Hey Baby, What’s Your Type? Life Married to a Type 1 Diabetic

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As celebrity personalities and bloggers go, I think The Pioneer Woman is my favorite. Along with Lysa Terkuest. And Joanna Gaines. There are so many inspirational women out there who help us think, pray, decorate and even cook with a new joie de vivre. I will turn on Pioneer Woman for inspiration while I am cooking regardless of whether or not we are cooking the same thing. She could be making Cowboy Quiche and I could be making chicken salad (or even microwaving a plastic container of frozen macaroni and cheese) but we are somehow in this together.

I really do love cooking new things. Truth is, it seems like nobody in my house ever wants (or for health reasons cannot have) the things that seem the most fun to fix. You see, my kids are, well, kids who are still gun shy of eating things that are touching each other (or heaven forbid mixed together in casserole form) and my husband, as a Type 1 diabetic, eats mostly low carb (yes, we call him Low Carb Barb).

Barb gets calls frequently from parents of newly-diagnosed Type 1 diabetic children and even young adults who are seeking guidance and advice from someone living with this autoimmune disease. He’s always willing to oblige. Not only is he living with Type 1, but he also sells insulin for a living for Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest manufacturer of insulin. He jokes that he is kind of the Type 1 Diabetes equivalent to the Hair Club for Men spokesperson. Not only that, he’s in his second term volunteering as president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Palmetto Chapter. Yeah, he’s kind of an expert, and he more than walks the talk.

He was diagnosed in his early 20s, when we were dating, which is actually late for Type 1 (also called Juvenile Diabetes). There were things I learned then, and things that I am learning every day, about living with someone with Type 1. I can’t tell you what it’s like to have Type 1 (I will let him do that). I’m not a doctor or dietitian (both of whom you will lean on heavily through this process). Nor do I have a child with Type 1 (I hold my breath at every check up) which I can imagine is extremely intense when 100 percent of the sugar-checking, insulin-dosing and diet-monitoring is on you. What I can do, limited as it may be, is provide you with a few basic tips to help with your day-to-day living with an adult who happens to be Type 1.

1. Snack Dinner is Your Friend: You will need to develop a list of meal options that will work for everyone in your house. This is no easy task. My repertoire consists of Mexican night (taco salad adaptation for some, and standard tacos for others), Burger night (hamburger steak with grilled onions for some, regular old burgers on buns for others), and Greek salad with grilled chicken (blessedly, everyone seems to like this), and a few other Houdini-esque meals that can morph from low carb to kid-friendly with minor fanfare. Other times we have what is affectionately known as “snack dinner” which consists of me prepping a variety of things (cut up fruit, cheese, cucumbers) and laying it out with crackers, hummus, deli turkey — you get the picture.  I also keep my ear to Food Network for any of my favorite super stars’ recipes that may work for our lifestyle. I take recommendations. Anyone? Bueller?

2. Pasta is Kryptonite. I have tried serving the whole wheat noodles. I’ve tried portion control on the noodles with a large side of salad. But somehow any amount and any variety of pasta turns my fun-loving husband into a sluggish and irritable version of Mr. Hyde, since Type 1 diabetics don’t produce any insulin and therefore (even with synthetic insulin from shots or an insulin pump) cannot adequately metabolize this type of carbohydrate. There seem to be good carbs and bad carbs for a Type 1, and somehow pasta goes into the “bad” category every time. In the good category? Tortillas and wraps seem to leave us unscathed, as does a small portion of light (not dense) whole wheat bread.

3. Pizza is a Close Second: The only thing I’ve found that is typically as bad as pasta is pizza. What doesn’t work? Thick crust pizza with sweet tomato sauce. What works better? One slice of very thin crust pizza, light on the sauce, heaped with meat and veggies and a large side salad. This is probably how we should all be enjoying pizza, anyway.

4. Type 1 Does Not Mean You Can No Longer Drink Alcohol You Just Have to Be Smart About It: Obviously, this category applies to adults with Type 1 only, but I will say this question is one of Barb’s most frequently asked by adults who are newly diagnosed. What’s a no? Daquaris, dark, thick beer, and (I’m so sorry) standard restaruant margaritas. These just have too much sugar for your Type 1 hon. What works? Low carbohydrate beer, vodka with water or club soda and a twist of lime, or a glass of pino noir.

5. They’re Probably Not Mad at You: At least not most of the time. Unless, for example, you run over their deluxe backpack leaf blower after they warned you that it was in the driveway. I learned this early in our dating relationship. I would wake up certain that today was the day we were going to break up but could not put my finger on why. As the day would go on I would realize that it was “just a blood sugar thing” and we’d be back to our version of normal. I still have to remind myself of this. Daily.

6. Have Snacks, Will Travel: Whether you are going to China or just down the street, you will want to have snacks or beverages on hand in the event of a low blood sugar attack. Peanut M&Ms seem to work well (and fast) as does orange juice and regular Coke. I will say that Barb has been known to “never waste a good low” and uses these opportunities to indulge in the cookies that he has to muster the willpower to avoid 99 percent of the time. The lows will be scary, especially in the middle of the night, but if you have the right things on hand you will learn to ride them out (and hopefully prevent them as well, by maintaining and monitoring sugar levels overall).

7. Remind Them You Are There: They may not want your help right now, and they probably won’t want you hovering over them telling them to eat this and avoid that. You can do your best to have the supplies and foods on hand that will help them, but the most beneficial of these will be your moral support. I’ve learned to get out of the way really well. When your Type 1 is high or low, you can quickly slide them a snack, or just say, “I’m here if you need me,” then step aside and let them remedy the situation.  I can check blood sugar and know my way around a Mini-Med Quick Set if I need to, but hovering or badgering has never proven welcomed or appreciated.

If you have a newly-diagnosed Type 1 in your life, it will definitley be overwhelming, but don’t let it paralyze you with fear. While there is currently not a cure, and managing Type 1 is certainly no fun and takes a fair share of lifestyle adjustments, it is totally doable. There are plenty of organizations and resources out there that are dedicated to both finding a cure and making life easier on you and your loved one. I happen to know someone who absolutley does not let this slow him down. And when I wake up to find that cookie wrapper in the trashcan, at least I know that he “didn’t waste a good low.”

Kelly Barbrey is striving to be a good Type 1 spouse but knows there is so much more to learn and do. To get involved, find support, learn the basics, or help fund a cure, visit Barb’s JDRF Palmetto Chapter Walk Page. 

 

 

 

 

 

All The Nopes: No (Mom) Shame in This Game

IMG_2962I’ve heard a lot about the Sweet Spot in parenting lately, and most of it is true. You know what I’m talking about – those few magical years after they learn how to swim but before they learn how to drive when things in your life begin to feel – dare I say – easy. I feel like I’ve finally looked up from years of immersion in a world of diapers, outlet plugs, safety latches and Puddle Jumpers to find not only a couple of big kids with their own personalities, interests and abilities, but to find myself again.

I don’t feel much different than I did a decade ago when I became a parent, or even two decades ago when I was in college. By that I mean I feel (on the inside) like a relatively fun and with-it person. If anything, I feel better. It does not take long, however, when you have school-age children, to be reminded of your complete and utter lack of coolness. I mean, even Niki Taylor is modeling for Talbots these days so it is undeniable that it is happening to all of us. Let’s start with a few of the Nopes that might just creep into your Sweet Spot and give you the impression that you are being…wait for it…Mom-Shamed.

1. Nope to the Nae Nae. Your children will think they look really cool doing the Nae Nae or whatever other kind of dance move is happening at the current moment. They will not think you look cool doing it. My kids were initially kind of excited when I told them I knew how to do the Running Man, but then they busted out laughing when I broke out some early 90s Hammer-esque manuvers. I honestly had no idea. How can it even be allowed to completely reinvent the Running Man and call it the same thing?  Attempt this move and they will be laughing so hard that you will just want to Juju on That Beat right out of the room and turn on Pioneer Woman.

2. Nope to the Gainor. It is totally not fair that dads can still get away with going off the diving board. They are celebrated, rewarded, and even dubbed “cool” for reliving their glory days in the deep end. The bigger the splash, the bigger the applause. Somehow it is not as cool when mom steps up to the platform. Even if we are dutifully wrapped in hundreds of dollars worth of performance-enhancing swimwear, we are somehow not allowed to embarass our children in this way.

3. Nope to the Side Braid. I did this in my hair randomly one night when I washed my face – just for fun. My girls wear their hair like this all the time and it’s kind of cute.  But I did not look like Elsa or the Swiss Miss. I just looked like a 39-year-old woman in a side braid, which prompted one of my kids to ask me “What are you doing with that weird tiny braid in your hair.” Okay, okay. Back to the messy ponytail – in the back.

4. Nope to Foregoing Undereye Concealer. The other night one of my girls asked me why I put eyeshadow under my eyes instead of “on top.” I did not have on any eye shadow at that moment, and she was referenceing the dark circles that surface after a few days that stretch into nights that stretch back into days again. I did not have the heart to tell her that they are just bags that come with the territory of being a mom (So appealing! So fun!) so I told her I started a new trend. Not one she will be following anytime soon, might I add.

5. Nope to Singing Anything Ever. I wonder if Faith Hill has this problem. And Pink? What about Beyonce? Do celebrities’ kids roll their eyes and make screwed-up faces when their moms belt one out to the radio? I BET THEY DO. There is no correlation between vocal ability and the likelihood of being Mom-Shamed when singing along with the radio.

6. Nope to Cheering Wildly at Sporting Events. As a golf mom, this is kind of a Nope anyway, but it is haaard. We have to walk a fine line being there (a definite yes) and not being a Superfan. Sometimes I can’t tell whether that discrete thumbs up I am signaling is welcome or embarrassing. Thank goodness that cheering wildly at sporting events that do not involve your children still seems to fall into the realm of acceptable.  Whew- you may continue to participate in Sandstorm.

7. Nope to Letting On That You Acually Do Understand: I will never forget the first time I heard it. I wanted to run screaming out of the room saying “Too soon! It’s too soon!” But like a dagger to the heart, there it was. “But Mo-om you just don’t get it. You just don’t understand.” But yes I do! I feel only minutes removed from my tweenage self and totally, wholeheartedly and undeniably understand what it’s like to feel left out and ugly and sad for no reason and overwhelmed and uncertain. But nope. That is not going to help. Her struggles are hers to build up and break down and figure out. I’m just there to say, “I know I don’t totally understand, but I’m here.”

I suppose it is a normal part of growing up to think your parents are uncool. And I suppose it is better to be the uncool parent than the cool one, in the long run.  I continue to be thankful for the glimpses of things that remind me that they are still little. Like how they still want me to write notes – even jokes – and put them in their lunch boxes. And how they want me to tuck them in at night. And how they will randomly reach for my hand in the Target parking lot. And then there are the other moments – the glimpses of how it will be when they are older. Like when they say (in surprised voice) “That outfit is really cute!” if I have on something trendy like camo or ankle boots. I like going on walks with my oldest and having her right beside me, making conversation like a grown-up.  These are the things to come. But for right now I’ll take the Sweet Spot – even if gets a little stanky every now and then.

Kelly Barbrey does not let the Mom-Shaming deter her from having a good time and she certainly does not worry about embarassing her children. She might even show up to carpool next week with a side braid rocking to some Despacito just to keep them grounded. 🤦🏼‍♀️

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flooded with Grace

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The Rainbow: October 9, 2015

The sky was ominous out my window on Friday October 2, 2015 and it had been raining on and off for what seemed like days. Weeks, even. Saturday came, and more rain. I remember baking batches of pumpkin muffins while the kids played indoors. We were happy, content with the pitter patter as my kitchen filled with the smell of October. I was looking forward to getting the porch pumpkins and mums after church the next day – my perfect way to celebrate the “most wonderful time of year.” But I never got my pumpkins.

I woke up about three a.m. that Saturday morning to the sound of driving rain. Unable to sleep, I made my way to the couch. Rain was tinkering into the house through a small gap in the flue closure of the gas fireplace. It began to splatter onto the painted brick hearth. I blocked out the sound, and fell asleep on the couch, waking up to my husband saying, “We need to check the basement.” I snapped to attention and followed him downstairs to the kids’ playroom around 6 a.m. When he stepped off the last stair, water splashed up from the carpet, pooling around his feet.

Before the kids woke up, we tried moving our belongings upstairs. My husband located his phone to call a company to see about pumping out the water, but he was distracted by a barrage of photos, texts and posts on Facebook. Strangely enough this scene, this waking up to water, was everywhere. We seemed to be some of the lucky ones…

My husband jumped in the car, allowing our older daughter to ride with him, to check the levels of nearby Lake Katharine one street over. They could not even make it past the end of our street. Neighbors were floating up and down the street in John boats as the swollen lake had overtaken its borders and the surrounding streets, cars and houses. My husband came back with our daughter, who was letting loose her own river of frightened tears. He grabbed a rain hat and went back out, this time without the car. I didn’t see him again all morning. Rain was still coming down, and I kept refreshing my phone for Facebook updates about what was going on our neighborhood. Was it this bad everywhere? This felt like a twilight zone version of Titanic.

As if moving through an incomprehensible dream, I began filling the bathtubs with water and saving water in every thermos and container I could find. Trying to reassure my daughters was a struggle when I was uncertain about what was going on myself. Some of our neighbors came over to seek higher ground, as the water’s edge was knocking on their doorstep around the corner. We played board games and I made hot dogs (forget bread and milk- thank goodness I had the hot dogs!) for lunch, and we had the pumpkin muffins, too. It began to feel even more like Titanic – the part where the people are walking around in their evening dresses and life jackets, drinking cocktails, unsure of their next move. We were going through the motions, trying to keep calm, but were filled with uncertainty.

We kept checking Facebook for neighborhood updates, but it felt like we were in an isolation chamber. As the stories came out, we became more and more concerned. People were being rescued from second story windows, and some homes were completely destroyed. Thankfully, everyone was present and accounted for, even if completely shaken.

What happened over the next week was also surreal. We were evacuated on Monday because it was feared another dam was going to burst, and we left our home in a National Guard vehicle with neighbors and their pets. Thankfully, we were able to return the next day, and that particular dam did hold, but that awful night I was filled with fear of what we would find when we returned.

For a week we assumed a strange and methodical routine. People figured out what to do. How to help themselves. How to help each other. Get up. Go to your Post (handing out water, ripping out flooring, watching neighborhood children so parents could work…). Work your post until the day was done. Collapse into bed and do it all over again the next day. Like pioneers. Like Survivor. It was just the strangest thing. Choppers were hovering overhead, day in and day out. National guard and police were manning every street. Would things ever be normal? What, even, was normal?

But in all of the loss, all of the devastation, there was a sense of community that kept everyone going. Not just the people within the affected neighborhoods but those from nearby neighborhoods and far flung states coming in buses and vans and helping out doing whatever they could. I remember looking up from the water tent several days  into the cleanup, and there was this sliver of a rainbow, peeking through the hazy clouds. God’s covenant. God’s “I got this.” What had He been trying to teach us? Did we see? He was there the whole time. I think we all learned something in those weeks following “The Flood.” No matter whether your home was destroyed, slightly damaged, or spared. Whether you were rescuer or rescued. Whether you took shelter or offered it. Whether you took a hand or extended it. Or all of the above. Tables were turned. Roles were reversed. Prayers were lifted and God was sought. Maybe the Lord’s will was for the creek, er, creeks (and lakes and rivers…) to rise to reveal something. We should not worry, as it will not add another hour to our lives. He was teaching us something we could only learn from Him. And he was teaching us that he will never let us down.

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Leaving in the National Guard caravan

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Trying to be brave

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Water, water everywhere

Almost two years later, the neighborhood is finally nearing the stages of healing. Houses have been repaired or rebuilt. And the hum of choppers overhead and rumble of National Guard vehicles has long been replaced by the chirping of crickets and laughter of children running in the yards and fishing in the little lake. Few have moved away. If anything, I think the sense of community has made this place even more sought-after as a potential home. I know I don’t want to leave.

But I will confess, even with an extra dose of faith, it may take our family – and many Columbia, South Carolina families – just a little bit longer before rain is considered “sleeping weather” again.

Kelly Barbrey wanted to be a meteorologist when she was in third grade. She would tape the weather section of the Atlanta Journal to her pull-down window shade and point at it with a yardstick. She will be keeping a watchful eye on Irma and Jose this weekend.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2

 

 

Monogrammed Pencil Cases and Pumpkin Spice: Ready or Not, Fall is Coming

IMG_2748Have you ever noticed that a freshly-cut August lawn has a completely different smell than a freshly-cut June lawn? August hangs in the balance between summer and fall, on the cusp of new beginnings and fresh starts. Even though it may still feel hotter than a thousand suns by 3 p.m., there are certain August mornings when you open the door and feel like pinching yourself to see if the cool air you are inhaling is actually a dream. While summer is most definitely my favorite, I can always get on board with a box of freshly sharpened pencils, the prospect of ankle boots, and that hint of crispness in the air.

Whether you happen to be hanging on to every last moment of this lazy season, have already checked every item off the school supply list (when is Target going to get on the bus and start carrying colored card stock, anyway?), or are already in in the throes of the school year,  here are a few reasons why it’s going to be okay to say sionara to summer:

1.Washing All The Towels: Our washing machine runs constantly anyway, but when it’s summer the number and varity of towels that appear in my laundry “in-box” is staggering: towels that have fallen in the pool, towels that are covered with sticky ice cream and a few hungry ants, towels that belong to other people, towels that have been neglected for weeks in the lost and found and smell like feet, towels that are actually folded and have never been used but were transported to the pool and are therefore deemed unusable before being washed again…The good thing about this is that the towels are usually pulled for use from the clean pile on the bed before they have to be folded and put away. I will miss the pool, the lake, and the beach, but I will not miss the towels…

2. Monogrammed Pencil Cases/Backpacks/Lunch bags: I confess. My heart does a little flutter when we get the first Pottery Barn Kids back-to-school issue of the season (even when it arrives four days after school gets out).  I must have passed this obsession along to my children because the second this blessed piece of mail arrives, they fight over the thing and pore over the patterns, monogram thread colors and styles with a sharpie in hand, marking and ranking the favorite patterns. Even on the “off years” (our tradition has been to order a new backpack every other year) they oooh and aaaah and argue over who should get the rainbow unicorn pattern and who would be better off with the hula floral.

3. Your Kids Are Sick of Looking at Each Other: Speaking of arguing, your kids’ sibling spats may have reached a fever pitch by this point. When the normal ratio of playing well together to biting each others’ heads off is 45 minutes of fun to 15 minutes of bickering, we have now arrived at a raito of one minute of tolerating to 59 minutes of knock-down drag-out fighting. You have taken three migraine pills in one week and may be wishing that you had one of those taxi windows that you could just rooolllll up between the front and back seats when they start debating about which sibling is more annoying (um, TIE). It’s best to just realize that they are arguing for the sake of arguing and tell everybody to make a paper chain counting down until school starts.

4. Your Kids Are Sick of Looking at You: News flash: They are not going to like the paper chain idea. Or the idea you had for finally tackling that summer reading list. And the weekly chore charts you made up and printed out that first week of summer were buried under the often umade beds after two weeks of half-hearted use.  It has been good and fun and wonderful to be so breezy this summer, but they are starting to take it a little to far. Okay, they are starting to steamroll you because as much as kids’ brains need rest, there is also a need for structure and for someone who is not a parent to tell them what to do. It is time for for the magic of well-rested teachers and coaches to join you once again in this daily struggle to shape and mold the lives of these smallish, strong-willed humans. Teachers, may the force be with you.

5. No More Random Tan Lines: Have you noticed that this season’s swimwear trends were full of high necks, keyholes and crisscrosses but the fashionable non-swimwear garment of the moment was an off-the-shoulder ruffle number? This makes no sense.  Each time I put on the ruffle thing I looked like a zebra for all the crazy tan lines.

6. Football Season. All of it. The sound of the marching band practicing, figuring out a new tailgate recipe, plannning that outfit for the first game, figuring out which road game you are doing this year, sprucing up your guest room for game day visitors…Oh, and the football part. Those games are fun, too.

7. Fresh Starts: Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Back-to-school season is the real time for reinventing one’s self and starting afresh. This will be the year we all lay out our clothes the night before. This will be the year we wake up early and make real breakfast instead of giving them a Pop Tart for the road. This will be the year we fill those little BPA-free containers that fit in the monogrammed unicorn lunch boxes with hummus and avocado and tiny salads. This will be the year that homework is completed before dinner. This will be the year that we pare down on activities in an effort to save money and not over-schedule our family. This will be the year! I can feel it.

 8. T-Minus 30 Days To Pumpkin Spice: If none of items above float your boat (and you have a problem with monogrammed rainbow unicorn lunch boxes) you can at least get excited that all things Pumpkin Spice are just a short month away. It may be just a bunch of pumpkin-flavored chemicals genetically engineered to taste like our favorite gourd of the season, but it’s just so good it’s hard to care.

I am so grateful for a restful summer. I am going to miss the 9 p.m sunsets and (somewhat) leisurely mornings of only having to get myself ready, and watching my kids make slime (who knew there were this many varieties of slime with this many mix-ins!) and the beauty of not always having plans. But I am also grateful for the variety of seasons both in the year and in life.  And right now this control freak is ready for some structure. Bring it, fall.

Kelly Barbrey is notorious for getting super excited about the next thing. She will be watching football in her ankle boots with a PSL in September and will be mentally making that paper chain counting down till Christmas. 🍁

 

Beyond Bless Your Heart: When You’re Raised on Southern Phrases

IMG_2701I am blessed (my heart and the rest of me) to have not one, but two amazing grandmas in my life.  These two very special- yet very different- ladies have taught me so much. Y’all, there is something to be said for raising a combined total of nine children, bevys of grandchildren and umpteen great grandchildren and doing it all with grace, resiliance, an ever-present smile and lotsa sugar (both kinds).  But if you think a stodgy post about manners and mindfulness would do these Steel Magnolias justice, you’ve got another thing coming.

They say actions speak louder than words, but when words have this much pun, er, punch, and are said with a Southern drawl, you just can’t help but listen up. Without further ado, here are a few phrases I heard a time or two growing up,  and find myself still saying today.

1. Don’t Break Your Fool Neck: Not your regular neck, mind you, your fool one. Because if you think that running with scissors, teetering on a kitchen stool in wedges while rummaging around in the top of your closet, or trying to remove a pine tree stump from your front yard with only a rope, your newlywed husband and his SUV, think again. These ladies did not get to be (you know I’m not going there – a lady never reveals her age) professional Southern grandmothers by acting a fool.

2. I Declare: I spent half my childhood wondering who Ida Claire was. Was she an aunt we didn’t know about? The black sheep of the family? Certainly every time her name was mentioned it was in conjunction with a head shake and was said in relation to something that was just a little bit off. Why didn’t we consider that one as a family name for one of our girls?

3. Not One Good Thing Happens After Midnight: It’s a wonder we didn’t turn into a big ole heap of pumpkins, as going out after midnight results in certain doom. But I wouldn’t know anything about this. Neither would my sister or my cousin Pearce, so we’ll just leave this one here…

4. Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise: I stopped saying this because it was honestly my reply to my co-worker’s casual “See ya Monday” on the rainy Friday afternoon before the Great Flood in October of 2015. Nope. All done. Not saying that one anymore.

5.  Is That What You’re Wearing?  You never know who you are going to meet when you go someplace. My grandmas may have embraced athleisure, but they will do it with a gorgeous slash of lipstick and done hair. My husband, who is one of the best-dressed men I know happened to be wearing a well-loved navy blue polo shirt with a little tear in the shoulder when (of all days!) he met one of my Georgia grandmas for the first time. My memory may be slipping a little, but I’m pretty sure she said, “Well, I guess that’s how they do it in South Carolina.” I have never let him live that one down.

6.   Fix Your Skirt/Scarf/Hair – It’s All Cattywompus. Truth told, I have not said “cattywompus” in a while, but it may be time to bring it back. This gem has been replaced in my household by wonked, wonky and just plain wonk. But the original form has so much more depth and dimension.

7.   Suit Yourself: “Suit yourself” is a last resort; a general giving up and letting that person know that whatever they are about to do is happening entirely on their own. There will be no support of this endeavor, nor any sympathy when said endeavor goes south. It can be followed three days later with “Toljaso…”

8. It Doesn’t Matter One Iota: What the heck is an Iota, anyway. Must have been the name of Ida Claire’s hair-raising sorority.  When you use this one you have had it up to your eyeballs with making decisions and you just want someone else to do it for you. You truly don’t care where you go out to eat or whether he wears the bow tie or the regular one. For the record, I think you can find the Iota house over yonder by the Hill of Beans.

I love you, Grandmas! I hope this post doesn’t make you say “I declare,” and shake your heads. And one of these days I will learn to properly wear lipstick.

Like all modern Southern girls, Kelly Barbrey has more going on than you can shake a stick at, but she still loves heading home to visit with her family and both of her grandmas. She tries to make sure she makes that journey with a full tank of gas, a bottle of water in the cup holder and some cash in her wallet for emergencies. And she never drives that lonesome highway after midnight. 👵🏻

 

 

 

 

Home Alone (Um, You…Not Your Kids)

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One of the things that jumped that up and slapped me in the face when I became a parent was the fact that I was no longer ever in my house alone. For someone who is a self-proclaimed introvert and finds renewal in solitude (or at least in the freedom to come and go without a spreadsheet of arrangements and instructions) this felt overwhelming. Every time we’d get a sitter it was so that we could go out. Even on the rare occasion that we had childcare secured overnight it was for a trip. And I’d return from that wedding or conference more depleted than before I left.

The same principle applies to work, too. Do you remember the pre-kid days when you could work until eight without calling a soul then zip off to buy new mascara before heading home? Or wake up at 5am and decide to go on into the office because something brilliant was on your brain? It sounds so simple and yet is so un-freaking-believeably hard to do when you have a family.

Let’s face it. All moms are working moms. Whether you are working in the home, out of the home, from the moon or from the kitchen table you probably crave a bit of head space to catch up, square up and reconnect to, well… you.

That day will come when your parents, in-laws, sister or best friend will invite your kids to stay at their house for a few days. Or maybe they are old enough for sleep-away camp. And no matter how much you love your kids and how much anxiety it may produce to send them out of the nest for a few days, you need this.

If given this rare opportunity, don’t waste time. Start here:

  1. Get Your Eyebrows Waxed: Oh.Em.Ghee. Those things look like Himalayan caterpillars growing out of your face. You have rescheduled that appointment exactly five times and have resisted plucking because you are absolutely, positively sure that one day the Eyebrow Fairy is going to come in the middle of the night and craft and sculpt your arches to Charlize Theron perfection. This is not going to happen. Book (and keep) that appointment. Gracious, you’re gorgeous. This is like a $24 face lift.
  2. De-Funkdify Your Kid’s Room: Someone once told me that cleaning your house with children in it was like brushing your teeth while eating a package of Oreos. #Truth. Bring the trash bags (three standard kitchen size is requisite per year of negligence) and get busy. There is no telling what you will find. And the absolute beauty in this is they will not miss one thing. They will get home and dump that wicker basket of Legos with the Fixer Upper-esque chalk marker label on the floor and start creating your mess for next year.
  3. Exercise With Your Spouse: I do not care if you do not do this on a regular basis. Dig out those tenne-pumps, grab your honey and circle that block like you just met. Your neighbors might give you some Southern side-eye because they think you are leaving your precious angels home unsupervised, but persevere. You will not let anyone guilt you into sabatoging your time.
  4. Go to a Non-Kid-Friendly Restaurant at 10 p.m.: Order anything but chicken fingers. Steak and a martini? Cool. Salad with goat cheese and the Brussels sprouts appetizer? Yep. No one is there to tell you it stinks like socks. And the only person you have to take to the bathroom is you, so you might just finish the entire meal without having to get up from the table.
  5. Watch Your Husband Play Nine Holes at Dusk: Grab a pair of giant sunglasses, a Styrofoam cup, a bottle of good wine and pretend you are with him on Tour. Think about taking up golf in retirement. Or just enjoy riding around in the cart and listening to the sound of nothing. Is this what nothing sounds like??? No wonder he’s out here all the time…
  6. Work until 8 p.m. then go to Target: You don’t have to arrange this. I repeat. You do not have to arrange this. You can hammer away at that grant you’ve be been writing without worrying whether you or your husband will make it home before the sitter has to go to class. Then, you can zip over to your favorite superstore and look at the Faux-Lulemmon as long as as you wish and no one can tell you they are bored, tired or require more juice. Bonus points for buying something for yourself that is not on the cleaning product aisle.
  7. Join Your Work Colleagues for a Cocktail: You have not been on a work happy hour since exactly nine months before your last maternity leave. That was seven years ago. Just go. Invite yourself if you have to. Just make sure the Uber app is is still on your phone. Team building counts as work, right?
  8. Just Be: Sit in total silence. On your couch, your porch, in the bathroom with no one beating down the door- whatever. Enjoy not hearing the theme song from”Jessie” or “Bunked”. And after doing all of the things above and about ten minutes of sitting, you will realize your heart feels empty and you are even a little bored from the temporary relief of incessant snack preparation.

Being home alone is nice every once in a while, but the best part about all of this is that you will miss your kids like crazy and have the fullest heart when they get back. You might even be able to enjoy them even more with that clean house, tedious grant writing project off your plate and some seriously gorgeous eyebrows.

Kelly Barbrey loves her children more than life itself, but is grateful for GrammyCamp and CampGigi each year.  🙌

Pick Your Battles, Save Your Sanity

IMG_2779As parents we have numerous opportunities every day to shape the lives of our children and the people we would like for them to become. That’s what it’s all about, anyway, right? Growing your children into responsible adults who are able to contribute in a positive way to our society?

My husband always says, “We are not making friends here,” when referring to getting our kids to tow the line. But while raising kids is hard, it can be even more challenging when your parenting style and that of your spouse are completely different.

You see, while my husband is kind of like Captain Von Trappe (please do not give this man a whistle), I am much more like Frauline Maria. (Bored? Let’s cut up old clothing from the pile of stuff you outgrew and make crop tops and Michael Jackson gloves!)

There are times when we have to dig deep to get on the same parenting page, but there are a few items that we wholeheartedly (and oddly) agree on. Here is our list of the top three parenting  battles where we have waved the proverbial white flag – at least for now.

1. What They Wear (Don’t Care): Let me first say this this one applies to kids age 12 and under. After that, I hear ya on putting the smack down. Our daughters are nine and six, and their closets might look like a Lilly Pulitzer and Crewcuts outlet mashup,  but you would Not Know It it because of what they choose to put on in the mornings (see above photo).  You can be pretty certain the ensemble will include a free t-shirt from a charity walk that has remnant stain of Smoothie King Carribean Way slashed across the front and a pair of fraying running shorts from Target.

And the hair. In my opinion, it always looks way overdue for a trim and may not be as freshly combed as I’d prefer, and as much as I want to chase them around with a Wet Brush, I have found that it is just too exhausting for all parties most of the time. Additionally, in a moment of weakness many years ago I somehow purchased a giant poofy pink flower headband from Gymboree, which was intended to be worn with a coordinated dress with matching rosettes. Somehow this headband manages to appear at such inopportune times like Easter, the annual Christmas Card photo and any event that has to do with seeing either my or my husband’s boss. And you know what? We let it ride. At least that hair is Out of Her Eyes today! 😱

One day we will look back and laugh about the fact that one daughter wore leopard print for five consecutive school picture days or was the rumpliest child bounding gleefully down the isle for Children’s Church with a giant flower headband, leopard print dress, tangly ends,  and an armload of tacticle bracelets.

2. Winner Winner Chicken (Finger) Dinner:  Our kids eat lots of chicken fingers when we go out- which is a good bit these busy days. Our kids also rate chicken fingers. They rate the breading, they rate the serving temperature and the viscosity of the honey mustard. They rate the thickness and juiciness of the meat inside the golden delicious coating. They are true chicken finger connoisseurs and their tastes are discerning in this particular area. I am quite certain that if it were not for chicken fingers (and strawberries) our youngest child would blow away. They order them at drive-throughs, white-tablecloth restaurants, and sports bars (“You have a baby…in a bar…”). But you know what? It’s protein. There will be a time and place for branching out and developing a sophisticated palate. This is  just not our year – or our decade.

3. Summer Bedtime (Wait, what? They have that?) We are pretty good about getting the kids to bed at a reasonable (and consistent) hour during the school year. And after all, bedtime during the school year benefits everyone – including the parents. But in the summer, it’s pretty much impossible to keep this schedule. Selfishly, it is kind of nice that they are getting to the age that they will sleep in after a bit of a later night, and sometimes we are just having too much fun to worry about going to bed on time. Whether it’s grabbing a 9pm dinner (yes, chicken fingers) after a Junior Golf match or letting them indulge in a little too much American Ninja Warrior while we sip wine on the porch, we have somehow managed to escape any semblance of a nightly routine this summer. That said, there have been a few nights when bedtime was ordered in broad daylight due to the nails-on-a-chalkboard agonizing sound of escalated sisterly squabbles and the draining effect of too much sun, too many sports and frankly, too much togetherness.

So while we do have our non-negotiables, such as trying our best to make it to church (bonus points for on time) when we are in town and making sure our kids are generally not mean people, even The Captain has given up on some things that are energy sucking and exhausting. I am certain we will look back and wish we had done more of this or less of that, but right now letting a few things fall by the wayside (and not beating ourselves up about it) feels pretty good.

If you happen to witness or hear of aforementioned meanness coming from Kelly Barbrey and The Captain’s children, they would like to know about it, as all above bets will be Off. It may result in the disappearance of a certain flower headband and permanent 6pm bedtime for the duration of the summer. 

 

 

Life Lessons From My Dad

IMG_2483My dad is probably the most difficult person to purchase a Father’s Day gift for. When you ask him what he would like for any special occasion , he will always answer the same way: “I don’t need a thing.” And he does not say it in the way most people do when they really do want something and just don’t want to sound greedy. My dad really doesn’t want anything.

Every year for his birthday, Christmas and Father’s Day I run down the short list of things he might find somewhat useful, but I think the best reaction I have gotten from giving him anything over the years has been from some pretty hilarious cards that highlight the kind of advice you can rely on from a dad.  But they never really landed on the money- at least not for my dad. So, Dad, this one is for you. The best life lessons you ever taught me – 95 percent practical with a sprinkling of that dry wit that I’m pretty sure I got from you…

1. You Can’t Always Get What You Want: He would explain this to my sister and me by singing that old Rolling Stones tune. We would roll our eyes but at the same time know that while we were sometimes pretty rotten, we were not spoiled. My dad has always been a hard worker and engrained in us at an early age the value of working for the things you have. You don’t expect someone to provide something for you – you work for it. And when you say you are going to do something, you do it. Period. And just when you least expect it, after you pay your major dues, then BAM – you get what you need. Every freaking time.

2. Live Within Your Means and Save for a Rainy Day: My dad instilled in us that credit cards were for emergencies only and that if you could not afford it outright you did not need it. This category also included suggesting that we set up 401-K accounts and pump as much as They Will Allow into them. He also suggested investing in appreciating assets (like a house) and not in depreciating assets (like a car). If you read my last blog post you will know what I am talking about on the car thing. Speaking of cars…

3. Check Your Oil and Car Gauges Regularly: I can remember being home from college for Christmas break or a random long weekend. I would be packing up my things ready to hit the dusty trail and when I would arrive at my car with keys and bag in hand, my dad would be washing it. Or changing the oil. Or wielding a tire gauge. I would roll my eyes and huff over my Unexpected Delay in getting to whatever band party was waiting for me on the other end of 316. (Told you- rotten!) My car had been sitting there for four days. Why now? Well, doing this was my dad’s love language. He might not have wanted to take me shopping for Coach purses but this he could do. I may not have said it much back then, but thank you, Dad. You prevented me from stalling out or spinning out more times that I already had.

4. Be Grateful for What You Have and Don’t Complain: My dad is a big believer of living in the moment and enjoying life’s simple joys.  He does not dwell on the past, nor does he fret (or get too terribly excited about 🙄) the future. Even- keeled and steady,  he does not pine for the finer things in life to make him happy. He has somehow always just known that they are smoke and mirrors, anyway.  Never has this been more evident than after he suffered a stroke in December of 2006. The recovery process was (and still is) a long one, and one that most people would pitch a major hissy over. But in his typical Dad way, he has taken this all in (re-learned) stride. Ask him about it and he will just talk gratitude- over getting to spend time with grandkids and no longer having to get up so early. Never once have I heard him complain.

5. The Eraser is the Dumb End of a Pencil: Growing up as a writer in a Rambling Wreck-sized family of generations of engineers was tough. Especially when it came to math homework. Oh, how I would cry and want to dig that eraser into the paper until my mistakes were nothing but a pulverized pile of rubber and pulp. My dad would try to get me to crack a smile by telling me to use the “smart end” of the pencil (the point) and analyze my work and what might be salvageable  before throwing in the towel. He probably doesn’t know it, but I’ve fixed a dishwasher, balanced many a budget at home and at work and put together numerous Christmas Eve toys using this philosophy. When my husband looks at me in disbelief each time I just smile and say, “daughter of Doug.”

6. Do Not Tell a Lie: This advice goes without saying but I learned this lesson at a very young age. I was not happy with my dad about something and decided to fill his L.L. Bean boot-style bedroom slippers with lotion. I recruited my barely two-year-old sister to pump the lotion so that I could stand watch. “Keep pumping,” I’d hiss as I listened at the door. When the bottle was empty and the slippers were full we disposed of the evidence and went on our way. Later that night I received the George Washington Cherry Tree spiel in its entirety after I blamed the entire episode on my sister. Rotten, rotten, rotten.

7. Attend Your Kids’ Stuff: He was there for my breakout role as Frauline Rottenmier in the seventh- grade musical production of Heidi even though I couldn’t sing a note. When I warmed the bench in JV basketball? There. And every time I set up my pompoms and megaphone on the Adams Stadium sidelines? He was there for that, too. And he could always be depended upon to treat us to Burger King afterwards, which had a convenient overlook of the pet shop flea dip station. Not Paris, y’all, but memorable just the same. Which brings me to my final lesson from my dad…

8. It’s the Small Things You Will Remember. Like practicing for the softball throw for field day in the front yard. Sit-up contests, and having him co-coach my fourth grade basketball team with Captain Bob.  And then there was the time at age seven or eight when I insisted on wearing flats to hike to the John Oliver Cabin and I stepped in a giant pile of poop. He put me on his shoulders and carried me the rest of the way. He also picked me up from every slumber party I was scared to stay at and some other parties later on (that I was also scared to stay at 😬).

You know, the biggest thing about all of this is that my dad did not (and does not) harp on any of his advice. He just continues to live life in his own quiet way, ready to lend an ear, or a joke, or a tire gauge. And if you are lucky enough to know him, you know he may not say much, but when he does it will be either something really smart, something really funny, or both. Thanks for being you, Dad.

The photo above is of Kelly Barbrey, her sister and her dad, circa 1980-something.  It looks like he is opening a box of delicious chocolates that he did not ask for and is reading a hilarious card. Kelly is wearing multiple slips from the dress up box. She is also wearing heels as her hiking flats were a bit dirty. 👔

 

 

 

 

You See Me Rollin’: A Girl and Her Cars (Not a Love Story)

IMG_1325I have never really considered myself a Car Person. It has never mattered that much to me what kind of wheels were getting me from Point A to Point B. If someone were to, say, hand over a sizeable amount of money to me, upgrading my vehicle would not come before upgrading my entire footwear collection or shiplapping the heck out of my laundry room. I kind of do with cars what people used to do with jobs: find one that delivers and keep it as long as it will have you. Some of my cars have inevitably petered out before I was done with them. My current car is starting to show its age. At 11 years old and counting I get the feeling that it may only make it a couple more years – if even. That just got me thinking about all my cars over the years. So, for your entertainment, here is how I have answered the question “What You Rollin’ In?” since, well, I started rollin’…

I’m Rollin’ In… A 1984 Ford LTD: Oh, yes I did. For months I dreamed of a Jeep Wrangler, and what I got was this major upcycling project. It started with the name. This car had more nicknames than the pledge class of Animal House. The Fantastic Slide. The Silver Ace. The list goes on and on. This car was my first – the definition of a “Beaute” and a true character building experience. And riding in it was truly a Fantastic Voyage.

The second step to upcycling this car was to add a plethora of surf shop stickers on the bumper. I mean, what land-locked Atlanta girl does not put Ron Jon stickers on the bumper of her car? This car ran into things a lot, and was present on the scene (and possibly involved) when I learned that it was not smart to drive in soccer cleats. There was also the time that it got stuck in reverse and would only go backwards. Ironically, this happened when I went to deliver the check to reimburse my soccer teammate for the damage incurred to her car (from someone backing into it while wearing soccer cleats). And since a car that can only go backwards can only take you so far, I had to move on.

I’m Rollin In…A 1986 Ford Tempo Sport: Sport. Yep. I think that the red racing stripe down the side was the reason that this little darlin’ was a dubbed a Sport (as opposed to Regular?) Ford Tempo. It was how I learned to drive a stick shift. I would break out into a cold sweat if somebody got too close behind me on the big hill on the way to lifeguard at the Pangborn pool. Fortunately, people were intimated by said racing stripe, and would stay far enough back for me not to roll into them. Unfortunately, our relationship was short-lived. If the Ole Sport had not stalled at the intersection on the way to Freshens at rush hour, I might still be driving it today.

I’m Rollin In…A 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse: Talk about trading up. This car was new. And it was red. And I was a senior in high school. And I thought I was Hot Stuff. Not only did it go forward (in addition to backwards), the windows rolled up and down and it had a CD player, which meant I could blast “When Daddy Let Me Drive” by Alan Jackson as loud as I wanted and drive with my shoes off and the windows down. And when I got into The University of Georgia, that red and black G sticker looked really good on the back windshield (sorry Ron Jon).

The maximum capacity (“four”) of that vehicle was clearly stated incorrectly in the instruction manual. I can distinctly remember several times when the Eclipse sat eight quite comfortably. (Nothing prepares you for motherhood like driving around seven intoxicated people. Some are crying, some are fighting over chicken fingers…) If those seats could talk. But those seats are not saying anything right now because the Eclipse stalled on Highway 316 and I had to ride in the passenger seat of a tow truck to get both myself and that little Red Hot back to my parents’ house. But it got me through college and a few years beyond.

I’m Rollin In…A 2001 Isuzu Rodeo. The person who decided to make a four cylinder SUV was probably just as practical as the person who decided it would be a good idea to purchase one. I wanted an SUV and this was the only one that my budget as a newly employed individual could sustain. You could floor it and not much would happen. Except that one time when I had just started my new job and it had snowed the night before. In Columbia South Carolina, no less. I could not see out of the windshield, but decided that it would be fiiine to try and make it through the apartment complex gate so that I would not be late for my second day of work. Well I made it through. Aaalll the way through. If you lived in Hampton Greene Apartments in 2004 (…and even into 2005) and did not have a gate in your gated community, that was me. I am sorry.

I’m Rollin in… A 2006 Toyota Sequoia. This car may not have as many nickanmes as my first, but it is big and green and kind of reminds me of Oscar the Grouch’s Rolling Trashcan. I have always wanted to be one of those moms who does not let her kids eat in her car (my husband would like this very much, too) but seeing as my kids are Always Eating and somehow we are Always Driving Around, I see no alternative solution. You could probably compile an entire bowlful of extra crunchy (and a little furry) snack mix from the plethora of Cheez Its, Cherrios, and French Fries that lie petrified underneath the seats. In the market? Shall we talk resale price?

I’m not really sure what l’ll be rollin’ in next, but it will probably be something big and safe and won’t be that Jeep Wrangler that I dreamed about as a teenager. I mean, it doesn’t have enough seats for carpool, and people would just say I’ve lost my fool mind. In some ways, my unrealized dream of the Jeep Wrangler is probably the reason why I have never been much of a car person, anyway. But if you see a giant green Sequoia lumbering down the road full of kids, snacks, shoes and shiplap, just smile, wave and know that the hour is nigh…

Regardless of the type of vehicle she is in, Kelly Barbrey still prefers driving in bare feet with the windows down on an open road with some Luke Bryan playing. This is Mortifying to her children. Just wait till they ask for a Jeep Wrangler and get a Silver Ace...🚗 🤦🏼‍♀️

Three Magic Summers of Youth to Relive Today

I remember listening to the Jimmy Buffet song “A Pirate Looks at Forty” when I was in high school. I pictured that pirate looking kind of like the Gorton’s Fisherman – weathered, ruddy and waaaay old. I mean, back then thirty was pretty much the end of the line and forty was beyond my un-furrowed brow’s comprehension entirely.

Summer holds a totally different meaning when you’re pushing forty, too.
Whether you’re sweating over bathing suit shopping or are too busy working on your spreadsheet of summer camps to even think about creating the Least Offensive Option with the J. Crew Swimfinder, I am here to transport you to three summers from your youth that were pure magic.

The Summer of Ten: The AC is off and the windows are open. Sounds of Skip Carey announcing that Dale Murphy is up to bat are faint in the background as you sprawl on the floor to devour the latest Baby-Sitters Club Super Special. Your eyes sting from the copious amounts of chlorine and your determination not to let the boys get the better of you at Sharks and Minnows. Your bathing suit choice is not a deliberate one, but the swim team-issued variety with a racer back and you put it on in the morning and it is worn all day. When it is time to go play Putt Putt after dinner you put on jams, a puff paint t-shirt and a banana clip and practically swoon from the back seat when Kokomo comes on the radio.

Family vacation means camping and days spent playing monopoly in the screen house and going on hikes, which are probably less than a mile but at the time feel like full-on safaris learning the difference between Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel, Swallowtails and Luna Moths. The day is not complete without a walk to the camping store at dusk for a popsicle, a can of Dr. Pepper or a moon pie.
The Summer of Fifteen: You can taste freedom as you walk to the pool with your friends. You line up your chairs and lie face down so your ragged copy of YM can be read while strategically positioned on the ground between stripy shadows created by slats of the lounge chair. Your hair is brassy and a little crunchy from the Sun-In but your best friend says it looks good and you are sure that is why the cute lifeguard is looking your way. Your Walkman is blasting Shine by Collective Soul and the days stretch before you with endless possibilities.

You say you are dreading that family vacation at the lake house but you actually can’t wait to hit the swimming hole where the water is cold and a tiny boat affectionately called Ole Leaky waits upside down tied to a tree outside ready to take you there.

The Summer of Twenty One: The benefit to working at that Mexican restaurant is the free vat of cheese dip and grocery-sized bag of chips you get to take home to your roommates at the end of the night. Well, that, and the fact that job affords you the opportunity to stay in your college apartment for the summer. The friends of Twenty One are pretty much family. They will not only convince you that going to step class after three beers would be fun but you will laugh about it with you for a solid week (okay, you are still laughing about it). The apartment complex pool is kind of like eternal spring break and you have pretty much memorized your part to The Boy Is Mine (were you Brandy or Monica?).  True awakening was reading Faulkner and Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof last semester, so you find the contemporary equivalent of Southernness in Conroy and Ann Rivers Siddons and lose yourself in Prince of Tides and Outer Banks. You have absolutely no idea what the real world holds but somehow can taste the realization that something precious and intangible about youth is slipping through your fingers and you can’t decide whether to open your hands and let it pass through quickly or hold tight to it, resisting, resisting…

None of these seemingly insignificant occurrences holds true magic on its own, I suppose, but I can’t help but think that summer’s ability to transform everyday moments into magic is still hanging somewhere in the warm air. Sitting at the pool the other day I could not help but smile in noticing that the Summer of Ten and the Summer of Fifteen are still alive and well, that Sharks and Minnows is still a thing (drain is base!) and that maybe, just maybe this will be a magic summer for someone else.
Do not worry about Kelly Barbrey this summer. She will be just fine sipping a glass of Kim Crawford on the front steps and listening to the whiz clink sound of her kids on their razor scooters in the driveway at dusk. And she looks nothing like the Gorton’s Fisherman…at least not yet. Pass the sunscreen. 🐟