Tag Archives: Grandchildren

Thankfulness after Thanksgiving

Have you already decorated your Christmas tree(s)?

Not me. Pumpkins, fall leaves and acorns still adorn my fireplace mantels and front door.

This decorating delay doesn’t indicate inefficiency on my part — perish the thought! It does reflect autumn’s short season. Thanksgiving items are placed on clearance before kids trick-or-treat.

Given that many hate winter, why do we forget fall so fast? Why not linger in Thanksgiving Land?

It was wild and wonderful, wasn’t it?

Even if I had to shovel out spare rooms and wash sheets.

Even if wrestling the defiant turkey into the oven resembled a Friday Night SmackDown sans tights and sparkles.

Even if appliances didn’t feel blessed. Our disposal rebelled Thanksgiving morning. Worse, our oven adopted a relativistic philosophy, insisting if its controls read “350,” the actual 500-degree temperature was irrelevant.

Even if, having stocked up on dark meat because we ran out last year, I was asked if our turkey was a mutant. Ditto for yeast rolls that resembled trolls.

Even if drains and conversations occasionally clogged.

And I can’t pretend I have six months to Christmas shop. …

Still, with four generations feasting and sharing gratitude to God, our Thanksgiving was a blessed celebration.

Admittedly, the grandchildren’s sugar energy levels could have endangered not only our house, but the entire city block. Thankfully, we all defused at a large community room I’d rented.

No one sent the Monopoly game airborne when he landed on Boardwalk with hotels.

Everyone ate mutant turkey and rolls.

Not only was there enough pie for all 17 diners, plenty remained for Grandma and Grandpa’s post-host-survival celebration.

Despite that, I still can zip my jeans! — and ignore nasty online pop-ups advertising tent-sized attire for New Year’s Eve.

Bottom line: Our family arrived safely, rejoiced, loved, and gave thanks together, then returned home, grateful to again sleep in their own beds.

Can such a rich celebration be considered a mere practice run?

We can correct whatever went wrong at Thanksgiving to improve Christmas gatherings. Hosts can repair the carbonizing oven and replace air mattresses that flattened overnight. Hubby watched a YouTube video that helped him fix the disposal. I might even practice making rolls that look like … rolls.

Image by Richard Duijnstee from Pixabay.

Soon autumn decorations in our home will give way to poinsettias, evergreens and jingle bells. A Christmas tree will grace our living room window.

But thanksgiving won’t be packed away until next November.

I pray it saturates my Christmas season … and New Year’s … and Easter 2024 … and …

Image by Deborah Hudson from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your reasons for thanksgiving, even after Thanksgiving?

Weird Things for Which I Am Thankful 2023

First, for all of you who require normalcy, I’ve recorded one everyday reason for thanksgiving: good weather. Here in Indiana, we expect winter, like an obnoxious relative, to blow in during November. Instead, sunshine, moderate temperatures, and glorious fall colors have prevailed. We Hoosiers are suspicious, but grateful.

Image by Leopictures from Pixabay.

Now begins the weird list. I am thankful for:

  • Tangerine peels whirring in my garbage disposal. The fragrance takes me to holidays past when my dad brought home boxes of tangerines.
  • Aisle signs in parking lots. I usually disregard them, but when I do memorize my car’s location and later find it, I experience a major rush.
  • Purple hand towels. They defy even grandchildren’s noblest efforts to stain them.
  • Piano tuners. My very bones scream when a piano tuner pounds and adjusts my keys. As tuners possess sensitive ears too, I salute their bravery in attacking enemy tones.
  • Nearly 340,000,000 Americans who prefer forks and spoons over sporks.
  • Television. Inevitably, some lunatic sports figure or pubescent program convinces me I’m actually rather sane.
  • Black olives, a time-honored family fetish. Children and grandchildren share my taste for them, though my son-in-law attempted to teach his toddler the little black things were bugs. Grandma’s DNA prevailed!
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.
Image by Milly from Pixabay.
  • Flo, the star of the insurance circuit. If she can wear 1960s eyeliner and blue eye shadow, maybe I will star on TV too!
  • Pennies. A fistful still conjures up a vestige of my childhood Richie Rich feeling when I exchanged pennies for a sucker-bubblegum-Pixie Stix feast.
  • Hundred-calorie bags of popcorn.
  • Big, ugly rubber boots, my best buddies whether mudding through gardens or wading through slop, politely called wintry mix.
  • Rear window heaters and wipers.
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

Finally, I’m thankful for hours in the Atlanta airport, surrounded by 4.72 million other travelers. As I stood in a restroom line, a janitor took charge. When her superhuman ears detected a stall lock’s jiggle, she directed the next woman to it.

Insignificant? No. When 2.36 million women wait in line, two seconds apiece add up. This janitor’s heroics comprised the difference between making our flights and dying of old age in the airport.

Even better: she touched our shoulders and said warmly, “Blessings on you today, honey.”

A little weird.

But sometimes weird blessings are the best.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What weird gratitude comes to your mind?

Classic Post: A Plunker’s Piano Lessons

This post first appeared on October 21, 2020.

I started piano lessons at five. Stopped at the ripe old age of nine.

Statistics indicate I’m not alone; 6,761,141,370 of the world’s 6,761,141,379 people have taken — and quit — piano lessons.

I blame my parents. Neither had musical training, yet Dad’s big hands overran the keyboard. Mom, though partially deaf, could listen to a song, then play a full-fledged accompaniment in any key.

At five, I also picked out tunes. Why bother with notes? Neither did I (shudder) count beats. Mixing music, God’s gift, with arithmetic (eww), appeared one more weird complication adults demanded.

Image by Davidatpoli from Pixabay.

Mom tried to explain. If only she could’ve taken lessons!

I’d have remained unconvinced — except for strong capitalistic instincts. Mrs. Snyder charged 50 cents a lesson, but she always refunded a nickel to me. With yellowed books and sheet music piled everywhere, her musty house smelled mysterious and musical. Thousands of former students’ photos adorned her walls, as Mrs. Snyder had been teaching 200 years.

I liked Mrs. Snyder, I liked nickels and I liked Mom’s shining eyes when I practiced.

Sadly, Mrs. Snyder passed away. My new teacher handed me practice sheets instead of nickels. I played songs like “Requiem for a Student Who Didn’t Practice.” Mrs. Mozart made me (choke!) play duets with my brother. We bowed and curtsied at stiff, scary recitals. The longsuffering teacher informed Mom we weren’t destined to play at Carnegie Hall.

She finally let us quit.

Not until college did I realize my loss. There, I met people whose fingers blurred over the keyboard. One blind friend played as if part instrument, part human. Her music rippled up and down my backbone, joy unleashed.

Why are mothers always right? Especially when they preach, “What goes around comes around.” My children blossomed with initial interest, but only one persisted into high school. As they plunked through first practices, I wondered if Mom had enjoyed mine as much as she’d claimed.

Still, my kids learned to read music, and piano background fueled interest in other song forms.

Our piano — the first purchase my husband made after medical school graduation — often sits silent now, though I try to play daily. My fingers itch to exchange my laptop’s tippity-taps for music. Soon, I’ll touch piano keys and listen to less-than-perfect love.

Even if nobody gives me a nickel.

Image by Piro from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did you feel about piano lessons?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Who Needs Cardio Training?

O Lord, You know I wouldn’t spend a typical day attending a hockey game in which spectators cheer fights, jangle cowbells and throw pucks.

I wouldn’t help socialize a grandrat.

Or witness the morphing of a human into a freaky trick-or-treat alien.

But with two grandsons — OMG, what fun, doing them all! 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Corn Maze Camaraderie

O Lord, getting lost in a 10-acre corn maze, looking for Bigfoot, could be pretty scary — except, OMG, thank You for such excellent company! 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Time Warp

O Lord, one moment our grandson rode a little playground horsie.

A seeming moment later, he’s taller than his tall grandpa.

OMG, did I blink too slow?

Macaroni and Cheese

Image by Hucklebarry from Pixabay.
Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay.

An all-American dish, right?

Nope. Historians believe a 14th-century Italian cookbook, Liber de Coquina, contains the first written mention of pasta and cheese. Americans can thank Thomas Jefferson, who brought a macaroni and cheese recipe and pasta maker home from Europe.

My grandchildren aren’t interested in mac ’n’ cheese history. They simply want to fill huge emptiness inside. Grandma boasts two recipes: their great-grandmother’s, plus one recently discovered on the Internet.

Unlike many 1960s homemakers, Mom didn’t cook the 19-cents-a-box food made popular during the Depression. Instead, she boiled spaghetti, then added inexpensive margarine and whatever cheese had escaped five-kids-in-the-house foraging.

Image by pixel1 from Pixabay.

Her recipe proved invaluable during my Hubby’s medical school years. Once, I looked up from saying grace before one spaghetti-and-cheese supper to see my work-weary husband face down in a plateful of our entrée.

Fast-forward several decades, when he invited students for a cookout. Would they consider my spaghetti fetish — and me — weird? Risotto or gnocchi might boost sophistication ratings, but costs would skyrocket.

Cheap won. I prepared mac ’n’ cheese — not only popular with students, but later, with our grandkids.

Not everyone welcomes different versions, especially as cheese enthusiasts rarely compromise. Some insist on American or cheddar. Discerning palates may require brie, smoked Gouda, or goat cheese.

Others, if stranded on a desert island, would refuse the stove-top version, as real mac ’n’ cheese demands an oven-baked crust.

A recent San Francisco macaroni and cheese contest’s entries might raise Midwestern eyebrows, with additives like nutmeg, mustard and even cinnamon and sugar. Vegetables took center stage: mushrooms, tomatoes, brussels sprouts and that darling of the veggie world, kale. Some added fruit, such as figs.

Image by Hans from Pixabay.

The judges, including Smithsonian Magazine writer and cheese merchant Gordon Edgar, awarded first place to a dish featuring aged Vermont cheddar.

The cultured audience, however, chose a different entry — and were shocked to silence when the winner revealed his main ingredient.


Image by Peggy & Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay.

This dish, even in its many variations, will endure. When my family needs comfort or celebration food, mac ’n’ cheese will be there for them.

Americans’ political views are even more diverse than our versions of macaroni and cheese. But acknowledging differences, can’t we lean on the basic recipe, our comfort and celebration for almost 250 years?

I want that to be there for my family, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Ha! They Were Wrong!

O, Lord, You know that 22 years ago, I found it easy to listen to voices that predicted we wouldn’t survive the terrors of 9/11. OMG, all seven of our grandchildren, born after that date, remind me that pessimists aren’t always right. And that You. Are. Good.  

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: What a Lady

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: O Lord, SO thankful for the 103 years You gave my dear Aunt Lurline on this earth. She would have loved the wonderful service and the get-togethers in her honor — and wouldn’t have minded if the children got a little rowdy. …

The Best Pick

Image by borislagosbarrera from Pixabay.

Does blueberry picking sound like a Fun Time to you?

Bribery convinced my small children: “If we don’t get thrown out of the patch, we’ll hit the bakery later.”

Often, they were too full of berries to finish doughnuts, so Mom obliged them.

Image by Anya1 from Pixabay.

I also considered it a rare productive activity, defined as: we made it to a potty in time; no one went to the ER; and I wasn’t nominated for Bad Mother of the Year. Plus, some berries came home.

Years later, our son invited Hubby and me to pick blueberries with his family.

Five-year-old Jonathan bragged, “I’ll pick 35 times 72 pounds!”

Ty the Little Guy wore the world’s cutest sun hat, appropriate for the world’s cutest toddler.

Arriving at the farm, we walked past fields of blueberry bushes. And walked. And walked.

Soon, both boys would need naps. Or Grandma would.

A guide finally assigned us a row abounding in big, juicy berries.

Image by Artur Pawlak from Pixabay.

Our tall son and Hubby handled top branches. I covered the bushes’ midsections. I also resigned myself to picking lower branches — and sleeping on a heating pad that night. The boys will grab just enough blueberries to eat and dye their skins.

Jonathan disagreed. “I’m little, but I can pick lots!”

Ty, however, had a beef. Everyone but him received a white bucket. Fill someone else’s? A fate worse than death.

Eventually, he decided Daddy’s bucket would do. Ty dragged it up and down rows, popping through bushes and batting long-lashed, brown eyes at other pickers.

Above flirting, Jonathan picked continuously for more than an hour!

Grandma’s feet gave out. We adjourned to weigh and pay. Ty allowed Daddy to tote his bucket and carry him on his shoulders.

“You’re heavy, Ty. How many berries did you eat?”

Little Guy’s smeary face somehow looked innocent.

“I’ll pay extra.” Daddy sighed. “Next time, I’ll weigh him before and after.”

Blueberry cheesecake, here we come!

Jonathan didn’t accumulate 2,520 pounds of berries (35 x 72), but the five pounds he and Daddy picked made him happy.

A productive day. Even Grandma and Grandpa made it to a clean potty in time. Nobody went to the ER. Daddy wasn’t nominated for Bad Parent of the Year, though he forgot to give Ty a bucket.

We had a berry Fun Time.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you have a favorite fruit-picking memory?

In the small town where our children grew up, Plymouth, Indiana, 500,000 people attend the Blueberry Festival every year–the setting for a book I wrote several years ago.