Friday, January 21, 2011

Yes or no: a mom's dilemma

“Can I, Mom?” my son asked.

Was this a yes or no moment? I asked myself, searching his eyes for some kind of clue. Did he want me to say no and save him or yes and allow him. Those are the hardest decisions to make, especially for a mama of a boy. I may not be one, but I know being tough is important to them.

We were standing in the midst of 250 acres of woods. Teenage boys and a few grown men were dressed in camouflage, giddily suiting up in chest pads and face masks, loading the barrels of their guns with small balls of paint that looked a little like the bath beads I used to give my mom each year at Christmas. We had only intended to watch.

Yes or no? I thought. That is the question.

On a rainy day a few years back, we went to Andretti’s Indoor Karting and Games. Unbeknownst to me, my son seeing the go-carts zoom around the track at rapid speed told his daddy, “I don’t think Mom would want me to do that!”

As I exited the ladies’ room, he said, “Mom, can I ride the go-carts?”

“Sure!” I said.

“But I don’t want to!” he said.

The point of this story? From then on, I knew how important my decisions were and have been happy to be his scapegoat ever since.

But, in the woods, under the supervision of friends, I said yes to paintball and am so grateful I did. Not to mention, he’d already told me that there was a girl about his age out there doing it. Later, he would tell me, “And she was good, too!”

So, what’s a mama to say?

A friend put a paintball gun in his hand and gave him a quick lesson.

“This is the safety … Are you familiar with guns at all?”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

I rolled my eyes. He’s familiar with every version of Nerf gun there is and has watched WWII movies and asked dozens of questions, so I guess that qualifies as the truth.

He suited up, and the next thing I know my baby went off to battle. It wasn’t long before he came back excited and totally paint-free.

“He did great!” my friend said. “He hung back and watched since this was his first time, which was the right thing to do.”

My son beamed, and so did I. He wasn’t hurt!

About that time, his best friend arrived, and my son was suddenly an expert, giving him advice on where to hide, how to hold his gun and regaling him with the story of his first foray.

On his second battle, he declared he was not going to hang back any more. The teenagers looked at him and asked, “Are you ready?”

“Yep!” He declared and off he marched.

Later he said the teen told him to stay nearby, but, at the last moment, he took shelter behind a tree, leaving my son out in the open, and he was hit. The teen later apologized, but he didn’t need to. My son was proud of his new “wound.”

“It stung a little bit,” he said.

“Do you still want to come back in two weeks and play some more?” my friend asked.

“Yes, sir!” he said.

That’s my boy.

On the way home, he talked non-stop about their battle plan and how much fun he had, requesting that I count the Christmas money that I’ve been holding in my wallet to see if he had enough to buy his own equipment.

“Thank you for letting me play, Mom,” he said. Inside, I felt warm and fuzzy. Despite my initial fears, I said yes when I should have. “Can I wear my sweatshirt with the splattered paint on it to school, so everyone could see where I got shot?”

This one I didn’t have to think about.

My answer? A resounding no!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sometimes it just takes a snow day

I rolled my eyes when I heard it was coming. I mean, the kids had only been back in school for two days. They are my darlings, and I love them very much, but two days!

I was in denial, at first, but decided I'd better be prepared, so I did what every other citizen in the county did. I went out and bought -- say it with me -- milk and bread. I couldn't help but wonder if it were the end of the world, would we all run out to Publix for a gallon and a loaf. I can hear it now, "There's a meteor about to strike the Earth ..."

"Honey, quick, run out and buy two gallons of 2 percent and two loaves of Sunbeam!" Which is pretty much how I sounded the minute I heard sleet hit the roof on Sunday night.

"But you just bought some yesterday," my husband said.

"I know, but the weatherman is predicting days of snow and ice. I think we need more!" I insisted, forgetting the fact that I don't even drink milk and more than often our bread turns stale before we can eat it.

My husband obliged, caring less about the food, and more about the adventure. He came back and reported that the grocery employee told him we had bought the last gallon of milk in the county. How he knew this, I know not; but I sure was glad I made my husband go to the store.

Anyway, I knew from our recent snow experience that I would need it to make snow ice cream. My son and I finally perfected the recipe once I learned to use powdered

I know people up North make fun of us, but give us a few more snow days, and we'll have it all figured out. We may be helpless without bread and milk; but when it comes to sledding, we are resourceful. I saw people sledding on cookie sheets, skateboards with the wheels removed, and even a pond liner.

And, it wasn't long before I found myself joining them, just to prove to my kids that I can (or can't). At one point -- as we were sledding down the road in a plastic sled that I bought at Goodwill several summers ago, the one that everyone laughed at me for buying -- I heard my son behind me, yelling, "We're all going to die!" I responded by saying, "At least we have bread and milk!"

He didn't get my joke.

The best part of "the day I dreaded so much" turned out to be my neighbors. I don't know why it takes the coldest, most miserable day of the year to bring everyone outdoors, but it just does. We ended up running into some long-lost friends (It turns out that their son and his young family are our neighbors -- yeah, that made me feel old-ish). Their grandchildren were sledding up and down the hill on a real sled.

"We've had this in our attic for 25 years. It's the first opportunity we've had to use it!"

So, by the time this column publishes, I'm sure I'll be over this pretty mess, but, today, I'm glad I got to meet our new neighbors and watch them use their sled for the first time.

And, amazingly, without being able to run to and fro, I found time to play with my kids, write two articles and a column, watch four movies (thanks, Netflix!), do my exercise DVD (must my family laugh every single time I do it?), chat with some friends and neighbors and simply enjoy life for a while. Sometimes it just takes a snow day, and I am certainly grateful for this one -- despite the wet clothes!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pot luck

My New Year's dinner was a real battle. In fact, at one point, so overwhelmed with overflowing pots and smoke and timers going off, I almost quit. I realize that I'm taking a big chance by writing this in light of my last column on how I locked my dinner in the oven. You see, despite the fact that it's 2011, women in the South are still judged by their cooking.

Don't believe me? Show up at a church pot luck sometime. Think you just get in line and put food on your plate randomly? Not more than once you won't. Although church is the last place to judge someone, we all want to know who made what. Because while we still love those who can't cook, we want to make sure we avoid their dishes.

"How's your mom doing? Is she out of the hospital yet?" we ask politely as folks walk into the fellowship hall, all the while building up to our most important question: "What did you bring?"

And trust me, at church socials, you want to make sure it's not store bought --unless, of course, your mom is in the hospital. If it is store bought, I'm not saying flat out lie about it, but you should probably do your best to disguise it. It may mean emptying Kroger's pasta salad into a bowl or wrapping Mrs. Winners biscuits in foil -- whatever you have to do. I think Jesus would understand this one. For women in social circles, being able to cook is important.

And, if you can't cook, then, hopefully, you can do something better -- bake. Baking is close to sainthood, especially at church pot lucks. Lemon meringue pie, chocolate cakes, coconut cakes -- talk about a lost art. Those items go fast. So fast, in fact, that people learn to get dessert first. I can recall one Wednesday night supper when everyone made a bee line for the dessert table the minute the preacher said "amen." It seems word had gotten out that Dorothy Smith made her homemade caramel cake.

If you are lucky enough to have kids, then you can avoid the embarrassment of being the first one seen at the dessert table. They (being smart as they are) will ask, "Mom, can I go get dessert before it's all gone?" and you (being slightly smarter) will say, "Sure, and pick me up a piece of the caramel cake," and as they run off, you yell, "Oh, and a piece of pecan pie, too."
Then later when you hear folks complaining about how many desserts they saw kids hauling off from the dessert table, you can shake your head, and say, "Kids these days! Where were their parents?!" (For the record, I have never done this.)

Now, if for some reason, you have had a busy day and can't bake, or slice Publix pound cake and put it on your best crystal serving tray, or if you don't have time to make a homemade casserole, then I suggest you do what we moms call "making something for the kids." I have to confess this is my favorite modus operandi -- macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, even a pizza will work. Parents are happy; kids are happy, and I'm happy because I don't have to sit next to a child, or adult, for that matter, and hear them say, "Ewww," and then look down and see my casserole. Just kidding. That hasn't happened, but I have lived in fear of it.

After all, no one wants to be called a bad cook, especially at church. In fact, the biggest compliment someone can pay you at these socials is to ask for your recipe. And, the Christian thing to do in return is share it with them. I know some people don't believe in sharing recipes. Trust me -- it spreads good will, and chances are it won't turn out as good as yours, anyway. At least, not if I'm cooking it.