Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Heart Grandma

I talked to my 86 year old grandma this morning.  I love that woman to pieces.  I grew up a mile from her house, so I was there visiting her and Grandpa at least 3 days a week.  She is a fiesty thing, still living in the same house, even though Grandpa passed away 15 years ago.  In my entire life, she had not spent one day in the hospital until last month.  She was sick with a cold, it turned into bronchitis, then she got dehydrated.  It meant she had to be in the hospital for two weeks, with another week in a hospice for rehab.  It was a smack in the face for most of us, as we've been in denial that Grandma would ever get sick or die.  It's made me think about her more and more, and I've been much better at calling her more and more.  I've had so much fun with her and learned a great deal in all of that time.  I thought I'd share some of the things I learned from Grandma.

1.  There is a right way to play Euchre.  My family is raised at the foot of a card table.  We can argue better than anyone, but bring out the cards and we're all BFF's, laughing until our sides hurt and we collapse at 1 o'clock in the morning.  That is, unless you play like Inez.  Inez is a woman my grandma used to play Euchre with, and the woman apparantly didn't know how to play well.  If you are Grandma's partner and play in a way that she deems wrong, out will come the Inez reference, and a story to go along with it.  It isn't Inez's fault.  Our family has some very strange "rules".  Some are close to normal, based on some sort of math.  For example, "You never go set on a 9."  If you turn up a nine, you better call that trump.  But other rules are just plain out there.  A favorite is "Sit with the flow of the bathtub in the house in which you are playing."  Apparantly, luck flows with the tub.  Also, "Don't sit between the markers."  Only bad things will come to those who unintentionally sit with score cards on either side of them.  There's a bunch of these odd things.  It's why everyone in my family has a hard time playing Euchre with anyone outside of the family.  So, we've decided to put together a book of rules.  Look for it in a newsstand near you.

2.  Cleanliness can be above Godliness.  My grandma is an over-the-top neat freak.  Clean can't even describe her house.  I would feel comfortable eating off of any surface.  She tells stories about staying up until 2am scrubbing floors when my dad was young.  When my siblings or I host a family gathering, we always have to know if Grandma is coming.  Do we need to clean, or do we need to Grandma clean?  If we just clean, she will clean the entire time she is at our houses.  I have her completely snowed into thinking I'm as compulsive as she is.  She is forever making comments like we are in the same club, and I just go right along with it.  She thinks I clean day and night to give my house a spotless shine.  I am kind of afraid that when she dies and sees how I actually live, she will come and haunt me.

3.  Sweets are for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any other time you feel like it.  Every grandchild and great-grandchild loves to stay at Grandma's house.  Once you've had your eggs and toast, she brings out the dessert.  Cookies, ice cream, and brownies are all good breakfast treats as far as she is concerned.  My kids love telling the story of their first night at her house.  They ate their eggs, and Grandma asked Giant if he wanted anything else.  He asked if she had strawberries.  She replied, "Well sure.  Do you want strawberry shortcake?"   All four of them looked to me with expressions of "Is this for real, or is Grandma off her rocker?"  They got to enjoy the wonderfulness of spending the night with Grandma.

4.  Life was a lot harder back in the day.  They couldn't afford that new treat called gum, so they chewed tar torn out of the roads.  They would come home from school at lunch time to eat, but also to do a whole bunch of chores before going back to school.  They would help their mother can hundreds of jars of veggies, fruits, and jellies, clean up after it all, then sit by while their mother took complete credit for all of the food lining the shelves.  (Grandma never canned a single jar in her adult life, and almost cried when I told her I started canning our green beans.) Until she married, she had to give her mother all but two dollars from each week's pay to contribute to the household.  When her parents and relatives played cards, all of the kids sat along the wall, silent and observent, unless the adults spoke to them.  I have heard so many stories from when she was growing up.  I love them all.  Even the ones that make me cringe, as she's not the most PC old woman. 

5. A person can do anything with the right motivation.  I don't smoke, never have.  But most of my relatives do or have.  Grandma smoked until she turned 75.  She quit cold turkey.  And it wasn't for her health.  It was because the price of a pack went above $4. 

6.  You need to get ready for the pearly gates.  For the past few years, my grandma keeps talking about her death.  Her biggest fear is dying alone, and no one finding her for days.  So, she has my dad visiting most days, her siblings calling her most days, and neighbors looking for the drapes to be opened by a certain time each day.   It has now become a joke for the rest of us.  My dad left a message for me when I hadn't called him in a while.  He said, "Well, I guess your step-mom will find me and call you if I die.  Can't gaurantee it, though.  You might want to call me."  Grandma has been trying not to laugh when someone tells a "bad" joke, then reprimanding the joke teller.  She wants us all to remember that she is getting old and trying to get into heaven.  That, and she doesn't want to wet herself.

It is a long drive back to my hometown, but we make that drive at least four times a year.  I want my kids to know Grandma.  I want her to know them.  She has so many things to teach them, and we can deprogram the things they pick up that aren't exactly appropriate for public discussion.  I have to tell them about my mom's mom, as she passed away long before I had kids.  It's just not the same.  Grandma is a person you need to experience first-hand.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Just when we thought the school staff respected us...

If you look at my "About" page, you will see that I send out a long, obnoxious Christmas letter every year.  It was actually brought up by someone at a church function the other day.  I thought I would tell you about a highlight story in this year's letter.  

First, a backstory:
When we had been in this house a few months, a stray showed up at our friend's house.  It was a nice dog, got along with her kids, but they had a dog and weren't wanting another.  We ust happened to be looking for another dog to keep our current dog company.  She was a great dog.  Never touched the chickens, came when  I called, was great with the kids.  We thought she was fixed, but two years ago she ended up giving birth to 9 puppies.

We found homes for seven of them.  Then one day, Brownie jumped the electric fence and killed our neighbor's two goats.  It was horrifying for both families.  In the end we put Brownie to sleep, kept one of the puppies, and adopted out the other.

A full two years later, the nine year old has an assignment in school to write a story about a bittersweet experience, and the kids were to use a thesaurus to come up with more interesting words.  It was done in school, so I had no idea what he wrote until it came home graded in his folder. He chose to write about our dog having puppies, but then having to be put down.  His opening sentence made me laugh so hard, I forgot what a horrible story it was.  Keep in mind that he had no idea that the words he chose had a different meaning.  He began:

                                        "I was melencholy when the vet killed my bitch."

The only comment the teacher made was, "Use paragraph form next time."  That sent me into another round of hysterics. 
At pick-up the following week, the assistant principal came up to my car.  She informed me that she had met with the fourth grade teachers, and they discussed our family.  I immediately cringed, of course.  Apparantly, the teacher was completely perplexed as to how to handle the situation.  Should she talk to my child about it? The assistant principal's take was, "Well, they live on a farm.  Maybe the word is used correctly at their house."  I couldn't help myself.  I actually laughed while she stood there.

Yes, my family has started using many new words since moving out to the farm.  That is not one of them. 

Now it is has become the funny story all teachers and parents tell.  Oh, and we did have to tell the nine year old what was so funny.  We're all more careful when someone pulls the thesaurus off the shelf these days.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Get in the van, kids! We're going for a bike ride!

Saturday was another beautiful day, with Mother Nature giving us another sign that we are finally leaving the death grip of winter behind.  The eight year old got his bike out of the garage, and to our surprise it was still intact.  (One of the dogs is notorious for ripping items to shreds.)  He tried to ride around the circle in front of the house, but was having difficulties.  His winter legs aren't quite strong enough yet.  You see, we live at the end of a 1/4 mile long gravel driveway.  When we bought the house, we intended to pave it.   We knew it would be a significant cost, but we were willing to do it for the kids, as well as to make winter easier.  We forgot that we also have a grain bin on the property that is rented by a local farmer.  Twice a year, semis come and go for two days to fill or empty the grain bin.  They would completely ruin a paved driveway.  So much for that idea.  We still have the gravel.

One of our favorite things to do at the old house was to go for a walk.  The two older kids would ride bikes, the third would ride his little tricycle, and I would push the littlest in the stroller.  Our first week in the new home, we decided to try a walk down to the quaint little square near the end of our drive.  It's a perfect place to ride bikes, with a little church and about 20 houses.  There are stop signs all around the square, and the speed limit sign is in our front yard, so we knew cars wouldn't be going over 30 mph.  The kids hopped on their bikes, put their feet on their peddles, and immediately fell over.  For six and five year olds, gravel is not fun to ride on.  But we perservered.  We decided to just walk the bikes to the end of the drive and continue on our walk.  Ok, a 1/4 mile walk pushing three bikes and a stroller is not easy, but it would be worth it, right? 
Fifteen minutes later, we made it to the end of the drive.  We were on our way!  Just as we were approaching the quaint little square of houses, a car came flying by, sending us all into the ditch on the side of the road.  I actually screamed, seeing the scene of my children being run over going through my head.  Apparantly, some people in the country drive really fast until they have to slam on their brakes to stop.  And they don't have the decency to move over to give the pedestrians room to walk either. 
But, we were alive, and closer to the square than our house, so we kept on going.  We had a great time, walking and riding and playing on the playground at the church.  We turned to go home and stuck nice and close to the side of the road.  We safely reached our drive, and realized our last horrible mistake.   We live at the top of a hill.  We had to push the three bikes and the stroller and drag three kids up a 1/4 mile gravel drive up a stinkin' hill.  Not one of us was in a good mood by the time we collapsed back in the house.

Since then, our third and fourth children learned to ride bikes at their friends' houses.  This past summer they were all good enough at riding that they could actually ride on the gravel circle.  That is, of course, until we had to get new gravel.  It's REALLY hard to ride bikes on a new layer of gravel.  With the drought of  2010, they were able to ride on the grass/dirt with minimal injuries from the numerous holes dug by the dogs and moles.  They were (mostly) happy.

But, as I watched my eight year old try to ride his bike yesterday, I almost cried.  I know we gave them so very much when we moved to this house, but we took away the one thing all kids should have; the chance to ride a bike any time they like.  So, I of course told everyone to hop in the van.  I drove to the nearest school, where he could ride to his heart's content. 

As a former photographer, you'd think I would keep my camera handy, where I wouldn't forget it when I have photo opportunities.  Alas, I forgot my camera.  Maybe I'll get one next time.  In the meantime, you'll just have to picture his happy little face, with the wind in his hair, as he went round and round that parking lot.

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's a ramblin' kind of day

One symptom of fibromyalgia is what is "lovingly" refered to as fibro fog.  Memory and ability to focus go out the window.  We forget the names of people we've known for years.  Notes and lists and calendars become essential to daily life, especially on bad days.  Today is one of those days for me.  So, no thought-out post on one idea.  I'm catching up on thoughts floating through my head.

1.  So glad it's raining.  Our basement isn't flooded quite enough for swimming yet.  Perhaps we'll be able to this weekend.

2.  The two year old cracked me up yesterday.  I had sent him to go to the bathroom before we left to pick the big kids up from school.  After 5 minutes, I went to check on him.  He had pooped, and when I asked if he was done he replied, "No.  I'm going to clog the toilet."  Huh?  After a bit more questioning, it became clear that he was not going to move until he had gone enough to clog the toilet.  I'm all for goals, but come on.  I told him that if he succeeded, we wouldn't be able to use the toilet until it was fixed.  He replied, "But _____ does it!"  Yes, he named the sibling that has done it in the recent past, and the two year old thought it was something people chose to do.

3.  I never did update you on our surprise for the now 11 year old.  It was wonderful.  Our daughter was very surprised, and the girls had a great time.  Once her friend went home, my little girl thanked me and said that seeing her friend was fun, it made her miss her more.  I had to agree.  I so enjoyed having her here, but the whole time I was missing my friend more than ever.

4.  Lent is upon us.  I've given up eating my junk food snack at lunch every day.  It has become ridiculous.  I can polish off a big bag of M & M's in two days.  I've also decided to get back in the habit of reading from my Biblle every day.  I get so worried about all of the things that "need" to be done, that this gets pushed to the side.  Isn't Lent a great time to get your priorities back in line? 

5.  Track starts next week.  They've been trying to get me to coach it for years, but I always refused, saying I wouldn't do it until one of my kids joined the team.  Well, the 9 year old joined this year.  We just had our coaches meeting, and I found out that practices are from 5-6:15.  That means all six kids will have to come with us to practice.  So, looks like we're just going to sign up all of the eligible kids.  We don't usually allow them to do two sports at once, but they are going to be there anyway, on the team or not.  Might as well be on the team and have something to do while they are there. 

6.   Friends of mine are having some difficulties with their children (one from each family).  It's so hard to see your friends in such positions.  I want to help, but there's not much to do besides pray.  And listen when they need it.

7.  Our 1 year old went to for his check-up.  It is confirmed.  He's a tank.  10% for height, 40% for weight.  Complete opposite of the other kids, who were all 90% and above for height until they were 6.   A friend of mine has a little girl 2 weeks younger than "Tank".  It is so funny to see them together.  She towers over him, constantly trying to be in his face.  He just turns and waddle runs away.

8.  Laundry is a pain in the neck.  That's all I have to say about that.

9.  I love my Kindle and my husband who gave it to me.

Gotta run.  My list tells me that I have a lot to do today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why did I go out of town?

Our book club trip to South Carolina was wonderful.  What a lovely city.  We never stopped moving the entire visit, but we barely scratched the surface of things to do.  The beaches, the history, the architecture, the views, the food.  I'll most certainly take the family there for a vacation someday. 

I got back home on Sunday afternoon to much fanfare.  Two of the kids left little notes and gifts around the house, telling me how much they missed me.  The two little boys refused to leave my side, jabbering away until bedtime.  It was a lovely homecoming.

Monday came, and reality hit.  My kitchen ceiling literally started coming down.  The plaster that remained intact was damp. 

The little boys were still attached like glue, which is fine, but man, were they grouchy and demanding, which is very out of character for both of them.  (My daughter informed me after school that every time the one year old started to make like he was going to cry or whine, Grandma gave him a cup of milk and let him walk around the house with it.  He went through almost an entire gallon of whole milk in three and a half days.) They were going to have to be retrained into the rules of the house. 

I went into the basement to start some laundry, and found the dryer already running.  Apparantly, Grandma decided to do some laundry (which confused me, as I had washed every stitch of clothing in the house before I left).  She didn't know (I don't fault her for it.) that the dryer she used doesn't stop when you put it on the timed setting.  I found out later that day that she last did laundry on Friday.  My dryer had been running non-stop for 3 days and nights.  And inside the dryer.... two shirts and a pair of socks. 

To top it off, I was getting paid back for all of the walking we did in South Carolina.  My fibromyalgia hit like a brick wall.  There was very little moving around on Tuesday.  Certainly no cleaning.

But, things have gotten better.  Each day the little ones have thrown one less tantrum.  Yesterday there were none.  The guy came to give us a quote on getting the kitchen/mud room remodeled.  May be getting that a little earlier than planned.  The house didn't burn down from the dryer, so I still have a place to live and do more laundry.  The fibromyalgia has eased up more each day, to where I can almost run up the stairs again. 

By this time next year, all of this will be forgotten, and I will once again go on the book club trip.  I'll be sure to tell Grandma about the dryer, though.  And only leave half a gallon of milk in the fridge.