Reminds Me of Something That Hasn’t Happened Yet

Subtitle:  How To Train Your Sons to Date a Lady

(Or their Mother, if a lady is unavailable.)

A few weeks ago, my nine-year-old asked me out on a date.  He wanted to go to Perry’s Steakhouse, and he wanted to rent a tuxedo for the occasion.  I can only imagine what thought process brought him to those decisions…I don’t second-guess Michael anymore.  Trying to understand his motivation is an exercise in futility, and it takes away from the fun of just going with his ideas and seeing where you land.  Usually it’s upright and in a recognizable location, though the odds are not always in your favor.

We started out by going to the local Al’s Formal Wear at the height of Prom/June Wedding Preparation season.  I swear, I have never wanted to warn some of these men so badly in my life:  “Run!  Fast and far!  If she’s that particular about the direction of the tone-on-tone pattern on a swatch of fabric that is five inches by five inches and really only about two square inches of that will ever even be seen poking out of a jacket pocket, then YOU ARE SCREWED.”

Of course I didn’t say that anywhere but my head.  Girls/ladies, really?  He’s there, he’s renting the tux for you, let the rest go.

Michael handled 99% of the transaction himself, which is to say that I paid the rental fee and did nothing else but take pictures.  Here he is deciding between the notched lapel and the up-turned one (honestly, I saw no difference but what do I know?):

Teach your son how to date a lady

Hmm...which lapel to choose?

Teach your son how to date a lady

Measuring for the shirt. Check out that pose...

The woman working had a field day with him, she was into his story, LOL.  He was not a fan of the way the dress slacks hang, he said the crotch was too low.  GOOD MAN.  Not a fan of the saggy-crotch look myself.  She was able to convince him that that’s just how they roll in tuxedo world, and he got over it.  I thought the jacket she had him try on was too small, but he liked it.  (She was right, the one I liked would have been way too big, which is why they are experts at Al’s and I am an expert at…not that.)

The thing that struck me as so much fun was when his older brother wanted to help him get dressed.  At 5:00 (our reservations were at 6), they took the tux and all the trimmings upstairs and set to work.  I honestly tried to stay out of it and then remembered that I am, in fact, me so up I went, camera in hand.  The thing is, I could hardly watch without mentally skipping ahead 15 or 20 years to his wedding day.  He’d be in a room and his brother would be right there next to him like he has always, always been and they would be laughing and cutting up and strangling each other with bow ties and throwing the cufflinks around the room (we later found them all, though I have to question where all the six-armed men are that rent tuxedos) and generally having a ball.  Worth the price of admission for that scene alone.

Teach your son how to date a lady

How many times have I seen them in this pose? TOO MANY TO COUNT.

Teach your son how to date a lady

It's all starting to come together...

When they were all done, Michael came down looking like this:

Teach your son how to date a lady

Be still my beating heart. Also? Need to revisit not blowing out the whites. Photography fail.

And all at once I’m the Mom on prom night, herding all the kids into the back yard for pictures before the kids head off to dinner and to dance the night away.  Then, a few years later, I’m the Mother of the Groom, dressed in some fancy gown that he’s helped me pick out for his big day.  I’ve never seen the future so clearly before, but there it was, standing three feet away in black and white.

We arrived at Perry’s slightly ahead of schedule, and valet parked.  Always cracks me up to do that in my old 2001 XTerra which, no matter how you qualify it, looks not unlike a total beater.  It had been washed recently, but you can totally still make out the scratches on the back left quarter panel where the boys played tic-tac-toe with a set of keys when they were who knows what age.  No shame in my game though, it still runs, and better?  PAID FOR.

Michael walked me up to the front door and opened it for me, then announced himself to the hostess and the manager at the front desk, confirming his 6:00 reservation.  They asked him if he wanted a booth or a table:  “Um…I think booth.”  We were escorted to a lovely spot, and he went on and on about how fancy and special the dining room was and didn’t I just love it?  Totally did.

He ordered a Sprite and I ordered a Diet Coke and we split two loaves of their awesome sourdough bread, which is to say that I ate a slice and Michael inhaled the rest.  He ordered the eight ounce filet, cooked medium well.  He did it all by himself, I just sat and listened as he spoke clearly and firmly to the sweet waitress.  I think her name was Julie, she was awesome.   The meal was fantastic, he loved the steak.  He was not a fan of the au gratin potatoes, but I ate his portion since he skunked me on the bread, so we’ll call it even.  Dessert was warm chocolate cake with a dollop of ice cream.  Note to Perry’s:  serve Blue Bell, it’s way better than the fake scandinavian-sounding brand and hello?  This is Texas.  Support the home team, folks!

Dessert finished, the little man paid the bill and we were on our way:

Teach your son how to date a lady

He was so proud of his adult-like signature. "See that? That's how a man signs his name."

He had been planning this night for a long time, and it was just as he hoped it would be.  I got a chance to show him how to hold his arm out for a lady (or his Mother, lol), how to stand if she needs to get up from the table, how to walk around and tip the valet as you help your date into the car, all of the things he’ll need to know as he gets older.  Somewhere in the world, there’s a little girl who will be thankful.  She’ll be the luckiest girl on the planet.  =)



P.S.  He can also iron clothes, sew, and kill spiders and June bugs with the best of them.  Just sayin’…

P.S.S.  More pictures here.


Like Flying the Space Shuttle, Only Harder

I’m going to change my name to “Anyone”, on account of that age-old adage “It could happen to anyone.”  Yeah?  Then how come I’M ALWAYS THAT ANYONE?

It’s not a rhetorical question, I expect an answer by noon tomorrow.

Happen to me it did, my car broke down.  I know why…not three weeks ago I was bragging to some friends about how my car broke down and left me stranded for the first time ever since time began ever and it is a ten year old car with well over 100,000 miles on it and look how cool I am, all driving a car that doesn’t break down and everything. I ROCK.  Only that totally jinxed me because in a matter of six hours, not only did my car completely break down, my husband’s did too.  And is that a funny story…

He had a late meeting for work and had just called me to say he was almost home.  At that exact time, I had been reaching for the phone to call him to tell him that there was a strange pickup truck turning into our driveway and OMG, now a man is getting out of the car!  He’s heading toward’s the house!  He looks just like you!!  Do you have a twin I don’t know about, because if so I have some friends that I really do need to set up…

Of course it was him.  His car had died too, leaving us on the phone with Enterprise (“Hello, Enterprise? I need to rent a car…”) begging for whatever they could get to us as quickly as they could get it.  Do you know what they gave me?  It starts with ‘mini’ and ends with ‘van’.

Gag me with a fork.

Because I know you’ve read my Empty Bucket List, you know that #7 precludes me from owning such a beast.  It does not, however, preclude me from driving one in the extreme circumstances in which I happen to have found myself.

I don’t understand new technology, obviously.  This idiot Dodge Grand Caravan does.not.shut.up.  It beeps at you and clicks and honks and waves and somewhere lurking below the racing-style steering wheel (hello?  in a minivan??) is a button that I’m sure would cause my laundry to pop out of the trunk, all folded and sorted.  In short?


It took me ten minutes to find the stupid PRNDL, which is up on the dashboard instead of down on the floorboard between the two front seats where it belongs.  It looked like a joystick from 1983.  I decided after another ten minutes that I would just drive with the windshield wipers on, in utter humiliation on a beautifully sunny day, rather than waste any more time trying to figure out how to turn them off.  I’m sure I turned them on accidentally trying to contort my way into the thing…I am an SUV woman all the way, baby.  If you’ve got less than 18″ vertical clearance I don’t even want to talk to you, much less ride in you.  This thing rides so low I checked my butt for flames of friction every time I got out.

And woe unto you if you don’t put on your seat belt the very instant said flaming buttocks hit the seat, for you will be beeped at incessantly until you comply.  Big Brother, anyone?  I am 41 years old, I don’t need my car policing my seatbelt wearing habits, thankyouverylittle.

The boys, of course, loved it.  Michael was all over the growl of the engine.  So let’s stop there…a minivan engine needs to growl?  Who do they think is driving these things, Mario Andretti?  I’ll tell you who drives them…suburban women.  They don’t need their car to growl, they need it to warn them when the light is green so they can get off their phone/put the mascara down/stop reading and hit the gas.  Growling engine?  Not so much.

I have never been so happy in my life to have my 2002 Nissan XTerra back.  I love that car.  I love that it has tic-tac-toe etched in the back left quarter panel, courtesy of a younger John and Michael.  I love that the bumpers are faded as a result of a problem with the plastic that year, and I can tell instantly when there’s another of my model year around because of that.  I love that it sits really high so I can see over the other cars and figure out what the delay in traffic is.  I {heart} my car.

Thanks to Cinco Car Care, I have it back.  They fixed Patrick’s too, so we are finally back in business.  I’ve been an errand running fool all day long, and even picked up the first Christmas present of the season.




The Douche Bagette and What Season Are We In Again?

This morning was an anomaly.  I needed to get Michael to school by 7:30 so that I could go back the other direction and get John to the orthodontist by 8:15, and stop back by the house in between for John to brush his teeth first.  I hear you, he should have brushed before we left the house but if you have an almost 11-yr old boy you realize why that didn’t happen.  Because it would have made sense.

So we are at an intersection having sat through a couple of red lights which was not unexpected.  But what WAS unexpected was the car in front of me that stopped at a green light.  GREEN.  As in, the color that means “Go!”  I’d just refereed the millionth skirmish of the day, trying to decide between Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”.  You know what?  When I was little you got the radio or silence.  That was it.  Thanks to Apple we have the iPod and now kids have 2900 and counting different songs they can ask to listen to any time (read: every.single.time) we are in the car.  We could be driving from the garage to the community mailbox and I will hear “CAN WE LISTEN TO MUSIC??” Presumably because they will all die from a 10 second lack of entertainment.

I lost my point…oh wait, here it is:

I was all “…quick to the point to the point no fakin'” when I hit the  brakes to avoid crashing into the car that was stopped at the green light.  Not a terribly patient person when confronted with obvious stupidity, I honked my horn.  Two Four times.  And the guy is still sitting there and I’m like “It’s the peddle on the right!  Push it and you’ll go!” and “You waiting on an engraved invitation, pal?” and by the time I was halfway through “Did you get your driver’s license at Sears?” I saw it.  The police car coming from the left trying to go through the intersection and the reason the car in front of me was stopped.

Ergo: me = douche bagette

Changing gears, I walked outside this weekend and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but this:

Stephanie Kennedy, Candid Canon, hibiscus, photography

Silly hibiscus, blooms are for Summer

I keep hearing about a cool front on its way, but I don’t think I believe it.  From where I sit, it might as well be July!  =)



Semper Paratus

For the non-Coasties out there, and for those who don’t speak Latin (Dan Quayle, this means you), that’s “Always Ready”.  US Coast Guard motto, at your service.  Military service has always been important to me, mostly because my family is rife with it.  My Mom’s father was a navigator on Navy flights over Dresden in WWII.  My Great Uncle was on Iwo Jima…he was missing part of his left ring finger and it was always the subject of controversy growing up.  How did he lose it?

The line he always fed us was this: “I will tell you, but you can only ask me one question about it, and you have to promise never to ask me again.”

We all agreed, and his answer was always the same (clearly we didn’t keep our promise): “It was bitten off.”

That left SO much to the imagination…by whom?  When?  Did they chew it up and swallow it, or spit it out? TELL US MORE.  Yet he refused.  The likeliest story is that it was shot off in the war that he never talked about.  Back then, men didn’t discuss what they saw.  They did their job and came home.

Later, a different generation did the same thing…my Great Uncle’s son flew supply planes for the first Gulf War in the early 1990’s.  I can remember that his wife would sleep at his parent’s house when he was deployed, she just felt safer there than home alone with her two little girls.

My own father was in the Army ROTC and went on to serve five years of active duty, 18 months of it in Seoul, South Korea.  He came back and was a weekend warrior on reserve duty for the entirety of my childhood.  He finally retired a Lt. Colonel in I think it was the late 1990’s.  I still have vivid memories of checking the calendar to see if this was the third weekend of the month, because if it was we were left with just ourselves and Mother so that meant lots of Uno and Scrabble and her telling us to quit trying to kill one another.  Some things never change.

My husband is a veteran of the US Coast Guard.  He was front and center when the original Drug Wars began with Mexico.  He was injured in the line of duty and is a Disabled Veteran now.  It’s funny…before we met, I didn’t think much about what the Coast Guard did.  You think they go out and rescue people who fall off of boats in a drunken stupor, or rescue coeds off of South Padre when they cram too many Spring Breakers onto a party barge.  But the truth is, they have elite forces like all the other branches of the military and those who serve there are placed in danger daily.

The interesting thing is, they don’t see it that way.  There’s a call to duty, a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves that lies behind every veteran I have ever met.  It’s something I can understand, but not fully because I’ve never done anything like that before.  I would probably be all “Look, you MORON, that’s why the sign says ‘MAXIMUM LOAD: 15’ on it.  What?  You thought your group of 25 drunken friends could challenge the laws that govern what makes a boat float?  Then begone with ye…swim to shore on your own!”  Strangely, the Coast Guard frowns upon that sort of response which is why my husband was much better suited to serve than I would have been.

So anyway, to he and all the other veterans out there who have served in any capacity, in any branch, I would like to offer you a few words:

Thank you.



How Not To Be a Hoarder

{side note:  what exactly is the rule again on capitalization in a title?  Is it that any word less than three letters is not capitalized?  I never can remember…}

I’m usually more of a Shark Tank or Celebrity (or non-celebrity) Apprentice type, but I went against the grain one night last week and watched Hoarders.  It’s not unlike a train wreck…you just can’t look away and before you know it you’re emotionally invested in these people’s lives and wanting to call and donate to a psychological care fund for that poor, poor Chicago-area woman who had to climb over her own crap just to get in her back door, and then you want to call up her two daughters and invite them over for a hug and tell them it will all be OK and that they don’t have to follow in her footsteps and you will be sure they don’t.

No, that’s not my usual cup of tea.  But I watched it and re-committed to my mantra:  Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.  Having watched that show, I decided that not every single watercolor butterfly or eggshell caterpillar the boys made in their combined six years of preschool was, in fact, beautiful enough to be kept.  I dragged every one of the plastic tubs I’d stuffed full of memories out into the game room and went through it, piece by loving piece.  And here’s what that looks like:

Hoarders, mess, preschool, The Fly Lady

My goal was to reduce it one container per child so that I could keep only the very most important things.  The last thing I need is one of them showing up on some talk show in 2015, blaming their life’s tragedies on the fact that Mom didn’t value their childhood enough to keep at least one box of their junk.  And that is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to me.  But any more than one container would put me in the category of people who can’t let go of stuff.  You know, the category called “Hoarders.”

By the time it was all said and done, the room looked like this:

Hoarders, mess, preschool, The Fly LadyHoarders, mess, preschool, The Fly Lady

That’s five empty plastic containers that I can use in the garage to corral the various balls and bats and rackets, and two lawn and leaf bags, ready to be taken out to the trash.  Giddyup. It took me roughly four hours, but it was time well spent.

Photography tip:  You know how it was all the rage a while back to “fill the frame with your subject”?  That’s cool and all and certainly has it’s place depending on how you intend to use the image, but if you do that all the time you miss out on the little background gems.  In these shots, things like the globe, the games and books on the  bookshelf, the turtle Pillow Pal on the rocking chair, the rocking chair itself, etc.  Sometimes, the background tells a better story than the actual subject itself.  Something to keep in mind.

I think I’m going to make a monthly date with that show going forward to ensure that I will never have to worry about being attacked by my own stuff when I open random doors in my home.  Who’s with me??


Steph, the non-hoarder

And That’s Not Even the Worst Part

I have shin splint.  It’s only my left shin so I can’t call it shin splints because that would be factually incorrect.  When you live in the most literal household on the planet, you learn to choose your words very carefully lest they be spat back at you with tenfold the intensity with which they were first spoken.  You can’t, for example, when sitting at the kitchen table paying bills say to someone “hand me that pen” when the pen in question is really a felt-tipped marker.  Because the response you will get is: “Do you mean this felt-tipped marker?  Because you said you wanted the pen and I don’t see a pen but I do see a felt-tipped marker which I am happy to hand to you if that’s what you’d like.”  LITERAL.  WE HAZ IT.

Because of my shin splint, which then turned into a slightly pulled hamstring muscle as a result of an altered running gait, I was forced to stop running outside on the concrete.  You know, I ran for years and years back in my 20’s and never had a single injury.  Not a one.  I ran 6+ miles a day, six days a week and had nary a problem.  What is it about aging that makes getting back into running so hard?  It’s like I have to baby this old body or it will revolt against me.  I hate age.

Determined to heal as quickly as I could, I read this website from Jim Haselmaier about how you can still run while recovering from this particular injury and have followed his advice religiously.  Scaling back is not easy right now, because I’m running the Katy YMCA Turkey Dash on Thanskgiving Day for the fifth year in a row and I would very much like to beat my time from the first year I ran the race (34.59, if anyone’s counting).  That requires running further and faster in order to build up.  HARD TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE SHIN SPLINT and are forced to scale back.

Nevertheless, I have persevered and scaled back and used my treadmill to ease back into running.  In order not to try and overachieve as I am wont to do, I looked up treadmill workouts and forced myself to print this one:

Jim Haselmaier, Shin splints, treadmill, workout, hamstring, running, jogging, Turkey Dash, Katy YMCA

What does it say on there?  “Beginner Treadmill Workout”.  I had been running 3.5 miles a day at a little under 11 minutes a mile (so not Speedy Gonzales but not the Tortoise either) for four days a week for over a month and I am so not a beginner.  It’s humiliating.

Yet worse?  I don’t run with my glasses on inside and my eyesight is so poor that I couldn’t even read the thing.

I hate age.