Monday, September 24, 2007


A break from the kids!
Hiking in Tucson, Arizona, sans kids. A nice getaway for my husband and I, and as much as we enjoy our kids, we don't like dragging them past the second mile on the trail.
Because of the summer heat, we left as soon as the coffee shop opened. It was a wonderful reminder of how spectacular the outdoors are in the morning, something that is exceptionally hard to do with our kids.

They are more of the "late night campfire" type, not the "let's eat breakfast on the trail" type. Maybe someday I'll wake them up extra early just to let them experience it. Of course, that would mean I would have to get up, too.
BRAIN FOOD: The sagauro catci, like the one I'm standing in front of, starts growing "arms" when it is about 15 feet tall and about 75 years old. Kind of makes my 30-year-old body feel young!

A break from the kids!
Hiking in Tucson, Arizona, sans kids. A nice getaway for my husband and I, and as much as we enjoy our kids, we don't like dragging them past the second mile on the trail.
Because of the summer heat, we left as soon as the coffee shop opened. It was a wonderful reminder of how spectacular the outdoors are in the morning, something that is exceptionally hard to do with our kids.

They are more of the "late night campfire" type, not the "let's eat breakfast on the trail" type. Maybe someday I'll wake them up extra early just to let them experience it. Of course, that would mean I would have to get up, too.
BRAIN FOOD: The sagauro catci, like the one I'm standing in front of, starts growing "arms" when it is about 15 feet tall and about 75 years old. Kind of makes my 30-year-old body feel young!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Welcoming the end of summer with open, itchy arms

By Karrie McAllister

My son was attacked this week. His tiny body, weighing in at a mighty 32 pounds was no match for what he was up against.
It took just a few short minutes of his innocence, and he’s got battle scars all over his forehead, arms, and legs. I have to apply medication constantly.
Anti-itch, medication, that is. Mosquitoes. He’s got a bite the size of Rhode Island that looks like a second brain growing above his right eye, and an unknowing person might swear that he’s got the chicken pox.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that I am equipped with a super-sensitive poison ivy radar and can spot the three-leaved foe faster than you can say “Calamine Lotion,” I somehow ended up with a cute late-summer rash on my legs.
Keeping all of these things in mind, it is no surprise that my family and I have taken to chanting and cheering, “WE WANT FALL!”
We love fall around here. It is, by far, our favorite season. We love it all: the leaf raking, the football games, the apple cider, pumpkins, and yes, even hunting season. The crisp mornings and chilly evenings that make us all declare it is undoubtedly “soup weather.”
But for all of the positives that come with autumn, there are extra benefits to the end of summer.
That’s right, all of the things that we crave during the spring somehow grate on our very last nerves come September. In April, when we’re dreaming of wearing shorts and t-shirts, in September we’re anxious to break out the long pants and sweaters. While we were once counting the days to sprinklers and swimming, now I’m counting the days until the Slip and Slide scar on my lawn heals. In spring, I long for the smell of bug repellent and sunscreen, and now I’d like to be able to walk outside without smelling like a tropical breeze or a coconut. And while I used to dream about thick woodland foliage in my backyard, now I just want the poison ivy to die off for the year so I don’t have to tip-toe around my own house.
It’s not only that, but by mid-September, I’ve officially had my fill of summer food. I love a good grill-out as much as the next person, but a girl can only eat so many hamburgers and hotdogs. Not to mention that if I eat one more version of potato salad, I think I may start to sprout actual potatoes from my ears.
I’m tired, too, of summer footwear. The convenience of flip-flops wears off when I realize, for the millionth time, that my toe nails need a little TLC. I’m ready for shoes and socks, boots and slippers. If no one sees my toes for a few months, I’ll be all the happier.
So it is with great pleasure that I welcome fall to our quaint Northeast Ohio home. The change of season makes this part of the world an ever sweeter place to live. My family has really enjoyed our summer, but we’re ready to pack it away.
We’re ready for that first hard frost that sends our little skeeter friends away for the winter, giving our bitten up legs a chance to heal. We’re ready to trade in our corn skewers for hot chocolate mugs. We’re ready for the day lilies to wilt away and the mums to provide us with their magnificent color.
Bring it on. Bring it all on. We are ready and waiting to enjoy every day of colored leaves and cool temperatures. We need to, because soon enough, the mums will die off and we’ll be trading our leaf rakes for those snow shovels we’ve been waiting to dust off.

What to expect when you meet an expectant mother

By Karrie McAllister

I know. I do the same thing. I see a woman that I know is expecting, and I ask the same thing: “How are you feeling?”
It is a gut reaction, like asking someone, “how are you?” even though they’ll tell you the same answer no matter how they really are.
“Fine.” “Good.” Something like that.
But now, as my own abdomen grows to unrealistic proportions, I am finally having to deal with the question, “how are you feeling?” on a daily basis.
My family asks me. My husband asks me. Neighbors ask me. Friends ask me. Strangers ask me.
And I tell them the same thing. “Oh, pretty good.”
And it’s a big, fat lie.
Like most other pregnant women, although they’ll never tell you otherwise, I’ve really felt better in my life. Wanna know how I’m really feeling?
I feel big. My clothes are in constant limbo. In my early pregnancy, maternity clothes were far too large to wear, and I promise that I spent entire days thinking “I look like I’m wearing a tablecloth...with a dust ruffle” But with passing time and probably more tomato soup and pineapple than I should have, I’m starting to feel more and more like I’m big enough to wear an actual tablecloth.
Just pull one out of the hutch and drape it on—soon enough, it might be the only thing that fits.
I feel bulbous. For ages, the figure of a pregnant woman, all round and soft, has been regarded as an image of beauty. And I’m all for the roundness in my middle. I love it. But it’s the roundness in other places that is starting to get to me.
I used to have ankles. I swear they were located directly above my feet, right where these puffed-up stumps are now residing.
I also used to be able to smile without feeling all of the roundness around my face scrunch up and squeeze around my eyes. In fact, I’m pretty sure my cheeks have officially doubled in size. I’m just not quite sure how to measure that exactly.
I feel tired. I think it’s mostly because I have to haul this big, bulbous body around on a daily basis. And the one part of my body that hasn’t bloated is my brain, so it still thinks that I can go about my regular life, running errands and kids here, there, and everywhere. Somehow, my brain doesn’t seem to be listening to my back at all, which I can tell you is pretty much screaming, “will you please stop going so fast and just tell the legs to walk over to the couch? Can’t you hear the feet? They need to be propped up before they are completely swallowed by the ankles!”
But even with all of the whining that my mouth is still capable of doing, it still can not and will not answer anything but “pretty good” when someone asks me how I’m feeling.
So the next time I find myself face to face with a beautiful, pregnant woman, I’m going to do my very best to not ask her the age old question, so she won’t have to smile and fib. Instead I’ve come up with a few alternatives:
“So what stage of clothes are you in? I’ve got a nice holiday tablecloth.”
“How long has it been since you’ve had ankles?” (Or, “how long has it been since you’ve SEEN your ankles?”)
“By what percentage do you think your cheeks have increased?”
Or maybe I’ll just lean in to her ear and speak directly to her brain, “you may not realize this, but you should really go put your feet up a little. They need it.”

The dinner bell rings…round one!

By Karrie McAllister

I don’t always give my husband credit for his supreme parenting skills.
In fact, most of the time I’m rolling my eyes and mumbling things under my breath when he oversteps the boundaries I’ve worked so hard to set. Being the person who is in charge of the children for the majority of the day, I tend to make the majority of the rules and do the majority of the disciplining.
And when he comes trotting home from work and tells the children they are allowed to do something they I normally don’t let them do, it not only makes me feel small, but it makes me feel like the wicked stepmother.
But he has recently stumbled upon the most glorious parenting tactic that I have ever seen. And judging by the success we’ve been having, I dare say it was quite a stroke of genius.
Like most families, our meal times come with our fair share of struggle. We’ve got picky eaters. One won’t eat vegetables, one won’t eat meat. One would rather sit there and talk about absolutely nothing than eat, one would rather fling his food around the table and burp than actually put anything in his mouth. One won’t stop whining, one won’t stop moving.
And I swear, if it wasn’t for my deep love for food, I’d consider skipping mealtimes all together for the stress it causes me. Not only do I have to get out of my seat countless times to fetch napkins and ketchup, but I spend the rest of my time in between bites convincing and pleading with my children to eat their food.
But no more! Thanks the mastermind that is my husband, I can actually sit and chew hot food and watch my kids become members of The Clean Plate Club.
His brilliant idea? After dinner he hosts a full-out wrestling match in the family room, where my children pummel each other and flail their limbs while rolling around.
Let me explain…
During dinner, he frequently asks to see the kids’ muscles, and we all note how very tiny they are. But then he tells them that meat makes your muscles big and vegetables make your brain smarter so that you can out-smart your sibling once you get in the ring.
And so, what was once an hour of forcing foods down their throats, now we simply have a muscle exhibition and see who is looking especially weak that night.
When it comes to siblings, there’s not a single one who would want to be pinned down by the brother or sister.
So they eat.
And they talk trash.
“You’re going DOWN! Down to the GROUND!”
“Oh yeah? Well, I ate two helpings of meat! Look how big my muscles are?”
“You’re still going DOWN to the GROUND!”
And so on and so forth. The delivery is much better when it’s said by a three-year-old.
Once dinner is over and everyone has finished, the match begins. As I clear the table and do the dishes, my husband, an excellent referee, makes them shake hands and they go at it.
I hear grunts and screams and occasional cries coming from the other room, but it’s worth it because I have no left-overs to pack away and plates so clean they could almost skip the dishwasher.
No, it’s not the classiest parenting trick, but tired parents everywhere know that when the going gets tough, the tough get creative and fool their kids into doing what’s right. And while some may consider wresting a poor reward for eating a balanced dinner, I am sticking with my ingenious husband on this one. And I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first.
I’m also eating all of my vegetables in case I get thrown into the ring.

My first and second first days of kindergarten


***This article can be found at www.momwriterslitmag.com/SmallTownSoup.htm beginning September 24, 2007! Please visit!!! ***

Wet wipes for my back to school tattoo

By Karrie McAllister

This week I will send my oldest child to kindergarten.
We have been preparing for weeks for this next step in her academic career, when I take the baby bird I have been raising and grooming and teaching and drop her out of the nest and into the care of someone I have never met, and then trust that person to love my child half as much as I do.
But back to the preparing.
It seems that being a first-time school-mom should come with some sort of handbook. I have been living my life for the past few weeks trying blindly to prepare my daughter for her first year in school. I just want to make very certain that my kid has a great beginning experience in school, and very, very certain that if she doesn’t, it wasn’t because I messed up or forgot anything.
So we prepare. First task: the infamous school supply list.
I’ve been carrying this list around in my wallet all summer so that I wouldn’t lose it. Folded and crinkled like an old receipt, I studied it long and hard before we went to the store. It seemed easy enough—markers, crayons, paper towels. The basics, right?
But panic set in when standing in the aisle, I read “wet wipes.” Looking in front of me, I noticed something I never had before: there are actually many, many types of wet wipes. Antibacterial ones, bathroom ones, kitchen ones, face ones, and even the kind I have used in the thousands of diaper changes over the years.
I was kind of blocking the aisle when another family walked up, looking for wet wipes.
“What kind do they mean?!?!” I attacked, frantically.
But of course, they had a different list from a different school district and were of zero help. Encouraging, yes, but not helpful.
Suddenly, another mom I recognized from preschool walked by. Abandoning my own children in the store, I ran to say hello (although as usual I had to call her “Mrs. Smith” because remembering parent’s first names is beyond my ability) and grill her on the wet wipe conundrum.
She was polite, but said that it really didn’t matter what type I sent in, and went on her way most likely thinking that I was a lunatic first-time mom.
And while she was right, I was left thinking that my poor daughter might have to wipe her face with bleach if I didn’t send the right wipes to school. Tragedy, and it would be – the dreaded words – ALL MY FAULT.
So instead of guessing, I bought three types of wipes. And I realize that this makes me an official “crazy first-time school-mom” and I should just have “newbie” tattooed across my forehead, but at this point, I am what I am. And I’ll do what I have to do.
What lies ahead? I will wake up on that fateful day, make sure she is dressed in her chosen outfit, feed her a nutritious breakfast, double-check that her bag is sufficiently packed and she has her giant bag of various wipes, and then hopefully drop her off in a timely fashion.
And then I’m guessing I will cry like a baby for the next few hours until I make sure she’s home safe and sound and that she had a wonderful day. At that point, I’ll ask her for a wet wipe so that I can scrub that tattoo off my forehead.
(Stay tuned next week to see if I survive!)

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