Car Wash

Car Wash

He wanted to watch the Disney Channel.  I wanted to talk.  Our conversation went like this…

Me: So how do you like Mommy's new car?

Him:  I LOVE IT.

Me: How does Mommy like it?

Him: She does.

Me: It's very nice.

Him: She doesn't want it to be messy.

Me: That's good.  You can help her keep it clean.

Him: She doesn't want anyone to fart in it.

Me: Well then she better not give Uncle Alex a ride anywhere.

Him: We took it to the carwash.

Me: Oh that's fun. Did you like it?

Him: No

Me: Why not?

Him: It freaked me out.  It was freaky!

Me: Freaky?  What was freaky about it?

Him: The big brushes. They were so freaky.

Me: Yeah they can be scary.  Was anything else freaky?

Him: No, just the brushes.

Me: Was Mommy scared?

Him: No, she's a grown up.

Me:  One day you'll have a car and will take it to the carwash.  Hopefully you won't be scared anymore.

Him: I won't have a car until I'm a grown up.  I just said grown up's aren't afraid of the carwash. DUH!

 

Ok, he didn't really say duh…but believe me it was implied.

 

Tattletale

Tattletale

 This adorable three year old is my grandson. I know I'm a little biased but he is a fantastic kid.  He is smart and funny and kind.  He is also a major tattletale. I know that tattling is a typical preschool behavior and it's important to teach kids the difference between tattling and reporting.  Some things need to be reported to an adult.  For instance if your older sister singes off your eyebrows during a seance. That should be reported. (I'm just saying.)

Children have a very keen sense of justice.  Just try to divide up a bag of candy among a bunch of kids and you'll see how much fairness means to them. I think as they start to learn right from wrong they are super quick to point out when someone has done something that they perceive to be against the rules.  Riley definitely has his own ideas of what is acceptable and what is not. 

This kid takes tattling to a new level. He tattles without discrimination.

One day he and Daddy were playing ball in the house. Unfortunately a picture got knocked off the wall and the glass cracked. Daddy hung the picture back up and said "Mommy will never notice."  In the moment, a three year old can be quite conspiratorial but the minute his mother walked in he immediately pointed to the picture on the wall and said "Daddy broke it." 

One of his favorite people to tattle on is Grandpa.  He loves to run in to the kitchen to tell me what Grandpa said or did. Recently it was "Grandpa told me to put my toy next to my suitcase and not in it."  I am not sure what he hopes will happen. Maybe he thinks I'll take away Grandpa's dessert or send him to bed early.  He has even ratted out his own mother for ummm…pooping. In fact if anyone leaves the room for any reason he will announce to all assembled that "so and so has gone to poop." I've found myself sitting in the potty yelling out "oh no I'm not!" and hurrying up so no one thinks he is right.

Just the other day when I picked him up for a play date he immediately told me with great indignation that his mother would not buy him a toy at the store when he asked for one. "She told me I already had toys and I didn't need it." Oh the horror…someone call CPS. What a terrible mother! He was seriously ticked. He is constantly telling on the cat for making a mess by her food bowl and he tattles on his uncle for having a dirty room.

Up until recently I thought I was exempt from the tattle monster.  He and I are pretty tight.  I am one of the people he most frequently tattles to. However a few nights ago this little Benedict Arnold tattled on ME.  He was playing on the kitchen floor while I washed and dried a few dishes.  As I reached for the dishtowel with a wet dish in my hand a few drops of water dropped on his head. He jumped up and said "you got me wet!"  I said I was sorry but that didn't soothe him.  He said "I need to go tell Grandpa what you did."  I said "no you don't" but he said "Yeah, I really do" and he went running off to the livingroom to tell on me.

As he grows older I'm sure he'll outgrow this little habit. He will learn about keeping secrets and telling little white lies. He will learn that first grade is hard for a tattletale.  He will learn to discern between what needs to be reported and what he should keep to himself but for now I'm enjoying hearing every little thing.

Now I need to go remind Grandpa that it's no cookies for him tonight.  This kid knows how to hit them where it hurts.

 

 

Mama’s Girl

Mama’s Girl
When I got home from work on Monday there was a package at the door.  This isn’t unusual because my husband gets a lot of packages delivered to the house for work.  However, this time it was for me and it was from my Mom.   I opened the box and it made me cry. This is what was inside.  She has this set of bowls and when she brought something to my house in one of them I told her I liked it. So being the thoughtful person she is, she went out and got me a set and sent them.  The bowls didn’t make me cry though, her note did.   “Life is going way too fast for me. I wish we could spend more time together. Reading your blog has made me feel closer to you. You are very talented. You are in my prayers every day.”
 
Her letter made me cry because I am 47 years old and my mother still worries about me and takes her concerns to the heavens every night. I cried because I miss her too.  I know people who live a lot further than an hour away from their loved ones so I shouldn’t complain, but sometimes that distance feels enormous. I cried because I am touched she is reading my blog and that it makes her feel closer to me. I cried because my whole life I have always wanted to make her happy and have her approval.  I know that I’ve done a lot of things over the years that broke her heart.  I have wandered away from the beliefs that are still very much a part of her life. I don’t visit as much as I should. I don’t call as often as I need to. I am not the world’s best daughter.
 
 I am however a very lucky daughter. My mother showed me by example how to be a survivor.  She taught me that life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you handle it. She told me that when something bad happens to us the only choice we have is to pick ourselves up and go on. That advice has gotten me through some heart breaking experiences of my own.  I can’t say how many times I’ve opened my mouth and her words come tumbling out. I guess one day my children will do the same.
 
Mine wasn’t an easy childhood. I think my mother still suffers guilt for the things we went without. I wish she wouldn’t.  The intangible things she did give us far outweigh anything material that we didn’t have. I grew up singing a hymn in chuch that goes:
 
There is beauty all around
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in ev’ry sound
When there’s love at home.
Peace and plenty here abide,
Smiling sweet on ev’ry side.
Time doth softly, sweetly glide
When there’s love at home.
Love at home, love at home;
Time doth softly, sweetly glide
When there’s love at home
 
My mother took every word of this song seriously.  She did not tolerate meanness or teasing among us kids.  We were to love one another whether we liked it or not. Her insistance on family harmony has resulted in adult siblings who love each other deeply and are there for each other no matter what.  That is an accomplisment to be proud of.
 
I’ve been saying since I started writing this blog that I was doing it for my grandchildren.  I figured telling my stories and sharing my sometimes odd outlook on life would be something that could carry me in to the future.  What I didn’t take in to account was how sharing these stories would also take me back. Back to my childhood, back to the people and places that formed me. And when I look back, the one constant, the rock of my life has been my sweet mother.
 
Thank you for always being there Mom. Thank you for your example, for the lessons, for the prayers and for the bowls. 
 
I love them.

Bull in the China Shop

Bull in the China Shop
I make my husband nervous when we are in antique shops.  It seems that every time I touch something I knock something else down or something falls to the floor.  He gasps and says "Honey be careful!" Once I dropped the lid to something and his eyes got big as saucers as it clanked around on the ground. I said "I'm sure they are used to people dropping stuff all the time."  He didn't look soothed.  Sometimes he just walks away from me because he doesn’t want to be around when I break something.  I haven't  broken anything yet but I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time. I guess I’m not graceful and can’t delicately lift a plate off a shelf without upsetting the things around it.  I have a domino effect on stuff. I pick one up and three fall over. I am the proverbial bull in a china shop.
I think my real issue is I’m not happy with just looking at what’s on top, what can easily be seen.  I like to dig around. I like to poke underneath and behind.  I like to look for the treasure that might be hidden underneath something else. When you do that things get jostled and you’re going to make a little noise.  While I hate that I embarass my husband, just like with people, if you look beneath the surface you are sure to find something wonderful.
This past weekend we threw together a last minute out of town get away to visit thrift, antique and junk shops.  We hadn’t been away in a long while and we needed to hit the road.  Turns out we really needed to hit the road because a bad storm knocked out the electricity at our house and in 100 degree weather we needed to find air conditioning and fast. We headed south to Richmond Virginia, capital of the confederacy and home to Virginia Commonwealth University.  As it turns out also home to some really cool thrift and antique shops.  I’ve always been a thrifter but since becoming a Pinterest fanatic I’ve also become interested in Upcycling. Upcycling means taking something old or useless and converting it in to a new product that is useful or has a higher value.  In other words you take some old piece of junk you find in a thrift shop and you make it in to something cool to put in your house.  My mission this weekend was to find a few of those old pieces of junk.
What we found was this place.  We liked it so much we went twice. I came home with a solid wood antique window shutter for $12.  Not exactly sure what I’m going to make with it but I know it’s going on a wall when I figure it out.  My husband is building an antique tool collection and he bought an old hand saw and file for about $5. I got this old cookie crock.  It was missing the lid but otherwise in perfect condition.  The thing is heavy…solid.  It spoke to me.  It said “You are always making cookies…you need me in your kitchen.”  It cost $4.  I have repurposed it to hold my kitchen utensils.  We found lots of old goodies for not very much money.  Call me a simple woman but I got so much pleasure from digging through what basically amounts to other people’s old stuff. If you haven’t heard George Carlin’s routine about “Stuff” you must check this out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac
This place smelled like my grandma's attic which was one of my favorite places to hang out as a child. I  found things that were familiar…things I had around me when I was a child. I would pick up something and say “My grandma had a mirror like that” or "My mother had a pan just like this." I couldn’t pass a Pyrex bowl without picking it up. I’m not quite sure why but there must be some deeply seated memory attachment to it.  I found a red toy  chicken from a farm set we had as children and I remembered playing with those  Little People toys for hours and hours with my brothers and sisters. I wish like anything I still had my Fisher Price  doll house.  I can remember every detail of the thing from the fireplace painted on the living room wall to the thin little foam mattresses on each plastic little bed. I remember the daughters braids and the way the dogs ears stood up. I loved that little people family.  They had a perfect little house and a perfect little life. 
I'm not sure why I'm so drawn to this old stuff lately other than I'm getting older myself.  I wonder 50 years from now what will be important to my grandchildren and their children. What will they pick up and say "remember when Grandma used this?" The idea of a part of me sticking around in my belongings and in my stories makes me feel really happy.
 
Now I'm off to eBay to see if I can find myself one of these.

 

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.
Love
Mom

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. 

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
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
 
 

 

Pickles

Pickles
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.