Monthly Archives: June 2012

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Have you seen this?  It's our local weather forecast for the weekend.  This does not make me happy.  I have a weekend getaway planned with my husband and this was not part of the plan.

I miss winter.  I don't mean the kind of winter we just had.  That was a pathetic excuse for a winter.  I miss real winters. You know the kind where you wake up and look outside your window to find the world wrapped in a blanket of white. I guess I'm just a big kid that way.  Some people think I'm crazy when I tell them that I love winter. Snow days are for children and teachers they say, "real grownups" have to go to work. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in Chicago.  I don't remember getting a lot of snow days, back then they put chains on the tires and we went to school.  I do however have lots of memories of playing in the snow with my brothers and sisters.  I remember piles of plowed snow so big and so tall that they would last for a month. My mom would make hot chocolate for us (the real stuff with milk) and your whole body would start to thaw as you drank it down.  Remember how your cheeks would sting as the numbness started to wear off? Those are sweet memories.

Occasionaly we get a good winter in Virginia.  This is from 2009. Here's proof that it does snow here, just not nearly as often as I'd like. This was my old neighborhood and the best part about living on that hill were snow days.  I loved to stand at our big picture window and watch people try to make it up the hill.  When someone was really having a hard time I would yell "We've got a slider" and everyone in the house would come running to watch some dude slip and slide all over the place. The smart ones parked at the bottom and walked up but there was always some idiot who thought he knew what he was doing when really he had no idea. Laughing at these guys brought us closer together as a family.

So this weekend while you're sweating up a storm, cursing the heat and doubling up on deodorant,  why don't you join me in thinking about snow.  If we are lucky enough to have a snowy winter the next time around I will definitely not be missing this heat. In fact if you ever hear me saying "Gosh I sure wish it were July again" please take me to the nearest emergency room and tell them something is terribly wrong with me.

Stay cool and safe folks!

Good Mom

Good Mom
Dear Daughter,
Have I told you lately what an awesome mother I think you are?  After spending some extended time with your son recently I am amazed at how intelligent, well adjusted and happy he is.  I think that is in large part because of you.  You are such a good Mom. 
What I see you do so much better than I ever did is take every day moments and make them learning experiences.  Just the other day you guys went to the park and flew a kite.  You talked to him about wind and how it was necessary to lift the kite in to the sky.  You showed him how to run to get the kite off the ground.  He thought you guys were just playing and having fun but you were teaching him a science lesson.  I’ve heard you talk to him about nutrition and math and how things work.  You read to him all the time and answer his endless questions.   It’s not just the numbers and letters and shapes you’ve taught him that impress me.  It’s that you teach him about being nice and sharing and having compassion.  You are teaching him about character and integrity and he is only three years old. When the time comes, his kindergarten teacher is going to be very grateful to you for giving him such an amazing head start.
Sometimes I look back at pictures taken when you were little and I’m amazed at how young and exhausted I look.   I had two babies within a year and I was barely twenty years old.  I was overwhelmed and tired.  I remember I used to take you and your brother in the bedroom to play and I would lie down on the floor in front of the door.  I always started out playing with you but I knew that if I fell asleep you would have to climb over me to get out and I would wake up.  I relied heavily on my mother for advice and help.  If it wasn’t for her and the fact that you and Nick were both such good babies I may not have survived. 
Parenting is a “learn as you go” experience.  I made plenty of mistakes when you were younger.  Every Mother makes a mistake now and then.  You’ve heard the story of how I rolled off the bed when I was a baby so my inexperienced and young mother put me back up on the bed only to have me roll off again.  One of my biggest mistakes was when you fell out of bed in the middle of the night and hurt yourself.  I think you were about four at the time.  You were crying and crying that your arm hurt and it didn’t seem like anything was broken so after a quick examination and some children’s Tylenol I sent you back to bed.  The next morning your shoulder was swollen and you could barely move your arm.  A trip to the emergency room confirmed my worst fear that you had broken your collar bone.  You had broken a bone and I made you go back to bed.  For months I felt like the worlds worst mother. You had to wear this hideous vest thing for 8 weeks but you took it in stride and didn’t let it change your happy nature.  Even this picture says so much about who you are.  You weren’t just showing me your brace, you were modeling it. You have an innate ability to make the most of any situation.   And now with mothering, you have accepted this challenge with gusto.  You aren’t just raising your son, you are growing him in to the best person he can be.


Keep up the good work my daughter.  When it gets tough always remember that there is nothing more important than what you are doing.  And when you need a break I’ve got your back.  Mind you I’ll be sending back a child hopelessly spoiled and stuffed with cookies, but that’s MY job and I take it pretty seriously too. 

I have a plaque in the craft room, I’m sure you’ve seen it.  It says “Here’s to good women.  May we know them.  May we be them.  May we raise them.”   I sure know a whole lot of good women.  God knows I try every day to be one.  And most importantly, one of the greatest accomplishments of my life is that I’ve raised one.  I think you are amazing.

King of my Heart

King of my Heart
I haven’t written much about my grandson yet because honestly how do I condense my feelings for this child into three or four paragraphs?  After all he is the reason I started this blog. One day when I'm not around anymore (a very long time from now) he will have this.  The stories I share here are for him.
I’m very lucky because I get to see him regularly. Thank goodness for that because he is like air, water and sunshine to me.  I could not survive without him.  He spent the night last night. My chores didn’t get done. There are still toys on the living room floor.  I slept with little feet digging in to my back and four stuffed animals dogs.  I’ve been up since the sun “woke up” and will probably be in bed by nine.  I don’t care about any of those things.   I was just as disappointed as he was when his mother showed up today. 
I love my children fiercely, but this thing that Ry and I have going on is different. We are best friends in a way that only grandmothers and grandchildren can be.  I don’t even think it has anything to do with me being his mother’s mother.  In fact when I tell him “I am your Mommy’s Mommy” he says “No you aren’t, you are my Grandma, Grandma.”
When he was a baby I would hold him for hours, burying my face in his neck, inhaling his sweetness. When he was a toddler my ears begged for the sound of his laughter.  Now he is three and has found his voice.  The things he says to me bounce around in my head for hours after he has gone.  He told me today that he had something to tell his mother when she got here.  I asked him what he wanted to tell her and he said “I’m going to tell her to turn around and go home without me.”  
 When he was born he stole my heart and every day I get farther and farther from ever getting it back.

Sucky Day

Sucky Day
Today was a good day at work.  I might even go so far as to say today was a fun day at work.  I got to play with a new toy and you know us nerds…we love our toys.
 I had mentioned to one of the principals I work with that the computers in the school were very dirty inside.  I mean filthy dirty. One time when I opened one up there was this enormous dust bunny living inside.  He had turned the central processing unit in to a couch and he was kicked back watching Netflix by the glow of the internal battery light.  His little dust bunny children were playing over in the RAM somewhere and his wife was warming a pan of lasagna on the power supply.  I SWEAR!  This same school had multiple power outages this year due to a family of squirrels taking up residence in a nearby electric transformer box so needless to say they were not taking dust bunnies or anything else furry and damaging very lightly.  The principal bought a PC vacuum and today was my first chance to put it together and give it a whirl.
Can you say Bye Bye Bunny?  This little project was right in my wheelhouse.  I am in to instant gratification.  It’s why I like to mow the grass and paint a room a new color.  The results are immediate.  Sucking the dust out of computers is the same way.  It would be an understatement to say that I really got in to it.  I took some before and after pictures and showed the front office staff.  While these ladies were squealing and carrying on with “oh that is so gross” and “that’s disgusting” I was saying “I know isn’t it awesome? While they were repelled by the notion of all that dust and mess I was thrilled by it.  The dustier the computer the more satisfying it was to me when I vacuumed it out.  I told the bookkeeper “I’m going to suck the hell out of this school this summer.”   
It’s the little things in life that make me happy. 



A week or so ago, one of my schools had their end of year staff meeting.  Each grade level made a presentation reflecting on the year. Some were funny.  Some were sentimental.   My favorite one was the fifth grade which had each of their students make a poster using only three words to describe their year. They took a picture of each student holding their poster and put all of the pictures together in a slide show.  I don’t know these kids but I laughed and cried like I did.  The pictures and the messages were priceless. Their posters said things like “Ready to shine” and “Good memories forever”.   A few were really funny like the one that said “Did some work” and “I’m outta here”.  The most memorable one for me was the immigrant child with the poster that said “Finally I’m Free”.   
This got me to thinking about what my reflection poster would say about this last year.  This is what I came up with.  


Most of my life I’ve been uncomfortable with change. I have craved stability and sameness.  Maybe it was my tumultuos childhood, maybe it’s just the way I’m wired but change has always been a little bit scary.  So scary, that I stayed in an unhappy marriage for way too long.  There is comfort in our daily routines and knowing what to expect.  I like feeling in control.  In fact I’ve been accused of being a control freak. Not sure I’d go that far (ok, maybe I am) but I like my little stable world. 

The last few years however I’ve had to reexamine my thoughts on change and acceptance.  I have learned that there is very little in life I can actually control.  A series of health problems, family tragedies and personal hardships put me in a tailspin.  As I struggled to make sense of my life that seemed to be spinning out of control I latched on to this familiar saying. In fact I printed this and put it strategically around my house and at work.  While I give a lot of credit for helping me deal with painful life experiences to a wonderful counselor, I also have to give credit to this simple powerful little prayer.  If you are familiar with the origins of this verse you’ll know that these words change lives.  Over time my attitude began to change. I found myself saying "it is what it is" more often. My whole life I'd been a worrier until the day I realized worrying was like rocking in a rocking chair.  It'll pass the time but it won't get you anywhere.  I conciously decided to stop worrying about things I couldn’t control and to take control of things that I could…like my attitude, my health, and my finances.  I had to learn to accept things as they were. I had to accept that when someone else says "you're not the boss of me" they are absolutely right.  I am only the boss of me.  My thoughts, my feelings, my actions and responses are the only ones I control.  What a difficult thing this has been for this old hard head to learn.


A year ago I was really struggling with arthritis in my knees.  Taking care of a very large high school was taking a toll. I had toyed with the idea of asking for a reassignment but fear held me back.  I had been at the same school for seven years.  That’s a long time.  I had friends there.  I was comfortable there.  That’s when I had to ask myself if I was truly living by the words that had become my motto.  

As it turns out I did change schools and it has been a good thing.  Everyone says “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” but you know what…sometimes it IS. Sometimes change is good.  Sometimes not knowing what might happen next in your life is exciting.  I tell my son all the time “If nothing changes, then nothing changes.”  I’m usually telling him this as I lecture him about getting a better job and informing him that he can’t live in my basement forever but hey, it applies. As someone once said…We can’t sail on to new challenges if we’re afraid to lose sight of the shore. 
So my reflection for this last year is "Don't fear change." because seriously…if the only thing you change on a regular basis is your underwear we need to talk.
“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” -C.S. Lewis



This is a jar of homemade pickles in my fridge that Joel made.

This is the date on the calendar when we can open and eat the jar of homemade pickles that Joel made.

This is a cucumber grown by Joel like the ones he used in the jar of homemade pickles in my fridge.


This is the plant that grew the cucumber like the ones in the jar of homemade pickles that Joel made.

This is the garden thoughtfully created, containing the plant the grew the cucumber like the ones in the jar of homemade pickles that Joel made.

 These are some flowers that Joel planted for me at the same time that he planted his garden of tomatoes and cucumbers so that he could make homemade pickles like the ones in the jar in my fridge.


This is Joel planning and planting his garden so that he can grow tomatoes and cucumbers like the one in the jar of homemade pickles in my fridge that he made.
This is what I plan to cook for dinner tomorrow when we get to open the jar of homemade pickles in the fridge that Joel made.

I also plan to make this to go with the dinner I'll make tomorrow when we open the pickles that Joel made.


This is me with Joel and I'm happy because in addition to making me pickles he does lots of other things for me too. He makes things I find on Pinterest.  He rubs my feet.  He does our laundry. He makes my drink at dinner.  He puts gas in my car on Sunday nights.

I don't care what those pickles taste like tomorrow.  My husband is a  keeper.

Dance like nobody’s watching.

Dance like nobody’s watching.
My husband occasionally admonishes me for staring at people when we are out in public. He is right.  I do stare but sometimes when I see something so adorably cute I can’t make myself look away.  Tonight at Target I saw a family come through the door, Mom, Dad and four little girls.  Dad was still dressed in his Army fatigues. As Mom went to retrieve a shopping cart one of the daughters said “Look Daddy” and pointed to the security camera monitor.  Then they did the adorably cute thing that made me stare.  Dad and all four daughters started dancing around and watched themselves on the monitor.  I don’t mean they were just acting funny, they were full on dancing.  Dad stretched out his arms and started doing the wave.  The girls were booty shaking and spinning around.  They didn’t talk to each other; they just saw the monitor and started dancing.  Obviously they’ve done this before.  It must just be something they do.  It was hysterical.  It was magical.   I have very few memories of my dad and the ones that I do have are not magical by any sense of the word. My father abandoned his wife and five children when I was nine years old. The lack of my father in my life affected me profoundly.  When I see a good Dad like the one I saw tonight it touches my heart in a way that is hard to put in to words. Some day those girls will be grown women and they will more than likely have many similar experiences to the ones  I’ve had in my life like career, family, etc. They’ll sit around with their sisters and tell stories of their childhood like I do with my sisters and share memories. But those lucky little girls will have one memory I never will…they'll  say “remember when we danced with Daddy?”

Fix the Bed

Fix the Bed
A few weekends ago we were sitting around telling stories, laughing and generally having a good time when my best friend said “Have you told them the story of when we broke the bed?”  She loves to do that when there is someone new in the room. I had not told this particular story to present company but of course the minute she mentioned it they were intrigued.  Honestly I hadn’t really planned to tell this story on my blog. It’s a long one and while it’s funny to those of us who were there,  I’m not sure it has broad comic appeal.  However, today I was looking through pictures trying to find something for the story I had intended to tell when I came across this.  This picture was taken a few seconds before the 100 year old antique bed we were on gave out and hit the ground like a ton of bricks. 


Telling this story is bittersweet because one of these beloved children isn’t with us anymore.  One day I’ll tell you that story but not today.
Don’t be fooled by these smiling faces.  They are the faces of children who will abandon you the minute the going gets tough. The one holding the camera is the same friend who dragged this story out of me around the dining room table not long ago.  She is the mother of two of these hoodlums.  The other three are mine.
 My first husband’s parents owned a house on beautiful Smith Mountain Lake in south western Virginia.   It is the only thing I miss from that marriage. The place is picturesque. The house is furnished and decorated with antiques.  You have to use a step stool to get in to the beds.   I loved it at the lake house but I was always a nervous wreck when my kids were small worrying that they would break something.
This particular summer (probably 1995 if I have to guess) my kids and I went to the lake for a week along with my best friend and her two boys. The Dad’s would be joining us on the weekend. We fished, swam, explored, and soaked up the sun.  We went to a Mennonite auction. We crashed a local fireman’s fundraising dinner.  We put a fish in the freezer with the hook still in its mouth. It was a fun week.
The picture of the kids on the bed was taken on Thursday. I know because when all hell broke loose I kept thinking I’ve got twenty four hours before my husband gets here to fix this.  I was in bed waking up from a nice little nap, reading my book and enjoying a rare moment of peace.  The silence was suddenly broken by a familiar voice saying “Go get her guys!” and next thing I knew I had five children jumping up on the bed on top of me. My friend ran in with the camera snapping away taking pictures. “Ha ha…you got me….so funny guys.  Ok now everyone off.”  I’m pretty sure I said something like that but I didn’t have a chance to hear their response because suddenly I heard this loud cracking sound and before anyone had a chance to even process what was going on, the bed hit the floor with a WHOMPH that I’m fairly certain could be heard echoing down the lake. 
My memory of the next few moments is fuzzy.  I think I was in shock.  I felt like throwing up. I laid there for a second stunned and that’s when the traitor children jumped up and scurried out of the room as fast as their guilty little legs could take them.  They knew what was about to go down was bad and they wanted no part of it. When I started to come to my senses I was aware of this piercing cackle, a choking, gasping laughter coming from the floor next to me.  My dear friend had fallen to the floor and was laughing so hard she was in danger of giving herself a seizure.   
I remember what happened next like it was yesterday.  I screamed at her “What the hell are you laughing at? I am going to be in so much trouble.  What are we going to do?  I will never be allowed to come back here.  My husband is going to kill me.  WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”  The louder and more upset I got the harder she laughed which just pissed me off even more.  We were stuck – her laughing me screaming for a good five minutes or so. The kids lingered just outside the bedroom door with the older ones peeking in. I jumped up and started pacing around the room.  “What am I going to do?  This is bad.  This is really, really bad. I can’t believe this.”  I was frantic.  My friend finally calmed herself enough to speak and said “Stop freaking out. We’ll fix it.”  Are you kidding me!?  I wanted to hurt her. I wanted to slap that silly grin right off her face.  Fix it?  Fix it with what? We are out in the middle of nowhere.  The closest Home Depot was over an hour away.  I was starting to feel like I might pass out.  “Of course we’ll fix it.  All we need is some wood, some wood glue and a few nails.  We’ll have it like new tonight! Trust me” she said. 
We pulled the mattress off the bed and examined the damage.  Turns out it was only one piece of wood that was broken.  If we could replace this one piece of wood we might be ok but how?  I told her “go find some tape so we can tape this back together and take it with us to the store.”  She came back five minutes later with band aids.  She couldn’t find the tape so we used about 10 band aids to tape this four foot piece of wood back together.  I ran for the phone book to look up the nearest hardware store.  There was a small hardware store down the road so we rushed the kids in to the car (still in their swimsuits) and headed there.  When we explained our problem to the owner he said “well ya’ll are gonna have to have a piece of wood custom cut.”  I started to get dizzy again.  Custom cut?  That’s it I thought.  I’ll never come back to this beautiful place again.  I must have looked like I was going to cry because he suggested we go down the road and visit his friend Tim the custom cabinet maker.  Maybe he could help us out. “I’ll call him and warn him, err I mean tell him you are on the way.”  I dared not get my hopes up but this Tim was our last chance.
It was clear as we pulled in to the parking lot at Tim’s shop that he was a craftsman.There was wood everywhere.  Little did he know that he was about to add Knight in Shining Armor to his resume.  We told the kids to wait in the car, and grabbing our broken bandaged up  board we went inside. Tim met us as we came through the door.  “Can I help you?” he said.  “We broke a bed” I said.  He looked at my friend, he looked at me, he looked back at her again and said “You did what now?”  I can only imagine what was going through his head.  My friend thrust our piece of wood in his face and said “We need another one of these.  Can you help us?  If we don’t fix this bed her husband is going to kill her.”  Poor guy just shook his head in confusion.   I am sure my eyes started to fill up again because he quickly took our piece of wood and said “Give me an hour or so and I’ll see what I can do.”   “Halleluiah” I thought, this might work.   We took the kids for ice cream to kill an hour and then went back to the wood shop.  Tim charged us $5 for a duplicate piece of wood cut to the exact proportions of the original. I was so happy I threw my arms around him. He saved my butt. I could hear him laughing at us as we went out the door.



We made a quick trip back to the hardware store for nails, wood glue and a hammer and then went back to the house to fix a bed.  I am proud to say that bed will never break again.  There are so many nails in it and so much glue on it that it is easily 10 times stronger now than it was before it broke. It’s been  about 17 years since then and so far as I know our repair still holds.  If anyone ever decides to climb under that bed they will be in for a surprise but it’s not my worry any more. 

The morning we were getting ready to leave my friends son came to us and admitted that he had broken an antique plate that had been sitting on the dresser in his room.  I looked at her and said “I got the band aids, go get some of that dang glue.”  Piece of cake.

Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate

Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate
Dear Walmart Cashier,

Thank you for your friendly greeting and personable manner.  I really thought you were the exception to the usual indifference I normally get at the register.  That is, until you scanned the Snickers bar that sat between the rye bread and shampoo and asked me if I wanted it.  Oh wow.  How rude.  What makes you think it's for me (it was) and what makes you think I was going to eat it the minute I got in the car. ( I did.)  You don't know me. You don't know that I had to eat lunch early so I could go to a meeting so by the time I dropped by your store on my way  home from work I was starving.  You don't know that I made it past the potato chip aisle without adding anything to my cart.  Those crunchy salty little bastards were calling out to me but I stayed strong and moved on.  You don't know that I spent a solid two minutes staring at the doughnut case trying to decide which was more fattening, glazed or  chocolate frosted . You see I'm trying to eat better and make healthier choices.  I'm trying to avoid sweets and things that are not good for me.  I was pretty darn proud of how well I had navigated through your aisles and made it safely to the register with nothing bad in my cart.  I would have been fine too if the woman in front of me didn't have an issue with her credit card.  While you and she ironed it out my eyes wandered over to the candy display and most specifically to the Snickers bars.  Unfortunately, Snickers are one of my favorites.  In my mind I heard a voice say "Snickers really satisfies" and as if in a trance I picked it up and threw it on the belt. Well you know what happened next.  So let me tell you something about me Lady…next time I've got a candy bar on my belt don't bother asking me if I want it for my purse….just give me the damn thing and no one gets hurt. 



Smooth Criminal

Smooth Criminal

I like rocks. I’ve always had a thing for them. I have a bunch of them in my jewelry box and other places around the house.  I’ve been accumulating them for years.  I have a pretty decent sized one in my glove box. My family refers to it as my “rape rock” meaning if someone menacing ever comes near me they are going to get a rock upside the head.  You can do many things with a rock.  Did you know that if you are hiking in the woods on a hot day and you run out of water you can put a small stone in your mouth and it will help alleviate your feelings of thirst?  I learned this from a scout leader on an actual hike in the woods.  I didn’t put a rock in my mouth when she suggested it because I wasn’t actually dying of thirst; however this crazy lady was popping them in her mouth all day long. She only took it out when she wanted to eat her GORP.  (GORP = good old raisins and peanuts which by the way would make you more thirsty in my opinion) Every time she said “Want some of my gorp?”  I would seriously crack up. There may be a reason none of my kids stuck with scouting.

The other day my husband I were shopping at a small hardware store and we saw this fake rock that you would put in your garden.  It said “Grandpa’s Garden.”  We both had an “awww” moment because he’s a grandpa and he loves being a grandpa. However we both agreed that the decoration on it was kind of hideous. It had a scary looking ladybug and I think that ladybug’s should always be cute.  It was also covered in flowers which for a Grandpa’s rock was a little girly if you ask me.  My last complaint was that it was plastic.  I mean if you’re going to put a rock in the garden put a ROCKin the garden.   “Cute idea but I can make something just like it on a real rock for free!”  I told him. 
I’m always admiring oddly shaped and cool looking rocks outside of restaurants, stores or anywhere else they are used in landscaping or are there naturally.  I’ll pick one up and say “oh look, I like this one” and my husband will say “Put it back, you can’t take it.”  To which I argue, “It’s a rock, who really owns a rock? The earth?  The universe? Applebee’s? 
Until Saturday that is…. 
We saw that plastic rock at the hardware store and it changed something. As we turned in to our neighborhood we drove past the community center.  They have these medium sized landscaping rocks all artfully arranged with flowers and bushes.  I looked at him and said “That would be the perfect size rock for your garden.”  I fully expected his usual response. Instead he grinned at me and whipped the car in to the community center driveway and said “Quickly.”  I jumped out of that car so fast it was a thing of beauty.  It took me only a moment to find the perfect one.   I was back in the car within seconds.  As we drove the last minute up the street to our house I held the rock to my cheek to feel its warmth. Few things feel as good in your hands as a sun baked rock.  We took it home and I painted it.  Not my best work by any measure but this little rock means something to me.
I know it’s a silly thing to be proud of someone for helping you steal a rock but I am.  My husband has a stressful job and I’ve been trying to get him to relax a little more lately.  When he pulled accomplice to one of my capers, he gave himself completely to the moment. For someone who has a hard time with that, this was HUGE. 
Hey honey…how’s your throwing arm?  I haven’t been toilet papering in years.