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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Best of FriedOkra: The Missing Ring, Part I

Originally published July 2007.

Al called earlier today to ask me to look around the house for his wedding ring, as he didn't have it on and couldn't find it anywhere.

It's not here.

Where is it?

I feel like I can't breathe.

Ultimately, a ring is just a round piece of metal. My brain knows this. But my heart. There's so much more to that ring inside my heart. That ring, which I can clearly remember laughingly placing on his hand for the first time just a week before we were married, as on one knee in the family room of our first home together, I offered my own proposal to him. That ring... the one I carried in the pocket of my overcoat as we ran through a cold rain into the little chapel where we were married. That ring that shone so brightly in an otherwise dim and hushed room as the two of us nearly whispered our vows to one another, almost alone, so intimate. That ring I placed on his finger with so much love and amazement, and that I have seen on that beautiful hand - with those long lean velvety brown fingers and short, clean nails - every time I've looked at them, ever since that day. The ring I gazed at through tearfilled eyes as we held hands on the flight across the country for our honeymoon. The ring I nervously and excitedly touched and twisted in bed, snuggling in his arms the morning we found out our Bean was on her way. The ring I can see on her father's hand as he gently and lovingly cradles her head in the photos taken the days after our daughter was born.

I am afraid of the first moment I lay eyes on him tonight when he comes home. I know the sight of his strong hand so strangely bare will bring me to tears.

That ring. Is more than metal. It is alive and real to me... it is a part of my husband and our lives. It is somewhere now, away from us, maybe in the hands of a stranger who knows nothing of its short but powerful history or the souls of the people it has bound together forever.

I want that ring back. No other ring will mean the same to Bean as she holds it in her hand after her parents have gone. No other ring IS... no other ring could BE.

It HAS to come back. It has to.



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Thursday, August 28, 2008

There's Nothin' a Belle Likes Better'n Good Solid History. Except Maybe Good Solid Fatback. But That's Another Post.

We woke up this morning to a gray sky and the promise of rain, and rain it did, with an unseasonably chilly wind thrown in for good measure.

So Jackie and I did what any two forty-somethin' Southern women in their right minds whose domecile's already fairly bustin' at the seams with every kinda foodstuff imaginable would do: We declared today to be Cookin' Day and we loaded up all three of the chiddren and drove up to the grocery store to lay in (many more, and very necessary, ahem) supplies.

Yes. With a block of leftover lasagna as big as our heads still cooling on the top shelf of the fridge and enough food in the freezer to feed the Owlhaven gang for a month, we managed to discover a long list of missing "staples" we couldn't live without another minute and thus were able to justify a trip to the Joowel-Osco and a full day in the kitchen.

All I can say in our defense is that, well, that is just how the mind of the Southern female works, people.

We also hit Tom's Farm Market, and listen to this y'all. We just got done puttin' up 24 ears of sweet corn for the FriedOkra family to enjoy throughout the harsh winter months. Every time I pull out a frozen bag of half-ears, I'll be unwrapping a dose of late summer, and if you've lived through a Midwestern winter you know how welcome that taste of warmth and sunshine'll be long about f-f-f-f-f-February t-t-t-t-t-2009.

Are y'all non-Southerners familiar with the term put up in reference to processing fresh produce for consumption later? We Southern ladies use it in place of the words canned or froze. It's sortof a catchall phrase -- one that preserves a hint of grace and humility and gentility, since "put up" merely conjures a vision of a full larder or freezer shelf, and not of the woman herself sweating away over huge boiling pans and racks of Ball jars, up to her elbows in berries and pectin or blackeyed peas.

Even though the work behind it's the same, the make-shift verb put up leaves us sittin' out on the veranda sippin' a mint julep in your mind's eye, and that's how we prefer you to think of us, mostly, even though really we're diligent and efficient and hardworking and feisty and nothin' makes us feel richer than knowin' we've got food stockpiled to last us 'til the second coming and we stockpiled with our own two hands, dadgummit.

I'm lucky enough to have inherited a little one-year diary my mother's mother wrote back when she was a teenager growin' up with her siblings down in Alabama. And although her writings about my own Grandfather as her on-again, off-again suitor and the things he said to her in those first early days of their courtship delight me more than anything about the little volume, I also love to pour over the lists of chores she completed on weekends, which frequently included "putting up" beans and peas and greens - work she completed alongside her own sisters about this time of year. I imagine them back then, much younger than Jackie and I are now, but likely laughing and chatting away as they shucked and shelled, washed and blanched, just as we did today, just the two of us with our kids laughing and playing in the background.

And I feel history. I feel the depth and breadth of where and whom we came from, and I know again, as the smell of fresh, earthy corn envelopes me, who we really, truly are.



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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

She Hasn't Actually Said the Word "Rube," But Y'all Know She's Thinkin' It

My big sister and eldest nephew, Daniel, (the one Peanut's named after) arrived this morning an hour early. You know Auntie's in a hurry to get her hands on the new baby when she flies up on a commercial airliner and still manages to beat her ETA by sixty somethin' minutes.

My nephew cast a six foot shadow walkin' through my front door and my heart nearly broke to see him so huge and handsome and manly-lookin' at TEN. I told him he was gorgeous and a sight for sore eyes but inside my little soul was cryin' out, "What have you done with Baby Daniel? You put him back small again this instant!" And you know, as I look at him, I think, in a short decade my own boy will have those long legs and arms and those big ol' feet and I'll be wantin' him put back small again too. And it can't be done. No matter how hard you wish it could go both ways, you can only grow a kid one direction, and that's up.

Boo, hiss.

And ya'll remember I mentioned Peanut's troubles with the GAS ELIMINATION? Well, I want you to know that my sister walked in here, picked up that baby, gave him a well-placed heel of her hand upside his ribcage and that boy's eyes got huge, he ripped out a lip-flappin' burp y'all probably mistook for a small earthquake out on the West coast and promptly fell dead asleep, draped over his Aunt's arm like a damp dishtowel.

Such are the perks of havin' birthed and raised five babies, I reckon.

And she even managed not to look smug, much to her credit.

Aunt Jackie's gas-riddin' handiwork created in Peanut such a vaccuum that he woke up briefly, nursed until my cheeks were empty hollows and my tongue was a raisin in my mouth, and passed out cold in his crib with a blissful Aaaaah! I-don't-hafta-burp-or-poop anymore smile playing at his teenytiny little mouth-corners.

I cannot wait to tell this story at that boy's wedding.

Y'all come eat lasagna with us tonight! We've got one as big as a football field defrosting on the kitchen counter and all the garlic bread and salad you could ever want. Have I mentioned I love my neighbors?

See y'all at about 6:30 PM.

Oh, and don't worry! If you eat too much and get uncomfortable, I'll get Aunt Jackie to help you out.


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Three O'Clock and All Is Well.

I hafta hurry I hafta hurry I hafta hurry!

Naptimes for the Okra chiddren won't be overlapping as much as I'd hoped/planned/prayed/so-cleverly-manipulated for, so I do not have much time before a hungry little man wakes up to sing me his sad serenade about how the milkies, they are not a'flowin' like they should be and his mother done lef' him in a wet diaper fer days on end, an' puh-leeeease won't somebody pleeeeeeeeeease save him from this turrable, wretched life he's a'livin'?

Hiya!

So, it's my first day home alone with the two kids.

See how I wrote that all calm-sounding? Like Hoopty doo I'm alone with two children, no biggie! Tra la la la laaa!

Yeah, see that's the beauty of the written word. On paper, you can make words LOOK however you want 'em to look. But now if you could hear me speak those words, you wouldn't have to listen too hard to hear the stark terror in my voice - the sheer panic at the thought that at any moment these two small people could join forces and do me quite in without so much as a moment's notice. You'd note my sweat-stained pits (flop sweat!), see my huge, dilated pupils and mark the tremor of my hands, and you'd know the real truth.

Mama didn't feel quite ready for dis.

BUT, you know? All that fear and terror stuff aside, things are going (bangs head and both fists vigorously on the nearest wood surface) fairly-sorta-okayish. We'd have had a stellar morning if I could only figger out how to tell this tiny little chappy the following in baby-ese:

Yes, I do understand that you need to burp and poop, and I am sorry for your suffering. The solution to your two-pronged gaseous problem is to push up and push down, your choice what order to go in (some people can do both at the same time!). I will be happy to hold your little hand as you figure this out but could you please stop shouting, "I have to burp and poop! I HAVE TO BURP AND POOP! I HAVE TO I HAVE TO I HAVE TO!" at the top of your lungs until neither one of us can breathe or think a clear thought? Please? Great! Thank you.

Instead we spent two full and miserable hours in blood-curdling I Have to Burp and Poop Hell and then miraculously, out of the blue, there was thunder and lightening and the earth shook and then all went silent and we changed out of our pajamas and into our clothes and walked to the playground. And since then, life has been pretty sweet. And it'll stay that way until more burps and poops need to escape, which I predict will fall right at dinnertime and last until my eyes are spinning around in their sockets and rolling out onto the floor.

I've been praying for a week about this day - just leaning on God to give me what I need to do what needs to be done for my little family from hour to hour on this, my first real, serious day as a mother of two. And as long as I haven't worried or tried to think too far (longer than 10 minutes is too far) in advance, He's given me peace and patience and love aplenty, and I am thankful not only for His grace in abundance today, but for this sweet reminder that I never have to do anything, anything alone.

For he is with me, lo, even as I wait out the burps and the poops.

Pictures! I've got pictures!

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Our first Big Laundry Day (a couple weeks ago now) as a Four Basket Family. It's not as artsy a shot as I'd hoped, but I love what it says. What it means.

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Oh, and I'm sharing classic pregnancy humor from my first trimester over at 5 Minutes for Parenting, in case you need a little extra laugh this fine Monday.



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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Best of FriedOkra: Sweetness Unrivaled

This post orginally published last year about now. I'm happy to experience the Illinois prairie's beautiful bounty again for the third time, and delighted to share its beauty with you in this post and a favorite summer recipe.

Enjoy, y'all.




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.

Even 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 pass 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.


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Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Me, It's Me, It's Ernest T!

A wee little update might be in order, I believe, since I've been feedin' y'all wordless belly videos, repeats and guest posters for the past few days.

Let the updatin' begin!

On the Home Front:

We're eatin' high on the hog every day thanks to a combination of pre-birth Mama FriedOkra, Nana and all of our wonderful neighbors. My freezer is literally groaning under the strain of all the VICTUALS (aka vittles) I made in advance and my mom whipped up while she was here, so I sometimes fear if anyone brought us more than a frozen slice of sausage pizza at this point there'd be a huge, loud explosion of stainless steel and plastic, and a shower of ice-cold chicken puffs, lasagna, steak-n-gravy and chicken casserole would rain down upon the neighborhood. Which I am not saying would be an altogether bad thing, perhaps just a little dangerous and messy as it all defrosted. I'm just sayin'.

If it weren't for the constant flow of calories STREAMING out of me and being subsequently greedily sucked into the Peanut, I'd be worried about gaining too much weight, (incidentally, you should SEE the dessert my neighbor Katie brought last night - OHMYGRANNY, y'all - almond-flavored cheesecake baked in a chocolate chip cookie dough crust with HUNKS more of the cookie dough running through it and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Yes, I WILL see if I can get that recipe for me er, y'all) but every day I step onto the scale holding a footlong meatball sub in one hand and a chocolate-Orea shake in the other and climb back off in profound shock upon seeing that even more of me has dwindled away overnight.

The child can EAT. Gets it honestly, he does.

Al's home with us this week as Nana has flown the coop back to South Cackalacky. She was a great help what with all that cookin' and an extra large dose of reorganizing. I think my Mom has always viewed remediatin' my faulty sense of what-goes-where-ness to be her Numero Uno job as my parent since I was born, when she took a look at my little baby piggies and said, "Well Megan, you have one of every different kind of toe on each foot! That is no way to keep your things organized!" and she set to puttin' both big toes, both second toes and the third toe that has the freckle on one foot, and the other third toe, both fourth toes and of course the matched set of pinky-toes on the other. It looks funny, I'll grant you, but it MAKES ORGANIZATIONAL SENSE in my mother's mind, and that is what matters, ultimately, don't you know?

And re-doin' everything kept her busy and happy and gave her an excuse to dig around in my STUFF and see what I (literally) have hiding in my closets and cupboards, which I am guessin' may have been a bit of a let-down for her since I pretty much have all the same things SHE has, just, you know, in all the wrong places, and not one piece of it is even remotely controversial.

Oh, I'm kidding, Mom. I know you don't dig though my things out of nosiness - you do it out of love and well, if I know you, abject boredom.

(Mama's household duddn' quite live up to Nana's default level of activity, as Nana is set on HIGH at all times, and Mama has been set on SWEATY, MOTIONLESS HIPPO for 9 months and counting.)

The Chiddren

Have I mentioned that I now have TWO of them? Yes, it would appear so, people.

See Mama adjust.

See Mama project into the future and wonder how she's gonna do this on her own next week when Daddy goes back to work two days before her big sister comes to town.


Bean appears to be havin' the time of her life, gobbling up all the extra attention from Nana and Daddy and me. She's a total sponge, y'all. She soaks up everything she hears and see and spits it back out in exchanges like these two:

Bean was poking around in her ear with one finger this morning, and eventually held out said digit proudly for me to inspect the fruits of her labor. (And that would be? Daddy's influence.)

Mama: (Gulp.) What's that?
Bean: Oh, it's jiss potatoes. (Nana's influence.)

Later, I was headed up to nurse Peanut for the 900th time this morning and Bean said, "Mama, don't feed him now! I want to kiss him."

Mama: Oh, let me feed him really quick - you want him to grow up and be big so he can play with you, right?

Bean: (Sobbing.) NO! I DO NOT WANT HIM TO GROW! I WANT HIM TO STAY LIIIIIIIII-TTLLLLLLLE FOREEEEEVER! (Guess whose influence THAT is?)

(Ahem.)

And Peanut? Well, what can you say about a boy who is absolutely textbook babyness, from the way his fuzzy head smells to the fact that he actually forms the words WAH, WAH when he cries? He's growing by leaps and bounds, sleeping up to four and a half hours at a stretch (the wrong stretches, of course, but that just goes back to bein' textbook baby, right?), and he goes through laundry faster than a head-cold ridden Ichabod Crane'd go through a box of cheap, see-thru store-brand tissues.

And he's, you know, PERFECTION.

The Mama

The Mama feels better every single day. I've been off any kind of pain meds for 5 days now, I'm not even taking Tylenol anymore. My chief lingering complaint about the aftermath of the C-section is that two weeks later I'm STILL finding little sticky globs of dirty grey adhesive residue all over my body. Apparently there is a LOT of medical-grade tape involved in getting a baby out a window instead of the door.

I went out briefly yesterday to get THIS INFERNAL MOP OF SHREDDED WHEAT ATOP MY HEAD brought under control again. I kid you not, people. I got it cut the shortest it's ever been since back when my Mom usedta have it cut in a plain old boy cut (I don't know why she did that, y'all. I just don't know!) when I was 3 or 4 years old.

It's SUPERTY DUPERTY short in back, and stacked, and then longer in the front, like a POSH SPICY kinda thing only with ridiculously-short bangs that NO SPICE WOULD BE CAUGHT DEAD IN, because during the first few days of my post-natal-sweat-out-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-fest my hair went all damp and limp and noodle-like and Al kept coming up to me and trying to paste my fringe off to one side of my brow with his fingers, even going so far once as to LICK HIS HAND and try to smooth them out of my eyes with a little "homemade hair gel." Gleh-eh-eck!

Right after he did that, I stormed away to the master bathroom, grabbed my utility scissors and proceded to hack off a hunk of bangs that will take until February to grow back right again.

But the spitting on my head has stopped, and for that I believe we can all breathe a deep sigh of gratitude.

And the haircut is pretty good, except for the "Hey, looky! I'm FIVE and I can tie my own shoes now" part up front.

Sigh.

And then wouldn't you just KNOW that the minute I walked in from that trip to the $$$$ALON, I mean the VERY MINUTE, DING! went my computer announcing an email from my friend and neighbor Maha who's been cuttin' my hair beautifully for the past 18 months but was on a hiatus thanks to some nerve damage in one hand, sayin' Hey, I'm back in bidness - when do you want to come let me do your hair? (Yes, I did paraphrase that. Maha wouldn't be caught dead sayin' bidness, I'm pretty sure.)

And I died a little inside because DARN IT ALL TO HECK, now I have to wait 6 weeks to go see my dear friend and get a little of that Maha-magic worked on these tresses of mine.

I have my two-week post C-section check up this afternoon with my wonderful doctor and would you believe I'm actually looking forward to seeing her? And I have a list of Can-I-do-this-now-pleases? as long as my arm, not the least of which is CAN I PLEASE TAKE A BATH? IN MY TUB? WITH ALL THE COZY WARM WATER SLOSHING AROUND ME AND THE PEACE AND THE SOLITUDE?

*Twitch-twitch!?*

Because land-o-mercy people I do not think I can go another. single. day without my little customary evening escape to the tubby! Showers just do NOT do it for me in terms of the soul-settling that I crave. Did I ever tell y'all my college roommates called me Wally the Walrus, such was my affinity for a little splishy-splashy in the tub of an evenin'? Oh yes, they did!

Anyway if there's anything exciting or morbidly embarrassing to report after that appointment you know you can count on me to lay it all out for you in full and righteous detail sometime soon so you can laugh your heads off at my humble yet worthy expense.

The Daddy

Is quite simply a puddle of molten Daddy chocolate sauce. He loves his baby. He loves his little girl. He is sleeping very well through the night and eating every bit as voraciously as the other testosterone-driven specimen in the household. I've resorted to keeping him tethered to the furniture when he's in the 2-story living room lest he float up to the ceiling like Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins, such is that man's deep and abiding joy in this sweet time of new babyhood and a seemingly endless food supply. Men are so easy!

And that's the news from FriedOkra Manor. Hope y'all are all healthy, happy and enjoying the final shreds of summer. The angle of the sunlight in the late afternoon here says fall is on the way, and I, for one, await to its arrival with a forward-looking nostalgia that only a hormone-laden 40-year-old sweaty hippo like myself could muster.

Have a great weekend, people!


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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wouldn't Want It Any Other Way

While I'm busy doin' that newborn thang, I've got a few friends I want y'all to meet (if you haven't already). My bloggy pal Megan of SortaCrunchy's a smart, sweet, incredibly insightful and gifted writer and mother of two beautiful little girls. I met her about this time last year and she's moved me to tears, laughter, and even greenish action on many occasions ever since. Thanks, Megan, for sharing your special talents at FriedOkra today - and for being a dear friend and source of support, encouragement and education in all things of a crunchy nature. (She also has a right snappy name, don'tcha think?)

This time last year, I was in Megan’s shoes. (Well, actually, I was probably in my barefeet, because who wants to wear shoes when you are nearing the end of pregnancy and the summer heat swells around you and shoes of any kind stop acting as cute accessories and start acting as devices of torture? But I digress.) So there I was, barefoot and pregnant with baby number two, and not just a little unsure that I could really do this mommy-of-two thing.

Even though up until twenty weeks I was wholly convinced that the baby would be a boy, I have to confess I wasn’t entirely disappointed to find out we were having another girl. In fact, part of me was relieved. I may not have known much about being a mommy times two, but being a mommy to a girl? Well, I had two and a half years of experience in all things girly – the giggles and tears, hair bows and detanglers, batting of eyelashes and trembling of bottom lips. Yes ma’am, this I could do.

And all you moms of more than one are smirking already, aren’t you?

Because even though my husband’s grandmother (and mother to eight) had told me time and again that they are all - every one of them - one hundred and eighty degrees different from each other, I just didn’t get that having another girl would be anything more than same song, second verse.

As our baby toddles ever closer to her first birthday, I can honestly say that never have two children more perfectly embodied the old saying about the same recipe making such different cookies.

Were we to tally the “same” and “different” between our two, the “same” column would have these three entries: both girls nursed quickly and efficiently (thank you, Lord), both cut their first teeth at nine months, and both hated their infant car seats (those stupid “bucket” ones) with white-hot, intense, scream-producing intensity.

And that would be it.

Physically, the differences are striking, and more than just a few comments have been made that they don’t look at all like sisters. Our oldest, Dacey, has her daddy’s olive-y skin that tans easily and is complemented by every color, as well as his big, brown eyes and enviably long lashes. Little sister, Aliza Joy, is without a doubt mine, with her fair skin that is sure to freckle and green eyes behind goldeny light lashes.

What’s far more surprising to me, really, are the disparities in personality and activity.

Our Dacey is cautious, slow to warm up to new people and places, and even at three and a half, she hides her face from strangers. AJ is fearless, always on the lookout for new friends, and engaging as all get out. In fact, Dacey stayed with us in “big church” until she was eighteen months old, so loathe was she to be apart from us at anytime. AJ, on the other hand, has been in the church nursery for months now because she spent every minute of the worship service standing on my lap, scanning the faces of those seated behind us, seeking out eye contact with anyone who looked her way so she could grin at, talk to, and generally distract all who were in her line of sight.

Dacey slept fitfully for the first six months or so of life, but soon evolved into a child that sleeps so heavily, it has scared me more than once. AJ did nothing but sleep for the first three months, and then apparently decided that would suffice, and now, when she does sleep, it’s a sleep so light that a hushed conversation across the house is more than enough to alert her to the fact that she is missing out on something, somewhere.

It took fourteen and a half months for Dacey to finally walk, whereas AJ took off a mere week after her ten month birthday. Dacey is more cruel than Simon Cowell in her evaluation of my singing (Mommy! Stop singing. PLEASE!) AJ, however, can’t go to sleep without a gentle lullaby from me. Dacey is a total TV junkie, AJ won’t waste even one minute of her time on it. You get the idea.

Earlier this summer, I was sort of musing with God about how He chose to send me opposite personified in the form of my two sweet girls, and He reminded me of a passage of Scripture that I hadn’t thought about for a long time:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

Oh, yes. A new thing. Indeed.

He knew I needed a good shakin’ up and there’s nothing like a new thing to get me shaking. Just plump with new things, this past year was.

Each day as I watch the girls I’m reminded we’ve really only just begun to learn all God will teach us through them. I wouldn’t go back to the former things – not any of them – for all the money in the world.

It’s my prayer for your family, my friend Megan, that one year from now on some hot summer afternoon while Bean and Peanut are laughing and splashing each other in the wading pool, you’ll catch Al’s eye and one of you will ask, “Same recipe?” and the other will answer with a grin, “Different cookies,” and with a sigh that is part exhaustion and part exhilaration, you’ll lean back into your lounge chair and praise God for all the beautiful, hard, sweet, draining, thrilling new things in your new life as mama to two.

Megan is mama to the above-mentioned cookies who lives in Oklahoma and can usually be found blogging at SortaCrunchy.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Childhood Home: For Olivia

Originally published July 2007, republished today with love, empathy, and a tremendous amount of hope for my sweet, beautiful, brilliant niece, Olivia.

I was ten going on eleven when my parents decided they'd suffered enough in the big city of Atlanta, cashed in their chips and moved "back home" to the real South, aka rural South Carolina. Never having lived anywhere else I could remember in my born days except suburban Atlanta (which is about as Southern as New Hampshire, truth be told), and, as stubborn and impervious-to-anyone-else's-good-ideas as any almost eleven-year-old was then, is now, and forever will be, I faced my parents' decision with the commensurate amount (a great big hairy huge ton) of pre-pubescent angst and trepidation. Oh, and fury. Let us not forget the fury.

The first days in our new town served to validate my fears and parent-centered resentment, as rural SC is a far cry from the big city in ever-so-many ways, not the least of which was that I couldn't understand much of what was said by th'natives. They wus all, "Who y'lak? Tahgers er Gamecocks?" (Being a dyed-in-the-wool Tahger fan from the git-go, Ah don't thank Ah'd e'em heard of a Gamecock yet. The Tiger and the Gamecock are the mascots of the two major football teams, er, colleges, in the state, by the way.) An' "Ya'll been ta Quaincy's fer supper yet? Hooooooooooo doggies 'ems good eatin'!" So, in addition to having left my BFFs Mary and Lynne, who shared my love for Lick 'Em Ades, Sean Cassidy and wearing tennis socks with the lil fluffy balls that matched our tops, I was also livin' in a FER'N Country where I din't speak tha language.

I was skeert.

However. There WAS my new house. And despite the freakish glowing orange carpet in the family room and the broken air conditioning in July, in South Carolina, (which reminds me of the fact that, not satisfied with dragging me from the cultured and refined city out to cow-patty-n'-ho-cake-ville, my mother had immediately set about the task of bringing me down from my citified high horse by dragging me to our new town's library each afternoon, whereupon she climbed up the wooden stairs to the loft, plopped and stretched herself bottom-out over the huge library clock - tick tock tick tock - on the cushioned bench along the railing that overlooked the entire first floor, and proceeded to TAKE A NICE LONG SNOOZE. Oh Heavens Above... the Humiliation!) the new house had a feature or two that took some of the sting out of becoming a hick. For example there were

My Bathroom - I shared it with my sister but it was ATTACHED to MY BEDROOM. And... it had TWO, people... TWO SINKS. And those sinks... were TURQUOISE. As was the tub. In there was also this COOL metal shelf that revolved and that you could actually turn so that it was COMPLETELY hidden inside the WALL. Oh the treasures I could hide in that thing!! This is the bathroom, coincidentally, that my NEW BFF Marie and I would hide away in, fill the sinks with water with a squirt of nail polish remover on top and LIGHT THE WHOLE THING ON FIRE. And the turquoise bathtub, which is still there, and still turquoise (she said proudly) is the same one in which my friend Angie and I played dentist with the olive green Waterpik, using a stainless steel mixing bowl on a footstool as the spit sink. Oh that bathroom saw some of my most creative moments.

My Bedroom - Which housed my wildly-coveted-and-anticipated CANOPY BED, a set of faux satin sheets so slippery I had to hold onto the headboard when I rolled over so I didn't fall out, and a closet big enough to hold all of my clothes, shoes, junk AND a secret hidden make-up vanity where I spent countless hours making myself beautiful in case Sean Cassidy or Michael Jackson should stumble upon me and fall in love.

My Dad's Desk - Which was built RIGHT INTO THE WALL, creating a little cubby where the chair went, under which was conveniently placed a heat/AC vent that was SHARED with the living room, affording me the ability to sit very discreetly and listen in on my sister's private conversations with her friends and the occasional young gentleman caller on the other side of the wall, but only inches from my inquisitive ear.

Oh Yes I Did!

The Huge Rocks in the Side-Yard - Which sadly eventually became the headstones of several beloved pets over the years, but started out as a perfect place for pre-teen brooding, daydreaming, sulking and secret-telling.

I brooded and sulked at my parents' complete lack of concern for my misery over being transplanted for a couple of months, until I looked up and realized that I was more at home in that house and in that town than I'd ever been in Atlanta. I'd made the best friends I'd ever had, and most of them are STILL my best friends, over 25 years later. I slept better in my new room, where the thick canopy of elderly oaks that nearly touched the roof above me blocked out every splinter of light in the night sky, creating the perfect foil for a thousand fireflies and the flashlights of neighborhood kids playing kick-the-can. I walked a mere block to my new school - one with teachers who made me feel welcome and important, and friends who didn't know much about Sean Cassidy but loved the Tahgers and even wore brilliant orange overhauls on Friday to attest to it! I celebrated my birthday late that summer with my new crew of girls - we danced on the wacky orange carpet to the music of Star Wars, using bananas for light sabers and giggling like we'd known one another forever. I realized now that I had a home filled with new memories, and the promise of a million more.

And now, when I go back to visit my parents in that same house, and I tuck Bean into my cozy old bed (the canopy's gone, but it's the same bed) after a hot bath in the turquoise tub, I am thankful for the move they made (and the moves they HAVEN'T made since then), and for the little town and the friends I made that continue to remind me who I really am, where I REALLY came from. In the quiet stillness of a hot summer afternoon, I can easily remember the feeling I had of safety, peace and belonging, lying on my canopy bed in my shady, cool bedroom, reading and thinking and planning. I can still smell Mom's steak and gravy cooking in the kitchen and hear the whistle of the afternoon train as it rolls through the heart of town. Those memories define me. My childhood. Home.




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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bye Bye Belly, Hello Baby!



Hmmmmmmm. That looked so easy! Is it too soon to start thinking about another one?


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Monday, August 18, 2008

Alla Same I'd Advise Against Eatin' 'Em Bacon Bits, Gertie!

I've mentioned Al's full of fun and hilarity before a time or two here on the blog. When we were a' courtin' he managed to contain most of his funnies and pranks in the relatively gracious and refined categories of life. Now that we're married, though, he's of course proven he's pretty much just like any other man - his favorite humor centers around the crude-n-disgustin'.

Sigh.

I'd probably have buyer's remorse over it except he gives such good backrubs.

Friday night as Nana, Bean, Al and I finished our dinner Nana and I were up clearing away the dishes. Peanut lay asleep in his Daddy's arms, but Al was messing with his blanket and clothing to get him cozy.

"HEY! The cord stump came off!" he exclaimed.

Both of our heads shot around to look as Al held up the specimen for us to examine.

Then he promptly stuffed it into his mouth, chewed it up and swallowed it.

"Now," he said solemnly, with a hint of tears in his voice, "I am bonded to my son forever."

Nana clutched the countertop and looked away in horror, "Al Okra, you are ..."

I about DIED laughing.

He'd only eaten a leftover mushroom from the pizza we'd just finished.

But that man? Ugh, he is a sicko!

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I also blogged over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. And you'll be able to read that post without gagging on your coffee, I promise. It's my first attempt to capture some of the raw emotion of our exciting and unexpected birth arrangements.


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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Best of FriedOkra: 40 Things About My Mom

Since my Mom's here helpin' me take care of my chillun' and the manor, I thought now'd be a good time to re-run this list of interesting and fun facts about her. Y'all tell me one neato thing about your Mom in the comments, okay?

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 hangin' 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. 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 times over the course of each project. 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. Ahem. 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 out, Nana!

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 pantsuit. 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 that well, 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 spray paint. 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 on the sofa 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 in her home for 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. Or else.

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 (seven now!) 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 teeny-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...
DAD-GUMMIT!
(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, and 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 Boy Scout, 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 re-organize my basement. Time to go!

Originally posted August 2007.


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Friday, August 15, 2008

I Knew It Had To Be In the Genes

Jo-Lynne was the first famous blogger I "met" online, after I'd been reading her blog for several months. I remember feeling like I'd just had an audience with The Queen Herself after our first e-mail exchange. Even though now we're friends and she's my boss (or is it partner?) (and a very good one, I might add) over at Chic Critique, I'm still in every bit awe of her talents and energy as I was back when I lurked around on her blog and she didn't know I existed. I appreciate your fillin' in for me Jo-Lynne! It's a little bit like Madonna herself performing at the Pleasant Little Town Rotary Rib-fest and Carnival, I know, so thanks for being such a great sport.

I think every parent probably hopes they will have a kid that looks and acts like them. Even if we aren't particularly enchanted with our own looks and traits, there is just something about seeing our offspring reflecting us in some way that melts our hearts. Or is it just me?

True confessions: I'm a hair twirler. I have always said I was glad my vice was hair twirling and not thumb-sucking or some other habit that I would have been forced to break. Because I don't know how I would have done it. When I am tired or upset or just plain bored, to this very day, I find myself twirling my hair. I try not to do it in public, because let's face it, while it's not anti-social, it just looks silly to see a grown woman twirling her hair. But sometimes I forget and find myself twirling away.

I've twirled my hair for as long as I can remember. In one of my mother's family photo albums, there is a picture of me in my Gramma's house when I was about three years old, twirling my hair. I emailed my mom and asked her to find it and scan it. She remembers it well.

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When my son was born, I waited to see if he would pick up any soothing habits -- thumb sucking, a blankie, a stuffed toy... or hair twirling, perhaps? He chose none of the above. He was a self-soother, I guess.

When my first daughter was born, three years later, there were times when I thought I saw her twirling what little hair she had, but the habit never took. She had no vices (except wanting mommy to hold her 24/7).

Then my second daughter (I call her R on the blog) came along, another three years later. She took a paci for a while, but during a particularly bad cold in her first year of life, she was unable to suck on the paci and breathe at the same time, and she chose to breathe. Smart kid. The pacis went by the wayside. It seemed I had another self-soother. I pretty much gave up on having another hair twirler in the family. In fact, I didn't even really think about it one way or the other.

Then this past spring, when I began potty-training R, she started twirling her silky blond hair. SERIOUSLY! She seemed to do it when she was stressed or agitated about going on the potty. The first time I saw her do it, I didn't pay much attention. But then I saw her doing it again and again. Now it's definitely a habit.

I know it's crazy, but I just love it. Particularly because this is the child, out of all three, who looks the most like her dad. But the hair twirling -- that's ALL me.

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Jo-Lynne writes daily at her personal blog, Musings of a Housewife, and she's the owner and editor of Chic Critique -- a collaborative blog about all things beauty and health.



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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Woman, 40, Magically Transformed into Jello® by Two Children

Chicagoland, IL: A woman in northern-suburban Chicago yesterday was miraculously reduced to a cube of cherry Jello® when her children joined forces to turn the dial up to dangerously high levels on the cute-o-meter.

Sources close to the woman identified only as "FriedOkra" (which is also a Southern comfort-food delicacy) say that despite this development, she's doing quite well - radiant, rosy and sweet, but rather uncharacteristically quiet.

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Girls, I blogged at the Peanut blog today about a topic that's at least NEAR to the heart, if not always so DEAR. Men, you will probably not find the topic all that entertaining, and if you go read, you may find yourself more than a little um, uncomfortable. As my second grade teacher Mrs. Bennett always said, "A word to the wise is sufficient!"


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Hiatus from Hiatus, Because The Vacationing is Wearing Me Out

Oh. Hi.

These past few days I feel like I sorta just get to wave to y'all as I pass by, and I miss you so much. I honestly have so many things to say - so many little moments of happy tears, of clarity, an end to the murkiness that crept in and clouded my mind and soul over the long months of the pregnancy, the love, the drama, the joy, the adjustments - moments and feelings I long to share.

They're all here in my mind and one thing has become so clear to me as I've lived these enormous, important, fleeting but completely mesmerizing past few days. It's that for me, to fully experience and understand the depth and fullness of a pivotal moment in life, I have to write about it. That I can be in a moment, really there, and I can absorb it fully, pulling in all of its magic and beauty in colors and sounds and breath and eyes and skin, but to unlock the experience again within myself and feel the tide of emotions anew requires this process of writing, this searching for the perfect phrase, the perfect order, the perfect passage to paint a visual image, like the rainbow a prism makes when the sun glistens through it, in the minds of others.

Or, you know, that could just be the Vicodin talking.

We're all getting along well here. We're not sleeping much, but my beautiful boy's healthy. My body's wiped out, sore and floppy-old, but it did an astounding job of making a perfect little baby. And life's busy and chaotic and stressful at times, but there's a peacefulness that lives in my heart knowing Matthew Daniel's here, safe and sound.

A few of the moments I've wanted to share with you in pictures, without my normal attempts to interpret them for you, because I haven't the time and I believe your hearts will easily do what my quiet keyboard can't right now.

Love y'all.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

She Can Call it What She Likes, FriedOkra Calls It Chicken DEEEE-Vine.

I'm busy snugglin' my sweet snuggle-puppy Peanut-Pie Mr. Peabody (isn't it funny how immediately you come up with about fifty lovey-dovey nicknames for a new little baby - how easily they just roll off the tongue once inspired by all that ittybitty cuteness?) and hopefully taking many long and much-needed naps. I have a few new pictures and thoughts about the labor and birth to share when I get rested, but in the meantime, enjoy this delicious post from Lainey at Blog in My Eye.

Thanks Lainey!



Shhhhhhhhhh. I'm blogsitting today. And I don't want to wake the Peanut...or the Mama. I won't keep you long. When big life changing events are afoot, I tend to just stay out of the way and pray (must be 4th child syndrome). I thought I'd do what any self-respecting Mama would do in this situation. Share a casserole.

I did not inherit a rich culinary heritage. Exhibit A. But my husband, on the other hand, definitely got the cooking gene from his very talented Mom. I fell in love with him while he made me a humble meal of pasta and jarred sauce, somehow adding the love into the mix.

Years later, a typical exchange between my mother-in-law and I would sound like this:

Me: Mmmmmm, these lima beans are delicious? What did you do to them?

MIL: Oh, I just cooked 'em with a little butter and salt.

I return home wondering how just adding a little butter and salt to my pitiful frozen lima bean water is going to make them taste like heaven. Clearly, something is lost in the translation and lack of direct genetic transfer.

I'm learning though. It's only taken me 13 years to catch on a little.

Here is one of our family's favorites from the mother-in-law's archives. I call it Betty's Chicken Divan, and variations of it abound online. My kids, who are not always crazy about casseroles LOVE this one. Of course, to capitalize on the familial love, I call it Grandmother's chicken casserole.

3 cooked chicken breast
2 pkg. cooked frozen broccoli (I sometimes use fresh)
1 can cream soup
1/2 t. curry, or more
1/2 c. mayo
1 1/2 T lemon juice

Line casserole with 2 pkg. cooked and drained broccoli. (I'm even so adventurous as to occasionally try another veggie like asparagus). Place chicken over. Pour soup mixture over. Sprinkle generously with cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350° F, 35 minutes until bubbly.

Now go be a blessing to some Mama who needs some casserole-love. And share your own favorite casserole recipe upstairs in FriedOkra's Recipe Forum!

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Mafew's Vital Stats & Pictures

Reason for C-section: Failure to descend. Emergency section due to scary decels in baby's heartrate - chord around neck. TWICE. Yikes. Good thing I got to labor up to 8 cm, hmmm? But he's safe, that's what matters.

Haven't I been telling you people all along this baby is BIG? He is! 7 lbs. 15 oz. at birth and he's 21 1/2 inches long! No wonder it's felt like he's been up in my esophagus since week 25.

He has lots of dark, straight hair and dark blue eyes and a perfectly round little tennis ball head. He smells delicious. NUMMO.

Bean's smitten with her little baby brother. She walked into our room here wide-eyed and whispered, "Oh Mama, he's ADORABLE!" She got to help nurse Ann give him his first bath yesterday and let me tell you, she took the responsibility QUITE seriously. Maybe I can post a video of that later. Bean seems to feel that Peanut's name should just be Peanut, but I think she'll come around to Mafew eventually. Matthew's middle name, Daniel, is after the eldest of my three nephews, Daniel.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

I'd Completely Forgotten How Tiny Babies' Ears Are

Matthew Daniel FriedOkra arrived via C-section this morning around 9:00 AM. We're all fine and dandy if a little exhausted (understatement). He's darling - looks a lot like Bean as a newborn.

More later when I can hold my eyes open!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Whelp! This Might Be It.

Get it? Whelp? Hee hee.

But seriously folks.

Been having progressively more painful contractions since about 5:30 this afternoon. I'm still able to move and talk through them but as the night wears on it's getting so I'd prefer not to.

If this is labor, it's really different from the first time.

I'll keep you posted up until/unless we leave for the hospital, but I don't know if they have Wi-Fi there so that may be it for awhile if we do have to go. (Sorry!)

I have to go fold laundry and do my hair.

I know.

Love,

F.O.

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And all that happened before I even got into the exam room, people.

Nana has arrived, Thank You, LORD and amen. I'd tell you all about how relieved and happy I feel about that except that every time I try, I fall over face-first on my keyboard, awash in tears of joy and thanksgiving. And that is hardly any exaggeration at all.

Y'all know what I hope? I hope someday I get to be MY daughter's salvation the way my Mom has been to me the past 24 hours.

Seriously. That there is some good mothering. The kinda motherin' that walks purposefully through the front door and immediately flows into every room, making that which has felt ominous or impossible seem perfectly bearable and doable again. Miraculous.

Had a visit with my OB today. Everything was goin' along just fine until it was time for my requisite (and highly-anticipated, I might add, as I had been sucking down water and Gatorade by the quart for 2 hours prior) appointment with the plastic-cup-behind-the-little-metal-door, whereupon I placed myself ever so delicately down onto the appropriate, um, vehicle, and immediately began panicking as the, uh, journey, shall we say, began against my will. Before I'd had time to properly arrange myself and the proper receptacle.

Well, I was unable to stop or even slow things down at all and found myself frantically juggling plastic cup, green Sharpie pen and Sharpie pen lid, hastening to get things into place before the moment was lost, when PLOOP, the Sharpie slipped out of my grasping, desperate hand and into ... DAH DAH DAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!

The Potty.

OHMYGRANNY! I wheezed under my breath.

In one awkward yet synchronized motion, I managed to retrieve the pen, slam on its lid, get the cup where it needed to be and complete the mission as assigned, all the while thinking with no small measure of consternation and/or humiliation:

I dropped the PEN into the POTTY!

WITHOUT ITS LID ON!

I can't just put it back in the basket with the cups for the next unsuspecting person who comes along!

What'll I do now?


Well, what would y'all have done?

Yeah. I thought so.

That's not what I did though. Because that would have been too easy. Not humiliating enough. In short, completely unMeganlike.

Here's what I did.

I scrunched the pen way down into the garbage can, under some paper towels. I re-robed myself and washed my hands until they were raw. I collected my purse and my water bottle and I carefully wiped the water up from around the sink.

And then I stepped out of that restroom and and I faced the music.

"I... er... um... er... I... uh." I whispered to the waiting nurse. "I dropped the pen into the potty. (Embarrassed, pained smile.) So I thought it best to just throw the pen away. Hopefully you have another pen you can put in there?"

"YOU MEAN THE PEN YOU USE TO WRITE YOUR NAME ON THE SPECIMEN CUP? YOU DROPPED THAT ONE IN THE TOILET?"

Nod. (OHMYGRANNY.)

Sigh.



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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stuff I Wrote Between My Many and Frequent Trips to the Loo

Have I mentioned to y'all that ever since this incident, Al tells me every day, sometimes twice a day and sometimes in very creative ways, that WOW, I have SUCH a tiny little bottom?

Remorse, it can be such a healthy thing in a marriage.

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No signs of baby yet. I'm pretty sure that in the next few days he'll have grown and stretched to such proportions that the doctor will be able to retrieve him by simply reaching down my throat and giving a gentle tug. Maybe I'll ask her to go ahead and grab my tonsils while she's in there. A two-fer!

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I just wrote "To Nana, From Bean" on a card that Bean is making for my Mom. Bean stood back, looked at it, drumming a finger on her lips, and said, "Very impressive, Mama."

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Today's the last day Bean and I will be just us. Forever. I am trying hard not to think about that.

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Which, as you can imagine, just got a lot harder to NOT do.

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Distraction! Mama needs distraction!

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Just got a call from my Mom. Her flight's been delayed by several hours. Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbth.


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Monday, August 4, 2008

Warning: Read Aster(own)risk.

Happy Monday, y'all!

That exclamation point's completely gratuitous and basically a big fat lie, by the way, because Mama ain't in an exclamation point kinda place right now. But a punctuation mark hasn't been invented yet that conveys the emotion a person feels when she's 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant, has been up all night with a sick child (thankfully it's just a cold and really, as far as bodily fluids go, nose gunk doesn't squick me out too badly), and is having continual Braxton Hicks contractions that make bein' squeezed by a 60-foot anaconda sound like a friendly hug.

In terms of appropriate punctuation in these circumstances, I was thinkin' #(pound), because I'm thinkin' I'd like to POUND someone or something right about now. Or maybe %(per cent) because I'm about 99 per cent sure I'm gonna lose it any minute. What do you think?

Seriously. Keep back, y'all#%

Oh, the cheerful-and-upbeatness, they're a'flowin' round these parts, people. But if we survive this one last day, this one final push toward the finish line, then Nana will be here tomorrow and DAWG, I AM CRAWLING UNDER MY BED FOR SURE. Only I don't think I'd fit. Maybe a dark corner of the closet?

I did write something decentish over the weekend though. Well, decent by my current standards, anyway. Are any of y'all shy, or do you have shy kids? You might get sump'm out of this.

Have a great day, people. Or else#



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Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Best Of FriedOkra: How I Met Your Father, Part VII

Not everything about my engagement to Al was magical. My family's reaction, which ranged from a simple lack of enthusiasm to overt, confrontational disapproval, to our pending marriage, left both Al and me disappointed and sad. Not that it was a surprise, but sometimes neither of us faces brutal realities until they are upon us, and we both tend to be a bit naive and starry-eyed when it comes to family and love.

I wasn't comfortable going directly against my family's wishes. Not because at 36 I felt I needed their approval, but because my vision for my life includes a very close and loving relationship with my family and my husband's family, no matter what. Knowing that marrying Al would create tension, I was deeply burdened and torn about going through with the wedding. I cried, and prayed, and spoke with my ministers and other trusted people in my life, seeking guidance and peace.

In late November, Al found a good position at a reputable firm, and part of the stress we'd felt about our future dissolved, to a degree. Conditions at my firm, with new management taking over Al's role and resenting my very presence, became nearly hostile. I needed to leave. But with our marriage pending and Al not yet settled into his new position, I just had to stay where I was and try to make the best of a really awkward situation. Once we married and consolidated our lives, we'd evaluate what to do about my career.

Gradually, we talked through all of the issues facing us and made the decision to go forward with our marriage, and to deal with the fallout from that together, as husband and wife. We planned a December wedding, on the 13th. The ceremony would be just the two of us with our pastor, in the tiny, quaint historic chapel of our church. We chose to be alone to speak our vows. Having both gone through divorces, we wanted the focus of the actual ceremony to be on what we promised one another, and not on the pageantry of a public wedding.


Afterwards, we decided to have another surprise party! Only this time, the attendees would be surprised, as the party we billed as a holiday gathering would actually be our wedding reception. We organized an intimate gathering in a private room at another of our favorite restaurants, with plenty of food and wine, music, flowers and a wedding cake that looked like a Christmas present. We sent out invitations to a special holiday celebration of love.

A few days before the big event, I contracted a miserable case of the flu. Sicker than could remember having been in my life, I lay in bed feverishly opining that I'd never be healthy and presentable in time for the wedding. The morning of the 13th, I awoke feeling worse than ever. Unable to stand for more than a few minutes at a time without growing very dizzy, I slowly worked on getting myself ready to meet my friend Kim for breakfast and shopping, as we'd arranged to spend this day months in advance. But even that was a struggle. Al arrived to find me sitting on my bedroom floor, coughing and crying.

Al took over. He firmly (and loudly) demanded that I get back into bed, and handed me the phone to call Kim and explain that I needed to rest before the party and would unfortunately not be able to see her that day. He sternly pointed out that I was "not Superwoman!!" was horribly sick, and that if we were going to get married this afternoon (which he very much wanted to do), I was going to have to rest until the last possible minute so I could make it to the church and then to the party. Well, something in the way he handled the situation - something in how he handled ME, just undid the last little buckle inside my soul. Once again, he'd done the perfect thing.


I am a stubborn woman, and very determined to do what I want to do, no matter the circumstances. But Al knew this about me, and knew my determination. And he managed to say and do exactly what needed to be done to get me back into my bed and asleep. And just before I drifted off, I realized again that Al and I were absolutely meant to be together. No one had ever been able to lead me the way he led me. It felt good. Safe.

I awoke somewhat rejuvenated in time to get dressed and ready for the wedding, and we drove to the church together through a steady cold drizzle, Al looking gorgeous in his black suit, and me looking somewhat disheveled with my ivory dress wrapped under a rumpled black raincoat.

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At the church, we met our pastor, the very sweet, gentle, quiet Margaret. In a chill, dimly lit, hushed little chapel, with rain falling and wind howling, we spoke our vows. The atmosphere may sound dismal or ominous, but to us it was absolute perfection. In the midst of all the dreary grayness, we were alone - just us two, cozy and safe, speaking the words that would bond us in warm togetherness forever.

And after that, the party! We arrived at the restaurant before our private room was ready, so, still in our wedding attire, we sat in the bar together and toasted one another with our first cocktails as married people. Amazingly, I was feeling good after my day of rest, and was able to enjoy the whole party, perhaps on an adrenaline high, or maybe just from the pure joy of being my best friend's wife!


One by one and two by two our friends began to arrive and as they did, we explained our wedding clothes and let them know we were married. It was a fun surprise for everyone, and they all seemed thrilled to celebrate with us and enjoy a wonderful Italian feast, cake and champagne toasts and to take home the little gingerbread men we gave each guest as a thank you gift. It was an amazing evening of laughter and so much love.

I am so very lucky to have been found by Al. I'm blessed to have seen beyond a conventional way of thinking about life and taken a calculated risk on falling in love with him and becoming his partner. I adore him. I admire him. I trust him with everything that I have and everything that I am. He has helped make me the mother, wife and person I want to be in Christ, and has allowed me to do the same for him. He is my husband. My love. My best friend.


And he is truly, truly a gift from God.








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Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Morning, August 1st

This morning dawned all thunder and lightening, but here it is 8:45 AM all baby boy blue skies and light breezes.

Today is Friday, August 1st, 2008. The first day of my son's birth month -- my due date only a week from now. I'm feeling calm yet expectant and watchful, knowing every bright morning appearing out that window brings me closer to the moment I finally meet this boy of mine. This BOY. Of mine. So close now but still a breath-taking surprise that makes me stop and really think several times a day.

Soon the sun will rise on a family of four instead of three, and I'll have three (or thirty) kisses to give out instead of two (or twenty), and a snuffily, snuggily little bundle to hold close as I yawn and stumble and map out our days in my mind.

Thank You, My Father, for this beautiful morning, for this moment in my life, for these miraculous people who fill my day and my heart with purpose and meaning. And Thank You for this gigantic belly and the tiny mystery who waits inside.

Amen.









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