Monday, July 20, 2009

Let your fingers do the walking.

On a recent road trip to North Carolina we stopped in Knoxville for a new tire or four, not because Tennessee is known for their steel belted radials, but because we had a flat and did not fancy the idea of becoming a Mac truck hood ornament farther down I 40.   When a nice hostess in a nearby restaurant got out the three-inch thick Knoxville area Yellow Pages to look up a tire shop for us, my wide-eyed seven year old asked in a sweet Gomer Pyle sort of way,  “Is that the phone book for the whole world?”   

This was Dollywood not Hollywood but I still felt a little Beverly Hillbillies come to town, so I explained to our amused hostess that we were from a small town in North Mississippi where the phone book was about the size of their menu.  My husband and I exchanged looks on the way out and said at the same time, “We need to get these kids out of town more.”

By the time our newly treaded mini-van hit the patchouli- scented streets of my old stomping grounds of Asheville and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, our boys were ready to pull up stakes and never look back.  The same 7 and 12 year olds who informed us just last year that they were going to college at Ole Miss so that they could still live at home and get their laundry done, were now planning their move to the Tar Heel state.  I’m not sure if it was the dread-locked “Trustafarian” musicians on every corner or the spiked hair skate punks weaving through the Asheville streets, but suddenly the boy’s world views expanded to the point that clean clothes for college was no longer a high priority.  

I am grateful that our children’s life here in Oxford is pretty insular, especially compared to large southern cities like Atlanta and Jackson where ten is the new twenty.   We quite prefer “Mayberry” to Madison, and Sno-Biz to Starbucks.  Okay, I would trade my pets for a Target or IKEA within thirty miles but a few less consumer options is a small price to pay for the opportunity to raise your kids in a great small town.

So now that my fledglings have ventured out of their nest and liked the view, it’s just a matter of navigating the teen years until they are beating a path to greener more exciting pastures. Sure, it’s a big relief that my kids no longer think that living in our basement playing Halo into their twenties while I cook their dinner is a good idea, but a part of me feels a little sad knowing that this is just the beginning of letting them go.   

We are planning a new trip now to meet and bring home our daughter.  I can’t wait to see what my son thinks of the phone books in Beijing!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Rocky Balboa Recession Proof Workout

Just like the goldfish that is surprised by his little neon castle at every lap around his bowl, it always shocks me this time each year that swimming-pool weather is around the corner. Like any mammal worth their salt, I feel it’s my duty to pack on a layer of fat in the wintertime and hibernate until spring or at least until American Idol is over. But unlike the Grizzly bear, I won’t be burning off my winter layers hunting down wild game unless you count trips from the computer to the kitchen as exercise. So I did what any self-respecting modern day mammal might do when faced with the reality of bathing suit shopping in ninety days; I joined Weight Watchers and started working out.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all “Oprah” on you and drag out a wagon of fat or tell you my detailed plan to become svelte before summer because I don’t really have one. I’m not much of a gym rat, nor do I have the extra funds for a membership or a personal trainer at the moment. So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, like Rocky Balboa sans the raw eggs and steer punching. I’ll just share a few DOs and DON’Ts I have learned over the last month:

-"More cow bell?" I say "mo kettle bell." This 10-lb iron bowling ball-like object with a handle can easily take out a window or beloved pet, so be careful. Children and small animals should instinctively run from the room, if not, DO remove them manually for their own good. If you love your flat screen, DO grip your bell very tightly on the upswing. This exercise alone has given me such “guns” that I have resorted to the behavior of a pre-teen boy and randomly ask friends and family to “feel my muscle.”

-DO take a Zumba class. Where else in a small southern town can you pelvic thrust to Latin music at 9 in the morning without threat of arrest? I will add, unless you are a member of the Pussycat Dolls, DON’T look at yourself in the class mirror. Keep your eyes directly on the instructor at all times. You won’t turn into a pillar of salt, but the image of yourself attempting moves like Shakira will stop you mid-gyration. Just have fun with it. Everybody else is! If you can't pay the occasional ten bucks, download some bad Ricky Martin and make sure the shades are down.

-DO try “house jogging.” Yeah, I’m serious. Unless you live in a dorm room or suffer inner ear dizziness, it’s really not so bad. I have never thought of myself as a runner. Trying to keep too many things from going in too many directions is just not my idea of fun. But when it was too cold to walk one day, I cranked up my iTunes and started jogging a loop through my house. My dogs, very disturbed with this decision, immediately started chasing behind me. This was good incentive to pick up my pace. Our 14-year-old dog that is deaf just laid in the floor like a rock, which served as the perfect low hurdle when I hit the kitchen area. When my seven year old walked in to see the crazy conga line snaking through the den to his favorite Iggy Pop song, he could not join in fast enough. And so it went for the rest of my play list until I realized that song by song I had actually jogged about a mile. Sure the scenery was limited, but like the goldfish, every lap around my bowl was a little surprise.

*For those who like to combine the physical with the spiritual, check out THIS  North Mississippi duo with a new reason for cuttin' back on your breakfast foods. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mother of the Year

O.k. so I’m having one of those glorious mornings where everything is going like clockwork. My husband and eldest son are up before 6 a.m. to start a new daily jogging routine. My youngest comes downstairs for breakfast fully dressed, and I only have to tell him to brush his teeth twice before he actually does it. Yes people, this is cause for rejoicing. The runners return, shower and join us for eggs and toast and it’s not even 7 a.m. I’m in the zone now. I pack lunches and sign the necessary school papers. I even remember to give my seven year old, who was hacking like he smoked a carton of Marlboros, some cold medicine to help ease his cough while at school. My crew is out of the door and on the way to carpool line by 7:20. I’m feeling so in control, I could run a pit crew at the Indy 500.

Back in the kitchen cleaning up and basking in the glow of my competency, I realize that the medicine I grabbed to give my child, as he was running out the door, was “night time” cough and cold liquid for children. Yeah, I know, it’s terrible. My “Mother of the Year” dreams now shattered are replaced with the terrifying image of my seven year old snoring in a pile of drool at his desk while his teacher is calling the roll. Although I did not have the good sense to double check the medicine bottle, I did have the presence of mind to catch my husband as he got to work and ask him to go back to retrieve our sleepy son. I saw no reason both of us had to go through the embarrassing task of explaining the story to the school secretary.

Before you call Social Services, you should know that I’m not the only one out there harboring severe mother guilt for bouts of parental stupidity. Your mom has stories like this too, you just don’t know about them because she’s smart enough to keep them from you and your therapist. And when you become a parent, you too will keep a running tally in your head of these things and hope at some point the triumphs out number the mistakes.

You hope that the time you drove your kid to school with his new puppy in tow and held up carpool line for thirty minutes while you and the P.E. coach chased the escaped hound down the halls while still dressed in your pajamas, will be a “happy memory” for your child. You hope that giving a constipated guinea pig an enema with tweezers, as one mom friend did, does not permanently end your children’s dreams of med school. You hope that the impromptu summer activity involving a water hose, a playground slide and your toddlers hurtling bare bottom into pine bark mulch without bathing suits will be remembered as an “fun-filled” day in the backyard. The fear that your children will unconsciously flinch at the smell of landscaping materials, as adults will be with you always. Recounting her “slide” story my friend says that as she ran into the house for medical supplies, she heard above her own tears her child wailing, “Mommie did not have a Dood idea.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

You may even be a Rock Star - Young Author's Fair Revisted.

“There he is! There he is!” He made his way through the gauntlet of adoring fans handshake by handshake pausing for the occasional requests for photo ops and autographs until he reached the Main Hall. It was a packed house. The lucky first arrivals filled the floor seats within minutes. By the time they opened the balcony to take in the overflow you could feel the anticipation building among the sea of fans craning their necks to get a glimpse of the show’s headliner sitting just out of reach of the stage lights. When he finally took the microphone the crowd could contain themselves no longer.

The hoops and hollers and thunderous applause rose up to give the first time visitor to Mississippi and international star a proper Southern welcome. This was not Lollapalooza at Grant Park but the Young Author's Fair at the Ford Center. There was no mosh pit or ticket scalpers. Nobody insisted on green M & M’s back stage, or hurled their Fender into an amp. And not once was there concern that one of the writers would incite a riot by biting the head off a bat (If you were born after 1970 Google Ozzy Osbourne.) The audience members were not head bangers but fifth graders from Oxford and Lafayette County schools and the star of the show was not a rapper or pop star but children’s author Christopher Paul Curtis.

It’s a wonderful and rare thing to live in a literary town where authors reach rock star status, ten year olds want to spend allowance money on the newest series and teenagers crowd into our local bookstore on a Friday night to hear a reading. We have a lot of amazing citizens and organizations like The Literacy Council, The Center for Southern Studies, The University and the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford who are willing to spend their time, energy and resources to bring events like Conference of the Book and The Young Author’s Fair to Oxford.

We also have unsung heroes like the moms who spend mornings at our elementary schools reading with struggling children to make sure they don’t fall behind, the librarians who go out of their way to organize and promote reading fairs and most importantly the teachers who do it ALL. We also have Jill at Square Books Jr., who has her own set of groupies, parents and kids alike who would be lost without her literary guidance. When Young Author’s Fair organizer Sarah Frances Hardy left to pick up the Newberry Award winning author Christopher Paul Curtis from the airport, her daughter Sallie asked “Is he really famous?” “Yes. Sallie he is,” she replied. “More famous than Hannah Montana?” “Yep. Baby, more famous than Hannah Montana. “To paraphrase the teen idol, “He might even be a rock star.” (If you were born before 1970 Google Mylie Cyrus.)

We look forward to this year's Young Author's Fair with New York Times Bestseller Trenton Lee Stewart and "The Mysterious Benedict Society." I'm ready to roll! I wonder if he knows "Free Bird?"