Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oops, I did it again.

Oops, I did it again. Last time I heard those words I was with my (then) 13-year-old daughter surrounded by screaming teenaged girls as I watched Britney lip sync with a snake around her neck. Who knew I would miss THAT?

Today, I would have been delighted to have been back there (with earplugs) or anywhere else for that matter, because, yes, oops, I did it again. I hit another car in the parking lot. And that scrapping, scrunching metallic sound is far worse than the squealing, ear-piercing screams of teenaged girls. Because that sound means two things: $$$$$ and the call.

What call you say? The call I blogged about this past June when I had my last fender-bender in our church parking lot. Click here to read how that went down.

So, I found myself today making the call again – the “Honey, I wrecked the car in a parking lot” call - except this time, being at work, I had an advantage, I could send an e-mail, which is exactly what I did. And he ignored it until I made - you guessed it - the call.

I fretted all day about the incident, particularly the fact that I didn’t know whose car I hit. I had left a feeble, “I’m sorry!” and my phone number under the car’s windshield. But, I couldn’t help but worry, who did I hit? How would that person take it when he left the office after a hard day’s work only to find the front bumper of his car a crumbled mess? What if it were someone I had to see often like the couple I hit at church? What if they flew into a rage and cussed me out?

After a long day of imagining every possible scenario, I decided it was time to return to the scene. I rode the elevator up with several employees, each getting off at floors along the way, all except one, that is. As we reached the top level of the parking deck, I could stand it no longer.

“What kind of car do you drive?” I asked.

“Uh, Monte Carlo.”

“Okay, have a good day then.”

He looked perplexed and walked off as I saw my victim on her cell phone in a heated discussion, with a security guard and police officer standing nearby.

Oh, boy, I’m in trouble, I thought.

“I did it,” I told her. “I’m sorry.”

She waved me off with her hand, “Oh, I’m not worried about this. This is nothing; nobody was hurt; nobody was killed. I hope you didn’t think I was mad because of this. This could have easily been me hitting your car when I drive my husband’s truck. I’m closing on a house and that’s who I was talking to on the phone.”

And then the woman whose car I had crashed hugged my neck, as I blinked back tears, leaving me to think that sometimes we need to have a few fender-benders to be reminded that there are good people in the world. Perhaps, sometime, someone will hit me in a parking lot, and I will remember this day and be equally gracious. Of course, if they do, they’ll have to pay to replace my bicycle.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Time to make the donuts

"Just six more years, and I can be president,” said my son from the back seat of the truck as we drove to dinner.

“I think you have to be at least 36,” said my husband.

“35, and you have to be a U.S. Citizen and have lived in this country for 14 years,” he said. “In six more years, I’ll be 14.”

Then he looks at his older sister, “Were YOU born in this country? How long have YOU lived here?”

“No, I was born in Italy. What do you think?”

“You were both born and raised right here in this town,” I said, trying to end the argument. “Either one of you can qualify.”

But, secretly, I was proud. My son wanted to be president, without my even suggesting it. Of course, I had always dreamed one of them would. The minute after they were born, and I realized they were healthy, I began to dream for them and dream big.

“I bet he makes a lot of money,” my daughter said.

“Well, not as much as you think,” I said, never wanting my children to pursue a career based solely on money.

“Yeah, he doesn’t make money,” said my son. “People just give him money!”

“Presidents also get lots of perks,” said my husband, “cooks, cars, airplanes …”

“And a big, white house!” my daughter added.

“I’m going to be president one day,” said my son, emphatically.

At this point, I was bursting with pride. I’ve always wanted my children to become the best they can be, to reach their full potential, and president - even though if I think about it would be horrible job - is the epitome of that. He wouldn’t be the first from a small Georgia town, either, and I told him so, as I turned and faced him in the back seat.

“What you need to do first is join the school council,” I said, as he nodded, seriously. “Then you need to become mayor, then state representative, and then you go to Washington to become a …”

“Ooh! Or I could work at Dunkin’ Donuts,” he exclaimed as we past the store. “I could eat all the leftovers and bring home fresh donuts every night, cream filled with chocolate, donut holes, sprinkles with chocolate, and they pay you money, too. Yum … I love the chocolate ones.”

“So, you are either going to president or work at Dunkin’ Donuts,” said his sister, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Yes, that’s right,” he said. “That’s okay, isn’t it, Mom?”

I didn’t even have to think about it because I knew the answer – I would be equally proud of either job because, ultimately, I just want my children to be healthy and happy and productive members of society. And, after all, someone’s gotta make the donuts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Women are crazy

As I was styling my hair the other morning, I thought of some of the crazy things only women do. When I say styling, I mean shampooing, conditioning, applying hair cream, root lifter (don’t ask), brushing with two to three different brushes, drying, straightening, curling, spraying and then finally giving up and reaching for a ponytail holder. It was at that point that I spotted my little blonde curly clip-on hair piece, and I couldn’t help but think, Women are crazy!

I would occasionally wear the faux hair piece whenever I was having a bad hair day or feeling just plain lazy. My teenaged daughter had one that she wore, too, until it fell off her head one day, and her brother stomped it thinking it was some type of creature. I wore mine to church one Sunday, and one of the parishioners went on and on about how great my hair looked. I said thank you but felt a little like a fraud in the Lord’s house and haven’t worn it since, although if hair pieces kept one from being holy, we’d have a lot fewer preachers.

So, without further adieu, here are few insane things only we females seem to do (feel free to add your own):

Pass off store-bought food as our own – I admittedly used to do this every tennis match with Publix pound cake. I would slice it and serve it on a crystal platter, smiling sweetly in reply to the compliments it received. Thankfully, no one asked me for my recipe. Just curious, has a man ever fretted about serving store-bought food to company?

Wear clothing designed to torture our bodies from high heel shoes, to jeans we can’t exhale in, to bras that defy gravity by squeezing and pushing, to Spanx, the modern-day girdle. You don’t catch men doing this. At least, I hope not!

Fret over thank you notes not written. I know every person I neglected to send a thank you note to throughout my entire life - everyone who gave me a wedding gift as we had too much libation and rashly opened the gifts without saving the tags, a friend who bought me a casserole after my son was born, and the moms who threw the end-of-the-year kindergarten party.

Moms also fret over whether or not their kids have sent thank you notes, no matter how old they are. In fact, my mom usually buys me a stack each Christmas as a gentle reminder. Btw, if you are reading this blog and haven’t received yours from me or one of my family members and are wondering whether we really appreciate what you did for us, particularly when my mom was sick, the answer is yes, and thank you so much.

Protect her child ferociously, especially if that child is a boy. Daddies look after their girls, and mamas protect their baby boys, even if his daddy says, “Leave the boy alone. He needs to toughen up.”

I once saw an ordinary-looking mother run out of McDonald’s at a breakneck speed and leap a four feet fence on top of a three foot wall in order to prevent a big kid from throwing balls at her younger one on the playground.

I myself am guilty of protective bouts, especially when it comes to bullies. Just the other day, my son came home dirty and frustrated. An older boy kept tackling him, not allowing him to leave the yard. I’ve been telling him to ignore him for months, years, even, until finally I could take no more.

“Just punch him one good time, and he will leave you alone,” I said, hoping Jesus was listening to his iPod, instead of shaking his head at my advice.

“In the face?” he asked, looking excited.

Now, as tired as I was of seeing my son hurt, I could not, in good faith, tell him to hit another woman’s son in the face. But the belly? Now that’s a different story, and I told him so. He grew unusually quiet.

“I can’t hit him, Mom.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“’Cause then he’d just hit me back. It’s better to just ignore him.”

And that was when I realized we girls might be crazy, but there is method to our madness.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What's for dinner?

When I was growing up, my daddy would get home at 5 o’clock, wash his hands and immediately sit down at the dinner table where my sister and I would be waiting. Mama would then hand him the paper and pour him a glass of tea. We would say the blessing and then we would eat. Every night. Same time. All four of us. Together. At the table. What a miracle!

As a result, I make every effort for my family to eat together, although lately it’s been a lot harder. I’ve been working more and haven’t quite gotten the hang of having meals prepared ahead of time or even thawed out, for that matter. I feel so accomplished for getting the kids off to school having eaten some semblance of breakfast that I totally forget about dinner. Until my ride home from work, that is, when I am stuck in traffic and absolutely starving. And, trust me; you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.

“Why don’t you carry a granola bar in your purse?” my frustrated husband will say when I’m getting edgy because I haven’t eaten, and there is nothing gluten-free around. Actually, he puts it a little stronger than that, but I’ve cleaned it up for this blog.

Anyway, last night I wondered the same exact thing as I ransacked the glove compartment looking for something edible the kids left behind. It was then I learned a valuable lesson. If kids leave it behind, it is NOT edible.

Hamburgers? No, had that Monday. Hot dogs? Those are cancer sticks! Pizza? We have a left-over one in the fridge; make that two, one is from the week before. Pork chops? Yes, that’s it! I thought as I navigated Atlanta traffic.

So, I called my husband who was at football practice with the kids, and proudly announced, “We are having pork chops!”

“With mashed potatoes and gravy?”

Sigh. “Sure.”

(Fortunately, he was raised on instant and doesn’t know any better. Thanks, Mom-in-law!)

I could almost taste those chops when I realized it was growing increasingly late, and those were rather large pieces, and I really don’t think they are thawed out. In fact, they may still be in the freezer.

Rotisserie chicken! Healthy, tastes good, I can buy some potato salad to go with it. So, I called the hubby again.

“How about rotisserie chicken?” I said, shattering his visions of gravy bowls.

“You didn’t pack your granola bar, did you?”

Once in town, I stopped by my new friendly neighborhood grocery store, their slogan, not mine. I put a few things in my buggy, feeling pleased with myself because now I can do a little grocery shopping, too, as I looked all over the deli department – no chicken.

“Excuse me, but where are your rotisserie chickens?” I asked an employee, feeling anxious.

He pointed to an empty rack with a sign that read, “Rotisserie chicken, guaranteed from 4-7 or tomorrow’s is free.”

“But it’s empty,” I whined.

“Looks like we’re out,” he said and shouted for a woman in the back three or four times – loudly.
“What do ya want?” she barked, pushing her mop over the floor.

“Do you have any more rotisserie chicken, please?”

“All gone!” she yelled. Apparently she had not packed a granola bar, either.

“But this was going to be my dinner,” I said, looking at the man, who apparently had no control over the deli lady. Her look shot both of us down.

“Can I get my free one tomorrow?” I asked, getting my hopes up that I won’t have to spend another evening scrounging for food.

“Nope, that offer ends at 7.”

“What time is it?” I asked.


“AW, COME ON!” I shouted and pushed my buggy out of the way.

I’d like to say this was the first fit I’ve had in a grocery, but it was not. I had one once before in the self-checkout line that involved a baby, a toddler, a teen, a head of lettuce, and a dozen witnesses.

I know what I can make, I think, as I walk out the door and drive home quickly, so I can get it on the table before the gang arrives.

“Breakfast for dinner,” I said to my husband on the cell phone after he called. (Don’t you love cell phones? That’s sarcasm).

“We’re out of milk,” he said.

“Well, I’m not allowed back in the grocery store. You’ll have to stop on YOUR way home.”

And that is just what he did. It may have been 8 p.m., instead of 8 a.m., it may have been milk and juice instead of sweet tea, we may have been eating off paper plates, our blessing may have been sung to the tune of Superman, and I may be half-crazy, but at least we were all eating together.

Amen and pass the butter!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The greatest game ever played

Saturday I get to watch the greatest game ever played in recreation league football. And trust me, I’ll be watching - every play, every tackle, every touchdown, every field goal. Do eight-year-olds get to kick field goals?

I’m going to learn a lot about the sport this weekend. I’ve always enjoyed football – dressing up for the games, planning the tailgate menu, inviting friends over on game day to gather in front of the big screen TV – I just don’t care much for watching it. In fact, I wrote a blog about my feelings on the subject here.

But this year, things are different. My boy is out there for the first time. He has worked so hard. The first time he practiced with pads he refused to take a shower until I got home because he wanted me to see, feel and smell (Well, that one came with the first two) how sweaty he was.

“Sometimes, you just have to eat dirt, mama,” he said, profoundly, one night as I tucked him into bed after practice.

The other day he came home and announced excitedly, “I’m going to be a full back - F-U-L-L back.”

“F-U-L-L back as opposed to?” I asked, confused.

“F-U-L-L back, not F-O-O-L back,” he said, seriously.

“Oh, baby, I’m so proud,” I said, as I wondered, Which poor kid got chosen to be the fool back?

His coach, an old timer with lots of experience, encourages the boys, including his grandson, to do well on and off the field. My son takes that very seriously, too, which makes me ever prouder. He’s gotten the prize for best effort at practice twice, and his teachers praise his work ethic and character often.

God, I love football! As long as he doesn't get hurt, that is.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Free range kids

I read an article about a journalist, Lenore Skenazy, who says we overprotect our kids today. Seems the mom let her nine-year-old son ride the subway in New York – alone - earning her the title of “America’s worst mom.”

My first thought was, “Whew, Glad that one is taken!” My second was, “I guess that puts a damper on play dates at her house.”

Her book is called Free Range Kids, and you can read her defense of her behavior here. Now, I haven’t read her book, and I’d never lived anywhere near a subway, or even a bus stop, for that matter, so I can’t fully weigh in on the topic. However, from my Southern smothering mom point of view, it sounds horrible! I sure wouldn’t want to ride the subway alone.

Yet, I do know that when I was growing up, we (my sister, neighbors and I) spent hours roaming the woods – alone - behind our house, sidestepping copperheads, balancing fallen trees over ravines, and marveling firsthand at how much damage beavers can do at the creek/swamp. Oh, not to mention discovering the remnants of a moonshine still near an old shack that was still, apparently, used for gambling.

During the summer, we’d shed our shoes and leave the house first thing in the morning, go into the woods where it was cool, poke under moss, climb trees, make huts, you know, just be kids. My mama didn’t worry about me. She knew I’d be home by dinner. There were only two times I wasn’t, and both times something was wrong. Once I was stuck in a pipe propped up by a fence (Please don’t ask) and another I was trapped in a tree house by a large barking dog. Both times I escaped.

Am I saying parents should allow their kids to wander today? No, I’m afraid that, despite Skenazy’s argument, the world IS a different place. Yet, there is something about giving kids blocks of unscheduled time, time to be free, time to explore, time to learn things on their own that, ultimately, makes them become better and more self-reliant. At least until the dinner bell rings.