“That’s Why I’m Leaving It All Up To You…”

 

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Here lies “Undecided” 1963-? A Splenda Woman

The very first question everyone asks us when they learn we are going to be grandparents is,

“Have you chosen a name?”

Initially we responded that we were trying to graciously lay low and allow the parents to choose the name for the baby. But that’s not what people were referring to. People are curious if we’ve decided what the baby will be calling US.

This is a thing y’all.

I was hoping I could wait around to hear the first thing the baby calls me and see what sticks? But, apparently people think that’s leaving too much to chance. These days, grandparents choose their own monikers well in advance of the baby’s birth.

That means I have less than 6 months to choose something I can live with for the rest of my life. And also die with. I’m not trying to be morbid, but it recently occurred to me, I’m selecting the name that the majority of people attending my funeral will  bury me with.

It might even go inside quotation marks on my tombstone right under my legal name. The pressure is on.

It was a cinch to select a name for my husband. His dad, who is no longer with us, was “Papa Joe,” so it was a short leap to “Papa Jim.”  Easy-peasy.

But what about me?

A few of the more obvious choices are taken. Mimi and Grandma are our mothers, the Great-Grandmothers . They’re both alive and kickin’ – true forces of nature. I have no plans to fill their shoes, much less co-opt their names.

Nana is out too, as it has already been chosen by my grand-baby’s other grandmother.  And also my husband’s grandmother, who at 102, plans to outlive us all.

With those classics spoken for, I’m forced to consider some of the outlying options bordering on the fringes of acceptability. Here are a few of the common categories:

 

Terms of Endearments:

Some people have converted “terms of endearment” into grandmother names, such as “Honey,” “Babe” and “Sugar.”  I think those are all really cute. God knows I love my sweets. But if we’re being completely authentic here, I’m actually addicted to Splenda. Try that name on for size…

Splenda was such a wonderful woman. She would’ve done anything for us!”

As splendid as it sounds, I’m going to have to pass.

 

Nicknames:

As a redhead I have gone by many nicknames, mostly referring to my physical features. “Carrot Top” is just rude, but I guess “Ginger” is an option. At least it’s PR for the blog.  Jimmy has always called me “Tiny Red,” so that is certainly a name I answer to. But I’m not sure I like how the two names sound together when I try it out in my mind.

My daughter saying to her baby:
“Go change for dinner, Papa Jim and Tiny Red are meeting us at the restaurant!”

It sounds too much like 1920s gangsters or maybe Rap Artists. I don’t want to scare the kid. Besides, trying to stay Tiny and Red all my life sounds like a lot of dieting and hair dye.
Names That Date You:

The weekend we told my mother about the baby, she had the audacity to high-5 me and call me, “Granny!” I’m pretty sure she was just kidding, but I instantly knew I could never abide a name that sounds too old or hillbillyish.  That goes for “Maw-Maw” and “Mee-Maw.  They are off the table, as well.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a few friends have suggested “Glam-ma.” I guess that name is trending now in the world of rhinestone handbags and tee shirts, but I’m more of a Birkenstock, tie-dye, turquoise type. I don’t think I want to try that hard to be blingy.

So that leaves me entirely undecided. I guess it’s going to be up to some silly baby I’ve only just met, who barely knows me, to name me off the cuff…

Here lies Undecided
A Wonderful Woman Who Would’ve Done Anything For Her Grandkids
(Except pick a name for herself)
May She Rest In Peace

“People Smile And Tell Me I’m The Lucky One, Life’s Just Begun…” (Getting On Board With Grandma!)

Anxiously awaiting the Gender Reveal – bout to get my Grandma Game on!

I’m not saying I didn’t want to be a grandma, just that I didn’t WANT to be a grandma. Like it wasn’t a  burning yearning.

Which is in direct contrast to my own mother circa 1980s. On my wedding day, Doris followed me and my husband around our reception asking us when we planned to have children. Now there was a woman who fiercely wanted to be a grandmother. As she would admit in her strong southern drawl, she “made no bones about it!”  Y’all know how it was back then:

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Insert-Name with a baby carriage!”

You couldn’t even catch your breath. There wasn’t much of a break in between milestone life events.

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Me and Insert Name bringing home baby.  Barely shook the rice out of our hair! Note the “Baby On Board!” sign. A staple in the 80s.

But when my baby initiated the idea of having a baby, I tried to get on board. Like those placards everyone hung up in the back window of their cars that said, “Grandma On Board!” Wait never mind, that was “Baby On Board!” But you get the idea, when your baby wants a baby, you want it too.

Ya know, for them.

After more than a year of ups and downs, starts and stops, juice cleanses, acupuncture and several novenas, we have a baby coming.

Ever since I found out what was about to happen to me, I’ve been conducting my own field research – interviewing other women-whose-children-have-children (a lengthy, but infinitely more polite way to say “grandmothers”) to gauge how they feel about the whole grand-parenting experience.

The reactions were nothing short of astounding.  People are into this Doris-style!

Eventually, I started asking about it with my nose crinkled up, shaking my head “no” in an effort to curb their enthusiasm. But even that didn’t seem to temper people’s responses.

In fact, I haven’t gotten one lukewarm response yet. No one is ambivalent on the topic.  Here’s what people have to say about the experience:

Grandchildren are the best!”
“You’re so lucky! There’s no feeling like it in the world!”
“You’re going to love it so much!”

A few of my interview subjects even went so far as to say it was going to change my life(?)   Another friend told me yesterday, when she has her grandchildren in her arms, it’s like “holding heaven!” But not one person shrugged their shoulders and said, “Eh it’s ok.”

I don’t know what it is, but the “grandchildren thing” seems to elicit some type of euphoria.  Like seratonin or endorphins. Stuff an ambitious person can get from pills or exercise.

It wasn’t long before people started telling me I would love my grandchildren more than I loved my own children. That’s just taking things a bit too far. If that’s the case, then it stands to reason I’ll have to be worried about them too…

That really started me worrying. So I checked in with my friend who has older grandchildren and more tenure.

Will I experience the same unrelenting anxiety and worry over grandchildren that I’ve had with my kids?”

She assured me I would indeed.

That hardly seems seem fair.  Saturday night I didn’t go to sleep until after midnight for all the anxiety-induced parenting responsibilities. I was back up at 3 am counting sleeping heads in my media room. It wasn’t even prom or anything. Just a routine Saturday night at our place.

I have a feeling my friend is spot-on about the anxiety, angst and worry. I just hope it’s balanced out by all the extra joy-infused serotonin and endorphins.

Either way, just to keep my bases covered, I think I should keep working out.

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Doris (aka Grandma) was always “On Board!”

“Have You Seen Her?” (The Night My Children Issued A Ginger Alert)

I’ve been awoken by all manner of things throughout my tenure as a mom:

-Phones ringing
-Children mauling  (me or one another)
-Dogs barking
-Toddlers itching
-Teens retching

Yet nothing prepared me for the first words I heard out of my husbands mouth yesterday…

What did you do to our children last night?” He asked, staring in disbelief at a group text on his cell phone.

Nothing! Why? What? I’ve been right here sleeping!” I snapped, making a grab for his phone so I could see what the heck he was referring to.

He turned his body just out of my reach, “They’re pretty freaked out!” he continued, scrolling through the exchange.

I gave up trying to confiscate his phone and fumbled around the nightstand for mine.

Sure enough, he was right. There was indeed a frantic series of messages in our family group chat, whereby my children were searching high and low for THEIR VERY OWN MOTHER!

A Ginger Alert had been issued in the wee hours of the morning by a sibling.

As I scanned their conversation, my empathy grew. Been there, felt that. I could totally relate.

“Has anyone heard from Mom?” texted my 19 year old son. “She said she was on her way here over an hour ago and she never arrived. And, she’s not answering her cell!”

At this point his siblings helpfully recollected their most recent interactions with me. One offered up a slightly stale memory of a lecture I delivered hours earlier, while another vividly recalled a money transfer I made into their account somewhere between 8 and 9 pm.

They all remembered me fondly, but no one had seen or heard from me since around 10:30. Not since I texted my son that I was getting out of bed, changing out of my pajamas and meeting him an hour away at a bar in College Town.

I can explain.

It’s Mom’s weekend down at the university. Lots of fun mother/child events planned – I’ve been following it on Facebook with joyful anticipation since February.

I was completely stoked, until my son reminded me that he was in a stage show that had performances slated every few hours throughout the entire weekend. So naturally, I bought tickets to the matinee on Saturday and crumpled up my registration form for all the other fun events I would not be enjoying with my son-gone-performer.

Around 10:30 Friday night, I texted him to see how the evening’s performance went, only to find out he had changed his mind about attending the first event. He had strolled over to a bar and was the, “only boy there without a mom.

How it pained me to think of my little boy at a bar orphaned and “momless!” (His word – hand to heart) Never mind that the previous night I was on the phone with him until midnight co-editeding an Economics paper he had due in the morning.

 

That’s when I thought it would be amusing to tease, “I’m on my way, just as fast as I can change out of my jammies!” I followed that by textmonishing him to, “tell the other moms how helpful I was with your paper last night!”

Somehow, he didn’t detect my tongue-in-cheekiness, and a few hours later he was worried sick.

And he wasn’t the only one. My youngest went outside and surveyed the driveway, attempting to reassure everyone, “Her car is here!”

But that was insufficient for the older siblings. His big sister text-shouted,

GO INTO MOM AND DAD’S ROOM RIGHT THIS MINUTE AND CHECK IF SHE IS IN HER BED!!!

So, there I sat the next morning,  drinking my coffee, perusing the aftermath of texts, riddled with guilt.

For about a minute.

Until it hit meMY kids were looking for someone who said they were going to be somewhere by sometime o’clock, who then no-showed and was now NOT answering their cell?  In a million weekend nights we could never be even for all the sleepless hours  I have endured worrying about them.

As an added bonus, I got additional delight picturing their precious faces as it dawned on them – with mom gone, the remainder of their collective upbringings would be in the hands of Dad. Just Dad.  That’s 50% of the Bad Cop/Good Cop Parenting Formula.

As in Bad Cop only.

“We’re so screwed” they surely must’ve thought. We must find her.

Ginger Alert- I had lunch with a couple of friends a few days earlier and we discussed the challenges of building empathy in our children. While I certainly didn’t set out purposely to create a life lesson here, I admit I’ll take all the help I can get.

 

“Little Pink Houses” (How I Got My Marriage Off To A Peachy Start…)

I wonder how many times we moved before I finally thought to label the box so it would go straight to the attic?

It’s wedding season. Not only is this the time of year people get married, but it’s also the season of my life when a lot of my friends’ kids are getting married. So, I’m spending a lot of time hanging out online perusing (and apparently judging) wedding registries.

You can tell a lot about a girl’s plans by her wedding registry.   So representative of the elegant life the young bride is envisioning for herself. So sweet, so naive, so hopeful.

I couldn’t help but find myself wondering how these girls might feel in about 30 years about the items they registered.

Take my registry (circa 1984) for example:

I registered for pink china. In my defense, pink was considered rather chic in 1984.  I wouldn’t go so far as to claim the color was a neutral, but it did pair nicely with navy and mint green – my accent colors. I registered and received several thousand dollars worth of china that I’ve used twice in 33 years. Once for an Easter dinner and once for an “It’s a Girl!” themed baby shower.

I notice a lot of today’s sophisticated young brides are opting for cream or white dinnerware.  At least they learned something from the 80s.

The crystal I selected was equally lovely. The bowl was a clear lead crystal with a frosted pink tulip-style stem.  Guaranteed to look lovely with my china pattern.

Mind you, these selections were made before Pink Zinfandel burst forth on the wine scene as “affordable and approachable,” (a perfect pour in my pink stemware) but after John Mellencamp’s  “Pink Houses” (1984) became a hit and a potential lifestyle choice.

I did manage to use my crystal more than I used my fine china. It was all broken by our fourth move and/or our third child.

No matter!  By the 90s, pink had become synonymous for Breast Cancer Awareness and jewel tones were all the rage on the domestic front.

I went to Pier 1 at some point along the way and bought a box of plastic wine glasses I thought were classier than drinking Franzia straight out of the plastic spigot attached to the box.

One of my Bridal Showers was themed, “Anything Peach!” You guessed it – guests were invited to bring a gift that was peach colored. That’s a tall order. Looking back, I bet some chics were pretty darn annoyed. I received a ton of peach towels and sheets which, quite frankly, clashed with all my pink.

I also registered something my mom called “Silver Plate” eating utensils. It was considered nicer than Oneida stainless, but not nearly as expensive as sterling silver. My mom felt certain I could get all 12 place settings required to be a happy housewife. I got 7, so Doris insisted on helping me “complete the service” for the next few birthdays and Christmases.

On my next birthday, I turned 22 and the bloom was literally off the rose. I was completely over the bridal thing.  Not to portray myself as a diva, but I remember really wanting clothes and boots on those occasions more than 2 forks, 2 spoons and a knife. Even if they were coated with real silver.

Determined not to let my eating utensils go the way of my china and crystal, I actually used it as my “Everyday.” (A term my mom uses to distinguish ordinary, average days from the days in which I entertained formally…)

Which was never.

The last time I saw a piece of my “Silver Plate,” it was 1/2 buried in our sandbox in Phoenix.

This is not to say that I didn’t accidentally register for and receive some practical and useful gifts. My cousin gave me a cheese slicer. I can’t believe I still have it. I think of her every time I use it.

Which is often, because cheese goes well with a cold box of wine.

I’m not casting aspersions on anyone else’s hopes and dreams. I ordered all 6 of my 2017 brides something elegant off their registry. I’m merely suggesting, in 10 or 15 years it could very well end up in their sandbox.

“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (How to Divvy Up The Dirty Work in Marriage…)

 

My husband and I raised our 5 children to believe that a girl could do anything a boy could do and vice versa. While we preached the message – I admit we didn’t always lead by example.

When we set up housekeeping in the early 80s, we attempted to establish an equitable, well-defined division of labor. Especially in domestic areas such as housecleaning and raising kids. Rejecting all sexist notions of “women’s work” and “men’s work,” I introduced what I refer to as the Passion Scale. My personally devised system for determining who should do what.

The Passion Scale is quite simple. It merely suggests that the marital partner who cares the most, on a scale of 1-10, about a particular chore/task/issue should be the one to handle it. For instance, if I’m at a “3” about the overflowing trash can (I barely noticed it) and you are at an “8” (it’s driving you crazy) then YOU are probably taking out the trash. Because you are more “passionate” about trash disposal.

By allocating each responsibility to the partner who cares the most about a particular matter, you effectively make it their bailiwick.

This sounds like a foolproof and flawless plan right?

It is.

UNLESS you happen to be married to someone so laid-back and chill that they don’t care about anything at more than a “2” or “3.”  Then it can backfire…

It’s true – The more you care, the more you do.

I know some people with this problem. They permanently exist at about a “9” or a “10” in all matters, while their mate hovers below a “4” on everything. Consequently, they do all the dirty work.

Thankfully, that’s not a problem in my marriage.

As the years flew by, my hubby and I both stepped up to the plate to perform the tasks we each cared the most about. Our problem is we have crippled one another’s ability to perform any duties that fall under our own umbrella.

Here’s how it settled out over time:

 

Me:

-Food Prep (he works in a restaurant, so he doesn’t really care if we eat.)
-Laundry (Despite his grumbling to the contrary, I actually do loads of laundry)
-Merchandising (This basically means I’m in charge of spending all our money.)

 

The Hubs:

-Household Maintenance (lawn care, light bulbs, trash cans, any and all repairs)
-Auto (driving, washing and maintenance of anything that has a motor)
-Money Management (He tries to save money)
-Electronics (anything and everything that is run by gas or electricity)
-Lawn and Garden (we currently don’t have a garden, because we both don’t care.)

As you can see with just a precursory glance at this list, despite my efforts, our responsibilities ended up leaning towards a predictable gender-bias. Apparently, men care about men-stuff and women care about women-stuff.

Last night my Honey was packing for a business trip and asked me to fold his shirts. He lavished praise, maintaining that he is astounded by the speed and efficacy of my shirt folding skills. Reminding me constantly that if things don’t work out with my writing, I can always work at The Gap or Banana Republic.

Flattered beyond measure, I attempted to teach him my method for folding shirts. (Hold shirt with front facing you, gripping at the shoulder seams. In one swift movement, whip the sides to the back while simultaneously bringing the collar to the hem.) He attempted to perform this maneuver over and over, failing miserably.

I kept explaining that it’s “all in the wrists,” but he couldn’t seem to master the technique. It didn’t matter – because after I demonstrated it several times, I had managed to fold every shirt he needed for his trip.

I was smug and superior for about 20 minutes. Until I decided to watch some television. That’s when I remembered…

I .
Can.
Not.
Turn.
Our.
TV.
On.

Utterly frustrated after a 10 minute effort, I hollered for help. Typically when he “helps” me, he ends up just turning it on for me. But today was different.  Fresh off the shirt-folding tutorial, I admonished him,

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day… teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime!”

“Don’t DO it for me, just SHOW me how to do it!”

After all, I shouldn’t need a man every time I want to watch a little television, plus he was about to leave town.

On a Passion Scale of 1-10, I was at a “9” or a “10” about watching TV. So after a few tries, I eventually (sort’ve) understood the operational intricacies of our remote.

Because marriage IS NEVER a competition, we are NOT keeping score. But I think I might’ve won last night. I can watch TV with or without my husband now, but he can’t ever leave me, because he would need me to help him pack.

“Ask Me No Questions And I’ll Tell You No Lies” (Confessions of a Grown Woman Alone in Her Own Home)

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I woke up this morning and we were out of coffee.

Again.

Third day in a row.

One would think, as much as I love my morning java, that I would’ve gone to the store to buy more. But ‘one would be wrong,‘ I think to myself, as I reach for a tea bag. Any brew will do! (That’s how fiercely determined I am to be on vacation from my ordinary responsibilities this week – including going to the grocery store.)

It’s Spring Break and my family has taken a trip without me for the second year in a row. For the past 2 days I’ve been home alone. Except for the coffee problem, it’s been pretty stinkin’ glorious.

I had something I had to do on Monday morning, but when I got home around noon, I put on my pajamas, fired up my Kindle, pulled the drapes and got in bed.

That’s where I spent the next 48 hours.

It was so dark in my room it was like a Vegas Casino. You couldn’t tell if it was daytime or nighttime.

Every hour or so, I either went to the bathroom or shuffled into the kitchen to scrounge for food. Or both.  Of course we didn’t have any food.

I managed to keep myself alive by eating tortilla chips with salsa. Delicious. It was like I was vacationing in Mexico. When the salsa was gone, I scraped the last of the chips across a stick of butter. When the chips were gone, I left the butter out on the counter to soften.

Because…always thinking ahead.

I went back to my bedroom, adjusted the thermostat to the “Winter Blizzard” setting and read more of my book. I think I might’ve dozed off a bit.

When I woke up, it was Monday night. I was cold and hungry. Like a little orphan. I went back into the kitchen and brewed some tea. I knew some toast would pair nicely with it.  We had 4 slices of stale bread.  Plus the butter was soft.

After I sustained myself on tea and toast, I read a little more. I might’ve been missing my husband a bit when I plugged in my heating pad. I guess I’m used to something warm radiating heat in the bed.

My makeshift “Heating Pad Hubby” worked so well that I may market it, because when I woke up again it was Tuesday. I shuffled into the kitchen, grimacing about the coffee situation as I brewed more tea. I donned a warm ugly sweatshirt (because it was super cold with the thermostat set so low), popped some popcorn and read my book.

All day.

Until Tuesday morphed into Wednesday. And then I remembered that Wednesday is the day my family comes home.

In a flurry of activity (okay not really, but if everything is as relative as they say, then it was indeed a flurry) I stripped the sheets off the bed to toss them in the washer. A few tortilla chips, toast crumbs and one kernel of popcorn fell off the fitted sheet. I’m glad I thought to wash them. I congratulated myself on my above-average housekeeping skills.

While I brewed more tea, I unloaded the dishwasher from the weekend.

When my family arrived home (a little earlier than I thought) I was in the laundry room folding laundry that had been resting comfortably in the dryer since Sunday. It was wrinkled, so I restarted the machine to give it a fluff.

I’m pretty sure that’s exactly where I was when they departed Monday morning.

As he unpacked his overnight bag, Jimmy asked me, “Whatcha been up to?” and I answered,

“Just catching up!”

I was a little surprised he refrained from saying anything smart-alecky.  (It’s like he senses he could be easily replaced by a $15 heating pad.)

Mostly I could tell he was relieved that I’m all caught up now.

And  I am.  I’m all caught up.

 

 

“I’d Rather Live In His World Than Live Without Him In Mine…” (3 Hacks To Having A Lit Conversation With Your Son)

Almost every woman I know struggled as a girl with the age-old dilemma – how to talk to boys.  It was no picnic when we were teens ourselves and it hasn’t gotten any easier now that we are Boy Moms.   Conversations with teenage boys are stilted, awkward and typically lop-sided.   After all, your son is just a slightly less-mature version of his ol’ man,  amiright?

So how does a girl get that Special Guy to open up to her – specifically when that boy is her son?


-“I Nudge, You Budge.”

The other day my 16 year old son came home from school.   I cheerfully asked him, per the usual, how his day was.   He answered dismissively, “Lit.”   Despite the groovy vernacular, something in his tone alerted my mom-gut his day wasn’t all that lit…

I put it another way,  “So, you had a good day?”

“Sure”

“It was great then?”

Just about the time I admonished myself to chill-the-heck-out, he responded…

“No, it sucked!”

The verbal floodgates opened. He proceeded to fill me in on all the injustices of the day.  I heard about the quiz the teacher surprised his class with, some weekend plans gone awry,  a girl he may or may not be crushing on and a plethora of other things.

Occasionally, behaving like an annoying sitcom mom pays off.   Oftentimes boys actually do want to talk, but they require an extra nudge.   In this case, re-framing the question a couple of times was just the thing.


-“Acting Bored is Better Than Waterboarding”

A friend of mine, mother to 3 boys and a girl, noted recently that she gets higher quality communication from her sons if she busies herself in the same room and talks to them while she’s engaged in another activity, (ie: back turned or without direct eye contact) for instance when she’s making dinner or loading the dishwasher and they’re in the kitchen getting a snack, doing homework or just passing through.

She has noticed her sons are far more effusive if she comes across mildly disconnected and not hyper-focused on them, whereas her daughter prefers her undiluted, undivided attention.  Teen boys get a little cagey and tend to clam-up if they feel like you’re overly invested in what they often perceive as an “information gathering” mission on your part.

-“Talk Training” Your Teen is not The Same as “Sleep Training” Your Baby…

I published an article recently about how we are “parenting our Millennials long after our bedtime.”  It was a light humor piece, whereby I complained that our teenagers bring their problems to us at all hours of the night.   I received quite a bit of flak in the comments section. More than a few readers wrote in to tell me my offspring were “Absolute Assholes” for bothering their parents in the wee hours.

It goes without saying that my kids can be brats –  they’re teenagers.  But, the bitter truth is that I was kidding-on-the-level in that article.  As parents, we are rarely “off the clock.”  In our household, we were never as successful “talk training” our boys as we were “sleep training” them.  I’m quite certain if we told our sons to stifle an issue until the morning light, we’d never hear about it again.

Unless we’re literally doing the hokey-pokey, we try to maintain an Open Door Policy.

Oh, and spoiler alert: After 30 years of parenting 5 teenagers, I’ve found it’s mostly late at night that teens feel the least inhibited and free to express their true emotions, especially boys.

If you’re feeling particularly enterprising,  you might even  try combining a few of these tricks. Next time your kid comes rolling in around curfew, you could jump out of bed and busy yourself matching up that pile of socks in the laundry room.  You just might find you’ve become quite the sounding board.

If not, at least you’ll get some socks paired and that’s totally lit.