Friday, January 18, 2019

kids, adults, adult children, young parents, old parents, aging parents

  I think about my kids a lot.  And I think about that word. "kids".  They will always be my kids.  My babies.

Of course I know that they are all adults.  Independent adults. When we are together it seems to be my job to recollect their childhoods and their various cute and silly, memorable pranks.  Activities.  Cute expressions.  They are all really pretty tolerant of me though I suspect it drives them crazy sometimes.    I suppose that what makes it alright is that we are all living independent of each other.

When they were babies and toddlers, I couldn't embarrass them.  I was their main connection to the rest of the world.  Yes, they had their dad and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  But, as a stay at home mom, I was the one they spent most of their waking and sleeping hours with.

Once they started to walk and ambulate without my assistance, they would walk away from me to explore.  But they knew I was always there to run back to for a nurse or a cuddle,or just a lap to sit on.

How does all of that, those early years, get to be so large in my memories?  Probably a lot of it was the physicality and the primal nature of the relationship. 

Even after starting school, the kids would often sit next to me, barely touching, just to be near.  For a while I could even hold their hand in public.  When did that stop I wonder?

Childhood is such a very short period.    Baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary school, middle school, high school and that's that.  College or not.  Adulting.  Driving, holding jobs.   And ultimately, moving away.

Everyone of my babies is (are) now older than I was when I became a mother.  I was 23 when I had Courtney, 36 when I had Chance. 

Now I am almost 65 and I feel like I am far from done.  Yes, I am done having babies, but not done living and learning.  There have been some real setbacks.  I am lacking the energy I want.  I still think of myself as an active, high energy person.

I still want to travel and see friends all over the world.   I want to read and write and sew and knit and sleep when I want and go when I want.

But, for the time being, I sort of think of myself as being on the injured reserve list.   I am working on being better and getting better and feeling better.

I want to continue to be able to visit the "kids" and have them come here.   I want to be a tourist visiting their worlds.

I have expectations of my adult children.  They are not the expectations I had when they were younger.  I used to long for the day they would be able to go to the bathroom without my help.  I tried to will them to go to bed and go to sleep.   To do their school work.  To do chores.   To bathe themselves without being told.

They did gain the ability to do all of those things a step at a time.

Now, as I see them as adults, as I relate to them as adults, I cannot judge the way they dress, fix their hair, live their lives. 

My expectations, now, for the five adults I hatched out of my body are simpler and more complex.    First and foremost, I want them, each and every one of them, to be happy.   I want their lives to bring them joy and fulfillment enough to balance out the feelings of failure [that everyone has].  I want them to find joy in little things like a bird singing or a butterfly fluttering by.   And in that joy, I hope that there is a store of good, happiness, contentment and confidence  that slays the dragons of  despair.

When my adult children were babies, I rarely had difficulty comforting, soothing and filling their souls and stomaches.    Touch, smell, comfort, security were their primary needs and I could almost always provide that.

I am not deliberately leaving out Nick.  Of course we couldn't have parented the way I strove to without Nick.   But this is my writing about my thoughts and feelings.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Random thoughts

I learned something from my sister that I hadn't know before.  She told me that she remembers our dad making fruit cake.   She said he put almonds in it and candied fruit. He even blanched the almonds first.  My sister recalls seeing him mixing it all up with his hands!

We were talking about what a good cook our mom was.  Remembering that when she made chocolate chip cookies, she would always put them inside the Dutch oven (deep pan).  It was our family's version of a cookie jar. 

It is kind of strange how, in my memory, my mom was the cook.  She made everything taste good.  The one thing I did not like though was how she would sprinkle dried parsley on top of the mashed potatoes before putting them on the table.  I'm sure it was supposed to look like something out of a magazine.  And maybe it did.  I just felt like she had ruined the potatoes.

But my dad did cook.  He had a cookbook called "The Golden Cookbook".  I am not sure where it came from, but it was his only.  He made the best chocolate cake- that took a whole can of Hershey's chocolate syrup.  Remember when chocolate syrup came in cans?

His only dinner as far as I can recall, was fried chicken. (and a vegetable and potatoes) It was really good.  But if you told him you liked it he would cook it again and again all week.  Oh well.

I've always been a pretty good cook.  When the kids were little it seems like we had chicken almost every night of the week.  I had so many varying ways that I cooked it.  Almost never with a recipe.

Last night I cooked chicken thighs with onions, garlic and carrots.  Plus some flavored rice.  It was really good.  It was also way more than the two of us could eat.  So we decided to have the leftovers this evening.

While Nick was heating up the leftovers and setting the table, he paused and said "how did we do this for seven people every night?".   All of the plates and silverware and glasses of water. And napkins.  We always had water with dinner, with a water pitcher on the table.  We still have water with dinner.  How did we do it?

Quite often we had extras too.  There were often some of the kids friends over for dinner.  Most of them thought it was rather novel that we all sat down to eat together.  I guess we were quaint.

We had a rule that you couldn't eat in the family room if you were under 21.  Most of the time it worked.

And now it's just me and Nick in this big house. And almost every evening we wonder what we are going to have for dinner!  I just don't have the energy or interest or something, to think about  and plan meals.  It's a combination of all of the cooking I did for so many years along with being in almost constant pain (my knees) and I really do think that two brain surgeries did something that made me more mellow.  Who knows.  When I di cook, it's pretty good though.

And, on another subject, the guys came to put up the shades in the family room.  They were missing a bracket, so they have to come back to finish up.  It's amazing to see the guy up in that ladder!

And on another completely subject, I had a full day out today just doing stuff I haven't done in a while.  I started out at Weight Watchers.  I haven't lost anything this week.  I didn't gain anything either, so I consider that a good thing considering all of the Christmas candy we've had around the house.

After Weight Watchers I went and got my hair cut.  And then, the ultimate splurge.  I got  manicure and pedicure.  I tried to take a picture of my hand to show off my nails, but it is really hard to photograph your own hand.  I took a picture of my foot instead.  You can see the color of the nail polish there.

This is Ann working on my feet.  She has been working on my nails for about 14 years.  I am not sure why, but she and I have a real bond.  The first time I went in after my brain surgery last year, she and I hugged and cried for a few minutes.    She is so sweet and I know that she really cares.  She even called the house once to ask Nick how I was doing. Unfortunately, Nick didn't understand her accent, but we did figure it out eventually 

I went with a bright pink.  I actually thought about getting blue nail polish, but I am glad I didn't!

Monday, December 31, 2018

This is (probably) my last story for 2018.
In 1984 we moved to Tromso, Norway, which is about 220 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Being that far north means 24 hours of sunlight- the Midnight Sun- and 24 hours of dark in the winter Morke Tid- "Dark Time" It's is difficult for the newcomer to adjust to the short days of winter. The days get shorter and shorter until the sun sets and is below the horizon for two full months. At the end of my writing I will share a few pictures.
In the dark time, there is usually snow and that really brightens everything up. The lights in the houses make a cozy glow against the snow.
The winter of 1984 was an exception. There had been snow of course, starting in late September. But it would melt away and more would fall. In 1984 there was so little snow on the ground it was referred to as a "black Christmas". The New Year's Eve tradition in Tromso is to light big oil barrels "spelling" out the new year date, and people shoot fireworks from their homes. The oil barrels were to spell "1985". With the lack of snow it was considered too dangerous to light the barrels due to a risk of causing a big forest fire.
Everyone was disappointed at the possibility of not having a traditional New Years celebration.
Then, on the afternoon of December 31, 1984, it started to snow. The barrels were lit and 1985 was ushered in with cheers and fireworks!
the pictures are, the sun setting at 2:00 in the afternoon, in November. A summer picture of the mountain where the oil barrels are lit up, the oil barrels spelling out "1985" and the sunrise in January 1985. The sun was only over the horizon for less than 5 minutes that day. If you click the fireworks picture and make it bigger you should be able to make out the numbers

The sun setting at 2 in the afternoon, November in Tromso

View of the mountain where the fire was set bringing in the New Year

Oil barrels on the mountain, Tromso New Year 1985

Sunrise for a few minutes.  January 1985, Tromso

Friday, December 28, 2018

So far so good!

I usually get melancholy and depressed at this time of the year.  Especially in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.  This year was different.  Yes, I did get a little bit blue just before Christmas.    Then I thought about it.  Most of my adult married life I have had a really hard time with the season.   I was happy and looked forward to the kids' excitement over Santa, and later just the fun of being together in the same place at the same time.  But there was that little piece of dread that would seep in.

This year, after pouting a bit about not having all of the kids home, I thought about it some more.  They are all adults.  They all have their own lives, homes, friends and stuff that I am not a part of and don't know anything about.

I have had many dreams and aspirations in my life.  But the biggest, most meaningful aspiration was to be a mother.  Before becoming committed to  the idea of being a full time mom, I thought I could finish school.  Have a career (preferably medicine), have kids and basically have it all.

After having trouble conceiving, I realized that being a mother would be enough for me, if only it would happen and I wouldn't be childless.  The thought of not having children and not being able to conceive was painfully scary.

By the time we were really on the road to being parents, Nick had a good job and a decent income.  We both agreed that it would be a good thing for me to be a full time, stay at home mom.

Before I had Courtney I read La Leche League books and learned the concept of attachment parenting.  I didn't know the term at the time, but the concept became a big part of our parenting.

Of course it's hard.  When there's a house full of wild children, sometimes you think you are going to lose your mind.  You fantasize about running away and being free of responsibilities.   Then you put a load of diapers in the washer and go on to the next task.    One of the best parts of mothering when they were small, for me, was being able to sit and nurse and relax and watch my little one melt into a sweet ball of sleep.

"We give them roots we give them wings".  I don't know where that comes from.  I like the concept although it's really not all that smooth to transition from attachment to independence.

I wonder if that's the trap mothers set for themselves and their children.  We feel like we own them.  We made them and fed them and loved them. We wanted to be left alone sometimes and we were touched out at times.   And then, just as they kids assert their independence, it is hard to let go.  Hard not to offer "advice", which is nagging to their ears.

To all five of my children;  I wanted to be your mother.  I am your mother.  I will love you forever.  No strings attached.  I know that you all love me and I know that it is a difficult and strange thing to be a "child" and yet be an adult.

When each of you were born, I marveled at you.  You stared into my eyes as if you were asking me where I had been all your life.   I melted into love.  Every time.  You are all different and always were.  Your births were all different.  But I am so lucky that I got to know you right from the start.   The first flutter in my belly excited me each time as I wondered who you would be.

Merry Christmas  Happy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve 2018

After ordering more than one set of Christmas cards, I finally got some that are usable.  The issues were cutting off one of the kids in a family photo.  A cropped version of said photo that looked too weird.  And another with one member of the family's name forgotten.

Yesterday, Nick and I finally got the cards ready and in envelopes and addressed.  Nick worked for a long time getting the letter lined up on the festive paper so that all of the information was legible. 

Nick had some paperwork dealing with his mom's estate.  He worked on that too.  So today we went to the post office and mailed everything.  I still have a few cards for sending overseas. Those will have to wait.

Nick and I are on our own this evening- Christmas Eve.  It's fine.  It's like most of our quiet evenings.

Tomorrow is Christmas.  I am not sure which of the two sons who live in Virginia will come and when.

For so much of my adult life Christmas has been a very difficult .  So much conflict dealing with my divorced parents.  And all the obligations.  Visit this one, visit that one, visit siblings, visit in laws.     Exhausting.   Depressing.   Hard.

Once we had Courtney, first baby, some of that eased up.  Family wanted to come to us.   Although I do remember going to my inlaws for Courtney's first Christmas, which means we probably went to my mom's too. 

At my in laws house there was no pressure or stress.  Nothing to prove.  No judgement .   I wasn't too fat or too thin.  My hair was fine.  My mother in law never said to me "what the hell did you do to your hair?'  My mother did.say mean, judgemental things to me and pretty much everyone.

I know that my mother loved me.  She really did.  But she was so hurt and damaged and angry about her own life that she didn't have the ability, strength of skills to show compassion.   She was very judgemental.  I remember as a kid, my mom complained that my dad left whiskers in the bathroom sink when he shaved.  I'm sure they never talked about it.  She felt disrespected and got angry.

I carried a lot of those expectations and anger into marriage, and unfortunately, into mothering.

Only through the exposure to mothers at La Leche League and their gentle approach to parenting I cannot imagine the wrath my children would have faced on a daily basis.

I know that I was hard on the kids and occasionally hurt their feelings.  I hope I didn't do too much damage.     I love my children so much it hurts.

The overseas holidays were always the best ones.were when we were overseas.   We could be wistfully homesick, but we had out own family, our kids, which was our home.   We even spent Christmas in a hotel the year Chance was born.   But, it was a good holiday.

If any of my kids have conflict between them, it makes me sad.  For them to judge each other negatively, hurts me.  I won't tell them not to talk to me about what is bothering them.  I am happy that the kids can share.  I just hurt because I cannot take sides.  I love them all.

One day I'll be dead.  Not for a long time I hope.  But I hope that my children can be civil.

It's Christmas Eve.    Joy to the world!     

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

And, it's still December!

One week after our Christmas party, I decided to have a short notice coffee for my women friends.  Since it was short notice, and this is a busy time of year, there were a few who couldn't make it.  Even so there were about 10 or so friends here. It was nice to have friends over and show them our new house.  We've been in this house for five months or so and we have not really had anyone over to see it (with the exception of my friend Lea).

The house is in pretty good shape.  It helps to have a husband like Nick who does so much.  Honestly,I wish I could do more, but I am not able to do the physical stuff right now.  One of these days I will.

I overheard one of my friends talking about her husband and what a great person he is.  She said she knew he was a good and wonderful man because he is the only person who ever made her feel that he loves her as much as her parents do.   She said it like it is just a natural thing- knowing that you are loved completely.    It made me think of a friend in high school who said something similar.  She said that her mother always to her that she was beautiful, but, she said, that's what mothers do.  Wow.  Those are two strange and unfamiliar concepts to me.  I'm sure I always knew that my mother loved me.  But, at least in my earlier life, it wasn't talked about.  We were not a very demonstrative (in a positive way) family.  I has friends who hugged their parents- right in front of the world.  Never happened in my childhood. 

I never really thought about whether or not my dad loved me.  He was just a big scary man.  I was comfortable sitting in his lap and looking through magazines with him.  He would let me comb his hair and we would polish his shoes together.  But he never said he loved me.

Looking back, the things my dad did and said were really his way of expressing his love.  He was always worried about my long pony tail when I was little.  He thought I might get it stuck in the chains on the swings, or in the heavy glass door on the front of our apartment building.  I just thought he was annoying.  I think he was really concerned about me getting hurt.  He's the one who took me to get my eyes examined when he saw me squinting.   We did have our disagreements though .

I have been getting physical therapy for a couple of months now.   It helps a lot.  I have a much greater range of motion in my knees.   But the pain is still there.  Some days are better than others.  Some days I cannot walk without my cane.  The last few days I have done pretty well without the cane.  Aside from the fast that I walk rather like a penguin!

Nick had some extra Christmas lights, so he "threw them"(his words) oj the tree by our house.  I think it is very pretty!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

We had a Christmas party

Today is Tuesday.  On Sunday we had our annual Christmas party.  There were a total of 16 people, counting Nick and myself.   

I was really pleased with how it went!  Nick did so much work decorating everything.  He even put strands of colored lights out by the street so nobody would park in the ditch (culvert) in front of the house.  f I hadn't been so distracted, and if it hadn't been so cold, I would have taken a picture of the outdoor lights.

The turkey came out beautiful as did the decorations.