Louisiana, TSA and a disembodied hand, kitchen

Ok, y'all, I was gone and then I returned and now I'm sort of gone again, but I had to check in, not least to tell you a funny tale.

Last Friday morning, before the sun was up, I flew to Louisiana for a quick visit. My sister, who as you probably know lives in Italy, had been in the Dominican Republic with her Italian family for a vacation. When they returned to Florence, she and her children (my nephew, Leone, and new niece, Virginia) flew to Louisiana to see my parents. I just had to take advantage of our being in the same country to see Elia and Leone and meet Virginia. 

Virginia and Leone have the same birthday. She is four months old and he's that plus three years. I'd not seen Leone or Elia since last August, so really, being home was such a treat in so many ways. Not least because there was no snow in Louisiana nor any fumes from floors being refinished. And because crawfish season is terrific and fun. 


Naturally, because there was a new baby, we had many visitors over the weekend. One, Mom's dear friend Susan, has known my boys for years now. She is well aware that he is fairly obsessed with what some might call junk but which he calls treasure. And because she runs a museum and the warehouse next door, she has been able to indulge Oliver's treasure-hunting desire by letting him putter around inside the cavernous store. 

Susan came bearing gifts, including a few from the warehouse. One was as perfect as they come: a disembodied mannequin hand missing the top knuckle from its middle finger. Susan thought she'd found the missing piece and so into the box threw that digit. However, that turned out to be a lady's finger with a pink-painted nail, no match for the thick masculinity of the hand.

Everyone in the room about fell out, and I could not wait to bestow these gems upon Oliver. I packed them carefully in a box and nestled that inside my carry-on, sort of forgetting that the Lake Charles Regional Airport is quite possibly the most stringent, nit-picky, rule-following airport in all the world.

This morning as Mom and Elia watched me attempt to go through security, they were first surprised when I was told to step aside for a pat down because the back of my skull showed up in suspicious code-yellow on the security monitor. I wasn't even wearing a ponytail.

While I waited for a female agent to administer my head search, my carry-on bag set off the x-ray alert as it passed through the scanning tunnel.

"Ma'am, we need to search your bag."
"No problem," I replied, thinking that the hand probably looked a little weird on the scanner.
"Do you have anything fragile or sharp in here?"
"Well, I do have a St. Patrick's Day-themed Garden Gnome for my son who both happens to love gnomes and trolls and was born on St. Patrick's Day. His hat is sharp, and he's breakable." It also happens that the leprechaun gnome is puking a rainbow into a pot of gold which is obviously one of the reasons I bought it for Oliver.

"Anything else?"
"I also have, and this is going to sound weird, a hand in a box and a loose finger too. It's from a mannequin. My son likes weird things."

THANK GOD this occurred in Louisiana, y'all, because had I been, say, in Iowa, I am just not sure this all would have gone over as well.

Comments from the TSA agents (who, by the way, had felt my head and declared me safe) during the good ten minutes all this took:
"Well, I'll be. Look at this hand."
"If you need a hand, you don't need to look far."
"Can I give you a hand?"
"Give yourselves a hand for finding this!"

Meanwhile, Mom and Elia are on the other side of the glass, and we are all texting back and forth furiously and trying not to literally fall on the floor or be too obvious about the hysterics we were in. 

"Ma'am, I'm going to let you pack these items back up," one agent said, and as I found out later, before I approached the examination bench to repackage the barfing gnome, severed hand, and dissonantly delicate but also severed finger, Mom snapped this photo.


I was, not surprisingly, the last to board the plane. And we have all been laughing all day. Oliver, needless to say, is thrilled with his treasures. I'm just glad they all made it home safely.


We are finally in the homestretch with the renovation. Due to my ordering knobs but only finding out they are backordered UNTIL JUNE when I called to ask why they'd not yet shipped (the customer service rep said, "Would you like me to check our stores for you to see if they can fulfill your order?" Um, YES! Then she said, "I'm so glad you checked." And I am still thinking "Wasn't it your job to let me know of said backorder?" but whatever), I only have twelve of the fifteen I need but should be made whole soon. 

All the painting is done, the backsplash is nearly complete, all but one light is in, the appliances work, and the floors are looking great. 

The kids and I moved into a friend's house tonight (T home in our basement with Nutmeg) as we cannot access our bedrooms this week because of the refinishing and will move home on Saturday, just in time for Oliver's birthday. 

For now I'm off to bed. Sleep well, friends. 

Amorphous blob'ism of a week

Y'all, January is hard enough without accusations of "shithole" (or, as it wasn't but was suggested/lied about, "shithouse") countries and assertions of people we do and don't want anytime but sort of especially MERE DAYS BEFORE we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day in the year that IS ALSO the 50th year since his assassination. 

January is cold enough that we can really do without continued sexual impropriety on a grand scale, including multiple and fairly credible tales of porn stars having had affairs with the Evil Yam just after Melania gave birth and then being paid hush money to shut up about it all.

January is screwy enough in terms of snow days and, thusly, parental schedules, that I hardly think we also need a desperate mother paying a large sum to largely untrained Container Store people for a "sleek and Swedish" organizational system that promises to solve a hoarder son's closet issues. Said mother averred that a cyclonically-inspired closet could be tamed in 60-90 minutes on an early-dismissal Tuesday. Said mother was, four hours, no lunch, and extreme body and foot odor later, chastened by said sleek and Swedish org system that is now a permanent part of a closet due to a mallet, chisel, hammer, and wild-eyed determination to make that fucker fit. Do not tell said mother's husband just what lengths she went to via the baseboard just inside the closet doors.

My dear housekeeper, Imelda, ventured in two hours in: "Emily, I am hearing the hammer. Is everything going ok? I want to offer my help."

"Imelda, I will win in this closet. I will make this organizer fit."

"Ok, Emily, it's just, I'm hearing the hammer" -read: "I should not be hearing a hammer," which was an accurate perspective from anyone but especially Imelda who can fix and solve and do anything- "and I want to offer my services."

I'm pretty sure my scent and the state of my hair and eyes caused her quick departure from the room. 

The Container Store is really the devil. No wonder it partners with Real Simple magazine which is the lyingest name of a magazine ever. Real Stressful would be infinitely more accurate. Sweet baby jesus in the skies, RS editors. Back your trains up. No one can cover even 80% of the advice you offer on one page must less on 200 of them. 

Meanwhile, the children appear to be suffering January-induced meltdowns and loss of senses of humor. Mary mother of moody boys. Get it together. Tonight, Tom's 40th birthday incidentally, found me with a brand new Keratin treatment in my hair -which means it's straight as a board and CANNOT, under penalty of death, be tucked in a rubber band, hair band, or even behind an ear- peeling and deveining shrimp, making biscuits, preparing a cocktail, making the kids' dinner, AND alternately tending to and ignoring pitiful whimpering from Oliver because he had to copy previously written persuasive letter text onto a new sheet of paper. The trials of being a privileged youth today.

My eyes just fell out I rolled them so hard.

Have you ever tried to peel and devein shrimp without being able to move your hair out of your face or even really touch it? Such is not an optimal scenario. And the wailing child is the cream. 

But I'm a perseverant gal, and damn you shithole president and persuasive letter writing and Keratin, I will make my husband a delicious meal. And I did.

barbecue shrimp

barbecue shrimp



kale salad

kale salad

And the boys calmed down and got their homework done, and dinner was good, and then T and I watched Get Out which is hands down the best social commentary film I've seen in a while, and now we're two forty-somethings off to bed. Happy Birthday, honey.

"What is better than food?"; reboot; OMFG; a farty IOU

So says my Oliver who is a hell of an eater. Today in his camp lunch I packed some salami and a wedge of triple cream brie in addition to yellow bell pepper slices, a Granny Smith apple, and the requisite Pirate's Booty. He was thrilled. God love that child. Jack has a much more truncated palate but he's as enthused about all he does like as Ol is about his wider berth. At least both of them adore Louisiana food. Jack will eat your body weight in gumbo and red beans and rice, and the two of them can take down a loaf of stanky garlic bread like nobody's business.

This is really quite a critical quality, in my opinion. I'm careful not to say too much out loud or to over-exalt in front of them, lest reverse psychology wreak havoc on my desired outcome, but food and drink, and the pleasure that can be taken in trying, enjoying, sharing, and crafting them, add such a zest to life, such a depth of experience, such an opportunity for celebration and memory. And so I like what I so far see in terms of their culinary preferences.


So, I started this post last night when the house was finally quiet and I was feeling marginally zen. And then the stupid low-light or no blue light or whatever the hell program blocks whatever it is in screens that supposedly ruins your sleep flipped on and I couldn't see my pictures and Tom had conveniently forgotten how to adjust the timing of the stupid program's onset and I lost my bizness and called it a day.

The children had been talking loudly and nonstop since I'd picked them up at camp and then driven home through a gale-force thunderstorm -legitimately branches were blowing across the roads- as both asked me to "look at this, Mom" as if I have not been saying for a decade, "I cannot look at you while I'm driving." 

Apparently, they have heard and ingested that as well as they've heard and ingested:

1. "Please do not talk to me through the bathroom door. I would really appreciate going to the bathroom in peace and privacy."
2. "Please do not attempt to tell me something while I'm vacuuming. I cannot hear you and then you get annoyed because I cannot hear you but I have already told you that I cannot hear while the vacuum is on and if I stop and start as often as you attempt to talk to me, I will literally never get the vacuuming done."

I'm fully serious when I tell you that both happened yesterday after we managed to make it home through that storm which was as verbal as it was nature-made.

I would like to insert a brief mention here that while the children are attending the same camp, they are doing different programs there. Not only is said camp an hour and change round-trip two times a day (I did not know this when we registered) but also Jack's program finishes at 3 and Oliver's at 3:30 (another thing we were not told before or during registration). "Well," you are surely saying, "just pick them both up at 3:30." 

Ah yes, that is logical BUT Jack only has a fifteen-minute grace period and so in order to avoid a $30/day "late" fee, I must pick him up by 3:15 and then leave the pick-up location and return 15 minutes later to fetch Oliver. This is lunacy, people.

I would also like to assert that most of Virginia needs to briefly move to Boston so as to learn how to drive. Yes, I know that Boston drivers have a "Masshole" reputation, but I would rather drive on the roads with them and their excellent skills ANY DAY if it meant I could avoid (and therefore live) the incapable Virginia drivers who appear to not know or not care that minimum speed limits, lane markers, turn signals, and no-turn signs are NOT suggestions. Jesus h christ, people. 

Suffice it to say that when I returned to this blog post today, it was without the iota of zen I'd harnessed by last night. I agree with all I'd written yesterday but that foodly blush has been supplanted by the finding of the IOU Oliver was forced to write to Jack last night after farting on him, purposefully, again.

I'd threatened last time Ol did this and Jack came to me in raging tears (because really, Ol has a toxic arse) that next time he decided that laying one on his brother was a fine idea he'd owe him $10.

I don't know about you, but $10 is a hefty fine. I'll be damned if I do something stupid that results in me just throwing $10 away. There are many things I can and want to do with $10 and paying to fart on someone isn't one of them. 

Oliver seemed chastened. It has been a month since any issue, and I thought my intervention had worked.

Last night, after a hellish half hour of enforcing saxophone practicing and summer math review (don't even ask) after driving home though the cyclone, I threw in the towel and put on a movie for the kids so I could cook their dinner in peace and maybe read an article in the paper.

Soon enough, I hear Jack scream, "That's it. You owe me $10, Oliver. Mom, Oliver farted on me. He owes me!" And I said, "You are right, Jack. Oliver, pay up." I swear to G, y'all, Oliver moseyed upstairs and came back with a $20. I don't even have a $20 right now. 

"Jack, all I have is one of my birthday twenties. Do you have change?"


"Fine, I'll write you an IOU. 'Jack, I owe you $10 for farting on you again. -Oliver"

There is a fair amount wrong with this situation but the amount of my fine, which Tom said seemed harsh, is clearly not part of the problem. 

I would love to continue venting but it's time to get in the car to approach the multiheaded beast known as Avoiding a $30-for-15-minute Fine Pick-Up. 

Thank the lord Tom and I are blowing this joint at 5:30 tonight and heading to FedEx Field for the U2 concert. Thrill of a lifetime. Seeing U2 in concert has been on my bucket list for years. Woot!


I'm going to attempt to regain some zen by sharing with you this picture of my first blackberry harvest from the bushes Mom brought me from Nanny and Papa's yard. The original plants are about 65 years old now. I'm so lucky to have two of them (or their offshoots).