Wherein six years seems a lifetime


Six years ago — March of 2008 — there was so much that was so very different. Perusing pictures from one weekend back then highlights several of the changes.

For instance, my first grandchild had not yet been born (but soon would be)...

expectant belly 

Mickey was our...

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9 things I wish were still around

I recently saw an advertisement for Jiffy Pop popcorn, and I thought to myself, THAT is something I need to pack in my grandma bag to share with my grandsons next time.

Considering their delight in watching air-popped popcorn pop — and attempting to sing the Too Pooped to Pop song while we watch — I imagine Bubby and Mac would get quite a thrill out of watching the Jiffy Pop foil top grow as kernels pop and puff up inside.

watching popcorn pop 

Jiffy Pop has been around forever, it seems...

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Seven days... and the language of love

making faces

Every family has a language all its own. Sure, the words may be common knowledge to those outside the family, but the manner in which some words are strung together — and, often, the tone in which they're said — have significance far beyond the basic for those privy to a special, familial meaning.

For example, how would you feel if I were to say to you any sentence containing the phrase "love pop-can chain?" Confused, I'd venture to say.

For my funky family of five, though, any mentions of "love pop-can chain" cause hearts to warm and smiles to form as we remember one long-ago camping trip.

None of us recall exactly how it started, but at some point in the weekend, we came across a small chain of pop-can tops, you know, the kind in which you pull back the ring to open your can of sugary carbonated goodness, and are left with a dangerous metal shard in your hand (yet another thing kids nowadays know nothing about).

One by one we added our pop-can tops to the chain and eventually, for reasons I can't recall and in fits of laughter that still define many of our family gatherings, we dubbed the chain our love pop-can chain. We brought home our love pop-can chain, displayed it proudly. I have it somewhere — and am now quite unsettled because I just this moment realized I can't remember where I hung the love pop-can chain when we moved to this house more than four years ago. Because I can't recall its location, I can't share a photo. But just know that it's a chain of connected pop-can tops, linked together with love and lots and lots of laughter. For reasons understood only by my family.

Another example is the phrase "in net, under monkey." That means nothing to anyone other than the five members of my family, all of us privy to the anal tendencies of Andrea. Those tendencies once proved Andie's downfall, as she chose to keep a written reminder to herself where she hid contraband from Mom and Dad — yet kept the note neatly on her bedroom desk in plain sight. Let's just say it was hard to mete out any meaningful disciplinary action when Jim and I were laughing so hard at how we discovered her hidden stash.

Those are phrases exclusive to our Carpenter clan. Others our family utters with grins and giggles are phrases millions of others have heard, possibly repeated themselves, because they're lines from movies. But they make us smile when stated with a certain tone, at appropriately perfect times.

A few family favorites:

"I'll be right back" from Scream (not "I'll be back" from Terminator!).

"What time I s'posed to be there?" from Bill Cosby: Himself. Jim says this. Often. Making the rest of us chuckle. Often.

"Time, Mr. Carter?" from Point Break.

Another related to time — funny how so many are — is "Seven days...". It's best said in a creepy whisper, and even more effective when said over the phone. Proof that such things are understood only by my immediate family came by way of a recent interaction with one of my sisters, when we were testing out a new phone system I had hooked up for our mom.

After getting all the handsets correctly set up, I called my sister from it to ensure all systems were go. "Seven days..." I whispered to her, in a creepy manner my daughters and husband would be proud of. Her response: "WHAAAT?" So I whispered it again... and got the same response again. It had nothing to do with the phone connection and everything to do with her not getting the reference.

So I groaned, then spent far longer than necessary explaining the creepy phone call from The Ring. You know, the one characters receive after watching a video (back in the days of VHS) that they so should not have watched and now had only seven days left to live, as the creepy caller so creepily informed them. She shrugged, didn't get it. (Maybe I should have just said to my sister, "Do you like scary movies?"... which is, um, from Scream.)

cute boyYes, we find such things funny in our family. And it's the "Seven days..." phrase that ran through my head again and again yesterday as I kept telling myself "Seven days...". But yesterday's seven days carried a far less creepy connotation, because it's, yes, a mere seven days, until I finally get to see Bubby and Mac again.

Seven days... until I get to see in person my grandsons doing Harlem Shake moves that were featured in a gut-busting video Megan recently texted to me, prefaced with a strong warning that, "This is not appropriate for sharing anwhere online."

cute boySeven days... until I get to see in person the equally inappropriate-for-posting-online Mac as he models big-boy briefs instead of diapers. Megan shared with me the other day a sweet picture of Mac posing in his new undies, accompanied by his giggle-infused comments of "I nakey!"

Seven days... until I get to spend ten days with the lights of my life, my favorite boys ever.

Thing is, because I wrote this post yesterday, the key phrase is now "Six days...".

Only six days until I get to hug my adorable and goofy grandsons.

And that is a phrase everyone reading this likely understands and appreciates — family members or not.

Today's question:

What phrases make your family giggle though others may not know why?

Bringing out the best

I have been married a long time. With more than 30 years under our shared belt, my husband and I have seen the best of times, the worst of times, the best in each other, and the worst in each other.

I must admit—as anyone who has been in a long-term relationship might—that not only has my better half seen me at my worst, he's occasionally been the one to bring out the worst in me.

Not a pretty thing to admit about the man I've promised to love until my dying breath, I know.

My husband's not alone, though. My daughters have done a pretty good job of bringing out the worst in me over the years, too. If you have kids, and especially if you have gone through or are in the throes of the teen years, you know darn well how very bad the "worst" in a mom can be.

Regardless, I still love my husband and my daughters. Unquestionably, unconditionally. I hope they feel the same about me despite that worst part of me they've coaxed to the surface now and again. There's something comforting in knowing I can show my very worst side to the ones I love without fear of abandonment.

There's something equally comforting, though, in knowing there are a few souls to whom I don't show that unsavory side, the loved ones who bring out not the worst but the very best in me.

I'm talking, of course, about my grandsons.

My grandsons have magical powers, I believe, for when I'm with them, I am my best, I do my best.

When I'm with my grandsons, I don't demand they be on my time as I'm wont to do with anyone—with everyone—else. No, we move on their time, live by their schedule. 

When I'm with my grandsons, I laugh more, sing more, dance more.

And I swear far less, for reasons needing no explanation.

When I'm with my grandsons, I look on the bright side more often than not. Perhaps that's because all things are indeed brighter when we're together, regardless of the side one may look at.

When I'm with my grandsons, I cook more often, and usually without complaining—even if they complain about what I've set before them, as finicky kiddos often do.

When I'm with my grandsons, I do more crafting and more creating.

I do more reading, too—albeit from books with far more pictures than those I typically read on my own.

When I'm with my grandsons, I do more hugging of little bodies and kissing of little heads.

And I don't sigh heavily or act like they're silly when they say they have owies here or there on those little bodies and little heads. Which is a far different response than when hearing the same from those with big bodies. Not a sympathetic nursemaid am I—except when I'm with my grandsons.

When I'm with my grandsons, I move more, sit less. I listen more, preach less. And I model using manners more in hopes of having to point out one's lack of manners less.

As I stop and look back at what I've written above, I see it's a rather lengthy list of ways my grandsons bring out my best. And as I consider it, I realize this: I should show the same face, have the same demeanor with others. Whether it's my husband, my daughters, distressing relatives, frustrating strangers. I should be my best with all, not just reserve the best of myself for the privileged two.

So I'll try. I'll try to be my best with and for my husband, my daughters, the world at large. I will do that, I will model that, for my grandsons.

In the end it's just one more way my grandsons bring out my best—or at least the hope and intention of me being exactly that.

Today's question:

Who brings out the best in you?