Sunday, May 29, 2005

Warning to New Moms

You know all those cute little outfits you just got at your baby shower? The ones you washed in Dreft and folded away neatly in your baby's dresser?

You should be warned. These same darling ensembles, in just a few months, will cause you no end of grief when your child outgrows them and you must decide what to do with them. Those of you planning to have more babies can take comfort in knowing you can "put them up for the next baby," but if you're like me, and you've had your honest-to-goodness last baby, you simply have to get rid of the stuff and it will ABSOLUTELY RIP YOUR HEART OUT! BY THE ROOTS!

(Guess what I did today?)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A mom’s first graduation

By Deana Nall
Baytown Sun

Published May 25, 2005

How do those women do it?

You know, the ones who have eight or nine kids. How do they do it?

I’m not referring to all the labor, laundry and potty training, although I don’t know how they do all that, either. I’m talking about kindergarten graduations. I just survived my oldest daughter’s, and I’ve got five years to get psyched up for the next one.

There’s no way I could handle any more after that.

Not that it wasn’t a nice ceremony. The Travis Elementary kindergarteners marched in to “Pomp and Circumstance” wearing white graduation caps and orange tassels. They sang a song about rainbows. Julia, up on the back row of the risers, caught my eye and gave me a quick, nervous wave. She was so cute. They were all cute.

And I wanted to collapse on the floor and have someone carry me out. What happened to my baby girl? What happened to the wisps of baby hair that used to cover her head? What happened to being able to pick her up without throwing my back out?

I looked at some of the other moms sitting around me. Just six or so years ago, we were in hospitals somewhere, enjoying a delightful painkiller high and in a state of utter shock over how much we loved these babies that seemed so new and so familiar at the same time.

Many of us had walked around for years in that identity crisis that sets in at about 18 in which we spend a lot of time wondering why we’re here. Staring into our newborns’ faces, with their buttery-soft skin and rosebud mouths, the answer could not have been more clear. We’re here to be their moms.

And now our children are turning their little orange tassels. Next is first grade, then second, and it doesn’t stop until 12th grade. Then you go drop them off on a college campus somewhere. Of course I want my child to grow and learn and be successful. But part of me will always want my baby back.

The nice thing is that I do have an actual baby in the house right now.

But Jenna will be starting kindergarten in 2009. It’s no wonder we women start hitting the Oil of Olay in our thirties. Watching our kids grow up is incredibly rewarding, but it can also take its toll on us.

For Julia’s graduation present, we got her a Cabbage Patch Kid. Yes, those chubby-cheeked dolls that moms were willing to kill for in the early ’80s. She had been wanting one for a while, and we surprised her with it when we got home from the ceremony.

We could have given her a more grown-up gift like jewelry or something. But the Cabbage Patch Kid was our way of saying, “You’re still a little girl. One day we’ll drop you off on a college campus somewhere, and you’ll go out in the world and do great things. But not just yet. We need you to need us a little bit longer.”

Julia has big plans for her future. She wants to travel the world and explore sunken shipwrecks. She wants to personally save every kind of endangered animal. I believe that she, along with other kids her age, will have a profound impact on the world when she’s grown up.

And I think that’s great. I just want her to take her time getting there.

Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Monday, May 23, 2005

Good Mom

I felt like a really good mom today.

I was having lunch with Julia at school when she told me the names of all the kids in her kindergarten class who had seen SW III and why couldn't she see it? Chad and I had already told her after we saw it Saturday that she was going to have to wait until she was quite a bit older to see it. Obviously, not all parents feel the way we do. Right in front of us in the movie was a family with a baby and a boy who looked to be about four. What is with these parents?

While I'm on a self-righteous kick, here's what Julia's friend had in his lunchbox today: Three Slim Jims, four large marshmallows, jello, orange soda, cheetos.

I'm such a good mom, I can't stand myself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Neck fest could use Tilt-A-Whirl

By Deana Nall
Baytown Sun

Published May 18, 2005

Well, I did it. I went out last weekend and got Long Necked. Not by myself, of course. My two girls and a set of their grandparents joined me on my expedition to the Long Neck Wildlife Festival.

On the way there, we decided we didn’t have enough kids in the car. So we stopped and picked up Grace and Belinda Watson. With my Suburban packed full of females, with the exception of my poor dad, we finally arrived at the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center.

It’s not easy to get two 6-year-olds and a 4-year-old to decide what they want to do first. But they finally agreed upon venturing inside the highly educational (and air-conditioned) Wetlands Center.

Once inside, they “ahhhed” over baby alligators, “ewwwed” over dead fish on ice, and squealed when a fiddler crab in one of the touch tanks got really ticked off at a festival volunteer. Then we went to the science lab, where kids could look at stuff through microscopes. Here, we found yellow-shirted festival volunteers John and Donna Britt. These were two volunteers who were smart enough to stay away from the fiddler crabs.

Outside the Wetlands Center, on a shaded bank of Goose Creek, we found an archery range. Julia, my 6-year-old, decided to try it out. After a few assisted tries, she took a shot all on her own. The arrow flew from her bow and sank right into the leg of a fake deer. She was thrilled. I mentally crossed “Buy Julia the new ‘Bambi’ DVD” off my to-do list.

And right next door, you could try your hand at roping a fake calf. I’m a bit much of a city girl for that, but Grace, after a little help, finally got her lasso around the little guy. Belinda and I chose not to test our skills. But I must note, as Belinda proved later in the day, that she is a champion moonwalk-jumper.

As for the youngest member of our party, 8-month-old Jenna, she took one look at the festival happenings and filled up her diaper. Event organizers, please don’t take this personally.

After several hours, the girls — snow cones, candy and free coloring books in hand — were tired. We boarded the Suburban and headed home.

Best deal: All the free exhibits at the Wetlands Center.

Worst deal: Paying $30 for wristbands for three kids to jump around on the inflatables for 15 minutes. I understand the wristbands were good for the whole weekend, and, as much as my child would love to spend an entire, warm, spring weekend bouncing around in an oven-like moonwalk, we do have a life outside of the Long Neck Festival. I haven’t spent thirty bucks that fast since ... well, last week. When I put a quarter-tank of gas in my car.

Anyway, aside from a severe case of “sticky hands” that resulted from Julia, Grace and Belinda indulging themselves in cotton candy, we had a good time.

But it could be better. I didn’t have to wait to read the newspaper to know the turnout was disappointing. Here’s my idea for next year: Let’s have a midway. Nothing brings out the crowds like rickety rides put together by drifters with screwdrivers. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the risk factor. The emphasis on birds and nature is nice, but why not have a Tilt-A-Whirl to go with it?

Just something to think about.

Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A little inappropriate humor...

I'm afraid I'm passing my sense of humor on to my daughter.

The other day, while she was waiting for her PBS shows to come on, she was watching the end of "Sit and Be Fit," an exercise show on PBS for older people who can't move around as much as they used to. Anyway, Julia was trying to say the name of the show and accidentally called it "Sit and Be Fat." She wasn't really making fun of anyone -- the people on the show aren't overweight. But it struck both of us as being hysterically funny -- an exercise show called "Sit and Be Fat." We thought they could do "candy bar lifts" and "ice cream crunches." We even thought about getting the camcorder and making our own spoof.

It came on again yesterday, and Julia turned the sound down and was talking for the people. Like when they were doing shoulder shrugs, Julia kept saying "I don't know! I don't know!" I guess I should have used the opportunity to teach a lesson about how making fun of other people -- even people on TV who can't hear us -- is wrong. But I couldn't. I was laughing too hard.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Outta my way, it’s Bunco time

By Deana Nall
Baytown Sun

Published May 11, 2005

Usually, I’m a loving wife and mother whose schedule revolves around taking care of my family. Unless it’s the second Tuesday of the month, then my husband and kids can eat Spaghetti-Os off the kitchen floor for all I care. I’m playing Bunco.

A few people — all men — have asked me, “What is Bunco?”

Well, I’ll tell you. Bunco looks like a dice game. We try to roll sixes, and when six comes up on all three dice, that’s a Bunco. You have to watch it, though, because other players can grab your Bunco away. This can get ugly. If your wife comes home with a little skin missing, this is why.

But Bunco isn’t about the dice. In reality, Bunco is the heart of Baytown’s mommy culture. It’s a chance for moms to do three things we don’t get to do very often: 1) Leave the house with the family still in it, 2) eat food we didn’t cook, and 3) talk at length with other grown-ups.

I’m a seasoned Bunco-ite, having played with the same group for the entire five years we’ve lived here. Before that, I played for a couple of years in another town. In that Bunco group, we played for prizes.

Here in Baytown, we cut to the chase. We play for money.

I was a bit hesitant to play for money at first. I’m a minister’s wife who comes from a long line of ministers’ wives. In fact, I can’t seem to get away from ministers. I wouldn’t be surprised if my cat got ordained one of these days.

Anyway, “playing for money” is one of those things some people think women married to ministers shouldn’t do, like smoking, getting tattoos, or using rough language, such as “That bites,” or “I voted for Kerry!” My views changed, though, the first time I played Bunco. I won 20 bucks. That would clear up anyone’s moral dilemma. I’ve never looked back.

Another great thing about Bunco is that it brings together women from different walks of life. My group has Catholics, Baptists, teachers, a soccer coach, a nurse, stay-at-home moms and work-from-home moms. We don’t see much of each other outside of Bunco, and it’s fun to meet up every month to find out what’s been going on in everyone’s lives. We’ve had births, new houses, promotions and college graduations.

We’ve endured a lot together, too. Just in the last year, our group has gone through a divorce and the serious illness of a child. And last July, we lost one of our members to cancer. We aren’t just about rolling dice. We’re about helping each other get through the times in which real life can become a little too real.

Oh — and we’re also about food. We all take turns cooking for Bunco night. You know how some women politely turn down dessert, saying, “Oh, none for me, thanks.” You won’t find those women at Bunco. It’s our night off and, by golly, we’re going to live it up. Cheesecake? Chocolate mousse? Twinkies? We don’t care. Just bring it on.

Well, I hope I’ve helped clear up some of the mystery of Bunco. The best piece of advice I can give a Bunco husband is that on Bunco night, stay out of your wife’s way. She’s got somewhere to go.

Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Where in the world is...

I've been listening to Morning Edition on NPR lately. I like it for the most part, but have you ever noticed that sometimes they go ON and ON about NOTHING???

Like last week they had a series -- a whole series -- about "The Search for Bin Laden." Couldn't that be pretty much summed up by just saying, "WE HAVEN'T FOUND HIM YET."

I love Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac," though. Of course it's only like four minutes...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

This one is for all the Supermoms

By Deana Nall
Baytown Sun
Published May 04, 2005

Since we’re thinking about moms so much this week, I’ve been reflecting on the transformation I’ve undergone since first giving birth six years ago.

I have become a superhero.

I mean it. I have special powers. When Julia was 2, we were eating out somewhere when she accidentally knocked her drink off the table. In that same fraction of a second, I reached out and caught the cup in mid-air — with my left hand. Didn’t spill a drop.

“Wow!” said a friend who was with us. “You’re definitely a mom!”

It’s true. Upon becoming mothers, we women develop superpowers. We can hear a crash in the house and instantly know whether or not it produced blood. We can dive across a room and intercept the marble that’s about to go into our baby’s mouth. We can look at the expression on our toddler’s face and know exactly what’s going on in her diaper.

One night my husband and I were almost asleep when a tiny sound came through the baby monitor. I jumped out of bed and ran to the door.

“What are you doing?” Chad asked. “She just spit up,” I said.

I was right. Of course I was. I am Supermommy.

But despite our super-quick reflexes and bat-hearing, we moms can’t always do everything. Sometimes we can’t even function. The demands placed upon us can become quite immobilizing.

The other day, after at least a week of failing to get more than a few hours of sleep at a time because of my children’s nocturnal needs, I was leaving the house and was determined to look somewhat presentable. I thought hair spray might help the most. It doesn’t require fine-tuned precision like eyeliner or lipstick. So I reached for the hair spray — only to find I had wrapped my hand around a can of “Off!”

“Whew,” I thought to myself. “I really would have felt stupid if I had sprayed my hair with mosquito repellent.” So I grabbed another can and sprayed my hair with Lysol. I smelled like “Green Apple Breeze” all day. I’ve never felt so disinfected.

Then there was the day that has gone down in my own personal history as my worst day of motherhood. Chad had left town that morning. Two-year-old Julia and I were spending the day at home when I felt a migraine coming on. I don’t get them very often, but when they do hit, I usually end up whining to God to please, just kill me.

The day wore on, the pain got worse, and finally I couldn’t do it anymore. It was only about 6 p.m., but I put Julia in bed with me.

“We have to go to sleep now,” I told her. “I know it’s still daytime, but my headache is so bad that I can’t take care of you. Maybe I’ll feel better in the morning.”

Her eyes widened. “You can’t take care of me?” she asked. “No, I can’t,” I said, turning over to go to sleep.

A few minutes passed before I felt a small, sticky hand rubbing my forehead.

“Then I’ll take care of you, Mommy,” she said. And there it was. In the middle of my worst day ever, I had a cherished “Mommy moment.” We superhero moms live for those.

To all my fellow mommies, have a great Mother’s Day. Even superheroes deserve a break.

Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is