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Posts Tagged ‘children’

It’s good to have friends who help you maintain a positive attitude and healthy habits. It’s also good to have friends who urge you to make questionable choices every once in a while.

When I emailed a photo of a surprising food find — Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls — to a former colleague earlier this week, he responded immediately:  “My professional advice to you is to buy two boxes of them right now. Why two? Because you’ll eat one box on the way home from the store.”

How could a girl resist?

I grew up eating Little Debbie products at my grandparent’s house in South Mississippi — my brother and I could always find a box of the treats on top of the refrigerator. I am the Forrest Gump of Little Debbie products, with a readily accessible running list of the different varieties taking up valuable space inside my brain. Ask me about nearly any of the company’s products, and I can run down a quick review for you. Here are just a few that popped into my head this very minute:

Devil Squares: Their substantial filling and sort of weirdly textured chocolate coating combine for a unique and delicious culinary experience that made me, as a child, feel slightly more sophisticated than my tomboyish habits generally merited. (more…)

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My first thought when I saw the recipe for tiny Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies on Serious Eats, one of my favorite food sites, was that I would rename them Princess Cookies and present them to my princess-crazy nieces, thus fulfilling their royal aspirations without giving any money to the manufacturers of inane, princess-themed junk.

Now, I’m convinced that these cookies are much too complicated for toddler tastes. No offense to toddlers.

The end result of a dough heavy on powdered sugar and corn starch (we’re talking 2/3 cup of corn starch) is a crumbly cookie that, to me, resembles shortbread.

I found them much too tart right after I made them, so I figured the recipe was destined to be forgotten. But when I popped open the box Wednesday morning for another taste (first person to ask why I was eating cookies at 9 a.m. gets blocked from comments), they were simply delectable, with just the right amount of lemon flavor and a light, satisfying crunch from the sugar coating.

I’m still not convinced they’re entirely worth the effort (it’s outrageously difficult to balance the cookies after you’ve spread on the filling so that they don’t slide apart), but they’re on the list of favorites this year, at any rate.

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My brother’s almost 4-year-old daughter called to wish me a happy birthday a couple of weeks ago, and immediately launched into one of her famous, almost decipherable monologues. Apparently she was informing me what I was supposed to bring for her upcoming birthday: a pink and purple mask on a stick, in a white box wrapped with a red bow.

Very specific, that child.

My mom already has her marching orders: a pink dinosaur.

I love it that something in her brain has told her that Tia (that’s me – it’s Spanish for aunt) should get her one thing, and Grandma should get her another. It’s probably a little presumptuous, but go ahead and tell a 4-year-old that she’s being presumptuous.

She knows what she wants, and I’m just glad it doesn’t involve a copyrighted cartoon character designed only to sell her more junk. She’s asking for toys that will allow her use her imagination.

Best of all, she already seems to know that dropping hints is somewhat futile at best, and passive-aggressive at worse. Better to figure out your desires and explain them clearly to those who need to know them. I just hope she holds on to that trait as she grows older, for it will make her a stronger and happier woman.

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Speaking to a friend from Texas today, I noted that Southern families, or maybe just farming families in general, seem to have tragedies woven into their histories, generation after generation. This probably isn’t a fair assessment – Northerners have plenty of dysfunction, too, no? – but it’s what I know.

Southerners can be shockingly straightforward about the past. An uncle dies, you hear the story of how he accidentally shot another man while hunting in his youth, and barely escaped jail time. Again and again you hear about the aunt who died decades too young because a pompous doctor refused to perform a life-saving hysterectomy. You learn about an old family friend who lost his hearing and hand to a careless dynamite accident.

Cancer. Alcoholism. Diabetes. Car accidents. House fires. Thwarted love. Mental illness. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. There are a thousand things that can go wrong, and a thousand things that do go wrong.

When things go right, there’s not so much story, but isn’t that the story that should be told?

My brother, raised by a father whose own father abandoned him before he was even born, a man whose love for us in the end couldn’t overcome what he had missed growing up, has been an unbelievably good father to his two daughters. He may be a natural, but I suspect he is purposely railing against the past.

I’m married to the sort of man that my mom deserved, a man who actually wants to be married to me, and isn’t just filling the role that society dealt him.

Having spent my life outrunning dozens of potential unhappy endings, it always shocks me a little to think that my brother and I may actually be OK, that we’ll stay happily married to our respective spouses, that he’ll always be the guy who really deserves the No. 1 Dad coffee cup, that we’ll pursue careers we don’t despise and maintain hobbies that we love.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop running. But the idea that I might win lets me catch a breath every now and then.

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While browsing the List of the Day archives, I spotted the September 17 entry, Your Worst Job, and began analyzing my own early career path.

Having avoided the service industry for most of my working years, I don’t have too much whining to do about my jobs of yore. My fellow cube rats will agree that the white-collar environment can be a special circle of hell, but I’ve always had some guilt about excess sniveling when my job involves an air-conditioned environment, free coffee and access to clean restrooms. I feel like an overeducated tool – an overeducated tool who isn’t above griping about her job, but at least I’m a little uncomfortable about it.

That said, I have had some notable jobs that “informed my character.” The significant ones:

•Babysitter of three little boys, ages 2, 3 and 4: I made megabucks from this gig. Nobody else in my suburb was willing to take on these guys, so their mom had to up the hourly rate significantly.

At their house, I learned the art of loose parenting. They could have Popsicles once a day, outside, while wearing only their diapers. Afterwards, they got rinsed off with the garden hose before toweling down and coming inside for fresh diapers. Mom’s orders. Who was I to argue?

They also ate quiche for lunch once a week. None of the toddlers I currently associate with would even consider eating quiche.

•Cashier at Jitney Jungle: This was a joyfully monotonous job. My duties included scanning groceries, checking IDs, counting cash (this was in the Olden Days, when people used cash) and stocking cigarette and candy displays.

It was a people-watcher’s delight. The poor, the rich, the drunk, the recently paroled, the great unwashed … a sea of humanity made its way through my lane day after day. Most customers were friendly, though some were crotchety. It was always a delight to bend the rules for the friendly customers and enforce them to the letter for the crotchety.

My favorite customer was a man who always told me that he was going to pay me with “Hawaiian money.” I was the only cashier who ever got his joke; more than one freaked out and ran to the management booth for help.

I enjoyed analyzing the combinations of products that people bought, stringing together my own narratives for their lives with plot details involving the contents of their shopping carts. Cigarettes, beer and diapers were a popular combo that really needed no explanation. My favorite grouping was a bottle of bleach, a hairbrush and an order of potato logs from the deli.

I only caught one shoplifter. It was an elderly lady who added up her purchases on the back of an envelope and paid me with wrinkled bills and coins that she carefully mined from the bottom of her old, ragged purse. She never bought a brand-name item if there was a generic version available, and there was never a hint of luxury in her basket.

One day, I saw her in an empty lane slipping three or four Snickers bars into her bag. My duty, of course, was to Get The Manager, but instead I played lookout for her, making sure that no one else saw and that she got out of the store with little fanfare for her walk home.

I imagined that this was a special circumstance. Maybe she had a grandchild visiting, or a friend coming over to watch a rerun of a favorite movie on her old TV set that, no doubt, sported a pair of foil-covered rabbit ears.

Maybe she stole things all the time and I just didn’t know it. Maybe she was getting senile. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t about to have a poor old lady arrested for a little chocolate.

•Marketing Coordinator, unnamed small business: I extended two weeks worth of work into six months of employment with this company. The boss knew it and didn’t care. What counted was that such a small business had a Marketing Coordinator on staff, even if there was nothing to coordinate.

Luckily, I was by myself in the office most of the time and had ready access to the Internet and free coffee. Not so luckily, when the boss was there, he grooved to barbershop quartet music and Rush Limbaugh. He also whistled. Inside. A lot. To this day, I can’t help but glare at anyone who dares whistle in my presence.

My replacement tracked me down several weeks after I left and called me to see what the job duties were supposed to be. I still remember his exact words when I told him the truth: “Seriously? Christ.”

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