay?  What sights should she see?  What areas of town are a must?  What food would you recommend?  Will she die if she doesn’t visit a meat and three for lunch and sample grits for breakfast?  And most importantly, how should she travel to all these places?  Do you have a special place that would impress a visitor from Canada?

    To leave a comment, look at the small print beneath the post where it says “_ comments.”  Click that and a box will pop up for you to add your two cents.


    Four years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Merry Christmas: Let Me Bum You Out

  • Flashback Friday: Feeling Red, White & Blue

    Porter has been on a fanatical quest to collect the quarters representing every state.  He reported that one of his friends had a coveted Hawaii quarter and used it to purchase Skittles.  He was disgusted at this lack of patriotism and ticked that he hadn’t spotted the rare coin.

    I haven’t heard so much about quarters since 1976, the year of the Bicentennial.  All my memories of the year are draped in red, white and blue bunting and set to “Silly Love Songs.”  America- 200 years old!  A birthday party for the whole country!  A Fourth of July celebration like no other! I was in third grade and full of patriotic fervor, and so was everyone around me.  Wikipedia says that people living then regarded the Bicentennial as a major cultural event, and I’d have to agree.

    It began with the Bicentennial quarters.  It was a big deal to find them, and my friend Margaret remembers going to Chik-fil-a and getting Bicentennial quarters in special wrappers.   Some people collected them.  Others were unable to break this habit.  To this day, the Voice of Reason has pillboxes full of Bicentennial quarters stashed in her safe deposit box because her husband loves his collection so dearly.  I’m hoping he’ll trade Porter a Hawaii if we give him a 1976 quarter.

    Well before the celebration officially started, my family got in the mood. My youngest sister Lulu had a bedroom wallpapered in the chic colors of the day.  Combined with her red and white bedspread and blue shag rug, it was as if a flag had vomited all over her room.  I was a teensy bit envious, even more envious than I was of my middle sister Su, who had that patchwork jumper you see here.  She wore it at least twice a week.  I’d have worn it more often if it was mine.


    The finest attribute of Lulu’s room was her iron bed.  Day after day we’d stick our toes on the slat under the mattress, grab the posts, and hang off, yelling, “Garbage men coming!  Bring us your garbage!”  We’d jiggle to mimic a truck in motion, then jump off the truck and pile it high with toys, books and stuffed animals.  We’d make a couple of tours of the neighborhood, tossing trash on and off the truck.  When we were tired of being garbage men we’d ransack the dress-up box and play Little House on the Prairie.  I always got to be Mary, which meant that Lulu spent most of her time leading me around the house because i was saintly and blind.

    Aunt Su was well-prepared for the Bicentennial celebrations. For Christmas 1975 she asked for a Betsy Ross costume, and Santa came through.

    Lulu and I were insanely jealous. The dress had gold braid criss-crossed on the front,  romantic lace sleeves and a lacy cap to match.  Sure, Lulu got the avocado green play stove, but cooking was work.  Prissing around in Betsy Ross’s clothes was magic.  She’d finished sewing the flag centuries ago, so all she had to do was show up and accept her accolades.

    My third-grade picture shows that I was in the mood for celebrating, down to the hair ribbons.  I had to fight my sisters to get to wear this particular set of red ponytail holders and ribbons on picture day.


    Shortly before school let out we had a Bicentennial parade at school.  Margaret and another girl got to pull the class float.  No one remembers what was on it.

    By the time the 4th of July rolled around, we were feverish with excitement.  It was the only time I can remember that our neighborhood got together for any reason at all.  We wore our colors, had a picnic and posed for pictures before the fireworks and sparklers got started.


    Su remembers this picture fondly. It might have been a major celebration for the country, but more important, the fact that her Betsy Ross costume was a thousand times more authentic and patriotic than anything we were wearing was a victory for middle children everywhere.

    The picture also provides a glimpse into the diversity of our neighborhood.  Not everyone was blond and blue-eyed.  The brown-haired boy and his sister in the red and blue polka dots lived across the street and down two houses.  David and Joy Gilbert were from the Midwest, which might as well have been Tasmania for all we knew about it.  They had exotic accents and their house had a sunken den.  I didn’t mention it to my sisters, but I figured that the Bicentennial was hardly a party at all to their parents, who were mature adults from the Midwest.  I knew what sunken dens with lots of throw pillows were for.  The Gilberts were probably experienced swingers.  Mrs. Gilbert seemed just like any other mom when she drove carpool in her Buick Skylark, though.

    Maybe you’re wondering what a whole class full of students looked like in 1976.


    Unfortunately, I have every one of my class pictures except the third grade, so this depicts a group of jaded fourth-graders in the fall of 1976, who have already celebrated the Bicentennial.  Ho hum.  We’ve been there, done that.  However, we were still wearing our red, white and blue.

    I’m wearing my favorite daisy shirt that my aunt gave me and some stylish glasses, and the cool kids are wearing their red-striped Adidas.  My shoes are rah-rah’s, and my mom made me keep them white by applying a polish that came in a bottle with a sponge-tipped applicator that exuded a milky-white liquid.  It was a lot like Liquid Papering your shoes before school, and about as attractive.

    The boy in the blue shirt in the front row is demonstrating his fondness for the show “Happy Days” by imitating Fonzie’s signature move.  “Happy Days” was hot during 1976.  I used to recommend that parents purchase DVDs of Happy Days until I saw the one where Fonzie teaches Richie how to remove a girl’s bra.  Now we’ve substituted the timeless humor of Mork & Mindy, which is great for the kids. I prefer to have the boys practice sitting in a chair upside down and attempt to communicate with outer space rather than fiddle with ladies’ undergarments.  Mork & Mindy didn’t debut until 1978, though, so it wasn’t a part of our Bicentennial year.

    As a final thought, please ponder Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night.”  We all heard it plenty that year.  Please hum quietly to yourself, even though you know Rod’s gonna be trying to get him some later on.

    So that’s the Bicentennial as I remember it here in the Tiny Kingdom.  If you have memories of it, leave them in the comments.


    If you want to participate in Flashback Friday, add your name and a short catchy description of your topic in the first line and the URL of your post (not your blog) in the second line of the Mr. Linky, and leave a comment here letting me know your post is up.  Please mention Flashback Friday in your post and link back to My Tiny Kingdom so everyone can see all the participants!  Thanks!  Further, more EXPLICIT directions can be found here.

    Anne Glamore (Bicentennial Memories)


    1. Allison
    2. Antique Mommy (1973 fashion)
    3. Christina
    4. Catnip (my mom)
    5. Tater Tales
    6. Danielle @ Life with the Hewitt Family
    7. Pendy (flashing back to 1972)
    8. Marissa Rice (1981-1983ish)
    9. Headless Mom (memories of 4th)
    10. Jessie (My Favorite 4th)
    11. Quirky is a Compliment (on life lessons gleaned from fireworks)
    12. Melissa (Remember America)
    13. Jen (with a hint of smokiness)
    14. Holly (In My Overactive Head)

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