Category Archives: Family. And stuff.

Two cars, 11 people, 2,925 miles. And we’re still talking.

13718557_10155072539573957_784268504221153410_nWhen my son suggested we all take a road trip out to Iowa to attend my niece’s wedding, I thought he was crazy.

He has seven kids. I like my quiet. Not everyone likes long car rides and I don’t like to be in close quarters with people who don’t.

But flying all of us out from Connecticut was just too expensive, and everyone loves my niece so of course we were going if we had to hitch up mules. So in the wee hours of July 14, we loaded up and took off.

Reader, I dreaded it. I actually lost sleep over it, worried that I’d lose my patience and spoil my pretty-good record with the grandkids of not screaming at any one. I mean, with that many bladders and my son pulling a small trailer for the luggage, we weren’t going to make good time and as it turns out, we spent 12 hours each day in the car.

Reader, I had no occasion to scream. It was the best family vacation I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some great ones. People either slept, or giggled. I looked in the rearview at one point, and the 20-year old had the happiest face ever because he’d discovered that my back seats fold down. “This is a game-changer, my friend,” he said.

On the dance floor at the wedding, one of the grandgirls had the happiest, goofiest look on her face, so for the rest of the trip (and probably her life), I kept imitating it. Think Joker Meets A Bobble Head. Turns out, the two-steppers in the seed barn where the reception was held were more than happy to teach our East Coasters the moves, and the East Coasters were more than happy to teach — well, whatever their dance moves are. I wouldn’t know. I mostly just get out on the dance floor and jump around. I like to think of myself as an ice breaker because what I’m doing out there definitely isn’t dancing. My brother practiced hard so he could dance with his daughter, the bride, and my heart went out to him for trying. As far as dancing goes, we’re all really good singers.

We all then toggled south to the Joplin area to share our moves down there. I kept getting compliments on how well behaved are the grandchildren, so of course I pretended that all credit should go to me, all to me. I spent time with my big brother (that’s us at the rehearsal dinner) both at the wedding, and then down on the farm in Missouri. I got to be reminded how much I love my sister-in-law, my cousins, my Aunt Julie.

Man, I had fun. Man, I’m tired. And broke. And happy.

 

And — just like that — he’s 32

Scan 2016-6-28 0002This little sandy-haired guy — father of seven, recent law school graduate, hard-headed son of a…oh, wait. Never mind that last part — is turning 32 today. He was a much-loved and much-wanted baby who taught me everything I needed to know about unconditional love. This photo was taken on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, at his father’s family compound (sounds fancier than it was, but it was a nice, peaceful place) when the boy would have been around 1 and a half. We were still living in Kansas, getting ready (though we didn’t know it at the time) to both move to Connecticut and end a marriage, though one event had precisely nothing to do with the other.

I never intended to be a single mother living an entire time zone away from my family, but that’s how things happened and I’d like to publicly thank my son for letting me try out my best mothering moves — unencumbered by family input — on him.

Sam-I-Am, I love you.

Before you wake up tomorrow, we are — all of us — heading to Iowa for a beloved niece’s wedding. (It’s on a farm! In a seed barn, which is so cool for these Connecticut kids.) From there, I’m heading south to Missouri to see family for a few days. I have an Uncle Jerry I need to go out and hug.

Reader, we are driving.

We’ll be a caravan of two cars and 11 people (as of last count) because we’d like to see if we can still be talking to one another after such a venture. As I type this, I’m looking at an outsized cooler, a pregnant suitcase, and a boatload of anxiety about how a group aged almost-58 to 5 can stand one another after being trapped in a car for days, together. It will, at the very least, be interesting.

I’ll step away from the blog until July 25. That means I will be confining my hateful snark to social media during the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Enjoy the silence. Talk to you soon. Go have an adventure.

Infant mortality rate is higher among poor babies

downloadBut you could probably already figure that out, huh.

No, that woman is not hurting me.

13335653_10153461104512331_367262634972988304_nSo my daughter-in-law threw a party to celebrate two family graduations — one by her daughter, my oldest granddaughter, from high school, and one by her husband, my son, from law school.

So of course there was a mechanical bull. And of course Carmen, my daughter-in-law’s mother, my son’s mother-in-law, and I climbed up to take a turn.

Reader, we were not skilled, though this was emphatically not my first bull, mechanical or real. Carmen insisted on getting a little liquored up before trying the thing out. I was stone-cold sober, though this picture would make you think otherwise.

There were kids, and games, and giggles and belly laughs. There was a fancy cake from the best bakery in Connecticut, and much mingling. There is a video of this ride which I won’t post here, because it shows me landing pretty hard on Carmen, who is soft and squishy and was very kind to break my fall. I’d call to see if she is OK, but honestly, I’d hate to hear she isn’t.

I’m posting this because my own family of origin is separated by religion, by politics, by distance, by (in some cases) a deep and abiding dislike for one another. I always felt guilty that I could not deliver to my son a big, loud hillbilly family, the kind whose elders would cheerfully perch atop a mechanical bull and look like idiots, the kind with whom you could bicker and argue yet still share a deck and a drink with.

Fortunately, my son had the good sense to marry into such a family which, by extension, means I (finally) have a big loud family, too. And Carmen? Sorry about the elbow to your gut. I love you, girl.

Meternity. It’s a thing.

meternity_main1aSo author Meghann Foye (pictured), who doesn’t have children, wants a maternity leave without the lil’ shavers, and she’s calling such a break a “meternity” leave.

That’s a catchy word, but is this supposed to make me mad? It doesn’t. The discussion feels like the fake “mommy wars” of old (or maybe they’re still going on) where women who work outside the home are supposed to do battle with women who work inside the home. I understand the need to promote conflict, but precisely what were we supposed to argue about? Who was the better mommy? And do we really have the time and energy to care about this kind of thing?

Whatever, Mary. Take your me/maternity leave and enjoy, though this rebuttal is pretty funny.

Nike’s offering paid leave. Will other companies follow suit?

Nike_Swoosh_Logo_White_Small_original_original_native_600 (1)Last week, Nike employees who work more than 30 hours a week will get full paid leave. The new policy says:

new parents or [people] who are needed to care for sick family members are now eligible to receive eight weeks of paid leave, the world’s biggest sportswear company said on Wednesday.

Birth mothers are now eligible for a minimum of 14 paid weeks of leave, Nike said, with more paid leave allowable if a doctor deems it medically necessary. Previously, birth mothers were allowed a minimum of six weeks paid leave to care for their newborns, said a company spokeswoman.

Fathers, adoptive parents and employees with sick family members had not been allowed paid leave under Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike’s previous policy, but can now take up to eight weeks of paid leave.

The benefit changes apply to Nike employees who have a regular work schedule of 30 or more hours a week. Employees are eligible for the benefit on their first day of work, the company said.

And thanks, Jac, for the link.

Go, Cards.

(Except I live in New England, and so for a scattered few moments in the baseball season, it’s go, Red Sox.)

A few weeks ago, my son hatched a plan where we would take his two youngest (nearly-5-year old twins) to Fenway Park so they could get their first taste of his team, the Red Sox. He was about a year younger than his children when I first took him there. I didn’t take him out of any sense of fandom. It was more because, well, Fenway. I love baseball and grew up reading about the Curse, and about Fenway. On that long-ago day, nearly 30 years in the past, we sat by the Green Monster and ate popcorn and hot dogs and had a grand old time listening to that awesome Bawsten accent of our fellows. I don’t remember who was playing, other than the Red Sox. I do remember leaving early but leaving happy that we’d made the trek (about an hour and a half from our house).

So, yeah. Sign me up. I’m in the middle of giving and grading finals, but we drove to the nearest T station, rode it to Fenway, and walked around what could only be described as a Boston party that stretched for blocks outside the park. We got face-painted. We posed beside Tessie, and a guy on stilts. We were handed multiple souvenirs, including four bobble-head dolls which are, I guess, quite the collector’s item (I gave mine to my son; maybe he can trade it for one he doesn’t have).

Once the game started, three of us were mostly attuned to when the cotton candy guy would come up our row, but once again, we were seated in center field by the Monster, surrounded by happy people sloshing beer, throwing peanuts, and basically enjoying a perfect night for baseball. We lasted an entire inning, but were leaving the park as the Sox sent their second home run over the wall. It was, from what we heard in the car on the way home, a great game.

While we were cheering and eating and giggling, I wanted to burst into the chorus of “Circle of Life,” but my son gets rank-tired of me getting all nostalgic and sloppy, so I didn’t. But on the T-ride back to our car, I cuddled the girl-child, who was fighting to stay awake, and it hit me just how very lucky am I.