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.


weight of the world…

This week has been rough … ( understatement, I know ) on many levels.  Nationally, the tragedy in Florida sucks the air out of me.

Personally, issues with my mom, my grandchildren…cause me to ache to be able to do more, to fix, to be present everywhere, all the time…

Physically I made it to the gym once.  Not good.  need to be there at least 3 times a week.

And, it is still February.


I should be…

at the beach.  There is work to be done at the beach house — pipes burst, removation is just beginning….

But I am where I am supposed to be.  Sitting on the couch watching Rio with my 4 year old grandson, home sick with a nasty cold.  Worrying about my youngest who is on her way to get an ultrasound before they schedule surgery.  Stressing over my husband’s upcoming surgery on his back  — grateful that my doctor appt. yesterday went well.  Wondering how I will supervise the reconstruction of our beach house, care for my husband after surgery and how I am going to help my daughter get two boys to school and home again and care for her after her surgery.  REALLY glad I retired because 2018 would have gotten me fired !

24 hours…

yesterday at 7:25  am the phone rang.  Daughter in law had locked her and granddaughter out of house, and car.  Ran up there — slippers and all , let her in and took sweet granddaughter to her aunts house to catch the school bus.  Put all 3 kids in my car and discussed mermaid pillows and the woes of Monday.

noon.  The phone rings.  Son asking if I can pick said granddaughter up at the bus stop at 4.  Daughter in law is in a meeting until 4.  Of course.  did the grocery shopping, finished the bills, watched ten minutes of news….headed to the bus.  Spent a few minutes with oldest daughter, discussing dinosaurs with 3 year old half dressed grandson ( this child hates shirts) and watching her dog steal socks from the laundry basket and eat duplos. walked up to the bus stop, gathered the three of them off the bus, chatted about recess antics and bus aides and let them back to the house.  Grabbed a pizza left over from birthday party to take to son’s house, buckled granddaughter into car and drove her home.  Son and daughter in law and youngest grandson were already there — spent a few minutes discussing “whats that” with the baby.

5:30.  Meet youngest daughter and son in law for dinner ( kids eat free on Mondays!) both grandsons wired up — the older ( all of 6 years old ) celebrating his first wrestling tournament ( took second) and the younger (4) excited to be at a restaurant with macaroni and cheese AND ice cream.

8:00 pm.  Hit the couch.  Blessed with the realization that I saw, hugged and talked to all 7 grandchildren in one day!


7:20 am. : Standing, half asleep, in front of the coffee pot..  phone wakes me.  Son asking if  I can pick up granddaughter and take her to aunts to get the bus.  Uh, no.  I could get her and take her to school, but no way I can get dressed and get to her and get her there by bus time….”Its ok mom, we will figure it out”.

7:24 am.  Phone rings.  Youngest daughter.  her youngest is up coughing all night…can I watch him?  Can I take him to doctor?  Of course, bring him to me…….


Whew.  This is pretty much why I retired — to help with the kids in Winter.  But, Lord, what a 24 hours!

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.