Beyond Bless Your Heart: When You’re Raised on Southern Phrases

IMG_2701I am blessed (my heart and the rest of me) to have not one, but two amazing grandmas in my life.  These two very special- yet very different- ladies have taught me so much. Y’all, there is something to be said for raising a combined total of nine children, bevys of grandchildren and umpteen great grandchildren and doing it all with grace, resiliance, an ever-present smile and lotsa sugar (both kinds).  But if you think a stodgy post about manners and mindfulness would do these Steel Magnolias justice, you’ve got another thing coming.

They say actions speak louder than words, but when words have this much pun, er, punch, and are said with a Southern drawl, you just can’t help but listen up. Without further ado, here are a few phrases I heard a time or two growing up,  and find myself still saying today.

1. Don’t Break Your Fool Neck: Not your regular neck, mind you, your fool one. Because if you think that running with scissors, teetering on a kitchen stool in wedges while rummaging around in the top of your closet, or trying to remove a pine tree stump from your front yard with only a rope, your newlywed husband and his SUV, think again. These ladies did not get to be (you know I’m not going there – a lady never reveals her age) professional Southern grandmothers by acting a fool.

2. I Declare: I spent half my childhood wondering who Ida Claire was. Was she an aunt we didn’t know about? The black sheep of the family? Certainly every time her name was mentioned it was in conjunction with a head shake and was said in relation to something that was just a little bit off. Why didn’t we consider that one as a family name for one of our girls?

3. Not One Good Thing Happens After Midnight: It’s a wonder we didn’t turn into a big ole heap of pumpkins, as going out after midnight results in certain doom. But I wouldn’t know anything about this. Neither would my sister or my cousin Pearce, so we’ll just leave this one here…

4. Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise: I stopped saying this because it was honestly my reply to my co-worker’s casual “See ya Monday” on the rainy Friday afternoon before the Great Flood in October of 2015. Nope. All done. Not saying that one anymore.

5.  Is That What You’re Wearing?  You never know who you are going to meet when you go someplace. My grandmas may have embraced athleisure, but they will do it with a gorgeous slash of lipstick and done hair. My husband, who is one of the best-dressed men I know happened to be wearing a well-loved navy blue polo shirt with a little tear in the shoulder when (of all days!) he met one of my Georgia grandmas for the first time. My memory may be slipping a little, but I’m pretty sure she said, “Well, I guess that’s how they do it in South Carolina.” I have never let him live that one down.

6.   Fix Your Skirt/Scarf/Hair – It’s All Cattywompus. Truth told, I have not said “cattywompus” in a while, but it may be time to bring it back. This gem has been replaced in my household by wonked, wonky and just plain wonk. But the original form has so much more depth and dimension.

7.   Suit Yourself: “Suit yourself” is a last resort; a general giving up and letting that person know that whatever they are about to do is happening entirely on their own. There will be no support of this endeavor, nor any sympathy when said endeavor goes south. It can be followed three days later with “Toljaso…”

8. It Doesn’t Matter One Iota: What the heck is an Iota, anyway. Must have been the name of Ida Claire’s hair-raising sorority.  When you use this one you have had it up to your eyeballs with making decisions and you just want someone else to do it for you. You truly don’t care where you go out to eat or whether he wears the bow tie or the regular one. For the record, I think you can find the Iota house over yonder by the Hill of Beans.

I love you, Grandmas! I hope this post doesn’t make you say “I declare,” and shake your heads. And one of these days I will learn to properly wear lipstick.

Like all modern Southern girls, Kelly Barbrey has more going on than you can shake a stick at, but she still loves heading home to visit with her family and both of her grandmas. She tries to make sure she makes that journey with a full tank of gas, a bottle of water in the cup holder and some cash in her wallet for emergencies. And she never drives that lonesome highway after midnight. 👵🏻





Home Alone (Um, You…Not Your Kids)


One of the things that jumped that up and slapped me in the face when I became a parent was the fact that I was no longer ever in my house alone. For someone who is a self-proclaimed introvert and finds renewal in solitude (or at least in the freedom to come and go without a spreadsheet of arrangements and instructions) this felt overwhelming. Every time we’d get a sitter it was so that we could go out. Even on the rare occasion that we had childcare secured overnight it was for a trip. And I’d return from that wedding or conference more depleted than before I left.

The same principle applies to work, too. Do you remember the pre-kid days when you could work until eight without calling a soul then zip off to buy new mascara before heading home? Or wake up at 5am and decide to go on into the office because something brilliant was on your brain? It sounds so simple and yet is so un-freaking-believeably hard to do when you have a family.

Let’s face it. All moms are working moms. Whether you are working in the home, out of the home, from the moon or from the kitchen table you probably crave a bit of head space to catch up, square up and reconnect to, well… you.

That day will come when your parents, in-laws, sister or best friend will invite your kids to stay at their house for a few days. Or maybe they are old enough for sleep-away camp. And no matter how much you love your kids and how much anxiety it may produce to send them out of the nest for a few days, you need this.

If given this rare opportunity, don’t waste time. Start here:

  1. Get Your Eyebrows Waxed: Oh.Em.Ghee. Those things look like Himalayan caterpillars growing out of your face. You have rescheduled that appointment exactly five times and have resisted plucking because you are absolutely, positively sure that one day the Eyebrow Fairy is going to come in the middle of the night and craft and sculpt your arches to Charlize Theron perfection. This is not going to happen. Book (and keep) that appointment. Gracious, you’re gorgeous. This is like a $24 face lift.
  2. De-Funkdify Your Kid’s Room: Someone once told me that cleaning your house with children in it was like brushing your teeth while eating a package of Oreos. #Truth. Bring the trash bags (three standard kitchen size is requisite per year of negligence) and get busy. There is no telling what you will find. And the absolute beauty in this is they will not miss one thing. They will get home and dump that wicker basket of Legos with the Fixer Upper-esque chalk marker label on the floor and start creating your mess for next year.
  3. Exercise With Your Spouse: I do not care if you do not do this on a regular basis. Dig out those tenne-pumps, grab your honey and circle that block like you just met. Your neighbors might give you some Southern side-eye because they think you are leaving your precious angels home unsupervised, but persevere. You will not let anyone guilt you into sabatoging your time.
  4. Go to a Non-Kid-Friendly Restaurant at 10 p.m.: Order anything but chicken fingers. Steak and a martini? Cool. Salad with goat cheese and the Brussels sprouts appetizer? Yep. No one is there to tell you it stinks like socks. And the only person you have to take to the bathroom is you, so you might just finish the entire meal without having to get up from the table.
  5. Watch Your Husband Play Nine Holes at Dusk: Grab a pair of giant sunglasses, a Styrofoam cup, a bottle of good wine and pretend you are with him on Tour. Think about taking up golf in retirement. Or just enjoy riding around in the cart and listening to the sound of nothing. Is this what nothing sounds like??? No wonder he’s out here all the time…
  6. Work until 8 p.m. then go to Target: You don’t have to arrange this. I repeat. You do not have to arrange this. You can hammer away at that grant you’ve be been writing without worrying whether you or your husband will make it home before the sitter has to go to class. Then, you can zip over to your favorite superstore and look at the Faux-Lulemmon as long as as you wish and no one can tell you they are bored, tired or require more juice. Bonus points for buying something for yourself that is not on the cleaning product aisle.
  7. Join Your Work Colleagues for a Cocktail: You have not been on a work happy hour since exactly nine months before your last maternity leave. That was seven years ago. Just go. Invite yourself if you have to. Just make sure the Uber app is is still on your phone. Team building counts as work, right?
  8. Just Be: Sit in total silence. On your couch, your porch, in the bathroom with no one beating down the door- whatever. Enjoy not hearing the theme song from”Jessie” or “Bunked”. And after doing all of the things above and about ten minutes of sitting, you will realize your heart feels empty and you are even a little bored from the temporary relief of incessant snack preparation.

Being home alone is nice every once in a while, but the best part about all of this is that you will miss your kids like crazy and have the fullest heart when they get back. You might even be able to enjoy them even more with that clean house, tedious grant writing project off your plate and some seriously gorgeous eyebrows.

Kelly Barbrey loves her children more than life itself, but is grateful for GrammyCamp and CampGigi each year.  🙌

Pick Your Battles, Save Your Sanity

IMG_2779As parents we have numerous opportunities every day to shape the lives of our children and the people we would like for them to become. That’s what it’s all about, anyway, right? Growing your children into responsible adults who are able to contribute in a positive way to our society?

My husband always says, “We are not making friends here,” when referring to getting our kids to tow the line. But while raising kids is hard, it can be even more challenging when your parenting style and that of your spouse are completely different.

You see, while my husband is kind of like Captain Von Trappe (please do not give this man a whistle), I am much more like Frauline Maria. (Bored? Let’s cut up old clothing from the pile of stuff you outgrew and make crop tops and Michael Jackson gloves!)

There are times when we have to dig deep to get on the same parenting page, but there are a few items that we wholeheartedly (and oddly) agree on. Here is our list of the top three parenting  battles where we have waved the proverbial white flag – at least for now.

1. What They Wear (Don’t Care): Let me first say this this one applies to kids age 12 and under. After that, I hear ya on putting the smack down. Our daughters are nine and six, and their closets might look like a Lilly Pulitzer and Crewcuts outlet mashup,  but you would Not Know It it because of what they choose to put on in the mornings (see above photo).  You can be pretty certain the ensemble will include a free t-shirt from a charity walk that has remnant stain of Smoothie King Carribean Way slashed across the front and a pair of fraying running shorts from Target.

And the hair. In my opinion, it always looks way overdue for a trim and may not be as freshly combed as I’d prefer, and as much as I want to chase them around with a Wet Brush, I have found that it is just too exhausting for all parties most of the time. Additionally, in a moment of weakness many years ago I somehow purchased a giant poofy pink flower headband from Gymboree, which was intended to be worn with a coordinated dress with matching rosettes. Somehow this headband manages to appear at such inopportune times like Easter, the annual Christmas Card photo and any event that has to do with seeing either my or my husband’s boss. And you know what? We let it ride. At least that hair is Out of Her Eyes today! 😱

One day we will look back and laugh about the fact that one daughter wore leopard print for five consecutive school picture days or was the rumpliest child bounding gleefully down the isle for Children’s Church with a giant flower headband, leopard print dress, tangly ends,  and an armload of tacticle bracelets.

2. Winner Winner Chicken (Finger) Dinner:  Our kids eat lots of chicken fingers when we go out- which is a good bit these busy days. Our kids also rate chicken fingers. They rate the breading, they rate the serving temperature and the viscosity of the honey mustard. They rate the thickness and juiciness of the meat inside the golden delicious coating. They are true chicken finger connoisseurs and their tastes are discerning in this particular area. I am quite certain that if it were not for chicken fingers (and strawberries) our youngest child would blow away. They order them at drive-throughs, white-tablecloth restaurants, and sports bars (“You have a baby…in a bar…”). But you know what? It’s protein. There will be a time and place for branching out and developing a sophisticated palate. This is  just not our year – or our decade.

3. Summer Bedtime (Wait, what? They have that?) We are pretty good about getting the kids to bed at a reasonable (and consistent) hour during the school year. And after all, bedtime during the school year benefits everyone – including the parents. But in the summer, it’s pretty much impossible to keep this schedule. Selfishly, it is kind of nice that they are getting to the age that they will sleep in after a bit of a later night, and sometimes we are just having too much fun to worry about going to bed on time. Whether it’s grabbing a 9pm dinner (yes, chicken fingers) after a Junior Golf match or letting them indulge in a little too much American Ninja Warrior while we sip wine on the porch, we have somehow managed to escape any semblance of a nightly routine this summer. That said, there have been a few nights when bedtime was ordered in broad daylight due to the nails-on-a-chalkboard agonizing sound of escalated sisterly squabbles and the draining effect of too much sun, too many sports and frankly, too much togetherness.

So while we do have our non-negotiables, such as trying our best to make it to church (bonus points for on time) when we are in town and making sure our kids are generally not mean people, even The Captain has given up on some things that are energy sucking and exhausting. I am certain we will look back and wish we had done more of this or less of that, but right now letting a few things fall by the wayside (and not beating ourselves up about it) feels pretty good.

If you happen to witness or hear of aforementioned meanness coming from Kelly Barbrey and The Captain’s children, they would like to know about it, as all above bets will be Off. It may result in the disappearance of a certain flower headband and permanent 6pm bedtime for the duration of the summer.