The search for normal

We drive our grandkids to the boardwalk.  Lights and rides and cheap stuffed animals surround us — then a young man runs out of a storefront — “Stay the F— out of my store, you hear?”

We search for normal.

We sit poolside, toucan floats and cheesy pizza at our side.  I check twitter, only to learn of another shooting in our home town.

We reach for normal.

We run to the ocean edge, scooping shells and searching for sand crabs for bait.  I hear an elderly couple speaking of the newest health care changes being considered.

We yearn for normal.

I can not help but worry that my grandchildren, aged 8 to 2, will never really understand this normal that I look for.  They are growing up without peaches with a quarter inch of fuzz, without open doors and barbecues.  They hear of shootings and presidential “tweets”.  Will they be able to sit on their front step, a half hour before sunrise and smell that sweet morning nectar, see the golden rays jump up behind the neighbors house?  More and more I doubt it.  And more and more I search for pieces of light to share with them, pictures and memories of days gone by when the ocean was clean, the rivers and creeks safe to swim in, woods were for exploring and friends spent the night.

I cry for normal.

dinner with the kids

You forget, when your children have grown, how interesting dinner with three little ones can be.  Tonight we had our oldest daughter, her husband, and their three kids, 7, 4 and 2, over for dinner.  First time we have sat more than the two of us at the table in the dining room in this new little house we have moved into.  After we moved the table far enough out from the wall that the son in law could sit down, and positioned the two year old in his mommy’s lap since he obviously doesn’t do chairs….we realized 7 year old grandson had brought 2 walnuts, a hazelnut and some big nut I don’t know the name of to the table and was proceeding to try to crack a walnut with his fork, on the china,  because his 4 year old sister had the cracker.  I explained that, no we weren’t having nuts for dinner and scooped them into the plastic princess tea cup that the 2 year old had placed on the table. Ham loaf and garlic green beans didn’t appeal to the kids, but the corn dogs were a hit.  4 year old granddaughter ate 3, peeling the cornbread away and carefully cutting the hot dogs in small pieces, slathering them with ketchup and loving every bite.  2 year old grandson walked away from the table with 2, one in each hand.  Intermittently biting the corn dogs and walking around 3 sides of the table, since the 4th side was full of his dad, crunched against the window, he probably ate almost as much as he smeared on the floor.  7 year old  grandson ate two, watching the clock to make sure he and dad didn’t miss “skate night” — they had to leave at 5:00 on the dot.  Amidst all this the 4 adults managed to down 2 ham loaves, a pound of green beans and broccoli salad. I really wanted a glass of wine but since they were both driving, well , it just didn’t seem fair.

At some point the two year old wandered the 4 steps into the living room ( remember, we bought a really small house) and i  turned just in time to see him strip out of his diaper, poo flying across the room.  Yes, poo.  As my daughter ran to him and the son in law raced for wipes, Im thinking, maybe its time to potty train this guy….

This being a third child, daughter isn’t as conscientious about packing a diaper bag, and truth be told, when we had the big house and lived 5 minutes away from  everyone I kept diapers and spare clothes for everyone in the dresser in the kids room. After he stripped out of his second diaper, no flying poo this time, but ruined diaper none the less, we had to go into creative mode….maybe a maxi pad stuck to his pants?  No, not cool, so we just put him in a pair of soft sweat pants and hoped for the best.  20 minutes later he wandered into my bedroom, in the dark, and we heard “um, pee.  pee mom.”  fortunately soft sweat pants are very absorbent.  we found one more pair of pants for him and packed them up to go home — before he ran out of alternatives!

Meanwhile the others were all eating fudge brownies and watching football.

All in all a successful night I’d say.

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.

chillin with Ava

Tonight I went to my son’s house and spent some time, just talking with my granddaughter.  We have seven grandchildren, blessings all, and I am fortunate that I get to see them each week, they have grown up surrounded by grammy and pop’s arms.

Tonight I needed some time with Ava.  It was a horrible day.  The air hung heavy with the killings of two black men, a friend of mine was arrested for a horrendous crime…..I felt dizzy and dark and so so sad.

But Ava and I went out and played with the fairy garden for a bit.  and then we went up to her room and looked in her treasure box and talked about life, and disney world and summer camp.  and nothing.  just talked about nothing.  And I was so happy that her world is still full of enough light that she can just do that.  Spin in her chair, make fun of my singing, and hug me with those wonderful little arms when I have to leave.

Thanking God tonight for my babies.  Praying that we can find a way to change this path our society seems to be running down.

 

candy cane straws…

We have seven grandchildren.  spread amongst 3 families — our two daughters and one son have been busy the past 7 years.

We plan a lot of family things.  Pumpkin patch, visits to the tree farm, outside barbecues.  Lots of noise and silliness, inevitable tears and frequent boo boos.  Its work, but worth it, important to us that they grow up close, loving for and taking care of each other .  Understanding that they are linked. forever.

And then there are days like today, when youngest daughter drops her two boys off so she and her husband can finish up their Christmas shopping.  Her oldest Jax came in carrying a bag of marshmallows –and shortly after they left he and I went into the kitchen and made hot chocolate for him, his poppop and me.  Little brother Ryder was asleep on the couch, so the three of us got to have a precious moment.  Watching him sit there at the table, surrounded by Christmas decorations and homemade cookies, sipping his hot chocolate through the special candy cane decorated straws I bought for moments just like this — well, thats just probably one of the best things that will happen this season.  unplanned, uncluttered and special, just for us.

 

This girl right here

is humbled with gratitude.  I look around, and though I complain sometimes , I know I am blessed beyond measure, lucky beyond my dreams and protected beyond understanding. .

My kids are healthy.  Physically and emotionally.  Bumps in the road, yes.  But solid, healthy and building strong futures.

My grandchildren are healthy.  Physically, developmentally and emotionally.  they laugh, cry, explore.  they smack each other and hug each other.  they take each other’s toys and bring each other gifts.  They call me grammy and melt my heart.

My husband is healthy. Present and involved.  Tonight he cooked dinner as I lay on the couch nursing a hurt back.  I complained — didnt like the pork chop or the rice.  When he went to pick up my medicine he brought home a nice fresh fruit salad — ,my number one favorite treat.

Blessed, this girl right here is.DSCN8745

Mother’s Day 101: Advice and musings from a “seasoned” mom

When you’re 5 Mother’s Day is a pretty big deal.  You spread toast with jelly, add the card you made in Kindergarten and carry the tray to mom who is “sleeping”  past her normal 5:00 am wake up call and serve her breakfast in bed.  By the time you are 12, you go all commercial and depend on dad or another willing driver to take you to the mall where you expand Hallmark’s coffer and choose a card — which can range from sentimental ” best mom ever” to a farting “how do you put up with me” piece of poetry.  And, if you’re lucky, dad throws in $10. so you can get her some flowers, or a piece of jewelry…In that strange period of time which marks the transition from high school senior to college freshman you see mom as a bit ( ok,a lot ) of embarrassment a good deal of the time.  So Mother’s Day gets the traditional treatment, maybe you and your siblings take her to brunch ( which consists of 45 minutes in line, past the time of your reservation and room temperature bacon served alongside something they call scrambled eggs and a massive hunk of prime rib, or ham….) .  During college Mother’s Day is, well its another Sunday after another “oh my God, the semester is almost over” Saturday night.  You call, and if you can you visit, hoping someone is making bloody Mary’s or mimosas, you know, “hair of the dog…”

Then, you graduate.  You get all melancholy that first year you have your own place, your own bills, your own, well, life.  And Mother’s day rolls around and you make plans to spend the day with mom, and when you get there she comments on your hair, and those jeans and asks if you’ve brushed your teeth or paid your college loan…and you wonder, “What the heck is this lady doing?  Trying to tell me what to do?”  And  you realize there are now two WOMEN in the conversation.  You realize, she doesnt…so you suck it up.

And then, its YOUR first Mother’s Day.  Glory of Glories you have birthed a child!  Trumpets announce the arrival and you sit royally in your throne awaiting the massive parade of guests and gifts.  NOT.  Your husband gets you one of those ” 3 for $10.” bouquets at Acme, the baby pukes all over the one clean blouse that fits those massive breastfeeding boobs and you are exhausted after 3 hours sleep.  Mom calls to ask when you are coming over and you secretly wish you were in Austrailia, with Alexander….

Years come and go and your children repeat the cycle.  You are amazed at how wonderful that jelly toast tastes, how your children chose the most perfect card — Hallmark must have studied my life to write this one —  You treasure the bacon and sing songs while you wait in line.

If you are lucky, and blessed, you will experience Mother’s day as a grandmother.  Yesterday as my husband and I sat on the beach, breathing in the salt and the calm, I pondered this day, my 7th. as a grammy.  I marvel at my daughters and their amazing babies — at their patience and work ethic and the different, yet equally effective lifestyle that they are living and raising their children in.  I treasure the way my son stepped in and raised his Ava, on his own, after her mom walked out on him, and her, at 5 months.   I laugh when I realize that I have had 6 grandchildren in 6 years, and now number 7 is on the way…

My husband sat a triad of gift bags on the counter on Friday.  He and two of the grandsons had gone shopping for my Mother’s Day gift.  Funny man — doesn’t he realize?  My Mother’s Day gifts surround me every day.

Happy Mother’s Day.  Enjoy the ride.