Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year's Revolution

That's right. I mean business for 2014. No more sissy resolutions about becoming a 'seriously dedicated' more unrealistic expectations about cleaning out my closet and not buying shoes...NO! I finally found something I can get on board with. Like, whole-heartedly get on board with.

2014 is the year when I Just Do $#*%.

(I mean, I must be serious if I have a logo for it, right?)

Please, allow me to explain. It was New Year's Eve and I was at the store, trying to buy the ingredients for a fun, festive cocktail...when it hit me. Since last January, I have wanted to make a Bramble--a delicious, classic drink that I had in Siesta Key. Every time we're out and I look at the drink menu, I'm looking to see if they have a Bramble. I've asked at bars if they make it. No one in town keeps the blackberry liqueur on-hand, so I've yet to find it. But here I was, standing next to all kinds of mixers, and I thought to myself, Nicki--just do it. So I did.

I felt almost empowered when I showed up to the party that night with my lemons, blackberries, blackberry liqueur and gin to give the Bramble a whirl. And you know what? It was FANTASTIC. Why had I waited so long to give this a shot?! We went on a cruise to the Bahamas years ago and had an amazing drink on the island called a Coco Loco--I went home, bought all the ingredients, but never tried to make it--I didn't think I had an occasion to make it for. Why wait??

Now, this is starting to sound like all I want to do is become a bartender. Au contraire, mon frères. Enter Exhibit B.

After moving into our house, of course I was chomping at the bit to get things decorated. The kitchen is coming along, and I finally have a good color scheme and vision...which lead me to wanting a custom chalkboard to go above the trashcan. So, I was at the store the week after New Year's, and thought--you guessed it--Just do it! Found a frame on clearance for $9, bought the right shade of aqua/blue, sanded down the frame, painted the glass with chalkboard paint and voilà! Problem solved.

Think this new mantra is just a 2-trick pony? Nope. Read on.

Bathroom, painted. I fell in love with an OPI nail polish--the gray shimmer, the suede finish...I love it. And in thinking what on God's green earth I could do to our Mamie pink bathroom...I thought of my nail polish. That would be cool--dark, shimmery gray...light pink tile...some white, Parisian wall accents...could be nice! New Year's Day? You guessed it. I Just Did It. And by "Did" I mean "sponge-painted every square inch."

Here's the point. It's becoming more of a mindset--a revolution against procrastination. If I'm thinking of doing something, why wait? Why not Just Do It?! I'm not promoting only Pinterest-worthy projects, nor am I endorsing rash, crazy decisions...but maybe I'm pushing the envelope towards that--just going with your gut, and acting on your instincts. Who knows? Maybe this will cause me to jump the gun on some things--and even though Brad might get caught helping me clean up the $#*% I shouldn't have just done, I have a feeling that the good will far outweigh the bad this year. Either way, I'm sure I'll live and learn in the best possible way.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Go Big...Gray?

This week, there’s only one shade of gray that I’m interested in.

Smoky Gray.

And it just so happens that the Georgia game isn’t the only special event this week—Ben’s birthday is today. So, like any good parent, I waited until the day before to finish up the shopping. (And by “finish”, I mean “do.”) He gets an A for effort, but when Brad came home last night with a smoky gray jersey for our birthday boy, my excitement plummeted to panic when I checked the tag and saw that it was a woman’s jersey, size small.

Since his big gift this year is a shopping trip to buy a new bike, that jersey was going to be the only gift he would have to open up this morning. Time to get creative.

*Disclaimer: this is not one of my prouder mommy-moments.

We put the jersey in his balloon-filled room last night and feigned surprise when he opened it this morning and found that the shirt didn’t fit. What we didn’t expect, though, was his deep level of disappointment when we told him we would have to return the jersey and he couldn’t wear it to school today. (Which would have been perfect because it would have matched the pretzel sticks I made for him to take to his class—they were dipped in orange chocolate and had silver sprinkles on them. That’s right—I have my good mommy-moments, too.)

Fear not, fair readers—The Professor swooped in to save the day. Between busy appointments and classes and busy business meetings, Brad made it over to the Student Store where a little birdie told him the youth-sized jerseys would be delivered today. (I can’t lie—the little birdie was the person working at the store yesterday afternoon, but that sounds a little less 'insider.') I’m not sure what all went down, but I got a text from Brad saying that I would be getting a call from someone later in the afternoon when the jerseys were ‘ready’ and I would need to go to the back door and meet Marlene.* Sounded legit.

Around 1:56, I got the call. I felt a little sketched out walking into the Student Store and trying to find someone that would lead me back to what I was sure would be the Black Market of UT apparel. I even had a getaway car driven by Timmy* just in case a quick exit was needed...or because parking on campus is a beast. Either way, palms were sweaty. Eyes were shifty. And then I saw Marlene.

In an orange and white button-down blouse, perfectly coifed salt-and-pepper hair and pearls to boot, looking like she had stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad. Not a Polo ad that runs in Glamour—I mean like, classy, timeless Ralph Lauren ads that run in a real lady's magazine.

But I digress.

I said, “I’m looking for Marlene…my husband was here--” She put her hand up and said, “Right this way.” Wow, I thought, The Professor has come through…and I kinda feel like VIP right now.

She walked me back to the back of the store, quietly explaining that they weren’t allowed to hold any of the new smoky gray jerseys because of high demand, but when she heard the story about a disappointed birthday boy, and “saw the desperation” in Brad’s face, she just wanted to help us out. She handed me the jersey, but then stopped me suddenly, saying it looked like it ran a little small. While she was ordering some underclassman-stockboy to “find this woman a Youth size small!” I thought of Lucie…and timidly asked if there was one for a 3-year old girl who has an unhealthy obsession with t-shirts. Before I could even blink, she had put one in my hand. It all happened so fast. 

With 2 jerseys in my hands and a little bit of my faith in humanity restored, I went to the front of the store, paid and headed back outside to the getaway car where droves of students, alumni and fans alike were walking around campus…most wearing orange, but some wearing the newly coveted gray. I felt like I had scooped everyone—haha…you suckers will be standing in line for these things tomorrow! I texted Brad: “The hay is in the barn. I repeat—the hay is in the barn.”

So if you think that changing up a uniform for one game a year doesn’t matter, I think Marlene, one particular 7-year old and I would all disagree—the past 24 crazy hours prove that. Now, I know that these things have been available for a couple weeks now, but I’m willing to bet that Brad didn’t even mind running around like crazy trying to make sure Ben had this jersey today, the day before the 'football guys' take the field, pumped to be wearing the same color—he’s one proud papa because he has a little Vol buddy.

Even though we’ll be wearing gray this weekend, we will still be shouting “Go Big Orange!”...and I'm pretty sure that Ben's birthday will now be a little happier. 

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Redemption Song

Sometimes I feel like Red, sitting across from the parole board in Shawshank. Am I sorry for what I did? There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then, a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I wanna talk to him. I wanna try to talk some sense to him -- tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I gotta live with that.

My crime? Being obsessed with clothes. And now…laid out before you, THIS is what I gotta live with.

World War III with Lucie…every morning…picking out clothes. God help me if one of the four pre-approved t-shirts (tie-dye, Monsters University, Angry Birds or purple "Angel" from Italy) isn't clean and ready for her to wear. Literally--God, help me.    

What the heck has happened?! She used to LOVE the adorable clothes I picked out for her! Cute pink bubble skirt with coordinating leggings and a matching headband complete with shiny silver ballet flats, yes please! I was the proudest mommy EVER when I could smugly say "Oh yes--Lucie keeps her hair bows in, no problem. The bigger the bow, the better the mommy, that's what I always say!" But that ship has sailed, folks. That ship has sailed, been hit by a nuclear torpedo and exploded into non-existence with the force and heat of a thousand suns. 

I admit it. In the years before I even THOUGHT about having kids, I was slightly* obsessed with clothes. I spent just about every paycheck from Baby Gap/Cracker Barrel/Chili's on clothes, and I even stooped so low as to lock all my clothes in the trunk of my car just so Michelle couldn't wear them.  

*Some of you reading this may say that this is a slight** exaggeration.
**Some of you may say this is the biggest understatement in the history of understatements. 

I even kept a "clothing calendar" after college--I would write down what I wore each day so that I could look back and say, "Nope--I just wore this two weeks ago. Too soon, 3/4-sleeve hot pink shirt from Banana Republic, too soon. Back in the closet you go." Yes. I had a slight problem.  

Judge me all you want…I'm paying for it now.

After having Ben, I instated a very strict "no-character, no-cheesy-tagline" rule on clothes purchased for or gifted to my handsome firstborn. Again, I'm humbly admitting this to you--I would literally cringe at the sight of onesies with cute animals saying "Somebunny Loves Me" and while yes, I wanted people to know that Ben was obviously thinking "I Heart Mommy" at all times, I refused to let it be embroidered across his chest in a crawler. (There were a few exceptions: A little romper from HHI that had "Poop Deck" written across the butt. C'mon--poop jokes trump all rules, across the board.) I was a flat-out brat, reminding family members around birthdays and Christmas of this regimen and preemptively preparing myself to return anything that broke my rule, like some crazed Fashion Führer.  

Again, judge me all you want…I'm paying for it now.

As I am typing all this out, I am shakily slurping up my third cup of coffee…trying to recover from the massive meltdown that took place this morning.  Little fists of fury, flailing…fiery red curly locks whipping around…the shrieks…oh dear Lord, the shrieking!! And why?? Because she wanted to wear her Angry Birds shirt and non-matching striped shorts. Again. For the third day in a row.  

Call it payback. Call it karma. All of you are saying I deserve this--you are absolutely right. Now that I'm owning up to all this, I just have to find my patience. Because even though these battles make me want to tunnel my way out of her room with a freakin' spoon and crawl through five hundred yards of $@*# just to avoid it all, I just have to remind myself that I am the lucky mother of an adorable little red-headed diva…that this is all (hopefully) temporary…and at some point in the future--maybe a high school graduation party or wedding rehearsal dinner--I can show this picture. Not in the effort to embarrass her. But as a reminder to myself--that even though she's mismatched and breaking every haute couture rule I thought I would live and die by, she's still absolutely beautiful. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Baby Face

I'd like to tell y'all a story about Myrtle. AKA Big Baby. 

Myrtle joined our family over Christmas back in 2007. Mamaw, my grandmother, was going through her doll-making phase and had decided to make each of her great-grandchildren a doll. At the time, there were 6 great-grandchildren. (I think--don't fact-check me on this...and don't judge me--we're up to about 40 people in the family, so cut me some slack.) And out of those 6, Ben was the only boy. So, Christmas Day at Mamaw's, all the kids opened their dolls. 

Now. Just imagine pulling back some red and green wrapping paper and seeing this face.  THIS. FACE. 

I knew the hard work and months of time and heartfelt effort that went into making all of these dolls…so I did what any good family member would do. I smiled, thanked Mamaw for the doll…and took it home with us to Florida and buried it in the closet in hopes that it would not rise again in the middle of the night á la Poltergeist. And there this banished baby stayed.

Until a few months ago.

Fast forward to 2012. A lot has changed. We had Lucie, moved to Tennessee and had finally gotten settled and somewhat organized in our new (rental) home. I had completely forgotten about the hideous plastic baby-creature that had been hidden away for so long. But somehow, Lucie found it. Him. Her. Whatever. Literally, this thing was still in the box…but she insisted on opening it up and adding this baby to her collection of dolls. And sleeping with it. And taking it in the car. And in the store. And EVERYWHERE ELSE. The curse of the risen doll was upon us.

People would gasp. Shudder. Coil back in fear. What…is…THAT?!?!?!  And Lucie would just smile and say, "My Big Baby." (And then she would continue to carry it by its hair across the room.)

This is a problem, people. But, in my heart of hearts, I felt awful for making fun of it. This doll has been lovingly made for my firstborn son by MY GRANDMOTHER. My children's great-grandmother…it's Mamaw!  How can I be so ungrateful and disrespectful?!

Well, Mamaw came to visit…and for once, I wasn't clambering to hide this baby doll away for fear of scaring my house guests. I was actually looking forward to telling her that the kids love to play with the doll that she made for Ben 5 years ago…and how much Lucie loves it and is proud of it. 

In walked Mamaw…and she gasped. 

I thought to myself, Yep. I'm scoring major points here--she's so happy that the kids love her doll!

"Nicki, WHAT IS THAT?!!?"  

Wait--what?!?!? I said "Mamaw--you made that for Ben…!!?"

"NO I did NOT. I found that at an estate sale because I made the girls dolls and I didn't want Ben to feel left out. And he liked ducks. Good Lord, Nicki--why do you have that?! That's just creepy."

No s*@%, Mamaw. 

So here we are today…this creepy baby is still as much a part of Lucie's daily routine as it is a funny focal point with friends--we've started calling her/him Myrtle because we think she would get tons of attention strapped in a Baby Bjorn and walking down Myrtle Beach, Hangover-style.  

I guess I've learned my lesson--from now on, I'm double checking the heirloom-status of everything before deciding how long to keep it. Although I don't know that I could pry Myrtle away from Lucie quite yet…but I'm hoping she'll let go of it the next time a White Elephant party comes around… 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fat Boobies

By now, most of y'all know this story...but for those of you who don't, I'm going to share it.  Trust me--it's a good one.

A few months ago, I went to pick Ben and Lucie up from daycare, and I walked past the director's office and saw her having a serious conversation with Ben.  I heard her say, "Now, Ben, can you explain to me what you said that was inappropriate?" and I decided that I would just keep on walking and let them finish their conversation.  Walking down the hallway to Lucie's classroom, my mind was racing. What could he have said? What could I have said that he's now repeating? Oh crap...

We got to the car and I turned around in my seat.  "Ben, do you want to tell me what happened today?"  He shook his head.  He's the type of kid that just wants his punishment: tell me you're taking away my iPod or that I can't play outside...just don't make me talk about what I did!

But I wasn't giving in--we weren't leaving that parking lot until he told me what he had said that had warranted a trip to the 'principal's' office.  He took a deep breath...and dove right in:

"Well, I said 2 bad words.  The first bad word was fat..."

Now, my heart sank.  I would hate to think that he was being mean to another student or a teacher...but that just didn't sound like the Ben I know, so I chose to stay silent and let him finish his story...and frankly, I was more than a little anxious to find out what the second word was...

"...and the second bad word was boobies."

I had to fight off the urge to snicker.  At this age, of course there's playground talk and I'm sure that this word has been thrown around, along with other phrases and--

"But Mommy, that's not the worst part."'s not?  Uh oh...

"I put them together in the same sentence.  I said 'fat boobies'."

Well, I couldn't let this go without some discussion--and let's be honest, I needed to distract myself from laughing hysterically at this.  I mean, I could see in his adorable face that he really felt bad about saying this...which he should have--it was entirely inappropriate.  But..I asked him why he said that...

"Well, I was reading the dragon book, and the princess had fat boobies."

No, I haven't seen said dragon book or said princess...  Yes, Ben was given a talking-to about appropriate language...  And heck yes I told my friends and we still use it as a catchphrase to this day.

One day, in the distant future, we'll tell Ben that he contributed to some pretty amazing humor--and kids really do say the darnedest things.  I like to think that these brief moments of hilariousness are just an added bonus of being a parent...and this will make one heckuva story somewhere down the road...I'm thinking high school graduation or rehearsal dinner. ;-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sweet Dreams...

I have never claimed to be the world's best mother, but I will give myself credit for one thing: I can stick to a routine, by golly. Especially when it comes to bedtime. Ask anyone--when Ben was little, come hell or high water, we were going to be home in time for his afternoon nap! Granted, when Lucie came along, I had loosened up a little bit when it came to our sleepy-time schedule...but not by much. Whatever--judge me all you want, but my kids know the drill when it comes to getting some shut-eye and I have to admit that I felt a little validated when I was quoted in the latest issue of Babytalk magazine on how valuable a bedtime routine can be!

But one thing is really throwing this drill sergeant for a loop: Lucie's entourage.

Now I know that kids all have their security blankets--literal and figurative. Teddy bears. Blankies. Pacifiers. We never really experienced this with Ben, and most kids I know have only one beloved token. But not our little diva. Care to meet the crew?

Ben went through his Blue's Clues phase a few years ago, and I remember searching high and low, at toy stores and online for a stuffed Blue. Finally, after finding one--it might have been in an airport gift shop!--he was excited for about 5 minutes and then Blue joined the pile of stuffed animals that sat in his toy hammock. A couple weeks ago, Lucie saw Blue...and luckily her older brother is very good at sharing, and we thought it was pretty cute that she had found her favorite stuffed animal. But "Boo" was only the beginning...

I'm pretty sure that Elmo was Ben's, too. I swear--there is some innate magnetism between kids and Sesame Street. I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually changed the channel to the show, but Lucie just seemed to automatically know, recognize and love this furry, red guy. In fact, it was one of her first words: "Dada...Bubba...Mama...Melmo." Of course he takes a spot in the nighttime lineup.

Bunny...and Bunny
I actually like these 2, because I can pinpoint when she added them to the group. Ben had a book called "Hungry Bunny" and it seems appropriate that it's now Lucie's favorite book because, let's face it, she ain't starving. Well, for Easter, she got 2 stuffed bunnies, and they've been inseparable since. Both of them.

She actually has several stuffed puppies--the first was a stuffed yellow lab from Uncle Chris who knew she lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw the DVD cover of "Marley and Me" and the second was from Ben who made and named Bandit for her at the Build-a-Bear store in North Carolina over Christmas. Both great puppies...but which one does she go with? The little stuffed puppy that Santa brought her...and Santa just happened to find it at a Starbucks when he had a craving for a gingerbread latte during some holiday shopping. Can't really blame her for that one--few can resist the draw of S'bucks.

Ni-Night and Pati
I am very grateful that these final items aren't exactly specific. Any ni-night (blanket) and pati (pacifier) will do at this long as you have read "Hungry Bunny," "5 Little Ducks," "Peekabo Elmo" and at least one other book before laying her down with ALL of these things. Yes, you read that correctly: ALL of these things.

Yes, she's high maintenance. Yes, it's a pain to pack ALL of these up in her little tote bag (monogrammed, of course) to cart them all back and forth to daycare every day. But's pretty freakin' adorable to hear her calling roll every morning in her crib. "Boo? Melmo. Bunny? Bunny? Puppy. Ni-night? Pati."

I'm just glad her obsession is with stuffed animals...because I'm pretty sure in a few years, it will give way to shoes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pour one out for my Hammy...

We bought Hammy in North Myrtle Beach. Ben saved up his money, had even checked out library books on how to take care of hermit crabs, and it was all he had talked about before our trip down to the Carolina coast. Ben picked out 2 hermit crabs--along with the purple cage, blue rocks and orange food dish--and we welcomed Hammy and Shelley into the family.

After upgrading to a 20-gallon aquarium, these hermit crabs were living pretty large. Hammy was by far the more active one, even keeping some out-of-town guests awake at night with his crawling and clawing. Ben would take him out every now and then, and I don't think I'll ever forget when I found Ben in the living room...and the empty box on the floor of his bedroom. We spent hours looking for Hammy, praying he wasn't dead, or worse--that he had crawled into Lucie's crib. Let's face it--he wouldn't have stood a chance against our little Miss Piggy.

When Hammy molted--yes, they do that and yes, it's freaky--I thought he was dead. And that was my dress rehearsal for what was to come. My thoughts? Do I buy a new one before Ben notices? Do I tell Ben and use this as a learning experience? UGH! Tough decisions!

A few weeks later, after a weekend in Orlando, I came home and found Hammy. *Reader discretion is advised.* He had crawled out of his shell and was shriveled up. Deader than driftwood. We decided to tell Ben the truth about his crustaceous friend...we sat him down on the couch in what felt like a very after-school-special kind of conversation. There were a few tears, and finally Ben said he wanted to see him. After crying and saying he "very missed Hammy", he asked if Hammy would go to heaven in the middle of the night. I said that he was already there, but Ben was confused--what kid wouldn't be?--because Hammy was still in the aquarium.

I tell you what--nothing quite prepares you for the spiritual, after-life conversation with your 4-year old. We talked a little about someone's soul, heaven, etc. as child-friendly as we could, and then Ben asked if we could put him in a cemetery. I found a little jewelry box--NOT Tiffany blue...sorry, Hammy--and Ben asked me to put a little blanket in there, in case he got cold. We tied an orange bow around the box, and buried him in the flower bed in the backyard, complete with a homemade cross.

As we stood there, we asked Ben if he wanted to say a little prayer for Hammy.

"Sure," he said. "God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands, we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen."

Guess that one just felt right to him.

There are many defining moments in the life of a child as seen through the eyes of his parent. From the time he takes his first steps to his first bike ride, there are years of memories and learning experiences that build up and you wonder which ones will shape his future. I'm pretty sure that he'll look back, remember, and still very miss Hammy.

Even though he was more than excited to bring home Second Hammy. The legend lives on...