Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘grown kids’

Lately I’ve been thinking about grandchildren.

I have to start by saying I’m really not in any hurry. While it’s true I know lots of people who are younger than I am and answering to Grandma, I’m not anxious to join their ranks.

Really. I’m not.

The truth is all my children have moved out of their teens into their 20s. My husband and I were blessed with three great kids, who share a fine sense of responsibility and a good work ethic, but I still don’t see them as adults. Why should I?

They have years and years ahead of mortgages and car payments and worrying about the future. They should enjoy their young adult status as long as possible and have all the fun they can while they can.

Once a young adult becomes a parent, most lose that young adult status. While some people become full-fledged adults without ever being parents, and occasionally you run into a parent who just never grew up, for most people that threshold between young adult and real adult comes with the responsibilities of a new generation.

So while my own kids are enjoying their young adult status, I have some time to think about the grandmother I may become. Someday. No hurry.

Our family has always been grandparent deficient. I only remember my mother’s father well. The only memory I have of my mother’s mother is one she would probably hate. I must have been about 6 years old that Easter when my mother sent me next door to my grandparents’ house to show off my new spring outfit. I ran into the house unannounced and directly into my grandmother as she stepped out of the shower. I remember her trying, unsuccessfully, to cover herself up. She died unexpectedly not long after that Easter.

But my grandfather was a great grandparent. I remember him fixing my bike and paying me to pull dandelions in his yard when I needed money for candy. He was at all our special occasions, even when we grew into bored teenagers who didn’t value his presence. I hope he understood that deep down inside, we loved him.

My own children never knew either of their grandfathers, but they did have two wonderful grandmothers, who often seemed to visit at the same time. Many of our Christmas photos feature a grandmother on either side. Sadly, we lost both of them in recent years.

I want to be the type of grandmother my mother was, but I wouldn’t want to have to do it long distance the way she did. Of course, it wasn’t her fault that we kept moving away from her.

Even when we lived on opposite sides of the country, my mother always knew what activities my kids were involved in. She always seemed happy to get the endless dance and baseball pictures, although she finally asked me to stop sending them in frames when her bookcase was overflowing.

When she came to visit she always tried to help. When our youngest was born, it was Grandma who flew across the country to drive the oldest to dance lessons. But they never made it to dance lessons. Grandma got lost and ended up on the other side of Fort Wayne, Ind. Eventually we got her back.

The kids probably never knew how much Grandma was on their side. I still have a long, thoughtful letter she wrote in reply to my complaints about our teenager driving us crazy. Her advice: “Don’t let the teenage turmoil ruin your relationship. Just keep loving your child and she’ll return to you as a young adult.”

Grandma was right, of course.

When my kids are ready, I want to be the type of grandmother who takes the kids for a few days so the parents can get away.

I want to spoil my grandchildren a little bit and then lecture their parents about spoiling them. I want to go back to the Fisher Price aisle at Walmart and buy some more Little People toys and help another generation push legless people around in tiny cars.

Even though I’m really not in a hurry to have grandchildren, I really can’t wait.

Read Full Post »

Before our youngest child was born, we told our middle child the new baby was going to be his birthday present. He wasn’t particularly impressed. He wanted a bike.
Having two children with birthdays three days apart used to cause a lot of problems. Back when I was arranging their birthday parties, I could never find a way to combine them. When the older one was hosting roller skating parties, the younger was barely walking. When I took the younger one and her friends to a G-rated movie, the older one was only interested in R-rated movies.
Birthday week was a nightmare when they were both in grade school. Not only did I feel obligated to provide 25 cupcakes for each child’s class, there was also baking required for both the family birthday party and the actual kid birthday party.
I would have been fine with serving purchased cakes, but with two kids needing gifts, parties and special dinners, I needed to pinch pennies whenever possible.
I used to love planning a themed birthday party — back when they were young enough to tolerate my ideas. One of the last themed parties we had happened to be for the oldest daughter, who agreed to a beach party in the basement. Her birthday is in February, so it had to be an indoor party. Even then, none of the invitees wore their bathing suits. We drew beach scenes on long pieces of newsprint and hung them around the walls.
I wasn’t quite crazy enough to import sand and water into our partially finished basement, but I did force my husband to help me make “surfboards.” We cut a piece of plywood to a surfboard-like shape and placed it on a piece of PVC pipe so the kids could balance while we played Beach Boys songs. The kids all thought we were crazy.
For the younger two, birthday week always corresponded with the opening day of the city’s Children’s Zoo when we lived near Fort Wayne, Ind., and I took advantage of that.
First, I had to scour the local Hallmark shops for zoo-themed paper goods. Then I used to load up the little red wagon with snacks and drinks and round up four or five of her friends. I got to know that zoo really well over the years.
We always started with the prairie dogs, which looked like the guinea pigs we had in the basement, and we finished with the petting zoo, which meant chasing the goats out of the little red wagon.
Looking back, I’m wondering if maybe I liked the zoo trips more than the kids did. I’m not sure.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in charge of anything except for the family birthday dinner. With the youngest off at college and the middle child living in his own house, the biggest obstacle is scheduling the festivities.
It took an entire morning of texting, emailing and, as a last resort, calling to pin them down to one dinner. Now comes the complicated menu negotiations.
She wants grilled shrimp, he wants barbecued spare ribs. The older sister, who had her own birthday dinner in February, has diet restrictions to factor in. So salad, shrimp and spare ribs. Yum.
By combining the birthdays, I solve the cake issue. I’ll just buy one cake for everyone. It may have to have one white layer and one chocolate layer, I don’t know.
One thing I do know, with all three of them now in their 20s, I know I’m lucky to have them home for birthday dinners every year. I may have to make 50 cupcakes for old times’ sake. Or maybe not.

photo

Read Full Post »

Another column originally published in The Weekly Vista
July 2012

What’s a summer without a family road trip?
Some people might say a summer without a family road trip is a good summer, but not me. I’ve always loved loading the family up and driving somewhere with a cooler full of drinks, a bag of broken chips, some soggy sandwiches and a few car games.
This year I get to do it one more time.
I thought when the kids grew up and moved away, that was the end of family road trips, but I’ve managed to get two of my three children to agree to go with me this summer. So it’s not the entire family, only the female portion.
We’re on our way to a family reunion in Rhode Island, which I figure is about a 24-hour drive. Many people would choose to fly, including both my daughters, but I held out for the car trip.
Driving gives us hours to form close family bonds. It not only gives us a chance to see the country along the way, it also gives us space to bring a bicycle or two. You can’t take your bicycle along if you fly, so that makes driving worthwhile. At least that’s what I told my passengers. I think they might have been willing to sacrifice the bicycles and fly to Rhode Island, but none of us really wanted to spend the money.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about road trips. I know how to pack the cooler and ration out snacks. For example, you want to start out slow with the drinks, so that means limiting the salty snacks. It’s best to start with a couple of small pieces of fruit, like grapes. If the kids don’t want to eat them, they can use them as missiles and pass a few minutes with a food fight.
I’d like to think my daughters are too old for a good old-fashioned food fight, but I’m not so sure. I think putting them in a car together for a few hours may bring out the child in them. If I still had the minivan I used to drive when they were younger, they’d find extra ammunition in the seats. Those grapes must be raisins by now.
Later in the day, chips and soda will calm them down for a few minutes before a bathroom stop. I save the cookies in case I need to use them as a bribe.
When they were younger, we used to bring the old Fisher Price cassette player and listen to books on tape. Back then, the books were often the Berenstain Bears, but in recent years, I’ve discovered grownup books that come on CDs. No one ever wants to listen to my books, but if I put them in anyway, everyone in the family will get interested. There have been times when we actually sat outside the motel room to finish up the end of a chapter.
A portable DVD player has become another trip essential. Television series on DVD work out well. When I travel with my husband, we take turns watching and trade off our driving duties each time an episode ends. That gives us a lot of bathroom stops, which is always a good thing.
The car games have evolved as the years have gone by. I have happy memories of playing the state license plate game as a child. The entire family would be on the lookout for out-of-state plates. My kids were never interested in that. They liked to play the handheld LCD games, which eventually gave way to Game Boys and now smartphones. But even with all the electronics available, I might be able to get them interested in a family sing-along, if the right song comes on the radio or the MP3 player or the iPod.
With only the three of us, it should be easy to find an inexpensive motel room somewhere along the route. I remember when we would only consider a motel that had a pool.
After a day in the car throwing grapes at each other, the motel pool gave the kids a chance to burn off some energy and wash off some fruit juice. Now, a shower should be sufficient, and maybe some cable TV.
When we get to Rhode Island, we have a rented house and extended family waiting. For the first time, my kids won’t be the youngest. My nephew has thoughtfully provided a new generation to take on vacation. Now, he’s the one lugging around a portable crib and diaper bags. I can’t wait to hear his car trip stories!
 

Read Full Post »

The change of seasons means a new start and sometimes a welcome change. Kids go off to school, clubs return to regular meetings and closets are rearranged. For me the change of season always means one very important event, the search for the perfect bag is once again resumed.
The perfect bag is something like a purse, but it’s more than that. It’s my personal emergency preparedness plan. It contains the chronicle of my recent social life, and as well as miscellaneous tax records. It contains amusements as well as communications. It’s part of my identity.
My bags have changed over the years. I remember the college back pack days. The big middle section was for books and papers, but the front contained school ID’s, spare change, chap stick and Kleenex. It went with me everywhere and I loved the side compartments where I stuff in a can of soda or a water bottle.
Later. I survived the diaper bag years. I used to complain about the style of diaper bags a lot. I never understood why the bag I carried with me should be covered with cute little elephants or cartoon characters. Besides the diapers, wipes, bottles and changing pad, the diaper bag was also where I kept my wallet. my make up and my sunglasses. But I never complained about the size and the number of compartments. I have always loved compartmentalizing my bags.
When I finally hung up the last diaper bag, I wasn’t ready for a brief case, but I was well past a back pack. I entered into the era of the big purse and I’m still stuck there today.
The size of the purse is key. Although my family may not believe me, I consider some purses just too big. You want one that will hold everything without causing permanent damage to your shoulder or back.
Everything includes shopping lists and coupons, allergy meds and tissues, make up, eye drops, glasses for reading, sunglasses, bifocals for when I really can’t stand my contact lens anymore and a contact lens case,
My husband has never understood why I carry so much stuff around, but then he asks me if I have an Ibuprofen.
The kids have spent years making fun of my big purse, but then they want to borrow my nail file.
I’ve spent my adult life looking for the perfect purse. I want one as lightweight as possible (the stuff in it is heavy enough). It should be washable because it’s only a matter of time until I put it down in the mud or in a spilled drink.
I do like compartments. It’s makes me feel organized to keep the doctor appointment cards and buy-five-get-one free offers in a zippered compartment away from my business cards and work ID.
I like having an outside compartment for my cell phone. It’s so embarrassing to have to dump out a purse full of old receipts and empty gum wrappers to answer a ringing cell phone.
My cell phone has replaced my address book in recent years, and that frees up enough space for my Kindle. You never know when you’ll be stuck in a waiting room and need something to read. My perfect purse would have an easily assessable Kindle-sized pocket with just a little light padding to keep my electronics safe.
And to be really perfect, my bag would need an insulated compartment large enough to fit a diet coke can or – when I’m feeling healthy – a plastic water bottle.
I’ve been searching for my bag for a long time now. Each time the season changes, I renew my quest in the local department stores. Each season my optimism returns and I know that I will find the bag that defines me, my station in life and my possibilities for the future. And fits all my stuff.

Read Full Post »

Sock Wars

 

So after almost two years, I came back to this blog.  In between I’ve written a handful of columns for my new employer, The Weekly Vista,  and this is one of them. It’s already a year old!  Time flies! 

We took a step back in time this summer and suddenly have two children living at home again. Well, they aren’t really children but you would never know that if you could hear them arguing about socks.

Socks have been an issue in our family before. Back when the oldest was still in high school – about ten years ago – I thought I had a solution. I was doing five people’s laundry back then and all five of us had white socks. Lots of white socks.

I used to do all my laundry on the weekend and then pile it up on the middle of my bed to sort and fold on Sunday night. I loved that routine because it meant I could watch Desperate Housewives on the bedroom T.V. with few interruptions. When one of them came looking for me, I simply waved a basket of unfolded laundry and suggested they help. It wasn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday evening except for the socks.

I always left the socks for last and I’d end up with a pile of mateless white socks. But the real problem was that it was almost impossible to tell whose socks were whose.

I remember complaining to a friend of mine who advised me to make sure I purchased a different brand for each member of the family. Her husband, she said, had only Gold Toe Socks while one son had Nikes and another Hanes. I considered her plan but decided against investing the money to buy everyone new socks.

Instead, I purchased a black sharpie and put initials on each and every pair of white socks in my laundry basket.

My family doesn’t always agree on everything, but their response to my sock identification plan was unanimous. Every one of them hated having initials on their white socks. Even my husband, who isn’t very fashion conscious complained when someone in his doctor’s office asked about the letters on the toe of his socks.

As the kids started moving out, my laundry problem became easier. My husband, always a maverick, bought a life time supply of white tube socks on E-Bay. He didn’t care that no one wears white tube socks anymore and it definitely made his socks easy to identify. The youngest daughter became a serious runner and her white socks became easy to pick out because she insisted on buying the really expensive kind that wick away sweat. Then her sister moved back.

Having an adult offspring back in the basement has been an adjustment, especially after she acquired a very large, very active puppy. But we were happy to have her back under our roof and things seemed to be working out until her little sister came home from college.

Now besides squabbling about who is eating whose cereal, and whose puppy chewed up whose shoes, the sock wars have been resumed. Only they fight over those expensive sweat wicking socks.

So I’ve decided to take the only course left open to me. On Sundays when I fold laundry, I throw all the white socks down the basement steps and let the puppy chew them all.  I think both girls may be wearing flip flops for the rest of the summer.

Read Full Post »

One of the most important rites of spring is the first bike ride of the year.  On Saturday I  attached  the older sister’s former bike rack to the back of my car and I headed off to my favorite trail head.

There are a lot of things I love about living near the lake, but riding bikes isn’t one of them.  The streets in our little subdivision are way too steep for me and I firmly believe you would have to be suicidal to go out on the two lane highway on a bike.  So bike rides always begin with a car trip.  Luckily for me, Rogers is in the process of building a really great set of bike trails.

Back in the day I would have scoffed at bike trails.  I prided myself on riding in traffic. I remember telling people, it was really just a mind game.  You had to pretend to be a car and just go for it. Luckily my young self never spoke to my children.  By the time I was telling them about bike riding I was very much over pretending to be a car.

But I remember what it was like.  My love affair with bicycles started long ago and hasn’t ended yet. 

I bought the blue Schwinn “racing” bike at the Schwinn store in East Providence when I was in college.  I was actually replacing another fairly new Schwinn that was a little heavier and didn’t have the racing handlebars. I couldn’t really afford to trade in that fairly new bike, but I wanted a racing bike badly so I managed to talk my mother into buying the older one and paying too much.  She was easy that way when she knew I really wanted something. 

I loved the racer!  And I loved riding it around Providence.  When my car blew up, I rode the bike exclusively even to the self-service gas station where I worked. Between me and the gas station was a hill of Arkansas proportions.  I could never make it up that hill, but I kept trying.  I’d end up pushing my racing bike up the last few yards, panting and sweating and there was always an old woman working in her yard at the top of the hill and every day she’d call to me, “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.”  I was only 20 years old and in decent shape.  I didn’t really understand her concern.

The best ride was going downtown.  They’ve changed the roads around Providence since then and I suspect the rotary is long gone, but back then I had to use the rotary at the bottom of the big hill next to the Rhode Island state house.  Rotaries are traffic circles, of course.  There’s usually a couple of lanes of traffic, headed in the same direction around the circle, the problem is that in order to stay in the rotary and not go shooting out one of the exits you had to move across at least one lane of fast-moving traffic.  I would use the momentum from the big hill to get up to speed and go flying into the rotary just as if I was driving an actual car.  If I saw one of my kids doing what I used to do, I’d kill them.  But somehow it worked both me and my blue Schwinn racing bike survived. 

My next stop on my biking adventure was the Kentucky years when I learned exactly how narrow a two lane road can be if you’re riding a bike and an oversized load comes up beside you.  I also had to dodge cows on occasion, but I kept trying to ride my bike.  After we were married, I tried hard to convert my husband.  I even bought him a bike of his own, but I couldn’t afford a second Schwinn and the inexpensive bike I found seemed to self destruct each time he rode it.

When the kids were little, I found a second blue Schwinn racing bike at a garage sale and we added baby seats. 

My bike had a baby seat for years because our youngest child refused to give it up.  I remember when she was in kindergarten and all her friends were giving up their training wheels, she was still in the seat behind me.  It lasted until she got so heavy,t he seat started sinking down onto the tire and then we took it off.  By then we were living here by the lake.

The youngest still doesn’t like bike riding, but the older two have taken up where I left off.  Some day we’ll do a long ride together – maybe the Katy trail in Missouri.  I have to work on my endurance and I have to get over the mental image of an overweight, middle-aged woman on slim blue racing bike. 

My rite of spring ride was only a few miles long and it left me pretty sore, but I’ll keep trying and one of these days, we’ll do that trail.

Read Full Post »

I’ve always loved family road trips even though I know that some people would call me crazy. It took me some time, and several newspaper columns, to figure out what it is I like about road trips, but I’m pretty sure it’s having the family really close to me and unable to escape.
When the kids were little we drove to California several times. I used to spend weeks preparing for those trips, deciding exactly what games, toys and food would keep three kids relatively happy while strapped into the car for days at a time. The year the youngest was born, we drove to California to see Grandma and I spent so long packing, repacking and reorganizing the mini-van that I killed the car battery while it sat in the garage. The morning of the big trip, we got everyone up and dressed early, added ice to the cooler, stuffed in favorite pillows and blankies, fastened seat belts, locked the house up and turned the key which clicked ineffectively.

We stopped pretty often back in 92


That was the same infamous trip when my mother got the speeding ticket. I had sent the husband back to work early and had Grandma drive back with me. On the second day I made her drive through the desert while I climbed into the back seat to nurse the baby. Although I totally believed in car seats and always obey all traffic laws, we were exhausted and out in the middle of nowhere. There was no way I was going to add a half hour to our driving day. Unfortunately, Grandma couldn’t quite figure out the cruise control on the minivan and in an effort to set it at a reasonable speed, she did a little bit of accidental speeding and naturally, we were pulled over.
As the police officer walked up to the window of the mini-van, I was frantically stuffing a hungry, screaming baby back into her car seat with one hand, buttoning my shirt with the other and yelling at the older kids to stop making faces at the cop in the back window. My mother was flustered too. She was so flustered that she explained to the officer that she was trying to set the cruise control for ten mph over the speed limit and that’s why she ended up going 20 miles over. She insisted on paying her own ticket.
Grandma was along when I drove the kids to Rhode Island a few years later, but I drove across country alone the year we moved to Arkansas. Well, I wasn’t alone, but I was the only driver that trip. I had all three kids along as passengers. That was the trip when we discovered the full extent of the oldest child’s car sickness. She threw up across seven states. I stumbled on the video recently. The middle child, who was 12 that summer, was filming a stunning landscape somewhere in the Colorado mountains. When he panned around to get the family we saw a stressed out mother leaning against the front of the van staring blankly ahead and a hyperactive little sister jumping up and down dangerously close to the cliff, but all that showed was the top of the older sister’s head as she slumped in the way back seat of the mini-van. I don’t think she noticed the view.
So recently we took the latest family road trip. I’m grateful that my kids like each other enough to want to do it. There were only four of us in the car that left Arkansas on Saturday morning because we were meeting the oldest for a slightly late celebration of her 26th birthday. We met at the zoo in Kansas City.
That wasn’t really the best idea. I packed a nice lunch and we found a nice pavilion and eventually the oldest daughter found us for the happy reunion. The problem was that it was cold and rainy in Kansas City that weekend. It was cold enough that everyone was fighting over the extra sweat shirt I had packed for myself in spite of its unfashionable mom-ness. By the time we finished lunch and headed to the ticket booths, it was not only cold, it was getting late and we opted to skip the zoo in favor of a late afternoon matinee in a heated theater.
But the experience of driving four hours in a smallish car with a cooler full of “car food” and drinks hasn’t really changed very much. There was the usual teasing and passing of food. The college daughter was playing the same Gameboy she’s been playing for a decade. If only the oldest had been wedged in between her siblings, threatening to throw up and arguing over who was taking up too much of the seat, it would have been just like old times. I savored the whole experience.

All grown up

Read Full Post »