The Sweet Life of a Grandmother

As Time Goes by, Here’s Walking with you, Kid

becoming a grandmotherI’m sure this will come as a surprise to those who know my family, but I’m proud to announce that I’ve become a grandmother! Yes, I know my daughters are eight and nine, but I’m thrilled about my new role.

When I was in college my mother asked for grandkids to spoil. It might have been a tad early to request and perhaps she could have kept that desire to herself, but now I understand the draw.

My friends with older children have been sharing how wonderful it is becoming a Grandmother because you get to love your grandkids with all your heart, but return them when your pampering itch is scratched (aka when the whining and begging is so obnoxious you need to escape.)

My new grandson is perfect. He is sweet, loves to play outside without complaining, and when he sees me, he comes running with an unconditional look of love that can only come from a grandchild. It fills my heart every time.

My grandson, Teddy, is the cutest Yorkshire terrier. He’s the Toto to my Dorothy. The gold at the end of my rainbow…

Actually, did I mention he isn’t really mine? My friend mentioned her new dog loves to go for walks and a light went off in my blonde head that Teddy and I needed to become besties.

Before you contact me, I have not started a dog walking business because I’m more of a cat person than dog gal. But my neighbor’s dog is a ray of sunshine when he bounces along the streets of my suburb. He has a pep in his step that makes me beam.

I’ve been looking for a walking partner for some time. Recently, I mentioned that bikes and I have issues. OK, they hate me. But a nice walk in the morning gives me a boost of endorphins and my brain fog clears as well.

The first day of school for my girls wasn’t different than any other year. We had prepared the perfect school outfits that are only special that first day in order to memorialize the day in a file in my computer that may never be retrieved.

We took the annual cute backpack pictures, the “I love school” pose, the “I love my sister so I’m going to joyfully hug her even though we fought over hairbrushes just 5-minutes before” pose, and my favorite – the “make the goofiest pose you can.” My wonderful goofballs make this mother so proud!

My girls actually enjoy going to school, one loves to learn and the other is the school’s welcoming committee. Because of this, I haven’t shed a tear on day one since I left my oldest that first day of Kindergarten.

So when I walked them into school this year, I was only a bit shocked they ditched me in front of the school to join their friends. Every parent knows how important it is to let your children cut the cord and fly away toward independence. But it still stinks.

Leaving the building with tears welling in my eyes was a shock to me. Normally, I love the sound of silence. As a writer, these are the moments we cherish. But this year I felt lonely.

I missed being able to chat with my daughters. And instead of pining for another baby because I’m not crazy, I remembered Teddy.

Now I look forward to letting my children join their friends every morning; and when I feel like it, I pick up my new walking buddy and chat throughout the neighborhood. He never argues with me and I’m always right.

Teddy, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

 

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The Ice Cream Man Cometh

Close your eyes and think back to any summer of your youth. Mmmh, ice cream!

Didn’t you love to hear the calliope music faintly at the end of the block? You would stop dead in your tracks, gasp and stridently whisper to your friends, “Did you hear that?” And in unison everyone yelled, “It’s the ice cream man!”

Then pandemonium! In a frantic, wild disbursement of children, short legs sprinted inside to their piggy bank or their mom’s purse. There was boisterous begging for spare change or last week’s allowance so they could be first to the truck ladled full of pure sugar, chocolate and food coloring. The Bomb Pop was the “bomb,” the Drumstick was “banging,” and there was nothing funny about missing a Good Humor bar.ice-cream-man

Oh, memories of a simpler time when children were allowed to run the streets with friends and chase trucks stocked with high-fat dairy products. Life was good!

But it’s not the same world now. There are recommendations to refrain from high-fructose corn syrup and high-fat dairy. And I’m sure some study somewhere indicates that food coloring causes behavioral problems in children from Dayton, Ohio. It’s enough to shut down the ice cream business all together. And if that isn’t bad enough, there are documented cases of children being accidentally run over by the trucks!

I have been researching how to resolve this summertime trouble, and an acquaintance in the Chicago area mentioned that she and her young children call the ice cream truck the “music truck.” Her children have no idea the trck is filled with glorious cold snacks. They think it’s nice that a truck periodically comes down their block to provide some music while they are out playing. What a nice person to fill the neighborhood with circus music! She will let them know when they can cross the street carefully.

I know another woman — let’s call her Miss Popular — who for years kept her basement freezer swollen with a variety of icy treats. Every time the ice cream truck would approach her home, her children and those playing with her kids would stop what they were doing and run to her basement. It was their cue to grab a free dessert. My guess is the ice cream man in her neighborhood wasn’t fond of her.

Now, I am not trying to close down the mobile ice cream business. Far from it. I love a good Bomb Pop when the heat index starts climbing. I just advise parents to educate young kids that even though the ice cream truck can be a sweet summer experience, they are no different than any other vehicle driving down the street. It’s best not to run in front of one.

So may your family have a safe summer, and remember to supply your children with the appropriate ice cream requirement mandated by the USDA’s food pyramid. You might have to squint to see it, but I’m pretty sure it’s there. At least that’s what I tell my family.

Do you have fond memories of the ice cream truck? Or were you scared of it?

Avoiding First Week of School Fails

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The smell of pencil shavings permeates the air, kids’ tennis shoes are actually clean, not yet filled with various shades of rubber mulch, and bus fumes are hanging above every suburban corner because the first day of school has arrived!

I’m not clicking my heels up too much. It’s always bittersweet. I desperately love my children and enjoyed having them around for almost all 2,880 hours this summer, but I must confess, it’s time for my darlings to increase their mental capacity outside of my home.

Clearly, things won’t go perfectly the first week of school; but I am proud to say if both my children are accounted for after a summer of fun and vacationing, and if I can get them into the car with shoes and something other than a swimsuit, I will chock that up to a major success. I’ve learned to lower my standards substantially.

However, it always helps to have a refresher course on things to avoid when getting back into the school routines.

How to Prevent First Week of School Parenting Fails

Make sure not to get lectured by your child because they were the only kid in 3rd grade who didn’t have a snack or water bottle for the first four days.

Never mix up the Dora the Explorer and Spiderman lunchboxes. Don’t think that hazing can’t start in elementary school.

Always sign up to volunteer for school activities, but don’t be hopped up on Red Bull or a double espresso when doing so. Your calendar will yell at you later.

Avoid driving your minivan the wrong way in the drop-off lane simply because you forgot to read the email explaining the changes to last year’s intricate system.

Beware of forgetting to check the school lunch calendar on the day the cafeteria serves mashed “potatoes.” If you failed to pack your kids’ lunches, you will know as soon as they get in the car, what a disaster it was and how the stink of the potatoes made them want to puke – followed by gagging noises all the way home.

Don’t forget to show up for the PTO coffee, despite the fact you organized it, are to lead the meeting and also are the person who volunteered to bring the coffee.

Never forget to set a timer to warn you it’s time to pick up the kids because you’ll get a phone call from the front office sweetly asking if you were planning on retrieving your children. The niceness on the line only makes the parental embarrassment more horrifying.

Don’t assume you purchased your kids’ school supplies online earlier in the summer, especially if you are prone to gloat how you wouldn’t be enduring the end of the summer craziness at Target like everyone else. Because it will be your Johnny who’ll come home crying on Day One asking where his pencils and notebooks are.

And to avoid the worst fail of them all, don’t ever trust your memory by not double-checking the district calendar. That last week of your family vacation you took right before school starts will be ruined when you hear 14 messages on your answering machine, asking why your kids have been absent all week and if they need to be taken off the class register.

Not that any of these fails have happened to me. Aren’t we all perfect parents?

 (previously published in The Kansas City Star newspaper on 8/8/15)

It’s hard getting back into the swing of things. Have you ever done anything ridiculous on the first week of school?

Canning Cucumbers has me Pickled

canned tomatoes and cucumbers in a glass jar isolated on white background

Have you ever had one of those days when you think you just can’t handle it anymore? I’m not talking about ending it all, but perhaps an impromptu locking yourself in the hall closet and not coming out until your luck improves.

My near breakdown recently was due to cucumbers.

It started in early May, when my husband who is the master of his garden plot, decided to change up the summer vegetables. He had read about hay bale gardening in some hipster article and thought it sounded unique and interesting.

Since our suburbanite soil is at least five-feet of clay deep, and our vegetable harvest in years past has resembled an elementary school science project involving moldy beans in wet paper towels, I agreed a change was in order.

Nine years ago, when my husband insisted we needed a minivan, little did I know it wasn’t for roomy family traveling, but for turning it into a flat bed truck and hauling sheetrock, lumber and two metric tons of hay bales.

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After removing all of the seats, he filled it to the roof with cattle food – a nice earthy aroma that only livestock could savor. Consequently, I will be pulling out straw from my seat cracks until the cows come home.

 

Back to hoarding cucumbers…little did we know hay bale farming would prove to be so successful. We had eighty pounds of them in the first few months. Yes, we weighed them. My cute husband chooses to enjoy math.

After scouring canning cucumbers websites for Pinteresting recipes, I remembered the only recipe that had consistently failed was a good dill pickle recipe. I begged friends on Facebook to send their favorite tried recipes and was excited to begin canning.

Why didn’t I remember that annually for the past four years, I had sworn aloud I would never, ever, as God as my witness, can any vegetable or fruit again?

I do declare, that aging plus memory fails equals plain rudeness.

After making cucumber salsa, cucumber salads, and a few new Asian recipes, I pulled out the canning supplies from the basement. Three trips later, I had the smell of vinegar, garlic and dill scorching my nose and clinging to my clothing and hair. I was transforming into the little gherkin that could.

After sterilizing the jars and filling them with fresh ingredients, it was time for the boiling bath. Fifteen minutes later, I reached for my canning tongs to sadly find they had broken in half. Being creative and overly confident, I fashioned a replacement tool constructed from kitchen tongs and spatulas. What could go wrong with that?

My first attempt to retrieve a jar from the rolling boil did not go as planned. The apparatus wasn’t strong enough for a solid grip on the metal lid and the jar splashed back into the kettle burning my hand and wrist. A smart person would have halted the operation, but I wouldn’t be writing about this if I had slapped on a Band-Aid and turned off the stove.

Now I was really irritated and driven to succeed. After cooling my burned skin in the sink briefly, I went back to try again. Strike two! This time the wave of scalding water jumped on my neck and upper chest. Hell has no fury like a woman with her tongs.

In order to get even with the inanimate objects, I dove once more into the fire to find my abdomen and shirt doused. Apparently, it took only four times for my smarts to kick in, so I threw in the towel and my inferior tongs.

I’m not proud of my tenacity or stubbornness because at times like this, it’s literally a pain in the neck. So I’m taking a break from pickling. My epidermis will surely thank me for it.

Unfortunately, the tomatoes are coming in strong and canned salsa sounds delicious.

Do I have any takers for the job?

Do you can veggies or anything else or would you rather douse yourself in boiling water than get involved in the process?

My Husband is Trying to Kill me

Biking is his Weapon of Choice

husbandkillIt was a bright, sunshiny day. My husband and I planned to enjoy our time together sans daughters because they were spending a few days at their grandparents.

It was a perfect day. The birds were singing while perched atop their favorite branch, as gentle breezes swayed them back and forth. The puffy clouds danced above forming various animal designs.

That’s what I dreamed while gazing out my kitchen window. Then I noticed the temperature gauge and 99 degrees barked in my face. Mother Nature wasn’t messing around.

I’m not sure how I got hoodwinked into taking a bicycle ride at high noon. I didn’t owe my husband anything. My mental capacity wasn’t diminished. But somehow I was persuaded it was a grand idea. Obviously, my husband is trying to kill me.

There was one slight problem. I don’t know how to ride a bike anymore. The idiot who said riding a bike is “just like riding a bike” had obviously never met me.

When I was a child, however, I had my blue bike with a silver-striped banana seat. Every Fourth of July, I would decorate it with streamers and playing cards in the spokes for our annual parade.

I even rode my bike delivering newspapers when I was older. I’m fairly certain it takes balance and skill, so at one time I was adept at pedaling and coasting downhill.

Until I met my husband, I hadn’t thought about owning another bike. Why would I need one of those when I had a car and legs?

I’m a walker. I enjoy watching the scenery as I stroll along. When my friends and I were training for a walking marathon many moons ago, we probably covered every trail in the metro.

Bicyclists would come blazing down the trail from behind and yell out, “On the left!” After jumping out of our skin, we would roll our young eyes and titter about bikers who were whizzing by nature’s beauty.

This was about the time I started dating my husband. While I was training for the marathon, he was training for the Bike MS 150. Apparently, this bike event is a big deal and not just an opportunity to wear tight shiny shorts in public.

So the other day, when wearing some of my husband’s shiny non-breathable clothing and had a strangling helmet strapped on, I realized there was no turning back. A bike ride was in my immediate future because in his own sweet way, my husband was trying to kill me.

Word to the wise: if you are getting basic instructions on operating bike gears before getting on a trailhead, you might not be a biker.

Needless to say, I never got the whole “gear” thing down. There were several times when the chain hopped off the bike to mock me, leaving me at bottoms of hills pedaling slowly to nowhere. I was going downhill quickly on an incline.

That’s when it happened. I decided my husband was plotting to kill me. Shouting ahead, I inquired if he’d made any changes to our life insurance policy. Perhaps he found some woman to raise our children. A younger version of me, but not funny and a bad cook, who loved biking, worked at a bike store so she got a great discount on shiny apparel, and had a bell on her handle bar to warn those pesky walkers.

My impending need to vomit didn’t come from those wild thoughts. Spinning my wheels in the near 100-degree weather was what nearly drove me to the ER. Heat exhaustion is a nasty beast and I strongly advise against it.

Per my request, my loving husband left me alone on a curb to rest and drink water. As he raced home to get the minivan to pick up his red-faced, nauseated wife, I dramatically texted friends to say my goodbyes – just in case I died on the curb.

Thankfully, I was wrong. My husband wasn’t trying to kill me. That gives a lady a boost in confidence! But it will be a long while before I hop on a bike.

If God wanted people to ride bikes, we would have wheels instead of feet.

It’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

One hot mama

One hot mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a biker or Walker/Runner? Or can you be both?