Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Shopping!

Husband JP and I were lucky enough to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner with Older Daughter’s in-laws, who pretty much set the standard for Southern hospitality and generosity. Not to mention incredibly good food — melt-in-your-mouth smoked turkey, Older Daughter’s signature corn casserole, homemade sourdough rolls and that broccoli salad with onions and grapes I love but never make myself were only a few of the highlights, along with JP’s favorites of deviled eggs and green-bean casserole. After we rolled ourselves away from the table, it was time for after-dinner entertainment — which, predictably, seemed to split along gender lines. Those who were planning upcoming shopping trips —  this group seemed to be mostly women — settled in to scan the ads and make a schedule. Outside, another group — and this one was mostly men — tried to outdo each other with feats of strength, skill and endurance chopped firewood from a lovely old cherry tree and fixed a balky chainsaw. But then we regrouped for a late afternoon hike. And I got to take some banana pudding home! So my Thanksgiving started out with precious grandbaby hugs and ended with a bowl of leftover goodness. Hope yours was full of love and sweetness, too.

Camo Fail — and Happy Birthday!

Photo by Danielle McCann, Florence, Ala.

Our younger grandson  turned 1 year old this past weekend and my son-in-law’s family hosted a joyous party on a perfect fall afternoon. Older Daughter, mom to the birthday boy, asked one of her friends who’s a super photographer, Danielle McCann,  to come and take photos. This was the best idea ever,  because that meant we adoring relatives could simply stand around and admire instead of stressing about preserving precious moments for posterity. Well done, Older Daughter! And well done, Danielle (Or “DeeDee” as she’s known at our house) for these wonderful photos. And well done Younger Daughter, too, who couldn’t resist the creative forces that were unleashed and so wrote this caption for the photo above: “As he stood from the ashes of the dying trees, the Young Child suddenly realized his camouflage had failed him. He froze. But the game was over. ‘Curse you, Robin’s Egg Blue!! CURSE YOUUU!!!'” My family …

Happy Birthday to Grommy

Happy Birthday to my mom, also known in our family as “Grommy” — although I’ve forgotten which grand- or great-grandchild named her that. We gathered to celebrate her day along with other fall family birthdays a couple of weeks ago, and I started the thing I’ve been threatening to do for years: Wrap all presents in plain brown paper and then decorate accordingly. I have to admit that my mom’s birthday present was my first effort, and I think worked pretty well. It was fun, anyway. Her present was a wooden plaque making fun of celebrating her preference to have a little coffee with her cream and sugar. I wrapped it up and then my 4 1/2-year-old grandson, Nolan, and I collected fall leaves from the yard — he liked the crackly brown ones best while I went for the pretty red and orange ones. We then carefully and meticulously taped the leaves to the top of the wrapped package and wrote our birthday message directly on the brown paper. Okay, that’s a big fat lie. The “careful and meticulous” part was purely Nolan, who scorned my haphazard design approach and spent several minutes A) planning a template for the leaves (“No, Kacky. The little red one should go HERE.”) and B) unrolling the tape edges that had folded back on themselves so we would have smooth and wrinkle-free strips. Plus, his handwriting on the “happy birthday” was better than mine. Obviously, one of us has artists for parents, and it’s not me. But I have a beautiful, talented, strong, loving, kind and smart mom — who always A) makes detailed plans before attempting a project and B) reuses and repairs things instead of throwing them out. Happy Birthday, Grommy! We love you!

A Blue-and-Orange Graduation

You know this is a completely objective and un-biased blog — except when it comes to the Smartest and Most Adorable Grandbabies Ever in the Whole World, of course — and just because I recently went to an Auburn-themed graduation party and had a wonderful time does NOT mean I lean that way. Although it’s a proven fact that Alabama fans are THE MOST obnoxious crowds and Nick Saban is THE MOST inscrutable coach. Because here in the Heart of Dixie, you have to choose. There is no middle ground between THE MOST annoying folks in the conference and Auburn. See? In my state, even a graduation party brings out the football in us. I mainly wanted you all to see these fun and creative decorations, such as the crepe-paper streamers that honor the ailing Toomer’s Corner trees and the cute and delicious graduation mortarboards with blue and orange accents, but now I’ve worked myself into such a state that I need another cup of coffee. Anyway, congratulations to Older Daughter’s nephew-in-law on his graduation from not-Alabama. He’s a smart and talented young man who will do great things. War Eagle!

De-Cluttering

In honor of back-to-school re-organizing, I’m de-cluttering the random chaos that tends to take over my brain and leaves me unable to do even the simplest of tasks. (“Sweetie,” husband JP says to me, patiently, “is there some specific reason why you’re burning dinner?”) I mean, the blogosphere here graciously has gifted us with infinite white space to fill up with all my rabid mutterings share thoughtful and meaningful insights, so we should take advantage.

First, as we’ve been doing around here all weekend, let’s check the weather. My Southern state is approaching lockdown with news of Isaac “barreling toward,” “aiming at” or “targeting” — depending on your reporter — our coastal regions and beyond. (Grammar-geek-question-the-day: Can hurricanes actually “aim?” Discuss.) But we’ve got Jim Cantore to pull us through. I adore this guy! I think he personally is responsible for an uptick in Weather Channel viewership when hurricanes threaten. (Overheard in grocery-store line: “I can’t go to lunch with you. I’m headed home to watch the hurricane.”) Cantore’s devotion to giving us the full story while getting blown around by wind and rain is legendary. His intense yet calm warnings of potential doom sort of make me want to nail plywood over our windows even though my town is hundreds of miles away.

Second, it’s Freakin’ Finally Football here in the South. And probably other places, too — we just don’t think too much about them this time of year. High schools have been at it for a couple of weeks or so, and SEC play opens on Thursday with South Carolina visiting why-are-they-still-playing-football-please-just-let-them-stick-with-basketball Vanderbilt. As much as I harbor pure and unadulterated dislike for one specific team in my conference (Hint: It is not Auburn.), I’m an enthusiastic fan of all things SEC. And this year, I even have an SEC student — Younger Daughter is in Knoxville doing grad work at the University of Tennessee. I’ve already started collecting an orange wardrobe.

Third, that thing about Younger Daughter moving to Knoxville to do grad work? She’s a grown-up woman making grown-up choices and doing just fine on her own, thank you very much, yet I still cried when we moved her two hours farther away. Of course, the tears could have been my middle-aged body protesting after a couple of days of packing and lifting and tugging and toting — although she did most of the prep work herself — but I think I unconsciously was revisiting here first day of kindergarten, which I did not handle well AT ALL. She called a couple of days later while walking around campus. “How are you doing?” I said. “Fine,” she said. “It’s just me and 30,000 other students.” Welcome to the SEC!

Fourth, my incredibly cute and adorable grandsons are … incredibly cute and adorable. The 9-month-old is calm and relaxed and constantly entertained by everything going on around him, although he already seems dissatisfied with crawling and you know he’s thinking, “So, you just put one foot in front of the other and try to not fall down, huh? I bet I could do that.” The 4-year-old, on the other hand, is the one usually doing the entertaining — why sit quietly when you can pretend to be a pirate or Batman or a ninja warrior? Dirt, mud, water and sand are his tools of choice, yet he also enjoys a good tea party and, for awhile the other day, decided his name was Trixie. This bodes well for 21st-century manhood.

Fifth, I help with a mediawriting lab at our local university. One of the first assignments this semester was a just-for-fun project to see how well the students did when they had to write something by hand. You know, with a pen and a piece of paper. Like the olden days. As they worked, I noticed they all seemed to have developed their own individual style of loopy or choppy sort-of printing — none of them used cursive anymore and most of them hadn’t written anything in cursive in years. Interesting …

More to come –

 

 

 

 

A New Olympic Sport?

You get extra points if you immediately know what this image is and what it means. Until a few weeks ago, I would have had no idea  — A new kind of container for growing tomatoes? A techno-modern jewelry holder?  An industrial-minimalist magazine organizer? Good guesses. But all wrong. The orange part depicts a basket (or “disc entrapment device”) used in playing disc golf and, since this course was in the sandy wilds of north Florida, the arrows are directing you to the next hole so that you don’t get lost and subsequently carried away/eaten by hordes of mosquitoes. Do you know anything about disc golf? I was completely clueless until I hung out with my 13-year-old nephew and his mom (my sister-in-law) and dad (my brother) during our recent family beach trip. Banish all thoughts of lazily playing Frisbee with your dog — which, by the way, is never as successful as it looks on TV — because the only thing that carefree activity has in common with competitive disc golf is you throwing something. A disc-golf family like my nephew’s travels to courses and competitions the way other families take to the road for high-level baseball or softball games. When playing a course, competitors lug around backpacks filled with a couple of dozen discs and say things such as “This mid-range one is good for a hyzer flip, or should I use an overstable disc for a low-speed right backhand fade?” Since trees are the main challenge, my nephew suggested I make my first disc-golf attempt when we reached the one hole that was in the open — although you had to throw across a 700-foot-long ravine. Luckily, my brother volunteered to climb down and retrieve my discs that barely made it … well … I’d generously say 25 feet. This is serious stuff and much, much harder than it looks. I will never smile again when the subject of disc-golf at the summer Olympics comes up.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Recently my whole family — all 15 of us — got together for a beach week on Santa Rosa Island, Florida. Pensacola Beach is one of my favorite places: The sand is beautiful and it’s the perfect vacation mix of fun-things-to-do versus nothing-to-d0-but-sit-on-the-sand-in-peace-and-quiet. My daughters and I spent many summer weeks here when they were younger, and in recent years we’ve dragged coerced brought Husband JP and Older Daughter’s Husband along, too. We loved introducing “our” spot to other folks in our family — Pensacola‘s blend of history, architecture, shopping, food, music and sports (baseball, surfing, paddleboarding, disc golf)  as well as all things Blue Angels meant everybody in our group found something intriguing to explore. Of course, our three younger members — age 4, 2 and 8 months — were content to stay at Family HQ and  chase crabs, dig sand and throw shells back in the surf (okay, our 8-month-old grandson wasn’t too impressed with the surf and really only wanted to eat the sand, but still). We did all the Pensacola things — ate at Peg Leg Pete’s Oyster Bar (where our 4-year-old grandson was slightly disappointed to find out that the pirates there were good pirates), McGuire’s Irish Pub (home of the best fried potatoes anywhere. Anywhere.) and Native Cafe (which we feel paternal towards since we ate there when it first opened and have stuck with it through slow service, lackadaisical service and no service because the food is that good); visited the Naval Air Museum; watched the Blue Angels perform practically in our backyard; shopped at Joe Patti’s Seafood; wandered through Fort Pickens and browsed up and down the happening Palafox Street and Palafox Market. But, of course, as with any family vacation, the highlights involved people more than places: Taking my mom to the World War II exhibit at the Naval Air Museum to see the full-sized recreated Pacific-theater camp similar to one her Seabee father lived in during the war; making sand cities with our 4-year-old grandson;  teaching our 2-year-old nephew how to “dibble, dibble, shot,” although since his parents are skilled and accomplished soccer players, he’s much better than me; playing disc golf with-our nephew watching my 13-year-old nephew and his dad zip through a disc-golf course; learning how to-stand-up paddle board watching our two daughters conquer the surf on stand-up paddle boards; getting drenched in the rain at the outdoors Palafox Market with Younger Daughter yet still eating soggy almond croissants baked by an actual French person; and riding around in a golf cart with my husband and the king of Santa Rosa Island — Santa Rosa Island Authority executive director Buck Lee. Good times, good times.