Country-Fried Mama

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

Archive for January, 2009

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.

Wordless Wednesday: Miss D., diva

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-28-2009

Cacophony

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-27-2009

There are hours during the morning and afternoon in which things can be pretty dull at our house.  Miss D. might be at school, or Belly might be asleep.  It can get quiet here, even with two little ones about.  But once the sun goes down, it is hard to hear my own thoughts.

By 5 p.m., I’m preparing three meals (one for me and Country-Fried Daddy, one for Belly, one for Miss D.).  While I curse cook, Miss D. torments plays with Belly.

At the same time, I’m listening to the news in an attempt to remember there are things going on in the world that are bigger than Belly’s orange poop (although those can be pretty big) and Miss D.’s increasingly extreme temper tantrums.

The sound of this chaos can sometimes be too much.

A transcript from a scene in my kitchen late last week:

This is All Things Considered.  I’m Robert Segal…


Miss D [dancing with Teddy and singing the tune from Sleeping Beauty,

which is impossible to purge from my mind once I hear it]:

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.

I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam.

Senate Democrats issued their stimulus proposal today…


Belly [in her exersaucer, greeting her reflection]:

Eeeeeeeeee!   Eeeeeeeeee!   Eeeeeeee!

The Congolese government today…


Country-Fried Mama [trying to hide the sound of her impatience]:

Miss D., you can’t sit on my lap while I’m feeding Belly.

What is the mood like at Guantanamo?


Miss D. [With middle finger extended]:

Ahhh!  I bit my finger!

CFM:

Well, don’t eat with your hands in your mouth,

and you won’t bite your fingers.

Bill Gates plans to weigh in on Monday with his first annual letter about the work he’s been doing since leaving Microsoft


Miss D [Sounding at first surprised, and then gleeful]:

I pee-peed!  I’m pee-peeing!

And shooting a film like Slumdog Millionaire was especially complicated…


Miss D:

I’m done.  You need to clean me up now.

It’s 6 o’clock.  Marketplace is next…


Needless to say, I can start conversations about almost any current event, but I can’t usually finish them.


Miss D. enjoying the final moments of a warm afternoon before heading inside for the frenzied end to the day.

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

Raising children is work, people. There should be meetings.

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-23-2009

MEMORANDUM

DATE: January 22, 2009
TO: Rebel Playgroup Crew
FROM: Country-Fried Mama (CFM)
SUBJECT: Minutes of today’s meeting

Hosting mama called the meeting to order at 10 a.m.  She offered drinks and snacks to all participants (five kids, five moms).

First order of business:  Should we feel guilty for enjoying our time together at playgroup each week when our husbands are at work earning money?

Response: Hell, no.   This is part of our job, our weekly status meeting.  During this time, we provide social interactions for our children and support for one another so that we may better tackle the very difficult work we do in almost complete solitude each day.  And the snacks are so tasty, there is no room left for guilt.

Second order of business:  My toddler is wearing me down to a nub.  What should I do?

Response: A brainstorming session ensued. All participants agreed the mama in question should prepare to wait out this heinous stage in her child’s development.   Regular attendance at weekly meetings was suggested as essential to surviving this phase.

Third order of business: Mother-in-law stories

Response: CFM declared that such talk was offensive, and would never engage in such sessions.  CFM thanked her lucky stars that Country Granny provides her with no reason to participate in this order of business.  Seriously.

Miscellaneous:

  • Play-doh was cleaned off the bottom of several shoes
  • Play-doh was cleaned out of the mouth of one child (Miss D.)
  • There were six visits to the potty, most in teams of two or more
  • There were several melt-downs, but only one time-out (Miss D.)
  • One child had to be carried kicking and screaming to the car at the end of the meeting (Miss D.)
  • One child slept through most of the meeting (Belly)
  • Recipes were swapped
  • Babysitting trades were arranged
  • Peace treaties were developed and implemented in regards to the sharing of a guitar, a play kitchen, and a tricycle.  (These meetings are great training for a future in diplomacy.)
  • Important information regarding people not present was shared (Some might call this gossip, but if they did, we would talk trash about them.)

Action items for next meeting: Determine punishment for those who share intimate secrets of weekly meetings with strangers via the Web.

Respectfully submitted,

Country-Fried Mama

Wordless Wednesday: Sticker Shock

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-21-2009

For me? Really?

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-20-2009

Country-Fried Daddy and I were sitting around watching wretched TV last night, and I was reading mommy blogs and coveting the awards of more accomplished bloggers than myself.  Then I woke up this morning and found this lovely gift from Kathy B! As Kathy and others have mentioned on their blogs, there is an unfortunate grammatical error in this award, but I DO NOT CARE!  I have my first award, and I now I feel legit.

There are so many people to thank: my kids, for giving me lots of material; my husband, for reading all of this stuff and making fun of me encouraging me; the few unknown numbers of you who actually take the time to read my random thoughts.

So now I will pass this honor on to some other bloggers who have welcomed me to the blogosphere:  Modern Princess, Heart Gone Walking, Domestic Cents,  and The Adventures of SuperMegaDad.

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.

11 p.m. in the Garden of Cheesecake and French Fries

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-17-2009

The other night, several of us were out to dinner at a suburban chain restaurant that we just cannot break ourselves from frequenting.  The place blasts horrible muzak, the food is incredibly fattening, and the coffee tastes like warm mud, but it’s pretty much the only place in town that will allow us to sit in a booth from seven to eleven p.m. on a weeknight.

We rarely spend those hours discussing world politics or the best way to improve the economy.  Doubtless we would not agree on those topics.  We do, however, often agree on how our husbands should show appreciation for us (flowers, food, and professional cleaning help top the list), the best way to deal with the terrible two’s (patience and frequent kid-free nights out), and the understanding that pretty much everyone we know is crazy in his or her own way.

During this marathon visits to our favorite bad restaurant, one of these lovely ladies started talking about a woman at work who is really struggling.  It seems that she and her husband are trying to get their sno-cone business off the ground, and they have sunk everything they have into this venture.  This about made me blow strawberry shortcake out my nose.  This couple’s dream is to sell sno-cones professionally.  That is AWESOME.  I pictured a warehouse full of Snoopy Sno-Cone Machines and a bunch of under-age workers furiously churning out little paper cups full of red ice.  How could such an effort possibly fail to make money?

We started talking about how the rest of the world needs to know about this local couple who dare to dream.  They could be the focus of the next great Southern novel, or even a non-fiction piece a la John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Have you read it?  A Yankee writer moves South and encounters murder and eccentric locals:

“I’ve only been here three days and it’s just a shooting, but give it time, okay. This place is fantastic. It’s like Gone With the Wind on Mescalin. I know you’re my agent. Listen to me, they walk imaginary pets here, Garland. On a fucking leash. Alright? And they’re all heavily armed and drunk. New York is boring!” (IMDB)

I do not live in Savannah, the setting of Berendt’s book, and I am not having near the adventure that he did, but there are characters here ripe for the picking.

All I need is a sensational crime to go with my sno-cone story, and I’m certain I could find a publisher.  I have a dedication in mind already: “To A., who attracts crazy like no one I’ve ever known before.  Seriously.”

Sippy cup confessions

Posted by CountryFriedMama on Jan-16-2009

Miss D. has been tattling on herself for months now.

When school started in the fall, we had a stretch of days during which she would get in the car after school and tell me, “I hit Noah today.”  She had lots of details to go with this pronouncement.  It was an accident, she got a time out, Noah cried, she said “sorry” and hugged him.  We talked at length about not hitting our friends.

I didn’t worry about this too much the first time I heard it.  I didn’t worry too much the second time.  By the third time I heard this story, I started to fear that a call from Noah’s mother was imminent.

When I brought this up with Miss D.’s teacher, the woman laughed.  Noah, as it turns out, is often in time out for hitting.  Miss D. has never been involved, but in her own mind, she was the star of this little drama.

How does a two-year-old learn to lie?  Moreover, why would she make up lies that put her in a bad light?

It seems this is not confined to toddlers.  When I first started teaching high school, I used a “two truths and a lie” game as an ice breaker.  My freshmen had to share three things about themselves, and the class had to guess which one was untrue.  I ended up with a whole bunch of 14-year-olds confessing to cocaine addiction, theft, and countless other crimes that had me sorting the whole thing out with the guidance department at the end of my first day on the job.

I still have trouble sorting out the truths from the lies.  Clearly, Miss D. is not Sleeping Beauty, she is not cooking me breakfast in her playroom, she did not go visit her Bubbe while I was sleeping last night.  But she is still throwing me some stories that I can’t quite spot as fibs right away.  Did she really hit Belly?  No, her sister is fine.  Did she really poop in her panties?  Nope, they’re clean.  Does her tummy really hurt?  It seems unlikely given her appetite.

We have high hopes that Miss D. will break the cycle of liberal-arts-major-induced poverty in her family by going into engineering or medicine or some other lucrative field.  But the older she gets, the more convinced I am that we are raising a future creative writing student.

Miss D. with a world of her own creation.

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