Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Going Back in Time


From 1969, when my first child was born, to 2002, when my youngest child graduated high school, I cared for children, mostly alone, because I married two men who contributed virtually nothing to caring for a family (I know I sound bitter, but I’m not – I just made stupid decisions, which actually turned out to be OK, because four beautiful children and lots of amazing grandchildren resulted from those decisions).

I spent several more years providing care not only for my own kids and grandkids, but also for other children. I usually had a job or two in addition to providing day care, and when I got cancer in 2009, I went on disability and, thanks to the cancer, was able to retire.

Retirement – whatever it is you think that word means, know this, it’s not at all what you might envision. I saw myself sitting in a lakehouse overlooking the lake from my screened-in porch as I penned my books and drank coffee or iced water with lemon. Ahh, serenity. 

Retirement, like my home on the lake, turned out to be a fantasy.

The reality is that I’m just as busy now as I ever was during those 32 years caring for children (actually busier since I give myself tons of projects to complete), and I’m remembering that busy with kids is an entirely different experience than busy without kids. About two to three times a year I get to experience being both Mom and Dad – again – but those two to three times a year these days allow me to replay that role with three of my grandchildren. 

How soon Grandma forgets what is entailed from the moment my grandkids awaken in the morning, as I scurry to prepare breakfasts, make sure they brush teeth and hair, pick out clothes for them to wear, pack lunches and backpacks, send the two oldest ones off to school and spend the entire morning and afternoon entertaining the youngest child until they return.

Then it’s homework – and WOW has homework changed – did every educator out there have a meeting and decide, “Let’s complicate math to the point where it drives everyone crazy! No more simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division – uh uh – let’s add a thousand more steps to each problem!” No wonder homework takes so long these days. Here’s how I see the way math was taught when I was growing up compared to the way math is taught today:

The Old Days
Problem – go to the top of the tree.
Solution – climb the tree to get to the top.

Problem – go to the top of the tree.
Solution – climb the tree halfway, jump to a branch on a different tree, follow the branches until they reach almost to the next tree, jump on that tree, climb that tree to the top, hop around the forest several times until you return to the original tree, jump on one of the lower branches, hop up to one of the higher branches, flip over to a different tree, climb that tree to the top, then return to the original tree and go to the top of that tree.

Well, that’s how math seems to be to me today anyway. After homework, we have dinner (or not, because one of the kids might be practicing some sport that night), attend after-school activities, take showers or baths, if possible (homework for the oldest takes nearly the entire night, due mostly to math problems), and if we have time, we squeeze in some fun (by that time, I’m so exhausted, though, fun time means movie time), then we make sure everyone brushes his or her teeth, puts on pajamas, and then we all go to bed, where I will attempt, but will fail miserably, at getting alone time, because I will fall asleep.

I usually think I’m doing fairly well until some “crisis” occurs, and all four of us might spend an hour looking for somebody’s tablet or try to calm down whoever is arguing after a quarrel. Or Grandma might forget something – one time I sent the two oldest kids to school with yogurt and no spoons. No problem, I later discovered – schools today provide spoons! Crisis averted! Success for Grandma!

Little crises occur every now and then too, like the time (then) 10-year old Audrey spent the night at a friend’s house. Nolan, who was 7 at the time, and Avery, who was 3, decided to sleep together in Nolan’s bunk bed. However, Avery couldn't figure out how to get her mammoth stuffed animal to fit on Nolan's twin mattress. Because she used that big-as-a-child stuffed animal as her pillow, she HAD to have her pillow! And because it was a late night for them, Avery sobbed when she discovered she couldn’t position the animal in a way that was comfortable for her without knocking her brother off the bed. Fortunately, minutes later she was sound asleep.

Beginning on Halloween, I will again play Mom and Dad. Once again, every organizational ability I have will be put to the test, though my daughter has assured me that she has made every effort to streamline my work, going so far as to bribe the kids with money to keep their rooms clean (insert smiley face) and set up clothes for the school week. 

Will everybody get to where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there? Will clothes and sports uniforms be freshly washed? Will meals be prepared on time? Will I know how to help with homework? Has common core math taken on an even newer dimension? I mean, will I need to know how beings from other solar systems teach math? Martian Math, anyone?

So I’ll deal with the cooking, cleaning, laundry, homework, sibling rivalry, rushing to get ready in the morning, rushing to finish homework in the evening, and watch the kids try to trick Grandma into staying up late every night. 

But then I’ll also have moments like the last time I cared for them, when Avery ran up to me while I was folding towels and hugged me tightly. I dropped the towel and hugged her back, saying, "How much do I love you?" And Avery responded, "Free." 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mom's Favorite Flower

What you are about to read is something I wrote several years ago. I published it first on one website, which disappeared into cybermist and then on another that, for reasons not necessary to explain, I vacated. Because this post brings back special memories and because my son is now home, I wanted to post it again – for me and for anyone else who receives these precious gifts.

One of My Favorite Memories
originally written May 10, 2009

Gentle breezes and a warm sun play across my face as I monitor my children from our front step.

Though he is not allowed to wander far, my son rounds the corner and hands me a beautiful red rose, obviously from a neighbor's garden.

Not to be outdone, his older sister hands me another beautiful flower, probably from the same neighbor's garden.

My 3-year old, unaware of where her older siblings found these treasures, searches and searches until, beaming with pride, she emerges from the corner of the house to drop remnants of dead dandelions in my hand.

I fawn over them as I did over the other gifts bestowed upon me by my babies.

Years later, I sit in a Dairy Queen parking lot with my youngest daughter, when a little girl approaches my window. Her father smiles bashfully as he watches his daughter hand a perfect stranger a precious gift, a memory. The dandelion sits in my palm, a lovely reminder of that warm sunny day when my children placed their gifts in my hand.

Today my grandchildren - their parents the givers of more than a dozen bouquets of dandelions - carry on the tradition. I gratefully place each droopy dandelion in a glass, careful not to drown the bugs flitting around the yellow flowered weed.

My children are grown now. I miss our daily contacts, especially those with my Marine son who is often stationed overseas or living across the country. I long for the day he comes home.

And if he brings me nothing else, I would welcome with laughter and tears another red rose, or even a handful of bug-infested dandelions, my favorite "flower."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Introducing Breast Cancer Survivor's New Business During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

What better time 
for a 
Breast Cancer Survivor 
to begin a new business than during 
Breast Cancer 
Awareness Month!

Yes, I’m playing the Cancer card! Why not?

Choose any of our messages or
Write one of your own!
We also invite you to send your
or our already-written

Birth Announcements
Birthday Greetings
New Businesses Invites
Old Businesses Reminders
Pregnancy Announcements
Shower Invitations
Wedding Invitations

Or anything else you can imagine

to your family
to your friends
to your customers.

A Crystal Butterfly Creations Bottle!
Check out Crystal Butterfly Creations! to see sample messages!

For everyone who is currently undergoing treatment for breast and other cancers, 10% of all profits during the month of October will go to the American Cancer Society for research, not only during the month of October, but also every other month all year round (because I was not the only one in my family affected by cancer – one of my grandsons just finished his last round of in-patient chemotherapy for Ewing’s Sarcoma. (The American Lung Association will receive 10% of profits from Crystal Butterfly Creations during the other months due to lifelong respiratory issues.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

UPDATE on Request for a Stuffed Spider and Snake

As promised in my previous blog, Funny, Funny, Four-Year-Old, I am posting an update because, applause-applause, I figured out how to knit a snake and crochet a spider for my 4-year-old granddaughter who wanted them for her birthday. Here they are!

If any of you crochet or know somebody who crochets, I posted instructions for the spider (and explained how I knitted the snake) in this blog, Crocheted Spider Halloween Project  FREE INSTRUCTIONS.

As always, thank you for visiting!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Funny Funny Four-Year-Old

One of my granddaughters had a birthday yesterday and is now 4 years old. I took her to Toys R Us to find the birthday present she wanted me to get for her – a “stuffed animal” (you’ll see why I put those words in quotes in just a few seconds).

“What kind of stuffed animal do you want?” I asked her.

“A snake or a spider.” Yes, Avery is not a girly-girl. You won’t find her playing with Barbies or baby dolls and you won’t find her wearing "pretty dresses," unless she is forced to wear them. So my little granddaughter chose a stuffed spider or a stuffed snake for her birthday present.

I didn’t think snakes or spiders qualified as stuffed animals, but OK, I told her, we’ll look at Toys R Us  and if they don’t have either one, we’ll check out Meijer, because I have to shop there, too.

Surprisingly, Toys R Us had neither a stuffed snake or a stuffed spider (imagine that), though one of the employees told me Toys R Us used to carry stuffed snakes. So we went to Meijer and, surprise again! No stuffed spiders and no stuffed snakes.

So what’s a grandma to do? I try to get my grandkids what they want (and what I can afford), but I was running out of options. Aha! I know! I’ll crochet a stuffed snake and a stuffed spider. I have no clue how to make either one, but I’ll showcase my masterpieces in a future blog.

In the meantime, please listen to this Jim Stafford song. Mary Lou wasn’t anything like my little Avery:

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Funniest Thing My Granddaughter and I Did This Week

Since her brother and sister have returned to school, only Avery visits me Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We attempt a type of school program, though at not-yet-4, she’s not yet very disciplined and I never force her to learn (she’s quite stubborn), so she learns in a variety of ways. We also play at the park and go to the library.

Avery putting on a puppet show for me at the local library

Yesterday, though, we did something a little different – we washed our hands with peanut butter!

Maybe I should explain. Avery, like every child I’ve ever met, loves to learn. Give her a puzzle and she’ll have it put together in no time. Give her a laptop and she figures out how to play all kinds of learning games. But in order for Avery to work in a workbook, I have to be a little creative. So yesterday, I had her bring her backpack to the park across the street. 

“After we finish one page, we can play,” I told her, so she worked on one page in her workbook while I planned on incorporating other types of learning later (Nickjr.com offers lots of learning games, and I have lots of games for her to play on my iPad too).

On our way home for lunch, Avery discovered pine cones high in the trees, most of which I couldn’t reach. But I found a low hanging branch, pulled it down, grabbed a pine cone, and allowed her to pull down another one. Unbeknown to me until I let go of the branch, the pine cone was saturated with a heavy, very sticky sap. I never pulled a pine cone from a tree before, so I didn’t know it would be so completely covered in sap. I usually find pine cones on the grounds – sticky, yes, but not that sticky.

Because I had one hand free from sap and both of hers were stuck together, I insisted she not touch anything until we made it home to the sink. When we returned home, I turned on the water with my free hand, poured liquid soap into both of our hands, and washed them beneath the flowing water. 

Still sticky.

So we tried bar soap.

Still sticky.

“Stay right her. Don’t move. Let me look online to see if I can find something that will help,” I told Avery.

And there it was, on wikihow, How to Get Tree Sap Off Your Hands. Thank you, Internet! 

The suggestion that sounded the most fun was using peanut butter, so I grabbed a jar, scooped out a spoonful of it, and brought it to Avery, who was still obediently standing at the sink. 

If you want to surprise your kids or grandkids and have them look at you like you’ve lost your mind, have them wash their hands with peanut butter. And guess what! Peanut butter worked to remove the sap!

We followed the peanut butter with soap, by the way, and we have vowed to each other that we will never again grab a pine cone from a tree. Better to pick up pine cones from the ground and maybe keep a small jar of peanut butter by the sink.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Boys Have Nipples Girls Have Boobs"

"Boys Have Nipples. Girls Have Boobs." 

So blurts out my not-yet-4-year-old granddaughter, Avery. We were sitting at the table on a Saturday morning while she ate her cereal and I drank my smoothie, talking about everything from the movie we watched the night before, The Perfect Game, (great movie, by the way) to the bug bite she had on her foot.

We often discuss a variety of issues, all of which appear randomly throughout our conversations with absolutely no transition from one subject to the next, and I often find myself choking back laughter so it doesn’t explode out of me like a volcano.

Sometimes I wonder if her brother and sister come up with some of these “insights,” because I can’t imagine her parents making a distinction between nipples and boobs in reference to sex identity. I can only imagine their philosophical discussions when it comes to making sense out of the world in which they live.

“Girls have nipples, too,” I told her. In true Avery style, her eyes popped open and her vision focused on some distant space, filled with thoughts and memories as she tried to incorporate my statement with everything she’d previously learned about life. Everything suddenly probably made sense, considering at their ages, she and her brother and sister have chests that look pretty much the same.

Funny little girl. I think the reason I look at all the funny little cartoons and blurbs on Facebook is to relieve the pressure of holding in so much laughter throughout my days with all of my funny grandkids.