Friday, March 26, 2010

Moms' magical powers

My son is convinced I have magic powers. I've worked very hard to perpetuate this myth, so I'm almost hesitant to write this column. My hope is I can bury it in a time capsule for him to unearth in 20 years when he has a family of his own. Then he can go, "Ah, so that's how she did it!" Just like the television show "Magicians secrets revealed."

Now, not all of my tricks can be attributed to smoke and mirrors. While many claim moms have a sixth sense, I believe our true secret weapons come from what my husband calls "Moms' turbo senses."

First and foremost, we have a heightened sense of smell. Who among us can deny that moms have the keenest nose around? If you doubt me, just put it to the test. Take one baby with a dirty diaper (aren't they always?) and place said baby in a room with mom and dad together and observe to see which one breaks down and changes it first.

It's my sense of smell, in fact, that, in large part, makes my son believe I'm psychic. Recently, for example, as I tucked him into bed, I leaned over to kiss his cheek and said, "You didn't brush your teeth, did you?"

"I'm going right now!" he said, springing out of bed, shaking his head on his way out, mumbling, "How does she do it?"

"Poor boy," I said to my husband as I came downstairs. "He hasn't learned that he can't eat beef nachos for lunch and get away without brushing his teeth."

Fortunately, right now they are just kid odors, but I can certainly see why my mom and her super senses waited up to hug and kiss me goodnight as a teen.

Thanks to my heightened sense of hearing, I've also convinced my son I have eyes in the back of my head. Just the other day, I heard the front door (which we use primarily for company) open. Then I heard it close quietly. Next I heard the clomp, clomp, clomp of someone running up the stairs.

"Son, what are you doing?"

My bionic ears heard the sound of his footsteps pausing on the stairway.

"I'm just going up to my room for a little bit."

"I know you are filthy; change your clothes now!"

And then my turbo ears heard him mumble, "How does she do it?"

No mom who has taken her kid to the playground or to Monkey Joe's or any busy area can deny our heightened eyesight. Moms can talk, walk and do crossword puzzles without ever taking their eyes off their kids. It's a gift. Not only that, chances are we can keep an eye on other moms' kids in the process. Who's pinching whom? Just ask; we saw it all.

Moms are, perhaps, best known for our sense of taste. Not really our own taste, but our kids' taste. We know what they like and how they like it. In addition, we know how to make vegetables, such as beans, turnip green and carrots, taste good. Tip: Sugar, sugar and more sugar. There's little better than seeing the pleasure in a kid's eyes and then hearing the surprise in his voice when he asks, "You mean this is good for me?"

But, the best of all our senses is that of touch. There are very few things in life, at any age, that a mama's hug won't cure. And guess what? We moms know that those little squeezes are the true source of our magical powers. Without those, we cease to exist. So, even if you're old enough to see beyond our tricks, please keep 'em coming. Though we seem mighty, we really need them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fish Tales

A friend and I swapped fish tales recently. No, we weren't sitting in a boat on a lake. We were standing in Petsmart looking at aquariums.
He revealed that his daughter would like a goldfish for her seventh birthday. He pictured a little round bowl for her dresser. She pictured a big aquarium with a tank, filter, heater, gravel, logs, plants and fun things for the fish to swim through, to the tune of $180.
As they browsed the aisles, he soon realized that the type of fish she liked weren't actually goldfish. They were blood parrot fish. The difference? About $9!

In addition, it turns out that they are social fish, which doesn't mean they like to be petted like my daughter does ours every morning, but that they live in groups, so he'll need at least three or four.

My reply? "You only turn seven once!"

I told him we won our goldfish from the county fair each year. My kids say they live longer. Of course, I confided, when I added up the entrance fee, arm band, $5 per game fee, cotton candy and corn dogs, we probably could have come home with an aquarium full of blood parrot fish, instead of a plastic bag with one tiny goldfish, for the same amount of money.

Speaking of tiny fish, when my daughter was in kindergarten, we, too, went fish shopping. For whatever reason, she fell in love with "Spot." Once they name them, they are yours. Spot, fortunately for me, was in the two-cent tank, otherwise known as the feeder tank, and, fortunately for him, my daughter didn't care.

"You mean you want this one?" asked the sales clerk.

I looked at my daughter. She beamed and nodded. Two cents later, Spot came home with us. He lived to be one month old.

The next year, my daughter came home and said her classroom aquarium was empty. We decided to surprise the kids by filling the tank. My husband had seen some cheaper fish at Wal-mart. Yes, cheaper than two cents. Just kidding. He splurged and spent $1.50 a piece on them, and then $10 on gas for the return trip, as they both died before he reached the school.

Our current fish is a cannibal. One day we woke up, and the kids asked, "Where's Goldie? Spot the Third's in here, but Goldie's gone."

"Did you dispose of Goldie?" I asked my husband out of ear shot.


"The fish. Did you have to flush him?"

"I haven't seen him."

Spot the Third became known as Hannibal from that day forward.

The proudest fish tale I have to tell is about my son. It happened this past fall. He stood in line for 30 minutes for a chance to throw a ball in a fishbowl and take home a goldfish while his other friends played.

"Don't you want to go do the jumpy thing?" I asked, anxious to go to dinner and dreading the thought of carrying a fish around all night. "You are wasting all your play time."

"I want to win a fish," he said.

"Just what we need," I'm pretty certain I said to the mom next to me. And about that time, "Splunk," in the bowl went the ball.

"Mom! I won! I won!"

"OK, son, well, it's time to go now," I said, less than enthused.

"Wait, Mom, I've got to give this to somebody."

And to my amazement, I watched my son take his bag to a kindergarten boy and hand it to him.
He came back and said, "OK, I'm ready now."

"Do you know that boy?"

"No, but I saw him crying because he didn't win a fish. He needs it more than I do."

I have never hugged a kid so hard.

Later, that little boy's mother told me how much it meant to them. It seemed she'd been sick and in the hospital all week. All her son had talked about was getting to the festival so he could win a fish. Not winning the fish triggered a week's full of emotions. I hadn't even noticed the crying boy running by me. Thankfully, my son had. I don't know which mom was happier, but I know we were all glad for that little boy to go home with his fish in the bag.

Well, everyone except for Hannibal, that is.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Snake bit: luck of the Green's

Saint Patrick’s Day is almost upon us, and the little leprechaun that my children try every year to catch with elaborate traps, is already creating mischief. Just today, in fact, I began to brush my teeth and bleach! realized someone had dropped a big dollop of hand soap on its bristles.

“Son! Did you accidentally drop soap on my toothbrush?” I yelled.

“No, ma’am! I didn’t do it.”

“Well, then, who did?”

“I don’t know. Nobody!” Apparently, that’s our leprechaun’s name.

Not only that, Nobody likes brownies. He likes them so much, he stashed one way up high in the cabinet. I mean, waaayy up high, as in “I have to stand on the counter to reach that cabinet” high. Methinks this was quite the extraordinary leprechaun. Not only that, he must have stashed them up there last March 17 and forgotten them because they were hard as door stoppers.

Yeah, Nobody’s been busy wreaking havoc on the household, dropping everything behind but what I could use a little of – luck. Of course, luck isn’t something I’m used to. Growing up, my sister had all of it, and I used it to my advantage.

“Christie, here take my tickets and win a cake for me,” I’d say at fall festivals.

“Lucky number 21!” the announcer would call.

“Leigh, what kind of cake do you want?”

I’ve seen her win three in a night – easy.

Sometimes we’d go to auctions and talk our parents into buying us grab bags. I don’t remember much about what was in mine, but I know what my sister had in hers – cash. Always. Every time.

I hope I don’t come across as jealous. I wasn’t. She was/is just plain lucky. Some people are, and others are like me, my dad and his father before him are what my dad calls “snake bit.”

Instead of “Rockabye Baby,” my dad used to sing the song, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” I loved it because I felt like our “misery” was something we shared and still do.

And, in case you are wondering, snake bit means that the day after vacation when you have an early a.m. meeting, expect your tires to be flat - on both cars! Snake bit means you cure your headache and then your eye swells. Snake bit means you play tennis fighting off sweat bees in your yellow skirt that you wore backwards while all the other women look as cool as cucumbers. Snake bit means you’ll break the light bulbs or the eggs or drop the milk before you get out of the store. Snake bit means you’ll never win the lottery, a raffle, or those concerts tickets. But, you’ll come to live with it because, occasionally, something wonderful will happen.

When my grandmother, whom we called Mama Dot - whose husband I inherited my bad luck from - passed away, the six granddaughters were instructed to draw for her wedding bands. Piggy Green, whom I’m working on a book about, had given it to her in the early 1920s. It is a beauty, white gold with diamonds, and though he died well before Mama Dot did at 99 years, she never took it off.

My snake bit daddy drew on my and my sister’s behalf, and, guess what, I won. So, though I have my frustrating days, days when I wish things would go smoothly, and I wouldn’t find brownies in the cabinet and soap on my toothbrush, I know deep down that I am actually a very lucky girl. And I won't let Nobody tell me any different.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another bouncing birthday

Botox, barbells, a blood pressure cuff and a bigger purse -- can you guess by my wish list how old I'll be? If you guessed 4-0, you are wrong! I had a small birthday party recently with my family. My mother bought me a big, black bag with silver studs on it, and large, clunky earrings and a necklace to match.

"Kelly Ripa wears these, so I thought they would look good on you," she said.

Well, what's good for Kelly Ripa is good for me, I thought.

"It can be a new style for you," said my mom.

Why, yes, it could, I thought. Kelly Ripa and I could look like twins!

"You could call it a pre-40 style," she said. "Because you know you are pre-40 now."

Well, that took a little oomph out of it. (Surprisingly, Kelly Ripa is 40. I could have sworn she was about six years younger than I).

I know a lot of women who treat 40, or pre-40, as if it were New Year's, and not the party-till-you-drop part -- the resolution part. I do not.

In fact, I told my girlfriend recently, "Yes, I have a birthday coming up, and I do not want to run a marathon! I do not want to drink less, go to bed earlier, or even exercise more. I just want to go out to dinner to a nice restaurant and eat creamed cauliflower. I don't want you to pay for my meal; I don't want you to buy me any gifts. I just want to go on a girls' night out to my favorite restaurant, the expensive one that I never get to go to."

"Do you want us to donate money to Haiti in your honor like Melinda had us do on her birthday?" asked my friend,

"Well, no, I'm not that good," I said. "I just want you to show up!"

My other treat for my birthday was gluten-free cake. Betty Crocker has a version, and I was so excited that I bought it months ago and have kept it on the shelf just in case the store stopped carrying it.

As I bit into the wheat-free cake, I recalled how when I was a kid I couldn't wait until I was grown. I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, drink anything anytime, stay up as late as I desired and shop until I dropped. Money would be no object. I guess I still could (except for the money part) but now I know the consequences are mighty.

So, I'll stick to my gluten-free cake, and perhaps a little ice cream, chased down with some water since I can't have caffeine past 6 p.m. I guess I'm striving for a happy medium. You know, somewhere between marathon running and walking to the mailbox.

Oh, and that nice restaurant? We went, and do you know what happens when you're pre-40? You trip over the black high heels that you wore to match your pre-40 bag and fall face forward toward the sidewalk. And, suddenly, you find your chin within an inch of the pavement, and you are balancing only by your left hand (the right one is still clutching your new bag). Your wrist is sprained, and your pride is bruised, but you've discovered the best part of your new age -- pre-40 women bounce.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Diggin' the bunny slope

My family made it to the snow-covered town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina (a mean misnomer) in the midst of what the locals call a winter storm and this Georgia girl calls a blizzard. Despite our trepidation, neither snow, nor ice, nor my migraine would stop us from having a good time.

"Can we make it from here?" my husband asked a lone man walking on the side of the road through what appeared to be a ghost town.
"I've been stuck for days in my two-wheel drive," he said, "but you can make it to the resort. Just whip it into the first parking lot, gun it so you can get up enough speed to make it over the hill, and then be prepared to hike up six flights of stairs."

"Is our truck four-wheel drive?" my son asked. It's not, in case you are wondering, but when you have a headachy wife who drank a whole pot of tea that morning, plus two anxiously chattering children, somehow you overcome these obstacles.

"Are you ready to ski?" asked the man at the ski rental counter once we, particularly, me, had finally located "the facilities."

"Well, I'm a little out of my element," I confided. "I've only skied three times in 20 years. I'm pretty nervous about the slopes. I'm really not sure I can do this."

"Here are your skis. Feel free to trade them in for a faster pair later."

Boy, that man was a lousy listener.

Yet another flight of steps later, and we were ready. But first we had to put our skis on. Did you know that if your ski boot has snow on the bottom of it, it won't fit into your ski? Talk about a design flaw!

Thanks to my husband prodding the snow off my boots with his ski poles, I was finally ready to hit the slope -- the bunny slope -- that is. Unfortunately, my first move toward it resulted in my falling flat on my face, with my boots popping out of my skis; hence, more prodding from my husband's poles while I balanced precariously on one foot.

"Come on, mom," said my son as he zipped effortlessly up the hill to the metal handle tow.

I willed my skis to move. They did -- backwards.

"Just walk, mom!" said my son on his second round down. "Put your skis like mine"

I complied and soon found myself sweating through my seven layers with the lift just out of reach.

"Is this your first time skiing?" asked the twenty-something girl manning the bunny slope bar tow.

I moved my ski, slid back, moved my ski, slid back.

"Noooo," I said.

"Have you taken lessons before?"

"Yes," I said, my pride making it sound like, "Duh?"

"Hmmm ..." she said. She might as well have added, "'Well, they didn't take."
She reached her hand out to pull me toward the tow. I moved my skis, and then slid back. Recognizing a pattern here?

"You've got to dig into the snow," she said. "Don't use your poles! Bend your knees! Turn sideways!"

I tried again -- and failed.

"Here, like this! Dig in like this," I heard a man behind me say. I looked back and that's when I realized there was a crowd of 25 people waiting for me to learn to dig.

"Oh, y'all just go around me," I said, on the verge of tears.

"No," said the darn ski tow girl. "You can do it."

About that time, the crowd started to chant "Dig! Dig! Dig!" and so did my son.

What could I do? I dug in the snow, much to the protest of my knees, and grasped the handle of the bunny slope lift with one hand, squatting like I learned to do with water skis.

"Stand up!" the young lift girl yelled. I did, but not before I dropped my poles.

"Now what do I do?"

"Let go when you get to the top!" my son said.

I did, and promptly fell again on my way down. That's when I realized I had no idea how to get up. By the way, why do other skiers gawk? Isn't it common place to see folks on the ground?

I eventually separated my boots from my skis and made my way to a vertical position. My knees, shoulders, and pride aching, I decided I would become my family's official photographer -- without my skis, that is. But, first, perhaps a little more hot tea, for medicinal purposes, of course ...