Childhood Favorites

Your favorite childhood junk foods.  Have you tried them lately?

I recently told my kids about Circus Peanuts. How when I was a kid, my friend and I decided to eat a whole bag. We decided that they were, in fact, disgusting. We felt quite ill for the rest of the day.

Doubting my claims (as any strong-willed child does), my daughter insisted that she try them. Thus began the Great Circus Peanut Hunt of 2014. While they’re a classic (Me: WHY?) finding them in all of the usual places proved to be difficult. But with persistence and determination, we found some. In the sixth store (yes, I willingly went to 6 stores as any strong-willed mother would do to prove to my daughter that Circus Peanuts were not the delicious confection she was imagining in her mind) we finally found them…on sale. She had convinced herself that I was clearly wrong and decided that 2 bags were needed – they were on sale after all. It was after one bite of the first orange, ‘marshmallowy’ classic that she declared they were disgusting. I resisted my urge to gloat and tell her ‘I told you so!’ Instead, I just laughed.  Side note: if anyone wants 2 bags of Circus Peanuts – one opened, but still contains all but 2 ‘peanuts’ – let me know.

Speaking of sugary orange things… I also had a fondness for orange soda when I was young. So did my friend (different friend) and we took a couple of bottles to the playground with us. We thought we were pretty cool, sitting in the park drinking Orange Soda – which honestly tastes only vaguely like oranges and more like orange colored, bubbly sugar-water IMHO. Then we decided to go on the merry-go-round – not the kind with the horses, but the metal spinny kind that is powered by hanging on and running around to get it going before you jump on to enjoy the rapid whirly spin. Well, turns out that spinning in circles and orange soda don’t mix well for my friend. Up it came and I’ve never been able to drink Orange Soda since.

We’ve all probably had experiences like these that have destroyed our memories or experiences with favorite childhood treats. But there are others that we might look back upon fondly. BUT what if you tried them today? Would they be exactly like you remember? Or would you find them to be disgusting after your palate has matured over the years?

My son and I watched a series of videos about Americans trying junk food or local delicacies from around the world. It was an interesting way to kill an hour. Some were quite funny, some weren’t. But, I digress. One of these videos had the cast of characters trying their favorite childhood junk foods. Between the Circus Peanut Hunt of 2014, memories of Orange Soda vomit, and this series of videos I got to thinking…

We discussed it at dinner last night and discovered that our favorite childhood treats were the ones created and carefully prepared by our mothers and grandmothers (not to be sexist – that’s just who prepared them in our families). Peanut butter, rice crispy treats with a layer of chocolate on top. Corn Flake candy (corn flakes and chocolate.) Peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. Apricot-coconut cookies. Ground raisin, oatmeal cookies. Strawberry rhubarb sauce. The list could go on and on. Disclaimer: both our mothers and grandmothers were from Minnesota – the land of delicious home made treats filled with love…and chocolate…and peanut butter.

We also discovered that some of our favorite (not home-baked) treats had special meaning to us or brought back fond memories of family, friends or first experiences.

What are some childhood treats or junk food do you recall and have you tried them recently?

We’ll be waiting for your replies while we’re making Corn Flake candy after school today.

 

My Mom Is Love

I am so lucky to have a mom like my Mom. My children are incredibly lucky to have a Nana like their Nana. My husband is thankful and lucky to have a mother-in-law like his mother-in-law.

I have so many memories of my Mom, but on this Mother’s Day, I’ll share a some of my favorites. I’ll leave out the ones that would embarrass my brother. (You’re welcome Jon.)

1. My mom was always trying new things. Candle making, brining freshly picked olives, macrame, cooking school, spending a summer cooking in a Scottish castle, starting a cookie business. Some of them stuck and some didn’t, but she was always game to venture out to try new things.

2. She lugged me around to the various activities that I wanted to explore when I was young – swim lessons, tennis, ballet, gymnastics, piano lessons, more dance lessons. She supported my enthusiasm for each activity and didn’t get mad (at least not in front of me) when I decided to move on to another. In my defense, having a ballet teacher tell you that she knows your posture is correct because you’ll be able to hold a pencil between your butt cheeks can turn you off ballet in an instant and she agreed it was odd enough to quit.

3. My mom knew EVERYTHING. She had a sixth sense about where I was, what I was doing, and had no qualms about magically finding a phone number of some stranger’s house (where I wasn’t supposed to be) and calling to say she was on her way to pick me up. My mom had a way of scaring the crap out of me by letting me know NOTHING was going to slip by her. Somehow that made me feel loved and safe – even if I didn’t admit it at the time. I can only hope that I can scare the crap out of my own daughter.

4. She encouraged me to continue doing things I loved doing, even when some b#%#h of a teacher told me I was a terrible writer and would never, ever be a good writer (or something equally horrible to crush a kid’s soul and dreams.) It took me awhile to get over that serious blow to my confidence, but my mom never gave up encouraging me and telling me that she had confidence in my skills. And look at me now Mrs. Merrill! Ppssshht (or however you spell a raspberry sound)!!

5. My mom survived my teenage years when I was nearly impossible to live with. She let me know that no matter how horrible I could be, she was still going to love me (even if it was REALLY hard.) The drama and angst of my teenage years were probably awful and I’m sure my daughter will put me through the same sort of torture. Even through that torture, she did continue to love me.

6. My mom has always been there when I’ve needed her – driving 6-7 hours to be there for happy and devastating moments. She was there to take care of me when I had nasal surgery to correct my deviated septum – recognizing the signs of a bad reaction to Valium when I pointed out there were tiny men dancing on my nose and then listening to me swear loudly as they pulled 6 ft of gauze out of each nostril.  She was there when I had my tonsillectomy – learning along with me that foods you’d NEVER think were acidic are acidic and agreeing that baby food was nasty. She was there when my daughter was born – immediately loving her unconditionally as she does all of her grandchildren. She was there when I lost my second daughter and quite possibly saved her twin brother in the process, experiencing devastation and tentative relief in rapid cycles. She arrived in the nick of time before my son was born and went out to buy preemie clothes when he was 2 pounds smaller than expected. She was there when I was diagnosed with brain cancer, taking care of my children, my husband and me as I recovered from surgery, went through weeks of daily trips to Stanford for radiation treatments, and suffered through chemo. All of this happening during a kitchen remodel – proving her status as a saint.

7. When I became vegan and married a vegan and then we decided to raise our children vegan, she made every effort to learn how to cook vegan meals for us. She doesn’t have to, but she does. She willingly cooks 2 meals when we visit, even during holidays. While I help cook some of those meals, she happily makes us feel comfortable, accommodating and respecting our dietary choices.

There are so many memories of my mom, I couldn’t possibly name them all here. She is amazing and I have learned so much from her about how to be a good mother to my own children. Thank you Mom for all of the sacrifices, love, and support you’ve given me through good times and bad. I couldn’t have had a better mother to lead the way in life.

Happy Mother’s Day today and every day.

mommebaby mommeteen

momlucia   momciame

Cigars Are Nasty Gross

We went to a lovely outdoor mall the other night on our way to a family dinner. The Christmas decorations and lights were up and we were strolling along enjoying the view. Then the first cigar arrived. Then the second. Then the third…as we approached the Cigar Bar.

I’m sorry if you like cigars. But I think they are nasty gross. They make me ill. Not just ‘ew, that stinks’ ill. Serious full on headache, nauseous ill that lasts long after I’ve escaped the cigar smoke. I know there are some people who LOVE the smell of a cigar, and clearly enough to smoke the nasty things. While it’s unfathomable to me that everyone doesn’t hate the smell, I understand that sensitivity to smell is a fickle thing.

Sometimes my sensitivity to smell is a blessing, sometimes it’s a curse. Some smells trigger a headache immediately, while others soothe or bring up fond memories. I know this isn’t uncommon, but I find it interesting that my triggers are often very different from other people’s. I know that some smells are linked with an experience – positive or negative – you’ve had. The same is true for flavors, which is why I can’t drink rum. But I digress…

Our dog managed to eat the cat food recently – never having showed interest before, we didn’t think there was much danger. He has a gluten sensitivity and with anything you stop eating for a while (milk, meat, etc..), once you eat it again, it’s going to upset your tummy. Let’s just say that crate training and the after effects of a gluten sensitive dog chowing down on non-gluten free cat food = poop, and lots of it. The associated cleaning experience was unpleasant at best and the smell stuck to me like super glue – even after a long, hot shower. Everyone would hate this smell (and if you wouldn’t, keep it to yourself), but if I made a list of smells I hate and smells I love, I bet it would be different from your lists. So, here are mine…

Smells that trigger headaches or nausea:

  • Garret Station pizza – warmed up leftovers smell almost exactly like the poop. Will never, ever eat there. (sorry if you’re a fan)
  • 99.9% of perfumes & cologne or scented anything – candles, air fresheners, laundry soap, lotions…
  • Cinnamon scented anything – I can eat cinnamon rolls or bread, but just like banana flavored candy tastes nothing like bananas, cinnamon scented things smell nothing like cinnamon and are evil, wicked things.
  • Spearmint – gum, tea, shampoo – doesn’t matter what it is, if it smells of spearmint it’s on my list.
  • Whatever toxin they use to dry flowers – between the cinnamon scented evil and toxic dried flowers, craft stores (like Michael’s) are a horrible experience for me this time of year.
  • Oh, and did I mention cigars?

Smells that make me happy:

  • Lavender in any shape, variety or form
  • Orange blossoms, cherry blossoms, almond blossoms…and night blooming jasmine – from a distance
  • Coppertone suntan lotion (note the ‘suntan’ vs. ‘sunscreen’ – shows how long ago this smell settled itself in my memory) – distinct and unmistakable, it reminds me of trips to the beach in my youth.
  • Freshly mowed grass – I’m not allergic, so I’m lucky.
  • Saw dust – reminds me of my dad building things.
  • Rain – specifically wet concrete right after the rain begins.
  • A certain weed/plant that smells like my grandparent’s farm. Not sure what it is, but every once in a while, I smell it and I’m right back there with my cousins, playing in the barn, throwing a ball over a shed or walking with my grandma to pick wild blueberries or raspberries.

What smells would be on your naughty or nice lists? Or are you completely smell indifferent?

What Would You Want?

I often think about leaving my children behind, not at school…in life. I think about it and I’m terrified about it happening, of missing out on their lives, of them living those lives without a mother, feeling that loss at such a young age. That fear causes me to avoid doing anything to give them something to remember, to hold on to, to give them comfort when they need a mom – or a whole family – if I’m not there. If I write for them, record stories, put together photo albums or any of the other things I’ve heard suggested, what if it means I’m done? What if finishing that list of things triggers something?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was 4 days past her due date. It was 105 degrees outside and we had no air conditioning. I was desperate to get that baby out of me. I ate every spicy food we could get our hands on, I moved rocks in the back yard (we were going to start a landscaping project – it wasn’t just a random act), I walked a lot…pretty much anything that you hear can help spur on labor. I had a gardening project I was saving for after she was born and finally, I had run out of things to keep me busy so I just said ‘srew it’ and got started on it. It involved attaching galvanized containers to the fence and planting herbs in them. I had literally just finished planting the LAST herb (basil) and my water broke. Clearly, this is indisputable proof that if I’ve got planned projects and I just go ahead and finish them, big things will happen. Right?!

While I’m optimistic that I’ll be around for a while yet, I’m afraid that if I don’t write to them or do some of those things that will help them remember me and support them through their grief I may miss the chance and be too late. So, I have this conflict of finishing that list and triggering the worst OR finishing the list and feeling relief because it’s done if the worst should happen unexpectedly. While it may be a clear choice when written down like that, for some reason it’s one of my biggest struggles. It’s where my strength falters.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, I think it’s more realistic. I will die – we all will at some point. I want my children to know they were everything to me, that I wouldn’t ever leave them if I had the choice. I want them to have memories as they grow, to have something that will wrap them in the warmth of a hug and make them feel safe, to have something that will remind them I’m there in those big moments in their lives – telling them all the things I would have said if I were standing in front of them as they graduate, marry, have children, save the world.

For those who have lost a parent, I don’t want to bring up feelings of loss that have already been worked through, but I want to get this right. In my connections in the cancer community (stupid cancer – there’s enough of it that we have a community), I’ve met young people who’ve lost their moms or dads to cancer. I would love to hear from some of them what helped with their grief, what did their parent leave behind to let them know they were loved beyond words, what helps them when they’re in need of a parent (advice, hugs… whatever) who is no longer around. What don’t you have that you wish you had? What would comfort you? What would help you move on from the grief with strength and confidence, knowing that parent is in your heart and with you always. What advice would you have for those of us at risk of leaving our children behind?