Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Hate Your Food!

We had ten of my husband's relatives visiting this past weekend, including five children ages 8 and under (plus my two). Sunday morning, my husband told the kids that he was heading out to the bagel shop to pick up bagels for everyone. My 6 year old nephew responded that he does not like bagels, and my husband told him that we also had homemade pumpkin bread. As soon as my husband was out of earshot, my nephew announced to his cousins, "I hate your food!" I was standing in the next room and overheard him. A few minutes later, my 6 year old daughter came up to me and whispered, "Did you hear what R said?" Oh, yes, I did! It's not like we were offering him brussel sprouts or broccoli for breakfast!

This was not the first time my nephew had made a similar comment. At my mother-in-law's home over Memorial Day weekend, he announced that my mother-in-law buys "really bad bread" and that his mom's bread is "much better." What kind of bread did my mother-in-law have on hand, you ask? Whole grain bread. What kind of bread does said nephew's mother buy (when she's not picking up takeout or McD's for their family of five)? White bread.

That same weekend, this child asked what Dorito's are made of. I squelched my desire to immediately respond "a bunch of nasty chemicals; read the package," and my brother-in-law instead responded: "Bread with melted cheese."

And we wonder why there's an obesity epidemic in this country...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happiness, Six Year Old Style

A sensory poem by Cate, age 6:

Happiness is me and my friends.

It sounds like lafing and talking.

It smells like yummy and pretty.

It tastes like good and sweet.

It looks like jumping and smialing.

Happiness feels like nicse, good, mysilf.

Happiness, 40 year old style: Pulling this poem out of my daughter's backpack, and seeing her smiling face every day after school.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shirts Optional

Every morning after I see the kids off to school, I down a quick breakfast and cup of coffee, glance at the paper, then head out with the dog to one of our neighborhood parks (unless it's Monday, in which case we walk the golf course). One of our favorites is Winn Park, and we typically run into at least a few dogs and their owners there. Several times this week, we've seen a new dog (to us) and his owner.

This morning, I finally got around to introducing myself to the dog's owner, who told me that he was "Robert," and asked if my kids had been on the neighborhood club's swim team. A light bulb went off in my head, and I realized that he was "Coach Robert." I immediately responded, "Coach Robert! I didn't recognize you with your clothes on!" Ha!

Background...Coach Robert was quite popular among the swim team moms this past season. He is this gracious young Southern gentleman who also has an amazing body (remember, we saw him daily in his swim trunks) and a drop-dead gorgeous face. I have friends who unabashedly told me that they signed their kids up for individual lessons with Coach Robert just so they could sit poolside for half an hour and ogle him through their sunglasses. How could I not have recognized him in his street clothes? All I can figure is that the first time I saw him at the park with his dog, he was sitting on a bench with another guy, so I pegged him as one half of a gay couple (which he is not). (This is not much of a stretch as I live in a neighborhood with one of the highest gay populations on the East Coast.)

Looking forward to more mornings at the park with "Coach Robert" and his dog. Now if I could just figure out a way to make those park outings "shirts optional" for the guys...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Somber Post

Lanie, a friend of mine, recently started a heartfelt, heart-breaking blog titled "A Mourning Mom." From her "About" page:

I am a mother of four. Two of my children share a room down the hall from my room. Two of my children share a plot in a cemetery which is fifteen minutes from our home.

“A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his/her parents is called an orphan. But there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that’s how awful the loss is!” (Neugeboren)

I don’t have the answers to why Jake and Sawyer predeceased me. I don’t have the steps to get through the enormous grief and sadness which comes from burying your child or children. I am trying to get through this day by day. I welcome any and all advice, encouragement or support. I am hoping that I can assist others get through their difficult journeys. I want Jake and Sawyer to be remembered. I want to carry on their purpose in life (whatever that purpose might be).

Lanie's blog may be difficult to read at times, but her journey has been beyond difficult. I recommend that you take a look, and pass this link along to others who may be grieving the loss of a child (or, God forbid, two sons born years apart, as with Lanie).

And while I'm talking somber...

Yesterday I ran into a friend (category: moms I know because our kids went to preschool together), who mentioned that she had recently learned that a mutual friend -- let's not exercise any creativity and call this friend Jane Doe -- and I used to work in adjacent offices. I immediately responded "yes" with a smile, and shared my favorite Jane Doe story. Eight and a half years ago, I had just returned to work from maternity leave after the birth of my son. Jane stepped into my office and announced that there was a baby boy who had been born at the downtown hospital who was available for adoption. He had been abandoned by his mother at the hospital. What did I think? Should she adopt? I was floored. Jane was (and is) a single woman, maybe eight years older than me. I had no idea that she was interested in adopting a child. She has no family nearby to help. She travels for work regularly. We discussed the pros and cons of adopting this child (who had been exposed to drugs in utero) as if we were discussing the purchase of a new car.

Jane ultimately decided to bring this sweet baby boy into her life, and he is now in the same grade as my son at our public elementary school. So yesterday, our mutual friend asks, "Do you know about Jane's cancer?" Jane's cancer? Jane is a Facebook friend, and a prolific poster, but never ONCE has she mentioned her cancer on FB. Apparently Jane was diagnosed with stage 5 ovarian cancer months ago. She told my friend that she has a 5% chance of surviving more than 5 years. But I was also told that she has an incredibly positive outlook and that the cancer seems to be responding to the treatment thus far.

Please keep Jane and her son in your thoughts, and please God let her be among that 5%.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Patricia Shackelford, My Hero

One of the first blogs I discovered -- putting aside the friends & family "watch baby grow" variety -- was Patricia Shackelford's shelter blog, "Mrs. Blandings." She recently wrote a compelling post titled "On Blogging," which I was certain would end with the pronouncement that she was giving up blogging. Fortunately, I was wrong. In discussing the growth of her blog, she made this comment, which really resonated with me: "I wasn’t 'building a brand' or 'leveraging social media' and frankly that whole concept makes me mentally gag a little."

Patricia, I'm 100% with you. I'm still not certain what I will do with this blog, if anything, but I do know that there will be no brand-building here, and no leveraging of social media.

Rock on, Mrs. Blandings.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar (er, Scream)

Yesterday after lunch, I braved the record high temps to take the puppy for a hike and swim in a nearby nature preserve. I was just a couple of minutes into the trail when I felt a presence behind me. I immediately turned around and saw a man not more than three feet behind me on the trail. He was wearing a black short-sleeved workout tee, black workout pants, and, bizarrely, was carrying a long spear-like stick with the sharp end pointed toward me. How had he crept up on me so quickly? I screamed at the top of my lungs, stopped for a second while he took a step toward me and muttered "sorry," then screamed two more times. I stepped to the side of the trail, and he passed.

I watched him proceed down the trail ahead of me while I debated what to do. When he stepped toward me and muttered "sorry," I honestly didn't know whether he was saying "sorry I'm about to rape and murder you," or "sorry I startled you." His clothing suggested a trail run, but why the stick? It could have been a hiking stick, but why would he carry it if he was jogging?

I considered turning around and leaving the nature preserve, but I really needed to exercise the puppy before the kids got home from school, and the guy didn't particularly have the look of a rapist or murderer. (But, as we all know, looks can be deceiving.) I remembered seeing a construction crew on Monday, further down the trail, working on a bridge to connect two sections of the trail. If I needed help, surely I could reach them.

I continued on the walk, and never saw the guy again, which itself is a bit odd since the trail system is a figure 8, with street entrance only at the bottom of the figure 8. I thought there was a chance I'd see him again when he looped back toward the bottom. Three quarters of the way into the walk I reached the sandy "beach" area where I let my puppy swim. I saw an older couple wading in the creek with their dachshund and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I felt safe again.

Now I'm wondering whether I need to invest in Mace/pepper spray, which I haven't carried since college. (And just thinking about Mace makes me laugh as I recall my college friend Fred accidentally spraying it into his mouth, thinking it was Binaca.) In the short term, I will likely restrict my nature preserve walks to the weekends when the whole family can join me. And I will investigate whether there have been any incidents in the preserve.

An older male neighbor told me about this preserve last winter, explaining that he took his dogs there for off-leash walks at least once a week. The first time I explored it with my puppy, I did so cautiously. On that first visit, I was relieved to run into another woman walking her dog. I quizzed her about safety, and she told me that she has always felt safe walking there alone, and that she rarely sees anyone else. She did say that she once saw a homeless man, but that he made a point of walking out onto the trail so that she would see him, and not be startled. In my experience there, I'm just as likely to see no one (as on Monday), or a solo jogger, or even an acquaintance from the dog park.

I hate feeling unsafe. But I also hate having to restrict my activities. There is a wonderful rail-trail here for biking, which runs almost 100 miles to the state line, but I feel very nervous biking too far down the trail alone because a female cyclist was murdered on a secluded section of the trail several years ago.

Sometimes it stinks to be female and vulnerable.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Near Miss

Rereading yesterday's laundry list of June activities, I realized that I forgot to mention my whirlwind trip to Southern California with the kids to visit my youngest sister and baby niece. The day before we left, I was scrambling to pack and get the house in order for our departure when my 6 year old began begging for a playdate. I told her no, and then discovered this posted on her bedroom door shortly thereafter, clearly intended for me:


The next morning, our flight was scheduled to depart Hartsfield at 8:25 a.m. We left the house at 7 a.m., which I now realize was cutting it entirely.too.close. I stood in line at curbside check in with the kids for what seemed like an eternity, only to have a Delta baggage handler tell me that I couldn't check my kids in there because (long story) I had booked their flights separately from mine, using my husband's SkyMiles to purchase their tickets and my SkyMiles to purchase mine. I pointed to the even longer check in line inside the terminal, and told the agent that there was no way we would make the flight if we had to stand in that line. He gave me a pink "special handling" tag and instructed us to stand in that line, with the pets and unaccompanied minors. I sweated bullets and waited extremely impatiently, while complete strangers instructed me to take deep breaths, until we reached the front of that line. The ticket agent had no idea how to check my kids in. She called for another agent, who also had no idea how to check them in. It's not that hard, people! Finally, the third agent they called managed to check the kids in, and we ran to security.

I basically rammed our way to the front of the very long security line, yelling, "Excuse me, pardon me, Delta has put my kids and I through the wringer and we're about to miss our flight!" Of course our flight departed from the last gate on the furthest concourse from the terminal. I could not recall whether Delta closes the door to the gate 20 minutes or 10 minutes before departure on domestic flights, and at this point we were 11 minutes away from departure time. I started sprinting toward the gate, and my 6 year old yelled after me, "Mommy, I can't keep up!" I yelled back, "Just meet me at the gate!" Oh, yes, I did.

We made the flight, albeit without breakfast or the activity books I promised we'd buy at the airport. On the way home, my 8 year old commented while standing in the security line at the Orange County airport, "I feel so much more relaxed than I did when we were at the Atlanta airport."

You can say that again, buddy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Well, not fishing exactly. Rather, I spent the month of June spinning from kiddie swim practice drop off, to the park to quickly exercise the dog, back to swim practice pick up, showering and lathering my kids with prescription cream for their chlorine rashes, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and exercising the dog again. All in record high temps and high humidity. Lather, rinse, repeat, and add two sets of houseguests.

July has been completely relaxing by comparison. The kids, the puppy, and I spent the past three weeks in the kid/dog/mom paradise that is Monteagle Assembly, TN. (Pictures to follow, but I can't vouch for their quality given that I take 99.9% of my photos on my iPhone these days.)

We are now back home, both kids are at day camp in the woods north of Atlanta this week (yay! my one kid-free week this summer!), and I hope to rededicate myself to some blog posting.

Back soon! And, by the way, if you have a tip for removing blue Sharpie from leather car upholstery, I'm all ears. Sweaty sunscreened backs + blue Sharpie swimmer names and shark drawings = SUV that is now 100% completely mom'd. (See YouTube video "Mom My Ride.")

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Free-Range Kids

Lenore Skenazy, author of "Free-Range Kids," has proposed this upcoming Saturday as "Take Our Children to the Park...and Leave Them There Day." The idea is that we take our school-aged children to the park with other similarly-aged playmates and leave them there (with instructions not to leave with any strangers...duh) for a set period of time, whether half an hour or an entire morning. What a brilliant idea!

While I may not practice this exercise on Saturday, I am already giving my 6 and 8 year olds more freedom to roam, and anticipate giving them even more freedom when summer vacation begins next week (yes, next week!). For a couple of years, they have been free to run down the alleyway behind our home to the neighbor's home at the other end of the alleyway to see if their friends are available to play. And they have roamed and explored the backyards of the vacant home next door and the mostly vacant triplex on the other side of us for years, as well. (If this doesn't sound that daring, keep in mind that we live in an urban neighborhood with tons of cut-through car traffic, as in 3,000 cars drive past our home each day, and we're a short walk from the nearest subway station. For years, we have also had a homeless guy, "Jake," living in one of our neighborhood parks. Because of this car and pedestrian traffic, I have friends who won't let their children play in their backyard alone unless it is fully fenced.)

Last summer, in the kid/dog/mom paradise that is Monteagle Assembly, TN (speed limit 14), my then 7 year old was allowed to pretty much free-range the entire gated community during our three week stay. He would bike himself from my parents' cottage to morning "games" (think dodgeball, kickball, and capture the flag, with youth staff to coordinate and oversee) and bike himself home two hours later for lunch. He was allowed to bike around the neighborhood in the afternoons with his friends and cousin. And get this -- the neighborhood pool allows children ages 6 and up to swim without their parents in attendance at the pool as long as the child passes a basic swimming test! I didn't send my son to the pool unattended last summer, but I may consider it this year. Think of the confidence this age and neighborhood-appropriate freedom builds.

With the addition of a super energetic puppy to our family this past fall, I have had to leave the kids unattended at home and the park out of necessity. One of our wonderful neighborhood parks is particularly hilly, with a playground perched at the top of a hill, unofficial dog park below, and ponds and Japanese garden on the far end (a 3-5 minute walk from the playground). I have left the kids at the playground while I let the dog off leash down the hill and walked him to the pond end of the park for exercise and swim time.

There is another less-manicured park in our neighborhood called "The Dell." It is a linear, secluded park with grass on one side, a creek in the middle, and hilly trails on the other side. I routinely leave the kids playing in the creek or swinging on the rope swing while I walk the puppy on the trails above. If you cross a street from one end of "The Dell," you enter a third neighborhood park, with grassy area on one end and a playground and tennis courts at the opposite end. I can easily see myself leaving the kids on the playground this summer while I walk the puppy across the street and into The Dell for off-leash fun.

At home, I make a point to exercise the puppy twice while the kids are at school -- typically a long walk that includes off-leash time in a neighborhood park or a drive to a nearby nature preserve for hiking and swimming, right after the kids leave for school, and a less strenuous but still substantial walk after lunch. I need to walk the dog a third time in the late afternoon/early evening when the kids are home, and -- please don't flame me -- I typically walk him around our long hilly block while I leave the kids at home playing happily or watching tv. (Waiting 'til hubby gets home isn't an option since he either gets home close to 7 when we're sitting down to eat, or is traveling for work during the week.) I leave a key in the front door lock for the kids so they can let themselves out in case of emergency, and they know where my cell phone number is written down, and can dial it. I can do the walk in 10-12 minutes, or less time if I jog.

As I head out for yet another dog walk...

here's to giving our kids more of the freedom we enjoyed as kids!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Attention Walmart shoppers

Yesterday I shopped in a Walmart for the first time in YEARS. I needed white t-shirts for the kids' classmates to sign on autograph day, and it occurred to me while passing by the store on the way home from the auto repair shop that I could likely pick up a multi-pack for cheap ($6.45 for 5, in fact.) It was an alternate universe where no one I saw in the parking lot brought their own bags (except me). And the nail salon I spied from the checkout line prominently advertised their "gel" and "fill" prices. (I guess no one gets a regular mani/pedi there?)

The last time I shopped Walmart I was completely repulsed by their grocery offerings. This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find some of my favorite Kashi, Cascadian Farm, and Stonyfield Farm products, with good prices to boot. But no organic produce, at least not in the Chamblee, GA location. (Query whether the urban Walmart closer to my home stocks organic produce.) I may now add Walmart to my regular shopping rotation to buy things I normally buy elsewhere, at low prices.

I still refuse to shop Costco or Sam's Club. I'm just not a "buy in bulk" type of gal. My short-lived experiment with bulk shopping ended tragically years ago, when I bought cat food in bulk, stored it in our furnace room, and attracted every rat in the 'hood to our home for a feast.

On that lovely closing note, are you a Walmart shopper? What do you buy there?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kid Graffiti

Last week I took the Parsons chair that we use as a desk chair to the upholstery store for reupholstering. I needed a replacement desk chair so I grabbed a slipcovered chair from the dining room. When I took the slipcover off, I found this little stick figure drawn on the seat cover underneath:

I think it was drawn in pencil. I wonder what was going through my child's mind when he/she decided to draw on the fabric? Probably the same thing that was going through my mind when I was a child and drew on the side of my mattress in marker and then signed the drawing with my sister's name.

Along the same lines, a year or so ago, I found this bit of kid graffiti on the painted wood siding on the rear of our home. It must have been done in black Sharpie since it has not washed off and is immune to the Magic Eraser. I call this piece "The Planter's Peanut Guy." Bears a resemblance, no?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Dog Has His Own Apartment

We bought our 1920 Colonial Revival seven years ago, when our son was a toddler. His sister was born the next year. We live on the top two floors of our home, and the terrace level contains two small apartments, which we have used for overflow housing for out-of-town guests (we also have a separate carriage house for guests) and have occasionally rented to law student interns in the summertime and other grad students during the school year.

We always intended to gut the apartments to make more living space for our family of four. In a variation on "if you build it they will come," we have begun to empty out the apartment spaces in the hopes that empty apartments will equal first step to terrace level renovation. After Christmas, the power company hauled off the energy inefficient apartment refrigerators and sent us a nice rebate check. A couple of weeks ago, we donated most of the furniture to the refugee ministry at our church. As a result, we now have two mostly empty spaces.

We also have a super high energy eight month old Boykin Spaniel, who is gated into the kitchen when I am not out spending hours every day walking him. My ongoing dilemma when friends and playdates come over is what to do with the puppy. Last week when I was making plans for my daughter's 6th birthday party at our home, it occurred to me that the larger, one-bedroom apartment was the perfect place to put puppy. I moved his crate, cot, toys, and food and water bowls down there, and he had plenty of space to rest and play while the party took place upstairs. If he trashes the carpet or gnaws on the baseboards, who cares? If the apartment is dirty, dated, and devoid of furniture, he certainly doesn't care! It worked out well, and I used it again yesterday morning when I met with our architect, which was a vast improvement over the prior week's meeting, when puppy sat under the kitchen table gnawing on some sort of Himalayan yak cheese thing, and pooting on a very regular and smelly basis. (I later thought, "You know you've chosen the right architect when you can meet with him while your dog poots under the table without being 100% completely mortified.")

P.S. Stay tuned for the next installment in the series, My Pets' Real Estate: My Cat has Her Own Screened Porch.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's What's for Dinner (or Breakfast)

Spotted this pretty rooster in a Midtown parking lot recently. And then I saw these two chickens strolling down my neighbor's driveway yesterday.

Bear in mind that I live in the Urban Deep South, spitting distance from the Midtown skyline.

Fresh eggs, anyone?