On Three


My youngest grandchild, Lee, turned three this week. He’s a funny little kid. He keeps his own counsel, although he is always clear about what he wants. This is him three years ago, the youngest of six grandkids and resigned to his fate, as it were…

lee in carseat

Nothing has changed much. He’s not overly demanding (for three), but he will not be deterred. At the moment he wants Juicy Fruit gum. That is my sole role and purpose in life, as far as he is concerned: purveyor of Juicy Fruit gum. It doesn’t matter if I say I don’t have any gum, I forgot the gum, sorry. Five minutes later he is back, wanting gum. It isn’t that I don’t want him to have gum, it’s that invariably he does one of two things. The first is to swallow it.

Lee: Grandma, can I have gum?
Me: I just gave you gum. What happened to it? Did you swallow it?
Lee: No.
Me: Where is it?
(He points to his tummy.)
Me: It’s in your tummy?
Lee: Yes.
Me: No, no, you have to spit it out when you’re finished! Just chew it and spit it out. Don’t swallow it, okay?
Lee: Okay.

I give him another stick of gum. He doesn’t swallow it. This is the second thing he does: after two minutes he spits it out. Then he wants more gum. It’s like playing Juicy Fruit Monopoly. Pass Go, Collect Gum. I can only hope that at some point I will be bankrupt.

He is a smart kid, but sometimes he still has trouble telling truth from not-truth…

Gina: Lee, wash your hands for supper.
Lee: Did.
Gina: No, I don’t think so. Go wash your hands for supper.
Lee: Did.
Gina: Lee, if you don’t wash your hands, no pudding cup for dessert.
Lee: Okay. (He leaves for the bathroom.)

This works because her children know Mom means what she says. She doesn’t raise her voice or repeat herself. You simply will not get a pudding cup, no way, no how. This is starkly different from their interactions with me. He doesn’t believe me when I say I have no gum, and there is precedent for that.

Lee: Grandma, do you have gum?
Me: Oh, I forgot to bring gum! I’m so sorry.
Lee: Grandma, can I have gum?
Me: No, no gum right now.
Lee: Can I have gum?
Me: After dinner you can have gum.
Lee: Can I have gum?
Me: Okay.

Sometimes he wants a Tootsie Roll Pop instead of gum. There is no point in describing what that conversation is like. You have already heard the gum story.

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Because He’s Five, That’s Why


My grandson Bret Jr. turned five yesterday. He marked the occasion by giving himself a Minion haircut (see photo), in preparation for his Minion-themed birthday party. And because, he says, it looks cool. Well, you can see the amazing resemblance…


Come to think of it, my own children were about five when they decided to try their hand at cosmetology, although I don’t recall that they started at the top of their heads, so maybe that’s a boy thing.

He got a fair share of Minion-related birthday presents, of course, and one friend gave him a book on raising chickens, along with a plastic chicken feeder and watering dish. He and his sister are desperate to raise chickens in their backyard. Well, mostly his sister, but he is one of her biggest supporters. You might think they live out on a country road somewhere, but they actually live in a heavily populated suburb of St. Paul. Nevertheless, their father is going to check with the city to see how many chickens they can have, while their mother, who suffers from severe ornithophobia, says she is willing to fry up the eggs. Because that’s how they are. This simply means that I will have to spend a portion of every visit outside looking at the chickens and exclaiming over the chickens and trying to avoid being pecked.

Anyway, Bret. A happy, smart, funny little boy who still assumes his seven-year-old sister knows more than I do about most things but doesn’t follow her around as blindly as he did two or three years ago. He is into action heroes, which is why I’ve had a little 5-inch man lying on the box next to my back door for a couple of months with instructions not to let anyone move him. I don’t.


Yes, birthday season is upon us. I have two more grandkid birthdays coming up in about a week. It wears me out some, but it is seldom boring.


Fifteen and Counting


My oldest granddaughter, Maria, turned 15 today. I know. How is such a thing even possible? The very word, grandCHILD, proclaims the absurdity of it.

To mark this unprecedented event, the almost-a-woman had a slumber party at my house last night, as people that age are wont to do, simply because I have a big empty bedroom and almost limitless tolerance. Her brother had a sleepover here about a week ago. You might think five 10- and 11-year-od boys unparalleled in their ability to create mayhem, but I’d have to say, for sheer volume and exuberance, six teenage girls put five preteen boys to shame.


The girls played some crazy games they made up and listened to music I never heard before. About the time they started concocting things in the kitchen with giant marshmallows and Hershey bars, I went to bed. There are times when it’s a kind of blessing to be semi-deaf. I slept quite soundly until 7 am, unlike Maria’s mother, who needed a good nap today.

When I think of my own teenage slumber parties, I recall a rather controlled group of almost-women, although I realize now that can’t possibly have been the case. It seems to me there was a lot of hair-arranging and angst involved. Someone’s bra may have ended up in the freezer, but other than that, no 1960s mother would have let us near the family kitchen.


Anyway, it seems appropriate at this time to drag out one of my favorite Maria stories…

“One day when the family was over, I didn’t think much of it when I saw 8-year-old Maria cutting up a grapefruit in the kitchen. After everyone left, I sat down to read for awhile, then headed for bed. I went upstairs, turned on the bedroom light, and saw a chunk of pink grapefruit stuck on the wall with a hat pin. Which probably wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I had just been reading The Killing Floor by Lee Child, which is exactly what it sounds like, and at first glance the piece of grapefruit looked remarkably like a piece of human flesh to me and it took about ten minutes for the hysteria to subside. I ask you, what would possess a child to pin grapefruit to her grandmother’s bedroom wall? Truly, it is troubling to me.”

I love that story. And surprisingly, Maria has not turned into someone who can’t be trusted with sharp objects. She is in fact a sweet, soft-spoken, thoughtful young woman. This is a good thing, so now I will just shut up about it.




My grandson Christian turned 11 today. It seems like only yesterday he was a toddler throwing the butter dish out the kitchen door. Ah, good times.

I never had any sons or brothers, so my grandsons are a continuing source of wonder and amusement for me: “Look at that! Boys do that. They’re just so different, aren’t they?” And as Christian is the oldest, I tend to scrutinize his behavior, sort of like a marine biologist observing a fascinating new species of plankton.

I don’t know if he is representative of all 11-year-old boys, but I suspect he isn’t far off the mark. I know it isn’t cool to wear a superhero T-shirt when you’re 11. I know it’s possible to put a 1,000-pc. Lego set together in under a day – don’t ask me how, but it is. And I know black is the preferred color for backpacks. He likes to play baseball and basketball because he’s good at it. I hope he never wants to play football because then I’d have to pretend to be happy.

Our conversation at his birthday party yesterday went like this:

“Christian, what’s it like turning eleven?”
“It’s okay.”
“How was camp?” (Because he was away at camp last week.)
“How’s baseball going?”

We can go on like this for hours.

The butter dish episode is buried in the archives here somewhere. Long story short, while their parents were in the process of moving one day, I babysat 11-month-old Grace and little Christian, who had just turned two and was pretty much fed up with the whole relocation thing and basically just wanted his mother and got mad and threw the butter and the plastic butter dish out the kitchen door, although it landed right-side up, so no harm done. Come to think of it, that may have been the same year he broke my nose in a bizarre swing set incident. Oh, I don’t know, the good times all blend together after a while.

But mostly I want to say that he has grown into an amazingly kindhearted and thoughtful kid. He will let his two little boy cousins beat on him endlessly and never tell them to knock it off. He knows right from wrong and puts up with all sorts of adult craziness. He tolerates it when I kiss him (on the forehead). However, he stubbornly refuses to stop being allergic to half the food groups on the FDA pyramid. Maybe when he hits high school.


Home Again, Home Again

Home. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I turned onto the road to my house, I wept, I really did. “Home,” I said, “home,” and blew my nose. Who knew?

I came back with an aching back and bronchitis, but I’m not sorry I went. I’m glad I got to see Santa Fe and Taos and Manitou Springs. America is vast and beautiful. You have to drive across it and see it at ground level to realize that.

So what have we learned? It is good to get away by yourself sometimes. I would travel alone again but I’d fly next time. I am simply too old and achy now to drive across country without someone to spot me on the driving. And navigate.

Living out of your car and hotel rooms gets old rather quickly. It isn’t normal. It’s discombobulating.

You don’t need fifteen books for a two-week trip. Thirty bottles of water is about right though.

There is road construction going on in every state in this country. For sheer number of projects and inconvenience though, Minnesota gets a big gold star. Why, I wonder, do they close the freeway down to one lane for five miles in either direction of the small area where they are actually working. Perhaps I will write Amy Klobuchar, and she can get to the bottom of it.

But did I find enlightenment? Yes, I think I had a couple of enlightening moments. I’m not going to go into the details, but I will say that enlightenment lies somewhere between your idea of what it should be and what you get. And I remembered things I know very well but tend to forget.

What I have is immeasurable. I have three daughters who are loving, compassionate and fun to be with. I have three sons-in-law who are kind, honest men. I have six grandchildren who are a joy in more ways than I can name. I have amazing friends, good people who persevere in life and keep trying to do what’s right. And all these people put up with me – my laziness, forgetfulness, impatience and weird sense of humor. I have done nothing to deserve all this, but there you are. It is good to go alone into the desert once in a while. It wakes you right up.


grandsons at wedding

Buca pic

Friday in the Rock Garden


Day 10: Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a little resort town with plenty of souvenir shops and not much else. It is, however, just minutes from the Garden of the Gods, and that is everything. I did a little hiking through the amazing sandstone rock formations, but mostly just drove the loopy roads through the park, pulling off now and then to take photos that can never do justice to the real thing. It was busy in the garden – I can’t imagine what it’s like mid-summer – and how is it that all the tourists except you are so annoying?

Well, I am just hobbling around now. Pulled the heating pad out of the trunk last night for my back. Also, no one told me that the mountain air can cause severe nasal congestion. I was going to take the train up to the top of Pikes Peak today, but I’m afraid my head will explode at 14,000 feet. So instead, I think I will start moving in the direction of home. I am looking forward to kissing the grandkids and sitting on the porch with a good book, thinking about all the yard work I should be doing. Travel is good – it grows your knowledge and broadens your horizons. Home is good too.

Rocky Mountain Highs


Day 9: Drove the Old Santa Fe Trail scenic byway from Santa Fe to Colorado Springs yesterday. It is indeed extremely scenic. You can drive 75 mph most of the way and make the trip in four to five hours. Back in the 1800s it took around a month to travel the same route in a covered wagon. I don’t like to complain but my back really hurt for the last couple of hours (too many days in the car), and I didn’t have to ride on a wooden seat in a dirty wagon and worry about justifiably disgruntled Apaches waiting over the hill. You just know there are still bones out there somewhere. This would be a great trip and history lesson for kids. Not that they’d care.

Less than 200 years later, I’m sitting at a hotel in the shadow of Pike’s Peak, where last night I was able to soak my aching back in a hot tub. Travel is so draining. Next door is the Emerald Fields Recreational Marijuana store. So that’s convenient. To think, Zebulon Pike himself may have sat on this very spot smoking something. Although it probably wasn’t as easy to get.

Oh, Look! A Target Store


Day 8: This Target store behind my hotel is the first I’ve seen in New Mexico. For some reason, they don’t have one on every corner here. Weird. I went in to pick up some sundries and guess what? Inside it’s just like every Target store everywhere. Found the aisle with Up & Up sinus medicine with no trouble. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

Other than that, my shopping day was kind of a bust. Got six postcards and sent them off to the grandkids, and I hope they all arrive on the same day or I will hear about it. I read on the Internet this morning that some couple in Illinois just had their 100th grandchild. I’ll bet they don’t bother to send postcards anymore.

Driving to Manitou Springs, Colorado today, about a five-hour trip. I hear there’s shopping there.

Snake Charming


Day 7: I drove up into the canyons around Santa Fe yesterday, where you see the kind of scenery found on postcards. I wanted to see the Pueblo cliff dwellings in Bandelier National Park. Turns out you can’t drive your car into the park in the middle of the day, but a 25-minute shuttle ride will take you up there. I don’t care for buses, to say nothing of one straining to make it up and down a mountain. Took a Dramamine, got on the bus.

The shuttle drops you off at a visitor’s center, and from there you have to walk up about a mile to the site. The dwellings are caves cut out of the volcanic rock about a thousand years ago. You can climb up wooden ladders and look inside. I hate heights. I climbed the ladders. There weren’t a lot of other people up there, so it was a little lonely, but peaceful and quite moving.

I decided to take the nature trail coming back down, which is a little longer hike and there are numerous signs reminding you to “Stay On The Path.” Like I’d leave the path. Rounded a curve and startled a snake lying in my way. I think it was just a garter snake, as I have seen them in my basement. Normally I might have let out a little scream, but he slithered away pretty quickly. Also, I was under the influence of Dramamine.

Then I ran across this deer, who was chewing something and showed no interest in me at all. At least I think it was a deer. Why does it have such long ears?


I was happy to see the visitors’ center again, although I’m really glad I went to see the cliff dwellings. Drove back down into Santa Fe, got a little lost. I fear I am slowly becoming the weary traveler. Perhaps a day of shopping will help?



Day 6: Okay, I know it’s really Day 7, but Day 6 wore me out. It was my favorite day so far though. Spent most of it on Museum Hill, where you will find the International Museum of Folk Art. Really you should just get in the car and go there right now. The Girard Collection is unbelievable; had to go through twice to absorb it all. The Between Two Worlds Collection will make you weep.

Walked across the plaza to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, where the current exhibit in the sculpture garden, “Courage & Compassion,” may be the closest I come to enlightenment on this trip. All of the pieces are made by Native American women artists. When you go into the museum, the first thing you notice is how much the Indians honored the mother and the sacredness of Mother Earth. Gotta love that.

I was going to go to the Botanical Gardens, but it was sprinkling by then, so I went to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art instead. Not many people left by that time. The man who took my money said the docent had left for the day so maybe he should show me around. Mike Gonzalez, retired volunteer, easy to look at (gray hair, neat beard). This seemed like a good idea to me. Of course, he was very knowledgeable about which pieces came from Mexico, Peru, Columbia, etc. – and that’s the important thing, right?

Came back to the hotel, spent a half hour in the hot tub. Thought about blogging, but then I started reading a book instead. (I brought along fifteen books and nine audiobooks on this trip, which made sense to me at the time.)

Went to get something out of the car this morning and saw a black dog playing in the yard adjacent to the hotel. I think this means I am supposed to go into the lands outside of Santa Fe. (Pretty sure Georgia O’Keeffe had a black dog.) So that is where I’m going.