Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I feel fine. . .

So, NaBloPoMo's prompt for today asks, "How did you feel when you lost a game?" (as a child)

Oh, perhaps a little something like this:

Checkers, Yahtzee - and Solitaire.

My fury knew no bounds.

I'm much better now.



I have a child now and she gets to have the tantrums. I'm saving up my strength for menopausal rages (aka the end of the world as you know it.)  I feel fine. ;)


Move along. There's nothing to see here. :)

Oh, thank you NaBloPoMo, for a theme that I could rename "Much Ado about Nothing"

The question for May 7?

Monday, May 7, 2012
What sports did you play as a child?

Well, that's a tough one.

There was cycling - and a banana seat bike was the best. Naturally.

Nope, that's not me, but I had that hair. Just not those siblings - or a Dad with sideburns.
Photo courtesy: www.hopelesslyflawed.com

and my Lemon Twist:

Spin it. Twirl it. Swing it around your wrist and hit someone!
Photo courtesy: www.70schild.blogspot.com

Does unpacking adjectives count?

Probably not. 

"Athletically inclined" is NOT a phrase one would use to describe me. It's not just the "only child" thing, although you know how I love to bring that up. 

It's an overall health thing - as I was rocking the hip brace before I could walk (convenient, no?) - which later led to one leg being an inch shorter and scaring the crap outta me in junior high when a school nurse (I hope) and a school employee/witness did that highly scientific scoliosis check. Y'know the one. You're in the teacher's lounge or counselor's office or some "discreet" cramped room on campus that smells like old books and decades of body odor and you're asked to take off your shirt.  You hope you've reached the age where you're wearing a bra, yet absolutely mortified. 

Of course, it's all very professional and scientific. After all, they're looking to see if you look like this (although you get to keep your pants on):

So apparently I looked like this from the back? Just call me Quasimodo.
Photo courtesy: www.umm.edu

Once they informed my parents - and me - that I was lopsided, my athletic career ended, and my geekdom was secure.  It wasn't scoliosis, but my congenital gift of hip dysplasia and its treatment (hip brace) leaving a calling card: a shorter leg (and still deformed hip joint). Lifts added to shoes, no PE classes (medically excused) - and a headstart on cellulite. It was like a booster shot to ensure my ego remained portable.  

There was that one time. In junior high. Was all sorts of cool wearing braces (important later). For some reason, we were practicing track events INSIDE.  Why? I have no idea. These were the folks who convinced me I had a hump, remember?

Anyway, I believe I was trying for a triple jump (or long jump) with the mat/pad against the brick wall of the gym. Why? I was a pleaser kid, even in PE. Idiot.  Anyway, the pad was lined up so that it was landscape, not portrait (meaning there was less pad between the jumper and the, um,  brick wall.)

You can imagine what happened next. I think I looked a bit like this. 

Aside from making others laugh and bruising my dignity, I didn't notice anything else (likely due to the concussion). I was sitting in class next period with Mr. Breed, the teacher who used a golf club as a pointer, when I was running my tongue over my teeth. (Y'know. Typical behaviour. . .right?) Well, things didn't feel quite right. There wasn't any blood (that I knew of) or any loose teeth (that I could tell), but there was wire. Loose wire. Poking the inside of my cheek and freaking me out wire. I had hoped I wouldn't have to tell my parents of my misadventures in athleticism, but I think they already knew I was not destined for the Olympics (unless they were the Special ones). 

Turns out my mouth of metal saved my teeth - and I got to share my story with my orthodontist and his assistants. 

Good times. 

I think I'll add some more Bailey's to my coffee now. I've enjoyed our little chat.. Haven't you?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Retro Romance

For those who didn't already know, RetroRenovation Rules!

When we've looked at homes in South Carolina, I'm drawn to the mid-century houses. I even nicknamed one the "Bewitched House" because the crown jewel was its Frigidaire Flair electric range. I am NOT kidding.

I think it's an addiction.

My parents have often said that I was born during the wrong decade. Granted, there was nothing any of us could do about that little hiccup - what with my conception taking place the winter before the Summer of Love (by two people my parents never met).  Adoption makes for interesting family trees - a bit like roses that are spliced together in a greenhouse. Besides, I wouldn't have become a mom if it weren't for the advances in diabetes care, BUT -

- they do have a point.

I spent today:

  • searching on eBay for mid-century modern ANYTHING (dishes, wall decor, Christmas ornaments)

  • listening to Frank Sinatra on Spotify

  •  and making meatloaf for Sunday dinner:

. . . all while wearing a dress. On Sunday. On purpose. 

We didn't even leave the house.  I wasn't June Cleaver in the pearls and crinoline, but it was a dress.

"Ward, dear, wash up for dinner. I made your favorite!"
Photo courtesy: www.muffintopmommy.com
(How brilliant is THAT name? I read her latest post - and she makes me laugh, which is ALWAYS a good thing.)

Oh, and I baked cake mix cookies.



Photo courtesy: www.cookiesleuth.com

I highly recommend, especially in Spring. :)

So, here's to today's technology that let me travel back in time for just a little while - and work on a day of rest.

In a dress.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Father daughter moment. . .

My husband works nights - and has worked nights for 13 years. Our daughter is 9, so this is her "normal" - for better or worse.

This morning, Hubby comes in from work, bringing treats from Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast. He takes Kidlet in his arms and asks, "Wanna know something mind-bending?"

Her reply: "The length of your nose hair?"

Oh, how I love this child.

By the way, the mind-bending news is that our 18th wedding anniversary is Monday, and that Kidlet is 9. Apparently, he was hoping to impress her with this tidbit.

The nose hair beat him to it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Five Fab Faves for Friday!

It's Friday - and I am thankful for a few things.

First, I actually blogged every day this week, thanks to the challenge from:

NaBloPoMo May 2012

I'm not sure how I'm doing, but I'm writing, and it feels like circuits in my brain are connecting - and that feels great.

I also like reading posts from Lauren who writes From My Grey Desk, especially on Friday. Did you see that yummy dessert on her High Five for Friday? There isn't enough spandex in the denim for me to consume all that, but it's wonderful eye candy.  I'm also happy for her cats' comfort in the new home. Our cat, Bella (short for Bellatrix), hangs out on the patio these days, which seems to have helped reduce the number of times she streaks through the house like a demon possessed (which may be entirely possible).

She doesn't look like the spawn of Satan. . .

. . .but she definitely suffers from a split personality (as most felines do). 

Second, our Kidlet was asked to test for our new school district's GT (Gifted & Talented) program. You can hope your offspring will find a cure for cancer, or win an Olympic medal, or date Charlie Sheen (well, maybe not the last one), but all you really want is for them to be happy. And successful. And not end up like Charlie Sheen:

No Charlie Sheen Allowed. No Mug Shots allowed. This looks like great parenting advice in one image.
Photo courtesy: www.amazon.com

We didn't tell Kidlet she would be tested, because, well, she works herself up over stuff like that. Where does she get this trait? Well, I often tell friends that the best part of Kidlet's arrival into this world was that she arrived via emergency C-section.   I had no time to worry, stress or freak out. I was medicated, motivated and in the maternity ward for 7 days.  If it had been a scheduled C-section,  my brain would have assured the rest of me that death was imminent. 

We won't find out the results until June, but the fact that they saw potential in Kidlet is wonderful. Sappy, weepy, Hallmark card wonderful. I told her we will be proud of her, no matter what, and that all students, GT or not, grow up - and there isn't a GT section at Target or Chick-Fil-A.  (Note that I didn't include Walmart. Ahem.)

(Still, it's pretty cool that she got the chance.)

Third, I worked as a substitute teacher again this week.  I know it sounds crazy to some people to choose to spend time with 20-22 kids you barely know - or haven't met before - but it has an even better effect on me than writing.  I absolutely LOVE working with students. It makes me indescribably happy, despite any cartoon depicting otherwise.  

Photo courtesy: www.cartoonstock.com

Fourth,  I love my Steve Madden gladiator sandals, which I wore today while working in kindergarten. They're always comfortable, and my daughter thinks they're almost as cool as her Children's Place silver gladiator sandals. Her sandals have the zipper in back, however, and are much easier to slip on. Oh, middle age, how I love what you've done with my back.

Photo courtesy: www.kaboodle.com

I admit that shoes are ALWAYS in my top five things every day (at least until I need orthopedic options. Until then, get behind me SAS Shoe Store. Thankyouverymuch.)

Finally, my fifth fave for today is the great meal that was catered today by the PTA. I knew nothing about it, so a surprise free lunch is even better.  It was amazingly good food - AND I found a new place to satisfy our craving for Tex-Mex since we moved to SC last fall. Thank you, Salsarita's Fresh Cantina, for a yummy lunch!

Yes, those are black beans - and no, it's not Tex-Mex, but it IS delicioso
(as Dora the Explorer teaches all moms).
Photo courtesy: www.examiner.com

So, there ya' have it. Five reasons for me to smile this week. The lunch was a neat surprise - and I was told today by a teacher that she always calls a substitute again when that person works well with her autistic students.  One of those students hugged me before nap today. BONUS!!!!

Have a great weekend, and if you're blogging and want to share, feel free to post a link in the comments - or leave a note telling me something that made your week better. There has to be something, even if it was someone's absence. ;)

Oh, and one more Pollyanna moment: there are only 18 days left in our school year!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

If it ain't broke, it was at my house.

A picture is supposed to be worth 1000 words, but I only have a select few and none of them can be said in polite company or in front of children (under the age of 12, anyway).

Today's assignment from NaBloPoMo? Talk about a toy you broke as a child.

Please. I've written about "who I played with" here (well, that would be "no one")

"What I did at recess" here (ummm, that would be "nothing")

If history and literacy can enlighten us in any way, let's predict what toy(s) I broke as a child.

Brief recap:

Remember that "only child" thing? In America, it's a choice, but also known as the official family unit of the People's Republic of China (think of it as Planned Non-Parenthood.)

An "only child" is usually easy to spot:

Standard procedure for cycling. . .in the driveway.

In addition, recall how I dressed as a Stepford daughter:

Yes. I dressed to land the cover of the Wish Book.
There was no greater glamour.

Because, again, the alternative was looking like THIS:

or THIS:

There was no way this chick was putting plaid on her butt in "flared pants" form. 

So, back to our question of the day: What toy did I break as a kid? 

Ummm. . .would you believe, "none"?

Not one.




I even asked my mom, because she knew every step I took, and has particular recall when it came to the missteps. Trust me.  She said, "You had that stuffed animal frog that I had to sew up all the time because you loved it so much and carried it everywhere, but that's it." 

Yep. I've got a frog whose stitching came loose.


The most dramatic moments involving toys came later when I learned Mom had cleaned out everything and got rid of ALL the toys, but I was too old to throw a tantrum then. (I saved those for the first years of marriage.)

I remember my reaction to finding my Barbie dolls lined up against the wall one day after I came home from kindergarten. I didn't leave Barbies out. No. They went to their rooms to get their beauty sleep while I was away. Someone had been in my room. Playing with MY toys. Nothing like a 5 year old suffering from righteous indignation.  

That, however, was NOTHING compared to. . .

The Barbie RV Rescue of 1976

When I innocently left my beautiful Barbie Country Camper in the driveway. (Well, it was a road trip, after all.)  My dolls earned some rest and relaxation. You be held upside down every afternoon while your clothes are peeled off or tugged on, your head is twisted backwards so dresses can be snapped,  and fall down from tree limbs, window sills, chairs, sofas, kitchen tables and the edge of the tub.)

Confession: I bought one off eBay. . .*for my daughter* 

I wasn't gone long, because the camper was my prize possession. I mean, one look and you can see why, right?  Apparently, a neighborhood boy found he couldn't resist its charms, either. He told his mom he "found" it.  I'm trying to imagine how many moms would be cool seeing their son clutching a Barbie camper back in 1976. In San Angelo, TX.  I don't remember him, but I remember my mother's reaction to it being stolen. I believe her lips disappeared into a tight little line, which I didn't see very often. . .until I hit puberty.  She rescued Malibu Barbie - and her friends - and road trips took place in the carport or back yard after that. 

I never was the type to give dolls haircuts - or even mix Play-Doh colors together. My parents weren't strict about it, and I can't remember them telling me, "Don't you do that!" when it came to playing with toys. I didn't think about it much until Kidlet came along. It's in our DNA to forget where we put toys, lose the Barbie shoes (allll the time) and leave books all over the place. If something breaks, it's because we forgot we put it under the comforter, left it in the chair, or out on the trampoline.

To me, I think, the toys weren't just things to play with. They were constants in my life and gifts that showed my parents loved me.  All children treasure those things that have special meaning, but if you have a brother or sister, you make memories together and you share that history. "Onlies" have the toys and the memories - all to themselves. It doesn't mean we create imaginary friends, but it means you tend to "humanize" the toys that you really love. For me, it was Barbie. For my daughter, it's stuffed animals. She can confide in her "pets" after a bad day, cuddle them when she's feeling lonely - and feel a little more secure until she's all grown up and past the age of "make believing."

Until then, I'll pick up the toys, line up the stuffed animals - try to hang on to the ones she loves - and Heaven help the kid who tries to take any of them away.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Play like a girl?

In order to hopefully make it to posting on Day 2 of the blogging challenge started at NaBloPoMo, I'm starting on the evening of Day 1. (If I wait until tomorrow, after substituting in PreK and stressing over my daughter's GT testing, my fingers won't crave a keyboard. They'll be searching for something a bit more substantial - with calories and carbs.)

Perhaps one of these:

Stemware not included, nor needed, is it?

Or a few of these:
Am I the only one amused that this picture was found at http://diaryofanutritionist.com? 

Either way, I'll certainly be more rested afterwards, and my carb-induced coma will render effective communication impossible.

Today's blog prompt? Describe a strong memory of recess.  The recurring memory of recess, I admit, has no winning kickball game, no first kiss, no karma boomerang.  There was no adrenaline rush of victory, nor tear-stained face of defeat.

How did I accomplish this faded watercolor snapshot of childhood? Easy. I was a girl, and determined to dress like one. . .circa 1875. In my mind, every day called for a dress. This meant I showed up dressed for Sunday school FIVE days a week:

What? Who doesn't want to emphasize the hourglass figure on a first grader?
Photo courtesy: www.etsy.com

It's easy to understand, once you compare the dresses to the PANTS:

If your legs are your best feature, why not cover them with tents?
Photo courtesy: www.etsy.com
Honestly, it's a wonder I wasn't pushed in the dirt on a daily basis.  I chose this. My own free will. Hated pants. Hated jeans. (Why no one staged an intervention, I don't understand.)  Of course, little did we know that future fashion horror loomed in the form of acid wash jeans, jelly shoes and shoulder pads. Such innocents.

My childhood clothing choices made me happy most of the time, but resulted in one teeny tiny complication: recess.  When your mom is raising you to act like a lady and mind your manners, practicing pole climbing and flying trapeze imitations in your best Sears & Roebuck fashion frock was a bit frowned upon. My memories on the playground pretty much involved swings, slides, seesaws - and skirts. With the seesaw, you're straddling a seat and offering the world a view of your land down under, but no one seemed to notice. 

In the hedonistic 70s, apparently, parents and school districts didn't concern themselves with girls' underwear. I'm not sure why, since it was on display alllllll the time. I wore tights - because I loved those, too (Really. Wasn't that a cry for help?!) - but had long legs, and hemlines were already above the thigh. Seriously, watch the Brady Bunch. Every day would have been an upskirt opportunity - and all a girl had to do was sneeze to flash the rest of first grade.  There was no panty preoccupation on the part of the school or parents. . .no reminders to wear shorts under the dress. Ever.  I just knew one golden rule: NO MONKEY BARS. Granted,  I also inadvertently flashed anyone who followed me climbing the slide - or getting a drink from the water fountain for that matter, but that was different. Hanging from the monkey bars in your Easter dress? Well, now, that's just sinning. 

Times change and certain playground equipment was eliminated (through litigation, I'm sure), but eventually, well-meaning adults decided no one needed to see Day of the Week panties anymore (at least in Texas at recess). I'm not sure why shorts, capris and leggings of body-hugging Lycra became the solution, but here they are, saving girls in their glittery, sparkly Justice wardrobe from flashing or appearing provocative.

There. Problem solved.  Don't we all feel better?

Me neither.

With any luck, my daughter's playground memories will involve the friends she knew and the games they played. . .and THAT is the way it should be.

Now I'm going to order some more jeans. And denim shorts. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm Gonna Like Me

Confession: I am an only child.

Coincidence: I married an only child.

Quirky consequence: We were able to have only one child.

I joke to friends that they can smell our "spoiled kid" stench for miles  - and our inflated sense of self-importance is likely a source of global warming. 

I'm quick to comment, "It's a small world. . .and it revolves around us." 

I admit it is a bit more complicated than that:
  • In 1969, I was adopted at age 4 months. I met my birthmother through an online registry in 2000, and discovered I had a half-sister (who was a young teen at the time in Michigan, while I was in Texas).  
  • When my husband was in college, his parents stepped in to raise my mother-in-law's infant great-nephew, as his mother was young and, well, my mother-in-law LOVES babies and would likely babysit anyone under the age of 18 months for free.  

Still, our family tree isn't so much this:

A Texas live oak - gorgeous, big - oh, so twisted and gnarly in all the right ways.
Photo courtesy:www.bergoiata.org

as it is this:

Note the bow, though. We do like to look our best - and we're still twisted.
Photo courtesy: http://www.tightwadblog.com

The NaBloPoMo theme for the month is PLAY, and you may wonder why I brought up the childhood singleton status first. Simple, really. The blog prompt for today is "Who did you play with as a child?" 

It's simple to answer: friends whose faces I remember, but whose names I forgot - with a few memorable exceptions. 

You see, in addition to getting all the toys at Christmas, and being the only suspect when something was broken, marked on or never seen again,  I was also a child in a military family. My dad was in the Air Force, so we moved. Often. Not as much as some families, but certainly more than most. The memory of a childhood best friend is, for better or worse, not one I can really recall.  As I write this, there isn't a person in my life today who grew up with me - or really knew me back then. By the time I moved to what I know call my hometown - in 3rd grade - I was afraid to get too close, and preoccupied with sensing rejection. (How handy is THAT?)

To be an adopted child, who was in foster care long enough to have my photogenic four-month-head flattened on one side due to not being moved, turned over, held or rocked to sleep - and a non-photogenic bum indicating a monumentally awful diaper rash, adding a series of moves from Michigan to California to Texas tended to make me pretty protective of my feelings - a bit like slipping on a shark suit so that rejection couldn't sink its horrid teeth in me:

Add a Cindy Brady dress, tights and patent leather shoes, and it's me! ;)
Photo courtesy: http://bostithebold.deviantart.com

My mom stayed home to raise me, which meant no daycare or babysitters.  That "available friend pool"  was tiny, as in inflatable two-ring pool tiny.  

We moved from Michigan before my first birthday, but playdates likely didn't go over to well there, anyway, when snow covered the windows for months at a time, and I wore a leg brace that I popped off all by myself. Mom's solution:  secure it with black electrical tape.  (Thank you, hip dysplasia.)

This isn't me, but this is the look. Imagine the fun - and cloth diapers, too!

In California, a neighbor's two children were my first friends: Stacie and her older brother, David. David's purpose in life, I was certain, was to show me that having an older brother was a curse.  I was 5, Stacie was 4 and David was, I think, 7-going-on-"I have a death wish." He was skilled in the art of destroying any and all girlie-girl fun.  Mud pies became weapons, Barbies were hostages, and "making girls cry" was an art form.  He did seem to enjoy it when we wanted to play doctor (the preschool version), which likely means he is a successful gynecologist in Los Angeles. 

After two moves in sunny California, we headed to Texas. In San Angelo, I befriended Christy and Suara (Sue-Aura), both of whom had moms who were, shall we say, a bit less overprotective than my Mom. Christy, who was a year younger than me, was also a diabetic. I didn't know what that meant at the time (til I turned 7 and became a diabetic, too - YAY!). Apparently, her mother hadn't caught on, either, because she gave her the same chocolate chip cookies and root beer to drink that she gave me - and would kinda, sorta, y'know, forget to give her insulin. . .or dinner. Years later, my mom would  say, "I wonder if Christy is still alive. You know, if she is, it's no thanks to her mother." 

Suara, who lived next door, was the friend who knew EVERYTHING - only I was too naive to get it. She was left alone a lot, the only child of a single mom, and I don't know where she got her information. I think she was a walking Cliffs Notes version of Cosmo and Playgirl - at the tender age of 8.  She will forever be in my memory as the first person to moon me - complete with a limerick. At the time, I was a mix of Pollyanna and Cindy Brady (without the crippling tree fall or lisp), so you know what happened:

"That is NOT how you play the glad game! Kitty Carryall and I are going HOME."
Photo courtesy: http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Pollyanna

You can imagine how often I played at her house after that happened. I didn't know my mother's jaw could drop that far.  

We moved - again - shortly thereafter - and I think, by that time, my protective armor was a a bit too strong. I was less inclined to let someone in, because it hurt too much to have to let them go. Within a year, we moved yet again to a very small town in Texas, where everyone knew - or was related to - everyone else.  Winning over people with my lack of ability in athletics and lack of interest in, well, athletics, wasn't an option, so I just went on my way, wearing dresses more than jeans, reading books that I loved - and playing with my Barbies. 

By the way, if you have an only child, please try to play board games, card games and other silly things like that so your child doesn't look clueless when a friend asks him or her to play. (This public service announcement brought to you by the adult child whose best card game is Solitaire.)

So, who did I play with? A few children who stayed in my heart, but not in my life, and friends who were in my life, but I was too afraid to let too far into my heart.  Would I change things? Sure. A little less self-involvement would have been nice, but all any of us can do is learn from our history, and try to make changes that make sense.

Recently, we moved 1100 miles from my daughter's hometown, leaving the city she was born in, the house she came home to and the friends she's known since she was a toddler. She is 9. Those friends are in her heart today, and she still talks about them, e-mails them, writes to them - and misses them terribly.  Has she made friends here? A few. Are they as close as those first, fast friends who learned to read at the same time she did? Saw her read a poem onstage in kindergarten? Welcomed her back to class in second grade after she was in hospital? Sent her handmade cards at Christmas after we moved last year? No. I don't know that there ever will be friends like that for her again, but I'm grateful for what she had then, and what she still has now. These first friends still love her, miss her - and take the time to keep her in their lives. She does the same for them, because she knows how special they are - oh, and she doesn't feel the need for the sharksuit, either. 

Even today, I still get to play. With her - and her Barbies. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever (Or Yesterday)

First, the soundtrack. . .

There. That's better.

When this weekend rolled around, I didn't have high expectations. A husband who has worked nights for 13 years and has to "cover" Sunday nights usually means the Kidlet and I fend for ourselves in the world of weekend diversions.  There are only so many manicures, movie marathons and cozy-up-with-a-cup-of-tea-and-a-good-book days you can have during a grey winter and rather damp spring, but we've managed. Kidlet's love of Animal Jam and Webkinz websites may have become an addiction, but it's a too-convenient way to manage her love of animals while we live long (but not exactly prosper) in an apartment that is 1/3 of the size of our house in Texas (that we still own). She also visits her menagerie of stuffed animals in the garage (weekly) - as well as her Razr, Razr Vespa, and bicycle (daily, weather permitting).

For those of you who haven't been nagged, here's animal ownership without buying stuffed animals (although, a paid premium membership is available - of course.) Animal Jam - National Geographic.

And the site where many a shopping/gaming/stuffed animal ownership addiction begins: Webkinz.

As much as Kidlet loves these, there are only so many times I can walk over to admire the new online outfit, accessory or home furnishing she's bought for the online zoos she's managing, so I was hoping we'd find something else to do this weekend.

Who would've thought Hubby would be the source? Since December, he'd been suggesting that I meet one of his co-workers, and maybe work out with her at Planet Fitness. Of course, what with his Y chromosome, he didn't understand that most women do NOT want to meet another woman for the first time while wearing exercise clothes and glowing so profusely from exercise that the sweat stains look like odor-enhanced Rorschach tests. It's not as if she's going to stand near the door carrying a cardboard sign with my name - like a limo driver at the airport. However, with my luck, she'd be wearing these - with a smile - and Botox-paralyzed sweat glands:

Flower power can be highly overrated - and over-used in fashion.
Photo courtesy: http://www.vibrantfitwear.com

She's the mother of three, so it wasn't likely, but it was possible. (Admittedly, I am the "glass is not only half-empty, but the glass is cracked and the liquid is poison" kind of person. It's part of my charm.)

Fortunately for all of us, busy season at their office meant no "workout blind date" - and although they have to work tonight - Sunday - Hubby suggested we all go berry-picking at a Strawberry Festival near our new-ish hometown. I admit when I first heard the idea, the Von Trapp children popped into my head. (Scary how my mind works sometimes, but there it is.)

Marta: Friedrich told you, Father, we were berry picking.
Captain: I forgot you were berry picking!
Children: Yes! yes...
Captain: All afternoon?
Children: Uhmhm!...
Louisa: We picked thousands of them!
Captain: Thousands?!
Children: Yes!

It sounded like fun, especially since we prefer fresh fruit that tastes, well, like fruit - and the Carolinas do have that, in abundance (in addition to Republicans). Produce at the mega marts tastes like preservative-infused plastic in various colors, much like toddler toys.

Hubby got off work at 7 am, was home by 7:30 and announced, "I'll sleep for an hour and a half and then we'll go." After Prince Charming awakened from his slumber, we got ready for the fields. It was another gloomy, grey 60-degree day in the Carolinas, which meant people were either in hoodies and jeans, or shorts and a tee shirt.  (They say Texans are strange.)

Thankfully, Hubby's co-worker, Amanda, turned out to be very nice. She, too, dresses like a mom who would be berry picking with her kids after getting off work (solid color tee and jeans - like I did) and we did what all moms and long-marrieds do: discuss our "other child" - the husband.  It was part of Hubby's plan, of course, when he commented on the way there: "I think you two will hit it off. Her husband is a mechanic and there's a broken down boat and car in her yard. You can complain to each other." He knew this would work because, as all wives know, at least the other woman will be LISTENING.

So, in his defense, he was right. She and I are part of the sisterhood whose husbands who are responsible. . .AT WORK.

Oh, yes! What else did we do? The berry picking. It was less Sound of Music/Strawberry Fields Forever and more, "Mom, can I eat this berry?" (times 20) and "Mom, can she come over to our house?" (Not today) and "Mom, can we go to the park together?" (No, because we have two parents who are going to have sleep-deprived mania if they don't get home soon.)  Four adults and four kids had a pretty nice time. Oh, and those berries? AWESOME!

Handpicked with love - and greed.

We went on a hayride (free), got our exercise taking the scenic little walking trail (free), bought a strawberry slushie ($2.50) and picked berries ($11 for a heaping gallon - and we get to keep the farm logo-laden bucket). A band performed - and pulled pork barbecue sandwiches were available for sale, too. Nice folks. Nice time. The festival is the only time you can pick your own berries (I think), and Kidlet made a friend, so it was all good:

Native Carolinian on a 60 degree day: shorts/short sleeve tee/brother's hiking boots (because it was muddy).
Native Texan: jeans, old sneakers, long sleeve tee AND add'l short sleeve shirt (because we were COLD).
Amanda (the co-worker) and I "hit it off" - I think - and we did the exchange of contact information. Now, the wait begins.  The good signs: In addition to the shared understanding of what it means to be a wife who doesn't want to have to act like her mother-in-law (!) in order to get things done, Amanda complimented my hair (which was a mess) and my phone case (which is, I admit, kinda purdy - for an Otterbox):

Available from Amazon - like most things in my life. :)

The bad? She has no internet access at home, can't get on Facebook at work - and, oh yeah, also works third shift. It will be another person I can't see very often because she, well, sleeps during the day.  Kidlet and I know the drill - and the drain it puts on a family. Amanda and I  agree that humans aren't meant to stay up all night and sleep all day, but you go where the work is and do what is required (we both are beholden to that reality). So, we'll see.  Fingers crossed and phone checked not too neurotically for texts/e-mails/calls. (She's working tonight. . .remember?)

"Living is easy with eyes closed," John Lennon sang, but for us, spending time in a Strawberry Field yesterday, living here - far from home - felt a bit easier. Period.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Five Fab Faves for Friday!

Thanks to Kate from The Small Things Blog and Lauren, who writes From My Grey Desk, I've decided to accentuate the positive today. . .because the gray skies near Charlotte, NC, have not made it the most happy week. A transplanted Texan is used to this kind of cloudy day:

Lake Waco - raindrops do not fall on one's head - nor in one's lake that often. Today's high: 91 degrees.
(Photo courtesy: http://www.scenicreflections.com/ithumbs/Lake_waco_Wallpaper_wwpqx.JPG)

We are NOT used to this:

Lake Wylie, SC - I think I'll call it Lake WillIeverseesun? Today's high: 79 with isolated storms tonight (PTA Carnival Night with outdoor movie) 
Photo courtesy: http://www.dustinkryanphotography.com/

Right now, however, the sun is shining and all is right in the world - as long as I don't watch the news, read the paper - or talk to my in-laws. (I kid, I kid.)

In the spirit of being positive and putting my Pollyanna on, here's my version of the "glad game" this week:

1. I'm glad Kidlet did extraordinarily well on the MAP test administered at her school this week and extremely proud to be her mom.  I think MAP is an acronym for "Measure of Academic Progress" - but I'm not going to dwell on it because standardized tests are like designer clothing lines - changing and occasionally more absurd with every season.

Kidlet is eerily book smart, wise and intuitive. . .and we still tell her to look "on her other right" when she can't find something in the fridge, cabinet or closet. I LOVE HER.  Seriously.  She scored above her grade level in both Reading and Math, but her father and I are arguing over who will have to teach her how to drive:

Photo courtesy: www.zazzle.com
Did I mention she and I are both blonde?

2.  I was invited to a breakfast to thank school volunteers. Since we moved here in October, well into the school year, it was a challenge for all of us. Kidlet was used to my working at a school, but I became a SAHM again (with her school hours from 7:30 - 2:15).  I couldn't substitute teach - with 5 years' experience as a school office employee and classroom aide - until I attended a 3-hour workshop. While I was waiting for the life-changing training session, I offered to help in any way I could, which meant quality time with a cordless glue gun in the school hallways.  That was fun. No. Really. I got to know teachers and students, which is what all moms with only one child like to do. Snoop. . .with permission. 

3. I discovered how to make cake mix cookies. BEST. HOMEBAKER FAKE. EVER.  Kidlet and husband prefer them to cookies I make from scratch, because I like crunchy cookies (and since I'm the one making them, they tended to be, well, crunchy.) Nom, nom, nom.  Anyway, I discovered that by adding eggs and oil - or eggs, oil and water, you have happy people in a fraction of the time and your house doesn't smell like the garbage hubby forgot to take out. Again. 

Making these made me so happy! I had no idea! Some people get really creative by adding nuts, chocolate or candies to the mix, but they're just fine without them. Seriously. It's cake mix. It's all there, including all those preservatives and additives that coat our insides. Bon appetit! 

You can learn more here (I flatten the cookies with a glass dipped in sugar rather than flour, btw):

Read the comments from other pastry chefs, er, home cooks, about how they make the batter better:

Even if you don't add anything extra, they do taste pretty darn good and you only mess up one bowl. Yay!

4. I'm not scheduled for a colonoscopy, nor being nagged by medical personnel to get one. . .nor by anyone else, actually.  Anyone who can say that should be happy, don't you think?

5. What always makes me smile: my favorite tee shirt, inspired by my favorite sitcom: 

"All hail, Sam Kass."

So here's the shirt, which I wore on vacation to visit my parents, who might have appreciated the shirt more - or stared quizzically at me less -  if they had seen the above-referenced clip of "The Big Bang Theory."  As it is, they finally broke down the second time I wore it (after laundry, naturally) and asked, "What does that mean?" - pointing to my chest. (I love my dad.) 

I realize now that a depiction of hand gestures on a your daughter's upper body could be cause for concern:  

Actual age: 42. Age when in the company of my parents: 12 (tall and big-boned, I think is what they call it.)

So, there you have it. I've laundered, loitered and listed - and it's not even noon yet! Hope you find or ferret out some favorite things this Friday - and we'll see if I can blog a bit better. . .later.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Remember when "smoosh" was a regular word? Ah, glory days.

If you're like me - which might be highly unlikely - the word 'Jersday' means nothing, unless you've got a child between the ages of 13-32 (conservatively) or you're enjoying your arrested development a helluva lot more than I am. If you don't know what it means,  thankfully, Urban Dictionary is here to help:

Jersday: Another name for the Thursday nights that new episodes of Jersey Shore air.

How did I hear about Jersday - or as I first saw it spelled - "Jersdaaaayyyyy"? Glad you asked. It was, of course, my go-to reliable source of information regarding the heartbeat and attention span of America:


No one has a tattoo of this yet - unless Mark Zuckerburg is holding out on us. 

I  survived the first episode, added those visions of loveliness to the scrambled bits of media attention (like here and here) and recalled the fond memory of the full-size cardboard cutout of Snooki (whale sperm expert and pickle addict) that assaulted my eyes while at the mall with my 9 year old in December:

Perfumania's Personal Appearance Princess/Guidette Warning System

In a proactive "she's only gonna listen to me until she's 12" approach, I pointed to the display and told my daughter, "NEVER dress like that. EVER."

Granted, I tell her the same thing when I see displays at Forever XXI:

Golden Goddess/Golden Shower/Golden Eggs that will be bombarded by Valtrex. . .

Trying to see if I could catch the fever that is Jersday - without the need for antibiotics - I made sure my daughter was asleep and DVR'd the program.  (That's what parents like me do. I haven't watched live prime time television in nearly a decade. My choice - not one that all parents make - but it works for me - so Kidlet has a slim chance at a real childhood.)

As I watched the premiere episode of Season 5 (mainly with a quizzical look like I just figured out what calf fries were), I found myself concerned for Vinny (who was homesick - especially after seeing his family and hiding from cast mates during a surprise party). He seemed almost normal. . .and in need of people who really cared about him.

By the time the credits rolled - (thankful I could at least understand what Vinny said), I was feeling sorry for myself. Why?

(a) I'll never get that hour back,  and
(b) Vinny (aka the only one I believe has a fully functional brain with minimal damage caused by alcohol - and who also graduated with a 3.9 GPA in college) is LEAVING the show!

25 Things You Don't Know About Me: Vinny Guadagnino
(Courtesy US Weekly)
Vinny, aka the one who doesn't want to resemble an Oompa Loompa. 

What am I supposed to do now? Watch the incredible shrinking Snooki (until she gets the implants) as she tests the limits of her birth control regimen? I feel cheated (much like most of her boyfriends, it would seem.)

Now, here's the thing that's bothering me.

Why should I care that these people are earning money in a way that I'd find demeaning and demoralizing? It's their business and they're adults (despite tons of evidence to the contrary). After all,  they started out like the rest of us. . .sort of.  These young people have an opportunity to gain fame and fortune. What's wrong with that?

Let me tell you: The parent in me is freaking out that these trainwrecks of humanity will be viewed as the new normal.  They are paraded and pimped out on public appearances and are paid handsomely for it.  I believe they'll pay the piper, so to speak, in time. The problem is, so will we.

Parents are people, too, and we have the right to enjoy the absurd, obscene, ridiculous and sublime. The same is not true of those young people who can - and will - watch Jersey Shore when they are unsupervised.  How can a pre-teen have the maturity to understand, much less learn from, the consequences of poor choices when people like Snooki and "The Situation" don't? (At least that's how they're edited to look.)

As parents, my husband and I make the decisions about what our child watches. Hopefully, we're not the only ones.  I wonder how many parents don't do this - and what their children are learning - and sharing with my child.

What will be broadcast on TV  between the hours of 2 - 9 pm when my child is 12? 15? Online access to programs that are too provocative for children is available now. Parental controls on TVs and computers and phones are great, but they don't replace the control parents have.  On more mature and provocative programming, networks digitize, bleep and block out so-called "offensive" content, but how long before nothing is offensive?

In the meantime,  I think I'll head back to the mall and wrap the Snooki cardboard cutout in Caution tape.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Honey, have you seen that box. . .?

"People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened." - You've Got Mail

This morning I asked friends for blog topic suggestions, since this is new to me and I'm trying to figure out what makes a blog entertaining  - I mean, besides resorting to bathroom humor. . .

Sacrilegious Urinals
Why does Paul Simon's "Mother & Child Reunion"  pop into my head as I look at this?
(Photo courtesy of Clark Sorenson, via Atlantic Monthly and Toilet (the book)

A good friend suggested I write about our move from Texas to the Carolinas, which began in late July and ended in late September.  

Would you like to know what's great about a cross-country move that takes 3 months to complete? So would I. Leave a comment below and we'll discuss it. 

How did our adventure in cardboard, bubble wrap and tape begin? So glad you asked. My husband left Texas after our daughter's 9th birthday celebration, traveling 1100 miles two weeks after a job offer was made and saying goodbye to the charming wife and only child. In May, he had been laid off after 13 years when the employer was bought out by a competitor.  Luckily, he had been offered a job with the new company - but in Phoenix, which we agreed had a view that could less than pleasant:

An asthmatic's dream, no?

We lived in "tornado alley" for most of our lives, Texas was in the middle of one of the worst droughts in history, which meant we'd be packing enough dust in the moving boxes, thank you very much. 

We took a pass. 

So, hubby packed up a few things, drove for 2 days to the Charlotte area, found a one-bedroom apartment (?!) in South Carolina and settled in, going to work at 10 pm, walking to the lake every day, feeding fish, hanging out by the pool, eating baked beans whenever he wanted. . .adjusting to the new normal, I guess you could say. In the meantime, what did I do? A little bit of this and that - and EVERYTHING ELSE. Good times.

In a later post, I'll talk about how we are adjusting as a family to this new state (which they refer to as "The Carolinas" - like the north and south are conjoined twins), but it's hard to appreciate what makes the Deep South special. . .when you look at the map and see that your home state is, well, deeper south, geographically speaking. 

What was the move from Texas like? If I don't dig too deeply, I can say it was one of the most challenging things I've ever done. I'm proud of handling a lot of responsibility on my own: downsizing the contents of our home of 10 years, coordinating its rental, packing things up and working with the movers who showed up one day early, then 6 hours late the next day - and giving them something to eat and drink (Thanks, Aunt Judy, for the tip!) It was also empowering to drive over a thousand miles with a nine year old daughter and a cat (and the litter box. . .who needs rest areas and gas station rest rooms?). I'm the same woman, who, at age 16,  drove into a maize field because she was trying to roll down the passenger window at the same time. 

What?! No power windows? What am I supposed to do with this? 

Ohhhh, that's MUCH better.  

Before the move, my husband and I tried to focus on the good things about the situation with our daughter - who was brought home to that big house with the big yard on the corner in town over 9 years ago, who met her best friends when she was 18 months old at the Baptist Church, and who loved their moms like family.  What did we do? We turned her into the girl who left after the first six weeks of school - a new school where she was settling in, singing every Friday during Mass and learning Spanish. Those classmates all sent her handmade Christmas cards last month, which brought tears to my eyes  - and a huge smile to her face. I'm sniffling as I type about it now. (Talk amongst yourselves. I'll be right back.)

SEGUE! (Let's move on, shall we?)

Was our move a big deal to our families? Here's a little imagery to paint in your mind. :) 

My husband and I are in our 40s, parents to one and siblings to none. We are a family of 3 "only" children. (The family tree has a few more branches, but I'm not talented enough to figure out where they belong.)  Our parents still live in Texas, in the same county we did. They are in their 60s and 70s - still married - to each other.  If we're not there for a family celebration, it's safe to say there really isn't one. In 1994, my husband and I married the Saturday before Mother's Day. Self-centered? Us?! 

The morning our kidlet and I left for Texas, my mother-in-law asked to be taken to the ER because of a migraine.  When I was hospitalized last month with an infection and pneumonia, she flew out the same day to "look after things" while I was sick.  Whenever she and my father-in-law pick us up in their car, she moves to the back seat (with her granddaughter) "to give me more leg room" up front.  

(Sure am glad my husband is the reason we had to move. . .ahem.)

My parents? They were excited for us, saying it would be a great adventure - just like it was when I was a child and my dad was in the Air Force. The difference? You had shared experiences as a military family relocating every few years - and my grandma usually came and stayed with us. Often. For months at a time.  Lucky dad.

The reality? We are the kids who moved away when most children are coming back to spend time with their parents and help when needed. My parents are older, and they'll need my help sooner - and I'm not there. Before we left for the Carolinas,  Mom & Dad told me I didn't need to come back if "something happened." These are the same people who have been helpful enough to joke about going down to the funeral home to make sure their cremations are paid for so I don't have to do it myself - and to remind me that Mom's ashes go in a Windex bottle to be displayed on the mantel.  

The reality, however, is that Dad can't travel due to COPD - which basically means that because he smoked for most of his life, he has the lung capacity of a 110-year-old. (Don't ask me how a machine can calculate it, but it did - and TriCare paid for it.) My parents won't be coming here to visit. Ever. 

My in-laws will come, but they'll need us, too. It's not a matter of if they'll need us, but when.  How do I know this? In the past two weeks, my father-in-law has driven his Mercedes convertible over a parking spot curb (tearing off the front bumper when he backed out), broken the mechanism that controls the convertible top - and, yesterday, backed into a pickup. (The pickup won.) 

I know it's not the worst thing in the world to be far away from family and friends, but it's not a reality check you want to write very often.  Keep that in mind. Relocation wasn't optional. In this economy, we went where the work could be found, but my husband, daughter, parents and I are all paying a price for it - in time. 

I think, as I spent six weeks sorting, packing, cleaning, clearing, and compartmentalizing everything in sight, I tried to do the same with my thoughts and feelings and the conflict I faced. I've kept some of them in storage until I find the time and the space to open them up again. That's not written on any moving checklist, but it should be.