Friday, August 28, 2009

"Pardon Me, If It's No Trouble..."

(Peanut is the one in the center of the photo with his "Lineman" stance. Grrrrr!)

I love my almost-10-year old, "Peanut". From the day he was born, he was always very sweet. A “cuddler” and…..a bit of a Mama’s Boy, he always does his best to do what he thinks is right.

At nearly 10 years old, he still collects stuffed animals and says “I love you, Mom” about a hundred times a day. Out of the blue, he will tell me that he loves his grandmas and grandpas, how much he adores his dog, Max, and quotes random scientific facts (“Do you know why a spacesuit is white? So that it is cooler because it reflects the sun and so other astronauts can see it. Did you know that there is gravity in space?…it is just less.”).

He is smart as a whip, loves to read, is a master Guitar Hero player, plays piano, and is starting on the viola this year. Stubborn as an old mule…but a very good heart and is one of the gentlest and kindest souls I have ever known.

This being said, I have to talk about his love and participation in football.

Peanut plays in the community youth football league. An organization, I assure you we had no idea when we signed him up for it, that is an extremely competitive, travelling league. The coaches yell a lot in practice and blow the whistle to the point of near annoyance. I painfully watch my delicate flower of a son as he lumbers around the field and when Coach makes him run two laps. I can only breathe again when I know he has successfully completed the drill. Peanut wants to always have someone at practice to watch him because (and these are his words, not mine) he might “puke”.

When we signed him up last fall for this league, we knew it was tackle football and full pads and gear. Peanut begged and begged to do it. He loves football – his favorite teams are the Vikings and the Iowa Hawkeyes. To bring down an opposing player like the “big guys” do on TV? Well, to Peanut…..this would be sheer bliss.

However, because Peanut is such a kind and gentle soul….I am not sure football is his game. He has a tender demeanor which prevents him from being aggressive on the field. He tries so hard to please the coaches and he certainly has size on his side…..nearly 105 pounds. He pushes himself through each practice and game and is learning all the skills and plays of a Lineman. Starting out as Defensive Lineman, he was moved to Offensive Lineman because he just wasn’t aggressive enough to “give it” and was much better at “taking it”.

I tell him that I am going to sprinkle a little “mean” in his cereal each morning. He laughs and gives me his sweet, little smile and says, “Mo-om!!”

Peanut’s interpretation of “bringing down the other guy” is to awkwardly squat down, wait for the hike, then quietly say to the other boy, “Pardon me, number 26, if it’s no trouble, would you be so kind as to not cross this line of scrimmage and tackle our team’s quarterback? It would be most appreciated,” while his other teammates are dragging down the other boys by their legs and hips into the mud. I, of course, exaggerate. However, Peanut DOES master the “gentle fall down” technique by tapping the opponent on his chest or shoulders, then looking for the pile-up and running to jump into it.

At least he is trying. He has stuck with his football career longer than I could have expected (and it just started three weeks ago) and I give him points for that. I am very proud of him. He loves football and I want to support him every season, if he wants me to. I must admit that he does improve with every practice and I did watch him at practice lat night actually PULL DOWN a ball carrier. Very impressive.

This may not have been the way Peyton Manning or Brett Favre started out, but one thing they all have in common is passion. Peanut shares this love for the game and tries very hard and as long as he knows I am on the sidelines with a water bottle and a friendly word of encouragement, that is all that matters to me.

Who knows? He could, one day, be the big star on the high school Bulldogs football team…..or not. But it will be fun to watch him find out on his own.

Until next time….I remain, 1SweetMama

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

...And We're Off!

(Photo: , **msk - )

It is that time of year where I have a death grip on my Franklin Planner, monitoring every hour of every day and planning and orchestrating every single move and complex decision which will help me to best manage the schedules of my life.

With my job, the boys’ lives, school, sports, music, and church schedules - my calendar is an intricate series of “so-and-so needs to be here at this time” and “so-and-so needs to be there at that time” and who is going to get them there and who is going to pick them up.

As a single mom, I have become a diligent 5-Star General, strategizing troop movement from battlefield to battlefield, with me shouting orders and commands as we go. There is no room for error, less the enemy (our crazy schedule) find the weak spot and inflict total schedule annihilation. We must be swift! Agile. Determined. We must not show fear. We must forage our path into school year territory and (in the words of Winston Churchill) never, never, never quit.

For those of you who read this and wonder why I never call anymore… is why:

(Bear in mind, I work from 8 – 5 Monday through Friday….)

Monday: 7:05 – leave home to drive Bud (my oldest) to chorus rehearsal followed by my racing back home to get Peanut (my youngest) ready and out the door and to school by 7:55 (my neighbor, who watches these shenanigans from his back porch, calls this “Round One” and “Round Two”). School until 3:15 p.m. Grandma Jane picks up Peanut and brings him home. I meet up with them at my house at the end of my work day; walk the dog; help feed and dress Peanut for football practice at 6 p.m. then leave to pick Bud up from High School football; drop Bud off at the house…tell him to scrounge for food (“Think ‘Man vs. Wild’”, I tell him. “Imagine you have been dropped into the mountains of Yemen and you must stay alive but instead of eating reindeer droppings….you might find a peanut butter and cracker pack or frozen microwavable pizza!”). Then I am off to watch Peanut practice until 7:30 p.m. Everyone reunites around 7:45 p.m. Piano practice. Viola practice. Drum practice. Homework. Showers. Bed. Monday nights are also game nights for Bud so on the nights that he plays, the evening schedule management must be farmed out to any family member with a car and the mental fortitude to help out.

Tuesday: Repeat morning and day schedule. Just substitute Peanut’s piano theory class for the football practice element. Everyone reunites around 7:45 p.m. Piano practice. Viola practice. Drum practice. Homework. Showers. Bed. Throw in a random Tuesday night game for Peanut and theory must be rescheduled or skipped altogether.

Wednesday: Transition day for the boys to their dad’s house. Repeat morning and day schedule. 7 – 9 p.m. is Catechism for Bud and me (I am an adult guide for the group).

Thursday: Repeat morning and day schedule. The boys are with their dad but I must remain on call to assist their father if he has a work conflict. Peanut has football practice from 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Friday: Repeat morning and day schedule. Boys are with their dad. Evening activities include 5 p.m. piano lessons for Peanut, later attending the high school football game and to watch Bud play in the half-time marching band program.

Saturday: Boys are still with their dad but he often has Saturday work conflicts so I remain on call. Meet any time (depending on the gametime) between 7:45 a.m. and 10 a.m. to drive to and watch Peanut’s football game. It is a traveling team, so this usually takes all or most of the morning. Bud has football practice from 8 – 9:30 a.m. Piano Lessons at 11:30 a.m. Catch up on laundry and house cleaning. Yard work. Grocery shop.

Sunday: Church – usually 8:15 a.m. service as "late church" is too contemporary for my preference. Lunch. Family fun activity or more yard work with the boys. Catch up on anything left on the list that didn’t get done. Evening dinner/dessert and card game activity with the extended family.

So…we are off and running. Eventually this will all become a carefully choreographed dance that we perform effortlessly and will, ultimately, master. For now, we clumsily take it a step at a time – until we fall into a rhythm.

To all you Moms and Dads out there: I feel your pain. Give me survival tips, if you have any. Just know that we are all in this together!

For those of you who wonder why I never call….please bear with me. I will get back to you when the schedule lets up….in about 8 years!

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why I Love The Iowa State Fair

For a girl who was raised in “the big city”, I love the atmosphere and the uniqueness of the Iowa State Fair.

To remind Iowa State Fair scoffers of the significance of this event, I mentioned in my blog posts, dated August 14 and August 19, 2008, that, “You may know that the Iowa State Fair was listed as one of '1,000 Things To See Before You Die' as chronicled in a book of the same name (Schultz, Patricia. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List. New York: Workman Publishing, 2003. p. 630. )." Take that and add it to your list!

With this in mind, I usually try to figure out a way to load up the kiddies and make an annual trek to The Iowa State Fair. In order to fully enjoy a day at the Fair, one must, first, option a second mortgage on the house in order to pay for all the yummy food delicacies that await you while there. With an average cost of $8 per “yummy” multiplied times myself and two bottomless pits for children, let’s just say the trip is really costly (especially if you have to include gas, hotel, souvenirs, etcetera, etcetera) but it is really worth it.

This year’s adventure included all of the traditional stops: the Super Bull (“Big Black,” an Angus bull rockin’ it in at 3,404 pounds), the Big Boar (“Buddy,” weighing in at 1,117 pounds), the butter sculptures (the traditional Jersey cow and an additional sculpture commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Landing), and a stop at the Lamb Association food stand for a stick of lamb jerky or a lamb burger. You can see all of these truly fascinating features by visiting the Iowa State Fair website at

But this year, we also managed to take in the sights of Iowa’s biggest pumpkin….nearly 1,100 pounds! Now that is a pumpkin Charlie Brown would be proud of!

But what do I really love about the Iowa State Fair? It is all about a state coming together. It is all about the wholesomeness of Iowans gathering in Des Moines to show off the biggest, the best, the tastiest, and the kitschy-est attributes of this wonderful mid-western place. It is about families and fun and home-town pride. Folks representing their communities (and the pride of the family name!) enter into competitions for events like flower arranging, quilting, livestock showmanship, talent, and cooking….just to name a few!

Speaking of cooking….this year, I was really fortunate to be asked by Blue Bunny® to judge three cooking contests featuring Blue Bunny ICE CREAM!! Yes, 1SweetMama tasted and evaluated, in all, over 35 dessert entries in two dessert categories: youth and adult. At one point during the judging, I turned to my fellow co-worker and judge, and said, “I think I have died and gone to heaven!” The capper to the day was judging nearly 20 entries in the youth “Ugly Ice Cream Contest”. This is a contest in which kids ages 6-12 must create an ugly ice cream concoction (with a Blue Bunny Vanilla ice cream “base”) in which all inclusions MUST be edible foods….but the food combinations are ghastly! For instance… entry featured Blue Bunny Vanilla ice cream, pickled pigs’ feet, anchovies, pickled herring, and some other unidentifiably horrific (and stinky!) ingredients. Another entry featured Blue Bunny Vanilla ice cream, mealworm larvae, and crickets (dead and dried). You get the idea.

Fortunately, judges do NOT have to taste these entries and I wouldn’t exactly have described the experience as “heavenly”…. “otherworldly” is, perhaps, more of an accurate description. However, the Bug Ice Cream Chef’s mother invited us to try a larvae and we all reluctantly complied. Tasted like a musty potato chip.

With livestock pooh on the soles of our shoes, less cash in our pockets, and mealworm larvae in our bellies, the boys and I departed for home in “The Ice Cream Capital of the World(R)” with another fabulous Iowa State Fair experience in the 1SweetMama Family history books.

A great way to round out a summer in Iowa.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do They "Trick Out" Riding Mowers??

Last Friday afternoon, I guess you could say that I came face to face with that famous brass ring and, finally, decided it was time to pull the heck out of it.

That’s right, boys of the neighborhood….that middle-aged, hot (mostly because my tolerance to heat and humidity isn’t what it used to be) mama sitting on her brand new, bright red, hydrostat automatic engine, 24 horsepower, 42” cut Craftsman riding lawnmower with the drink cup-holder? That’s me!!

Well…….for now… is really my oldest son, Bud. Who, yes you are hearing me right - moms and dads of the world, begged – and I mean groveled – to climb on and mow not just my lawn but his grandparents’ lawn, too. If you can at all swing it financially (which, thanks to zero interest and zero payments for one full year along with season close-out pricing!!)….I am telling you, the price of this fine piece of lawn machinery was worth it simply for the fact that my teenager was not only excited to mow the lawn….asked when he could mow it again!! He said that this mower was the greatest investment I ever made. My youngest son, Peanut, kept asking when he would be old enough to mow the lawn. I believe he even compared the lawn mowing job to his current role as “Weedinator” as being more fun than pulling weeds and that I didn’t even have to pay him to mow.

Ahhhh, Heaven. It might be that I am a genius. It might also be that I can start thinking about standing up my lawn for our weekly “date night” and begin to hand that job off to my offspring. What would I do with an extra free night? Get a pedicure? Clean the toilet?? So many options!!

Oh, yes….and I cannot forget to tip my hat to the new gas-powered Weed Eater I also purchased along with the riding mower….or “The Tractor” as we now like to call it at the 1SweetMama household. I watched in utter disbelief as Bud gave Peanut a tutorial on how to operate it. It was so sweet watching Bud shepherd his little brother through the process. Bud pulled the starting cord and demonstrated, step for step, what I had showed him an hour earlier, including safety tips like “You will be better wearing pants when you do this because it hurts when you trim and the grass and dirt hits your shins.” For a moment my kids were adults, working together, to collaborate on a home project.

Until the newness wears off, I will bask in the afterglow of my tractor purchase and watch as my children take over my lawn care maintenance. And when it does, 1SweetMama will be waiting to spring like a gazelle into the driver’s seat of my bright, red beauty. I wonder, do they “trick out” riding lawn mowers??

By the way, my boys and I make our annual trek to the Motherland of all things Iowa today! Read about our adventures at The Iowa State Fair in my blog post on Friday, August 21!

Until then, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, August 14, 2009

Second Time Is A "Charm"!

Part 2 of 2 - Our meeting with Chef Duff and Charm City Cakes

The two large wooden doors closed behind us and there was a moment when we all paused…reflected internally on what had just happened…then, we – under the watchful eye of the Charm City Cakes video surveillance camera, I am sure! – exploded. We had done such a good job at remaining professional and composed for an hour and a half while we met with Chef Duff. Not able to physically contain ourselves any longer, we, on the street corner there in front of the bakery, jumped up and down, hugged each other and screamed. We had just completed Part 1 of a very successful cake conceptualizing meeting at Charm City Cakes in Baltimore.

One of my colleagues from the marketing agency, clutched a small white bakery box, with the Charm City Cakes sticker on the top, close to her chest. Outside was written her name and the flavor samples of cakes that were contained inside. Inside thebox were six small cake samples, each a different flavor. The chosen flavor would be the flavor of the final cake. The samples included Mint Chip, S’more, Chocolate Peanut Butter, White, Chocolate, and Marble.

We hustled over to Dizz’s where we sat at a table, placed a small order for nosh (potato skins and sweet potato fries), then proceeded to dive in to the sample box. Two minutes later….only crumbs remained.

After careful consideration and much discussion, we opted for the Marble flavor. Mint Chip, S’more, and Peanut Butter –while very good – might overwhelm the flavor of ice cream that we will be serving along with the cake on September 22. White and Chocolate were both delicious – probably the best chocolate flavor I have ever tasted – but a little bit of a yawner as a stand alone. We chose Marble because it combined two traditional and very tasty flavors into one interesting cake flavor that will be fun to look at.

As we ate, we must have checked our watches a thousand times and shook our heads in disbelief, “Can you believe we met the Charm City Cakes crew today?”

“Can you believe we were invited back?”

“Wasn’t Duff so incredible??”

When we felt we had allocated enough time for Chef Duff’s 3 o’clock meeting, we hustled back over to Charm City Cakes. Time for our second meeting.

Again….the intercom. Again…..the exchange. Again…those ominous-looking doors opened. This time when they did, we were welcomed with recognition and enthusiasm. Chef Duff and his gang…glad to see us? Wow…that is pretty cool!

Mary Alice helped us to fetch our ice cream and we spread our containers of ice cream and ice cream toppings out on the conference table where we had met just one hour earlier.

The artists of Charm City Cakes flocked to the table where we filled their Blue Bunny® color-changing bowls (they change from white bowls to bright blue when you add cold ice cream!!) with heaping scoops of Blue Bunny® Bunny Tracks, Blue Bunny® Mint Chip, Blue Bunny® Homemade Chocolate, and Blue Bunny® Neapolitan (Duff took that one!) ice cream. We gave them a few mementos to commemorate our visit, we chatted with the group and ironed out plans for our September event in Manhattan for our promotion’s party (not sure what the promotion is? Check it out here). I also made lots of small talk with Chef Duff about his show, his band, and the possibility of him visiting us here in the Ice Cream Capital of the World® and some fun ideas he has for ice cream flavors, if we were ever interested in considering them.

An hour later, we bade our farewells to our new friends at Charm City Cakes, feeling fabulous about our day. Cake and Blue Bunny ice cream….what can top that?

This can…..just yesterday we discovered that Charm City Cakes blogged about our visit, too. Check it out here: It was the cherry on top of one delicious experience.

Ahh, life can be so sweet.

Until next time, I remain…1SweetMama

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

....I Think I Heard Angels Singing....

(Chef Duff Goldman at work)

…and there we were……

After a day of travel to Baltimore and a breakfast planning meeting and a trip to the local Harris Teeter store to buy all the Blue Bunny® ice cream and toppings fit for a good ‘ol fashioned ice cream social we found ourselves standing at the threshold of all that is good and sweet and oh, so right. A world of cakes and fondant and creative artists and bakers….and Chef Duff Goldman, himself.

We grinned stupidly at each other – none of us believing that we were actually at Charm City Cakes’ front door. A plain, grey-ish stone building with two giant citadel-like wooden doors that no one could breach, no matter how strong their sugar craving.

I rang the intercom bell:

Voice: “Hello?”
Me: “Blue Bunny ice cream team is here!”
Voice: “Okay….just a moment.”

We exchanged glances…giddy as schoolgirls.

The doors opened. I swear I think I heard angels singing.

There it was. The interior of the bakery. In all of it’s crazy pop-art colors and decorations, the crew busily building fondant cake “wraps” (not sure this is the technical term, but they sculpt the designs on cake molds and then wrap it onto a cake once it is baked, later in the week) and applying some of the most beautiful and intricate artwork I have ever seen. “Dummy cakes” – not real cakes but fake cakes built for display only of some of their finest works rimmed the conference table area. The most intriguing “dummy cake” was a bust of Marie Antoinette with her throat slit, blood oozing from the incision. Chef Duff explained that while it was really interesting, it was very macabre. It took our whip-smart intern to exclaim, “How interesting, since she was the one who said, ‘Let them eat cake!’” Duff stopped and looked at her, incredulous and flattered at her insight…. "You see?” he said softly, “No one gets that!”

Chef Duff was a gentle, crazy, awe-inspiring genius that gracefully led our team (five of us, in all) through the creative process to design a cake concept that would include lights and dry ice smoke. Unbelievable. His mind just floated from our concepts (which we thought were good in the first place) to something a little more intriguing and unique. At one point during the meeting, I turned to him and said, “Is there anything you have always wanted to do for a cake but never have?”

His eyes danced and he leaned back in his chair for a moment to reflect. The Willy Wonka of cake-making, a story-telling, good-hearted, soft-spoken, yet creatively outgoing master of his art leaned forward and took a pencil in hand and sketched. We talked. He talked. We watched him work. Dream. We collaborated and finally ended up with a cake that will be an amazement to all who attend the event in which it will be unveiled.

He wrote up the contract. Quoted us a price. Ouch (but worth it). We signed it. Paid our deposit. He proceeded to present us with some samples of cake flavors we had requested for our cake and he wanted to visit more. At the two-hour mark, Mary Alice (oh, how we lover her, too!) reminded Duff that he needed to “shut up” (Duff’s words, not mine) and get ready for a three o’clock appointment they had.

But the ice cream social had not yet occurred.

Chef Duff told us to go across the street to “Dizz’s” restaurant (oh….yummmy place to eat) and come back in about 45 minutes.

Invited back? Us? To Charm City Cakes?

Find out how the rest of the visit went in Friday’s blog post. But until then, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, August 7, 2009

How Sweet It Is!

(One of the Charm City Cakes creations "Nightmare"...see this and many others on the Charm City Cakes website

There are times when I love my job and there are times when I love LOVE my job. This is one of those times…..

I often tell folks about how there may be six basic food groups to most people, but, to me, there are eight: Grains, Fruit, Vegetable, Dairy, Meats/Poultry/Fish/Nuts, Oil, Dairy, chips and salsa, and birthday cake. It is very important that you include items from each of these food groups every day in order to manage a well-balanced diet.

Well, I am thrilled to report that next week, I get to weigh a little heavy on the birthday cake portion of that food pyramid. In fact, I have been training intensively for my trip to the center of the universe for birthday cake: Charm City Cakes to meet the Wizard Himself (note the capitalization of his title…like “His Holiness” or “Her Majesty”), The Ace of Cakes, Chef Duff Goldman. As a big fan of his Food Network Show (Ace of Cakes)….and a fan of cake itself…I can barely believe that my feet will trod upon the hallowed grounds of Duff-dom and his merry minions. To be in the very presence of all that cake and frosting and fondant icing…..I can barely find the words to articulate my excitement.

My training this week has simply been to hone my body’s tolerance of sugar, tame my willpower so that I will not be tempted to dive, head-first, into vats of cake batter and/or frosting, and to practice my skills at dialing down my desire to act like a Duff fanatic. Always, the professional, I have had to increase my exposure to cake and frosting and the show so that I can resist the urge to overindulge with both my emotions and my sweet tooth.

The purpose of this visit is to conceptualize a cake that we (Blue Bunny) are commissioning with Charm City Cakes for a customer promotion we are doing with A&P in the Northeast. For complete contest details and rules, visit the promotion website at .

This trip will mark my journey to Mecca. The motherland. The tip of the frosted layer-cake of confectionary art and design. The gastro-trip-the-light-fantastic adventure to the ONLY place to go if “birthday cake” exists as a piece of your food pyramid.

Look out Charm City! Here comes 1SweetMama and HER gang of merry minions. We look forward to a very sweet collaboration.

For my fellow readers….you an expect a full report on Tuesday morning.

Until then, I remain a sugar buzzed 1SweetMama.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Sweet Mystery of Motherhood

A Letter To My Sister on her approaching baby shower.....
Dear Little A,

For whatever it is worth:

I often joke with friends and relatives that I was never meant to be a “Baby Mom”. I am awkward with tiny people and about the only thing I love to do is hold babies until they start to cry and then I hand them back to their mothers. Of course, I loved having my own babies and the experience was one that I would never trade but I was always the type that just couldn’t wait until they got older and I could relate to them in a different way. I have even flirted with the odd (yet beautiful) role of “grandmother-type” to a young lass as P.O.D. has been blessed with one of the most handsome and sweet grandsons on the planet. My relationship to P.O.D. gives me the assumed right to be able to purchase stuffed animals, show off photos to co-workers, and dote on him in order to give his parents a break. It is good practice, anyway, for the day when I officially take on a role of Grandma.

However, I must confess that these days I am finding myself more drawn to my devilishly handsome sons with whom I have discovered I can now relate to in a more adult-ish way. We can joke about more intellectual comedic moments that present themselves in our lives or on television. I am able to relate to their friends better. We can have great meaningful discussions about important life issues like politics, relationships, futures, goals, dreams….yes, sometimes even girls.

It has occurred to me that somewhere along the way, a line was crossed where they stopped being tiny people and have grown into young men. And, even, within that journey, I have discovered that we are now – dare I say? – raising each other.

This is a Sweet Mystery of Motherhood that moms and mom-types across the globe realize at some point during child-rearing but never really talk very openly about. You don’t discuss it at baby showers when you are discussing the pros and cons of organic baby food and cloth vs. disposable diapers. It isn’t shared during playdates, not even at parent organization meetings. Yet…it is one of those realizations that just washes over you one day when you are really not thinking much about it.

It is such a wonderful and satisfying part of raising children when you realize that you have not only participated in bringing up young people who are good-hearted and healthy but that they are also intelligent, witty, and possess a sense of humor beyond the “bodily noises that are funny” category. You somehow have this feeling of semi-accomplishment that they will be able to interact well with people and that your kids might actually be someone that other intelligent, witty, people might want to be around, as well.

Parenting is funny sometimes. It is such hard work and can be physically and emotionally exhausting but it is over before you know it and when you look back on it, you barely remember the things that were hard about it. I am halfway there to kicking my kids out from the nest and I know there will be a lot of wing-spreadin’ yet to do, but it is so nice to know that I am, at least working on building them a really great runway.
Good luck, Little A, as you and your "Banan-er" build a runway for your little birdies!
Love, Your Sis/1SweetMama