Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pants on Fire

Sunday Sam went into his little sister's room where the bookshelf is housed to get a book to read because I had just declared the Wii off-limits and apparently he couldn't find his NintendoDS because in case you hadn't heard I am not only the queen of the run-on sentence, but also the cruelest mother on the planet for making him do something as ghastly as READ. After he'd been in there awhile I heard him exclaim, "WHAT THE?" followed by the sound every mother cringes when she hears - "MAWWWWWWM!" It's not the tender sweet sound we long to hear our infants coo at us, it's not the word we hear when our child is hurt and needs us to make it all better - no, it is the sound that makes our spines stiffen, our faces grimace and our eyes squint. It's the sound of tattling.

Here he came, stomping up the hall, waving a Captain Underpants paperback in the air, hell bent for election, ready to gather up a lynch mob and string someone up.

"Mom! Someone taped all of my books shut!"

My initial response? *blink blink* followed by "Huh?"


I was intrigued, to say the least. I went back to the bookshelf and yep, sure enough, Captain Underpants 1-6 were taped soundly shut as well his wimpy kid books and as several others. Funny, no Junie B. Jones books were taped shut. No Judy Moody either. Hmmm...something was fishy.

Now, let me explain the dynamics of sibling relationships in our house these days. Abby is the queen bee, the one-week-away-from-being-a-teenager-I-am-SO-much-better-than-you absolute princess of everything around her. She has very little to do with her younger brother and sister and when she does it's a mere eye-roll, a scathing remark or the toss of her Chi-ironed hair over her shoulder and poof she's gone in a cloud of glitter and body splash. Kady idolizes her and Sam just wants to annoy her to death. She ignores them. However, the two younger children have just one goal in mind from the time their precious eyes open in the morning until their darling little heads hit the pillow at night - to fight with each other. And to do so in such a manner that I now have a streak of gray in the front of my hair that makes me look like Stacy London from What Not to Wear. You think I'm kidding. I'm not.

Now, I know siblings fight. My sister and I fought - so profoundly that apparently, as mother has since told us, there were nights she'd cry herself to sleep wondering where she went wrong and what she did to make us hate each other so. When Abby and Sam didn't fight I figured that being barely two years apart was the key. I should've known that Sam and Kady being three years apart - just like my sister and I - there would be fighting and lots of it. I really should've known.

That all being said, as soon as I became aware of the book-taping escapade I had a pretty good idea of who the taper was. However, I didn't want to accuse wrongly so I simply asked both girls, "Did you tape your brother's books shut?" Abby, of course, scoffed at the mere suggestion of there being a moment of time in her imminently important day to do such an immature act and Kady blinked innocently and said, "Of course not, Momma. I would nevvvvver do something like that."

Bingo. We had our perp.

She is creative and she is sneaky, but she is a horrible liar. I mean, really, really bad. She just can't do it. She's going to have to get better if she's going to utilize the sneakiness to its fullest potential. Just sayin'. So instead of starting a big ruckus right then I simply said, "Well, I can't imagine who would've done it. Maybe TotOne or TotTwo? But why would they do it? Hmmm...." She shrugged and batted her eyelashes again. "Well," I said, "I'll just have to have everyone in the living room for a meeting as soon as y'all get off the bus tomorrow afternoon." That seemed to satisfy Sam who was carefully picking scotch tape from the holy grail of pre-pubescent humor and Kady bit her lip and picked at a piece of paper in the floor.

Yesterday my three kids, the Tots and my friend Kim's daughter, Nattie, got off the bus here and when they got to the house I asked them all to have a seat in the living room. Sam was all business - he just wanted justice. Abby settled in to watch the show with smugness written all over her bad self - probably secretly hoping a flogging was in order for the offender. Kady plopped down primly in the big chair and said nothing. The Tots and Nattie sat down with looks of utter confusion on their faces. I started with The Golden Rule then asked if anyone liked it when someone tore up their toys or books or games. Heads shook all over the room. I then said, "Well, last week someone taped all of Sam's books shut and I would just like to know who that person was." Of course everyone was looking at everyone else as well as declaring, "Wasn't me! Not me!" I went on to say, "The person who did it (as I was looking straight at Kady) isn't in trouble for doing it, I just want that person to know that taping books is disrespectful and could've torn up the books. Anyone wanna tell me anything?"

Nada. I got nothing more than what I'd been getting, "Wasn't me! Not me!"

So then I said, with a heavy sigh that suggested the weight of the world had been set on my shoulders at that very moment, "Well, then until someone confesses and tells the truth no one can play in the bedrooms. Y'all will just have to stay up here. And if no one tells the truth by Christmas break I guess y'all will still be sitting here after school every day." Of course, this brought outrage to everyone in the room - except Kady.

Then I see a hand shoot up quick as lightning and this teeny tiny voice say, "Miss Kristin! I know who did it! It was Kady! Kady did it! I sat there and watched her do it! She said she was mad at Sam and she was going to tape all his books shut! I promise! It was Kady!" All this from little bitty Nattie. Paul and I both bit our lips in order to keep from busting out laughing at the absolute sincerity and desperation in the announcement. Apparently the thought of no toys until Christmas break or beyond was just too much. I looked at Kady and asked, "Kady, did you?"

"NO MOMMA! I WOULDN'T DO THAT! I don't know WHY she'd say that!"

Uhm....because you did it? Just a thought.

So the kids continued to sit and I was so frustrated at Kady's absolute refusal to budge! OH MY GOSH she takes after her father! And in my own frustration I brought out The Big One - God. Because we're Baptist and guilt is pretty much all we know. So with another heavy-hearted sigh I said, "Kids, whoever is not telling the truth, you may be fooling us, everyone in this room, but do you know who you aren't fooling?" I bit my lip again as hands shot up all over the place. "God! You can't fool God, Aunt Kiki!" (Boy howdy, don't I know it.) I confirmed this and reiterated again how lying makes you feel all yucky inside and sometimes you have trouble sleeping and sometimes food doesn't taste right and things that used to be fun aren't anymore because you're all yucky inside.....and everyone looked guilty -everyone except Kady.

And on we sat. And sat....and sat.

The Tots were talking between themselves and I heard, "So....ya think Mom'll carry this on when we get home?"

"Who knows. She could."

"Yeah. That's what I was thinking, too." Then they both sighed.

Courtney and Aunt Janet came to pick up Conner and heard the whole story and both found amusing the stubbornness that was going on and Aunt Janet was just very impressed at the boundless creativity of taping books shut. Aunt Janet always makes me think a different way. I can be angry or frustrated about something my kids did or didn't do or I can be feeling inadequate and inferior about being a parent and she has this knack of helping me see it a different way. I love that about her.

After they left I said, "Okay, ya know what, I'm going into the kitchen to fix a glass of tea. If anyone needs to talk to me, I'll be in the kitchen. Ya know....if anyone needs to confess anything."

Once in the kitchen Paul and I laughingly conferred over where to go at that point. The 7 year old perpetrator wasn't budging. Paul suggested taking them each into a room by themselves. I said, "OOH yeah! And I can shine a light in their face and ask them where they were on the night of January 12th." He blinked at me and flatly asked, "What does January 12th have to do with this?"


So went to the back of the house and called TotOne back first. She hit the door and immediately and vehemently proclaimed her innocence - "Aunt Kiki, you KNOW I didn't do it! I have homework every day and you make me stay up front to do it!" I shushed her and said, "Sweetie, I know who did it. I'm calling everyone back here so the person that did it can tell me in private. I just need you to pretend like you're talking to me so it looks legit." Then, because she is one of the most precious people on earth, she nodded solemnly and then she pretended to talk to me. Like, she moved her mouth like she was talking, but she wasn't. Because she was PRETENDING. Just like I told her. I love that kid more than I could ever express.

Next in the lineup was TotTwo. Again, he hit the door proclaiming innocence. I said, "Dude. Chill. I know who did it. Just hang with me for a minute or two, okay?" and he nodded. Then proceeded to dance for me. I nearly fell in the floor laughing. I'm thinking we should have interrogations every week just for the entertainment value alone.

Next was the tapee, Sam. He was still indignant and did nothing to entertain me because he just wanted a public hanging. Or perhaps a drawing and quartering.

Then I called Kady back there. She walked in like someone had just hollered, "Dead girl walking!", stood there about 2 seconds and busted into a wailing mess of tears and snot and guilt. Somewhere in the midst of it all I heard, "Oh Momma! I'm so sorry! I wanted to tell the truth I really did but I didn't want to do it in front of everyone because I was so embarrassed and I KNEW God was watching and is He sad because I lied? and I disappointed you and OH MOMMA! I'M SORRY!" I hugged her and said, "Okay." She stopped wailing, blinked a few times and her mouth dropped open in a gesture of absolute incredulity. "What?" I smiled and said, "Okay. Thank you for telling me. I told you that whoever did it wasn't in trouble for taping the books. In fact, Aunt Janet said you are a very creative prankster, but let's not do it again, okay? No matter how angry you are at your brother." Relief flooded over her.

Then I took away TV privileges for one day for the lying.

Hey, I'm trying very hard NOT to raise a hey-let's-tell-my-parents-I'm-spending-the-night-at-your-house-while-we-use-our-fake-ID's-to-try-to-get-into-a-bar, lie about my weight on my driver's license kind of person here. She needed to know lying isn't acceptable.

And just because my driver's license says I weigh 125 pounds, it's technically not a lie. I did weigh 125. When I got my first license -- at 15. They've never asked me to change it and I'm not offering. It's not lying. And I don't feel yucky inside about it.

I feel nostalgic about it. But not yucky.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Monday night means one thing in our house - WWE. We don't watch anything else regularly on Mondays except WWE, which stands for World Wrestling Entertainment. Don't be fooled though, it's not wrestling, it's rasslin'. Please make note of this. We know it is fake, we know it is staged, we know these guys truly are professionals - barfights that violent usually involve someone ending up in the pokey doing ten to life.

Thanks to the DVR we came out of the Dark Ages to purchase we can now pause TV to have conversations if we feel the need, however we rarely do. Now, keep in mind as I say "we" you must know that I am not including our youngest child nor our eldest. I am the only uterine-abled person in the house that enjoys rasslin'. And if during WWE either of the non-watchers feel compelled to speak to any of the other three the person holding the remote will sigh and hit pause while six glaring eyes stare down the verbal perpetrator.

It really is serious business.

This last week, though, I made a huge rasslin' faux pas and didn't realize it until my husband, a very quiet man not prone to outbursts of anything other than foul language, had to pause the TV while he busted out laughing at me until he was out of breath.

On the screen was a montage of past rasslers and one of them had a ghostly white face and dark eyes. You've heard the phrase "Death warmed over" - well, this guy was "Death with big biceps". I said, "Ooh look it's Grave Digger!"

Laughter ensued from the redneck in the recliner. And a lot of it.

Without realizing I had inadvertently attempted to mesh together two redneck sports, I had called the former rassler the name of a monster truck.

I giggled, more at his laughter than my mistake, and when we both stopped he seriously said, "Who wipes your butt at the funeral home?"

Aha. The Undertaker. I stood corrected.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


While I am a fairly sentimental person... wait. Okay, I am a really sentimental person. So sentimental I still have the "four carrot" ring my friend Cedric game me when we got "married" the day before Christmas vacation my Senior, his Junior year. So sentimental I have notes from girlfriends, passed scandalously, even though we knew the penalty would be to read them in front of the class. I take a lot of pictures of seemingly mundane things, but years from now I am fairly certain that I will still want to go back and see the day we put in our storm cellar, the hair bows the girls wore to school on August 25, 2009, and the moldy fiberglass we found behind the bathroom walls. I still have my mother's wedding dress, leftover napkins from our wedding and yes, my report cards from Kindergarten on up. I cry at Kodak commercials, refuse to watch Lifetime for fear of dehydration and have only recently let my daughters wear my Band Queen tiara because OH MY GOSH WHAT IF A RHINESTONE FALLS OUT? I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO WEAR IT TO TEA WITH THE QUEEN!

Okay, so now that we've established my sentimentality (and borderline psychosis) there are some things I don't do. I didn't save my kids' umbilical stumps because...well. Ew. I don't send birthday cards, nor do I save them. I didn't keep up my kids' baby books. (Okay, so I kept up Abby's for awhile, but she was the first one and I didn't have anything else to do.) And no matter how many of them my mother hands me as I enter the gymnasium, I don't save the programs from the Christmas program. I know. String me up by my toes right this very minute. I am surely unfit.

There is also something else I don't do - I don't visit the cemetery. I never have. I remember as a kid any time I stayed with Nana and we left Picher to go to Miami for any reason (usually to take me to McDonald's) we almost always stopped at the cemetery on the way to or from. She always put a Masonic decoration thing on Pops' grave for Memorial Day and until she wasn't physically able anymore, kept his grave site neat and flowered. I never understood this. Even as a little kid I knew Poppy wasn't there so why were we?

As the years have gone by I've lost more and more family members and I haven't visited the cemetery any more often. My cousin Russ, Memaw, my cousin Jeff, Uncle Homer, Papa....all of them are buried in the same cemetery, Nan and Pop are somewhere else and so is Granny Glenn (I don't even know where Grandpa Glenn is...) and the only time I've been in the vicinity of their graves was at the funeral of someone else. Tater goes every so often and takes her kids, but not me. This last Memorial Day Paul said he wanted to take the kids around to all the cemeteries and I said I would go with him if he insisted, but I had no desire whatsoever to spend a day looking at headstones. He says I'm cold-hearted. He says that for the sake of history and respect I should go. I say bah humbug. And we didn't go.

I asked Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior at the tender age of seven. Even before that I fully understood that when we die our bodies cease serving a purpose and our souls are no longer on Earth. I can remember standing at the cemetery with Nan while she trimmed and pulled and decorated and wondered why would she do such a thing? It seemed so silly to me. It still kind of does today, although as an adult I know that everyone grieves and deals in their own way. If it makes you feel close to someone to visit their gravesite I certainly don't see anything wrong with it. Please do not attack me in the comments section. I honestly and truly believe you have to do what you have to do to heal. My sister visits the cemeteries and her kids can tell you where all of our late relatives are buried. My children cannot. Are either of us right or wrong? No. We are both doing what we feel is right for ourselves and our children. If my kids ever ask to go I will certainly take them, but I don't see me loading them up all by myself. And if Paul ever truly insists I accompany him, as his wife, I will.

I remember after my mother was single a year or so she announced to Sis and I that she wanted to be cremated and we both freaked the heck out. It seemed so barbaric, so viking-ish, so cruel to cremate someone you love and I refused to listen to her speak of it for years. In recent years I have quit freaking out and completely and 100% will follow her wishes. I will even drive to Iowa to the dang covered bridges to sprinkle her if that is still her wish. And I have since come to the decision that I want whatever part of me is useful to be donated wherever it needs to go. I want my organs harvested if they can be and after they take what they need - if they need it - I want the rest of me donated to science. Frankly, I don't know how possible the scientific donation is after organ donation - it may not be - but whatever. I just want the body I no longer need to be of some help to someone who does. When they're done with the fall organ harvest, they can cremate me and send the ashes to my family. Paul has issue with this but says he'll follow my wishes. My kids, even as young as they are, are okay with this as well. I tell them that instead of visiting a grave where I am not, to instead go to Disney World every few years, ride the Tower of Terror and scream "I LOOOOOOOVEEEEEE YOUUUUUUU MOMMMMMMM!" and that'll be enough to honor my existence. I thought of having them release my ashes on the ride, but that might get kind of messy and dusty and then people would be all sneezy and snotty because they'd have inhaled some of me while they were screaming their lungs out on the ride and I don't want to contribute to an allergy or asthma attack, so I'm still trying to decide where I want my remains scattered.

Sam is by far the most sentimental of my children and he and I were discussing my wishes awhile back. He asked why I would want my body to be picked over, poked, prodded and whatever else-d by medical students. I hugged him close to me and said, "Because Sam....what if by me donating my body to science they were able to find the cure for fatness? I mean, wouldn't you just feel ten kinds of awesome knowing that you momma was the woman whose selfless donation cured fatness for millions of people everywhere? I mean, you could have t-shirts printed! 'My Mom cured fatness' - just think of it!" He giggled and so did I. Most of our really serious conversations end in giggling. That's my gift to him. Hopefully that's my gift to everyone here while I'm alive - giggling, snorting, spewing beverages on your computer screens and chuckling about something I wrote as you go about your daily business.

All that being said, I found myself turning into the cemetery drive on Friday. I don't know why. I really don't. Even though I had been at her services less than two weeks before, I wasn't exactly sure where Nana and Pops' graves were. I couldn't see fresh dirt piled on top....I looked for the dang trees Tater told me to use as visual markers and couldn't remember what she'd told me - was it the second one? The short one?....I turned around and drove back....and turned around and drove back again. The little old couple who were visiting someone else probably thought I was some crazy psycho grave robber because they were eyeing me suspiciously with every pass. Yeah, because I always go grave-robbing on a Friday afternoon in broad daylight with a sleeping toddler in the backseat of my van that is easily identified by my vanity plates.

Maybe I couldn't find their graves because I am a negligent granddaughter. Maybe it was because I couldn't see through my tears.

Or maybe it was because a drive-by was enough for me.

Monday, September 07, 2009

One Tough Ol' Bird

My Nana, my father's mother, lived a pretty lonely life. Don't mistake what I'm saying - she had us, but her one true love, her husband, my Poppy was killed in an accident at B.F. Goodrich when I was not quite three years old. She spent the last 36 years missing him. When the house started falling in around her and her health started failing she was adamant about staying there because that's where Pop was. Unfortunately after breaking her second hip she didn't have a choice and was moved to the nursing home. Oh, how she missed him.

For as long as I can remember Nana wore Vanderbilt perfume - and lots of it. As we grandkids got older we would talk among ourselves about how even her ice cubes tasted like Vanderbilt. Somehow it wasn't bad, though. Just very perfume-y.

Nana loved Coke and even this past week as she lay in her hospital bed, weighing barely 70 pounds, when my cousin Michanne asked her what she wanted she mouthed, "Coke." We didn't always have Coke at our house growing up, but it was guaranteed that a visit to Nana's meant as much as you could drink and cookies from the cookie jar.

I can't tell you how many hours we spent at her house growing up. When we were small enough we'd hide in the sliding-door cabinet in her coffee table. I remember spending a lot of time in front of the book case looking through books we didn't have at home - Gulliver's Travels being the one I remember most. And our childhood physical fitness is attributed solely to Nan's record player and her 45's, mainly "Chicken Fat". We grandkids burned a lot of calories on the shag carpet in her living room. She is also the only grandma I know that had all of the Village People's hits on records.

There were three bedrooms at Nana's house and we were always given the option of sleeping in the other beds, but until we were nearly teenagers we always chose to sleep in Nan's bed with her. It seems like maybe Sis tried once to sleep in the front bedroom, but it didn't last long. I know personally it was always better to sleep with Nana because we got to eat in bed and we always watched Johnny Carson. Popcorn, apples with salt, grapes - whatever we wanted - was on a paper towel and our Coke was on the coaster and we were propped up there against the headboard livin' large. It was never too late at Nana's for snacks. One year I spent the night with her on New Year's Eve. I know she expected me to fall asleep well before midnight, but no, I manged to spend the entire evening waiting on the ball to drop. As the new year marched in I bounced all over that bed, over Nan, around the room, did cartwheels and hooped and hollered. I vividly remember her watching me with a huge grin on her face, never telling me to hush, just enjoying my exuberance.

Whatever we wanted we got at Nan's, so the one time she denied me what I asked for it's no wonder I wrote a hateful note in a steno notebook and left it in the secretary in the dining room. I can only imagine what I had asked for - possibly a unicorn. It'd have to have been something that unattainable for her to tell me no. I wrote the note in anger, put it away and got over it pretty quick, but a week or so later while paying bills or writing a letter maybe Nana found it and oh my goodness the phone call I got! The jist of the note was that she loved my cousin Michanne more than me because Michanne got whatever she wanted and Nan never told her no and it was because of that that Nan told me I couldn't have what I wanted that particular day. The phone call cleared that issue up real quick. While she all but yelled into that phone she assured me she loved us all the same and how dare I suggest she loved any of the other kids more than me and what kind of grandmother would she be if she did.

You didn't mess with Nan either - once Sis stole a quarter from her purse. Her punishment? Nana put her in that big blue car and drove her straight to D&D Drive-In and forced her to spend it on a video game. Sis said it was the most miserable video game she ever played. Nan always described herself as a "tough ol' bird" and last week one of the nurses called her a tough cookie. I was holding Nan's hand and I gently corrected the nurse and said, "No, she's a tough old bird." Nan nodded her head, squeezed my hand and confirmed the description.

For probably the last 25 years or so Nan was plagued with facial tremors that could not be cured. She was constantly tense and it had to be painful. Medication didn't help much and talking to her any time but early in the morning was a frustrating thing because her muscles were so tired soon after she began the day she became nearly unable to be understood. Sometimes when I'd take the kids to see her she'd be so frustrated she couldn't talk to them so they made sure they entertained her with stories about school and their days. She loved to laugh and the kids made sure they accomplished that at each visit. She was always so worried that she scared the kids with her appearance, but never once were the kids anything but utterly and completely in love with her.

As we all sat around her bed this past week comforting her and hearing first audible words and then, as she grew weaker, whispers of "I love you" we all realized that there were few people in our lives that gave as much as she did. I know my sister and I would've had far fewer dresses with jingle bells in the petticoats without Nana. Bomber jackets, the popular tennis shoes, school clothes, Christmas dresses, toys, toys and more toys - Nana made them ours. But in addition to the gifts and clothes she gave us she gave us a solid foundation of unconditional love, constant support and votes of confidence, neverending assuredness that we had a place to go and someone to always be on our side. She adored us.

She was prissy and always cared about how she looked. She was neat, she was an amazing cook and loved laughter, big family gatherings and all of us more than we could ever imagine.

She slipped away just after 3:30 Friday afternoon while my aunt, my mother, my sister, my cousin, my cousin's fiance and God bless him, my uncle, the token male at a boisterous hen party, sat around her bed talking. She hadn't been awake in over 24 hours, had stopped communicating with us and her breathing was so very labored. The conversation had turned to boobs and boob jobs and aging not-so-gracefully when I think at the exact same moment we all looked at her and realized she was gone. It was peaceful, it was quiet and she was in the midst of a very girly conversation - it was just exactly what she wanted.

She's with Poppy now, she is relaxed and I guarantee you that Heaven now carries the faint scent of Vanderbilt in the air.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...