Friday, May 26, 2017

Kicking Off Summer

I know the first day of summer is June 20, but for me it all starts on Memorial Day. That makes for a full three months with no school, now that most states start in late August.

When I was growing up we always, always, always started school the Tuesday after Labor Day, but now kids have to go back when the very last bit of summer is hanging on. How sad must it be, to be a kid, and try to go to sleep at night while you can still hear the crickets chirping, and there's still some last bits of daylight left outside?! Just because you have to get up in the morning and head off to school?

Tomorrow is our granddaughter, Jae Beth's last day of first grade. I believe our Idaho Littles go another week or so, which seems wrong too, now that it's FINALLY warm and sunny up there. Let the kids out for pete's sake! (and the teachers too, for that matter.) Summer is too long said nobody under the age of 18 ever.

I get the privilege of picking Jae Beth up from school, with an early dismissal, and she chose Dairy Queen as our place for immediate celebrating. Then we're off to find a field to fly a kite, feed the fish and turtles in the local pond, and leave some of our painted rocks in nooks and crannies for other kids to discover. That'll be our out-of-the-gate kick off of summer 2017.

Saturday I'll be back at my house for the weekend, and I've already given Cub Sweetheart a heads up that I'll quite possibly be ready for a date. I've heard the newest Pirates of the Caribbean is just out, and I have loved every single one of them before, so that's a possibility. I also discovered our town has free outdoor concerts every Saturday night throughout the summer, and all we need is our lawn chairs. We'll watch the forecast and decide - either one would be fun.

However, come Monday we'll be celebrating Memorial Day with burgers and dogs on the grill, potato salad, deviled eggs and watermelon. Because at our house that's the beginning of summer, and that's worth celebrating, wherever you live, even if you have to go back to school on Tuesday. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Answering to a new name

This week I'm fifteen miles from home, spending the week with our two Texas Littles. Their other grandmother, "Grand Jan", who is with them five days a week while Daddy and Mama work, is away at the beach for a much needed vacation.

I'm trusting that she'll come back eventually, as she promised.

Seeing her vacation photos of those Florida sunsets that light the entire ocean to a blaze of orange - if she does indeed come back, it will be a testament to how much she loves her grandkids.

I prepared for this week by going to the Dollar Store and stocking up on sand buckets, bubble guns that whirl and light up, and sidewalk chalk. I also referred to my old standby, "Sanity in the Summer" by Linda Dillow and Claudia Arp. It was my go to for summer planning 30+ years ago, and I still pull it out every summer, as I get ready for what I hope will be intentional time with our eight Littles. Copies are still available on Amazon for under $2.00 plus S/H.  My first read of this book started a family tradition of what we called "kid day", one day each week when we took off the entire day and did what amounted to our kids 'summer bucket list', before anyone else had heard of such a thing. Our kids, who aren't kids anymore, still all talk about the fun memories we made all those summers ago.

So our plans include: trips to the library, including story hour, painting rocks and leaving them in the local parks,  bubble parties, building sand castles, picnics in the parks, fishing with Papa, baking cookies / brownies, face timing with their cousins 2000 miles away, and a snow cone or two thrown in for good measure.

The week will fly, and before I know it they'll be back with Grand Jan. Before I know it, they'll be grown up and this second take at loving on little people will have passed by as quickly as the first go round did. So I'm remembering to soak it in, see it as the privilege it is, and cherish the moments. No doubt when it's done I'll be ready for a much-needed rest, but right now I'm enjoying it, even if it means needing a bit more sleep at night, and taking a few more Aleve.

Speaking of growing up, Daniel (almost 6) and JaeBeth (7 1/2) announced to me today that they have renamed me. I've been 'Grammy' to all eight of them for almost sixteen years, and as of today these two have decided I'll be "G-G". Not sure how they came up with that, but as long as I have their hearts, I don't really care what I answer to. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Playing Hide and Seek with Nature

Yesterday we decided to take our daily walk with Miss Lily to a local park. Came across this beauty, barely poking its head out. 

Pretty cautious breakfast seeker. 

 I hope he / she caught something. 

Leaves of three, let it be. We stayed clear! 

The wildflowers are still hanging on. 

This area was put in by a women's group in our town. Thanks, Ladies!

You know there's a story there. 

Rain is predicted for much of our weekend here, but if it clears up we'll be back outside. Thinking of a day trip to a state park within minutes of us. We're looking for a fishing spot for our two Texas Littles. It's way too pretty this time of year to stay inside. Happy weekend everyone. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tea Party, Boys Invited!

I've only been to a handful of tea parties myself, and Cub Sweetheart has NEVER.EVER.EVER been.

Nor has he ever complained about that fact.

However, this week we attended one together, for the Women's Auxiliary Board of our son and DIL's university.

Roses - the perfect flower for any occasion. 

Beautifully laid table 

Beautiful and yummy!

Makes you just want to try it yourself, doesn't it?

Yes, these were as wonderful as they look. Messy but worth it. 
When you get down to it, even at tea parties, people are just people, and we all need to laugh more any given day. 

Cub Sweetheart, our DIL, Janae and me, all dressed up.

So far I've learned that the Women's Auxiliary Board (WAB) has the primary function of raising scholarship money for incoming students. Pretty good function I think.

My take away - if you have good food, men will suffer through just about anything. CS told me he was relieved, when it was all over, that he hadn't spilled anything.

He's a good sport, that man of mine. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Everyone should get a dog.....

We moved to our new town not knowing a soul. Unless you count the sales people who sold us our home. Eventually our neighborhood will have 186 homes, but right now there are 19 families living here. And about 35 homes going up all around us, so that we're all climbing over mud and mess, and waking up to the sound of huge pieces of yellow equipment that beep when in reverse.

It seems they are always in reverse, especially at 7 am.

I've decided everyone who moves should get a dog.  Walking Lily every day, we're out and about and have met at least half of the people who have moved in. And having Lily with me is like hanging out with the cheerleading captain or homecoming queen. She's so stinkin' cute everyone stops to pet her, whether they are dog lovers or not. For many at our stage of life, dogs are much like grandchildren. Fun to play with for a little while, then send them back home where they came from.

So we've not only met our next door neighbor; she and I have gone shopping once, then Cub Sweetheart and I had lunch with her. He's gone over several times to check out her AC or get the lid off a paint can that is firmly stuck, etc. etc. We found out through casual conversation that her birthday was yesterday, so we invited her and some neighbors over for cake and candles on our covered patio.

The wind was blowing hard enough we couldn't keep the candles lit, but still, we sang to her, and sat out long enough we had to turn on our cute Edison lights. An hour later the birthday girl took home the rest of the ice cream cake, to share with her grandkids who are coming this weekend, and we all felt like we knew each other a bit better.

As she was leaving, we gave her the code to our home, showed her how to use it on the keypad, and where we keep the pickle ball paddles and balls, so she can borrow them whenever her Littles come to visit her.

Community is feeling nice. Enough so that we're choosing to think of the 7 am beeping as a gentle wake up call. Get up sleepyhead, there's life to be lived and a cute little dog to be walked! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

It was a sweet day

Me and my 'boy' (p.s. here's my new 'do)

We spent the day with my son and DIL, and our two Texas Littles, and my DIL's family. 

We started it off by continuing my DIL's fifteen years' standing tradition of going to Pappadeaux's for brunch, and Cub Sweetheart and I shared two appetizers, ate too much bread, and left stuffed. Those two appetizers very likely had my entire day's calorie needs, but man alive was it yummy. I love seafood, big family gatherings and traditions that have stood for years, so it was a win-win for me.

From there we went to our son's and DIL's home for the day. Within an hour of getting there one of the Littles started complaining of his tummy hurting; sure enough, after we all ignored him, and loaded him into a vehicle, he threw up everything he'd been talked into eating that morning, and was returned back home to spend the rest of the day on the sofa sucking on popsicles. 

I know I'm past raising kids because I was so glad he was in their vehicle and not ours. We've had our vehicle baptized by sick kids more than once and it's less than lovely. The last time was immediately after feeding one of the Littles ice cream that was blue and pink, and we ended up with purple horribleness oozing between the seats, and over $200 later our car no longer smelled like sour milk. That particular Little is now always placed in the middle seat, and not the far back. I also now take the plastic bag from the back of airplane seats, when I travel, and bring it home, where it is put in the back of our car seats, ready for purple ooze episodes.

We ate more than we should, of this cake:  

I shared the recipe on my last post, and have to say it was easy, easy to make. Fattening as all get out (three sticks of butter, six eggs, a block of cream cheese, three cups of sugar), but easy to make. And wonderful. We served it in slices smothered in sugary strawberries. CS sang its praises and I'll make it again, but not too soon, or we'd soon turn into people who could just roll out the door. At our ages, it is way too easy to put the weight on, and almost impossible to get it to leave. 

Throughout the day, I got to talk to both of my girls, who live 2000 miles northwest of Texas. Just talking to all three of my kids on Mother's Day makes me a pretty happy camper. 

The day was full of people and conversation and such, so that I only had a moment, here and there, of thinking about my Mom and missing her. Getting through the firsts of everything is tough, when you lose someone dear to you. 

I was gifted with a sweet bouquet of flowers, a card that made me cry, lots of hugs and kisses, so if I end up sick early in the week, we'll know why. 

And it will have been worth it. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mothering with Grit

Five generations, including my mother and my sister, Barb on her lap. Her mother is behind her, then grandmother and great-grandmother on the left. I've always loved so much about this photo. 
My DIL asked me / us to spend Mother's Day with them, this coming Sunday, because 'it'll be your first Mother's Day without your Mom, and you shouldn't spend it alone."

Mom's been gone now for almost three months, and I'm still getting used to the idea. I'm not supposed to say it, but overall, I haven't been sad; it just feels strange. Which is sad in itself.

She was always too beautiful for her own good. This is her in her early 40's.
I was smack dab in the middle of six kids born within less than eight years, so she handled us as a pack, unless we really messed up, then we got some one-on-one that we didn't really want. I can only remember being spanked one time, and that was after all six of us misbehaved at the shoe store. We came home, she lined us up, and every single one of us got it. I still swear I was guilty only by association.

My one-on-one times with my mother really only started after I was a young mother myself and had moved several states away. Even then she was still busy working and I was raising little ones, so we talked on the phone now and then, mailed letters written with blue ink, on lined paper, and saw each other once or twice a year for a day or so. That was when cell phones and the internet didn't exist, and 'long distance' was expensive.

It's charming to remember back to the day when, if you were on a 'long distance' call, nobody interrupted you. To talk for a half hour was a big deal, because it would cost you $3.00 on your next phone bill. 'Collect calls' were even more pricey, and it better be an emergency if someone called you collect and asked you to 'accept the charges'. If that happened someone had died, or was in jail.

When our kids were all grown, and Mom was finally semi-retired, we started talking on the phone more (cell phones and calling plans had evolved by then) and taking road trips together. I don't know how many we went on, but I'm thankful for every single one of them. I think the first place we took Mom, with Cub Sweetheart's Mom too, was to see Niagara Falls after one of our daughter's weddings. I still laugh when I think back that we had the two moms share a room, and they were about as polar opposite as you could get. CS's mother never wore a pair of jeans or shorts in her life, disliked Cookie Monster because he used incorrect grammar, and was known for her canned beets. My mother listened to Bruce Springsteen, smoked cigarettes and liked margaritas with chips and salsa; she never did really learn to cook, and didn't bother much with cleaning. She did laundry only because we would have run naked otherwise. There were always other things that called her name, like reading psycho-babble books, or writing poetry. I'm sure that particular trip had them both twitching just a bit.

I believe this was the proudest moment of her entire life, when she received her BA in Psychology degree. She'd dropped out of school after the 8th grade, and yet she went on to accomplish this. 
Truth is I longed for a Mom somewhere in the middle of Opie's Aunt Bee, and Mrs. Flax from 'Beaches'. I hoped my mother would somehow turn into one of those Mary Tyler Moore types that wore matching outfits with a string of pearls, fixed their hair every day, kept house, but was fun. That's not what I got. Not when I was a kid, and not when I was grown. Mom was a bit off the beaten track, saying odd things, doing odd things, not fitting in anywhere. She wasn't good at clothes or makeup and never could fix her own hair. In spite of working her whole life to get an education, she was socially awkward - too talkative, too earnest, too everything - and constantly in search of something or someone to fix all the broken places in her. Sometimes it was a new marriage, sometimes it was moving across the country, but it was always something. I remember being thankful when I realized she was probably too old to ever marry again.

Over the years, as I tried my best to raise our three kids, and saw what an exhausting, daunting task it was, saw myself fall short more than once, I gave back the grace. Then there were days when I pressed on through the hard stuff, and I took back most of that grace previously given. Why couldn't she be more 'motherly'? Why couldn't she be more like 'everyone else's mom'?

The marker a funeral home places on your grave if you don't have money for a headstone. After finding this, she found a relative who promised to put a headstone in place for her 'Grandma Allie'. 
The year we drove to her birthplace, found the abandoned house that had been her grandparents', found her Granny's barely marked grave, and I heard more of her stories, I ended up once and for all on the grace side of the equation. I finally realized she'd mothered the six of us out of a bucket that had grit and not much else in it.

At some point in her mothering, and mine, I realized as a child I deserved better than I got. And so did she. She could not give me what she didn't have herself. I also realized, like me, she'd done the best she could. Abandoned / given away as a young child, then eventually returned to her grandparents who kept her alive but little more, she'd met my father and agreed to marry him when she was still a child herself. It was only when she started growing up herself, and all the longings for a life she'd never had began to force themselves to the surface, that she stopped wanting a husband who would also father her, and a rub that would last the rest of her years began.

The last time she saw her father. She didn't go to his funeral when he died.
She'd spend most of the rest of her life looking for that man who would complete her, father her, love her, but never show an ounce of authority over her, by God. She told me the last time she went to see her Father, it was clear he didn't care about her, but going through her papers I found a single letter from him, to her, telling her he loved her. I hope somewhere inside, she knew he cared, and that, like her, he did the best he could with what he had.

She'd lost her mother too early, when she was around thirty years old, and it was clear to me she chose to see the good side of the mothering she got from her. This mother who had been deserted by her husband, left with eight children, and making the horrible choice to give away several of the smaller ones because she couldn't raise them all herself. My mother wasn't adopted out - which might have been more of a blessing if she had - but was passed off to the grandparents. So whatever mothering style or standard she came away with, it was from her own mother's fierce determination to protect her children, but with very few resources to bring that about.

Does anyone else think about what they want on their headstone? For years I've known I want mine to say, 'She loved with all she had."

That's been my goal since I became a mother myself at the ripe age of twenty. No idea what I was doing, but determined to figure it out before I messed up this little one they'd let me take home and do whatever I wanted with.

This year - this first mother's day without my mom here - that's where I've landed. I can't miss what I didn't have; rather, I'm learning to be okay with what was. Being raised by her wasn't the stuff sappy, feel good movies are made of, but she left us a legacy of knowing she loved all six of us with grit - with all she had. It seems appropriate to me that the birth of a child starts with hours of painful labor; what nobody tells you is it continues as long as you and that child are both alive. It takes grit, and a lot of it. My mother gave it all she had, even when it wasn't enough. No one can ask for more than that.