Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Friday, December 24, 2010

A House Divided

Friday, December 24, 2010 By

Scott and I are talking about politics. Sort of. We don't get too involved, because we rarely agree - and because, in general, just thinking about politics gives me high blood pressure. If I had a steam whistle on the top of my head, it would be wailing right now.

But he's having a brain fart, and I'm not about to help.

"What is the nation, below us, where they vote and pay taxes but they're not a state? Oh, I can't believe it won't come to mind."

"Bulldog Nation?"

He rolls his eyes.

"Cheesehead Nation?"

He sighs and walks away.

"Rhythm Nation!" I call after him. "We're all a part of that."

Alas, he is gone.



(It's Puerto Rico)



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Greatest

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 By

Scott saw my blog post.

"You're selling me?" he asks.

"Yep. To the lowest bidder," I giggle.

"One of my Facebook friends will buy me," he fakes moping.

"Suckers!"

"Hey, some women would like to come home to dinner ready every night, and would love to have a husband who can stare down a convenience store clerk without fear: 'Yes, chocolate and tampons. Whatever she needs. I am the greatest (bleeping) husband in the world!'"

It is hard to ague with that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Training for Christmas

Monday, December 20, 2010 By

One of the reasons Scott and I don't take Emmie some places - like, to the MCGHealth Children's Medical Center Radiothon to be interviewed - is because I never know what is going to come out of that child's mouth.

So Christmas this year is a bit of a concern. I want her to properly use her manners and show her appreciation, but I worry that, instead, relatives will get The Face. The Face is this thing she does when she doesn't get what she wants. Her little mouth turns down, her eyebrows slant back, and her voice takes on a whine that could strip the paint off your car.

 (This was the first appearance of "the face," at a mere 5 months old. 
She hated that hat.)

So I've been role-playing with her.

"Em, what do we do when we get a present?"

"Open it!"

"Well, yes, but what do we say?"

"Thank you!"

"Good! But, what if we don't like what's inside? What if it's something you already have, or something you don't want?"

"We say 'No, thank you.'"

"Eeee! Wrong!" I mimic a game show host, and she laughs. "You say 'Thank you.' What if someone gives you a present and you open it, and it's a box of poo?"

She laughs. "Uh, 'No thank you...?'"

"Eeeee! Wrong! There are no exceptions to this rule, Em. You always say thank you. When someone gives you a present, how do you feel?"

"Happy!"

"And like they love you, right?"

"Yes!"

"That's what they're really giving you! They're giving you happiness and love. The present in the box? Well, that's just extra. So even if you hate what they give you, you smile and say something nice about it, because they already gave you happiness and love. And you want to give some to them."

"Okay!" She nods enthusiastically.

"Let's practice. Here you go, Emmie!" I hand her an imaginary box. "Merry Christmas."

She mimics opening it and looks to me for the contents.

"It's a... HAM SANDWICH!"

"Thank you," she says, laughing. "I like samwiches."

"That's awesome, Doodle! Now try to say something specific to the gift, like how you will use it. Oh-ho! You have another present! Merry Christmas!"

She mimes opening it again. I gasp with pretend amazement: "Look, Emmie! It's a box of dirt!"

She giggles: "Oh, thank you! We hab a hole in da yard, an' dis will help me to not fall down in it."

Oh my gosh, this is awesome. Why don't I role-play with her more often? We're both belly-laughing, and it's such an amazing insight into how her mind works.

"Very good! Oh, but we're not done yet - here you go, Emmie! Merry Christmas!"

She opens the imaginary gift, and I clap my hands with faux glee: "Ooooh, it's a live cobra snake - and it bites you in the face!"

"Oh, thanks!" she says, feigning delight. "We don't hab a snake pet! And it has so berry strong fangs!"

I laugh so hard I throw my head back and bang it against the wall. She's just too much!

"Wuz that good, Mama?"

"That was awesome. I think you definitely have this down. You might even be a little dangerous."

"But... mama? Is anyone really goeend ta gib me a real snake?"

"No, baby doll. But if someone went crazy in their brain, and did, what do you say?"

"I say, 'Thank you.'"

"Exactly."

"... but den I gonna run away."

"Yeah, I think that's probably the best course of action."

Friday, December 17, 2010

One husband for sale

Friday, December 17, 2010 By

I got up the other morning and found that, after I went to bed the night before, Scott had devoured all but two of the awesome stocking stuffer items (which cannot be named as the recipient reads this blog) that I had in a pile of Christmas supplies on the kitchen counter.

I had looked for more of these just the day before, and could not find any. And now he must die. Shortly, he shuffles sleepily out of the bedroom.

"Scott, I give you fair warning that I must destroy you."

"Why?"

"Because you ate the (secret) for my (secret)," I glare.

"Ummm... but they were on the counter."

"Okay, really? So is the power bill, but you didn't eat that."

"Besides, they weren't very good. I saved (secret) some unpleasant experiences. Then (secret) would have had to tell you, and your feelings would have been hurt and-"

"What? They must have been good, since you ate all but two of them!"

"Yeah, well, I saved you some."

I glare.

"Um... I was sleepwalking," he attempts, knowing that he has a history of such incidents.

"NO."

"I... have a head injury?"

"You're about to."

"I had a seizure?"

"You will when I get done with you."



Thursday, December 16, 2010

When Your Child is Smarter Than You

Thursday, December 16, 2010 By

Every day I talk to Emerson about what she does at school. And every day she says the same thing: "I don't breenembered."

So then I have to ask her more specific questions: "What did you read today? Who did you play with? What centers did you visit?"

Saturday, we were lazing in bed, watching "Harry Potter," and chatting.

"I wish dat wuz my school," she sighed.

"Hogwarts?"

"Yeah. Essept for da troll."

"But there's fun things at your school, too. What do you like to learn about?"

"Math and science."

SSCREEEEECH!! Houston, we have a problem.

I don't want to tell you how much I struggled in math when I was in school. It's beyond embarrassing. I just couldn't retain the information. I understood the concepts, but application... let's just say there are formulae I left behind in middle and high school the mistakes in which no one will ever be able to figure out.

So I can't help her in this arena. And tutoring is dang expensive. Have you ever priced places like Sylvan? I'm talking thousands of dollars. There are some local places that are excellent (I miss you, Roberta!), but sometimes their business hours don't gel with ours.

But there are some new online services I've looked into, like TutorVista, that offer general math help, algebra help, calculus help, and even general homework help with their daily math problems. Honestly, I might be able to get Emerson through decimals and fractions. I can help her with factoring, even. But let's just say that Scott and I will be investing as we go, because there's only so far we will be able to take her in this arena.

Although there's not the personalized service you get with a local provider, they offer unlimited tutoring for $99.99 a month for all subjects. Did you hear me say unlimited? Students can use the service as much as they want, whenever they want, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That's important to me, because evenings after 6 p.m. and weekends are when I have the most time to give her on her schoolwork. And as she gets older (TutorVista, in particular, goes through college) she would be able to use the service as her schedule allows. I remember studying all night in college - especially for math classes. I could have used some help at 3 a.m. to get through some of those more difficult problems.

I adore our excellent local providers. But I worry about the cost and the hours of access. So I think this is a reasonable alternative to keep in mind.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Criss Cross Crash

So we were driving from my parents' home to lunch at my sister-in-law's house in the Vinings/Mableton area of West Atlanta on the day after Thanksgiving. Just me and my Doodle, motoring down the expressway and cracking jokes with each other.

"Emmie? You smell that?"
"What?"
"Your bootie."
"Nuh-uh, iss your bootie!"

Because "your bootie smells" jokes never get old.

But, as I do on a regular basis, I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. As a result, I ended up on the Road Formerly Known as Bankhead Highway. This is not the safest area of town, well-known for gang activity. But I still felt safer there than I do on Augusta's south side some nights.

I checked Google Maps on my Blackberry but couldn't get a bead on where I went wrong. These programs always give directionals I don't understand, like "go north on whatever road." Where the frack is North?! I'm in Atlanta! It's not like I can check a tree to see what side the moss is growing on.

While I looked for somewhere safe to turn around, we ended up at an intersection where I had to choose between driving straight into what looked like an industrial complex or bearing right. So I bore right.

My mistake. It seems the person behind me was also bearing right - right past my car at 200 miles an hour! A black SUV tried to pass me illegally by squeezing around on my left and hopping the curb with its tires. Two cars in the same lane? What could be better? Like peanut butter and chocolate!

Smash! The steering wheel jerked hard in my hands as fiberglass exploded in the air around us, skittering across my windshield and raining onto the pavement.

"What the (bleep)!" I yelped.

The black SUV lurched to a stop 50 yards ahead of where I came to a rest.

"Dangit... You okay, Doodle?"

She was fine. Hardly even scared. I put my blinker on and looked back to see if I could get to the side of the road. Then I turned to see where the SUV was parking.

Um... they weren't.

"HEY!"

The car was speeding ahead, away from the accident scene. I gunned it and dialed 911.

"911what'syouremergency?"

"I've just been sideswiped by a black SUV on David Lee Hollowell. I'm in a tan Dodge Stratus. The SUV is leaving the scene, and I'm trying to catch him."

"Okay. Where are you stopped?"

"I'm not. I'm following him. He's running."

"What road are you on?"

"I don't know, now. I was on Hollowell."

"Are you going east or west?" Really, people? We weren't all Boy Scouts.

"I don't know. I'm coming up on a red light at Northside Drive, I think. The SUV's stopped, so - HEY!"

"What's going on, ma'am?"

"He just blew through the red light. Dammit... I'm not going to do that."

Emmie's fine in the back seat. Not scared. If anything, she's interested and excited. But I'm not going to blow through a red light and chase this idiot. It's too dangerous.

"Ma'am? Did you get a license plate?"

(sigh) I never got close enough.

I return to the scene, and the dispatcher notifies an officer to meet us.

"Mama?" Emmie asks, politely having waited her turn while I was on the phone. "Did dat man juss' hit our car and den dribe off?!"

She is outraged. Her indignation is a constant source of amusement for me.

"Dats... dats... dats not cool!" she sputters. "Why did he do dat?"

"I don't know, Em. To make our car even more awesome."

"Wull, I call him a ayesshole!"

"... What?!"

"I call him a - "

"No! I heard you."

I can't help it. It's the moment of levity I needed. I laugh until I cry. The way she said "asshole" - the Southern drawl, the extra syllables - I've heard it said like that before, by a family member whom I shall not name. I know from whom she's heard the word regularly enough to get the right context and the unique pronunciation. And the thought of the horror that relative would feel makes me laugh even harder. I'll never tell.

My laughing just makes Emmie angrier. She growls and kicks the back of my seat: "Don' laff at me!"

"Emmie!" I gasp. "That's not nice. I'm not laughing at you. But that was a bad word you said."

Her eyebrows lift. "It wuz?"

"Yes. We don't say that word, sweetie."

Her face collapses. "I diddin know!"

"I know. That's why it's funny. If you did know, you'd lose a privilege. But you didn't - it was sort of an accident - so I'll just tell you. Now you know, and you won't say it anymore, right?"

"Only grown-ups can say it?"

"Well... we really shouldn't say it, either."

We wait for about half an hour while I text family members to explain the delay. In the interim, I tease Emmie about her slip.

"What was that you called him again?"

"I not goeend say it, Mama."

"Oh, but I forgot the word!"

"Ayesshole," she whispers.

"HAAAA! You said it!"

"MOM!!!"

And then more cackling while she kicks the back of my seat in anger. Before I grew tired of the game, an officer arrived.

"What's the problem, ma'am?"

"A black SUV sideswiped me and drove off."

"Where?"

"Right here at this corner."

"I see. Where is he now?"

What? I don't know!

"He. Drove. Away."

"Did you get a tag number?"

"No, sir. I could never get close enough."

"What direction did he go?"

"That one," I point.

"East? West?"

(sigh...)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Motherhood Summarized in One Exchange

Monday, December 13, 2010 By

Emmie is doing her homework. She is working on sight words and vocabulary. Some of the words, like "scampered," seem a bit large for a kindergartener, but I'm all about challenging them early.

I've been working with her on breaking them down and sounding them out for a couple of weeks. So, when we get to "chameleon," she needs no prompting. She takes her pencil and draws vertical lines to break the word up into manageable parts.

"Very good, Doodle!"

"Yeth! I break it apart to read the letters, and den I put dem togedder," she explained. "I see'd it when a turkey showed me on da peeyooter. He said, 'When you come to a word dats really big, break it up.'"

"Really."

"Yes."

"Um... And Mommy told you this, too, remember?"

"And den the turkey said, 'den tie a little bow and put it all togedder,'" she said.

"So, you're going to listen to a cartoon turkey...?"

"Wull, he teaches me stuff."

And what is my purpose, again?

The Walking (right into a trap) Dead

In case you didn't know (haha), I'm rather a fan of the zombie horror/comedy genre of entertainment. There's much I haven't read, but little left to watch. So I've been watching "The Walking Dead" and enjoying the heck out of it.



Except... I don't think these people are as smart as they think they are.

Maybe I'm not being fair. I've had my Augusta, Ga.-based zombie survival plan mapped out for at least the last 5 years. Having a child really makes you take stock of what's important in life. And I'd say zombie defense is a pretty high priority. Oh, you don't agree with me? Nice knowin' ya, "Running Buffet."

Anyway, perhaps AMC writers think that being smart wouldn't advance the plot very far, but these folks are still doing it wrong. There are some basic survival rules anyone - in any situation - would naturally follow.

First, run and hide. Many of them have managed this pretty well.

Second, find supplies. Apparently they have an RV full of them, plus some camping stuff. Meh, second rate, but I'll take it for now.

Third, find defensible shelter on high ground. See, this is where they've begun to fail. They drove about 10 minutes outside the downtown area to the former Bellwood Quarry, pitched some tents and began domestication.

NO! People, this is beyond stupid. First of all, a quarry goes down, not up. This is not the high ground you're looking for. All you've done is made a giant people soup bowl for hordes of ravenous undead. You won't even be able to see them coming because you were too stupid to set up watches at the top.

Second, tents are not defensible. What are you - the Three Little Pigs? It's like defending yourself with a house made of towels. Zombies are undeterred by zippers. And they do not knock politely. Get your ass something with bricks and mortar - and very small windows.

Third, it's not that great a shelter. There's no bathroom, little privacy. You have to think long-term. And if we've learned anything from the new global media, it's that cramped conditions and lack of latrines make for outbreaks of disease. What's the first thing the Army does when it sets up camp? It digs the latrines. So, for those non-Atlantans who have never heard of the Bellwood Quarry, you should know that there are already some buildings on site. They're old, and they'd need shoring up, but they're better than tents.

Fourth, why did they drive West of the city? The population there is less concentrated, which could be an advantage if you want to avoid the undead, sure. But if they wanted that, they could have at least made it outside the perimeter. I-285 isn't that daunting of an obstacle, so stopping there was just lazy. They are literally a 10-minute drive to downtown.

Going West means the likelihood of meeting survivors with whom you can team up is also lessened. So are: access to supplies, shelter, weaponry, transportation, and fuel. The chance of finding assistance lies to the immediate North and to the East, which are more densely populated areas.

The answer for these fools is obvious, but no one has made even the slightest mention of it. Any native Atlantan (hi, y'all!) knows there are several areas of defensible high ground with amenities available within a reasonable drive. So, assuming you can't find security at Ft. McPherson, here are some ideas.

1. Stone Mountain


This is my first instinct for places to hole up during a zombie apocalypse. First, it's high ground - 825 feet higher than the ground, to be precise - and there's only one side pedestrians can climb. Some of that might be accessible to zombies with advanced motor skill control. But much of that climb is too steep, and the last 50 yards requires strength and a hand rail to keep from slipping. Second, there's a wall-and-glass tourist pavilion at the top that provides shelter, plumbing and cooking facilities. Third, that pavilion also hosts a transmitting tower. If you're going to reach survivors, here's where to do it. Fourth, you have an escape/reconnaissance route through the cable cars, so you can either motor up and down the mountain to get supplies and carry larger/heavier items, or to look over the situation on the ground. And, finally, as the area surrounding Stone Mountain is a protected wildlife preserve and heavily wooded natural area, there is plenty of wildlife and a lake full of fish. Them's good eatin's. Disadvantage: Once the plumbing gives out and the electricity fails, you'll have to port water up the granite basolith. But a pulley system could offset some of that annoyance.

2. Kennesaw Mountain

Residents of Cobb County are screaming for me to choose this favorite spot. Well, guess what? I'm not gonna. Not only is there no shelter at the top of the mountain (the interpretive center sits at the mountain's base), but there's a freaking paved road straight up to a parking lot on the dang thing. The hunting is fine, but water's a hike. Advantage: rocky and heavily wooded terrain impedes progress of large hordes of the undead and allows natural cover for survivors. Also good for building new structures. But the presence of a largely pine forest means no low branches, so building aerial structures has a low success rate. Questionable: the presence of Civil War-era canons on site. Do they still work? Hmm... could be useful.


3. Little Kennesaw Mountain - Um, see above, minus interpretive center and canons. Also: "little." Not good.

4. Panola Mountain

Photos of Panola Mountain State Conservation Park, Stockbridge

Slightly better than Nos. 2 and 3 is this unusual park that shelters rare plants of the Piedmont region. It's minimally developed, very rocky in parts, heavily wooded and features an interpretive center that offers shelter, plumbing and basic cooking amenities. It's not perfect, because there is a road that leads right smack up to the building. But it is isolated and unlikely to attract others - and thus, teeming with wildlife for hunting. In addition, there are areas of retreat deeper into the park. Disadvantage: Access to water. Streams run on the property, but I don't remember them being close to the structure. You'll have to port water from Panola Mountain Lake - but there's good fishing, too.

5. Arabia Mountain





Not so much a mountain as it is simply higher-than-normal rock outcroppings, Arabia Mountain is another nature preserve. It is unpopulated and sports a few ancient structures in various states of disrepair, yet the old quarry office can be made nicely defensible. It offers isolation, 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside and access to loose rocks/wood for structure-building and hunting. Nearby Lake Arabia provides fishing and fresh water. All that makes this still better than Kennesaw Mountain. Sorry, Cobb County. I know you're accustomed to winning things.


6. Brasstown Bald


Once you've stocked up on supplies, moving out of the city is probably safer for everyone involved. Fewer people mean fewer undead. And if you move north, you have the added advantage of the Blue Ridge Mountains and winter's freezing temperatures to form a natural barrier. As the undead aren't likely to shop at REI, temperature and terrain slow them considerably. It's a long drive to the highest point in Georgia, and thus a dangerous journey - but it may be the most rewarding. The mountain is topped by a high tower with all the necessary amenities. While there is a bloody great road leading up to the top, it's very steep, very long and many undead will likely shamble accidentally over the side at some point. Bonus! Disadvantage: Lack of water at the top means you'll be porting the wet stuff up the mountain; also, thick clouds frequently mask the landscape at the top, making watchful defense difficult. Can you imagine the horror of a horde of zombies shuffling out from an eerie fog? (shudder)

7. Fort Mountain


Ahhh... I like the sound of this place! A fort on top of a mountain? That's what Kennesaw should be, but is not. Fort Mountain offers copious shelter. In the park, there are 15 cottages. Elsewhere on the mountain is the Global Conference Center, a first-class resort with plenty of room. If things are dire, there is also the historic fire tower on the property. The forests, streams, and surrounding lakes are teeming with wildlife and fish for eating, and it's up in Chatsworth, Ga., about 90 minutes from Atlanta (if you go the speed limit, which is completely unnecessary without state patrol on the roads). That means it's closer than Brasstown Bald, but not as easily defensible. And on the way: barbecue. Yum.

So what would I choose, were I in Atlanta? If things are dire and immediate, I head to Stone Mountain. If I have time and transportation, I try to make it to Brasstown Bald, with Fort Mountain as a fallback.

Fewer options exist in Augusta, but it's possible to survive. Let me just say that rooftop transportation can come in handy for safety, signaling overflying rescue craft, and for reconnaissance and supply runs - as can access to the river for food and water. But you'll have to develop your own survival plan in the Garden City on your own. I have a family to protect.

Easy Crockpot Dinner

Monday, December 13, 2010 By No comments

Just wanted to share this with you on a morning when it's cold, after a weekend of cold, after a week of cold, and with the knowledge that it ain't gettin' warm any time soon. Something about winter - and cold - makes me not want to do anything. I go into Mommy Hibernation. So I pull out easy soup and one-pot recipes, like chili, sherried mushroom bisque (can't believe I've never posted this recipe - will do so soon), sausage soup, and Greek chicken soup.

But this morning, I made my laziest, most no-cook, most made-up, most Real-Chef-Horrifying meal. It would give Chef Heinz at La Maison the vapors. And I do not care. I love it, and it's easy.

Spicy-Sweet Meatballs Over Minute Rice
1 pkg precooked frozen meatballs
1 jar Peach-Pineapple Chipotle Salsa
1/2 salsa jar of water
some Sriracha sauce
some brown mustard
all the rice you wanna make


Take all ingredients listed before the rice, pour in a crockpot, and stir well. Set crockpot on low. Go away for a very long time. Come back. Stir. Make rice. Put rice on plates. Spoon meatballs over rice. The end.

Now, I always try to do plenty of vegetables with my meals, so I sometimes stir in a package of frozen stir-fry vegetables about an hour before the meatballs cook. Or I might stir-fry the vegetables separately and serve as a side. It doesn't matter, actually, because the fruit and vegetables in the salsa kind of serve that purpose. But more vegetables = better.

Variations: Also, we've actually stopped using Minute Rice, and now use a whole grain-and-rice mix, black rice, or quinoa. Still pretty flippin' easy. You could even use plain couscous, and pretend like it's Moroccan food, the way one restaurant in town does. In addition, you can really use any salsa you'd like. I'll bet a mango salsa would be awesome! Or you can use a regular salsa and add some chili powder and make them southwest meatballs. That might be a little weird, but tasty.



Friday, December 10, 2010

Whiffle Ball Madness

Friday, December 10, 2010 By

As is customary at my parents' home, we got together a Whiffle Ball game over the Thanksgiving holiday week. My sister and I took turns pitching to the three children, and trying to tag each other out.

My 13-year-old nephew, Jacob, had an advantage. He has several years of Little League behind him.

My 6-year-old nephew, Jackson, was enthusiastic, but untrained. Still, he has that assured physicality that boys seem to accomplish before girls. He wasn't great, but he was comfortable and had a solid stance.

And then there was Emmie.

Y'all, I love her more than anything on this planet. But that child could not hit a ball if it was a magnet and the bat was made of steel. She was too busy laughing, yelling crap instructions at her cousins, jumping up and down with excitement, and spinning in circles at the end of every swing.

In short, she was awesome.

While I was on 'second base' (the big poplar tree by the driveway), Jacob was on 'first base' (the dogwood tree by the street), and Jackson was on 'third base' (the corner of the sidewalk by the front porch). Kelli was pitching to Emerson. And Emmie was bouncing up and down like a lunatic.

"Keep your eye on the ball, Emmie," Kelli said. Swing! Miss. Spin...

"That's okay. Try again." Swing! Miss. Spin...

"I can do it!" Emmie shrieked, joyously confident. She would get it the next time. Swing! Miss. Spin...

Jackson, who enjoys playing the role of the older, more worldly cousin, rolled his eyes in my direction.

"It's okay," he said. "She's only five, you know?"

Yes, thanks, Jackson. In the interim: Swing! Miss. Spin...

Jacob was chuckling at her. Kelli grinned back at me. It was going to take a while. But not even Jackson suggested that she had struck out, even though he, himself, had done so earlier. My family is incredibly generous of spirit.

Meanwhile, I restrained myself from tackling Kelli while her back was turned. It's a palpable desire that I've fought since we were little, when there were three more dogwood trees in the front yard and second base seemed light years from first.

Just as I was entertaining myself with the fantasy, Emmie swung - and connected!

"RUN EMMIE!" I shrieked, and started for third. She was celebrating her hit with more jumping and laughing. "RUN!"

She dropped the bat and ran-pranced (if that's possible, which it is, if you're The Divine Miss Em) toward first, while Kelli scrambled for the ball that had dropped about two feet in front the plate.

Emmie made it to first as I rounded home (the area in front of the big pine tree - try sliding on pine cones, bitches!) and turned to see her running for second... sort of. Unfamiliar with the rules of the game, she wasn't running from the person with the ball - she was running from everyone.

"Emmie, touch the tree!" I shouted.

"Dey goeend TAG MEE!" she shrieked, and ran in a circle around Jackson, who stood bemused.

"No, only if they have the ball! Touch the tree!" I gasped through laughter.

Without warning, the ball whizzed past her head into the "outfield" as Kelli tried to throw her out. That's the advantage of Whiffle Ball. You get to throw the ball at runners. It's deeply satisfying. I have often made the argument that baseball, in general, would be more entertaining if the runners could take the bats around the bases with them.

"Run to third, Emmie!" I shrieked, and she abandoned the idea of tagging second and headed towards the sidewalk.

Just then, Jackson caught the ball, thrown from the outfield by Jacob. Emmie changed direction as Jackson came towards her. It became a footrace, Emmie running to tag third before Jackson could tag her. Jackson was gaining. So Emmie ran for the sidewalk.

"Base!" she shouted, using the perpetual refuge of hide-and-seekers.

She was not on base. She was halfway down the sidewalk from base. But Jackson stopped and looked at the adults for direction. On the one hand, she very clearly was not on base, and a child less empathetic than Jackson would have tagged her out and celebrated in her face. (That is to say, I would have done that to my sister when we were little, because she could run twice as fast as me and catching her would have been damn good reason to celebrate.) On the other hand, Emerson very clearly did not understand the rules of the game at all.

"Emmie, that's not third base," Jackson explained.
"BASE!" she shrieked. "Baaaaaase!"

Hoookay, then. At a disadvantage both physically and in experience, Emmie resorted to the old argument standby: The one who yells loudest wins.

"Emmie, third is the corner of the sidewalk in front of the stairs," I called, still guffawing. "Just that part, not the whole sidewalk."

I had to leave, then, to come back to Augusta. I had two more days of work before the holiday, and I was loathe to leave them to drive two hours. So I don't know how it was resolved. Probably with more running and shrieking.

But I know that Emerson was having a great time with wonderful people who - even if they were just barely a year older - worried about her feelings as much as her safety. She would spend the next week doing more running and shrieking, laughing and playing, stealing sweets and hiding-and-seeking, than she does anywhere else. And maybe by Christmas she'll have those bases all worked out.

Until then, I'm going to work on her swing. Cause, dang, she needs it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Teacher Gift Ideas, Christmas 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010 By

Augusta, GA. - I have a lot of teachers and teachers-to-be in my extended family. And every year they get a treasure trove of sweet little gifts from their students.

But there's only so much coffee a teacher can drink, and only so many places to put apple-themed accessories. So this year, consider the following ideas for your child's teacher(s):

1. Thank You Notes - a sincere handwritten note from your child is worth its weight in coffee mugs.

2. DIY Coupons: Offer to share your talents/expertise with the class! Teachers are always looking for ways to work with parents and use your collective skills to educate their classes.

3. Donations in a Teacher's Name: If your child's teacher has had a challenge - death in the family - or a special cause - animal rescue - this year, make a donation in that teacher's name to an appropriate organization (American Cancer Society, Humane Society).

4. Subject-specific memberships or donations - Say your child's teacher specializes in English. It will be appreciated if the donation you make is to a literacy program. Or if you were to pay for a quality book-of-the-month club. Or pay their union dues. Anything that makes sense for them, and that makes that teacher's life a little easier.

5. Gift Certificates - Teachers spend so much of their person money on classroom supplies. How about a gift certificate to an office-supply store?

6. Gift Certificates, part deux - Pamper your child's 10-hour-a-day on-their-feet teachers with gift certificates for pedicures, for dinner, or for groceries. After all, they didn't get into the profession for the money.

7. Teacher Supply Box - Fill a festive box with any age-appropriate combination of anti-bacterial soap, tissues, pens, pencils, markers, glue, tape, scissors, air fresheners, fans, notepads, construction paper, folders, lined writing paper, binders, paper towels, chalk, dry erase markers, graphing paper, burnable CDs, flash or thumb drives, software, memory sticks, a backup mouse or keyboard, disposable cameras ... whatever is age-appropriate or discipline-specific.

8. Jar of Treats - nothing like a snacky-snack!

9. Elementary/Middle School: Board Games - Again, look for age-appropriate and discipline-specific games. Economics? Choose monopoly. Language Arts? That's Scrabble or Yahtzee. Sciences? For younger kids, there's Totally Gross. Art? Perhaps Pictionary.

10. Donate Your Used Equipment - Look around the house. Do you have an old boom box, computer, television, computer peripherals, camera, clothing, art supplies, board games, DVDs, books, or other items that are still in usable condition? I'll bet your child's teacher can make use of it in her classroom. Consider donating to your child's school before you send your things to the trash heap.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

And so it begins...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 By

Story from the AP: Sheboygan woman bit off husband's tongue during kiss


THIS IS HOW IT STARTS, PEOPLE! Oh, sure. Here and there we hear a few oddball stories. Then the guy with the re-attached tongue starts experiencing sensory-motor slowdown. He goes to the doc - and takes a bite out of the doctor's arm!

I'm telling you, his wife is Patient Zero. The zombie oubreak on the way!

Poke your loved ones with a sharp stick and make sure they're alive and feel pain before you get too close. They could be zombified!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Here We Come a-Shivering

Tuesday, December 07, 2010 By

It's Christmas shopping time! And it was so cold this morning that, as Emmie said, "I'm almost cold to death!"

I forgot that I needed to buy new gloves this year. So I'm glad my heater defrosted my hands from the steering wheel before I got to work. That would have been awkward.

I saw these hand warmers at a convenience store the other day, and almost picked one up. I wish I had, but knowing me, if I prepared that well, I'd probably then wander off and forget my hands.

Oh, did I mention that I forgot to wear socks? What is wrong with me? Who forgets to put on socks in the winter?! Hi, that would be me. Luckily, the same company also makes foot warmers. It's much harder to forget to put on feet. Falling down tends to remind one.

So I know what I'm putting in stockings this year: hand warmers and foot warmers, in case someone else in my family is as forgetful as I am.

But if anyone is making me a stocking, I'd like the hotness on burton.com. I'll let you decide what hotness I'm talking about. But, just so you know, I don't snowboard.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Five-ingredient stew recipe

Monday, December 06, 2010 By No comments



Sausage-Sprout Stew

Ingredients
- 1 package smoked turkey sausage/kielbasa, sliced thin
- 1 lb. frozen (then defrosted) Brussels sprouts, halved
- 3 large red potatoes, diced
- 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth (sausage has a lot of sodium in it)
- Sage, thyme, marjaram, savory, and parsley to taste
- 2 bay leaves, if you have them (I never do)

Cooking
- Brown the sausage in a large pot.
- Add the broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil.
- Add the spices. Let boil 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to simmer, and add the Brussels sprouts. Simmer 5 minutes.
- Test potatoes for completion. Test broth for saltiness. If too salty, add water by the 1/2 cup until desired flavor is achieved.
- Remove bay leaves, if necessary.

Variations: You may substitute rice for the potatoes, but you will cut the boiling time down by the appropriate amount of time. You may also substitute chopped kale for the Brussels sprouts. You might also desire a splash of lemon juice, sherry, or white wine at the end. You could substitute ground turkey sausage for the links, but I would drain it after it's brown - and then even run hot water over it in a colander. This is not the kind of soup that would be improved by oils.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Sister is Insane

Friday, November 26, 2010 By

Emmie is watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when a giant float goes by: "LOOK! Ders da Wimpy Kid!"

"Yeah, Em. Do you like him?"

"No," she sighed. "He has diarrhea."

"... What?"

"He has diarrhea."

"What are you talking about?"

"Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid. Das wut he is."

And then I know: "KELLLIIIII!!"

My sister cackles in the other room.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 By

"Mom?" Emmie says. "Do you miss da Native Amer-cans?"

Man, it is too early in the morning for this stuff. I am standing in the bedroom with one leg in my tights and one leg out. I have no idea what kind of stories the Richmond County School System is telling, but I am certain that it is filled with the kind of inaccuracies and outdated information I have seen all year. For example, how many types of matter are there? Four! Not three, RCSS. Get your information updated, please!

"Uh, well, it's not like they've gone anywhere, Em. What are you trying to ask me, sweetie?"

"Well, ders da people, dat are da Native Amer-cans, whut my teacher say Indians, but you say Native Amer-cans so dass whut I say, too. And dey're missing! We godda fine dem!"


What? What the heck is she learning?

"Honey, I think we know where they are," I say, and then mutter to myself: "because we marched them there."

"We do?!"

"Yes."

"Wull, we godda go get dem, because whut if we forget how to hunt?" she asks, brows furrowed in concern.

"Are you worried about that?" I ask, confused. I mean, I hunt my food at the grocery store - except for eggs - so I really don't know what would happen if we forgot how to hunt. I guess I'd learn quickly.

"Yeth! Whut if we forget to hunt, an' fish, and grow plants to eat?" she asks, palms out and worry framing her eyes. "We godda fine da Native Amer-cans, so dat don't happen!"

Ah. Now I get it. They're studying the first Thanksgiving.

"Okay. Well, first of all, Daddy knows how to hunt, and Mommy and Daddy know how to fish."

"Whut about da plants?" she asks.

"Well, okay, Daddy knows that better than I do," I concede. "But I think we'll be okay."

"But..." she interrupts.

"Sweetie, the people you think of as Native Americans? With the feathers?" I say, trying to access the images in her head. "They're just people, like you and me. Most of the time they wear jeans and T-shirts, like we do, and go to school, and have jobs, and live almost exactly like we do. Which may be a good thing, may not be. Because there are also beautiful differences, like their languages, and their music and stuff I don't even know about - like their fancy ceremony clothes, with feathers and animal hide, which they might choose to wear at special parties, just like they did when the Pilgrims first got here," I say.

"Yeth! An' dey help dem to not die! Because dey were cold and hungry, and dey were gonna all be dead! But da Native Amer-cans sabe der life!"

Sigh... yes, and no. I have a strong feeling that we're not doing our children any favors by relaying fairy tales. I don't need some dream of America to let me know what a great country we live in; I appreciate my freedoms every day. And being married to someone with a degree in history makes it difficult, to say the least, to allow these stories to pass without comment. But how to keep it appropriate for a kindergartner, and yet not undermine her teacher's authority?

I don't have a frickin' clue.

"Yes, some of the native Americans taught the settlers some very important lessons to help them survive in a new place with different animals to catch and plants to eat. But the Native Americans aren't missing, and they aren't dead. They're alive, and they live in this country, too. And it's important that we think of them as real people, with real lives and real feelings. And to remember that the story you're learning happened a long, long time ago. The people in the story have all grown and changed over the last two hundred years," I say.

"So, dey're not missing?"

"No."

"Good!" she sighed. "I was worried about dem. Der fambilies would be sad."

Oh. She was worried about their families. Maybe the lecture wasn't necessary after all. Do I take things too seriously sometimes? That's a big 10-4.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Notes from Anthony Bourdain's Atlanta show

Saturday, November 20, 2010 By No comments

Eat at Fat Mac's Rib Shack in Atlanta

Eat at St. John in London

Drunken Emory students, please shut up

Q&A session needs better questions

Ted Nugent's appearances on his show gets him the most hate mail

His wife, who is Italian, finds his Italian food only acceptable

No one wants to know how he cooks an omelet. It's a ridiculous question. Sit down, sir.

Why hasn't he done a barbecue tour? Because everyone else does it, and because the ratings spike up. So the network executives' expectations get too high.

His weirdest - but delicious - food was Guinea pig.

He's drinking a Sweetwater 420.

Why do so many people want to know his opinion on legalizing weed in California? Incidentally, he thinks it's more fun when it's illegal.

Aspiring chefs should go to culinary school, but not before you make sure you'll like heat, pace, insanity, no weekends or holidays off, and the neverending conversations about penis prowess.

Fave Ramones song is "Beat on the Brat."

He likes KFC mac n cheese when no one is watching and he's really drunk.

Bacon is the way to break vegetarians.

The 'next pork belly' is lamb neck.

He won't shoot in Burma or Iran, because of the government.

He's not welcome back in Romania.

He would like to see more 'democratic' approach to food - more food trucks and stalls, less snobbishness and velvet rope attitude.

He could do every show in China for the rest of his life, and still not know everything.

I think EVERYONE got drunk before they came to the show. Except me. Boo.

Nothing about his life has improved since he stopped smoking.

He likes to say 'fuck,' a lot. It's almost like he has Tourette's.

Last meal used to be roasted marrow. But now it's some kind of sea urchin thing. Whatever.

If you have your hand up, you should ACTUALLY have a question. Please. You are hurting my feelings.


Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Friday, November 19, 2010

We'll start saving for tutors immediately

Friday, November 19, 2010 By

We're settling a vehicle seating dispute. There are two car seats that are exactly the same, but one is preferred over the other. It is "the big kid" seat, according to Emerson and Zequan.

"Okay, I'm thinking of a number between one and ten. What is it?" I ask.

"One," Emmie says.
"Ten," Zequan says.

It's five. Crap.

"No one is closer," I say, which would give lots of kids a hint. "Try again."

"Ten," Emmie says.
"One," Zequan says.

Really, guys?

"No, no, new numbers between one and ten," I say, my voice shaking with laughter.

"Twelve," Emmie says.
"Twenny," Zequan says.

"Guys! Between ONE and TEN," I say."

"Twenny one THOUSAND!" Emmie challenges.

"A BILLION thousand!" Zequan counters.

Emmie sighs: "Okay, you win, Zequan."

"Yes!" he celebrates.

(facepalm)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And one for my mom...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 By

Text from C.B.: "Was good seeing you for that split second today. You had us worried a few weeks back."

Text from me: "My mother's been worried for years. She never figured out what's wrong with me, either."

C.B.: "There are some mysteries that last a lifetime."

Eh, I have a few more years. Maybe someone will figure it out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Halloween costumes are getting inappropriate

I am rarely truly outraged.

(We interrupt this post for a message from Stacey's subconscious: Oh, snap, y'all! Bigmouth is about to go off on something. Here's a hint: It's gonna take awhile. You know she's gonna have to have three examples for everything, and a hundred smart-ass comments. So let me sum it up for you. Stacey did not appreciate the hoochie costumes for sale on Halloween. Y'all go on about your regular business now. Unless you have nothing better to do than read her stark-raving-mad open letter to the Internets.)

Where was I? Oh, yes.

I am rarely truly outraged.

Politics don't rile me. Religion only mildly annoys me. If those things don't make you mad, you're probably okay.

But I was really pissed about Halloween this year, when I watched girls no older than 12 prance by in skirts that barely covered their lady parts, paired with knee-high socks and heels. Really, parents?

Are you freaking kidding me?

I get it, moms and dads. We struggled, too. Emmie wanted to be Lady Gaga. I wanted to be something goofy, like a spelling bee or a cereal killer. Unfortunately, I am neither crafty nor able to sew. So I have to look for something "on the rack," so to speak.

But when I went to look at costumes - online, at Party City, Target, Wal-Mart, Spirit Halloween, and stores at the mall - with my sister and Emmie, I was mortified. Every recognizable and obscure female character from pop culture, history and literature has been turned into a gutter-trolling whore.

Cleopatra now wears a midriff-baring miniskirt. Amelia Earhart has ditched the chinos and bomber jacket, and now sports a low-cut top and impractical miniskirt. Even Hermione Granger, cerebral student witch, has ditched her academic robes for a robe more suited for the bedroom.
This is not okay, people!

What really got me were the bullcorn costumes available for girls ages 5-12. Alice, the virginal Victorian tween lost in Wonderland, now renamed Chalice, carrier of sexually transmitted diseases. Cookie Monster, a blue Seseme Street puppet whose only previous "action" was relegated solely to a puppeteer's hand up his butt, now gives her cookies away to anyone. And there was some kind of medieval/shepherd thing that I called "Little Ho Peep."

What's the big deal? You might ask. Didn't you just argue against sexualizing young children?

Yes. But it's not as though the boys' costumes featured ab-showing, butt enhancing cutouts in clothes the lengths of which wouldn't pass even the most lenient of school dress codes. They were normal, child-like costumes featuring a lot of superhero leotards.

But is it fair to compare boys' and girls' costumes? Boys and girls are inherently different. Isn't that like comparing apples and oranges?

Girls like to be superheros, too. But why does Wonder Woman need a mini skirt that allows drive-by gynecological exams? She doesn't. She needs cargo pants or stretchy spandex for her backflips and a tool belt for her awesome gadgets, like the lasso of truth. (Barring that, this is a way more entertaining interpretation of her costume)

Emmie's a super hero in 2011, and she doesn't have to worry about showing off her hoo-ha while kicking a bad guy in the face.
American women have fought for more than a century to be considered equals of men, and we're not going to lose that fight by dressing up as whores one night a year. In fact, younger feminists often embrace the idea that sexuality can be used as a weapon in that fight. On a side note, costumes have a long tradition in the boudoir - and, hey, what married folks do is between them.

But we're not talking about college-aged adults going to a tasteless pimps-and-hos party, or married adults engaging in fantasies. We're talking about prepubescent children being shown that, on a night when the clothes make the person, that person is mostly naked.

So what to do in 2010? Well, we cobbled together a costume from parts. Emmie wanted to go as Lady Gaga in her "Bad Romance" video. Not the naked part with the weird spinal protrusions; the dancing. So we bought white tights, a white leotard, white boots, and a hair bow. We were going to make the spiky headdress out of poster board, except mommy had a hair dye accident and spent several hours trying to fix it. Oops.

So Emmie essentially wore a ballet uniform with some crazy (but sheer) makeup that she put on herself in the car. And she was ecstatic about herself, singing the song's "rah-rah-ah-ah-ah" all night long and running from house to house. She didn't even notice that the street was filled with under-aged Vegas showgirls. She only noticed how much candy was in her plastic pink pumpkin head.

So maybe I'm overreacting. Hey, it wouldn't be the first time. And, like I argued before, adults are the ones who sexualize children. Children don't do it to themselves. For all I know, the bootie-short tutus so prevalent in tween costumes are there just for swishiness. I always liked a swishy skirt, myself.

But until Emmie turns 18, she'll be barred from clothing like that. Not only does it give off the wrong impression to other people, but the possibility of her internalizing those impressions is equally harmful. So I'll try to guide her towards more creative costume ideas, like an iPod commercial. Of course, Scott and I joke that the usual concerns for parents of tweens and teens won't matter to us, because the second she hits puberty we'll shuttle her off to a convent.

But I still worry. I've seen too many pregnant nun costumes not to.

This is also not okay.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Google me this, Batman...

Friday, November 12, 2010 By

So, you're smart enough to post an ad with photos on Craigslist, but you're not smart enough to spell "mirror" and "chest of drawers?" FYI, it is not - nor has it ever been - "mirrow" and "chester draws."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Well, there's a future option...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 By

I'm on the phone with a girlfriend when Scott calls my cell with an alternate plan for the evening.

"That's cool," I tell him. "Whatever you want to do is fine."

"See?" K.J. says, when I hang up. "You're so supportive. I wish you and I were married."

"Me, too," I rasp, trying to sound like the creepy "Wizard of Oz" kid in "A Christmas Story." "You are soooo preeeeettyyy..."

She laughs. "We're on the same page about relationships, you know? We'd make a great lesbian couple. I think we'd grow old together."

"I think that's the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me."

"Well, I have to go. It's date night with Ronnie," she says, breaking up with me before we even begin.

"Scott just canceled date night," I moan.

"See?! I would NEVER cancel date night!"

She's lookin' sexier all the time.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Economics 101: FAIL

Monday, November 08, 2010 By

"Mama!" Emmie comes running in. "I jus' heard on da TB dat you can get pizza and 50 tokens! Iss a coupon! For twenny dollars!"

"Oh, at Chuck E. Cheese?"

"Yes! But I gotta idea. We can jus' get ONE dollar, wif a TWENNY on it!"

Good thinking. Just don't tell the Treasury Department.