Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remember M.E.

“Look, Mom, there’s your name,” my daughter said, pointing to a very small sticker in the right hand corner of the trail’s information board that read, “Remember Meredith; Remember M.E.”

We were standing at the bottom of Blood Mountain, about to hike 4,500 feet up the Appalachian Trail to the top. The sticker was a poignant reminder of someone who was already on my mind—Meredith Emerson—the 24-year-old UGA graduate who was murdered on the trail last year by a vagrant.

I recall her story vividly because not only did we share the same name, I was writing an article at the time about a hiking trip that our family took in an area only miles away. The Blood Mountain trail was extremely busy the day after Thanksgiving, as I imagine it was New Year’s Day when Meredith hiked. I could see how she would have no qualms about hiking alone with her dog, especially since she was trained in martial arts.

This was our first time hiking this particular trail, and it was quite a tough one for me. My legs were already sore from working out earlier in the week, and I wore way too many layers for the beautiful 65 degree day. But, I’m not complaining, each step up lead us closer to one of the prettiest views I’ve seen.

I must confess, however, if my kids were younger and more gullible, there were a couple of points 1,000 feet from the top where I would have declared we were at the summit. Of course, other hikers wouldn’t have allowed this, either. As we passed people making their way back down, each would offer a word of encouragement. We heard “You only have ten more minutes to the top!” so many times that my son finally declared, “That’s a long ten minutes!”

The closer we got, the faster the kids moved, causing me to believe they must be part Billy goat. Once we reached the top, we enjoyed the view, laughed at those ahead of us who had set up camp, explored a stone shelter house, robbed our Chex mix of M&M’s, and I remembered Meredith, saying a prayer for her family--and for my mine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy trails

It’s that time of year again. We dedicate a day to stuffing ourselves with turkey, dressing, casseroles, cakes and pies. Then the next day, my family rolls out of bed at the crack of dawn, puts on our boots and hits the trail.

It’s our tradition to go hiking the day after Thanksgiving. I think it started, in part, to get me as far away from the stores as my husband possibly could. Regardless, hiking with kids, although it may sound daunting, is a lot of fun. Just be sure to bring plenty of Chex mix (and make it heavy on the M&M’s).

Since we’ve begun our yearly hikes, we’ve been blessed with beautiful fall weather. We’ve also discovered many great trails around Georgia, but our destination of choice is Amicalola Falls, located in the North Georgia mountains in the midst of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Eight miles of trails lead hikers to the base of Springer Mountain, which marks the start of the Appalachian Trail. We haven’t made it there yet.

My husband and his friend used to hike this state park when they were teenagers. In fact, his mother used to drop them off with a backpack, some matches, and a frozen steak for the weekend. I guess this was before the Nebraska safe haven law.

Amicalola is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “tumbling waters,” quite appropriate for the 729 foot waterfall--the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. Leading up to the falls are many, many flights of stairs. We’ve climbed them all once, counting each step along the way—all 425 of them.

And it was well-worth the effort. On top of the mountain is a beautiful lodge, and inside that lodge is a mouthwatering buffet, featuring all of our Thanksgiving favorites. Fortunately, we always stay the night, so we can spend the next day working it all off again.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy trails, y’all!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mrs. Clean

I’m not a neat-nick by any means. I can leave the dinner dishes in the sink and sleep just fine (albeit I may regret it the next morning). I can go for weeks ignoring the toothpaste on the counter. I can walk by the same pair of shoes left by the door day after day, until, suddenly, it hits—a cleaning fit.

I never know from whence it comes, but once it strikes, I’m at its mercy. My family must be able to see it in my eyes when I wake up in one of these moods. It usually starts at the breakfast table.

“We are getting this house cleaned today,” I say.

Silence. I can imagine the glances they are giving each other when I’m not looking.

“I mean it!” I say, which is always followed by frantic eating.

Then I get up from the table and pull out the Clorox, which leads to panicked looks in their eyes, causing my husband to declare that he has some important work in the garage to do. In fact, anytime I want the garage cleaned, I should just pull out the Clorox.

Of course, since I’m not raising any fools, my kids quickly say, “We’re going to help Dad!”

Then they are all out the door before I can pull out my scrub brush. Of course, I don’t blame them one bit. During these fits, I cannot rest until the house is cleaned from top to bottom. And when I clean, I clean vigoursly. In fact, today I actually hurt my knee cleaning out the bathtub—don’t ask.

Some of my neighbors have maids. I had a maid once—I mean it literally—once. It was too much trouble trying to clean up for her first. Plus she missed a few spots.

So, it's just me and my cleaning fits. During these times, my kids will innocently ask, “Are we having company?”

They have a point. I should invite everyone I know to come over and see because, unfortunately, when these spurts leave, they are gone.

And I’m left with the satisfaction that although I may not wash a dish or a stitch of clothes tomorrow, today my house is clean. Sorry, you missed it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Say "cheese"

A friend stumbled across a photographer’s Web site and pointed out his guidelines for family portraits. One of them was “Don’t argue the night before.”

“What about the day of? Or, even better, while you are getting your portraits made?” I asked, because I’ve done all three.

It’s not easy to get a family of five, dressed and smiling in front of a camera, especially when only one out of five wants to be there. Fortunately, our church updates its directory every three years or so, or there would be no family portraits.

I don’t blame my family too much for grumbling. You see, I was very ambitious in the every years when it came to color-coordinating. One year, I made my daughters wear matching plaid monogrammed dresses and hairbows, even though they are eight years apart. Even worse, I wore a plaid skirt and dressed my son (too little to protest) in a matching romper. My husband took one look at us and asked if he was supposed to wear a kilt. Okay, so, it was funny, just not at the time!

After our photo session, I dragged the gang to dinner, where an excited woman rushed over and thrust a catalog into my hand. It was filled with photos of 30-something-year-old mothers wearing dresses that matched their 10-year-old daughters. And the majority of their outfits were plaid from pastel to primary colors.

“I’m a sales rep. for mother/daughter wear. Please call me,” she said. I tried to explain that we don’t normally dress this way, but I don’t think she heard me over the laughter from my family.

Growing up, we had our family “portraits” taken at the local county fair. Dad would comb his hair, and we would all climb up into the little trailer belonging to the same photographer couple. Year after year, they would snap our Polaroid, and we would excitedly wait for it to develop. You see, we couldn’t ride any rides until we had a photo taken. You never heard my sister and I complain about having our picture made.

We never planned our wardrobe, either. That’s evident because Dad wears the same shirt several years in a row. Nevertheless, it’s a moment in time (10 years worth, in fact), and that is priceless.

Over the years, I’ve relaxed my standards. As long as we are wearing clean clothes and have our teeth brushed, I’m okay. I’m just thankful we can be together long enough to have our photo made. And maybe one day, they will be, too, even if it’s just to laugh at the crazy things their mom made them wear.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bond, James Bond

Bond, James Bond…My husband and I and some friends went to see the new 007 flick, Quantum of Solace, yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. Lots of action for the guys, and, for the ladies, well, there’s Daniel Craig. Need I say more?

I didn’t think it was quite as good as last year’s Casino Royale. Of course, I missed the ending to that movie—twice. The first time I drank a movie-theater large Coke, and being female and unable to wait a moment longer, I dashed out to the bathroom, and returned to find everyone leaving. I had missed it.

You can count on my husband to never divulge the ending of a movie, which is great if you don’t want to know, but I did. He hinted around to it, gave me a few scenarios, which I didn’t believe, and finally said I would just have to wait until it came out on DVD. So, I pouted, then forgot about it until a few days ago when we rented it. I watched the entire movie and then somehow, ten minutes before it was over, I fell asleep. I awoke from my cat nap to see the credits playing. I had missed it again.

All I could get out of my husband this time was “She died,” referring to Bond’s love interest, Vesper. Fortunately, seeing the confused look on my face, he relented and filled me in during the opening scene of Quantum of Solace. Otherwise, I would have been lost but not disappointed. Did I mention Daniel Craig?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cute kids' quotes

My son polished off a can of Sprite and said, “We need to take this to school. We are collecting cans for Thanksgiving.”

As I explained to him that they meant cans full of food, I thought about some of the other cute things he and his sisters have said. Fortunately, I wrote down a few; otherwise, I’m sad to say, I would not remember, no matter how unforgettable they seem at the time.

Here are a few of my notes:

  • Things you only hear from little boys … Scrambled eggs and sausage … My son just finished his breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage, threw his plate away, and proudly exclaimed, “I can put my fork back in the drawer. I didn’t even use it.”
  • My daughter was singing the song “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” at the top of her lungs. Only her version sounded like this: “If I were the king of the word, I tell you what I’d do; I’d throw away the cars and the bars and make ‘sweet tea’ with you.”
  • My son said his teacher asked him to write a letter to someone asking them a question. We asked who his teacher told him to write to. He said, “I didn’t know her, but her name was Dear Abby.”
  • After Halloween, my son observed, “The more men eat, the more hair they lose.”
“Really?” I said. “Who told you that?”

“No one,” he said. “I just noticed that most bald-headed men have fat bellies.”

  • My son has a stuffed pig that I use as a pillow while I read him a story. Tonight he said, “Mama, you are lying on the wrong side.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You are lying on its ‘rare’ end.”

  • My all time favorite thing that my oldest daughter, who is now in college, said when she was three is “I smell McDonald’s French fries!” I didn’t have the heart to tell her at the time that we were driving past a dog food factory, not the golden arches. We've had a great many laughs about it since, however.
It's interesting how some expressions kids use stick. For instance, my daughter used to say "Bednight" until my neighbor told her last New Year's that it was actually "Midnight."

My son has always said, "Sweet, home, sweet," instead of "Home, sweet, home." I haven't corrected him to this day. In fact, I use it whenever we pull in the driveway after a long trip.

Can you still remember the funny things your kids have said? If so, please post, or, at least, write them down somewhere--before "Bednight" strikes, and you forget.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wide world of boys

Soccer, baseball, football…Wide world of boys. I’m raising my first, and everyday is a new but fun adventure.

I came home from work yesterday, and my son was waiting outside with a football. It never occurred to me that he was waiting for me until later when he said, “You never play catch with me.

“That’s because I can’t catch or throw,” I explained.

You see, I wasn’t a tomboy growing up. I didn’t have any brothers. I did tap dance, ballet, cheerleading, and my favorite, baton. I took art lessons, and I loved books.

To my defense, I wasn’t a “hot house” child, either. I also water skied, played in the woods, and later learned to lift weights. But when it came to ballgames, I used to infuriate the boys next door by going inside to read, leaving them with unequal teams.

When I was in the seventh grade, we were required to play softball. The outfield would move in the minute I got up to bat.

How insulting! I thought one day. I’ll show them.

So, I swung as hard as I could, determined to make it to at least second base. The ball took off like a rocket, hitting the pitcher, a boy named Will, in a very bad spot. He went down like he’d been shot. And didn’t get up for a long, long time. I graduated from high school with him and swear the boy never forgave me. Let’s just say, I was very relived when I got a birth announcement from Will and his wife a few years ago.

When my son was five, I felt like he wasn’t getting enough baseball practice, so frustrated with my husband, I took over. Our lesson was going great until I stupidly decided to let him pitch to me. He threw a perfect pitch, I swung, and the ball hit him right in the eye, knocking him flat on his back. It was horrific. I scooped him up and ran inside to get an ice pack. Fortunately, he was fine and enjoyed telling everyone within earshot for weeks afterward how mommy gave him a black eye.

Last night, as my son promised to give me my first lesson in football, we reminisced about my almost killing him with the baseball. He said, “I remember that day. It was the only time you let me eat a popsicle in the living room.”

As his interest in sports grows, I’m sure it won’t be the last—not if his mom has anything to do with it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's beginning to look too much like Christmas

My family and I rode through our court square last night. The kids ooed and aahed at the Christmas lights and then proceeded to tell me everything they wanted Santa to bring.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “We haven’t even had Thanksgiving. In fact, it’s not even Veteran’s Day. Why are these lights on?”

I promise I’m not a Scrooge. I love Christmas--when it’s Christmas. I guess it’s the way I was raised. Growing up, we got our tree the week before Christmas. Actually, it was usually the Sunday before Christmas, so if Christmas fell on Wed., we got to enjoy it for four whole days. I’m not complaining. We loved it, and now that I’m an adult, I can certainly appreciate the simplicity of it.

Needless to say, the week before Christmas was a busy one. Mom made the most delicious homemade fudge. My sister and I would wake up and go to sleep with sound of her stirring the pot. We had a spare room that was kept closed off from the heat of the wood burning stove. We called it the cold room (or the hot room in the summer), and mother used that room to cool the hot pans of fudge. Our job was to lick the bowl and metal spoon after each batch and occasionally relive Mom’s arm by stirring.

I’m ashamed to admit that if it were up to me and my arm, I would probably only give a batch to a few select people. But not Mom, she was (and is) amazingly generous. We gave fudge to everyone we knew. I can even remember putting a pan in the mailbox for the mailman. (Does anyone give the mailman a gift anymore?)

My dad was not a big fan of Christmas carols, or, perhaps, our singing voices, I’m not sure which. Either way, we were only allowed to sing carols on Christmas morning as we drove to my grandmother’s house. We could sing them as loudly as we wanted that day, as long as it wasn’t “Little Drummer Boy.” Dad hated that one, and, I must say, it’s not my favorite now, either.

Christmas night we would ride around and look at lights. Then we would come home the next day, take our tree down and play with the boxes that our toys came in. That’s it. No, two or three months of build up, no listening to radio stations with endless Christmas carols, no time to add more and more items to the Christmas list. Just a week of giving, love, excitement and the smell of fudge.

And if the desire for that makes me a Scrooge, then bah humbug!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A wrinkle in time

I woke up with my first wrinkle this morning.

It was a very shocking occurrence because I know it definitely was not there last night. I stumbled out of bed, went to wash my face, glanced up into the mirror and there it was. Not a fine line, mind you, but a full wrinkle, with some depth to it, too.

At first, I thought maybe it was just a line from where I slept, one that will go away. I checked back 30 minutes later. No, it’s still there. An hour later, yep, still there.

What was I dreaming about last night to cause this? I thought.

Two hours later…okay, we have to destroy all the mirrors. Of course, I exaggerate—a little.

Now, I fully realize that there are FAR worse things to wake up to. I have a long list of things that I’m thankful for, including the health of my family. And I’m sure in ten years, I’ll have gained some perspective and will say something about the lines around my mouth reminding me of all the laughs I’ve had through the years.

But, for today, I’d like to just go back to bed. I need to rest up. I’m expecting my first gray hair tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I voted. How about you?

Having voted early, I spent Election Day shopping with my daughter. As we browsed the sales rack of the department store, I noticed that a girl I knew from high school worked there. I started to say hi, but just then she and her co-worker began bragging loudly about being unregistered voters. They were so proud they even gave each other high fives.

I wanted to cover my daughter’s ears. Imagine all the elections they have missed, not just presidential ones, but local ones as well. Do they care if our county adds a one percent sales tax, or if we can drink alcohol in restaurants on Sundays? Obviously not.

And why aren’t they registered?

It seems they haven’t had time. Now, since I graduated with one of the women, I know exactly how long it’s been since she turned 18. Let’s suffice it to say that she’s had PLENTY of time to register.

Their second excuse? They didn’t want to be called for jury duty. Are these people that important that they can’t serve on a jury if called? I have only been called once and was more than happy to do my part in convicting a known drug dealer.

Right or wrong, for better or worse, at least I vote. And that is something to brag about at the next high school reunion.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day humor

It’s the night before the big presidential election. And, fittingly, enough I am watching Saturday Night Live’s Presidential Bash. If you think the show picks on your favorite politician, just watch the clips dating back to the Nixon and Carter eras, and you’ll know they have been an equal opportunity offender through the years.

And, good for them. If we didn’t find the humor in this madness, where would we be?

We have been inundated with increasingly negative television ads. The battle between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin for U.S. Senate here in Georgia has reached fever pitch. I keep waiting for one of them to say, “Oh, yeah, and your grandma wears combat boots!”

Not to mention the phone calls. As someone who is on the “Do not call” list, I have a big problem with candidates and their friends calling my home at all hours. During dinner tonight, Hank Williams, Jr., left a message telling me to vote for McCain. I couldn’t help but listen to that one.

Although I’m not sure if my 18-year-old daughter will make it to the polls, my elementary school-aged son sure is excited. He told me that he persuaded his buddy to vote for our preferred candidate, telling him all the negative things his opponent would do, such as raising taxes. Apparently, those commercials work.

Fortunately, my son’s teacher has taken advantage of this historic moment. He comes home each day with a little known presidential fact that he has learned. Do you know which president got stuck in the White House bathtub? (Answer: our heaviest, William Howard Taft)

Do you know the story behind Teddy Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear? (Teddy refused to shoot a bear cub that his dogs cornered during a hunting trip. The story was published in a cartoon, and he was later asked to lend his name to a toy bear, hence the teddy bear.)

Did you know that the first female reporter to interview a president sat on his clothes while he skinny dipped in order to do so? (Anne Royall was the journalist and John Quincy Adams the president)

One day my son declared that if our preferred candidate’s name was James, he’d have a better chance of becoming president. It seems we have had five James’. Maybe he has a point.

Only time will tell how the election will turn out. Either way, let’s look for the good and find the humor where we can. If all else fails, our candidate can change his name to James and try again in four more years.