Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back From the Beach

I want my children to believe that, regardless of the path they choose, the Husband and I will always love and support them. But there are a few things that would make me really happy. That they will -

Have good taste in music.
Be adventurous eaters.
Use correct grammar.
Love the ocean.

The first three are hit and miss, but the last one? Total home run for all three. Katie and Julia (and my nephew Daylen, who is a really great kid and a pleasure to have as a guest), ran and swam and dug all day every day. Henry was fearless, and ate so much sand that the Husband is worried he's going to poop a glass. But the boy never complained.

Enough words, see for yourself!

Julia the Magnificent
Daylen, the Awesome Nephew
Henry catches a wave.

Henry and Mommy. Uncle M in the background.
Katie the Beautiful. Daylen, Uncle M and Aunt J in the background. They are actors, and I am probably going to owe them a royalty check now.

Those are some good looking kids!

Contemplative Henry. Or maybe he's pooping.

Katie, such a young lady.
Julia, rocking a dolphin tat.

Daylen, with his scorpion tat. I also supported his decision to buy the shell people playing poker souvenir. I am a truly horrible influence.
At the Pirate's Voyage. It was awesome, the kids loved it, and Dolly Parton made an appearance via video in a mermaid costume. Seriously.
The Husband and the In-Laws.
Southern Fried Grandma and Henry.
Happy vacation, y'all!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beach Report, Mid-Week

One of the best parts of the beach is the roar of the ocean waves - and how they completely drowned out the roar of my trumpeter farts, caused by eating 800 pounds of pie, cheese, hot dogs and various other gas-producing delicacies. Good grief.

I could have used the sound of the waves when I farted in front of my father-in-law (for the first time in 21 years of knowing him). To his credit, his response was "High five!". Then, while we were playing trackball on the beach one day (trackball is one of the few games that can make even me seem athletic), my boob popped out of my bathing suit. Without missing a beat, he said "Whoops! Lost a mimi!", and then continued our game. The guy is smooth.

Aside from the next-level bonding between my father-in-law and I, the vacation has been relatively uneventful so far. We've made it to the beach each day despite rain, and the Husband and I are taking the kids to the Pirate's Voyage tomorrow. Swashbuckling fun with a score written by none other than the one and only Ms. Dolly Parton. I don't know about you, but when I think Dolly Parton, I think pirates! After I think enormous boobies, of course.

Two more days, and then back home, where I'll spend the next week de-sanding everyone and everything and wishing it were next summer so we could do it all over again. Thanks again to Erin from Creating Little Monsters and Shannon from Shannanigans for keeping SFC afloat this week, whilst I frolic at the seashore. As a little teaser to the photo-palooza I'll be posting when we get back, here's a heart melting shot of my oldest and my youngest, taken by my mom.

Lessons Learned at the Water Park

Today's post was written by Erin at Creating Little Monsters, a witty, honest, and wonderfully written blog. It's quickly become one of my must reads. AND she's Canadian! I love Canadians! I found myself nodding in agreement the entire time I was reading this - I bet you will too. When you're done, take a trip over to her blog and read more. Thank you, Erin!

We planned a trip to a water park last weekend.  You know - lots of water slides, kiddie pools, sunbathers?  So many greasy humans that you couldn't walk more than a couple feet blind-folded without audibly smacking flesh-on-flesh into someone?  Good times?

The whole week before, I was having horrifying visions of myself in a bathing suit.  Despite my attempts in the last several months to lose some of my gargantuan bulk, I still have a long way to go before looking even remotely acceptable a bathing suit.  Also, my arms and shoulders are a beautiful golden-brown that contrast with legs which haven't seen the light of day in, oh, 6 years and are a not-quite-so-attractive phosphorescent greenish-white.  Not to mention, thighs craggier than Gordon Ramsay's face that sit on top of calves that are laced with varicose veins that rest on feet that are a pedicurist's worst nightmare.

When we went to the same water park years (and years) ago, I remember the sheer euphoria as I slid faster than a speeding bullet down the slides, splashing violently into the cool water below.  I remembered baking in the sun, waiting in lines, flirting with boys.
I vividly remember that one time while going down a particularly fast slide...  the time when the top half of my bathing suit strippedcompletely clean off my body.  I tried to contain the "girls" as I splashed into the pool below the slide.  I held my breath under water. flipping around trying to restore the brassiere of my swimsuit.  I couldn't scramble quite fast enough to completely contain everything before people started to panic thinking I was drowning.  The memory of my mortification will be forever burned into my subconscious. Of course, my brain would pick that precise moment to decide to be photographic.

To fuel my body image issues even more, we couldn't go to this park alone.  No.  We went with my mother (that I can handle - I did come out of her body after all, though I was slightly smaller then) and some friends of ours.  One friend who, despite having  just popped a baby out a few months ago, looks like an Aryan goddess.  I just knew my ego was going to go up in flames like the Hindenburg. Then I read this and this and this whole blog and more.  And they made me feel a bit like a crap mom and honestly, a bit of a crap human being.  Why?  Because I'm not satisfied with my body and I care about the way others perceive how I look.

There, I said it.

I have one son, 6, and two daughters, ages 4 and 2, and of course I don't want them to ever have to feel insecure about the way they look or feel the way I do. I've decided to try to impress on them that I'm being more active and eating less garbage so I can be a healthier person - not because I want to looking good in a bathing suit (lies... all lies). I will try harder to boost their self esteem in non-aesthetically-related ways, focusing more on the qualities of their personalities that make them so special to me. I will absolutely never pressure them to look a certain way or attempt to fit them into some aesthetic mold.

I'm not sure how much it will help.   I can't remember my hippie parents ever dieting or being anything but totally secure with their bodies - though they weren't perfect - and I certainly can't remember them making me feel guilty about mine.  Sadly, I think it's something I believe might come naturally to most people, and girls in particular.

Once we actually arrived at the water park, it took me all of 10 panic stricken minutes to decide that I wasn't going to let my self esteem issues control me.  Though I was hyper-aware of ensuring my jubblies were modestly contained, I strutted around in my bathing suit with confidence.  Flabby bits and cellulite be damned. I'm glad I did.  My kids had a blast frolicking with their mom in the water.  The rest of the water park patrons didn't look twice.  My husband didn't care (well, if you must know, he was a bit pervy about my lack of modesty).  My Aryan-goddess friend didn't care.  In fact, she had a much harder time releasing herself from the shield of her dress than I did.  I asked her why?  She doesn't like her stomach. I guess even goddesses have their own issues. If I'm being honest, I'd be walking around nude if I looked like her.

God help us all ...and God help my kids.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


My grandmother was a treasure hunter. In bargain basements and estate sales and junk shops - especially junk shops - she poked and prodded and unearthed endless treasures. The entire collected works of Alvin & the Chipmunks on vinyl. Gilligan and The Skipper in rubber relief. A Pillsbury Dough family (including The Boy), surely a collector's item. To someone. Somewhere. Certainly to her 6 year old granddaughter, the recipient of so many of these treasures.

Indeed it was me she immediately thought of when she stumbled across a battered and worn wooden case - it's rope handle hanging by a thread, the wood so thin it was hardly more than cardboard, the edges trimmed in barn red material that may have once passed for leather. A wobbly brass latch tenuously held it all together and when she opened it she saw possibilities. When I opened it, I saw stamps. Thousands of stamps, some never used, some used and yellowed and peeling away from a square of envelope, a corner torn away from a letter - from and to whom was a mystery. A tattered booklet sat atop the pile - The Young Person's Guide to Collecting Stamps.

When the case came to me in 1978, the guide was already 30 or more years old, and some of the stamps decidedly older than that. I remember the feel of those dry used stamps, the musty smell of old things. Buried beneath the stamps near the bottom of the case, tenderly tied with a faded ribbon, was a stack of postcards. I don't know if my grandmother knew the postcards were mixed in with the stamps, but I'm sure that if she did, she would have recognized them - This! This is the real treasure.

They were all written in the same spidery hand of a woman of my grandmother's generation, and the message, while differing in specifics, was essentially the same - Having a great time. Wish you were here. The St. Louis Arch, the Mississippi River, the Roy Rogers Museum, scenic Joplin, Missouri - a travelogue of the Midwest, sent to children and grandchildren, signed in the same way - Love, Faye.

Every time I find myself traveling, in a place near or far, I think of those postcards. I think of my fascination with those places as a child, and with Faye, marveling at how very cosmopolitan she was. Scenic Joplin, Missouri! How is that we have moved away from a something so small, yet so personal, a note to let our loved ones know that we are seeing something spectacular, and wishing they were with us.

As I sat on the beach this afternoon, holding my sleeping child, watching the others play in the sand, listening to the waves and being completely and totally at ease, I thought of you. This is my digital postcard to you, and though it is written in a much different way than those postcards from Faye, the sentiment is the same.

Having a great time. Wish you were here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Traveler

"I am a born traveler." This is how Katie responded when her aunt asked how her flight was from North Carolina to Arizona. She's absolutely right; she has no problems with jet lag, is perfectly happy with airplane food, and adjusts well to any new setting or situation. Her first big trip was at 10 months old - a cross country flight from NC to California. She never cried, never fussed. She smiled and babbled and charmed everyone she came into contact with. When we deplaned several of the flight attendants stopped us to comment that they had never had such a delightful baby on a flight.

She is always looking forward to the next adventure, the next trip. She is never hesitant to leave, with or without her dad and me. The first time we dropped her off at sleep away camp, I stood by her bed, fussing and fidgeting with her sheets, looking for excuses not to go. My throat was lumpy and my eyes hot with tears, and she turned to me in exasperation and said "You can go now." Kindergarten, sleepovers, trips big and small, all begin the same way - with a roll of her eyes and the reassurance, "I'm fine, Mom. You can go."

Imaging what your children are going to be as adults is a fun game. As things stand, Henry will be a garbage man or landscaper, or maybe a professional climber of things. Julia will be a dancer or a wrestler. Katie will be a fashion designer or a writer or an actress. When I think about Christmases to come, our family gathering together, I always imagine it will involve a trip to the airport to pick up Katie. Because whatever her future holds, I am almost certain that it will take her away from this small southern town.

It makes me sad, and proud. Wherever she goes, however far she roams, I hope she always remembers to come back home.

And that is where she is heading right now. Approximately 6 hours until I see my girl. Oh, how I have missed her.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pre-Vacation Jitters & A Random Recipe

In the past few days, I have cleaned out cabinets and drawers, scrubbed grout and purged toys. I have been short tempered, short sighted and generally unpleasant. My anxiety is at a defcon 4 alert level, and I am this close to asking my mom for some dog xanax. The reason? The most highly anticipated, relaxing week of the whole year - BEACH WEEK. Is it ironic that my favorite week of the year causes me such pre-trip anxiety? Or maybe it's less irony and more a reflection of the fact that I am a freak.

Katie comes home from Arizona on Tuesday (after a ridiculously long trip), along with the in-laws and my fabulous nephew. On Saturday, the eight of us, plus my mom, will drive to Litchfield Beach. The Husband's brother and his wife will join us on Sunday. We will eat, sit on the beach, read and play. It is wonderful.

In the meanwhile, I have an eight page list of things to do/buy/back/cook/etc etc.

I've lined up a couple of awesome guest bloggers for you while I'm gone, and I know you'll love them. If you have a blog, or are interested in guest writing a piece, I'd love to have you! E-mail me at

And in the worst segue in the history of blogging, here is my favorite summer salad recipe. WARNING: It sounds gross. It is not. It will be the hit of your next backyard BBQ, and everyone will want the recipe.

Watermelon-Tomato Salad (courtesy of Southern Living)

  • 5 cups (3/4-inch) seeded watermelon cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

  • 1. Combine watermelon and tomatoes in a large bowl; sprinkle with sugar and salt, tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.
  • 2. Stir in onion, vinegar, and oil and a few grinds of cracked black pepper. Cover and chill 2 hours. Serve chilled.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Time I Almost Died Removing My Facial Hair

You may recall me complaining about my Wilford Brimley mustache a few months ago. After that post, I got a recommendation for a new hair removal product. I saw it today at Target, and with our annual beach vacation looming, I thought I'd give it a try (being mistaken for a beached walrus would be bad).

I also decided to chronicle the experience for your viewing pleasure. What follows is the most unflattering and, frankly, disturbing series of pictures ever taken of yours truly.

First, the application. That's a sexy time pose, by the way.
I had to wait 10 minutes before removal. 10 minutes is a long time in my world. My kids are asleep and I'm bored, so I paint my fingernails. BECAUSE I AM CRAZY LIKE THAT. I must have lost track of time, because the next thing I know, my upper lip is kind of burn-y. I wipe the cream off with a cotton ball (hair comes off! Success!) and rinse with cool water. It is still kind of burn-y. I am a little worried.
I rummage through the cabinet to find some soothing relief-
And then decide that taking a picture of myself crosseyed would be funny.
Wait a minute.
What the fuck? I'm not crosseyed. Let's try that again.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? How did I cross one eye? And why is one of my nostrils freakishly bigger than the other?

Oh my God. I'm having a stroke. Is it possible to have a stroke that only affects your ability to cross your eyes? I'm certain it is. This may be a good time to mention that of all the potential, realistic ways to go (getting hit by a milk truck, tripping and falling in a field of forks, getting trapped in a giant clothes dryer), a stroke is my number one, this shit will kill me, fear. Foot falls asleep? Stroke. Ringing in my ears? Stroke. Hangnail? Stroke.

So you can see why I was alarmed. Maybe if I look at my finger.
That didn't work either! I am FREAKING OUT!
 But I like this picture very much, because I look like Kermit the Frog. This makes me laugh, and I notice that my face is no longer burning.

And don't my nails look cute?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

She Who Smelt It, Dealt It

"They fart like they breathe." The Husband commented to me one evening, as we listened to the symphony taking place on the couch. Our girls, sprawled out and slack jawed, watching Spongebob and ripping them out.

We are fart connoisseurs in this house. Titans of Tooting. Wizards of Wind. Paragons of Poppery. Even the dog breaks wind at a level that far surpasses normal dog fartery. The baby left no doubt as to his paternity when, at just a few days old, he hiked a leg and let loose the shot heard 'round the newborn nursery.

When we have company over, we exhibit extraordinary sphincter control. But no sooner does the door shut that the Husband says, "And here goes your mom." and sure enough, my rump lets loose with the old hoo-ha, hue and cry. My bowels have a complicated system of shutting down and starting up (I can not poop for the first three days of any trip, I just can't. I might have crossed a line there, and I apologize.) that makes me wonder - if I can subconsciously hold a fart for two hours, is it really that hard to imagine that someone could bend a spoon with their mind? Who knows what amazing powers lie dormant beneath the surface of our minds. ESP! Teleportation! Laser beam eyes! 

My butt may very well hold the key.

I recently conducted a very scientific poll amongst some of my bitches, wherein I posed the following questions:
1. Do you fart in front of your husband?
2. Do you fart in front of your children?
3. Do you fart in front of your friends?

With little exception, the answers were:
1. Yes. (with bonus points to the woman who said that she liked to either karate kick fart, or finger shoot fart)
2. Yes.

Which perplexes me a little. Women are more than willing to discuss the (very gross) details of menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. Giving the gory details of labor and delivery is like a contest among women. An older woman I barely know looked me square in the face and told me that if I wanted to conceive a boy, I should douche with vinegar. She said this to me standing in the vestibule at church. You are not supposed to say DOUCHE at church, people! Fuck!

But I guarantee if that woman needed to fart, her ass would be clenched up so tight she could turn coal to diamonds, until she was safely in the confines of her vehicle. There are people out there who rarely (and they will say 'never', liars) cut the cheese. These people should be avoided at all costs, as they are unnatural, untrustworthy, and potentially criminal.

As for us, we don't flaunt our flatus. We are discreet unless at home among our fellow familial farters. And even then, we manage to say 'excuse me'. After the high fives, of course.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Road Trip

Like most every kid who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I spent countless hours crammed in the back of our family vehicle, fighting with my brother on the way to our annual vacation. We had a cooler full of cokes and sweet tea and baloney and cheese, a loaf of Wonder Bread, a bag of Ruffles and a pack of Oreos. My parents were lucky to have boys who were willing to pee on the side of the road and a girl with a bladder of steel, and we rarely stopped.

It was a rolling party.

So it is with great nostalgia that I jump at any chance to take a road trip. I feel guilty for air pollution and annoyed with gas prices for all of about five minutes, then I pack up the cooler and set the cruise control and just drive.

With Katie in Arizona, it seemed like the perfect time for the little ones and I to go on a road trip to visit our friends J & M, who moved to a suburb of Atlanta. We packed up a ridiculous amount of shit for a 3 day trip, and headed out Monday morning. The drive was without incident, the kids were fantastic, and we had a wonderful time. My friend M- is the most gracious hostess, they made us feel so at home, their children played so well with Julia, and she never once complained as Henry redecorated her lovely home.

They're a family of vegetarians, so I joked with the Husband that I was packing the cooler full of meat, so I could sneak out in the middle of the night and gnaw on it. But our first night there, M- made these really delicious wraps, so I figured I'd survive the trip.*

I wish I could tell you that something crazy happened, or that someone pooped in their pants at least, but no such luck. It was all perfectly pleasant and with rare exception (a baby who refused to go to bed and a pissed off bunch of wasps), all went well. I did trip and fall on my ass in the pool having a Rescue 911 moment with Henry, who was in no imminent danger, but no one was there to witness it but M-. So disappointing.

Driving back is always so much different that driving there. Driving there, I'm always so excited, anticipating the destination, and noticing every little thing along the way. Driving home, I just want to get home. Suddenly, Georgia just sucked. It seemed so much hotter and humid than North Carolina. South Carolina was equally craptastic - bad roads, scraggly vegetation. Lake Hartwell, which on the way down elicited such wonderful memories of a dear friend, just looked so freaking big, and took forever to cross. On the way down, I had pointed out the giant peach of Gaffney to Julia, who noted that it looked just like a butt. On the way back, I realized she was right - it was assy.

Then we crossed the state line into North Carolina, and everything changed. We may not do everything right in this state, but our roadside landscaping is nothing short of spectacular. Coming up I-85 into North Carolina, the road is flanked by lush, old growth trees in every shade of green - maples and beech and pine and the oaks, pine and willow and pin and southern red. Magnolias. The dogwood, our state tree, and the dime a dozen crepe myrtles. Huge, symmetrical floral plantings, day lilies are in all their glory now. Every inch of available space has been filled by a tree or shrub or flower and you can't help but feel like you're driving in the middle of a forest. It is breathtaking.

And just when you think that North Carolina may very well be the prettiest place you've ever seen, Kings Mountain comes into view and seals the deal. I-85 is a short shot through Cleveland County, where I caught 321 and headed north -Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba - until I-40 comes into view in Hickory, and I'm in the home stretch. I blow through Iredell County because I know that on the other side is the most beautiful place in the world; the place that makes mountains pale in comparison. On the other side is my bed and my dog and my husband. On the other side I will tuck tired babies into their own beds and be thankful for good friends and road trips, and knowing that the best part of going is always coming back. Knowing that just on the other side is -


Pictures from the fabulous Georgia Aquarium.

*I did have a footlong chili cheese coney on the way home though. Doubly meaty to make up for any I missed. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Things I Do to Amuse Myself

There are few things that bring me greater joy than annoying the Husband. Sometimes he does something to irritate me (like not putting the baby latches on the cabinets for months) and I have to do something to irritate him. Sometimes, I need no provocation.

Sometimes, I just need a roll of velcro tape and five pair of freshly laundered pants, home from the dry cleaners.

Katie and I are standing in the closet, velcroing the crotches of my husband's pants together and thinking about him putting them on and I get the wheezy Muttley laugh. The very best scenario is if he can convince himself that the dry cleaner is the one who put the velcro in the crotches. The very very best scenario would involve him going down to the cleaners and demanding answers. I might have to hide in the bushes and take pictures if that happens.

Then we wait. It takes almost a week for him to get to the pants. I'm standing in the kitchen this morning, listening carefully and trying to keep quiet. I hear him go into the closet.

Rrrrriiiiippppp. "Well, that is bizarre. Kelly! This is bizarre."

He walks into the kitchen holding his pants up.
"This is weird. My pants came back from the dry cleaner with the crotch velcro'd together."
"That is weird."
"Did you do this?"
"Why would I do that? That is very strange."
(Now, I am laughing, but trying not to laugh too much, while maintaining an appropriate look of confusion.)

So he puts them on, and pats the velcro crotch down, and says "I don't get it."
"Are you going to leave it in there?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Are they all like that?"
"Oh, I don't know. I hope not."

We walk into the closet and he discovers that they are all like that.
"Maybe they mixed up your order with someone else."
"Maybe someone who can't work a zipper. I hope they didn't charge us. Do you have the receipt?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Next time you are in there, you need to check and make sure that we weren't charged."

And then he went off to church. I know he's sitting there right now, trying to listen but distracted by his velcro crotch. For that, I feel bad. But not too bad. Maybe I'll confess when he gets home - or maybe I'll just wait and let him read this.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back Roads

One of the best things about living in North Carolina is the easy access via highways and country roads to the middle of nowhere. You can get in the car, drive a little bit, and find yourself in a place you've never been, and maybe didn't even know existed.

The husband and I put the littles in the car this afternoon with every intention of driving to one of our favorite mountain towns, Blowing Rock. But along the way, we saw a sign for West Jefferson, and having some vague memory of having heard of it, we took the turn.

It's a cute enough town, and the scenery is so breathtakingly gorgeous, and the sun was shining, and there was ice cream.

There's a cheese factory there, and we peeked inside the factory and sampled some squeaky cheese curds and admired the giant cows and a giant mouse.

Then we got in the car with every intention of coming home and I said "Hey! I think Shatley Springs is up here." Once, maybe 8 or so years ago, my mom and her friend and I took Katie to Shatley Springs for a family-style dining and shopping experience. I thought I remembered it being fun, and even though the husband remembered it differently ("You said it sucked!"), I convinced him to go down the road another 20 miles and check it out.

The shining jewel of Shatley Springs is the restaurant. I am a sucker for biscuits and gravy and country ham and butter and grease and all manner of artery clogging delicacies, all piled high on platters and bowls and brought to my table by a woman 20 years my senior, who insists on calling me ma'am. As a bonus, there were some little shops and Julia loves a gift shop, so I thought we'd all have a great time.

We pulled down the gravel road to the Shat and as it came into view, Sean said "What the hell is this?". A collection of barn red buildings, the largest with a wide porch running the length of the building, the Shat resembles a hillbilly Hilton. You half expect Jed and Granny and the coon dogs to come out to greet you.

"Atmosphere! It has atmosphere!" I grinned.

We park and get out of the car, taking our time to unbuckle kids, get out the stroller, and collect our bags. We notice that there is an older gentleman on the front porch, hooked into a sound system, singing. How quaint.

"Is that 'Silent Night'?" I ask, listening. That's weird, but still quaint.

As we make our way down the parking lot, the guy moves from Silent Night into a spoken word piece, the music swelling behind him. He is talking about the power of Jesus, which is a little odd outside of a restaurant, but we're down with Jesus, so we roll with it. The husband goes into the restroom and the children and I stand outside and listen to the guy, who is doing a lot of talking about the blood of Jesus, talking about a LOT of blood, and Julia is clearly uncomfortable. I look around and notice that my children are the only children. In fact, the husband and I are the youngest people in the audience by at least 40 years.

The husband comes out of the restroom and he is making crazy eyes at me (the eyes that say 'what the fuck is going on here!') and he says "Did you bring me to some sort of seniors Christian retreat?"

I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing. The fellow up front is really going good now, and nothing he is saying is funny, and the old people are giving us the stare down. We hustled the kids into the stroller, across the parking lot, and back into the car. The husband is still not entirely convinced I haven't tried to rookie-doo him into a evangelical retreat at the Shat. He confused and sweaty and clearly rattled.

"Did you hear that guy?" He says. "He started talking about the bottle of Jericho and I knew we had to get out of there."

"The what?"

"The bottle of Jericho."

"Battle. The Battle of Jericho."

"Whatever! We're CATHOLIC! I don't know all that stuff."

Of course, he later insisted that he did, indeed, know it was the battle of Jericho, but got confused with all the old people, and thought he was talking about a bottle of Geritol. The entire episode was so disorienting that I'm inclined to believe him.

What a good day.

Friday, July 8, 2011


When my husband was four, his parents put him in a car with his 20-something uncle, and they drove from Wisconsin to Los Angeles. The car broke down somewhere in New Mexico, but they finally arrived, safe and sound. It was, undoubtedly, a fabulous adventure.

Can you even imagine? No cell phones? No Google Maps? No GPS? Not knowing where your precious snowflake was at any moment?

You may remember the piece from Lenore Skenazy several years ago, about letting her 9 year old ride the subway home alone. The reactions ranged from high fives to horrified, with most people in my circles leaning toward the latter. I know I did. And while I support the idea of free range kids in theory, I hold on to the notion that the world was a safer place 30 years ago when I was 10. Today, well - there are scary people everywhere! Stranger danger is so drilled into our heads (and our kids'), that we assume multitudes of pedophiles are lurking in every bathroom stall.

Katie is a connoisseur of public restrooms. We almost never go anywhere where she doesn't have to pee, and I am not about to drag two other children, strollers, carts, and various other bullshittery into a teeny bathroom so I can make sure she's not molested by the Tidy Bowl man. She is old enough to get in there, do her business, and get out - and old enough to know that if she walks in on something hinky, she needs to get out toot sweet*.

I temper her independence with my idea of safeguards. Against sound advice, we got her a cell phone. It gives me peace of mind when she's roaming the neighborhood, and it's come in very handy during her extracurricular activities. We only had some minor glitches ("Get a text every day from Justin Bieber!"), and overall it's been a good thing. She's as responsible and mature as any ten year old can be, and I feel reasonably sure that she will conduct herself as such out there in the big, bad world.

The topic 'how old is old enough?' is one that comes up frequently with my friends. How old to stay alone? How old to go to the mall with friends? How old to babysit? How old, how old, how old? It's such an arbitrary question, with so many qualifiers that it's hard to give a pat answer. I can't answer for your kid, only mine. Even then, I'm not always positive of my answer.

Yesterday, we put her on a plane by herself to fly to Arizona to visit the grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. And every confidence I had completely shattered and I became headless chicken panic stricken hover mother. I tracked her flight (in real time, which is a very cool time suck I learned during my brief stint as a Cha Cha answer girl) and was yelling across the house "SIX MINUTES! SHE LANDED SIX MINUTES AGO! HAS SHE CALLED? WHY HASN'T SHE CALLED?"

She'll be gone for 12 days. It's the longest I've ever been away from her. Even though she is a smart kid, and is in very capable hands, I can't help but worry she won't brush her teeth, or wear sunscreen, or eat vegetables. The more she grows up, the more painfully aware I am that she will always be my baby. I wonder if letting your kids grow up has less to do with letting them go and more to do with keeping quiet about the choices they make.

She's still a kid. Old enough to go to the bathroom alone and fly across the country. Young enough to still need her mom, hopefully as much as I need her.

*Or, tout de suite, if you're some fancy pants French person.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wild Man

Katie was born to teach me unconditional love.
Julia was born to teach me humility.
Henry was born to teach me that I will never be fast enough.

When I found out we were having a boy, my brother (the father of three boys) was more excited than anyone. Mostly because he wanted to laugh in my big, fat, smug face for all my years of high horsey "My children would never do that"-edness. Because being the mother of a boy is decidedly different than being the mother of a pretty pretty princess. It just is.

I didn't believe it would be all that different, especially when they're babies. How old fashioned to believe that preferences are so fixed, so early!* How sexist, how silly, how idiotic! My children will never be harnessed by the yoke of gender stereotypes.


Give Henry a stick and a ball, and he will make contact. Give him anything with wheels, and he will go "brrrrruuuuuummmmm". Put something up high, and he will find a way to climb up to it. Show him a piece of machinery and he will point and yell "OH OH OH!". Take off his diaper and he will, well, he'll do what boys do. Boys.

Sure, he also likes purses and baby dolls and occasionally poops out a sequin. Those things happen, especially when you have big sisters. But he is so different, and that difference seems so natural and unforced, it is really remarkable to me.

But despite all his very boyness, he is also my lovey. My sweetie boy, who would be perfectly happy in my arms all day long. He is my most affectionate, sweetest, cuddliest baby. The same 'they' that say boys are different also say that there is something special about the mother-son relationship. I'm beginning to think that 'they' may be right.

*I am firmly against gross generalizations, except when they fit my particular situation. I am firmly in favor of people (even babies) being who they are, so if your baby girl likes monster trucks and your baby boy likes Barbie dolls, rock on.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Guest Blogging at Piedmont Parent!

I'm guest blogging over at Piedmont Parent today, so check it out! The text of the post is below, if you're reading this late. If you're local, you're probably familiar with the magazine. The website is equally chock full o' information.

If you're visiting SFC from Piedmont Parent, welcome! Dig in a read a little bit. Recent popular posts include:
Non-Biblical Lessons from Vacation Bible School
Snobby Bitches

Thanks to the folks at PP for the opportunity!

Practically (Im)Perfect in Every Way

My children are the smartest, funniest, most charming and extraordinarily good looking kids on the planet. Just ask anyone. OK, maybe just ask me. If you ask anyone else, they might say that they are good kids, but they're also prone to naughtiness and rudeness, they don't clean their rooms and often forget to flush toilets. They are, in other words, normal kids. Which is why I'm always surprised at how I react when they behave that way.

Last week, my youngest bit a little girl in the church nursery. I was mortified, apologized profusely to the mother, and vowed that it would never, ever happen again. Until three days later, when he did it again. This time, instead of reassuring myself with 'it's just a phase!', I was deeply embarrassed. So embarrassed that I actually considered not telling the mom. "It's not that bad, right?" I asked the other nursery worker as I furiously rubbed the bite mark, willing it to go away. "Right?" In the end, lying to someone in the church nursery seemed like a one way ticket to hell. And even though the mom was incredibly understanding, I still felt like a jerk.

That's one of the best, and one of the worst, parts of parenting. We take it all so personally. When my ten year old daughter got a school award, you'd think she'd received the Nobel Prize by the boasting I did on Facebook. The credit lay only loosely in what we did as her parents, she did most of the work herself. On the flip side, you don't see me posting about her preteen tantrums or the aforementioned toilet flushing issue. Her shortcomings are no more my fault than her attributes are my successes.

I find that I become more accepting of 'kids being kids' with subsequent children. When our middle child was three, we took all the kids out to lunch. On the best of days, taking three smallish children out to eat is a crap shoot. Even well behaved children have the potential to become hooligans - ramming their bodies against the back of the booth, throwing food, yelling 'I HAVE TO POOP!' at top volume. The risk versus reward on eating out is so high that we didn't set foot inside a restaurant that didn't feature a cartoon character mascot for a solid two years. But every now and again I delude myself into thinking that all will be well, and we pack them up, take them out, and hope for the best.

Halfway through the meal the three year old, who has been jamming cheese quesadilla in her mouth at an alarming rate, finally reaches maximum capacity and vomits her entire meal on to the table. My oldest child (the one with the vomit phobia) screams and runs away from the table. The vomiter is crying and the baby, in an act of solidarity, starts in as well. I scoop the three year old up to take her into the bathroom to wash. As I'm leaving the table, I say something that I never would have said with Child #1:

"Don't let them take my food. I'm not done eating."

If that incident had happened with our first, I would have been completely horrified. I would have rushed everyone out of there after apologizing (and most likely crying) to the employees and fellow diners and never, ever gone back. But the longer I have kids, the more I realize - they're just kids. They make mistakes and embarrass us and themselves and try to navigate the world around them with the limited tools they have.

Kind of like adults.

So whether they're barfing on tables and biting playmates, or being charming and winning awards, I try to remember - they're just people. They're capable of the very best and the very worst, and I love them no matter how they behave. I hope they'll do the same for me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Apple Pie & Fourth of July

What a great weekend - time spent lakeside, parades, fireworks that were kind of a bust, but not totally, and one of the best apple pies I've ever made.

Let's skip all the mundane details and get right to the important part - the PIE. (If you are not interested in pie, skip to the end of this post for pictures of adorable children). I will give you a very loose recipe, because (and I will be blunt here) - I fucked it up. Actually, I fucked it up and then SAVED IT, and I think the saving it is what made it so good. I'll have to see if I'm able to duplicate the results.

It starts simply enough.
5 or so medium apples (I had Pink Ladies, so that's what I used), peeled, cored, and sliced
3/4 C white sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg

Mix apples and spices in a large bowl. In a big skillet, melt 1/2 stick of butter and add apples. Cook over medium heat until tender but still firm, about 10 minutes.

WAIT A MINUTE! you say. Cook the apples? Before you put them in the pie? Yes! Here's why: Have you ever made an apple pie, and piled your apples up in the crust and they look super yummy, and you put the top crust on and put it in the oven and it looks fabulous when you take it out. But when you cut into it, you have a giant air pocket in between crust and filling? Because your apples have cooked down and your crust has stayed up! Cooking the apples first completely eliminates this problem. Nothing comes between my pie crust and my filling!

Put your bottom crust in your pie plate, then, using a slotted spoon, remove the apples from the skillet and put them in the pie plate. Make a slurry of a little cornstarch and water, then add to the remaining butter in the pan to thicken.

This is where I screwed up. I made it way too thick, so I needed to thin it out with some apple juice. Then it was too cornstarch-y, so I added some brown sugar. Then it was too sweet, so I added another pinch of cinnamon and a tiny bit of salt. Then it was PERFECT. So, experiment a little bit. Get it nice and syrupy and when it tastes awesome, pour about 1/2 C of the syrup over the apples.

Top with the other half of your crust, roll and flute or crimp edges, brush with beaten egg white, then sprinkle the whole top with turbinado sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before cutting.

And now, my equally delicious children (the husband bought me a flash for my camera as an anniversary gift, and I am still getting in the habit of turning it off and on, so the pictures aren't the best):
Henry at the lake.

Julia on her prize winning entry into the neighborhood 4th of July Parade.
Katie, riding Julia's bike. Too cool to decorate her own bike, just dorky enough to ride the 4 year old's princess bike down the street.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mad Woman

I take a sick pleasure in righteous indignation. My ass and my shoulders meet on a regular basis, and when they do the ass is loathe to get down. I can hold a grudge like you wouldn't believe. I can stay mad forever.

It's a fact the husband can attest to. I am mad at him right now - except I'm not really mad anymore, I am just pretending like I'm mad. Because a) I haven't been mad long enough and b) he has not yet apologized correctly. Let's break that down:

a) I haven't been mad long enough: Depending on the transgression, I can be mad anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days. There is a 1 hour minimum on being mad, and is reserved for things like not changing the toilet paper roll, leaving me to drip dry. 3 days is for the most serious offense - hurting my feelings. In this particular case, he has hurt my feelings, but what he said holds a kernel of truth, which tempers the punishment to 1 day.

b) He has not yet apologized correctly: When you say "What I said, while true, was not kind..." you have done fucked up, mister. Adding the 'while true' totally negates the apology, and might get extra time added on to your sentence.

But here's the problem - the only one getting punished here is me. The hell!, you say. He is sitting over there, tossing out little witticisms and amusing himself and surfing the internet looking at golf clubs or butt plugs or whatever and does not care one whit that I am all bulled up like a 2 year old. If I stood up right this minute and stomped my feet and started crying, he would say something like "You are crazy." and go right back to what he was doing. He doesn't care that I am mad.

This makes me FURIOUS. This makes me madder than the reason I was mad to begin with, and then I get mad at myself for being so ridiculous. Then, before you know it, he'll start being charming and he will say something really funny. I will laugh, and then I will get mad because he made me laugh.

It may be time to rethink this system.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Camper

Katie has been at sleep away camp this week, for her fifth summer. The first year we dropped her off she was this little 6 year old girl, right out of kindergarten, who didn't know a soul at camp. We had barely crossed the threshold of the cabin when she turned to us and said "Okay! You can go now!"

It's just the type of kid she is. 

They have a tradition at camp that after you've gone five summers in a row, you get a paddle. It's a big deal, and they present them to the campers at the closing ceremony. Katie was so excited to get her paddle this year, and I am was very proud. Not just because she spends a week away from home every summer, but because she is a great friend, fun to be around, and open to new experiences. The summer camp director stopped me today and said the nicest things about Katie. She said "She's just a good kid." And she is, top to bottom, a good kid. I should remember that when she's being mean to her sister, or not rinsing out the sink after she brushes her teeth.

That's my girl - a good kid.


If you're in the northwestern-ish part of North Carolina and are looking for a summer camp (and they have day camps as well as sleep away camps), I can not recommend YMCA Camp Hanes more highly. I love everything about it, from the facilities to the staff. It is an amazing place, and worth every penny. If you're not in the market for a camp but want to help send a kid who couldn't otherwise afford it, check out their Send a Kid to Camp campaign.