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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Birthday Season

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Birthday season is upon us. We have birthdays throughout the year, of course, but from May 24 to the end of July, it’s birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday. The sons-in-law, present and future, must get sick of it. Even I get sick of it. They’re good sports though. They usually show up.

We celebrated daughter Jill’s birthday at my house a week ago Saturday. It rained hard all day, so no sending the grandkids into the backyard and letting them loose on the wildlife. I have a playroom full of toys upstairs. Sometimes they play in there; more often they haul things out and leave them in various inconvenient places around the house. One of their favorite things to do is jump off the bed in the guest room into piles of blankets and pillows. From downstairs you hear thump, crash, scream, thump, laughing, thump, crying. Someone could be killed up there, but we first-floor dwellers like to pretend all is well right up until the time someone has to administer first aid.

Sometimes they call us from the phone in my room. (Jill last week: “Stop calling me. Do you hear me, Grace? Just stop now.”)

You’d think Lee, who turns two in July, would be a little intimidated, but he isn’t. He’s child #3 and no one has told him he’s fragile. Usually he just does whatever his three-year-old brother, Bret Jr., is doing. Bret falls on the floor, Lee falls on the floor. Bret stomps his rain boots, Lee stomps his rain boots. Bret shows off his Batman pajamas, Lee shows off his Superman pajamas. And so it goes. Riding in the car is interesting. He hates stop lights. The car rolls to a stop, and he starts yelling, “Go! Go-o-o-o!” Also, for some reason, he calls me Grandpa. I tell him, “No, Lee, Grandma. Grandma Judy.” I could be talking to the garden gnome.

Bret Jr. assumed the role of event photographer this time around, which is how I end up with pictures like this:

IMG_1860

Cosette piano

Lee away

Maria no

Meanwhile, six-year-old Cosette informed me that by the age of 13, you know everything there is to know. I have no idea what kind of convoluted thinking led to this conclusion. I never argue with her. She’s creative.

I made cupcakes for the party. Well, I always make cupcakes, because the only kind Christian can eat are dairy-free, so that’s the kind I make. This time, however, I found a mystery bag of Baking Flour in the cupboard with a farmer or a sailor or something on it. I think I’ll use up this flour, I thought. So I did, only to discover too late that it was wheat- and gluten-free. Probably no one will even know the difference, I thought. But they did. I cannot be expected to put on the perfect party for every occasion, now can I.

New rule for next birthday: no using Grandma’s artificial fruit as hand grenades.

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Little Guys

BOYS BEING BOYLIKE
BOYS BEING BOYLIKE

I never had any sons. Never missed it. Had three daughters and was glad of it. Now here I am with these grandsons, and it’s interesting. It isn’t really what I expected at all.

Looking back, I suppose I thought of little boys as just small men. And being just miniature men, I assumed, they must be somewhat oblivious. Unaware. Insensitive. Less drama, you see. This is not the case, I know that now.

For example, when Christian was about five, he got a sliver in his foot at my house and his mother had to use a needle to take it out. Try to take it out, that is, since death by sliver was imminent. It took a long time and everyone involved was an emotional wreck when it was over. And then there was the time Toddler Bret bumped his head at his sister’s birthday party, climbed into an armchair, and refused to budge until a decent level of attention had been payed. So there’s another tragedian in the family.

Baby Lee, on the other hand, looks to be a typically placid male. I babysat over there last weekend, and one of the instructions was: when you take the dog out, be sure to put Lee in his bouncer, because if you leave him on the floor the other kids will roll him. This is the kind of thing up with which he will put. He lies on the living room floor like a rock, people and dogs stepping over him with impunity on their way to somewhere else, and doesn’t flinch.

Of course, boys can be more aggressive than girls. Christian exhibited a fondness for sticks before he could walk. Sticks, stick-like objects, anything really with the appearance of a weapon. And then it seems all males are born with the wrestling gene. Little boys wrestle little boys, big boys wrestle big boys, little boys wrestle big boys, men wrestle little boys, big boys and anyone else willing to roll around on the floor. What is that about? Wrestling makes me nervous.

Finally, it is commonly held that girls are more verbal than boys. Yet it seems to me that every one of my three grandsons started jabbering away as soon as they discovered their vocal chords. Not that you could understand what they were saying, but why would that deter them. Even Baby Lee is turning into a blabber, although I put that down to the influence of a sister who talks from sunrise to sunset and a brother who talks almost as much lest he go unnoticed. It’s noisy at their house, that’s all I’m saying.

So what have we learned? We have learned that boys are different and complex. Toddler Bret is apt to chuck objects across the room (train cars, food) without regard for human welfare. And in the middle of the night he only wants his mother. Christian finds it amusing to throw ear-splitting fake grenades on the floor two feet from his unsuspecting grandmother. And then he tells me he’s sorry he drooled on the pillow in his sleep because it means I have to wash the pillowcase. Baby Lee will play by himself on the floor uncomplaining. And when you pick him up he smiles and smiles, happy to be noticed.

But mostly I have learned this: there is a sweetness in little boys that is so touching you almost can’t bear it. It can put a knot in your stomach and a lump in your throat. It can surely break your heart.

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Grandma Judy Calls the Roll

Maria
I went to Maria’s softball game this week. This is her first year playing fastpitch, and I’m thinking she may want to work on her self-confidence in the batter’s box. She appears as likely to wait for the walk as to swing at any given pitch. Not a bad strategy actually, and one I can relate to, but connecting bat and ball seems sort of core to the game. On the other hand, the girl can run once she gets on base.

Christian
Christian, who turned eight this week, is feeling miffed that his march to adulthood hasn’t equated to something more than bigger sneakers. As he told his mother, doggone it, he is old enough for the 12-inch sub at Subway now.

Grace
Grace was at Maria’s softball game, although she wasn’t exactly in thrall of the action on the field and as a result spent a good part of the time capturing the local color with my camera. Which is how I end up with photos like this of some random bald guy…

and the now ubiquitous, but always riveting shot of Gracie’s feet…

Cosette
Cosette spent the week fixating on her birthday, still three months away but why wait till the last minute. It was the subject of numerous phone calls, with instructions on finding Thomas the Tank Engine toys (Aisle 2 at Target), the theme for her cake (Thomas the Tank Engine), and where to park when I get to the party (not in the street but in the driveway next to the neighbors’ flowers, Daddy will show me where).

Bret Jr.
Toddler Bret remains as exuberant as ever. Recently he conked me in the head with a cookie. (I know it shouldn’t hurt, but it did.) We were at a birthday party where they passed out big hard cookies in plastic bags, an open invitation to reckless cookie swinging and I should know better than to bend down to talk to a toddler in those circumstances. It wasn’t as painful as the time Toddler Christian broke my nose, or even the time Toddler Maria clobbered me with a hair brush, but it smarted. So don’t go giving toddlers potentially harmful cookies in plastic bags. Just don’t.

A small bird has built a small nest in the ivy growing up a pillar outside my front door, and now I can’t get up on a ladder to pull the wayward ivy off the house without risking being pecked in the eye. And so it goes.

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Catching Up With the Kiddies

GOD KNOWS WHAT THE FIVE OF THEM ARE THINKING.

The grandkids keep growing up. There’s nothing you can do about it.

Maria is 11 now. She’s pretty good-natured considering the hormonal shift. And some things don’t change, like her obsession with my shoes. I went up to my room after she left last week and they were everywhere – heels, pumps, flats, my new Josef Seibel boots. She has a particular fondness for a pair of purple satin slippers. I found them under the sofa the next day.

Christian is seven. He doesn’t give kisses anymore. Well, he was never crazy about the custom, but now it’s complete anathema, even if a parent berates him (“You kiss your grandma goodbye. She’s your grandmother. Christian, I mean it”), which pretty much kills any pleasure you might have gleaned from being kissed by a seven-year-old boy. Sometimes when he isn’t paying attention, I kiss him on the top of the head.

Grace is six. Still adorable. Kind of quiet and thoughtful, when she isn’t singing and dancing around. Jill and the kids were at my mother’s a few weeks back. Mom, who has advanced Alzheimer’s, doesn’t recognize us anymore and is fairly unaware of her surroundings. Still Gracie found cause to scold her siblings for fighting: “Don’t bother grandma. She’s having a good day.”

Cosette, now four, is in a daily race to get everything she has to say said before bedtime. Conversations are mostly one-sided and, because her speech is full of adult idioms, can be a little unsettling. You start to wonder what kind of creature you’re talking to. She still phones me with important updates. Yesterday she called to report that Bret Jr. had vomited and Ursa (the dog) started licking it up before Daddy could get there and take things in hand. I’m at work, mind you.

Toddler Bret, 17 months old, is utterly frustrated that people can’t understand him, but as coherent speech still eludes him, he has to settle for dragging you around and pointing. He is of the opinion that his sister is the funniest person alive. When she repeatedly chewed up crackers and spit them out on the floor so Ursa would lick them up, he almost had a conniption. Ah, yes. Good times, good times.

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To Insanity and Beyond

“My Feet” – Grace, 2011
“My Crocs on My Feet” – Grace, 2011
“Ursa’s Feet” – Grace, 2011

Hard to believe we’re nearing the end of August and I have so little to show for it. A total of 11 tomatoes on two cherry tomato plants and one raspberry on a patch that now covers about 100 square feet of yard. Just a guess, but I’m thinking none of my past lives involved living off the land.

I didn’t go anywhere this summer either, except for one long weekend up at the lake with my children and grandchildren, where precious family memories were once again preserved on my digital camera by Grace, age five, and Cosette, age three.

“The Lake, the Rocks, That Board Thing”
“Woman Eating Pork Chop for Breakfast”
“The Pork Chop in Question”
“Unknown Disgusting Object”
“Oh, It’s This Thing”
“Banished From the Bedroom”
“Fun With Hats”
“Evidence of Fun”

The grandkids complain about my smoking. They’ve all gotten religion, except for Cosette, who finds smoking endlessly fascinating and would like to be more involved in helping me smoke if she could.

I might have tried harder not to smoke around them if they had left me alone for five minutes. After hearing the word “Grandma” uttered several hundred times a day, I didn’t think I’d be able to string together two coherent thoughts ever again. You’d smoke too.

Grandma, can I use your camera?
Grandma, it’s my turn to use the camera.
Grandma, can we go fishing on the dock?
Grandma, can you put a worm on my hook?
Grandma, get out of the way. I’m going to cast.
Grandma, they got my worm again.
Grandma, I spilled the worms.
Grandma, we’re out of worms.
Grandma, will you take this fish off for me?
Grandma, I want to look at the fish I caught.
Grandma, can I take a picture of my fish?
Grandma, I’m hungry.
Grandma, I’m still hungry.
Grandma, can we go to the bakery and get doughnuts?
Grandma, I can’t find my bathing suit.
Grandma, will you help put on my bathing suit?
Grandma, I can’t find my life jacket.
Grandma, will you help me put on my life jacket?
Grandma, I can’t find my shoes.
Grandma, can I wear your sandals?
Grandma, can we throw rocks in the water? No, BIG rocks.
Grandma, will you throw the ball?
Grandma, the ball is floating away.
Grandma, I want you to take me to the potty.
Grandma, will you play this game?
Grandma, Christian won’t take turns.
Grandma, Maria took my DS game.
Grandma, will you help me with this marshmallow?
Grandma, my marshmallow fell in the dirt.
Grandma, my marshmallow is on fire.
[Gracie observing finished S’More] I think I’ll wait.
Grandma, you shouldn’t smoke. It’s bad for you.

Really?

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The Birthday Chronicles

"The Eating of the Corn" –Grace, 2011

Had a birthday party at my house last Saturday for Maria, now 11, and Christian, now 7. One shared party this year because their birthdays are ten days apart, and because they each have separate parties with their friends, and because one birthday party at Grandma’s is a rigorous event sure to test Grandma’s stamina.

Made two chocolate cakes, of course, because Christian has that dairy allergy and Maria insists she doesn’t like dairy-free cake, even though it tastes just fine and the rest of us eat it without complaint. On the other hand, it is her younger brother and boundaries have been established.

Grace and Cosette, ages 5 and 3 respectively, were the impromptu, undelegated chroniclers of the event. Cosette had her mother’s camera, Grace had mine, and since no adult cared to assume the task of monitoring them, they were set free to take pictures willy-nilly, mostly of things completely unrelated to normal birthday party proceedings.

And here’s a small sample of the photos preserved for all posterity…

"Self Portrait" –Cosette, 2011

"Self Portrait" –Grace, 2011

"The Grilling of the Brats"

"The Tuna Salad"

"Man Eating Corn with Pointing Wife"

"The Carrying of the Baby with Pink Shoe"

"The Lifting of the Baby with Wiener"

"The Passing of the Brat"
"The Surprise Guest"

"Really Seeing the Hotdog"

"The Big Man in Repose"

"Dead on the Table"

"Something Suspicious"

"Descent to the Underworld"

"The Giving of the Opinion"

Meanwhile, the 4th is almost upon us. Be careful with those fireworks, which we used to have to buy across the border in Wisconsin but which are now available on an endcap at Target for ten bucks, so you can blow up beer bottles and annoy the neighbors without having to make that long trip. Let us celebrate.

Too Much Ketchup

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.

Where’s El Nino When You Need Him?

THIS CAN'T BE A GOOD SIGN.

It’s snowing and blowing again. The weatherfolks say this storm could be as bad or worse than the Halloween snowstorm of 1991, which has become our yardstick for all storms thereafter. No worries about a white Christmas, just whether there’s enough milk, bread and liquor for the duration.

Went to Maria and Grace’s dance recital last Saturday. It was packed. When little kids perform, you can count on family to be there – tired parents, little sisters, big brothers, cheerful grandparents, loyal aunts, bored uncles, clueless cousins – by golly, we show up! And that’s to see your little Ginger Rogers on stage for approximately two minutes of a one-and-a-half-hour show, because there are a lot of classes in that dance school and every one of them gets their moment.

From what I saw, my own granddaughters, who are exceedingly graceful and light on their feet, could have had extra time – solos perhaps – but that’s just my opinion.

I sat next to Christian for most of the performance. He had seen his sisters dance, so his attention wasn’t exactly riveted on the stage. I gave him a stick of gum, which amused him for a while. I looked over once and the gum was hanging from his nose. I looked over again and it was hanging from one eyelid. Finally his mother, sitting behind us, leaned over and told him to put the gum in his mouth and keep it there. Which he largely ignored.

Last night was the second annual manicure/pedicure party in honor of my friend Julie who died in 2009. Julie liked having her nails done, so a bunch of us who loved her started gathering at the nail salon on her birthday to do the same. The organizer, of course, was Barbara, who could have organized the settling of the West and done it with half the covered wagons and happier Indians. We bring our daughters and granddaughters, food and wine, and catch up.

So I’m snowed in for the time being. But I do have soft feet, copper-colored toenails, and enough leftover deviled eggs to last till the snowplow comes through.

Blogging Facts (or What Happened the Night of July 17, 2006)

 

YOUR BLOG IS CALLING.

So I’ve been at this blogging thing for about a month now and here’s what I’ve learned: if you want to add another guilt-inducing commitment to your life, take up blogging. Because it is a commitment, and just like all your other commitments, it nags you: “Pick me! Where have you been? You haven’t paid attention to me for days. People will lose interest. Do you want to lose friends?” Yada, yada, yada.

The thing is, when life slows down a bit – like maybe you’re trapped in an Arctic blizzard for six months – finding time to blog is no problem. But when life is hectic (read now), you look at the next empty page and your brain goes numb. So to keep up, I thought I’d share some things I’ve written in the past. Some are stories about my grandkids, saved for their future amusement and/or everlasting embarrassment. And here comes one now…

July 18, 2006

I’d just like to say to those people who urged me to choose Option B (babysitting) over Option A (hauling boxes) during my daughter’s move to a bigger home last night that you are without a clue. I didn’t lift heavy objects in 90-degree weather, but I did watch 11-month-old Grace, who used to stay where you put her but is now mobile even though she still doesn’t have a lick of sense, and little Christian, who just turned two and is 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.

Well, you ask, what was a 2-year-old doing playing with the butter? That’s a long story and not one that shows me in the best light, so I’m going to ignore it. But if I were you, I’d take with a grain of salt those TV spots shot in grandma’s cozy kitchen, unless of course they also show the grandchild throwing cookie dough out the window.

You love them to pieces, but there’s a whole other side.