Tag Archives: Grandchildren

To Watch the Clock or Not?

While riding our exercise bike, I pondered the importance of clocks — mostly because after achieving sufficient torture minutes, I could get off. And reward myself with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Usually, though, I’m not a clock-watcher; my devout, free-spirited parents lauded flexibility as a key virtue. Keeping track of time? Not so much. Church services they led not only seemed to go on forever, they actually did.

So, when my second-grade teacher instructed our class about telling time, I didn’t see the point. Besides, if the big hand was on two, plain as day, why did she insist it read 10 minutes after the hour? Why should insignificant dots between the numbers dictate the operation of the universe?

Given that cosmic view, I didn’t own my first wristwatch until eighth grade.

My husband received his as a kindergartner. Perhaps his family operated like normal people?

Liam, our time-loving toddler, is now 10 and still watches clocks.

Decades later, our toddler grandson, Liam, exhibited that “normal” behavior tenfold. Every visit.

LIAM: Grandma, want pretty “numbers-clock.”

GRANDMA: If you wear my watch, you must give it back before I leave.

LIAM: (nodding vigorously) I will.

(Grandma doubles the band around his tiny wrist.)

LIAM: (caressing the watch) My numbers-clock.

At least, I escaped the mugging Liam’s library storyteller suffered when he refused to give up his numbers-clock.

While most North Americans don’t go to that extreme, other cultures do puzzle about our clock fetish. The Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels, captured that viewpoint perfectly in describing Gulliver’s pocket watch as a god he worshipped: “He assured us … that he seldom did anything without consulting it. He called it his oracle and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.”

Centuries later, I find this true, even at night. Do you, too, play peekaboo during the wee hours with merciless numbers that scare away sleep?

Cell phones, rather than clocks, often rule both nights and days. Still, I consult my watchless wrist. That failing, I consult my phone — after I find it.

Perhaps a residue of freedom from time survives, as demonstrated in our living room. Two clocks reside there, neither of which works. As dusty décor, they read 1:57 and 3:01, respectively. This annoys Liam, no longer a mugger, but still a clock-watcher at 10.

The first is my husband’s great-great-grandfather’s mantel clock, with its ornate brass lions, rings and trims. But I like the other best, a modest crystal clock Hubby gave me for Christmas long ago.

A note accompanied it: “My love for you is timeless.”

Clock-watcher or not, exercise-bike rider or chocolate-eating slacker, I have time for that.

Anytime.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: When do you watch the clock?

Gripes vs. Gratitude

Do you enjoy a good gripe?

Me, too. The recent election itches like a mosquito bite. I scratch and complain as if that will make it all better.

Maybe, as Mom often said, I should leave it alone so it will heal?

Better yet, applying something soothing — like gratitude — speeds the process. Even …

Gratitude for Weird Things

For example, I’m thankful pumpkins don’t grow on trees. Falling pumpkins every autumn would prove traumatic. Messier to rake, too.

I’m thankful for Indianapolis International Airport shuttle buses. Even when passengers can’t remember in which state they landed — let alone, parking row numbers — drivers remain courteous and coherent. Which is more than I am at midnight.

As we’re discussing air travel, I give thanks for screaming babies. They make me grateful to be old.

Not too old, though, to appreciate new bell bottoms for which I paid $4.80. Retro fashion, retro price! The only down side: the last time I wore bell bottoms, I didn’t, um, possess one.

Still thinking retro, I’m grateful I no longer endure home permanents or soup-can curlers.

I’m thankful, too, that unlike my first year of driving (two wrecks), I have driven accident-free for years.

I remind myself to give thanks at stoplights for drivers with honking disease. They strip away any religious façade: Will I swear or pray?

So far, prayers way outnumber swear words — though a few prayers have consisted of, “Lord, strike that guy’s battery dead.”

Oops. My “gratitude” is beginning to itch.

Changing the subject … I am grateful for Britisher Thomas Hancock (1786-1865), who invented elastic. At Thanksgiving, real waistlines might prove fatal.

I am incredibly thankful for my favorite Thanksgiving foods: pie, pie and pie! I’m also blessed with my sweet mother-in-law, a wonderful pie baker. And my kind father-in-law.

Also, my funny, ornery, 91-year-old dad. When I phone, he always answers, “Rachael who?” As long as he doesn’t turn polite, I don’t worry.

Speaking of near and dear, I should express gratitude that my love is not a vampire. Or zombie. Just a camper. Though some friends would rather deal with the other alternatives, I’m happy with my guy. Among other considerations, he pumps gas, even if I’m driving. Always.

I’m also thankful that as empty nesters, we no longer must be good examples. Feet on the furniture, supper in front of TV, yelling at referees — life together is good.

Fortunately, our children and their spouses are good examples. They have given us seven awesome grandkids who have taught us peace and quiet are highly overrated.

We are so thankful. When I think of those blessings and a gazillion more …

What gripes?

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What reasons for gratitude help dissolve your gripes?

The Eyes Have It

My stylish glasses worn in fifth grade.

“Rachael needs glasses.”

My mother stared at my teacher. Neither she nor Dad wore glasses. How could their six-year-old mistake “Dick” for “Jane” on the blackboard? But my siblings also misread “Boys” and “Girls” on restroom doors. Mom soon made weekly visits to the grocery and the optometrist’s.

Meanwhile, my husband languished with poor vision longer than his parents realized. They coaxed him to the optometrist’s, promising his bat would connect with the baseball better.

“Ball?” Steve said. “They throw a ball?”

As a Phillips, he probably took good care of his glasses.

My siblings and I, however, used them as fresh opportunities to annoy our parents. We don’t recall the color of brother Ned’s glasses because Mom was always swathing his bent/ fractured/twisted spectacles with new duct tape.

We all discovered innovative ways to lose our glasses. We left them on school lunch trays. Baby brothers flushed them down toilets and dropped them down heating vents. On vacation, Jean left her glasses in Louisville … or Memphis? The wind blew mine from my face as I rode in the back of Dad’s pickup.

My high school singing group, Debuteens. I’m sitting on the front row, far right, sans glasses.

Eventually, I graduated to the ultimate cool: contact lenses. Why I bothered, I don’t know. My bangs reached my nostrils. My own mother had forgotten my eye color. Eyes? What eyes?

I couldn’t wear soft lenses, so I paid hard-earned dollars for pieces of glass I stuck into my eyes like tacks. They worked great — except on sunny, dry days. Or cold, windy days. Or when I opened my eyes.

After several masochistic years, I decided they weren’t worth it. My boyfriend-turned husband didn’t mind my glasses at all. Not surprisingly, we produced three bespectacled children.

Inheriting my fussy corneas, our eldest gave up on contacts, too. Apparently, gentlemen still made passes at lasses in glasses, because her future husband saw past hers. When our family shed spectacles for a swim, though, he discovered we couldn’t tell time on the hotel’s large clock.

“I can almost see numbers,” our daughter said.

“I can make out the hands,” I told him. “Sort of.”

“What clock?” said Hubby and our son in unison.

Brave soul, the boyfriend married into our family anyway.

Eventually, I did the bobble-headed thing while adjusting to new bifocals. Now the media hypes laser surgery for cool Boomers.

I prefer to blow my wad elsewhere. Besides, not-so-great vision can prove positive.

Seeing the blackboard clearly for the first time, my six-year-old self never would have believed it. At this life stage, though, Hubby and I don’t miss seeing gray hairs, wrinkles or love handles.

A little blindness can be a blessing.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Describe your first pair of glasses. Or do you possess perfect vision?

Cars Hate Me

When purchasing a car, I emphasize one feature, difficult to judge when the shiny vehicle is on its best behavior.

Will this car like me?

Some have detested me the moment I sat behind the wheel, e.g., my driver’s education car. Like my teacher, Mr. Doom, the brand-new Cutlass hated all four of us women drivers.

My fellow driver, Linda, paid it back by sideswiping a telephone pole. We learned about police procedure, an educational experience that would serve me well in future, um … situations.

I practiced frequently, using my parents’ dinosaur-sized station wagon. Long before email, that car notified our neighborhood and took bets whether I’d hit something.

When I backed the behemoth, it aimed straight for our neighbor’s driveway. I usually missed her car. But not her roses.

Eventually, I passed driver’s ed, but the DMV examiner’s car didn’t like me. I flunked.

My second attempt, I passed! Neither the DMV car nor the examiner wanted to see me again.

After a few accidents (Not my fault, really!), I experienced a reprieve from mean cars. During college, I was too poor to own one.

Until our honeymoon, when we borrowed a car that died only on left turns.

Even the first car we owned, a deceptively cute, green Opel, hated me. It emitted puffs of smoke when I forgot to take off the parking brake. The Opel delighted in springing leaks in unfindable places.

A later car, my Pontiac, initially seemed reliable. However, it nearly exploded when I drove to a neighboring city to rescue my sister. Her car hated her, too.

Looking back on my ownership history, I should have blamed my mother, who also attracted nasty cars. One barge-sized LTD ground out weird noises as we ascended Oregon’s Strawberry Mountain. I insinuated the car might be disintegrating.

She shrugged. “Oh, honey, that’s just the transmission.”

Mom let the cars know who was boss. Despite hostile vehicles — and, occasionally, police officers — she lived to be 84.

Some insist my continuing problems aren’t the car’s, but mine. They predict as I grow older, cars will like me even less.

Modern technology, though, has created self-driven cars, a solution my children may embrace on my behalf. However, having set up safe routes in my car, they probably won’t teach me how to program it.

They underestimate their mother.

I simply will consult a five-year-old great-grandchild: “Honey, here’s a Jolly Rancher and $1,000” — hey, inflation will hit bribery, too — “if you’ll just program this car to take me to Hawaii.”

My self-driven machine may not like me.

But that newly rich little kindergartner will.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you ever own a lemon?

End-of-Summer Reflections

Do you like that word, “reflections”? When young, I identified it with the forced reading of smarmy poetry, staring at my navel, and/or listening to some windbag.

I will never inflict such harm on my readers. I keep my lousy poetry to myself. I never coerce anyone into studying her belly button. As for my being a windbag — perish the thought!

Having dispelled these unfortunate associations, let us return to my profound end-of-summer reflections:

  • Regardless of propaganda touting it as the ingredient for pizza, smoothies and cheesecakes, nobody likes kale.
  • My husband’s “short” bike rides require a passport.
  • Grandbabies’ discriminating palates prefer four summer food groups: sand, mud, gravel and sticks.
  • My palate also dictates four summer food groups: butter pecan, salted caramel fudge, chocolate almond, and Moose Tracks.
  • A related reflection: Skinny, beautiful people on TV drool over yogurt, but they never, ever will convince us it can replace ice cream.
  • I sleep with only a sheet, but still need a quilt on my feet.
  • If we water gardens to induce rain, the clouds know.
  • Also, the probability of rain is in direct proportion to the amount we spent on Cubs tickets.
  • If not for relatives’ summer visits, would the carpet get swept from June through September?
  • Nobody really likes an ecologically diverse yard. Or wants me to preserve the prairie.
  • Morning glories I plant always shrivel as if my trellis were radioactive. Yet a thousand healthy, nasty lovelies strangle my cucumbers.
  • Deer who scavenge neighborhoods never eat crabgrass.
  • Scratching sounds in an attic mean raccoons have started a summer obstetric ward there — or mosquitoes have grown bigger than I expected.
  • While rainy days ruin human vacations, my fern, Carolyn, considers steamy conditions a five-star experience.
  • If you live by a lake, visit kin who live by a different lake. Hurry, because it’s almost fall, and that’s the only way you’ll get a free vacation, too.
  • I and other Stain Queens should be forbidden by law to wear white pants.
  • People who grill only vegetables are not to be trusted.
  • If a certain age, never shop the weekend before school starts. You will park in a different zip code. You also will return home with 143 15-cent notebooks.
  • Ferris wheels at county fairs still fill me with six-year-old wow.
  • After a lifetime of watching people voluntarily buying cotton candy, I still haven’t figured out why.
  • Finally, when police know campers next to your site on a first-name basis, pitch a tent in your backyard instead.

Yes, summer will fade, but never fear. I soon will supply my readers with a whole new set of reflections — autumn reflections.

Not that I’m a windbag, or anything. …

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What end-of-summer musings fill your mind?

Grandmas Shop the Sales

For years, my friend Dana and I have met every shopping challenge known to womankind. Blessed with two daughters apiece, we survived the daunting task of finding clothes for bloomers, early and late. Dana and I practiced motherly glares and “Because I said so!” drills for prom season. When the girls all married, we scoured stores for mother-of-the-bride dresses that wouldn’t age us on contact or ready us to dance on the reception tables. Together we played, grayed and prayed through decades of shopping.

Little did we know our retail history would prepare us for the ultimate shopping experience: buying for grandchildren. Serious business, right? We prepare for action by regularly polishing our credit cards.

We go in Dana’s car because she has fewer accidents. Also, her car features dual heating controls so we don’t hot flash each other to death.

First things first: Grandmas, in their feeble state, need energy to stimulate the economy. At the restaurant, our waitress brings extra rolls, dripping with butter, along with hypocritical salads.

At the mall, we try to take interest in clothing purported to fit us. But what grandma wants to face her body in fitting-room triplicate?

Much more fun to buy clothes for grandchildren. Like well-trained hounds, Dana and I follow the sales scent to 80-percent-off signs. We scout baby departments, hungry for the softness of little sleepers and onesies.

We’re such a seasoned team that we don’t need phones. If we chase our prey into separate departments, we rendezvous for critiques and/or celebrations at exactly the right moment. Like Vikings, Dana and I methodically plunder each store until salespeople tremble. The whole retail world is at our mercy until—

Until we encounter racks of lacy velvet dresses at 80-percent off.

Our daughters prefer practical clothes for their children.

Don’t they understand grandmothers do not live by denim alone? We want pictures of little princesses clad in scratchy Cinderella gowns. We want grandsons to wear ties they will soak in ketchup. We covet fairy-tale photos we can show off to friends, relatives and strangers at convenience stores.

But our children frown. Sigh.

To console ourselves, Dana and I make a beeline to the cookie store. After several rounds of favorites, plus diet Pepsi, we agree we are blessed, Cinderella or no Cinderella.

We drag our bags outside. After sociable trips through the parking lot, greeting others who cannot find their cars, we remember we entered through Appliances, not Intimates. Dana hits her remote again. Her car grumbles when we load it till it barely clears the ground.

Grandma sales mission accomplished.

For now.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Can you recall a favorite shopping trip?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: The Morning After

Never too early for a smile!

*Note* No unblurred photo is possible because he never stops moving.

O my God, Hubby and I are so glad we could be present for our youngest grandsons’ dedication to You. Thank You for their wiggling, jiggling, giggling joy in living! Though, OMG, after a weekend together, guess who needs an all-day nap?

 

The Bouncy Life

When I was a pre-schooler, jumping on a bed made perfect sense. Sleeping? Resting?

Bor-ing.

Why flop like an emptied-out Raggedy Ann when I could soar like Peter Pan?

Boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba—

My parents, official killjoys of the universe, decreed I take naps, not turn somersaults. Lying still took 10 times more energy.

Why did those fun monkeys stop jumping on the bed just because of the doctor’s orders? The doctor also gave shots. Who in her right mind would trust him, anyway?

Despite adult meddling, children continue to jump on beds — until they graduate to trampolines.

In my first up-close-and-personal encounter with one in high school gym class, little-kid instincts came roaring back. This magic trampoline would morph me, with my uncoordinated-octopus body, into a graceful gymnast.

I climbed aboard. My P.E. teacher droned instructions.

What? I had to jump straight up and down? Teachers showed no more imagination than parents.

She called, “Try a knee drop.”

In order to wow the world and the guys’ class across the gym, I bounced …

Higher.

Higher.

HIGHER.

“Take it easy,” she cautioned.

What did she know? Boom-ba-boom-ba—

PLOP.

Ouch.

I had just demonstrated before God — and the boys’ gym class — the land version of a face-busting, ego-crushing belly flop.

They all smothered grins.

My teacher didn’t smile. She checked to see if I was alive. Then she did her best to kill me.

Grandma took this pic while still safe on the ground!

Maybe the bouncy life wasn’t so great.

Fast-forward 40-plus years.

“Grandma, jump with us!” My grandsons, ages four and seven, bounce on their trampoline.

My jump-on-the-bed instincts pop up. Shedding shoes, I stare at the trampoline. Don’t these things come equipped with stairs now? Escalators? Cranes?

“Climb up,” one grandson urges.

The little one offers, “I help you, Gwandma!”

I hoist and heave. The boys yank on me like two ants with a watermelon.

Finally, I sprawl over the edge.

“Ya-a-a-y! Jump!” Both shoot into the air like twin rockets. Boom-ba-boom-ba—

Bleeeaaah. My stomach jiggles. So does my bladder. My internal organs love gravity way, way too much.

Still, I play bounce tag with my grandsons for a few minutes. Will my body parts ever return to their original location?

Soon I resort to the usual grandma functions: applauding, refereeing and preventing the destruction of the universe — at least that of my grandchildren, their backyard and adjoining properties.

Finally, they flop onto their backs and I with them. We discuss why God made the sky blue and trees green, instead of the other way around.

The bouncy life is fun. But know what? This looks like a really good place … for a nap … zzzzz.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever tried to return to the bouncy life?

Little Choir Boy’s First Concert

My little choir boy.

Though I never would have told him, my eight-year-old grandson resembled a cherub, with blond, adorably mussed hair and big blue eyes.

Instead of wings and a halo, however, a choir T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes betrayed terrestrial origins. Fifty other similarly-clad choir “angels” appeared equally earthbound.

A couple possessed wild hair that defied mom-smeared pomades. Some faces betrayed streaks of hastily gulped suppers.

All had practiced at 7:15 a.m. for weeks. They weren’t even paid overtime.

Weary, yet eager parents awaited the first song. Sleeping babies hung around necks like 15-pound ornaments. Surrounded by tantrum-throwing toddlers and texting teens, these mothers and fathers still showed up to support their kids.

With the first tuneful voices, quiet spread like a sweet epidemic.

Grandparents sucked in the children’s fresh melodies, a Fountain of Youth elixir. We wouldn’t trade these seats for any in Carnegie Hall.

Though I’d liked to have sat closer, where I could video without standing on my chair.

People behind me might have preferred that, too.

So whispered my daughter as she yanked me down.

“But those grandmas do it.” I pointed toward other seniors, poking up through the crowd like prairie dogs.

She hissed, “If you don’t sit, no ice cream.”

Gasp! I obeyed.

An older choir, wearing favorite team hats, sang a spirited rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

They even sang harmony. If only someone would send these kids to Chicago to do the seventh-inning stretch.

When the third-grade choir strutted their vocal stuff, they sang a memorized song in German. On key, even — unlike many restaurant servers who attempt “Happy Birthday.”

Recently enduring a nearly unrecognizable serenade to a neighboring table, I threatened Hubby with a seafood fork if he revealed it was my birthday, too.

But my grandson’s choir gave me fresh hope that good singing won’t become a lost art.

So did his director, who with gentle, iron words and sweeping gestures, inspired beauty in a hundred kids. Plus, she kept them from killing each other.

Thank God for my little choir boy, who patiently endured a photo op afterward. His great-grandparents sang as they worked, played and prayed. Ditto for grandmas and grandpas, who grew up harmonizing with their families in the car and singing in school and church choirs. So did his golden-voiced daddy and mama.

Maybe, as I did in the past, this little guy will strike deals with fellow servers, earning extra tips when he solos on “Happy Birthday” to diners.

Surely, more applause will await him in his musical future as he shares the song in his heart —helping other hearts sing, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What were your favorite grade-school songs?