Monday, April 21, 2014

Don't Sing Mom

"No sing," came the emphatic voice from the carseat in the back, "No sing."
Image courtesy of photostock /

It might have have been Oldest Girl's first sentence.*

It actually started before she had words.  We went to a "Mom and Me" class at the library once a week. All the babies sat on their mom's laps and we sang such classics as "The Wheels on the Bus" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider".

Some of the babies grinned and giggled in pleasure waving their arms.  Some sat there bemused as their mothers manipulated their hands to do the motions.

Not my baby.

I tried to help her do the motions.  She pulled her hands away.

So I did the motions myself.  She turned around in my arms and swatted my arms down.

At least I can sing, I thought, singing out a little louder.

Nope.  She turned around again and put her hand over my mouth.


It was years before Oldest Girl let me sing without protest.

Now I'm no concert vocalist but my singing voice isn't that bad.  They let me sing in the church choir and I haven't noticed anyone wincing at my voice.  Babies are supposed to delight in their mother's voice right?

I blame it all on sleep training.

I got pregnant with Music Girl (who has never complained about my singing voice thank you very much) with all the morning sickness and exhaustion that entails while Oldest Girl was still a wee little thing who wasn't sleeping through the night.  I decided that for all our sakes this situation had to change.

I read all the many conflicting books on how to get your child to sleep from the "let them scream it out forever and lie in their own vomit if necessary" to the "just let them sleep with you and nurse constantly and learn to love it or you will damage them permanently" points of view.  Then I did what I always did in the end with conflicting parenting advice, whatever worked for me that I could live with.

So first I night weaned.  When Oldest Girl woke up in the night I would walk with her and sing until she fell back asleep.  Then I moved to singing without picking her up.  Eventually she was sleeping through the night.

Which. Was. Wonderful.

Except, it apparently lost me the right to sing to her.

The irony of it all is that my current job involves singing to small children.  I teach Creative Movement and my day is filled with me singing, often acapella to preschoolers.  And, if I may be so bold, I am good at my job and the kids love me and my singing.

Take that Oldest Girl.

*I can't be sure because I'm not the kind of mom who carefully wrote these things down in a baby book.  Instead I'm writing them down now, haphazardly, as I think of them.  This has the disadvantage that I don't remember everything perfectly but the advantage is that I can remember it the way I want too.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Grandma 'Rene

It was Grandparent's Day recently at the preschool where I work.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

The program was cute with the kids singing for the grandparents and then joining them at tables for snacks and playtime.

And I found myself fighting back tears.

I'm not really that much of a crier but my tears are much closer to the surface again these days.  I feel like I'm back in those earlier days after my dad's death when each day I wondered if it was safe to put on eye makeup because it was just so unpredictable what might set me off.

I tried to figure out where these particular tears were coming from.  Was it my children's loss of their grandfathers, one before they were ever born and one more recently.  Or was it the many grandparent events my kids missed out on because we lived too far away from their remaining grandparents.

Then I remembered that when my kids were the age of the preschoolers I work with not only did they have more living grandparents (and even great grandparents) but they also had a bonus grandma who lived only two blocks away.

Grandma 'Rene.

Grandma 'Rene was my great aunt.  My mother's mother (who died when my mom was in high school) was the oldest of a large family.  Her youngest brother, in what was probably the wisest decision of a wise life, married Irene.  Unfortunately I never got to know him as he passed away before I moved to the area.

So technically Grandma 'Rene wasn't even a blood relation.

But she was one special lady.

When I think of hospitality I think of her.  She opened her doors and took us in when we needed a place to stay even though she had never meet us.  The Professor, Oldest Girl and I moved in with her when Oldest Girl was only six months old.

Oldest Girl is now a delightful young lady who I am always happy to spend time with.  As a baby however, let's just say she didn't break me in to motherhood easily.  As a young mom I felt like I was surrounded by advice, mostly contradictory, on how to handle this baby.  Most people, well meaning as they were, made me question my ability to parent this child properly.

Grandma 'Rene didn't see a difficult baby.  She saw a delightful baby with her own personality.  And she genuinely enjoyed interacting with my child.  As a result she set me free to delight in my daughter for who she was.

When Music Girl and Imagination Boy came along, Grandma 'Rene delighted in them too.

When we walked Oldest Girl to school for the first day of kindergarten passing near her house, Grandma 'Rene was standing at the corner to give her a hug and wish her well.  When we walked home that day we stopped at her house to tell her all about the first day.

Whenever it was time to leave Grandma 'Rene's house she would encourage the kids to visit the cookie drawer, a large drawer at perfect child height that was always filled with delicious cookies.  "Take a cookie for the road," she would say.

When Oldest Girl was in first grade and Music Girl in kindergarten, Grandma 'Rene visited their school for Grandparents Day.

When we learned we would be going overseas one of the hardest people to tell was Grandma 'Rene. There were many people we knew we would miss, including all the grandparents but we knew Grandma 'Rene's age meant she might not be alive when we moved back.

She wasn't.

We were able to visit Grandma 'Rene several times during our trips back to the states but by the time we moved back she was gone.

Oldest Girl remembers Grandma 'Rene fondly.  Imagination Boy remembers her vaguely.  But I will never forget the gift she gave me that was so much greater than the cookie for the road.  She gave me the gift of freeing me to delight in my children.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why the Professor Should Come Home for Dinner

They say that girls have a tendency to marry someone like their father.  In a lot of ways I did just that.  But apparently I also married my mother.

Image courtesy of Stoonn /

When I was growing up money was tight so my mom was always looking to pinch pennies.  One of her strategies was to buy the cheap peanut butter, the kind that had a rock hard mass of peanut sludge on the bottom of the container and a thick coating of oil on the top.  To be even remotely edible this product required a good half hour of stirring before it could be spread on bread.

Nowadays people call this organic and pay extra for it.  They may even argue that the stirring is good because it give you a good arm workout thus counterbalancing the calories and striking a blow against childhood obesity.

Recently the Professor came home with this kind of peanut butter.  He was quite pleased that he found peanut butter without any palm oil.  "It might need a little stirring though," he warned.

Tonight at dinnertime the jar got opened for the first time.  Imagination boy looked at it in dismay.  He stirred for awhile.  Then I took over to give his arm a break.  I didn't last long either but not because my arm got tired.  I had an idea.  Why use muscle power when there is a kitchen full of gadgets to hand? Am I not my father's daughter?

"I have a great idea!" I said.

This made the children nervous.  I can't imagine why.

I pulled out my handy dandy stick blender.  "Here, plug this in behind you" I said to Imagination Boy as I started to put the blender in the jar in the middle of the table.

"No," three voices chorused.

"You'll make a big mess." (Like they would be the ones cleaning up any potential mess)

"At least do it on the counter where it won't splatter all over us."  (Okay, they may have a point there.)

I was pleased to see that the jar was just wide enough for the blender.  What it wasn't, was deep enough to hold all the peanut butter and the submerged blender.

The kids shouted in horror as the peanut butter overflowed.

"This is why Dad needs to make it home in time for dinner," Oldest Girl said.

In my defense the peanut butter was nicely mixed when I finished (apart from the chunky bits I scooped up from the outside of the jar and stuffed back in) and Imagination Boy did make and eat his sandwich.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Surprise Party #4

This is the last one, honest, but I just thought of another good surprise party story.

This was a party for the Professor's 16th birthday.  I wasn't actually involved in this party since I didn't know him yet at the time, but I've heard the story many times and think it is worth sharing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

The Professor's parents decided to throw a surprise birthday party for the Professor when he turned 16.

The challenge for most would be surprise party throwers is how to get the birthday person out of the house while you set up and everyone arrives and then get them back in for the surprise.

The Professor's parents didn't bother.

They sent out the invitations for a party beginning at dinner time telling the guests to come on in without ringing the doorbell.

When all the guests had arrived, the Professor's mom called up the stairs to her son that it was time to come down for dinner.  He came down and was utterly shocked to find the house decorated and full of all his friends.

My favorite part of this story is the fact that his parents had great confidence this plan would work. They were so secure in their knowledge that their son would be hanging out in his room doing homework or whatever else it was that he did in there for hours and hours on end that they didn't even bother to get him out of the house.  They knew there was next to no chance that he would glance out of his bedroom window and see his friends coming up the walk.  They knew it was extremely unlikely that he would wander downstairs before dinner and notice the balloons and birthday cake.

And they were right.

So, here is the 4th and final tip.

Successful Surprise Party Tip #4:  Throw the party for someone who gets so absorbed in his own project he won't notice what the world around him is doing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Surprise Party Part 3

And I have one more surprise party story...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Around about my 24th birthday I informed the Professor that I wanted him to throw me a surprise party for my 25th birthday.  I figured giving him a year's lead time gave me time to "forget" and him plenty of time to prepare.  As my 25th birthday drew closer, I of course remembered but assumed that he forgot.  Birthdays and other such events are not usually the Professor's strong suit.

I figured that on the extremely small chance he had remembered what I'd said a year ago, I'd know because he would have to clean the house if we were having a party.  I purposely left the house messy that week so I'd be sure to notice.

It never occurred to me that you could throw a surprise party in another location.

About a week before my birthday, he asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday.  That settled it as far as I was concerned.  No surprise party for me.  In retrospect that should have been a tip off.  The fact that the Professor was aware of and talking about my birthday a full week in advance was a dead give away that something was up.

He suggested that he take me out to dinner that night.  I agreed, a little disappointed but not surprised. After all we were both poor grad students in those days and a dinner out was a big treat.

Then a couple days before my birthday a couple of friends stopped me in the hall at school.  "We want to have you and the Professor over to play cards sometime.  Does Monday work for you?"

Monday was my birthday but I figured the Professor and I could do dinner another night and I knew he was free that night so I said sure.

He was a bit peeved when I told him we were going to play cards with friends on my birthday.  "I wanted to take you out to dinner for your birthday.  Did you even tell them that that was your birthday? Why didn't you suggest a different day to them?"  After a bit more complaining and discussion he reluctantly agreed that it was my birthday and if I wanted to go play cards with friends without even telling them that it was my birthday and go do birthday dinner another day then that was O.K.

This should have been another huge red flag for me.  I am the one who gets bent out of shape about celebrating big days on the actual day and the Professor has never ever understood or appreciated this.

We got to our friends house and as we started to walk up to the door the Professor said, "Wait, I forgot something," and rushed back to the car and grabbed a camera.

"You are bringing a camera to play cards?" I asked incredulously.*

"I don't think we have any pictures of them so I thought it would be nice to get one."

"That is so weird.  They will think we are strange.  Please put the camera back in the car."

He wouldn't listen.

To recap:  I told my husband that I wanted a surprise party.  It was the actual day of my birthday.  He was insisting on bringing a camera to a totally camera inappropriate situation.  And no,  I still had no suspicion whatsoever.

We rang the doorbell, they opened the door and all my friends yelled surprise while the Professor took a picture.  I was totally surprised.

Successful Surprise Party Tip #3:  Cultivate low expectations vis a vis birthdays for many years and/or marry a clueless spouse.

*Remember people, dark days before smart phones when taking pictures of anything and everything just wasn't normal.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to Throw a Surprise Party Part 2

So we can all agree that it is easier to surprise a baby than an adult but...

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/

We also threw a surprise party for my mom when she turned 50 a few years later.  We did completely surprise her but this isn't quite as impressive since we threw it exactly 1 month early.  My parents lived on the west coast at the time but they were back near family for my college and my brother's seminary graduation.

We held the party at our apartment where my parents were staying.  Dad's job was to get Mom out of the house for a couple hours so we could set up and the guests could arrive.

"No problem," he said, "I have a long list of romantic memories spots in this town that I can bring her to."  The car pulled out and a frenzy of cleaning, cooking and arranging began.

15 minutes later they were back.  Mom had thought of something very important she had to tell us about my disabled sister that we were babysitting.*  Luckily we lived up a long flight of stairs and the Professor spotted the car pulling in.  Veggie trays were thrust under beds, balloons popped into closets, a just baked tray of goodies thrust under the bed.

"Smells like baking in here, what are you making?"
"Oh, you're moving furniture around. Why?"
"Are you sure you are okay babysitting?  I think we should just stay here Bob"

Finally he got her back out the door.  When they came back 2 hours later the apartment was full of old friends, cousins, aunts and uncles.  She was totally surprised despite all the earlier clues.

Successful Surprise Party Rule # 2:  Do it a month early.

*The dark days before cell phones.  I'm telling you people, it's hard to remember how we survived.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rise of the Time Lords Friday Favorites

I write this blog for me because I enjoy writing, it keeps me sane, writing helps me know what I'm thinking in a way that just thinking doesn't do.

I write this blog for my children (and future grandkids, thus the blog title) because my Dad's death drove home the fact that someday I won't be here or able to tell them these things and I want them to know me.

I write this blog for you, whoever happens to be reading it, because I like the thought of others reading my words even if I don't know them.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

So in the spirit of this blog as a place to share with myself, my family and the wider world at large,  I thought I'd try using Fridays (since I love aliteration) to share some of the things I have come across in this life that I really, really like.  If you have any favorites you want to share in the comments please do so.

Today I'll start with a book

Rise of the Time Lords: A Geek's Guide to Christianity by Michael Belote

Here's the quote from the back of the book, "Rise of the Time Lords shares the gospel for geeks: how we can learn about the trinity from a Pringles can, heaven from Dr. Who, grace from air conditioners, and the nature of man from Schrodinger's cat."

It was the title that got me first. Time Lords is of course a reference to the British Doctor Who series of which we are big fans in this house.

But you don't have to be Dr. Who fans to enjoy this book.  He also references Flatland, Star Wars, Star Trek, Calvin and Hobbes, and lots of engineering stuff.  Each chapter takes a science fiction or science principal and then uses it to explain a theological point.

The book is worth the price for the pringles can/Flatland explanation of the Trinity alone.

You don't have to be a total geek to appreciate the book but it will help.

For our family, it was perfect.  We read it for family devotions, reading a bit of a chapter after dinner each night.  It was the best reading material we have ever found for our family for devotions.

Of course we are total geeks.

My dad would have loved this book.

I should warn you that this book is not light reading.  Both the science and the theology take some thought and you won't breeze through it.  But it was very accessible to our family consisting of one extremely intelligent adult who knows a lot about science and mathy things, one somewhat intelligent adult who knows a lot about theology, one high schooler who has taken a lot of math and science although she's not really a math and sciency person, one high schooler who likes math and science and loves geekdom in all its glory, and one middle schooler who lives for math and science.