Friday, October 21, 2005

Have you had your Wheaties today?

The other morning, after eating my bowl of Wheaties, I sighed a satisfied sigh and told my hubby, "I love cereal!" I mean, I really, really love cold cereal. The best is when the milk is ice cold, right out of the refrigerator. And you have to eat really fast, of course, before it gets all soggy. Soggy cereal is just nasty.

Cold cereal is my favorite thing to eat for breakfast, and it always has been. My mom never did the whole eggs, pancakes, and sausage bit while I was growing up. I imagine it was bad enough trying to get Dad and all seven kids out the door to school on time to bother with cooking. I've adopted her habits, and I don't feel one twinge of guilt for it. I have noticed, however, that my preferences have changed over the years.

Growing up, we rarely, if ever, got sugar cereal. Mom bought the standards: Cheerios, Wheaties, Corn Flakes, and Shredded Wheat (a.k.a. "shredded hay bales"). We would often get Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, or Kix as well. I became quite fond of all of them. Kix were cool because you could bite the top off the bigger ones and float them like boats in your milk. (Kix tasted way better back then, before they changed the formula to make them taste sweeter. Now they taste gross. Even my kids won't eat them.) Occasionally, Mom would splurge with something like Honey Nut Cheerios. That box never lasted long. Honey Nut Cheerios called for multiple helpings. The unfortunate result of this feasting was my just-older-brother's inevitable case of gas. He would get pretty rank after Mom bought Honey Nut Cheerios. (And you don't ever want to put him together with almonds for a long car trip. Food for thought, Lesleigh.)

Then there was Christmas: the only time we got "real" sugar cereal. The tradition in our family is that Mom & Dad buy those little tiny boxes of cereal (the ones that come in a variety pack) and put one in each of our stockings along with a banana. That was breakfast for Christmas morning. We looked forward to it all year long. ("It" the cereal, not "it" the banana.) Christmas morning was the only time during the year when we got to experience what Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms tasted like. Golden Grahams were like manna from heaven. And you were really lucky if you got the Cocoa Pebbles because they turned the milk to chocolate milk. How cool is that to eat cereal with chocolate milk?

Cheerios hold a very special place in my heart, and not just because I love the taste. The morning I got married, I chose Cheerios for breakfast. I still remember feeling like I had a slightly upset stomach because I was worried that Phil wouldn't show up, and I thought my nervous tummy could handle a milder cereal. So there you have it: my last meal as a single person came from that famous yellow box with the glue-for-milk splashes coming out of the bowl of cereal and the artistically placed red strawberry nestled in among the Cheerios.

After Phil and I were married, I reveled in the freedom to choose whatever cereal I wanted. While I would occasionally buy the non-sugared standby's, we ate a lot of the cereals my mom never bought. My "personal favorites" list used to include things like Honey Nut Chex, Waffle Crisp, Honeycomb, Corn Pops, Golden Grahams, Honey Nut Cheerios, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Blueberry Morning. I figured I'd be eating like that the rest of my life.

Not so, Grasshopper. While my kids still get cereal we never, ever got when I was little, I find that my cereal eating habits are shifting. What is it with aging that makes our tastes change? Where I once enjoyed variety I now seem to eat the same thing every morning for months. And my choices have changed too. No more Sugar Coated Chocolate Sugar Bombs for this girl! We're talkin' F-I-B-E-R. For a while, I ate Cracklin' Oat Bran every morning. Lot's of complex carbs in that bowl, I'm telling you. Then I went to Wheaties and alternated between the two for a while. Next I flirted with Frosted Mini-Wheats (or Frosted Mini Hay Bales, as Phil so loves to call them). The Vanilla Creme variety is especially tasty. Now? Back to Wheaties.

I must admit that I have broken my eating streak with a rare bowl of plain Cheerios here and there, and I have been known to indulge myself lately with a bowl of Peanut Butter Cookie Crisp (food for the gods, I tell you), but for the most part, I have deserted my sugared cereal friends. "But," you say, "What about the Frosted Mini-Wheats and Cracklin' Oat Bran? They have lots of sugar in them!" Yes, they do. But have you looked at how many grams of fiber you get with one bowl? We're talkin' major roughage. Way more than Cheerios. I think that pretty much cancels out the sugar.

I wonder, as I look at my past days of breakfast cereal choices, what the future holds? Will I stay with the more healthful choices of my youth or will I return to the glory days of high sugar content? Only time will tell, my friend...only time will tell.

Monday, October 03, 2005

You Gotta' Have Friends

I've noticed something as I've made my novice way through the blog world: I must have had a lousy school experience. There are so many people who are renewing friendships from high school, and it's not just mere curiosity to see what the cheerleader/jock looks like now that they've put on a few pounds and added a few kids to their family. These are real friendships: the kind where you have a lot of common ground to rib each other about and where you know each others' kids.

I was always jealous of such relationships. I guess I still am, to a point. Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying I didn't have friends in high school, but of all the people I grew up and went to school with, there is only one whom I still call occasionally. We grew up next door to one another, and she's my 3rd cousin. Still, I can't say we're super close. The group of friends I hung out with at school ended up being just that: people I associated with at school but not much anywhere else. They would get together outside of school and do stuff, but they rarely, if ever, included me. Of course, I found all this out much later when I was invited to a bridal shower and they all made reference to some common experience. They seemed confused when I didn't know what they were talking about. It hurt me then. It still hurts now. I had come to believe that they were true friends.

I watch my son A--, now in 4th grade, and see him struggling socially the same way I did. Third grade for him was a year from social hell. He played mostly with one friend (a girl). They both got teased mercilessly. This year, thankfully, seems to be much better. A-- has decided that kickball is fun and spends many of his recesses on the blacktop with a variety of boys and girls. But I am filled with dread upon hearing him say that J--, one of the mean kids from last year, likes to pick A-- to be on his team solely because A-- will ask J-- to kick for him. Is it right to let him be happy about being chosen on the basis of his willingness to be trodden underfoot? I wonder if that is why my school "friends" allowed me to be a part of their group. Was I a friend of convenience, like a piece of toilet paper, to be used when you want it but to be ignored when you don't? It worries me. I don't want to see my boy as miserable as I sometimes was. And let's face it: the pain of social rejection, when it occurs during your youth, never goes away.

Thankfully, I now know what true friends are. School was so long ago, and was such a relatively short period in my life. The great thing about being an adult is that I have much more time ahead of me to be the kind of friend and build the kind of friendships that I want. What a blessing to have my husband as my best friend. Next to him, and in no particular order, come Nancy, Katherine, Shannon, Karolyn, Lorien, Dalene, Melody, Marilyn, Stefanie, Regan, Annette, Corrine, Lesleigh, and so many others. You have done wonders to heal past hurts. Thanks.