Getting real... plus GRAND Social No. 321 link party for grandparents

Getting real... plus GRAND Social No. 321 link party for grandparents

Getting real

My mom is struggling to survive stage 3 lung cancer. My firstborn will soon deliver her firstborn any day now. Somewhere in between my utter despair regarding the one end of life’s spectrum and my sheer delight related to the other is the space where I, a writer and blogger, should be writing and blogging.

But I don’t feel like…

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Flashback Friday: Back in my day

Flashback Friday: Back in my day

Dear readers: Today is the day my firstborn learns the gender of her firstborn, scheduled for arrival in October. With all things pregnancy on my brain today, I thought this post—originally published June 13, 2011—a fitting Flashback Friday feature. Thank you for reading!

I had my youngest baby, Andrea, nearly 26 years ago (Flashback update: nearly 33 years ago!). Listening to Megan talk about pregnancy, labor, and newborn care, it's clear there have been some important—and some not-so-important—changes in the whole process since back in my day.

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Saturday movie review: Tully

Saturday movie review: Tully

I can't tell you much about the plot of TULLY. I watched every moment of the engrossing film. I was affected—and often amused—by Diablo Cody's story, Jason Reitman's directing, the entire cast's acting.

Yet I can't tell you what TULLY is about. If I do, it'll ruin the movie for you. Because TULLY isn't what you expect.

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I say that shutting up is hard to do

Dear Mr. Sedaka,

You were so right. I know that it's true. Breaking up is hard to do. Especially for teens, when true love seems a fickle, heartbreaking foe.

I do know how difficult breaking up can be. I've been there, done that. Long, long ago, admittedly one of the billions of boomers who once sang away heartbreak blues crooning along to your catchy, comforting tune.

I'm decades removed from being a youngster longing for love. And in the years since breakups with beaus broke my heart, I've found something more difficult to do than breaking up, Mr. Sedaka. And that's shutting up.

Trust me: It's waaaay harder to do than breaking up.

I'm not talking about shutting up regarding social or personal injustice. No one should ...

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Changing seasons: Thoughts on giving my adult daughters their baby books

baby books

"It would be good for me to know those things," my middle daughter sighed into the phone the other day. And she's right.

We were on the phone, discussing challenges she faces with her middle child, my second grandson. There is hope, I pointed out, a...

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The Saturday Post: 'Magical Journey' edition

Our kids may have moved out and on, yet there's still plenty for us to do and be and grow into. Katrina Kenison's words, excerpted from Magical Journey, beautifully and gracefully underscores that as she moves into a phase of life many of us already know, may still be coming to terms with.


I posted a similar yet quite different video from Katrina Kenison in the past, a recitation from her book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day. If you  missed it, check it out here.

Today's question:

Which was/is more challenging for you: young kids at home or older kids who've moved out?

Four 'fun' parental duties I didn't find so fun

Tooth Fairy duty. Tuesday's question about Tooth Fairy rates reminded me how much I didn't like playing Tooth Fairy when my daughters were young. I didn't like it at all. Not because I didn't want to reward my girls for having lost a tooth but because playing Tooth Fairy scared the <cuss> out of me. Seriously. Every time one of the girls went to sleep with high hopes of finding a dollar under her pillow upon awaking (yes, our rate was $1 per tooth), I dreaded having to sneak into the room, stealthily remove a tooth wadded up in tissue from under the pillow, and replace it with a buck. I just knew I'd be midway through the task, with my hand under a sleepy head while feeling for a papery wad, when the little girl's head would slowly turn my way and her eyes would pop right open and stare at me like a crazed Chucky-type doll.

Considering such scenarios scared me to no end. In fact, it scared me so much I sometimes accidentally on purpose forgot one of my children had gone to bed with high hopes of a dollar magically appearing in the night. 'Twas so much easier and less anxiety producing—for me, at least—to apologize come morning for the Tooth Fairy's poor scheduling then pretend she (or he?) had shown up and made the tooth/dollar trade while the girls were at school. Or, to out of guilt give my daughters their proper due, I'd just steel myself all day for the task, then come nightfall get the stupid duty over as quickly as possible. Which is why the Tooth Fairy would sometimes forget; a day or two preparing myself helped. Get in, grab the tooth, drop the dollar, get out. As quickly as possible! And don't look at her face while doing it!

Oh, the lengths we moms go to in order to convince our kids it's okay to allow charming characters with tooth fetishes into their rooms at night.

Bath time. Yes, bath time for many is a lovely and peaceful nightly ritual shared by mother and child. Not when you have three children to bathe at one time. Bath nights were hell, I mean, <cuss> in our household when the girls were little. At least for me. Thirty minutes of three little girls complaining the others were taking all the space...or all the bubbles...or all the water—yes, all the water!—was not fun. Thirty minutes of repeating, Look up! Look up! Look up! as I shampooed and rinsed and listened to at least one of the girls—sometimes all three of them—crying that they had soap in their eyes was not fun. Even the Rub-A-Dub Doggie with the swivel head wasn't distraction enough to make for fun and frivolous tub time. For any of us.

Sure, it would have been smart to bathe one girl at a time. But with a husband working three jobs, thus gone during bath time, who the heck would have watched the other two (remember, the girls are consecutive ages—16 months between the first two, 19 months between the second two) while I joyfully splished, splashed, and shampooed one at a time? Wasn't happening. I was quite thankful when Brianna became old enough to shower instead of being one of the bathers.

Interesting aside: As a grandma, I still dread bath least when I have to bathe both Bubby and Mac at the same time. When I bathe them separately, it truly is one of the most enjoyable of all grandma duties. When they're together, not so enjoyable. So we opt for individual bath times—as long as there's someone else to entertain the non-bather while the bather and I splish, splash, and enjoy the moment.

Slumber parties. As a mother to three daughters, you'd think I'd be a pro at slumber parties. The girls had a lot of them growing up. Heck, I threw a few of my own accord, as I was a Girl Scout leader for many years and slumber parties were a great bonding experience for the troop. At least that was the original intention.

Just like the slumber parties thrown for my daughters' birthdays and more, though, good intentions at the outset of a slumber party flew out the window sometime soon after midnight when the cattiness of tired and cranky girls brought out the worst in everyone. Including me. By 2 a.m. I was usually gritting my teeth and saying to myself, "I wish they would just go home!" Funny thing is, that was often about the same time whichever daughter of mine was hosting the event would creep up the stairs and into my room to say exactly the same thing: "I wish they would Just. Go. Home."

Of course, we'd all forget about how very un-fun slumber parties were come time to consider having another...and another...and another.

Mall shopping. Being mother to three daughters also meant I was supposed to love clothes shopping with my girls. Seems having my kids at a very early age led to me missing that memo, that lesson in the parenting preparedness classes, for I didn't simply dislike shopping at the mall, I hated it. So much so that I did all I could to avoid it.

Back-to-school shopping was particularly dreadful, at the mall or anywhere else. Reason being, for the most part, because money was always tight, and trying to please three fashion-conscious girls on a limited budget was impossible. Which resulted in many tears—and not just from them. Even when we did manage to have enough money for a planned purchase, there were still tears, especially from one particularly difficult shopper we won't name or point out that she's my middle child and mother to my grandsons.

Ironically, Megan loved shopping most of all, was the one most distressed by my aversion to shopping. Strolling the mall together was supposedly the ultimate mother/daughter activity, the best way for girlie-girls to bond with their mamas. Only, I wasn't the girlie-girl kind of mom Megan longed for. Add my hate for shopping to the long list of other girlie things I didn't do—paint my nails, accessorize correctly (or at all), chat endlessly on the phone for no reason—and it's clear why Megan thought for many years that she had surely been adopted.

As a mom, I was supposed to have fun doing all those things above. I didn't. Maybe you feel the same.

Fortunately my list of things I did have fun doing as a parent is longer. Simply remove from the job description the four duties above and all that's left is what I had fun doing.

Well, for the most part.

Dropping a child off at college wasn't all that fun. Saying goodbye as they packed up the last of their closets and left the nest for good wasn't so much fun either.

Maybe you feel the same.

photos: stock.xchng (click photos for details)

Today's question:

What supposedly fun parental duties did you find not so fun?

Grandma guilt strikes again

Through the 20+ years I spent raising my three daughters, guilt was an emotion I wore reluctantly yet often. Daily, in fact. Obsessively. The list of things I—and other mothers, surely—had to feel guilty about was endless.

Did I nurse long enough? Too long? Eat correctly to make the best breastmilk I could? Oh, I should not have had that beer...or the second one. Did I start them in school too early? Too late? Help them enough with their homework? Or too much? And the clothes, the cool and expensive clothes I couldn't afford! I surely damaaged their self esteem making them wear hand-me-downs. Or rag rollers—that made such adorable hairstyles!—the night before special occasions. Or homemade Halloween costumes instead of the fancy store-bought kind donned by their friends. And I didn't sign up often enough as class party mom. And I made them stop trick-or-treating before their friends did...well, at least poor Brianna, the one we practiced parenting on. Sheesh, the ways we messed up that girl. Well, all the girls because we had them so close together...and we were so broke...and I was so strict. But they did get to have pagers. But it wasn't cell phones...or iPads or even computers. MAN! We didn't have a computer until they were in junior high, and then I rarely let them on it without demanding they spend time with Mavis Beacon to practice their typing before they were allowed to play VidGrid. VidGrid? Oh, yeah, I surely warped them letting them watch music videos. Well, in the later years, that is, because I had the parental lock on MTV when they were younger. Was that right to do? And was it right to make them be home for dinner every single night? Go out for at least one sport per school year? Get a job at 16? But not be allowed to work on Sundays because they had to go to church and be there for Sunday dinner? We made them pay for their car insurance, but we didn't pay for driving lessons. Oh, I just KNOW it warped them in some way for me to teach them to drive for the first time in the cemetery. But at least they couldn't kill anyone there. How horrible of me to say front of them. And how horrible to demand they go to college for AT LEAST one semester before deciding if college was or was not for them. Maybe they weren't cut out for college? Maybe the student loan debt was too much for them. Maybe I was too much for them.

I know the guilt was too much for me. Patience and energy and money are all easily exhausted for parents, but guilt? Guilt continues to grow and multiply and take over one's days. At least a mom's days—and nights, feeling guilty about all those things we may have forgotten to feel guilty about during the day.

Thankfully those guilt-ridden mommy days and nights are over for me. And, fortunately, guilt-ridden isn't a defining trait of the grandma gig. That's not to say it's non-existent, though. The past couple weeks I've been faced with a bit of grandma guilt, an especially nagging grandma guilt when it comes to Baby Mac, my second grandson.

Baby Mac will celebrate his first birthday in a couple weeks. The creative invitation designed like a ticket to a baseball game came in the mail over the weekend. Megan has told me of all the bits and pieces going into the baseball-themed affair, and it sounds like it'll be a home run for pleasing ball-loving Baby Mac and entertaining all in attendance.

Thing is, I won't be attending. And I feel horribly guilty about that. Yes, I'm a long-distance grandma so such absences are to be expected. But I was (and am) a long-distance grandma with Bubby, too, and I managed to attend every single one of his birthday celebrations. There have been only three so far, but I was there for them all. Photographed them all. Sang "Happy Birthday" to my grandson at all.

But I won't be doing that for Baby Mac. Because he—and his brother—will be visiting my house for an extended stay just a few weeks after his birthday. So it's silly to pay the money to fly 815 miles to the desert to sing Happy Birthday, eat some cake, take some photos. We'll just have a second party at Gramma and PawDad's when the boys arrive for their visit.

Actually, we'll have two birthday parties when the boys visit in June, because Bubby's birthday is mere days before the boys come to the mountains, so we'll have one for him, too. We have a fun activities planned: one will include a dinosaur museum visit; one will feature a visit to my sister's ranch so the boys can ride Shetland ponies. Aunt B and Aunt Andie will get to attend. It will be awesome.

But I still feel guilty. For not attending my second grandson's very first birthday party. Well, and for not attending my first grandson's fourth birthday party. Their real parties. The ones Mom has planned for both boys. At their own home, with their own friends.

Grandma guilt. There's nothing worse.

Except, of course, mommy guilt.

Today's question:

How does grandma guilt compare to mommy guilt in your life?

The Saturday Post: Mama Then & Now edition

The International Museum of Women recently launched Mama Then and Now, the latest gallery in the moving and thought-provoking online exhibition called MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe.

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe explores the lives, visions and voices of mothers from more than 60 countries. Personal stories are shared through original creative works including film, music, art and more.

One of the highlights of Mama Then and Now is the following video in which women from around the world reflect on their personal motherhood experience and the generational differences between the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters of their families.

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe also offers in-depth looks at Heroes: International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, Activist Grandmothers, tongue-in-cheek, Facebook-inspired embroideries in a feature called Friend Me , and much, much more.

Take a look MAMA...then share it with the other mamas in your life.

Today's question:

How is your mothering and grandmothering experience different from your mother's and grandmother's?

Mom 2.0: Better than Mom 1.0

I've always considered it a parent's duty to create a better life for their children than the one they had themselves, to improve the family's lot with each generation. Regardless of how grand -- or not -- a person's life may be, there's always room for improvement, and their kids should be the beneficiaries of such.

With that in mind, I've worked hard to ensure my daughters are more content, better educated, more financially secure than I was at their age, along with myriad other upgrades in comparision to how things were for me. Now that they're all adults, I'm seeing the fruits of my labor in all of them, in numerous ways.

But as Megan is the only one of my daughters to become a mother so far, in her I see that not only is she better educated and more financially secure than I was in my mid-20s, she is a much better mom than I was at her age.

Here are nine reasons why I say that:

1. Megan has tricks and techniques for discipline, character building, motor-skill encouraging and more that I never dreamed of when my kids were Bubby's age. Most come by way of her early childhood education training and her work as a pre-K teacher, but that simply means there was a two-fold payoff from my "better educated" goal for my girls.

2. Megan is better at spacing her children than I was. I wouldn't give anything in the world for the way my babies came in rapid succession, as things really do (and did) happen for a reason. But allowing Bubby some time as an only child, with his own room and gads of attention before Baby No. 2 comes along, seems a much better plan than my non-plan nearly 30 years ago.

3. Megan swims. And hikes. And runs. And engages Bubby in outdoorsy pursuits that keep him healthy and happy. I'm a rather sedate, indoorsy kind of mom. I think outdoorsy is better.

4. Megan looks forward to Bubby playing football. I'm just thankful I never had boys and had to endure years of watching my child get knocked around on the field. I honestly don't know that I could have -- or would have -- done it. I may have ended up not allowing a son to play football ... and that son likely would have hated me for that.

5. Megan is more fearless than I ever was. She allows Bubby to find his own footing on play structures, lets him figure out how to get up and down stairs on his own at an early age, lives in the desert where rattlesnakes and scorpions roam, lets Bubby ride Roxy like a horse until Roxy gently decides enough is enough. I'm overprotective to a fault. (Brianna, Andrea, Megan: You never heard me admit that!)

6. Megan let Bubby take the lead in his potty training, making it a non-issue -- and completely accomplished in less than a week. I, on the other hand, scarred Brianna for life, I'm sure, by adherence to the idiotic ideas in a book called "Toilet Training In A Day." A day which was marked by tears, not success.

7. Megan chose godparents according to what was best for Bubby. I (along with Jim) chose godparents with the intent of honoring those chosen.

8. Megan tries new recipes for dinner every night in hopes of widening her family's culinary horizon. Well, not every night, she says, but nearly every night ... and far more often than this mother who tended to go with the tried and true far too often.

9. Last but not least, Megan taught Bubby from a very early age how to make good choices -- something I'm still trying to teach my daughters.

Megan has only one child at this point, whereas when I was her age, I had three. So the real test of my assertion that she's a better mom than I will come when babies No. 2 and No. 3 come along.

Do I question whether she'll pass? Not at all.

I have no doubt whatsoever Megan will pass with flying colors -- colors I likely would never have even dreamt of.