phases of normal

Years ago the refrigerator was always open.  As was the pantry door, and usually the snack cabinet.  With three kids, and their waves of friends, someone was always hungry.

The grew up and for a while I kept things like stuffed olives and spinach bread in the refrigerator and we changed from kraft cheese blocks to artisanal offerings laid out on a bamboo cutting board with matching slicer.

Grandkids came  and we reopened the snack cabinet and laughed as subsequent 2 year olds made their way to the cheese balls and gushers…the pantry found itself loaded with teething biscuits and oddly orange cheese noodles.  Lucky to have all of our kids live within 10 minutes distance, we went through packing lunch for one of them to pick up on his way to work, setting two extra places at the table, just in case, and dropping coffee and protein boxes off to our daughters job.

We moved, only 30 minutes down the road, to a smaller house.  Not “on the way” to anyones normal destinations, and it took me a while to realize I didnt need to buy frozen waffles, oreo cookies or boxes of pizza.  Fruit snacks and yogurt sticks passed their expiration dates before they were tossed and I realized I missed feeding them all…

The nor’easter brought 3 snow days to our area.  We drove home from our beach place in case we were needed for emergency childcare.  Late yesterday afternoon the youngest came to pick up her 2 and headed for the kitchen.  “Wheres the leftover brisket?”  Her husband turned on the coffee pot and she pulled the provolone cheese from the refrigerator.  Today my son came to pick up his 2, said hello, went straight to the kitchen, opened the nacho chips and new jar of salsa, sat in his dads chair and enjoyed an afternoon snack.  I sat, amazed and humbled that they still know they are “home” when they walk in the door.  Doors slam, cupboards open and years of memories rush back.  Life is good.


keeping it real

Last night I watched one of those shows where they renovate a house.  This lady was moving to a new state to have her dad come live with her and her husband.  This state was half a country away from her original home.  So, anyway, they obviously had a ton of money and were renovating a beautiful big house, putting in handrails for dad, building him his own suite….adding great decorator touches to the whole home.  beautiful.

But, the lady kept going on about “I need a huge island so when the family comes to visit there will be room for us to gather around the island”  She went on and on about how when the “whole” family is here it will be so relaxing and so family…..Sunday breakfasts and chats on the back porch….

I was like, whoa mom, wake up!  Those young men you raised are not planning on jumping on a plane every weekend and having breakfast with the rents….All those cousins and siblings and extended family members are staying put — your’e the one leaving, setting up shop half a country away.

Cynical much? maybe.  Realistic?  yah.  Of course I may be wrong, but I just kind of felt sorry for her, she was building this huge home with the expectation that they all would have home time like when she was living nearby…..I doubt it.

Christmas true

When you parent you always wonder….will IT matter…?  IT can be anything from using the time out chair to a trip to the beach to an extra story at night… to any of a multitude of moments that wrap themselves into the bundle that is parenting.  Will IT matter?

This Christmas has been  a mix of memories and precursors,  misplaced Christmas dishes and a house too small to decorate the way I like to … which got me to thinking, will it matter?

Last week, I took my oldest grandchild ( 7 years old ) Christmas shopping.  We’ve done it every year since she was born.  Our son raised her alone the first 3 1/2 years of her life, mom walked out when she was 5 months old and left him with a mortgage, a dog she had to “rescue” and this precious little girl.  So when Christmas came that first year, she was 10 months old and her daddy had done everything he could to make it a Christmas like he had always imagined he would have when he became a father.  But, there was no one to buy him gifts so baby Ava and I went shopping.  Everything she touched or smiled at I bought.  He got a lego set, a pink polo shirt and, if I remember correctly , a gazing ball for the back yard.  And so it began, the yearly Christmas shopping trip with our girl.  When we went back  to her house last week to wrap the presents she wrapped and bagged and wrote the tags. She looked at me and said, “so which of these are you taking to your house?” and I explained that they were staying at her house for her to give to family.  Her face broke a bit when she looked at me and said “wait, we’re not going to your house this year , you know to open all the presents and eat and everything??  the whole family?”  As I explained to her that “Yes, of course you will all come to my house, you will bring your presents then, everyone will be there” — she smiled and continued her task.  And I knew, without a doubt, that IT mattered, the yearly Christmas traditions that are so much work and go way too fast, that result in huge piles of paper and misplaced pieces — that I always wonder if the kids are coming to just to appease me — they matter to Ava, and probably to all of them.

This morning my son came to pick up a gift for Ava that had been delivered here.He walked in and surveyed the piles of gifts under the tree.  He smiled and said, “All red and white paper this year!  It looks like a giant candy cane, awesome.”  And, again, IT mattered.  The buying and wrapping, the clutter and  ribbons, matter.  A candy cane.  35 years old and he sees the Candy cane in a pile of Christmas gifts.  It matters.

Two weeks ago the youngest, 30 years old, called to ask me what I was doing on Christmas Eve.  Our Christmas celebrations depend on when Ava is in town and what years the oldest daughter has to go to New Jersey to celebrate with inlaws….so it was a fair question.  I said “not sure, hanging out, maybe church.”  She immediately suggested a “7 fishes” celebration at her house — just us and my mom , everyone else had plans.  She and her husband could have planned any number of parties or events for them and their kids, but they chose to spend Christmas Eve with us, her parents.  It matters.  All the years of gathering the family together at our house to play Christmas carols and open gifts, to eat and sometimes drink too much…matter.  And, when it came to be her turn and she finally had a house big enough to feel comfortable entertaining in — It mattered. Then when her brother called to tell us what time his Christmas Eve celebration was starting, we all adjusted times so we could do both.  and the traditions will continue.   IT matters.

On the 18th.  all the kids and all the spouses and all 7 grandchildren gathered at oldest daughter’s house to bake cookies.  They do it every year, sometimes not everyone can make it, but this year it was full out everyone.  Sprinkles and dough, ovens dinging and me and George just standing there grinning.  It matters.  All the years of gathering them in the kitchen and baking cookies and breads matter.  And now, they continue it with their children, and since they are lucky enough to have siblings that they love, they do it together, bringing those cousins together to build memories.

I wonder sometimes if their dad and I are burdens, or insignificant in their lives, but this season has reminded me that it matters.  We matter.

Merry Christmas everyone.


It would be easier if…

my kids lived far apart.  If it took a plane ride or a road trip to get them together it would be easier to see them apart.  but it is not space, but choice, that is tearing our family down.  My kids grew up incredibly close.  less than 5 years separated the three of them, and our house was full of laughter and noise and tears and hugs….

They grew up and became adults.  Life got in the way and we had some ups and downs — but they had each other.  we had barbecues and family dinners.  Family vacations when all of us — 12 of us — stayed in one house for a week or more.  Boat trips and impromptu beerpong in the back yard.

But then it changed.  one of them has become joined to someone who has a power trip like non other.  And it has torn my kids apart.  Rarely do I get to see the 7 grandchildren together, to plan a party or a dinner and know they will all be here.  I miss it.  And, maybe it was inevitable, but it makes me sadder than I can say.

in the calm

of the morning, sometimes I remember their eyes when they looked up at me.  Or the sticky hands or legos on the floor.  I remember the cut up oranges and apples with peanut butter.  The Barbies and dinosaurs that made up the 80’s and a good part of the 90’s of my life.  Beds full of arms and legs as they scrambled into our bed on Sunday morning, the line of us making our way into church.

And, sometimes it makes me sad.  Melancholy actually — no surprise I guess.  Those years were like jello – soft, colorful, quiet yet capable of eliciting squeals of joy and wails of sorrow.  My children stretched and grew, totally oblivious to the inevitability of change, yet embracing every new skill, word, personality spike.  And I ached to grow with them . Moments of success punctuated by days of “dear lord, did I really do/say that?”

And now they are grown.  Married, successful, struggling in their own way to raise their own children. And I still ache to grow with them.  Some things never change, yes?mia blankee

Declaration of My Independence

Oye.  So, my kids won’t read this.  They don’t have any interest in my blog, which is okay, truly.


I have been slowly declaring my independence from the ties of parenthood, grandparenthood.  Now, that does not FOR ONE MINUTE , mean that I don’t adore my kids and grandkids.  i would drop everything, everything if one of them needed me –and I have many many times.  Happily. I don’t regret or resent any moment with my family over the last 35 years. Not one moment.

But, over the past 2, maybe 3 years, I have realized that I am running out of time.  No drama here, just reality.  I’m almost 58.  Realistically I have maybe 10 -15 years left to feel pretty good, be pretty active.  Then, with my family history, maybe another 5 years to dwindle…and that is best case scenario. Not guaranteed, by any means. I have spent the last 35 years wrapped up  in supporting other people.  My people, my kids.  But, its time, it really is, for me to have some ME time.  for sure.

We took a honeymoon and then one camping trip in my dads camper before we started having children.  popped out 3 in less than five years. When our third child was 5 we took our first weekend away, with out kids.  Did it once a year for the next 2 years.( This was the time in my life when I used to stand in the back yard and watch planes fly over and wonder where they were going, if I would ever fly again.  Yes, I know, poor pitiful me. )

After  our 20th. anniversary I planned a trip to Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I know, Cleveland. That was the extent of our travels, alone, during our marriage.  Period.  We took the kids to the beach, almost every year after the oldest turned 7 — in North Carolina. Wonderful family vacations. We bought a boat, took the kids out every week.  We spent many days with family and with each other, we swam at the neighborhood pool.  We gave them the best life we could. We spent every minute with them, as a family. And it was a good life.

Flash forward, 35 years after we married on that Cold January day.  Kids are grown and married.  6 grandchildren in 6 years and now number 7 due any minute.  We retired early, then went immediately back to work, me in a new career, husband in an extension of his previous job. Our kids all live close.  It is wonderful.  But, it began to be expected that we would cover the holes in their days.  We “felt bad” when the kids were in daycare, so we picked them up almost every day.  we “felt bad” when oldest daughter or our son didn’t get to “go out”, “have fun” — so we babysat, rented beach houses and invited them all to join us.  We worried that they were short on money, or time, or joy or rest time.  So we worked to “fix it”.  And our kids have become quite comfortable and expecting of our involvement.

And then, it occurred to me that while, for 30 years or so,  I was spending every day and night raising kids and then grandkids,  and had zero hobbies, very few friends and no down time, my husband had been  hunting, fishing, building race cars,  playing darts and helping friends.  Not as much as he wanted, but still , finding time to be him.    There was no time to be me.  I lost me.  I went through years of resentment, laying right under the surface, of the life he had molded me into.  It almost drove us to divorce.  I left for a little bit.  He went buck crazy.  I figured, hell, if he wants it back this bad, maybe it IS worth fighting for.

Over the last couple years, I have pushed back.  We are working to live for us now.  It is our time.  We get to vacation alone,  say no to babysitting,  buy things we want and do things we enjoy. When my youngest says “lucky you” when I say we are at the beach, or at a restaurant, I remind her that when I was her age, or when my kids were her kids  age, I was exactly where she is. We are working hard to remove ourselves from our kids marriages – their arguments, decisions are not our business.  We will listen if they talk, but we will not try to solve their problems.  It is not our job to figure out who gets who off the bus, or to the doctor, or new shoes. I shouldn’t turn around on the way to a business meeting to pick up a child that has a parent who should do it, as hard as it is for me to keep driving straight.   We will help, when we can, when asked, but we are trying to help them not assume we are taking care of these things. Its life altering, not only for us, but, Im sure, for them.

We work full time.  We have a big house. We have sore knees and I have stents in my heart.  We have hobbies and toys and things we want to do.  Sometimes we want to do them with company, with children around. Sometimes we try to connect with old friends that we have ignored for years.  Sometimes we will alter our schedule to spend time with the people we love.  We will honor traditions and be present.  I never missed a hockey game, wrestling match or cheerleading performance.  Never missed a dance recital or a band concert.  Never. But I may miss a couple of these things when my grandchildren do them.  I may choose to sit on the back porch and read the paper or drive to the beach.  I’m going to build that beach house and spend months on end there.  And that is ok.

I declare my Independence.

This day…

this morning I overslept.  missed the registration for a 5 k I wanted to walk/run for work.  Bummer.

But, then I went to the park and walk/ran my fastest 1k and fastest mile ever.  Redemption, almost.

After deciding I couldnt deal with my husband’s family this afternoon I went to the craft store, bought a bunch of Fall stuff and visited my dads grave.  And it hit me, all over again, I miss him so much. i valued his opinion more than almost anyones, even when I disagreed, even when the dementia was taking over and moments of lucidity were few and far between, I valued what he had to say.  I can still, if I sit very still, hear his voice, his laughter, his whistle.  Whenever he wanted me, whether I was 100 yards down the beach or on the neighbors porch, he would whistle.  And, I would come home.

Today I sat at his grave and discussed these health issues that are raising their head.  Since they mirror the conditions he dealt with, I asked for his guidance, his help, a little intervention — to get me through.  I hung his new flag, I straightened the flowers, kissed his stone, and left.  I cant say I felt better.  But I felt that he had been there with me.  And I know he knows I miss him.

A good cry

Today I had a good cry ( as if there were such a thing…). Damn facebook got me again.

I have written about my son’s marriage.  You dream about your kids getting married, and if you are smart enough, you realize it is their day and will probably not be exactly what you planned.  And, you are okay with that, for the most part.

My son married a woman that doesn’t like us.  Period.  Finds fault in everything, yells, curses and stews like noone I have ever met.  And, loves my son, his daughter and works hard every day. Fights her own demons Im sure == and ignores us, rather than engaging in more drama.

Its a trade off, but for now, its working.

But today, facebook took me back to a video of a young couple’s wedding entrance.  Dancing, hugging, sunglasses.  Music, joy, laughter — bliss.  And I sobbed.  Yup, sobbed.  Pent up tears from their wedding 10 months ago?  Triggered by the happiness on the screen?  Maybe.  Mourning what could have been?  Probably.  Joes friends, and my sons in law would have loved this == I can picture each of them shaking down that aisle, celebrating.  But, it didnt happen.  Instead it was a “vanilla” wedding — banned from the bridal party, the celebrations and the preparation, our family attended, but did not participate.  And while we were there physically and in spirit, it was a sad day for the right side of the aisle.

And today it kind of hit me.

stumbling back in time…

I stumbled upon the pictures ) good ole Facebook) from my oldest grandchildren’s baptism today.  5 years ago we baptised the oldest two,in Silver Spring Maryland, where my oldest daughter was living.  There are hundreds of memories in those pictures, glimpses of dad in the fog that possessed him that day, George holding tightly to his children, and grandchildren, Ryan being hoisted into the air by the best pastor ever….

But what hit me, what smacked me and stroked me at the same time, was the bond between our children.  Solid, physical and spiritual, evident.  They have had their moments.  They have yelled at, avoided, ignored, used and hurt each other over the years, but in the end, in the clinch, in the moment when push comes to shove, they come through. They defend. They support and love each other, no matter what. They show up, kicking and screaming, but they show up.  We have heard, years later, of late night runs to shady stores to wire money to Joe, long conversations into the night about boyfriends or girlfriends or roommates, of phone calls to ex’s — warning them off, of “loans” and “gifts” and “borrowed uggs”.  We have seen them sit for hours, supporting each other after life events that rocked us all off our center and heard them scream until their throats are hoarse.  They have suffered through therapy sessions. visits to people they don’t want to see, college tours and they have, for the last 19 years, kept the pact they made to never tell me who broke the Nativity Set….

I love them more than life.  I respect them and I envy their closeness.  Most of all, I am somewhat calmed and reassured by the fact that they will have each other long after I am gone.  that they will support each other through anything, celebrate success and fight through the crap.

My babies.