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Being a mom, check

It’s Mother’s Day weekend and while I did not intend to blog around the “big day,” I find myself deep in thought about motherhood and being a mom. And before you sit up in your seat and get prepared for a lovely, sentimental piece on the joys of motherhood, I should insert a little disclaimer here — This blog may contain materials that are unsuitable for perfect moms, individuals who have perfect moms or those human beings who aspire to be the perfect mom. 

All righty then. Let’s begin.

When I started the “mom” thing, I attacked it like I did every other role or job.  I set out to be the best, most perfect mom ever.  Our world was full of  cloth diapers, organic baby soap, two of every piece of clothing — one for play, one for good — theme birthday parties with matching cakes, dance lessons,  special sippy cups, lots of  gadgets, video footage and the rest.   Every so often, I  would run down the perfection checklist in my head: adorable child, check, clothing from the Gap, check; educational toys, check; lots of children’s books, check; Raffi music for the car, check; plenty of events to show off adorable child, check.  Ahh — perfection.

After the birth of Max, Genevieve and Izzy, the list looked a bit different: cancel cloth diaper service, buy Kool Aid in bulk,  accept Spaghetti O’s as a vegetable substitute, give away the sandbox some night while the kids are sleeping, forgive myself for leaving Genevieve at the store  during that one camping trip, remember to thank sister-in-law, Karen, for finding Genevieve and returning her.

From where I sit, the whole motherhood thing  is an evolving process.  I pretty much abandoned any and all ideas of  being the ideal Mom somewhere between child two and three.  The sheer mathematics of having four children means someone, at sometime, is going to be disappointed, short-changed or, in the case of Genevieve, left behind.  Once you get your head around this, it’s not so bad.  No more pressure to be Wonder Woman. And the kids, well, you just set simpler, more attainable goals:  You make certain they are potty trained, use their words and can dress themselves.  Sure, there will be other graduating  seniors who  can recite the Gettysburg Address or  calculate the square root of  Pi.  But let’s face it, the world would be a far better place if teenagers would just pull up their pants, say please and thank you and flush when they are done.

Okay, if you want to be an overachiever, you can add another goal or two to the list. You can try something crazy like responsibility and trust. Before you do, however, let me share what can happen.

Maybe it was  Mother’s Day or maybe it was the string of  amazing report cards that came home this week. Somehow I got the feeling we were on track. I felt empowered. The kids were really coming along and well, maybe I should expand my list a bit. How about that trust thing anyway?

And then I had my chance. I dropped Max and four great big football players off at the house. These were  extremely large 16- and 17-year-old football players. I told Max I had to return to the shop. Max turned and said, “Mom, they are not coming in the house. They are just going to wait outside for me. Then we are leaving.” I could see my neighbors watching from their front lawns, eyes glued to my next move. I felt strong and certain. I ran down  my new mental checklist: “He is my son. We trust. I trust him. They are outside. They will not be inside. They are outside. I trust.”

I  pulled away, smiling  and  waving to the neighbors.  A confident, princess-style wave that said, “He has a 90 overall average, he dresses himself and is polite. We are working on the flushing thing, but in the meantime, I trust him unconditionally and I am a great mom.”

Hours later, I went to pick up Izzy from my mom’s house. She greeted me with, “Do you allow Max and his friends at the house when you are not home?”

Ha, I felt all smart and prepared. Obviously she had not caught onto the fact that I am a wonderful mom. “Yes. I am aware of it. I dropped them off, and Max and I discussed it.”

Wow, that felt amazing. How cool is it to be able to trust your kids and give them room to grow? I was driving home thinking of  what other things I could add to the list. Basking in the glow of my new level of proper parenting,  I was suddenly overcome by a wave of  reality. “Hey, Izzy. How did Grandma know Max had friends over today?”

“Oh, Diane from across the street called her.”

“Called Grandma?  Why?”  And as Izzy was about to answer, I pulled into our driveway to find this:

In order to properly feel my pain, see below for what it looked like only hours earlier.

This free-form aluminum sculpture is what happens when you mix high speeds, gravity, a rope swing, size 10 dangling feet and the latest in “go green” umbrella racks.

As Max was trying to calm me down explaining “that he already called Dad,” I was busy spewing words like liability, lucky to be alive and lawsuits. And as I walked around the whole twisted mess of nylon ropes and poor judgment, I knew what I was really mad about.

It wasn’t the damage to the clothesline or the fact that in no time at all, Max had shown trust is a little more complicated than I wanted to believe.

No. It wasn’t any of that. It was that everyone knew. Everyone had watched me set this up, leave and arrive back home. Once again, my world had become “Watch me. I am probably going to do yet another dumb parenting thing. No perfection here, folks. I will do something really dumb, and it won’t be behind closed doors. Nope. It will be right out there so you can all go to bed tonight shaking your heads and wondering what I was thinking?”

While I was  so caught up in how this affected me, I failed to recognize that Max had already called his father. He had explained what happened, offered to pay for the damage and then sent everyone home. There was good stuff here. There was some learning, some trust and even a dose of responsibility.

So, when you make your lists, you can add stuff if you like. Just remember it makes the mom job a bit more complex.  And you have to be prepared for those very public failures.  This weekend, I was reminded that we are moms.  We are used to standing up in the middle of  “Disney on Ice” with a toddler in tow asking anyone in our way to stand back.  “Out of the way!  We are heading for the potty!”  Yeah. We are already used to humiliating ourselves in public. It’s part of the job.

I held my head up high the rest of the weekend. My confidence returned after a good night’s sleep. I waved to the neighbors. I even yelled out to one, “Max made the Honor Roll at school. He is paying for the clothesline, and this morning he flushed the toilet all on his own. Happy Mother’s Day to you!”

— Pamela Huber-Hauck

Pamela Huber-Hauck is a wife and mom in upstate New York as well as a former yarn shop owner. When she is not spending her entire paycheck at the grocery store, she does laundry, chauffeurs, cleans, does laundry. She dreams of being shipwrecked alone on a deserted island. She blogs at Spirit Work: Love, Laughter and Life with 4 kids, 3 puppies & 1 husband. Did she mention she does laundry?

A squeak by any other garment

If it happens to you, do you try to ignore it, laugh at it, or run and hide? Yeah, me, too.

When it happens to others it’s plain annoying. Every time they move you hear it.

Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!

With every step you want to stomp on their toes. Or grease their shoes.

It happened to me today.

But not with the shoes. I have expensive shoes and take good care of them.

But when I got out of the car this morning, I heard it. That familiar annoying squeak.

I listened closely, without my ear on my feet to see where the noise was coming from.

It was a bit higher than the feet. And yet, every time I move, in any direction, up, down, left, right, there it is. A definite squeak!

I reach across my body, and there it is.

I lift my arm, and there it is.

I type on the keyboard, and there it is.

I move in any way, including breathing, and there it is.

Yes folks, my expensive, gorgeous, uplifting bra squeaks.

There. I have confessed.

I shall not oil it for fear of killing someone with the resulting explosion of human body parts.

I shall not wet it for fear that as it drips someone may drown.

I shall not remove it for fear of total embarrassment, not just to me but to anyone I may come in contact with today.

I will walk around squeaking proudly. I really have no other choice unless I want to install a radio or alarm or some other motion-activated noise maker that might drown out the squeak that emanates from my bra.

I am thankful that I do not have any meetings today. I don’t have to see customers, or patients or physicians. See, there is always a reason to be thankful.

I shall sit at my desk, typing and squeaking to my bra’s delight.

Stop by if you’re around, and I will happily squeak for you. If not, be happy that you are not walking around today squeaking, unless you have squeaking shoes. Perhaps you should check BEFORE leaving the house.

FYI: There is a real, actual cause for squeaking bras.

I searched around and found that the squeaking sounds is caused by the underwires rubbing with each other or with the fabric. Often a “flat” (i.e., two-dimensional) underwire may squeak when trying to bend around a curved torso. If the torso is very curved, the underwire has to bend a lot, pulling on the fabric and squeaking in the taut tunnel. A squeaky bra is born.

— Wanda M. Argersinger

Born with a purse and lipstick in one hand and a pen in the other, Wanda Argersinger arrived in life with a very vivid imagination and the need to write. She moved to Florida with her family in 1959 and considers herself a Southerner, reveling in all the quirks, Bubbas, bar-b-ques and seafood of Southern life. She wrote Y-Mee’s A B C Book of Emotions, Bare Elements: Stories of Women of the South and EB and the Ladies of the Bird Table Take Flight, a book published after the 2010 EBWW.

Singing in the drain

Ordinarily I would rather troll for green beans in the drain trap in the kitchen sink than clean the bathroom, but today the plumber’s coming and at $60 an hour, I don’t want him slogging through three weeks’ worth of soggy bath towels to get to the pipes. The culprit is the toilet. The thing swallowed a jelly glass from my prized Flintstones collection and now it’s weak on Yabba Dabba and noticeably heavy on Doo.

So my manuscript and three half-finished blog posts while away the time getting to know Words With Friends and I’m here in sweat pants and tube socks, business end of a toilet brush poised before me like a magic wand.  If you believe what you see in television commercials, glossing the porcelain is two flushes away from a career in the entertainment industry.  Therefore, the only difference between me and Elizabeth Taylor is 40 million in diamonds and a date with the Tidy Bowl Man.

Contagion, our middle school Rare Disease Specialist, is home sick with something even Google can’t identify, and music filters in from the TV.  I flip the toilet brush into microphone position and sing passionately into the bristles.  It’s not a bad day when you look like Elizabeth Taylor and sing like Celine Dion. Bathroom acoustics could make stars of us all.

Behind toothpaste spatters, Celine beckons from the mirror and we launch into the Titanic theme, “Near, far wherever we are. . .”  As the music on the television swells, I throw my arms out wide.  I’m on the bow of the Titanic with the wind in my potscrubber.  The ocean breezes billow around my bathrobe and I sail away on pine-scented dreams.  “My heart will go on and on.”

Suddenly an anxious voice comes from the doorway. “Mom! There’s a woman commercial on, and I have to go to the bathroom.”

Why are kids never too sick to wait until the show is over?  And am I living my dreams to the tune of a feminine hygiene commercial?

I refuse to give up the moment.  My hands reach out to the future. “My heart will go on and OOOOOON!”

The door swings open to reveal an amazingly healthy preteen with an urgent look and a perplexed plumber clutching a drain snake. The preteen rolls his eyes. The plumber blinks and clears his throat with a sound like he’s swallowed half a jelly glass.

“Lady, if it means that much to you, I’ll get the thing out whole.”

In the mirror Liz and Celine sink with the Titanic.  But I can call them back anytime.  All I need is three minutes alone in the bathroom with a toilet brush, a feminine hygiene commercial and a cruise ship bigger than the whole town of Bedrock.

— Amy Mullis

Amy Mullis sings off key from her acoustically excellent bathroom in small-town South Carolina.  She earned an honorable mention in the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition and has served up essays in The Christian Science Monitor and a buffet of anthologies.  For more “Don’t Let This Happen To Me” moments, visit her blog.

7 reasons I would never want to be young again

(Posted by permission of Suzanne Braun Levine. This piece appeared first in the Huffington Post on Nov. 7, 2013.)

I spent last evening at dinner with my “post-50 posse” (that’s what I call that special group of special friends in my eBook You Gotta Have Girlfriends). We have been meeting once a month since 1989, and over the years we have come to count on each other more and more, until, like almost all the women I interviewed about their friendships, “I couldn’t have gotten through it without them” — “it” being any of the challenges, delights and disappointments of navigating a new stage of life.

Back in my thirties I didn’t have time for friends. I was too busy with work and family. But since I have entered the age of self-discovery and adventure — anthropologist Margaret Mead called what feels so good about being over 50 “post-menopausal zest” — I have made new friends, reclaimed long-lost schoolmates, and rediscovered people whose lifestyle (late nights, lots of travel, dating) made it too hard to stay in touch back then. I can’t imagine the rest of my life without them.

That is just one of the reasons I would never want to be 30 again. Thirty is so good riddance. Fifty and beyond is where the action is. I have yet to meet a woman who wants to trade her life at 50 or 60 for an earlier one. Sure, I’d like to have my waist back — and my memory — but weighed against all the rest, it is a no-brainer.

Why would I never want to be 30 again? Let me count the ways:

I am happier now. I have become much better at taking things as they come; no longer does a minor mix-up ruin my whole day the way it would have in the past. Several recent studies confirm that we get happier as we age, because of that mellowness and ability to roll with the punches. In fact, according to neurological findings, as we get older, the brain literally filters out minor annoyances and disappointments. Who needs them anyway?

I’m less popular now. I used to be a people-pleaser. As soon as I found the voice to sing the “I don’t care what people think” anthem, I was off and running — talking back to anyone who was putting me down, taking advantage of me, or just wrong. I now take pleasure in being disliked by people I don’t like. It’s a refreshingly honest state of affairs.

I’m more forthright. I have figured out that I can take the truth and, even more important, I can tell the truth. Well, sort of. I’m still working on not sugar-coating bad news, disguising criticism as faint praise, and laughing when I really want to tell someone they have hurt me. Every time I succeed I feel closer to my goal — authenticity in everyday life.

I have let go of my prized collection of grudges and disappointments. I used to be the one who never forgot a slight — to myself or anyone I loved. So much so that I often found myself seething with resentment long after the offended party had forgiven and moved on. I just can’t be bothered with stale, old baggage any more.

I find other ways to spend my personal time than watching my body deteriorate. Unless it means sharing a good laugh with my friends. I like my body for what it can do and for being healthy and strong; back then it looked better and could do more, but, the truth is much of the time I liked it even less.

I am making a fool of myself. Dignity doesn’t seem such a priority any more. I am told that you don’t really lose all sense of shame until you find yourself frolicking with a grandchild, but I am getting there, trying out uninhibited behavior just for the fun of it — I sign up for a chanting (as in “Om”) workshop — and taking risks without feeling that my whole being has failed if they don’t work out.

I cherish the glass half full. I have a coffee mug that says “Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” The precious moments in the day; my husband’s lovable qualities, which seem so much more important nowadays than the flaws; my own spirit and skills — and my “post-50 posse” — are all gifts I count every day.

As we often hear ourselves say about our circumstances, “It’s better than the alternative.” Even if the alternative is to be 30 again.

— Suzanne Braun Levin

Suzanne Braun Levine is a writer, editor and nationally recognized authority on women, families and media. She was the first editor of Ms. magazine (1972-1988), and the first woman editor of the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review. She reports on the ongoing changes in women’s lives in her books, on television, radio, at lectures and on her website. She’s the author of four books, including You Gotta Have Girlfriends — A Post-Fifty Posse Is Good For Your Health.

Out of the frying pan

I am one of those people who posts pictures of things that I am either cooking or eating on Facebook.  Yes.  I am THAT person.

This modern way of sharing a meal replaces the old-fashioned get together. Although this type of sharing is a necessity of modern life due to our chronic over-scheduling and far-flung friends and relatives, it’s also useful for hiding our mistakes.  You see the delicious end result, not the destroyed kitchen it took to create the dish, or the five times I got the recipe wrong before I finally hit on the magic combination that made it edible.

I am not someone considered a “natural” in the kitchen. That title is held by my older sister, Mignon. No matter what she decides to cook, the food looks magazine perfect, is delicious and is prepared correctly the first time.  Always. Culinary perfection in a way most of us stumbling around the kitchen trying not to burn the pot of water we left on to boil would aspire to, if only we could remember why we put the pot of water on to boil in the first place.  I have had open pouting fits because she made one of her heavenly (and HEAVY) cream cheese pound cakes, and either due to timing or the cake being for someone else, I couldn’t get a piece.  She is the only person who can cook liver that I will actually eat, and one Christmas she served up a re-imagined banana pudding that has the entire family begging her for it at every holiday.

I am not a terrible cook, but I know my limits.  So long as I keep it simple, the kids don’t end up eating sandwiches or cereal for dinner due to my attempts at creativity.  My disasters are numerous and legendary.  Just ask the kids.  Take the steak I killed the other night.  Yes, I know it was dead when I bought it at a huge markdown from the store, but I delivered the cheap cut of meat (it was hugely marked down for a reason) to a second death by way of what was supposed to be a short stint in the oven that wasn’t quite short enough.  When I pulled the steaks from the oven, I’m not sure what alarmed me first: the strange smell, or the way the steaks had curled up in the middle of the pan, as if recoiling from the marinade I had put in the pan to keep them moist.  The steak knife met with a great deal of resistance as the meat absolutely refused to be separated from each other, and the first taste reminded me that I needed to clean my daughter’s sneakers for school the next day.  The kids tried the steak, and managed to set a record for spitting it out without ever chewing it.

Mercifully, it’s not always that bad.

The saving grace for me has been cooking shows. I am a visual learner, and watching people do things while they explain what they are doing goes a long way in making sure I actually understand the process, as well as giving me an idea of what each step is supposed to look like.  I can’t tell you how many times I have followed a recipe only to end up with food that looks more like it came from the Cartoon Network than the Food Network or the Cooking Channel.  Before America’s Test Kitchen on PBS taught me how to make a bechamel sauce, add cheese, choose whatever pasta I wanted to use, then bake the whole thing in the oven, I was still making boxed macaroni and cheese, my daughter’s favorite food.  I have now attained bad-ass status in my daughter’s eyes because I don’t have to use the boxed type anymore; I can cook what she likes from scratch. If the ability to make my kids favorite dinners, or heck, even make something they will eat without complaint or mysterious frowns, gets me hero status, I’ll take it.

My son, Damani, is turning into quite the cook himself.  He’s also a visual learner, and by watching me, figured out what not to do in the kitchen, as well as how to make sure at least some things go right.  He took a summer course from a chef at our church and performed work study in a Marriott Hotel kitchen.  He has the added benefit of YouTube for learning to cook new dishes, and a knack for adapting recipes if he doesn’t have every ingredient he needs.  He also has a unique gift of being able to taste a dish and not only guess the ingredients, but how to prepare it. I found out about this trick with a breakfast casserole I had purchased from a convenience store. He took one bite, told me what was in it, and after I bought the food needed to re-create the dish, he made a better version of the casserole, and it is now a staple on weekend days when we are going to be particularly busy.

Just so you know, I do not cook on Mother’s Day.  I buy the groceries needed for my special dinner, then tell the kids what I want.  This past Mother’s Day, I found steak on sale (not a cheap cut, just on sale), fresh broccoli and potatoes. I didn’t have to give my son much direction, my daughter happily helped out, and the dinner pictured was the result.  It was every bit as delicious as it looks. I describe myself as an average cook, but my son is turning out to be quite the superior cook.  To the point where he and I can switch off cooking duties during the week, and I never have to worry that the food will be inedible.

I love it. And I’m so glad he didn’t learn it all from me.  Then I’d be worried.

— Erica Washington

Erica Washington is a 41-year-old self-described geek who works for The City in Southern California.  In her spare time, she hikes, wrangles two children with ADHD, does lots of church stuff and blogs about how finding things in her apartment is an all-day task.  She blogs at House of Perpetual Distraction and tweets at @SouthBayGeekGrl.

All I ever wanted was a smoothie

I had a wonderful motherhood moment the other day, the kind of thing you hesitantly confess to during a baby shower. The expectant mother laughs good naturedly, but you quickly realize she’s thinking…what a psycho, I will not be that mother! Sadly, I never thought so either.  Really, it’s quite amazing our children make it to adulthood with us mothers around. Or perhaps it’s just my children.

Now, when people ask, “What’s your worst parenting moment?” I can ditch my old stories.

All I ever wanted was a smoothie. And as usual, it was a hurry hurry early morning.  And dear husband was gone.  He had flown to Baltimore, had just called to tell me all about his morning run past the White House, Smithsonian, war memorials, a few members of Congress who were still not balancing the budget, past the Lincoln Memorial to do a few fist pumps. Hmff.

I, however, was having my own morning run. Fist pumps included. The same run most mothers have between the hours of 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.  It is the one that looks like dear mother shaking shoulders, turning on bedroom lights, singing annoying good morning sunshine songs, putting cold hands on warm stomachs (it works well).  And then down the stairs to stumble around, letting the dog out, making lunches and snacks, finding papers you never signed, calling up the stairs (no yelling!), calling down the stairs (yelling!), hurry up, let’s eat, bags packed, hair combed, backpacks found, shoes, underwear, feeding dog. …Yes, it was that kind of morning run, not the serene one outside by myself.

Life would be much better with the smoothie; it always is.  So I grabbed all the fixings for a top-notch special: lime, beet, carrot, apples, pear, spinach, avocado, strawberries.

From the fridge I also grabbed a small glass cup of smoothie left over from the previous day when some sneaky child had put it in the fridge for “later.”  I dumped it in the Vitamix and left it there to drain, to save every last nutritious drop.

To multitask I filled the sink with soapy water (yea, the dishwasher is broken AGAIN!!!), called up the stairs a few more times, told Paige that school really was fun, she just needs to find the fun, and please don’t cry because it was going to be such a fabulous day!

I peeled the carrot and the beet and threw them in the Vitamix, added everything else and finally, turned it on.  Crunch, crunch went the frozen vegetables; whir, whir went all the fresh fruits. For some added benefit I added chia and flax seeds. In less than a minute, we had smoothie-liscious.

I pulled out the five glasses, filled them to the top, and told the kids to chug it quickly before the train pulled out.

Nelson gulped first. “Mom, I think you added too many chia seeds.” He licked his lips, made an incredulous face.

“Drink it,” I said. Don’t even think about foolin’ this Mama.  She’s on to you and your crying wolf ways: ”Mom, this milk doesn’t taste right — it’s spoiled!” they say almost daily, after they’ve left it too long and it’s grown slightly warm.

There was that one time it really had spoiled and I had made them drink it anyway, before actually tasting it.  Ooopsy.

Anyway, Nellie did what a good Nellie boy does and chugged his smoothie down.

Brynne was doing her hair in the bathroom so I brought her smoothie in and told her to drink up. “Hmmm,” she said, taking a drink.  This is Brynne language for: some concoctions are just better than others.

I went back into the kitchen and took a large slurp from my large glass.  Yum! Pause. Hmmm.  There was definitely something a little off about this smoothie.  It tasted…gritty.  It felt like I was actually chewing on tiny little pieces of something. It tasted like…ocean sand.  Like…glass.  My eye caught the sink.

The last 10 minutes of my life flashed before me.

With horror I realized there was no small smoothie glass cup from the day before, sitting in the sink waiting to be washed.  I suddenly recalled how I had started the morning smoothie:  By putting the small glass cup INSIDE the Vitamix to drain.

And had never taken it back out!

I ran to the bathroom and lifted the glass out of Brynne’s hand.  ”You don’t have to drink this,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Um.”  At this point I should have changed the subject, but the truth was just too delightful.

“Well…I accidentally put a glass cup in it.”  Why I divulged this information I do not know.

“Nelson!” Brynne, the loudest child in the world, yelled.  ”Mom put a glass cup in the smoothie!”

Nelson looked at me and back to his empty cup. “So I just drank glass?”

“Yep, I think you did, buddy.”

“Great, mom.  I’m going to die of internal bleeding.”  Please not today.  We have our last soccer game under the lights tonight…it’d be real inconvenient….

“Let’s go to school!” I said briskly.

While they found shoes and talked about drinking glass, I dumped the entire, very large amount of smoothie outside on the overgrown lilies. Oh, it hurt.  You know how I feel about my smoothies. It was a slow and painful death.

What a beautiful beet color it was…carrot, avocado, apples…all wasted…blended with ground glass. I also paused right there in the kitchen to stare at the Vitamix. What a marvel — in 60 seconds a glass cup was pulverized!

Off to school we went.  And then worry began to attack.  My cheeks began to burn, my heart began to pound. It is a common technique in mystery novels to poison your guests with ground glass. Shards are far too noticeable and cut your throat and esophagus to pieces. Ground glass, however, is undetectable. By the time we arrived at school I was having a full-blown panic attack.

I said a hasty good-bye (school is FUN, Paige, it’s FUN!  Find the FUN today!), wondering if this was the last time I would ever see them walking around like normal children should. I suddenly loved them even more. I especially watched Nelson walk away. He was the only one who had drank the entire smoothie. Was he going to keel over at any moment? What would husband say?

Should I go in and talk to the nurse?  But how would I even start to explain?  Hi, I just fed my son ground glass, is that okay?  Like a coward I raced home, trying to comfort self that the glass had been spread amongst a large vat. He couldn’t have gotten very much. Run, Mama, run — find that Google search to exonerate self!

I found a blog post recounting how one boy’s mother had a mean neighbor who poisoned their pet dog with ground glass. They came home to find their sweet puppy dead, foaming at the mouth. This was incredibly unhelpful.

Then I found a snopes article explaining the origins of ground glass as a poison. Crush into fine powder, surreptitiously add it to something your victim will ingest and then watch your victim fall to the floor, writhing in agony.  I could totally see Nelson doing this at school. I about pulled my hair out.

I began to recall all the accidents harried mothers had. My mother had always been so sure to tell me about these incidents — toddlers drowning in toilets, mothers leaving infants strapped into car seats in hot cars, mothers reaching into the backseat, turning their head for just a second — oh, I’ve heard them all.  And all of them were accidents. Nonetheless, they were mothers who had just been too harried and busy.

Snopes quickly got to the point, thankfully, before I was fully hyperventilating and breathing into a brown paper bag.  Fact or Myth: Ground glass is a poison. Verdict: Myth. Other quick Internet searches confirmed the same until I was finally breathing without the bag.

I watched the children carefully the next few days, especially Nelson, who, except for his normal moodiness, seems to not be suffering from glass poisoning.

I swear, I was just trying to make a healthy smoothie.

So, I have been an especially attentive mother ever since. I’m sure I will grow weary of such attentiveness. But for now, eyes are on the road. We are NOT in a hurry. We drink only cold milk. Floss? Check. No glass in smoothies. Crisis averted. For now.

— Amy Makechnie

Amy Makechnie is a  freelance writer, sports nutrition consultant and the mother of four children who she tries to keep alive with nutritious vegetable smoothies. More of her amazing mothering skills can be found on her blog, Maisymak. She is in the querying stage of her first novel and collecting fabulous rejection letters for her thick rejection letter scrapbook. “It’s really lovely,” she quips.

Do I have to open these presents?

I received a lot of really nice gifts for Christmas last year. I am still trying to get some of them open!

My granddaughter gave me a new curling iron. It was in a plastic box inside another plastic box. I borrowed my son-in-law’s pocketknife to try to open it but it wasn’t sharp enough. I grabbed the kitchen scissors out of the sink, but they had turkey skin on them so I gave that up for the moment.

After trying to open the curling iron and giving up, I unwrapped “The Devil Wears Prada.” It was on my “wish” list. We agreed to watch it after presents were all opened. The movie was in a box that normally holds 10 reams of paper so I wouldn’t guess what it was. Inside that box were several other boxes, some bricks and a bunch of old magazines!  Way down inside I found the movie. Yay!! I love that movie!  We set it aside to watch later.

I gave my grandson a box of “army men.”  He loves coming over to my house and playing with what seems like thousands of army men that he keeps in a box in the den. This Christmas gift added another very large platoon to an already large enough army to take over the world.  We had to go out to the garage to get a hammer to loosen the lid and then inside the plastic box (that we almost broke) were a bunch of soldiers wrapped in yet another layer of plastic and foam. He, being a determined little kid, kept us entertained for about an hour while he managed to rescue his army men from their packing.  I now have army men all over the house — little bitty army men that the vacuum cleaner doesn’t like!

When it was time to settle back and watch “The Devil Wears Prada,” my granddaughter opened the outside wrapping. Then she took the cellophane off the next layer of what I guess is protection from theft and slit some things on all four sides with her fingernails. Then she opened the final packaging.  She tried to get it out to slip it into the DVD player and there was some kind of a snap thingy that held it in the packaging!  She became totally frustrated and stomped off to the bathroom to try her new lipstick.

No one else wanted to watch the movie bad enough to wrestle with the snap thingy so we played a Josh Groban CD (opened the year before), lit the fireplace, had a cup of steamy hot chocolate and let the army men attack.  We agreed to watch “The Devil” when we have the patience to wiggle the snap thingy until it releases the movie. Listening to Josh Groban was probably a better decision anyhow. Josh and the fireplace calmed our nerves and the evening was beautiful, even if we couldn’t get half of our gifts unwrapped.

But this year, all I want is a nice poinsettia to put on the coffee table!  A tin of chocolate covered almonds would be great too!  Nothing wrapped, please!

— Caroline O. Reid,

Caroline O. Reid, a writer in Bakersfield, Calif., retired twice — once from an executive administrative position for a major oil company and then from a part-time position in her daughter’s consulting business. She now spends her time writing, submitting queries and reading rejection letters. She has been published twice in Chicken Soup for the Soul and wrote a humor column for a now-defunct local newspaper called The Northwest Voice. She freely shares her opinion in many published letters to the editor in the Bakersfield Californian.

Life with whiskers

The first time I saw it, it was by itself, sort of brownish black in color. I was quite surprised to to have it attach itself to me, and I decided immediately it would have to go. There was enough going on in my life right now. For instance, getting old. The funny thing about that is that I don’t remember getting there. All of a sudden I was. Or am.

Sure, I had gradually grown used to being called Grandma from a number of laughing, wiggling little clones in perpetual motion that my children kept adding to their households.

The first time I got that title I was only 39, and no one considers that to be old. It was fun, in fact, when people thought I was the mother. But as I said, those years went so fast I didn’t see them slip away.

One of the signs of getting old that brought the truth to light was when I decided to stop coloring my hair and wear it short. In a little while I looked like a slightly melted snowball had permanently nested on my head. On the upside I noticed that my wrinkles didn’t seem as prominent as they had with my darker hair. I decided to keep the snowball for awhile. But all is vanity someone once said.

Maybe it was my imagination, but I began to notice that whenever I was driving, cars behind me seemed obsessed with racing to get in front of me even though I tend to drive a little bit over the speed limit like every one else. That never happened when my hair was long and brown.  Do they automatically think white-haired people drive too slowly?

The next thing to bring my attention to this state of the elderly was that I could see better when the newspaper was several feet away from me, or even on the floor. After a while reading a book with my arms stretched out so far got a little tiresome. I succumbed to a pair of drugstore reading glasses, not wanting to admit or pay for an extravagance I was sure I would only need occasionally.

That, of course, changed the day I wore one navy and one black shoe to church. I also thought it particularly strange when the waistbands on my skirts and slacks all began to shrink while the length of the clothing items stayed the same. And the day I couldn’t see my knees while putting on my shoes, I seriously thought of changing my motto “Life is short — eat dessert first.”  My sister unwittingly encouraged me by saying that fat was only deep skin. I decided then, that I could at least hang onto my backup motto, “A chocolate a day is really okay, but two is even better.”

Then I started to do dumb things. I told myself not to tell my children lest they consider putting me in a nursing home. There was the time I stopped at a gas station, paid for my gas and promptly drove off to do errands. I had to do a bit of talking when I returned to the station to get the gas I paid for. On more than one occasion I put a cup of water in the microwave to make tea and upon opening the door found that I hadn’t even turned it on.

The worst one was when I left my billfold in the top of a grocery cart in broad daylight and didn’t miss it until I was all the way home. It was a total of 50 minutes from the time I left it and the race back to retrieve it, all the while praying it would still be there. The Lord blessed me, for amazingly, it was in the cart. I told myself these incidents were all due to preoccupation, but try as I might, I couldn’t think what I was preoccupied with.

Now, I had to deal with this unwanted visitor. My thoughts went back to when I was a little girl watching my dad shave. I never dreamed I would one day have the same nuisance in my old age. Whoever heard of a woman with whiskers? Except maybe Barnum and Bailey. Is this, too, a part of growing old?

It only took a second to pluck it, but as time went by it multiplied, and the task of removing them grew into a lot of minutes each day. I finally resorted to a razor. That was not the way to go. They grew quicker and with more vengeance. I now had an idea of what my dad went through, and I didn’t appreciate it any more than he did when on occasion I nicked myself and had to walk around with a tiny dot of tissue on my face.  I’m slow breaking into new ideas, as a T-shirt of mine says, “Traveling 33 RPM in an Ipod World,” but I must check into something else to delete whiskers.

My sister laughed when I complained about it. She had been dealing with it herself. She said she just thought of them as stray eyebrows.

— Lenna C. Wyatt

Lenna C. Wyatt, of Scottsdale, Ariz., has written dozens of short stories, many with O. Henry-style endings. She’s nearly finished with a mystery and continues to work on an archaeological novel about the first 2,000 years of human history.

Reflections of Erma