Monday, June 29, 2009

Beautiful Carrie Bell

I went to find Bean in the waning hours of a neighborhood party last night, in the filtered, sparkling light of dusk, to take her home with us for the night. I crossed the grass of two back yards and saw her sandals haphazardly kicked off and abandoned on the back porch next door and I looked at them for a long time, those shoes a symbol of so much to me - her joy, her freedom, her love of these summer nights (and summer days) among all the people she loves so much.

And then I heard her shrieks of glee and looked up from my reverie to catch a glimpse of her, those wild blonde curls bouncing and blowing in the wind as she appeared, skipping around a rich green, grassy corner toward me. In that instant her face absolutely radiated happiness and belonging - her beautiful smile lighting up every corner of her, and every corner of me, too. I looked at her, paused a moment, and turned and walked back to the party. I just couldn't be the one to make her leave, this time.

So I sent her father.

He sauntered off and returned minutes later with his daughter in his arms. I looked into Bean's eyes, searching to find out how this abrupt end to the fun time with friends made her feel. She wasn't grinning anymore, but as she lowered her head to her father's shoulder and relaxed into the safety and comfort of his strong embrace, I knew she felt as joyful as she had just minutes before, perhaps more so. And peaceful. She had the peace of knowing she was with her Daddy, who would safely and gently carry her tired little body home.

Al's mother, Carrie Bell, for whom our Bean is named, passed away this morning. She was 90 years old. I know that although she'd grown frail and feeble and worn down, her Father found her with a happy, full heart and swept her tired body up in his strong arms to carry her home, just as her precious eighth child did her twenty-something-eth grandchild less than twelve hours before. I know her face is peaceful, her soul full of joy to be snug in the arms of her Father, whom she has loved and trusted and believed in her whole life long.

Praise God and thank You for Grandma Carrie Bell. Thank you for her strength, which came from You, for her love and faith and joy and wisdom born of sitting at Your feet all through her long and sometimes difficult life. A wonderful mother and wife, she gave her children and husband and extended family and community every ounce of herself, and will forever be one of the standards I'll hold myself to as I continue to care for her son and grandchildren, of whom she was so proud. Hold her tightly, God, and please be with her family, those who will go on for a while without her and miss her every day, but in whom she still lives on because of her love for You, and for them. Amen.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Good God A'Mighty Which Way Do I Steer?

We're grillin' burgers tonight at FriedOkra Manor and I?

I am in charge of The Condiments.

Because Al is the man, and we're all about the women's lib here but even still, we haven't evolved past that all-important basic law of nature:

The man grills.

But lemme tell you, I do not take my role as Condiment Czar lightly, people.

Here's what I've got so far:

The Basics:

Ketchup (or catsup, y'all take your pick. What's the difference between the two? Does anyone know?)
Mustard, French's or Grey Poupon
Mayo (bringing out the Hellman's and bringin' out the best)
Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
Raw sweet onion slices
pickle relish
dill pickle slices
sliced damater (tomato, for y'all non-Southerners)
American cheese

Kicked-up Ingreds:

sauteed mushrooms
sauteed sweet onions
Homemade Pimiento Cheese
Bleu cheese
Swiss cheese
sliced pickled jalapenos
chow chow ('Cause when it comes to burgers, you just never know 'til you try!)
my special burger sauce (which is sump'm akin to the Big Mac special sauce: a sortof McThousand Islandy base with the added zip of McHorseradish, yum!)

So with all that to choose from, I'm thinkin' I want a bacon/onion/swiss/mushroom burger with special sauce. But then I also want a bacon/bleu cheese burger. Or a bacon/lettuce tomato burger with homemade pimiento cheese. And now I'm also thinking I should put out some Sweet Baby Ray's Vidalia Onion Barbecue Sauce, which further complicates the decision-makin' process.

I know! Maybe I'll just graze off the condiment bar all night and forego the burger altogether.

As an aside, Al's outside playin' with Peabody in the back yard and he's got the remote control control key fob in his pocket. Unbeknownst to him, the garage door is just a'goin'. Up and down, up and down, up and down, over and over and over. Sometimes it only makes it halfway up before it's goin' down again.

You know I really think we are probably a constant source of entertainment for all the people who live on our street, y'all.

Thursday morning when I came back from pickin' Bean up from Art Camp I realized we'd left SIXTEEN (which I believe constitutes a herd, does it not?) multi-colored My Little Ponies out front for half the day. All lined up, trotting up the walkway and stairs to the front porch, their floofy little manes blowin' in the breeze for everybody to admire.

And now the Amazing Self-Activating Garage Door Caper.

Yep, that's what we're here for, neighbors. Pleasure to serve y'uns.

Anyway, those two boys must be havin' a good time, whatever they're doin'.


Riddle me this, y'all, Maybe it'll help me make up my mind:

What's on YOUR dream burger?

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

And She Decided the Feather Boa is Too Itchy, So I Get to Keep It! Woohooo!

So Bean attended a very LOVELY, very girly soiree today in honor of her friend Little Emma's 5th birthday. (We call her Little Emma because she's the younger of the two Emmas whose families we tend to hang out with the most. Guess what we call the other Emma? Right! Big Emma. We are all guessing she's not gonna like that nickname so much in a few years.)

Anyway, the party. It was a TEA PARTY and it was pure perfection, start to finish. Bean had such a great time and I loved observing her and all of the precious little girls dressed in their best (as requested on the adorable invitation, which had little tea bags on strings that you pulled out to find out all the details. Oh, y'all, they were the CUTEST THINGS!) Little Emma's Mama, Christy really pulled out all the stops, with tea party themed games, beautiful garden-party decorations (the ittybitty chairs were even all swathed in white plastic - no staining - tied with a pretty pink bow on the back) and fancy teapots and cups and saucers. Each little girl got a butterfly crown THAT LIGHTS UP to wear, and a bright feather boa and a million other wonderful treats. Tiny finger sandwiches even, y'all! Heaven on a fancy plate!

Truly sheer perfection.

How lucky was I to get to stay and see it all? And Peabody too, my handsome little Manny McMan! I really loved watching him when I dared put him down (he pulled two lovely Evel Knievel stunts almost immediately after we arrived, sending my heart directly, do not pass go, do not collect $200, up to my throat, the little booger!) If he so much as got one knee on the ground, he'd take off like a shot to the CENTER OF ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, whereupon he'd look around like a starving man at the Golden Corral buffet for a bit and then scoot directly to his sister, who would pull him close to her, kiss his head and hold on tightly around his waist.

OHMYGRANNY, it makes me so happy to watch the two of them together, y'all!

As we rode to the party this morning, Bean asked, "Mama? Are you going to STAY at the party, too? Or am I staying with the girls by myself?"

"Well I plan to stay and help Christy if there's anything she needs me to do."


And then, "Mama?"

"Yes, Bean?"

"Can I tell you something?"

"Absolutely, babe."

"Listen, Mama. If you stay, I'm just going to want to play with you and then I won't get to play with the girls."


"I know! How 'bout if Peabody and I hang out with Christy, and you hang out with your friends, and you can just pretend I'm not even there, and then at the end of the party we'll go home together."

"Okay, Mama."

So that's basically what we did, although I was called into action a couple of times to help her string beads, hold her party game prizes (she racked up, and I feel guilty!) and throw things away for her.

At the end of the party we got into the car and as we drove away I asked her, "So, Bean, what did you think? Was that a fun party?"


And then.

"But where were YOU, Mama?"

"I was there. I thought it was lovely and I had a wonderful time."

"Oh, dat's funny. I don't remember seeing you there. The whole time I thought I was there by myself with all the girls."

I was puzzled at first but later as I nursed and rocked Peabody to sleep in his dark, tranquil room, I figured out what she meant, and smiled to myself.

I guess our little agreement worked out fine for both of us.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Neck Bone's Connected to the ... Um... Head Bone.

Bean: Mama? My hand ankles hurt.

Me: Your hand ankles? You mean your wrists?

Bean: Yeah, my wrists.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Monday. Ba Daaaa, Ba Da Da Daa.

As usual for a Mun-dy morning, I'm over at 5 Minutes for Parenting. Y'all come on over and tell me the funny things your kids or the kids you love say!

Wait. Not that you can't love your kids. Did it sound like that's what I meant?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Ordinary Wednesday, 9 AM.

Dear Sweet Al -

Good morning, on just any old Wednesday.

Bean's at Art Camp and Peabody's taking his morning nap, and I'm sitting here at the kitchen counter finishing up a cup of coffee that got cold while I was busy feeding and cleaning and dressing our lively little children.

It's so quiet and peaceful, the low hum of the fridge punctuated only by the clicking of the keys on my laptop. I'm looking around at this home we've built together.

And all I can think of is how much I love and treasure you.

Just on a Wednesday morning.

Ten years ago on a Wednesday morning, I'd have been sitting at my standard-issue desk in front of my standard-issue computer talking about mutual funds and discount commissions, filling out paperwork, droning on about risk, asset allocation, and average annual returns, and I'd hit "Print" on my computer and get up from my functional blue and black plastic chair to walk to the back room to grab a receipt off the networked laser printer.

On my way, I'd pass your office window and glance inside to see you sitting there in your white shirt and your green tie. And you might look up at me or you might not, but just seeing you there'd make me happy and glad to be at work.

But I didn't love you then.

I just enjoyed your company because you were fun, and funny, and warm, and genuine, and a really great boss.

Ten-plus years later, you're still all those things (although you do an admirable job of making me feel like I'm the boss around here) AND you're also mine. My best friend. My most-trusted. My home.

When I retrace the steps between those days I could look to the right and see your jacket-sleeve through the window of your office, and these days when I can look to the right and see your sweet head on the pillow beside mine, I'm still amazed and humbled.

Your wit - the same wit that teased and inspired me through years of studying, multiple licensing exams and career transitions - is the gentle, surprising humor that diffuses the tension and tiredness built into house-wifery.

That face that used to pump me up over coffee and bagels before the sun rose in Midtown Atlanta's the one that brings me peace and restfulness as we eat dinner at sunset in Prairietown, Illinois.

The hands that worked good-naturedly beside me when the lobby filled up day after day with feisty AT&T employees wanting to sell their two shares of stock are the same ones that held mine so tightly to keep me focused and strong and safe as I delivered our two beautiful babies.

Back then, you unfailingly helped navigate me to places I wanted to go.

Now, you're simply and unfailingly The Place I Want to Be.

On just an ordinary Wednesday.

And every single other day.


I love you,


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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daughter of Mine -- Would You Kindly Put Your Head Back in the Sand Where It Belongs, Please and Thank You?

I blogged over at 5 Minutes for Parenting yesterday. Evidently Bean's all about making me face the tough issues lately.

(And we hate that!)

(It's summer! We should be running through sprinklers and debating which flavor of Popsicle's the yummiest, for Pete's sake!)

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

One Sick Little Pilgrim

Lately Bean has developed this habit of grabbing my (omnipresent) water bottle, whippin' off the cap and guzzling large quantities of it down without so much as a glance in my direction.

"Carrie Alexis FriedOkra!" I say. "You know better than that! You need to ask permission before you go drinkin' somebody else's drink, Little Missy, or you may just live to regret it."

"Sorry Mama."

"Yes, well, you see that it doesn't happen again."

Hey did I ever tell y'all about the time I learned that "ask before you swig" lesson the hard way?

No? Then do let me share! You'll love this one!

It all happened one Thanksgiving back when I was ten or so. We used to have these HUGE family Thanksgivings with both sets of the Grandparents and all their corresponding aunts, uncles and cousins, and of course the menfolk'd all arrive at our house, make a bee-line through the bustlin' KITCHEN FULL OF BROADS out to the back porch and immediately pop open their celebratory Turkey Day beers. And we young cousins (all girls!), havin' acquired a taste for a little bit of the HOLIDAY ALE, would creep around behind their backs and sneak sips out of the cans when Dad or Uncle Butch or Grandaddy FriedOkra weren't lookin'.

(Grandaddy Clover was a tee-totaller so he just had sweet tea. Or water, from the kitchen spigot, which he drank out of a large metal dipper, like he'd done from the well when he was a boy.)

Now we girls didn't get drunk or anything, y'all - it was all in good fun and I think the Dads knew all about our little game and they'd've stepped in and put a tire-squealin' stop to it if we'da been seriously gettin' liquored up before the big Turkey Feast.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, so we'd sneak around and try to get a sip of beer from our own Dad's can, and ...

(Are y'all now thinkin' to yourselves, "Well dang! Turns out Megan was raised by a bunch of rednecks!"?)

(Because I really wasn't. I mean, sure, they drank cheap beer outta cans on the back porch as the turkey spun away all morning on a jerry-rigged rotisserie over smouldering hickory nuts and some sticks my Dad found in the yard, but they did it with the commensurate amount of REFINEMENT).

And speaking of refinement.

A couple of these male kin-people also partook of the Red Man.

Chewin' tobacco.

(Did I previously state for the record that I was not raised by rednecks? Perhaps I was a bit too hasty.)

And, oh yes ma'am, they'd use the empties left over from all their refined beer swillin' as repositories for the, um, unpleasant by-products of the Red Man.

Yes, those by-products.

The spit.

Do I need to spell the rest of the story out for you, or can I just stop here and tell you that after one particularly un-beerlike swallow out of my uncle's can that day, I have NEVER, EVER surreptitiously drank from anyone's beverage again?

Yeah. I didn't feel particularly hungry for turkey and dressing come dinner time.

And no, I'll confess now, thirty years later, that it wasn't because I'd pilfered all the black olives and baby gherkins out of the annual Thanksgivin' fancy relish tray, as my mother speculated and I felt it best not to deny.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Al: I was thinking about a dream date I want us to go on.

Megan: Oh really?

Al: Mmmm-hmmm. First we'll go work out together at the health club. Then we'll get cleaned up and dressed and leave from the club to go out for dinner, and after that we'll go to a movie.

Megan: Oh, that sounds so nice!

Al: Only trouble is by the time we get to go out on a date again, we'll be too old to work out.

Megan: Al! You're s'posed to be my hope when all my hope is lost.

Al: Load up the chariot, Martha. The Huns are at the drawbridge.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

My Perfect 10

Peabody turned ten months old over the weekend.

I'm back posting over at 5 Minutes for Parenting after a brief hiatus. Thought I'd share some of the LESS CUTE things that Bean's been sayin' to me lately. Ahem.

Y'all have a great Monday!

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

White Box White Box What Do You See? I See Megan Lookin' At Me.

Yep. I'm opening up the white Blogger box for the second day in a row. Trouble is, I'm outta the bloggin' habit now, and so I sit, staring at the screen, wondering what to tell y'all about, fretting about what's NOT getting done in this brief oasis of peace in another hectic day of motherin' and house-keepin' and a dozen other roles and responsibilities. Yesterday I was a hair-stylist (to myself, eek!) and a buyer, today I'm a plumber and a baker and tomorrow I'll probably be a lifeguard and a personal assistant.

I enjoy all, okay most, of my roles. I enjoy the brisk activity. I like being busy. I like the diverse nature of the demands this life places on me. Do I wish it all came at me a little more slowly? Yeah. Do I sometimes feel lost among and between my roles and have a hard time settling down and just being ME? Oh, dude. You have no idea. (Actually you probably do.) But as always, at the core of everything that I do and everything that I feel, there beats a truly grateful heart.


You know what happened to me last weekend? I contracted a nasty case of corneal ulcers! (No, it's not an STD. Get your mind outta the gutter.) Have you ever had those? Corneal ulcers HURT, and they make your eye swell up in a way I've only ever seen on certain old Warner Brothers cartoons. I'm not kidding, people, the right side of my face swelled up and got all red and angry and ended up lookin' like the cross-section of a big ol' raw veal shank. Bone in. And painful? OHMYGRANNY, except for labor I've never experienced such pain. It felt like someone had installed a metal-bristled grill scraper on the inside of my eyelid.

Apparently corneal ulcers are often caused by wearing your contacts, yes, even your extended-wear, super-uber gas permeable contacts, too long at a time and/or sleeping in them night after night after God-forsaken night. Which I'm ashamed to admit I do. Or I did. Because I'm kinda lazy like that, and also, I like to be able to see where I'm going in the middle of the night when one or both of my children comes up with some creative new reason to call upon my 24-hour bed-side assistance without having to fumble around for my glasses. But no more! Y'all take it from me, okay? If you wear contacts, for Pete's sake, TAKE THEM OUT EVERY NOW AND AGAIN WOULDJA?

Seriously. I'd tell you the whole gruesome story but frankly it was so unpleasant even I can't find much funny in it. And Al? You know, I think he is JUST NOW getting his little self calmed back down again -- he's normally as cool as a cucumber but this entire episode, which involved a full day and a half of near-blindness, a THREE HOUR STAY at the urgent care center (with both kids), and a speeding ticket to add insult to injury, has had the man tied up in knots for nearly a week. I'm really not sure who suffered more, in the end.

I know! The poor man. In lieu of flowers, please send beer and nachos.

I'm much better now. I go back to the eye doctor early next week to see how I'm healing and I feel confident I'll get a clean bill of health again.

Hey, did you register for my giveaway of A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family? Go do that! And I have several more very cool give-aways coming up next week, too.

Y'all keep your good eye out for 'em.

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising A Large Family


Mary Ostyn of Owlhaven is one of my heroes. Do y'all read Mary's blog? If you don't, I'd encourage you to hop on over and get to know her. She's the proud mother of ten children from three different countries, and she's one of those people. The kind who, the instant your world somehow happens luckily to rub up against hers, makes you want to become a better person. She has a heart of pure gold and parenting skills like you would not believe. She's also an incredibly gifted writer and photographer. And she gardens, cooks and cans. You know. In her spare time.

Land, woman, what CAN'T you do? (Smile.)

When Mary emailed to ask me to read and review her new book, A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family, I felt so honored! That one of my own mothering and bloggin heroes could possibly view me as qualified to comment upon this little gem packed full of her patient, calming, inspiring voice and her amazing wisdom left me feeling more than a little bewildered.

Nevertheless I jumped at the chance. Although I'm stumbling through life right now with only TWO kids, I happen to know and love several mothers of large and ever-expanding families, and I'm constantly amazed at the perspective and patience and joy they have to share with their fellow mothers, along with no small amount of expert advice. I wish I could get a book written by each one of 'em!

I loved Mary's book. From its adorably-crafted and ever-so-Mary pink cover with the sweet little house on the front, to Mary's oft-times humorous and always encouraging conversational style and her logical selection of important and insightful topics pertinent to the parent of a large family (namely money, space, balance, helping everybody get along with everybody else, and perhaps most importantly giving each child in a large family what he or she needs to feel uniquely special and loved), the book comes alive with Mary's love, wisdom and passion for raising up children into happy, healthy, capable and successful people.

And it's not just a handbook for mothers of great big families, either! I particularly loved Mary's chapter on money, which included ideas on how to trim the family food and clothing budgets, thoughts about financing children's educations and a realistic break-down of how much raising a child costs when you give him what he REALLY needs and spend and save money frugally and wisely.

So I'll be keeping my copy of A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family as a handy reference. My family might not be large, but I'd sure love my two kids to grow up in as practical, loving and empowering a household as Mary details in the book.

The good news is, Mary sent me an extra copy for one of y'all to win! And any of you can win it - it doesn't matter if you're a mother, a mother wanna-be, a Grandmother, or even a Dad or Grandad! Just leave me a comment including a way to contact you on-line and tell me about the best parenting advice YOU'VE ever heard.

I'll do the drawing Friday morning!

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