Thursday, April 30, 2009

So, you have a college student...

So, you are a parent of a college-age child. Congratulations! This means you (like I) have made it through sleepless nights and toddler tantrums (and those were just the teen years!). You've experienced the pride of seeing your child in a cap and gown, kindergarten and high school. You've taken her to get her first driver's license and picked her up from her first, second and third fender-benders. Now, she or he is about to embark on a big life. My daughter has almost finished her freshman year, so, I, being the expert that I am on the subject (lol), thought I would share a few pro's and con's with you. The rest I'll let you discover for yourself.

1. Pro--You don’t know what they are doing
Con--You don't know what they are doing

2. Pro--They get to make their own decisions
Con—They are not wise ones (or at least the ones we find out about aren't)

3. Pro--They are getting a fine education
Con—One of the required freshman seminar classes is called "Sex, drugs and rock and roll" (Go ahead and laugh--I would too if I weren't paying the bill)

4. Pro--They realize how expensive things can be.
Con—Therefore, they ask for more money

5. Pro--Phone calls from them are golden; you'll take that call anytime, anywhere
Con—Teens like to argue via text, and it’s hard for moms to effectively get their points across when I, I mean, they can’t find the punctuation or the letter “Y”

6. Pro--They are learning to be adults
Con—You won’t recognize them when they come home.

7. Pro--You now have a spare bedroom.
Con—Despite all your fantastic plans for it, it's now a storage area, a messy storage area. (Where was this stuff before?)

8. Pro--You appreciate them more, and they appreciate you more.
Con--Theoretically, that is

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My crafty kid

My daughter has been commissioned (by someone outside of the family) to knit a bear. She negotiated the deal like a pro.

“Would you like the sweater to stay on or be separate?” she asked, after discussing the time frame, color and other details. “If it’s separate, that will take longer and cost extra.”

I have a feeling she’ll never be a starving artist.

My daughter has always loved to make things. She sees art in everything, which makes it difficult to throw anything away around the house. We spread pine straw this weekend, and she wanted to keep the strings that went around the bales. I can’t wait to see what she creates with those!

The bears are her latest project. She and her friends learned to make them (as well as knit) from two angelic women after school. The knitting club, I soon learned, is like an inner sanctum. Sometimes I would come early and stand at the door, my presence barely being acknowledged. Knitters cannot be rushed.

The girls really took to the craft. My daughter’s friends would spend the night, and I heard myself saying really strange things to them such as, “Put down the yarn and go to sleep!” “One more stitch, and that’s it!” “No knitting in the dark! You’ll poke your eye out!”

(The latter was remedied by a pair of glow-in-the-dark knitting needles that she got for her birthday, by the way.)

But back to her latest project—the bears. The last rainy Sunday, she curled up on the couch and clicked, clicked, clicked her needles all day long. The result was a tiny bear friend to join her bigger bear and rabbit that she made.

Her very first bear is on a journey to Africa as part of the Mother Bear project which brings comfort and hope to kids with HIV/AIDS. After months and months of labor, she packed him up with a kiss and a little note pinned to his knitted sweater.

Although she was happy and proud to participate, it was a bitter-sweet moment for her. She loved that bear. Yesterday, she received a post card with a picture of an incredibly happy-looking little girl hugging a knitted brown bear, and, suddenly, all that knitting, unraveling, and knitting again was worth it. It’s great having a crafty kid.

If you’d like to check out the project, click here

Sunday, April 26, 2009

To-die-for recipes

I subscribe to an e-mail recipe service that sends me fabulous weekly meal ideas. I pour over them, check the ingredients, make mental notes of ways to improve them, then I promptly hit delete and order a pizza.

I’ve been afraid to delete today’s e-mail, however, because its title is “15 recipes to make before you die.”

“Oh, gosh.” I thought. “Do they know something I don’t?”

So, of course, not wanting to miss any must-have meals before I dropped dead, I checked out the list. The first two were white bread and fried chicken. Now, I’ve made both of those before, and, yes, they could kill a person. The rest of the list seemed mediocre to me, but it made me consider the recipes that I would really like to preserve or--dare I even hope—to perfect before my time comes.

1. My grandmother’s lemon meringue pie--I’ve made the meringue once, just need to make a pie to go with it. My sister works on this one, but I haven’t tried to since my husband doesn’t like lemon. Still the thought of it makes my mouth water to this day.

2.—My grandmother’s rolls. They would literally melt in our mouths, and Grandmama was never satisfied until we ate at least five. On Thanksgiving, we would eat, while she served them to us hot out of the oven. Both of my daughters and my husband have tried to imitate her recipe. The result? Pretty good but not as light and fluffy, and, boy, is all that flour messy! I thought it had snowed indoors.

3.--My mama’s fudge. I have tried and tried, but it ends up with sugar granules. I’m not giving up, though, because all that stirring is definitely worth it.

4.--My other grandmother’s (Mama Dot’s) roast and gravy. I left one in the crock pot for almost two days. I’m not sure if you are really supposed to do that, but it was as close as I’ve ever come.

5.--My mom’s chicken livers. Truthfully, I don’t have the courage to ever make those, but I sure did love them when I was little. (And doesn’t that say a lot!)

6.—My mama’s homemade peach ice cream—She makes it with raw eggs, so I’ve been afraid to serve it to my little ones, but there is no better recipe.

7.—My mama’s lasagna—She makes it with cottage cheese. Mine comes pretty close, if only I wouldn’t run out of meat sauce every time when I’m layering.

8.—My grandmother’s pound cake—It was so good we used to butter it and eat it for breakfast, thanks to a dad who shared our sweet tooth.

I think that’s a good start. If I get really smart, I’ll post some of these, so we can all try them—God willing!

(P.S. I’d love to hear what’s on your list!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fashion sense

There’s nothing cuter to me than kids who dress themselves. You’ve seen them—little girls at the store with their fairy princess costumes, shorts when it’s too cold out, or a black velvet dress in the summertime. Kids never seem to get the season right. Of course, with the weather around here lately, that’s understandable.

When my oldest was born, I coordinated her outfits for as long as I could. It was the early 90s, yet I clung to the 80s, so the poor girl probably looked like Madonna (her early years) with her oversized hairbows and matching socks. I also put her in lot of cutsie girlie outfits, like the watermelon dress. I saw a photo recently in which my daughter had to be six or seven in a watermelon dress—with bloomers. Poor thing.

About third grade, she put her foot down and refused to wear hairbows. In fact, she wanted her hair cut very short, just in case I tried to make her. Then she found a pair of old blue jean shorts and a t-shirt with tweetie bird on it, and that’s what she wore—for years!

Even as a teen, she preferred blue jeans and t-shirts to dresses, jewelry and bows. I think I ruined her. So, I gave the other two free reign with their clothes, and it’s always funny to me to see what they pick out. Most of the time, I smile but keep quiet, although I recently had to tell my daughter that plaids and stripes just don’t match.

With my son, I find myself asking things like, “Do they let you in school with holes in your pants.” To which he replied, “Oh, I’ve worn some worse than that!” The neighbor up the street is six years older and twice as big. No matter where I hide those hand-me-downs, he finds them and bounds down the stairs, “Mom, look at me!”

“You look so handsome,” I say, pretending not to notice his pants are two feet too long.

He also has a penchance for muscle-shirts, or wife-beaters, whatever you like to call them. I’m afraid he got that from my husband, but HIS fashion-sense is a whole other story. Anyway, today, my son dug out a blue sleeveless shirt and red sweatpants with the pockets hanging out.

He answered the door, and our neatly-dressed neighbor boy said, “Dude, what kind of shirt is that? I can see your armpits!"

"It's one that he picked out," I laughed. "And those are the best kind!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Can you smell that smell?

“What’s that smell?” my daughter asked as she walked in the door.

“Hash browns, pork chops and black-eyed peas,” I said.

“What’s the smell?” my son asked as he walked in two minutes behind her.

“That’s your dinner,” I said, getting ready to explain to them that aroma was probably a better word to use, when they both said, “YUM!”

I took it as a great compliment.

I get migraines and sometimes when I’m lying in bed with an ice-pack on my head, I try to picture myself in a relaxing place. At first I imagined the beach, but the thought of the heat and the sun and the waves made my head hurt worse. I tried several other scenarios before hitting upon one that really relaxes me, one that leaves me with a sense of well-being and makes me forget (for a moment) about the pounding in my head. It’s the memory of the smell of my childhood home—freshly cut clover wafting through my open window mingled with burgers and homemade French fries frying on the stove. I can almost hear my mom calling, “Time to eat!”

About three years ago, my husband lost his sense of smell. He had a terrible sinus infection, so rather than consult the doctor, he used an over-the-counter product that you squirt up your nose straight into your sinuses. He used it often, for weeks, perhaps a month, not knowing that it contains zinc, and zinc can obliterate one’s sense of smell.

We didn’t realize it until we stayed at someone’s cabin in Florida. The water had an incredible sulfur smell, causing me to have to hold my breath while I showered. It was like bathing in rotten eggs. My husband meanwhile sang in the shower, totally oblivious to the odor. That was our first big clue. Later, he did some research and learned there was a class action lawsuit against the drug’s manufacturer.

Today, he claims to have regained some of his sense of smell. Occasionally, he’ll perk up and sniff like a dog that’s caught wind of something. But, other than that, he doesn’t have much. Now it’s up to me to tell him when he reeks, like when he came home the other day with his shoes covered in gasoline. I’m glad he’s not a smoker.

Of course, there are times--like when we were camping and had to use the port-a-potty-- when I envy him. Then there are times, like today with the smell of potatoes frying, I feel sorry for him and, even though he says he doesn’t miss it, I hope he’ll smell again soon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tween mom

I’ve hit an awkward age—closer to 40 than 30, but fit in with neither. My 40-year-old friends won’t allow me into their club until I reach that magic number, and 30-year-olds call me ma’am. I guess you could say I am an adult “tween.”

Part of this segregation has less to do with my actual age and more to do with my “mommy age,” i.e. how old my children are. Now days, my kids—my little ones—are considered older by moms of preschoolers. Recently on the church playground, several young moms chatted and bonded over the number of teeth their little toddlers had. As I watched my big kids play, I tried several times to make polite conversation and was promptly ignored.

So, bored silly since my kids are older and don’t need me much on the playground anymore, I made one last attempt to make friends by weighing in on the fascinating subject of children’s teeth.

“My baby’s teeth came in when he was three months old!” I said.

“Oh! You have a baby?” instantly becoming part of their inner circle. “How old is he?”

“He’s almost eight.” I replied.

I saw them give each other the eye and then resume their talk of bottle versus breast feeding. I decided it was best not to comment on that subject.

Another reason it’s hard for me to find my place among moms is that I have a daughter who can vote. If I tell that to moms with new babies, they look at me like I’m from Mars. On the flip side, some of my daughter’s friends’ parents are closer to my parents’ age. And here I sit in between.

Age is also an issue in finding a good health club. For the past year my husband I worked out at a gym where the average age had to be 70. I am not kidding. We lifted weights next to people who used canes, walkers, and even seeing eye dogs. It was quite inspiring, and I pray I’ll be able to do what do at that age, but I felt a little out of place.

So, now I’ve gone to the other extreme. I’ve joined a gym full of young, very young people. I think it will be good for a change. In fact, today was the first time I’ve sweated during a work-out in a year. My competitive nature took over as soon as I discovered my walking pace was no longer the fastest in the room. I may end up in better shape, but I’ll probably have to buy a t-shirt that reads, “Don’t call me ma’am!”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hot rain and cold drinks

I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world, but here in Georgia, it’s rainy. Our drought officially ended last week, and it’s way too soon to complain, but the gloominess can wear on a person.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s going to be like the summer I graduated from college and got my first real job—a sales job peddling soft drink machines door to door. Armed with a briefcase, two degrees (both semi-useless), lots of enthusiasm and an umbrella, I set out to break every sales record, which wasn’t too hard since this was a brand-new position.

That summer it rained every day, and the river my husband and I canoed down on spring break rose 44 ft. And I didn’t even break my own sales record as I soon found out soft drinks don’t really sell well when the sun’s not out. I remember wadding through the parking lot in a torrential downpour to call on one particular business. I asked if I could interest them in a soft drink machine, and they replied, “No, but would you like a cup of coffee?”

I guess I could have gone back to my office, except I didn’t have one, just a desk in the corner facing the wall with a phone that I shared. I’d rather be wet. Years later I discovered what experienced sales people did on rainy days—meet at Waffle House.

Anyway, you’d think since I work from home most of the time now, rainy days wouldn’t be a problem. Wrong. Instead of wandering outside for some sunshine when I need a break, I walk around the house, making a mental to-do list. Instead of beautiful new hardwood floors, I see one strip that’s not finished. Instead of cheerful yellow paint in the kitchen, my eye goes to the blue spot that I missed. Instead of a nice walk down the street on my lunch break, I went to Target and bought contact paper because every drawer in my home needs to be organized and lined with it.

Am I nuts? Perhaps or maybe spring cleaning coinciding with the rainy season has made me stir crazy. Either way, it’s enough to make a girl give up her cushy desk job and go back to selling cold drinks in the hot rain.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shop 'til you drop

I just returned from an afternoon of shopping. Despite what my family may think, I really don’t like to shop. I like to buy. Please don’t mistake me, I don’t run in buying items willy-nilly. I know exactly what I want, and I like to go in the store, make a beeline for that item, buy it and repeat the cycle at the next shop.

I think this behavior stems from my childhood. My daddy hated and still hates to shop. In fact, Mom who is a step away from sainthood in my book would buy him ten pairs of blue jeans or shoes or whatever he needed and have him try them on at home and then return what didn’t fit.

At Christmas, when it came time to buy Mom’s presents, usually pot holders and bath beads, Dad would stand at the front of the store (always K-mart) and time my sister and me to see how fast we could find the items and get back. We actually loved it. I would do great in one of those contests in which you have five minutes or less to fill your buggy with free items.

My son must take after his grandfather because he has such an aversion to stores that I gave up taking him a looong time ago. I used to think he was just plain allergic to them by the way he acted—fidgeting, screaming, moaning, groaning, itching, bellyaching, etc. However, he seems to be fine in army/navy stores, toy stores and certain departments of Dick’s Sporting Goods (i.e. gun/bow and arrow) section, so I’m guessing it’s not physical.

Once I took my older daughter to the mall with my son in tow. Bad idea, very bad idea. He planted his heels into the floor and refused to budge in front of one of the ladies' clothing store. I don’t know if it was the perfume smell, the glittery dresses or the half-dressed mannequins, but my boy was not going to set foot in there. That was a girl’s store, and he knew it.

Now, I know I’m the mom, and I should be able to make him. My husband’s already told me that. But I’m here to tell you, it was impossible. I don’t care how much bigger I am, no amount of threatening, promises of ice cream or cajoling was going to change his mind. And he didn’t care how many people were staring at us, either. Finally, I looked at him and declared, “This is the LAST time I’m taking you shopping.”

Do you know he had the nerve to look at me and smile?

Fortunately, we’ve been blessed with hand-me-downs. I’ve also been known to let him run around in pants that are too short or a little too long. He doesn’t complain, and it doesn’t bother me a bit. Hopefully, he’ll grow out of it by his wedding day. If not, maybe she’ll bring the tuxes to him to try on, and if she's willing to do that, she's a keeper. Just ask my dad.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blondes have more fun

This morning my son came into the kitchen outraged.

“Kids at school are calling people with blonde hair dumb,” he said. “I’m not dumb, and neither are you, Mom!”

“No, you’re right,” I said. “We’re both extremely intelligent.”

I could see him stifle a laugh at that.

“Well, it’s not right,” he said, outraged.

Seeing the look on his face, I couldn't help but say, “Son, I have to tell you that blonde jokes are made about women and girls, not blonde boys or men.”

I could see a light bulb light up over his head as a smile slowly crossed his face, followed by peals of hysterical laughter.

“Now, that’s funny!” he said.

“There are also such things as blonde moments,” said his tow-headed sister.

“What are those?” he asked.

“It’s when a blonde person does something crazy,” I said.

“Like jump off a cliff?”

“Well, that is crazy, but, I mean, more like something silly.”

“Like run into a wall?” he asked and then demonstrated.

Did I mention it was 7 a.m.?

“Why don’t you tell us some of your blonde jokes?”

He proceeded to, as we laughed hardily.

His sister then topped him (as sisters tend to do) with jokes of her own, as we squealed with laughter. I guess the saying is true…Blondes do have more fun, even if it’s sometimes at our own expense.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Things that go bump in the night

We just got home from group camping, and I am pretty darn tired. I spent most of the night awake listening to strange sounds—whistle, honk, growl, snort, moan, rattle and repeat. No, we weren’t being invaded by wild animals. That’s the chorus of noise that comes from very tired adults sleeping on the ground.

One man sounded like an elephant or a weak trumpet. It was unreal. Finally, I asked aloud, “What is that noise?”

To my surprise an answer came back to me in the dark, “I don’t know, but it’s the fourth time it’s come on.”

Actually, I was sleeping pretty well at first, exhausted from a full day of hiking (Our campsite was located on Agony Hill, and to get to Agony Hill one must hike up Agony Trail), helping my son with archery and BB’s, packing and unpacking, and ignoring the large amount of dirt on my son’s hands.

So, when it came time for bed, I climbed in my sleeping bag and went right to sleep. Around 3 or 4 a.m., while I was having an unusual dream in which Donald Trump was trying to court me with diamonds and gold (Okay, perhaps, I shouldn’t have told that one!), I reached over and felt something. No, it wasn’t The Donald’s lush head of hair.

It felt slippery and rubbery and coiled up like a--SNAKE! Suddenly fully awake and alarmed, I grabbed whatever it was and flung it onto the floor. Not wanting to scream and alarm my son and the other snoring campers, I woke up my husband, who was in the cot next to me, and said, urgently, “Give me your flashlight!”

And what do you think he said? (I would love to hear your guesses.)

He said, “What do you need it for?”

“Just give it to me!” I said, growing increasingly frustrated. “Trust me on this!”

“I’m not getting it unless you tell me what’s it’s for,” he said.


He complied, and I shined the light on the floor, hoping it hadn’t slithered into my bag. But, no, it was right were it landed.

Maybe I killed it, I thought.

I’d forgotten my glasses, so I leaned closer and closer. It was a rubber snake.

“WHY ME? WHO WOULD DO THIS TO ME?” I shouted to God and whoever else was in earshot.

I knew my husband and son weren’t brave enough so that left one other culprit—my best friend who has a wicked (or warped!) sense of humor. Plus my son recognized the snake as belonging to her son.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink afterward. I kept my flashlight tucked under my chin and even turned it on a time or two to make sure the toy snake hadn’t moved. While I was awake, I tried to match the whistle, honk, growl, snort, moan and rattle to its source and planned my revenge--my sweet, sweet revenge.