Monday, May 28, 2012

That Phone Call

It's Monday, Memorial Day, and I've just lit the grill. I sigh, polish off half a drink, and pick up my cell. Usually I call on Sunday, but yesterday was just too busy, so I put it off until today. When my sister answers, I'm surprised and pleased. A rare moment of sanity in a crazy call. We talk until there's nothing left to say, and the silence starts. Then I say , "I should talk to Daddy now."
 Not that I don't want to talk to him. I do. But he's not really him anymore. After a few minutes of talk about me, the kids, my husband, the weather, the Cubs, we sign off. I tell him I love him and I'll talk to him later. It pains me to hear how pleased he was at my call.
 I hang up, take another drink, and push the buttons to call my mother at the rehabilitation center. Hip repair; this one's working. She's eating dinner when she answers, and we laugh. No matter what time I call, she's always eating something. I listen to the commentary on the food-enough butter for the potato, really good strawberries. She asks about the kids, about me, about my husband, about the garden. I answer, sometimes 2 or 3 times. Then she asks about the grand-dogs, Are all three doing alright? I take a deep breath and remind her our oldest dog died last year, just like I did last week. 
 The same conversation, the same questions, every single week. Sometimes there's a moment of great lucidity, a comment or question that takes me by surprise. This week it's about my daughter, make sure to tell her how proud they are of her, for getting her CNA while still in high school, for having such great ambitions for college and career. I tell her my daughter's ambitions are inspired by the health problems my mother has had, and I can tell my mother is pleased.
 The pain I feel as I sign off isn't unique to me or to any child of an aging parent. The guilt I feel at not being there, at not being able to help, is not unique. I give my sister the support she deserves for taking care of them through phone calls and prayers. It's all I've got to give.  I let her know to call if she needs anything. 
 There are no answers to this situation. I'm not independently wealthy, I can't conjure out of thin air a full time nurse, a cook, a rehabilitation therapist, a doctor, a car for my sister. All I can do is to pray God , let this be enough. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lessons Learned From My Mother

I realize this post is a little late for Mother's Day, but I wanted to get it up here anyway. My mother is a wonderful woman who loves her family dearly, and I learned a lot from her. So without further ado, here are 
Lessons Learned from my Mother:

1. Cooking is about more than the food. My mom's parents ran a restaurant , and my mother learned to cook from her mother, and I learned from my mother, and my daughter is learning from me. It's sort of a family inheritance. I make a mean pot of chicken and noodles, a dish I learned how to make when I was a teenager. I tweaked it a little to suit my family's tastes, but it's basically the same dish. (And if you want to know how I season them, ask my daughter what the spice "Simon and Garfunkel" is!)

2. Sometimes love doesn't look like love-at least not right away. Ask any teen anywhere, and they'll tell you that their parents are mean. I would have said the same thing when I was a teen. But as a parent, I now know that my parents did the things they did because they loved me and wanted me to turn out okay. 

3.  Sometimes you gotta take a break. I remember growing up, when I was occasionally home during the day, seeing me mother pour herself a cold Coke, and sit down with a magazine. I remember thinking how nice it was  that she was able to do that, and wishing I could be my own boss one day. While I am my own boss now, the lesson still holds. You have to be able to take a break in order to be at your freshest for the tasks ahead. 

4. Always put God in the right place. I don't know if I can explain this one adequately. I remember seeing my Mother praying almost every day. It taught me alot about how to look at my life. When things are at their worst, I almost always think to myself," God has always taken care of me, and he always will." I learned that at my mother's knee, praying along with her. It might just be the most valuable lesson she ever taught me.

5. Make your house a Home. Sometimes the ephemera is important. A comfy quilt, a soda when you want it, a chair in the back yard. These are all things that can make us feel like our place is the best place to be.
6. Your husband's opinion is the only one that counts. No one else should influence you in a direction that is counter to that wanted by your husband. Not a popular sentiment these days, but if you want a lasting marriage, it's the only way to go. I value my husband's opinion more than any one else on earth, and he makes me very happy. (If 26 years mean anything to you! )

She taught me a lot more than this, of course. And some lessons, I'm still learning. But I know enough to get through the day to day on my own, and that's the most important lesson of all! Thanks mom!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Right Now

Right Now...
... we are loving the spring flowers on our third-year vinca vines, which magically established themselves in our rock border.

... we are enjoying some spring fires, with our found firewood, from our newly built woodshed.
... we are looking for bullfrogs in our yard, which is apparently full of them!

Sunday, May 6, 2012


1. I love to browse the internet for new recipes, but lately I've been noticing a lot of recipes that call for Nutella. I like Nutella, but what's up with all the recipes? Are they being put out by the company that makes it? Suspicious.

2. Hunter, also known as Tiny Puppy, is no longer so tiny or so puppy. He is just, well, sort of fat now. Unfortunately, he's still a lap dog. So, something like 40 pounds of bony dog occasionally finds it's way onto my lap, where he will actually growl (in a grumbly sort of way) if I try to move him.

3. The Comptroller for our little town has been arrested for surreptitiously making off with 30 million dollars in taxpayer money. The general assembly of the State of Illinois, however, remains free after promising 40,000 daycare providers they would be paid for providing daycare to 400,000 low-income children, and then changing their minds after care was already provided. Seems a little lopsided to me.

4. Woke up yesterday feeling like a cold was coming on. Today I feel like someone deflated me-no energy at all, achy, sore throat, etc. It's a weekend, of course. Monday morning I'll probably feel wonderful. Why is that?

5. Speaking of the Comptroller's arrest, how in the world do you not notice a missing 30 million dollars? If I lose a twenty, I freak out, and clean my purse, pockets, car, and couch cushions until I find it. If it isn't found, I go into serious mourning. Thirty million dollars? I think I'd notice.

Ah, well. Life goes on as usual. Have a great day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Am An American

I am an American. I am third generation.I am the result of the dream of two entire families' dreams to come to the "land where the streets are paved with gold."
 My paternal grandfather was Russian, my maternal grandfather was German. Paternal grandfather came here in 1914, by himself on a boat (the last boat before the war),  at the age of 14. By the age of 19 he was drafted into the army. By the age of 20 he was married to another Russian emigrant, and a naturalized American citizen. He got a job at Chrysler in Detroit, Michigan, and raised three children.
 My father, one of those children,drafted into the Korean war, where he met my future uncle, who died in Korea. My future father, after his discharge, went to meet my my uncle's sister, fell in love, got married, and had five children. He worked at General Tire and Rubber most of his life, going in at three a.m. and coming home twelve hours later, in order to support five children.
 Me, one of those five children. I met my husband, and we fell in love, got married, and are raising our own children, while he works for the auto industry, as my grandfather did, while struggling to raise our own children and live the American Dream.
 The American Dream, you say? It still exists, it still lives. It still thrives.
 We, the rank and file of Americans, are still here. We work, we live, we laugh. We Vote. We walk picket lines, we give to charity, we believe in God. We shop at local stores, we support our neighbors, we help where we can. Do not discount us. Do not forget us, or think we are worthless, for we are Americans. We built these United States, we fought for them, we stand for them. We are America. I, we, are America.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Conversation Overheard In a Daycare

6 year old: "The baby has a rash on her head."

Me: "That's not a rash, it's a birthmark."

6 year old: "Oh."

(Ten second pause)

6 year old: " I think you mean a rash."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear Cow-lady:
I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when you showed up with your obviously under-medicated half dozen children, because there was always the chance that you could control them once the movie started. Once you started grazing on popcorn with your mouth open, however, and shouting at the top of your lungs, "I'm ready for some FUN! Who's ready for some FUN?! " , I began to have some doubts. You should be glad that I am nearly deaf in my right ear, because once your slightly chromosomaly-short child began guffawing HA! HA! HA! in my left ear, I had a seriously hard time not telling you how to properly raise your children, having actually been there. At the point I turned around and glared at you, you were dangerously close to an eye poke. And anyone who has raised children properly, knows that the proper distribution of parent-child at a movie theatre , is child, parent, child, parent, child, so that an arm-throw in any direction corrals a child. Nevertheless, you are obviously an idiot, and should be forcibly sterilized, or at least forced into parenting classes.
The older mother who was forced to sit in front of you.

Dear applebees chef,
MEDIUM. Seriously, how hard is that? Having cooked for my family for the past 23 years, I have to tell you, medium is the easiest of all steak requests. Rare is this: throw a steak on the grill, turn it over, put it on a plate and serve it. Well done is this: Cook it till it crunches. Medium is anything in between. My husband and I both ordered a steak, medium. Why, then, did I get a steak that flipping mooed, while my husband got a steak that was perfectly pink in the middle, warm, and not bleeding? There are exactly TWO restaurants in the area, so I know you must get alot of practice cooking. Cook my flippin steak the way I order, or I swear I will call your mother. This is a small town, don't make me do it. I will. I WILL, I swear. Medium. It's not that hard!!!!

The lady who always sends her steak back, because you're an idiot who can't figure out what medium is.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Get Out of the Way?

This is what you get when you tell 110 pounds of black lab to get out of your way. A very solid , "No, thank you !"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


There's a freshly washed puppy on my lap. Across the room there's an 11 month old little girl with a brand new knot on her forehead from learning to walk, and an 8 year old on his cot, with a McDonald's toy clutched in his hand while he sleeps.
Home from a morning at the park, with a gentle breeze blowing, we had just enough time to eat lunch before it was naptime.
I'm thinking this will be the perfect afternoon to break out the sidewalk chalk!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Just a Thing or Two I've Learned

When I first had children, I thought I knew all I needed to know about raising them, and all I needed to teach them. Boy howdy, was I wrong. My first meeting with an infant's ear infection taught me that. However, I have learned a thing or two since then, and if I could go back, I'd take the time to write a letter to my infant, to be read by them when they are older. Since I can't do that then, I'll do it now, and maybe they'll know it's meant from my heart. Without further ado, here goes nothing:
Dearest baby,
I have a few things I'd like to promise you.
1. I promise I'll always do my best. I also promise there will be times that won't be enough. You'll survive.
2. I promise you will hurt sometimes. I promise I'll be there to kiss your boo-boos, hold your hand, and give you good advice. I also promise there will come a time you resent that, and do what you want anyway. You'll learn.
3. I promise that I will yell, at the top of my lungs, when you make me really mad. I promise you'll hate me for it, for a while. Someday you'll understand why I did it.
4. I promise that there will be days when you wish you could be part of your best friend's family instead of your own. I promise I won't let you, at least not forever. Because God gave you to us for a reason, and because you are part of this family , you are who you are, and someday you'll realize that.
5. I promise that there will be things that you feel like you can't tell us. You should tell us anyway, because we, of all people, are the only ones anywhere who actually have your best interests at heart.
6. I promise that I will snoop in your room, read your diary, listen to your phone calls, and restrict your privledges when necessary. I promise you'll hate me for it. I also promise that someday you'll understand why, thank me for it, (at least in spirit), and do the same to your own kids.
7. I promise I will love you like no one else except God Almighty himself. I promise I will die for you if necessary, sacrifice my own food, money, time, and health. I also promise you won't ever, ever, understand this kind of love until you have a child of your own. It's o.k. I understand.
Someday you will too.
Love, Mom

The High Cost of Everything

My daughter wants to be a surgeon. She dreams of finding a cure for cancer. And you know what? She has the intelligence to do it. All she needs now is a college education.
I wanted to go to college right out of high school, so I applied to a local university, and got accepted. Without going into the reasons why, I wasn't able to go. Eventually, I met and married my wonderful husband, and we started a family, and life happened, and I never really got there. I have a couple credits from classes taken for my job, but not a real cohesive education.
My husband also never went to college. Life sort of got in the way for him as well.
Over the years we've toyed with going to school, part time, or quitting our jobs and going full time, but it has just never really happened.
So when our daughter began to show signs of wanting to go to college, we were thrilled. She has the brains, and the desire. But what she doesn't have is the money. I read recently that most doctors graduate from school with over $150,000 in student loans, and many of them are never able to fully repay those loans.
I've been told that it's possible to work your way through college, and to an extent I agree. But to be a doctor, there is a certain point where you have to devote all of your time to just learning.
The ideal would be for us as parents to be able to give her the money to finish her schooling at that point, but unless we win the lottery, that is never going to happen. If all of our bills were paid off and we had a years worth of food in the pantry and could devote every dollar of our earnings to her education, it still wouldn't be enough.
So while we worry about the cost of gas for our cars and the cost of groceries going up, and try to plan for retirement, and try to continue to buy everyday necessities, we also worry about giving our children the best possible future we can. Even though we know that probably means telling her to get a good job, save as much as possible, and hope for a good scholarship.
I hope her dreams hold out as long as ours have.

Friday, March 23, 2012


1. I have a fantastic job. I mean seriously, how many people get to play with blocks and color all day, and get paid for it? But sometimes I get an intense desire to just be an adult, and those seem to be the days I don't like my job. Believe it or not, sometimes I just want to crank some tunes and clean the house, and that's not really compatible with keeping babies safe, because babies and bleach don't exactly mix.

2. I love my dogs, but if I can't figure out a way to keep them from tracking mud in, I am seriously going to sew mop heads into dog shoes and make them wear them.

3. I think I might be having a mid-life crisis. While dreaming about new cars with Mr. Grace and Peace recently, I couldn't decide between a big ole' pickup with a huge motor, and a little red sports car. Neither of which, it should be noted, are in any way compatible with the lifestyle I lead. (Well, a case could be made for the pickup, since we are currently and probably forever remodeling our old house.)

4. Speaking of the lifestyle I lead, I'm considering completing my education by getting a degree, which would lead to both higher pay and more job options. But this would mean either getting that degree online , or figuring out a way to reduce my daycare hours without reducing my income, which I'm pretty sure is an oxymoron.

5. Oxymoron is my new favorite word. It just sounds neat. I try to work it into conversation and anything I write whenever possible. Pathetic, I know. But hey, I don't get out much.

6. Why is it that little boys feet smell so awful? It's like some kind of curse on childhood or something. I truly pity elementary school gym teachers.

7. One of the best parts of being an adult is not having to take toddlers to the grocery store. I still shudder in remembrance of the times we spent at the store together, my toddlers and I.

8. What is with the current vampire obsession? Dracula has been around for a really long time, and he waaaaaayyy cooler that a certain (ahem) very popular book/movie series currently making the rounds.

9. Speaking of toddlers, it's probably a good thing I'm not the parent of any young children now. Teachers, bullies, and neighborhood cranks everywhere should be glad of this, because I am not as wimpy today as I once was. No one anywhere would be unkind to my little's now and not hear all about it. And I can see this attitude in my daughter, as well. She is, shall we say, not slow to voice her opinion. Or to tell you what your opinion should be. ( Love her, a girl after my own heart!)

10. My children have the following either in their rooms or in their possession: tv, computer, tablets, cell phones, cable for said tv, and unlimited internet access. If I ever, ever, ever, again hear one of them tell me they're bored, you can surely stick a stamp on me, because I will be going postal.