Country-Fried Mama

A Yankee “mutha” raising kids in the deep, deep, DEEP South

Archive for the ‘About me’ Category

You’re just a mommy

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Feb-5-2009

When Country-Fried Daddy first went back to work after his unfortunate ankle incident (read this), the girls and I ferried him there so he wouldn’t get busted for driving under the influence of narcotics.

Miss D. has since been asking lots of questions about what CFD does in that big building, and she recently asked me what my job is.

“I’m a mommy and a teacher,” I said.

“No, you’re just a mommy,” said Miss D.

I sighed, counted to five, and tried not to freak out.

Some context: I never considered myself the stay-at-home type.  Before Miss D. was born, CFD and I both assumed I would go back to work.  I don’t remember even discussing other possibilities.  But once my maternity leave ended and I went back to my job as a high school English teacher, both CFD and I found that leaving Miss D. at daycare everyday was painful.

I started to feel desperate about her being there. It was a really wonderful daycare, but all I could think about every day was that I was spending my time with other people’s children instead of my own sweet baby.  I felt like I was doing a crummy job as a teacher and a crummy job as a mommy.  I was beyond relieved when CFD got a job in a more affordable part of the country and I could plunge into mommyhood full time.

I am still relieved.  I would not trade being at home with my girls for anything, and yet…the world seems very small on some days.

So when Miss D. said, “you’re just a mommy,” I felt a little sick.  When I had to leave her each day to work, I soothed my guilt with the idea that at least she would grow up knowing that mommies have important careers, too.  I still want her to know that.

So I tried to explain that the laptop permanently attached to my body is not just for online mah-jongg, which she is inexplicaby interested in.  “I teach classes on the computer,” I told her.  “When you sleep, I’m a teacher.”

“No,” said Miss D., who gets her stubborn streak from me.  “You’re just a mommy.”

Sigh.

I’m guessing that anyone who reads this knows there should be no “just” in front of “mommy.”  Being a mommy is important.  I know that.  I care far more about the measurable outcomes of my performance as Mommy than I ever did for any job outside my house.  That’s the big picture.

The little picture is that my peanut-butter-sandwich-making, laundry-folding, spit-up-cleaning, Little-Einsteins-watching days are not always fulfilling and I fear my brain might be turning to mush.

I was on my hands and knees under the kitchen table yesterday scrubbing my baseboards, an activity I don’t recall ever performing when I worked full-time, when I had an almost uncontrollable urge to start screaming.

“I have a Master’s degree!” I wanted to yell, but I didn’t want to scare Belly.

I am not housebound.  I go to playgroup.  I go to book club.  I go to the grocery store more often than I would like.  But sometimes, my world seems uncomfortably small.  Is it shrinking?

Someone should alert Al Gore.

Friendly, but not nice

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-30-2009

Fellow mommy blogger and transplant to the South Kathy B. wrote a great post recently about that ubiquitous Southern saying, “Bless your heart.“   I thought it was hilarious and informative.  Although we have lived here almost two years, and although Country-Fried Daddy is a Southerner, it is only recently that I have come to understand the subtext of “bless your heart.”  It sounds so sweet, and yet, as Kathy describes in her post, it so often is a pretty mask for an ugly judgment.

This reminded me of how completely I misunderstood my new neighbors when we moved here.  On our first night in our new house, two women, accompanied by several kids, came to our door with warm cookies and milk.  “How sweet!  People here are so friendly,” I said to CFD through a mouth full of chocolate chips.

I realize Yankees have a reputation for being cynical, and I often am, but in this case, I naively equated “friendly” with “nice.”   This was a mistake.

As the days passed, these women would come over and sit in the yard with me and Miss D.  I thought we were having casual conversations and maybe becoming friends.  I was wrong.

Neighbor-lady would ask: “Where did you go to school?”  Unsaid question: “Which team do you follow, and what does that say about you as a person?”

I innocently blocked this one with my alma mater.  No football team there worth discussing.  Ice hockey, shockingly, does not interest many people in these parts.

Neighbor-lady would ask: “Have you found a church home yet?”  Unsaid question: Are you a heathen?  Can I allow my children to play near your home without fearing for their safety?

I provided lots of  material on this one.  “CFD and I got married in a Unitarian Church,” I said, “but I’m Jewish.”  I didn’t get a “bless-your-heart” on that one, but I did hear, “Oh.”  Uncomfortable silence.  “I had a Jewish friend when we lived in Oklahoma.”  Surprisingly, I had never met the friend.  I must have missed her at the conventions.

Neighbor-lady would say: “You’ll love it here.  It’s so conservative.”

I tried not to laugh.  I told her I was proud of my home state, which had recently elected an African-American governor (Democrat, of course), legalized gay marriage, and instituted healthcare reform.

She smiled.

That was our last conversation.

Yankee….strike one.   Wrong church…strike two.   Liberal….strike three, and you are out.

We recently moved a few blocks away from those folks, and I think our new neighbors are probably both friendly and nice.

New-neighbor-lady brought over a casserole after Belly was born.  I was a mess.  The house was a mess.  “Oh, bless your heart,” she said as she handed me the dish.

But I think she meant it in the nice way.

Either that, or I still have a lot to learn.

Aw, shucks.

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-26-2009

Thank you to MommaPeas and I’m a Mom!…? for tagging me with this lovely award.

No gift comes without a price, though.

The rules are: List 7 random things about yourself and pass it onto 7 honest bloggers.  (Those of you who know me from Facebook might recognize these.  Please forgive the duplication.)

1.  My first job out of college was as a feature reporter for a daily newspaper not far from where we live now. My salary was $18,000. Before I left, I got a raise: $19,000.

2. I am no longer a journalist. Guess why.

3. I was born in Boston. My grandfather was the doctor who delivered me. Think about that for a minute. Yuck.

4. I am a second-generation American.

5. My maternal grandparents spoke Spanish, but none of their children do. They used it to talk about secret matters in front of the kids.

6. I have been to Israel, Spain, Portugal and Canada. I have never been to Mississippi.

7. I want to go to Italy for my 10th wedding anniversary. My husband is invited to come with me.  My  kids are not.

And now I bestow this honor upon two (not seven, sorry) fine women who blog:

I’m Just Saying

Blooming in the South

Things I probably wouldn’t spend so much time thinking about if we had had boys

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-20-2009

I had plans for today.  Truly.  Most of these plans involved laundry, so they were easy to dismiss in favor of sticking my nose in a book.

While Miss D. watched “Finding Nemo” and Belly slept, I read.  While Miss D. played kitchen and Belly shrieked at her own reflection, I read.  And while Miss D. ate her snack of strawberries dipped in ketchup (it’s really not worth arguing with her about this) and Belly nursed, I read.

I have gotten sucked into Prep, and I can’t decide whether it is complete YA trash or an incredibly insightful look at the inner-life of the self-conscious adolescent girl.  In any case, I can’t stop reading it.  Writing this blog post right now instead of finishing the book is, in fact, a sacrifice.  (See how much I love you all?)

The main character in the book is certain no one will like her, and she goes about making herself pretty much invisible at her snooty New England prep school.  I recognize many of her flavors of crazy as ones I had as an adolescent.  It is the kind of thing that makes me concerned about the years ahead.

This is not a new topic of concern.  Country-Fried Daddy and I often notice teenage girls in public, usually at the mall, and whisper to each other, “Miss D. will be grounded for life if she ever leaves the house in something like that,” or “How will we make sure that Belly never comes home with a tramp stamp?”

But more than bad clothes or bad ink, I fear bad self-esteem.  It seems silly to do this now.  Belly is just a baby, and a happy one.  Miss D. is the most outgoing almost-pre-schooler I know.  And yet…

We went to a birthday party for one of Miss D.’s school friends this weekend.  I didn’t know any of the other parents, and on the way there I stressed a bit about what I would say to them.  By the time we walked into the party, I had a list of safe topics in mind.  I had a very low level of the anxiety I remember having in middle school.

My daughter, on the other hand, had a great time.  I love to watch her talk to other kids, older kids, and assume that everyone wants to play with her, wants to hear her stories, wants to hold hands with her.

But I dread the day when she notices this is not always the case.  I thought about this when Miss D. tried to hug another little girl and did not notice that this child was trying to back away, and when she ran after the older boys and stood yelling after them when they scurried up some bleachers she could not climb.

I am often tempted to inflict my social cautiousness on her, but I know she needs to figure things out for herself.  I don’t want her to be shy.  I want her to be her outgoing, self-assured self forever.  And I want those other kids to see how great she is and just LOVE her as we do.

An hour into the party, I noticed Miss D. talking to the bounce house, which appeared to be empty.   I went over to see what she was up to, and saw a little girl tucked into the corner of what Miss D. calls a “jump-jump”, not jumping, but crying.  This child had come to the party with a friend, and was sobbing for her mother.  I pulled her out and sat her down at a little table to eat potato chips and cheese doodles with Miss D.  I was so proud of my girl.  Yes, a two-year-old can have empathy for another child.  The two girls sat there together until they were both laughing, then they abandoned their junk food to go play with the hula-hoops.

Toddler diplomacy is hard, but I am getting my first inklings of how much harder things are going to be as the girls get older.  I survived all the social slights of growing up, but oh, how much harder it will be to witness my children surviving them.

Miss D. and her current best friend, Teddy.

Miss D.’s believe it or not

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-13-2009

Miss D.’s latest favorite question is, “Do you believe it?”  I have high hopes that this will slowly edge out the pervasive, “But, why?” that has defined our days for months and months.

The great thing about Miss D.’s incredulity is that she directs it at the most mundane things.

I gave her an apple with her lunch today.

“I ate it all up,” said Miss D.  “Do you believe it?”

Why, yes, sweet girl, I believe it.

Miss D. made a craft at storytime today.  It consisted of glue, a paper bag, and some construction paper.  When it was done, it sort of looked like a bear.

“I did it by myself,” said Miss D.  “Do you believe it?”

“Absolutely,” I said.  Anyone who sees that poor bear will know Miss D. made it herself.

I’ve been laughing at this for a few days now, but last night I started thinking that every parenting experience I have, every story I might share on my blog, is similar to Miss D.’s sense of wonder at things I find perfectly obvious.  I am not learning anything that was not learned long ago by my mother, by her mother, by her mother, etc.  I imagine there are plenty of more experienced mamas out there who have read some of these posts, or heard me exclaiming about some “new” discovery, and silently laughed at me.

Thank you all for not laughing out loud.

My “Do you believe it?” moment today happened at gymnastics class.  Miss D. had her first big-girl class today, one in which the mamas did not have to participate.  I was, in fact, the only mama who even stayed to watch.

I led Miss D. into the gym, then turned around to go sit in the waiting area.  I waited for her to cry out for me.  She did not.

During the next hour, I watched her prance around in her leotard, follow directions from the teacher (more or less), walk the balance beam, try her very best to jump on the trampoline with both feet up in the air at the same time.   I thought about how we had done the Mommy & Me class in that very room.  When was that?  It couldn’t have been that long ago that I had to hold her hand to help her onto the trampoline, to slowly coax her onto the balance beam and catch her when she fell.  Where is that baby, and who is this self-confident beauty who went to gymnastics all by herself today?

It is so uncool to cry at your kid’s gymnastics class.  People think you are crazy if you do this.  Do you believe it?

Don’t laugh at Mama, Belly.  I’m having a moment.

When in Dixie, do as the Dixie chicks do

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-8-2009

Since moving down to “South America,” I have tried my best to blend in, or at least not wave my outsider flag too high.  There are some things that won’t change, regardless of where we live: I am not about to buy a gun, attend NASCAR events (sorry Country Granny), or (heaven forbid) vote Republican.

I have, however, done the following in order to feel more at home here:

1. I quickly announced a random allegiance to an SEC football team, then remembered I would rather watch paint dry than follow this game.

2. I learned how to make a decent casserole.  I’ve never bought so much cream of mushroom soup in my life.

3. I bought Miss D. a few smocked outfits.  They’re cute, but not as cute on her as on the local girls.  Smocked clothing requires ironing.  I do not iron.

4. I traded in my responsible, economical sedan for an SUV.  I think I was the last person in America to buy one of these gas guzzlers.

5. I occasionally say “y’all.”  I don’t mean to do it.  It makes me feel like an imposter, but it’s just such a convenient phrase.  It also helps me avoid calling Southern women, “you guys.”

6. I canceled my subscription to Cooking Light and subscribed to Southern Living.  I have since learned so much, such as how to make cookies that look like reindeer, where to spend a long weekend within driving distance, and how to hit my calorie limit for the day in one easy meal.

7. I try to put on some speck of make-up before I leave the house.  This is more effort than it sounds like.  I earned my undergraduate degree at a university where shaving was strictly optional for both men and women, and most people wore pajama bottoms to class.

A Southern friend once told me her mother taught her never to go out to get the mail without make-up on her face.  I keep this in mind when I am tempted to run out to the grocery store without brushing my hair.

8. I have learned to never discuss The War Between the States.  Ever.

Miss D.: she is who she is, and she doesn’t compromise based on geography.

IPO

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-5-2009

In the midst of some serious resolution writing this weekend, I decided it was time to take my little private blog public.  So here is my initial public offering.  I don’t guarantee huge returns (this is no Ponzi scheme, folks), but the risk to you is minimal.   You may be exposed to silly stories about my kids, my husband, and my neighbors.  You may find that I occasionally lapse into hyperbole for the sake of improving a story.

The risk to me, on the other hand, is a bit greater.  I have often thought of my blog as an online diary shared with an elite, trusted few.  I open that to strangers now, and it is a bit intimidating.   It feels like the first day at a new school.  In that spirit, I’ll tell you a bit about myself so we can get to be fast friends and I won’t have to sit alone in the cafeteria.

1.  I was psyched to find countryfriedmama.com available.  I think it’s hilarious.

2.  I wouldn’t call where I live country; I hardly know anyone who owns a tractor.

3. I am completely in love with my g.r.i.t.s. (girls raised in the South).  Their mama may be a Yankee, but she does her best not to embarass them down here in the deep, deep, DEEP South.

4. In the past two weeks, I have decided to start this blog, take up running, and volunteer to teach illiterate adults how to read.  Someone needs to cut me off from resolution writing before I really overextend myself.

5. If the audience for this blog never grows, I know I can count on my adoring fans/captive audience:

Belly and Miss D.

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