Then, One Day, It’s Spring… Childhood Revisited

Wondrous that nature
Strips down for winter – exposed,
(And we bundle up)

Yet in spring, covers
The world in dazzling fashion
(And we emerge, bare)
………………………………………..
At the risk of revealing something embarrassing about myself (my collected blog works notwithstanding), I must tell you that one of my favorite movies is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I made all my friends watch it in high school. Yes, you read that right; why my guy friends (yes, you Lee, Nick, Mike, Patrick) still talked to me afterwards has always been a mystery and something that made me love them even more.  Anyway, there is a song in there — wait! I forgot to mention – it’s a musical! double geek-fun! — about how spring arrives… “then…. one day…. it’s spring….” and people twirl, dance and burst into coordinated song. You get the idea.

I spent the bulk of the last week in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, enjoying my first spring there in over a decade and I couldn’t stop singing this song. Spring hadn’t sprung yet in Cincinnati, so arriving in Macon to find it in full bloom was a treat.

Spring is my absolute favorite season, and Macon has few rivals in terms of beauty this time of year. Why so long between trips, you may ask? Well, my parents and sister are CPAs, and the third week in March is pretty much major tax-season crunch time. Long ago I gave up visiting during March because two things would happen: 1. They would work the whole time, including weekends and 2. They would put me to work too.

As my parents are gliding into retirement now, their tax season is very light, so I jumped at the chance to visit this year and bring my family. It was as lovely as I remember. So this post serves to share some images and thoughts about Macon’s spring. All of these pictures were taken within 50 yards of my parents new home to give you an idea of how dense and readily available this type of beauty is.

All springtime visits south have to start with Puffs. Because you will be a-sneezing. My poor boy was a snot-factory the whole time.  The pollen coats everything – the cars, the sidewalk, your eyeballs. Don’t wear black pants – you end up with a yellow bum if you dare sit down outside (trust me, first hand experience here).

cherry blossom peeking out

Macon is known for it’s Cherry Blossom Festival each March. More Yoshino Cherry Blossom Trees than even Washington, DC.  They weren’t in full bloom when I was taking pictures, but when they are, it is like walking through cotton candy. The palest, most sheer pink you’ll ever see, everywhere. Beauty beyond compare.

Looking up through the dogwood

I was lucky enough that the dogwoods were still blooming. I’m not used to seeing both them and the Cherry Blossoms at the same time. They were in full glory and not only are they pretty, but they make great climbing trees. We had one growing up that I could scale in 15 seconds.

magnolia climber

Speaking of climbing trees, the best ones are the magnolias. They look so stately  from afar, but peek under those leaves and you’ll find a wild tangle of limbs spreading in all directions. (I think the magnolia is a living metaphor for the south. A little formal looking from the outside, but underneath a little crazy. It will protect and shelter you, but also encourage you to try out something a little risky.) Every kid should have access to a magnolia tree.

pink azaleas with bee

white azaleas

even more damn azaleas

Ok, so I just learned I’ve been misspelling azaleas my whole life. If you know me, you won’t be surprised, but it still a little disconcerting.

Anyway, azaleas. They are everywhere. You can’t round a corner without seeing them somewhere this time of year. If you are a fan of The Masters Golf Tournament, you know how amazing they are in bunches and stacks. They are very pretty…(but just a little boring if you’ve seen them so plentiful your whole life).

Wisteria... best smelling purple flower ever

Wisteria is basically pretty Kudzu. It is invasive, but since it is so pretty when it blooms and the sweet, heavy smell follows you wherever you go, you don’t mind so much. I also just like the word wisteria. The word could almost mean “the sense of fondness you feel when reflecting on your brief mental breakdown” (wistful, hysteria) or something like that. It’s just fun to say.

ahh... camellias

And then there is the camellia. My all time favorite thing that grows in dirt. It is an evergreen tree/bush that gets these big,  fat, olive-sized buds in December and January, and blooms like crazy in February. I only found a few, precious remaining flowers on a bush last week and was thrilled. They won’t grow outdoors here in Ohio (so sad) so I was very excited to see them.

Let me leave you with just a few more pictures that epitomize spring in the south.

fire ants... run away!

If you know Georgia, you know that it is completely covered in fire ants. As a kid growing up, there were two things you were trained from birth to stay away from: snakes (because they are all poisonous, or at least that’s what they told us) and fire ants (because they will bite you until you die). The problem is, they are everywhere. If there is a crack in the sidewalk, they set up housekeeping. If there is a dent in the earth, they build an ant hill the size of a tractor tire.   It was kind of fun telling my kids how awful the ants are and then watching them walk down the sidewalk, leaping this way and that trying to not step within 2 feet of a hill. I could have told them the ants don’t have leaping abilities, but it was too fun to watch.

redneck mulch

The only thing more prevalent than fire ants is pine straw. As such, it is used liberally in all landscaping activities. Classy. Not much else to say…

Below is a summary image. My daughter paraded around the neighborhood with some clippers, gathering up all the flowers she could find, and this is the result. (Note, to the people next store who had the lovely collection of lilies, I’m really sorry she cut them. I promise she knows better now, and I’ve scolded grandmamma for providing the shears, too.)

a beautiful collection, plus...

Lovely. And there is a bonus image in the picture above, too. Do you see it? Top left corner; see it now? … yes, that’s my mom, in her housecoat and slippers… you see! I’m not making this up! (read the linked posting for further information…)

Happy Spring to everyone! May where ever you are be filled with joyful color this time of year.

A Parent’s Responsibility… Childhood Obesity and Georgia’s Campaign

A parent’s challenge:
To raise, but not to repeat
Our own tragedies.
———————————– 
I am veering sharply away from my usual humor into a current serious hot topic. This is a difficult post to write, but I can’t stop composing it in my head, so I decided to put it in writing.

There is a lot of controversy about a new advertising campaign in Georgia addressing childhood obesity which aims the heart breaking messages (and the blame) at the parents. Here is the ABC news story about it, which includes video of several parts of the campaign. I am sure there will be many experts chiming in on the pros and cons of this approach. Here is my perspective.

I am a fat parent (and by fat, I hate to admit it, I mean obese) trying to raise trim kids (my husband is also fat). Watching this campaign was a kick in the gut. My children (ages 9 and 5) are just the right size, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I worry multiple times a week about their weight. I don’t want them to be fat like me. But I didn’t need an advertising campaign to tell me this.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was close to my highest ever weight and determined that my child would not be overweight.  I read everything I could about how to have a healthy child-parent relationship with food. Well, that isn’t exactly right… I did some research, quickly found a great book that resonated with me, and that’s the approach I took.  Child of Mine, Feeding with Love and Good Sense stated something that made clicked for me: My job is to put nutritious food on the table on a regular basis. The kid’s job is to eat it. Parents should stop doing the kid’s job.  If you approach it this way, everyone has a positive food relationship.

I also evolved some practices that were different from how I grew up:

  • Eat dinner early – 6/6:30.
  • Fruit at every meal. (A fruit is as good as a veggie in my book.)
  • No forbidden foods. (I wanted to demystify sweets, which were a forbidden temptress in my youth.)
  • Get the kids into an activity of some sort.

This seems to be working. My kids love fruit and don’t fuss about eating it (don’t worry, they eat veggies too).  They eat candy – we keep a dish of treats – but they don’t obsess about it. In fact, Halloween candy is usually ignored by day 2 or 3. They each have regular sporting activities which they enjoy and take satisfaction from.  So far, so good.

So why do I still worry? Did you watch the campaign? Do you think that took a lot of acting skills? I don’t recall feeling that same pain in my school days – I wasn’t as overweight as these kids – but when I read my old diaries I ache inside: losing weight is mentioned over and over again.  It is the number 1 topic, with boys as the second most prevalent topic.  Without those written records, I would have denied it was such a focus for me, but there it is, in black and white… Disappointment in myself. Admission of failure. Yearning to be like everyone else. Desire to be thin.  Why in God’s name would I want to subject my children to this? I don’t need anyone to convince me my kids need, wait, deserve, a different fate.

I also worry what to do should one of my kids start to pudge up.  How will I react? Will my reaction screw them up?  More importantly, I carry sadness that I am a crappy role model for my kids in terms of my weight. I know they notice. My daughter mentioned my weight to me years ago (the classic “mommy, why are you fat?”), although not recently, but I know she recognizes that most everyone else’s mom is normal size.  That makes me sad.

So why don’t I get off my ass and lose weight? Raise your hand if you asked that question. I’m guessing those with their hands up are all thin. Well, I wish it was that easy. I’m not here to claim that food is a drug and food addiction is akin to drug or alcohol addiction, but man it sure feels like it sometimes. I’ve lost and gained more weight than you can imagine, and believe me, my adult diaries still have my struggles with weight as their #1 topic (although I’ve solved the boy thing now…). I wish I had an answer.  It’s January, so time to try once again to do something about it. Wish me luck. No, wait, don’t do that. Just promise not to stare at the gym.

In the meantime, our society will continue to judge the obese. Continue to point to the parents of fat kids.  I’ve been typing and deleting this next part for 15 minutes… Am I ok with this? Do I believe that parents of fat kids should be held accountable for their children’s weight?  I think I do – we are the parents for Christ sake. If it isn’t our jobs, whose then?  In a world devoid of personal responsibility, I believe in parental responsibility – from not letting the kids get drunk in the basement to not tolerating your child as a bully to not letting your kid feast on ding dongs 24/7.  This is what you signed up for.  I can tell you that for me, I see it as my responsibility to these amazing little human beings to set them up as much as I can to be healthy and happy, inside and out.  You have no idea how hard I try.   The obvious next question is “how to hold us accountable? how do you punish the parents of obese kids?” but I’m not prepared to answer this one; I have no idea and this has been difficult enough.

(A final note: It’s hard to write this and not imply that my own parents were horrible role models and “made” me fat.  I refuse to do this. For one, I don’t think that (my) weight issues are that simple. I won’t justify this statement or explain it any more, it’s my opinion.  And second, I got a lot fatter after I left home, so they were doing something right. So thanks mom and dad. Don’t worry about me, and please don’t worry about your parenting. My own kids would be way more wacky if you hadn’t done a great job.)

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