Being a Grandpa is No Piece of Cake

Before I was one, I couldn’t wait to be a grandpa. My belief was that it would be a piece of cake. You spend some time with them with your entire goal being to spoil them, feed them full of sugar, my grandmother actually created sugar sandwiches, (see Being Loved: Sugar Sandwich) and then send them back home with their parents. No sweat, right? Turns out there are a few more requirements in the fine print of that grandparent contract.

The other day we got our two adorable, sweetest, smartest grandkids in the whole world, consigned to us for the weekend. Seems mom and dad needed mom and dad time. Saturday morning they appeared magically at our doorstep, backpacks full of clothes, toothbrushes, toys, games, and projects. Wait, what, they’re staying overnight? I thought we were just being given a few hours to spoil them with hugs and kisses, a few pieces of candy of their choice, maybe a few extra TV minutes and that would be it. Hugs all around and off you go. As mom and dad got goodbye kisses and I heard my daughter say “Now you guys behave this weekend, brush your teeth and go to bed when Mimi and Opa (our loving grandparent handles) say it’s time.” My blood began to run cold! My first thought, we haven’t got enough candy in the house to last the weekend. Dear God, what will we use to bribe them after the candy supply runs out?

Major mistake number one, there were plenty of minor ones, “What would you like for lunch?” Never ask your grandkids that unless you know where the nearest McDonalds or Culvers, or for that matter, both of them are since after lunch comes dinner and then eventually there’s breakfast. And now that creative and fun activity of washing dishes I was planning on is gone. Guess the little amount of TV time will need to be renegotiated and lengthened.

Major mistake number two, wrestling with your grandkids inevitably ends up in injury. It was just a simple dive off the coach, how bad could it wind up? Hint, when wrestling in the living room, remove the coffee table. At least the time spent rocking and cuddling used up some of the 36 hours we were facing. Of course TV time got renegotiated and extended again. “Remember Jackson, mom and dad don’t need to know how LONG you watched TV, just that we watched a couple shows, short shows, really short shows.” At this rate of teaching him to spin the truth, I may have prepared him for a political career (see Being a Citizen: What Happened to Truth in Advertising).

Major misunderstanding number three, their notion of bedtime and sleeping arrangements and our wishful thinking of that would go down didn’t seem to quite align. Actually, they bore no resemblance at all. Yes, Jackson was content to sleep in his designated bed, but not without the perfect combination and illumination levels of the lights, plural. After several trips out to the living room with a request for a tweak to the systems, we got him to sleep at an appropriate time, plus or minus and hour or two, okay, just the plus. Meanwhile, Adela, our youngest and closest relative to story of the Three Bears, tried three different beds and bedrooms before settling on the one she was most likely to possible stay in for the whole night….our bed! Fortunately, that left open two other bedrooms, that upon finding my side of our marital bed occupied by our very own Goldilocks, I could spend the night in instead.

Being a grandparent takes skill. It takes a combination of patience, wisdom and love. And I won’t pretend that we haven’t closed the front door after they have gone without at least once or twice taking that deep relaxing breath as we picked up the toys and pillows and reclaimed our space. Being a grandparent requires all the wisdom you have to answer the many questions; the difficult ones, the deep thinking ones, and sometimes the awkward ones, like “How does the baby get in there?” Don’t forget the ingenuity required to think up the activities that will keep them busy. I have produced a wealth of scavenger hunts in that category. And finally, hone those negotiation skills required to handle yourself in the countless off the books wheeling and dealing you will be led into, example, McDonalds for breakfast! Here’s a tip, if all else fails, use my wife’s strategy, cards with $5 bills in them. A sure rise the to the top of the popularity poll guaranteed. Being a grandparent really isn’t piece of cake, though it might involve cake….. and ice cream….. with sprinkles…. lots of sprinkles.

Those of you know me, know that I tend to exaggerate. This story may just have some of that. Our grandkids truly are the delight of our lives and we have gone through versions of the story I laid out above and have not only survived them all, but have cherished the moments, the stories, and the memories.

For Jackson and Adela, the pride of my life and welcome to spend the weekend anytime.

The Art of the Tale

It was a lazy summer afternoon. We were up north at our cottage and had gone for a walk along the winding barely two lane road that found its way to our cottage near the end of it. Jackson and I had fell well back of his mom and sister as he asked only the questions an inquisitive seven year-old could ask. Realizing that they had gotten so far ahead as to be completely out of sight, Jackson and I settled on a tale we would tell when we got back to the cottage. We would tell them that as we rounded the last bend, there in the middle of the road stood a big old black bear. This was something we had all long wished to see but never had and thus the bait in the story. We practiced how Jackson would tell of the event and anticipated the surprise on his mom’s face when he would spring it on her. As we entered the cottage and his mom asked where we had been, Jackson looked her in the eye and froze. “You tell the story Opa.” This had been Jackson story to tell but he just hadn’t yet embraced the art of storytelling.

There is a story within a story here and that was the story inside. Storytelling is an art as old as time. In fact without it, we wouldn’t have history. It is that storytelling throughout time that gives us the accounting of our history. Some stories are just that, a retelling of an event in a just the facts ma’am, kind of style. Other stories are told for the enjoyment of the listener, while still others, like Jackson’s, just to spin a yarn. These last two styles need to be rich in the colorful detail that makes them worth the time spent listening.

I come from a long line of artful storytellers. From my grandfather and my father, through my aunts and my uncles, I learned the history of the family and the family farm, but I also heard stories of the adventures and misadventures of the storytellers. I would often hear the same story told by two different tellers but each with their own choice of detail and sometimes, facts. The multiple telling of the same story taught me perspective. With story telling, there is an obligation to the overall facts of the event, but there is also literary freedom in the way the event was remembered and the storyteller’s style of retelling it. That is the art of storytelling.

Stories are powerful tools. As I previously mentioned, they can tell the history of an event or they can do so much more. If used properly, a story can be used to motivate through the lesson it delivers. The best motivational speakers use personal stories to relate their topic to the listener. By personalizing their message with their own experiences via stories, the speaker draws the listener in and paints a verbal image that helps them both relate to and remember the message. And of course, when properly enhanced and artfully told, the story can be pure entertainment. Most of my storytelling falls into this last bracket.

I have been accused of embellishing the facts and I will never deny that I might have, just a bit, but I believe the story should be entertaining. To that end, I reserve the right to a little additional literary freedom. Many of my favorite stories to tell have, needless to say, grown in stature over the years. I have also been accused, mostly by my wife and daughters, of making the story longer every time I tell it. I choose to blame that on my memory of the event continuing to improve with each retelling.

Throughout my adult life I have told stories. Some may have been told in my childhood, those being the ones I usually told to get out of the trouble I had so artfully gotten into. When I taught, I used them to relate life lessons to my students. As I developed my career as an investment planner, I told them to help my clients understand the financial decisions they would need to make. As a bartender I picked up the art of telling the story well and as a parent I used stories to guide my daughter’s decisions, to help them learn of their past, just as my father and grandfather did before me, and often, just to make them laugh. And they usually did.

I am now working on the next generation of stories as I go for long walks with my grandchildren. Through my stories, I hope that they will learn the histories of their parents, their grandparents, and the relatives that came before. They will hear stories of adventures and even some misadventures. They will hear stories of people and places and things. They may even hear stories they will choose to one day retell. Through them all, I will try to pass on the beauty and the art of telling the story. Even if it’s a tall tale of the bear we never saw.

Thank you Cat Stevens for Reminding me!

I just returned from meeting my daughter and son-in-law at the airport. They were returning from a quick five day kid free vacation and we were returning their prodigy. Where had the kids been you ask? Why with us for their own five day staycation with Mimi and Opa.

It became obvious early on that we would be camp directors. Events were planned, clearly not enough of them. Activities were put in the schedule, not always their idea of fun. And sleeping arrangements were made, not to be followed. For the next five days, I swam in our pool more than I had in the last five years. I watched My Little Pony, two entire seasons! My co-director and I took turns reading every Berenstain Bears book, just praying it would put them to sleep, it didn’t. And we learned that strawberry milk and ice cream actually can be breakfast foods, like we were going to do battle over proper dietary intake, though we did broach the subject once only to surrender our entire force at the first sign of trouble. I leave it to their parents to reestablish any semblance of control, in my opinion, an appropriate lesson for sending us all those pictures of them hiking by beautiful mountain lakes while we manned the castle walls.

During my grandpa sitting adventure, I ignored the forty plus emails in my inbox. I shirked my volunteer duties completely. I pushed every request for my attention aside with “I am tied up for the next five days” as my all too literal excuse. I skipped meetings, rearranged appointments, and in general shut out the outside world. In other words, sheer stress free bliss.

For the past five days, I played, laughed, wrestled, made up games, and learned more than I ever thought I could about Minecraft and building robots. For long hours each day, I was a kid again. At one point, to negotiate one child who wanted to fish while the other wanted to swim, we wound up fishing in our swimming pool. No I didn’t stock the pool, just removed the hook, tied on a washer, and two of us would play the role of fish, mermaid in Adela’s case, while the third member of our fishing excursion would cast the line and reel us in. I can hear you laughing and I know what you are thinking and I am here to tell you, yeah it looked that silly, but the sheer pleasure of the game and the laughter of my two grandchildren was worth it even if my wife someday posts the video on Facebook.

If I had a wish, I would want everyone to at least once in a while have the chance to play with a grandchild. To experience the complete release that not having a work schedule, not worrying about what anyone thinks of them, not sweating the little things, actually feels like. To have the chance to just be a kid, if even for a little while.

I leave you with this thought, The Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon! Don’t miss the message imbedded in the song.

It’s Playtime

On a recent weekend I found myself the designated grandchildren adhoc guardian for the afternoon while my wife and daughter went shopping. One hour they told me. Certainly I could handle the responsibility for one hour. Well, Jackson was easy. He lately has been into games of strategy and wanted to play solitaire on my phone and who was I to deny him that. Adela was a bit more of a challenge. She is into role playing, imagination and, as a three year old, silly games.

We began with a game I can only describe as “stay on your island”. She would sidle up against one wall of the hallway and order me to the opposite side. Without warning, she would leap to the opposite side and after several failed attempts, I determined I was to mirror the leap to the other opposite side and anticipate her next leap. This went on for, oh let’s say, longer than I was ready, when Adela eventually announced a new game.

Her new game would involve us throwing balls into the laundry bin, but not until she had ample time spent wearing the laundry bin over her head all the while bouncing off the walls blinded by its canvas sides. This new game of “laundry ball” wound up requiring several trips to the playroom to retrieve additional balls of varying size, “no taking the balls back out Opa.” Though interesting for a short time, it was no where near as fun as wearing the laundry bin and was thus not destined to last long.

After several trips to her playroom, sweet Adela emerged with two super hero costumes. She commanded me to put on the green one. I took one look at what she had rolled up in her hands and plotted my escape from this potentially embarrassing playtime activity. My poorly framed excuse was to announce that there was no way I would fit into whatever it was she had for me. With hands on her hips and a look of scorn that could bring down a charging rhino, she proclaimed, dripping with the sarcasm of a three year old, “It’s just a cape Opa.” Jackson, looking up from his solitaire intelligently affirmed that anyone could fit into a cape and warned me that I was going to do some running. Great, they have teamed up on me and I have become the victim.

After donning my cape and having my mask correctly placed on by Adela, how was I to know it was upside down, I was given my instructions. Over the next fifteen minutes we would circle the rooms of the house chasing away the bad guys as super heroes are destined to do. Up one hallway and down the other, through the kitchen and circle the living room, I was unsure I could last. But, I surprised even myself and managed to keep up with my relay mate, Adela.

As I drove home later that day, I mused on having been an almost seventy year old, playing unashamedly with my granddaughter. I started to think back on my own father and asked myself, did he play like that? Now it is only reasonable that I offer a disclaimer. I was raised on a small dairy farm and my dad barely had time to do much of anything other than run the dairy operation, crop the fields and hold down at least two additional part time jobs in an effort to give my five siblings and I the best life he could. It is hardly fair to have expected him to don a cape and run around the house with us, though I must say in hindsight that he deserved a chance to play and a cape for all he did. My dad instead spent his time teaching us how to manage our time, how to be responsible, and how to fix the things in life that kept seeming to break, lessons I have benefitted from throughout my life. He quietly, for the most part, left the playing to my siblings and I.

I am both happy and proud of the fact that I have the time to play. My generation grew up with parents who had been taught by their parents to work hard, to achieve and to survive, and that left little room for play. Though he may not have “played” with me, my dad taught me to fish, or should I say, he tried to teach me. He encouraged me to find time to do more than he ever had the opportunity to do and he taught me about family, about being there in work or play. And for that, I admire him.

I hope you all find time in your day to play. Play reduces stress and, in the case of chasing a three year old, provides great exercise. It reminds us to stop growing old but rather to grow bold, bold enough to play with a child even if it might make you look silly.

Go put on a cape, don a mask, and let a child fall in love with an oversized, slightly awkward, has to be told the rules, playmate. You just might find your imagination supersized.

Who Doesn’t Love a Great Fish Story

I need to start this blog with a disclaimer or two. First, as grandparent I have every right, no duty, to brag about my grand kids. Second, this blog is going to include fish stories. My disclaimer is to accurately describe my abilities as a fisherman. They don’t exist, at least not in reality. I am an impatient fisherman and one the fish don’t fear. I can cast with the best of them. I can bait a hook. I just don’t catch anything and it may be due to my impatience. No worm, cast by me, has ever stayed in the water long enough to have ever experienced drowning. That’s if worms actually drown. As soon as I have cast my line, I am reeling it in with the speed of gazelle fleeing a hungry lion. Even if the fish wanted to try the bait, they can’t move fast enough to catch it. I have repeatedly been boated back to shore by the master fisherman who was going to teach me the art of fishing, often because they do not cater to my pacing in their boat.

That said, my six year old grandson, Jackson, decided it was time I teach him to fish. Reluctantly, given my history, I agreed to try but warned him, that for the most part he was going to be on his own. I explained the art of the cast, decided we would buy a dozen night crawlers and some leeches and proceeded down to our dock. At this point, Jackson decided I could do the baiting and he would reel in the fish. I loved his optimism. If only he knew the skill set of his teacher. Enter Jackson’s three year old sister, Adela. She claimed to have no desire to catch fish, but oh how she loved the worms. Within minutes, she was providing me with the next worm while gently stroking and cooing to another as her pet. Lest you think this a fluke and that when we switched bait to leeches, she would be long gone, oh how wrong you are. Leeches fascinated her even more. She wanted to know if we could save one for her to take home as a pet. Mom was an immediate and stern NO!

But let’s get back to the fisherman. With hook baited, the cast was made and almost immediately, a bite. Sure that he would simply feed the worm to this adventurous fish, I simply said that he needed to give the line a jerk. Fish number one. Nothing to mount on the cottage walls, but he caught it and got it to the dock. Surely beginners luck. Cast number two and three came up empty and I figured he would be retiring soon. And then the surprise. Jackson, though a focused Lego builder, has never shown a great amount of patience, must have got one of his Opa’s genes. For the next half hour, he was undeterred. Cast after cast and several missed catches, Jackson continued to fish with an intensity that was border line scaring me. It dawned on me that if he ever caught a big one, we were going to need to buy a boat and hire a professional fishing guide to satisfy his lust for the sport. And then it happened, Jackson, on his own, somehow developed what the great fisherman describe as ‘the feel’. He caught three or four fish in rapid succession, each one larger than the last. Where he had been catching 4 and 5 inch crappies, he suddenly caught several 6 – 8 inch rock bass. Now he wanted the big stuff. And so I started him fishing out on the ridge, a fairly long cast beyond the confines of the dock, but he was sure the big ones were just swimming about out there waiting for Jackson to catch them.

Within two casts, he had a 10 inch small mouth bass. Two more casts and a 12 inch bass found his deftly placed hook. It was at this point that I selfishly decided it might be Adela’s choice of bait and my somehow expert mounting of that bait on the hook that was bringing this unbridled success. By this time, out of worms and fishing for the ‘big ones’, we had switched to leeches. As Jackson’s mom, aunt Kat and I were relaxing in the boat tied up to the dock, Jackson said he was good to handle things himself. We were clearly distracted, when Jackson calmly declares that he’s caught another one that he thinks is a bass and might be a bit bigger. As we turn to look, he is reeling in, with pole bent over, a large mouth bass that is measuring in at an easy 14 inches. Mom was so shocked, that she took a 30 second video of his prize without turning on the video. Jackson just offered to catch another. And he did, several more times.

In the course of two days of fishing from the dock, the score sat at Dad, 1, Opa, 0, Aunt Kat, 1, and Jackson 20! No contest. I warned you that Opas have the inherent privilege of being overly proud of their grandchildren. Now you in fact may be a fisherman reading this blog and thinking none of these fish were anything to crow about, but let’s put things in perspective. He’s SIX!, he has potentially the worst fisherman ever as his instructor and he’s coming from a family that not only doesn’t fish, they don’t even eat fish! I would say he has overcome the odds.

I am impressed to say the least and proud enough to pop the buttons on my fishing vest if I had one. And that 6 inch crappie mounted on the wall of the cottage will forever serve as testament to the day Jackson became a fisherman…….. No, I didn’t really mount the fish, but it would have been a great story.

What’s the Greatest Thing about being a Grandpa?

We are given children and we become parents.  We nurture them.  We support their every need.  We watch them grow, gritting our teeth through the tough times, loving them even when they tell you they want new parents.  We hold our breath as they take their first steps and then again when they take their big steps….. first day of school, first date, first job.  And then, just about the time you are ready to be put out to the parenthood pasture, they make you a grandpa.

You get to start all over, maybe even fix a few of your mistakes.  You once again get to feel a tiny hand in yours just like you felt so long ago.  You get to see the wonder and awe of every new thing through their innocent eyes.  You get to watch the progress of life all over again, and somehow, as different as it is, it is somehow so strangely the same.

This time around, you get to be the spoiler when you want to.  You get to call everything an adventure and declare every day a McDonald’s day.  After all, why shouldn’t each day have a happy meal.  You get to be the historian, reliving the past with stories and recreating it with activities.  You might even get to rebuild the clubhouse their mom played in as a little girl.  Oh it’s a bit bigger this time around and even a tad fancier, but that’s just what grandpas do.  And when they climb up into their clubhouse, the smile on their face makes all the aches and pains of a now much older carpenter, go magically away.

Original Clubhouse

1989 Original Clubhouse


2018 New Clubhouse

But what’s the greatest thing about being a grandpa.  Simply put…..everything.  They say life begins again after forty or whatever age you pick, but I say life begins again with the birth of each new grandchild.   It’s life’s sequel playing out before your very eyes and once again you are given a supporting role.

Glad to be Opa and pleased with the gift of a second go round.

I wonder as he wanders

My grandson, Jackson, is now four years old and is into his “why” years.  To his credit he generally accepts your answer to his why question fairly gracefully.  He may follow the first why with several additional whys but he is usually satisfied within three or four.  Jackson is observant and is constantly checking out everything as to how it works.  I have stepped into my role as Opa and have taken him on excursions to discover new things.  Along the way, Jackson has become very fond of Home Depot.  Before I wander further, I must compliment Home Depot on the clever marketing trick that they have developed to lure in unsuspecting grandpas with their grandchildren.  Every other Saturday or so they offer a free “build it” class for kids.  They cordon off an area in the lumber aisle and the kids get a complimentary craft kit and are able to assemble and paint their project.  Now how can they afford all those free precut kits and paint you ask?  Let’s put it this way, I have yet to leave the store on one of these “free” days without $100 to $200 worth of goods.  I guess they saw me coming because those end caps as they are called, are just beckoning with all those shiny tools I never knew I needed but certainly couldn’t live without.

Into this very inviting space comes Jackson.  A typical trip to Home Depot will last upwards of two hours.  Now this makes his parents and Mimi quite happy as it allows them two uninterrupted hours to catch their breath, though that generally ends up being spent chasing our one year old granddaughter Adela, around the house as she now has their undivided attention.  Meanwhile Jackson is wandering.  We must open, walk through, and close every entry door in the home exterior section.  This of course means that we must also explore, until satisfied, how each storm window opens, closes and locks.  Chalk up most of hour number one.

Hour number two finds us in the appliance and kitchen area.  It is at this point that I begin my wondering.  Jackson is most fascinated with refrigerators.  And what man, young or old, wouldn’t be?  Dish washers, clothes dryers, washers, merely utilitarian, but refrigerators, or fridges as we men call them, are works of art.  They used to just keep things cold, period.  Not anymore.  They are divided into zones of coldness because no one wants meat at the same temperature as their lettuce and that would be no where near the perfect temperature for milk and wine.  Yes I said wine.  But that is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.  They have see through doors that light up at the Sheldon like three raps (reference Big Bang Theory).   And that door has a compartment within the door!  Believe me when I tell you Jackson marvels at that feature.  He tells me immediately that the “door in a door” invention is just for him and his supply of juice boxes, you know, the ones that squirt all over when you try to insert the straw.  Those boxes, but that’s another story for some other time.  I digress.

Had enough?  But wait, there’s more.  The really “cool” fridges have computers built in.  They will track your every move and then make your grocery list for you.  No more secret snacking after midnight guys.  That list is then sent to your cell phone.  Throw in a linked Alexa or Siri, and you have the beginnings of an appliance conspiracy.  I suspect they might even have their own Facebook page where they report on and laugh about their owners.  There’s probably a camera hidden in that door within the door.  Don’t believe me?  Search “my refrigerator” on your Facebook page and see if it agrees to accept your friend request.

After a thorough examination of every one of these refrigerators, Jackson tells me he is adding the one with the most impressive engineering to “his list”.  Now I am wondering just how serious is this list?  We move on to the stoves.  Not much time needed here, I suspect he likes eating the food more than preparing it.  I will let his Aunt Kat and Eli work on the development of that talent.  Within minutes, Jackson has decided on the grill top gas grill.  He is particularly fascinated with the push in and turn nobs.  We decide on the shiniest model and add it to his now growing list.  French style entry doors, crank out storm windows, a $5400 refrigerator with all the bells and whistles and a four burner grill top gas stove now adorn “the list”.

On to the cabinets.  And again guys, amazing innovations for you manly organizers out there.  In no time flat we are on a quest to verify which cabinets and cupboards are fitted with self-closing drawers.  Apparently it has come to the attention of kitchen designers that we are running out of our kitchens without remembering, or taking the time I guess, to shut the drawers and close the doors.  Jackson tells me that “his cabinets” MUST have these self-closers or they are not making “the list”.  We have almost isolated the winner when we discover two not to be without features.  Wait for it…….the ultimate in convenience and organization, the toe kick hidden flat pan drawer and the pull out, wire framed organizer, drop-down upper cabinet.  The entire innards float effortlessly down to the counter top where Jackson declares “there’s where my fruit snack packs go.”  And these, of course, have now been added to the list.

In the course of our two hour adventure, Jackson’s description, I have staved off several persistent floor sales reps, visited almost every section and aisle and if his parents fulfill his list, will have spent somewhere in the vicinity of $40,000 on Jackson’s house.  Way to go Home Depot.  We head for the front to escape and then head to McDonald’s to discuss the details of our finds and of course, to get our happy meal and toy.

And so I wonder?  Will Jackson become a designer?  Or maybe an engineer?  One of the store reps, after watching him carefully study the icemakers, suggested he consider being a plumber as they make so much more than engineers, her belief not necessarily mine and apologies to both careers.  Maybe he will write for a consumer magazine.  No matter what Jackson decides, I am amazed at watching the inquisitive mind of a four year old boy at work and humbled at his ability to figure out the technology and mechanics by simple observations.  I am sure that if we just encourage the curiosity of our children and grandchildren, the future is bright for a never ending evolution of new and creative conveniences.

And now it’s time to visit an electronics store.  Oh God.  Thank you Jackson for letting me wonder as you wandered.

Sugar Sandwich

Disclaimer, my siblings may each have their own memories of this story and that is okay.  Memories are just extractions of an event that occurred in the past and come back to us the way we remember them as well as the way we perceived them.  Because of this, each person will take a unique interpretation of the memory.  What follows is my own memory of this event and the significance it had for me.

I grew up in the farmhouse my parents and grandparents shared.  At the time this story took place, my grandfather was no longer alive and my grandmother was living in the upstairs of our farmhouse.  I and my two brothers were typical boys.  We tried to be good and most times we were kept so busy with farm chores, that we didn’t have a lot of time to get in much trouble.  But as boys will be boys, and no that is not an excuse, we would still find times to get in our share of trouble.

It would be at these times, exasperated by our behavior, that our mother would lay down the law and send us upstairs to our room.  I am not sure how this was really going to straighten us out but it seemed to be the law.

Upon arriving upstairs, grandma would take us aside and ask us what we had done this time?  Upon our confession, we would be given her sage advice on how we might have made a better choice had we thought about the consequences.  And then would come the sugar sandwich.  Grandma was always making homemade bread.  You know the kind, soft and chewy and warm enough to melt the butter she applied.  But grandma added an extra ingredient, a spoonful of sugar.


After her advice was taken and sorrys were said, the sugar sandwich treat was ours to devour.  We would then be sent back downstairs to repent our behaviour, tell mom we were sorry and promise never to err again, or at least not for the rest of that day.  We always thought mom didn’t know about the sugar sandwich and that if she ever found out, it may have changed our punishment routine.  In some ways I have always wondered why the whole process didn’t cause us to seek out the punishment just to get the sugar sandwich.  Truth of the matter was, that as good as those sandwiches were, the lecture from mom and the reinforcement from grandma were enough to make us want to behave better.

If there is a moral here, and there are multiple morals, it is that children aren’t raised by just the parent.  The more we share the responsibility of inspiring our children, the more rounded they become.  A pun involving the sugar here comes to mind but that is not the “rounded” I am referring to.  There is value in the sage wisdom of grandparents, relatives and friends that can teach children perspective and help develop their opinions and ethics.  My grandmother knew how to get us to listen to the lesson.  In some ways, the sugar sandwich reminded me that I could be forgiven if I was willing to accept my responsibility.

In the day to day ups and downs, we can all use the occasional sugar sandwich to let us know we are still okay and still loved.  Try giving someone you care about a sugar sandwich.  Who knows, they might even take your advice.

Sweet Adela…about time I write to you.

For the past three years my focus has been on Jackson.  That took a slight turn on March 14th, 2017.  You entered the world on Pi Day and I am having a hard time not nicknaming you Pi in honor of it.  Let me tell you, you wasted no time in arriving.  You were almost born in the hallways of the hospital.  Why do I suspect you will then be just as fast at everything from here on out.

You are an incredibly happy, incredibly patient and incredibly “give me a little face time here” sort of girl.  You have a smile that can melt my heart in an instant and you are constantly moving.  Nothing anywhere near your reach is safe and believe me we have learned that lesson far too many times already.

You are named after your great great aunt Adele.  The misspelling of your name is deliberate on your parents part as they do not want that heritage confused with the singer Adele who is quite a big deal right now.  Just ask Jackson about “Hello” sometime.  Your namesake was the keeper of the stories and the history of our family.  She never wanted to learn to drive but she rode a motorcycle for her 100th birthday.  She told stories right up to the time of her passing at age 101 though some of them will not be safely repeated much before your 18th birthday.  Adele was a feisty lady with all sorts of spirit.  I know you will live up to her reputation.

Adela, you are loved by everyone but no one more than Jackson.  He cannot let an hour go by without kissing your nose or your forehead and then giving you a squeeze or a hug.  He adores his little sister and is pledged to watch out for you always.  I suspect somewhere down the line you both will have your moments but for now it is all bliss.

Just a little over a month ago, you moved to your new home.  You were born a Madisonian but you are now a resident of Verona where I suspect you will spend most of your youth as you grow into the woman you are to become.

The Arch

We just returned from your first big adventure.  We took a road trip to St. Louis and you came along.  It was unbearably hot and humid but you were a trooper.  No fuss and plenty of smiles.  We saw an incredible museum that I am sure your daddy will want to take you back to for more adventures of your own.  We rode to the top of the Gateway Arch, 630 feet above the city, where you took in the sights from the carrier on your mommy’s chest.  But the big event was the eclipse.  Your Opa and Mimi waited 33 years to see the return of the eclipse and you have started your life in it’s repeat performance.  As we told Jackson, the moon swallowed the sun and for several minutes we were in darkness in the middle of the day.  We all put on special glasses, including you, and we watched the eclipse unfold.  I know you won’t remember this one but perhaps the next one in seven years.  We will retell this story over and over until you might actual feel like you do remember it.  Your great great aunt would be so proud of the story’s telling.  Through all of this, the driving, the sitting in the heat, the hiking to the site, you were a trooper. Never a whimper and never a fuss.




This is only the first of many stories yet to come, but it was time you had the beginnings of your story written down.  Know this, you and Jackson are both the focus of my attention now and you are both the love of my heart.  I can’t wait to watch you grow and I look forward to many more adventures to come.

I Was Childed

I am flattered when the cashier of a grocery store asks to see my ID for the “adult refreshments” I am buying.  Given my age and even my appearance, I really don’t look that young, they are either strictly following the rules or playing on my ego.  One way I accept willingly, the other I suck up just as it was intended.

This weekend I will be inviting my 3 year old grandson, Jackson, to go on an outing with me to the movies.  I am hoping “Cars 3” just came out or is at least still playing as I intend to end my dry streak of missing out on Disney and Pixar films.  I have decided it is time to return to my inner child.

But I have this question.  If they card you to be sure you are old enough to buy the adult beverages, do they have some sort of screening for going to a Disney flick?  Now I am not talking about Jackson, I am referencing me.  I am imagining this scenario.  I go to a Disney film alone and when attempting to purchase my ticket, the usher states “Sir, I will need to see your child.”  I will then reply that I don’t have a child and that I was just wanting to take in the show.  Things will escalate to the manager who will explain that these movies are for children and that without the proper child escort, I am going to need to leave the establishment.  And there it is, I have been successfully childed.

Hopefully you have humored me to this point and are not ready to question my sanity.  I just find it an interesting premise on the other end of the scale.  I am looking forward to taking Jackson to the movies with me but I know that I could attend alone.  I would stand out and I am sure there would be questioning stares, but I would deal with it for the shear pleasure of enjoying the wonderful world of cartoons and especially the peppered seasoning of innuendos.  But why go alone when I can take a child.  Especially my grandson.

And so I will ask Jackson to come with me and when they child me, I will proudly point to Jackson and say “I think this one should do nicely.”  And then Jackson and I will settle into our seats with a big tub of popcorn and enjoy the wonders that Disney will lay out.  He will laugh appropriately while I will snicker at the innuendos and hope I will not be asked to explain.  And for an hour or so I will be back in time, sitting with my two daughters at my side savoring the memories and drinking in the emotions they evoke.

So go ahead AMC, child me.  Jackson I are ready and excited to entertain our inner child…and maybe some popcorn.