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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Caregiver's Choice

Thrilled to share! I’ve won a flip video camera!
I was recently contacted by www.seniorhomes.com
In honor of November’s National Family Caregiver Month, they’re recognizing caregivers by sharing stories, available online to read, share, and vote on.
Link: http://www.seniorhomes.com/p/family-caregiver-stories-anna-brown/     

My Story
I expected to be a caregiver. Though it was 40 years sooner than “planned”; longevity runs in our family’s women.  My grandmother looks toward her 90th birthday; lives alone in Nowhere, S.C. Great-grandmother lived ‘caregiver-free’ until age 97! Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 57.

Dad deserves credit – the hospice staff was astounded he took care of mom 10 years. I lived 3 hours away, and was busy with full time jobs, marrying King & his kids, raising our 4 kids. I visited every few weeks.
The most memorable trip was when dad took off for his 50th class reunion. I was glad to help because dad insisted upon staying home and this rare trip was much-needed. I missed Preacher Child’s senior prom; however, Mimi and sister in-law stood in, reported, took beautiful pictures. (Mimi wanted to spank one of those girls for her slinky red dress!)

Mom’s diagnosis was brain cancer; doctors claimed “good treatment” (chemo/surgery/radiation) left memory loss, a form of dementia. I implemented training as a preschool teacher to take care of mom - who resembled 4-year-olds I’d taught or raised at home.

Questions – she asked constant, repetitive questions, years after “good treatment”. I reminded myself: she took care of me. It’s payback for childhood questions she patiently answered – poor lady couldn’t take a bath or enjoy a moment of peace without me plopping down to chat.

I prayed – Heavenly Father, grant grace to take care of this precious woman. Oh Lord, I miss my mother. Sweet Jesus, how on the planet does dad do this every day?

We left sticky notes for her. She wrote notes on a pad. She forgot to read her notes. When she read, she argued. We'd plead: it was her writing for peats’ sake; the words were true. Dad pondered: why the part of her brain controlling stubbornness wasn’t removed, along with the memory and tumor.

Our best strategy was laughter, or we’d lose our collective sanity. I begged dad to try Zoloft; wouldn’t hear of it. He’d laugh; relay stories about mom: “Can’t make this stuff up; hell - some days I think she’s right and I’m losing it.”

That weekend with mom was memorable. Between mantras for long suffering, (and calls to the local florist, begging a same-day corsage for Preacher Child’s prom date) I cooked her favorite meals, planted spring flowers, watched hummingbirds, enjoyed taking care of her so dad could enjoy a well-deserved break.

Oh! And there was breakfast. I sat her down with fruit and a crossword puzzle (believe it or not, she could work them even after “good treatment”. I asked if scrambled eggs would be acceptable. (After a lifetime of being glad someone else cooked so she could simply eat - post brain cancer, mom became quite opinionated about things.)

She confirmed eggs were fine and asked my name. “It’s Anna, mom. Anna.” (Prayed under my breath; returned to kitchen.)  I checked again - she asked, “Did you meet that girl, Anna? She’s a real keeper”.

“Sure, mom – I’m Anna”; left to fix her plate.

I set down breakfast and she began eating, raving it was delish. She asked my name – AGAIN.  “It’s Anna, mom. Anna”. Her response: “Oh goody, now we have 2 Annas.”

I wonder why this tickles me. After thinking about it 6 years – maybe I’m glad to know she chose me as her daughter, again and again, and again… I know I’d choose her.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

September 29th – still a special day, birthday of someone missing at Preacher Child’s wedding…

Throughout my life – if Sweet Home Alabama or Spirit in the Sky played on the radio, if a family member struggled with cancer or passed away …
Mom instructed: Don’t resuscitate, don’t hook me to a machine or feed me with a tube. Let me go. Bury me in the cheapest pine box you can find - wear a red dress to my funeral.

Play music, serve good food, have a party ‘cause I’ll be with Jesus.
I imagined wearing that red dress as an old lady myself. Longevity runs deep. Great-grandma lived to 103; Grandma’s pushing 90 and runs circles around us with her new knee – stubborn as ever and game for adventure.

But there I was in church – dressed in red; barely in my 40’s.
Mom was my best friend. We spoke on the phone most every day, even before cell phones. I learned to make gravy over the phone, received parenting advice – heard what was up in Alabama with the birds, flowers, weather, cats, her 5th graders, ladies in her Sunday School class, what dad made for dinner…. I miss those calls.

She was tiny: 4’ 11”and feisty, even throughout the last few days of her life this side of heaven -  battling brain cancer for 10 years.
3 days after surgery: I received a phone call from mom, thrilling! I‘d expected our calling days to be done.

She was incensed: “Did you know I had brain surgery? Does your father know about this?  Who’s this O’Malley character?” 
“He’s the neurosurgeon, Mama – he pretty much saved your life.”

 Mom was not impressed: “Well he’s a BRICK.” 
I reminded her how miraculous she was - working crossword puzzles in the hospital, reading books, scheduled to go home soon, exceeding expectations. She rebuked: “I’m NOT miraculous, people are PRAYING for me!”

(Note: She later changed her mind about the surgeon, named him “The Sainted Dr. O’Malley”.)
A couple of weeks later, at home on Christmas Day – during one of her last lucid moments before I ‘became the parent’...

Mom issued her best advice: “I’ve had a great life. I’m so proud of my children and wonderful grandchildren. I’m not angry with God - or questioning why this happened to me.  But Honey! Stop worrying about fat grams, drink more red wine and enjoy your life. “
Happy Birthday, Mom. We toast you today.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Goes Around, Comes Around

I am destined to Blog-a-rama rut until I recount the story I just can’t get past …
There was doubt as to whether Buzz’s toddler is his biological child. Dominant physical features caused even my recluse father to ask if little tyke was “Spawn of Putin”, (young mother is beautiful; Russian).
Post wedding, I’m certain the child is Buzz’s very own.

Let's go back to Buzz’s first born… Preacher Child.
8 weeks old; Baptism Sunday. I should have known in the nursery; taken him home after the 21-wipe diaper that ruined an appliquéd heirloom. I changed him into blue corduroy. (If only Mommy had a back-up outfit!) He screamed the entire way down the aisle; took a breath; threw up on me; screamed through the first half of the ceremony; fell asleep in my arms.

8 years old; Sunday lunch. Preacher Child announced: “I love God and Jesus is in my heart, but I HATE CHURCH!”
Fast forward thru 15 years of tears at teacher conferences, teen rebellion, brushes with law, trials by college and spiritual awakening to his wedding weekend …

The church was busy with rehearsal activity, difficult to hear on account of Buzz’s baby yelling, running around like it was a McDonald’s Playground.
Noisy chaos! I almost blew a gasket, along with the parents-of-the-bride.

I tried to reason with Buzz: “Please, it’s distracting. The kids can’t hear directions”.  (Confession: I hissed, quietly.)
Wedding day, mother-of-the-bride pulled me aside: ”My husband (trained medical professional) has decided: if baby disrupts the ceremony, he’ll  escort baby out of the church.”
Snap! We’re going to get along just fine.

“That was my final thought before falling asleep last night. I (trained pre-school professional) will help with this first act of family unity!” We shared a hug and laugh.
The acoustic group sang and a blended family procession began… my friends swear I looked happy and serene. They are good friends. I tried to enjoy the moment, prayed baby would be quiet for an hour.

God had it covered – if you’ve ever doubted His existence, please read on.
Buzz Trio walked along the front row. Baby let out a heart-stopping scream; Buzz exited. That was the first tear shed on Preacher’s wedding day. Despite his oblivious ways, Buzz deserved to see our son get married.

However! Baby’s exit made for stress-free, glorious ceremony. Our first act of family unity wouldn’t be public-baby-removal, but post-wedding pictures, shared Thanksgivings, birthdays, housewarmings, and our first grandchild in 10 years…
Preacher Couple was so happy. The message inspired a wonderful word picture of acorns to oaks. They planted and watered a small tree together! The pastor was Australian. Forget I’m the mother - it was storybook/film-worthy.
Preacher’s bride repeated vows, tears streamed down her face – Preacher smiled, lovingly brushed them off with both hands. It was the most authentic, pure wedding ceremony kiss I’ve ever witnessed - as if they invented the tradition.

If ever a doubt – this moment assured: The pair is meant to be. (Many tears; sadly, a couple quiet nose blows – it was that sweet.)
Yes, there is a God, a very good God.

And! There’s more! God heard our prayers. He had a plan for this wedding, peace for the congregation so we could bear witness to (and hear!)  this sacred event.
Although I couldn’t see it, I heard of it later from my father, favorite cousin (best storyteller on the planet), and confirmed with several friends with a view. Remember Buzz’s departure? Here’s what caused the speedy exit:

Baby screamed; yanked lollipop from his mouth; lobbed it; struck his mother head-on. Poor little tyke, just like his half brother – yes half brother, I’m sure of it… 22 years prior; now preparing to tie the knot, spewed vomit on mom and Buzz. They left to clean up (I hear Buzz witnessed vows from back row).
Yep – projectile vomit, aversion to “big church” at an early age, running around wildly – I bet the family farm it’s Buzz’s baby.

Lord, help Buzz and the Russian for the next 20 years.




Friday, September 2, 2011

Motherhood in Pictures: Hold them tight; Teach them to Fly

“You like me, you really like me!”
(Sally Fields, 1985)

This Oscar flashback is brought to you by … King and my 72-year-old dad - whom ask daily when I’m going to write again.

The August hiatus was self-imposed: personal survival and the sake of getting things done.
In a nutshell:

-       Preacher Child’s wedding/rehearsal

-     Constant management of The Great Blended Family Sandbox. (You have NO idea)

-       Launched Flower Child - moved into co-ed (help!) dorm; suffered through (all-girl) Rush. She handled better than mom.

-      2011 business trips #2 and #3 fell in August! (I typically travel once a year)

-       Caught a cold on the first trip.

-       Got food poisoning on the next trip.

-       Adapted to corporate America's micromanagement tool-of-the day.

-       Settled Scholar Child & Preacher Child in their schools.

-       Kept King from divorcing me so we can enjoy our Empty Nest.

I suffer from the opposite of Writer’s Block – TOO much to share. So full of rich material; I simply don’t know where to begin.

I’m retaining an attorney to determine what I can get away with - she recommends “Wordless”.

The beginning with my babies

Flower Child happy at college


Changed his diapers, tied his shoes, pinned his boutineer on wedding day



Gained a daughter! Presenting: Preacher's Wife

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Preparing for College & Other Hazards of Motherhood

Was it multiple, tearful calls to Housing Authority? Threats to organize weekend shuttles to Athens from Georgia’s real party school in Valdosta, securing a repeat honor as 2012 Princeton Review’s #1 Party School in America?
Not proud of the Helicopter Mom flash, but I know when to be fiery.

No one said it was easy. I’m just glad they’re in a real dorm - smack in the middle of campus where freshmen belong.

Time for dorm shopping!

Shopping with Preacher & Party Child?
Piece of cake; they didn’t go.

We (King & myself) went to Target & Ikea, bought stuff; stored; unloaded into dorm rooms.

Color scheme of their comforters?
Party Child: “That’s STUPID! Who cares?”
Preacher Child: “Bah! Towels match the blanket and the rug!”

(Note: Preacher still uses them and has theories about spirituality & personal organization. Yes, Virginia: Time wins!)

College shopping with Flower Child?
Not so much. It was a time warp back to…

  • 6th grade and outgrowing Limited Too/Justice. (Thank you, God, for Rue 21 & Papaya)
  • Jeans shopping after Limited Too era. (King took her shopping; I love him forever.)
  • Bra shopping (Painful at any age, no?)
  • Intermediate Bathing suit shopping: Find 1-piece for church/drama camp; fabric & style appealing to a 13-yr old, pain!
  • Advanced Bathing suit shopping: Your baby fills that bikini better than you’ve dreamed of in years. Revelation: She’s blooming and you’re wiser, yet fading a bit on the outside. PAIN!
  • 8th grade dance semi-formal dress shopping.
Excluding Prom 2010 - we had a great run: Age 15 to a few hours ago.

Preacher Child gets married soon; met us at the mall for a tux fitting.
They argued in early years. He & Flower Child are best of friends now.
I warned, via text: baby sis - in a mood.

I cornered him at Old Navy, discreetly asked: “Seriously, is it her, or me?”

This seems innocent enough. However, I'm learning otherwise.
Women over the age of 40 shouldn't ask such questions, ever.
Ages 13-39? Blame perfectly, socially acceptable PMS.
After 40?
It’s “The Change”, regardless of which organs are still in your body.

I need hope. Is there another universal cause of behavior after “The Change”?

Are we finally wise and happy all the time, as God intended? Anyone?

I consulted Preacher: "Seriously, is it HER or me?"
“Oh, Mom, it’s probably a little of both.”
Ugh – I asked for that.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What a thrill to guest-host for one of my favorite blogs, Mommy Lady Club. She let me choose 2 leading men! Atlanta Webmaster made it work! Please see my WP blog for video: http://hotairballoonmom.com

You didn’t know that you could find a romantic retreat on a Mom blog, did you?
Welcome to Battle of The Leading Men!
Your Romantic Getaway
Would you like to play?

First meet our special hosts, Clint Eastwood & Timothy Olyphant
Thank you Gentlemen…

battle of the leading men on mommy lady club

Now, meet our co-hosts, Mommy LaDy Club and
Hot Air Balloon Mom.

Here’s how to play:
1: Please follow, visit and comment for both of our co-hosts, Mommy LaDy Club and Hot Air Balloon Mom
2: Please vote in each of the paired Battles below by commenting the names of each Battle champion on Mommy LaDy Club’s blog.
3: You may also link up by Sunday at midnight to be drawn to win next week’s co-host spot!

The Battle voting will remain open through the week, even if you missed linking up. Get all of the details at your Romantic Getaway central and see previous match- ups.

Now…Battle On! ( Video: http://hotairballoonmom.com )

Battle 1:
John Hamm
Battle Cry: Don Draper


vs. Clive Owen
Battle Cry: Just Clive

Battle 2:
Bruce Willis
Battle Cry: Die Hard
vs. Richard Gere Battle Cry: The Waltz

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Princeton Review: #1 Party School in America? Winner: The University of Georgia!

According to The Princeton Review, my sweet baby girl’s #1 college choice is ranked as America’s #1 Party School.

Fiancé Child pointed out: Flower Child visiting a Geek Tech Frat house wasn’t a threat; they don’t know what to do with a girl on campus. We should concern ourselves with her college of choice, aka: 2011 Princeton Review’s #1 Party School in America. (Google it!) She added: Flower Child has a great head on her shoulders and will be fine. (Thanks, Fiancé!)
As destiny would have it, based on grades, rigor and activities, neither Party nor Preacher Child were accepted at UGA, we figured the standards were higher than ever; no way it’s the same wild place I attended in the 80’s. A mom can dream.

Truth be told, it’s apparent how this school is - at last #1 - after decades of simply making the list. Its history is conducive to a good time…
The Movie Scene:
Rumor has it - in the late 1970’s, UGA denied permission to film the legendary John Belushi Movie, Animal House,  on its campus – on grounds that an association with a brazen party movie ensured their (already) questionable academic reputation of the day.

The Music Scene:
Check out revolutionary bands, hailing from Athens:
Ø  B-52’s (Best party song ever, Love Shack)
Ø  White Animals
Ø  R.E.M.
Ø  John Mayer (Note: he was discovered at the annual music festival, thankfully! Otherwise, he’d still pump gas at Chevron)

The Bar scene:
Wikipedia notes: 96 bars dwell in this little town.

The Visitors:
Because of the legendary music scene and 96 bars, young people from a 250-mile radius voyage into Athens to enjoy its culture. Our thought, based on Party Child’s numerous road trips? Outsiders sustain the vibrant reputation, not matriculating students of the university.

Wishful thinking! At orientation UGA actually acknowledged its latest honor and documented with statistics – via PowerPoint - to support how co-ed party habits are generally established before they set foot on campus. One must admire the willingness to meet issues head-on.
I survived Athens, along with many others who now lead responsible adult lives. Time wins, right? Surely, Flower Child will burn midnight oil at the library, rather than contribute to Princeton Review’s 2012 Party School ranks?

We know this: Regardless of how our 2011 football season turns out, THIS fine SEC school will always win the party!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Return Policy for Kids

I've learned when to stop inviting Karma and start asking friends about Holy Water!

We attended college orientation: Flower Child’s dorm assignment - messed up. Mix in her campers’ drama extreme last week (at Performing Arts Camp); fold with BFF & boy issue, doctor visit for throat swab…

I’ve suspended our College Myth-busters’ series for more wisdom from Mimi. Flower Child at the frat house caused a stir. I almost felt like a bad mom since I wasn’t THAT upset. Why not?

Preacher/Party Child have broken me in?

I sport Rose-colored glasses for Flower Child?

BOOM! Revelation as I prepared for a morning with sweet little babies at church, whose only you-know-what clearly appears in their diapers.

Mimi’s Return-Policy Prayer
Yes, that’s return policy on kids, not retail items. Some young mommies will never read this page again. Older mommies laugh, click, thank God theirs are responsible citizens despite themselves.

If you’ve had a fleeting moment, understanding child abuse – you wouldn’t abuse yours, just know why it could happen. This post is for you! I'll lead by example, sharing my moment:

Preacher Child was my first; how could I know it was colic? (Sorry, kids, no Internet back then!)   I knew: hadn’t washed my hair, enjoyed a hot meal in weeks. Baby flab drooped on my once-flat tummy. Worn out, I fantasized about driving him to mom’s; crossing the state line for a Waffle House and good night’s sleep.

Mimi is Buzz’s mom. For her prayer to be effective; not offensive, imagine a fancy lady. Others buy her groceries, walk her dog, and wash her car… Think 24/7 Mary Kay make-up and large hair, blonde, never out of place. She doesn’t own jeans or a t-shirt. She’s a teetotaler who says a lot without a word.        
(It’s a Southern art; I’ll never know.)

Mimi offered comfort when Preacher Child wouldn’t sleep                                             (She refers to Buzz’s big brother, circa ‘74)

“You know how horrible (my first born) was? He wrecked cars, partied, wouldn’t call, came home drunk whatever time he felt like, made me crazy. One night I was so SICK of losing sleep,
I prayed: “Lord, you gave me this child 17 years ago and he’s a little ($#!+)! I’m giving him right back to you!”

“Haven't lost a wink of sleep since!”

So there you have it – you don’t physically return the kids; you claim to whom they belong. Repeat the process throughout their lives, to relieve parenting pressure and promote a little more sleep.

Give it a try - beats a road trip to Alabama, promise.




Monday, July 11, 2011

Confession of a HABM

Please excuse this semi-panicked interruption of our College Myth-busters series …

Daddy always said: “What you do comes back to you.”
Dear friend with husband in ministry & 5 homeschooled, practically perfect, (according to Christmas cards & newsy emails) children always said: “Kids will make a liar out of you.”

Preacher Child calls it: Principles of reaping & sowing.
Offering my … CONFESSION: Karma’s kicking my tush, y’all!!!

Should I be blogging with just 2 of 4 children showing promise for college graduation?
Should I wait 4 more years and focus upon King’s race car? Yellow dog?

***** PARENTING 911 *****
After repeated text messages without response…  I cranked up the parenting scale to a 5.7 ...

Since we were walking the dogs together, I called Flower Child – from KING’s cell. Behold, she answered, reporting that she was safe – just visiting a friend from fine arts camp at Geek Tech, catching a movie, in the FRATERNITY house.
Karma , baby. That’s what I get for divulging the family secret of Party Child's keg stand record:
“Mommy, I’m fine, just hanging out at a GT frat house.”

King grabbed his cell, issued orders:”Do NOT drink anything unless you open it, then keep it in your sight and hands at all times.”
I echoed agreement; hung up; called Buzz: “DO you know where our daughter is??”

Unmoved: “Said she’d be home by 11 - I trust her”.
UGH.

I called Preacher Child (He lived in one, albeit it a Baptist campus frat house; acquired quite a frat-experience testimony.)
“Do you want me get her? I’m just a few minutes away!”

(Good thing Party Child was cross -country at Laguna Seca. He only tolerated 1 year of Greek life and can bench 400 lbs.)
Had Preacher on stand-by. Remembered the Hot Air Balloon Mom promise of stealth and trust. Bordering on Helicopter Mom, I texted Flower Child every 27 – 94 minutes.

Mexican restaurant – check.
Yoforia (“Mom, it’s a yogurt place.”) – duh.
Finally (10:42pm): “Safe at dad’s.”

Hate it when Buzz is right.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

He Yells Because He Loves Them

Dispelling Myth #3: You only have 18 years to train up your child.

Truth: They still need you – even after they go to College.

Hauling their stuff back & forth
Finding books on Amazon.com
Money
Health Insurance
Dental Cleanings
Car Issues, their friends’ car issues
Finding football tickets at their fine SEC schools
Taking them and their friends to dinner.
Keeping them on track

Apparently, King never received the parental guidance he deserved; learned everything the hard way. He admits to over-compensating with our children because he wants them to
avoid pain.

Sometimes they avoid King, like this summer.

Preacher Child is in summer school, preparing for real life (taxation, marriage, graduation...).
Scholar child resides in another state.
Flower Child works at as many drama camps as she can pack into her schedule (Paid & unpaid!).

Party Child wishes he’d stayed at the fine SEC institution in Alabama for summer school like he did last year.

It was lecture time in the house.

King decided: Party Child wasn’t properly learning work ethic with his summer job.
“This is the worst recession of recent history - unemployment is 9.2% - the market is down -
no end in site!”
“DO YOU HAVE ANY idea how lucky you are to have a job?!?!”
“You’re working on RACE cars, not mini-vans!”
“I worked on beat up old cars in Miami – before shops had air conditioning!
This is Georgia, how bad can it be?”

(Current weather conditions: North Georgia: 101 degrees; Miami: 98 degrees - I’m just saying.)

Party Child was not happy, but he’s smart and should look forward to a brilliant career in sales. He listened, drank King’s (good) beer, bid his time, let King vent to his big ole heart’s content.

Then he won King over:
“DAD! I don’t (gripe) like this when I’m at work; I do whatever they tell me to do.
Can’t I just be myself at home and tell you what I really think about my day?”

He learned this communication technique from me. Wish I could take full credit for it - but I learned it from Preacher Child.

Funny thing… so far … 2 of 4 children report: King is the one they really miss when they leave home.

Maybe I should start yelling.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mimi's Wisdom - From Birth to College

My mother-in-law offered a lesson the day Preacher Child was born. (She couldn’t have known, but it was a mission statement - how Buzz would develop my character forevermore).

Mimi’s advice: "See that sweet little baby boy? He’ll teach you the balance of life. Daddy throws him up into the air; Mommy clasps her hands on her heart and says “Oh NO!” It’s the balance of life - helps kids grow up."

That was almost 23 years ago and Mimi was right. (Note: She’s Buzz’s mom; not King’s – proves her observation all-the-more universal.)

Here’s how her nugget of wisdom works when they’re too big to toss into the air:

(Dispelling Myth #2 – College is a very rude awakening)

King: In COLLEGE you’ll live on $3 a week and Ramen Noodles, like I did.
(Was Ramen invented in the 70’s? Anyone?)
Me: Honey – should we sign up for the 5 or 7-day meal plan?

King: In COLLEGE, you’ll stay up studying all night long. Did I tell you about the calculus class I took at U of F?
Me: Not all majors require calculus, only class I ever dropped. Don’t take it – not like you want to be a mechanical engineer.
(Note: Party/marketing & Preacher/psych took calculus, I tried.)

King: In COLLEGE, you’ll have to do everything by yourself! You’ll be on your own!!
Me: It will be so much fun in your dorm. You’ll make forever-friends from all over, while you pursue your dreams.

King: You need to LEARN these things – what if your car breaks down in COLLEGE? I won’t be able to help you out.
Me: Look what just came in the mail – your AAA card! Let’s pray you never have to use it.

The Truth –everyone works on their cars around our house, I mean...

"Look, King! No hands!" (Used with permission of Flower Child)

Trust me: Colleges are retirement homes for young people.
Your kids likely won’t miss your cooking, even if you’re fairly reputable. (God bless Pioneer Woman and her Au Gratin Potatoes that saved my Christmas last year, but she can take me on in a few years if I'm wrong: the kids are too busy having fun and studying to miss your cooking.)

The Meal plan is usually excellent, if not – student cards work at local Domino’s, Subway, Chick-fil-A,… on or near campus.

They have access to gyms, (Student Wellness Centers). There are programs such as traveling Frisbee teams they can do for practically free.
(Advice: funded by student activity fees that you pay – be sure your student gets your money’s worth!) They make loads of new friends.

We’re pretty sure they don’t even miss us!

Could I go back to college?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dear God, Is It Time for Them to Leave for College?

Preacher Child left for college 4 years ago – Party Child left the following year. It was a double whammy and we survived.
Learn from us…
Myth #1 about Kids going to College: You’ll mope sadly around – forever.
Truth:
Yes, you are sad at first.
Yes, it is quiet
It is eerily strange to see real carpet, not towels on the bedroom floor.
The bed is always made.
There is less laundry.
Milk sours, ice cream lives long enough to crystalize.
You learn to cut back on recipes & use more freezer zip-loc bags.
You have to take the recycling & garbage out.
You’ll set an extra place at the dinner table subconsciously.
All true – but trust me on this – You won’t be sad forever!
My very wise sister-in-law took her oldest child to camp for an entire summer. He was 1st born, Golden Child of the eventual 8 grandchildren – envy of the family. I said, “But he’s your easy child. Wouldn’t it be better if the Hellion Baby was gone?” (I love Hellion Baby, cut from the same cloth as Preacher Child – blog material for 100’s in the future)
She claimed, “(Heck) no! It doesn’t matter which of the 3 kids leave, life is easier when you’re down one. Doesn’t matter which one.”
I never forgot this wisdom. I’ve embraced peace whenever we’ve been down one child.
Flower Child is the baby; I was very young when Preacher Child was born, so most of my friends are embarking upon their first college-launching experience.
This is what I’m hearing:
Oh, I’m going to be so sad!
Don’t know what I’m going to do!
The kids are lobbying for her room when she leaves!
I’ll hold it together until I drop him off and sob home!
Mark my words – this lasts 72 hours and you begin to realize…
Big shoes don’t trip you by the door.
You can have whatever you want for dinner, whatever time you feel like having it.
Ice cream stays in the freezer for more than 48 hours.
It’s so quiet.
You can back out of your driveway without hitting another vehicle.
They’ll still text you.
Reality Check… Could y’all remind me of all this on July 8th (college orientation) and again on August 9th (rush begins)?
Everyone thinks Flower Child will be my un-doing – so I need to be held accountable on the Truth.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Our Dog is a Rock Star

In a moment of insanity I bought a Yellow Labrador Retriever - only pet I’ve ever purchased. (I believe in choosing at the pound, or being chosen by a stray.)

It was King’s Birthday; I had to top a flat screen TV & surround sound from the “big 5-0”.
There were other things … King had a hard time when Scholar Child moved to Florida. Next year, Preacher child left for college (Surprisingly, I handled it better than step-dad, or special-dad as he prefers).  Next year, Party Child would leave for college; King’s arthritic dog was not long for this world. 3 kids gone and old dog in heaven? I was worried.

So, I ‘reincarnated’ dog of King’s youth, Boozer with the Big Paws – hoping they’d bond before old dog passed and Party Child left the state. Bond they did.
The vet lists: Jackson Brown
(Told you he was a rock star.)

AKA registers: Jackson Patron Crash Rascal Brown
It was collaborative:

Jackson Brown – (Flower Child, King, me) “Doctor My Eyes” - a favorite song; King’s forever stuck in the 70’s; ‘son’ - a word-play.
Patron – (Party Child) It’s King’s favorite.

Crash – (Scholar Child) We’d described little puppy tearing up our home.
Rascal – (AKA) family name.

Preacher child missed out, fraternity beach weekend won – I called him about our new addition (and to remind, send a Happy Birthday wish/text/call)...

“Mom, what is that noise?”

King's birthday gift whining in my car.
“A DOG? WHAT are you thinking?”

I love Preacher Child; always good for a reality check.
3 years later, I still hear yellow dog is the best present King’s ever received.

Neighbors who wished we and our big, loud vehicles would move, allowed their children to play with yellow dog.  We think it swayed the HOA to let us stay.
He’s smart – fetches Frisbees, tennis balls, sticks. Could bruise you with his wagging tail – afraid it will dent my car as he guides me in & out of the garage. (King trained him - 3rd time I brushed a garage door to avoid hitting a Mustang in the driveway)
Happy to report! Old dog has miraculously survived. She dug deep; found youth.

Once, we knew kids were home when the kitchen door slammed – now a tennis ball flies by the window; yellow dog retrieves. We know one’s back.
When King & I got married, insightful friends gave us a terrific set of ice cream bowls – I wrote a thank you, noting “ice cream was one thing we could all agree on”.
Now, there are at least two things, ice cream and the best dog on the planet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hot Air Balloon Mom Quiz

You might be a Hot Air Balloon Mom if you’ve:

  1. Stalked your child’s Facebook page.
  2. Driven to the (party, Waffle House, Movie Theatre, etc.) to confirm child was there
  3. Considered opening child's correspondence, by steam – held to light for preview.
  4. Quietly listened outside child's room (more than 10 seconds) wondering what they’re laughing about. (skype, phone, tv...)
  5. Peeked through blinds as they return, or leave.
  6. Collected 5+ friends’ cell numbers. (Tip: Save when child calls from friends’ phones)
  7. Celebrated with happy dance - first time they drove themselves to practice.
  8. Set up a joint debit card so you know where they’ve been.
  9. Watched child (more than 47 seconds) while they sleep – past the 17th birthday.
  10. Wished you could send child a “Screamer” letter (ala: Mrs. Weasley, of Harry Potter)
If you answered “Yes” to 5 or more of the above, You are a Hot Air Balloon Mom.
(I'm 9 for 10)

You might need a little coaching if you’ve:
  1. Posted your angst on their Facebook page.
  2. Publicly appearanced inside the venue of question
  3. Opened letter; glued back together.
  4. Knocked on door, asked with whom they’re having fun
  5. Banged on window, waiving as they come/go
  6. Called/texted more than 4 contacts if you haven’t heard from child recently.
  7. Demonstrated happy dance for child.
  8. Inquired why they spent $11.92 at Subway or Starbucks
  9. Attempted to coerce information while they’re asleep
  10. Googled “Screamer” and would have ordered – if it could be YOU screaming.
If you scored 7 or higher, Google: Helicopter Mom blog. I am just short of guilty at 6 for 10.

The Scale… If you’ve only offended once, adjust score.
There, now I’m 4 for 10.
Timing is everything.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

5-Letter Words for Men

I visited Dad in Alabama this weekend. King made me promise to get him some Jack Daniels for Father’s Day. You see, dad finally finished the small bottle King purchased for him (Circa 2004) amidst mom’s 10 year battle with cancer and dementia. (King is thoughtful and believes in life’s basics.)

I set off Saturday morning, in search of a liquor store. Alabama has a law mandating 500-mile radii between liquor stores. I finally found an ABC and a small container of Gentleman’s Jack. (Dad’s worth it; it will last until 2019, so I got the best) While waiting in check out – a harmless old geezer lingered, tried his best stand-up: “Do y’all watch that show, LINGO? I heard a funny joke, can I tell it to y’all?” We nodded, hoping to encourage a speedy exit.

“What’s a 5-letter word that makes women more attractive to men?” We collectively gave up. “BEERS!” He announced, and thankfully, after a few more pleas to watch LINGO, left us to ponder.

Old guy in front of me: “Okay then.”

Cashier: “Yea” (shaking head apologetically)

Me:  Public nod – to myself: “Please, God, just get me out of here, I promise to get an Amazon gift card next year, no more Jack Daniels for dad, unless King personally buys it.”

Woman, behind me (who could have taken out the geezer with a single blow): “Well, I know a 5 letter word that makes men more attractive to women: BLIND.”

I love Alabama.

We, the ABC audience, shared chuckles and I began thinking of 5 letter words in relation to men. It hit me - hours later driving back to Georgia: HEART. That’s what I appreciate about the men in my life.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad – you put up with us, provided debt-free educations, loved mom since 1961 and the last 9 1/2 she was with us were TOUGH by any standard, but you never failed and that's HEART.

Happy Father’s Day, Brother - what a wonderful, stable, capable man you’ve become. You’ve got a fantastic job, my favorite niece and who knew what an amazing father you’d be? Not only braving science experiments, but Easy-bake oven, then fake eye lashes and make-up for the dance recital? That’s HEART.

Happy Father’s Day, King – First you deal with your own two, and then find room in your heart for 2 more. You adventured in dirt bikes, fishing trips, mechanics, race tracks, junk yards, jailbreaks and near incarcerations with the boys, and then learned to live with the girls – all the while bestowing your little gifts of wisdom. That’s HEART.

And I love y’all!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When Trouble Grows Up

I spoke to a guy yesterday (Whole Truth: Edwards-Jones guy, instructed him to drain the meager college account for Flower Child’s fall semester). I gave him the run-down on our 4 children and asked about his…

“They’re trouble”, he replied.
“Trouble?” I laughed, “How old are they?”

“They’re 10, 8 and 4.”  After an extreme outburst of laughter, I gingerly advised: Real trouble would not surface until they carried driver’s licenses.
This made me think about our family’s definition of trouble. Wow. There’s trouble I will never be able to write about. I still cry about it, occasionally.

Incidents of “Trouble” that King & I laugh about, while toasting our empty nest each evening:
The Epic Car Crash. Party Child returned from college and cut off by a truck on the highway. His car flipped; crashed into the cement barrier wall. Thank God he was okay (benefits of a car with a roll cage – scares me I can use a term like Roll Cage, but it saved his life). A witness (angel!) stopped and verified previous events for the police report, so our insurance company called it a hit & run. This financed a big unflip-able truck. Party Child was livid about his car – I tried to offer perspective: “But, honey – we could all be at the Spinal Clinic instead of here at Taco Mac right now!” Classic Party Child quote “My body could heal, but my car is GONE.”   Ahhh for youth.

The Big Flood. Preacher Child and his high school girlfriend decided to adventure near the Chattahoochee River.  I’m certain they haven't told me all details of the story (King typically gets the whole story, divulges details over the years). Here’s all I know: sirens went off, dam waters released, and cell phones, Bibles, backpacks were lost. We only laugh because the kids were fine and because whenever we hear the sirens, we shake our heads and thank God they are alive so we can laugh about that day.
The Golf Cart. Scholar child went off-road with a golf cart. Golf cart had to be professionally towed out of a swamp in Florida. We only laugh about this one because we learned about it long after it happened and we did not have to deal with the situation. (ie: pay for the collateral damage.)

I’ve been accused of wearing rose colored glasses – the kids mimic them behind my back as they wink at King, who knows all. There’s only so much a mom can handle and everyone does not need to know everything. Live by it.








Saturday, June 11, 2011

I’m Married to … a Race Car?!

Key trait of a Hot Air Balloon Mom: have a life outside your offspring. (Contrast to helicopter mom, requiring years of therapy once the kids move out)

Not sure who was racing that day – Party Child or King. According to King’s Facebook profile picture, I am married to a race car. (In the lead; blue). A used car dealer once said: “It’s cold metal – can’t keep you warm at night.” King, Party & Preacher Child debate me on this.
Trust me – the race car is His. (Relationships need balance: His, Hers, Ours.)
Ronda Rich warns in My Life In the Pits, her days with NASCAR: Lord, help the woman who falls in love with a race car driver; she will always be second to that car.
I read it too late, years after King came a courtin’. The signs were there:
1)      King drove a truck (I thought it meant he'd fix things. Didn’t realize this meant serious home emergencies and cars, not installing wood floors, new light fixtures...)
2)      Bondo truck was in his garage; hauled from his parent’s yard in South Florida - clear up to Georgia. King showed it off: “It’s to teach the boys about cars, you know quality time!” (He had me at ‘quality time’; my oversight)
3)      Movie and video game titles at their house included words: Grand Auto, Thunder, Fast, Furious …
4)      Massive TV always tuned to The SPEED Channel.
5)      Endless stories about cars he’d owned, street racing days, working his way through college repairing cars.
This sheltered, sorority girl was stricken blind as a bat, and all for love.
My few girlfriends who know about the race car are mystified: Why would a grown man want one?  
King made his case: “Not getting any younger – I have 2 or 3 years to get this out of my system. Are you good with it?”
I am a great wife: “You should be happy – 1 request: do not keep it at our house. The neighbors already hate us with our loud Mustangs, truck and sedans (plus whatever the kids’ friends park on the street) … Warehouse it. OR Get a lift for the garage and let’s buy some nice carriage garage doors.”
The warehouse lasted 6 months; we’re ordering carriage garage doors as soon as the HOA approves. I should have trusted Ronda Rich over that used car dealer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Busted – 2 of 4 Children Now Know

So much for staying under the radar!

A dear friend posted on Preacher child’s Facebook – (sic) "YOU forgot Mother’s Day!? Shame. I just love your Bible verse today and your mom’s blog is hilarious!"
To her credit, this friend has earned the right to impose a little guilt. She’s part of his village and could tell embarrassing stories for hours about things Preacher child has said since his first word (4 months) To his credit, he’s happy to add my friends and those who raised him (including parents) to the flock.
As you can imagine, Party child ‘Unfriended’ the entire family on FB, once word of his keg stand record became a dinner table topic.
We, the parents, do not take stalking rights for granted -maintaining official FB friendship with 3 of 4 children (psst – if you want to have a clue as to what your child does once he/she obtains a driver’s license and/or moves to college, FB is a very effective parenting tool – but you have to be smart.)

I braced for the sermon and surprisingly, Preacher child responded it was “hipster” I had a blog. (Hipster, sweet. I’m sure he hasn’t read it yet)
Flower child heard me laughing with friend-who-blew-my-cover. Reaction: “Aww cute, mommy.”  See? Time wins. They grow and mature, as her reaction was a far cry from her initial opinion of my foray into Social Media, (circa: 2007): "Actually, mom, you are (sic: too old for Facebook) I mean that in the way that it was designed for high school & college students."

**According to a seminar by an energetic young man with ad agency, Ogilvie & Mather, the fastest growing demographic of Facebook users? Females ages 55 – 65, so there.
Fiancé child, betrothed to Preacher child, commented that she loves Pioneer Women, whose poppy seed chicken recipe is the very same she posted a picture of on her FB recently. Social media, breaking down cultural barriers every day. (hmm … Hot Air Balloon Mother-in-law? Yeah, I cringed too – we won’t go there)

Speaking of who we love! I’m learning from my friends. The Big Mama Blog, Tiger Mom, and Spawn of Tiger Mom is paying her way through an Ivy League institution with her new blog.
I’d just love it if you’d leave a comment with who you follow.

*Disclaimer: Only family is fair game. This is a safe environment for friends. I hereby promise not to nickname and add you to Who’s Who. Remember that brief Multi-level-marketing experiment?   Lesson learned: never again join the NFL Club (that’s: No Friends Left). Y'all stuck with me and I love you, even if you didn’t buy the eye cream.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Who’s Who, Who Forgot Mother’s Day and The Score


I wasn’t kidding –2 kids forgot Mother’s Day, 2011. First! Who’s Who (sorted by age)…
King – Husband
Buzz (Great blog for another day, how the name transpired) – Father of my 2
Preacher Child – 22 yr-old, graduating soon, lives in town, engaged, aspires to attend seminary; preach.
Party Child – 21 yr-old bonus son, held keg-stand record at a fine SEC school,  loves cars with horse power and big trucks.
Flower Child – 18-yr old girl, whom my mother (Smart lady; Lord rest her soul) dubbed “my reward” the day she was born.
Scholar Child – 18-year old bonus son, lives in another state

Back to Mother’s Day &  The Score … 
Flower child arose early before we woke for church (I heard noises in the hall, thinking it was Party child returning home). She brought back an apple fritter from Dutch Monkey Donuts– delightful! She made it a wonderful day and half her friends texted me ‘Happy Mother’s Day’. For this, she (and friends) score a 9.1

Party child texted Saturday evening, asked if it was Mother’s Day (yes, he wondered if it was Saturday – not unlike King, who never remembers Easter is always on  Sunday) He scored points for pre-remembering. The first thing he did when returning from work? Said: Happy Mother’s Day! And gave me a big hug. (He also remembered to call his mom to chat,  before speaking to me) For this he scores an 8.7
If you’ve had boys, girls, more than 1 child…  you know I’m grading on a scale. “Different rules for different kids” Live by it.

Scholar Child did not acknowledge Mother’s Day; however, I did not birth him and haven’t had ample opportunity to raise him as the others. (This is a scratch)
Preacher Child –
(That’s right, nothing.)
6pm, Mother’s Day (after quietly steaming to myself most of the day) – I stalked his Facebook to ensure he was alive. Indeed. I stalked his finance to confirm she believed in Mother’s Day – affirmative.

Preacher child posted a mini-sermon about what he’d learned in life. I decided to go public with my angst: “I have found in 46 years: it is a good thing to remember ‘she who carried you in her womb’ on Mother’s Day.” I felt better. He responded at 11:39pm, listing me as his official mom on Facebook. (Point of contention, he’d listed Buzz, Flower child and a few from the flock, but not me) He sent a nice email at 12:01am on how he kept meaning to call, yet didn’t – that my voice haunts him about hospital corners whenever he makes the bed. For this he scores a 3.5, let’s make it a 3
I am still steaming a bit and you’d better bet – optimizing my stealth ways to impose a little guilt here & there to ensure he’s more thoughtful going forward. It’s important to remember your Mama and you know how long your Mama’s going to be around.






Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Premier Entry - Hot Air 1

Life coach, Joel Boggess, posed a question: What is the one thing that you can’t help but do every day? It took 4 days to realize my answer: "Issue advice, whether folks ask for it or not" –which is why I decided to begin blogging.

Thankfully, several friends and my beloved King have suggested I blog for years.

I birthed 2 children and “married into” 2 more. We've bailed them out of jail, gone to traffic court, towed their cars, “adopted” their friends, laughed, cried, prayed, celebrated successes, and learned a LOT. They've carefully avoided repeating each others' mistakes, finding their own brands of trouble and joy. Knock on wood; all four seem to be maturing nicely and on their way to enjoying responsible lives. (I am not holding my proverbial breath … yet!)

What's unique about me? Why blog? I’ve never understood the term: Helicopter Mom. Helicopters roar and hover. People cover their ears and hunker down beneath them.

Helicopter Mom?

Sounds like M-I-C-R-O-M-A-N-A-G-E-R mom.

That’s a 4-letter word, cubed.

No one wants to be micromanaged.

Because our kids have never responded to hovering and roars, I coined the term: Hot Air Balloon Mom. (My husband claims I’m stealth, but that sounds like another military air craft – hot air balloons are happier – which is what I like to be.) I prefer to float gently, working with the ebbs and flows of our lives, intervening only if they're headed for danger - or if they forget Mother's Day.