Tag Archives: Moms

Ten Commandments for New Grandparents

More than 12 years ago, while eating out with our daughter and her husband, they informed us we would become grandparents the following spring.

I should have celebrated big time. After all, many grandma wannabes lock their children with spouses in guest rooms until they agree to produce offspring. I did not — not because I didn’t want to become a grandmother. I just planned to do it 100 years hence.

So I indulged in a few weeks of “But I don’t take Geritol.” Then I reacted like any grandma.

Now, after acquiring six grandchildren, I share the Ten Commandments for New Grandparents, based on what my husband and I have learned:

  • Commandment 1: When informed, thou shalt throw a New York City ticker-tape parade — unless thy children aren’t excited. In that case, distribute hugs, then throw a private ticker-tape parade.
  • Commandment 2: Thou shalt not demand to know the baby’s gender. Instead, use bribery. Offer a free college education early during the pregnancy, beating out the other set of grandparents. (Hint: Regardless of ultrasounds, you may exert your influence. For example, you can ensure a grandson’s birth by purchasing every little pink, ruffled dress within 50 miles.)
  • Commandment 3: Thou shalt express enthusiasm at thy children’s choice of names. Thou shalt not require them to name their child after you nor after Uncle Ferd, though your family has included a Ferd every generation the past 3,000 years. Instead, cheerfully enter into the family Bible the name of a video game warlord from the planet Pzorxx.
  • Commandment 4: When news of imminent birth reaches thee, thou shalt not assault the officer who stops thee for speeding. Thy new descendant does not need a convicted felon for a grandparent.
  • Commandment 5: Thou shalt enter labor and delivery only when asked. Then, thou shalt not point thy phone at the mother and tell her to smile.
  • Commandment 6: Thou shalt not mug visitors who dare suggest thy future Miss America is bald. See Commandment 4 regarding assaults.
  • Commandment 7: Thou shalt resist the urge to sterilize their family dog’s tongue.
  • Commandment 8: Thou shalt reassure the mother that newborn upchucking will not result in a reduced IQ.
  • Commandment 9: When events fall outside the other commandments, duct tape thy mouth — and that of thy spouse — shut. Then thou shalt cook, clean, and launder, bringing joy, gladness and clean underwear to their household.
  • Commandment 10: All of the days of thy life, thou shalt love, nurture, and pray for this grandchild. Then someday, with deep gratitude to God, hand these commandments over to thy children.

What commandments do you suggest make the new-grandparent list?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

christyrachaelcornmazeO my God, my grandson questioned my lack of a sense of direction: “Seriously, Grandma? You get lost in Walmart parking lots?” But when his mom, similarly flawed, and I barely made it alive out of a corn maze, he believed. OMG, thank You for guiding our paths, even when we are clueless.

Wild Mama

Every mother, no matter how devoted, experiences moments when she yearns to … go wild.

 I should have known on a day when I dared sleep in, trouble would soon follow.

Sleeping in was unknown luxury during my years as a young mother, a fairy-tale fantasy that inevitably dissolved in a shower of Cheerios and the wiggles and jiggles and messy, precious kisses of my preschoolers.

Sleeping in existed in a different solar system — or perhaps in a different galaxy far, far away.

But that knowledge evaporated as I lay in a bed I wouldn’t have to make, savoring the ecstasy of a quiet — yes, quiet — 16th-floor hotel room.

My husband already had left for his conference. I went wild and indulged in forbidden pleasures:  a cup of real coffee (double cream) in bed, steaming hot from the first mellow sip to the very last; a television program in which most people already knew how to count to ten; and a long, sinful bath filled to the top, with no Mr. Bubble or rubber duckies in sight.

After bathing, I ignored my ratty plaid bathrobe hanging on the hook. I didn’t decide what to wear. Instead, I wandered around the room, carefree and content as Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Prolonging my wild mama fling — unhampered by diaper bags, car seats, nap times or must-have blankies — I pondered how I would spend an entire day without children or Happy Meals.

Intoxicated with my liberty, I forgot my mother’s advice to always close the drapes and faced the room-sized picture windows. The panoramic view of city streets and smaller buildings far below dazzled my eyes, my soul. Embracing the endless, azure sky, I sang, “I’m free! Free!”

helicopterChuk-chuk-chuk-chuk-chuk! A dragonfly the size of a 60s Cadillac suddenly hovered by the window.

I hit the floor as if attacked by enemy fire. I yanked the bedspread (Too late?) across my prostrate, naked form.

Had he seen me?

The traffic helicopter pilot waved.

Then he and his mighty machine swept off to corners of the universe where other derelict mothers in need of reform might lurk.

How about you? Ever have a day when you morphed into a wild mama?

 

Living in God’s House

If asked my address as a six-year-old, I would have answered, “I live in God’s house.”

After missionary service, my family lived in two back rooms of our home church. We children didn’t know we were homeless and nearly penniless. Jesus, our invisible Best Friend, had invited us to stay with Him, like we did with cousins. Boy, were we lucky!

My mother, who made a home for us, no matter where we lived

My mother, who made a home for us, no matter where we lived

Our mother, having recently delivered her fourth child, might not have regarded this sojourn in God’s house so positively. Her life consisted of endless hundred-yard dashes to the restrooms located in the church’s foyer, kids hanging from her skirts. We took baths at sympathetic neighbors’.

My parents and baby brother slept in one room. The other contained a tiny kitchen, table and chairs, and a built-in wooden bed, where my preschool brother and I slept. Our toddler sister slept on a sofa pushed against it. The sofa’s curved back made a great slide. Every morning my brother and I zoomed down upon our sister in a glorious tangle of arms and legs.

Church trash cans hid treasures. After a wedding, my mother found discarded blue netting and made a glamorous dress for my doll.

“We’ll just steal this,” she’d said, laughing. She thought no more about it — until I told wide-eyed parishioners we stole church stuff.

The sanctuary proved the best perk. Our parents forbade us children to linger there after bathroom runs.  But exploring the sanctuary alone, we gained a kindergarten sense of the holy.

Sometimes I sat quietly and watched sunlight streaming into the huge, echo-y room. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. Though I didn’t know the Bible verse, I absorbed that truth in those serene, stolen moments.

The sanctuary gave us creative ideas. “If we filled up the baptistery, we could take baths there,” I suggested to Dad. “It would make a great swimming pool, too!”

He disagreed. But unknown to Dad, my brother and I walked along its narrow edge, pretending we were tightrope walkers.

We also discovered mysterious, shiny tubes inside the organ. I spread small hands gently over the piano’s keys, imagining myself playing God’s songs, like Mom.

We found free chewing gum stuck under the pews! Sadly, Mom did not recognize God’s miracle of provision. She made us spit it out.

My own children did not live like gypsies. My kids experienced unborrowed bathtubs, doll clothes that weren’t swiped from trash, and soft gum imprinted with no one else’s teeth. As a mom, I am thankful for such blessings.

Still, I would not trade those irreverently reverent days living in God’s house.

 

How did where you lived as a child influence you?

Driven Crazy!

CarMomGirl2Our children are grown, and their offspring have not yet reached their teens—a comfortable stage for all involved.

But that will change the day their oldest turns 16.

How can I forget that era? Our teens learned to drive. My husband and I learned to pray.

Our kids were responsible. So why did the sight of a driver’s education car squeeze my stomach even more than the course fees?

Some blame rests on Mr. Doom, my long-ago driver education teacher. His first words: “I don’t like women drivers.”

Among four 16-year-olds, we could not scrape up a single Y chromosome. If we girls took driver’s ed today, we could sue him for sexual harassment and his hideous neckties.

Instead, we gulped meekly and tried our best to kill him.

My friend Linda eclipsed us all by wrecking the department’s new 1970 Cutlass (odometer reading: 11 miles).

I attempted to console her: “You did what he said.”

How could Linda know that when Mr. Doom ordered, “Pull over,” he meant after we passed the telephone pole?

His inspirational thought for the day: “You’re all going to die within 10 years.”

But I survived. I even lived to list my minivan as my legal address during our children’s school years.

But me, their unofficial driving instructor? It was like Homer Simpson giving sensitivity lessons.

I did discover excellent practice sites. The first was our church parking lot. I felt Cemeterycloser to God there.

I found our second driving course at the cemetery, where most of the people were already dead.

Such parental dedication contributed to eventual success: all our children obtained drivers’ licenses. No longer did I drag out of bed to retrieve a teen worker at midnight. Nor did I risk mugging as I dozed in a dark parking lot, awaiting the end of a youth lock-in.

Instead, we parents languished at home, monitoring car rates on the Insurance Channel.

We were proud of our children’s safe driving records, though, crediting superior instruction, constant practice and boring cars. When our grandchildren turn 16, Steve and I will highly recommend the latter as an efficient means of ruining their fun.

Their parents will recall our shopping for their first cars. Chunky and colorless, the perfect choice sat, an empty space on either side (the other cars didn’t want to hang around it). The car had visited only the grocery, library and church with its aged owner. It had forgotten how to drive above 55.

bmw-dashboardYes, sirree, their dad and I had found the car. Teens couldn’t sin in that car if they had to.

Could they?

If they did, they’re still not telling.

 

How about your first car? Anything you’re not telling your folks, either?

 

Prayer for the First Day of School

Me, First Grade, Circa 1959

Me, First Grade, Circa 1959

I’m excited, though now I’m a spectator. When convoys of buses and SUVs queue up in front of schools and the local parade of backpack-carrying children and stroller-pushing mothers march past, I feel like throwing confetti.

But a crazy lady, hopping up and down, yelling her head off, might scare the kids. Instead, I offer a silent, heartfelt prayer. (That’s still legal, isn’t it?)

Father God,

 Thank you for this opportunity for thousands of children to gain an education.

 Many parents wondered if they and their offspring would live to see this day.

 The back-to-school sales proved rugged tests. Brave mothers mediated arguments about who-gets-what that made Middle East diplomacy seem easy. Girls tried on 51 pairs of jeans, alternating cell phone consultations with their friends and their parents’ bankers. Little brothers suffered untold anguish when forced to accompany families to Intimate Departments.

 By registration, some parents considered mortgaging their organs.

Thank you, Father, for talking them out of it. Thank You for never taking vacations during August, but remaining on the job to help everyone start the school year right.  

This first morning hasn’t been easy, though kids jumped out of bed like kangaroos. Showers commenced with a minimum of hot-water controversy. The second-grader even used soap. But the middle-schooler discovered her first zit, and the teen, having spent four hours battling a bad hair day, had to be chained in the SUV. 

Earplugs were distributed because of weeping and wailing.             

Not the teen’s. The mom’s, because she was sending her youngest to kindergarten. 

Who has experienced all of the above, plus planning lessons, decorating and attending group therapy sessions? Teachers, who wonder if their salaries will cover 963 boxes of Kleenex during flu season. 

Yet You, Lord, have brought them all to this special morning. 

Thanks for Your promise to be with everyone in coming days. New tennis shoes will blacken—by day two. Homework will be eaten by hungry dogs and sneaky computers. Trumpets will be forgotten/broken/hidden, or all of the above. Lesson plans that should soar will crash and burn. Taxi moms will handle schedules that defy the skills of an O’Hare International Airport flight controller. 

Amid all these, You are there, Lord—the Father and Teacher of millions. Even recess duty is not beyond Your love and expertise. 

You once were a student, so You know exactly how the first day of school feels. The second. And the one-hundred-third. 

So as the back-to-school parade marches by, we know You — Who are immortal and invisible — jump for joy on the curb, throwing confetti. Please bless these students, parents, teachers and staff, and give them their best year ever. Amen.

 

What is your prayer for the coming school year?           

           

 

 

 

 

 

Lovin’ that Summer Job

frog-fast-food-white“How do I find a job?” our eldest inquired. Then 16, she needed to support her shoe habit.

Nostalgia washed over me. My father helped me get my first job at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Because the boss knew Dad — a charming southern gentleman in work coveralls — he hired me, sight unseen.

No wonder you don’t see many Howard Johnson’s restaurants anymore.

I learned more about human nature there than if I’d pursued a Ph.D. in psychology.

I also waitressed one summer in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The town’s welcoming sign read, “Kill your wife in Klamath Falls, the Murder Capital of the World.”

My mother helped me get this job — were my parents trying to tell me something?

I worked night shift, serving inebriated cowboys who wore the menus and pulled me onto their laps. Thank goodness for the 4:30 a.m. arrival of gentlemanly garbage guys!

JanitorCartI switched to janitorial work, often a solo job. Cleaning men’s rooms, I, a college music student, sang loud, high operatic scales. Few guys attempted to use the facilities with Madame Butterfly on the premises. My brother and I tidied lawyers’ offices whose open bottles of whiskey smelled like floor stripper. We also cleaned Klamath County’s 86 phone booths. We ate greasy hamburgers, laughed, sang and spent our best time together.

Then I worked at a nursing home, caring for Alex, an elderly schizophrenic with light-bulb eyes. I also met gentle 90-year-old Minnie, who daily fried imaginary chicken for imaginary threshers, and Freddie, once a dapper young stagecoach driver. I often ducked John, who thought I was an island girl during World War II.

Gradually, I became accustomed to Stan’s Bath Ceremony. Each line of his accompanying song began with a string of profanity in Bohemian, followed by:

“Take off da shoes. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his shoes.

“Take off da socks. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his socks.

“Take off da shirt. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his shirt.

“AAAAAHHHHH!” This prelude to verse two was accompanied by a swing of his fist through the air. Once he donned a robe, though, Stan followed me docilely to the shower room.

My first permanent office job didn’t involve serving eggs to menu wearers or bathing Bohemians. Finally, I had arrived.

Within ten minutes I discovered summer jobs were only warm-ups for the real world. …

My daughter snare-drummed her fingers, bringing me out of my reverie. She repeated, as if I were mind-impaired: “Mom, how do you get a summer job?”

“Don’t worry, honey,” I assured her in my most motherly tone.

“I’ll help you find one.”

 

What was your most memorable summer job?

 

 

To Tan or Not to Tan?

Our truant sun, rumored to have defected to another solar system, finally has appeared. Throughout the Midwest, mothers pull plugs and hide batteries, demanding their offspring “go outside and play!”

For generations, these card-carrying members of The Great Mother Conspiracy have specialized in kicking kids out of the house.

However, during the 60s, moms spouted unique wisdom: “Sunshine’s good for you!”

We needed vitamin D, or some such thing.

Ha! Had I not read of Laura Ingalls Wilder, forced to wear sunbonnets to keep her skin white? My own grandmother donned sunbonnets while gardening or bringing the cows home.

Why, on sizzling days, couldn’t I stay inside and read? At Mom’s bidding, however, (and because she locked the screen behind us), I obeyed, accumulating a dark tan.

SunglassesLotionDuring adolescence, my desperate friends, afflicted with peaches-and-cream complexions and tiny allowances, smeared baby oil (with and without iodine) from head to toe, frying in backyards. Affluent palefaces bought trendy suntan lotions guaranteed to turn them into California girls. Instead, orange-streaked and -striped, they resembled Tony the Tiger.

Regardless, orangeness equaled popularity. I, blessed/cursed with a natural tan, sighed for such status.

Regardless of skin tones, all “lay out.” Working assiduously on my tan, I nevertheless concealed a deep, dark secret: I disliked it. Lying out resembled the Mother Conspiracy command to “go outside and play.”

The similarity should have roused parental sympathy as they watched us loll on blankets, listening to transistor radios. Yet they could not comprehend how hard we were working.

TannedFeetWhat could you expect from moms who tanned only while weeding gardens and chasing after kids? From dads who sported farmer tans? When parents insisted on family beach time, we teens spread our towels far away, lest their chubby, lily-white backs and bellies shame us.

I, suffering a bald father who wore a hat while water skiing, spread mine in the next county.

By the time I frequented kiddie pools with my toddlers, the Great Mother Conspiracy did a 180-degree turn. Expensive sun block replaced expensive suntan lotion. No evil sunshine would attack our babies!

The tanning industry responded with infinite wisdom: free sunshine was bad, but expensive tanning beds would make us sexy, increase I.Q.s, and free us from excess cash cluttering our lives.

Hubby and I keep our cash and slather on sun block. I still prefer hot summer afternoons inside with a good book. But he slaps on sun block, then hands me the tube.

“It’s hot outside,” I whine.

He tugs me free from the sofa’s soft, seductive clutches. “Exercise is good for you.”

Sigh. How long before medical authorities and The Great Mother Conspiracy overturn that one?

 

Have you ever worked hard on your tan? What was your favorite tanning concoction?

Summer: the Season of Flip-flops

June — and flip-flops — have invaded America for the season, appearing in offices, fancy restaurants and even at weddings. But the change in footwear reflects only a tiny fraction of our monumental summer lifestyle shift.

Flip-flopped Schedules

School is out, graduates have flipped tassels, and parents/teachers/students have flip-flopped their schedules. School buses hibernate, and millions of children remain at home to spend quality time with beloved siblings.

College kids also have abandoned books, eight-o’clock classes and the joys of dormitory living to converge on home. All to spend quality time with their parents’ Internet, refrigerators and car keys.

Flip-flopped Fun Time

We empty nesters change our stodgy ways, as relatives and friends — freed from winter’s icy grasp — target travel in all fifty states, particularly those where mooching a free month’s lodging is legal. Especially if we nesters live near the ocean, the mountains or Disney World.

In view of the above, Congress should enact a law that establishes a ceiling on laundry levels, especially beach towels and sheet changes. No wife, mother or hostess should awaken on a sunny morning to find herself a victim of a hostile laundry takeover.

Flip-flopped Food

Also, before Congress adjourns for a well-deserved (?) vacation, why not demand laws requiring automatic shut-offs on kitchen ranges from June through August? After all, salad actually tastes yummy during summer. Although in a dietary flip-flop, ice cream does, too.

I vote for ice cream.

And for s’mores. I dislike marshmallows, yet when summer arrives, I admit an urge to bury myself in bear-infested woods, building campfires whereby I roast them (marshmallows, not the bears) and me. I sacrifice delicious chocolate bars and perfectly good graham crackers by slathering them with marshmallows, even feeding s’mores to my grandchildren.

Dastardly grandma crimes of this magnitude committed in February might evoke stern frowns from nutritionally correct parents. But what can they say, when possessed by similar summer madness, they probably buy them deep-fried Oreos at county fairs?

Flipped

Occasionally, the carefree, “whatever” lifestyle of summer does us in. Maybe we’ve listened to “Good Vibrations” too many times with the car windows down. Sniffed one too many citronella candles. Carried too many pounds of sand in the seats of our bathing suits.

Perhaps months of wearing flip-flops not only have affected our arches, but also our brains.

But isn’t summer worth it?

Flip-flopPostcard

How will June, July and August flip-flop your life this year?

Spring and Mom’s Mighty Paintbrush

All winter my siblings and I redecorated our small home as only a tribe of vandals can. We adorned every door, wall and window with gritty handprints. We decked the halls with crayon and lipstick art. I don’t know how Mom endured the slush and slop tramped on her carpets and waxed floors — courtesy of Mother Nature, who forgets everything she knows about housekeeping that time of year.

Still, Mom always looked ahead to better things and sunny days — when she could lock us outside.

Unlike most women of her generation, she did not begin spring cleaning with scrubbing walls. Not that she was soft on dirt. Mom didn’t tolerate halfway measures in dealing with grime — or sin.

PaintRollerBrushesInstead, she painted.

When I came home from school and found hardware store paint chips on the kitchen table, I knew spring had officially sprung. Before the most optimistic robin chirped, before the calendar made it legal, my mother already had launched her yearly painting campaign.

For weeks she had hoarded a dollar here, a dollar there, so she could hit the paint sales. She held tiny rectangles of Heavenly Blue or Perilous Peach against dingy walls and stared for hours. We kids shrugged off this annual ritual as one more symptom of mom insanity. Fortunately, she ignored us. Every spring she covered our transgressions with coats of forgiving paint, recreating the house from one end to the other.

She also aimed her mighty paintbrush at ugly furniture stained by old bubble gum and purple Kool-Aid. Hand-me-downs from relatives, secondhand store finds, throwaways — she joyously transformed them all into quirky works of art. Once she antiqued a boring 1950s bedroom suite in colonial blue. Another spring she painted end tables orange.

If Mom still felt the paint itch, she sought out other places that needed color and warmth. My dad often pastored small, poor churches with cheerless Sunday school rooms and dark, scary basements. Mom and her paintbrush to the rescue! One spring she climbed a tall ladder and painted the outside of their church.

Eventually, health issues slowed her down, then Alzheimer’s. She still managed to paint both her front and back porches — and, unfortunately, the shower stall.

She is in heaven now, healthy and strong, enjoying the perfect home and a well-deserved rest. But I suspect if her beloved Lord needs a corner of His universe painted, she’s already showing Him color chips.

What spring ritual ushers in spring for your family? Painting? Cleaning? Locking your kids outside?