Friday, August 31, 2007

Fall. It's the New Spring.

Oh I just have so much to share! It has been such a whirlwind 24 hours, you can't believe it! Hold on, let me refill my coffee cup and I'll be back to tell you ALL about it!


Okay I'm back? Are ya ready for this? Are ya sitting DOWN?

Yeah. No. Nothing's happened. Still. I knew when I started blogging about what came in the mail I was close to the bottom of the barrel, and now? Now I have splinters in my knuckles from the scraping. OH THE SCRAPING. Of the bottom. Of aforementioned barrel.

We finally climbed into the car late yesterday afternoon when Bean got up from a FOUR hour nap (bored much, Bean?) and dragged ourselves to the grocery store, having polished off the Mexican Spaghettiberry Casserole leftovers (I got ZERO requests for that recipe, by the way! Wonders that never cease!) for lunch. And as I clumsily and awkwardly fumbled with the belts to her car seat wondering why this all felt so foreign, I realized that people? It's been five, count 'em FIVE days since Bean and I last left our home. Oh, we've been outside in our front yard. And around the neighborhood for our morning walks and afternoon plays, but the last time we were out of Blankington Lakes subdivision was last Sunday when we went to the airport to redeposit the grandparents.

Is that even healthy?

I don't know what even makes me DO this hermit thing. Do y'all ever do it? Just shut down for days and then wake up finally and think Where have I BEEN?

Do you?

But Bean's little classes and playgroups and stuff will all start back the week after next and we'll get back into a routine that requires us to LEAVE THIS HOUSE and DO THINGS, which both of us will LOVE. And I'll plan my second annual Mama Coffee for the neighborhood ladies. And decorate for Fall. OH HOW I DO LOVE ME SOME CORNSTALKS AND HAY BALES AND PUNKINS! And figger out Bean's Halloween costume. Last year she was a dog. Check this out, y'all. My sweet little pupdawg:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And the year before that, she was a baby Tiger!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I'll show you the picture of her FIRST Halloween, when she was a mere 14 days old, closer to her birthday. If I can find one. You know my hard drive crashed recently and ...

Nope, still can't talk about it without crying. Pray for that hard drive people. When I can tell you why without blubbering like a small child, I will.

ANYWAY. The activity is about to pick up again at Fried Okra Manor and I guess the hibernatin' worked, because I'm ready to pick up again, too.

I think Fall is my Spring. Know what I mean?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dear Miss Manners,

Being in (or approaching, ahem) our 40s and all, my husband Alfonso (Al for short) and I don't know all that many single people anymore and therefore have only attended one wedding together as a couple in nearly four years, and that one was for my dear Southern-to-her-very-core friend Kristin, whose wedding, from start to finish, was the very portrait of elegance, dignity and refinement. You'd love Kristin. She wears a pocket Emily Post Reference Guide carefully pinned to the inside of her foundational undergarment, even though I feel confident she had its contents in their entirety memorized long before she took her first step (in a tiny pair of Pappagallos, no doubt!) If ever I want to do a thing the most genteel and seemly way, I need only look to Kristin for the ultimate example of propriety. In fact, I'll readily admit that just the counting of her as one of my truest friends seems to have elevated my standards for civility, which may result in my being a bit of an etiquette snob simply by association. Or at least Old Fashioned.

Which is why I'm wondering if my flabbergastion (flabbergastedness? flabbergastery?) over an invitation we received in the mail today to another couple's wedding might be unwarranted. Maybe the rules have changed for wedding invitation etiquette? But I'll submit the details to you and see if you come to the same conclusions I have about the new twists this happy couple's taken along the road to their upcoming nuptials.

First and foremost, let me point out in the bride's defense that our association with the happy couple is through the groom, who has worked closely with Al for almost 4 years. This invitation appears, ahem, to be a product of the work of said groom, judging by the hastily scrawled lettering on the outside and inside envelopes and the incongruous selection of three stamps bearing images of 1) a large, curly-horned ram, 2) a snowflake and 3) Navajo jewelry.

The outside envelope, the one bearing the motley collection of postage, reads Al & Maghen Surname.

Whoa. I hope they don't have place cards at the wedding.

Is Megan still that unusual a name?

On the inside envelope is Mr. and Mrs. Surname.

The most unique part, though, are the two little chits of paper that came riffling out onto my lap when I pulled everything out of the inner envelope.

The first appears to have been printed by macy's. It has perforated edges like maybe it was torn from a sheet of multiple little cards. It reads

macy's wedding & gift registry
Presenting the wedding registry of
Bride's Name &
Groom's Name
Gift preferences available
in-store, online at (address)
or call (an 800 number.)

The second appears to have been printed on typing paper and cut with scissors. A homemade little notice, announcing

We are also registered at Crate & Barrel as
Bride's Name and Groom's Name
For your convenience you can
View our Registry at:
(online address)

Hmm... Do you think they're expectin' a gift?

Any blunders or faux pas here?


Apparently, Mahgen

What about y'all? Have you witnessed or experienced any real-live Wedding Bloopers lately?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mexican Spaghettiberry Casserole? I'm Stayin'!

I wanted to post twice daily this week and I'm barely managing to scrape together enough fodder for one measly, unsatisfactory post per day. What's a girl to do? Bean and I've been laying low since Monday to recuperate from all the comp'ny we've had over the past month. Comp'ny which has had a considerably lower threshold for boredom than do the permanent members of the household, I might add, thus requiring actual activity and stimulation on a nearly DAILY basis, thus leaving us pooped out and in need of quiet seclusion for several days. Alas, not much happens in seclusion, even if you squinch up your face real hard and will it to.

*Grunt* Something. Blogworthy. Please. Happen! *Grunt* See? Still nothin'.

So we're just gonna have to throw ourselves back out into the world today and make things happen, I suppose. Our first foray back into civilization will BE! THE! GROCERY STORE! We haven't grocery shopped (other than the trip for milk while Nana and Poppa were here) since... wait lemme look at the calendar... Saturday, August 18th. So we're gonna be there for awhile. Maybe even need one of the BIG RED BUGGIES this time! We go to this popular-among-the-locals employee-owned warehouse store not too far away, and a trip to Woodman's will surely provide us a morning of entertainment, because this place is Heee-UGE. I am not exaggerating (much)(though I believe it perhaps has come to your attention by now that I may be somewhat given to hyperbolizing from time to time) when I say that you could comfortably plop the average chain-operated grocery store into just the bakery and produce section of our local Woodman's and have room left over for a Starbucks® or two (which wouldn't be a bad idea, actually, come to think of it).

But it's not overwhelming in its hugeness, because it's relatively well-laid out except the produce section which, can you say Corn Maze on speed? And everything seems to be where you'd expect it to be, too. Except for maybe the Jello®, but that's a problem in any grocery store because really, it's a difficult to pin down the exact most logical location for the boxes of sweetened, colored ground horse hooves that people stir into boiling water and then chill until congealed into jiggly faux-fruity goodness for the whole family, y'all. Really, something that rare and unique should have its own aisle, truth be told. Or maybe at least just share one with the Spam®.

Been shopping at Woodman's long enough now that I've built myself a little template on my counter top computer. Whenever I run out of something I just scurry over here and pull up my shopping list template and plug it in before I forget what it was I ran out of. The template is arranged such that when we shop, we can go from the top of the list to the bottom (spanning two or three columns) in order, starting in the frozen foods and dairy sections while we're still warm from the outdoor temperature in the summer or still wearing our coats in the winter, because the frozen food and dairy sections of this store would make a hot-natured polar bear cry for its Mommy. We're out of there as quickly as humanly possible, hobbling on frozen, nub-like feet. Sometimes the chattering teeth and all the shivering and the very real threat of frostbite cause me to skim the list too quickly and miss an item or two, which means we have to GO BACK IN when we get to the little opening at the end of the ethnic foods aisle. Mah-ahm? Why we g-g-g-goin' back in DERE? Iss too c-c-c-COL' in DERE! I'm steew fwozen fum wass time.

Once off the tundra for good, we swing by and grab a jar of sunflower butter in the organic and specialty foods lane and set about defrosting in the household cleaning and laundry sections and then make a bee-line to my favorite place in the whole store, the coffee, tea and hot cocoa aisle. OH THE AROMAS. And the various varied varieties. AND THE AROMAS. A whole aisle dedicated to coffee and tea and chocolate, people! A BIG, LONG, WIDE AISLE. Oh, it is a thing to behold. And besmell. Now, when Al's with us, he can spend up to 15 or 20 minutes pondering all the teas. He's a label-reader and a price-comparer and has STRINGENT TEA CRITERIA which must be met, BUT he is also prone to experimentation AND listens to Public Radio, where he gathers up-to-the-minute information on which organic whole green teas grown in what fields in the lowlands of Assam will enhance his mental/physical/metaphysical performance to the greatest degree. With all those factors to consider, the man spends more time picking out his weekly ration of tea than he spent picking out, oh, say, his wife. BUT, this affords his comparatively hastily-selected wife the time to stand (okay, lie prone, as long as no one's looking) before the coffees and inhale until her eyes bug out.

After we've satiated our respective hot beverage Joneses, we move through the next aisles quickly before cautiously approaching the dreaded produce area, which as I have mentioned, threatens every time we're there to devolve into a mango-and-rutabaga slinging free-for-all, because the aisles are too narrow and the produced stacked too high for safe and peaceful maneuver-age by anything larger than the runt of a large litter of dust mites, yet everybody still has to park the big old cart RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF THIS CHERRY TOMATO TOWER so as to more closely scrutinize, sniff and fondle the goods prior to purchase. And while one shopper fondles the cherry tomatoes, another's stuck by default staring at the 2 foot long shrink-wrapped English cucumbers. And you can look at that second shopper and KNOW that she's about three seconds from snatching up one of those cukes and using it as a weapon. Move AWAY from the cherry tomatoes and no one gets hurt. Yes tension runs HIGH among the fruits and vegetable aisles. We eat a lot of frozen produce around here.

Last stop are the health and beauty aisles, where Bean's non-stop running grocery-related commentary goes from adorably charming to wickedly humiliating while her voice simultaneously increases by 15 decibels. WOW! DASS THE BIGGESS BOX O' PAMPONS I EVER SEEEEEEEEEED! ISS HEEEEEEEE-UUUUUUUUGE! and YES WESS GET DADDY SOME EXTER DEODOWANT MAMA, HE'S STA-A-ANNN-KEEEE! PEE-EE-EEEE UUUUU... YUCKYSTANKYYUCKYSTANKYYUCKYSTANKY! and GASSEX? Mama, WASS GASSEX? WHY WE NEED ALLA DAT GASSEX?

Um. Maybe we don't REALLY need to go grocery shopping today. After all, I've got my post now, and the whole rest of the day to figure out what I can make for dinner with a jar of Strawberry All-Fruit, a packet of taco seasoning and half a box of whole wheat vermicelli.


Two of my new bloggy friends, Megan (SortaCrunchy) and Karla (Looking Towards Heaven) have tiny new babies due to arrive practically momentarily (Karla may already have delivered, even.) The excitement of these pending births has me reminiscing about the latter days of my pregnancy with Bean. I loved every moment of those 40 weeks and I would go back and do them over again in a heartbeat. IN A HEARTBEAT! Every day was so special to me. When I think back to what my Bean was like even in my womb, I realize she was then who she is now in so very many ways. Her gentle, easy personality shone through even before her birth. I'm so thankful I took the time to write about my pregnancy in an online diary. Here's what I wrote three years ago today, August 28th. I was about seven weeks away from the beautiful day my Bean arrived.

Where does the time go? I try so hard to stay on top of this diary, but weeks go by in minutes, and I find myself so behind I can't even remember what I need to write about. Maybe I can chalk it up to the deadly combination of pregnancy-induced exhaustion, which turns quickly into laziness and immobility, and just plain hormonal dain bramage.

But what I do remember and want to document fall under these general headings: 1) Baby Showers are little slices of heaven, 2) the little one’s nursery's destined to be the most gloriously perfect nursery ever in the history of babies, and 3) waiting for one’s due date in a 40 week pregnancy is a lot like growing out one's bangs.

Point Number One:

My friend Marie and her mom hosted the single most adorable and memorable baby shower ever for this tiny person – and my girlhood friends and their moms are still THE SWEETEST AND MOST AMAZING GROUP OF WOMEN YOU COULD FIND ANYWHERE. We had such a wonderful time – I got so much great advice (Moms love Huggies, Floppy Seats, onesies, toys that can be attached to babies with pacifier holders, and zippered sleepers!) and a carload of useful and practical gifts. The shower theme was pink and green polka dots, and the cake even had polka dots done in shades of pink and green cut out of fondant. The theme carried thru everything, right down to the paper Angie on which wrote out the gift list(it was hilariously funny and fabulously descriptive - Angie does love to editorialize!) My mom, Gee Gee, my Aunt Joy, my cousin Cary and my niece (well she's another cousin, but more accurately described as a niece) Lila also joined us, and of course having them all there made it even more fun. Also, my sister in law, Charlotte (Al’s brother’s wife) and her friend whose name is also Charlotte drove from, you guessed it, Charlotte(!), to be there, so we even had representation from his side of our amazingly loving family! Everyone was so sweet and complimentary of my little belly and of course said all of the right things, You look beautiful! You haven’t gained weight anywhere else except in your tummy! so I floated on air the whole day and for several days afterwards.

Sometimes I wonder why God is so good to me and surrounds me with so many wonderful, loving people. I will never forget the day – and I hope I’ll be able to remember and accurately describe what it meant to me and how beautiful it was for this little one when she's old enough to hear about it.

Point Number Two:

Mom finished the pink toile window treatment for the nursery, and the matching table cover and the pillows. Everything's in the room now and looking gorgeous. I simply cannot wait for everyone in the world to come see this room – I’m so proud of it and so thrilled by all of the history and personalized touches we've incorporated – so many people in the little one’s life have contributed to this, her first little bedroom. Almost everything in it has a connection to the past and to a member of our family or one of our dear friends. This baby will be surrounded by meaningful memories - from the crib to the rugs to the pictures of Nana as a baby to the new, custom-made window treatment, there’s a loving investment made just for her. She's one lucky little baby. The best part is that it all GOES together beautifully, and the room is just breathtaking.

Point Number Three:

My body is logging some serious progress these weeks. Belly growth has hit hyperdrive (I assume that means baby-growth is equally as breakneckish) and my belly button is this eensy weensy little star now. I expect by the end of this week it will cease to exist until the little one arrives. My chest is also back to its aching and itching as if it has more surprises in store for me. Sheer exhaustion generally sets in within two to three hours after I wake up, and my hair is very shiny and healthy but has no body, won’t hold curl, and grows so fast I can almost hear it. I have very little swelling, no varicose veins, no unpleasant gastrointestinal irritations other than a decreased appetite and wicked heartburn. My hips tend to hurt, mostly the left one, but right now that just comes and goes and isn't severe at all. I still love being pregnant. I love feeling the baby move. I love seeing the curve of my belly stretch and morph as Bean changes position; I love her tiny little hiccups and her bubbly enthusiasm over anything I eat or drink. I cherish having her so close to me that we are intimately aware of each others’ movements and moods. I feel so blessed to be keeping her safe and cozy, and I'm honored to be the one to love her enough to share my body with her. She's been the best roommate a Mom could ask for.

I adore that Al is her Daddy and he's so excited and loving and funny and attached to her, and so reassuring and sweet and perfect with me in my latter-pregnancy body-gone-bonkers stage. All of that notwithstanding, I AM GETTING SO IMPATIENT TO EXPERIENCE BIRTH AND SEE MY LITTLE ONE AND HOLD HER AND CARE FOR HER VOLUNTARILY AND FEED HER AND KISS HER LITTLE FACE AND FEEL HER LITTLE FINGERS WRAP AROUND MINE. I am so anxious to sit in the little pink rocking chair and just drink her in while she nurses. To sing her songs, cry tears of joy over her, share her with Al and everyone else who already loves her and see her grow to love them!

And I still have two more months almost to wait! How will I ever do it?? How how how?

Hugs and kisses to you both, Megan and Karla, and to your precious new little ones.

Color Me Stuck Up (Purple is the color of irony, apparently.)

You Are a Purple Crayon

Your world is colored in dreamy, divine, and classy colors. (Sure! As long as by dreamy and classy, you mean poop brown and guacamole green.)

You hold yourself to a sky high standard, and you are always graceful. (Ahem.)

People envy, idolize, and copy you without realizing it. You are an icon for those who know you. Why yes, of COURSE I am!

And while it is hard to be a perfectionist, rest assured it's paying off! Absolutely, it is! (HA!)

Your color wheel opposite is yellow. While yellow people may be wise, they lack the manners and class needed to impress you.

Thanks to Lainey (Blog in My Eye) for this fun little quiz.

What color'd y'all turn out to be?

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Beginnings

Monday. My parents left over 24 hours ago. I've vaccuumed all the floors and washed all the sheets, remade all the beds, finished the family laundry, had a good night's sleep and a productive morning and I'm sitting here at my quiet kitchen counter praying for a funny story to tell you. I've missed spinning my yarns for you.

But none of today's best stories are mine for the telling.

The local schools started back today. The neighborhood kids climbed on buses, new jeans, new backpacks, new teachers, new friends. All day I've heard the buses roll past my windows and the sound of happy children on the playground floats to me on the crisp pre-autumn breeze.

Al started his new job today, too. I am thankful he's found something so perfect for him. Thankful to see him happy and hopeful and himself again. There's a part of me that wishes we could embark on this new journey together. He's still my hero.

My cherished friend called me this afternoon. She's in love with her husband for the first time. Just like that, literally overnight, He has worked a miracle in her heart. In their hearts. The joy in her voice astounds me.

None of these beginnings belongs to me, but the rest of each story will unfold before my eyes in the days to come.

And I am on the very edge of my seat, God.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Next Week on Okra's Show

How do you spell that sound you make when you poke out your lips and then run a finger up and down over 'em?


There. Did I capture it?

'Cause my brain? Is EMPTY. I got nothin' left, people. We shipped my folks back this morning to their rightful sweltering Carolina home. I feel bad they had rain almost the whole time they were here and then today we got up to crisp almost-fall temps and a sky so clear and blue I had to rub my eyes for a full minute to be sure I wasn't dreaming it. But we had a pleasant visit, accomplished a lot, and I think all of us got enough of the family togetherness gig without it being too too toooooo much to ever want to do it again. And that's how you spell success, in my book.

When we got home from our early-morning run to the airport, my sweet across-street-neighbor Nicki came over and gave me a big hug and invited us to dinner tonight, which is a very good thing, because if we weren't going over there, we'd be having tepid water for dinner, directly out of the tap. Mama's get up and go has got up and went. But I plan to get rested and rejuvenated tonight with good friends and good food and an early bed time and be back in action and ready to burn up the blogwaves all week long this week with, you know, a bunch of very exciting, funny, and helpful stuff that I haven't thought up yet. (Grimaces.)

Oh well, at least you'll know its fresh though, right?

In the meantime, y'all go get your names in the drawing for a spectacular tote at Musings of a Housewife and then go give lovely (Sincerely)Anna a bloggy hug or three... hubby's been traveling and is gonna travel more and she's singin' the Home Alone with the Kidlet Blues . We've all been there and don't want to go back anytime soon, huh, T(with Honey)?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hey, I Can't Be Funny When Priscilla Maude Sybil's Got the Reins

I remember sitting at the Fulton County Registrar's Office about 4 years ago, next to my strong, handsome fiance, waiting to apply for our marriage license. Among other things, I was still pondering right down to the wire what my new name should be. When I married the first time, I HYPHENATED my last name AND kept the middle name my parents gave me, rendering me The Person with the SINGLE. LONGEST. NAME. EVER. Needless to say, about 6.42 seconds into that marriage, I slapped my forehead in resolute regret and wished fervently that I could just be Megan, like Cher, or Madonna, or even Roseanne. I was forced to perfect the art of writing microscopic letters and drawing in additional circular bubbles on forms of all kinds. OH it was all kinds of fun, people. And the cropped versions of my name that would STILL appear on licenses and government documents and mailing lists even after all of my diligent documentation? Always an object lesson in humility. They didn't just lop off however many letters they were short at the end of my name... they pulled them out randomly whereever they saw fit. I knew I didn't want to hyphenate again. Ever. A girl gets tired of seeing her name spelled so it looks like a half-finished New York Times crossword puzzle.

I had to shorten things up this time around. I didn't want to just keep my maiden name. True story - a certain popular spell-check program corrects my maiden name to Mean Ferret. You cannot begin to imagine the hilarity that afforded my co-workers back when I was gainfully employed.

But my parents were blessed with two girls and no boys, as were my Dad's brother Butch and his wife Joy, my mother's sister. Yes, that's right. Brothers married sisters which means that I have a couple girl cousins to whom I'm so closely related that even though we're nearly a thousand miles apart, when one of them sneezes, my eyes water. Anyway, we, the four female products of these two unions, single-handedly cauterized the branches of not one but TWO family trees into stumpy little nubs. Irrrrrk. Giving up my own family surname felt wrong to me. Like a final stinging slap in the face to my father and his father and all their fathers before them.

So when the registrar finally called us into her office so we could sign over our single lives to one another, and the moment came for me to write into existence the new manifestation of the Mean Ferret, in one fell swoop of the pen, I gave up my given, girlhood middle name, Carol, which is also my mother's name, and became Megan MaidenName Surname. And for three weeks out of the month, that's who I am.

But long about the middle of that fourth week, the week we're in right at this very moment, I become Megan Priscilla Maude Sybil Surname.

And those are the middle names I'm gonna use for purposes of this Middle Name Meme, because, that, afterall, is my PREROGATIVE, dangit!!! And I'll thank you VERY MUCH to keep your opinions to the contrary to yourself!!!

1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.
2. You must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.
3. When you are tagged, you need to write your own blog post containing your own middle name game facts.
4. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

P is for Persnickety. As in Who in Sam Hill put this coffee cup back in the cabinet with the handle pointing to the RIGHT? What kind of MORON doesn't KNOW that the HANDLE of a COFFEE MUG goes on the LEFT, so I can grab the MUG out of the cabinet with my LEFT HAND while I SIMULTANEOUSLY grab the COFFEE POT with my right hand and pour without having to pause and shuffle, thereby delivering coffee down gullet and caffeine into brain with not a millisecond of time wasted. ECONOMY OF MOTION, people. COME ON!

M is for Mental. As in OHMYGOSH WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT? Get your crummy eyeballs off of me this instant, they make me SICK, all round and googly and questioning and WEIRD. What am I a one-woman side show that you have to be STARING AT ME all the time? STOP IT RIGHT NOW YOU'RE HURTING MY FEELINGS YOU COLD, HEARTLESS OGRE. Sob! No one loves me... No one's ever loved me... I am the most unloveliest of unloved souls on the face of this planet!! Sob sob sob!!!

S is for Starving. As in YESSSSS! YESSSS! Look at this! I CAN load an entire 40 oz. tub of Jif® onto this 1 1b. Hershey® bar! Sure the chocolate hangs over the edges of the graham crackers a little, but the peanut butter's staying up fine and look! It's holding the 2 lb. bag of Cheetos on, too. Come to Mama, sweet snack of love!

What's your middle name this week?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

That Place I Go

We've been busy walkin' our three miles every morning, shopping for food (because apparently a jam-packed fridge and an overstocked walk-in pantry just aren't enough, even after that ill-fated trip to the Farmers' Market yesterday) and whipping up feasts of spaghetti with meat sauce, shrimp and grits and chilled gazpacho, organizing the basement, baking four dozen big fat chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (my all-time favorite cookie recipe EVAH!) for the staff at Al's old office (have I mentioned Al got a new job? Remind me to tell you about that sometime), shopping for patterns and fabric so Nana can make Bean a new jumper for fall - to go with her brand spankin' new navy and white StrideRite® saddle-oxfords that I found for $1 at Goodwill about 2 years ago, selecting lovely, cuddly prints and solids for one of the winners of the blanket auction to benefit Teagan a month or so ago and scrubbing the residual green gunk out of the infamous guacamole pool. Etc. etc. etc. into ever-lovin' oblivion.

... gums a' flappin' ninety miles an hour THE. ENTIRE. TIME.

The talking NEVER CEASES, people, sun-up to sun-down... OH WHERE DOES IT ALL COME FROM? You know that weird LOUD EERIE SILENCE you hear when the LIVE CONCERT ends and you go get in your quiet car, tired and happy, to go home? I've heard that sound every time I've been to the bathroom this week. LOUD EERIE SILENCE.

Last night, my sweet husband came by my little chair here at the corner of the breakfast bar where I DO my life, and he stood beside me and put his arm around my shoulders, an invitation for me to melt into him for a moment. And I did. My head just naturally nudgled itself into That Place; the one between his shoulder and his chest, whose slight curve makes the perfect little resting place for a weary, talked-out, thought-out, laughed-out, labored-out little noggin. Always. And he stood there, silent yet speaking volumes (you know The Way They Do, sometimes, these good men of ours). And a minute passed.

And that was all it took. That's all it ever takes.

Now where's that sewing machine?

But This Does NOT Mean That I Won't Someday Host My Own Talkshow

Show of hands here, y'all. How many of you have actually EATEN an okra? Fried, boiled, pickled, stewed, curried, whatever? How much do you really know about the okra?

'Cause lemme tell you people, Nana, Bean and I had an eye-opening experience yesterday at the local farmers' market that clued us in to the desperate need for a bit of, shall we say, a horticultural awakening among mid-Western farmers when it comes to that pod-a-licious wonderplant, the Hibiscus esculentus (le okra).

As we happily jounced across the countryside in the morning on our way to the market, the conversation turned, as it is wont to do when two or more of the women in my family convene, to our favorite subject, food. More specifically, What's for supper tonight? Already on the menu were barbecued chicken, twice-baked potatoes, and the sweet corn and sliced damaters we'd be buying at the market. Wonder if there'll any okra there today... pondered Nana. And my little heart skipped a beat. My mom fries a mean okra. I began to contemplate with relish the addition of a little of the crunchy goodness to our burgeoning dinner menu. Ooooooooooooh!, I salivated, I do hope there will be some!

With such a delightfully tasty prize in our sights, you can imagine how quickly and perkily we carried our little capri-panted selves past the first few stands at the market, peering expectantly beyond the potatoes and zucchinis and onions in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the unmistakeable, unique form of our favorite fuzzy vegetable. We barely even registered the sweet corn and damaters aplenty as more booths went by with not an okra pod in sight. Not good, my friends. Not good.

Dispirited but not defeated, I tramped over to the next booth, screwed up my best Why whatevah-do-you-mean-"You're not from around here, are you dear?" look, stared the farmer directly in the eyes and asked, "Ahem. Doesn't anyone here grow okra?"

The farmer attempted to smooth down a broad smile of what may have been incredulousness, but it stuck somewhere just north of benign pity and would fade no further. "Ah, no... No not really. I haven't seen anyone growing okra around here. I don't think the weather's hot enough up here for okra." I nodded as if I knew just what she meant and had been testing her all along. Inside, though, my heart sunk. Nana busied herself gathering up Bean to disguise her own awkward sigh of disappointment. And then...

From out of the silent, uncomfortable void came the voice of an angel. "Did you say okra? You're looking for okra? I was looking for it too and guess what?" WHAT! WHAT! WHAT! my heart thumped out rapidly. "A lady has some okra at the booth around the corner over there! I was so excited! I've had to have my Mom ship it to me from Oklahoma... I love okra and you can never find it up here!"

OH WE WERE SO EXCITED!!! We hot-footed our way around that corner after thanking the angel profusely. We were GOING. TO. GET. US. SUMMA. THAT. OKRA! Yes, ma'am!

Rounding the corner at a trot we stared keen-eyed at the array of vegetables before us, scanning each basket with careful discrimination. Okra?! No, peppers. Okra?! No, sugar snap peas. Okra?! No, tiny little cucumbers.

"May-GAN!" I was snapped from my visual veggie ransacking by my mother's voice beckoning my name.


"You don't want their okra..." she murmured under her breath and behind a hand.



And in the back of the vendor's van sat a basket of the biggest, meanest looking okra I've ever lain eyes on. Must have been seven inches long, this stuff. And as big around as a pickling cucumber. This okra was 3 times the size okra should be allowed to reach. This okra? Was RURNT. (Ruined, I mean.)

Now, we are Southern women. We do not take seven-inch okra lightly. (We do not take ANYTHING lightly.) We become appalled. There was tsking and gasping and fanning and hand-over-my-heart for I believe I have the vap-uhs and may swoon-ing. And then, after the initial shock of this... this... this... embarrassment to okrahood began to loosen its grip on our tongues, the hushed Southern-woman clucking commenced.

It'd be tough as shoe leather! Tsk. Like chewing on your own toenails! Tsk. They must not know a THING about okra. Tsk. Should we say something? Is there a kind way to explain the gravity of their error? Gasp. Don't STARE, she'll get her feelings hurt! Tsk. And I so wanted okra tonight. Sigh.

We recovered in time to enjoy a delicious dinner. We'd had all day to resign ourselves to the okralessness. But you better believe that both husbands got an earful about this Total Disgrace to Okra when we returned to The Manor after our marketing, and were duly wide-eyed at our tale.

Welcome to Chicago. What? No, OPRAH... The Home of OPRAH, dear.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

40 Things About My Mom

1. She was a registered nurse for nearly 30 years and even though hospital scrubs came into vogue for nurses halfway through her career, she maintained her own high standard and wore her starched, ironed, traditional nurse's whites including the old-fashioned crisp white cap until her retirement.

2. Now that she's retired, she still spends a day a week at the hospital. She's a volunteer.

3. Mom's the only person I know who's willing to put in a day of unpaid labor just to get a free meal from a hospital cafeteria.

4. Mom can flat out SEW. She made me a beautiful wedding gown and veil my first time around and she even appliqued a pair of the sweetest little white satin pumps you've ever seen to go with them. She also lovingly designed and sewed a cotton jersey sleep sacque that all 5 of my sisters' children AND Bean slept in when they were babies. That's 12 years of almost constant wear, and that sacque's still hanging in there. Builds 'em to last, she does.

5. Heck, I'll bet you she's sewn nearly a thousand little kid garments, pillows, curtains and fashions for herself and friends/family, yet she still thinks she's lousy at it.

6. I believe that every item she's sewn has been HER LAST EVER!!, according to her. I WILL NEVER SEW ANOTHER THING!, I've heard her declare three or four hundred times. Yet she just keeps dragging out that machine, time and time again.

7. And she will be the FIRST to admit that yes, she is a Glutton for Punishment.

8. Al says "her daughter is just like her."

9. Mom walks 3 miles almost every single day. Fast. And Early. If you're going to walk with her, be ready when she's ready or you WILL be left behind. And KEEP UP.

10. Mom loves to garden. She has a THING for a little plant called monkey grass. A lover of all things neat and tidy (cough*OCD*cough), she uses monkey grass as a border in her yard. Around EVERY. THING.

11. When I was six months pregnant with Bean, Mom had me out there planting little plugs of monkey grass along the borders of several paths she'd cleared in the woods behind her house. I think when the project was completed, long after I had given up and gone home, she'd planted well over 200 yards of little monkey grass plugs.

12. One every 3 feet.

13. That's some 400 plugs of monkey grass, people.

14. And 400 holes, dug into the rock-solid red clay of the South Carolina foothills.

15. My mom may have a little bit of a stubborn streak; are you picking up on that?

16. Mom loves the scent of patchouli. But she's not a pot-smokin' hippie-freak. Anymore.

17. However I am proud to report that she once owned a pair of the coolest lace-up, high-heeled blue suede go-go boots EVER.

18. At about that same time, she had LONG, STRAIGHT, all-one-length brown hair. All she needed was the daisy chain headband, man. Peace!

19. But then. She cut her hair into a shag. And got these little octagonal gold-framed glasses.

20. She looked like if Billie Jean King and Carol Brady had a baby. She was CAH-YUTE, my friends.

21. Also about that time my sister was going through her David Cassidy phase. She got the shag cut too, and Mom made her this funky plaid zip up the front suit. My sister really DID look quite a bit like David Cassidy in that get up.

22. After that came the Dorothy Hamill craze, and my sister got a Dorothy Hamill hair cut. I was despondent that (yes, I'm coming to the part about Mom, I promise!) I did not also have a Dorothy Hamill hair cut. My mother improvised beautifully and told me I had a Peggy Flemming hair-style. Good one, Mom.

23. Sadly, the blue go-go boots are long gone.

24. Mom is crafty. She once made a beautiful creche scene with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus out of two Ivory® Liquid bottles, some styrofoam balls, dowels, a bunch of old sewing scraps and a couple cans of gold spraypaint. Jesus's hair was made of Brillo®.

25. Yes, I do still think Mom will go to Heaven even though she gave Baby Jesus a steel wool Afro.

26. My Mom takes a nap after lunch every single day. Not a long one, only fifteen or twenty minutes.

27. That doesn't mean she won't lie there for two solid hours eating peanuts and reading a book though. She's retired and her kids are grown up. She can do that if she feels like it.

28. Mom has a collection of 20 or so paperweights that have never held a single piece of paper down in all their born days. And handbells that don't get rung. Other than that, she's almost a 100% practical person. It's a strange dichotomy.

29. Mom is an organization FREAK. I haven't lived at home in twenty years, but I can still find anything I want there in the same place it's always been. There is a place for everything and everything is ALWAYS in its place.

30. Unless it has been sold in a yard sale. Mom would slap a price tag on DAD and stick him out for the yard-salers to rifle through if she thought she could get decent money for him.

31. Mom loves the weirdest foods. Braunschweiger, beets, fried chicken livers. But she thinks sourdough bread tastes weird and won't eat it. HUH?

32. Mom has 6 grandkids and 2 step-grandkids. They all call her Nana, which suits her even better than Mom does, if that's possible. I'll bet you dollars to donuts she never thought her two daughters would produce so many grandbabies.

33. There's darned near nothing my Mom loves more than a good footrub. She used to con me into playing "podiatrist" when I was a kid. Bean and I are SO playing that game when she's old enough!

34. I believe Mom may have the tiniest hint of a crush on Alton Brown.

35. Favorite Momisms, with contributions from my sister Jackie:

Oh Balderdash!
I have told you UMPTEEN times...
(You know she's had it up to HERE with something when she yells this one.)
My stars and garters...
Good MOR-niiiiiiiiiiiiing!
Oh Good GRIEF!
or just GOOD GRIEF!

36. According to my sister, in a nutshell, Mom is resilient, long suffering, loyal, a truthteller.

37. I'll go along with those and add that she's also organized, efficient, inquisitive, independent, trustworthy and smart. (Make a good BoyScout, she would!)

38. I have it on good authority she thinks her daughters turned out pretty well, too.

39. If I could change one thing about Mom, I'd make her love and appreciate herself half as much as I do.

40. I hear her down there starting to organize my basement. Time to go!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Who's Y'Mama?

Thanks to Allerginpalooza 2007, Al came home a few nights ago with a sinus headache to beat the proverbial Big Brass Band.

Overheard after dinner:

Megan: Honey go lie down now, please. I'll clean up the kitchen. It's MY job, you know.

Al: I'm gonna help you then lie down.

M: I appreciate your wanting to help but you need to take care of yourself so you don't get sick. I'll do this. There's not much to do, really.


M: The staff at your office is gonna be very confused when I show up to do YOUR job next week, don't you think?

A: Come on ahead and do it! Please!

M: I don't know why you have to be so stubborn.

A: Learned it from the pro! (Looks at me.)

Bean: No!! BE NICE!

M: We're just kidding with one another, baby. Daddy and Mama aren't mad or fighting.

Bean: NO. Stop it! (Takes Al's hand) Daddy, yoooou're the Daddy. And dass Mama. Daddy wess go wie down agedder and wet Mama do HER WORK. Come oooon. Be nice and don't be meana each udder. Dass NOT! NICE!

And she drags Daddy over to the sofa and helps him lie down, gets her doctor kit and starts working on him, while I finish the dishes.

It's helpful to have strong reinforcements in situations like these.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Stars, It's Hard to Type with These Rubber Gloves On

Tomorrow at approximately TWELVE HUNDRED HOURS we'll be arriving at the airport to pick up Bean's Nana and Poppa, my Mom and Dad, who're flying up here all the way from South Cackalacky, my native land. They'll be here viz'tin' us for a week. (No, that's NOT my teeth chattering. It IS NOT. What twitch? NO. I have something in my eye for Pete's sake!) (Oh, I'm kidding, MOTHER!) We've been polishing and cleaning and scrubbing and dabbing at little bits of scuzz we've discovered stuck on the shiny surfaces with spitty fingertips for three days now... I don't suppose it surprises any of you that in the days leading up to a visit from my mother, I morph from the mild-mannered if slightly muddle-headed Megan to a maniacally-cleaning-and-fretting nut-job. We all do that. We do too. Yes, we do!

My Dad's coming too. Would you believe that here I am less than a month shy of 40 years old, been out of my parents house for nearly 20 years, and this is the FIRST TIME my Dad will be actually bunking up under MY roof? Is that some kinda record? My neighbor, friend and hairdresser's Dad LIVES with her. Right there in her house. With her. OH. MY. GRANNY! Whenever I ask her how that's going, she just sorta puts up a hand, turns her head away, closes her eyes, and sputters.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for sharing the homestead with the paternal unit.

I'm a little skeert.

But let me get back to why I'm sharing this oh-so-vital nugget of information. I just long for you to know and understand what's going on here at FriedOkra Manor for the next several days, so that should you find yourself growing restless and bored with the upcoming week's worth of bloggy offerings, you will apply leniency as you toy with the idea of deleting me from your blogrolls and feeds and Google Readers, etc.

I'm going to TRY to keep things interesting with a Things About My Mom list and a Snippet here and there, but I may get quiet a day or two because my Mom? Will keep you slap-crazy-busy, people. (You'll get a glimpse of what I mean when you read the list.) SERIOUSLY. So just hang on in there with me and I'll be back full-tilt in a week, okay? Okay.

And now I have to go Brillo® the inside of the oven door.

Saturday Link Love Plus!

From the Things That Made Me Go Hmmmm (or in this case, YES MA'AM!!)... files:

Put on your white apron and your black tie, people, and get ready to whip Chez You into shape! I have found MY FlyMama! She's your bossy older sister hopped up on OrangeGlo®... The drill sargent of dusting and dishes! You must go subject yourself to the almost daily bottom-kickings SAHMmy's dishing out at her blog SAHMmy Says, in the interest of helping her fellow SAHMs get their households running like, well, in the case of this post, a corporate chain restaurant. Just go read it. I SAID GO!

And from the People I Admire and Enjoy Who Also Make Things I Covet files...

Check out Karla's blog Looking Towards Heaven. She's about to have a new little one, AND she creates some of the loveliest Mommy cards I've ever seen. You will want some too. As soon as she gets done giving birth and all that, I'm placing my order!

Got a couple of new pretties over there on my sidebar. (Grins.) I now have a very lovely little slipper to go with my Bloggin' Princess tiara!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My sweet and very funny friend JulieMom, as in My Life As, was kind enough to bestow the Nice Matters Award upon me and I must say, her kindness just plain ol' warmed my heart. Thank you very humbly, Julie, for considering me one of those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends & those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also, for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world.

I'm passing along the Nice Matters Award to T at T with Honey, one of my first favorites ever. With a blog name like hers, you expect to go there and find a kind, sweet, gentle soul with maybe a hint of a lemony twist, and that's exactly what you get. She's funny, she's thoughtful, she's warm and open, and she immediately felt like a friend from the moment I read her first post. Love me some T with Honey!

And then to the lovely Rabbit at The Hutch. She leaves me regular, uplifting, sweet comments, and her blog never fails to make me laugh, think, and come back for more at my earliest convenience. Plus, she's homeschooling her kids for the first time this year and I've been riveted by her posts about their early experiences.

And for the lovely Karen at Simply A Musing Blog, whose blog has more fancy bells and whistles and fun gadgets than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang along with her witty, entertaining, and sometimes heart-tugging posts. If you are looking for the bloggy bling, Karen has it in spades! And somehow Karen manages to say the kindest most encouraging things right in the moments I'm feeling a little blue-bloggy. She homeschools too. Yay!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And then there's the Rockin' Girl Blogger Award with which T of T With Honey humbled me. Me? A Girl? OH I AM SO FLATTERED! And the Rockin' part's just the icing on the cake!

I'm bestowing the Rockin' Gal on my new friend and fellow fortygenarian Mari who writes at My Little Corner of the World whom I am happy to have met for many reasons. She is a nurse, a mother of three grown (as grown as they'll ever seem to her, anyway) kids, wife to a talented woodworker, a slow-cooking guru and a gardener... she can bake a mean peach pie one day and take beautiful pictures of wildlife and flowers the next, and in between there teach you something about God or yourself. I see Mary all over the blogsphere leaving a trail of kindness, thoughtfulness, authenticity and love for others. To do that with so many other fish to fry and to do all of it well, well, those are the marks of a Rockin' Girl Blogger, I think.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Feel the Beat of the Rhythm of My Life (A Music Meme)

I found this little meme in Shannon's archives over at Rocks in My Dryer, and I couldn't resist playing along. Friday always makes me feel like dancing anyway so today seemed like the perfect day. Plus, stories-wise, I GOT NOTHIN', PEOPLE! Y'all have worn me out tellin' the tales this week. Shew!

I'm writing this from Melanie's house (it's Scrap Night) and I'm including her answers as well. Mel's a few years my junior and I think you'll feel the generation gap in some of our selections. But I have to tell you we have sung and giggled and howled so much over these songs and the memories that go with them that my cheeks hurt and my contacts feel like a couple of raisins on my eyeballs.

Anyway, the meme. Ahem. Here we go. And if you feel inclined to snicker at our choices, go ahead, but don't EVEN try to pretend there aren't some musical skeletons in your closet, too. Or is it skeletons in your musical closet? Hmmm...

Favorite Song From Childhood: It Might Be You performed by Stephen Bishop. From the movie, Tootsie. Used to lie on my bed and dream that somewhere out there was a boy lying on his bed dreaming about a hypothetical me. (And THERE WAS!) Somethin's tellin' me it might be you... all of my life.

Melanie's was The Muppet Show Theme Song. From the Muppet Show. She would put on the record and run around the table with her little cousin Christy.

Favorite High School Dance Song: Anything by Michael Jackson, but most notably, Thriller . Also Freeze Frame by J. Geils Band and She Loves Me Back by the late, great Luther Vandross... Giddy-up giddy-up giddy-up!

Melanie's was The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing. Heh.

Senior Class Song: I don't remember there being one, but maybe I was just out of it? I don't even remember the Prom theme song. I am lame, y'all.

Melanie's was Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin.

Song That Makes You Think of College: Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls, Songbird by Fleetwood Mac, Only You by Yaz and Boogie On Reggae Woman by Stevie Wonder.

Melanie: I Swear by All 4 One (She and her husband danced to this at their wedding, too. Everybody say aaawwwwwwwwwwwww one time!)

Favorite Rock & Roll Song: Let Me Take You Home Tonight by Boston. Kids, it just does NOT get any better than that, unless it's Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight by Atlanta Rhythm Section.

Melanie loves to jam to Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovie.

Favorite Disco Song:
The Groove Line by Heatwave. Is that disco? They wore the right clothes, anyway. We'll count it. Moving on.

Melanie said, Disco?

Favorite Country Western Song: Hmmm... how 'bout,
I Take My Chances by Mary Chapin Carpenter 'Zat country? Nicki? Tracei? (Only Tracei can't answer me because *cough*sheneverleavescomments*cough.)

Melanie likes Forever and Ever Amen by Randy Travis.

Favorite Pop Song: How Far is Heaven by Los Lonely Boys

Melanie's choice: 1985 by Bowling for Soup (Oookey dokey then!)

Favorite Alltime Lovesong: This Must Be Love by Phil Collins

Melanie immediately burst into song with You're the meaning in my life. You're the inspira-a-tion. (by Chicago)

Favorite Break Up Song: Separate Lives by Phil Collins and Crystal Gayle. Oh y'all how Al and I love to sing and act this one out time to time. You would HOOT! Also She's Go-o-o-o-o-one Wha Whoh oh oh I... I better learn how to face, she's gone... by Hall and Oates.

Melanie wept over Hard to Say I'm Sorry by Chicago.

Favorite Slow Dance Song: Always and Forever performed by Luther Vandross. Yeah, I got me a kindof a thing for Luther's vibe, dog.

Melanie chose the BEST slowdance song in THE WORLD! The slowdance song by which all other slowdance songs should be measured: Open Arms by Journey!

Song That Always Makes You Cry: James Taylor's Song for You Far Away (Sniffle.)

Oh NO. Melanie chose Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood. I'm sorry you're going to have that in your head the rest of the day. Hey, but it beats that dang Muppet Song! Am I right?

Songs About Your Kid:
Blessed by Elton John; Isn't She Pretty by Stevie Wonder; True Colors performed by Phil Collins; and Sweet Baby James by James Taylor, but I sing Rockabye Sweet Baby Bean.

With Eyes Wide Open by Pearl Jam reminds Melanie of her son Blake.

Song That Reminds You Of Your Husband: Always and Forever performed by Luther Vandross but with the Honey Bunny singing along in my ear. Siiiiiigh. Also, My Romance by Rodgers & Hart.

Melanie: Mack the Knife. AHEM.

Favorite Christmas Song: The Holly and The Ivy performed by George Winston; Go Tell It on the Mountain performed by James Taylor (seein' a pattern here yet?)

Melanie's favorites: The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting etc.), Away in a Manger.

Favorite Gospel/Praise Song: Emmanuel by Amy Grant.

Melanie loves Just A Closer Walk with Thee

Favorite Ringtone on Cellphone: Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder always gets 'em laughing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sweetness Unrivaled

Corn season's upon us out here in the Illinois countryside. It's my second corn season here and I think I'm getting the hang of it. We've eaten corn for dinner 4 of the past 6 nights and we're having it again tonight. Upon its arrival in town, this fresh, taught-knuckled treat becomes the first invited guest to almost any family supper, barbeque or picnic. No need to ask if there'll be corn, only who's bringing it this time.

Just as the cornstalks themselves, stretching nearly seven feet up at maturity, temporarily re-paint the pastoral setting of the prairie in lush, crisp, rolling greenness on vast fields that spend the rest of the year crouched low in drab stillness or smothered beneath a heavy blanket of snow, the fruit of the corn brings a new seasonal purpose and agenda to the people who grow it and gratefully eat it. I've watched 20 or more Fresh Sweet Corn for Sale signs appear along my familiar routes through the country-side, and the farm wives and children - whom I've only ever seen in my mind's eye as I've passed by - now sit together under steel-framed funeral tents behind ten-foot tables stacked high with mountains of corn, still in its pale green husks. The local police fell enough stalks to carve out car-sized notches into the edges of the corn fields around town. They slouch in their cruisers and switch on the radar, lying sleepily in wait for heavy-footed locals and unsuspecting strangers. Friendly conversation nearly always includes a reference to a recent superlative corn-eating experience, and a serving of corn to out-of-towners comes with a nod out back, to the fields right there. This corn is fresh. I watched it planted... the same rains that patter on my windows at night water the roots of those stalks, and the same sun that freckles my shoulders gave this corn its unrivaled sweetness.

Neighbors leave home daily to run by Tom's (the farmers' market and nursery, just across this field from home) to bring home the family's nightly ration of day's harvest. We pet Susie the dog's head and eye the last of the fresh strawberry pies in the cooler and smile to see the hay bales and chrysanthemum plants and pumpkin bric-a-brac around the corner on carts, ready to be put into their places, reminding us that as we eat our last ears of corn, we'll be heralding the arrival of fall. Corn season will fade into the russet autumn, the farmers will clear the stalks away to reveal the rich black soil that fed them, and we'll drive by those quiet, still fields for nine months before tiny new shoots appear.

A favorite corn recipe of mine:

Summertime Risotto Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2003

2 ears sweet summer corn, kernels removed and cream pressed from the cobs
6 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper, seeded
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, green tops only
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade

With a sharp knife remove the kernels from the corn cobs, then run the back of the knife down the cob pressing out the cream and reserving it with the kernels. Cover the cobs with water and bring to a boil and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Keep water warm.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, thyme and corn kernels and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the arborio (without rinsing) and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice has completely absorbed all the liquid.

Begin adding your corn stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly and letting the rice completely absorb the liquid between additions. After 15 minutes add the shrimp, tomatoes and green onions. Cook about another 5 minutes, until rice is al dente. (You should use about 5 cups of corn water.) Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, heavy cream basil and stir well to mix. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with remaining Parmesan at table.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another Tale of H2Woe

While we're on the subject of "disgusting" and "pools," allow me to relate to you yesterday's aqueous adventure.

We have a kiddie pool on the back porch. Now, when I was a kid, a kiddie pool held 8 gallons max and got dumped out at the end of the day and leaned against the side of the house beside the air conditioner compressor. Keeping it clean was as simple as turning on the hosepipe and giving it a good rinse. Badda bing badda bam badda boom, done.

Nowadays a kiddie pool's a whole nother ball of wax. The one we have is 10, count 'em, 10 feet in diameter, and fills to 28 inches deep. With the hose on so high that the pressure threatened to suck the washing machine, the refrigerator, the dishwasher and all the plumbing on our home's ground floor out into the backyard through the pipes, it still took three full hours to fill that badboy up. It's one of those softsided pools made of vinyl-ish type stuff, and the water itself holds the sides up and out. It's a feat of engineering, I'll tell ya. A feat of engineering.

This kiddie pool has its own pump, and it requires pool chemicals just like a regular big people pool. And I kept up with the chemicals as best I could for a busy preoccupied lazybones woman like myself. But here lately we've been getting a wee mite o' rain (constant torrential downpours), and rain, I humbly submit, appears to be Pool Enemy #3. When I sallied forth to the back porch yesterday afternoon with Bean already decked out in her swimsuit, I was shocked to find that the kiddie pool had been replaced at some point over the course of the past three days and nights with a mammoth bowl of guacamole.

This was not a problem for Bean, apparently, because when I intimated (after close scrutiny, of course) that this particular shade of green did in fact not appear anywhere on my trusty Pool Chemical Balance charts, much less in the Acceptable Level range, and therefore she would NOT be swimming in it this afternoon, she begged quite vehemently to differ with my conclusion. After several moments' negotiation, we established that to wun fwoo da spwinkler would provide sufficient alternative diversion, and arrangements for such were hastily brought about.

Which left me alone in my reverie, up guacamole creek, and without a corn chip at that.

This being our first year as proud kiddie-pooligans, we at FriedOkra Manor have not absorbed the full depth and breadth of poolology. Among the portions of said science left altogether unconsidered by us up to this point was the un-filling of the pool. To say that contemplating the dispersal of 8 million gallons of pungently neglected, infected water left me a little baffled would be a gross understatement. Nevertheless I knew the deed needed doing and was not about to inflict it upon the dear, sweet HoneyBunny, who in one recent gesture of thoughtfulness and generosity absolved himself of several months' worth of responsibility for Household Atrocity Resolution, so I rolled up my sleeves and began to drain the pool in the best way I could figure, which was to push down hard on the side of it and allow gallon after gallon of slimy, buggy, scummy sludge-water to drain out, over my hands and my feet and legs up to my knees.

This went on well past the point at which the sprinkler could hold Bean's attention. Soon she was at my side and up to her chest in the toxic flow, shreiking with joy and abandon that IT'S WIKE DA OSHIN, MAMA! WOOK AT DESE WAVES! IT'S A-MAAAAAAZING! And yes, I concurred, it was in fact amazing. Now geddouddahere!

Soon enough, the hastily exiting water and the water still in the pool reached a point of stasis or equilibrium, and the remaining water held the sides of the pool up to just such a level that pushing them down no longer created enough of an opening for any decent quantity to escape, so it fell upon me to provide the leverage necessary to bring the water UP enough to go OVER. And this is where the whole thing nearly fell apart.

Because providing leverage for the remaining 2 million gallons of slimy stagnant water encapsulated in a gigantic algae-covered blue plastic bag can best be summed up as Jello wrestling, only with STANK.

Are you with me, visually? I am slogging around in the backyard as the daylight wanes, mosquitoes draining the life out of me, managing the pedal-to-the-metal activity of a toddler while simultaneously attempting to flip a 10-foot jellyfish named Fat Albert onto its back.

In the end, I was triumphant. Wet, stanky and furious, but triumphant nonetheless. I dragged the pool's empty carcass into the garage and draped it over Al's car, then collected all the tubing, valves and wires and put them away for storage, while Bean carted all of the pool toys inside and put them away heaven only knows where.

The sign posted at the front desk in MY clubhouse?

Pool closed for season. See you next summer, sucker!

Works For Me Wednesday: A Little Miracle Called SunButter

We eat the peanuts around here. We eat fistfuls of salted, dry-roasted peanuts, boiled peanuts, peanut-butter oatmeal bars, Kung Pao chicken with extra peanuts, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and our all-time favorite quick and healthy snack-on-the-go, the simple, elegant, delicious peanut butter spoon. My darling HoneyBunny was born and reared in South Georgia, Carter-country, the peanut capital of the US, and I do not believe I've seen him go a day without some peanuts or peanut butter since I met him. I eat peanuts nearly as regularly, myself, although perhaps not quite as religiously.

So you can imagine our horror upon discovering that our dear sweet small daughter entered the world allergic to peanuts. I gave her a small taste of peanut butter on a piece of bread right around her first birthday (mistake, don't do this) and moments later the poor child had hives all over her tiny little face. Fortunately, that was the extent of her reaction, and several con$ultations with allergy specialists later we were assured that Bean's allergy falls on the lower end of the severity scale. BUT, continued exposure to peanuts may render her even more allergic, and therefore we do not give them to her. Ever. Except in the one case of mistaken stroller identity at the mall, when Al put Bean in someone ELSE'S Jeep Umbrella stroller and she immediately fished around in the side pockets and pulled out someone ELSE'S bag of peanut butter crackers and proceeded to eat them. Oh well.

Anyway this whole scenario left us in a predicament with Bean. How would she grow up a normal child without the joys of peanut butter and jelly sammies? For months I grieved the peanutbutterlessness. Until one day at the grocery store I was stocking up on Jif (peanut lovers and choosy mothers DO choose it) when my eyes fell upon a modest red-lidded jar with a pretty little flower on the front. SunButter, the label read, and I picked it up for closer examination. It's peanut butter, made with SUNFLOWER SEEDS. Hopeful, I plopped it into my cart and brought it home.

That day, that very day, I made Bean the first of many SunButter and jelly sandwiches. And while SunButter doesn't taste EXACTLY like peanut butter, it's a fairly good substitute, particularly when paired with grape jelly. Well, Bean LOVED it. And has been eating SB&Js ever since. And SunButter spoons, too!

I've tried a few other brands of sunflower spread, but SunButter seems to have the best combination of taste, texture and pricing... others tend to be too runny, too salty and/or way too expensive.

A substitute for our beloved peanut butter for my sweet allergic Bean? Works for Me!

Works for Me Wednesday is hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer. For more neat tips and tricks from learned mothers all over the world, head on over to Shannon's blog!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Public Pool Enemies #1 and Um... #2

I've already mentioned (as has everyone else and her sister Mimi) that it's hotter than a hundred years of the Mexican sun out here on the prairie. I have also already mentioned that we had the distinct pleasure of entertaining my two stepchildren, Sissy (11) and Buddy (9), for the week last week. So, in addition to our harrowing, musical trip to the Museum of Science and Industry, we planned a day at the highly-touted municipal swimming complex for all three of the chiddren, plus ourselves.

We all already know, don't we, that a trip to the municipal pool constitutes a drop-dead guarantee for some knee slappin' blog fodder, so I went with my eyes wide open, determined not to miss a single drop of blogaliciousness as I frollicked and cavorted with the family.

And my alertness did not go unrewarded.

I was slapped smack in the face with the first dose of hilarity upon arrival at the clubhouse, where I prepared to shell out the $962 it costs for two kids and two adults to enjoy the adventure at Stingray Bay (Beans swim free). It wasn't the price of admission that cracked me up though (the price of admission only triggered my gag reflex), instead I giggled at the sign slapped up boldly in front of the lady collecting our life savings in exchange for a day of splishy splashy joy, which read ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS WILL BE GIVEN FOR POOL CLOSURES DUE TO FECAL MATTER OR INCLEMENT WEATHER. I read it aloud (softly) and laughed again. FECAL MATTER. Hee hee hee. I try to keep up at least a razor thin facade of maturity when there are children around, but really, you have to admit, that's just good old-fashioned funny.

Only it ain't that funny, my friend.

After we were all paid up (thank goodness they take credit cards, we'll be paying down that visit through February of '08) we marched single file through the locker rooms and out onto the deck under radiant sunshine. I procured a shady locale for our towels, shoes, assorted swim gear and sunscreen as the rest of the crew shucked off laundry and barreled into the zero-depth shore of the pool. After primly arranging all of our things and daintily slinking out of my swimsuit cover-up, I plucked up my courage and followed the rest of the gang, who were already up to their necks and splashing for all they were worth. As I splunked my way further and further into the blue depths, I looked to my left and my right and realized I was going to have to make a decision. Was I going to demure from serious water play and stand knee-deep in the kiddie area watching the action like every other mother there, or was I going to be the Mom I like to fancy myself - the one who throws vanity and dignity to the wind and gets wet all the way up to and perhaps over her own head in the name of fun? I chose the latter, mostly because my crew really wouldn't settle for less and if I didn't go in willingly, mostly likely I'd be going in over Al's shoulder with three small people cheering loudly in unison.

So I went in and I went in with wild abandon. Plunged the head under repeatedly, played a little pick-up game of hide-and-seek and splash tag with a group of 8 or 10 other kids plus our three, and generally soaked up gallons and gallons of fresh, 82 degree pool-filler like I thought I might not see water again for another decade.

And then the trill of a lifeguard's whistle.

Not the toot-toot, Hey, you, quit dunking your brother or toot-toot, WALK! or the toot-toot Ma'am your swimsuit top has to COVER those. No no, this was that unmistakeable long, harsh TWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE that unmistakeably indicates big trouble for all concerned. Noting that the sky had grown a bit dark and overcast, we assumed lightening had been spotted in the vicinity and beat a hasty retreat to our umbrella, where we gathered our picnic supplies and walked a short distance to the covered shelter where we ate our ham sandwiches, grapes, chips and apple bars and drank our lemonade while speculating on how long it'd take for the storm to pass so we could get back to the swimming.

Once finished with their lunches, the two big kids expressed curiosity over some lifeguard activity poolside and were dispatched to investigate. Al and Bean and I continued with our lunches until they returned, announcing reverently, "They said there's poop in the pool. They're going to clean it out. Can we go watch Dad, Can we?" Dad acquiesced. I mean, what kind of father would deny his children this once in a lifetime opportunity? To see real live lifeguards scoop real live fecal matter off the bottom of a pool, and then deposit it in a special red bag and carry it to the lifeguard doody duty room to investigate it further. (I will not tell you about how Al described the procedure to me in full detail. I will, however, tell you that I'll never eat a Baby Ruth bar again.) This! Was! Exciting! er... STUFF! The kids scurried off hastily to spectate, returning regularly to update us on the Mission: Poop Retrieval. Verily they said unto us that there must have been an elephant in the pool because IT WAS A HEE-UGE PILE OF POOP. Bean could not grasp the information fully, "Dere's poo poo inna Poowoo? Why did somemuddy poo poo inna poowoo? Dere not gonna get any enna-ems! (That's m&ms, for those who don't have a potty-trained bribed toddler.)

Once the poop had been successfully rescued, contained and tested (ew.), we saw lifeguards scurrying around all sides of the pool dumping in enough chemicals to purify Lake Michigan, and were then delighted to hear that after a brief 45 minute interlude, we'd be welcome to dive back into the cool rippling waters of the Fecal Lagoon. Al and I were skeptical as to the swimworthiness of the water what with all the elephant dung and chemicals, and began to ponder just how we could avoid such a fate without inciting riot amongst the chiddren, when a bolt of lightening answered our fervent prayers. Inclement weather prevailed, and within minutes we were in the car and on the way home for hot showers and steel-bristle-brush scrubdowns all around.

That FECAL MATTER sign probably won't strike me as particularly funny the next time we go swimming. No, on second thought, maybe it will. Hee hee hee.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Spanked It Out of the PARK, He Did

Now people, do not even THINK I've deluded myself into believing that you aren't sick to your very death of hearing about how Wonderful and Brilliant and Heroic is my My Sweet Husband. I know. And it pains me to have to even go there again, because it flies in the face of proper Southern humility and subtle understatement. But a man such as this deserves all the props I can dish out so I'ma dish some out this morning.

I'll endeavor to be brief, but you have likely gathered by now that an inclination toward brevity is really not in my genetic make-up, so don't hold your breath, okay?

Saturday in the Three Words Meme, I may have suggested that I found my computer to be less than sufficient for my extraordinarily important blogging, emailing, recipe-searching and weather-checking needs. Oh, and those occasional forays into the Googling of random people from my past to see if they've accomplished any more than I have thus far in their lives. Did I say I was going to be brief? Mebbe I mispoke.

Last leg, people! I believe is how I put it. And hey, guess what? Those were three of the most prophetic words I've spoken in my life, second only to Honey, watch out, she's eyein' the cat litter again and looks like she means bidness this time! Yes, Sunday at about 2:30 Post Meridian, my poor pathetic mistreated old HP Pavilion stopped dead in its tracks, clutched desperately at its Operating System, fell to its disk drive and coughed out its final download. Just like that. No warning, no goodbye. I mean, I knew it hadn't been feeling well, but I had no idea how close we were to the end.

As you can imagine, there were several desperate attempts at revival. There was re-booting, and the accompanying gnashing of shut-down/restart, and many, many function keys were applied, but the patient was unresponsive and eventually I was forced by members of my staff to call it. Time of death, 2:35 PM. Al gave me several I told you so, and I told you so, and Oh! by the way, I TOLD YOU SO, looks (he has been recommending euthanasia for months now) and I forlornly mumbled something about going to take a nap, then took to my bed, heavy hearted and blogless.

Sleep didn't come, so I returned to the kitchen to find a note from Al taped to the corpse (he knew I'd be back for one more attempt at resuscitation) that said he'd be back in a little while. Upon his return, he bore a very lovely and festive gift bag stuffed with lime green tissue paper and a card. The inscription on the card goes like this:

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed below are not necessarily those of FriedOkra or its affiliates. These are the sentiments of a very subjective third party who is at times quite painfully aware which side of his bread is buttered.)

I am soooooo proud of you and Congrats on launching such a successful blog!!! ... Now it's time to donate that old worn out glove in exchange for a new one. You have made The Show, and a Big League Ball Player needs the best equipment... Now get out there and give 'em hell. On 3!!! 1...2...3, Go FRIEDOKRA! Love, THB (The Honey Bunny)

You are lovin' the baseball metaphors, no? Me too. And inside the bag? A brand new lovely laptop, all for me! I'm not going to bore you with all of the technical particulars (mostly because I don't have a clue what they are) except to say that Jules may be slightly disappointed, and that as I ever-so-hastily freed the box from its wrappings, Bean excitedly pointed out, "Daddy got you a COW, Mama! Dat was veeewy sweet of you, Daddy!"

So nice is this laptop that it'll likely be three weeks before I go back to my habit of mawing massive fistfuls of salted dry-roasted peanuts during my naptime blog session!

The best part of the whole thing (besides the fact that the keys of the new computer actually have LETTERS on them, and that I can exhale at will as I work without shutting myself down, and you know, that this one WORKS) is Al's enthusiasm over this blog. It's gotten so that he's often the first to read your comments, as he checks for them even more obsessively than I do. He was so fired up by your sweet and supportive responses to our Love Story that he's already contacted Denzel's management company to make sure Mr. Washington will be available for the role of The Honey Bunny in the movie.

Now I ask you, ain't he sumpm'?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In Which We Bid Adieu to the Crib

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It's been two weeks now since we brought home the big gwoo bed and transformed Bean's nursery into toddler paradise. She's taken to her new sleeping arrangements like a Japanese beetle to my brand-new-a-river-birch-co$ts-a-huh? land$caping, although the arrival of the bed coincided with an unfortunate series of loud and frightening nocturnal visits from Mr. Brown (of "Boom Boom Boom Mr. Brown Makes Thunder!" fame), so we did get off to a bit of a rocky start. So far, the only noticeable change to the standard bedtime drill she's made is her desire for us to leave a liddew tiny cwack (which she illustrates for us with her forefinger and thumb in a liddew tiny pinch) in her door when we leave, so she gets some light and can hear us downstairs. We've chosen to accommodate that liddew request.

And I've managed the transition like a Big Gwoo, too. Well, mostly. I only had two little sad/nervous/gaspy moments - one that first night, after I went to tuck Bean in before Al and I went to bed. I'd done my tucking and left a kiss on her cheek and was lying down beside Al when it occurred to me, "We killed our little crib! Dumped it unceremoniously in the cold, dark, lonely basement after it served us unfailingly for three years! I feel like a traitor!" Yeah. Al thought I was a little nuts. And then the next morning, we went to our diner for breakfast and Bean proudly told "Grandma" Terry and "Auntie" Angie about her first night in her new bed, Terry looked at me and said, "And How's MOM doing with that?" My eyes of course chose that moment to well up with tears, and my lip to quiver.

I just feel mostly proud though, of my sweet, beautiful, smart, loving Big Gwoo. But I still remember the burning hot week three years ago in Atlanta that Nana and I spent painting that old crib white and then struggling for hours, with Nana nearly in TEARS, to try to get it reassembled and ready for Bean to come home to, and then how Al waltzed in and had it together in about two seconds flat. And how sweet and perfect the little crib looked with its pink gingham bumper and its bunny rabbit sheet and the bunny mobile nodding jauntily, everything all clean and fresh and welcoming, waiting for my precious baby girl to lay her sweet head down and sleep the sleep of a content little baby. (Which, HA!, by the way.) And all of the times I tucked her into that bed, her all clean, full-bellied and swaddled-up-tight. The many different crazy positions I'd find her in when I checked on her in the night. The mornings I'd go in to get her and catch sight of her sleepy smile grinning at me over the bars. The resounding WHUMP! WHUMP! WHUMP! of her little baby heels on the mattress when she started to fight that second nap, just lying there screeching and cooing and kicking those little feets for forty-five minutes. How she'd lie or sit on the floor almost under the crib for ages, enraptured with the silvery springs and screws that supported the bars. The multitudinous tiny dents on left on the headboard she gnawed while she was teething. I propped my elbows on the wooden side bars of that little crib well over 1,000 times, just to stand and gaze at my precious daughter as her sleeping form rose and fell with her slow, peaceful breathing. I could gaze at her like that for a lifetime and never drink in enough to satisfy myself. Sniffle.

But the new bed has everything a busy, curious toddler finds irresistible. At the foot of it, two doors slide open to reveal a huge cave of under-bed storage she can climb into and hide or play. And of course she's intrigued by the drawers and the cabinet, although those don't seem as interesting to her as that secret hiding place under the bed, yet. Her bed rail temporarily blocks them anyway, when it is down during the daytime. Plenty of time to stash her treasures in there later. If she used them now it'd drive me a little batty me anyway, as the two of us would likely have very different ideas about what belonged in them and how it should all be organized. The girly pink bedding matches the window treatment, table cloth and pillows Nana made for the original nursery. Bean was so excited to bring her friends upstairs last week to see her New Pwincess Woom!

We all three love the fact that we can read bedtime stories lying down in Bean's bed now. Very cozy. And Bean still requires her books in bed with her until she goes to sleep, along with her beloved Katie Kitty and whichever other animal she's bestowed favor upon at bedtime, too. We have to help her pick and choose what stays and what goes, so as to leave room for her own little self.

All in all, a very successful, easy transition for Bean, and a bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter, one for Mama.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Three Words Meme

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
1. Where is your cell phone? In my purse.
2. Your boyfriend? The Honey Bunny!
3. Your hair? It needs... something.
4. Where is your father? My childhood home.
5. Your favorite thing to do? Make Bean giggle.
6. Your dream last night? Al's car accident (ugh!)
7. Your dream car? Anything but this.
8. The room you’re in? Kitchen, where else?
9. Who did you hang out with last night? Neighborhood Bonfire Night
10. Your fears? Snakes, snakes, snakes
11. What aren’t you good at? Waiting (no patience)
12. Muffins? Too many carbs
13. One of your wish list items? Canon Digital Camera, Kitchen Aid Mixer
14. The last thing you did? Poured more coffee.
15. Your computer? Last leg, people. (Replace it, please?)
16. Your pet? Taking a break.
17. You are wearing? Cotton racerback nighttie.
18. Your life? Living my dream!
19. Your mood? Not awake yet.
20. Missing? Honestly? My bed.
21. Your car? Old but trusty.
22. What are you thinking about now? Translating toddler speak.
23. Your work? Whatever needs doing.
24. Your summer? Pure Midwestern bliss!
25. Your relationship status? Hitched up good.
26. Your favorite color(s)? Can't choose one.
27. When is the last time you cried? Reading The Box.
28. When was the last time you laughed? Before Al left.
29. School? It's right THERE.
30. Favorite 90’s group? The Indigo Girls

This was a fun one! I got it from Pinks and Blues Girls Blog.

31. Now? It's your turn.

Friday, August 10, 2007

D-d-d-Disney R-r-r-adio... Nerve Pills! STAT!

In light of the blazing, infernal, torrid, ludicrous, screaming-hot heat and the oozing humidity of the prairie in August, yesterday we trucked our three knuckleheads to The Museum of Science and Industry in downtown Chicago. Oh but yes, we did. On an overcast day, smack-dab in the middle of Chicago-tourism-a-palooza, we blithely gathered our chiddrens together, we stuffed them into the backseat of our 11-year-old Toyota 4-Runner, and we drove them into the city for a Fun Family Adventure at the largest science museum in a single building in the Western Hemisphere.

Now, I'll grant you that, despite never even laying eyes on The Top Three exhibits/featured activities of the Museum, and despite the crowd so thick you had to take a number to blink your very eyelids, we managed a pleasant four-and-a-half hour and left full of memories, learnin' and Forty-leven dollars a slice cheese pizza. Didn't lose a knucklehead, didn't break anything (couldn't get close enough to anything to break it), AND, we didn't even get suckered into serendipitously sidestepped the joy of shelling out cash for chachkis at the gift store.


We got ourselves some traffic up here in Chicago. The 50-miles-each way rides to and from the museum amounted to some FOUR AND A HALF HOURS total time in the vehicle, with the blithely-gathered children crammed in the back seat, sugared-up good and ready for adventure. Long about the time we got the 4-Runner out onto the tollway, the low hum of youthful vitality behind us began its inevitable climb, passing straight through noisy fracas and cacaphonous din to climax at a thunderous roar punctuated with blood-curdling screeches. Have I mentioned I haven't been sleeping lately? And Mama has her cranky on. And her headache. And Daddy ain't feelin' too great either on accounta the plentitudenous ragweed around here has his sinuses so loaded up he breathes like Darth Vader wearing a snorkel. Which may explain why I don't sleep, come to think of it. Anyway, Al, being the master of mollification, proposed that the kids play (airquote) The Quiet Game for the rest of the drive. As you can imagine, this idea illicited a lackluster-at-best response from the kiddies. In the vein of, Yeah, right, but hopped up on a little extra sarcasm for good measure.

"Can we listen to Disney Radio, Dad?" chimes the 11 year old.

"Oh! Disney Radio!?" I think to myself, "They have DISNEY radio? Zowie where has THAT been all my life? I've been listening to the same WEE SING cassette with Bean for so long I can sing all five choruses of 'Who Did Who Did Who Did Who Did Who Did Swaaaallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?' more readily than I can remember my own name, and there's a RADIO STATION that plays Disney music I coulda been listening to all this time? Sign me up! When you wish upon a staaaaaaaaaaar!" And then my mind goes all ... Put 'em together and whaddaya got? Bippity boppity boo...Oh! and Zippity doo daaaaaaaaaah, zippity ay and Just a spoon full of sugAH helps the medicine go down..." And I'm all set to fire us up some Disney Radio and have ourselves a delightful, sweetly nostalgic family sing-along, just riding down the highway watching the prairie roll by as images of Mary Poppins and Cinderelly dance in our heads.

Only hey y'all? Mary Poppins wasn't invited to this Disney parade of hits. And Cinderally's not there either, unless she and the other Disney divas of yore have traded in their empire-waisted satin and velvet ballgowns for leopard print tube tops and studded leather belts. And they aren't singing sweet little ballads of wishes and dreams and such while little bluebirds fly around their heads, either. No, the ladies of Disney Radio have a decidely edgier vibe now. A vibe that will make you want to bang. your. forehead. on. the. dashboard. until. your. ears. fall. off. Have you heard this?

OH MY GRANNY. All I know is I sat in that car and I listened for 3 solid hours to an 11 year old girl - and occasionally a 9 year old boy - singing every single word of every single song that came on (and I will tell you I THANKED MY LUCKY STARS that Bean was asleep for nearly three hours of it and I was able to engage her in distracting conversation and/or her apple juice juicebox for the other hour.) In my haste to deliver what I'd imagined to be a pure, clean, happy little innocent family moment, I'd switched the dial to what would seem to have been a Hannah Montana-thon, thereby subjecting myself and other members of my immediate family to the sounds of a famous-fathered synthesized-within-an-inch-of-her-life teeny-bopper rappin' about "Pumpin' Up The Party" and "We Got the Party With Us" and "He Needs Me" and "You and Me Together" to a flippity, bumping hip hop beat that NEVER. LET. UP. Not even for a minute.

Round about the top of hour 3, I did hear one song that didn't revolve around the themes of partyin' and doin' what we wanna do or bein' everything he needs, and it was all about how he can stand under my umber-ella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh. Which, okay, innocent enough, just as long as everybody keeps on their Paddington Bear raincoats and ladybug boots, right? Still made me want to bang my head on the dashboard though.