What my Grandma (and her house) taught me

Easter 2006

My Grandma and me, Easter 2006

Nearly a year ago my grandma had a stroke that ultimately left her unable to communicate clearly and lose use of her right side.  She is currently in a nursing home, and will most likely not return home.

I’ve had a year to come to terms with this.  I can handle going to see her at the nursing home, and I am used to having family get togethers in a location other than Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

But a month ago I visited Grandma and Grandpa’s farm for the first time since her stroke.  I went to see all the work that had been done on their house – my aunts, uncles and cousins have been helping by going through some of the papers and other things in the house and organizing it.

What I didn’t realize was how hard it was going to be to visit without my grandparents there to greet me.  It was a good thing my Mom had the wisdom to send me over with my husband, because I was fighting back tears even as we were driving over there.  And then the big hit when I walked through that door, and realized that my Grandma wasn’t going to be there to respond to my, “Hello!”  Whenever we would come over, she would greet us with a hug, and then tell us to come out back to help feed the chickens, or look at her garden, or come into the living room so she could show us the quilt she was working on.  And of course, I can’t forget that she would always have care packages to send with us when we had to leave.

As I was walking around the house, I noticed that boxes were missing from around the house, but that isn’t what struck me.  To me, it pretty much looked the same.  When I walked into the living room and saw the piano, I thought of the countless hours my Grandma sat with me and helped me learn to play piano.  I thought of watching her at the piano, amazed at how many songs she knew from memory and how easy she made it look.  And then I thought of the many Christmases that I sat and played “Linus and Lucy” for my younger cousins, who loved to dance to the song all around the living room.  And we can’t forget the hours of football watched on Thanksgiving afternoon.

When I went into the sewing room, the memories of Grandma teaching me how to sew my first (and only!) comforter using material she was going to use in a square dancing dress.  The upstairs made me think of all the stories she would tell me about when her kids lived up there.  The kitchen, lessons on bread-making.  The basement, years of family gatherings where the cousins would gather to eat.

As I left, I prayed to God that somehow I could build a family as strong as my Grandparents have over these past years.  A family built on love. A family that is always nearby when you need a helping hand.  A family that continues to be close for generations.  A family where the beautiful memories are so strong, when you walk through the house where they were made, the house whispers back and helps you remember.

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It’s never JUST fixing supper.

Courtesy of gimmesomeoven.com

My husband typically gets home a little before 6:00PM so I try to have supper on the table shortly after.  In order to accomplish this, this usually means I have to start around 3:30.  Yes, it usually takes me 2-1/2 hours to cook supper, unless it is something like bratwursts or hamburgers.  Why?  Because there are so many other things that I wind up doing OTHER than preparing supper that even though the recipe says it will only take 45 minutes to prepare, I know that it is a whole different story when kids are in the mix.  I think it is reasonable to allow an extra hour per kid for prep time.

I had this realization tonight, about an hour into the preparation of supper.  So, I decided to write down everything that I remembered doing, and continued until  supper was ready.  Keep in mind that today was a relatively calm and easy supper preparation.  We had no melt downs.  The girls played nicely with each other.  There were no blow out diapers (which happened just last week, which constituted a bath and that is another post just by itself), and no major catastrophes.

3:30

  • Start supper by pulling out the bacon from the freezer, and getting set up to peel the butternut squash.
  • Give snacks to girls – PB&J sandwich, pudding, cheese.
  • Sing “Little Fishy” song.
  • Peel butternut squash.
  • Keep giving snacks – banana and Girl Scout cookie.
  • Back to peeling the squash.  While doing this, talk to the girls about the color of the inside & outside of the squash.
  • Wash girls’ hands and faces, then the trays.
  • Sweep up after snack.  And when I sweep, it means I have to pick up toys.
  • Open the spice container given to girls three times
  • Wipe noses.
  • Back to cutting up that squash.
  • Pretend to eat food the girls “made”.
  • Break up a fight
  • Dance party in the kitchen!
  • Wipe noses again.
  • Break up another fight.

4:40

  • We’re still cutting up the squash at this point.  Or maybe it was the onion by now?
  • Kisses!
  • More pretend eating of pretend food.  Yummy!
  • In order to avoid a throw down, I have to stop to get a second plastic spoon out of the cabinet so they can feed their baby dolls which required getting a step stool to get into the cabinet above the fridge.
  • Referee a disagreement
  • Re-find a spoon/referee
  • Failed Attempt #1 to use the restroom.  Layla wanted to give me a hug.
  • Forget to use the restroom.
  • Wipe noses.
  • Hear the girls giggle and peak to see what is going on
  • Hold Katherine and dance with her in the kitchen
  • Open up the spice container again.  Five times in a row.

5:00

  • Failed Attempt #2 to use the restroom.  Katherine hit her mouth and needs a hug.
  • Open spice container a couple more times.
  • Cut up the bacon.
  • Finally, a successful bathroom break!
  • Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
5:20
  • Hallelujah, what needs to be in the oven is in the oven!  The pasta water is almost ready to boil, and the bacon is cut up and ready to go in the pan.  A stopping point!  We went and read books at this point.
  • From here to supper is kind of a haze.  My husband came home at one point and I was able to focus on just cooking.
6:15

And that my fellow readers is how supper gets cooked in our household. 🙂

Danger + World + Kids = Cautious Parents

Caution Tape

From the moment our babies were born…No, wait.  Strike that.  From the moment we found out we were expecting, the world became a more dangerous place.  There were so many things that could harm our babies!

When I was pregnant, I had to be careful with what medicines I took.  Some medicines could cause birth defects.  Even ibuprofen causes problems, and it is such a common medicine.  Then there were certain foods I could not eat during pregnancy.  Seafood was limited because of the high levels of mercury.  No lunch meat at all.  All beef had to be cooked thoroughly (even steaks! and I’m a medium-rare kind of gal). And then the worst, no raw cookie dough because of the risk of salmonella in the uncooked eggs.  Do you know how hard it is not to eat chocolate chip cookie dough?

And then the girls were born.  We were so afraid to take the girls home.  They looked so tiny in their car seats, at 5 pounds.  The nurse showed us how to roll up burp rags to put under their bottoms so they would sit up high enough in the car seats to be safe.  We were so happy when they finally fit in their car seats properly.

Doing all we could to avoid SIDS and suffocation during sleep was another big concern.  When we got them home that first night we had a couple of my cousins with us (who have 2 kids of their own), and they went into the nursery and saw we had the crib bumpers on.  They told us that these crib bumper pads weren’t safe because the baby could get up next to them and suffocate because they wouldn’t know how to or be able to turn away from them.  So, off they came.  (I still don’t know why we spent $70 on a crib set because you only use the bumper pads for about 3 months and the big blanket NEVER.  The only thing you DO use is the crib sheet, which could have been purchased for a few bucks.)

Blankets were another issue.  Layla LOVED sleeping with a blanket.  Over her face.  We would let her fall asleep with it, and then remove it.  Even now, at 18 months, I will find her with a blanket over her face while she sleeps.  And if you move it, she will more often than not wake up if it is during the day.  I’m not sure if it helps block out the light, but when she was younger it scared us!

Anyway, it was easy when the girls just sat in their bouncers or their car seats and didn’t move to keep them safe.  So when they started scooting around, we had to do a LOT of baby proofing.  It started with removing small items from the floor, and making sure I actually vacuumed the carpet every once in a while.  We didn’t vacuum well enough one day, when we found Layla gagging on something and realized the dead bug that was once there was no longer on the floor.

And then they started crawling and the sitting up on their own.  In went the electrical outlet covers, which the girls figured out how to get out.  I remember walking into the hallway one day, and Layla was sitting at the socket with the cover in her hand, trying to put it back in.  After a minor freak-out, I redirected Layla to play with another toy.  I look back into the hallway, and what is Katherine doing?  Pulling out the cover, and then trying to put it back in.  We went to the store the next day and purchased a different kind that wasn’t so easy to get out and replaced all the outlet covers we already had in.  Every now and then I find the girls trying to take off the rectangular plastic outlet cover.  I don’t know what the fascination is with these things, but it needs to stop!

Now that the girls are older, we stop the girls from eating crayons, standing up in the bathtub, and running around with spoons and other objects that would be dangerous if they fell with them in their hands.  They keep me plenty busy with everything they don’t think about that could be dangerous.  I don’t even want to think ahead to when they are in their teens, learning to drive.

Parenting. Why isn’t there an app for that?

iPhone 4's Retina Display v.s. iPhone 3G

Why isn’t there an app for parenting help? Let’s face it.  Who really knows what they are doing, all of the time? Especially if it is the first kid!

I know there are gobs of books written about different styles and techniques of parenting, but who has the time to read a whole book? A pamphlet, maybe. But not a whole book! And you can’t ever find the section in the book when you need it.

Now think about this. There are what, half a million apps available and counting.  Wouldn’t a parenting app be perfect? Here’s some examples of how it could work.

Before you use it, you input general information about your children. Things like age and name. That way, when you ask about discipline, it can customize it based on their age.

Then, pick what parenting/discipline style you want to follow in different categories. Love & Logic, Timeouts (super nanny style), etc.

Now that the data is all in the app, let’s get to work using it.

Oh wait, there’s that pesky disclaimer that says something to the effect of nothing should replace common sense and we are legally not bound by anything. It is purely a tool to be used at the parents’ discretion.

You are excited to use the app. You have decided to use love and logic for your parenting style.

Johnny just threw his food on the floor at lunch. No worries! There’s an app for that. You pick up your smart phone, click on the app, then Johnny: Misbehavior: Throwing food on the floor. It then tells you: Parent needs to remove child from seat and calmly say, “Uh-oh. Lunch is over. How sad.”

After you do this you hit “Done” on the app, and something encouraging comes up, like a round of applause and a banner that says, “Way to go!”

Or let’s take a crying it out situation, Ferber style. Your ten month old still isn’t falling asleep on her own at night and you decide you are SO tired of rocking her to sleep. No worries! There’s an app for that! Pick up your smart phone, click on the parenting app and pick little Sarah’s name. Click: Sleep: Ferber Method.

It takes you to a screen telling you to put your child down while she is still awake. You do this and them click to the next screen. It tell you to wait 5 minutes before going in to soothe her. It even has a timer on it, telling you when to go soothe her. And then it goes to 10 minutes. All the while, it is playing soothing music (for the parents!) and offering up encouraging words like, “this will only last a few short days.” Or “You can do this!”  Finally, when little Sarah is asleep you can click the “She’s asleep!” button where the wonderful round of applause greets you and the message, “Now it’s time for the parents to get some sleep.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app like this? An app to help you through those time in parenting when all you are thinking is, “Well, what am I supposed to do now?”

Better take down Christmas before Easter gets here!

o christmas tree

The girls went down for their nap at 1, and that’s when I looked around and decided to take down Christmas decorations.  I have to admit, I’m pretty proud that it’s only February and the decorations are coming down!  Last year, I realized Santa was still sitting out on the mantel.  In August!  If I had waited just a couple more months, I wouldn’t have had to move him at all!

This year we didn’t put up a Christmas tree, figuring the two toddlers would manage to knock it over, or try to climb it.  Instead, we put garland with lights on our mantel.  We just hung our ornaments right on the garland!  The girls love it!  Every morning, the girls would come out and ask us to turn on the Christmas lights.

Every year when I was growing up, my Mom would buy us an ornament, and put the year on them.  That way, when we got married or moved to a house on our own, we would already have ornaments for our tree.  Now, every year, I have fun remembering the past Christmases as I look at all the different ornaments.

I have my 101 Dalmatians ornament, (I must have watched that movie a hundred times), the ones from school that you glued your school photo to, even the ones made in Kindergarten.

We started this for our girls too. We tried finding Elmo ornaments for this year since they LOVE Elmo, but couldn’t find any.  Wonder what the girls will be into next year?  It will be fun as they get in to school and start making ornaments in class.

Last year they just sat under the tree in their bouncer chairs.  This year, Katherine woke up from her nap before her sister, so she is helping me put the ornaments into our box.  Who knew taking down ornaments could be such fun?

Let the memories begin!

Singing Opera with Mommy

Opera Singer

One night driving home after supper with family I turned on the NPR channel playing classical music. There was a soprano singing a German aria. In other words, the type of song you think of when think opera, with a really high voiced female singer and an orchestra in the background.

I was enjoying it, and after a few minutes I hear a high, two pitched song come from the back–Ahhhhh—–AHHHH. My Katherine was singing opera! I was so proud! My baby is a singer!

So naturally, I join in singing with her, hoping she does it again. She only did it once more before she fell asleep.

The next morning I tried it again, singing loud and high pitched. This time BOTH girls were singing with me. Made me giggle. And made me proud! Maybe I have a couple of singers in the making.

Now, I know singing opera isn’t the “cool” thing, but maybe I can sneak in a few years of exposure to it before someone tells them that. And maybe by then they won’t care.

5 Tips to Get Out of the House Easier

checklist

(Notice I didn’t say on time…we’re still working on that!)

  1. Keep an on-going “To-Pack” and To-Do” lists.   Add to it as you think of things.  I keep lists online for when we go certain places, like the zoo, or my parents house for the weekend.
  2. Pack your car in advance, so all you have to do when the time comes to leave is get the kids ready to go, and in the car.  This works well if you are leaving in the afternoon, and you can pack throughout the day.  If you are leaving in the morning, pack the night before.
  3. Keep the diaper bag packed.  There’s nothing worse than getting to a place and realizing you have a kid with a poopy diaper and no baby wipes, or no diaper! (I think we’ve all done this one at least once.)
  4. Keep the kids’ shoes right by the door in a box so you always know where to find them.  When you come home, take them off and put them back in the box.  It keeps you from having to dig through their toy baskets looking for that last shoe.
  5. Pick good times to leave.  You know your children, and you know their routines.  Leave when they are going to be happiest.  For example, don’t try and leave at snack time, or you’ll have meltdowns galore!

(And go with the flow!  Rarely will things go smoothly, or as planned.)