Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bye-bye, Bob Bob

We said good-bye to a gentle giant today - my father-in-law - known affectionately as Bob Bob by his grandchildren (and me, his only daughter-in-law). I had the honor of writing his obituary. We were being charged by the word, and though he’d probably admonish me for going over my budget, it still wasn’t enough.

Bob Bob was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. He was quick-witted and liked to tease. If he teased you, he liked you, and you could tell it immediately by the mischievous look in his kind eyes.

After my husband and I were married, and I was pregnant with my daughter, whom I just knew would be a boy (I even decorated the nursery in blue. My first lesson in mother’s intuition), Bob Bob informed me that 12 lb. babies ran in their family. And even though his mom was my size (5’2ish and petite), she managed to have five boys on their Kentucky farm all weighing over 12 lbs. Bob Bob would surpass his older brother and father by nearly a foot, eventually reaching 6’7.”

I guess I could have laughed this comment off, but my daughter had her foot planted squarely in my ribs. Not only could I feel how large it was; I could see it. Each night, I’d trace the perfect outline of a baby’s foot – a foot that I had no doubt belonged to a 12 lb. baby.

Bob Bob enjoyed teasing me about it mightily. In the end? I had a long, skinny little baby girl weighing 7 lbs. 8 oz. with the largest feet you’ve ever seen. In fact, she’s still trying to grow into them. If she follows in her grandfather, great-uncles and cousins’ footsteps, there’s no doubt she will.

I am quickly becoming the shortest in the family as height does not run on my side. In fact, I’ll never forget the first time my dad met Bob Bob at my daughter’s cowboy and Indian-themed birthday party. Bob was sitting in a chair, and my dad (5’8 ¾) walked up, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. Bob Bob stood up and extended his hand, and my dad almost got whiplash looking up. It was a priceless moment. They soon put on their cowboy hats and bonded over ice cream and cake and grandchildren.

Speaking of grandchildren, Bob Bob loved his dearly, and it was mutual. My daughter, in particular, spent many hours sitting his lap. She was his girl. When my son came along, we quickly realized he had inherited a bit of his grandfather’s good-natured personality and wit. There’s been many a time I’ve heard Bob Bob tease him about something and witnessed my son’s innocently funny response leave him shaking with laughter, often to the point of tears.

I sat next to my son today and felt him shake with tears, too. This time they were tears over the loss of his dear Bob Bob, the one who kept him supplied with nutty-buddy ice creams, the one who let him punch him as hard as he could, the one who encouraged him to ask his mama impossible questions just to tease her.

Though we were sad, there were many moments Bob Bob would have loved, including the one when my son, all on his own, went over and peered into the casket. He came back and pulled me over to look as I fretted over what his reaction would be.

“They put a suit on him!” he said, shocked.

At this remark, I’m sure Bob Bob - in heaven, shirtless in his swim trunks, the way we remember him from so many times at the beach and the lake - was shaking silently with laughter.

(We love you, Bob Bob. May you rest in peace.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

What's for lunch?

I recently met my girlfriends for a Girl’s Night Out (Yes, I feel it should be capitalized). We had just ordered our dinner and were sipping a glass of wine when my friend threw a question out there.

“So, what do you pack in your kids’ lunches?”

Yes, our GNOs are a little like Girls Gone Wild.

Fortunately, I was among friends and could answer truthfully – not! My friends love me, but I know far too well that mothers are judged on the lunches they make, by teachers, kids, and, especially, other parents.

How could I say I haven’t made my daughter’s lunch since kindergarten (She’s very independent), and my son is convinced he’s going to get some kind of medal for buying his lunch every day?

I did pack my son’s lunches for a while, in my defense. Each day, I would pack his favorite meal in his lunch pail – Vienna sausages. I soon learned that, even though he liked them, his teachers did not.

“My teacher said these are gross, and she doesn’t want to open them anymore,” said my son after a few weeks.

Well, darn, there goes that food group, I thought.

At least the elementary school standards are lower than they were when my kids were in pre-school. Back then, even the parties had to be nutritious. I can recall being in charge of the Valentine’s Day party one year. My menu: cupcakes, Kool-aid, chips, dip and chicken nuggets; the other party mom’s menu? Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat sandwiches, carrots, and bottled water

We compromised, and she ended up taking 25 PB&J’s on whole wheat sandwiches back home.

“No, problem,” she said. “I’ll just freeze them and put them in the kids’ lunches.”

(By the way, shown in the photo is a rare Ed McCauley, Space Explorer lunch box. It can be found in the Lunch Box Museum in Columbus, Ga. I smell a road trip coming on ... Wonder what we should pack for lunch? And will a paper bag be acceptable?)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

You've come a long way, baby

Being pregnant has come a long way since I was expecting my first child some, gulp, 19 years ago. These days being pregnant is en vogue. Hollywood deserves part of the credit as celebrities proudly display their “baby bumps.”(I despise that expression, by the way).

Today, pregnant women have never looked so good. In fact, thanks to retailers such as Target and Old Navy, every pregnant woman can look like a movie star. They have access to stylish dresses, designer shirts and even super cute blue jeans, all for a reasonable price. What a far cry from the homemade orange jumper I used to wear, not because I liked looking like a pumpkin, but because it was comfortable (i.e. it fit), and, oh, yes, free, a hand-me-down from my cousin.

Back then maternity clothes were at a premium. There wasn’t even a Motherhood store in those days. Fortunately, I had a resourceful mom who would scour the thrift shops for bargains for me. I remember one outfit distinctly. It was a pair of pink maternity overalls with what looked like a large bib to cover my stomach. I wore it with fake pearls and white cowgirl boots. It was the late 80’s, after all.

Another advantage today’s women have is special parking for expecting moms. I have never once in my life had special parking, especially when I was pregnant, and hoofing it around my college campus trying to make it to class on time. But, around town, realistically, that was just fine. Someone told me walking would make labor easier, so I walked miles and miles and miles and miles.

Two weeks past my due date, after a full day of labor, I was rushed into the operating room for an emergency c-section. I can recall my doctor asking, “Are you the pregnant woman I’ve seen walking all over town?”

“Yes,” I said, as I counted backwards from ten. “I couldn’t get special parking.”

Today, pregnant women have better ultrasounds than we did, too. With the modern 3-D ultrasounds, you can tell what the baby looks like before he leaves the womb.

“Look, honey, he looks just like Uncle Bill,” says today’s mom as the baby waves.

I’m sorry, that is just creepy.

For my first ultrasound, I had to drink 8 full glasses of water and hold it. I had tears when I saw the black grainy photos of my baby, tears from a bladder that was about to burst.

“Do you want to know if it’s a boy or girl?” the technician asked.

“Yes,” I managed to say.

“Well, you have a 50/50 chance that it’s a girl!”

“Fantastic! Wait a minute! Isn’t that what I had to begin with?” I yelled on my way to the bathroom.

There was one big advantage back then, though, and it certainly wasn’t the baby equipment. I can recall lifting my sleeping baby from the car seat to the carrier to the stroller to the swing. I quickly learned that putting the baby into her car seat was the most difficult task. I would bump my head every time. I really needed a police officer to push it down like you see on COPS.

No, the big advantage was the hospital stay. I spent an entire week with the first, two days with the second (eight years later) and with the third? Let’s just say I had him at 4:27 a.m., and right after my breakfast of watery eggs, they told me I could go home. My reply?

“Can I please stay until lunch?”

The women of my grandmother’s era had the right idea when it came to birthing babies – a full week or two in the hospital, and once at home, they were treated like royalty and not allowed to get out of bed.

I have photos of my grandmother propped up on an array of pillows looking like the Queen of Sheba. My dad was about one-month old at the time. The day I brought my third child home I washed sheets and cooked homemade potato salad. Two days later, I was running car pool, and a week later, I was at Wal-mart. I’m sure today’s women are doing close to the same.

I guess there’s a trade-off to snazzy clothes, convenient parking and cool gadgets after all. So, which generation would you choose?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Don't feed the animals

The kids were out of school today, so after three days of rain and “Mom, she’s staring at me!” I decided we needed to get out of the house. The Yellow River Game Ranch, near Stone Mountain, had advertised $1 day, perfect for my budget, so off we went.

Before we left, I made sure I packed a few treats for the animals. I can recall spending $4 on bear food when my oldest daughter was young. It came in a brown paper bag. I remember ripping it open expecting to see raw meat only to find four marshmallows. Apparently bears have a sweet tooth. Just not everybody realizes it, I would soon learn.

The park entrance was hard to miss. It was the one with 10,000 cars lined up to get inside, and they were all filled with women drivers. Now, I really hate those kinds of stereotypes, but these women were not doing my sex any favors – backing up when they should be going forward, stopping in the middle of the road and not moving, texting while driving. At one point, my friend (who followed us there) rolled down her window at a woman who was clearly driving in the wrong direction, and asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m having a problem,” she said, as she pounded a message into her cell phone. I guess my friend (and I) should have asked if we could help her, but we had wild animals to see. And, once inside, we were not disappointed. The park was full of them. I just didn’t realize they’d all be from the suburbs.

As we entered the park, which is filled with hundreds of deer that roam freely, we saw a small deer being fed a carrot by a lady. Needless to say, my children were excited. They ran up to the deer and stuck out their own carrots on which the deer promptly nibbled, delighting them far beyond their $1 admission price.

“Well, that’s just rude!” said the woman who’d made friends with the deer. I looked around. Yep, she was talking about us.

“Let’s go somewhere else where there’s not so much rudeness!” she said to her friend, giving my innocently eager children a dirty look. Apparently, she and the deer had become more than friends, and she wanted more one-on-one time with him. To each his own.

We then navigated amongst strollers and parents who, to my amazement, warned their kids, “Don’t touch the animals.”

“That’s like taking your kids to a pool and telling them not to swim,” said my friend, Heather.

We finally reached the bear cage where the big bear was lumbering below.

“Mom, quick, hand me a marshmallow,” said my son, looking down on the compost pile of uneaten lettuce, carrots, saltine crackers, and peanuts that the store sold.

The woman in front of me turned to her husband and said loudly, enunciating every syllable, “They do not even allow marshmallows in the park!”

I looked at my friend, a bit embarrassed, and asked, “Did I miss the ‘No marshmallows allowed’ sign?”

My friend assured me I did not.

I could tell these good people were really upset about it, so I frantically tried to cram what my friend called “a lifetime supply of marshmallows” down into my already full back pack. It didn’t matter because my son continued to yell, “Come on, bear, eat your marshmallow! There’s your marshmallow. Mom, can I have another marshmallow? Why won’t he eat his marshmallow?”

At this point, the uptight man looked at him and said, “BECAUSE BEARS DON’T EAT MARSHMALLOWS!”

I wanted to say, Well, tell that to the brown, hairy guy with sticky white goo on his face because, lo and behold, he ate it. And then he licked his lips and sniffed around for more.

I don’t know what that family had against marshmallows, but I quickly guided the kids away from the bear cage and down to the petting zoo. I was starting to get a little bit of a sick feeling in my stomach over human behavior – pushing, shoving, yelling, screaming, and arguing. Which group really belonged in a zoo?

I watched as a little girl tried to feed a small chicken in a cage.

“No, don’t touch it! It will bite! It will bite you!” screamed the girl’s mother as the parents yanked her hand back. I’m no country girl, but this was surreal. I mean, I haven’t heard of anyone who was maimed by a chicken, especially one in a cage.

As I stood there thinking that this was not what nature was all about, something miraculous happened.

“Look!” Heather said, pointing to a quiet corner of the corral. “A mother sheep just had a baby.”

And sure enough, we spotted it, just about the time it stood up and took its first few tentative steps. Without fanfare or attention from the mobs of mankind, a little lamb was born. We stood and watched in quiet awe as its mother licked and then nursed it, all the while throngs of noisy people passed by totally unaware.

When they saw their first deer, my children had declared it the best animal park ever, and, suddenly, I had to agree.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Run like a mother

I shuffled to the mailbox today looking like Mrs. Wiggins from Carol Burnett. My ankles hurt, my knees ached, my thighs burned, and I think we’d better stop there.

You see, since it’s not socially acceptable to drink 24/7, I thought I would attempt to achieve a runner’s high. I mean, all my friends are doing it. Well, peer pressure ain’t what it used to be. Now days women are expected to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and then burn it off with a half-marathon. I blame Sarah Palin.

Ironically, the older the woman, the farther the distance she’s expected to run. And having children does not excuse one from this expectation. I recently saw a woman cross the finish line of a 5K pushing not one, not two, not three, but four toddlers, also known as quadruplets.

It was then and there I realized I could no longer use running the Fun Run with my kids as an excuse, especially since they are well beyond the toddler stage. So, last winter, I entered a 5K in my small town. I soon learned it’s not just a 5K. It’s a major social event in which anyone who is anybody participates, if not by running, then serving food and cheering people on along the sidelines.

I will spare you the details of my run – how little kids zipped by me, how I managed to finally pass an 80-year-old (No, I did not steal his cane), how my friend from high school thought my time was great, great for a 10K, that is.

Alas, it’s a new year, and even though I’ve written before (click HERE) about my being born not to run, I’m going to give it another go. This year I’m even training for it; hence, my sore muscles. So, even though I’m in the throes of a runner’s low, I’m going to fill out the application that (ironically) was in the mail today. Why? ‘Cause I’m a woman!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Blame it on my DNA

I just invested a small fortune on DNA repairing moisturizer, and I didn’t even know mine needed it! Sorry, Mom and Dad, according to the saleslady, it really does. Fortunately, now, if I apply two drops of this magic elixir to my face each night, my flawed, damaged DNA will heal itself.

Amazing, isn’t it? Amazing that I fell for it, that is.

It’s been frigid in Georgia – in the low teens for weeks – and suddenly my face has become exceedingly dry. I realize that’s not a big problem to have, but it’s annoying, so I figured I needed to add moisturizer to my normal skincare regime of doing, well, nothing.

I even mentioned it to a friend at church this morning. And she responded by looking me dead in the eye and saying, “Well, I think that’s because you are just getting old.”

Sorry, did I say friend? I meant ex-friend.

As a result, I took my dry skin, still stinging from the insult as much as the weather, to the make-up counter of our town’s large department store. I marched over to the area in the back where I usually buy my “affordable but still good” stuff and waited. Finally, I was approached by a porcelain-skinned model/saleslady from the “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it” section, who informed me that my girl didn’t show up for work that day.

“I can show you some items over here, however,” she said, gliding toward the shiny counter as I followed blindly.

“Now what can we do for you?”

I told her I was looking for just a plain moisturizer.

“Oh, I have something better than that …”

She slathered my hand with miracle cream. Not only did it feel softer and smoother, I could actually see the difference. Or at least I thought I could. Not to mention there was research to prove it, even the box said so. See below:

This pivotal research showed that clock genes regulate a series of precisely timed repair responses within each skin cell to help maximize its DNA repair. Furthermore, with age and repeated exposure to environmental stresses, skin's clock genes become de-synchronized, causing its repair and protective processes to slow down.

Who am I to argue with facts like that? My skin’s clock genes are counting on me.

So, half of my children’s inheritance later, I exited the store with a tiny bottle of magic serum, plus a tiny tube of moisturizer for my lips. By the way, I’m smart enough to know that it was just fancy chapstick. As far as the miracle moisturizer? I figure it can’t hurt to try. And if it doesn’t work? I guess I can blame it on my DNA.

(By the way, “Blame it on my DNA” is also the title of a song by one of my favorite singers, Georgia’s own Diane Durrett. You can check her out HERE.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The "S" word

Lately, everyone in Georgia is using the “S” word. I hear it when I turn on the television, at work, from my friends. Even my son said it this morning. If you are from around here, you know what I’m talking about – snow.

Yes, Georgia is expecting snow – one to two inches, which means we are preparing. Though there’s scarcely a cloud in the sky, schools are already cancelling for the day as are extracurricular activities. I stayed home from work. Bread and milk are flying off the shelves, and, fortunately, the winter coat I ordered online for my daughter just arrived.

Now we are waiting, and I hope it comes because I have a little boy who will be so disappointed if it doesn’t. Even his teachers were talking about it, he said.

I found him looking sadly out the window this morning when I woke up, “Well, no snow,” he said, in a weary voice.

“Give it time,” I said. “Maybe by noon.”

That brought on a whole new set of worries.

“How will I get home? You know the buses won’t run,” he said.

I assured him I would come get him, even if I had to trek to the school in snow boots (which I don’t own, by the way, but he doesn’t know that).

Satisfied, we bundled up and went out the door.

“It doesn’t feel quite as cold as it did yesterday,” I said.

“Well, that’s because it was 12 degrees yesterday; today, it is 18.”

Honestly, that’s cold enough to make me say the “S” word, and I'm afraid I don't mean snow.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mama's in the kitchen

What a bizarre day! I’m still trying to figure out how I just spent three hours in the kitchen when none of my New Year’s resolutions had anything to do with cooking. Well, with my cooking, that is.

It started with the collard greens. My daughter loves them, and no wonder – I load them up with sugar. Parents, if you are looking for a way to get your kids to eat their vegetables …

I put a big pot on the stove, tossed in the greens, borrowed some apple cider vinegar, poured in the sugar and then turned around and saw a big bag of new potatoes. Suddenly, we needed potato salad; hence, another big pot on the stove. That’s when I spotted the peanuts, the raw ones that I searched five grocery stores to find this summer when I was determined to boil my own. Enter the crockpot. Followed by a hungry husband who, after opening the pots, wants to know, “What’s for dinner?” which means “Where’s the beef?” My husband does not do veggie plates, with or without sugar.

“How about the leftover shrimp from our New Year’s Eve boil?” I suggested.

“Shrimp and grits?” he asked, always pushing.

“Okay, sure,” I said, thinking I could open a packet of instant grits, throw the shrimp on top and be out of there in 15 minutes.

You see, something happens if I’m in the kitchen too long. Despite its cheery color, I start feeling a little like the woman in the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In other words, the walls start closing in on me, expiration dates start calling out to me, dishes start begging to be washed, the floor demands to be mopped, and the windows remind me that I never had those curtains made.

“You’ll need chicken broth,” he said, as he opened the cabinet.

Oh, boy, I thought, reminding myself to cancel the cooking network first thing in the morning.

One trip to the grocery later, and I’ve got my laptop propped precariously by the sink as I sauté the shrimp in a pan in which I just fried bacon to crumble on top of my culinary masterpiece. In the pan with the shrimp is freshly minced garlic. I have been in the kitchen about, oh, two and a half hours now.

My very hungry husband comes in, spies the garlic cloves on the counter, and asks helpfully, “How many more of these do you need?”

“I’m not sure,” I reply, stirring collards, peanuts, potatoes and sautéing shrimp, as my kids ran in and out of the kitchen asking, “Okay, Mom?” to a question I never heard.

They know I always say yes when I busy.

“This recipe doesn’t call for garlic,” said my husband looking up from the computer.

“Well, it does now,” I said.

“How about the grits? Which pot has the grits in it?”

“Oh, dear! I haven’t started the grits. I should have cooked those first.”

“Yes, you should have. The grits will take 15 min.” he said.

I looked at the full stove and the shrimp that was almost finished cooking in the pan.

“Well, this will just have to come off,” I said. “I’ll reheat it after I get the grits going.”

And then he did it. He made the face. The “Well, that won’t be any good face,” and I’m putting it politely. I read a lot more into it. So, I gave him the face back. The “I’ve been working in the kitchen for hours, and you are going to eat it and like it” look. Yes, my looks say so much.

He apparently felt the heat because he hustled out of the kitchen. That’s when I realized I really could use some help, so I called the children in – a sure sign of desperation.

“Sweetie, can you please help grate the cheese,” I asked my daughter. “I don’t think your brother can do it.”

“What can’t I do?” he said.

Darn, reverse psychology!

Feeling bad, I said, “Okay, son, you can try it.”

He eagerly reaches for the hunk of cheese.

“BUT, wash your hands first.”

He complied, and I turned around just in time to see him grabbing the cheese with dripping wet hands.

“And DRY them!”

After sheepishly complying, he worked the cheese grater like a pro, as my daughter stirred the pots, read the recipe, and set the table.

When dinner was finally served, they cleaned their plates. I’m not sure whether it was from hunger or pride from their contribution, but they declared it my best meal ever. And I vowed to serve it again – next New Year’s.

(Want to try the recipe? Click Here!)