Tag Archives: Moms

Who Comforted Whom?

This past weekend, when our two-almost-three-year-old grandson was staying with us, an odd November tornado also dropped by our area for a visit.

Thankfully, our little guy slept through much of the storm, then seemed to enjoy the novelty of the accompanying power outage. We cuddled and read stories by the light of a camping lantern and flashlights and sang songs about the wise man who built his house upon a rock.

We comforted him when the thunder and lightning and wind grew too scary. But the scenario reminded me of years ago when my little ones — and a God surprise — comforted me.

Purple-blue clouds raged and roiled in the yellowish sky. Enormous trucks roared around us on the interstate through curtains of blinding rain, shaking my little car like a wet terrier. Tornado warnings crackled on the radio. But my preschooler played contentedly with her Barbie® Dolls in the backseat. My two-year-old munched the crackers I’d given him.

How I envied their serene trust in me! If only I possessed such faith.

“Let’s pray Jesus will take care of us!” I said in the bright mommy-tone I always use when all is lost.

They bowed their heads and folded chubby hands. Their sweet prayer calmed my terrors.

“Look!” I cried.

An exit loomed ahead. We would leave this nightmare and seek shelter!

Even as I pulled into a truck stop and parked, the rain began to diminish.

My little children taught me a little about faith.

I turned to my children, almost crying with joy. “Jesus is with us!”

“’Course He is.” The two-year-old stared at me. “I see Him.”

“No, honey,” I patted his little hand. “We can’t see Jesus. But He’s with us all the time.”

My toddler looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Jesus is right there, Mommy!”

My stomach, which had quieted, lurched anew. “Wh-where?” The hair on my neck prickled. “Where’s Jesus?”

He pointed an indignant finger. “There!

Slowly I turned around, quaking.

On a nearby semitrailer, a huge colorful mural of the smiling Savior with wide-open arms offered us a hug.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you remember when children taught you a thing or two?

 

 

Oh, Baby!

Each day, young mothers parade past my window, taking children to the nearby elementary school.

I feel for pregnant moms whose steps slow as the months pass. Although decades have gone by, I remember well those exhausting days. I doubt these lovely young women believe their husbands’ reassurance any more than I believed mine, who told me I was beautiful.

What insanity had blinded his usual astute vision? Seven months pregnant with our first child, I felt like a walking ottoman.

“Turn around.” Hubby gave me a gentle push. “Look in the mirror. See? From the rear, you can’t even tell you’re pregnant.”

“So if I just walk backwards, nobody will know?”

“It means you’ll lose weight fast after the baby’s born.” A family practice resident at the local hospital, he knew how to handle cranky women in their last trimester.

I kissed him goodbye. Would I splurge and take the bus to my part-time job or ride my bike through our quiet neighborhood? I grinned. Each time I rode up on my three-speed, Mr. Plunkett, an older man in my office, threw his window open in horror.

Mrs. Phillips!” he shouted. “Come in and put your feet up!”

He always brought me a glass of water. Where was my mother? Did my husband really find this acceptable?

But graying skies made a ride risky. Mr. P. might have a coronary if I rode up amid thunder and lightning. So I decided to take the bus.

I donned my pink maternity outfit and slipped into comfortable shoes I’d bought when I no longer could see my feet. I arrived at the bus stop five minutes early, drifting into daydreams of nursery rhymes and rock-a-bye songs.

“Hey, Pink Pants!” Masculine voices called over my shoulder. Long whistles echoed through the air. “Hey, baby! Oh, baby!”

I stared at my stomach, confused. Sure, I was going to have a baby, but—? I cast a cautious glance behind.

Two linemen, perched atop an electrical pole, hooted at me. And yes, unless I had lost feminine instincts along with my waistline, ear-to-ear lecherous smiles gleamed on their faces.

Blank disbelief washed over me—then a joyous rush of wickedness. But Niceness pointed a finger at me, and I wavered. Should I? Or shouldn’t I?

I turned around and waved sweetly at my admirers, who nearly fell to the ground.

I waddled up the steps onto the bus. As it rolled away, I watched them hugging the pole, trying in vain to hide scarlet, guilty faces.

“Whoa, baby,” I whispered to my stomach. “You’re already knocking ’em off their feet.”

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite prego story?

Infallible Camping Lists

When our children were small, I maintained a camping list as complicated as a theological treatise. It grew so wise and wonderful that our daughter, now taking her family camping, borrowed it. “I don’t want to forget anything.”

Ha! Campers always forget something.

I balked at handing over my ragged, penciled/inked, 25-year-old list. Part of me celebrated. No more worries about taking Scooby-Doo Band-Aids, the only kind our five-year-old would accept. But I sniffled anew over our empty nest.

I sobbed, “My camping list. …”

Hubby’s face stiffened in his familiar you’re-insane-but-I-won’t-say-it expression. He didn’t protest, “But you hate lists.” Or even, “You didn’t lose it 25 years ago?”

Still, he couldn’t comprehend how listings of bug spray and Imodium® evoked tender memories a mother could cherish.

He did offer to make a new list.

Eyes shining, he plopped beside me. “What do we want on our camping list?”

“We”? I had sort of wanted to do … anything else.

He read me. “If we collaborate, we won’t forget anything.”

We discovered — gasp! — that we define “essentials” differently.

He cannot survive without disgustingly healthy oatmeal raisin cookies. I refuse to leave the driveway without my beloved Pecan Sandies Shortbread cookies. We do agree that a hike without trail mix is like a cruise — not that we’ve taken one — without a buffet.

Hubby stood firm on one point: no melty, messy chocolate chips.

I stood firm. Trail mix without chocolate is not trail mix.

Believe it or not, we completed the list before Christmas.

In hopes of rescuing your future campouts, I include tips on camping items that should never be forgotten:

  • Rain tarp. Leave behind extra clothing (who cares what you look/smell like?). But don’t forget a rain tarp, for which — at 2 a.m., with water drip-drip-dripping on your forehead and your children/grandchildren floating away — you would pay a million dollars.
  • Buckets. Bailing with your spouse’s shoe will make a tenuous situation worse.
  • Coffee. Overlook a drinker’s joe or means to brew it, and she may tie you to a tree and invite bears to dinner.
  • Entrance rug. Leave it behind just once and you’ll sleep with a stampede of muddy footprints across your pillow.
  • Pillows. You may have included enough bags of marshmallows to substitute, but you’ll share your sleeping bag with a tribe of hungry raccoons.
  • Swimsuit. Bring both pieces.
  • Blanky. Do not forget your child’s blanky, eyeless teddy bear or one-armed Barbie® Doll. If you do, for the sake of the entire campground, be prepared to break into a small-town Walmart at 3 a.m. to find a substitute.
  • Soap. Finally, pack separate soaps. Otherwise, you might find yourself outside the men’s showers, yelling at your dearly beloved to remember your needs, then explaining them to the park ranger.

The good news: even if we’ve forgotten camping list essentials, we’re still married.

But with a new, untried list … with no Scooby-Doo Band-Aids … will we survive the next camping trip?

 Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What item would make the top of your list? (Hint: Room service does not count.)   

The First-Day-of-School Drill

Empty nesters like me have forgotten the, er, thrill of the first-day-of-school drill, right?

Not quite.

I may forget where I left my car … in my garage, because I walked to the store.

But I still can feel Mom brushing my hair into a tight ponytail that relocated my eyes. Before the bus arrived, she asked if I’d changed my underwear, then hugged me goodbye.

Clutching a box of unbroken crayons, I entered a classroom that smelled of chalk dust and my teacher’s flowery perfume.

We were issued information cards to give our parents. I could read and knew my address and phone number. One blank, however, stumped me.

After school, I asked Mom, “What’s sex?”

She straightened.  “Honey, where did you hear about sex?”

“It’s on the cards—”

What cards?”

“The school cards.” I handed her mine.

Why did she chuckle? “The school wants to know if you’re a girl or boy.”

“I’m a girl!” Mystery solved. I felt immense relief.

She probably felt more.

Fast-forward 25 years. My eldest, starting kindergarten, also knew how to read. We had practiced our address and phone number. I had instructed her about sex blanks.

She donned her Strawberry Shortcake backpack. I plunked my toddler into a stroller.

The school, though located across the street, seemed a world away.

“Time to go,” I said brightly.

“I want to go by myself.”

My heart shriveled.  “But—but—all the other mothers get to come.”

“I don’t want you to come.”

“You might get lost!”

“We visited my room. Two whole times.”

How had she mastered a teenage eye-roll? “Uh—”

She looked carefully both ways and crossed the street. But at the school’s entrance, she paused.

She needed me! To my two-year-old’s delight, the stroller and I galloped madly toward the school.

But my kindergartener had disappeared.

Now I paused, chewiing my nails. Should I risk another eye-roll?

Instead, I slunk home and suffered. Had my child indeed found her classroom?

Or had aliens abducted her?

When the school’s dismissal bell rang, the sight of the familiar little figure saved my life. “How was school?”

“Okay. But I didn’t like the cookies.”

She’d found her room! She’d filled out her information card herself. She knew her sex.

But she had balked at the teacher’s listing her race as white. “I told her you said I was pinky-beige.” My daughter groused, “She put a ‘W’ in the blank anyway!”

Apparently, my child had taken our racial discussions to heart. …

Ah, the first day of school. I may be a spectator now, but I haven’t forgotten the thrill of the drill.

As if I ever could.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What first-day-of-school memory stands out for you?

Sweet Summer Brew for Yankees

The sun bestows its Midas touch on the flavorful brown brew in my oversized glass, stuffed with ice cubes, chilly rivelets running down its sides.

Does anyone speak of this popular summer beverage as “iced tea”?

Only dictionaries, menus, maître d’s — and column writers who must meet editing standards — have touted good ol’ ice tea with the superfluous “d.”

As southern temperatures soar, my Louisiana relatives greet visitors with a simple “Ya’ll come in and have some tea.”

If you, too, are a Yankee, please note: Never ask if the tea is sweetened or unsweetened.

“Unsweetened? In this house?”

Loyal southern citizens would rather fight the Civil War again than drink unsweetened tea. Even consumers who add artificial sweeteners warrant watching.

So I will try to lose weight before my September visit.

The locals drink it even at breakfast. Just recalling childhood memories of endless frosty glasses consumed while eating huge sorghum-laced biscuits adds layers to my physique.

My mother, though she did not possess the southern genetic code necessary to produce true sweet tea, was an exceptionally wise Yankee. As a young wife, she studied her in-laws’ iced-tea technique and learned the correct way to dump endless scoops of sugar into hers.

For years, Mom’s sweet tea helped cool and fuel her skinny little kids throughout sweltering summers. She steeped teabags in a pan with a ceramic lining — why, I don’t know, but I followed her lead for years. While it brewed, she recruited a child to “throw ice.” Money being short, she never considered store-bought bags. Trayfuls lasted mere minutes. Instead, Mom filled gallon milk cartons with water and froze them. We children took these cartons to our solid cement porch and threw them.

Most of the time, deliberately breaking anything resulted in an immediate Judgment Day. Part of the perk of throwing ice included the soul-satisfying shatter, classified, unbelievably, as “helping Mom.”

When Dad arrived, brown and weary from hammering nails on a sizzling roof or covered with paint, she filled a jar with cracked ice and poured her blessed sweet tea over it, resurrecting his body and soul.

A half century later, I know pitchers of sweet tea will await me when I visit Dad, along with glasses chock-full of ice. No pumpkin chai or caramel truffle for us, and never decaffeinated.

He and my relatives know better than to mess with a great brew.

Better than I, for the last time I visited, I asked, “Is this tea sweetened?”

 

 

What’s your favorite summer tea? Sweetened or unsweetened?

 

 

 

 

Little League Love

Fierce soprano voices yell “Hey, batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and often about as effective).

A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.

It’s the season of Little League Love.

Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are at a comfortable spectator stage, our children grown.

So I can actually watch games, which I rarely did during my son’s baseball career. Like many moms, I spent years sitting on the bleachers with eyes tightly shut, only opening them when I visited the concession stand.

We fans really try to behave. But when offspring are involved, the most righteous dad sometimes lets loose a tirade. The gentlest, sweetest grandma grows fangs when the umpire dares call her grandson out.

Of course, I never acted like that. I do, however, admit to going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom. My friend loudly informed her twelve-year-old that if he didn’t hit that ball, she was going to dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. High. And very loud.

Not only did our sons smack the ball as if their lives depended on it, we inspired the entire team.

Yet despite our critical role in the victory, nobody put our names on their trophy. Where was the Mom love in that?

A roar from the present crowd brings me back from nostalgia. On this diamond, where younger teams play, contact with the ball almost guarantees a home run and most successful defense is purely accidental.

The players appear deeply serious, but the coaches are less, and the crowd has a ball. Some mothers even watch with their eyes open.

They contrast with their glazed-eyed kids, several of whom snore at their positions, the sun having set. An infield player makes interesting dance moves, but I don’t think he anticipates a Dancing with the Stars career. He forgot to visit the restroom earlier, so the compassionate umpire grants a special time out.

It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-maybe-not perspective. For parents who spend enough time to earn a college degree watching, waiting and transporting, Little League Love wears a little thin. But one sitting near us saw it as a win-win situation. If his son’s team won, they’d return the following night for another chance at the championship. If they lost, he could run a combine over his neglected lawn.

He’s a dad who cares, yet doesn’t care too much about the game’s outcome. And that’s the very best kind of Little League Love.

What’s your favorite kid baseball moment?

 

A Storm’s the Norm

In the Oregon desert where I lived two years, the few thunderstorms rated newspaper headlines. People ran for cover as if King Kong had invaded. They spoke in hushed tones of thunder, lightning and the deluge that made them search for the nearest Ark to rent.

Those storms hardly would have rated an umbrella in Indiana. Still, my father’s congregation trembled when he assumed the storm watcher persona he adopted long before The Weather Channel. Piles of purple clouds — if rotating, all the better — called for his scrutiny.

“Beautiful.” He’d wave a big, brown hand as if conducting a symphony. “Nothing grander.”

Mom, however, insisted that my siblings and I remain safe inside. How boring.

Later, back in Indiana, I was a passenger in a car that defied a white sheet of rain stretched across the road. Tree branches ripped, grabbing sparking power lines as they crashed. A chimney exploded.

The driver very appropriately prayed, “Dear Jesus, keep us safe. But if not, please take us to heaven.”

This struck me as unnecessarily pessimistic. In one of my less holy moments, I yelled at the top of my 18-year-old lungs, “Knock it off, Jo. Quit giving me last rites, okay?”

God in His mercy listened to Jo and ignored me.

I later succumbed to Boring Mother Disease during storm season. One spring, my small children and I spent so much time snuggled in our bathtub, they regarded it as a second library, the normal place to read storybooks.

My husband, bone-tired from a 24/7 medical practice, refused to budge from his nice warm bed just because pesky tornadoes suffered from insomnia.

Our next house featured an ancient basement. Hubby still favored Oz during tornado warnings. The kids and I, however, preferred the dungeon to our former cramped porcelain refuge. We added Play-Doh and Yahtzee tournaments to the storm regimen.

Now empty-nesters, Steve and I again live in a one-story ranch. Upon purchase, I assured myself that no storm could hoist my post-middle-age body more than a few feet.

Soon, however, lightning seemingly sizzled around my pillow, and moaning wind and rain drowned my husband’s snores. I craved my former dungeon, but tried to reassure myself.

You’ll laugh about this tomorrow.

The next morning, our ceiling had not moved. Peeking out windows, I saw no branches on the ground — not even many twigs. Why had I been such a nervous Nellie?

Then, opening a newspaper, I noticed a photo of our town’s Little League cement block dugout. A “small” tornado had dissected it.

Back to Bathtub Story Hour for me.

Are you a storm watcher? Or do you run for a basement–or bathtub?

Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome

[Note: Wrote this several years ago. But some things never change!]

The Center for Disease Control has never dealt with one of the most devastating maladies to afflict humankind: Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome.

Attacks can be prevented by regular doses of grandchildren. Too often, though, busy lives sidetrack good intentions, and early symptoms appear. These include showing photos to convenience store clerks and flagmen.

Untreated grandmas actually take on their grandchildren’s characteristics. In advanced cases, women throw tantrums if they can’t have chocolate milk or sandwiches without crusts or 17 readings of The Poky Little Puppy.

After the 18th reading, my husband no longer asked why I had to see our grandchildren. He packed my bag, filled up the car and clicked me into my car seat.

Grandkids during my early years of grandma withdrawal

Knocking on my daughter’s door, I felt an immediate surge of wellness. My granddaughter bounced onto my lap, asking if I’d buy Girl Scout Cookies. One grandson wanted me to play. A toddler Velcroed chubby arms around my knees and applied his snotty nose to my jeans. Could there be any better cure for Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome?

Despite my 10-box Thin Mints® purchase, I decorated cookies with my granddaughter. She noted frankly that ours were nothing like those baked by their perfect sitter.

Her brother and I played with Bendaroos, waxy, colorful, string things. He said he was making a purple caterpillar bigger than God.

“How big is God?” I asked.

He threw his hands open wide. God is 31 and 300 and thousands big! Bigger than the sun! Bigger than the sky!

“Is your caterpillar as big as the sun?”

He shook his head. Was his caterpillar as big as God? Another head shake.

Some adults refuse to admit that God’s handiwork outshines their own. But my grandson didn’t sweat it.

The toddler liked peekaboo games 20 hours straight. He cracked up when I poked my finger through holes in a plastic something or other from his toy box. I wiggled my finger. He giggled and fell down. Every time.

I returned home, health improved. But I’d barely unpacked when an SOS arrived: my younger daughter’s sitter fell through.

I braved snowy interstates to play with another twenty-month-old. Using a puppet, I devoured Fisher-Price “people” and spit them out 3,129 times with a loud “Ptui!” We raced cereal boxes. We practiced hugs and kisses. His “bye-bye” warmed me all the dark, icy way home.

I now owned jeans slimed by two toddlers, multitudes of unneeded cookies and a killer caterpillar smaller than God.

I was completely cured of Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome.

For a few days.

Your turn. Tell me, have you ever experienced Grandma Withdrawal Syndrome?

 

 

 

Birthday Magic

Today, my birthday eyes me from the calendar like a big dog craving a cheeseburger.

When did the magic disappear?

Me, age 5, proud of my birthday dress

Childhood

When I was little, February dragged in slow-mo. But TV’s Captain Kangaroo always sang and dedicated a candle-laden cake on my special day. (That he serenaded thousands of kids born in March didn’t occur to me.)

Mom asked what I would like for dinner. No washing dishes! I received gifts, including my first bicycle at age 11.

Hiking the distance to my magical 16th birthday took forever. Not only would I drive then, but pimples would vanish, and long-overdue curves would appear.

The next day, still cursed with a negative bust measurement, I suffered the first inklings of cynicism.

The Twenties

Five years later, even with girlfriends celebrating and 21 roses arriving from my long-distance fiancé, a cold, adult realization icicled the hoopla.

Birthdays wouldn’t stop.

The Thirties

When I turned 30, Hubby tried to soften the blow with a pretty plant — cheaper than roses. Our baby refrained from puking on me that day, though she refused to skip diaper changes.

Three children steered birthdays toward a new frontier of McDonald’s parties, giggly sleepovers and laser-tag wars. Years before, I didn’t think I’d live until my birthday. Now I hoped I would survive theirs.

Fellow mothers and I learned to recreate magic, commemorating each other’s birthdays with to-die-for cakes topped by only one candle and gifts we really wanted.

The Forties

The year my husband and I turned 40, birthday carolers wearing pajamas serenaded us. They brought a beautifully decorated cemetery cake, complete with a figure crawling out of a grave.

Hubby served on a board that accidentally established a unique birthday tradition. During a meeting, someone arranged for a cake to celebrate a new member’s birthday. The guy’s surprise was even bigger than we anticipated, as his birthday would not arrive for months. We had so much fun that wrong-day bashes for new members became a yearly ritual.

The AARPies

Years sprinted past, and my birthdays faded in favor of grandchildren’s head-splitting, joyous celebrations.

Not long ago, I changed decades. Immersed in a writing project, I barely looked up from my desk. A birthday only meant I was growing older, fatter and weirder.

Our son called. Could we meet at a coffeehouse in our old hometown?

Upon arrival, we didn’t see his car. I kidded, “Hope they remember they asked us.

Hubby smiled as he opened the door. Our children and their spouses hugged me. All the grandkids. And dear friends, gifts unmatched by any they could bring.

Birthday magic was back. Better than ever.

Has growing older proved magical for you lately?