Super Grandpa To The Rescue

My children have a hero, someone they believe can do anything, answer any question and generally save the day…sadly, my father agrees with them.

When Sam has an unanswerable question, which is often, I used to tell him to call Grandpa when my imagination got tired. Now, he just asks me the question then says, “Can I call Grandpa, I bet he knows.” I could let it hurt my feelings but instead I just hand him the phone and relax for a minute.

A sampling of questions that Sam has asked Grandpa recently:

  • Where does the wind start?
  • Does the sewer ever get full?
  • How high is the sky and where does it start?

and my favorite that he asked him today…

  • How can I make wind because I want to fly this little box kite I made from a Dots box. Can you make it windy?

The best part is that Grandpa usually answers without missing a beat, a feat I am in awe of.  I have to hem and haw and generally tell Sam that I don’t know but that we can find the answer in a book or online. Not Grandpa, he spins a tale so quickly and with such conviction that you can’t help  but believe him. Every once in a while Sam will wonder if Grandpa is just making things up but I think in his heart, he wants to believe that Grandpa has the answer.

Drew not only thinks that Grandpa can answer any question but that he can do anything. He convinced him to try to run from our house to the farm, about 4 miles.  My dad has recently hurt his knee and his foot,  has a horrible back, and honestly just isn’t in great shape anymore (sorry Dad!) but heaven forbid he say no to a grandchild so he, Sam, Drew & Gavin took off running. Well, that’s not quite true, let me give you some images.

Sam is a pretty runner, nice long strides and he’s fairly fast. Gavin is a strong runner but doesn’t think he is so he takes off and runs about 12 steps and then is tired and hurting and needs a drink and is hot and needs to get in the car. Drew runs like Phoebe from one of the best Friends episodes ever. His arms are all crazy, his legs aren’t going quite straight, and sometimes he throws a butt wiggle in. He typically joins Gavin on the hot/tired/need water train. Grandpa can still run like  he used to, just not for very long. They made it to the end of our block and all clambered into the car. But according to Drew, Grandpa ran to the  farm!

Drew also tried to convince Grandpa to do a flip on the trampoline a couple of weeks ago. Mom and I could see him contemplating it and both quickly said, “No, Drew, Grandpa can’t do a flip right now.” I think we hurt Dad’s feelings but I honestly didn’t want to spend the afternoon in the ER.  Grandpa and Drew do a lot of hot tubbing and golfing together, lots of trips to the park and playing catch and Grandpa has convinced him that he can do anything because he truly believes he can.

Bridget, however,  may give him a run for his money.  She really likes Grandpa most of the time but also likes to point her little finger at him and remind him “No, no bumpa. Nama’s gaeul.” Translation: No, no Grandpa, I’m Grandma’s girl”  She giggles hysterically after she tells him and runs to hide in Grandma’s arms, hoping that Grandpa is following to argue and tickle. She is usually rewarded. I don’t know if she is going to believe all the stories he tells or think he can do anything but for now she’s got him wrapped right around her little finger and they both seem pretty happy with the arrangement.

I remember thinking both my dad and my grandpa could do anything and answer any question and I guess I still do. I hope my kids will always hold on on to that belief, despite any evidence to the contrary, because everyone needs a hero and I’d rather have it be a lying Grandpa who loves them than anyone else!

Family Obligations: A Necessary Evil?

I have a lot of family, especially considering the age and decibel level of some members. But when does a family become an obligation?

Let’s start with my family. I don’t feel obligated to attend activities that my nieces or nephews are involved in but I want to.  I don’t feel obligated to spend time with my sisters, parents, grandparents or most of my aunts and uncles because I truly want to spend time with them.  I hear people talk about needing to call their mom or go visit their brother or sister and I am so grateful that I look forward to seeing my parents and sisters and probably irritate my mother by calling too often! I have to admit that there is one great-uncle for whom it is more of an obligation than a pleasure to spend time with but that is not a bad ratio considering the number of aunts and uncles I have!

So, if I look forward to spending time with a majority of my family, am I obligated to spend time with those who have rarely, if ever, seemed interested in spending time with me? Whose responsibility is it to keep in contact with extended family; should the older generation reach out to the younger? Should I be making a big effort to make sure my kids know their great-aunts and uncles and second cousins? Do I take resentments and anger that isn’t necessarily mine into account?

Now, let’s add Blair’s family to the mix…. I feel exactly the same about all of our nieces and nephews, regardless of whose children they are.  I have 15 fabulous nieces and nephews that I enjoy spending time with whenever possible and got to see 13 out of 15 last weekend. But what is my role as an in-law in this family?

Blair’s family is not overly demonstrative and to a degree they don’t consider in-laws as family. For instance, he doesn’t really consider his dad’s brother’s wife to be his aunt. When I came in to this family, I think they were a little shocked that I started calling her Aunt Annete right away and took my role as aunt very seriously, as seriously as I did with my sister’s children.  Our immediate family has changed in that regard over the years but the extended family is as scattered as ever.

Should I be pushing Blair to maintain contact with his aunts and uncles?  He is not even sure how many cousins he has because the communication lines are so broken, not because there is any bitterness or hatred in most cases but because they are just not good at communicating! A couple of his uncles will randomly show up every once in a while, without warning, and might stop by to say hello but that is the extent of it. I’ve never met one of his father’s sisters and his mother’s siblings only sporadically, which is so strange for me.

When Blair’s sister is in town from Omaha, I try to plan get-togethers for the entire family so we can all spend time with her and her 3 small children but is that my job? Should I continue and should I keep pushing Blair to take time off to go visit her more often?

Family is so important and I want my kids to have a large, extended family to rely on when things get tough and to mine for great stories as they get older. But I don’t want the bitterness and age-old disputes to taint their experiences with family, so the question remains: should I feel obligated to make sure my kids know every member of their extended family or can I pick and choose?

Sugar and Spice? What about Sass?

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.

I beg to differ. Tantrums and polish and sassy pants, that’s what my little girl is made of. Bridget, dear Bridget, where shall I start?

My favorite Bridget moment of the weekend happened Sunday afternoon as I was anxiously trying to clean the house before the entire Hansen family arrived for dinner. Sam & Drew are typically pretty nice to her but they think that teasing her is playing nice due to the example set by all of their uncles and grandpas. So, Drew is teasing her a little bit by taking her purse away and after countless screeches and a little bit of crying she yells, “Hate you, Shew. Throw water you,” took Sam’s water cup and tossed the water on Drew. ..in the living room. She was talented enough to hold on to the cup and just douse him with water but I was not talented enough to hold in my laughter while trying to yell at her. Good lord. It didn’t help that Drew was behind her laughing his priceless Drew giggle and pulling his wet underwear off as I’m trying to send her to her room.

She had another great moment on Friday when we stopped at the farm to visit Daddy. She was carrying one of her many purses (one more trait she inherited from Grandma) and Daddy asked her what was in her purse. All day she been carrying 2 defunct cell phones in her purse, pulling each of them out at random times to call and say “no” to Aunt Shel or “Hi” to Nama but when Blair asked she hid it behind her back. I asked her what was in her purse and she gave me a glare that would make a teenager proud and pulled it more firmly behind her back.  I tried to take the purse and she let out another banshee screech, which doesn’t stop a determined mommy, and I took the purse at the same time that Blair asked her. “Do you have a snack in your purse?”

The little booger flashed him an award-winning smile, complete with nose crinkle, and said “Yep.” Not yes or yea but yep. I pulled the granola bar out and used it to hide a smile. To her credit, I allowed her to keep the bar in her purse with the promise that she could eat it later. When snack time arrived, Drew asked what they could have and Bridget yelled, “Puss, nack, puss nack!” and retrieved the bar for a very happy snack time.

On Saturday, Michelle and Corey came to visit with Gavin and Corey’s 3 girls. His daughter Avary is only a couple of days older than Bridget and they have a typical love-hate relationship going on. Thomas and Cortney came up for the weekend as well so we had a full house but I was very happy about it….until Bridget didn’t get a nap. We went swimming (thanks again Sue!) and toured the farm before having a pizza and movie party in my living room. Avary was inexplicably seated next to Bridget’s toy box for supper and was casually pulling out toys while eating. Bridget was watching her very closely and allowed most of the toys to be examined. And then the hat came off the baby.

You would have thought that someone had taken her favorite baby doll, wrapped it in her cow lovey and chopped it to pieces in front of her. She started yelling and screaming at poor Avary and Thomas, because he happened to be sitting near her, about “hat, baby, osh (off), baby, hat, fall osh, fix, help” in a repetitive and aggressive manner until we were able to fix it.

I thought we were out of the woods until Aunt Shel, who apparently learned about teasing from the same people as Sam & Drew, quietly took the baby’s hat off again and laid it out for Bridget to notice. No wonder Bridget loves to call and tell her No.

There must be a little bit of sugar in her, however, because in the last 2 weeks she has convinced 2 grandpas, one daddy, and one uncle to let her paint their toenails and fingernails bright pink. She isn’t allowed to paint her own nails until she is potty-trained but she had a great time painting Grandpa’s! She saves the sugar for when she is in trouble but the sassy pants are always on….can’t wait for the teen years.

Lessons in swimming?

Finally got the boys enrolled in swimming lessons this summer after trying to teach them myself last summer. They are all very comfortable in the water, almost too comfortable for my peace of mind, so I thought maybe we should learn some better technique this summer. I enrolled them in Cedar Falls and am taking our neighbor Devon, who is 5, along with us. I wasn’t sure what level to enroll them in so went low and thought they would move them up if necessary. Oh dear.

Drew and Devon are in Level 3 in a zero-depth entry pool with some much younger kids who don’t want to get their faces wet and my poor boys are doing everything they can to try and swim in 1.5 feet of water whenever they get a chance! I have talked to the teachers and they agree that both boys could probably move up but that they aren’t super strong at floating…so? When was the last time you really floated in the pool? Generally you are swimming or treading water, right? Sure, they need to know how to float but that is almost all they have worked on for 2 weeks and these little guys just want to swim!

Devon is a very routine-oriented kid who asks a lot of questions and wants to know exactly what is happening. Before we leave my house, he typically asks me at least once if everything he needs is in his backpack. Then he will ask me again in the car, again as we get out of the car, again before he gets in the water, and one last time as they head to the locker room to get dressed. I happened to be at Sam’s pool when lessons got over the other day, which was not the normal procedure and it apparently through him for a loop. As Bridget and I walked over to them I noticed that Devon was just standing next to his backpack shivering. I waited til I was a little closer and yelled, “Devon, get your towel?” He looked at me as if I was speaking Latin and continued to shiver. I got a few steps closer and yelled, “Devon, unzip your backpack, get out your towel and dry off!” He looked at me as if I were stupid to tell him such a thing, then got out his towel and dried off. He is a smart kid but does not like a change in routine!

Drew is so darn excited to get in the pool that he either forgets to take his t-shirt off before he gets in and then has to wear a wet t-shirt while we run errands after lessons or forgets to pack either underwear or shorts. And of course, since he is my child, he will come out butt naked to tell me what he forgot. The last time he forgot shorts he decided that the best solution was to put on dry underwear then put his wet trunks over them. Genius.

And then we have Sam whose Level 4  lessons start in the Lazy River. He is with younger kids as well who aren’t necessarily afraid to get wet but are apparently afraid to listen to the teacher. Sam is a child who wants to do exactly what is asked of him and do it exactly right so he gets very frustrated when the teachers spend most of the class corralling the other kids. I almost jumped in the pool earlier this week and yanked a child out because he simply wouldn’t listen and the instructor was basically cajoling him the entire time to join the rest of the class. If I had been the teacher, that child would have been sitting on the side of the pool or drowning, just let me get on with the rest of these kids who want to learn. Although learn is an optimistic euphemism for what they are actually doing.

Again, Sam’s class is spending a lot of time working on floating and kicking with a kickboard. Now, I understand that it is important to learn to kick correctly and that it is easier when you don’t have to worry about your arms but really, could we try one stroke before lessons are over? I have even had Sam show his teachers his crawl and breaststroke before getting out of the pool but they still wouldn’t move him up a level because “he can still work a little bit on his floating.” Good lord, you’d think that they were expected to become rafts!

Bridget and I spend the entire 40 minutes of the lesson wandering slowly between groups and debating if she needs more chapstick, another sucker, or to get her swimming suit on.  She actually does better than I anticipated due to the fact that a lot of other parent’s bring babies to lessons so she has someone to pet and say “Hiiii puuunky. Hiiii baby” in a high-pitched voice that sounds remarkably like me when I talk to babies.

Let me clarify, I do think the instructors are doing the best that they can but I don’t think they are challenging the kids, just trying to get through the 40 minutes without anyone drowning. I’m sure most of the kids will pass their level but won’t know how to swim!

Rain Rain Go or Stay

It’s raining…again….and I don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, my kids will be inside all day wanting me to entertain them. On the other hand, they will be much less muddy and exhausted (read: whiny) by the end of the day. Unless they go paint themselves in mud as they did the last time it rained and then that theory goes right out the window.  Thanks to Dad (see last post) we have plenty of mud around for pies and painting!

I’m not sad that we don’t have swimming lessons this morning; the kids got to sleep in a little and I don’t have to go sit on a wet chair, then chase Bridget with a wet butt between the 2 classes. But swimming lessons are a story for another day.

I would not be sad if baseball was canceled tonight, even though Sam would probably be. We have already had4 games this week and the boys are only 5 and 7! Add in one practice and attending them all in the heat with a 2-year-old and I am ready for a break.

Swimming would be fun today, try to capitalize on everything they have learned in swimming lessons. Although lessons  basically boil down to kicking on the side of the pool, playing MotorBoat, and freezing their skinny little bodies off while waiting to jump in to the teacher so that’s not much help at the pool.  And I have to admit that taking all 3 kids by myself is sometimes just too overwhelming to even contemplate.

But oh Lord, what will we do with an entire day with no plans? I don’t know how much longer the boys will be into my patented “car wash with a toothbrush and a bucket” rainy day activity.  I don’t know how many episodes of ICarly I can stand. I suppose we could do a science experiment from the kit Sam received for his birthday but, again, Bridget will most likely take any science out of the experiment and make it more about experimenting with cleaning methods and how to keep her brothers from hitting her.

The good (?) news is that I will have 2 extra boys this afternoon. Am I crazy you say? Of course, but I hope they will all entertain each other and I will just have to be responsible for Bridget. Rain, rain go away….

Mohawks and Goals

I had a goal this spring/summer, one that I enlisted my husband’s help in achieving, albeit grudgingly. My goal was to finally make our yard look like we give a damn. I wasn’t aiming for a beautifully landscaped yard and elaborate and fruitful garden, I just wanted to give the appearance that we had put some effort in and were trying to fit in with the neighbors.

A quick note about our neighbors so you understand why this is important: we have retired neighbors next door and across the street who mow at least twice a week and keep beautiful flower and vegetable gardens (I see them looking at our lawn with disgust); a friend 2 houses down used to be a landscaper and mentions periodically that we have more clover than grass in our yard; and the neighbor on the other side has built a huge privacy fence that I assume was erected to block both her view and her yard from our creeping charlie.

I decided not to tackle the actual grass issues this year because that was too big of a project and focus on the garden and landscaping the small area in front of the house.  We made a plan for the garden, Blair (my husband) tilled it for me, and I planted rows of green beans, peas, green peppers, and green onions. I also installed 2 Topsy Turvies with tomatoes and green peppers. I asked for Blair’s help in shoveling out the bright white rocks from the front of the house so we could put in some wood chip mulch and then decide on plants or bushes.  All good and doable ideas, right?

Turns out you have to attach the Topsy Turvies to something stable or they just fall over…. a month later and Blair has now used bright blue wire to keep them upright against the fence…classy.  The stupid rabbits, squirrels and birds evaded my cute little white fence and ate virtually all of my vegetable seeds and the leaves from the hostas in the garden.

Blair waited until we were hosting a birthday party one evening to bring the skid loader home and dig a huge hole for our trampoline and then transport all the extra dirt to the front yard to fill in the now rock-less areas.  He also thought it would be a great idea to just dump those white rocks on our walkway to the front door. He unceremoniously dumped the rest of the dirt in the corner of the back yard and told me we should plant more strawberries back there.  God love him.

After about 2 weeks, we finally got the rocks moved off the sidewalk and I thought we might be on our way to a decent looking yard until……Blair asked me to give the front yard a mohawk. Yes, I’m serious. He asked me to leave a swatch of grass down the middle of the front yard so that he could randomly throw dirt on it to fill a low patch and wanted the grass to be long so it would grow through the dirt piles.  Seriously?  My goal was to be less embarrassed by our yard and he asked me to give it a mohawk. And I’ve now done it twice….suppose it’s my own fault. We’ll try again next year!

Hello and Welcome

Welcome to my new blog!  I plan to update every day but with 3 young and unruly kids, we’ll see. Although they do give me a lot of material they don’t give me a lot of time.  Take right now, for instance, Sam (7) and Drew (5) are wrestling with a bean bag while their two-year-old sister Bridget pulls their heads back and yells “peeky-boo” in their faces. There is giggling, high-pitched screaming, and yelling along with grunting and “Mooooom” every couple of seconds so it is difficult to concentrate.

I hope to address the issues that every parent faces in this blog as well as marital and family issues. There is no shortage of drama in my family as I’m sure there is in every family. Social issues and book reviews may also make an appearance so keep checking back to see what is new at our house!