Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mom's mad skills

I've already told you about my mother's mad skills at sewing and crafting.  You've seen a sample of her quilts and her pantyhose likeness.

The "panty-hose doll" phase lingers in my house.  Mom made two angels with panty-hose faces that I still display every year at Christmas.  

She could paint, and even gave painting lessons for a time.  These two paintings are hanging in our house now.

Over the years, she stitched me entire business-like suits and even made bathing suits for me.  If I weren't so lazy, I would post of photo of a holiday dress she made for me one year.  It incredible, and I looked very good in it, if I do say so myself.  It was long sleeved and had a high neckline in the front, but dipped in the back (to the bra line!), and the ruffles on the bottom almost came to my knees.  Pure 1980's - but in a good way!

But I found my favorite thing she ever did in my baby book.  

My birth announcement.  

Love you, Mom.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A most unusual doctor visit

It’s been very therapeutic traveling down the memory lane of my childhood, but there is a story about my own children, one in particular, that I feel compelled to get down on virtual paper.  I’ve told it many times, and I still can’t believe it really happened.

It was a cold, late winter/early spring Sunday afternoon.  If I remember the timeline correctly, Jim had just turned 8 and Hannah was 6.  It had to have been just before we moved to Bloomington, because we had planned a trip to Disney World after relocating, and were concerned that “the incident” would put a damper on our vacation. 

Jim came down with a sore throat that day.   With all the winter illnesses playing out their grand finale of the season, I thought he should see a doctor.  I really didn’t want to wait till Monday morning when pediatrician offices are inundated with childhood weekend misery.  While Jim and I got ready to go to the prompt care facility, Hannah announced that she wanted to come with us.  John tried to persuade her to stay home with him, but she was determined.  I bundled them both up and away we went. 

I was surprised at the lack of patients waiting to see the doctor at the urgent care connected to our pediatrician’s office.  We only waited a few minutes before they called us back to a room.  Jim climbed up on the exam table.  While my back was turned, Hannah climbed up onto the doctor’s swivel stool.  Before I knew it, she spun off the chair, hit the wall, and tumbled to the floor.  I tried to console her, but she was really shaken.  The crying echoed through the halls.    

Note:  If you ever get tired of waiting for a doctor, have a little girl scream at the top of her lungs in the exam room.  That speeds things up a bit.

After taking a quick look at Jim’s throat and swabbing it to test for strep, the doctor offered to x-ray Hannah’s arm.  I thanked him, but said it wasn’t necessary.  Then we were told to go back to the waiting room while they tested Jim’s throat cultures.  Jim was engrossed in a book, so to distract her, I played London Bridge with Hannah.  We lifted our arms to make a bridge, and I will never forget the sudden look of fear and pain on that child’s face.  It was like a lightning bolt going through my maternal soul.

When they called us back into an exam room to tell us that Jim in fact did not have strep, I took the doctor up on his offer. 

When she swiveled off the chair, her shoulder landed on a heating vent that ran along the baseboard of the room.  The left side of her collarbone suffered what they call a ‘green stick’ break.  If you’ve never seen one in an x-ray, it’s a very accurate description.  The bone was partially bent, partially broken, just as if you were trying to break a new twig.

My daughter broke a bone in the doctor’s office.

She had to wear a soft, padded butterfly brace for the next 2 months, to hold her shoulders back and in place.  She would not be able to go on the more intense rides at Disney World, but she didn’t want to go on them anyway.  One of the smartest things I ever did was request a second brace – with some limits, she could still go swimming, and wear one brace while the other dried.  She wore the brace without much protest and we had a great vacation.

A good friend took her kids to the same office, and when her son started to climb up on the stool, he was warned to steer clear – “A little girl fell off of one of those recently and hurt herself!” We never saw a bill for the x-ray, brace, or anything connected to Hannah’s injury.  It didn’t occur to me until weeks later that the office was scared to death we would sue them for what happened.  Hannah made quite the impact.

A few years later, she was turning cartwheels in the front lawn, fell, and broke her collarbone again.  And we did get the bills for that one.

Friday, February 10, 2012

On Being a Mom

A co-worker forwarded this to me today.  Along with the fact that I whole heartedly appreciate this, I'm too lazy to think of anything else to write about today. 
Happy Friday.

On Being a Mom
by Anna Quindlen

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time
believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with
the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of
a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow
ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy
toddler with the lower lip that curled into an
apostrophe above her chin.

ALL MY BABIES are gone now. I say this not in sorrow
but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what
I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than
I, one closing in fast. Three people who read the
same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of
disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who
sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until
I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower
gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed
more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the
bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from
plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick
soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky
at its center, the baby is buried deep within each,
barely discernible except through the unreliable
haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is
finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry
Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry
and sleeping through the night and early-childhood
education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight
Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are
battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if
you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the
women on the playground taught me, and the
well-meaning relations --what they taught me was
that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a
true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until
finally, far along, you realize that it is an
endless essay. No one knows anything. One child
responds well to positive reinforcement, another can
be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout.
One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2.
When my first child was born, parents were told to
put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not
choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last
arrived, babies were put down on their backs because
of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a
new parent this ever-shifting certainty is
terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must
learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research
will follow.

I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr.
Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in
which he describes three different sorts of infants:
average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a
sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not
walk. Was there something wrong with his fat
little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny
little mind? Was he developmentally delayed,
physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he
went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can
talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too.
Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been
enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did-Hall-of-Fame.
The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad
language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell
off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool
pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer
camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out
of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test,
and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She
insisted I included that.) The time I ordered food
at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then
drove away without picking it up from the window.
(They all insisted I included that.) I did not allow
them to watch the Simpsons for the first two
seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most
of us make while doing this. I did not live in the
moment enough. This is particularly clear now that
the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.
There is one picture of the three of them sitting in
the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set
on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could
remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and
how they sounded, and how they looked when they
slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a
hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath,
book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little
more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't,
what was me and what was simply life. When they were
very small, I suppose I thought someday they would
become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I
suspect they simply grew into their true selves
because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back
off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense,
matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And
look how it all turned out. I wound up with the
three people I like best in the world, who have done
more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.
That's what the books never told me.

I was bound and determined to learn from the

It just took me a while to figure out who the
experts were.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shake-a-Puddin, and The Best Vacation Ever

I'm taking a break from the walk down memory lane via Kodak Avenue, to tell you story.  

I present...  Shake-a-Puddin.

Watch the commercial.  Please.  Then you'll know why it was a thing I had to get/make/shake/eat.


One summer, my family set out for the vacation to end all vacations.  It had to be the summer of 1971, because I'm told that Disney World in Florida opened October of that year.  We traveled there and did absolutely everything a family could do in the Sunshine State - but Disney.

We set out in a truck with a camper on the back.  At the time, it was legal to travel in the back as long as there was a communication device between the camper and the cab. Armed with a sort of corded intercom, (that would later run from my room to the kitchen, so Mom wouldn't have to yell at me to turn my music down) we set out.  My sister rode up front with Mom and Dad (she got car sick), and Denny and I had the camper to ourselves.  (John was either in the Army or at school, and didn't come with us.)

It was the best vacation of my childhood.  I don't remember how long we were gone, but it had to have been a really long time.  Look at everything we did!!

 - Stopped my Mammoth Cave in Tennessee.  The only thing I remember is banging my head on the wall of the cave hard enough to see stars.
 - Drove through the Smokey Mountains.  We saw a black bear cub there, and a lot of people were throwing food to it.  I wanted to stay, but Dad wouldn't let us.  He knew there was a protective Mama bear around somewhere, and she wouldn't be too hospitable to the people throwing things at her baby.
 - Toured St. Augustine.  I would love to go back there.  I don't remember anything about it, but I know I liked it.
 - Toured Cypress Gardens.  I don't know if they still have pretty girls walking around, all dolled up in hoop skirts with parasols, but they did then.  We all teased Denny about "being sweet" on them.
 - Rode an airboat through the Everglades.  How cool is that?  I felt like a regular Marlin Perkins!
 - Hit the beach, on the Atlantic and Gulf sides.  I got caught in a big wave on the Atlantic side and didn't know which way was up.  Pretty scary.  But Denny was a hero on the Gulf side, and saved a kid from drowning!!!  The boy got too far out and Denny returned him to shore, piggy-back style.  We camped on one of the beaches and Denny liked to sleep outside the camper - that was until the Night Of The Dreaded Sand Fleas.  There was itching...  lots and lots of itching.
 - Marineland, probably because Sea World wasn't open yet.

The absolute best parts of the trip?  Riding in the camper.  I got to ride in the part that goes up over the cab of the truck, and Denny and I were stocked with snacks and Mad Magazines.  I was in heaven.

And Shake-a-Puddin.  I was the Shake-a-Puddin queen of that vacation.  I made it an subjected the rest of my family to it after almost ever evening meal.

After scanning the scrapbook for photos, I only found one.  You would think an incredible vacation like that would produce a hundred photos!  If so, I don't have them.  Probably because when I put the scrapbook together, during one of the big snowstorms of the late 70's, I was only concerned about photos of myself.

So after the best vacation of my childhood, I give you...  this.