Spring break ain’t what it used to be

The grandkids are having their spring break this week. My plans were to take them to the zoo yesterday, which were made pursuant to last week’s weather forecast of sunny and a high of 45°. A little chilly, but if we layered and ducked into the aquarium, and the Australian nocturnal house, and reptile house enough times, it just might be enjoyable. Well, that little plan got spoiled by Mother Nature. High of 30°, and three inches of snow starting in the early afternoon. They played in the snow instead—Nathan, Kaitlyn, and Joshie. Kaity came in first, because Nate pelted her face with wet snow. Then Nate asked me if I would help him get Joshie inside, because he was done, but his little brother didn’t want to quit. They had already been out for about 45 minutes, but I put on my Snowmageddon outfit, and stayed out with him for a while longer. And stayed, and stayed…he’s the Energizer Bunny when it comes to the outdoors. Finally, when it was almost dark, and he was getting wet from the heavy snow, I got his mommy, who was just returning from running an errand, to bring him in. He wasn’t too happy about it, but so far, we’re still in charge. So far.

I googled indoor water parks for something to do this week. That’s not happening. The good ones are already booked up, of course, and the two stars on TripAdvisor ones are too expensive for the quality of the accommodations. I really didn’t want to spend that kind of money anyway. I think it would be better spent on a summer membership to the municipal pool, where I can take them every day, if the weather permits.

The only movie they want to see doesn’t come out until Friday, and I don’t really consider that an activity. So, there’s bowling, if we can get a lane. I’m only counting indoor activities, because it’s supposed to be rainy and drizzly the rest of the week. Bah.

We’re members of the Ohio History Connection, so we’re heading to the Ohio History Center on Wednesday. They have a wonderful exhibit of a 1950s Lustron home, reconstructed on the site, and complete with costumed docents. Lustron homes are fascinating. They were manufactured of porcelain enamel-covered steel. They were touted to be the home of the future, fully maintenance free, and easy to clean, and made on an assembly line. Lustron was the wonder child of an Ohio businessman, Carl Strandlund. There’s one in Marysville, although I don’t think it’s in mint condition, judging from the outside.

All of the historical sites in Ohio fall under the Ohio History Connection umbrella. We started Spring break early on Saturday with a visit and a hike at one of the most interesting locations—the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, the largest and best boreal and prairie fen in Ohio (there are only two). I don’t know why it has bog in the name, because bogs are different from fens, in that “bogs clog, and fens flush”. Many cautions are handed out about staying on the boardwalk the entire time, mainly because the sedges (grasses are round, sedges have edges) are deceptive. You think you are stepping out onto grass, but you can sink into water as deep as your waist in a matter of minutes, and it’s muck under there, kind of like quicksand. The water stays at a constant 55°F year round, even in the most bitter cold and the hottest days of summer.

If that wasn’t enough to scare the young’uns, the over-the-top warnings about the Eastern Massauga rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the boardwalk, and the honeybee tree with the swarming bees was enough to make Nate want to stay in the visitor center. But we convinced him that, more than likely, we wouldn’t encounter any snakes. I don’t really think it was warm enough for them to be out of hibernation. As I thought, there were no scary encounters on our little hike. There were lots of skunk cabbages poking their little purplish heads through the muck, though. It was fun trying to spot them. And we did see the bee tree, but the honeybees were, as usual, minding their own business and not bothering anyone. I want to go back to Cedar Bog when the spring flowers are in bloom. It’s a sight to see.

We also did a short hike at the Darby Creek Headwaters Nature Preserve. The trail and viewing platforms were built and are maintained by The Nature Conservancy. They have an Ohio headquarters in Dublin. David’s sister Anita is an attorney for the national headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. They do wonderful work preserving natural places for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

All of that hiking worked up a big appetite. We went to the little town of West Liberty, where we ate lunch at the only fast food place in town, a Subway, which is about the only fast food that I can still stomach. We were lucky to get there ahead of a girls’ soccer team, and a boys’ baseball team. Then we headed to the local ice cream shop, Nanzinger’s, where we had delicious ice cream cones, and I found a source for free-range eggs and bought two dozen. Nate doesn’t like ice cream (he’s not related to me!!), so after we had our ice cream, we headed to Marie’s Candies, a local candy maker. They hand out free samples, and have the best chocolates I’ve ever tasted. Yum. They had all their Easter offerings on display, and I’m going back this week to buy candy for the kids’ Easter baskets. Nate perused all of the delicious offerings, and finally settled on sour gummy worms. What?? I’m beginning to think that this child really isn’t related to me!

Joshie was plumb tuckered out and slept most of the hour’s drive home. The boys said it was a really great day (Kaity had spent the night with a friend and didn’t go with us), and when can we do it again? Soon, boys, real soon.

Sunday morning coming down

I made a huge vat pot of chili yesterday. Our son Jaye and his family came for a visit. They haven’t been here since Christmas Eve, due to one kid or the other being sick, or the weather causing dangerous traveling conditions, so it was good to be able to cook for them. I also made guacamole again, because it just goes with chili. So, I bought extra limes, because I thought a nice pitcher of frozen margaritas would be just the thing to get me through all the noise and chaos of six kids and five adults in my house, and I could share them with Kelly, our ex-daughter-in-law. Now, I’m a one-margarita kind of drinker, but I had two, maybe three, so that’s where the title of this post comes from. I have margarita-morning-after head. Ugh.

Jaye’s family situation is a little, shall we say, tenuous? Or maybe a better description would be, I don’t know what the hell is going on with him and his ex-wife. They seem to be back together. He’s been dwelling/living/residing at her house for the last few months, but he’s also keeping his apartment. Probably in case she goes bat-shit crazy again, and decides she hates him again, and throws him out on a moment’s notice again. Okay, this did not go where I thought it was going, but since it did, let’s explore it a little further.

When their sweet little Lauren died, it tore apart their marriage, which had been on shaky ground anyway. The statistics are not good for marriages surviving the death of a child, so they became a statistic. But, the hard part is they still love each other, and they love their boys, Matthew and Nicholas (the one with Down syndrome). Shared parenting is difficult, especially if the parents’ relationship in contentious, and parenting a special needs child makes it even harder.

To be fair to Kelly, Jaye did his own share of going crazy in the months and even years after Lauren died, so I can’t say that it was all her fault, although, being Jaye’s parents, we probably cut him a little more slack that we did her. And, we mostly only heard his part of the story, even though there were plenty of times when she tried to drag us into it. It hasn’t been a fun three years. For either of them, or for the boys, or for us.

So, Jaye is going to finish his Master’s degree in history in May. He has applied to PhD programs at five or six universities. He has had very positive feedback from Cornell, talking for about two hours to someone there who was blown away by his application written work. And he was recruited by someone at Brandeis to apply there. He also applied to Columbia. His hope, though, is to be accepted at University of Chicago, whose program is most suited to his area of study and interest. It also happens to be the only city where Kelly is willing to relocate. Mainly because she already has a job offer there. She works for the Veteran’s Administration as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and her skills are in demand. Ironically, they had planned to move there right before Lauren died. In fact, she had already accepted a post at the VA, and they had found a house they wanted to buy. She had to decline the post, because the thought of moving was too much to deal with, understandably.

If Jaye is accepted at U of Chicago, Kelly is willing to pull up roots and move there with him, and I assume they will remarry, although nothing has been said to that effect. If he decides to go to any of the other schools, she won’t go. If he goes to Cornell, there’s no VA within an hour-and-a-half driving distance of Ithaca, and even if she took the job there, she would have to take a pay cut. New York City and Boston are both too expensive, because she is already at the top of her pay scale. Of course, we’re assuming that at least one of these schools will offer him a position. History is a pretty small area, so it’s tough getting in. If he goes, and she stays, I’m not sure how she will be able to cope with the full-time care of the boys. And I know Jaye will miss them so much, and feel extremely guilty for leaving them. It’s a huge dilemma. Of course, the problem could be solved by his not being accepted by any of the schools. I guess we’ll know the answer to that in a couple of months. Stay tuned.

See you soon,

Susan

I don’t make resolutions

Can it really be the last day of 2014? For a year that started out horribly wrong, it has ended up being peaceful and good. We made some huge changes this year. We moved our daughter and her four children in with us, which we soon realized necessitated another big change, finding a house that would accommodate seven people comfortably. We sold two houses and bought this one, and nearly worked ourselves to a frazzle in the process. David lost about twenty pounds, and I lost ten or twelve, half of which I’ve gained back. But I expected that. I was physically working at an ungodly pace, and was usually too tired to eat much of anything at the end of the day.

Life has taken on a new normal. We never expected, at this stage of our lives, to be helping raise four grandchildren. It’s a trial some days, but for the most part, it has been a breeze. They are great kids, and the toddler has given us a new lease on life. He keeps us moving and motivated, and best of all, he makes us laugh all the time. And our hearts melt with love every time we hold him on our laps. He’s teaching us as much as we’re teaching him.

Having him around has been especially good for David. When our children were young, he worked and traveled a lot, so he missed so much of their growing up. He’s getting a second chance now, and enjoying every minute. His little shadow follows him everywhere.

I don’t make resolutions, but if I did, I would make these:

  1. I will be more patient. Sometimes I tend to be testy, especially if someone has asked me the same thing ten times, and the answer is still the same as it was on the first asking.
  2. I will not let things and happenings take over my own good sense. Scale back, sit down, and let it be “good enough.”
  3. I will spend more time with my friends, including couple friends. I don’t need to be here all the time. Most of the people in this house are pretty self-sufficient, except for the toddler, and he has plenty of people around him that will see to his needs.
  4. Get more real exercise. I know, everyone puts this one on their list. I’m busy and moving most of the time, but it isn’t the real thing, and I know it, and my butt knows it. If I want to be around to see these grandkids reach their full potential, I’ve got to do something about it, and not just say there’s always tomorrow. We all know tomorrow never comes.

That’s it. My theoretical resolution list. Not too unachievable, I think. I’m not even going to wait until tomorrow. I’m starting today.

Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you for being here!

Random Christmas musings

I have tried to write two posts in the last week, both of which have ended up who knows where. Here is my third attempt. We shall see if it actually happens.

Superwoman is felled by nasty common cold virus.

Sick two days before Christmas with the nastiest cold I have had in a long time. I could barely raise my head from my pillow. There was still a mountain of gifts to be wrapped in the basement, hardly any of the food for the Christmas Eve Party was made, the house was a mess…I was panicking, when I could think straight. Finally, on Christmas Eve morning, I felt like taking a shower and getting dressed, but I knew there was no way I could complete all of the party foods on my extensive menu, so that was my first red pencil act, slashing the new appetizers I had planned to try, and trimming some of the cookie choices (thank goodness I had made some in advance). Then the hard decision of uninviting our friends and former neighbors, and the family who bought our old house. They were very understanding, and made offers of help, which I turned down. I knew I would barely be able to be presentable for my family, much less for anyone else.

I managed to get the pork shoulder browned on the grill and into the Crockpot, and spent the next five hours wrapping gifts, hoping that our son and grandsons didn’t show up too soon. I made it through the pile, and got everything organized for the Eve openings, and the gifts to be opened at home. There was plenty of food, even enough to send home with our son, and to take to my in-laws the next day. David just had a told-you-so look on his face, because he had tried to get me to cut back even before I got sick. My face just said shut your pie hole.

Macs are wonderful until they’re not

We’ve had this MacBook for four years, and had never had a moment’s trouble with it, except having to replace a battery about two months ago. Until last week. Because of my cold, I thought I had better clean the keyboard before handing it over to David on Christmas Eve morning. Forgetting everything I knew (my brain was a little muzzy from the snot buildup), I used a disinfectant wipe on it without turning off the computer. Big NO-NO! David since surmised that it’s possible that all of the errant and random keystrokes must have made it lose its mind. Things were going everywhere. Screens jumping back and forth, losing posts and comments in the middle of writing them, the screen getting larger and smaller all on its own, and other weird happenings. It was impossible to control, so I just gave up and hung my head in shame. It still isn’t quite back to normal. I’ve had a bit of a challenge getting this post written, as it randomly jumps the cursor to a different place in the text while I’m typing, so if you see some random words inserted in places where they shouldn’t be, don’t blame me, blame the Clorox wipe.

Christmas happens whether you’re ready or not

Thankfully, I managed to get the bare minimum done, and stayed on my feet until all the gifts that I spent five hours wrapping were opened in fifteen minutes by six insane kids. Well, the older four did theirs in that time, the two younger ones were overwhelmed and had to be helped. They had plenty of that, because the older ones had nothing to do after they tore through their own piles. By this time the toddler was showing signs of being sick as well. We had to start his asthma breathing treatments, so he wouldn’t end up in the emergency room. By 9:00 p.m., he and I were out like the Christmas lights.

On Christmas morning David and I always go to his parents. They don’t like to travel in winter, and we don’t want them to be alone on Christmas. When we had talked about going a week before, the toddler overheard and started jumping up and down, saying, “Go to Ge-ma’s and Ge-pa’s house! Go in car!” Of course, he thought we were leaving that minute, so it took a bit of convincing that we would take him along when it was time.

So, not having had time to get anything ready in the days before Christmas, we had to pack clothes, food, and gifts (which I didn’t even get wrapped, but they don’t care anyway) into the truck. At the last minute, Kaitlyn decided that she didn’t want to be left at home (a decision that she would later regret), so we had to wait for her to get her things ready, and decide which toys she would take. All the while, Joshie (the toddler) is standing at the door yelling “Ge-ma’s and Ge-pa’s house!” over and over. And it was raining, so David couldn’t even take him outside to run off a little steam.

We finally got on the road, and as usual on Christmas day, there was no traffic. There were also no restaurants open for a three hour trip, except a Pizza Hut Express in a truck stop. I faintly remember the same thing happening the previous year, but not in time to plan accordingly. The pizza was awful—too much cheese that wasn’t baked thoroughly, the sausage was gross, just ugh. We ate enough to keep from starving, and put the rest in the back of the truck to take to the in-laws. They think frozen box pizza is just fine, so…

When we arrived at the in-laws’ house, and after graciously handing them the plastic bag wrapped gifts, I had to immediately throw myself into dinner preparations. My father-in-law wanted lasagna, which was sounding less and less appealing, especially after the “Italian” lunch we had just had, but I soldiered on and finally produced a reasonable facsimile of his beloved lasagna by 6:30. By then, everyone was starving, because they’re used to eating earlier, so it was highly praised, except by David and me (we could barely stand to look at it), and Kaitlyn, who decided plain noodles looked pretty good to her. Joshie just ate some cereal and some of the bread.

David’s cousin George and his wife Linda, one of my best friends, stopped by while we were eating, and stayed for a few hours. I hadn’t seen them in quite a while, so I was happy for their visit, but I wasn’t able to clean up the kitchen, and Joshie had to have his breathing treatment, which makes him wild enough to shoot at. So, after having only a five minute nap in the truck, five minutes before we arrived, he was up, running around like a little banshee, until they left at 9:00 p.m. It took me another hour to get him settled down enough to go to bed. I managed to get a cover on the lasagna pan and get it shoved into the fridge, and get the plates into the dishwasher before I laid down with him. I fell asleep before he did, while he was still chattering away about airplanes and monster trucks and goats and Santy Caus and Let It Go (lay it go in toddler speak.)

Frozen is just another word for mind control

We made the mistake of letting Joshie watch the Disney movie Frozen a few weeks ago. Now it’s all he thinks about. “Watch Lay It Go!” We hear this at least ten times a day. He’s two and he knows a lot of the songs, and sings them, in tune. We have to watch it at least once a day. Aimee took him for his annual well-check on the Monday before Christmas, and his doctor was pleased with how smart he is and how he’s growing, and he cautioned that he should get no more than two hours of screen time a day. He asked if we were sticking to that guideline, and Aimee agreed that we were. At home, she added, “If you don’t count Frozen.”

I understand his fascination. I’m kind of in love with the movie myself. I’ve always loved a good musical, and this one has some very good songs. Memorable songs. The kinds of songs that wake you up at three in the morning with the lyrics running through your brain on a constant loop. Did I mention mind control? And this Disney princess movie is based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson, The Snow Queen. It doesn’t have just one princess heroine, but TWO, and they’re beautiful. One funny and clumsy, one sad and tragic, but loving and sacrificing for her sister. I have to confess, when it’s on, I sing right along with them, and catch new little nuances every time. The writers and artists were very clever in that.

Really, I’m almost done

So, I survived another Christmas. I’m hoping I can invite my friends over on New Year’s Eve for a few of the things that I wasn’t able to make for Christmas Eve. I’m not inviting them yet, because I don’t want to jinx things. I’m nearly back to normal, whatever normal is, and the toddler is off the treatments, and back to his toddler self. Unfortunately, I think one of us gave Ge-ma our cold. She seemed to be starting symptoms last evening, when David called to let them know we arrived home safely. I feel guilty about that. But then it wouldn’t be Christmas without some kind of guilt floating around me.

Here’s wishing all of you a belated Merry Christmas! And a very happy New Year!

Random musings

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Elf on the Shelf

In a moment of madness a couple of weeks ago, I succumbed to the current craze of Elf on the Shelf and bought one of the little buggers from a display at Kroger. I was inspired by all of the photos and ideas that people have posted on Pinterest. I was pinning cute and clever Elf ideas right and left—hundreds of them. Literally. Some of them sure to wow my live-in grandkids, especially if they thought I came up with the ideas myself, and who would be crazy enough to disillusion them? Then I started running into blog posts about how the Elf nearly drove the parents crazy. They would be settling into slumber, having finally gotten the overexcited and overstimulated youngsters into their own beds for the night, when suddenly they would realize that they forgot to set up the new Elf scenario for the following morning! So, they would have to get up and create some elaborate Elf shenanigans so that Junior wouldn’t be disappointed when he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

I hadn’t yet taken the Elf out of the clever hiding place in the car, and I still had the receipt. I decided right then and there to save myself the month-long aggravation, and I returned the Elf to his rightful retail owners the very next day. The kiddos will never know any differently, unless, of course, they read my blog, and I don’t imagine that happening until they are well out of their Elf on the Shelf years.

Letting go

Decorating the Christmas tree is usually an activity that I look forward to each year. I have lots of beautiful glass ornaments that I have collected over the years (some are just memories), and I like to place them just so. I have to admit that I haven’t been quite as eager to get it done the last few years for various reasons. We got a new tree this year. A 9 1/2 foot tree to replace the 6 1/2 foot one. Yes, they’re fake. The last cut tree we brought home, meaning we went to a farm and cut it ourselves, got so dry by Christmas Day that the needles fell off by the handful if you accidentally brushed by it. The possibility of it catching fire and burning down the house scared me so much that I haven’t bought a “fresh” one since.

Anyway, decorating the tree has been the sole occupation of myself since day one of our marriage. Until this year. The live-in grandkids wanted to help. The oldest is thirteen, then there’s the eleven-year-old, the nine-year-old, and the toddler. The toddler was safely napping, so I said what the heck. Have at it. I knew I would micro-manage, so I took my knitting and a cup of tea and sat in the living room while they did the decorating with some help from their mom and her boyfriend. It was the most relaxed I’ve ever been during tree decorating, and I must say, they didn’t do too badly. They took into consideration that the toddler(s) would be VERY interested, and placed delicate ornaments up high or in the back, and sure enough, the toddler has since decorated the bottom third of the tree several times. Every day, actually. But it’s okay. I’m chill with it.

Speaking of knitting

I’m trying to teach myself to knit. It’s painful sometimes, both literally (carpal tunnel and arthritis) and figuratively. I’ve found a very helpful video series or two, but they can’t see what I’m doing and correct my mistakes. There’s a knitting class at the library, but it’s held at an inconvenient time for me to attend, and I don’t know anyone who knits who could help me, so for now, I’m on my own. I started out using a knitting loom, which is kind of fun and really fast, but it’s not real knitting, you know. I want to hear the click of the needles as I whirr speedily through a scarf or hat or mittens. I think I’ve mastered the garter stitch, and I’m attempting a scarf for Nathan, the eleven-year-old. He wanted bright orange, his favorite color, but I had this crazy bright ombre with orange in it, and he went crazy for it, so that’s what he’s getting. It’s coming along pretty well, but I dropped a stitch on one side the other day and couldn’t figure out how to pick it back up, so it’s a little funky right there, but Nate didn’t mind. It’s also quite sturdy, and I’m not sure why. It could be I’m knitting too tightly and the yarn is a bulky one, so maybe I should be using larger needles? Well, too late to go back and start over with bigger ones. I’m halfway done. If it doesn’t work out as a scarf, he can use it as a snuggly at bedtime. He’s very into soft, snuggly things. He never carried around a “bankie”, so I suppose he’s making up for it now.

There’s music in our house

We have two music students living here. Kaitlyn is taking piano lessons on a piano that we bought from the previous owners for $100, because they didn’t want to pay to have it moved. It’s kind of beat up, but it has a very nice sound. We love her teacher, Miss Emily, whom I found on Facebook before I quit going there. She’s been taking lessons since the first of October, and already had her first performance. It was last Saturday at the local art league. Miss Emily is a member there, and all her piano students performed for the people who were wandering through the open house. Mostly the audience was made up of proud parents and grandparents and siblings, some of whom are also taking lessons. The piano there is even older than ours, and in worse shape. The middle C sticks, so Kaity was a little frustrated while playing Jingle Bells and We Three Kings, but she handled it with aplomb, and Miss Emily kept smiling through the whole recital, so everybody was happy.

Our other music student is Nathan. He has not been a joiner of things. He hasn’t liked sports ever since he tried soccer when he was three, and wouldn’t go out onto the field, because he didn’t want to fall down in front of people. We’ve tried to encourage him to try different things without so much as an “I’ll think about it.” I’ve been talking up band for a couple of years. About how much fun it is in high school to ride the bus to football games and competitions. Of course, I left out the part about freezing your butt off during the games, but he’ll find that out in a few years. I enthusiastically waxed poetic about the idea of being part of an organization, and how you sometimes make lifelong friends. Anyway, something I said worked, or some of his friends were going for it, or something, and he decided he wanted to try band this year in sixth grade.

Nate wears braces, and he wanted to play clarinet at first. We went to the music store and one of the clarinet experts demonstrated one for him, but I think he was discouraged by the complexity of it. The young lady working out front also happens to be a trumpet player and asked him to give it a try. We were concerned about his being able to play because of the braces, but she and his band teacher assured us that he would be able to adjust. The clincher was the fact that Ohio State only has brass and no woodwinds in their marching band.

At first, as with most novice band students, the sounds coming out of it were enough to make one want to stick one’s head under a thick pillow. After about two weeks of band class, Nate was getting very discouraged and wanted to quit like some of his classmates had done, but we encouraged him by telling him that every music student goes through this and that it would get better. It wasn’t a week until the sounds coming out of the horn actually started sounding like music! He was playing MUSIC! Now he loves it, and the band had their winter concert this week. They sounded great, actually better than my lame high school band sounded back in my day. At the end, the band director even let them play “Let’s Go Band!”, which is their favorite, because they get to shout the title at the end of each stanza. It was awesome, and he is truly hooked. Let’s go band!

See you soon,

Susan

Boys will be boys

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Joshua at the pumpkin farm

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Nicholas was a big hit at the family reunion

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Nicholas is almost always happy

When the two littlest cousins get together, which isn’t often enough to suit me, they still kind of ignore each other. Nicholas is 2 1/2 and developmentally and physically delayed because of his Down syndrome, and Joshua is nearly two (next month) and exceptionally bright, or at least we think he is, but we’re his grandparents and he lives with us, so we may be a wee bit biased, but I don’t really think so. It’s becoming more obvious, now that they have passed the infant stage, that Joshua is out-distancing his older cousin in large and fine motor skills and language development. He is speaking in sentences, and we don’t always understand every word he says, but he usually gets his point across without much effort on our part. Nicholas has yet to say more than mama, but he is making animal sounds when he sees the pictures. They work with him every day in his day care that specializes in Down’s children. He also goes to speech therapy and physical therapy on a weekly basis. He wears ankle braces, and because of hip problems, walks with a kind of stiff-legged gait. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Joshua was paying close attention to Nicholas when he walked. Before long, Joshie was splaying his legs like Nicholas and mimicking his stiff legs as he walked around. He only did it for a few minutes until, I suppose, he got bored with it and moved onto something new, but I’ve also noticed that he mimics some of Nicholas’ other actions from time to time. I’m wondering, is Joshie showing signs of empathy and gearing his actions so that Nicholas won’t feel out-of-place, or are we raising a future little bully? I haven’t seen signs of Joshie being unkind or mean to animals or other kids his age, although he hasn’t really been around many since he isn’t in day care or nursery school yet. But he does try to kick out if he’s angry or frustrated about something. I’m hoping that this is just normal two-year-old toddler behavior and not a sign of future problems, especially between him and Nicholas. Obviously, it’s up to the adults who love him to teach him compassion and restraint, because none of us subscribe to that saying “boys will be boys.” I believe that Nicholas, with his beautiful sunny smile that crinkles up his whole face, and his warm enveloping hugs, will overcome any need on Joshie’s part to push him around. I’m hoping that Joshie will grow into the kind of kind, caring, empathetic person that his older brothers and sister have become. I pray that David and I will live long enough to see them grown up and living happy lives. And I fervently hope that Joshie will always stand up for and defend his wonderful big cousin Nicholas. A grandparent couldn’t ask for anything more.

See you soon,

Susan

Autumn and moving and life

Having lived in the (Bear) Swamp house for fourteen years, we had seemingly settled in for the rest of our days. Our grandchildren were nearby. There was room enough for them to visit for sleepovers. And though it was a bit crowded when we had the whole family there for holidays, especially Thanksgiving when the extended family descended for a few days, we didn’t feel too constrained. We had completed a major renovation of the twenty-three-year-old kitchen, and also added on a large laundry, full bath, and mudroom/office space with a walk-in pantry to the house just the year before. We were definitely settled in. Then life happened, and changes ensued.

Our daughter, after struggling through a painful divorce and its aftermath, and dealing with four children on her own, needed our help on a full-time basis. We had been helping a lot, because we were only seven miles away, but it still isn’t like having someone living with you and being there at night when one of the kids suddenly gets sick. She also wanted to go back to school full time and finish her degree in hopes of providing a better life for her and her children. There were also some extenuating circumstances that demanded our involvement, and so there we were with five more people in our medium-sized three bedroom house. To say that we were crowded was an understatement.

At first, we tried to make it work in our old house, but having three children in one small bedroom, the oldest being an almost teenaged boy, and the youngest being an eight-year-old (very sensitive) girl, and one boy in the middle trying to keep the peace, we soon realized that it wasn’t working. So, after grieving a bit over having to leave my secure little nest, we set out to find the “perfect” house. Of course, anyone who has ever had to do this kind of search knows that there is no perfect house. In fact, there were only two houses in the same school district that met most of our criteria. Our most pressing need was for more space, and we got that with this house. We almost doubled our living space, and though the decorating schemes weren’t to my taste, it was imminently livable and comfortable. The redecorating can wait.

We had to give up the barn, but the extra bay in the attached garage and the two-bay detached garage helped to store the things that we kept. It was quite the undertaking to scale down the junk we had accumulated over the years. A garage sale and trash pickers followed by a dumpster helped solve the problem. It is actually very freeing to purge in that way. I no longer feel the dread that I felt for years about what to do with all of it if we did decide to move. David had to come up with a new place to use for his sugaring house for his fledgling maple syrup business. That resulted in a brand-spanking new building built in about three hours by an Amish crew.

He’s a little peeved that there aren’t as many sugar maples on our property here as we had on Bear Swamp, but the neighboring properties have thousands, and he has already secured permission to tap as many as he likes from one of the neighbors. So, hopefully there will be lots of sweet maple syrup in 2015 to pour on the pancakes, waffles, French toast, and oatmeal.

Getting used to living with four children, from teenager to toddler, has been both challenging and rewarding. The toddler gives us tremendous joy. It is so much fun watching him learn and grow. He is our entertainment on most days. The older kids present their own set of challenges, but they’re nothing that we and their mother can’t handle together. They also help keep us young and they feel much more secure and happy in their new life with us. And that was the reason for this big change in lifestyle. When they are happy, we are happy.

See you soon.

Susan