Sunday, November 29, 2009

The legend of the rooster

I woke up at 3 a.m. Saturday morning with a strong desire to strangle a rooster. Lest you think I’ve flown the coup (ha, ha, ha), I’d better start at the beginning.

It was Black Friday in the woods. You see, each year on the day after Thanksgiving, while others crowd the mall, my family and hundreds like us flee to one of Georgia’s state parks to either (a) escape from relatives (b) work off the extra dressing (c) get as far away from the stores as possible or (d) all of the above.

This year we chose Tallulah Gorge as our destination, with its cushy rubber path leading, or should I say misleading, us to a horrific descent of 1,000 steps to the bottom of the gorge. Word to the wise – when the park ranger asks if you’ve ever been down there before and then looks at you and shakes his head as to say another one bites the dust, don’t get offended and insist that he underestimated you and your family. And don’t tell him you aren’t afraid of crossing swift water on slippery rocks, like he said his wife was, because you are probably a lot younger than she. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t even think of bragging about what kind of shape you are in because he will see you slinking by the desk after your hike – sweaty, dirty and barely able to put one foot in front of the other. And he is not above telling you I told you so. Just take my word for it!

But back to the rooster story. We managed to drag ourselves out of the gorge without getting wet, a miracle if you know my son’s attraction to water.

“I’m so glad I didn’t fall in,” he said, in the truck on the way out of the park. “Mama said she was going to be mad at me if I did.”

“Which scares you more – falling in the freezing water and getting swept downstream over the waterfall or mama being mad at you?” my husband asked.

“Mama being mad! I could handle the other,” he said, without hesitation.

I smiled proudly. I must be doing an okay job then, I thought.

We were dry but hungry, so after a pit stop at a gift shop called Goats on the Roof, we began looking for food. And, yes, Goats on the Roof actually has goats on the roof. I can imagine how that marketing strategy came about … Say, Daryl, what if we built a gift shop and put goats on the roof? Yeah, Larry, that’s a great idea. We can use your goats. But what do we call it? … (No disrespect, it’s actually a very cool place.)

Long story short, we ended up eating at the Dillard House and taking the last room they had, which was fortunate because I’m sure Norman Bates was running the only other motel in the area with vacancies.

Since this was our first visit to the Dillard House, we couldn’t believe the quality and quantity of the food.

“This is food heaven,” said my son.

Not wanting to waste, plus famished from our day’s adventure, we ate and ate and ate – fried shrimp, country fried steak, fried catfish (Recognize a theme here?), French fries, BBQ chicken, creamed corn, slaw, relishes, salads, butter beans, green beans, one sweet casserole with coconut made from an unidentifiable vegetable, and a creamed cabbage dish that I was relieved I didn’t like. After our food frenzy, we waddled, I mean, walked to our cozy room, marveling again at our good fortune.

The room was warm, and our beds soft and full of pillows. Before we knew it, we were asleep, and I was having a wonderful dream about being at my grandmother’s house, when “Cock-a-doodle-do,” a rooster crows. Really Cock-a-doodle-do sounds pleasant compared to the loud squawking sound this creature was making. It was more like a “RACK-A-RACK-A-RAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCKKKK.” And it went on all night long with his friend joining him.

At about 3:30 a.m., I elbowed my snoring husband, “Do you hear that racket?”

“I do now,” he said.

He did not go out and kill the rooster as I suggested. He did eventually go out and throw a rock at it, however, and reported back that there were two, and they were nestled in a tree directly across from our room.

At about 4:30 a.m. I felt like I was undergoing some psychological torture. The minute I would start to doze off, they would crow again. Clearly, these creatures were mocking me. At about 5:30 a.m., my son woke up.

“Mom, do you hear that chicken?” he asked. “If I had a shot gun or bow and arrow, I would kill it!”

“No, son, I wouldn’t let you,” I said. “That punishment is too easy. I’d rather strangle it with my bare hands.”

Then my animal-loving daughter spoke up.

“Mom, poor roosters. They are just confused by the street lights, poor things.”

“Why do roosters crow at the sun, anyway?” I asked, thinking that the Bates Motel might have been preferable.

Speaking of the sun, it finally came up, and I walked out the door to confront my torturer and put an end to this once and for all. As I did, he and his friend, or, perhaps, his rival, flew right over my head. I guess they saw the crazed look in my eye. The kids thought it was the funniest thing ever.

In fact, instead of being grumpy from lack of sleep, we laughed and laughed as each of us took turns imitating the roosters’ crow. My son said mine sounded like Scooby-doo. We then went out and commiserated with the other sleepless hotel guests. I had just vowed to never return as long as roosters roamed the planet when my daughter made me promise to come back in the spring.

On the way home, I thought maybe one day when they are grown and at the table with their families, they’ll remember this trip fondly, and say to their children, “Did I ever tell you about the time your grandma wanted to strangle a rooster?”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving wish list

After thirty some odd years of sitting at the kids' table for Thanksgiving, I have been promoted to head chef. It’s like going from janitor to CEO. I would use some kind of sports analogy here like minor to major league, but that’s best left to the sports-writing professionals.

Anyway, it’s on me. And I don’t care if it is just my mom and dad coming, that’s a lot of pressure. Of course, I volunteered for it and am excited about it. I decided I would keep it simple and make it a family affair: turkey cooked by the hubby, dressing by Aunt Pearle (found in the freezer section of Publix), corn by McKenzie’s (freezer section), green beans by Allen’s (found in big can) and rolls by Sister Schubert (We all know where to find her).

But, alas, my husband got involved.

For him, planning a Thanksgiving menu is like the kids making a wish list for Santa - lots of unrealistic items on it. His first one was giblet gravy. For starters, I’m not hundred percent certain what a giblet is much less how to make gravy from it. His second item? Homemade dressing. That I may be able to do, except he and I have a difference of opinion between what qualifies as dressing and what qualifies as stuffing – a major difference of opinion.

Then he requested broccoli casserole. I can’t really blame the man for this one. Ever since we got back from our honeymoon, he’s asked me to make it. I told him as soon as I found a good recipe. That was almost 14 years ago. Needless to say, it made the list. His next item was homemade rolls like my grandmamma used to make. Oh, how I miss her. It’s amazing how certain smells can bring her right back. Makes me wonder if one day my kids will catch a whiff of Little Caesar’s pizza and think, “Oh, reminds me of my mom …”

Back to the wish list …

“I found a good garlic mashed potatoes recipe,” said my helpful husband.

“I don’t think that will work with instant,” I said.

“Well, we can do real ones if you like,” he said. “If we are cooking, we are cooking.”

In case you are unclear, we equals me.

Today, he asked, albeit a bit tentative, “What kind of pies are you making?”

“I am BUYING pumpkin,” I replied.

“Well, what about pecan?” he ventured. “You know Mrs. So and So’s recipe from church. Can you call her to get it?”

Man, he was getting brave in his hunger.

Lest I seem like I’m picking on him, my kids have been every bit as bad. I looked at my list today and someone had added vinilla (sic) ice cream.

Today, as I left for the store, I asked “Does anyone want to go with me?”


Then I came home and started cooking, “Does anyone want to help me?”


If I weren’t so happy about doing it and so thankful that I am able to and so thrilled to have my parents over, especially my precious mom who has had two very rough years, I would feel a lot like the little red hen. As it is, I feel quite blessed. Not to mention, slightly hungry.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

All I want for Christmas is ... mind control?

My son wants Mindflex for Christmas. Have you heard of it? You put on the headset and use your powers of concentration to move the ball around the game console and through an obstacle course. Seriously, you raise and lower the ball by alternating concentrating and relaxing your mind.

What ever happened to checkers?

And how does this thing work? It’s by Mattel, so it must be safe. Right.

My son tried to tell me it was good for his brain. I told him so were math problems.

Fortunately, it’s a moot point – it cost $143, and I have a feeling after five minutes of concentrating and failing to move the ball through the hoops, they would soon grow bored.

My daughter wants a frog. They sell them at the toy store now for $19.95. She showed it to me as we were checking out.

“Oh, they are great,” said the saleslady. “You don’t have to do anything to them.”

“Not even feed them?” I asked.

“Oh, well, yes, you have to feed them,” she said, “but you don’t have to clean out their cage.”


After two guinea pigs and a rowdy puppy, I heard Santa put a moratorium on live animals in the sleigh. You can thank us for that.

It’s always a challenge to find the perfect gift - one that will make your children happy, but not make you broke. I’m sure my Christmas present dilemma is nothing new. When I was a child, I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll with all my heart. I knew someone who had four, and she pulled down their bloomers revealing Xavier Roberts signature to prove they were the real deal. At $100 a doll, I thought she had to be the richest girl in the world. The sad part is they were so valuable she wasn’t allowed to play with them. She had to leave them propped on her bed like trophies.

I’m sure my parents debated, but wisely they chose to buy me an imitation version of the doll. She was just as ugly as the real thing, and I loved her every bit as much until I outgrew her and left her by the wayside, which happened all too quickly.

Maybe I should follow their example and devise an imitation Mindflex. You know, make an aluminum headband and put some balls on the table. Let the kids concentrate until the balls move or they become blue in the face and grow bored with it. I may not be a mind-reader, but I can predict if I spent $143, I would end up with the exact same result.

As for the frog, maybe I can talk Santa into making some allowances on that one. He was awfully cute!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Music to my ears

Someone once asked me if I’d like to be a kid again. I said no, mainly because I sure would hate to go through those awkward teen years again. But, I do think it would be nice to see things as children do sometimes.

This morning, for example, my son was very excited because we were finally going to play the Christmas CD that he brought home from chorus. Since it was homework and the boy is so darn cute, I was willing to break my no Christmas songs before Thanksgiving rule.

“Okay, but we are going to listen to ‘You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch' first,” I said, ever the Scrooge.

“I’m not trying out for ‘Holy Night,’” he said, seriously.

“Why?” I asked, fully expecting him to tell me that he can’t sing. He’s cute, but, unfortunately, he sings like his mama.

To my surprise, he said, “Because I’d be tired by the time I finished singing it. That’s a long song. I’d be out of breath!”

I hugged him and told him to try out anyway. In fact, I even let him practice on the way to school at the top of his lungs. He hit the high notes, much like Alfalfa in The Little Rascals. I declared it beautiful and could tell by the proud look on his face, he agreed.

Oh, to be eight-years-old!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Carpooling to Cotillion

The best conversations happen in the backseat of carpool, especially carpool to Cotillion. I was never in Cotillion, but heaven knows, I could have used it, then and now. My husband outweighs me by 130ish lbs., and I still lead on the dance floor, when I’m not stepping on his feet, that is.

Therefore, I decided to do the right thing and enroll my daughter in it, so she can learn all the manners that she doesn’t get taught at home, including proper rising. There IS a correct way for a lady to get out of a chair, you know.

As homework, each Cotillion participant must get so many signatures saying they’ve practiced different elements of etiquette. One of them was paying compliments. I waited all day for mine. Would she say I was pretty? Sweet? Smart? Finally, it came.

“Mom, did I tell you that the tea you made is very good?”

That was better than expected. In the South, praising one’s sweet tea is the ultimate compliment.

“Now can you sign my book?” she said.

Giveth and taketh away, I thought, as I signed my name in the “Paying compliments” column.

She was still gathering signatures as I drove her and her friends to Cotillion.

“Be sure to watch me proper rise when I get out the car,” she said, “so you can sign off on it.”

I smiled to myself. We drive an Expedition. I couldn’t wait to see her proper rise out of that.

“I forgot my gloves,” said one of the girls hurrying back into the house to get them.

“Good thing you found them,” my daughter said. “I took mine off last time because they were bothering me, and I had to hold a boy’s hand, and it was sweaty.”

“You mean you touched a boy’s hand without a glove?!” asked her friend.

“Yes, ewww, it was gross,” she said.

At this point, I broke the chauffeur’s code and acknowledged I was listening to their conversation.

“Well, I hope you didn’t say anything,” I said, feeling sorry for the poor nervous fellow.

“No, but I made a facial expression to let him know!”

“I hope we don’t have to close dance,” said another friend.

Again, I, being a mom, could not resist.

“Why, because of the sweat?”

“Mom, you know why …. Awkward!”

After a few giggles, the girls debated what kind of punch is served and whether or not they would try any tonight. Soon, we reached our destination.

“Have fun, wear your gloves, and don’t forget to proper rise on the way out,” I said, amidst their laughter.

I drove home in silence, regretting that the drive there had been such a short one. I’m so glad that, despite my busy schedule, I had volunteered to drive carpool that night. Having an opportunity to have a candid talk about boys is very rare. And I must admit that the thought of my little girl growing up made my owns palms a bit sweaty.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Leigh in Wonderland

I’m late! I’m late for a very important date! No time to say hello. Goodbye! I’m late; I’m late; I’m late! – White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland

I have no idea what Lewis Carroll’s character is supposed to represent, but it reminds me the Christmas season, which apparently now last from the day after Halloween through New Year’s.

Here we are five days into November – the stores are decorated, Christmas commercials are on television, my children are making their lists, parties are being planned and Leigh is feeling as frantic as the White Rabbit. It’s enough to make me want to pitch my pumpkins off the porch.

When I was growing up, we put our tree up the week before Christmas albeit this was more as a practicality since our wood burning stove would quickly turn it to kindling. We sang carols on Christmas morning and made (and ate) fudge all month long. Now, that’s the way to do it.

Now days it’s a frantic rush, which is such a shame. Thanksgiving, an awesome holiday – no gifts, no rushing around, just food, family and friends, and, oh, yeah, remembering what we are thankful for – gets totally overlooked.

I have already heard people say remember the reason for the season, and I will. I promise, just as soon as it gets here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Take a trip with Brown's Guide to Georgia

My mama is going to be so proud! I made Brown’s Guide to Georgia!

You may have read the popular Georgia travel and recreation magazine founded in 1972, but, growing up, my family lived it. Each summer we marked off scenic places in our Brown’s Guide, most of which had an historical significance, ignored the restaurant recommendations in lieu of Mom’s peanut butter and jelly and a Coca-Cola, and hit the road in our Pontiac, the hot air blowing in our faces.

Road trips have come a long way since then - air conditioning, fast food restaurants, seat belts, DVD players – and so has Brown’s Guide. The magazine is now entirely online, offering an incredible resource for natives and visitors. Instead of 150 restaurant reviews per print issue, Brown’s Guide online now has 800 in Atlanta alone. Want to know where to hike, bike, canoe, shop, eat and sleep in our fair state? Check out Brown’s Guide’s 7,000 listings at their Web site

In addition, the site contains videos, galleries and blogs, ranging in topics from restaurants to family vacations to Georgia state parks to a young boy’s dilemma over whether he should become president or manager of Dunkin’ Donuts. By the way, the last one’s mine. Hope you and my mama will check it out! (Click here to go directly to my post on Brown's Guide)