On swings, rainbows, and indigo endings

On the upper level of my home, we have a three-season porch. It's fashioned after the porches popular in Colorado Springs in the late 1800s, peaceful spots where tuberculosis patients rested on beds while soaking up the fresh, restorative mountain air.

Ours is a three-season porch, with no insulation protecting the space from cold. Meaning, we don't access the room in the winter. Come spring, though, the porch door is opened—and our indoor swing firmly attached in the doorway.

indoor swing on three-season porch

My grandsons and other young-at-heart visitors...

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36 tips for new grandparents

I've been a grandma for about five years now. I've learned much in that time, from my own experience as well as from the amazing Grilled Grandmas.

One thing I've learned for sure is that no matter how long I've been a grandma, there's always more to learn. Which means that although these tips — culled from my heart and the Grilled Grandma archives — are intended for new grandparents, there's surely one or two even the most-seasoned grandma or grandpa can put to good use.

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• Be prepared to be unreasonably crazy in love. The love for a grandchild is unlike anything you’ve felt before.

• Be gentle with Mom and Dad — even when they don’t do things your way.

• Don't be afraid of acting silly.

• Give the parents all the love and support you can muster.

• Make no comparisons, good or bad, to your other grandchildren.

• When the parents drive you nuts, smile instead of screaming, as they hold the keys to baby visits.

• Have lots of pictures taken of you with them — especially if you're typically the one behind the camera.

• Be available to the parents for advice, but never give it — or your opinion — unless asked.

• And when the parents don’t put your requested advice to use, bite your tongue.

• Get extra time with baby by volunteering to change the diapers.

• Don’t expect perfection — from the child, the parents or yourself.

• Respect the wishes and rules of the parents.

• Always let your grandchildren know you love them, in whatever fashion is comfortable for you.

• Let them know you’ll always be honest with them, too, and that they can trust you.

• Kiss them every chance you get.

• Get down on the floor and play with them.

• Remember that grandchildren are not their parents. Nor are they your children.

• Be someone the parents enjoy having around... so they'll have you around often.

• Make every effort to see and be with your grandchildren so they get to know you, always know you.

• Get advice on equipment, toys and more from other grandparents and young parents.

• Leave the parenting up to the parents.

• Don't worry about material things you are unable to give.

• Visit garage sales for toys, books, and furnishings (but never, ever for car seats, bicycle helmets, or other safety equipment).

• Don’t compare yourself to other grandmothers.

• Break your bad habits now, before the grandchildren copy you.

• Establish rules for your home when the kids are visiting, but be sure to never cross parental boundaries.

• Remember you are still a parent, not just a grandparent. Your child still wants you to consider his or her interests, concerns, achievements.

• When grandchildren visit, remember there is nothing they can break that you can’t live without.

• Don't take togetherness for granted; circumstances can change in an instant.

• When you’re the caretaker, get specifics — what the child needs, what the parent wants, and what time parents will return.

• Take the time to make the time with your grandchildren memorable.

• Be yourself and give of yourself.

• Enrich your grandchild’s life with more you, less stuff.

• Practice patience.

• Be a calm, loving, and engaged presence in your grandchild’s life.

• Love, enjoy, and appreciate every single moment.

Photo: Yes, that's me with Baby Mac (who's no longer <sniff> a baby).

Today's question:

What would you add to the list?

Do you solemnly swear?

 

Seems Bubby, who will be four years old next week, has learned the power of swear words, and he wielded that power mighty and strong this past week. While in public, at the splash pad. While in time-out at the splash pad for hitting a friend, in fact.

Bubby's time-out is what elicited his use of the illicit language. It wasn't the F-word. Not the GD-word or the S-word. No dad-from-A-Christmas-Story style rant. Bubby did, though, go whole hog in hollering out the H-word. Again and again and again. To Mommy.

Not the H-word you might expect, though, as the H-word flying from Bubby's mouth and directed right at Mommy was hate. As in "I hate you."

My sweet little Bubby told his mommy he hates her for putting him in time out. For humiliating him in public (though deservedly so, I say). For making him stop splashing at the splash pad and sit this one out. Saying the H-word, of course, increased Bubby's punishment by way of he and Mommy (and innocent Baby Mac, too) having to leave the splash pad and his friends so Bubby could be sent to his room until he could find his happy heart as well as words of apology that would sufficiently satisfy Mommy.

It was Bubby's first time swearing at his mom. And in Megan's house—as it was in my house when Megan was young—hate is indeed a swear word. At least when it's directed at people. You can hate broccoli, but you sure as heck better never, ever, ever say you hate a person, no matter how angry you might be, no matter how much you really actually dislike the person it's directed at.

The S-word was a no-no in our household, too. That being shut up. Nope, not allowed in my house back then, not allowed in Megan's house now.

Of course the real S-word and H-word, along with all the expected consonant-beginning cuss words (plus the A-word, too) weren't allowed either. Swearing was a sign of ignorance, I tried to stress to my girls. People only use swear words because they're too stupid to come up with something better, I told them, convinced them...for the most part. (I'm sure they wondered why their mom and dad got really stupid sometimes and spouted nonsensical swear words left and right for unfathomable reasons. It was only occasionally, though. I swear.)

I did understand while raising my daughters, though, that sometimes there really isn't a smart word for saying what's roiling and boiling inside, and a cuss word is the only thing that will properly express the inner turmoil, frustration, rage. So I allowed the girls one swear word, beginning about the time they were in junior high. That one cuss word was crap. To me, crap isn't that big of a deal. Sure, I didn't want them telling their teachers, "This is crap!" or anything of that sort. But if they ever felt so strongly about something that they couldn't muster a more masterful word, they would not be punished for uttering the C-word.

So they did. My oldest daughter in particular. She used that C-word as often as possible. More than I would have liked, to be honest, but how could I reverse the rules for overuse. It would fade, I figured. She was using the power she was given to its utmost ability.

Funny thing is, as the girls got older—and no longer living at home—the younger two stretched their language skills by incorporating some of the formerly banned words into their vocabularies. Occasionally far more often than I'd like. But they're adults, that's their choice. But Brianna, the one who most often spouted crap as a teen, chooses as an adult to rarely swear except to say crap. You know she must be really, really, REALLY angry if the S-word or B-word or any other cuss word besides crap comes out of her mouth. The F-word? Oh, my. I don't think I've ever heard her say it.

(Though I have no doubt she has said the F-word and other choice swear words at times, considering some of the relationship turmoil she's dealt with, and I can't blame her. I'd have been saying EFF this and EFF that and EFF you far more often and far sooner than my fair-mouthed daughter if I'd have faced off with a few of the EFFers <cuss>ers she's befriended now and again.)

I digress...

The bottom line is that...well...that I have three points I'm trying to make but can't seem to pull them together into one coherent closing. So I'll make it easy on myself and on you with bullet points:

  • Bubby is swearing. Sort of. Which is a huge deal on one hand, not so huge of a deal on the other. The huge-deal hand is that he said he hates his mother, which is far worse, at least to me—and to Megan—than if he had told her to EFF off. The H-word is one of the most powerful swear words a child can wield to effectively pierce a mommy's heart. Far more hurtful than the F-word. That's just my opinion; I'm sure there are others.
  • Kids shouldn't be allowed to cuss—yes, not even if Mommy and Daddy get to do it. But I prefer to think it's one of the benefits of becoming an adult, one of the things a kid can look forward to doing when they grow up. Like gambling or drinking or choosing to never eat broccoli or lima beans again. Again, that's just my opinion; I'm sure there are others.
  • That said, though, I do think kids should be given one Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free cuss word to use when the situation—to their thinking—demands. Once more, that's just my opinion; I'm sure there are others.

Actually, I just had another thought, another point to make. So here's a fourth bullet:

  • Maybe what kids and others who don't want to seem crass and foul-mouthed in public should do is use a universal sign much like the finger quotes, but one that designates the fake cuss word. Kind of like when I write <cuss> and <cuss> and <cussity-cuss-cuss> on Grandma's Briefs.

Maybe? Or would that quickly become just as <cuss> annoying as those <cuss> finger quotes?

Today's question:

What happens when your kids or grandkids swear in front of you? What happens when you swear in front of them?

Small talk with my grandson

Bubby, at nearly four years old, has reached the age where we can easily converse about this and that. I understand all he says; he understands most of what I say. When he doesn't understand, he's quick to request clarification with a blunt, "What do you MEAN, Gramma?"

I've never been good at small talk, but when it's with Bubby, I'm easily engaged and entertained as long for as he's willing to keep up the chatter. I love to hear his thoughts, his interesting view on the world around him and the people near and dear to him. It usually ends up being not such small talk after all.

Here's a sampling of the delightful mind nuggets my grandson shared during our time together last week:

Out of nowhere and completely unrelated to anything that came before, Bubby asked, "Have you ever holded a fish? Wouldn't that be so cute? Maybe if they're sad, you could do that. I've always wanted to do that but Mommy never lets me."

"Gramma, do you wanna play the hip-hop scotch game?" (Meaning hopscotch, I assure you, not a rowsing drinking game of sorts.)

One evening as we settled onto the couch for storytime before bed, I had Baby Mac on my lap, Bubby at my side. Bubby, who was to hold the book and be the designated page turner, kept staring at his brother instead of getting on with his job. "Why do you keep looking at him?" I asked. Bubby's response: "<Baby Mac's> head is getting so cute, don't you think?"

"I love your muddy buddies, Gramma! maybe one time you can save a little bit of these for a dessert because mommy never ever has these kind of candy."

Bubby and I had been talking about horses and I told him about the day PawDad, Aunt B (Brianna), and I rode horses at my sister's ranch. "Gramma, horses don't like RANCH!" he said. "Ranch is for carrots. It's white. It's not for horses!"

Bubby: "You look so pretty in that dress, Gramma."
Gramma: "Why thank you, Bubby. That's so sweet."
Bubby (seeming a little sad and confused that the conversation ended there): "Every time I tell my mommy she looks pretty, she gives me a hug."
Needless to say, Bubby got his hug.

Today's fill-in-the-blank:

A memorable comment I recently heard from a child was _____________________.

7 perfect things: My week in review

I have a tendency to focus on things that need improvement, ways I need to be better to make my life better. Not today, though. Today I'm taking a different tack and focusing on ways my life is already pretty darn good. Perfect, in fact—at least this past week, at least in these seven ways:

My bed sheets. I love my sheets. Don't ask me the thread count because I have no idea. I just know that each time I've pulled back my comforter this week, the color (a dusty purple of sorts) and the comfort when I climb in warms my heart.

Bedside stack o' books. I read before falling asleep, and my current "to read" stack is one of the best I've had in a while. Featured: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman; Life Itself by Roger Ebert; Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. Now if I could just stay awake long enough to get through the two I currently have in process—non-fiction courtesy Connie Schultz and fiction from Amy Hatvany—so I could delve into that stack. (Must be the afore-mentioned bed sheets sending me straight to slumber.)

Jim's continued support of my non-traditional career choice. My husband is my No. 1 fan and that helps in more ways than I usually tell him. Especially during times...<clears throat>...like this week....when I consider throwing in the towel and getting an office job.

Alcatraz. The new series featuring Hurley, er, Jorge Garcia and produced by Mr. Lost himself (J.J. Abrams for those who didn't succumb to Lost) premiered this week. It was thoroughly enjoyable, intriguing, and indicative of good things to come.

Clementines & kiwis. This week's bowl of fruit has been especially sweet. And perfect.

My new camera. I've not yet perfected even the smallest degree of its functions and potential, but the camera itself is perfect, and I'm so pleased with what I've been able to do with it so far, including the one above of Wednesday's sunset.

"The Sweetheart" jeans from Old Navy. Sure, they're hand-me-downs from Megan when she started losing all her weight, but they're broken in, they're soft, they're comfy as <cuss>. I love these jeans. And I think I look pretty darn okay in them to boot.

Today's question:

What was perfect for you this past week?

The Saturday Post: Third-act edition

This video, at just over 11 minutes, is longer than I typically like to share. But it's well worth it, especially inspiring for those of us who are aging. And isn't that all of us?

Today's question:

What would you most like to do in your third act?

11 things I learned last year

No. 6: Two grandsons are better than one.

1. How to make salmon, cut mango, appreciate the delights of a boldly flavored balsamic vinegar.

2. Every once in a while hype is well warranted. Case in point: Adele.

3. The older I get, the more unbidden kindness and consideration matters, makes a difference.

4. My black thumb is apparently permanently tattooed that color and will never transform into green. (Though I'll surely give transformation yet another attempt this year.)

5. Despite the complaints and bad press, I'm unashamed to admit I love Netflix. Especially instant streaming for without it, I'd never know the thrills, chills, and chuckles of Friday Night Lights, Sons of Anarchy, Nativity!.

6. Two grandsons are indeed double the fun, double the pleasure of one and two of my life's greatest pleasures day in, day out, whether I see them or not.

7. Although decades removed from the drama and trauma of the teen years, mid-life friendships are still fickle affairs. Some flounder and fade for reasons unclear, while others grow and glow brighter than ever—also for reasons unclear yet much appreciated.

8. Committing yourself to fulfilling your heart's desire is worth far more than money. Most of the time.

9. Less really isn't more, it's still less—especially when it comes to having. But it's manageable, survivable, easier than previously believed.

10. There are benefits to having less, though: It highlights the abundance of blessings remaining for which to be endlessly grateful: a loving family, a welcoming home, continued co-pay assistance.

11. Those things that go bump in the night at my house really are just my boogedy boiler. (Or so I keep telling myself...and my houseguests.)

Today's question:

What did you learn last year?

Bubbyisms

Bubby will be here the end of this week and I can't wait to see him, hug him, hold him. I also can't wait to hear him, as the toddler now talks up a storm, saying things both cute and unexpected.

Here's a sampling of the Bubbyisms that made me chuckle the last time we were together:

• When I served up Gramma's homemade Mac-n-Cheese, Bubby took one bite and exclaimed, "This is my good mac-n-cheese!" (The kid has already figured out that flattery will get him everywhere with Gramma -- especially when it comes to her cooking.)

• Befitting the holiday soon following my visit, together we made Valentine cookies, made with "Ballentime num-n-nums," aka Valentine M&Ms.

• At one point, Bubby walked into the family room and saw toys on the floor he thought he'd picked up. He stopped in his tracks, put his hands on his hips and said in true puzzlement, "What in the WOOD?" (meaning "What in the world?").

• While giving me a tour of his new house, Bubby took my hand in his and said, "There's no ghosts here!" He was quite proud of that fact so I didn't question it ... and figured it was related to his fear of the "white thing" (the ceiling fan) in his old room. He clearly was convincing himself his new home -- which he had been in only one week and was still getting used to -- was far less scary than the old.

• When showing me his playroom and the wondrous mat on which he plays with his beloved cars, trucks and emergency vehicles, I was quite impressed with Bubby's language skills. Here he tells me about the route his "favorite" vehicles travel to arrive at the stadium for basketball games. They take not a road, a street, nor a highway ...

• One day Bubby and I got ice cream and ate it at the park, followed by playtime on the playground. When it was time to go home, Bubby said, "We gotta get home before the coyotes get us!" Coyotes aren't going to get us, I told him. "Wild pigs?" What? Wild pigs aren't going to get us! "Tigers?" he asked. I told him he's crazy and he seemed okay with that. I later learned Gramma was the crazy one who didn't know the game Bubby and his Daddy play regarding getting home before wild animals take off with them.

• Once Bubby gave up trying to engage Gramma in the wild animal game, we buckled up and headed for home. From the backseat, Bubby piped up with a clear and enthusiastic, "We had a GOOD day!" And that we did!

I look forward to several more good days with my favorite little man when he and his Mommy visit from the desert.

I also look forward to Bubby's excitement when he learns that Gramma and PawDad have an interstate, too. I expect exclamations of joy as we take it from the airport home!

Today's question:

Who most recently made you chuckle at something they said?

The fun begins

Frankly, I'm not sure I believe Megan's claims. How can my Bubby be anything but absolutely precious all the time!?There are so many challenges that come with parenting, beginning from the moment the baby arrives. Most of those early challenges are related to the fact the baby can't talk, can't say what's going on. Is he hungry or hurt? Sick or sleepy?

Moms (and dads) muddle through the best they can, anxiously awaiting the day their little one can talk.

Little do they know that it's once their sweet snookums can talk that the real work fun begins.

Seems Megan is just now learning that.

Bubby is nearly 19 months old. And he's learned how to communicate -- sometimes in real words, sometimes in real whines, and sometimes in all-out, throw-myself-on-the-floor, I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-now-dammit tantrums.

In other words, he's hitting the terrible twos.

"What happened to my sweet boy?" Megan asked me yesterday.

"Sounds like he's definitely his mama's son," I told her.

"Yeah, that's all I can think about," she replied.

She remembers the screaming, crying, whining, door-slamming, "I hate yous!" and running to her room. Wait ... those were the teen years.

No, it's the pictures she's thinking about, she says. All the pictures we have of her as a toddler and little girl, crying because life was so absolutely horrible when she didn't get her way. Or get all the attention -- from the dog, her mom, her dad, her little sister, her big sister, anyone daring enough to visit the house.

Full disclosure: In all honesty, Megan didn't cry and throw fits because she was a brat; she cried all the damn time because she was truly heartbroken, my hypersensitive little Meggie. She regularly handed over her heart to anyone within arm's length, then suffered utter devastation when they didn't accept -- or understand -- the gift they were being given.

And now, with Bubby using all his emotions and communication skills to his full advantage, all Megan can think about are the pictures.

All I can think about is that it's payback time.

(And that she's pretty darn lucky her first child is a boy because the hell fun will really begin when she has a hormone-raging, mama-testing little girl!)

Today's question from "If ... (Questions for the Game of Life)":

If you had to choose the worst song ever composed, which one would you pick?

I'm sure there are others but as of right now, just because it's still fresh in my mind with the recent holidays, it's that absolutely stupid, sickening, ear worm of a Christmas tune (if you can call it that) by Paul McCartney that goes ... "Sim-ply hav-ing a WONderful Christmas time." AACK! I hate that song and turned off the radio or changed the channel every time it came on.