Sunday, September 30, 2012

20 Minutes of... Peace?

My husband isn’t working today. And he has taken pity on me.

He just pulled out of our driveway in the minivan with all four of our kids. They are going to the hardware store down the street.

Do you understand what I am saying?

I have 20 precious minutes all to myself! Now, how to spend them….

The sheer thrill of it is almost too much for me. I am overwhelmed with the quiet.

I compulsively wipe the kitchen counters. Then the table. Then the counters again.

What am I thinking?! Now I only have 18 minutes left.

What to do, what to do.

I guess I could wash my hair for the first time in three days, but I’m all out of shampoo and I’d have to use no-tears bubble bath. That probably wouldn't help much with the frizz factor.

But look at this floor… it looks like an army of ants could stage a hostile takeover at any moment. Jedidiah must’ve been eating leftover toast crust out of the trash can again. I should get the broom…

No! This is my time. My own time.

I could watch TV, I guess, but that would involve the risk of seeing some fashion-forward twenty-something in skinny jeans talking about how she’s stressed because her favorite designer is on strike and how full she is because she just ate a carrot. I just don’t think I can handle that right now.

I’ve got it. I could read my Bible. I could get some prayer time in – you know, something besides, “Lord, please let me be able to sop up this milk out of the couch cushions before I freak out and lock them all out of the house” or the big one where the stars are all aligned: “Please, God, let their naptimes coincide today.”

Or maybe I should get on the elliptical machine and work on getting rid of some of this leftover baby fat.


Oh no! The dog just barked! Does that mean they are pulling back in the driveway already?

It can’t be! I’ll run and peek out the window. Whew. Just a UPS truck driving by. Okay. I still have ten minutes. Ten minutes alone is like an eternity when you haven’t been alone in weeks. I can do this. I can make it count. I’ve really got to make a decision here, though. Okay, go.

I could take a nap. I certainly could use one. The bags under my eyes have made the switch from Ziploc-size to backpack size. I collapse onto the bed and close my eyes. Will I really feel any better after only a ten (make that eight) minute nap? Probably not.

I sit up.

Eureka! I’ve got it. I’ll make myself a French Vanilla coffee and read the first chapter of the book I checked out at the library seven weeks ago.

Ahh. Coffee in hand. Turn the page. Chapter One.

“Woof!” says the dog.

And… they’re back.

So much for my twenty minutes.

---from my 9/30/12 article for

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Adelaide, who is four, is like the best possible 4 year old that she can be. She talks funny (and cutely). She mixes things up that crack me up all the time. She makes me laugh every single day. She says "You're opposed to do this" and "You're not opposed to do that." She grabs me around the neck at bedtime and squeezes and says, "I'm not letting go." And even though I'm super tired and really DONE for the day and ready for some Mommy time, I realize that I don't really ever WANT her to let go.

The other night we were looking for some Yoda ears and some Leia hairbuns for our Halloween costumes (we have since made our own). We ended up in the Halloween store and Adelaide was even more petrified than I thought she would be. I NEVER should've taken her into that store, but I remembered taking Josie when she was about the same age, and she thought the whole thing was great (and even funny). Of course, I have to keep reminding myself that Josie is not your typical child.

Anyway, we went into the store (Jedidiah was home with Dad) and Adelaide immediately was not impressed. The further we got into the store, the less she liked it. Josie was fascinated with all the creepy zombie babies, Sadie gazed in digust at the wicked witch and the hacked up Dorothy lying in the bed next to her, and Adelaide screamed her head off and catapulted herself into my arms when Sadie inadvertently stepped on a sign that read "STEP HERE" and a giant spider jumped out at them.

Sadie and Josie took good care of her from there on out. Sadie even carried her on her back till we got to the car and Josie covered her eyes. They even both sat in the backseat with her in the middle and told her how there's nothing to be afraid of.

Adelaide, nonplussed, has this to say about the matter, "Well, do you know that Halloween store? That scary Halloween store? Yeah, well, I am never going in THERE again. You can just forget it."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Goldy Frizzhead

I am southern.

I was born in North Carolina, as was my entire family. Therefore, I have the freedom to make fun of my southern heritage (don’t get me wrong – I completely love my southern roots, family and friends. Nobody else can make fun of us, but because I am one, I can.)

The other night my mom told my kids a story in her southern mountain twang. Here’s a hint: if you can’t figure out what it says, just read it out loud.

Okay, here it goes:

This here is the story of Southern Goldilocks.

Now, Southern Goldilocks had real purdy golden hair, but down in the south, curly hair don’t do too good. Nope, all that dern humidity’ll gitcha ever time. So Southern Goldilock’s mama, she didn’t call her Goldilocks. Naw, she started callin her “Frizzhead.” You know, cause of all the humidity.

So one day, she said, “Hey Frizzhead, come on in here and git this basket’a biscuits and this here thermos’a gravy and take it on down yonder to your granny’s house. And don’t go poking your nose where it don’t belong and peeking around in other people’s windows again this time. Got it?”

So Goldy Frizzhead took the basket and the thermos and she headed out down the dirt road that cut across the woods.

And lo and behold, she saw a little ole cabin out-tere that she’d never laid eyes on before. And of course, she plumb forgot all about what her mama'd told her and she went right up to that cabin door and peeked right in. Didn’t look like nobody was home so she set her stuff down on the porch. Then she wiped the red dirt off her feet (she did have some manners after all, thank you very much) and proceeded to open up the squeaky screen door. Then she went right on in.

Well, right there in front-a her on the kitchen table were three big bowls-a grits. Well, anyone who’s anyone knows that you don’t just go traipsing off and leavin your perfectly good grits to go to waste. So Goldy Frizzhead did them folks a favor and she set down and gobbled all them grits right up.

Then, she headed into the living room but it didn’t look too interesting to her – there weren’t nothing there but some deer heads and a gun cabinet and a few empty Orange Crush bottles on a TV tray.

So she went over to the stairs and started climbin. And wouldn’t you know it? At the top of the stairs, she found a bedroom where the A/C was turned on full blast and there was a great big ole waterbed just awaitin for her to lay down for her morning nap (all them grits was setting mighty heavy in little ole Frizzhead’s belly at this point.)

So she laid down and she covered up with a Braves blanket she found at the foot of the bed, and before you knew it, she was out. Frizzhead was just-a sawing logs, let me tell ya. And then, I guess you probly can figure out what happened next.

The three bears – a great big Daddy Bear, a regular-sized Mama Bear and a tee-niny little Baby Bear came up out of the woods and they was hungry. Naw, they was HONGRY. Hongry for their grits.

Well, when they got up on the porch, they saw the biscuits and gravy settin' there and they thought somebody had done gone and brought em some breakfast. So they headed into the kitchen, ready to fill up on grits and biscuits and gravy, and then they saw that their grits was gone.

Well, Daddy Bear went all to pieces and headed over to the gun cabinet just in case the Grit Thief was still in the vicinity. Then they all went up the stairs and Baby Bear peeked in and saw Goldy Frizzhead laying there on the waterbed. Well, of course Daddy Bear wadn’t gonna hurt a little ole’ girl, no matter if she DID look like a frizzy-headed coconut and was a grit thief, bless her heart.

So they let her git her nap out, and then they invited her down to eat lunch with em, since Mama Bear had done put a ham in the oven and the beans was ready.

The end.

--from my 9/23/12 article for

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Smell a Rat

Lately I’ve been thinking about the power of smell.

Smell is a powerful memory trigger. Your olfactory nerve is very close to the part of your brain that’s connected to both emotion and memory.

Even your ability to smell is linked to memory – and when you learn something new while smelling an odor, it actually increases both the vividness and the intensity of the learned information whenever you smell that odor later.

So it's no wonder that so many (new) experiences from childhood are linked in your memory to certain smells.

The smell of cornbread baking reminds me of Sunday dinners at my grandma’s house.

The smells of sawdust, gas and oil are those of my earliest childhood memories – they smell like I’m safe and secure and they make me feel like I’m still a little girl. They smell just like my daddy.

You know that sudden rush of sweetness that overwhelms you when you first open the door of a bakery? That, or the permeating scent of a cake baking in the oven, always remind me of my mom.

When I was little, she used to run a home-based cake-decoration business. Sometimes every available surface in our entire dining room and kitchen would be covered with cakes of all shapes and sizes.

Whenever I stayed home sick from school, my Grandma Ila (she died when I was 14) always gave me 7-Up and graham crackers; a single sniff of either of those things always takes me right back to the big chair in her living room and a game of “Button, button, who’s got the button?”

Woodsmoke smells like my cousin’s house – my home away from home. Carefree summer days smell like fresh-cut grass, chlorine and honeysuckle vines. Fallen crunchy leaves smell like my wedding day. Libraries smell like adventure. Sliced cucumbers smell like picnics. Funnel cakes and candy apples smell like fall and the Apple Festival in my hometown. Hot tubs smell like vacation. Play-Doh smells like Bible School at church.

The first time I ever met my husband, he was wearing a Bath and Body Works spray for men called Alpine Summit. Every time I smell that scent, it takes me back to our first date.

In the top dresser drawer in my son’s room is a stash of baby oil, lavender bubble bath and Burt’s Bees baby powder. If I pull that drawer open and close my eyes, I am instantly transported to the days I brought each of my babies home from the hospital. That top drawer, to me, smells exactly like sheer joy and overwhelming love.

I wonder what smells my children will remember when they are grown:

Lavender baby lotion after a bath? Chili beans on the stove? Popcorn? Murphy’s Oil Soap? Coffee and bacon? Fresh strawberries?

Sadie loves to smell Christmas: cookies baking, apple cider and cinnamon.

Josie, just like her Papaw, likes the smell of gasoline and hot asphalt.

Adelaide’s favorite smells are pinto beans and chicken and dumplings – they smell like Great Grandma’s house.

I’m not sure yet what Jedidiah’s favorite childhood smells might be, but I’m guessing diesel smoke from a tractor and maybe the electric smell of the battery charger for his Big Wheel jeep. They smell like two things a boy loves: freedom and excitement!

Which smells are the most powerful memory triggers for you?

---from my 9/16/12 article from

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sick Days are not Allowed

Moms do not get to take sick days.

Having a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year job usually isn’t that bad. But if “Mom” needs a sick day; well, it’s just too bad, so sad.

Because when “Mom” is sick, she just keeps on doing her regular job but with the added bonus of feeling like crap at the same time.

I think our little germ bearers hatch schemes to make us sick. I mean, let’s face it: a sick mom automatically equals junk food, lax supervision and more TV.

Haven’t you noticed how when “Mom” has a cup full of anything, one of her notoriously germy kids always swipes it, drinks it and (here’s the most important part of the plan) contaminates it? Children conveniently forget that they have their own drinks that “Mom” just poured for them sitting right there.

Getting sick is inevitable, but I’ve heard advice about how to still be a good mom even when you feel rotten. Yep, some really good advice, like “Get dressed and put on makeup,” “Act like you’re not sick and you’ll fool yourself into feeling better,” “Sing a happy song and play outside with your kids – the fresh air will do you good!” and “If you don’t feel like doing much, at least do the laundry and the dishes.”

I know, I know – stop laughing.

When I’m really sick (my last bout with a tummy bug generously bestowed on me by my daughter comes to mind), I usually just give up and slink around in my pjs, moaning my own advice like “Don’t come any closer,” “See if you can find your dad,” and “Please help your brother.” Also “Get away from me,” “Don’t touch that,” and “Wash your hands again!”

If “Mom” decides to just go ahead and take a sick day anyway, the kids still won’t give her one. Nope, your needy family (usually including the dad) barely even notice the Quarantine sign on your bedroom door or the fact that your head is under a pillow.

Picture this: You’re suffering in silence (for once) shivering while sweating on your bed. You feebly reach for your extra blanket that’s fallen to the floor. Your children do one of the following:

a) Tiptoe in, tuck your blankets around your legs and ask if you’d like some hot tea.

b) Knock loudly, offer you a half-eaten popsicle and say, “Hey, what’s for lunch?”

c) Slam through the door, point at their sister and yell “SHE DID IT!” while wearing a pirate hat and dripping grape Kool-aid on the rug.

Your answer about your (non-sick) mate will probably directly correspond to the one about your children. He comes home at the exact moment you finally manage to stumble, bleary-eyed, through the house and into the kitchen for a vitamin C and some juice. He says:

a) “What in the world are you doing out of bed? Honey, you go straight back in there and get some more rest. I’ll take the kids out for dinner while you nap.”

b) “You look like you feel a little bit better, but maybe you should take a shower and put on some clean clothes.”

c) “Oh, good, you’re up! I hope dinner’s almost ready because I don’t want to miss the football game.”

I hope you can’t relate, but… I’m pretty sure most of you can.

It’s just too bad, so sad, moms. When you’re sick, your own family probably doesn’t even notice.

But if it makes you feel any better, the rest of us moms feel sorry for you.

--from my 9/9/12 article for

Thursday, September 06, 2012

World Changer

Tonight I was tucking Josie in upstairs (Sadie was still sleeping on the couch because of a tummy bug) and she suddenly said, "I wish that sometimes President Obama would think about what it would feel like if HE were a baby in his mommy's tummy and then someone tried to kill him. You know, Mommy, it makes me sad that these things happen. If I could, I would die instead of those babies. I would." My heart. MY HEART. How someone so young could cut through all the political rhetoric that is attached to this issue is simply astounding to me. As I snuggled her through my tears, I took her little hand in mine and looked at it. REALLY looked at it. Then I suddenly realized that I am NOT going to be a game-changer in the pro-life movement. What volunteering or work that I do now isn't going to be a big thing at all. My JOB, my WORK, my GREAT WORK that will change the world isn't MY work at all.

It's all about my children. Wow. What a concept. Thinking about things this way - looking at her, hearing her passion, seeing her little heart in her eyes and her concern and KNOWING the way she can be stubborn and strong-willed... SHE is the one that's going to change the world. SHE's the one.

My contribution is merely to be the world-changer's mother.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Bock bock bock

I am a big chicken.

Ask anyone who knows me. I am afraid of some weird stuff.

I have no idea where most of these fears came from, but they are stuck in my brain, nonetheless.

Last week, as I was lamenting my 7-year-old’s decision to ride a carnival ride (I fondly remember it as the “six-story-rattletrap-of-death,”) my husband made a statement. Now, he’s a man of few words but, once in a while, he says something that resonates with me. (Don’t tell him that though.)

This time, it was:

“You’re going to have to let the kids learn to be afraid of their own things. Just because you’re afraid of certain things doesn’t mean they have to be.”

Right then, I made a mental note. I said to myself, “Self, stop forcing your weird unfounded fears on your children.”

Of course, this is easier said than done because I live with my children. My weird fears include, but are not limited to:

Bats. Or as I like to call them, rats with wings. When I was a kid, I had many a terrifying nighttime swim when a “harmless bat” mistook my head for a giant bug sticking up out of the water.

When I was in college, my two roommates and I nearly had to evacuate our apartment before one of them caught an invading hairy/leathery beast in a popcorn bowl and threw it outside. I wouldn’t let her kill it because I was afraid its friends would come and avenge its death on us during the night.

Yes, I know bats are good for the environment. Yes, I know bats eat thousands of bugs a night. Yes, I know bats will not hurt me. Yes, I am still terrified of bats.

Clowns. Lots of people read Stephen King’s book, IT. Therefore, lots of people are scared of clowns. Even if the clown doesn't have a mouthful of razor sharp teeth and live in a storm drain, there’s still something weird about putting on makeup, squirting flowers and giant shoes and stuffing yourself into a car with 25 other people wearing grease paint and rubber noses.

House centipedes. Where I come from, these horrible bugs don’t even exist. I had never even seen one (which was perfectly fine with me) before I moved to Northeast Ohio. Now I find the million-legged, tiger-striped, shiver-inducing creepy bugs at least twice a month. Usually in my bathtub!

I can’t even bear to stomp them myself because there are always a dozen legs that won’t. Stop. Twitching. Arrgh!

Waterslides. Let’s think about this. Eight stories of steep, slippery stairs. Hard, narrow, pitch-black tubes filled with rushing water. Straight down at 50 miles an hour without a seatbelt or even a seat. Thank you, but no.

Spontaneous combustion. People! Have you read about this? You just never know.

Peach pits. When I was five, I dreamed that someone stole my mom’s eyeballs and replaced them with peach pits. I didn’t even try to eat another peach until thirty years later. Actually, I didn’t even allow peaches in my house until then, either, now that I think about it….

Ferris wheels. They are tall. They spin. They barely hold you in. They are rusty. They travel around the country. Some nuts and bolts are bound to get lost somewhere along the highway. They could, at any moment, break loose from the middle hub and go bouncing down the midway, spewing carnage at every turn.

Dragonflies. Beautiful. Delicate. Harmless. Fairy-like. Scary.

Ends of hot dogs. I told you I was weird. I refuse to eat the ends of hot dogs. They totally gross me out. If no one’s around to take that first bite for me, I will be forced to saw it off with my fork.

There’s more – oh, yes. Bridges, swimming in the ocean, tornados, sleeping with my hand hanging off the bed, red cabbage, salamanders…you get the idea.

But so far, so good on the “scaring my children” thing.

My kids want to build a bat house in our yard. They want to go to the circus. They love all kinds of bugs, carnival rides and the waterpark. They have no problem whatsoever with hot dogs or peaches.

I guess I’ll concede to my husband on all of those things, but I’ll tell you this:

My children will be scared of spontaneous combustion.

As should we all!

--from my 9-2-12 article for