Big Bird

Ok, so I haven’t been blogging a lot lately. Or at all. Or whatever. A lot of that is because I’m a gazillion months pregnant and am a bit preoccupied with keeping my head above water. A lot of it is also due to the fact that I’ve been working a TON…’cause life’s like that, right?


For those of you who don’t know, I’m now a cashier at a grocery store. While I wasn’t particularly excited about the job when I started – let’s be honest, I was being snobby about it – I’ve actually grown to love it a lot. Much like I learned from being a waitress, I am so grateful for the lessons and insight I’ve gained from this job. And, I’m not gonna lie, I actually really, really enjoy it. Life’s full of unexpected little surprises like that…you’d think I’d start expecting it and not being so pessimistic. Alas, I am human.


So, here are a few things I’ve noticed/picked up/realized from working as a grocery store cashier. For the sake of not stepping on any toes, I’m not going to use the actual name of the store. I’ll just refer to it as the “Big Bird.” Honestly, it’s just another excuse for me to use a code name. ‘Cause using code names makes me feel cool. But I digress…


  • Store music rocks my socks off – I can’t even begin to tell you how much I have come to look forward to listening to Big Bird Radio while working. We get quite the eclectic mix of Motown hits, 90’s boyband classics (I haven’t heard so much Backstreet Boys music since 6th grade.), Miley Cyrus (I secretly love her. Don’t judge.), as well as lots of Celine Dion, Rick Astley, Diana Ross, and the occasional Bob Seger. Oh, and Chicago; lots of Chicago. And The Carpenters…Basically, my life is complete.
  • Store music rocks other peoples’ socks off, too – I can’t tell you how many times I get to have sing-along’s with co-workers and customers. It’s kind of wonderful. It’s also interesting to figure out which songs are the most polarizing. For example, everyone I’ve ever waited on agrees that about a milliondy years needs to go by before we hear “My Heart Will Go On” one more stinking time. Unfortunately for us, it plays on the reg. However, people will legitimately get down to “Lean on Me” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” According to my very scientific studies, R. Kelly still maintains quite the loyal fan base.
  • People are shocked by friendliness – I make it a point to go out of my way to make people’s shopping experience enjoyable, or at least the check-out portion. This is not because I’m a great Big Bird employee, but rather because I believe that life’s too short to be in a bad mood. People are genuinely surprised that I’m so friendly. They’ve told me so on several occasions. And, honestly, this makes me sad. We should all be friendly to one another all the time, right? It shouldn’t come as a surprise to people that someone would want to demonstrate kindness. It really doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day, so why don’t we do it more readily?
  • Life really is like those Allstate commercials – You know the ones I’m talking about, where somebody does something nice and another person sees them and then it turns into a big chain reaction of niceness. I’ve seen that happen a lot. Someone gives a person an extra quarter to cover their bill, or pays for a magazine, or reminds them of forgotten keys or whatever. It’s nice to see and a joy to be a part of. Kind of redeems that last bullet point. Goodness begets goodness – something we should all remember. All it takes is one person to be the catalyst…why not you?
  • You should buy stock in Stouffer’s – I have never before in my life seen frozen food in such quantities. People don’t cook, my friends, they buy frozen. Now, I’m no economist, but in my estimation, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in on that action if possible. Stouffer’s, Totino’s, Hamburger Helper, etc…are all making an absolute killing. (They’re also probably literally killing consumers with preservatives, but that’s an entirely different topic for speculation.)
  • People love pregnant women – This is a fact that I already knew, but I’ve never been able to experience it in this manner before. Working with the public is frequently surprising. I mean, I expected questions about due dates, comments on size, even the occasional delivery room trauma story. I was also prepared for someone to touch my belly without asking. I just kind of figured it’d happen at some point. I was not prepared for the demographic from which this person would come. I assumed that it would be maybe an older white lady. Definitely not. The only stranger who has ever touched my belly to date was – wait for it – a thirty year old black man. He had a four-month-old at home and was all about speculating as to when I’d deliver. The whole thing was so surprising and funny that I am still laughing over it. It was so not what I expected and I love it! He was so sweet and kind to me…and it just goes to show that you can never judge a book by its cover, right?

I’m sure there are a million more stories and observations I want to relate at another time, but I’m running out of steam. All I can say is, I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to learn and to serve. Remember, there’s no time like the present to be sweet to those around you. Your actions really do have an impact, no matter how small you may think them.

Pros and Cons

A couple of regional differences reared their heads within days of each other and I simply have to share. The first one broke my heart a little bit, but the other one totally redeemed my excitement about living in the North.


First, in maybe one of the saddest moments of my life, I was forced to acknowledge the fact that some people don’t know what enchiladas are.


Holy Toledo, guys. I am not even kidding about this.

While having a conversation with a lady at the grocery store checkout about the merits of using rotisserie chickens for other dishes, I mentioned that I like to use the chicken for enchiladas (which you should really do if you haven’t already). This poor, poor woman looked me straight in the eye and uttered the most devastating sentences I’ve ever heard, “Enchiladas…now what are those? Burritos? Or like burritos?”


Forgive her, Lord, for she knows not what she said.


I’m sad to say that my explanation probably wasn’t the best. It also probably included phrases like, “manna from heaven” and “food of the gods.” I also stammered a lot seeing as I have honestly never met someone who didn’t know what enchiladas are. However, the same could probably be said for my father-in-law when he realized I didn’t know about stuffed cabbage. So there you go.


All I’m saying is, the whole exchange made me seriously re-think the decision of living in such a place. In the words of Grandma D. (ironically, while visiting Texas for our wedding), “You mean people actually live like this???”  However, a few days later, our neighbor totally turned things around.


We were over discussing neighbor-y things, which doesn’t happen all that frequently seeing as our neighbor, Bob, had to ask me for my name again. We obviously need to be better about being neighborly. When I told him my name is Mary Susan he immediately asked if he could call me…wait for it…”Mare.”


As in, shortened version of Mary.


As in the nickname Rhoda used for Mary on the Mary Tyler Moore show.


My life is now complete.


Some of you, namely my family members, will perhaps be surprised at my excitement seeing as I have forever and for always abhorred being called “Mary.” However, this nickname is just amazing on too many levels to turn down. Especially since A.) it was bestowed upon me by someone who literally forgot my real name and obviously needed to make life easier and B.) because of the Mary Tyler Moore thing.


Also, I’ve found that people in the North tend to be pretty nickname-happy. For example: my husband, who is named after his father (and grandfather) goes by “Vincent” professionally. He fills out his paperwork as Vincent, introduces himself as Vincent, etc. It never fails that the conversation goes like this,

“Hello, I’m Vincent.”

“Nice to meet you, Vince!”

They don’t ask, they don’t apologize, and  they most certainly do not think twice before putting “Vince” on his name tag for work.  Usually I’m quite militant about respecting the name that people request to go by, but “Mare”? “Mare’s” just too good to pass up.


And you’d better bet that neighbor Bob totally calls me “Mare” whenever he sees me. Now if I can only master throwing a hat in the air while not looking awkward, we’ll be set.

Swim Lessons

You know how a song or a taste or a smell has the power to magically take you back to a particular time or place in your life? I just love that. I’ve got quite a few triggers. Lily Allen’s album, Alright, Still, and Gwen Stefani’s The Sweet Escape automatically take me back to the summer I fell in love with my husband. The smell of a new box of crayons legitimately gives me butterflies in my stomach like it’s the first day of school. Just seeing a blue bottle of cold cream makes me feel guilty for not cleaning my flute enough.  One of my biggest triggers, though, is the smell of chlorine. That smell is indelibly linked with two places in my mind: the YMCA and the public pool in Canadian. The pool is the strongest, though, as the chlorine smell in the Y was mostly just a lingery scent in the air, not like at the pool where it clung to everything.


Every time I smell chlorine I can taste the Funyuns and smell the Coppertone.  I can feel the country-kid-in-town-with-no-friends-other-than-my-big-sister-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-seen-with-me anxiety combined with the mom-dropped-us-off-and-we’re-on-our-own excitement. Going to the public pool wasn’t something we did just tons and tons as kids, so the emotions, tastes and smells are incredibly vivid in my mind.


Yesterday was the first day I got to tag along for Mags’ swim “lesson.” (I use quotes because, let’s face it, there’s not much real technique being taught to the three month to three-year-old attendees. Lots of splashing, though.) The moment I walked into the Brooklyn Rec Center my mouth started watering for Funyuns and thumb suckers – I didn’t mention those at first…they were suckers shaped like thumbs (!!!) and for a kid who sucked her thumb on the sly until she was probably ten, they were a dream come true. They also had weird rubber covers so you could save your thumb for later. Quite a strange product, really.


I didn’t really have too much time to indulge in nostalgia, as we had to get Miss Priss and her daddy ready to jump in the pool. I need you to know that Margaret wears a princess bathing suit complete with tutu. Pay attention to the Olympics this summer because princess suits are what all the professional swimmers wear. Just ask Michael Phelps.


I was unaware, but swim lessons for the little bitties consist of a lot of songs and chants. Not only did they do the Hokey Pokey, which is a long-standing favorite of mine, but they start out with a little chant called Motorboat. Now, this was only Mags’ second swim lesson and Vin was late to the last one because of a class he’s taking, so Motorboat was new to both of us. I’m not going to lie to you. When the instructor said, “Okay everybody! Time to Motorboat!” my husband and I locked eyes across the pool and simultaneously giggled like we were in junior high. ‘Cause we’re mature like that.


So, the chant goes, “Motorboat, motorboat go so sloooooow/Motorboat, motorboat go so faaaast/Motorboat, motorboat step on the gaaasss!!!!” at which point, if they’re capable, the children jump off of the side of the pool, into their parents’ arm and proceed to practice kicking to the other side of the pool. At that point, they all reset, do the chant again and come back on their backs.


This whole process is incredibly fun to watch. Mags loves jumping into the water, but still has a bit of apprehension about it, so when she jumps, one leg goes whole hog while the other leg clings to the side of the pool. She’s graceful, that one.


As I’m sure is the case with lots of children’s classes, some of the parents take things a teensy bit more seriously than others. There’s one mom in Mags’ class who holds her arms out to her little girl for the jumping part but puts them down and steps back as soon as the kid jumps. I’m pretty sure this leads to some serious trust issues, but perhaps that’s the least of this little girl’s worries. The same mom forcibly holds her child’s head under the water while saying, and I quote, “Keep your head down! I’ll tell you when you need to breathe!” As the hubz said, we weren’t really aware that this class was intended to train Navy SEALS, but whatevs.


When I was helping our little swimmer out of her suit and back into street clothes, I couldn’t help but be excited by the idea that she’s creating her own triggers every day. There’s no way I’ll ever know which songs or candies or onion flavored corn chips will be the things that shoot my daughter back in time once she’s all grown up, but it’s fun to know that those triggers are developing as we speak. It’s thoughts like these that remind me how special and intricate and fragile her childhood is and how incredibly lucky I am to be a part of it. And I really can’t help but hope that every time she smells chlorine, the first thing that comes to her mind is, “Motorboat, motorboat…” ’cause that’d be only too fitting for the warped childhood we’re giving her.

Birthday Round Two

So this is what I look like the morning after Maggie’s 2nd birthday.



I’m prepared to eat birthday cake for breakfast to rectify the situation.


Here are a few highlights from the celebration:


We opened presents!

Return of Elmo!!


Disney Princess ATV. You know you want one. You also probably know how to steer, a skill which Margaret has yet to master.


Hipsters beware.


We went to the zoo!

Elephants! (Siblings need not mention the fact that I almost completely block out the elephant in the picture. It has been noted. Also, those present all agreed that it was a rather small elephant.)


Telling her daddy all about the giraffes.


And then we went to see the cutest month-old grizzly bears I’ve ever in my life encountered. They were also the only month-old grizzly bears I’ve ever in my life encountered. These little guys were playing non-stop and they were incredibly fun to watch. They tumbled all over their environment and rolled around and played in water. It was precious!



And then my husband pointed out a little cub who he referred to as, “the Mary Susan bear.”

You can guess which one the hubz was referring to...


Yep. He’s the doofus twiddling his thumbs and eating mulch while full-fledged bear-fight carnage goes on behind him. Even I cannot deny the similarities.


And then we saw a polar bear who looked just like our dog, Banjo!

Except, Banjo doesn't have ferocious fangs or giant claws capable of mangling a human in one swipe. He does, however, enjoy lounging in the sun all day.


If you’re ever in Cleveland, please, please promise me that you’ll visit the zoo. It’s really wonderful and very well-done. There’s also a whole rain forest section that’s great, too! If you don’t live in Cleveland, please, please promise me that you’ll visit the closest zoo to you. Zoos are good for the spirit, I say!


After the zoo, we went home and played on the brand new “slide ground” that Nana and Papa had installed in the backyard! (And by “had installed”, I mean that my sweet husband spent hours and hours cursing, changing drill bits, cursing, and hammering. Then he spent hours and hours with his father, presumably cursing and changing more drill bits. Bless their hearts, the person who wrote those instructions obviously doesn’t live a life based on logic. Or chronological order.)


Perfect craftsmanship, I might add!


And, later, we went to eat noodles, the Birthday Girl’s favorite dinner!


A very dignified time was had by all. Especially that guy in the back.


Then we sang and ate cake!




Yes, that's my child eating icing directly off of her cake. Remember when I said it scares me when she copies me? Yeah...


It was pretty much the best birthday I could have requested for my little girl. I’m very much enjoying being on the giving side of the birthday magic. My own parents always gave us the best birthdays and I have a lot of really special birthday memories: slumber parties, trips to exotic Amarillo to spend the weekend with my big sis, my surprise 16th party that wasn’t supposed to happen because I had a C in algebra (still incredibly grateful for that one!). I’m really looking forward to many more years of birthdays with my girls!


So, in order to keep the birthday spirit going, I’d like to propose a question! What are your favorite birthday memories? Feel free to share your best childhood birthday or the best birthday you planned for your child. Where’d you have the best piece of cake and what was your favorite present? I’m anxiously awaiting your replies, as I plan to rip off your good ideas and claim them for my own. In the meantime, I’ll just be eating cake…

Two Years Old

This time two years ago I was checking into the hospital thinking that I would be having a c-section and a baby within hours. True to form, God and Mags had other plans! (Still grateful for the lack of c-section!!) A little after eight the next night, we were holding the most precious gift we’ve ever been given.


Words really can’t begin to describe how I feel about this little human who came into our lives two years ago. Nothing could have prepared me for how much time I would spend in awe of her. She is so adaptable, intelligent, beautiful, and has pretty much the best sense of humor on the planet. Also, she’s started talking in funny voices, which pretty much makes my life complete.


So, because my baby’s turning two and because I’m currently swimming in a sea of pregnancy hormones, I’m going to indulge myself and make a list of things I love about my sweet, sweet girl. And I’ll probably cry through the entire process. Sheesh.


This list is for you, Mags, if you’re ever reading it a zillion years from now. I’m sure blogs won’t be cool. They’ll probably be the microfiche equivalent for your generation. You should look microfiche up…they’re weird. Anyway, this is a collection of memories, thoughts, stories and things I absolutely love about you.


  • You were born during March Madness. When he realized that I was going to spend my entire labor with a damp cloth over my head, your dad turned on the tournament. I really don’t blame him at all…He kept the volume down, so we were cool. You were technically born sometime after the Kentucky game. I know this because the TV was positioned so that I could see it the entire time I was pushing…not on purpose, I’m not that big of a fan.  Anyway, the Kentucky game was pivotal because it always is and Daddy and I had each filled out a few brackets and you know how we feel about brackets. Therefore, after giving birth to you, one of the first questions I asked the doctor was whether or not Kentucky had won. They didn’t. My bracket was ruined, as was the bracket of the nice resident who attended your birth. He shared my pain…just not the labor pain, which would’ve been appreciated.
This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.


  • I remember a moment a few weeks after we brought you home when I was up in the middle of the night rocking and feeding you. I looked down our apartment hallway where the bathroom door was open and I could see our reflection in the mirror, and I remember thinking that, at that very moment, I legitimately had everything I ever wanted.

  • I love how you were not interested in sleeping unless you slept on one of our chests. Also, I love how you still sneak into bed with us every morning and wake us up by singing songs, patting our faces, and requesting juice. Or, in the case of this morning, you’ll get into our bed in the middle of the night, sprawl out like a spider monkey, and force your father to spend the remainder of his night sleeping in your toddler bed.


  • You’ve always been so laid back…pretty much the easiest baby we could’ve asked for. You’re sweet-natured and kind, adventurous and forgiving. There’s really no way you could ever know how much joy you bring us.

  • You have the best facial expressions on the planet.

  • Sometimes when your daddy and I talk about you, we both start to cry because we love you so much.
  • Also, sometimes we teach you to do funny things (like use your finger as a mustache and say, “Money!” as though you were a businessman) because we think it’ll be funny for your Kindergarten teacher to discover these little quirks.
  • I like the funny cowlick in your hair. Before all of it grew in, you had a ridiculous little tuft in the back and no hair anywhere else, so you looked like a peacock. It was precious. Also, at one time you had a mullet and it was glorious.
  • I really love to listen to you sing. It’s one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard.
  • Some of my favorite things you say are:
          – “Mama, Mama, Mama, Mommy, Mama!! What is dat tink, Mama??”
          – “Um, bedtime? Ok! A binkie anna bunny!”
          – “Baby Yiddy, come out!” (Yiddy = Lily)
          – “No way, Jose, Banjo!!!”
  • I like it that you’re sassy and you’ve started referring to me as, “Mom.” I also like it when you yell down the stairs to your father and use his first name: “Um, Viiiiin!!” It also scares me that you copy me so much.
  • I love it when you get really excited because, not only do you squeal, but you put your little hands up by your mouth and breathe really hard because you can hardly contain yourself.
  • I’m grateful that you’re the one who is constantly teaching me about what it means to be truly selfless. And you’re the first person who really revealed to me just a fraction of how God loves us, unconditionally and irrevocably.
  • When I look at you I see an endless future of possibilities and purposes. Every time I sing you to sleep I pray that you’ll have a clear understanding of God’s purpose for you and follow Him with your whole heart.
  • Last night you read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” to me instead of the other way around. You had a few substitutions: “Goldfish” was “Orange Fish”; “Teacher”  was “Green Teacher”; and “Children” was “Purple, Blue, Children! Yellow Children!!” You’re brilliant, for sure.
  • Gosh, I love being your mama.


Since meeting my husband few things have become more apparent than the fact that the North and South are really two different cultures. We’ve known each other for five years and have been married almost three and yet this continues to reveal itself on a fairly regular basis. I mean, you’d think we’d have covered all of that ground by now, but, alas, it seems that we really were brought up worlds apart. This is never more apparent than in regards to food and language.


One of the first times I visited my future in-laws someone brought up stuffed cabbage at the dinner table. When I said that I had never heard of such a thing (because who the heck would stuff a cabbage and what with??), Vin’s dad, who had said nary a word to me the entire time I’d been visiting, looked up at me with the face of a man who has just seen a small-scale alien invasion and practically shrieked, “Have you never been to a wedding reception?!?” (I later learned that it’s a staple here and is totally delicious. Sounds gross, but, oh my stars, is it yummy.)


Also, I recently found out that none of my in-laws have ever had cheese grits. This kind of makes my heart hurt. A lot. It will soon be remedied, though, so don’t you fret.


Since I grew up in Texas it is obvious that I was subject to the obligatory brainwashing that prevails in our state. And let’s have a moment of silence to consider the greatness thereof.




Many people in the North think that Texans are arrogant and overly cocky about their state. This is entirely true. However, you must admit that there’s something to be said for a state that garners such devotion. Especially when that state has as few trees and as many cows as Texas does. (Not all parts, I know, but I’m talking about the Panhandle here. If you can love the Texas panhandle, you’re a special breed. The kind of breed who thinks 100 mph gusts of wind makes for perfect track meet weather and driving 45 minutes to the Wal-Mart makes for a romantical date. You know who you are.)


Part of the Texas indoctrination that is taught in elementary schools across the Lone Star State is the lingo. A good Texan’s vocabulary will be peppered with weird sayings and odd expletives that make people from other states wonder what in the wide world of sports we’re talking about. (I have a personal belief that Texas is not the only Southern state to do this. I once had a roommate from Alabama who completely put me to shame in the lingo department. She was brought up right.)


What I have discovered since moving to the North Country is that in Texas nobody takes notice of these sayings in the least. At the most, these little Southernisms are considered cliché, overused and are a dime a dozen. But here, here people think they’re funny! People like them, have never heard them before, and are tickled to death (yes, that’s one) to learn them and quickly add them to their own vocabulary. At least this goes for my mother-in-law and maybe two of her friends, but I foresee it catching on…


I gave this little lesson on Southernisms to my mother-in-law partially to translate what I’m saying to her and also so that she can use them on the ghetto kids who attend the school at which she teaches art. Did I mention the woman’s a saint for teaching art in a Cleveland public school? She’s a total rock star. So, as you’re reading this list of definitions and uses please please please imagine her spouting these off to the thugs in her kindergarten classes. Amen and amen.


Ugly: Being or acting ugly has nothing to do with your looks. It’s all about attitude. I very frequently use this term when speaking to my daughter:

“Margaret Rose, we do not kick the puppy! That’s ugly!!”


Sweet: The opposite of being ugly; being nice.


Oh, bless your heart: This one is very common in the South and has multiple uses. It’s also my favorite. If you’re a sweet person and you hear about some calamity that has befallen one of your friends, or even a remotely known acquaintance who was a friend of a friend of your mama’s, you’d use this phrase to denote how you feel about their current situation. For example:


“Did you hear about Karlene Franklin’s cousin’s cat? Well, the poor thing got lupus and lost its hair and now Charlene – Karlene’s cousin – she loves that cat, you know – is gonna have to put it down!”

“Oh, bless her heart! I am so sorry to hear about that!”


This use of the expression is genuine and kind. Unlike the second use. The second way to use the phrase allows the speaker to say something ugly about another person in a very sweet sounding way:


“She is just the homeliest looking girl I have ever seen, bless her heart.”

“Those boys are just dumber than rocks, bless their hearts.”

“Well, bless her heart, she can’t help it that she’s a skank! Look at her mama!”


You get the picture.


Jesus, take the wheel: This is one that I picked up from that roommate from Alabama. It is the perfect expletive to use when you feel like you are absolutely going to lose it on someone or something. The best way to say this is with a zillion exclamation points after it and while looking up to the heavens imploring our God to intervene. It’s especially useful when your child has emptied an entire package of baby wipes and strewn them about her room when she was supposed to have been taking a nap. (Claaaassic Peg!)


Lordy be: I picked this one up from my sister-in-law, Becky. She’s brilliant in pretty much every way, Southernisms especially included. This can be used much like “Jesus, take the wheel” but it’s lots quicker and a bit more flexible in its use.


Dadgummit: Don’t quote me on the spelling of this. It’s phonetic. Or something. Use it when you’re trying not to cuss in front of a small child or elderly relative…or when you want people to look at you real funny after you stubbed the business out of your toe.


…in my heart where Jesus lives: I only use this one on very special occasions because I really can’t do it justice. Another one from the Alabaman roommate, who used to say this when she was very, very excited, which was about every five seconds.


“We’re going to Zaksby’s for dinner? That makes me so happy in my heart where Jesus lives!!!”


If you’re going to use this one, it’s best to employ the most ridiculous Southern accent you possibly can. “Heart” should sound like, “hart”; “Jesus” like “Jeeeezzzuuuhs”; and “lives” needs as many syllables as humanly possible. Just saying this once will make you happy in your heart where Jesus lives. I promise.


There are about a zillion other Southernisms out there, so feel free to add your own and remind me of the ones I’ve missed. These are just those which come up the most in my daily conversation and have made their way into the mouths of my Northern family. Now for those grits…