Category Archives: family

Boys have a penis; girls have vaginas

ImageMy 5-year-old nephew is staying with us this week. Last night, we were having a tickle fight on the bed when he kneed me in the stomach. It was an accident of course, but damn, did it hurt. When I told him I needed a minute, he asked me, in all seriousness, “Did I hurt your wee-wee?”

Cue the groan.

“No, Ben. Girls don’t have wee-wees.”

“They don’t?”

So that’s how I got drawn in to explaining how girls and boys are different. Not in graphic detail. That’s not my job. But I could tell he wasn’t quite following along, so I got one of my more-anatomically-correct dolls and showed him that girls did not, in fact, have wee-wees.

He looked at it for a moment before announcing, “I don’t like girl butts.”

And that was that.

Until this morning. if there was any doubt in his mind that girls and boys had different parts, it was put to rest when the little squirt walked in on me getting dressed for work this morning.



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Conversations with Ben

Me: I’m Nana’s older baby and your daddy is Nana’s younger baby, because I’m older than your daddy.

Ben: You’re older and you’re tougher.

Me: *puffs up* That’s right I am!

Ben: It’s because you have a bigger belly than Daddy.

Me: *deflates*


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An improbable anniversary

Mom, Dad and Ben

The 278th left for Camp Shelby last week with plans for deployment to Iraq in February. I don’t have any family or know anyone who has been or will be deployed to war on foreign soil, but I can’t help wonder what it must have been like for my dad, who was sent to Vietnam in 1967. I can’t really imagine the things he saw there, even after listening to his stories. But I also can’t help to be in some part grateful that he did serve – because if he hadn’t been sent halfway around the world to fight, he would never have met my mother and my brother and I would not have been born.

But the story of how my parents met doesn’t begin with an American soldier in Vietnam. It begins, as my mother tells it, with two drunken English sailors in a bar.

My mother is from Sydney, Australia. In 1969, she was training to be a nurse with dreams of traveling the world. During the war, Sydney was a popular destination for soldiers on R&R, and my mother’s parents had joined a program that offered hospitality and home cooking to soldiers on leave. So when the father of a friend of my mother’s gave his daughter’s address to two English sailors in a local pub one night, it set in motion a chain of events that would cause my mother to leave her family and country behind to marry my father.

The two English sailors eventually ended up in Hong Kong where their ship was docked next to an American ship on its way to Vietnam. They passed mom’s friend’s address to the American sailors, who eventually wrote and asked if she had some friends who would like to become pen pals. My mother volunteered and began corresponding with a young sailor named Eric.

They wrote to each other for several months. From listening to my mother’s stories, I gather this Eric was a bit sweet on her. But he made a mistake one day when he heard a soldier from Tennessee whose Army unit was stationed on board his ship mention he was heading to Sydney on his leave. He gave the soldier my mother’s name and address along with some money and asked him to send her some flowers on his behalf when he got there.
Instead, the dashing young soldier arrived in Sydney, obtained my mother’s phone number and asked her to dinner – using the money the sailor had given him for flowers.

It was June 1968, and my mother had just finished her nurse’s training and obtained a position at a hospital in Toronto, Canada. She and a couple of friends were leaving in a week to sail across the Pacific and tour America before beginning their new jobs in Canada. Meeting an American soldier on a blind date was one last hurrah.

They hit it off and mom enjoyed his company so much, she invited him to her bon voyage party at her parents’ house the next day. Dad got to meet her whole family at the party and gave Mom his address so they could write when he returned to the war.

Dad left to return to Vietnam the same day my mother left Australia. She wrote to him several times over the next few months, but didn’t hear back from him for a long time, as the mail was often slow and unreliable.

In spring of 1969, Mom got an opportunity to drive across Canada to Vancouver with some friends. She had to quit her job to do so, but she wanted to travel and see new parts of the world. When she got to Vancouver, she got a surprise visit – from Eric, her first pen pal. They had never met in person before, though Mom had met his family when they came to meet their son’s pen pal when her ship docked in Los Angeles the summer before. Eric asked her if she wanted to drive with him to LA from Vancouver, and Mom agreed, always up for an adventure.

But before they left, her roommates in Toronto had forwarded her mail to Vancouver – including a letter from my dad. He was back in America, stationed in San Antonio, and wanted to know if she would be interested in meeting again. Mom was already headed to LA. She figured she could stop in San Antonio on her way back to Toronto.

And thus began their courtship. Through letters, phone calls and the occasional visit, they built a relationship. One night, in late October of 1969, Dad called her again and asked if she could come see him – but this time he wanted her to stay. My father proposed to my mother over the phone. She had to call him back to ask if he was serious. He was, and she accepted.

She flew to San Antonio in November, but because she wasn’t an American citizen, the Army wouldn’t let them get married. But he had only five weeks left until he was due to be discharged, so they waited. On Dec. 13, 1969, they were married here in Crossville in his brother’s living room.

My mother once counted the number of days they were actually together before they got married. They saw each other for only 30 days. Nearly their entire courtship was done via letters and phone calls.

My brother likes to tell people that our parents met when our mother was being held captive by Charlie in the jungles of Vietnam and our dad bravely fought his way through the enemy camp and rescued her, fell in love at first sight, and lived happily ever after. And while that scenario sounds like something out of a 1980s Chuck Norris movie, their meeting was no less amazing in and of itself. If America hadn’t gone to war with Vietnam, if Dad’s first letter to Mom hadn’t arrived before she left Vancouver, if my mother’s friend’s father had never met those two English sailors in a bar – my parents would never have met, let alone recently celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

My dad is my hero and my mother is my best friend. I love them both, and cannot begin to express how grateful I am for everything they’ve ever done for me and my brother.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. May you have 40 more wonderful years together.

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A conversation with my mother

Mom: “Is there anything special you’d like for Christmas?”

Me: “A Tardis to put on my desk at work.”

Mom: “What’s a Tardis?”

Me: “You know. The Doctor’s space ship? From Doctor Who?”

Mom: “So you want a model of a ship?”

Me: “Yeah. It looks like a police box.”

Mom: “It’s not a ship?”

Me: “It’s a ship. But it looks like a police box.”

Mom: “What’s a police box?”

Me: “It’s like a phone booth.”

Mom: “So it’s a phone booth.”

Me: “Sort of. You know those red, English phone booths like those people down the street have in their front yard? Like that. But blue.” (They really do have one.)

Mom: “So you want a blue phone booth. That’s really a space ship. For your desk.”

Me: “That’s right.”

Mom: “…”

Me: “…”

Mom: “So, in other words, you’d like money for Christmas.”

Me: “That’ll work, too.”


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Thanksgiving ’09

Anya from Buffy said it best about Thanksgiving: “To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.” Hope your ritual sacrifice was tasty!

My Thanksgiving ’09 was… anti-climactic. Mom had spent the beginning of the week down with my brother and family, since my nephew’s baby sitter was unavailable. They drove back up together Thursday morning, arriving around noonish.

I spent the morning feeling very sick to my stomach… which is, sadly, nothing new. Though I am a lot better than I was before I had my gallbladder removed, I still get these awful periods of sickness.

We went to dinner at Cracker Barrel about 2 p.m., pulling up to the restaurant right behind an ambulance. That’s never a good sign. Neither is having to step around the EMTs and the poor gentleman lying in the floor of the gift shop after suffering a seizure. That sounds horrible, I know, but they were trying to get us all out of the doorway so they could take him out.

The dinner was just ‘meh’ this year. I usually enjoy Cracker Barrel’s Thanksgiving dinner, but this year, not so much. Probably because I was tired, stressed and feeling sick.

Brother and sis-in-law left shortly after we returned home, leaving nephew behind to spend the weekend. I foresee locking myself in my room or the computer room a lot this weekend. I dearly love my nephew, but I can only take toddlers in small doses.

After Ben went to bed, I bullied my parents into watching Star Trek, because I really loved that movie. Unfortunately, we only got a half hour into it before my friends from Knoxville called and I spent an hour with them on the phone. Not that I minded, but I don’t know if I can get my parents to finish watching it now. I think I ought to give up trying to get them to watch stuff that I really like and is important to me.

Because it’s all about me, world! You hear that? All about me!

…or not.

I also started reading Twilight. I’m very proud of myself. Five chapters in and I’ve already resisted throwing the book across the room at least twice. I’m still trying to understand the appeal.

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Counting the hours

I am literally counting down the hours until I am on vacation for a whole week! I’ve just been given control over the paper’s Web site, so I’m thinking I can finally add “Web mistress” to my resume. Though, I think that sounds a little too dominatrix. Heh.

I had planned on going down to stay with my brother and family over the weekend for Halloween, but my nephew came and stayed with us for four days this past weekend. And though I love him to death, I’ve had my fill for a while. Motherhood just isn’t for me. My nephew is only one and a half, so I know when he’s cranky or having a tantrum, he can’t help it or understand why we don’t let him do what he wants to do. But it still doesn’t mean it’s not annoying. Ben’s last night with us was rough and he was Mr. Cranky Pants all night. I think perhaps it was because he was missing Mommy and Daddy, since it was the longest he’d ever been away from them.

I love playing with my nephew, and with other small children, but it’s always nice to give them back to their parents at the end of the day.

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Fun, family and food poisoning

Lord a-mercy!

It’s amazing how having visitors can disrupt your entire life. Not that I minded much. It’s great to see family that you would actually like to see more often.

I find it highly ironic that, growing up, and still today, I feel closer to my Australian relatives than the ones who live right here in my hometown. (I think it’s because my Aussie kin aren’t bat-shit insane like my dad’s family.)

Kelly is the oldest of my three Aussie cousins. Her boyfriend had to travel to North Carolina (of all places) for his work, so she tagged along to visit us for eight days. She and Andrew arrived late on a Thursday, and I had to work on Friday, so we didn’t get a chance to hang out until Saturday, when we all went down to Chattanooga so Kelly could meet my nephew and deliver some much belated birthday gifts.

Kelly and Ben have a "whale" of a good time.

Kelly and Ben have a "whale" of a good time.

'Sup, yo. Like my new threads?

'Sup, yo. Like my new threads?

I had the next week off work (YAY!) so on Monday, off we went to tour the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, TN. My uncle Pete, Kelly’s dad, is a big JD fan, so mom felt it her duty to take each of his girls to the distillery when they’ve visited. The distillery is an interesting place. Lynchburg is the only place in the world where Jack Daniel’s is made, but since it’s in a dry county, they’re not allowed to sell it there.

Whiskey, whiskey everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Whiskey, whiskey everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Jack actually wasn't a bad-lookin' fella.

Jack actually wasn't a bad-lookin' fella.

Tuesday, Andrew had to leave for North Carolina, so it was off to the airport to drop him off. Wednesday, Kelly, mom and I went back down to Chattanooga to hang with the bro and fam.

Thursday, we got up early to hit the Tennessee Aquarium. I hadn’t been in years, and they’d added an entire new building to the facility, including sharks, penguins and (my favorite) a butterfly garden.

Oh geez. Daddy's trying to be funny again.

Oh geez. Daddy's trying to be funny again.

Big fish, mommy! (Even though it's blurry, I really like this picture.)

Big fish, mommy! (Even though it's blurry, I really like this picture.)

Afterwards, we stopped at this little hole-in-the-wall burger place my brother likes to pick up lunch. Which promptly gave me food poisoning, so I spent the rest of Thursday and most of Friday sick. Always a good way to end a vacation.

Kelly left us on Saturday, and it was sad to see her go. But she made it home safe and sound Sunday.

It was a good week, if tiring. I told my coworkers when I came back that I needed a vacation from my vacation, but they wouldn’t hear of it.

So now I’m just trying to get caught up with everything and trying to get back into blogging. No Friday Five this week either because I haven’t been online much this week. Hopefully I can get back to it next week.

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