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.

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.

 

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.

Disclaimer:

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 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

night guest

My mother spent the night.  thunderstorms took out her power so we went over and picked her up.  Actually husband did, I was pulling branches off the road….

I have a new respect for those who work in the geriatric field.

Mom spends a bit of time here, but went room to room commenting “thats new, isnt it?” to every piece of furniture, carpet or knick knack she spotted ..Noooooo, Ive had that since our first house, since the second house,,,,Noooo, that stained glass has been hanging in my kitchen for 18 years.  yup.

She doesnt do steps, years of restless leg syndrome coupled with ” I dont want to walk” syndrome has left her legs weak and wobbley.  But my bedrooms are upstairs.  So I followed her up, impressed with her strength — she made it up there pretty well. I was concerned that she would see the pictures of her and my dad on the desk in the guest room and get upset, i was hoping that they would make her smile, but neither.  she didnt notice them.  She noticed the bookshelf, “is that new?” and the beleek lamp “thats beautiful” but not a glance at the pictures of the man she loved, who we lost 4 years ago.

Morning came early.  I get up around 6 to take a walk and spend some time knitting before getting ready for work.  she met me in the hall — I asked her to wait a second while I threw on a tee shirt and shorts, then we would get her down the stairs.

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She didnt wait, of course.  Im in the bathroom, shirt half on, and I hear the “babump”.
“Oh Cindy, I fell, I hurt my knee.”

Opened the door to my room and there she sat.  perched on her butt on the landing — she either lost her footing or her knee went out.  Thank God she just did a hard sit down, and didn’t slide the whole way down the stairs.  the knee is fine, no swelling, we got her down the stairs without further excitement and she sits in the kitchen now, nursing a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal.

I have a new respect for geriatric caregivers.

absent, sight and mind?

I put a wreath, and a flag, and a solar rose on my dad’s grave this weekend.  And, I wondered, as I shoved the stake for the rose down into the ground, why it is that every time I go to dad’s grave it is obvious that no one else has been there since I left the last time.  I take mom once a month, and I try to get there once in between our visits.  Not because I haven’t worked through the grief process, or because it makes me feel important, but because I remember the way dad used to tend the graves of our grandparents, and how he didn’t want anyone to think no one cared, no one missed them. I think that he would have expected, and appreciated, that I am carrying on the job == finding sweet little flower arrangements and that ridiculous solar rose to brighten up a rather solitude spot on the outskirts of the city.  But, I cant help wonder, where are all the people he helped?  Drove places, bailed out of jail, sat with, gave money too, built things for and with.  Seriously.  I dont expect them to all flock to his grave on a regular basis, but on Fathers Day or Memorial Day or around the Holidays, on his birthday or his and moms anniversary, wouldn’t it make sense if the people who supposedly loved him, who wailed and cried when he passed, took a minute and put a flower or a seashell or a picture, on his grave?

Now, I know not everyone is cemetary comfortable.  Probably because I went with dad when he tended the grandparents graves, I am a little more comfortable than most in there, but really, a minute to brush the grass clippings off his name, or say a prayer, or cuss him out for dying before you were ready to lose him, something people.  Something.

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.

Dad minute…

thought of dad tonight.  sitting on the grass, all my grandchildren in one place, all my kids there….all of us watching Ryan play T ball….all of 5 years old and has an entourage…

but I thought of dad.  how many games, practices, matches and performances did he sit through.  Carrying flowers or snacks, peppermints in his pocket, trying to figure out how to work his camera….happy as can be, hat cocked to one side on his head, watching his grandchild do whatever it was one of my kids was doing at the moment.  Thanks dad.  You werent perfect, but you gave me such quiet guidance in the things grandparents need to do to make their kids, and grandkids, feel special.