How to Get Your Grandchildren Ready for Church

It’s a little easier, but not by much, if the children’s parents also spent the night before Sunday service, but for the mornings you are alone preparing anywhere from five to seven grandkids for church:

Wake up the two girls first. Give the sisters a little privacy as they pick out their toothbrushes from the bathroom collection. Invite them to the table as you finish your coffee. Remind them to bring what they need for their hair. No, not on the kitchen table. Coffee table is fine. Make sure it’s blue Ultra Sheen for extra shine.

Corral the boys. The girls are savoring perfectly toasted bread spread with real butter. They fantasize about the day they will be old enough to be offered a pour from the percolator. Shout the wrong names at all the boys until they get it together enough to sit at the table for scrambled eggs, toast and orange juice. Inspect all their haircuts. Giggle to yourself remembering the edge ups their grandfather had given them the night before: Lord, how that Tony screamed, then, with tears drying in his eyes, reassured his brother in the chair that it doesn’t hurt. It don't hurt, Andy. That Tony, oh boy, that Tony.

Style the girls’ hair and here comes their favorite part: picking out the hair ribbons that match their dresses. Clip barrettes to the ends of their ponytails, pin a bright bow to their pigtails. Inspect their knees for ash.

Cry out for the industrial-sized lotion bottle and attack those ashy knees. Pile everyone into the Lincoln after carefully wrapping their offering coins into embroidered handkerchiefs. Arrange those beautiful black children in a row on your regular pew. Sorry, Sister Campbell, my grands are visiting and they are taking your seat. Pass down to each a hard butterscotch candy and a final warning hush. The service is beginning.

This custom doll by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell wears a dress made from the author’s daughter’s baptismal gown.

This custom doll by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell wears a dress made from the author’s daughter’s baptismal gown.

- Erica Hoskins Mullenix is a freelance writer and editor, and a contributing editor here at Dead Housekeeping. Besides personal essays detailing her life as an introverted middle kid, bewildered but kickass mother and special needs parent, she also writes short fiction. Proudly an alum of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Erica created the online writer’s community known as yeah write in April 2011. She has had essays published in Salon, The Houston Chronicle, PANK, and other print and online publications. Her fiction and other writing can be found on her personal blog. Follow Erica on Twitter @freefringes

- Jacqueline Bryant Campbell is a contributing editor at Dead Housekeeping, and you can admire and order her dolls at her shop, Jacq's Dolls.

How to Paint a Landscape

To paint a landscape correctly you first have to immerse yourself in it. Spend years sifting the dust through your fingers. Walk each step of the trail through the Sierras where the Boy Scouts and horse packers have worn deep grooves in the landscape. Pick cholla and mesquite out of your pants cuffs. Look for horizons that are farther, larger, taller. Watch them fade into sunsets.

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1996

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1996

Take vacation pictures. Develop wheels of slides. Click through them at Thanksgiving, one picture after another of stones, sere pines, more stones. No people.

Get your hands dirty. Get your boots dirty. Take great strides across the landscape. Read Zane Grey and find the places he loved. Take pictures from the summits of mountains and the nadirs of valleys. Watch the way the sky changes with altitude. 

Buy some VHS tapes of quiet-voiced men and women painting flowers and mountains. Watch the tapes. Buy easels and brushes. Buy an endless supply of thin canvas boards.

Let twenty years go by.

Move into a smaller house where you have to travel to see the horizon. Buy better gear but take shorter trips. By the time you stop hiking your entire kit should weigh no more than 20 lbs, inclusive. 

Pick up your easels and brushes, your tubes of paint and buckets of solvent. Buy a small TV for your VHS tapes. Put them all in the smallest bedroom with the smallest window. Leave your slide projector on a shelf.

Paint what you see.

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1982.

Painting by Glen Blankenbiller, 1982.

- Rowan Beckett Grigsby is the less-censored less-palatable alter ego of an attorney who might want to work in this town again someday. Professional editor and graphic designer by day and professional knitter by night, she has been an Unchaste Reader and contributor to the Unchaste Readers Anthology Vol. II (forthcoming), a contributor to Ask a Raging Feminist, a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee and one of BlogHer's 2017 Voices of the Year for work we consider required reading, including "How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101."

For more of Rowan's Granddad, check out Tending Crops.