Five Things You Have To Teach Your Kids…Or Go To Jail

badA few days ago I asked my daughter had to sew a do-dad shiny thing on my shirt. All she had to do was a few quick loops and it would be done. When I put my shirt something was very very wrong. She actually sewed the front of the shirt to the back. I had to cut my way  out.

There are life skills you have to teach your kids or you should go to jail.

1.I preach the importance of teaching your kid to shake hands like a man all the time. So you know that.  If your child doesn’t know how to make eye contact and say, “nice to meet you” everyone will assume he’s a pathetic loser. Life is tough and judgmental like that.

2. Make sure you teach your children how to sew a button on a shirt. If they can do that, they’ll figure the rest out.

3. Teach your kids, boys and girls, how to throw a ball without looking like a dweeb.

4. You have to teach them to swim and ride a bike because once they get old it’s almost impossible to overcome the fear of drowning and falling. Kids are stupid and brave, they’ll do anything if you tell them they can.  They have faith in you and believe in magic so take care of bike riding and swimming before they are five.

5. And finally teach your kid how to use a knife and fork properly and how to set a table. The other day a 10th grade boy came to our house and we all sat staring,  stunned as he tried, unsuccessfully to cut his meat…and it wasn’t that tough. Finally he managed to cut a strip off then he just nibbled it off the fork. It was painful to watch.

There are some kids I don’t invite to go out to dinner with us because it’s embarrassing and they are too old to help.  They eat like animals because nobody took the time to teach them how to use a knife and fork.  They don’t have bad manners, they simply don’t have any manners at all. It’s sad and bizarre. Be a good parent, take the time, don’t loose your patience and teach your children the stuff they need to know. You can’t expect football coaches to teach them everything.


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The Worst Day Ever

lex7Sandor and I helped Lexie move into her college dorm room today. It was terrible.

We did all the usual stuff, moved the bed, ran back to the store to buy cleaning supplies and a garbage can.  I gave her a hard time for not bringing a picture of me or Sandor.

Then it was time to leave her there on campus, surrounded by smiling frat boys who offered to carry heavy stuff and cute girls who were very helpful and friendly. While we were hugging for a really long time the tears started. Mine and Sandor’s, not Lexies.

I’ve done this three times and all three of my kids have earned full scholarships to college so yes, I’m really proud of them.

But the reality is once they leave for college they are gone.  They come back for weekends and summers but they are gone.

A million years ago a wrote a novel, Invisible Branches. I described waiting for the school bus to bring Mary and Jack home, and when it did and I heard them laughing and running up the driveway I felt like my heart was home.  Now it’s in a dorm room an hour away.

Lexo the cowgirl who wore red cowboy boots for nearly two years is gone.

One of the things gnawing at me, is the thought that I haven’t taught her enough or she wasn’t really listening when I warned her about the dangers of drunken frat parties, the dangers of a real city. All my kids are ridiculously confident and strong. Sometimes caution is a good thing.

She’s good at handling her money, actually cheap, but what if…

She loves to work out and eats pretty well, but what if…

I’m worried she won’t get enough sleep, she’ll meet charming handsome bad guys, she won’t ask for help when she needs it, she’ll forget to lock her car doors when she’d driving at night and will pay too much for college text books.

I’m worried she won’t she won’t be home to hug Sandor after a bad day at school and he won’t have her to snuggle with and watch Adventure Time and I Carley. I’m worried she  won’t be here to make her dad laugh, and she’s one of the very few who can do that. And I’m worried she won’t be her to hold my hand when we sit on the couch, to make fun of me when I try to talk like a cool kid. I’m worried because she won’t be here to side kick me in public and to say things like, “hurry home, I’ve got so much to tell you.” She won’t be here to make us all dance in the kitchen.

Obviously, Lex will be just fine. She listened when I lectured. She knows what she’s in for.

But coming home from work will never be quite the same for me.



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Boys, Books and Bribery….It’s A Good Thing

boys and booksboys and booksboys and books (2)The child experts who preach, “Never bribe your child” obviously don’t have any kids.  Bribery is the bread and butter of parenting. You just have to know how to work the system so you get what you want and your child thinks they are the winners.

This morning I had a whole list of things I needed to get done in the house and two restless little boys sliding across the floor in their underwear.  They desperately wanted to go swimming with their goggles: I desperately wanted my house cleaned up.

The third time they asked  about going to the pool I showed them my list of the things I had to finish. “Sadly guys there are so many things on this list I don’t know if I’ll have it all done in time to take you to the pool. If you help me, I promise we’ll get there in time. If you do two jobs each, I’ll even  take you to Books a Million  and you can each pick out a chapter book.”

Back to school is a week away and I’ve got to get their brains going again. The idea of anything new always always always get’s eleven year old’s excited and they each picked two jobs.

First, Sam pulled the cushions off the couch and vacuumed, Sandor unloaded the dishwasher,  They both put clean sheets on their beds, cleaned all the window sills and took the garbage out.

We were done with everything on the list in an hour. BRIBERY I Win!!!! (I’d high five myself if I could)

Once we were in the book store it took about thirty minutes for them to finally decided what  they wanted. Then we went swimming. On the way home Sam and Sandor asked if they could jump on the trampoline with the sprinkler when we got home.

“Sure you can, after you read the first chapter of your books.”

They knuckle bumped this victory.

Once we got home they were silent, sprawled on the couches reading. BRIBERY I Win!!!!

If  you are going to use the powerful tool of bribery you have to be smart and cunning about it. You should get what you want and it should be good for your kiddo. So, when the experts grill you, it looks like your bribery was a brilliant act of parenting.

But you have to use this took wisely. Don’t say to your children, “If you let me pick the tv show I’ll let you eat this giant bag of Cheetos.”  Don’t tell them “If you’ll get my cigarettes out of the car, I’ll let you have a sip of my beer.” Do not say “If you’ll let me sleep another hour you can play video games all day.”

Bribery is a good thing, don’t make it ugly. And when you get really good at it, your kids won’t even realize how you manipulate and control them. And that’s the ultimate goal, right?



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Burping Boys

burpingWhat is it about boys, big and little, who think burping is outrageously funny, or something to be proud of? It doesn’t take any skill, it’s gross, it’s easy to do, still, when my son and his friends are in the back seat and one of them lets go with a category five burp, they laugh so hard I worry about their sanity and bladder control.

Lately it’s gotten really bad at my house. Most of the time, if I’m close,  Sandor jumps up and says “Oh no I’m about to burp” and he tries to get out of the room. But I hear all the little boys cheerfully burping though the night then laughing and shushing each other.  The burp on the trampoline, the burp in the shower, they burp while climbing trees and playing drums and folding laundry.  There is a never ending cacophony of burping and I’m just about done with this gassy, burpy, boy culture. It was cute when he was a baby and I was patting him on the back, but those days are long gone.

As of last night there are new rules in Hampoland and so far they  seem to be really effective.  While watching Adventure Time I announced that every time he or one of his friends burps in front of me, or within hearing distance….he’s got to give me twenty push-up.  Good push ups.

I’m still working on the punishment for other gross body noises, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.


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Stop Bashing My State!

ArkansasOutlineRecently my oldest daughter, Mary, went on a trip “Up North” and ran into an Arkansas Basher.  This woman hated everything about my wonderful state, and proceeded to tell Mary all about it.  She actually implied her son was too good to even marry anyone from the state of Arkansas.

First, grown ups are supposed to have better manners than that.

But the real issue is more important. ARKANSAS IS FREAKING AWESOME….but most people don’t realize it.

Because so few people every visit Arkansas, most folks don’t realize how beautiful she is. We’ve got gorgeous wild rivers, sweeping grass lands, swamps and beautiful mountains. If  landscape could be schizophrenic we would be the poster child, and that’s a good thing, we are diverse, extremely divers so we have lots of different natural recourses. We have the oldest National Park and some of the purist waters…and razorbacks!

Lots of brilliant and talented people were born in Arkansas. I’m not just talking about President Clinton and Johnny Cash, how about Sonny Liston, Al Green, Neo, Alan Ladd (movie star) Chet Lauck (Lum and Abner) Fay Jones, Glen Campbell, Billy Bob Thornton, Mike Huckabee, John Gresham and Louis Jordan. And don’t forget the guys from Black Oak Arkansas, my favorite, Jimmy Driftwood and Lefty Frizzle.  and I’m not event gonna start listing athletes!

You want brilliant business men, how about Don Tyson, William Dillard and Sam Walton. I’ll stop with that mighty threesome but I could go on. Military geniuses? We got em.  Douglas MacArthur and Wesley Clark, but there are dozens more.

So, we have a tiny state with extraordinary people and lands. What’s not to love? Some of us are trashy some are classy, the same is true in every state.

It’s true sometimes I make fun of other states. I do a little bashing myself. “Thank god for Mississippi”. But the truth is some of the most wonderful people I know come from that state, and some of the greatest talents in America.  I’m now speaking of William Faulkner and Leigh Lorraine Bondurant. So I should follow my own advice and shut up.

Every state  is important and special and part of this great country. When you bash one state it’s like critizizing part of yourself.  Don’t trash talk your own foot, it’s an important part of your body and you need it to walk forward.




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Never Ever Marry A Chef

alexDo not marry a chef, man or woman. And don’t ever ever consider being a chef.  I say this knowing full well if you are in love with a chef, it’s too late. You’ll follow your stupid heart and marry him. If you have a passion for food and flavor, your life is over because you will follow your heart into the kitchen and then the walk-in.

Still I feel it is my duty to write these words. Do not become a chef because at fifty you will not look like Gordon Ramsey.

Here’s what happens when you become a chef. I know becasue I’ve been married to a brilliant one for twenty years.

You will work 10-14 hours a day, six days a week. Chances are you will miss most major holidays because those are huge food service days. Your children will have to hunt for Easter eggs in the late afternoon, after Sunday Brunch. You will celebrate New Year’s Eve with your honey at 2:00am, after you’ve cleaned up kitchen. And after feeding hundreds of patrons on Thanksgiving you’ll come home (around 4pm) to a smiling family and a table covered with a traditional Thanksgiving feast. But the last thing you’ll want is turkey and dressing because you just finished cooking and serving fifteen twenty pound turkeys, you prepared forty pounds of stuffing, three gallons of gravy, twenty pumpkin pies and thirty five pounds of mashed potatoes.

Still, you will sit down with your family, your feet and back aching, and you will try to choke down dinner  as though it’s the finest meal you’ve ever had when all you want is a beer and a peanut butter sandwich.

If you marry a chef the first question everyone will as is, “Does he cook for you at home”? Hellll no.  The last thing a chef wants to do at night is cook. Maybe he’ll mow, he’ll vacuum, he’ll help with homework but for the most part chefs do not want to cook at night.  If I bring home a really lovely piece of meat, or salmon he’ll take over. And sometimes,  he’ll thrill me with a sauce, a Bordelaise or Wild Mushroom and Sherry Sauce and it’s all worth while. Actually, I don’t think chefs stop cooking at home for the first ten years.  It’s all new and fresh and they really like showing off their mad skills until they hit 35.

Escoffier was the king of chefs and the chef of kings. He was the man who, theoretically, got chefs out of the dungeon like basements of Europe.  but things really haven’t changed much for these impassioned artists.

Most chefs, no matter how extraordinary, don’t have a 401K, they don’t have a retirement plan and they have crappy insurance.

On the rare instances we actually get to go out for dinner, often times Alex ends up in the kitchen and I sit alone at the table for twenty minutes looking for typos on the menu.

If you are already in love with a chef or with being a chef, good luck. Things will work out and there are positive aspects to the chef life. Alex actually wooed me by making apple birds for my daughter Mary’s kindergarten class. Now that’s love and that’s sexy.

On the up side, when we go out waitresses, dishwasher and kitchen staff treat us like royalty and he can always figure the food cost on any meal. And when there’s absolutely nothing to eat, Alex can make dinner with some kind of crazy chef/McGyver skills.

So…buy some new knives, a new cookbook, put on an apron and clogs, but try not to walk into a professional kitchen, you may never get out alive.


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Idiot Parents

mustangYesterday I heard a story on CBS News. Based on information from  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the best used cars for teens are “big, slow and ugly.” It took the insurance companies of America to point out the obvious.

I’m so sick of idiot parents who buy their teens a red Mustang V6 and with way too much horsepower and then they are surprised when their kids drives too fast.

I know your child has staggeringly white teeth and a 2.8 GPA and you want you baby to be popular but for the love of god, don’t put them in a sports car. Because they will drive way too fast and hurt and possibly kill themselves, their friends and other innocent people on the road.

Your teenager has a brain that is not fully formed.  That’s why teens make bad decisions sometimes.

You’re brain, Mom and Dad, is supposed to be all connected and put together. So you must make the sound judgment calls that will keep Joe Joe and Skippy safe.  But you apparently would rather be the cool dad and buy your kid (who, by the way, will probably lose their scholarships in their freshman year because of frat parties) a brand new Charger with a V8 and top speed of 175 miles an hour. Guess what, your kids is gonna drive way too fast in that car. And it’s your fault because you gave it to him for graduating from high school.

I drive super slow, I poke along like a sloth and I’m pretty sure if I had that car even I would drive too fast, because THAT’S WHAT THE CAR WAS DESIGNED TO DO!

Bottom line. You are a moron if you buy your kid a sports car. They will drive way way to fast. I can almost promise you that.  And when your child passes me on Highway 5 because I’m doing the speed limit and he wants to go 80 in his silver 2014  Mustang, when he causes an accident and he dies and I die, I swear to you my ghost and hopefully are going to come looking for you….the idiot parents.


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Horrible Little Girls On The Beach

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Lex and I were lying in the soft, white sand, listening to the waves and seagulls. when a  family started hauling plastic buckets and shovels in our direction.  A young mom and dad dutifully  followed their seven or eight year old daughter in a sparkly pink two piece swimming suit. She looked adorable.

The parents plopped down into the sand then the little girl put her hands on her skinny hips and said, “Chop chop people this sand castle isn’t going to build itself.”

Lexie and I looked at each other with ” Oh my Lord, did you hear that?” expressions.

They all worked on the castle like Egyption slaves building the pyramyds for a few minutes then the little girl flung her pony tail back and forth and pointed at her smiling mother.  “If you’re not going to do what I say, you’re fired. Totally fired, get off my construction sight.”

The mom smiled and kind of laughted then walked away. She glanced at her handsome, shirtless,  husband, who did nothing, then she  sat down in a chair twenty feet away. She was smiling and then it became obvious she was nearly in tears.

First, I want to say I was so disapointed in the dad.  Why didn’t he stand up to his nightmare of a drama queen daugher and say “You can’t talk to your mother that way.” Instead he kept trying to laugh it off and he did as his daughter said. (That’s called being a slave.)

They kept working together for a few minutes and everything the girl did the father praised as though she’d discovered the cure to eboli.  It was stupid how they were sucking up to this kid.

The parents didn’t know what was wrong with their daughter, who continued to boss her dad around.  But Lexie and I knew precisly what was going on. She was a bitchy little Disney Channel kid.

If you watch the Disney Channel you will see countless adorable and beautiful little girls who are bossy, mean and narcissistic.  They talk to their mothers like they are idiots.. They treat their tv fathers like they are morons, and everyone claps and laughs.

The truth is. it may be kind of cute when they are little and percousis,  but you are raising a monster.  First it’s the sandcastle, then your daughter will look at you in Macy’s, roll her eyes, and say “can you hurry up and pay the woman?” and then when she’s seveenteen she’ll put her hands on her skinny hips, roller her eyes and say, “give me the keys now, I don’t want to wait anymore.”

That’s what the Disney girls do all the time. They are mean-spirited, aggressive, rude and they love to start fights and boss adults around.  Maybe  this all this started out as a way to balance the self esteem issuewith little girls….. but it’s back fired.

Because of Disney and Nickelodeon girls,    we are raising a generation of girls who are spoiled, bossy, mean and bratty.They will be unemployable in their twenties (because they won’t tolerate a boss) and what man will want to marry such a bossy bitch?

Parents you are not alone. If you are in your twentys or thirtys you  need to stand up, turn off Disney and Nick, tell your  girls “yes you are pretty and smart but NO you are not in charge.” If you don’t don’t have the guts to do that you will have to  deal with the oncoming nightmare of an unemployable, unmatchable, intolerable bitch of a little girl. They are beautiful but doomed.

Parents….seriously….ist’s up to you.



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Christian Bullies

teenchristianchristianchristianI’ve always promised my three oldest kids I wouldn’t write about this until they were out of high school.  I’ve wanted to because I think bringing a situation to light is the only way for things to improve.

This morning one of my daughters and I were talking about bullies at school and she casually joked, “We’ll it’s sure not the Christians who get bullied anymore, it’s so the other way around.”

I knew exactly what she was talking. She was never targeted but for more than ten years my three oldest came home from school several times, horrified how other students were being treated because their religious views didn’t line up with those of the big and popular local churches. Kids put notes on lockers that said stuff like “you’ll burn in  Hell for all of eternity,” they  put lengthy bible verses on cars and lockers followed with “so You Are going to Hell!” It got especially ugly for any student who didn’t condem all gay people or had pro-choice leanings.

Even though lots of the church teens partied just as hard or harder than others, that wasn’t the point.  If kids had different beliefes or thoughts they were ostricized, picked on and harrassed. Yeah, for several years we had a big ’ol gang of hard core “Christian Bullies.” They were vicious, mean and self rightious. And I think it was mostly pretty girls. (I could be wrong there) I heard stories all the time and they broke my heart.

My heart didn’t’ break for thebullied  kids, most of them were pretty smart and resiliant so I figured they would be fine.  I felt bad for lots of the adults and leaders in the local churches, many I’ve known personally for years and they are lovely, wonderful, selfless Christians. I love them dearly and still do and I would swear, to this day, they have no idea how the message of the church and Christianity is being interruped by their pre-teens and teens.

What these “Christain bullies” didn’t seem to get (because they are young I suppose) is being mean, rude and cruel is a really bad and ineffective way to invite people to church. If you put ugly notes on my locker or whisper names as Iwalk by in the hall,  there’s not a chance in Hell I’ll want to be like you, go to your church, or hang with the kids you say are “Christian.” This is the worst form of Missionary work ever.

Self rightious bullies make kids who are raised by parents who didnt’ take them to church believe all Christians are mean and vindictive. As a result they never ever even want to try going to church.  That’s the real tragedy in this situation.

The actions of these teens turns kids against Christ, His work and His words.

The conduct of these “Christian Bullies” is so unlike that of Christ it’s almost laughable and a little pathetic.

My youngest son loves loves loves going to Wednesday youth group and church services at Millcreek Baptist Church. the Pastor there doesn’t realize it but I’m a big fan because he’s always so happy and loving and welcoming. I’ve listened to him give a eulogy for a man I loved with a drug ladden past and he was wonderful. 

But several years ago a group of 13 years old from that very same church cornered my oldest daughter, who was 12 or 13 and told her our entire family was going to Hell because were Episcopal and the Episcoapal church doesn’t automatically condem gays to Hell.  

When my daughter learned I was letting Sandor go to Millcreek on Wednesdays she was furious! She was convinced they would be mean and treat him horribly.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Adults, I guess it’s up to us to let our kids know how we expect them to act, how to be Christ-like and how to show God’s love to everyone. Even people who are different.

Persoanlly, I believe Christ wants us to love each other, to be kind, respectful and  lead by example. Show me the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven, I need all the help you can give me.  But please, don’t beat the snot out of me then expect me to want to walk in your footsteps.



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What Men Really Want

hotA few weeks ago I heard an old adage I’d forgotten a long time ago.  “Women get married thinking their man will change. Men get married hoping their women won’t change.”

1. That is soooo true.

2. Everybody would have happier marriages if they repeated and understood those two sentences 40 times before their wedding ceremony.

When Alex and I were dating twenty years ago he was swarthy and handsome, he smoked Marlboro reds, he didn’t like talking to new people unless he’d been drinking a little, he wasn’t very warm or fuzzy (my family is excessively mushy).Sex made everything better.    If he started reading a book he usually didn’t stop until it was done.  So he’d ignore me for hours, even on the beach, while he finished his book .He had a ridiculous work ethic. And working 12 hour days and 50 or 60 hours a week is what he did and that’s what needed to be done.

So I married him, even though I hate hate hate cigarettes.  I bitched at him for that during the first five years of our marriage, then one day I realized if it bugged me that much I shouldn’t have married a smoker because people don’t change much just become they get married.  He still doesn’t like talking to many people, his work schedule is staggering because he’s a chef and if you are a good chef you spend 50-60 hours a week in the kitchen. Yesterday was his day off. I gave him the book Freakanomics and he read it for six hours straight, even as he ate dinner.

He is the exact same man I married, just a few years older.

When Alex married me, whew…I was awesome.  hot, friendly, always smiling. I was spontaneous and loved embarrassing him in public by dragging him around and making out while people watched. I had drawers full of sexy clothes and when he worked late I always stayed up in the living room, like a beagle, waiting for his return.  I’d get him dinner, listen to his stories from the day.

Back then If he has to work really late now do I wait up? Hell no! I get sleepy at ten.

It’s been ten maybe fifteen years since I shoved him into a closet so we could make out.

It’s no wonder men hope and pray their wives don’t change. But we do.

If he likes spending weekends in the woods with his buddies during deer season he’s not going to give that up and start going to quilt festivals with you.

If he likes going to the gym five nights a week don’t expect him to give that up and start working out at the house. It’s not going to happen and if it does he’ll resent you for taking something positive away from him.

So folks, love each other and understand some people change and some people don’t. Remember  if they have bad habits that make you crazy while you’re dating….those habits probably aren’t going anywhere once you say “I do.”

The important thing is to keep holding hands in the Wal-Mart parking lot and compromise on crunchy or smooth peanut better.  The rest will take care of itself.





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