Friday, September 16, 2011

Crystal Clear: I'm moving on

For the first time in six years, where I live -- and how we pay for it -- won't be taken care of by the Army. And when I make a phone call about health insurance, child care or, anything really, the person on the other line won't care about my sponsor's Social Security number. Because come this fall, I will no longer be a dependent; I'll just be a civilian.

And so will my husband.

While he will be going into the Reserves, I would be lying if I said that leaving the "traditional" Army family doesn't give me pause. There's just something about the security the military brings. For one; I've never had my own health insurance. And two, the relationships I've made since my husband started his career are invaluable. I can probably count on one hand my close friends who have no military affiliation whatsoever.

It's hard to imagine not heading to the Commissary or the Exchange to do my shopping. And what will my social calendar look like without the regular "Hail and farewell" dinners, Family Readiness Group meetings and military balls? And of course, many of my friends will go on to new duty stations in different cities, states, or even countries, while we forge ahead in this new civilian life.

While I am not saying goodbye completely -- as an Army civilian, I know I am still part of the Army family and the Fort Jackson community -- it still won't be the same.

When I married into the Army in February 2005, I didn't know what I was getting into. I took my first flight just months before on a small prop-plane that flew me into Fort Sill, Okla., where my husband was attending his officer basic course.

And while most people think our wedding date was chosen to center around Valentine's Day, the truth is a lot less romantic -- we chose a date that gave him two weeks to help plan the wedding and two weeks to pack for his new duty station in Germany where I joined him three months later.

Truth be told, I wasn't too keen on the military lifestyle at first. I found out a year or so later that just days into landing in Germany, I'd somehow already offended a bunch of people I'd never met, most likely based on someone not understanding my unusual sense of humor. That was the first of many misunderstandings I had, most of which I can now look back on and laugh.

Despite those missteps, I enjoyed being an Army spouse. I dove in headfirst, being assigned the task of FRG co-leader before I even really knew what the FRG was. I joined the spouses' club, and was even on the board before we headed back to the states. I made a number of friends, many with whom I am still in contact today. Friends that, during our husbands' deployments, knew when to get me out of the house and when I just needed to be left alone. For every Soldier who knew me as "Lt. Brown's wife," there was a spouse who knew him as "Crystal Brown's husband."

When we left that first duty station three years ago, in addition to German wine, I brought home some lifelong friendships and some lessons learned. But, unlike the wine, those lessons will stick with me. And, hopefully, so will the friendships.

So in a month or so, when my Soldier officially becomes Mr. Brown, I will be losing a big part of something that has been a major part of my adult life. And frankly, it's scary. But I know that having been a part of this family is something I will never forget, and something that has made me and my family stronger.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Day 4: Veggie burritos

  Day 4 was, without a doubt, the best so far for me. I'm not thinking about coffee quite so much, plus, I enjoyed some pretty good meals. Last night's dinner was veggie burritos. Even though we don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I decided to go with that theme anyway for dinner. In lieu of a margarita, I have my ice cold water with lime slices.
The burritos were pretty easy to make (whole wheat tortillas are allowed on the fast). I first made my salsa, which was really more like a pico de gallo. I chopped up a couple of tomatoes, added some diced white onion, cilantro, fresh jalapeno, kosher salt and squeezed the juice of one lime over the whole thing and let it sit while I chopped and cooked up the rest.

This photo shows only half of what was cooked.

For the burrito filling, I chopped up a peeled sweet potato and used a trick I learned from another recipe to cook it. I put the potatoes and a little water in a microwave-safe bowl, covered it in saran wrap and microwaved it for about 5 minutes. That makes it soft enough to sautee, but not mushy. While that was microwaving, I started the rest on the stove top.I put a little olive oil in a pan and let that heat up before adding chopped garlic, 2 chopped bell peppers (all I had was orange and yellow, which did nothing for the color but added to the "sweet" taste), and half of a large white onion. I seasoned it with salt, pepper and ancho chili powder (all I had on hand).
Once the potatoes finished cooking, I added them, plus the water, to the pan and added a bit more salt because I'd forgotten to salt the water. After about 2 minutes, I added a can of black beans, which I'd drained, and about two cups of chopped baby spinach. I added about a pinch of salt and some cumin; not sure how much, I'm pretty liberal with it. All in all,  a pretty satisfying meal. I was stuffed!
1/2 chopped onion
2 tomatoes
1 jalapeno (I only used half, feel free to use the whole thing. Take out the seeds for less heat.)
Kosher salt
Burrito filling:
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 onion
2 bell peppers (any color)
2 cups of baby spinach, chopped
1 cup black beans, drained
Kosher salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
About a tbsp Ancho chili powder
Tbsp of cumin

The finished product

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Day 3: bean curry and brown rice

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Siggghhh ..... that's the sound of a satisfying and filling meal at the end of a day pretty much marked by hunger. Don't get me wrong, my fruit and nut salad, was pretty good, and my stuffed peppers hit the spot at lunch, but despite all my planning, I've yet to feel full while on this fast. Until now.

This recipe came from the Daniel Fast site, and we had big bowls of it for dinner (my husband had some for lunch). One thing I would do differently is to spice it up a bit more. But it's full of beans -- lentils, garbanzo and kidney. I actually used cannellini beans (white kidney beans) because I was out of the regular kind. And I still have enough lentils leftover to throw into another curry or make soup with. This also turned out a bit "tomatoey" for me, so I'd probably add a bit of veggie stock. One tip though: All vegetable stocks aren't made only of vegetables! I had to look through all the brands before I found two that did not contain sugar! The one I got, Kitchen Basics, was $2.50 or so, and the other kind was an organic brand that cost nearly $5. It's amazing what has sugar in it. This fast is really opening my eyes to how many chemicals we put into our bodies without even knowing it.

Later on tonight, I'll cut up the rest of the veggies for tomorrow night's stir-fry and figure out what to cook for breakfast, which is so far, the most difficult part of this fast so far! But for now, I will relish not hearing my stomach growl; for a while, anyway.

Daniel fast Day 2: stuffed peppers

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As part of our church's fitness ministry, we are embarking on a weeklong Daniel Fast. I've been waiting in anticipation for the fast so I could test out some new vegetarian recipes that Jamil wouldn't ordinarily eat. For those unfamiliar with the Daniel Fast, it is a spiritual-based partial fast, which limits you to a vegan diet with a few more restrictions; the only beverage you can drink is water, no bread that contains yeast or other leavening agents and no sweeteners. So Sunday, I made my menus, my shopping lists and I filled my cart with fast-friendly stuff.

I think we can call Monday a success. I made this delicious sweet potato chili with tortilla chips on the side. The chips weren't so good, but the chili was great, which is why I have no photo -- it was all gone before I could take one! The hubby took it to the church to share, and although he said they were a bit apprehensive at first, they enjoyed it.

For the peppers, pictured above, I loosely followed this recipe, swapping veggie broth for chicken, leaving out the cheese and forgoing the basil sauce because of the creme fraich it calls for, though I think with some practice, I can do it with tofu. I failed at my attempt to make a flat bread; I ate it, but DH called it "horrible." I will try again tonight though.

Yesterday was a bit tough; I think that having a pretty filling breakfast is going to be key on this thing. The first day, we had oatmeal, which held me pretty well, along with my snacks. But yesterday's smoothie was nothing. I was starving by the time I hit my chair at work. This morning, I had some of the huge fruit salad I made Sunday (kiwi, strawberries, bananas, pineapple) and added some pecans.

One thing I have learned so far is that preparation is key; as easy as it is so say I will "pray about it" when hunger pangs hit, I think that God gave us the good sense to plan ahead. When I knew I would be out to eat Monday, i visited the restaurant's website to pick out some suitable choices before I even got there. And I took some juicy grapes and my bottle of water to last night's sorority meeting to stave off the temptation of meatballs and chicken nuggets.

Anyway, I will definitely make sure I "get in the scripture" before this weekend; I'm not sure how the Daniel Fast will mix with our family trip to Myrtle Beach this weekend!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Weeknight cooking: Barramundi!

Yes, it's on a paper plate. Sue me. I don't want to wash dishes!

I have a confession to make. I haven't really cooked all week. With my and the hubby's schedules, it's been tough to get into the kitchen. Wednesday, I threw some burgers on the grill, but I hate to even claim that much, since in my haste, I accidentally seasoned them with a rosemary garlic blend instead of pepper (not a bad mix, but not great either). 

So tonight, after buying cart full of meat and fish yesterday in preparation for a possible government shutdown, I (and my pocketbook) decided I'd better cook tonight. But I also knew that I had a limited amount of time to get a meal on the table before the hubbs had to head off yet again for a church lock-in. 

So I figured that my motto for the evening would be KISS -- keep it simple stupid. I decided to cook Barramundi, a fish I just heard about last week and for which a commissary coupon was offered, and the fresh green beans I'd bought last week before they went bad.

When I say I went simple, I mean simple! I chopped some fresh garlic and threw it in a hot pan with some melted butter. In went the fish, which I'd only seasoned with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Once cooked (took about 5 -7 minutes), I took it off, squeezed a lemon over it, then wiped down the pan and put in a little olive oil. More garlic, then I added the green beans, which I'd blanched (boiled for a short while, then immersed in an ice water bath). I'd boiled the beans in salted water, so I only added a bit of pepper and a splash of soy sauce.

I had two problems with this dish. 1) s I used a too-small pan, which meant that all my fish didn't get cooked evenly and I ended up with an undercooked piece that had to be fixed later.  2) I was also Facebooking, so I let the green beans boil longer than I would have liked, so I didn't get that bright green color and slight crunch I wanted. But DH said they were good. In the future, I'd also toast some pine nuts to toss the green beans with.

All in all, I think it was  a pretty good meal, and it took about 20-30 minutes, including chopping the garlic and thawing the fish. If I'd cooked sauteed the beans in a different pan while I cooked the fish, it could have been done even quicker. But I didn't want to dirty another dish. 

So if you have some fish and veggies you need to get rid of, this is a quick and easy recipe that took fewer than 10 ingredients (fish, green beans, garlic, salt, pepper, butter, olive oil, lemon), most of which are probably already in the pantry.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Mocha Manual to Military Life mini-review (Virtual Book Tour)

The Mocha Manaul to Military Life, cowritten by Pamela M. McBride, seasoned military life/writer/career coach, is kind of like giving your  newly married/dating military girlfriend a bunch of advice and stories all wrapped up into 11 chapters and 300-something pages. And although it's called the "Mocha Manual," rest assured that it's for girlfriends of all hues.

Though there are loads of good stuff in there, I've decided to focus on two chapters that are near and dear to me.

Chapter 2 -- Surviving the first year: Your induction into the MS world and Chapter 3 -- When honey is away dealing with separation and deployment.

Chapter 2 -- Surviving the first year: Your induction into the MS world
My first year of military wifehood wasn't necessarily a disaster, but I definitely had a few speed bumps. #1: Not really understanding my husband's job and having the battalion commander's wife explain it to me during her welcome reception (though at the time, I didn't really understand what a battalion was exactly, so I didn't really know what a battalion commander was either). And #2: Being my usual goofy self, I jokingly said something that got taken out of context and which garnered me the side eye from other spouses until they all eventually PCSd. Add that stress on top of the already super-stressful first year of marriage and, well, it can be a bit of a problem. Especially if you find yourself across the country, or even in another country, than your family, friends, job, et.

Chapter 2 can't fix everything (the chapters on protocol and relationships would have also been useful in all my faux pas), it's a start in the right direction. Pamela and Kimberly Seals-Allers get spouses pointed in the right direction from the get go, discussing how to get an ID card, make sure you're properly enrolled in DEERS (if you don't know what that is, you need the book) and getting set up in military housing. I actually found it hilarious to read the part about standing up for the national anthem before a movie in an on-post theater in one of the many extras found in the book. It was funny because I remember looking in confusion as everyone stood up before a movie at the Fort Sill theater.

She also touches on something I think we can all relate to; finding hair products no matter where you're stationed! I got many a package from an online retailer I'd never before heard of to do my hair, buy ball dresses, get contact lenses, etc. etc.

Chapter 3 -- When honey is away: Dealing with Separation and Deployment.
This chapter is near and dear to me right now because my own honey will be going TDY for a couple of months soon, and friends and others are saying goodbye to their honeys who are deploying. Although separations, whether it be a trip to the field, temporary duty (TDY), overseas deployment, are a part of military life, that doesn't make it any better. You just have to find your own coping mechanisms to deal with it. That's what chapter 3 is all about. I remember at one point during my husband's deployment (when I was not working), I checked out to back-to-back seasons of the Pretender and stayed up late watching the episodes. Fyi, I also repeated this with episodes of Prison Break. Obviously, staying up watching TV and sleeping wasn't the best way to cope with  deployment? But what is? That, my dears, is a question left up to each person, but this chapter gives lots of helpful pointers to get you started. The predeployment checklist has some of the same info you might get from the unit FRG, plus a few more. I especially like the "Military Spouse Survival Kit." This list is invaluable; not because women aren't in the know about household tools, but it provides a list to help make sure you have everything. My only problem with it is that I think the most important tool should have been at the top of the list instead of the middle; a good corkscrew :)

A couple of other notes about the book: There are a few little vignettes in each chapter that I really like. One is "The Mocha Mix" in which you can read stories from actual spouses and/or female service members about whatever topic fits the chapter. This gives a few different perspectives. Also included are "His turn," in which you hear from the husband/boyfriend service member; "Senior spouse spotlight," a brief story on a spouse; and a "Service member spotlight," about a female service member. The end of the book contains a handy glossary for those easy-to-forget, yet often used military acronyms and terms that contains everything from "RSVP" to "RFO."

All in all, if you are, or if you know someone, who is new to the military lifestyle, this is a great book to send as a "Welcome to the military" gift.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The brief adventures of New Dog and the Browns

New Dog came into our lives -- and left it nearly as quickly -- in the most unusual of ways.

DS was holding our dog, Taz, on a leash, while my arms were completely full of everything I'd neglected to previously pack for our weekend trip to Atlanta.

"Hop in," I said to Taz, and when a blur flew beside me, I was surprised to see a brown Pomeranian instead of our usually grumpy and gray-haired Min Pin. New Dog jumped all over the car; from the front to the back, into the back window, and briefly landing in the car seat, which prompted DS to cry out: "That's MY seat."

For 5 minutes, I looked from Taz, now walking around aimlessly as DS and I looked at New Dog do sprints inside the Hyundai, and pleaded with New Dog to calm down. Finally, she did.

I tucked under my arm and held her out to a neighbor who turned out to simply be saying hi. "Is this your dog," I asked? Nope. And as I walked down the street, knocking on doors; and later, drove slowly with my windows down looking for the owner, I was greeted with the same answer.

One neighbor would point to one house, and someone else to another, until finally I'd lost both my patience and an hour and a half. So DS, Taz, New Dog and I set about doing the errands I'd plan to do anyway. First, the Library, during which trip I called my mom for advice (call Animal Control, she said). Then I dropped Taz off at the vet, and had the dog scanned to see if she had a microchip. She didn't. So the receptionist, Vet tech, me, DS and New Dog all shared a brief awkward moment during which I whined, "I don't know what to do I'm supposed to be going out of town and now two hours and passed and I don't know what to doo-oo." So the receptionist handed me a couple of phone numbers to Animal Control and the SCPA and sent us on our way.

I did another quick trip around the neighborhood, neck craning to hear an owner screaming New Dog's name. Nada. So I called Animal Control and they dispatched someone out to pick her up. Not knowing how long the wait would be, I put a collar on her, hooked up the leash and put it around the post in front of my house. She didn't even touch the water or the dog biscuit I put out for her.

Right as I guiltily began to pull out of the driveway, Animal control drives up. We discuss New Dog's condition (clean, white teeth, clipped nails) and he assures me that they will post a pic of her on the website and will wait for the owner to pick her up. What if that doesn't happen, I ask. Then she will go up for  adoption, he answered. A Pomerian, a cute and well-mannered one at that, would go quickly, he assured me.

Of course, I couldn't stop thinking about New Dog the entire trip. I'd call the shelter Tuesday, I decided, and put my name on a list I'd convinced myself existed to claim New Dog as a new member of the Brown family (wasn't sure how Jamil felt about this plan, but I figured once he saw the cuteness, he wouldn't be able to resist)!

Just 15 minutes ago, we pulled into our neighborhood and were greeted by colorful "lost dog" posters, bearing New Dog's photo. I called the number and the woman who answered was so relieved and was crying to hard and so loudly, that I didn't even hear her when she told me New Dog's real name.

She offered me a reward, but I declined. All I wanted, I told her, was for her to get New Dog microchipped so this couldn't happen again. She said she would, and I believed her; she'd had the dog for only two months, and got her from an abusive home.

Whatever her real name is, New Dog signaled the end of a super-hard week for me, and was the beginning of something unusual, and fun. And I'm glad that I could play a part in helping her get back home.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Mocha Manual to Military Life

Most of my sister-friends have been involved in the military lifestyle for several years by now. But for those who are new to the game, The Mocha Manual to Military Life (co-written by Pamela McBride, one of my sorors of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., by the way) is geared toward those who are looking for a heads up on what to expect or for those who want a little more insight into the military lifestyle.

April 8, I will be one stop in Pamela's virtual book tour, in which a group of bloggers and others will "host" Pamela in some way. In lieu of a full book review, I've chosen two chapters that I think are near and dear to me: Chapter 2, which deals with the first year of military life; and Chapter 3, which is about separations, something us spouses know lots about :)

Though it's called the "Mocha Manual," it's not strictly for my darker-hued sisters; though there are some special tips that I've found lacking in some other military spouse books.

In the meantime, take a look at Pamela's tour website at , and hopefully, I will see some of you guys here in about a week!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Warmth of Other Suns

This past weekend, I had a conversation with my 70-something-year-old grandmother that I'd never had before. We talked about racism (it was there, but she didn't experience as much as her older siblings), whether she'd ever considered leaving Mississippi, and why (no, she's never really been interested), and if any of her siblings had left home to move north (yes, a brother moved to Ohio after having some kind of altercation with a white man).

What prompted the discussion? A meeting and a book.

Two Fridays ago, I had a parent's night out scheduled with the on-post day care center but the hubby was unavailable. And instead of canceling or hitting a movie as I'd done the past two times, I came across something I thought would be interesting. A book discussion and signing at the library. Which leads me to the book.

So far Isabel Wilkerson's book, "The Warmth of Other Suns," is in a word: awesome. In another word - awful. It's not that the book isn't great, it is. And meeting Isabel was even better.

First, the meeting.

I imagine that for an aspiring entertainer, meeting your idol would be amazing. And as a black, female journalist, meeting a black, female journalist that, oh, just so happens to have won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism (the first one, at that!) was amazing. For about an hour, Isabel riveted the couple hundred or so of us gathered in the downstairs auditorium at the Richland County Public Library downtown. She shared with us a few key points about her book, which is a narrative nonfiction about the Great Migration. She kept the tone light; which I think, given the heaviness of the subject matter, which included all manner of atrocities committed under a racist law, was necessary. When it was time for her to sign my book, I'm pretty sure I stood, open gaped, looking at her like a pre-teen thrust suddenly into Justin Bieber's gaze.

For an hour or so, she shared with us a few tidbits from the book that took her 15 years and thousands of interviews to write. Though she never uses the word racism in the book (she refers to it simply as a caste system), the horror stories are some that I have never before heard and never could have imagined.  I have had a hard time making it through some chapters, becoming overwhelmed with emotions as I read the torture endured by some blacks who may have simply done themselves the dishonor of being born so. And to hear the tales of the three highlighted in the book made me wonder about my own family, what our stories were. The couple hundred of us in the audience could probably hear a pin drop as Isabel spoke, sprinkling a bit of humor in her talk to likely keep such a heavy hearted topic as light as possible. and when she finished, she received a standing ovation before we all got in line to wait to have our books signed.  Afterward, I was still on a high, and headed to a Starbucks to sip on a latte and read more of the book.

Even so, I admit I was very much disappointed that there weren't more young folks in the crowd, and by young, I mean 30-somethings, specifically black ones. This very important story, the story of the Great Migration, is one that many of us should of heard from our grandparents, but for some reason or another, didn't.

And this book is a chance for us to know it. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crystal Clear: Keeping family close, despite distance

Earlier this weekend, I found myself sitting on the floor at 9:30 p.m., surrounded by photo clippings and holding a pair of scissors, wondering whether I had a small photo of my dog to add to a family collage I was making to take to my son's day care room.

And although I knew I was dangerously close to going overboard on the project (I briefly considered Googling the music to the song "You're my Family" - a Nick Jr. staple, so I could accurately draw the notes on the bottom of the collage) making the collage gave me time to reflect on something I have been thinking a lot about: family.

Growing up, I remember spending all summer at my grandmother's house, playing softball with my cousins in a nearby open field, walking down the dusty county road to my aunt's house and exploring the land behind my grandfather's pig pen and cornfield.

Even during the school year, there was a bevy of cousins, aunts and uncles whose houses we often visited. And try as I may, there was no getting away from my two brothers, and later, my sister.

Making the collage, which came on the heels of trip to Mississippi where my son met his first cousins for the first time, reminded me that his experience will likely be nothing like mine. As a military family, we are constantly on the move, often putting us miles away from our hometowns and our families. So making the 10-hour or so trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, or even the sevenplus- hour trip to visit relatives in North Mississippi, isn't always feasible.

Busy work schedules sometimes make it difficult for us to even visit my husband's family members, many of whom live more than three hours away in Atlanta.

While I think we do a pretty good job of promoting family within our foursome (yes, I'm including the dog), it's hard to teach the type of closeness that comes with hanging out with siblings and other relatives.

That's why I am so grateful for my military "family" that has developed over the years. Even with my family miles away, I know I can call on a girlfriend and drop off my son or have a play date so he can have "siblings" for a few hours.

A couple of weeks ago, we attended a birthday party where my son got to paint alongside friends. I know the craft wouldn't have held his interest for long if it had just been the two of us, but with his temporary "cousins," around, he chose paint after paint, swirling it around on his pottery plate until I finally had to take it away.

So maybe I will take a cue from his day care class and create another collage; one with cousins, grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles, so that no matter how far away they may be physically, he will have the opportunity to see family anytime he wants, right there in his room.

Editor's note: Crystal Lewis Brown is editor of the Fort Jackson Leader and an Army spouse of six years.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow day!

For the last two days; we've been snowed in. Well, not literally, but post has been "closed" to all but "key and essential" personnel; and despite my visions of grandeur, I am neither. So what have I been doing? Being a stay-at-home mom. I've baked cinnamon raisin bread from scratch; I've sat idly by as Cam sat on the potty (to no avail I might add, though I'm sure I was pretty close before I got a phone call from the publisher, and frankly with the sound of Backyardigans in the background - don't judge me! and the threat of urine getting on the phone I may or may not return, I thought it best to leave the room); I made fried okra, smothered porkchops, marinated chicken with gravy and mashed red potates; and besides nearly going out of my mind, I played in the snow with Cam. And it was fun.

But I did learn one thing: I am NOT cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. And for those of you who are, God bless you.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Crystal Clear: Dental visit sets mom's teeth on edge

Unlike my husband, when it comes to dental health, I tend to be somewhat lax. My dentists almost always make a remark about whether I floss regularly, though what they observe during exams makes it obvious that I don't. And because I'm almost always between dentists, I don't always keep to the recommended six-month cleaning plans.

Because of my own habits, I wanted to make sure my husband and I started our son on the right path. I followed all the suggestions: no sleeping with a bottle, not too many sweets and brush his gums, and later, his teeth. I was ecstatic when I found out the daycare kept toothbrushes and toothpaste in the room so that the children could brush there, too.

So when I noticed that one of his front teeth appeared to be darker than the other, I was disheartened. Googling the symptom didn't do me any good: By day's end, I was convinced that his tooth was dead and if it didn't fall out soon, it would have to be pulled. I frantically called my son's godmother, a dentist, and filled her in. Her calm voice did little to reassure me. It's probably fine, she said. And if not, the worst that could happen is that the tooth would be pulled.

And since it was a baby tooth, he should have no problems with his permanent tooth coming in about five years from now. That's when vanity got the best of me; would he have to go through the next five years with one tooth missing? I imagined the story shared in whispers around the school. "Oh, he hasn't had a front tooth since he was 1. His mother allowed the poor boy to hurt his tooth."

The situation was made worse by the fact that my son did not yet have a dentist. He had not, in fact, ever been to a dentist. For once, the oversight wasn't a product of my procrastination; I could have sworn my dentist said that he didn't have to be seen until 2. Not so, said my dentist-friend. He should have been seen once the first tooth bud popped out. Bad Mom.

So I did what any mother who has fallen from grace and is seeking to redeem herself would do: I immediately set up an appointment with the dentist, making sure to measure my words so as not to draw attention the fact that at almost 2, the boy had never set foot in a dentist's office. To the receptionist's credit, even if she thought I was the worst parent in the world, she didn't let on.

She didn't even let on when she called our house and left a message saying that despite what I'd told her when I made the appointment, our son did not actually have dental insurance. Sigh.

For some reason, I assumed that since we had signed him up for medical insurance, the dental was done automatically. As my husband would say, "When you assume, half the time you're right and the other half you're wrong." In my case, I was wrong. And as if to prove that Murphy's Law does exist, ("Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong") it turns out that my phone call to sign up for the insurance came two days too late. We'd missed that month's deadline, which meant that my son had to go another month (with a possibly dying tooth!) before he could see the dentist.

But this story does have a happy ending. On the first workday of the new year, my son had his first dental appointment. He was the best patient of the day, the staff said, and his teeth were perfectly fine.

So while other folks make a myriad of New Year's Resolutions, I think I will make just one: Stop freaking out. And I'm pretty certain I can keep it.

Until it's time to floss his teeth, that is.