“Sorry Seems to be The Hardest Word” (How to Get an Apology in 30 years or less…)

I spent the better part of my career in the Domestic C-Suite, gamely attempting to coerce apologies out of recalcitrants.  It all started with my husband and then eventually trickled downward into years of frustration with our children. 

He and I used to argue about apologies. 

 We actually had arguments about apologies, that later necessitated apologies.  Comical, but true.  He once accused me of “never apologizing!” which left me quite frustrated, as I was utterly convinced that I was Constantly Apologizing and it was him who “never apologized!”

Once, when he conceded that I was indeed the “Better Apologizer,” he added that it was owed entirely to the fact that I was, “more practiced at it, due to constantly screwing up,” maintaining that since he was “rarely wrong,” he didn’t have quite as much experience at verbalizing remorse. 

I mean, he wasn’t wrong. (Per the usual.)

These days our family is raising a new generation and fostering reconciliation is an ongoing effort, so the grandchildren are learning The Fine Art of The Apology.  I’m very hopeful this next generation will be better at it than us, or even their parents…

…but so far it’s not looking that way.

Earlier this week, there was some sort of kerfuffle between my 5 year old grandson and his 3 year old sister.  The incident resulted in a need for Her to apologize to Him.  (Although he is 2 years her senior, they are quite evenly matched in any given verbal debate.)

When she adamantly refused, she was sent to her room to ponder her transgressions, up to and including her refusal to say, “I’m sorry” to her brother.  She was permitted to come out when she was, “ready to apologize.”   She wasn’t in there mulling things over for very long.  She popped back out exuberantly only minutes later.  

Hi, Sweetheart, are you ready to apologize?” her mother asked patiently.

At this point, the child places her hands on her throat in a perfect mimic of a laryngitis sufferer and emphatically and oh-so-dramatically mouthed these words,

“I can’t – I’ve lost my voice!” 

It’s a good thing her mother can read lips, because not one audible syllable emanated from this child, not even a hoarsy whisper.  Just the pantomiming of her despair that her physical state at the moment precluded her from issuing any apologies. 

This child has definitely elevated the art form, just not in the way I was hoping.  No DNA test on Earth could ever convince me this child wasn’t my family’s genetic spawn.   

This episode reminded me of many hopeless days as a mother trying to elicit apologies out of my own children.  There was one time in a school parking lot when one of my daughters refused to apologize to another child for so long the other mother started glancing at her watch.  I took that as my cue to set the family free.  It was obvious how dug-in my kid was and I didn’t think it was fair to hold another family hostage to her protracted and indomitable will.  We’d been there so long that it was starting to get dark outside.  I assured the other mother somewhat sheepishly, the apology would be coming in due course.  

I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I know that I constantly preached to my children the value, the necessity and the beauty of a decent apology.  I can remember one of my mantras, “In your entire life, you’ll probably only need one hand to count the number of times you’ll get a sincere apology from anyone you’re not married to or related to.”  I still adhere to this belief. (And… I certainly don’t mean to imply that it’s a cinch to weasel one out of someone you’re married to or related to.)

I’m considering an oft-quoted line from the 1970s movie, “Love Story,” where the heroine says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry!”  I was young and immature when I saw the movie, so I never quite connected with the meaning of that line.  I’m pretty sure I vehemently disagreed.  But lately I’ve been coming around to the concept.  That, or I’m just exhausted.

I was thinking the other day about my early years of marriage, when I would get so upset in an argument that I’d flounce off to sleep on the couch.  Eventually, my husband would come out and gently nudge me over so he could curl up beside me.  That was his apology.  I nestled in, knowing his message was, “I’m a jerk sometimes, but I can’t live without you!” 

I always knew…without him actually having to speak. Those are tender memories now.  Bittersweet and long gone, they occasionally nip at my heart and mind when I recall us. 

Perhaps that’s what the movie line meant?  Maybe the word “say” is supposed to be emphasized?  “Love means never having to SAY you’re sorry!”  It’s not that we’re not sorry, it’s just that sometimes we’d prefer to convey our contrition in less traditional, more creative ways. 

And now, our family tree is literally showering the earth with all these ripe little crab-apples.  The kind that don’t fall too far from the tree.  Their parents are astonished, concerned, appalled…but it merely tickles me these days.  Because I know they’ll be okay. 

 Just like we always were.

It’s a beautiful thing when someone you love, “loses their voice” and you can hear them anyway.  Because, sometimes “Love means never having to actually SAY you’re sorry…”

Pass the throat lozenges, please.  

“If it Makes You Happy, Then Why The Hell Are You So Sad?” (Reasoning with Children Paves The Path to Sainthood…)

I know now why they call today “All Saints Day.”   I can’t speak for everyone, but after surviving Halloween with small children I certainly feel like we should ALL be canonized.  I’m detoxing today from yesterday’s cocktail of sugar, martyrdom, joy and despair.  

We had it all in equal measure.  

My fairly simple assignment was to pick up my 3-year-old granddaughter from daycare, take her home and begin the process of converting her into a princess, (Fairy Grandmother style) while her mother multi-tasked at feeding the baby and getting dinner started.  Since this child literally stays in “Princess Mode” 24/7, how difficult could my role actually be?

Harder than you might imagine.  

The challenge commenced as she clambered into her car seat, asking,

 “Do you have my dress?”  

I quickly explained that we were headed straight to her house, where her dress was ready and waiting.  She immediately registered annoyance at my obvious ineptitude. I guess she wanted to change in the parking lot?   I had a 20+ year flash-forward of her as a Bridezilla one day.  Hopefully I’m not her Maid of Honor.

As we drove home she explained to me that she wanted her hair to look exactly, “like Belle’s when she comes down the stairs!”  She was astonishingly specific for a 37 month old human. Now, for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of watching “Beauty and The Beast” 4600 times like I have, Belle sports several different hairstyles throughout the show and this child has selected the most regally complicated one. 

 But, of course.  

And, trust me, it wasn’t enough that she was going as Belle from “Beauty and The Beast,” she additionally requested a live prop…her infant brother was being coerced into an itchy, furry Beast costume to complete her ensemble to perfection. True…it was indeed cuteness overload…for at least  5 minutes…all up until he started screaming in protest when he realized he had been commissioned as a mere theatrical prop – a backdrop to his sister’s drama. 

Get used to it Lil dude.

As soon as my daughter manipulated 20 or so spiral curls in Her Majesty’s hair, my granddaughter looked over at me, sitting on the couch with my wine soothing myself and “the beast” and requested her “make-ups!”

That’s when things spiraled faster than her locks…

It seems I had left her “Tiny Tot Glamour Kit” at my house!  But, no worries, she managed to bounce back in record time – a little less than 45 minutes.  Suffice it to say, it was 45 minutes of accusations, crocodile tears and lip trembling before we managed to convince the child that her mother actually owned some quality make up she could lend her.

I’m not usually one to brag, but it only took 6 adults about an hour to get 3 small children out the door to trick-or-treat.  (Disclaimer: some of us were drinking.)

Apparently things weren’t any less dramatic south of here in Dallas…

According to my youngest daughter, my 2-year-old granddaughter approached trick-or-treating like a drunk sorority sister.  She vacillated between the irrational exuberance of a “WOO-HOO Girl” and the despondence of the Over-Served.  When the sober, sensible people around her gently suggested perhaps it was time to, “call it a night,” she violently shrugged them off, loudly protesting that she was “still having fun,” as she found random things to weep about in between houses.  I wasn’t there, but it sure sounds like a typical Bar Crawl on Any Campus USA.  

I did try to FaceTime them after they got her home, but was told by her emotionally exhausted and depleted parents that she couldn’t come to the phone, as she was indisposed – crying herself to sleep.   And, for what it was worth, they informed me, they were counting down the hours until the clock strikes midnight, when they hoped their little Cinderella would turn back into a humble scullery maid.  

So naieve.  That’s the stuff of fairy tales!  I’ve been at this long enough to know that is NEVER going to happen.  As they say, the genie never goes back in the bottle and once a princess always a princess…

…They’d  be better off pouring themselves another glass of wine and counting on midnight to bring about All Saints Day, resting in the assurance that All Parents are All Saints.  

And I’m starting to think All Grandparents are too.

“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (Unless It’s Your Grandkids and They Do Them For Free!)

 

Headed to Grandma’s for a swim and other shannanigans. An angelic moment, but don’t be fooled…

I see a future for my grandchildren working at the Tyson Chicken plant.  Plucking chickens by hand.  They still need people to do that, right?  I think they’ll have bright and rosy futures.  At the very least, they’ll lead happy and fulfilled lives.  

Why do I think this?

Because I arrived home from a very relaxing weekend to find out the destructive little hoodlums plucked my prized yucca plant bare-naked. All the beautiful white blossoms are gone.  And, according to their mother, they were fast and efficient, performing this task at lightening speed.  Apparently, before she had a chance to intervene.

THIS is why we can’t have nice things. 


But, the optimist in me wants to salvage the situation. Why not parlay their instincts into nice careers?

Quite simply, kids are at their happiest when they’re destroying stuff.  But, there are ways to defend oneself against this assault.  In the 1970s, when my mother was raising me and my siblings, the interior design palette of choice was called, “Earth Tones.”  This worked swimmingly for Doris, as we tracked in quite a bit of “earth” that blended well with the Burnt Oranges, Harvest Golds and Avocado Greens she and her designer splashed around our house.  

When I was bringing up my brood, that similar interior design style was re-branded, “Old World.”  Luckily for me, this trend embraced an aged patina and dark colors.   The more bruised and battered an item was, the more chic it was.  Again, timing is everything.  My generation of mothers got lucky.

Nonetheless, after my 5 children were grown and flown, home decor styles started changing and I was more than ready to dress up my domicile in the new trend.  Out went the dark colors, the dinks and the dings.  Gone went the distressed wood and the barren industrial concrete floors.  The design world ushered in a new look one might even call, “New World.”  This vibe is all about white or cream with “pops of color.”  After years of living in a home that resembled a medieval dungeon, it’s a breath of fresh air.  And, what’s more…white goes with everything!

Except children. 

This became apparent when I recently redecorated.   I started with my “anchor piece.”  A rather large sectional in a luscious creamy boucle that cost more than my first car.  Not to say the couch was insanely expensive, it’s really more of a commentary on how cheap my first car was.  But still…I do love the couch.  I get visibly nervous when the grandchildren get within a foot or two of it, prompting one of my daughters to snap,

“Why in the world did you buy a white couch anyway?”

Because I wanted one! And I deserve one!”  It was the only response I could think of on short notice.  I know…not my most clever comeback.

So, when I walked out onto my patio Monday morning, mug of coffee in hand, ready to greet the new day and saw the fate of my precious yucca plant…well…I was just apoplectic.  

The thing had pointy sharp spikes on it.  Literally like swords.  How was that not a natural deterrent to it’s destruction?  

At first I thought we must’ve had a heck of a windstorm. But then I opened the lid to the spa where the children frolicked and it looked like an overly-enthusiastic flower girl had scattered petals about, making ready for a hot tub wedding ceremony.  I immediately knew who the culprits were.  

It’s one thing for them to tear up the house, but now even my backyard sanctuary space isn’t safe from the little darlings.  I thought about complaining, but was afraid all three of my daughters would ask me why I “even have flowers” and I would come up with some equally lame response such as the one I used to defend my couch. 

The truth is, I don’t have a leg to stand on.  There are friends and family members dotted across this great land of ours that still break out in hives just thinking about me dropping by with my 5 children for a visit.  And full blown PTSD at the thought we might extend our visit to a weekend stay.  The things my kids did to people’s homes…looking back…cringe.

So, I stuffed down my annoyance and whispered a remorseful apology heavenwards to my mother instead.  Back in the day, I would get as prickly as my yucca plant if she dared comment on how my children destroyed her home when we came over.  I once had the audacity to suggest she might love her “things” more than my little monsters, so righteous was my indignation! 

So I suppose I’ll just buy some hive cream and some therapy because I totally have this coming.  But..still..who can blame me for wincing a bit when those little Pluckers come a-calling.  

“It’s A Family Affair” (My Mini Mea Culpa)


Outside her brother’s party with Uncle Tommy
(If she wasn’t wearing a dress, her pants would be on fire from all the lies she told this weekend)

Have you ever felt like you manifested something?  

I don’t mean like a random wish that came true.  I mean like seriously manifested something.  Or perhaps someone?  Like an actual person?

I’m starting to feel like I’m responsible for the personality of my granddaughter.  And quite possibly a few more granddaughters following closely behind the first one…

Let me explain.

Almost everyone knows I’m a mother of 5.  Three daughters, followed by two sons.  I’ve made no secret through the years that my sons were easier to raise than my girls.  Most people say that boys are harder when they’re younger, as they’re destructive and don’t always follow basic commands.  Most will also agree that girls are challenging when they’re older because they’re lippy and dramatic.  I certainly found that to be the case.   Girls ARE harder, until they become mothers themselves.  

With that said, I once told a good friend, 

“I hope my children’s children are the brattiest brats to ever crawl across the face of the Earth!”

In my defense, I was super exasperated with all my daughters at the exact same time. It was a bad day, during a difficult time.  I’m usually not 3 for 3, but that particular day I definitely was.  Believe me, my friend never lets me forget I said that.  She says she and her own mother still laugh about it from time to time.  

Okay, whatever, judge me if you must, but I know EVERY mother reading this has AT LEAST ONCE uttered what I affectionately refer to as, “The Grandma Curse”  If you haven’t, you’re either a way better human or you have way less children.   “The Grandma Curse” is where you ever-so-briefly hope your children get to feel a little payback one day for what they’ve heaped so heartily upon your parental plate.  I promise you, your own parents wished it upon you.  I’ll wager it’s been going on for generations.  I’m looking up there at you Great-Grandma!

This brings me to the past weekend with my threenaged granddaughter…

It was her brother’s birthday, so I thought she might feel special (and get out of everyone’s hair) if she spent the night at LayLay’s.   She was tickled.  On the car ride over, she told her mother, 

We’re almost at LayLay’s house!  She’s going to be sooooo excited to see me!”  (Self-esteem ✅)

Now, this child is my Mini-Me when it comes to guilty pleasures.  She loves:

-Junk food

Baking

Dancing

Singing

-Staying up late watching TV

She’s also unusually obsessed with:

Fashion

Makeup

Hairstyles

-Home decor

This is evidenced by a comment she made to her mother the other day when she inquired why her mother didn’t wear “make-ups” every day.   When my daughter, an attorney and busy mother of 3 replied, “Time Constraints!” she unsympathetically admonished, “When I’m a Mommy, I’m gonna wear make-ups every day!”   

Now, before those of you well-coiffed, mani/pedi’d readers become overly-enamored with this glamour-shaming tot, let me add one more more trait to the list:

-She lies

After I went out of my way for 18 hours to host a sleepover any 3 year old girl would dream of, she had the audacity to go home and tattle-tale!  On me!

My daughter called within an hour or so after her arrival home to tell me the child had the audacity to claim she was “starving” (my family never employs the word “hungry,” as we are always “starving,” unless, of course, we are “famished!”).   She maintained that Laylay never fed her(???) 

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Her brother doesn’t eat pizza because he doesn’t like cheese (so NOT my Mini-Me) In an effort to make the evening special, I ordered an enormous pizza!   I even had it delivered to the house and made a big deal out of it.  We stalked the delivery person on our security cameras.  (Don’t tell me Laylay doesn’t know how to have fun!)

And then we ate:

Slim Jim’s

Tiramisu

Marshmallows

Rice Krispy treats (at 5:30 Sunday morning when she woke me up)

Protein Bars

A fruit pouch (her mom insisted and sometimes I follow basic commands)

Candy Canes (yep, leftover from last Christmas)

I think that’s all, but I wouldn’t swear to it.  So, I have no idea what she was telling her mother, but the child is an attention-seeking embellisher of the truth.  I’d say I’ve no idea where she gets this from, but storytelling quite simply runs in our family.  We don’t call it lying, so much as CPR or a “creative perspective on reality.”

My daughter sheepishly apologized when she told me about the less-than-stellar-3-star sleepover review   She was actually afraid I’d be offended.   Honestly, I was a teensy-weensy bit offended, but mostly I felt guilty.  I felt it was I that owed HER an apology. Not for starving her kid…

…But for manifesting a Mini-Me.  You would’ve thought they broke the mold, but apparently we are making sequels.  

MINI MEA CULPA!

A Saturday evening spent doing her “make-ups!” interspersed with dancing and watching Grease.
(Hair by Laylay)

“You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party!” (When Your Family Won’t Let Your Birthday Go Away…)


I used to love my birthday.  It always fell on a lovely day in early April.  Arguably one of the most beautiful times of the year.  If you happen to live in a state with trees, they are blossoming.  Tulips are blooming.  Baby birds are chirping.  

 My mother used to incorporate this Spring/Easter theme into my cakes, cupcakes and birthday parties every year.  And the little pastel dresses she dressed me in were to die for. 

But these days…I’m not a big fan of my birthday and all that it represents. Screw those baby bunnies and chicks.  And I’ve long since retired the vestiges of unflattering pastels clinging to my wardrobe.  Even more tragically, that glorious one pound bag of jelly beans I used to gorge on annually have now been linked to my migraines.   

So these days I’m more like, ”Let’s don’t and say we did!”

But before we launch into a verse of “The Thrill is Gone,” I have to confess that my birthday is still a REALLY big deal.  It’s HUGE here on a local level, unfortunately.

Despite the fact that I successfully googled how to remove my birthday information off of Social Media, in the hopes that no one would remember it, I have not managed to completely eradicate the impact of this date.   

Because of the children I made and the children they made.

They all know exactly when my birthday is and they insist on making a thing of it.   

In full disclosure, it’s my fault they know.  Back in the day, when I ran a crazy, chaotic family with 5 children, I actually WANTED my family to know it was my birthday.  I thought maybe, I could squeeze out one day a year that would be a “Day Off,” because, let’s face it, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, even Mother’s Day were all pretty “worky” for me.  

This year, the day before my birthday, my “Birthday Eve” if you will, I was dropping off one tiny grandchild at the home of two other small grandchildren.  In true grandmotherly fashion, I bribed the one I was dropping off to get into her car seat by giving her a ziplock bag full of jelly beans, which she was still clutching manically when we arrived at the other two children’s home.  

Ordinarily this would have set off quite the kerfuffle.   But, oddly enough, it did not.  The two slightly older cousins eyed her treat longingly, but she quickly settled the matter at the top of her lungs by shouting, “MINE!”

Again, in true grandmotherly fashion, rather than scolding her, I scolded myself for this rookie error, realizing I should’ve brought two more bags! But in a rather astonishing turn of events, the other two children turned as docile as two little lambs and invited her to come survey their plethora of snacks.  

It was as though they had stepped out of one of those “DICK AND JANE” storybooks from the 1950s, so full of cherubic, wholesome innocence they were.  I glanced around for their dog, SPOT and their mother in an apron and heels.   (Their mother was upstairs in black yoga pants grading law exams…)

They opened their refrigerator and proudly showed their cousin a cluster of grapes .   Then they opened their freezer and lovingly displayed their stash of popsicles.  And if that wasn’t enticing enough, they opened their pantry and showed off shelves brimming full of fruit snacks, veggie straws and kiddie protein bars.  

I just stood there basking in grandmotherly affection.  It was one of those magically sweet, nostalgic moments between the cousins and I beamed in pride over my firstborn grand-progeny, ages 4 and 2, and the perfect example they were setting for their little cousin.  Grandma Laylay really had a handle on her legacy. 

  A legacy of love.

Nonetheless, in the interest of keeping things lively, I spotted a cake mix and frosting on the shelf, and gently teased…

“It’s someone’s birthday tomorrow!  Are y’all baking a cake?

And that’s when all Hell broke loose.  

My 2-year-old granddaughter started thrashing about clamoring for the box, which was on a high shelf, screaming that it was my birthday and they needed to make the cake.  Like all 2-year-olds, immediate gratification is her calling card.  Most notably when sugar is involved.  

My 4-year-old grandson, a textbook firstborn, rule-follower, who was born with an internal clock and calendar, exasperatedly admonished her, “Tomorrow is LayLay’s birthday! Tomorrow! We are making the cake tomorrow!”

The frosting was one of those cans that has the sprinkles displayed across the top of the lid, causing the 2-year-old’s eyes to roll back into her head as she practically convulsed in seizures…

Sprinkles Grandma Laylay! SPRINKLES! SPRINKLES! SPRINKLES!”

At which point her brother raced to explain at the top of his lungs (in an effort to be heard over his sister) that it was a RAINBOW FLAVORED CAKE!!!   It’s hard to describe what happened next.  Most mothers will understand when I say that the situation both escalated and spiraled simultaneously.  At one point both siblings were reduced to tears and pummeling one another for reasons neither was equipped to articulate.

Suffice it to say, there was much trembling, flailing-about and an over-abundance of excitement, I’m pretty sure they were both speaking in tongues at one point.  

It sounded like it anyway.  

Within seconds, their mother came downstairs and sorted everything out.  She yanked the cake mix and frosting away from me and put it on an even higher shelf.  One I couldn’t reach.  She’s taller than me.

Then she shook her head and rolled her eyes at my uncanny ability to consistently instigate a ruckus in her home, even though I was only in charge for a few minutes.  Plucking her tiny niece from my arms, she shooed me out the door and on my way to do whatever it is that mutinous, trouble-making grandmothers do on the Eve of their Birth.   

I had something to do all right.  I drove off and immediately began planning the menu for next weekend.  Easter Weekend.  I’m definitely thinking cake, cupcakes and jelly beans.   Served alongside a Cabernet that pairs nicely with sugar, migraines and my legacy of love.

“I Hope You Dance!” (But if You Don’t, We Will Love You Anyway…)

(Click here – My prodigy is the mannequin…2nd from the left, you cant miss her!)

They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.  I interpret that to mean our offspring are going to be a lot like us, which can be both good and bad. A blessing  and a curse   But at least we always know what to expect, right? 

Wrong.  

Sometimes the apple falls from the tree and rolls around a bit.  

Suffice it to say, children can be weird. 

Mine could be.  Still can be.  And yours probably can be too.  

And now my children’s children are acting a little weird.  

I was reading a popular contemporary author recently who was suggesting how gratifying it should be for parents when their children disappoint them.  And while I do understand her greater meaning on a macro level, when you’re wallowing around in that particular moment in the trenches of parenthood with your child, this message can be awfully hard to latch onto and embrace.   

Like this past Saturday at my granddaughter’s Christmas dance recital.  Allow me to elucidate…

My 2 year old granddaughter participates in a toddler dance class at her daycare.   Now, reasonable people that we are, we don’t take this terribly seriously.  She’s simply enrolled so that she can enjoy the experience with her classmates, get a little exercise and, naturally, we get a real kick out of her enthusiasm when she comes home and demonstrates her “dance moves.”   

The fact that one of her aunts danced professionally has absolutely no bearing on any of this and we are not grooming her to follow in her Auntie’s footsteps. I swear.  (sort’ve) And after Saturday’s debacle, we definitely aren’t.  More on that in a minute.  

Thus far she’s been really excited about the class and expressing her gigantic 2 year old emotions through the art of dance.   She has been jabbering on and on about the recital for weeks now.  How “everyone” was going to come “watch her dance!”   

This child is a serious ham.  Attention-lover extraordinaire.   I’m not exaggerating.  At Thanksgiving we could barely get her off the table.   Okay, I admit, I moved a miniature Christmas tree so she could dance on the table for our post-dining amusement, but then it proved quite difficult to get her off the table when her parents decided it was time to go home.  

Fast forward a few weeks to recital day.  We all met at the auditorium.  Parents, siblings and grandparents en force.  We had gifts and bouquets of flowers.  She arrived festooned in her $90 recital ensemble encrusted with more sequins than one of The Rockettes in The Macy’s Day Parade.  

You could cut the excitement and enthusiasm with a knife, so palpable it was.  Everyone was jacked up on the fumes of anticipation.  Except for…you guessed it…our little table-dancer.  It seemed she had experienced a sudden change of heart.  It seemed she had quite lost her fervor for performing, preferring instead to nestle in her mother’s arms.

 At one point she climbed in my lap, inclined her head toward the stage like a tiny sparkly dictator and commanded, “I want Grandma Lay-Lay to go up there and dance!” 

I knew exactly what she was thinking, ‘With a name like Lay-Lay, you’ve gotta be good!’ Of course she would envision me as a stage performer. (And trust me, I’m no stranger to the dance floor.  I came of age in the Disco Era, mind you.  And if they’d lay a little BeeGees down, well…GAME ON!!!). But being the good grandmother, I sweetly said, “I don’t think they’ll let Lay-Lay go up there Honey.  Besides, I don’t even have a pretty costume like you do.  Why don’t you do it and Lay-Lay will give you $5!” (I’m also no stranger to the art of bribery.)

So she allowed me tote her up onto the stage.  

Where she stood.  

Stock still.  

I mean to say this child 

did 

not 

move 

muscle.  

I’m not exaggerating when I say she could beef up her college fund by posing in shop windows as a live mannequin.   Such was her gift for stillness.  

Anyway, as silly as it may sound, we were all way more bummed than I’d care to admit. Obviously we thought we were at the premier of A Star is Born. One can dream, right?  She certainly bragged enough about it.  I was reminded of the book I had just read and the author who advised at how overjoyed we should all be to be mislead/literally lied to for weeks by a small child who made big promises she had zero intentions of delivering. 

Later that night, when my daughter asked her why she didn’t dance, she answered, 

“Because my friends were dancing!”  I’ve given up trying to get inside her tiny brain, but it seems like a valiant spin job to me.  Was she actually implying that she didn’t wish to steal the spotlight from her classmates?  Law school anyone?

By now you’re all probably wondering if I gave her the $5?   Hell yeah I did.  Because if that little apple rolls back under that tree like it’s starting to sound like it might, she will grow up and sue me for the $5, plus back-interest and punitive damages and I’ll owe her somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000.  

So I coughed up a 5-spot and am eagerly awaiting my other daughter’s daughter’s recital…but we can barely get that little apple to break a smile for the camera.  So we are discouraged and disappointed by our pretty little liars in oh-the-most-joyful-of-ways!

“Got To Give It Up”

(You can’t make lemonade if life won’t hand you lemons…)

My face was literally buried in my hands.

“Are you laughing or crying?” asked my new Dietitian with a confused expression.

She clearly couldn’t tell.

And I clearly couldn’t tell her.

“I don’t know!” I responded meekly. (Because that’s who I am, meek and mild.)

Just moments earlier this chic had obliterated every reason I had for living.  

Maybe that’s a tad dramatic.  But seriously, it would be quicker to give you a list of things she’s now allowing me to eat.  So let’s start there. The list is as follows:

Fruits

Vegetables 

Water

Those might possibly be the three things I hate most in the world. The Holy Trinity of Yuk.  My interest in H2O is limited to the molecules I’m swimming in or soaking in.  And I’ve never been interested in fruits or vegetables – for any purpose.   It’s 100% a trust issue.  

 Allow me to explain…

My life has always been crazy and chaotic.  Change and inconsistency have been my only constant.  As such, I must absolutely insist upon dependability in my food options.  I hate it when you eat a vegetable or a piece of fruit you really enjoy and then go back for more and it doesn’t taste the EXACT SAME as it did before. Organic foods simply can not be trusted.  

Now, consider the humble Oreo, Cheeto or Dorito.  These highly processed foods can be counted on for reliability and consistency.  They taste EXACTLY THE SAME today as they did in 1971.  Ditto Coca-Cola and M&Ms.  You get the general idea.  Their manufacturers never deviate from the recipe. 

After she was done triggering all my emotional responses to her sadistic dietary restrictions, this lady had the audacity to ask me,

“Aren’t you excited to begin a lifelong commitment to healthy eating habits?”

I assured her that I most certainly WAS NOT.  After complimenting me on my “refreshing honesty” and “unexpected candor,” she proceeded to take me off of sugar, gluten, dairy, chicken, tea and lemons.  

Lemons?

I explained to her that I haven’t been living under a rock lo these 50+ years.  I’m aware of this thing she’s chosen to dedicate her own life to called “nutrition.”  I am a bonafide mother of 5 after all.  It’s not like I’ve never been exposed or introduced to the concept of healthy eating.   It’s just not for me.  I opted out.  

I raised all my children blissfully on pizza, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.  And not the yellow box…the blue box.  That’s the one MY family could afford.  Where you add milk to the neon powder and the kiddos’ lips glowed-in-the-dark all evening.  The powdery residue served a dual purpose, making it easier to see the little stinkers at night.  

And everyone turned out okay.  More than okay.   A-okay.  I’ve got their ACT scores to prove it.  The only one suffering is me.  I’ve got the migraines.  And this doctor thinks it might be gluten. Or dairy. Or sugar. Or chicken. Or lemons.  

C’mon? Lemons?

Well hell…maybe that tracks. Life has certainly handed me some lemons.  But I’ve always been one to whip up a big sugary batch of lemonade.  Because that’s how I roll.  In fact, I’m such a good sport in life that one of my daughters actually accused me of being a “Toxic Optimist!”   And trust me,  she did not mean it as a compliment, but being a Toxic Optimist, I went right on ahead and took it as one.

“Is that even a thing?” I asked skeptically.

Hell yeah!” She assured me.  And it can be a perilous approach to life apparently.  I rolled my eyes (a trick I learned from her) and flippantly dismissed her warning, telling her to see if they can get that etched on my tombstone when they bury me.  It can be my epitaph.  Something like:  “Here lies Leslie Blanchard – Toxic Optimist”

I’m more than willing to take my chances with the perils and pitfalls of Toxic Optimism.  But what now?  How can I be expected to make lemonade when life will no longer hand me lemons? Or even sugar for that matter? 

I’ve often quipped that I have the diet of a 9 year old boy. A huge insult to 9 year old boys everywhere.  That very same keenly observant daughter that lives to label me, amended my disclaimer the other day, suggesting that I actually have the diet of “an unsupervised 9 year old boy!” 

She’s not wrong.  

But she certainly is wrong about the “Toxic Optimism.”  I’m not one bit optimistic about these new dietary constraints.  In fact, I’m pretty damn pessimistic. 

There’s no way I’ll survive very long on fruits, vegetables and water.  

I’m going to need whomever it is that etches tombstones in my area to get started on mine sooner, rather than later.  And it’s gonna be pretty wordy.  “Here lies Leslie Blanchard.  When life gave her lemons, she made lemonade…when life took away her lemons..AND HER SUGAR…she immediately succumbed to “Toxic Pessimism.”

They’ve taken almost everything good in life away from me, surely I can be indulged a wordy tombstone?

“I Know We’re Cool” (When Your Kid Manages to Survive Your Parenting Style…)


Almost everyone knows the story of our youngest child by now.  I made sure of that. 

How he was planned.  How he wasn’t an accident.  How you asked for him.  How you told me you felt like “someone was missing from our family.”  How you felt there was “another soul out there we needed – who was intended to complete us.”  How I relented and we had our fifth child.  How I’ve never quite caught my breath since.

But there’s more to his story.  In honor of his 21st birthday and now that he’s officially an adult, it’s probably okay to share it. Statute of limitations and such.

I conceived right away.  Maybe because my body was in practice?   But I tried to hold you off on finding out for certain.  Impossible.  After the pregnancy was confirmed on Thanksgiving Day, we agreed not to tell anyone until I was further along.  

You waited two full hours and told everyone at Thanksgiving dinner.  I was further along I guess.

People often assume parents get blasé after they’ve had as many kids as we had.  But a lot of the time parents are actually even MORE excited about subsequent pregnancies because they know the joy they’re in for.  It was not our first rodeo and we were rodeo enthusiasts.  

What’s more, he was our first child considerate enough to be born right on his due date.  I’m not saying I love him the most because of that, but he and I certainly got off to a great start.  

The red hair was the literal cherry on top.

We named him John. And Thomas.  And called him Tommy. After my dad, my uncle and my great-grandfather.  Infusing strength through legacy. Suspecting he would need it.   

And boy did he.  

Especially after the stunt we pulled next…it was bold, it was wild, and it was largely unprecedented.  But I do not think it was illegal. Our friends and family gasped in shock.  Unless they had just taken a sip of a beverage and then they just spewed their drink across the room.

Here’s an example of the level of pragmatism that veteran parents of 5 are capable of exhibiting:

In 2000, the year Tommy was born, there was a new restaurant chain opening up in Phoenix called Pei-Wei.  A spin off of the popular PF Chang’s.  We happened to meet the President of the company, who invited us to the VIP opening – which was to be the day after my due date. I assured him we would most likely attend, as I had yet to ever give birth on or before my due date.

 Ever. 

The morning after Tommy was born, you and I were sitting in my hospital room gazing lovingly at our latest creation, when you reminded me about the new Asian bistro that was opening that day.

“Too bad we can’t go…” I wistfully mused.

“Who says we can’t?” You responded. “Hear me out…”

That’s when you explained that our little Tommy was the “safest he was ever going to be in his entire life” at that very moment in that hospital surrounded by all the doctors and nurses.  “Baby professionals” I believe is how you referred to these individuals.

(Mildly offensive, as I fancied myself a “Baby Professional”)

“It’s all down hill for him from here!” you went on to enthusiastically explain.  “Once we take him home, his life will literally be in danger every day.  He’s safest here in the hospital.  Let’s go grab some lunch!”

I must’ve looked dubious, because in one final push for a free lunch you added, “It’s cool – we’re cool, he’s cool!”

I knew you were cool, and obviously this was one cool little newborn, but I wasn’t sure I was quite THAT cool…

But I was starving.  And, I couldn’t think of the last time I had eaten an entire meal in peace. And hospital food didn’t count.  

So we went.  Yes we did. 

We discharged me from Chandler Regional Hospital, drove down the street to the opening of the Pei Wei Asian Bistro for lunch.  We dined on lettuce wraps, Dan-Dan Noodles and Orange Chicken.  Scrumptious.  Then we hobb-nobbed a little.  

After the party, we drove back to the hospital, matched my plastic hospital bracelet to the baby’s ankle bracelet, discharged our baby and took him home.

 Everything was cool.   Everyone was cool. 

I met that baby for cocktails and birthday dinner the other night.  I quipped that it was his first sip of alcohol ever. Pretty positive that was not the case, but he was sweet enough to play along.  

He made our dinner reservations.  For 5:30.  (Obviously he had a full evening planned with friends and was squeezing me in early.) Nonetheless, I mismanaged my time and came skidding up to the valet on two wheels, per the usual.  I’m sorta known for that.  

I ran into the bar where he was waiting patiently for me.  He’d already ordered his first cocktail.  They’d already carded him. 

“I’m sorry I’m late!” I said when I arrived at 5:45, armed with a litany of really excellent excuses. 

“We’re cool!” our baby boy replied calmly taking a sip of God-knows-what.

I took a sip of my drink when they brought it, suddenly reminded of that day 21 years ago when we picked him up a little late from the hospital and how not much has changed except you aren’t here. But still…it’s cool.

He’s not holding anything against me. I know we’re cool.

“She Works Hard For The Money” (But What If She’s Not Actually Getting Paid…)

 

It’s official.   Our country has hit a new national low.  

My 3 year old grandson brought his mother an outfit today.  I’m talking jeans, shirt, socks and shoes.   By way of explanation, he said to her,

Can I wear clothes today?  I’m gonna take a break from pajama day…”

So, there you have it.  In a nutshell.  Not only have the toddlers of America noticed that adults have spent their days in athleisure-wear and pajamas for over a year now, they are quite dismayed by it.  Our nation’s toddlers are tired of lazy unproductive sloths.  This one toddler in particular.  And it worries me.  It worries me greatly.   Because I’m his new Nanny – starting next week.  Granted, it’s only one day a week. 

 But still. 

Technically, I started my new position as Nanny over a month or so ago, I just haven’t been required to “clock-in” yet.  I can’t remember what happened to all the other days I was supposed to “work.”  One of them was Martin Luther King Day –  When my daughter realized she didn’t have to actually go in to work herself, she offered to get her hair done, so I could spend time with the kids anyway.  

“That’s okay!” I declined cheerfully.  In my defense, I knew I was about to sign away my uber-exciting life of freedom starting…well…starting really soon.  Even my 22 year old son chastised me for that response.  “Gosh Mom!  You’re The Grandma!”  I didn’t have much of a comeback.   All I could think of was, “You’re The Uncle!” Which was pretty lame, considering he lives in another state and is in law school.  

But, he did have a point.  

Nonetheless, I packed my bags and took off for sunny Florida.  I had a reservation on Southwest Airlines to return home the day before my next “First Day” when my flight was cancelled due to inclement weather.   I called to apologize to my Daughter-Boss.   She was extremely understanding. 

The rest is history.  At least it is if you’re tuning into The Weather Channel.  

Now, I’ve missed my first 3 days of my new one-day-a-week job.   I don’t really know what that says about me as a grandmother or even as a human-being, but I’ll wager it’s not favorable.  

Add to that how alarmed I am that 50% of my protégés is insisting that the time has come to “take a break from pajama day!”  This kid is infused with that renewable energy we keep hearing about.  He is ready to take 2021 in a new direction.  I’m totally picking up the vibe he is laying down.  And I’m entirely screwed, as it’s obviously going to involve me.   

Last night, around 5:30 pm, on Day 6 or 7 of this epic Winter Storm, still sporting my pajamas, I poured my coffee down the sink and poured myself a glass of wine.  (That’s how Today’s Modern Adult can tell when daytime has rolled into nighttime.)  Then I FaceTimed the kids.   They seemed genuinely thrilled to see a fresh new face.  

A few minutes into the conversation, it became apparent that my daughter has been amping up how exciting it’s going to be when Grandma Lay-lay finally comes to babysit.   This is a classic sign of maternal desperation. I could resent her for this, but I don’t.   I remember my days back in the trenches.  A mother will latch on to anything to generate some fresh excitement in the home.   And, trust me, there’s nothing like a “countdown!” Similar to an Advent Calendar – waiting on the Baby Jesus and Santa Claus – my grandkids are counting down the days until I arrive next Monday to infuse their tiny little lives with fun and excitement.  Like I’m some red-headed, freckle-faced, burnt-out Mary Poppins.  

Damn it!

The little tyke even had the audacity to ask me in all his sweet lispy innocence, “What we gonna do when you are at my house way-way?”  

Oh crap!

I had to conjure up a response on the fly, “We are going to lie around and take naps and just hug and kiss each other, eat snacks, watch tv and then take more naps!”

I could instantly tell he was less than enthused.  So much for Santa Claus and Mary Poppins.  My approval ratings were falling fast.   

He was clearly seeking more.  Why wasn’t that on the application?  Why wasn’t that a job interview question before I was hired?  I mean, C’mon, What the Hell?

I know what he wants.  He wants to dance and sing and play dinosaurs and trains.   And possibly put together puzzles.  He also works on his sight-words and practices his Spanish.   This kid’s energy and work ethic at the tender age of 3 is simply unparalleled.   Well, what did I expect?  He’s the first-born child of two first-born children.  

But sheesh, he’s intense.  If his baby sister lazes around with her dollies for too long, he’s been known to tell his mother, “She needs to work on her Spanish for a little while!” 

Did I mention she’s 1?  She doesn’t even speak English yet.  

How do you say, “Chill out!” in Espanol?   

Grandma Lay-Lay was thinking we could enjoy lots of “screen time!”  (I’m so glad they didn’t have the term “screen time” when I was raising my kids.  But, in defense of my generation, we only had the one screen – the evil telly.  We didn’t have all these other smart devices to worry about.  Thus, we didn’t have to be quite so vigilant.)

I’m really just kidding.   Si, I AM going to play dinosaurs.  Si, Si, I AM.   I’m just not sure for how long.   I’m not sure how long a person can hold a plastic dinosaur and pretend to roar at another person holding a plastic dinosaur?  The truth is that I was hoping we could just lie around in our PJs and snuggle on the days I am over there.  

But I know snuggly kids that want to lie around doing nothing all day are not in the best interest of America’s future.  

In spite of all my shortcomings as a mother, I managed to raise some passionate young adults who are in turn raising the “Movers and Shakers of Tomorrow!” and I know that’s a good thing.   So, one day a week, STARTING NEXT WEEK, I SWEAR, I’m going to shed my pajamas and put on pants with a snap and a zipper, drive over there and support the cause.   

Maybe there is hope for the future yet.  All thanks to me!

 

 

“Baby Come Back” (Back-To-School Parting is Always Such Sweet Sorrow, But they Might Be Home Again Soon…)

Interns

This month clusters of moms will get together for impromptu Happy Hours to celebrate the most glorious season of the year…no, not Christmas…It’s Back to School Season!

This year we aren’t sure if we are celebrating the end of a very long Summer that began back in March or a ridiculously long Spring Break that is just now ending in August, but either way we are raising our glasses and toasting something that may or may not be over.

It’s been a weird time for all.

In Spring of 2020, college kids boomeranged back home in droves, high schoolers were sent home for parents to homeschool (adults who barely passed their own Calculus classes 20 years ago???) and middle school kids were running the streets like it was Ferris Bueller’s Eternal Day Off.

These “dark times of uncertainty,” (a 2020 catchphrase we are all growing weary of) have led to some ingeniously creative problem-solving parenting tactics. One such personal ploy that I am particularly proud of is the “Summer Internship” I created.

My oldest son finished up his college undergrad coursework in May, snapped his laptop shut after his last exam and looked at me like, “What now?” 8 weeks to kill until law school in another state. Not enough time to apply for a job locally, only to train and quit to move away for post-graduate study.

Hence, the necessity of some resourceful parenting strategies on my part, which led to the creation of an unpaid Summer Internship under my tutelage.

Now, you might ask yourself what a Summer Internship would actually entail as the minion of an unemployed, scarcely compensated, lackadaisical part-time writer/mother/grandmother? That’s a valid question and a legitimate concern my son immediately raised when I suggested he could be my “Assistant” for the summer.

“But, you don’t do anything!” he protested.

“Yes I do, I’m a writer,” I responded quite indignantly. A little miffed, yes, but I did take his point. He can’t really be expected to help me write random articles on marriage and family.

And, yet, I found plenty to keep him busy.

This summer his duties included, but were not limited to, going to the grocery store, where he procured only foods he likes, so I’ve subsisted all summer on Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts and Muscle Milk – and I’ve got the body to prove it. He also helped me learn how to operate all of my TV remotes and streaming services, he’s taken out the trash and just the other day I had him switch a new roll of paper towels onto the paper towel holder.

Things really heated up toward the end of the summer though, when his older sister came rolling into town for a remote work assignment, with her newborn daughter in tow. She left said baby with us for a few days. Needless to say, I was infinitely grateful for the extra pair of hands my trusty Intern provided.

The week culminated with him changing a diaper. A task for which he had no formal training and for which I provided only a modicum of verbal instruction. I merely challenged him to take the paper panty and put it on the tiny child, assuring him that if he could muddle through this task, he was well on his way to conquering anything life would throw his way.

He managed it.

His success notwithstanding, he did seem a little too enthusiastic this week to rent his Uhaul, pack his things and flee the scene, clearly eager to begin the next phase of his young academic life. I stood out on the driveway at 7 am and waved goodbye with a lump in my throat.

Not because I miss him, mind you. But, simply because good Summer Interns are just so hard to come by.

Equally heartbreaking, my youngest moves out tomorrow.

We will see how long this separation lasts though. I’m skeptical, as I was required to sign something from the University yesterday stating that I am aware he might not be living on campus all year. (I found it peculiar that they made me sign something. As if I might say, “No, I’m not taking him back!”)

I’m not giving up my Costco card just yet. I could be buying in bulk again soon…

I think it’s safe to say, if there’s anything all of us can agree on with 100% certainty these days it is that we can not be 100% certain of anything. It’s entirely possible we may get all of our children/Interns back again the very second a classmate coughs or sneezes. (No one wants to be cavalier with the Covid after the bizarre year we’ve had so far. Even the slow-to-come-around are realizing this virus seems to be nothing to trifle with.)

So, after we celebrate “Back to School,” its probably time to start thinking about what a Fall/Winter Unpaid Internship Program might entail. It’s the Valuable Life Skills for me. So perhaps my young protégées will learn how to gut a pumpkin, make Oyster Dressing, re-string the lights on the Pre-lit tree, wrap a tight corner on a Christmas present and other valuable seasonal skills that will render them “essential personnel.”

That way, when I’m standing there sobbing on my driveway in January in my faded mis-matched Christmas pajamas, it won’t be because I’m sad that all my sweet babies are gone (yet again). It’ll just be…ya know…good holiday help…it’s just so stinking hard to find.

Someone make me a martini. (Never mind, I’ll make it myself, but I’m adding that to the list of things a decent QuarnIntern should know…)