Everyone’s a Critic

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Layna is four and in charge of life. She noticed a bug in our light fixture. I told her it was our pet Fred and that’s why I haven’t gotten it out of there.

She said, “That bug isn’t really your pet, is it?”

“No, I just like to joke.”

“Well, I don’t,” she said.

In disbelief I said, “Of course, you like jokes.”

Her reply – “Not bad ones.”

Blogger Fodder

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we became empty-nesters and moved out of the neighborhood where we raised our children. Our new house is larger and has afforded us the privilege of having lots of company. I think there’s something to the fact that there is a separate area for guests and no children to compete with over the bathroom.

For the majority of the summer we have had adult children and grandchildren staying with us. When one family leaves, another arrives. We love it!

Selfishly, I figured it would give me fodder for my blog, so I created a little writing niche where I can go behind closed doors and create. But there are either ideas to write about or time to write them. Not to mention how distracting grandchildren are – all that cuteness! It is wonderful to be surrounded by people again, but there are a few drawbacks.

For instance, privacy – having grandchildren around means never peeing alone. I will tell them that I’ll be right back – I just have to go to the bathroom. They will even acknowledge me. Then off I “go” and within seconds they are yelling across the house for me with important questions like, “Can I have a piece of gum?”

It’s been a long time since I was a mom of school-aged kids, and I forgot the importance they place on having an immediate answer to questions like this. So I will teach them that like their mom, any question asked of me while I am in the bathroom gets an automatic no.

Even as I typed that last sentence I remembered the loop holes. Kids are great at loop holes. What if they ask if they can do the dishes for me or help a sibling with chores? Do I really want to say no to those types of questions? Wait a minute, there is little danger of these questions ever being asked so I think I’m 95 percent safe with my automatic no.

Another drawback is that kids can be kind of judgy when you do something differently than their parents do. For instance, while being a prize-winning grandmother and playing with my grandkids in the pool, I took a break from being squirted in the face with squirt guns and sat in a lounge chair to read a book. This is not the time to read anything that I need to concentrate on. War and Peace will have to wait. It is, however, the perfect time for Seriously…I’m Kidding, by Ellen DeGeneres.

So there I was sitting in the sun and reading Ellen’s funny little essays about life when I noticed I was being watched. “You’re reading that? Mom doesn’t like her.”

I glanced down at the book making sure I hadn’t accidentally picked up a copy of Mein Kampf. Little did my granddaughter know that for me, reading humorous books and stories is like taking my vitamins, except I don’t always remember to take my vitamins. In fact, excuse me. While I’m thinking about it, I better go take them right now.

Thanks. I’m back.

Later when I asked my daughter about this, she was equally baffled. She surmised that her daughter assumed her dislike of Ellen due to the fact that every time they go on the Epcot ride that Ellen hosts, she ends up falling asleep.

I remember those days. When we took the kids on the Haunted Mansion ride and they would snap our pictures. I was the one enjoying a nap on that dark, cool ride.

Speaking of falling asleep, my dad used to say, “Your mother could fall asleep while running for a bus.” I’m like that. Since having grandchildren around more, I’ve reverted to my old ways of dropping off to sleep at inopportune times, like while waiting at red lights, playing with children on the floor, watching movies at the theater, and even while zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. You get the picture – just like the people at the Haunted Mansion did. As a matter of fact, I hear my pillow calling me now.

A Scream in the Night

After a long day of caring for three of my grandsons and helping my ailing daughter-in-law, I spent some time reading before going to bed last night. I was reading “A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park. It is set in twelfth-century Korea and is about an orphan boy who finds himself working for a master potter. I am to the part of the story where the boy is taking his master’s pottery to the King’s Court for a possible commission. The boy has the delicate pottery carefully packed and placed into his backpack when the unthinkable happens.

Meanwhile, this morning I’m piecing together the nightmare I had last night to see if there could be any deeply hidden meaning. I woke up screaming at 5:00 this morning. Bob put his hand on my arm and chased the frightening images away.

In my dream I was walking home from my parents’ house in Zellwood, Florida. I was walking along Hwy 441, which is a busy highway that meanders through rural and small town areas here in Central Florida. I realized it was getting late and I needed to start jogging or I wouldn’t get home before dark. As I jogged along, I passed by three small children. One of them asked me what was in the backpack that I was wearing. I replied that there wasn’t much in it and as I was stopped talking to him, the two other children started attacking me and trying to take my things. That’s where Bob rescued me.

IMG_4968As I sit here typing this morning, I’m sure there is no collection between that dream and my life this week. No connection to having two of my grandsons stay with us for a week while my daughter-in-law and her 18-month-old son are staying here. No connection to the youngest taking my shoes all day long and running away with them while waiting for me to chase him. And certainly no connection to the older boys constantly taking my favorite float while we play in the pool.

Just another one of those dreams that has more to do with eating ice-cream late at night than real life I suppose. Now, if you’ll excuse me I am heading to my parents’ house to take my dad to the doctor. I’m taking the car though. See, it’s totally unrelated.

A Pickle Over a Pickle

Today I found myself in a pickle over a pickle.  I am a pickle snob and I hate frogs and toads.  Usually these two extremes don’t interfere with each other but every once in a while they conflict.  Such a conflict occurred today when I opened a fresh jar of Claussens.  I always buy the halves and spear them myself as that is cost saving.  Today I pulled out pickle after pickle that was so dark green and bumpy that all I could think of was frogs and toads.  Being a texture sensitive person when it comes to my food (you can read that as picky), that is a real problem (perhaps not exactly a third-world problem, but a problem for me, nonetheless).

The last one I pulled from the jar gave me relief from my vivid frog/pickle picture.  It was smooth, more like a tree frog.  No.  No.  No.  I mean, it was smooth.  Yes, smooth.  Not like a frog at all.  What a relief!

The two on the left are perfect pickles.

The two on the left are perfect pickles.

In an effort to ration my pitiful pickle portions, I ate one spear and saved the other for another day.  The rest will disappear this Sunday when the grandchildren come over.  Their pickle policy is eat now, question if they ate a frog or a pickle later.

I’m Not Getting Old – I’m  Just Getting More Creative in Linking Two Vastly Unrelated Subjects

When my granddaughter called to ask me what I remembered about President Kennedy’s assassination for a school assignment she was working on, it triggered something in me.  You may think it was the memories of the events of that day.  Of course, that happened; but what it really triggered was a cold, harsh reality.  I’m getting old.  Middle-schoolers go to people my age to find out about the past.  I’m somebody’s homework.

I explained to Mia that when JFK was shot I was seven years old – a second-grader.  The full impact was lost on me much like the reason why we had atomic bomb drills where we would crouch under our desks while the air raid siren blared.  On that day, though, I remember our teacher crying as she sent us home from school early.  I remember my parents being upset.  I remember being sad for Caroline and John-John; he was such a cute little boy.  It was strange to think that the president had a regular life as a husband and father.

 

IMG_4828The weirdest thing I recall as standing out in my mind was the newspaper.  The Evening Star had the words EXTRA, EXTRA across the top banner.  This was odd and unusual enough to me that I saved the paper and have it to this day.  Somewhere in the mind of that second grader was the realization that this was important and of lasting impact – a piece of history recorded for posterity.

But, this is supposed to be a blog about Life on the Lighter Side, so with that in mind, I’ll let you know that my being my granddaughter’s homework was not the only thing that has reminded me that I’m getting older.  As background, you should know that I am a huge Seinfeld fan.  My son, Scott, sent me a notice that Larry Thomas, aka the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame, was going to be dispensing soup in a Publix in Kissimmee, which is clear across town.  I was excited about going until I found out the time slot involved a return home during rush hour.  Sadly, I’ll never know the intense pleasure of having my bowl filled with mulligatawny by a stern-faced soup ladler; and I’ll never know if bread was included or not.

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but just a few years ago I stalked Paul McCartney, I mean had lunch with a friend while trying to get a glimpse of him at his hotel where he was staying across town.  I also have driven across the state to hear my favorite author, Alexander McCall Smith, give a lecture.  So it broke my heart a little to know that I wouldn’t brave I-4 traffic in order to see a Seinfeld character in action.

Now that I think about it, it’s all about how you look at life.  Maybe I’m not getting old.  Maybe I’m simply having a season of personal growth.  You know, counting the cost and realizing the value of my own time.  Either way, it adds up to, “No soup for me!”  Ah, but I can always catch Seinfeld in re-runs and ladle my own bowl of soup.  Plus, there’s next to no traffic in my kitchen.  Sounds like a perfect plan.

Four for Four, Plus One More

Our family has been a buzz of activity over the last few weeks.  It all began earlier this year when our youngest son met the girl of his dreams.  Now, there was a lot of pressure on him because our older three kids have amazing spouses who love them and fit in with our family like they were hand-picked by God, which we believe they were.  So, when Scott met Julie, there was a lot at stake.  It didn’t take long before we realized that she is wonderful.   Over the Thanksgiving holiday he proposed and she said yes!  So it looks like we are going to be four for four in the kid-in-law department.

But that wasn’t the only thing afoot.  Our son, Joe, and his wife were expecting their first child.  He came a week late but arrived on December 6, healthy and beautiful.  They are living with us temporarily, so our lives have taken a bit of a return to earlier times.  We live in the same house we lived in when Joe was born.  So just when my baby who is 27 is getting ready to get married, we are transforming the house for our grandson.

Before Thanksgiving my house was overrun with my father-in-law’s furniture, which we pulled out of storage so Bob could refinish it.  You may remember that he was blind so there were quite a few spills and rings from glasses marring its finish.  So arranged among my regular living and dining room furniture, we had a large credenza with bookshelf, two dressers and two nightstands.  There was also a pile of artwork resting in a corner of the room.  We suddenly had too much stuff!

I was desperate to clear out the excess because not only were we getting ready for our grandbaby, we also were going to need a spot to put our Christmas tree.  I was determined it would not go on top of one of my father-in-law’s dressers, but that was looking like a viable possibility.

A few days before Thanksgiving we were able to consign and/or sell his remaining furniture and transform the living room and dining room back into something we could live with, even if that does include a sofa in the dining room.  Clutter stifles me, distracts me and gives me an excuse to be unproductive.   When the excess was removed, happiness and contentment returned.

Christmas tree and baby paraphernalia are all set up.  Notice no bedroom furniture in the living room.  Victory!

Christmas tree and baby paraphernalia are all set up. Notice no bedroom furniture in the living room. Victory!

Now all I have to do is finish my Christmas shopping, do some baking, clean the house (again), wrap the rest of the presents and finish the book I’m writing.  Last week I decided I would not panic until Tuesday (today).  So far I’m not panicking.  I guess I’m procrastinating doing that, too.

Layna and the Cat – A Purrfect Pair?

Happy Layna is close to the cat who is trying to act aloof while tracking a lizard.

Happy Layna is close to the cat who is trying to act aloof while tracking a lizard.

We are just coming off of four days (and nights) with my daughter’s children (ages 11, 9, 6 and 2).  Needless to say, I have been in recovery mode for the last two days.  Layna, the two-year-old, is especially active.  She’s adorable, but she will wear you out.

Layna has a thing for cats.  You may or may not remember that my husband Bob and I have a serious No More Pet Pact.  This was enacted after roughly 35 years of pet ownership.  We simply don’t want to be bothered with them anymore.  However, since our son and his wife have temporarily moved in with us, and they have a cat, we’ve had to relax the rule.

Layna could not be more excited about spending time with the cat.  Her poor daddy is highly allergic to them; and after observing her with one, day in and day out, I think they have an effect on her as well.  While she doesn’t break out in a rash or have trouble breathing, she does become very hyper and (for lack of a better word) “catish.”  As for the cat, he’s a nervous wreck.  I think he may be developing an ulcer.

By the end of our time watching the kids, it had become difficult to tell the difference between Layna and the cat.  For example:

  • A cat wants to go in and out all day, so does Layna.
  • A cat walks on all fours, so does Layna.
  • A cat meows, so does Layna – in fact she does more than the cat.
  • A cat’s babies are called kittens. Layna folds her blankie up like a little package and says it’s her baby.  When asked if it’s a girl or boy, she replies, “It’s a meow.”
  • A cat will get up on the table when you aren’t looking. Layna will, too.
  • A cat eats its food from a bowl without the use of hands. Yep, you guessed it – Layna does, too.
  • A cat uses the litter box in the bathroom to go pee-pee. Layna is happy to take her diaper off and go pee-pee in the shower.
  • If a cat is trapped in a room behind a closed door, you can often see its paws protruding from beneath the door. Layna does that, too (only her paws are called hands).
  • A cat is easily occupied by chasing a red laser light around the room. That keeps Layna busy, too.
  • A cat will sleep 16 hours a day.  If only Layna would, too!

 

 

Laura Bush, Muhammad Ali and Mary, Queen of Scots, Walked into a Room

One day Ella, our eight-year-old granddaughter, was visiting us.  She pulled out a biography of Laura Bush, whom she had been reading about over the last few weeks of school.  She shared all the facts she could remember with enthusiasm and answered several questions.  I told her about a time several years ago when I donned a wig and a pantsuit to dress as Mrs. Bush and joined my friend John Morgan at an event.  John is a George W. Bush impersonator.

Early in his career I would catch John glancing at me with that I-have-a-brilliant-idea look in his eyes.  “You look like Laura,” he would say.  “I know,” I’d answer.  “You’re creeping me out!”

John and his wife Kathy are among our closest friends.  Kathy used to impersonate Laura Bush and stand next to her husband during his gigs.  This was an extreme act of love for Kathy, who prefers to be more behind the scenes.  One day, Kathy couldn’t (or maybe wouldn’t) help her husband out, so she brought me the wig and talked me into standing in for her.  I guess that made me a Laura Bush impersonator impersonator.   I have to say – I know how Kathy feels!  I am glad for that once-in-a-lifetime experience but am happy to keep it as just that.

This story, along with what she was reading, made an impression on Ella; because when her third grade class prepared to put on a Wax Museum, she already knew who she wanted to be.  That’s right, Madame Curie.  Just kidding!

20140603-210624-75984499.jpgShe was very excited to gather her costume and become Laura Bush.  Our wonderful friends lent her the Laura Bush wig, so she was good to go.  Ella was also committed to helping her friends with their costumes.  One friend was going to be a queen, and she didn’t have a robe; so Ella borrowed an old kids’ robe from our house for her.  I struggled to see how Mary, Queen of Scots, was going to look regal in a faded blue bathrobe; but that was a problem for someone else.

The day of the Wax Museum arrived and the children were in position.  You would stop in front of each student and they would recite a small biography of the person they were dressed as.  A tri-fold board was behind them with more information on their subject.  Ella nailed her recitation.  As I checked out the museum,  I was happy to see that Mary, Queen of Scots, was not wearing a bathrobe.  That had been passed on to Muhammad Ali, who wore it well, along with a pair of boxing gloves.  I was also relieved that Mary was far from Queen Elizabeth I.  If you remember your history, you know that could have gotten ugly!

 

From Two to Ninety-Two

Easter Sunday afternoon has changed a lot for us over the years. Bob and I have always lived close to my parents. For the most part, we were the only of my four siblings that lived near them, and we’ve never lived close to Bob’s family. That made for fairly easy holiday celebrations. Mom and I would take turns having events at our houses. We’d flip Thanksgiving and Christmas each year, but until the kids were teenagers, we usually ended up at their house for Easter afternoon.

They had a beautiful backyard on a small lake.  The beach area was dotted with palm trees and citrus trees lined the edges.  Mom loved hiding Easter eggs and the kids loved the hunt. Those times were uncomplicated. Once in a while relatives or some friends were there, but things still fell on Mom and me; and we liked it fine. My mom and I could throw together a holiday dinner with hardly a thought. We just split things in half. We each had our specialties.

This Easter we met at our house. We equals Bob, me and our four kids, three spouses, six grandkids (plus one in the oven), my mom who is 86, Dad who is 90, and Bob’s dad who says he’s 92 but is really 91.

That means there are five wives to cook. What a spread we could put on! What culinary masterpieces we could display. How our taste buds could be titillated! But I choose Costco, the happiest place on earth. Nothing beats picking up a spiral ham (no slicing), Hawaiian rolls, redskin potato salad and a vegetable tray. Throw in paper plates and you have yourself a perfect day. Okay, we did have homemade deviled eggs and desserts – we’re still human.

It has taken me a while to be able to admit this publicly, but simply put – it’s time for me to simplify where I can. 20140425-141648.jpgI’ll also admit that when I see Facebook posts of lovely tables set up in anticipation of Easter lunch, I feel a little guilty, but the feeling disappears as fast as a bowl full of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.

20140425-113424.jpgThose wonderful, simple days of eight of us celebrating together are gone. I love having 18.25 of us together and look forward to the number growing. The challenge for me is remembering it’s about enjoying the people, and I don’t want to be so worn out from prepping and cleaning up that I don’t get to relax and play with them. Also, our people span 90 years. That means keeping the floor clear for a walker and a wheelchair, making sure I have my dad’s favorite root beer on hand, and giving Bob’s dad some time to tell a story to his grandkids and spouses. It also means having a portacrib for the youngest with a sound machine to drown out noise, and taking some time to play a board game with the kids. And, of course, there are always activities beyond the egg hunt in the backyard. Our oldest son is great about getting the kids outside and active. We have the added joy of our neighbors’ grandkids playing with ours – three generations of friends.

The Quest for the Golden Egg

The Quest for the Golden Egg

We are an exhausting group, so Bob’s and my parents don’t stay as long as they used to. My mom brings bags of treats, but now they’re for her great-grandchildren. We still have the egg hunt as the Big Deal of the Day.  My kids and I hide the eggs and Mom watches us.  I think she loves watching the children scour the yard for treasure more than any of us. I like to observe my mom. She stores up treasures in her heart more than the kids store eggs in their baskets. I want to be like her.

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And let’s not forget about Jesus.  I’m not sure how we went from the resurrection of our Savior to dying and hiding eggs, but I don’t want Jesus to get lost in the shuffle.  When my oldest son was little, he and his buddy were into action figures.  They had all the usuals and a few unusual ones.  Among those were Jesus and Moses.

20140425-141704.jpgThis past week I found Jesus in the top of my closet, just in time for Easter.  I handed him to my grandson.  He couldn’t guess who it was and tossed him aside in favor of the Millennium Falcon.  I picked Jesus up and set him on the mantel among the chicks and bunnies.  He looked out-of-place, but I know better.

 

 

I Really Don’t Know What I’m Doing (and it doesn’t bother me too much either)

I’ve just had it confirmed that technology has left me behind. As a side note, I’m not surprised. Here are a few examples.

We have a Wii. We have this primarily because my husband and I love to play Tetris and Doctor Mario. Of course, like any self-respecting adults, we say we have it for the grandchildren. No one believes us. It’s probably because we are so darn good at those games. Bob and I frequently play World Championships of the Day to see who will be the reigning Master of Doctor Mario. I couldn’t tell you who has the title right now, not because I’m modest if I won or upset because I lost. It’s because I never remember. I should write it down. When we were younger we did keep a running tally, but now we have gone beyond those childish ways. Look how we’ve matured!

I didn't even attempt to set up this controller

It’s nice to have an uncle around to set things up.

Last weekend our grandsons who are six and seven were staying with us. I had the extreme challenge of setting up a different game for them – not only a different game but one that used a different controller. This proved too much for me. When one of my sons came home he helped me with my dilemma and delicately mentioned that the Wii is outdated technology. Ouch. The truth hurts. Another of my sons said he only has to tell his x-box to turn on and it does. That’s the kind of immediate obedience I always wanted from my kids!

Then there’s the whole TV thing. Everyone has a different cable provider or uses a satellite dish or hooks things through a gaming system. There are like nine controllers sitting around any given living room and they all mock me. I remember having to walk across the room to turn on the TV. Yes, all the way across a room! The only thing that remotely resembled a TV control for me was my little sister.

So now, I have a daughter who has no cable or dish system. She has a computer hooked up to her TV and a two-year-old daughter who hides the mouse. There is no sense in even trying to watch TV there.

As I mentioned, one of my sons has an x-box that is voice commanded. I don’t think it recognizes my voice and I am a little afraid I’ll mess the whole thing up. After the TV is on, will it tell me what to do? Actually, that would be helpful.

Another son has a dish system. He has step-by-step written instructions for me so that I can watch TV. It’s still challenging. When I was trying to turn it on for my grandsons, one of them asked me, “Do you even know how to turn the TV on?”

Well, I did it. I proved him wrong. It took me ten minutes, but I got that TV on and left it on for the remainder of my stay there. Why tempt fate?