Making Ninjabreadmen

When my boys were younger, near the middle of December you’d find them gathered around the kitchen table, their fingers and lips covered in multiple hues of icing, hovered over a plate of sugar cookies.

But as they got older, I had to resort to some really sneaky tricks to get them interested in spending time decorating cookies with their old men.

For years, every Christmas, my sons and I decorated Christmas cookies. I’d bake up a batch of sugar cookies and we’d make a day of it, always somehow eating our mistakes. Sometimes, they’d even invite their friends over to help cover Santas and angles and reindeer in frosting.

One year, in our little house on the Little Miami River, all of the neighbor kids came to the house and we had a gingerbread house decorating contest. Everything was going along great until one of the kids decided his house was a black reindeer shed, and all of the kids decided to follow suit and turn their cute little houses into the most disgusting thing they could think of.

Kids are gross. Just saying.

But as the years went by, the boys lost interest in spending time in the kitchen with mom. There was basketball practice to go to and video games that were begging to be played. Mom’s love of family bonding kind of fell by the wayside. And the idea of making cookies, that was definitely a girl thing to do, and not exactly at the top of their to do list.

I found though, that if I let them eat the cookies as we decorated them, they found that particular holiday tradition a little easier to swallow. Also, it seemed, withholding holiday peanut butter fudge was a perfectly acceptable way to “encourage” participation.

It wasn’t until they had girlfriends that I was able to pique their interest again. I asked them to bring over the girls so I could meet them, promising to serve cookies and hot cocoa.

It was the girls, then, that would see me with all the cookies laid out, and all the decorations waiting to go on the cookies who would decide that decorating was a cool idea.

The girls would come around the table and ooh and ahh, and the boys, noting an opportunity to look cool and do something fun with their girlfriends, would join them.

It didn’t seem fair though to force them to do something they didn’t want to do. I felt like I needed to find a way for them to be interested in cookie decorating for Christmas on their own accord. Enter ninjabread men and ugly sweaters. Along with the traditional cookies, I cut out a few flying ninjas in mid-karate kick, and a few sweaters.

Like I always had, I lined the tables with wax paper, put out bowls of icing and several different kinds of sprinkles, and baked up a batch of cookies. Then I made five ninjas with different colored belts, and two of the ugliest Christmas sweaters I could devise.

When the four of them arrived, I was in full decorating mode – something neither girl had ever done before. Just seeing the ninjabreadmen and ugly sweaters was enough to reel the boys in with or without the girls. They couldn’t wait to try their hand at decorating. Within minutes, the boys and their dates were busy creating some pretty ugly sweaters and decorating ninjas for stealthy combat.

This year, when I asked if they wanted to decorate cookies with them, it didn’t take any time at all for them to say yes. There was no eye rolling. There were no deep sighs or protests. There was just “Sure, mom. We’d love to.” My youngest and I will head in the kitchen later on tonight, and we’ll have a blast until its time to watch some holiday television.

For a while, I didn’t think I’d be able to get the boys back to the decorating table. I knew they were growing out of love with stuff that was too mom-ish, and not action-filled enough. But now, it’s a tradition that we all treasure – ugly sweaters, flying karate kicks and all.

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The 12 Days Before Christmas

Years ago, my then-husband and I were coming home from some holiday gathering and we started making up words to Christmas carols, as one does when faced with the stress of the season. Clearly, our version of the classic Christmas carol isn’t exactly as uplifting, but it still gives one a little chuckle, and that’s more of a present than a lump of coal, right? 

And because the holidays are just as filled with stress as they are with joy, we came up with our own version of a holiday classic  – as well as one song that will never see the light of day during these days of un-offensiveness.

The 12 Days Before Christmas
(sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas)

On the twelfth day before Christmas, my true love said to me
“I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the eleventh day before Christmas, my true love said to me
“All the malls are full,
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the tenth day before Christmas, my true love said to me 
“I hate this season, 
All the malls are full,
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the ninth day before Christmas, my true love said to me,
“Prices are outrageous,
I hate this season, 
All the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the eighth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“Nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the mall are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the seventh day before Christmas, my true love said to me,
“The Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the sixth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“Payroll lost my paycheck, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the fifth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“The cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full,
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

This santa just wants to party.Vintage film style processing.

On the fourth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the third day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“My family’s coming over, 
Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the second day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“We got another fruit cake, 
my family’s coming over, 
Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the last day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“I have to work tomorrow, 
we got another fruit cake, 
my family’s coming over, 
Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Copyright 2018 (C) Liz Carey LLC

Things no Southern cook will ever say

There are some words and phrases you’ll just never hear come out of certain peoples’ mouth.

Like, you’ll never hear from a UK basketball fan “Wow, that was a close game. I like it when the teams are evenly matched like that.” No, what you’ll hear a Kentucky basketball fan say is “What the heck is going on!? They only won by 10! They’re just not the powerhouse team they were back in the day…”

And you’ll never hear them say “Gee, I really miss the Eddie Sutton days.” Or “I totally understand why Rick Patino would want to coach at Louisville, and I totally supported his decision.” And “I didn’t even put UK in my March Madness bracket this year.”

Similarly, you’ll never hear a Cincinnati Bengals fan say “Nah, my Bengals have never let me down.” Or “I’m really surprised they lost that game in the last 10 minutes – never saw THAT coming!” Or “That game had some great refs! They really played like crap, but the refs were spot on when it came to making those calls!”

In that vein, there are things you’ll never hear a Southern cook say either…

  • Honey, I think this has too much bacon in it.
  • Oh, Lord, don’t put so much barbecue sauce on it, you’ll cover up the flavor of the meat.
  • Nah, I don’t have any particular recipe for making collards… I just throw them in the pot and go.Collard-Greens-with-Smoked-Turkey-Wings-Recipe
  • Hmmmm… this probably has too many calories in it already, I’ll just use this low-fat margarine instead of butter.
  • Honestly, there’s really no difference between store bought, homegrown and hothouse tomatoes.
  • You mean people make biscuits that don’t come out of a can?
  • Of course it’s vegan!
  • My mother never cooked that well when we were growing up to be honest.
  • BOILED peanuts? Ewwww.

    boiled peanuts
    So much ewwww.
  • Absolutely, I use measuring cups and measuring spoons! How on earth are you supposed to get the recipe right without them?
  • I think I’ll make steamed veggies tonight.
  • Rats, I’m out of Cajun seasoning…. I guess I’ll just switch to Greek.
  • I think this tea has too much sugar in it… Where’s the mint?
  • I always put cinnamon and cocoa in my chili for a really hip taste.
  • I think we’ll just have sub sandwiches at the tailgate party this weekend.

    Tailgating-19-595
    You know why they don’t have anyone at their tailgate? Because they’re serving subs and they don’t know how to play cornhole, that’s why. Sheesh…
  • I don’t even think I HAVE a recipe that calls for cooking anything more than two hours.
  • Lord, yes, I love my instapot!
  • There’s no art to barbecue, you just throw it on the grill and walk away for a few hours. Easy as pie.
  • You’ve just got to try my new recipe for quinoa flavored with jicama and harissa. It’s just to DIE for….
  • You can’t fry everything…

Skillet-Fried-Chicken_30_frying
To which every good Southern cook says, “The hell you can’t!”

Okay – your turn!

Are there things YOU think no good Southern cook would ever say?

Leave them in the comments below!

Copyright Liz Carey, LLC 2018

An accidental pussy grabber

So, I was on my way to a meeting the other day, when I inadvertently kidnapped a neighbors’ cat.

Really… it wasn’t my fault.

louisSee, we have this big black cat named Oliver. And Oliver has gotten it into his head lately that he should be able to roam about his domain, namely everything he can see from the window behind my work chair, any time he wants.

Sometimes, the boys let him out in the morning.

And sometimes, he slips out when no one is looking.

Acat-on-a-keyboardnd there are those days when he sits on someone’s keyboard or climbs on the back of their chair in order to attack their hair while they’re typing forcing someone to decide to actually throw him out… but, I digress.

Any who, I was just driving down the street, sort of patting myself on the back for being on time for a change, when I see a couple of guys in a state vehicle, standing on the side of the street with this black cat.

Immediately, it registered with me that it looked like Oliver.

Almost simultaneously, it registered that even government employees don’t deserve that kind of torture.

When I was three blocks away it also registered – “Holy monkey pee, they might actually take the cat with them!”

I mean, it is my youngest son Max’s cat, and for some bizarre reason he actually likes the furry little asshole, despite his tendency to attack Max when he’s trying to sleep.

So, I doubled back and pulled up behind their truck.

“Did I see y’all with a black cat earlier?” I asked them. “I think that’s ours. He likes to get out in the morning and terrorize the neighborhood.”

black-cat-pink-collarThey pointed to the other side of their truck where a black cat with a pink ribbon around its neck was standing.

Naturally, since I was now running late, I grabbed the cat, threw it in the van, thanked the guys for their help and took off.

It wasn’t until I was halfway to the highway that I realized…Oliver doesn’t have a collar.

Looking a little closer at the cat, I realized Oliver doesn’t have as round of a face or such a small body.

Then it hit me – I’d grabbed the wrong cat!

Apparently, you really CAN just grab ‘em, even if you’re not a celebrity. Some of them really do just let you.

There were other indications this wasn’t Oliver, as well… for instance, this cat was nice.

This cat would let you pet it more than three times in a row without feeling the need to attack your hand like it was a mouse bathed in tuna juice.

This cat looked up at you with eyes that said “Love me please!” instead of glaring “Are you planning on feeding me anytime soon, or do you get the claws again?”

This cat was also a girl.

Clearly, I’d made a huge mistake.

I decided to name her LaLa Land.

img_0356-1Barreling down the highway, late to my appointment and talking to LaLa, I tried to figure out what I to do. In response, LaLa decided to curl up in my lap, rest her head on my arm and fall asleep.

Who can resist that?

I briefly considered taking off the collar, putting it on Oliver and switching them out when no one was looking. Hey, if it worked for Patty Duke…

For the next four hours, I talked to LaLa as we ran errands and ate lunch. She curled up in my arm while I was driving and wandered the car when I wasn’t. I shared a bit of my chicken caesar salad with her, and poured her a cupful of water. She purred in contentment and never once nipped at my fingers to protest anything.

Finally, I stopped in front where I’d snatched her from and put her back where she belonged. She alternately clung to me and scrabbled to get away as I took put her on the sidewalk.

I swear she looked back at me with the melancholy gaze of a hostage with Stockholm syndrome.

cat-tongue-catAnd although I briefly thought about grabbing her back up and whisking her away to our house where she could live as my special cuddle cat for the rest of our days… I resisted. Two cats are enough, my husband says. Anything more than that borders on hoarding.

Or so I’m told.

I’m not sure I believe that.

LaLa was a pretty good listener, despite being a catnapping victim, and she was much nicer than Oliver ever had been. She didn’t even mind being in a minivan – which is more than I can say for my other son.

But still, kidnapping someone else’s cat, no matter how nice and accommodating the cat is, is no way to acquire a new pet.

Again, I’ve heard this, but I’m not quite sure I believe it.  Surely there are exceptions … like when a cat really likes you, right?

And even though she was in my life for only a short time, I like to think she was happy… and that she taught me a life lesson I’m not soon to forget – namely, that I am seriously just one bad relationship away from becoming a crazy cat lady…

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2017

If you say you’re going to do something, do it

If it’s true that “what you do on the first of the year is what you’re going to do for the rest of the year,” I think I may be in trouble.

wpid-confusedSo far today, January 1, I’ve managed to clean, nap, cook and walk into another room four times, forgetting what I was there for and then working on something else, until I walked back into the kitchen and remembered what it was I intended to do originally.

This does not bode well.

In fact, it took me looking at the stove four times this afternoon before I realized that it wasn’t 4 p.m., but that the oven was on and cooking at 400°.

Does that mean for the rest of the year I’ll be dazed and confused, or that it will just take me longer to realize what I’ve actually been accomplishing?

I feel like I’m getting old and forgetful.

In my defense though, it’s been a long couple of weeks.

Really. Long.

There have been numerous holidays, lots of stuff going on, one huge party, a few set backs and disappointments and a ton of work commitments to get thru. It didn’t feel much like a vacation, even if I was “technically” off work.

Come to think of it, with 70° weather and rain, it didn’t feel much like Christmas either.

o-UNWINDING-facebookAt one point last week, I was given the opportunity, several actually, to walk away from a commitment. It would have been the easier thing to do. I would have disappointed others, but it would probably have been easier for me to just walk away from what I had said I was going to do.

Then, I thought about what my friend Steve has said to me before. “If you say you’re going to do something, do it.”

And that’s what I did. I kept my word. I, along with several others, threw a huge party and while it wasn’t the overwhelming success we thought it would be earlier this year, it was still a success.

Which got me thinking.

Maybe if I said that I was going to do something today, and then did it, it would be a better indication of what the rest of my year would be like.

As such, I’ve decided to start the year off right writing.

refashionistaInspired by my blogger girl crush, the Refashionista, I have started a challenge for myself. While she will do a post a day for 366 days (leap year, you know), I will do a post a week. That’s a big leap for someone who has not really posted anything since before Halloween.

I think I will do them on Mondays. I always hate Mondays, so maybe writing for myself on a Monday will make it easier for me to face them.

And I’m going to work on other things too.

I’m going to finish my cookbook for my sons – all of our family recipes, interspersed with some of my old columns, and a few of our old family stories. I want to have it ready to give to my oldest son if and when he moves out.

I’m going to seriously work on getting my children’s books published – starting with “My Little Zombie” for which I found an illustrator recently.

I’m going to focus on finishing my novels and getting down to the editing process.

I’m going to write about the Children of Clay – a project I’ve wanted to work on for almost a year now.

I’m going to write a history book about Anderson.

There’s also a lot to look forward to this year.

200020892-003

I’ll get my hip replaced in April or May. Little Mason will graduate in June. Max will start working  – if all goes well and the Hot Topic angels are smiling on him. And in October, Pints for the People will enter its fifth year of giving away money to charities.

That’s a lot of good stuff.

And I’ll write about it all.

One week at a time.

If I can remember what I’m supposed to be writing about when I go into my office, that is….

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2016

All images remain the property of their respective owners.

 

Car repair for girls

Woman-Broken-Car-1969081There’s nothing more frustrating than being a girl and trying to fix your car.

This past month, my 2007 Jeep Commander had a bumper that needed to be fixed… and by fixed I mean, reattached to the rest of the car with anything that does not resemble Duct Tape.

In complete girl logic, I just assumed that if I put off fixing it, it would stay the same until I got around to it.

Wrong! What happens to you, when you’re a girl trying to keep things together with fingernail polish and bobby pins, is that men look at you and laugh.

If you don’t take the time to put in that rear wheel well (which actually fell off last year during a traumatic tire explosion on the way home from the beach with a car full of teenagers), what happens is that bumper/fender assembly pulls away from the rest of the car and decides to flap dangerously in the wind, like a really stiff champagne-colored shirt in a 40-mile an hour gale ready to come undone and blow onto someone else’s car at any second.

And when that happens, many men would rather do it for you instead of watching you do it on your own.

This, of course, is what happened to me when I was driving back from Greenville and was traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour. That bumper looked like it was going to break off like a piece of the Apollo 13 space craft.

Houston, we have a problem.

duct tape carWhen I looked into my rearview mirror and saw what was going on, I stopped at an auto parts store for help.

That’s where I met Mr. Johnson, whose initial solution was to take some Gorilla tape and attach the bumper to the rest of the car.

(Okay, not to be too picky, but let’s review here – champagne SUV, black gorilla tape, wildly swinging back bumper… can you say redneck?).

After several minutes of back and forth between a plastic parts aisle and my car, Mr. Johnson determined they didn’t have the part I needed and that I should go to Low Ray’s, an auto parts store down the street, to ask for the right rivets.

I asked him what part I should ask for. He just looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, honey, if you tell them where it needs to go, they’ll know what it is.”

So I went to Low Ray’s two days later and found, much to my surprise, that the auto parts of was filled with enough toy pedal cars and hobby horse airplanes to start a toy museum, which, you know, seemed odd to me as it was an auto parts place.

But that’s where Mr. Johnson said to go, right? As I walked in, I saw a fence behind all the toys and asked if they had the part I was looking for. I told them Mr. Johnson sent me.

car parts storeThe guy I was talking to abruptly disappeared into this auto parts cave for a few minutes. He never really looked at the car, never asked what I actually needed outside of my vague “I need the things that hold my rear bumper on to my car.”

Believe it or not, they didn’t have my part. He recommended the Internet.

So, I went home and got online. For more than an hour I searched for the parts I needed. I even chatted for help.

HC-chat-rep-620x344Auto parts website chatbot: Hello, my name is Brett. What can I help you with?

Me: (not answering because being on chat hold for 18 minutes tends to make me diddle around on Facebook)

Auto parts website chatbot: Hello? Is there anyone there? I haven’t heard from you in a while.

Me: Yes, I’m here. I was on hold for so long I went to another website.

Auto parts website chatbot: Great! We’re glad you’re back. My name is Brett. What can I help you with.

Me: Hi, Brett. I’m looking for a part for my 2007 Jeep Commander. I need the things that hold the bumper into the frame and the wheel well into the body of the car. Do you have a those?

Brett: Great. Let me check on that for you. Do you have the part number?

Me: No. I looked on your website, but I couldn’t find anything that looked anything like the little plastic doohickies I need.

Brett: That’s okay, I can look them up for you. While we’re waiting, Liz, would you like for me to sign you up for our email list?

Me: Well, honestly, Brett, since I was on chatbot death hold for 18 minutes, I’d really just like to get the part I was looking for.

Brett: I understand. To speed up the process, why don’t I just use the email address you entered when we started this chat, Liz?

Me: Brett, why don’t you just look up the part for me so I can order it and \ will no longer be driving around with duct tape holding my car together?

Brett: I can do that. Do you know what the part is called?

Me: If I knew what it was called, I probably wouldn’t have watched “All of our representatives are currently helping other customers. Someone will be with you shortly” repeat on my screen for nearly 20 minutes.

Brett: Okay, let’s see. We have the rear passenger-side bumper assembly package here for just $137.11. Can I place that order for you, Liz?

Me: Brett, I have the bumper. I just don’t have what I need to attach the bumper to the car. Don’t you just have those little thingamabobs that you stick up into the car to hold it on to the metal part?

Brett: That’s what the rear bumper assembly will do.

Mfrustrated on computere: That’s crazy. Why do I need to buy the whole kit, when all I need is those little spindly thingies? Whatever. Will it fit my 2007 Jeep Commander?

Brett: Uhm, no. We don’t really carry a lot of parts for the Commander.

Me: Seriously? Couldn’t you have just told me that to begin with?

Brett suggested I go to a dealer.

Which, of course, I did.

I dressed up in my best “Yes, I’m a girl but I can use a screwdriver” look and hoped they would take pity on me and help me find the right parts for my car for less than $50.

They didn’t.

In fact, they nearly smirked when I drove the car to the dealership and they showed me the drawing of what it was supposed to look like and how difficult it would be to install.

But I would not be daunted. I ordered the parts, picked them up a day later and took them to a friend’s garage to work on the car. My friend said “You know, I can do this for you, so you don’t have to lay down on the ground and get dirty.”

Sigh.

I’m not that kind of a girl.

When we figured out the parts guys hadn’t given me the right rivets, it wasn’t until I went back and dropped my friend’s name that the parts guys took me seriously. When they came back with the wrong part three times in as many days, it wasn’t until I started to cry in frustration that they found the right part. When I asked them how much it would cost to fix a shorting fuse in the lift gate, it wasn’t until I told them I had already done my research that they came down from their $600 estimate to a $200 part.

mechanic girl_car repairAnd it wasn’t until the female parts assistant came in to help me that I got treated like an actual person without being talked down to. She was the one who told me I needed a rivet gun and she was the one who helped me get the right pieces to use.

And after that, I did it. I fixed the bumper. I reattached the wheel well. I put the flair back on. I learned how to use a rivet gun. I laid down in the dirt and didn’t even get upset when mud and oil from under the car fell into my face and hair.

I didn’t cry when I broke a nail.

Sure, I didn’t do it ALL by myself – I had help from my husband and my friend, who showed me what to do and how things went together. But I did the work.

And for that, you gotta give a girl credit. Even if I don’t know all the parts’ names, or how to use all the tools, I can still do it.

I am not helpless.

I’m just a girl who likes fixing her own car.

That, gentlemen, is nothing to laugh at.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

A mother’s curse

When I was 12 years old, my mother cursed me.

And I don’t mean she yelled profanities at me, I mean, she put a curse on me through my future progeny.

I remember the day clearly. I was home watching ZOOM! in the living room.

Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34
Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34

Remember ZOOM on PBS? It was an after-school show where kids did all sorts of fun stuff sent in by other kids. It was one of my favorite shows and identified me early on a dork of enormous proportions.

On this particular episode, they were capturing spider webs. In this scenario, clearly not intended for children without adult supervision, you took a piece of construction paper and placed it behind a spider web. From there you softly sprayed spray paint onto the web. What wasn’t web would show up on the construction paper as paint, leaving behind the design of the web in negative. Easy enough, right?

My sister was at work.

My mom was at work.

I was home alone, hoping to find something interesting to do.

“Well,” my little pre-teen brain said. “This looks like fun.”

pedal carSo, I went into the garage and got the only can of spray paint I could find. It was bright red. Fire engine red, in fact. I know it was fire engine red, because it was the same spray paint I used to paint the antique powder puff blue convertible pedal car my Dad had gotten me… I don’t recall mom or dad being too happy about my actions that time either.

Anyway, spray paint in hand, I went looking for construction paper.

One would think that the house of a kindergarten teacher, my mom, would be filled with construction paper in many different colors, but I couldn’t find any.

Granted, I was 12, so without it being in the open, on top of a stack of anything other than laundry and with a six-foot-tall neon sign saying “THIS IS THE CONSTRUCTION PAPER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!” pointing to it, I wasn’t likely to find it even if I tripped over it.

After more than six whole minutes of dedicated searching my pre-adolescent brain decided I didn’t need it. In fact, it came to the conclusion that in this activity, construction paper was like coconut in a cake, completely optional and most likely not at all necessary.

Armed with a spray paint can and an eagle eye for anything arachnid, I ran outside and searched the yard for spider webs to create art.

I didn’t see any webs on the grass and I didn’t find too many in the bushes and I didn’t notice any at all in the trees.

I did however find a number of them in the garage windows.

spraypaint11Let’s take a moment here to recap the ingredients in this particular activity – several spider webs, one can of red spray paint, one willful 12-year-old tomboy, several garage windows framed with white paint.

No matter how you mix it, it was a recipe for disaster.

When my mom came home, every window on her garage facing the street had little circles of red covering the corners of the window frame and onto the glass itself.

To say my mother was a more than just a little mad, would be like saying that Ghandi was on a low calorie diet for a while.

“Mary, what have you done?” she screamed.

As hard as it may be to believe, this wasn’t the first time I had heard those words.

“My windows, Lord Almighty, my garage windows!” she screamed. “What on earth possessed you to spray paint the garage windows??? What were you thinking?”

I looked at her incredulously.

momdaughter yell“They were they only ones with spider webs on them,” I replied matter of factly.

I’m pretty sure the fact that I didn’t say “duh!” is the reason I am still alive today.

Mom closed her eyes, grabbed her head in her hands and gathered together her wits. You could almost hear her counting to 10 in her head.

And then, it came.

“Mary Elizabeth Carey, I swear, one day I hope you have a child just like you,” she said.

There it was.

The curse.

The longest running curse in the history of womankind, bestowed at one time or another on every misbehaving kid on the planet by their mothers.

And it worked.

I have a child who is just like me.

When I was a kid, for a while I wanted to be an Olympic bicyclist, until the day I wiped out on gravel and ended up in the hospital with 22 stitches in my leg.

My youngest son, Max, was determined to be a super hero when he was five, and jumped off a slide to prove he could fly. When he landed successfully the first time, he decided to do it again to show his friend, and promptly fractured his foot on landing.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t find a brush one day, so I used one of those little pot holder loom thingies to comb my hair. The resulting rat’s nest of a tangle required an emergency visit to the stylist.

Max decided one day he didn’t like his bangs or his side burns, so he cut them himself, using a razor, leaving one inch stubble over his right ear and bangs slashed diagonally across his forehead. This also required an emergency trip to stylist and an entire summer growing out a crew cut.

When I was a kid, I wore my favorite red patent leather go-go boots until they were so tight that my second toe on both feet grew crooked because I wouldn’t let them go.

Max had one pair of pants that he would wear all the time. All. The. Time. until they could no longer be called “floods” or “highwaters,” as much as really long shorts which I had to steal from his room in order to throw them away.

When I was a kid, I would stay up late at night, reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries until my Dad came to tuck me in or I passed out asleep.

Max will sneak his way to reading Creepy Pasta and other things online on his Chromebook until the wee hours of the morning, or until I walk into his room at 1 in the morning and tell him it’s time to go to sleep.

I have a nasty habit of just walking off, away from the people I’m with, if I see something that interests me. When Max was little and we visited the zoo, as we often did, my husband, older son and I routinely took turns at “Max duty,” to make sure he didn’t walk away and end up figuring out a way to get into the giraffes cage or end up petting the Bengal tigers.

Now I understand what my Mom went through raising me.

I understand the sheer terror of wondering what your child is up to because the house suddenly goes quiet.

I understand the fear of not knowing whether or not you child will survive into adulthood even without the threat of you beating them to death.

I understand what kind of conflicted emotions she must have felt the day I accidentally sucked the gerbil into the vacuum cleaner trying to help out with the chores, or when I spilled India ink on her new carpet while drawing her a picture.

I’ve stood in her shoes.

It’s not exactly a true curse, and it’s not exactly a true blessing, but I think it’s a little of both.

581719_3662309190010_2038050352_nMothering any child had its heart-stopping moments. But having a child like me, helps me to see the world through my mom’s eyes for a while, and helps me to understand the world Max sees as well.

I hope that as Max grows into a man, that I can be like my mother was with me – patient (most of the time), willing to let me be me and understanding of her willful adventurous little girl.

Mom taught me a lot about letting your child be independent and responsible and capable of facing up to the consequences of their actions – especially if it involves stealing the family car for a joy ride at 14 and knocking over a basketball pole, something I pray Max never does.

And I hope I can be as firm as she was in her resolve to teach me how to be a better, calmer, more focused person. It’s a daily task, I’ve learned, that isn’t easy and forces you to look into your child’s hurt and confused eyes while you dole out punishment. She taught me how to do that, even if she never told me how hard it was.

How she did it alone, and without killing me, is beyond me.

Thanks to her, I think I turned out pretty good. And because of the things I learned from her, I think Max will turnout pretty good too. After all, he’s well into his teen years and he’s still alive, so… there’s hope.

It goes without my saying anything that one day Max will have a kid just like him.

And my mother and I will have given Max all the tools he needs by then to deal with the curse.

Hopefully, he will see it, as I do, as a blessing instead.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015