Fam Damily

Katie, Bar The Door!

I’ve been off the grid for four days with NO Wifi or TV!

DA FUH? Who does that? Thank Jesus and all things holy for 4g or I would have gone rat shit crazy on some people. I was able to do some things with my iphone, but was way more disconnected than I’m comfortable with – in other words – I missed you!

Now I’m back and BUSTING. I’m about to unleash everything that’s been pent up in my head for the past five days, hence the title of this post. Enjoy.

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Literally while on the road I find out via twitter that Inion N. Mathair are spotlighting me on their blog this week! I was gobsmacked (been waiting to use that word)! They are an infinitely talented mother/daughter writing duo who’ve been a HUGE support to me since the very beginning, and who’ve taught me what it means to be a supportive blogger. Please do yourself a favor and explore their wonderful blog, and even better, their books! Nightwalkers: The Secret of Jessup.
From the Dark and Twisted Mind of Inion N. Mathair.
The Perfect 7.

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Both boys were late to school a week or so ago because my 6yo had a last minute outfit dilemma (HAD to wear his red converse which had no laces). Each day when they get home I have to sign their binders which have detailed entries from their school day. That afternoon, this is what I found in my 9yo’s binder when I went to sign it:

tarty dangit

makin’ the family proud

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Remember two weeks ago when I went to the art reception and the hubs got me the awesome necklace, but it had to be shipped to me? Here it is. I love its simplicity. It’s a greyish green. Falls just under my collarbone.

birthday necklace

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MY TRIP!

Okay, so this was the annual girls trip I do with my mom and three aunts. Last year was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This year we stayed somewhat local and visited Ingram, Texas (just outside of Fredericksburg for those of you familiar with the area). The leaves are just starting to change here so it was beautiful. I always forget how pretty the Hill Country is with all the picturesque small towns, dreamy rivers, and enormous trees that stop me in my tracks and take my breath away. And you know, you KNOW, there were so many laughs. It got down-right crazy more than a few times. There are only three of us who drink, and managed to cash five bottles of wine over the weekend.

*A selection of photos for your viewing pleasure*

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Replica of Stonehenge

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My climbing tree

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In the branches

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view from up here

SO, I got talked into (bullied) being the test kayak to go down a very narrow (choked with roots and branches) neck of the lake (stagnant water shit hole) to see if it connected to an adjacent fishing pond. It didn’t. On the way to discovering the dead end, I managed to knock the low lying, dead branches onto myself and my kayak, along with about five hundred (okay a dozen) spiders. The area was so narrow I couldn’t turn my kayak around so I had to stand up and turn around to row the other way back out, subsequently knocking more branches – and spiders – onto my kayak, my shirt, and my hair. During this, two of my aunts were hanging back in another boat saying things like, “You’re doing great!” and “You’re so good at this!”

Whatever.

I wasn’t freaking out about the spiders. Much. I mean, I was squealing and stuff, but that’s all. UNTIL….I glanced over and there’s this freakin’ huge one right next to me coming straight for my shirt – then I just knew they were all over me and I did some sort of Bugs Bunny – Cirque de Solei freak out that I’ll never be able to repeat or explain, and like a cat I flew straight outta my seat and ended up on the end of the kayak balancing on my fingers and toes, but somehow, someway, stayed in the boat. My aunts rowed over and started killing spiders until I felt sure there were none left. I then collected my oar that I’d hurled into the water during my  acrobatic maneuver, brushed myself off, and gracefully rowed back to shore as if nothing happened. I’m resilient like that, however, I’ve officially retired as guinea pig.

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pre-spider invasion

MY amazing family managed to organize and cook the most incredible Thanksgiving meal in our condo. We celebrated early so we wouldn’t have to all travel twice this month to be together. As usual, they give me jobs like: bring wine. This is wise because I clearly don’t have the skills to pull off what they did. In case you’re wondering, the effins were perfect.

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WE went to Fredericksburg’s trade days on Saturday, and while very eclectic and fun, my favorite find was a particular booth that gave me an endless source of amusement while terrorizing friends via text and twitter:

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Does my hair look okay?

IF you’ve ever read my comment section after a post about my family, you’ve seen what’s lacking (comments from them!) and put it together that they don’t read my blog. That’s because they don’t know about it. I’ve often been tempted to tell them. I think they’d be mildly horrified, but mostly tickled and proud. I’ll share an enormous secret with you: They don’t even know I write.

Oh, they know I do Nanowrimo, but that’s because it was introduced to me by one of my cousins, so we talk about it amongst family. But they don’t know I belong to writing groups, or have a blog, or have written a novel for Pete’s sake! I’m one of those people who’s pretty private (I know, seems ironic given the blog) and am more comfortable doing something behind the scenes (in case I fail) and then announcing it when I’ve succeeded.

I need autonomy first.

I’m the only granddaughter/niece in the family, so I look to them, study them as women, and often wonder who I take after most. Each of them artistic, strong, giving, talented, smart, organized, unorganized, funny as shit, dynamic, amazing women. This weekend I realized for the first time something that made me very proud. I’m not like one of them. I’m like all of them.

But there’s this one facet of my being that’s unique to me. This enormous, yet fragile writer part. I envision publishing one day and surprising them, letting them into this sliver of my world. Someday it will make sense to them why I’m always staring off into space. Or why I’m so busy doing….what? What the hell does she do in her free time?

Someday they’ll know I’m a writer.

And then I’ll know it too.

Do you keep your blog secret from anyone? Do you think you’re most like one person in particular in your family, or a mixture? I love your comments!

Pass The Effins, Please.

Abundance

Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion for ushering in the holiday season; it’s a time for stories, projects, cooking and sharing. That’s exactly what this post is about. I’ve linked up with 5 other bloggers, each sharing a piece of what the season has to offer. We have humor, thought, family projects and food.

I hope you’ll click on all the links below to see what we’ve put together for you:

Home on Deranged has a family post about the first and last Thanksgiving spent with mom.
Kiss My List is sharing a simple but meaningful family craft project that does double duty as Thanksgiving decor.
The Rowdy Baker  has posted a recipe for an Iced Pumpkin Roll with Butterscotch Cream Filling.
PinkWhen  shares a project you can display for Thanksgiving dinner and guests.
Baking In A Tornado will share a recipe for that leftover turkey.

Me? Well, I have a humorous story (surprised?) about what happens when someone is pushed just one step too far.

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Living several hours away from the majority of my extended family, often the only time I see them is on the holidays. So it’s odd that when I think of Thanksgiving, my first thought isn’t so much warm/fuzzy family nostalgia, or the amazing food, but more like when you reminisce episodes of your favorite comedy series, because the laughter is what I remember and what I look forward to most. As I’ve posted about them in the past, they are a lively crew with, shall we say, eclectic personalities.

There are too many stories to recount in just one post…like the time my one cousin walked into the glass patio door holding a full plate of food…or how Aunt Jane will inevitably show up behind you with a vegetable hanging out of her nose….or how my brother, who’s notoriously either late or a no-show for every event, will make my mother a nervous wreck until the very last minute, but then stroll in, sometimes even mid-meal, and my mom will be so happy he showed she’ll practically throw a parade for him – and I’m all, hey, where’s my frickin’ confetti? I drove 5 hours to get here with two kids and I was on time….ahem, I digress…

But there is one story that stands out above ’em all and continues to sort of define the holidays with our crew. The story of how mashed potatoes became known as the “effins”.

Approximately fifteen years ago, “the hens” – as I refer to the ladies who plan everything – were divvying up cooking duties, making lists, and getting organized for the upcoming holiday. I’m constantly blown away with the amount of preparation a Thanksgiving meal requires. Thankfully, I’m still given jobs like: bring wine and canned cranberries. Sometimes it pays to suck in the kitchen.

Anyway, as usual, Aunt Anne (of Superhero Otter fame) was given the job of making mashed potatoes, because, well, that’s her thing. She rocks mashed potatoes. What nobody realized was, she didn’t really plan on it being her thing. In fact, she aspired to contribute casseroles and desserts, yet was always assigned mashed potatoes. That particular year, she’d had enough and protested. After a few go ’rounds between the four sisters, where they continued to insist she make them because she did it best, this happened:

Aunt Anne: Fine! I’ll make the fucking mashed potatoes!

Initial stunned silence was quickly replaced with hysterical laughter. Although her outburst didn’t result in alternate meal assignments, it did birth a new family joke: mashed potatoes have never been referred to as such again. Instead, they became the f#*%ing mashed potatoes. Of course, to negate the necessity of repeating the F-word, they altered it to “effing mashed potatoes”…and now simply, the effins. For years since, Aunt Anne has received antique potato mashers for Christmas, lest she forget her special kitchen calling. I’m sure she burns treasures every one of them.

See you in a few weeks, my crazy-wonderful tribe. Aunt Anne, make plenty of effins. I’ll be having two helpings, as usual, because you know yours are the best.

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It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s An…Otter?

I have a special story coming out to play today. A legend, really. Remember my loon-bird family? (if you’re new here, read this) Well, one of them came to my house dressed as a Superhero Otter once. I shit you negative. Let me explain.

It all started when a conversation began about what super power you’d choose if you could. My family had no trouble picking theirs, ranging everywhere from mind-control to invisibility. This morphed into picking actual Superhero identities, and yes, even designing hypothetical costumes cuz we’re weird detail oriented like that. But this story is about Aunt Anne, who chose to be the Superhero Otter, because they have the power make people smile and diffuse uncomfortable situations with their water acrobatics and undeniable cuteness.

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Go ahead. Try not to smile.

One day my eldest son – nearly four at the time –  was home sick from preschool when Aunt Anne called. We were chatting away when my son demanded to know who I was talking to. Aunt Anne said, “tell him it’s the Superhero Otter.” Upon hearing this he wanted to speak to her, of course. They spoke on the phone for a few minutes while I watched my son’s eyes light up with wonder.

Because things can’t be dropped at this stage in my family, an idea grew that Superero Otter would come visit my son; he had questions, after all, and wanted to see this Otter in person. My Aunt is not one to let little boys down. One might assume she just bought a mask and came over one day.

*throws head back in laughter*

Nearly six weeks later, she arrived at our door in a handmade, head-to-toe otter costume, complete with whiskers and claws. The hubs and I could barely keep a straight face. Her voice was diguised with a deeper, huskier one. She brought fried fish to share for lunch, and real seashells for my son to keep. She spent over an hour with him, chatting and answering his many questions. My son was amazed, mesmerized, gobsmacked! He took her by the paw and showed her his room and toys. It was all at once the most bizarre, hilarious, precious thing I’d ever witnessed.

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Like this, but 5’6″ and with a cape.

Yes, our now 9yo still believes in the Superhero Otter, as does our 6yo. Periodically, Otter leaves small toys and shells hidden around the house to let them know she’s been there to check on them. And they know if they ever need help, all they have to do is think to her real hard, and she’ll always be there for them.

Someday they’ll learn the truth about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. But Otter will sting the most. Or will it? For the boys to know Aunt Anne cares so much about them she would go to these lengths just to entertain and be a part of their lives….I hope, if anything, it proves to them Superheroes really do exist.

If I could pick a power it’d be the ability to instantaneously time travel, any place, any era. Let’s play! What would your power be? Who’s your inner Superhero? Do you have someone in your life that could be defined as a Superhero? I LOVE your comments!

The Apple Don’t Fall Far From The Nut Tree

One of my favorite childhood recollections is one where my whole family is gathered around the table for a big holiday meal. I glance over, and there’s one of my aunts looking right at me, completely serious…with an entire stalk of broccoli hanging out of her nose.

This is my family in a nutshell.

The most consistent theme running through my family memories is humor. Not just witty remarks and fart jokes, we’re talking complete lunacy. It would take a novel to recount all the bizarre/hilarious stories (and don’t think for a second I haven’t thought of that), but a recent conversation on a group email stream inspired me to really think about where I come from. The following conversation is verbatim, except where it isn’t, and yes, they are being completely serious. *names have been changed to protect the deranged. **yes, everyone still calls me Bethie, which I adore.

Polly: Meredith, do you have my braid of hair?

Anne: Yes, I believe I do. It’s somewhere around here in a paper bag.

Marge: Aunt Destiny’s hair? That has to go to Bethie when we’re all gone.

Polly: No, I’m talking about my hair. Aunt Destiny’s hair is being kept by Karen and probably won’t go to Bethie, although you never know. It does have to stay in the family. If they run out of people to hand it down to, it will have to come this way.

Me: What the what? A bag. Of hair. Why does Anne have a bag with your hair in it (ew)? And why is there some other hair (who is Aunt Destiny? that’s a stripper name btw) and why does her hair have to stay in the family? IAMNOTTAKINGIT.

Polly: Aunt Destiny’s hair is charmed. It is carried to ward off evil and disease. Generations ago, she died at a young age but had magnificent hair which they cut at her death. The family thought it brought good luck (but not for Aunt Destiny). So they kept it. Now our cousin Karen has it.

Marge: We’re a very superstitious family.

Me: How can I just be finding out about this? A bag of dead-girl-charmed-hair is a big matzo ball. You can’t just drop that in casual conversation. Wait, why does Anne have a paper bag of your hair, Polly?  Don’t tell me yours is “charmed” too? *winces while waiting for answer*f

Jane: What until you hear about the knife from Da’s shop. You’ll probably get that too.

Me: WHAT

Polly: Don’t listen to her. My hair is just from when I cut it all off ages ago. You couldn’t give it to the Cancer Society back then, so you just kept it. Somehow Anne ended up with it.

Me: Uh-huh. I can’t believe I’m going to ask this, but if your hair is in a paper bag, what is the charmed hair in?

Polly: An ivory case

Me: Of course it is

This is my family. They’re zany, superstitious, clever, dramatic, funny, creative, and you should avoid taking them in public.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How would you describe your family? Does yours have strange traditions or superstitions? Are there things about yourself you’re glad you got from them? Can’t wait to hear from you!

 

Lock Jaw and Night Vision, Heed the Farning!

Definition: Farning. Using fear to impress danger upon someone. ex: Don’t eat that or you’ll die. My mom was the master of this. Still is actually. She’s very…mmm…dramatic is a good word. I say this with affection. Probably.

I bring this up because many of her farnings had a definite effect on me. I guess this is a good thing when your intent is to keep a child from potential harm, but what if it continues well into adulthood? Here’s a sampling of my nut farm childhood:

1. Don’t talk on the phone during a storm or lightning will strike the house, go through the phone line and fry you like an egg. (even though this is only relevant if you’re on an “old fashioned” plug-in phone, I still won’t talk on my cell phone during storms)

2. If you get scraped by a rusty nail and you’re behind on tetanus you’ll get lock jaw and night vision. (Can you imagine the visual I had of this as a six year old? Although I’m intrigued by the idea of night vision, I’m still horrified by lock-jaw, cuz LOCK JAW)

3. Check all canned foods for botulism. If you eat something with botulism you’ll die within 5 minutes. (I still obsessively check cans for the “pop” and will not use one if it has even a tiny dent. I was so paranoid about this, I wouldn’t even eat canned food unless someone else was home until I was well into my twenties)

4. If you see a van driving next to you, RUN! Kidnappers drive vans and grab little kids and you’ll never see your family again. (um…no joke, I’m still scared shitless of vans. In fact, I’m quite skittish and always feel vulnerable when out in the open. My BFF finds this highly amusing)

5. Don’t take hot showers if you’re on your period, you could pass out, and could hit your head on the tile and drown. (*blank stare*) (To be honest, I think I heard this one from Girl Scouts, but my mom added the fear element of a head injury and possible drowning because merely “passing out” wasn’t enough of a warning. Obviously)

Now, maybe I was a super sensitive kid who took warnings very literal and that’s why they affected me so profoundly. OR, maybe the farnings were a bit too…hmm….harsh given my age at the time and could have been phrased more gently. *shrug* But it does give me pause when considering how to warn my own kids. For instance:

I see my 9yo playing in the street the other day. My warning, “get out of the street, you could get hit by a car” is no longer making an impact. I can tell. Cuz he’s still in the street. Herein lies my dilemma. How far do I go to impress upon him the gravity of the situation while not causing him to cower in the house the rest of his life cuz of mommy’s colorful description of brain matter on the asphalt?

When my 6yo is scared/mad he’ll run out of the house and hide under one of our cars (charming, btw). A few Saturdays ago he was upset he was being left with a sitter and did just that. The sitter was already in the house. The hubs and I had somewhere to be. I stomped walked patiently to the car. He was wedged all the way in the middle and refused to budge. What did I do? I reverted to what I knew.

“Hurry and get out from under there! There’s a storm coming, you can’t be near large metal objects when there’s lightning!” (FYI, there really were *storm clouds.)

Awful, or not? I mean, that’s true about lightning, everyone knows that. And it worked! We got him inside and made our movie on time. Yes, he’s terrified of lightning now, but he already sort of was so I still see this as a WIN.

The thing is, I know my mom’s heart was in the right place. I get it. I bring it up all in fun, I mean, if it wasn’t for her farnings, how would I know to go through my kid’s Halloween candy for signs of foul play. You know, cuz Mom warned me how people stick needles in Tootsie Rolls to inject cyanide, and open Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups to insert razor blades and then replace the wrappers.

WHAT.

*by storm clouds I mean some grey clouds on the horizon. And by grey clouds on the horizon I mean an airplane. Shut up. That plane was ominous as shit.

So how far is too far? Was I just overly sensitive as a kid? Do you use fear to keep your kids safe? Did your parents ever give you farnings that still stick with you? I LOVE hearing from you!