As “they” say, the secret to happiness is to recognize and savor the nice moments in life. Here’s mine for today: my youngest daughter was coloring in and decorating big letters for a sign she’s making for me that spells out “I love you mom. You are the best mom ever”. (I’m not sure if she’ll get beyond the first sentence; that’s a lot of letters! But I love the sweet thought anyway. It helps take the sting away when five minutes later I tell her “no” about something and she informs me that in fact, I’m NOT the best mom ever. Between her and my son, I get crowned and stripped of my title about six times a day.) Anyhow, I was doing dishes and thought, “Heck with the dishes, I’m going to take a few minutes and paint.” So I painted while she colored and she soon came over to where I was working (the other side of the dining room from where she was) and pulled up a chair to watch me paint. It was such a nice moment — especially because she spent almost the whole time saying, “Boy, Mom, you’re good” and ”Wow, Mom, that looks nice.” All three of my children, in fact, show so much interest in and are so supportive of my work, young as they are. Their compliments mean so much to me because as a mom, it’s second-nature to support your child. When the tables turn once in a while and they are the ones rooting you on, it’s very sweet and straight from the heart.
Archive for the ‘Family’ Category
The last time I saw my doctor (a woman, married, mother of three) and we talked about the challenges of parenthood, she mentioned something like “You know, I just learned that suicide was one of the leading causes of death among pioneer women”. Then the other day she told me, “Did you know Valium was the #1 prescribed drug for women in the ’60s; that’s where the Rolling Stones song, Mother’s Little Helper * ( … she goes running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper … ) comes from.” Mind you, her daughters are older and she’s really enjoying a whole new phase of parenthood with them, so it’s not like she’s dropping hints about how she feels now. It’s just an admission that parenthood is hard, has always been hard, and always will be hard. Period.
*http://www.lyricsfreak.com/r/rolling+stones/mothers+little+helper_20117873.html (If you get a chance, read the lyrics. I’ve heard the song a hundred times but never knew what all the lyrics were until I just read them. Very interesting, 40 years later.)
Three has been a good, powerful number used in many ways throughout history (“third time’s a charm”) but sometimes, “three” stinks. Not in the “bad things happen in three’s” superstitious kind of way, but the fact that it’s almost impossible for three people (i.e. siblings!) to get along at the same time (“three’s a crowd”)! It’s almost always two against one, and someone always feels left out. (Adults often still have problems with this, too). Of course, it’s no better when all three kids do get along because then they gang up on their outnumbered parents! It’s a no-win situation!!
I love traditions of all kinds – old and new. Nearly three years ago we started a new one with our “Birthday Bear.” We were going to be on vacation during my son’s birthday and I didn’t want his special day to get overlooked. So I bought a big white bear from the Shoppe in the Valley to bring on our trip. The bear sings “Happy Birthday” when you press his hand and even the candles on his hat light up! (true, it didn’t take long for the kids to pull them out) Anyway, one week before a family member’s birthday, the bear comes out, and the birthday-person-to-be can play the song anytime he or she wants as a special pre-birthday treat. It gets everyone in the celebratory mood, and of course on the person’s birthday the Birthday Bear is included in the festivities. Then it’s back in the closet until the next birthday. (By the way, a purple birthday ribbon and a special birthday plate for the birthday sweet are also part of the tradition.)
I really, really, really liked my grandma (liked as a person, which is different than loving her because she was my grandma, which I also did — a lot). The problem was, I didn’t realize how cool she was until it was too late. I grew up knowing she traveled the world but not thinking there was anything that unusual about the wanderlust of a woman born in 1900, losing her parents at a young age, living a hard life, marrying a man 10 years her junior, losing a son when he was 19, and deciding to see the world (India, Japan, Thailand, etc.) in her 60s and 70s in the company of tour groups because her husband would rather stay home. (It wasn’t until I was 30 years old, sitting in the Cleveland airport, waiting to board a plane to take me to Greece for my first trip to Europe, a trip I was taking alone, that I finally understood how brave she was.) Unable to (safely) live by herself any longer, when she was in her late 80s she was moved to a nursing home, where she lived until her death at the age of 95. It wasn’t until about 1992 that I got the bright idea of videotaping my grandma’s stories. Unfortunately, I was pretty much too late, but I did what I could for the next few years. I also realized that you never knew when someone would leave this earth, taking their stories with them, so I began videotaping interviews with my mom, my sister, my preschool-aged nieces and nephews — anyone who would oblige. For the most part, these videotapes have been sitting in a box since then. But the other day, we bought a DVD player which transfers your personal videotapes onto DVD. While these tapes do their converting thing, they play on our TV. As I walk by, I see these random moments of the 1990s frozen in time. The thing is, for a million reasons, I can’t bring myself to sit down and watch them — yet. My grand plan is to edit these DVDs to give my now young-adult nieces and nephews records of these moments of their youth – or to let my sister see how her hopes and dreams for her two daughters have been realized (or not) – or even to let everyone in my family see Grandma again. But for now, the past is staying just where it is.
For the first Christmas my husband (then boyfriend) and I spent together, I made a simple ornament out of cardboard and paint, and glued on a photo of us from earlier that year. I’ve carried on the tradition ever since — though I don’t always make the ornaments, I still add my own creative touch to them, and they still carry a photo of my husband and I on one side, and now, with our children, a small family photo. They are always the first ornaments I put on the tree every year, and it doesn’t even bother me (so much) that each year’s ornaments show us getting just that much older. Then of course our children get their own special ornament too – with a photo of them from that year on one side, and a family photo on the other. Sometimes I have to be a bit creative with where the photos go — my son’s truck ornament had his photo pasted on the front like he was driving the truck, and our faces were all pasted on the truck like we were passengers. I’ll admit that every year I always stress over the right ornaments and getting the right pictures on to fit just right — but I’m always glad I did it.
Last Friday I took the kids to the Secret Santa Workshop at the Pat Catan’s on West Market Street in Akron. Each December, one weekend is set aside for kids to make four different gifts for free. In the summer, Catan’s offers a weeklong, two-hour craft camp for about $3 a child, per day. Kids can go one or five days or any number in between. And most every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Miss Karen reads a story to preschoolers, then they do a craft that relates to the story (free, lasts less than 30 minutes). Each Catan’s offers different activities for kids; go to their Web site (www.patcatans.com) and check the calendar for the store nearest you.
By old-fashioned, I mean that we take the kids on road trips without electronic gadgets – games, music players, DVDs, etc. When I was a kid, we packed books (coloring, reading, puzzle) or just stared out the window at the passing scenery. Mile after mile after mile. I’m sure my three sisters and I drove my parents crazy from time to time, especially on the longer trips (but my parents had to be a bit crazy to begin with, for example, to drive four kids cross-country in a station wagon in the ’70s). But I think being forced to entertain yourself with your own imagination or by (annoying) your family is “good for character,” as they say. And now that I’ve grown up and have children of my own, I don’t see why they should travel any differently. Yes, it would probably make our lives easier if we relied on gadgets. And maybe we’re just plain crazy for not using them. But there’s something about seeing them all crammed together in the back seat, hearing my oldest daughter read a book to her sister, or listening to the girls oohing and aahing over the picture my son drew of a car, or watching them write stories and helping each other spell words, that makes me feel that I may be crazy, but that I’m also capturing some special moments in time.
… that it conjures up such warm, happy feelings? I’m not talking about the scalding hot chocolate water that fills up half a small styrofoam cup that they give you at some outdoor winter event – that stuff’s just gross. Blech! No, I’m talking about cocoa made with milk … maybe with mini-marshmallows in it … or even some real cream on top. I remember my beloved grandma’s hot chocolate — she ALWAYS had marshmallows at her house, like every good grandmother should. I remember being the first to ever serve hot chocolate to my nieces and nephews (a special treat when they would sleep over at my house on a cold winter’s night). I remember drinking hot chocolate on so many of my vacations. (Chocolate chaud, as it’s known in France, is just incredible, and in Brussels, they have little street shops that sell blocks of chocolate (in every flavor imaginable!) stuck in wooden spoons. They pour hot milk in a cup and you stir the chocolate in, licking the spoon every so often. Heaven!!! Apparently this company started in Germany and is in select spots in Europe.) I remember being at an intern at Nestle in Solon during college and because it was Nestle, the breakroom was loaded with hot chocolate packets. I thought it was the best perk ever! Now my own children have “hot chocolate fever” and I love it! It’s so fun to see them get so excited as they wait to be served. It all comes down to such simple things, doesn’t it?
Some people are born caregivers. I am not. I was taught to take care of myself and I expect others to do the same. Parenthood, of course, changes all that. You are thrust into the role of caregiver, like it or not. You have to be the strong one, the responsible one, 24/7. You can’t show weakness. You have to be the one who cleans up the vomit, squashes the spiders, puts pressure on the bleeding, waits in the hospital waiting room — all the time sucking in whatever fears you have. I like to think that I’ve developed into a pretty good caregiver for my children, hard as it is. But as well as taking care of my young children, I’m a member of the “sandwich generation”, which means my parents are of an age where they may need to be taken care of as well. Unlike most of my friends, I have not had to deal with that yet. However, circumstances have made me the caregiver once again to my 68-year-old next-door neighbor, who suffered a small stroke early last Thursday (earlier this year she was housebound for seven weeks with complications from food poisoning). She never married and has no children. Her brother lives across the country, as well as most of her friends. Since the stroke, I have been with her at the hospital and rehab center, trying to get her what she needs and to help her cope with her situation. Though she is an upbeat, bright, vivacious and funny woman in otherwise good health, she is still alone and scared about her present and her future once she is released from rehab. Again, I have to move beyond my comfort level to help her feel confident and secure and hopeful. It’s certainly no more easy to be a caregiver for her than it is to my own children (especially at the same time). I knew there was a reason I didn’t like sandwiches.