Know What? I’m Proud of Me.


Sometimes in this long life, you just need one of those days where you feel proud of yourself, you know?

I used to be a teacher. I taught fifth grade after years of providing speech and language therapy to kids with communication disorders. I was proud of myself back then. I was good at both jobs. I was good at connecting with kids, I was good at diagnostics, I was a fun teacher.

I used to get lots of positive feedback from kids, from colleagues, from the parents of my students. I mean, it wasn’t all good (I still wake up at night thinking of the kids I failed and the parents who were let down by my efforts.)

But I usually felt OK. I usually felt proud of what I accomplished in a year, or a month or a week of teaching.

Now I’m staying at home. I take care of the two people on this beautiful planet who I love the most. I laugh with them, I watch them eat the good food I’ve made for them, I help them to create art.

Watching my grandchildren is a gift.

But I don’t usually feel proud of my “work.” I mean, really? I peel multiple clementines, wash multiple hands and change multiple diapers. A monkey could do it.

I rock, I soothe, I sing lullabyes in my off key voice.

Proud is not one of my average adjectives.

But today was different. So different.

For the first time in MONTHS, I took both of the kids to the grocery store, to the florist and then to the hair salon while I had my head beautified.

My Johnny at the salon. String cheese in hand, new book on his lap. I freakin’ rock.

Oh, yeah.

This 63 year old Nonni put two toddlers into carseats not once, but THREE TIMES. During one of those carseat buckling events, the 22 month old had what can only be described as a takeover by an alien force. There was screaming, writhing, head swinging, teeth gnashing…. There was also a big old downpour of icy rain, so Nonni was not able to be her usual patient self (cough, cough). I wrassled that poor little tyke into that carseat, and all I had to say through my clenched teeth was “This is NOT my first toddler meltdown!”

Naturally, on the way home, said toddler fell sound asleep in his carseat. I got his sister into the house, safely debooted and dried, sucking on a lollipop (don’t judge! It was in a jar at the salon.) I brought seven bags of groceries into the house, let in the dogs, dried off the dogs.

Then I ran outside to check the sleeping baby.

Back inside, I unpacked seven bags of food and put them away. I also served two bowls of fresh blackberries to the 3 year old who had finished her pop. I gave her a string cheese. I got the dogs off the couch, pulled out lunch foods, and started to defrost dinner.

Then I ran outside into the rain to grab the now awake little one. I brought him inside, pulled off his boots, rocked him for 15 minutes while he tried to wake all the way up. I also sang “Frozen” songs to his sister, who was dancing in her blue sparkly dress. I wasn’t able to put down the cranky boy long enough to boot up the computer for the music, so I had to rely on my singing.

Luckily, she loves me. She isn’t a critic. She danced.

Finally, both kids were awake.

I served up a lunch of raisin bread and blackberries (STOP JUDGING! It’s what they wanted!)

Then I made a lovely dinner (for me) of octopus.

Oh, my GOD, so delicious!
Message me for the recipe.
This isn’t a food blog.
But seriously…..so so good.

OK, OK, fine.

My husband is having leftover ravioli, but I am STILL very proud of me.

What a day.

Long, fun, fulfilling, challenging and in the end I get a plate full of delicious seafood.

I. Am. So. Proud. Of. Me.

Nothing Lasts Forever


When I was young, and newly in love, the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas was a big hit.I loved that song. I still love it. I love it for its harmonies, its tender thoughts, its melancholy.

I remember being a young wife, thinking, “I don’t want all of this beautiful life to simply fade into the wind! There has to be a way to make it all last!”

But you know what?  Now that I am a grandparent, I have a very different feeling about that song. I feel differently about the idea that nothing lasts forever.

Now, instead of feeling bereft at the thought, I feel comforted.

Let me try, in my limited way, to explain what I mean.

At the age of 28, I was so filled with life and new love that I thought the world must surely embrace and celebrate my feelings. I knew that I was only one tiny person in a wide world of others, but the strength and the depth of my feelings were so intense that I could not believe they would ever go away.

Then I gave birth to my first child, my perfect, most beloved, most cherished little girl. When I held her in my arms, it was impossible to me to imagine that the universe could fail to recognize the power of my love and the impossible gravity of her life. As I rocked her against my heart, I could not believe that there could exist a time in universal history when her life would not have the power to move us all.

I honestly did not believe that anyone else had ever felt this same miraculous love. I thought we were unique.

Back then, “Nothing lasts forever” was the worst thought that I could possibly hold in my head. I held myself firm against the very idea. I WOULD keep my love for my children alive! I would! I took photos, I wrote notes, I kept cards and letters and little mementos. I loved my kids so hard that I thought I had created an eternal monument of my devotion.

We were here. Our love for each other was too strong to ever fade. We mattered in the life of humanity, and I refused to believe that at some future point we might simple cease to register.

“Everything is dust in the wind….”

I hated that. Hated it.

But time has passed. Time has changed my view.

Now.

Now I have a whole different view, although it’s no less loving and embracing and proud. It is just maybe a bit more wise.

Now I understand that the love my grandparents felt for their children was every bit as intense, as strong, as deep as what I felt when I first held my own. Now I understand that the families that my grandparents created were meant to be islands of strength in a world of turmoil, but they were not ever meant to be eternal.

My maternal grandmother, my Nana, was such an important figure in my life. She was the matriarch. She was the hostess of the holidays, the provider of Sunday dinners, the center of our Italian-American existence. She was Nana. She was the center of it all, of all of the family tradition on my Mom’s side.

But when she died, I began to realize that her time in the spotlight had died, too. I mean, I still teach her recipes to my granddaughter, Ellie, but they don’t help to bring the real, true Nana into existence. Nana was the center of my Mom’s life, a huge part of my life, an important person in the lives of my children.

But Ellie doesn’t know her. Ellie and Johnny will never hear the sound of her laugh or eat a piece of apple that she sliced for them. They will never have the “Nana” experience that we have had.

Because they can’t. They shouldn’t.

Life can’t be all about the past. It can’t be a ceremony of love for those who have come before us. Life has to be about life, about this moment. It has to be about the people we hug and touch and love every day.  Life has to be about the new loves and the new families and the new memories that shape the world today.

So.

I don’t think I’ve don’t a very good job of expressing this at all, I truly don’t.

But let me end by saying that I am now happy to be “Dust in the Wind.” I know that for every day of their lives, my children will remember me and think of me with love. I know that my Ellie and Johnny will live every day of the rest of their lives knowing me and understanding my love for them.

As for their children? I hope that they grow up having heard my name and maybe a funny story or two. They don’t need to hang on to my old possessions or my faded photos.

Love goes on. Love moves from one family unit to another.

That’s just the way it should be.

Nana

Nana with her great grandson, Atticus. 

 

Keeping Nonni Humble


Oh, man.

Every time I think I have really mastered this “watching and nurturing kids” thing, something happens that forces me to be totally humble.

Totally. Humble.

As in, “This is way more than I could even begin to handle in any world I have ever envisioned.”

Yeah.

Yesterday I was Nonni in charge of my three year old granddaughter, her four year old friend and our one year old grandson. It was challenging but wonderful. The two girls laughed, played, shared toys, argued, snacked and were generally the epitome of young children learning to cooperate.

It was great.

I put out snacks, I mediated a few arguments, I made lunch. Mostly, though, I was a cheerleader.

“You guys shared those toys so well! I’m so proud of you!”   

“You are so good at taking turns!!!”

I thought that the fabulous day was due to my wonderful Nonni-ness. I went to bed last night patting myself on the back for my superior child management skills.

Then today dawned. If you have a secret universe where there are rainbows, unicorns and little tiny children who cooperate without effort……..Well.

Then you are completely delusional. And you have never met an actual child.

I know this because I woke up this morning feeling relaxed. “Oh, I only have my own to grandchildren”, I thought. “It’s like a day off.”

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahahaha

No.

This one short day of child care, which Nonni started with a feeling of smug confidence, turned out to be one huge exercise in keeping Nonni humble.

Holy chaos, Batman.

I won’t go into every detail, but let it be said that Nonni has had her commupance.

I thought it would be a good idea to quickly throw together a little nightstand that I had ordered online. What I didn’t know was that the maker of said little nightstand failed the “Impossible-to-follow-Ikea-test”.

I tried. And tried. And covered the entire kitchen table with said random pieces of nightstand.

I attempted to follow the “oh-so-simple” directions which are provided for free without ONE SINGLE word of explanation in any language.

Today it was roughly 900 degrees outside, so we had our AC running as well as it could. We had fans running. Skylights were closed.So it was only about 85 degrees in the dining room where I was fighting to the death with the nightstand directions. I was a big, fat, old lady sweat ball by the time I had connected the first two pieces.

By this time, I have to brag, I had already fed breakfast to both kids, cleaned the kitchen, thrown in a load of laundry, and set up a glo-in-the-dark racetrack.

But I spent my morning trying to build the world’s tiniest and most useless nightstand. I was determined to get it done.

In the meantime, I had set the timer for potty training and taken the toddler to the potty three times , made breakfast for two, served that breakfast, cleaned up said breakfast, washed two faces, pulled out a bag of toys and cleaned the kitchen.

The day went on with pretty much the same rhythm. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 43, change a poopie diaper. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 52, serve some goldfish snacks. Put the dog out. Let the dog in. Wash faces. Repeat.

I hammered, hugged, sweated, served, screwed in useless screws, mediated fights over crayons, changed diapers, took Ellie to the potty, let the dog out.

For a while, I thought I was OK. I thought it was working out.

Then Ellie asked for a new snack. Yet another snack. A wicked messy snack.

“Nonni,” she asked with her big innocent eyes fixed on mine.  “Can I have some yogurt?”

Shit.

I mean, really? Healthy, wholesome yogurt? Of course I said yes. I said yes even though I knew that Johnny would want to do exactly the same thing that his big sister was doing.
I gave Ellie her vanilla yogurt cup and a spoon and set her at the dining room table. I took off ALL of Johnny’s clothes, put on a big, set him up in his highchair with its big tray. I put the yogurt and a spoon in front of him.

I went back to nailing in useless nails and gluing useless connections. I let the kids eat.

Then I looked up.

“I’m all done!” chirped Miss Ellie with her nice clean yogurt cup and her clean spoon in front of her.

“MMMMMMMMMM” said Johnny, with vanilla yogurt on his cheeks, his ears, up his nose and into his hair. “MMMMMMAHHHHH!”

I dropped the useless hammer and the pointless nails, ran into the bathroom and turned on the tap in the tub. Back to Ellie and Johnny, grabbing spoons and yogurt cups and hustling both of them into the bathroom.

I thought I was pretty cool. Mostly exhausted, but still pretty much on top of things. I had (mostly) made the stupid waste of money nightstand. I had fed the kids and entertained them and kept us all mostly cool in the desperate jungle heat.

Now I dropped the yogurt covered baby into the tub, and helped his big sister climb in with him. I scrubbed, I shampooed, I scraped dairy products off of key body parts.

It was only noon, but I had already had a long day. I was silently patting myself on the back as I sat back to watch my grandchildren playing. “Nice,” I told myself, “I have helped them to share, to learn from each other, to appreciate the special relationship that only siblings can understand.”

And then.

“What’s that?” asked Ellie, pointing into the tub full of bubbles, toys and …..meatballs.

“OH.” I said. “Um. I think Johnny pooped in the tub.”

In a feat of athleticism rarely seen outside of an Olympic stadium, Ellie hurled herself out of the tub with a bloodcurdling shriek.

I was left with the fallout.

*************************************************************************************

So. Now the kids have gone home. The tub has been cleaned, the toys are put away. The sink is filled with hot water, bath toys and white vinegar.

I have a martini in my hand.

Every time I think I have it all figured out, the kids find a way to keep me humble.

kids

Don’t get too comfy, Nonni!

 

 

 

The Universality of Motherhood


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When I was a new mother, I felt sorry for every other Mom on earth. I felt badly for them, because they didn’t have MY little one to love. I felt sorry for them because I knew, deep deep down in my heart, that there was no possible way that they could love their babies as much as I loved mine.

I was a jerk.

OK, I was a jerk in the most life affirming way, believing that my kids were the most beautiful, most beloved little beings in the universe. But, let’s face it, I was a delusional, mother-hormone-crazy woman.

Now I know the truth.

Now I know that ALL mothers love their babies just as intensely and profoundly as I loved mine.

I know because I see it every day.

I leave my house every morning and drive for 15 minutes to pick up my grandchildren for the day. I wind through the little streets of our small community. I stop every day for the school bus that seems to inevitably be right in front of me.

So I have had many, many mornings to watch the moms in our community putting the kids on the bus. I’ve come to look forward to seeing them every day. I watch how they interact with their young children.

And I know that no matter who they are, they adore those sweet little munchkins heading off to school.

There is one Mom who has caught my eye this school year. She stand outside every morning, rain or shine. She looks to be in her late 30s or early 40s. She is round, in both face and form. He hair is dark, thick, and curly, like my daughter’s. Her skin is a light coffee color, and her eyes are wide and dark. Although I usually only see her as I pass slowly by the bus stop, I know that she spends these precious before school moments with her son. She looks at him. They grin at each other. One day I saw them dancing.

I have seen them standing in the humid mornings of September, gazing up at the yellow leaves above them. I’ve watched them hold each other under a big black umbrella on rainy mornings. I’ve seen him running around his Mom, grinning and calling something that I couldn’t hear. I’ve seen her laughing at him as he does.

And I’ve seen this woman waving, and waving, and blowing kisses as her boy climbs the steps of the big yellow bus and settles into his seat.

I’ve watched her stand with a hand shading her eyes as she waves him off to school.

And I know that she loves this happy little curly headed boy just as much as I loved my own first born. I know that wherever she goes after he gets onto that bus, she is thinking of him all day long.

I don’t know this woman. She wouldn’t ever recognize me. Still, I know that we share the universal bond of crazy pants mother love.

She probably feels bad for all the other Mom’s she meets, too. Thinking how sad it is for them that they don’t have her little guy to love.

 

Why I NEED my granddaughter.


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She certainly looks like she needs her Nonni, doesn’t she???????

So the thing is, I totally support the idea of a full year of maternity leave. I really do! I think that Mom’s should stay at home with their babies. I am a huge Bernie Sanders fan, so I agree that the United States absolutely MUST keep pace with every other western nation and MUST guarantee maternity leave for our young mothers.

Really.  I agree.

But the thing is…………

I retired in June.  So I’m not a teacher any more. No more bright eyed children greeting me every morning with a hug and a smile. No more earnest young parents telling me how well I know their children.  No more validation. No more laughter. No more feeling of worth…….

And my kids are way grown up!  I mean, my baby is 23 years old!  ALL three of them are better cooks than I am.

Nobody needs me anymore.

I woke up this morning, and my first thought was, “Hell, I have a sniffle.”  It seemed completely logical that I should just curl back up under the covers and sleep the day away.  I didn’t have an actual cold or anything. I mean, no deep cough, no fever, no chills.

But what the hell? I was sort of sniffly.  And tired.  And I wanted to sleep some more.

And……….(drum roll, please)……..NO ONE needed me to be up and about.

Awful.

The worst.

I got myself up, and dragged my sad old butt into the living room.  Where I saw my two old dogs.  And I suddenly remembered that Sadie is supposed to be dying. And Tucker had his spleen taken out.  He was recently evaluated by a Chinese Medicine Specialist who suggested that I cook for him.

Woohooo! Someone needed me!

I pulled out the vet’s suggested food list.  Huh.  It looked a whole heckavah lot like the food list suggested by my workout group…..  I made a big batch of oatmeal and pumpkin, and divided it into three bowls.

The dogs didn’t have an espresso, but other than that, we shared our breakfasts.

And later in the day, I got up off the couch and whipped up a batch of pumpkin-whole wheat dog biscuits.  All natural.  Yup.

Dinner tonight was soup. Chicken and meatball soup for the humans.  Nice rich lamb soup with carrots and broccoli for the dogs.

Dear God.

I need my daughter to go back to work.  As soon as possible. I need my granddaughter here!   I need an actual human child to care for. I need a baby in my house to remind me that I still have some value, that I still need to get up in the morning, that I still have to show up in my life.

I need to make soup for a human.  I need to feed that human and have that human look at me with a big smile and shining eyes.

So.

In spite of my deep belief in a full year of maternity leave, I am kind of counting the minutes until my daughter goes back to teaching and I am the one in charge of taking care of our beautiful Ellie.

Am I a really bad Mom?

My favorite old Coot.


What a cute Coot.

What a cute Coot.

Years and years ago, when I was very young, I had a class with a friend.  I think we were in the ninth grade, but it may have been tenth.  I know that I was just at the age where having a good friend who was a boy was something new and very special. I know that I was just at that age where we begin to wonder about the rest of our lives.

In this class, the teacher asked us to think about the future; I have no idea why, or even what class it was!  All I remember is that I was partnered with my friend, Tim.  We were supposed to make a budget, to plan how to pay for a home and family.  It was all pretty silly, and I don’t remember whether or not we did very well on the assignment.

But I remember that my friend was cute, and funny, and that I really enjoyed talking with him and thinking about our “grown up lives”.

And I remember that we told each other that we’d always be friends, the way that children do.  I remember us laughing together, and I remember saying, “When we are old, we’ll be sitting side by side in our rockers, in the Old Folks’ Home. We’ll still be friends!”

So fun, and so funny to recall.

These dreams are always foolish, aren’t they?

Except that the funny thing is, we really HAVE stayed friends.  Tim was in our wedding, and my husband Paul was in his.  Tim and his wife, Jean, have been our close friends for years.  We had our first children within six months of each other, and then each went on to have two more.  Our families have spent weekends together, have celebrated New Year’s eve together. We’ve walked our babies together, watched our children grow up and go to school and become adults. We’ve shared meals, and many drinks, and lots of music and a boatload of laughter.

And now, more than 40 years after that laughing conversation about our lives in the Old Folks Home, now, my good friend has become a Grandfather.  He calls himself “Coot”, although it well may be that his granddaughter will call him “papa” or “gumpa” or “pops”.

I know that the name “Coot” is perfect for my funny old friend, and that his wife Jean will be the prettiest Nana ever.  We’ll be joining them in the world of Grandparents in the next few weeks, and the four of us will share more stories, and laughs and meals and walks with strollers.  We are moving together into the next phase of our lives, me and “Coot”. Our babies are having babies at almost the same time.

Who knows? Maybe our granddaughters will become great friends, and maybe someday they will come to the “home” where Coot and Nana and Grampa and Nonni will be rocking together and remembering our wild younger days.

Congratulations to Coot and Nana!!!!