Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In the Summertime...

Oak Leaf Hydrangea

We've gone from winter to summer here in Tennessee. Spring popped up for a moment, just long enough to let the dogwoods and azaleas bloom, then she fled south for the year, I guess. In the past few weeks, we've gone from 50 degrees to 90 - and skipped the open window season altogether.

I love open window season - my house gets aired out, my electricity and gas bills go down, my allergies hit an all-time-high. Okay. I can live without the last one, but the other points are valid.

This year, we went straight from heat to a/c. We're supposed to break the record high temperature set back in 1918, today. Hello, summer.
Derek and Joshua start team tennis today. I'm not entirely sure how all that works, because I missed the orientation meeting on Saturday. I had it in my calendar, I talked to Dr. SmartyPants about it, told the boys I'd be going. Then I proceeded outside to plant my vincas, and an hour and a half after the meeting was to have started, I came inside, picked up my phone and realized I had completely missed it.

Hi. My name is Diahn. I'm a complete flake. I cannot function without my iPhone. It will now be strapped to my forehead like a phylactery.
I miss Melinda. Mudbug Madness was this past weekend, and I didn't get to go this year. That makes me sad. But I may get to see her soon, anyway. That makes me happy.
My mom butt-dialed me Friday. I could hear her and my sister and niece talking about getting food at the grocery store. They didn't hear me. It made me laugh.
My tomato plants have the most adorable little tomatoes on them. I like to go out and gaze at them and smell the leaves. Is that weird? If I were to ever wear perfume, I'd like it to be eau de tomato leaf, but I don't wear perfume, so I guess that's irrelevant.

And weird.
This weather makes me want to sit on my patio in the evenings and drink margaritas. It just seems right.

Anyone want to join me?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Vietnam Memory

Take some time today to remember and honor those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" in order to protect and preserve a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

quotes are from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I've Got a Feelin'

The Cleverlys

The Smarty and I had a date last night. It's not a terribly common occurrence, that. We don't get out as often as we should, I suppose. But we did. Yay!

We went out for dinner (shrimp & grits...mmmm) and a couple of $2 drafts, and then headed to The Square Room to see The Cleverlys.

They are very clever. Now, I love me some good bluegrass music, people. Add good bluegrass music to self-deprecating humor and a whole lot of wit, and I'm completely happy.

We had a great time - it was a good crowd with a strange blend of white-haired ladies and seersucker suited gentlemen mixed in with hipsters sporting super straight jeans while drinking PBR from a can.

And we were there, too.  We defy classification.

So do The Cleverlys...

And oh.  By the way...I have a new boy-fren...

He played the fiddle right into my heart...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book 'im, Dan-o

I heart books

I read a book this weekend. Now, that’s not all that unusual – I read a lot of books. I love books. I live for books. Going to the library is like going to church – it’s quiet, it’s introspective, it’s enlightening.

I love to peruse the stacks – wandering from fiction to non-fiction and back again. My favorite thing to do, though, is to let my eyes flick across the spines of the new fiction section – reading the titles and trying to discern which of those beauties is coming home with me for a while.

I totally judge books by their covers. Well. I use the jacket descriptions, too.

Anyway – for the most part, I do all right. I’m generally pleased with my selections, although there have been a few stinkers here and there. I HATE to not finish a book. Even if I don’t love it, I always want to finish it.

That is – I did, until this weekend.

I picked up a novel – I’m not even going to tell you the name of it, because I’d rather shoot needles into my eyeballs than in any way recommend that you read it.  I was staggered by the fact that someone published this novel – it was so bad. The plot was twisted, but not in a good way. The characters were one-dimensional and trite. The setting was undefined and boring. I felt like I had a handle on the twists, though – I figured out the antagonist fairly quickly – thought I understood the motivation for the dastardly deeds, and then…in the second to last chapter...

…out of absolutely nowhere…not a hint…not a clue…


YES. That is what I said.

There was never any indication that asteroids were even going to be considered. It was not an asteroid kind of novel. It was like the guy got to chapter 20 and realized he had no way to wrap up his mystery and was listening to a little Aerosmith and went all Armageddon on it.

And people? I was righteously pissed. I couldn’t go to sleep. All I could think about was that this guy…this complete dork had gotten paid for that novel – is probably still getting residuals and some kind of income from its sale. Not only that, but that some one had been paid as a reviewer and actually wrote something along the lines of “an author in line to take the place of John Grisham.”

Oh. Mah. Gah.

John Grisham should sue that reviewer for libel.

I did the only thing I could do. I flung the book on the floor next to my bed and tweeted my displeasure. Then I headed to my own personal library stacks and picked up “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in order to cleanse my brain of that other book.

And there I found the sweet nectar of literary genius. I found such nuggets as this:

His sermon was a forthright denunciation of sin, an austere declaration of the motto on the wall behind him: he warned his flock against the evils of heady brews, gambling, and strange women. Bootleggers caused enough trouble in the Quarters, but women were worse. Again, as I had often met it in my own church, I was confronted with the Impurity of Women doctrine that seemed to preoccupy all clergymen.


Thank you, Ms. Lee. While I’ll never understand how you only wrote one novel, I’m forever in your debt for the one you penned…

No asteroids required.

Monday, May 23, 2011

'tis a gift to be simple

We had a list for the weekend...some things got crossed off...some things were added...

We'll probably clean out the garage, instead.
And go to the farmer's market.
And play some tennis.
And watch the A-Team (some of us, anyway.)
And rest.
And watch some Formula 1 racing.
And paint.
And make some beignets.
And drink some coffee.
And take some photographs.
And walk the dogs.
And vacuum.

The beignets were the best I've ever made...from a Southern Living recipe. So dreamy light and fluffy and the taste?

Dang. People. PLEASE. Make. These.




At the farmer's market, the strawberries knocked us off our feet and we bought a gallon of them. Then, when we got home and realized how many strawberries are in a gallon, I realized we'd have to either eat nothing but strawberries for a solid week or make jam.

jam session step one

jam session step 2

jam session step 3

This is the real-deal, man...not freezer jam. I have six adorable little four ounce quilted jelly jars packed to the brim with summer, right there... plus two bags of sliced, frozen strawberries for shortcake AND a colander full of plump berries for snacking.

It's enough to make me happy that it's Monday...

Friday, May 20, 2011



No. We aren't going camping again. We're going to take a break from traveling.

We'll probably clean out the garage, instead.

And go to the farmer's market.
And play some tennis.
And watch the A-Team (some of us, anyway.)
And rest.
And watch some Formula 1 racing.
And paint.
And make some beignets.
And drink some coffee.
And take some photographs.
And walk the dogs.
And vacuum.

And be amazed when it's over so quickly...

Hope your weekend is full of happiness!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Wee Bit of Ugliness Upon Which I've Been Ruminating

mountain laurel

The photo is there to offset the ugliness. It's not the ugliness. It's a pretty mountain laurel.

Here's the ugliness.

A few weeks ago, I was out on the soccer field, helping my neighbor with team pictures. Maybe it was the baseball field. It's been a busy season. It doesn't matter. What matters is that there were a bunch of kids and we were wrangling them into awkward poses for their spring sports photos.

One of the boys was being, well...a boy. He was probably 7 or 8 years old. He wiggled. He squirmed. He got the giggles. He made silly faces. You children that age do. Someone made a snide comment about how his parents might want to look into medication for that wiggly boy. I made the comment that he was just being a boy - I'd get the photo.

And I did. But not before hearing another one of the moms say this:
Listen. I teach second grade - believe me when I say we'd like to have them all medicated. That's the only way we get anything done in school.
I stopped what I was doing and just looked at her - expecting to see some cranky, evil looking cartoon lady standing there, but she just looked like a typical mom - just like me. So I thought maybe she was joking. But she was no comedienne. She was just a normal looking, nice-seeming lady who happens to think that all children should be medicated.

It absolutely killed me. Here was someone who was not only in charge of her own children, but of the 30 second graders that she looked after 180 days a year. The ones she couldn't deal with unless they were medicated.

And it started me thinking. I remember, way back in first grade, we had one of our boys evaluated for any kind of learning disability or attention deficit disorder. There were no neurological tests to see if something was going on in his brain - it was all based on surveys - of us, of his teacher, and of an educational psychologist. Thankfully, none of those involved in my son's evaluation shared the attitude of the lady at the sports field - he didn't need medication, just a little change in OUR thought process of how we deal with his unique personality. None of us were strong advocates of medication, either - I counted that as a blessing. His second grade teacher was not quite as confident of our decision, and it was a very difficult year, one of the reasons which prompted us to homeschool full time.

Now, imagine that there's a boy like my boy in that lady's class - actually a boy like either of my wiggly and talkative, the other dreamy and distracted...I believe that particular teacher would strongly encourage medication.

Then, take it one step further and realize that she's just one of a multitude of teachers who think the same thing...that second grade boys (and girls) should be required to sit in a classroom all day, with a 20 minute recess, and a lunch period, without wiggling or talking or squirming or losing focus or giggling or occasionally falling out of their seats for absolutely no reason.

Sure, that's what grown ups do. I think we can all expect that high-school students are able to keep their backsides firmly planted in their desks. But even middle-school-aged children can struggle with that, from what I've seen.

I don't really have a conclusion here - it's just been sitting in my brain and wiggling around up in there for a couple of weeks and driving me right bonkers, and I thought I'd try and release it into the ether. I know for a fact that there are children who absolutely need, because of some neurological reason, medications for ADHD. They benefit from it, as do their caregivers and educators - their lives are enriched for having access to medical treatment.

But this woman's attitude is dangerous and unhealthy - it connotes a desire for the drones to maintain their steady droning. At the risk of exposing even more of my nerd side, I couldn't help but picture the Borg ship and their relentless motto, "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated..."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Eating (part 3) - The S'mores Edition


We went camping last weekend in our little snail shell of a camper. Oh wait - that's not the right picture...


It may not be big and luxurious, but we love it. Oops. That's not it either.

Apparently, I didn't take a photo of our camper this time.

Here's one I took right after we bought it...

Antigua 195CK

ANYWAY. I was a little concerned about how we were going to integrate our newly established eating habits into a weekend camping trip - because we love to eat camping food - you know...burgers, brats, baked beans, chips, and cookies.

And s'mores. Many...many...many s'mores.

Well - it wasn't so hard. It just took a little rearranging of expectations and some planning ahead.

We did burgers - but with lean ground beef and smaller (thinner) whole grain hamburger buns and a salad instead of baked beans, chips and dip.

We did spaghetti with whole wheat noodles, salad and garlic toasted english muffins (yummmm).

And we did brats. Yep. But these weren't your typical bratwurst sausages, which weigh in at a hefty 320 calories.



I found some turkey bratwurst though - Butterball, maybe? I can't remember. Anyway, for 140 calories, we thought we'd give them a try. Honestly? I wasn't too excited about it. We had some turkey breakfast sausage one morning while we were camping, and I didn't care for it too much - too turkey-y.

But - we threw them on the grill...

photo by Joshua Ott

And instead of chips and dip, I decided to make zucchini fries.

Yes, I'm aware it's a stretch. Hang with me.

I cut a fresh zucchini into french fry shapes, sprinkled them with a seasoning mix intended for poultry (onion, garlic, salt, pepper, blah blah blah) and wrapped individual servings into aluminum foil. At first, I placed those on the grill over the open fire pit.

photo by Joshua Ott
Then I got worried that they weren't really roasting all that well, so I removed the grate and just tossed the aluminum foil bags down into the coals.

I pretty much just left them there and occasionally turned them over with the barbeque tongs until the turkey brats were finished.

When I pulled them out of the fire and opened them up, I realized I probably could have let them roast a little longer - to get more caramelized...but we were hungry.

People. This was absolutely fantastic. The turkey brats tasted just like bratwurst - none of that overpowering turkey taste. I loved the zucchini fries. LOVED them. Derek ate every one on his plate, and about half of Joshua's. Joshua said they weren't his favorite, but they were okay. Trust me when I tell you that is high praise from Joshua - he's not a fan of green anything. I noticed that Dr. SmartyPants' plate was clean, as well.

Now - I know what you're thinking. 140 calorie bratwurst. 100 calorie whole wheat hot dog bun. 0 calorie zucchini...that's not enough food to live on! And you would be right.

Because there are some things that you just can't find a substitute for...

Oh. Yes.

I believe I will...I mean I believe I did.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Eating (part 2)


Yesterday, I wrote about Derek's decision to change his eating habits because he was concerned about his weight. Today, I'm going to share a little about how I had to open my eyes to the issue, start facing the reality that his weight was not just a family trait, and work to make a change in our entire family's way of dealing with food.

You see - it took Derek saying something about his weight for me to finally admit that he was, indeed, overweight. For so long, I've used the excuse that he's just built differently (he is) - it's genetic (part of it is) - he'll grow out of it (probably, but not necessarily) to cover up the fact that he was overeating, and it was taking a toll on his health.

So, when he told me he wanted to make a change, I started crunching the numbers, and sure enough - I didn't like what I saw. To be considered at a healthy weight, kids should fall within the 5th and 85th percentile on the age vs. BMI charts. Derek was closer to the 95th percentile.

(To crunch your own numbers, plug them into this handy calculator - it works for kids and adults.)

Once we started making the changes we determined from the book we purchased, I think he and I both started to realize just how making small changes and being aware of portion sizes and better choices were going to impact his efforts.


We've added in a lot more fruits and veggies.


We've cut out chips and sodas. We are eating three meals and two snacks a day...some days I feel like all we do is eat...and within just a few days, Derek was already starting to feel hunger in between all those eating sessions - something he never felt before the change. I don't even have to call him for snack time, now - he is ready...his metabolism has apparently kicked into overdrive!

While I've been guiding the efforts, the choices have been 100% his. He debated at the store last week about getting a small bag of chips and a bottled lemonade for his snack. I told him to tally up the calories (230 in the bottle of lemonade alone...260 in the chips). His target snack calorie total is 200. He struggled with it. I saw tears in his eyes. I told him it was his decision.

He ended up getting a 100-calorie snack pack of chex mix, a 30-calorie gatorade and a big bowl of watermelon. He bragged on himself to his dad when we got home.

So the results, so far, are fantastic. Since our first weigh-in, four weeks ago, he's lost 5.5 pounds - almost 10% of his starting weight - this last weigh in was a little skewed by an extra couple of days (9 instead of 7) due to camping, plus a stomach bug last week - the two previous weeks were 1.5 each, which is a very nice amount, and more along the lines of what we're hoping for. He's moved from the "overweight" category on the BMI charts to "at risk of being overweight," and is only 3 pounds away from that magical 85th percentile line that puts him in the "normal" category.

***NOTE*** In case you all are worried that I've put my boy on a diet at this crucial growth period in his life, please know that we are keeping a very close watch on his weight as it relates to his height - regular height measurements are an important part of this! While he's been excited about seeing a few pounds drop away, my main concern is the BMI number - the age/weight/height formula, and he is aware of that, as well. As he grows taller, his weight will either stay the same or increase - AND THAT IS PERFECTLY FINE. ***NOTE OVER***

Most importantly, I've seen a change from the inside - a confidence I've not seen in him before. When he runs laps at tennis clinic, he does it with his head held high, instead of hunched over - worrying that someone might say something to him about his belly. As a matter of fact, we played the other day and he was walking toward me with this cocky little look on his face after he sent me a little cross-court volley I couldn't get to. I asked him what that look was.

"Confidence." He replied.


Tomorrow, for the last installment of my "On Eating" series, I'll show you how we changed up our typical camping menu to better reflect our healthy eating goals. Camping is hard, y'all...bratwurst, beans, chips, sodas, s'mores...what's a family to do?

Eat yummy food. That's what...and that will be tomorrow!

Monday, May 16, 2011

On Eating (part 1)

I have two sons.

My Boys

They are very different from each other.

One has curly brown hair and green eyes.


He's the spitting image of his father.
He's got a heart the size of a lion.
He can be kind of a space cadet.
He loves fruit and vegetables.
He's overweight.

The other has straight blonde hair and blue eyes.


He may resemble his mother just a bit.
He's a creative marvel.
He's can be a little mean.
He loves dessert.
He's a scrawny bean-pole.

Before I get started on this story, I want you all to know that I asked for and received permission from all parties involved in this tale. I specifically asked Derek if I could share his story, and he said it was fine with him.

About a month ago, the four of us were sitting in the living room, talking and being silly - pretty much an average evening - when Derek asked a question that broke my heart.

"Mom?" (because all questions by youngsters in this house start this way...even when Dad is present.)
"Derek?" (because I am a smart ass.)
"Why are all of you slim, and I'm not?"

At this point, tears sprang into my eyes and my throat closed up and it was all I could do to not give in to them. Derek has always been big. He was over 9 pounds at birth. There has never been a time that he didn't check in at the 90th percentile for weight. But over the past year or so, I've really started to see some changes in Derek's shape - his cute little belly has grown into an uncomfortable paunch and its size has started interfering with his physical activity.

In short, my sweet butterball baby has become an overweight young man.

And, while I've noticed it, I've been reluctant to say anything negative about it, because the last thing I would want to do would be to make him feel bad about himself. I'm very thankful that he brought it up first - because now he's in control of the changes he needs to make.

We talked about food choices, and calories and metabolism. Derek says he rarely feels really hungry - he just eats when it is time to eat. This is dramatically different from Joshua, who lives to eat - and is constantly hungry. Derek has a sluggish metabolism...Joshua's is similar to a Formula 1 car.

We talked about genetics and the role it plays in body shape and how Dr. SmartyPants struggled with his weight around the same age, as did my dad, brother and nephew - and how my metabolism more closely resembled Joshua's, although it has slowed considerably through the years.

And Derek decided that he wanted to change his body shape and how he eats. I did some research about healthy weight loss options for pre-teen boys, and found a book to help him understand how your body uses food, and what kinds of foods are best to eat to promote healthy (gradual) weight loss...

...and came up with this one. It's such a simple concept for helping kids make good choices with regard to their eating, and it's been a fantastic road map for all of us - even the hyper-metabolized Joshua.

On the whole, it's been an easy transition. We eat fairly healthily most of the time anyway, although sodas have been a constant issue, we like chips, and Joshua's need for dessert at every meal kind of negates the vegetables I love to serve. Sodas have now been relegated to once a week, and honestly - they've been choosing other things instead, even with the option of having one - I've seen them order iced tea or  lemonade instead. Desserts are special occasion things, but sugar free pudding is a good substitute when they have a craving. Strawberries with stevia, instead of sugar, are even better. We switched from 2% milk to fat free milk. And we're drinking much more water.

I've watched them both reading nutrition labels and figuring out calorie content per serving, and seen their eyebrows raise up when they realize that they can have 40 goldfish crackers or 5 tortilla chips for the same caloric content. I've seen them measure out a portion size, rather than just filling up the entire bowl full of cereal and milk.

It's like health class all up in here.

We've all been weighing in once a week and so far...

Well. You'll have to wait for Part II, where I'll disclose the numbers (including how we came to the conclusion that Derek was, indeed, overweight) and talk about my struggles of helping him make those wise choices every day. Let's just say for now that it's hard being a mama...

Until some fruit, y'all...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Diving Deep into the Educational Pool


Derek woke me up at 11:30 last night to tell me his stomach hurt.

That's never a good thing.

He had a rough night, and so - consequently - did I.

Joshua benefitted a little from it, though - a little math after breakfast, while Derek slept, and now a lesson in "How to be a Good A-Team Member." It's a combination of law-enforcement and guerilla warfare, with a side of con-artistry. Also involved is a great deal of Bad Attitude and proclamations of "Fool!"

Joshua is thinking of getting a mohawk and draping himself in gold chains.

It's a quality education we provide here, folks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Back in the Saddle, Again

The first page in my newest Moleskine sketchbook. I can't call it my new sketchbook, because it has been languishing in my purse for a very long time. I took it out occasionally and drew some odd geometric designs on a few pages, but the chickadee is the first non-doodle I've drawn in it.

I'm heading out to pick up camping supplies for the first trip of the year. We haven't had the camper out since September of last year, and everyone is excited at the prospect of a few days in the woods. It's always a nice, quiet retreat away from my self-imposed electronic attachment, and usually seems to signal my getting back into the studio and getting some quality work done. I hope it works this time, as well.

I've got a 4x6 canvas...that's 4 FEET by 6 FEET canvas, by the way...waiting to get put back together and have something painted on it, so the ideas really need to start flowing right away.

Or my mom's going to get mad at me.

Be patient, Mom...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Catching Up

Abigail Washburn & the Village

Last Wednesday, Linda and I went to the historic Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville to see Abigail Washburn. We thought it would be a good show, but we were wrong.

It was an amazing show.

Have you ever been to a show where the musicians were having such a great time that you couldn't help smile and get completely wrapped up in their joy? That's the kind of show it was. We were blown away, not only by that, but by the fact that every note was straight on - crystal clear and practically perfect. At one point, they stepped in front of the microphones and did an unamplified version of "Keys to the Kingdom," and it was absolute magic.


Go out and find some passionate musicians to listen to, can do you a world of good...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings

Long and Winding Road

  • Going to the Bijou tonight.
  • Going with Linda.
  • Going to see Abigail Washburn.
  • Going to recommend you buy her album, because seriously...good stuff right there.
  • Going to wear something pretty.
  • Going to sit four rows back from the stage.
  • Going to be silly excited.
  • Going to tell you all about it tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The NFL Probably Won't Miss Us

Laser Focus II

We've played a lot of sports here through the past 5 years or so. The boys started with baseball. They played basketball. They played soccer. They ran track.

And they were okay at them. Derek's a big hitter in baseball. Joshua throws well. Derek was an excellent defender in soccer, Joshua ran like the wind on offense.

But they never loved them. Not in the way that you see other kids love them - eat, sleep, breathe them.

Tennis has been an entirely different thing altogether. Determination - focus - dedication - drive - desire - begging and pleading...from both of them. And IT'S SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH! I love seeing them so pumped up about it - so eager to get out and play. Very few mornings go by without one of them asking if I've booked a court for that day, and if it's raining, they go upstairs and hit the ball against the wall I let them use.


I let them play tennis in the house. It's a special ball. Really.

Anyway. This morning, Joshua was telling me about his experience playing touch football a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those conversations that makes it clear that tennis really is his game...

Joshua: I really don't know anything about football. I've never actually played it. It's kind of confusing.

Me: Why is it confusing?

Joshua: Well, we were playing and this guy started to try and tackle me or something, and I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE THE BALL!

Me: Well, honey, he was probably blocking you.

Joshua: Okay - but he was going to touch me or tackle me or something. You can't do that when you're blocking. (Obviously, he's getting this from basketball and soccer)

Me: Actually - in football, you can knock the other guys down if you're trying to block them.

Joshua: Seriously? I mean, the guy was coming at me with his hands all up in my face and that's legal? That's crazy.

Me: Well, I hope you don't mind, because we signed you up for football this month. You start today. We figure tennis can wait until fall.

Joshua: Oh, I don't think so, Woman. (Okay, he didn't say that, but the look he gave me did.)

Me: What? You don't want to? Okay. I guess we'll go to tennis lessons this morning instead.

Joshua:  Yippee!!

So endeth the dreams of my father, who was hoping for a couple of University of Alabama linebackers.

Sorry, Papa. We'll try and get you seats at Wimbledon...

Monday, May 02, 2011

Quietude, Dude.


I keep thinking of things on which to blog, but stacked up against the storms of last week and the news from last night, everything I think of seems trivial and banal.

And honestly? That's okay with me. If I'm going to be faced with the option of having a quiet life that sometimes delivers no blog-fodder, and one that is filled with mass destruction and terrorist stalking, I'll choose the quiet, thank you very much.

Peace and blessings, y'all...