Thursday, December 3, 2009

Puppydog Tails

The old Nursery Rhyme says it all--Little girls are as different from little boys as sugar and spice is from snakes and snails! As I have written in this blog, I have five granddaughers, and one grandson. So I have been immersed in the "Sugar and Spice" years, with three girls coming along in a three year span.

Then came Cade. As soon as he became mobile, we could observe a very different play pattern. He was thrilled by anything that moved, made noise, or preferably, did both. Where the girls were content to sit and color pretty pictures, he was more about throwing the crayons, or grinding them down to a nub on the paper. He wanted to growl and pop and squeak, and drive the crayons along the table.

At 3 plus years now, he is in love with the Cars of the Pixar movie by that name. He has a small collection of them, and carries them around in a little canvas case all day. His favorite is a red racy car named "Lightning McQueen", and when we play, Cade is always Lightning. There is a green Mustang named "Chick Hicks" and a towtruck named " Mater", and a Ferrari named "Luigi". There is another Italian car named "Guido", and a slinky blue Miata-type car named "Sally" as well as a model T named "Liz" and a 57 Chevy called "Ramone." One of them is a blue Transam Cade calls "Mr. The King." I am not sure why he calls him "Mr."

As I said, when we "play cars" Cade is always Lightning. I often try for Sally, as I love the look of her, but he always assigns me Ramone, which he somehow seems to know is the same vintage as I! Chick Hicks has a way of being left under the sofa, and it seems we are always looking for that guy. Mater has a loose tire, and Guido and Luigi are always racing around the coffee table.

For Christmas, I am making him a Lightning McQueen throw for his bed. He thinks he should be able to get a Lightning McQueen scooter, and a Lightning McQueen backpack, and when his sister got the first Bible of her very own, he asked if he could get a "Lightning McQueen Bible"!! I know this will probably pass, as something new catches his fancy. But it amazes me how much he knows about all these little cars, and how he has memorized the book about them. When we "play cars", he lines them up across the coffee table, and then we push them all off the other side onto the floor. He picks them up, lines them up on the opposite side, and the whole operation is repeated, amid much laughter and joy.

Since he is the one and only so far as grandboys go, I am enjoying each phase with him. I tell him always that he is my favorite grandson. And I guess it is ok that he sees me as the 57 Chevy. They were hot, weren't they?

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Beginnings are my favorite things. Beginnings are new babies, puppies, the first day of school, and the first kiss. I love buying fabrics for a new quilt, and choosing yarn for a new sweater. Beginnings, while they are still themselves, hold the promise of perfection.

When I am beginning that sweater, I imagine it finished, fitting perfectly, and making me feel beautiful when I wear it. I don't envision dropped stitches or mysterious bulges from losing sight of the pattern while talking on the phone. Beginnings are free of the heartaches that often come with finishing. When I am beginning, I don't yet know how hard it will be, what mistakes I'll make, or what part of me will be used up in the process. Finishing has its own rewards, but dreams belong to beginnings.

So....I began this blog and haven't written in it for nearly a year. I am beginning again. A lot has happened since the last entry, but I am not picking up where I left off. It is a NEW beginning and I am going to write more. Fall does that to me. I am energized by the crisp weather and the falling leaves. Maybe it stems from childhood and that first day of school, but I have always loved the autumn.

Here I am at 62, beginning again, this time a new job. I thought I would be finishing jobs at this age, not starting new ones. But the economy and our out-of-whack elected officials (don't get me started on this one, that is a blog of its own!) have started a downturn that may end with all of us out of work. So we work on, my husband and I, and hope our health and energy outlive the need to do so.

This new job has lots of beginnings for me. One of them is commuting with public transportation. My new company is in downtown Seattle, where parking is non-existent, and they pay for my bus/train pass, so it is a no-brainer for me to use it. But I was like a little kid for the first week, nervous about whether the right bus would stop the right place, etc. I tried several combinations of train/bus/bus/train, and finally settled on an express bus from a park-and-ride lot. Now I am a pro, and know all the bus routes and where they stop. And I am enjoying not buying gas or paying a bridge toll. There is an added bonus to commuting by public transport: I get to knit for 45 minutes each way. Therefore I will also be finishing more!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Memories 2008

Christmas Memories 2008

Life intervened last year, and despite the best intentions, no cards were forthcoming from our house. But we are still here, and have increased in number by one new grand-daughter. As adorable as all the others, she has a wonderful mellow personality that stands her in good stead.

As we prepare to spend Christmas with our kids and six grandchildren, I wonder how they will remember these Christmases, which to me are cherished, but somewhat chaotic. How can chaos not reign with six little ones aged 2 months to 7 years, all crowded into our house to see what Santa left for them? I always feel a bit cheated that I cannot enjoy each little one separately. I liken it to trying to watch movies on six screens at once. There is not enough time and space, and I have a lot to do in the kitchen. I wonder, when they are older, will they recall the magic and the charm-- or just the chaos?

Then I flashed back to the previous weekend when I was browsing in an antique store. There in a basket were some strings of big, chunky Christmas lights, the kind we used to string on our little tree when I was a kid. I was pierced by a longing so intense it took my breath away, to be back in the house on Ives Street where I grew up —a child, excited about Christmas, when all was right with the world.

I saw the small Southern pine, on a table in front of the living room window so it could be seen from outside. I smelled the clean, sharp fragrance of it, and felt the sticky sap and the flat, stiff needles. Those fat lights went on first—there was always one string that did not light up and required testing bulb by bulb. Next came the ornaments, fragile glass balls, and bells and pointy spires, as well as the ornaments we had made in school—created out of pinecones, red construction paper and toothpicks-- and the bent gold star that went on top of the tree. Left for last were the thin foil-fringed strips referred to as “icicles”, though they looked very little like real icicles. Despite protestations from my mother about ONE at a time, these were applied in big globs.

When the tree was decorated, we would put coats over our pajamas, and go outside in the December night to look at it through the front window. The condensation formed a fog on the window, providing a veil of softness like a lens filter, blurring the lights and giving our tree a dream-like quality. My parents must have found it messy, decorating a tree with six kids in a small house, but in my memory lives only the image of that little Christmas tree as seen through the cold, and the warmth of the love that produced it.

I am hoping that time will provide that soft blurring for the chaos that accompanies Christmas with six little ones. I am trusting that they will remember the love and longing that goes into each hug and kiss, and the companionship of being with cousins at Nana and GPa’s house, giggling and tousling and playing games and puzzles. I am praying that someday they may read this, and be overcome with memories to pass on to their own babies.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Down-sizing--Does it Hurt?

We have the opportunity to try down-sizing in a possibly painless way. Our daughter and SIL (son-in-law) who have two small children, are bursting out of their condo-without-a-yard, and need more space. We are wanting to try something simpler and near the water, but don't want to go through the hassle and permanence of selling our home right now. We want to try living in a smaller space. What would it be like to have fewer things to take care of, we wonder.....We had been thinking about leasing our house to our daughter, and renting something different for awhile, to see if we can live more compactly.

The kids jumped on the idea, and we set out to see what was available to rent that we could see ourselves actually living in. I was afraid it would be rather dismal. We didn't know what to do first--have the kids sell their place and then look for something for us? Find something for us before they put theirs on the market?

The decision was made for us last Sunday when I took my husband with me on an errand for work. We were driving along in the small waterfront town where I work, and he spied a "House For Rent" sign. I had passed it by the time he got the words out, so I backed up and we drove down a small lane that headed down toward the water. There was the perfect place for our reinventing of ourselves!

A little craftsman cottage with white trim, about 1700 sf, it is not "too" small. It has been totally redone, with all new surfaces and new kitchen and baths. There is a wraparound deck and best of all, it sits about 75 yards from the bluff overlooking the South Sound, with an unobstructed view of the shipping lanes.

I love the new khaki paint and the crisp white trim. The kitchen has copious cupboards and granite countertops. There is a really long bar dividing it from the dining area, which faces the water,and opens onto a big living room with a stacked rock fireplace. At one end of the kitchen is a computer closet with built-in desk that can be closed off, (for him) and a small office storage area (for me). There are three bedrooms and two baths.

The one drawback is the lack of closets--there are only three--and storage space. There is only a one-car garage. The big question right now is "Can we live with only three closets?" One option, offered by my husband, is that I can store my shoes in the kitchen--there are abundant cupboards--but a pantry filled with shoes does not complete my vision of a gourmet kitchen. The only option is a Big Garage Sale.

I am getting used to the idea of doing with less clothes. My pain will come with deciding what to jettison!! And then there is my stash of quilting fabrics and knitting yarn and the whole sewing room where they are stored. Lots of decisions to make between now and September 15....

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Grandma's Flower Garden

I love quilts. My Memaw had a hall closet that was chock full of folded quilts she had pieced by hand and quilted on a big frame that hung from the living room ceiling. Grandma's Flower Garden is a classic quilt pattern, usually done on a white background, with octagonal pieces, and the "flowers" set in with pastel fabric scraps. The one I have is exquisite.

I also have my own "Grandma's Flower Garden", a virtual one. When my first grandchild was born, (her name is Abby), I took one look at her, and dubbed her "Sweet Pea". She is six now, but still my Sweet Pea. She has loved the nickname since I taught it to her when she was 15 months old. I would ask the question, "Who are you?" And she would say, "Nana's little Seet Pea".

Then her sister came along, born on Halloween. Though she was given the beautiful name of Carly, she became Nana's little Pumpkin. (I know it is not a flower, but mightn't one find a pumpkin vine in Grandma's flower garden?) She learned her nickname quickly too, and loves anything with pumpkins on it.

Next came Alexandra, who with her dimples and sparking eyes became Nana's Buttercup Girl. She, being the most deliberate little person, has to have the names cataloged each time I buckle her into her carseat to go home. (We have this routine--she never wants to leave our house, so I always walk her out to the car, and buckle her in). We go over who is who--"Who is my Buttercup Girl? (I YAM!) Who is my Sweet Pea? Who is my Pumpkin?" each time she leaves our house. This has gone on for three plus years!

The last flower to bloom in my garden is Baby Reese, who acquired her nickname when her Daddy brought her out of the delivery room, wrapped in a pink blanket, and looking just like a little Rosebud. All pink and pastel with her fair skin and blue eyes, she is just beginning to learn the flower names, with a big assist from her sisters!

Every garden needs what designers like to call the "evergreen backbone." Cade, the one grandboy, provides the contrast. He will give us respite from Polly Pockets and My Little Pony. Already there are trains and cars coming into Nana's toybox. His nickname is really yet to be determined, but as his unique personality emerges, I am sure it will manifest itself.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pillowcases, Picnics, and Pilates

Lately I have been sewing special pillowcases for my grand-daughters. I make them out of novelty print fabrics with ballerinas and dolls. My idea is that I will make them each a set of 12, one for each month, in fabrics that are specific to that month. I plan a snowman print for Jan, Hearts for Feb, Irish for March, etc. starting with Back to School for September. I even found "Happy Birthday" fabric for their birthday months. The girls love them, which sort of surprised me. They love going to sleep on a pillowcase that has fun pictures on it...(I secretly hope it's because Nana made it for them).

G-Pa and I had a picnic in the park last night with two of our grandchildren. We learned that Alexandra likes her strawberries "closed." and Cade likes his cut--would that be "open"? I wonder.

Alex has to show us her fireman's pole descent on the play equipment. And Cade tries to walk UP the slide....not a good idea for a wobbly 18 month old. Alex brought her "bunny blanket", without which no picnic can occur. That is because in her favorite video, a little girl rabbit named Ruby (and her little brother rabbit named Max) always have picnics on a blanket. Our Alex is nothing if not a child of routine. So the bunny blanket was a must, even though it doubled as a tablecloth. A good time was had by all.

Though I have been a regular walker for years, what is now referred to as "strength" training has not been something I liked. I have probably joined 8 different gyms in the past twenty years, and my record for attendance is three weeks.

I have tried all sorts of different kinds of classes for cardio. In the 80's it was Aerobic Dancing, which I liked and did for several years. In the 90's it was Jazzercize, which I liked less. I tried yoga, which I enjoyed, but never got any better at. The only thing I continued to do regularly is walk 2-3 miles a day.

But a few months ago, I tried Pilates. (pronoumced Pi Lah' Teeze, for people from Texas) Voila! Something clicked for me. Because I have a bulging disc, and osteopenia, I started with private lessons, which I highly recommend. I love it, and can see strength and form improvements after two sets of lessons. The core strengthening helps your whole body. I look forward to my twice a week lessons, and even practice on my own inbetween.

The Pilates studio reminds me of a medieval torture chamber. When I first walked in, I expected a hunchback guy in a black mask to appear and tie me down to one of the wooden bunkbed-like contraptions that line one side of the room. These are hooked up to big springs with straps and trapeze bars, looking like something out of a Monty Python movie.

I soon learned that one of these "bunkbeds" is called a cadillac. Seems a strange name for what is basically a mat with adjustable resistance devices attached. On the other side of the studio are what are called the Reformers. These consist of shin-high bed frames with moving platforms also attached to adjustable springs, straps, and handles.

There are other pieces of equipment, built to fit the curve of your spine and offer support for various movements, but the reformer and cadillac are the two main items that Joseph Pilates designed when he created this method. It began during the First World War with the proposal to improve the rehabilitation program for the many returning veterans. He used what was at hand-- beds and bedsprings.

Pilates created "The Pilates Principles" to condition the entire body: proper alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement. So says the brochure. And I am beginning to believe it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Working Nana

When I was entering my child-bearing years in the late 1960's and 70's the big issue for women was whether to be a "working mom", and the ramifications thereof. There continues to be controversy 0ver which way is better, and in fact, the pendulum seems to be swinging back in the other direction, with a growing number of young mothers staying home full-time with their children.

I made the decision to work part-time when my kids were growing up, and it worked out great for our family. I went to work on a full-time basis when my youngest child was in junior high. But now I have another dilemma......I am a "working Nana". Still in the full time work force, having made my way through the management maze in a healthcare setting, I have a profession and job I love that pays well.....AND I suddenly find myself with five grandchildren with whom I want to spend my time.

My son' s three girls live three hours away. And because I work, I am not available for those after school soccer games, kindergarten Christmas programs, and Ballet rehearsals. The other grandma, who lives only a mile away and is a full-time homemaker is always there when my grandbabies say, "Grandma, Watch me!" But I am not.

How much time grandmothering takes was something that took me by surprise. Little Alex, my daughter's three year old who lives nearby, has learned that, "Nana has to go to work." whenever I can't go on a picnic with them on a sunny day in the middle of the week. This makes me sad. However, I am not ready for retirement. I am sixty, and as all we Boomers like to say: "Sixty is the new forty!" Except where Grandchildren are concerned!!

My limited leisure time has to be divided between all the grandparent things I would love to do and all the other tasks, some enjoyable, and some not, that are left for the weekends by those of us who fall into bed exhausted each night after a ten hour day at work. I am struggling to fit it all in and still have that special relationship with each of my five grandbabies. This blog will keep track of that journey.