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Monday, September 28, 2009

This is Home

We're doing a little better today! Thanks for your well-wishes.

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago for 5 Minutes for Parenting. I forgot to link it here that day, but it seems a perfect reflection for this week. Hope y'all enjoy it.

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This Is Home

As I sit at my desk in the stillness of this Sunday night after a busy, active weekend for our family, I imagine the front of our home as a sleepy, peaceful face, her blinds half-closed like drooping eyelids, her walkway tossed lazily across the front lawn, an arm across a chest slowly rising and falling in gentle, untroubled slumber.

This summer marked our fourth here in Illinois and in our house. I remember the first summer, one of new everything. In each day of that summer we learned something new about the Midwest, about our little prairie town, about the families living to this side, to that side, across, and across and up two, down one, and we learned about this house. I remember how the sun shone so brightly through the kitchen windows those first few mornings that we all had to sit on one side of the table to eat breakfast until we got a window treatment for the back door. I remember the first daybreak I took my coffee out to the front porch and sat and watched the neighborhood come to life, one family at a time.

Back then everything was glaringly bright and new and we compared it all to our old lives, our old house, "back home." This new house and all that surrounded it were strange to us, different, not quite awkward, but noticeably stiff and unworn, like back-to-school blue jeans or a book just creaking open for the first time.

But that summer brought a brilliant fall, and fall the long, deep, oddly fortifying winter, and winter the radiant, redeeming spring and then another warm, lively summer, and as the seasons danced in and out, the simple, beautiful, remarkably predictable rhythms and patterns of days, weeks, months and years as a family, as dwellers in this house, as neighbors and friends of these families, as part of this warm and caring community, have weathered and softened and smoothed our transplanted lives and taught us how to belong here, to compare nothing now to a home that's somewhere else, for our home surrounds us here.

Our lives gladly flow with the rhythms and patterns of this place and these people and these seasons, and this house — this warm, welcoming stone-fronted cottage proudly wearing a fall wreath on her blue front door like a cherished brooch she's saved for a special occasion — is no longer lumber and glass and aluminum and steel stacked over and around us. Now she breathes in and out with the lives of the people in and around her and she holds herself softly to us like a proud and loving grandmother.

She's peacefully resting this night, as the children dream and my husband and I wind down the day in quiet togetherness. We are safe at home under her roof.

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Autumn and the Rudimentary Mother (For My Mom)

So. Hi.

It's been awhile I know but we're all still here alive and kickin'. Fall's settling over the prairie in just that soft, gentle, quiet way it does every year this time and the FriedOkra family's also settling in - into a different rhythm that's a little busier, yet busy with activities of the cozier and comfier variety, so it seems like we're speeding up but slowing down, all at the same time.

I'll be making up a batch of homemade chicken soup later today for Al and me and the kids, as these four little bodies have played host over the past 5 days to some nasty cold germs, a stomach bug and a deeply unpleasant bout of teething. We're all worn plumb out, a little cranky, a little dopey, really just not our normal chipper selves.

We're in need of a bit of that magical maternal medicine.

I've got a couple of quarts of frozen homemade stock thawing in the sink and half a rotisserie chicken in the fridge to which I'll just add some carrots and celery and onion and a bay leaf and some good old fashioned egg noodles, the wide kind that get labeled "dumplings" e'em though they're NOT dumplings. Least not dumplings like any I've ever seen before. You?

And I'll simmer all that up together and ladle it out into earthenware bowls for my family tonight and watch them eat it and relax in the knowing, with that deep-down mother/wife intuition, that it really will make everyone feel much better.

Because it really will.

Then I'll lay my tuckered babies in their beds with bellies full of goodness and simplicity and warmth. I'll pull soft flannel over their shoulders and kiss them and stroke their cheeks. They will rest well.

And I'll sleep better myself, too, the soup having worked wonders on my body, the simple rudimentary service having done wonders for my soul.

The totality of motherhood is so vast and complex, isn't it? But in the very day to day of this life, my heart also delights to find it so beautifully uncomplicated and humble and to discover and cherish a bit of my own mother's wisdom and know-how planted inside myself, and to think of her and miss her but embrace ever more closely the parts of her that made me this woman.

This simple, humble, faithful Mama.



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Thursday, September 17, 2009

We're Gonna Make This Boy a Southerner Yet! (Also He Will Have Me to Thank for His First Heart Attack.)

My neighbor's kid is here eatin' again.

Yep, I mean Okwa Boy. Whom we here at FriedOkra Manor all call Bubba, much to his family's chagrin. But that is another story for another day.

Between Bubba, Bean and Peabody, they just polished off an entire can of Spam. Just the three of them! People, there's a LOT of Spam in a Spam-can.

Now at first, Bubba did do his parents proud by makin' all the appropriate sicky faces and gagging noises when he asked "What're we having?" and I laughed back, "Oh, it's your lucky day, dude! We're havin' Spam and taters!" (I'm already establishing the rep for bein' the slightly off-her-rocker Mom in the neighborhood, and you know what? If it was good enough for MY Mom? It's good enough for me.)

But when I insisted he at least TRY a bite of The Wonder Meat, OHMYGRANNY the look of sheer delight on that child's face!

I could tell we had us a SPAM convert halfway through the first chew.



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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And So, I Do.

It's what you have to do, you know.

It's what you have to do the week you send your very grown up all of a sudden little girl back to school for her second year, and she doesn't need you to walk her in.

It's what you have to do the day you met with an estate planning attorney (because your fear of not doing it has finally gotten stronger than your overwhelming sadness about having to do it) and made arrangements for your sister and brother-in-law to raise her if you die when she still needs you.

You have to go home and look at all of her baby pictures and countless hours of precious videos and you have to sit with your chin in your hands and stare at her as shallow salty pools fill the lip of your lower eyelids and threaten time and time again to spill over.

You have to just look at her. And look some more. Longer and deeper. And you have to laugh and cry and feel your heart swelling with joy, and with pride, and with missing that baby, and with loving every molecule of who she's been and who she is and who she's becoming. You have to want to tweak that nose and kiss those cheeks and hear "Mama" in that perfect chipmunk voice and hold that tiny pair of hands between yours just one more time.

You have to call her over to you and have her look at herself so you can watch today's face pour over the faces of yesterday, and last year, and four years ago. And you have to curl your arm around her and rest your chin on her head and breathe her in as she laughs at herself.

You have to hold on for dear life.





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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ferocious Alidocious!

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This is Bean's old Halloween costume I was trying on Peabody to see if he could wear it Trick or Treating this year.

I don't know, I was hoping for something a little more cute and a little less terrifying. What do y'all think?



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Mama, Your Issues are Showing

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Mama: Since it's your first day of school and all, you get to pick: Do you want Peabody and me to walk you into school and help you get settled and give you hugs and kisses and stuff, or do you just want us to drop you off and let Ms. Linda walk you inside?

Bean: MISS LINDA!

Mama: Okay.

Twenty-five minutes later, in the car.

Mama: You know, Bean, Peabody and I wouldn't MIND walking you inside today, since it's your first day. Do you want us to walk you in? I mean, it's your decision but I just wanted to let you know it'd be no trouble at all. We'd be happy to do it!

Bean: Well, okaaaaay Mama, if you really want to walk me in.

Mama: No, Bean, it's your CHOICE. Really! You choose. Walk-in or drop off?

Bean: Drop off!

Mama: You're sure? Drop-off?

Bean: OH FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE, MOM! WALK ME IN ALREADY OR SCHOOL'S GONNA BE OVER BEFORE I GET TO MY CLASSROOM.

Mama: Really? You need me to walk you in, my sweet baby? Okay!

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(In the end, I really did drop her off. HEY MAN, HER CHOICE. I ached inside all the way home, but I think I'd have ached a little no matter what.)











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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Desperado.

Last Sunday we hosted a little Labor Day soiree at FriedOkra Manor.

Since we are the PROUD! AND RIDICULOUSLY SMITTEN! AND COMPLETELY ADDICTED! new owners of an iMac, our party preparations included AN INSANE AMOUNT! A STUPIFYING QUANTITY! FREAKISH DURATIONS! of time using its extensive collection of nifty tools for locating, shuffling and sorting EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC EVER MADE, ANYWHERE to build THE PERFECT PLAY LIST for the festivities.

Long about hour 62 of playlist mixology, I'd reluctantly embarked on a brief trip to the kitchen to do something culinary, leaving Al in the office clickity-click-clicking through the Eagles extensive discography. While I was away, he cued up a tune for my approval, and I immediately dropped my 5lb. pork butt with an unceremonious thud and started lip synching into my air mike whisk.

(I'm not allowed to sing out loud anymore because as those who know me will readily attest, my singing voice has been known to shatter all three separate ear bones of any mammal - and that includes all three subclasses - within a 2 mile radius.)

"Oh, yes!" I crooned loudly and approvingly over my shoulder toward the office. "I just lo-o-o-ve this song. Gives me goosebumps all over. Makes me a little weak in the knees."

And as I listened, the music got progressively louder until finally I heard male footsteps behind me and turned around.

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Ahem. Y'all think he might be needin' a little of my attention?



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Thursday, September 10, 2009

And Then I Quickly Emailed the Neighbors and Asked If I Could Keep 'Im.

My neighbor's son is here havin' supper with us, spur of the moment. Rightthisveryminute.

I had to share, though, immediately. It's that good.

They sat down to their chicken nuggets and sliced berries and milk.

Silence fell across the table as they took in the repast before them.

And then:


"Ms. Megan," Bubba asked, "You guys have any okwa?"

"Son," I replied reverently, "You have come to the right place."





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Friday, September 4, 2009

Y'all Are the Wind Beneath My Wings

I just wanted to say Thank y'all for all of the AWESOME advice and support and encouragement yesterday!

We made it! I checked in periodically for your comments and they kept arriving like refreshing little drops of positivity all day long. Perfect!

Peabody allowed himself to be coerced into taking not one but TWO naps during the day (Divine intervention, I'm telling you. DIVINE INTERVENTION!) and as such was good as gold when he was awake - not crabby at all. Bean remained her happy, jubiliant self and SHE took a nice nap mid-day as well, so I had plenty of down time to re-charge my own battery and be ready for that afternoon/evening crunch-time.

I was able to remain calm! And pleasant! I may have even laughed and smiled a bit! And we were even able to get ourselves dressed and go outside to play in the gorgeous weather. I even made dinner, albeit a simple one, and had it ready for Al when he got home.

It was, overall, actually, a pretty darn good day, and a fun one, and it went by quickly.

So thank you. I am guessing at least one if not two or more of you prayed for us, and I really appreciate it!

Peabody went to bed on time last night and slept until 6:15 AM, which is when we like him to get up, so that we all get to have some snuggle time before Al gets up to get ready for work.

And now? Get this! The boy's asleep and has been for almost TWO HOURS! That's unheard of around here, people. Bean is beside me playing on the PBSKids.org website, and I've been a meal-plannin', bill-payin', phone-call returnin' MACHINE. For TWO HOURS! I now know what we're having for dinner on January 24, 2010 and our cable bill is paid into the 2020s!

Can I do anything for you? I've got time!

Okay I'm going now. Y'all have a great Labor Day weekend! Thanks again for your help yesterday, you're the BEST!


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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chicken Chocolate Soup for a Mama's Soul ('Cause Chicken Just Ain't Gonna Do It This Time, I'm 'Fraid.)

I was up this morning with Peabody at 4:45 AM. For the DAY, people. Y'all know about Peabody's refusals to nap already so I won't go into long and boring detail, I'll just say that he doesn't nap, he gets over-tired, and his night-sleep (and mine) suffers greatly, which makes him more over-tired, which in turn keeps him from napping, and they tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on and so on.

On the bright side, Peabody's gonna fully grasp the concept of the VICIOUS CYCLE by the time he's two.

Anyway, a mighty early risin' this morning, and I don't like to complain because I know, I see, I am deeply in touch with the fact that I am the luckiest woman alive, but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the massive number of remaining hours-to-go in this particular day, considering there've already been nearly sixty, wait, no, SIX of them.

I read this post by Robin at Pensieve (I even contributed! To her post! Yesterday! Back when I was lucid!) and found it very encouraging. But as there's so much of this day left to go, I'm thinking I may need a few more shots of encouragement to get me through to bedtime.

That's where you come in! You get to give me, in the form of You, a little talktus peppius! I know! Couldn't have come at a better time! You're just the person to do it!

So lay it on me (you).

Those of you who have survived the days of parenting the very littles and are still alive and functioning to talk about it, what would you say that old Yourself? What encouragement would you give her, to inspire her and revitalize her as she plows through the long days and long lists and feeling like she never actually DOES anything but still often goes about her life so tired she can't think straight? That Yourself who feels isolated and lonely despite the fact that she's surrounded by tiny people who need her -- NEED HER NEED HER NEED HER -- 24/7?

Will you write that Yourself a note in the comments? Loads of other women who read here are down in the Little People trenches with me and will love to read your words, as well. I guarantee it.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Independence

Up until that summer, I'd never lived alone, but now my young marriage was withering, I was separated from my husband, staring down the barrel of a divorce and living hours from my parents and sister. Apart from a few casual friends from work, I was on completely my own in metropolitan Atlanta. Returning to my hot apartment late in the day July 3rd I changed from my work suit into shorts and a tank top and flopped down in front of the TV to polish off my newly-adopted single-woman's dinner of a quarter of an ice cold watermelon.

On the evening news, local reporters hawked holiday concerts, parades and festivities all over the city. I'd no plans to attend these or any other Fourth of July celebrations; I suppose I was a bit too broken yet to contemplate seeking new companionship after so many years of having a guaranteed date. And I wouldn't be spending time with my family since I only had the holiday off and was due back at work bright and early on July 5th.

After getting my fill of news, I began my evening routine: scoop the cat litter, sift through the mail, and then step out onto the balcony to water a dejected pot of impatiens quickly giving up the ghost in the summer heat. I lived inside the city limits of Atlanta and literally spitting distance from downtown Atlanta, but my balcony, three stories up, protruded over a deep, densely wooded ravine. On that balcony I could neither see nor hear anything that would give away my close proximity to a major urban hub.

I'd sat for hours on that balcony, contemplating my failing marriage, my broken dreams, my heartache, and I'd always done so uninterrupted by any other human soul. I was alone in an isolated tree house in the sky. The isolation had always served me well.  This night, it would not.

Stepping out onto the wooden floor of my peaceful haven among the tree tops, I spun around quickly to close the door and prevent the cat, a proven escape artist and daredevil, from exiting behind me and shimmying up or down from our forest perch, onto the roof or into the ravine. I'd no desire to spend the waning hours of daylight and dusk plodding around in the woods trying to locate my adventurous kitty.

Sure enough, the cat had seen the door open and he bolted at top speed toward it, his eye on freedom. I quickly grabbed the handle and slammed his escape route shut with such force it jarred loose the safety bar on the inside of the door. I watched as the bar fell across the track below in slow motion, rendering me a virtual prisoner on my own treetop perch high above solid ground on a wooden balcony overlooking nothing but a forest of spindly pines, acres of scrubby undergrowth and a conservatively-estimated four hundred eleventy million blood-thirsty mosquitos.

But the cat? Was still inside. Small victories.

At my disposal on the balcony were two pots of wilted red impatiens, two black wrought iron chairs and a rusted bistro table, one bladder already beginning to whimper about the half-gallon of watermelon juice flooding the plumbing, one tank top and one pair of skimpy shorts and about three cubic miles of exposed skin. I was barefoot and already beginning to sweat, and as I my eyes darted about taking stock, I realized in an instant I'd landed myself in a predicament of prodigious proportions.

Thanks to my newly-found independence, I pondered, there was no one on this whole planet, much less within shrieking distance, who would miss me should I remain stuck on that balcony until the day after tomorrow. I'd be discovered 48 hours from now, I worried, the hoard of hovering mosquitos having long since syphoned off the last few drops of my blood. I'd have spent my final living and functional moments ridding myself of two full liters of watermelon juice and scrawling out a meaningful epitaph on the glass door using only my fingertip and a paste of dehydrated impatiens petals mixed with my own urine. The other side of the door would be smeared and dotted with cat snot and paw prints from the nose and feet of the cat, still glowering at me over foiling his plans for escape.  (Oh, for him to be out here, and me to be in there!)

It occurred to me as I pondered my fate that as the evening wore on the single, hip set inhabiting the apartment complex with me would soon all be gone off to enjoy those holiday events I'd heard hyped just moments ago while I was thoughtlessly horking down the watermelon whose juice was now backed up past my eyeballs. A hasty rescue before nightfall would be crucial to my survival.

After a few moments I gathered my courage, shed my dignity and began to keen pathetically into a dusky hollow of boughs, branches and thicket:

HE-E-E-L-P ME-E-E-E. PLE-E-E-EASE?

And as I felt the aching aloneness of my present life I wondered fleetingly if the future would be worth survival, anyway. Sigh.

HE-E-E-L-P ME-E-E-E. I'm locked outsi-i-i-i-i-de. On my ba-a-a-a-alcon-eeeeeee!

No one would hear me, I thought. This was futile. I stood at the railing, leaning over. Looking down. Looking up. Up and down. Seeing no realistic escape route.

Oh, ple-e-e-e-e-ease! Somebody ple-e-e-e-e-e-ease hear me and help! I cried over and over again into the abyss.

And then! O BLESSED REDEMPTION! I heard footsteps tromping through the scrub below. From around the corner of my building wandered a guy my age or a little younger looking up. I peered sheeplishly back at him from my tower. We discussed the series of unfortunate events leading up to my predicament and he chuckled and assured me he'd have me back in my apartment or we'd die there together.

As we waited for the security officer from the apartment complex to arrive with a spare key to my front door, my gentleman rescuer and I chatted and I gratefully pretended to drink the cold beer he'd duct taped, along with a bottle-opener, to a long fallen branch and passed up to me through the spaces between my porch railings. I didn't dare actually allow another sip of liquid past my lips, lest the dam break and further embarrass me in front of this kind stranger.

Within an hour I was back inside my apartment soaking in a hot bath as I counted mosquito bites, having hastily liberated the watermelon juice inundating my lower regions, eternally thankful for my rescue. I moved away from that apartment a few weeks later, and never saw my prince-with-the-beer-on-a-stick again.

My next apartment in Atlanta had French doors out to its balcony that could only be locked manually from the inside.

After that I lived alone (quite happily, I might add) for another seven years, until another prince came along and coaxed me out of my (less virtual) tower, promising to stay by my side forever. The end. (Okay it's more complicated than that, but have you seen how long this post is? Let's let it go at that for now, shall we?)

(OH! And I still love watermelon, but I only eat it after making sure there's a clear and practical Plan B close at hand, if you know what I mean.)




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