Love manners and matters

When I was a child, I rated my affection for something based on one question: Did I love it more than I loved my mom? To me, love was a hierarchy, and Mom was firmly and forever at the top.

Sure, I loved macaroni and cheese, I loved mashed potatoes, I loved listening to the Bay City Rollers and wearing my ever so stylish elephant pants. But did I love those things more than Mom? Not even close.

I soon started applying the same question to people. I loved my sixth-grade teacher, but not more than Mom. I loved my BFF, but not more than Mom. I even thought I loved a boy or two, but certainly not more than Mom. (Their failing the test, I now see, was truly a blessing for me.)

Then came Jim. I soon learned a very important lesson: My love test was silly, my love test was naive. Love isn't a matter of degree, I realized, it's a matter of manner, and I loved Jim in a far different manner than I loved my mom. Not more, not less, just different.

Yes, I loved my mom, but I sure didn't want to spend the rest of my life with her. I did, though, want to spend the rest of my life with Jim. Fortunately he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, too. So we married. And had kids.

When the first baby was born, there was the struggle of coming to terms with the fact—for Jim and for me—that the manner of baby love was such that it required more attention, more nurturing, more time than anything else in our world. It wasn't a matter of loving the baby more than Jim, though it took a while to convince him of that.

When the second baby was set to arrive, I had to convince myself that I wouldn't love my first more than the second. I had yet to learn how much the heart expands with each child. The lesson was confirmed when that second baby arrived. And again when the third baby arrived.

Again and again I've learned—and did my best to teach—that each and every one of those loves of my life were loved the very most I could possibly love, just all in a different manner. I've never loved one child more than another; they're loved in manners befitting them. Sure, there were—and continue to be—days when one drives me more batty than another, but that has nothing to do with love. I love them all fully, love them all completely. I just love my oldest daughter in a manner far different than the second, which is far different than the third. I like to think, and continue to hope, that the manner in which I love them is the manner in which they need, deserve, love in return.

If you're a mother, you get that.

When I learned I'd be a grandmother, though, I clearly didn't get it. Not fully. I wasn't sure I could love my grandchild as much as I loved my children. How, how, how could I, I wondered, when I loved my girls so fully and completely?

Again the matter of manners came into play. The manner in which I love my first grandson is so very different than the manner in which I love his mom...and his aunts. No one more, no one less, all of them different.

Which made it easier when my second grandson came along. I now fully and completely love him, too, yet in a manner so different from how I love his brother.

It's been more than thirty years since I first learned the lesson that love isn't a hierarchy or a matter of degrees, that it's a matter of manners. My love has grown to encompass so many in that time. I love my grandsons. I love my daughters. And I love my cats, my dogs, my house, my home. I do still love macaroni and cheese, too, and do still love potatoes. The Bay City Rollers? Well, not so much anymore.

Through all the additions, though, I still love my mom.

And I still truly and deeply love Jim.

And despite all that we've been through in our decades together, all the other manners—and the oft-heartbreaking matters—that have been thrown into the mix, I do still want to spend the rest of my life with him.

All of my manners of love matter, but today, that is the manner that matters the most.

Happy Valentines Day!

photo: stock.xchng

Today's question:

What love manners and matters are on your mind today?

Now I'm a believer

Surprise! I do love Mac. More than I thought I would.

Despite many a grandparent telling me it would happen, that I would fall in love with the second grandchild as easily as the first, I didn't really believe it.

Despite having written a post — and recently re-publishing that post — about how my heart grew with each additional child I birthed, I didn't really believe it.

No, I didn't believe it. I love Bubby beyond words and I couldn't imagine lightning striking twice and feeling such a way for another child.

Silently worrying that I might be flawed and not have the proper grandma gene or that I may have missed out on some elite grandma training, either rendering me unable to automatically love and adore the second, I took the advice, the words of wisdom — from others and from myself — in stride. I didn't really believe it. I figured I'd just keep it hush-hush once I met Mac and confirmed that he didn't rock my world the way Bubby did.


But rock it he did. And after only a day or so with him, the tremors courtesy of Baby Mac become full-blown heart movers and shakers.

I didn't cry when I first set eyes on Mac, as I did with Bubby. Yet my heart did a whoop-de-doo or two upon seeing his adorable bowed lips, chubby cheeks, long legs and round little fuzz-covered head. It was upon holding him that the tremors began ... and intensified with each cuddle, each cry, each tiny grip of his fingers around mine.

Sure, Mac likes to eat. A lot. Which worked in my favor during my visit. Megan supplements nursing with bottles, so Mac's hearty appetite provided me plenty of opportunities to bond with him over bottles.  

And, yes, Mac is responsible for the very worst-ever diaper-changing episode endured by this grandma. Worst. Ever. But his relieved face with bright eyes focusing on light play on the ceiling as I changed him — three times in a row in one visit to the changing table — plus his soft coos upon finally being cleaned up led to more bonding, not cussing.


Then there were his grunts and groans. Not during diaper fillings but during his sleep...while I or anyone else held him. Just like this:

Hearing such baby noises was the final straw, the act that fondly and firmly cemented Mac's place in my heart. Right next to Bubby's place.

Equal to Bubby's place.

I admit it, fellow grandmas and grandpas: You were right. I can love the second grandchild just as much as the first. More importantly, I do love my second grandchild as much as the first.

Now I'm a believer!

And a real grandma after all.

Today's question:

Do you grunt, er, snore in your sleep?

Grandma's No. 1

Grandmas are bonkers for their grandkids ... usually. I know there are some grandmas who are of the sort to offer little more than a "meh" when it comes to their grandchildren. I've seen them, met them, talked to them. But I think those are the exception, the women who had the same "meh" response to their own children.

The moms whose kids were -- and likely still are -- a priority, though, those who put raising their children at the tippy top of the list of Important Things To Do in This Life, well, those are the ones who grow up to be grandmas whose hearts glow and gushings flow when it comes to their grandkids. Those are the ones deliriously bonkers for their grandbabies.

I admit I'm pretty much of the bonkers variety. Lately, though, I've worried that all the mushy-gushy love-love stuff I've got going on for Bubby makes my daughters a little jealous, a little worrisome that I love my grandson more than I love them. Deep inside we all still want to be mom's favorite, no matter how old we get, and I have a feeling my girls see my bonkered state for Bubby as proof that he's No. 1 in my eyes, in my heart. Not that they've said anything, would even consider saying anything, for they all love Bubby to bits (especially his mama, Megan, of course). Let's just call it mother's intuition.

Maybe. Maybe it's not mother's intuition at all. It very well could be my own overzealous and usually unfounded guilty conscience kicking in because of all the verbal backflips and whoop-dee-doos I perform when it comes to talking about my grandson. And because I don't want my girls to think they figure any less prominently in my heart since Bubby came along.

The thing is, when it comes to grandkids -- and any grandma knows this, so I'm pretty much talking to the non-grandmas here -- it's such a fresh, new, overwhelming love that it's hard to not gush and glow over it. New mothers feel the very same world-shaking love for their newborn, for their little ones as they grow, for the one, two or eighteen lights of their lives.

The difference, though, is what happens in the years between a baby's birth and that newborn's entry into young adulthood. For those years from newborn to adulthood are filled not only with knee-weakening love and adoration, but struggles and strife and, if we're all honest here, a lot of screaming and crying and heartbreak as the child tugs this way and mom tugs that way, all in the name of growth, independence, maturity and just plain ol' life.

Sadly, those struggles lessen a mom's enthusiasm a tad, diminish the mushing and the gushing. But they never, ever, ever lessen the love and adoration mom has for a child. At least not for this mom; probably not for most moms. Despite -- or maybe because of -- the battles, a mother's love for her child matures as the child matures. It grows into a more quiet love, one no longer eliciting butterflies and balloons and all-out blasting of horns to announce the bliss.

But it once did. With every child. And grandchildren bring all that back -- the butterflies, the bliss and more. Which is why grandmas act so goofy, so obsessed, so gosh-darn twitterpated. Much to their delight, they're getting a second opportunity to relish the fully-enveloping motherly love for a child.

And relish it we do.

Just like we did when our first child was born. And the second. And the third. And more.

Just like we did and do and will with each and every grandchild to come along.

It doesn't mean we love our original little ones any less. It just means we're keeping the enthusiasm in check. For the adult child's sake, of course. Because we understand how much the mushy-gushy PDAs from mom embarrass the oh-so grown-up kids, whether they're 13 or 30.

And we know kisses on the lips and big ol' noogies on the head no longer make children-turned-adults giggle in delight. So we bestow them on our grandkids and eat up the giggles they gurgle out as if they were Godiva chocolates.

But any adult child of mine is more than welcome to a noogie, a liplock, a great big bear hug any time they ask for it. Sometimes even if they don't ask for it.

Because although I don't say it nearly enough, the love, the bliss, the being bonkers for my babies is still there, still burning hot in my head, in my heart.

And cuss the numbers, the ranking systems, the logic; mothers and grandmothers don't believe in such things. What we do believe in, though, illogical as it may seem, is that each and every one of our babies, of our grandbabies, is truly No. 1 in our eyes, truly No. 1 in our hearts.

Today's question:

Other than relationships, in what would you most like to be considered No. 1?

My answer: I'd like to be ranked No. 1 on the bestseller list ... for children's books.

Enunciate the love

Bubby has no problem showing his best bud Ro-Ro how much he loves him!I recently read "Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms For The Half-Insane Working Mom" by Kristin van Ogtrop, which I received free for participation in the SV Moms Group Book Club. (SV Moms Group is the umbrella group under which I write for the Rocky Mountain Moms Group occasionally.)

Kristin van Ogtrop is the editor of Real Simple magazine, which means she's a high-power working gal. In her book, she has lots to say about balancing work and life issues, or at least coming to terms with the fact that balance is an elusive thing for most working mothers. A lot of what she has to say is interesting, most of it's witty, tiny bits of it left me scratching my head.

One tiny bit that stood out as a head-scratcher for me is a comment van Ogtrop made about saying "I love you." The context is that it's a chapter in which she talks about the strangeness of realizing she may possibly love a coworker. Love as in motherly love, friendly love, not some sordid office romance type of love. First she confesses, "I am not a big 'I love you' person," then a few paragraphs later she says this:

"Many people who rise to leadership positions do so in part because they can control their emotions (see Emotional tourniquet, p. 63). Sometimes I think the only reason I have been hired to run a magazine is because I'm able to remember to keep a box of tissues in my office and I can usually remain dry-eyed while others around me burst into tears. I'm sure there are individuals I work with who pity my children, raised as they are by a woman who appears to have no emotions but the occasional flash of anger. To those colleagues: I assure you, I do tell my children and my husband that I love them. At least every once in a while."

It's those last couple sentences that caught my attention. I'm sure van Ogtrop isn't dead serious about the "every once in a while" part, but it made me consider how often the "I love you"s are thrown around in my family.

I come from a family where "I love you" was rarely said; my dad still says it only in third person ("Your dad loves ya"). I wanted things to be different in the family Jim and I created, and it is. We say "I love you" all the time, possibly so often that it has lost its oomph.

It started off when the girls were little that after bedtime prayers there'd be "Goodnight, I love you." Then, when they left the house it'd be "Have fun. Be safe. I love you!" Now it's the last thing we say at the end of telephone calls: "I love you. Bye!"

Even Bubby -- who, as a typical 22-month-old, still has a relatively limited word reportoire -- has learned the phrase. As we wrapped up our most recent Skyping conversation, he said "Bye!" followed by a mumbled "ahwhuhwhoo." Translation from Megan: "That's his 'I love you.'"

"Ahwhuhwhoo"s notwithstanding, most of our family phone calls are now end with what sounds much like "love-ya-bye!" as we all lead busy lives and rush to get off the phone so we can move along to the other dire matters that fill our days.

And I don't like that. Sure, the sentiment is still there, but this is an instance in which it's not just the thought that counts. It's the saying it like you mean it that counts.

So going forward (gotta love that corporate phrase left over from corporate days) I plan to enunciate, to say it like I mean it. Because I do mean it. More than anything else in my life. I love my girls, my husband, my Bubby.

And my readers.

I love you!


Extra special bonus because I love you guys: I received two copies of "Just Let Me Lie Down" by Kristin van Ogtrop to give away. Enter to win one in the Back Room.

Today's question:

In an average day, how many times do you say "I love you"?

My answer: Probably five or six times.

Rediscovered loves

My question of the day yesterday asked what is something you love, love, love. It brought to mind some of the things I used to love, then forgot about, then rediscovered. Here are a few of those things:

Walgreens brand Alpha Hydroxy Face Cream -- I used this stuff years ago when I first started worrying about the dreaded wrinkles. It was cheap ($5.99 for 4 ounces), it was readily available. Day in, day out, I used the cream. Then I started making the big bucks. And spending the big bucks on more expensive face creams, from L'Oreal to Arbonne (which Andrea sold for a while). I liked the fancy-schmancy creams and forgot about my first love. Then money started getting tight again and I longed for the Alpha Hydroxy -- but could no longer find it anywhere. I've looked for it for a few years now, always lamenting the $20+ I had to shell out for an itsy bitsy container of some brand-name dewrinkler. Until just the other day. Brianna and I were at Walgreen's and the heavens opened and angels sang and a light shone upon a bottom shelf in the skin care aisle where two lonely containers of my beloved Alpha Hydroxy sat ... still priced at only $5.99 a jar. I bought both -- and considered asking the clerk if she had more in the back so I could stock up. L'Oreal: You're no longer welcome in my house! (Well, at least as long as these two jars last.)

Icees -- When I was about 12 years old, I lived in a small town (the now growing town my mom and sister still live in ... separately). There was a 7-Eleven on the route I walked each day with my BFF on our way to school. We stopped there nearly every day for penny candies (that really were about $.02). My friend's sister, the older-by-a-year, much-cooler Jeanne, stopped there, too. For Icees. My friend and I splurged occasionally, but Jeanne bought lots of the luscious carbonated red goodness, slurping them up regularly -- and saving the little points you cut out of the cup that could be redeemed for prizes. And she actually did redeem them for prizes. I was so jealous, not only of the prizes she got after purchasing and mailing in the points from 362 Icees, but because she could afford them so often. I forgot about Icees until about a year ago -- when Jim realized they sell Icees at the movie theater. Now we get an Icee every time we go see a movie. Mmmmm ... so much more satisfying (to me) than popcorn.

The smell of cut lumber -- Jim and I recently had to do a little lumber cutting around the house, trimming up old (old) doors that wouldn't close correctly because the house had settled over the years and the antique doors stuck here and there. I held the door still on the impromptu "saw horse" on the patio while Jim trimmed from the bottom ... and I was suddenly floored by the glorious scent wafting from the sawdust. I don't know if it brought me back to childhood and watching my dad create some funky wooden road sign with a rooster at the top, a hen below the rooster, then seven chicks below that, all with the label "Roger's Roost" (we were a family of seven kids) or if it brought back memories of when Jim and I remodeled our old house, doing most of the work ourselves and being incredibly proud of our work ... especially considering neither of us had ever worked any sort of construction in the past. Either way, I had forgotten how wonderful wood smells when cut. Now if I could only find a "Cut Lumber" scented candle (and, no, the "Pine" scent doesn't cut it!).

Story of the Day from StoryPeople -- I discovered the magic of storyteller and artist Brian Andreas during a family spring break trip to a small tourist town more than 10 years ago. I fell in love instantly. I bought a print. I later ordered prints for each of the girls for Christmas. I signed up for the e-mailed Story of the Day. Those stories made my day, made me smile, made my heart squish up in wondrous ways. I bought a print for our new house (actually, it was purchased for the folks we bought the new house from ... then when I saw the absolutely disgusting mess they left for us to clean, I kept the print for myself) and I love this print. It looks like this:

And it says this:

There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good.

Did it squish up your heart?

But then my e-mail box was filled to the brim each day and I had to cut what I didn't have time for. StoryPeople was one of those cuts.

I have a little more time now, and a little more need for some serious heart squishing (in the good ways), so I recently signed back up for the StoryPeople story of the day ... and became a fan of StoryPeople on Facebook. I love this stuff. Once again, it makes my day.

Flannel nightgowns -- From the time I was about 15 until I was nearly 30, I wore flannel nightgowns. They were comfortable ... and comforting. Then I started feeling like an old lady and decided I needed more hip, cute, fancy, appealing nightwear. During a bout in the hospital, I received a silky pajama set from my little Girl Scouts (Daisies and Brownies!) and decided THAT'S the kind of luxurious jammies I need to wear. So I purchased another silky set from Victoria's Secret (not the kind Jim would have liked, but the kind I liked, that could be worn around the kids!). Then, for some reason I can't recall, I moved to the capri sweats and tank top kind of jammies ... then flannel pants and T-shirt jammies. And I'm sick of them. So this past weekend I decided to go ahead and be the old lady I am, and I ordered a flannel nightgown from JCPenney. Weird thing is that the only flannel nightgown I could find was a "nightshirt" -- for men! What kind of man would wear such a thing? I would kick Jim out of bed, possibly even out of the house, if he ever dared to wear a nightshirt -- flannel or any other kind. We're not THAT old! But I can't wait to put one on myself.

So there you have it: my rediscovered loves of late.

Today's question:

What long-lost love you have recently rediscovered?