Recycling Day: Too Much Ketchup

Too Much Ketchup
(originally posted 4/16/2011)

SURROUNDED BY WOMEN

SURROUNDED BY WOMEN

Last week was interesting. Daughter Jill and family stayed with me for four days while the painter and carpenter were busy at their house. The invasion discombobulated me a little. I kept forgetting to take my calcium tablet before bed. Also, I forgot what I had in the refrigerator because I’m not used to seeing that much food in there. Mysterious food. The kind I never buy.

But other than that, things went fairly smoothly. The grandkids were on their best behavior. I’m sure there were threats along the way, but I don’t need to know about them. One evening it was just them and me around the dinner table, when the conversation, as it will, drifted to Christian’s food allergies, a subject on which every female in his family is an expert. It began when he was squeezing ketchup onto his plate and, as I recall, went something like this…

Maria: That’s too much. You aren’t supposed to have that much ketchup.
Christian [still squeezing]: Leave me alone, Maria. I can have ketchup.
Grace: He can have ketchup.
Maria: [To Christian] Stop that. Mom said you aren’t supposed to have that much.
[To me] Mom doesn’t let him have that much ketchup.
Grace: He can have ketchup. Ketchup isn’t in the nut family.
Maria: Ketchup is in the tomato family. He can’t have that much.
Christian: I keep telling Mom I don’t have food allergies, but she doesn’t believe me!
Maria: [To Christian] Ketchup is in the tomato family. Remember when you had that spaghetti sauce? Your eye got like THIS.
[To me] Mom doesn’t let him have that much ketchup.
Christian: Ketchup isn’t in the nut family.
Maria: [Heavy sigh accompanied by eye rolling]
Grace: Chili is in the nut family.

Too many nuts in the family, if you ask me.

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Grandparents Day? Really, That’s Today?

NO NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT

NO NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT

Wow. It sneaks up on you, doesn’t it? Not like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – everyone has those holidays on the radar, even if it hits you that very day and you find yourself at the grocery store picking through what’s left of the greeting cards and potted azaleas.

In fact, Grandparents Day is always the first Sunday after Labor Day and has been since Congress passed the legislation in 1978! Who knew? I didn’t. Well, now I do. I saw it on Facebook this morning. And with this new awareness, I feel it is incumbent on me to say something profound, something moving, something eminently quotable. Here it is:

Dear Grandchildren:
We don’t know why we absolutely adore you, we just do. Truly, it is a mystery even to us.
Signed: Your Grandparents

You no doubt think I’m exaggerating. I am not. It is one of life’s imponderables, but for the vast majority of us, our grandkids are, simply put, perfect. Which doesn’t mean we don’t see their imperfections. We do. They just don’t matter. What’s more, we don’t feel the need to do anything about them, not the way we did with their imperfect and generally uncooperative parents.

No, dear grandchildren, improving you is not our job. I know it’s become a cliche, but we do in fact believe our only responsibilities are to admire and spoil you, to love you when you are hurt and tell you how wonderful you are ad nauseum.

Grandkids know this, of course, and are quick to take advantage of it. We don’t care. Which reminds me of this kid I saw on Humans of New York.com last March…

“We’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.” “What do you do at Grandma and Grandpa’s house?” “Anything I want.”

“We’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”
“What do you do at Grandma and Grandpa’s house?”
“Anything I want.”

Which further reminds me of something my youngest grandchild, Lee, then age two, said after we’d finished talking on the phone.
“What did Grandma say?” his mother asked.
“Grandma said yes.”
So young and yet so wise.

I could say more, about how grandparents don’t care how long it takes you to put on your shoes or the fact that you are eating cupcakes for breakfast. We don’t have to be anywhere on time and we know you’ll get a healthy breakfast tomorrow. You have wise and loving parents whose job it is to make you do all the things you don’t want to do and take the grief for it. And we dearly love your parents. You, on the other hand, we simply adore.

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Recycling Day: Searching for God and Underpants

I have decided Tuesday would be a good day to sift through the Archives here and recycle posts I’m particularly fond of. Because it’s my blog and I can. Also because writing something new and fascinating more than once a week is kind of tiresome. (I know some of you think, now that I’m retired, I have nothing but time on my hands. Actually, that’s true, but it doesn’t mean I want to spend all of it creating more stuff to fill this space.) Sometimes Tuesday may fall on a Wednesday. We’ll see.

Searching for God and Underpants
(originally posted 9/23/10)

MY DAUGHTERS WHEN THEY HAD BIG HAIR AND WERE STILL CATHOLIC

MY DAUGHTERS WHEN THEY HAD BIG HAIR AND WERE STILL CATHOLIC

We baptized Baby Bret recently. He was baptized in the Lutheran church, which was a bit odd for me. My own children were baptized and raised to be good Catholics. They defected, every one, a puzzling thing and still a little irritating. It isn’t that I can’t go with the flow, but excuse me, I must have spent close to $100,000 on Catholic schools over the years, and if I had known how things would turn out, I would have taken advantage of free public education like everyone else.

Gina, who is Baby Bret’s mother, had no problem being Catholic right through her expensive college education with the Jesuits. Then she met Bret Sr. and promptly converted to Lutheranism. My middle daughter, Jill, and her family are some religion I can never remember the name of but they sing really loud. And the oldest, Jessica, who I thought had settled on Episcopalianism or Presbyterianism, is on the hunt for her spiritual home again and presently attending the Unitarian church.

It rankles a little, I must admit. All that money and my grandkids don’t know the Hail Mary.

Moving along… The baptism went well. The service was nice and Baby Bret never said boo, not even when he was passed around like a plate of rumaki. Afterward everyone drove to my house for lunch, simply because adding a fourth person to his parents’ house has made it impossible to squeeze in guests even if someone sits on the diaper pail and someone else holds the breast pump.

Lunch was nice, too, if hectic. Jill had an anxiety attack when she realized five-year-old Grace wasn’t wearing underpants. Apparently Grace sat through the entire church service in her little red sundress and white shoes and no underpants. So I went searching for little girl underwear, couldn’t find any, and ended up pinning the sides on a pair of my own for her. Gracie was utterly disgusted, but I just told her, “That’s what you get for not wearing underpants. You have to wear your grandma’s.”

The weather was good.

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Hey, Kids! Check Out These Tips from Your Friends at FEMA

Did you know September is “National Preparedness Month”? And did you also know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, has a rich and comprehensive website, not only to prove they’re on the job, but more importantly to help you survive in case they’re unavoidably delayed? No, you did not. Or if you knew, you haven’t bothered to go there, because you are lazy or because you don’t believe anything they say anyway.

I don’t know what the FEMA site looked like before Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, but I’m guessing it’s been beefed up considerably since that farce occurred. Now you can  download a personal Family Communication Plan, get help compiling your Disaster Supplies Kit, and order from a plethora of free publications. None of this will get FEMA to your door any sooner; still, it’s good stuff to know before you find yourself sitting on the roof in your bathrobe waving at passing news helicopters.

careerealism.com

Do I believe you will actually do anything to prepare for the next, inevitable natural disaster? No, I do not – and neither does FEMA. There is, in fact, little reason to believe a majority of America’s adults will suddenly start acting in a responsible and proactive manner. It is no surprise then that the agency has turned its attention elsewhere, to the nation’s youth. Because who knows, maybe they can get their parents off their complacent behinds.

I wish I could say FEMA’s appeal to kids is likely to make a difference in the country’s disaster preparedness plans. Based on my experience with grandchildren, however, it strikes me as a long shot.

Let’s say you send the kids to the site (www.ready.gov/kids). The first thing they’ll see is a list of “items you and your family will need” in an emergency. Let us review this list and (in italics) what you can realistically expect to find in your finished kit.

First aid kit (half a box of Hello Kitty bandages)
Extra batteries (only the size that fits their electronic game player)
Non-perishable food such as dried fruit or peanut butter (the peanut butter has a real shot)
Matches in a waterproof container (no, they don’t know where you hide the matches and have no idea what a waterproof container is)
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap (ha ha)
Paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, paper towels (one of each, you’ll have to share)
Water, at least a gallon per person per day (completely beyond their comprehension)
Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio (MP3 player)
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person (Spider-Man sleeping bag filled with Doritos crumbs)
Flashlights (as many as they can find – they like flashlights)
Whistle to signal for help (plastic whistle from Chuck E. Cheese)
Manual can opener (only if someone explains what “manual” means)
Local maps (Minecraft post-apocalyptic city map)
Pet supplies (some Scooby Snacks doggy treats)
Baby supplies, formula, diapers (three graham crackers and a pair of old training pants)

As you can see, leaving preparation of the family’s emergency kit up to the kiddos might not be the best way to go. If I were the web designers at FEMA, I’d build a more realistic site for kids, one where the home page looks something like this…

HEY, KIDS!!! Want to survive the next HURRICANE, TORNADO OR FLOOD? Of course, you do. That means you’ll have to start working on mom and dad RIGHT NOW! Just download and print this handy ‘I Want to Live Long Enough to Go to Prom’ list of everything you’ll need for your family emergency kit (we know you know how). Then hand the list to your parents and START BUGGING THEM – day in, day out, every day, until your family’s disaster kit is stocked and ready. (Meanwhile, be sure they keep the CELL PHONE charged up, or you could be out of touch with YOUR FRIENDS for a whole day or maybe even longer!)” 

Do you see what I’ve done there? You have to appeal to what kids know and might even give a crap about. Otherwise, they’ll just think “not my problem” and go back to planning how to get the cat to wear a ninja costume for Halloween.

And you never know. The kids might prevail. Frankly, I have more faith in them than I do in you.

sharielf-1.com

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Photo credits:
“Are You Ready”: careerealism.com
“Plan Ahead”: sharielf.com

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Hannah Montana Is Dead

R.I.P.

R.I.P.

Well, she never really existed, did she. But talk about your BFLs (big fat lies, I think I just made that up). For five years Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah, was the idol of just about every pre-preteen girl in America. I know my oldest granddaughter watched many an episode of the hit TV show and did all she could to help support the franchise. Now if a kid asks, “What happened to Hannah Montana?” her mother says, “Oh, I’m so sorry, dear. Hannah Montana is dead.”

Like most Disney Channel offerings, the show’s premise was always a stretch. Miley Cyrus played all-American teen Miley Stewart, who transformed into her alter-ego, rock superstar Hannah Montana, simply by donning a blonde wig and cooler clothes. Instantly, she was unrecognizable. No one ever caught on! It was Clark Kent and his glasses all over again.

Today the re-imaged Cyrus not only bears no resemblance to the character she once played, she was recently voted “Worst Celebrity Role Model for Kids” in a Yahoo Parenting poll. I guess I can understand why the role of Hannah might have become stifling after a while. But why go so quickly from preteen idol to shock queen slut of the Internet?

Oh, right. Money.

WHY?

WHY?

Which is not to say Cyrus isn’t talented. She is. And she certainly isn’t the first Disney star to fall off the Fantasyland castle (think Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan). Her determination to ditch the character that made her famous, however, makes the others look like amateurs.

In an interview for next month’s issue of Marie Claire magazine, Cyrus says her years of playing Hannah may have given her “body dysmorphia.” According to MayoClinic.org, this is a psychological disorder in which “you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day.” I get that. For sure the character she played was almost anorexically thin. (She was a pop star after all.) And if body dysmorphia is a battle Cyrus fought and won, good for her. I’m just not convinced that’s what started her down the road to twerking on live TV and swinging naked from construction equipment.

No doubt Cyrus would say she never asked to be a role model in the first place. And I have to admit, as athletes can only be athletes, we can’t really expect entertainers to be more than just that, entertainers. We all know the real role models should be parents or grandparents or people who spend their time doing good deeds and don’t go around blabbing about it.

And who can blame her for wanting to make some money off her fame? God knows Disney made enough. Then again, who would Miley Cyrus be if it weren’t for poor deceased Hannah? Not a 22-year-old making over $50 million a year, I’m thinking. 

Oh, I know I’m on the cusp of being a COP (clueless old person). But remember back in the sixties, when we had that big liberation thing? Women were good and fed up with being treated like sex objects and weren’t afraid of being called feminists. Now entertainers like Cyrus – along with the many manifestations of “girls gone wild” online – could make you think that battle was never fought. I would just like to know, what the hell happened?

Rottenecards_57659850_ywyj58qgrd.jpg Created by: Kimmy B

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Photo credits:
DisneyChannel. com
urbansplatter.com

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The Chickens, the Coyote and the Hole in the Roof

CHICKEN AUTHORITY

CHICKEN AUTHORITY

I got caught on the phone yesterday with seven-year-old Cosette. I called to see how her mother was feeling, as she had been sick for a few days, but I never did get to speak to her. Once Cosette answers, talking to anyone else in the house is not an option. You can either settle in for the duration or hang up (assuming you have an excuse she’ll accept) and try again later when she may be otherwise occupied, perhaps in telling her brothers what’s what. I had some time to kill, so I let her carry on.

HERE THEY COME

HERE THEY COME

Lately Cosette has been concentrating her efforts on getting some chickens to raise in the backyard, so as to provide the family with fresh eggs daily and fried chicken on an occasional basis. Her father, who grew up in the country, and her mother, who is severely ornithophobic but a real trooper, are indulging her in this pursuit, despite the fact that they live in a crowded St. Paul suburb where you’d think there’d be better zoning restrictions.

I have to say Cosette knows more about the habits of chickens and the perils of owning them than I have gleaned in a lifetime. Her father will construct a chicken coop this fall, she says, with the goal of purchasing about ten baby chicks next spring. However, the instructions for building it are woefully lacking, so he has some research to do.

The chicks will have to stay in the basement until they are old enough to face the elements. Her mother is not pleased with this arrangement, but Cosette assures me that Mom won’t have to do a thing as she and five-year-old Bret Jr. will take care of all the chicks’ needs. This includes going into the basement every hour and squeezing them so that they don’t get pasty butt.

I had never heard of pasty butt, but I’ve since learned it is a very real affliction wherein poop dries around the chick’s “vent area” creating a seal that fresh poop cannot breach. The cure, according to Cosette, is to squeeze the chick until the poop comes out. Now I have not attempted to assay the validity of this claim. God help the innocent, that’s all I can say.

Assuming the chicks make it through this ordeal, when they are four or five weeks old they will be moved outdoors. This doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods, however, as Cosette has learned a coyote was recently spotted in the neighborhood. Said coyote has, in fact, killed all the neighbor’s chickens. (Yes, it is a neighborhood already rife with chickens.) As there was no roof on their pen, the coyote was able to jump in and then…hen havoc. The neighbors had to buy more chickens.

webmaster@aces.edu

Okay, this next part is a little shifty, but I’m going to tell it just as it was told to me. I asked Cosette if she wasn’t worried about Ursa, their beleaguered dog, with a coyote running around. She said she has a plan for that.  She is going to dig a hole in the backyard with a ramp that runs through the house and up to another hole in the roof. Then, aided by a “machine” she has yet to build, she will “launch” either Ursa or the coyote (this part was a little vague) into the ramp and out the hole in the roof, to what end I’m not sure.

Frankly, I think she was just adlibbing by this point. If you don’t cut her off, she will continue embellishing with information only she can comprehend. I said I had to go start dinner. Cosette said, okay, but to call her back, as there is a lot I don’t know and she needs to bring me up to speed. I can hardly wait.

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Photo credits:
chickens – freeimages.com (stock.xchng )
coyote sign – webmaster@aces.edu

 
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Pinterest: Because Not Every Grandma Is the Failure You Are

There are grandparent blogs in profusion now. Sometimes I like to check them out, if for no other reason than to confirm that I have absolutely nothing in common with these people. Let me just start by saying that many of these sites perform a worthy service, addressing serious subjects affecting children’s wellbeing. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the blogger whose apparent goal is to be just the best damned grandma on the internet.

These are the folks who crochet a complete 21-piece layette in a day and make their own touchy-feely books out of fabric scraps. Often you can recognize them by their fixation on Pinterest.com, where they are forever pinning pictures of their latest project while urging you to find your own creative muse.

Occasionally, when I feel I am not living up to my matriarchal potential, I will visit Pinterest and do a search for “things to make for grandkids.” I have found that this brings me back to reality in short order. Here is a sample of what you find.

DIY CLOTH DIAPER MADE FROM BABY BLANKET

DIY CLOTH DIAPER MADE FROM BABY BLANKET

First, let me state the obvious. This is a DIAPER. It’s entire raison d’etre is catching poop in all its forms. It will be put through the wash approximately 99 times in six months, after which it will be unrecognizable.

I have six grandkids. Had I attempted to make a mere dozen of these for each one at birth, that’s 72 diapers. If I continued to make them in ever bigger sizes until they were all potty trained, we’re talking well over 500. How OCD would you have to be just to start such a project?

VEGETABLE SKELETON.

VEGETABLE SKELETON, “SOMETHING FUN TO MAKE”

The assumption here is that I have nine different kinds of fresh vegetables in my refrigerator at one time. To my knowledge, I have never achieved that lofty goal. Then I’m supposed to believe that, should I actually go to the trouble of assembling a veggie skeleton for each grandchild, they would eat it. I know them. The only way most of them might finish it is if there were a Minecraft clue hidden underneath. The more likely scenario is that they will be chucking broccoli and carrot sticks at each other across the table.

AROMATHERAPY PLAY DOUGH

AROMATHERAPY PLAY DOUGH

That’s “Peppermint for focus, Basil for balancing, Lavender for relaxation, Orange for positive energy.”

All you need (in addition to the basic dough formula) is:
4 T coconut oil
2 T Redmond clay
2 tsp Xylitol
Pinch of Redmond Real Salt
2 tsp organic lemon extract
20-30 drops Liquid Stevia (vanilla)

I actually priced out these ingredients, and the cheapest versions I could find still came to $36.50. I can get a 4-pack of Play-Doh at Target for $2.99, less when it goes on sale. I don’t care that the DIY aromatherapy version will “make all of the difference to a little one’s state of mind.” You know and I know that the little ones are going to play with this for five minutes. Then they will eat it.

BEAN TEPEE

BEAN TEPEE HIDEAWAY

Okay, admittedly, you will have the green beans if you can wait “just a couple of months” for this thing to take shape. But personally I have trouble growing tomatoes in pots, so I can’t imagine what my tepee would look like should I attempt such an undertaking. Not like this, I’ll bet. Then I’d have to convince the grandkids that it’s just like playing in a plastic pop-up tepee from Toys R Us. They might buy that right up until the time a spider landed on someone’s head. I assure you I would never get Grace into it.

GRANDMA'S BRAG BOARD (JUST ONE OF MANY VARIATIONS)

GRANDMA’S BRAG BOARD (JUST ONE OF MANY VARIATIONS)

Huh? I thought that’s what the front of the refrigerator was for.

LEMONADE STAND MADE FROM AN OLD CABINET

LEMONADE STAND MADE FROM AN OLD CABINET

Well, who doesn’t have an old cabinet, a chalkboard and four wheeled casters lying around? Knock this together and you’ll be able to park the grandkids at the end of the driveway, where they can earn money for that college education – or approximately 75 cents a day.

Here’s the lemonade station my grandkids and some friends set up this summer while their parents were attempting to unload crap at their yard sale.

BUDDING ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT WORK

BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS AT WORK

Of course, it doesn’t have the panache of the Pinterest model. But if anyone was in possession of an old cabinet, a chalkboard and four wheeled casters, I’m guessing they were probably on sale in the yard.

I could go on, but why?

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Photo credits:
Diaper: babyvilleboutique.com
Veggie skeleton: feedingfourlittlemonkeys.blogspot.com
Play dough: skiptomylou.org
Bean tepee: todaysmama.com
Brag board: emmymom2.com
Lemonade stand: mycreativedays.com

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