May 2010

Happy Birthday Mommy-Dee!

Today is my grandmother’s 90th birthday. It’s kind of ironic that her 90th birthday falls on Memorial Day this year, since she spent her life as an Army wife. This is a letter I wrote in celebration of her birthday, as part of a family book of memories that was put together for the occasion. She is an amazing woman.

Mommy-Dee, you have been my grandmother for almost 40 years and a great-grandmother to my children for almost four. So much of who you are and what you have done for me has helped me be the mother I am and the grandmother I hope to become.

Here are some of the things I have learned from you –

  • Save empty pot pie tins, grandchildren love to play with them at the beach.
  • For the optimal happiness of their grandchildren, grandparents really should own a boat. This boat should be named after the aforementioned grandchildren, and should be used regularly for cocktail hour where cheese and crackers and ginger ale are served.
  • Scrambled eggs are best when made with Crazy Jane’s Mixed Up Salt and when served on Fiesta Ware.
  • The best grandmothers have chalk boards hanging in their kitchens so that they can play tic tac toe with their grandchildren. Of course they will also need a really cool folding step stool so their grandchildren can REACH the chalk board.
  • Cuckoo clocks provide hours of entertainment for grandchildren who are obsessed with watching the cuckoo pop out to say hello.
  • Silver tinsel icicles make Christmas trees seem magical to grandchildren.
  • Oreos are best when stored in the freezer.
  • Hummingbird feeders provide a similar level of entertainment for grandchildren as cuckoo clocks. Being able to sit six feet away while a hummingbird eats the red nectar from a feeder is just about the coolest thing a child will experience. Ever.
  • Good grandparents are always prepared for their children and grandchildren to need a place to stay. Having pink satin blankets on the beds makes female grandchildren feel like princesses.
  • Taking grandchildren out for some special one-on-one time to celebrate their birthday is always a great way to show your love. Movies like “Watership Down” are always a big hit and may also influence a grandchild’s future taste in books and movies.
  • Bringing your grandchildren to watch fireworks over Washington DC from the rooftop of the Museum of American History is one of the best experiences they will have (right up there with the hummingbirds.)
  • Grandchildren love to hear their friends and co-workers tell them how beautiful and full of class their grandmother is. Especially when it is so true.
  • Always be available to be interviewed for class projects by your grandchildren. Be sure to tell them what it was like to live though the Great Depression. It will amaze them.
  • When your adult granddaughter is on bed rest during pregnancy, bring her meals every couple of weeks. It will nourish her in ways you can’t imagine.
  • Make it a point to be there for your grandchildren in whatever way they might need.
  • Give. Give, give, give to your grandchildren. They will love you for it.
  • Always treat your grandchildren with the love and respect they deserve, they will never forget it.

On your 90th birthday I would like to take the opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mommy-Dee, for all that you have done and continue to do for your entire family – your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren.

I love you very very much.



What a week THAT was.

Last Tuesday we put Moose, our sweet Jack Russell Terrier, to sleep. He was diagnosed with cancer a while ago and had long outlived the 2-4 months predicted by the doctors. We knew he wouldn’t last forever though, and last week he went downhill very quickly and we had to make the heartbreaking decision to end his pain.

We told Emma on Tuesday morning that he would probably die soon, thinking it would be a few days and wanting to give her some time to sit with it. By lunch it became clear that it would have to be that day, so I explained to Emma that we would be taking Moose to the doctor to see if she could make him feel better, but that she might not be able to and he might die. I encouraged her to give him lots of gentle hugs and kisses and to say goodbye to him. I found her later, sitting on the floor next to Moose with a hand on his head, singing softly to him.

Mike and I took the kids to a friend’s house and took Moose to the vet. Just on general principal he hated going to the vet, and fought the sedative the entire time, like any self-respecting Jack Russell would, but we were right there with him till the end, kissing and hugging him through our tears.

We struggled through the next couple of days, trying to give Emma the information she asked for in ways she could understand (which, you know, ugh. How do you explain something you barely understand yourself? Death is so weird – one minute you are here, the next you are gone. Blech. When I was searching online for ways to talk to Emma about the whole thing, I came across a discussion where someone wrote “Just be sure to tell your child the truth. That the dog went to doggie heaven and…” Sorry, WHAT? Doggie HEAVEN is the truth?? I mean, I don’t really know what the truth IS – except that his body stopped working – but I am pretty darn sure what the truth ISN’T. If romping in the clouds and eating bonbons is what you really think happens after your heart stops, rock on with your bad self. Last I checked though, heaven sure as heck wasn’t a scientifically proven theory thereby making it THE TRUTH about what happens after we die. We haven’t entirely ruled out a discussion about heaven as one option about what might happen after something or someone dies, but we sure won’t be presenting it as THE TRUTH. Hmph. But I digress. /rant)

Then, in the middle of processing the loss of Moose and where and why he had gone, we got into a car accident. It was on Thursday, on our way home from the grocery store, but before going to Emma’s school. It wasn’t a little rear-end-the-person-in-front-of-you-while-waiting-at-the-light type of accident, nor was it a multiple-ambulance-and-fire-engine type of accident (thankfully) but it was really really scary and it did do a lot of damage to our car. We were all fine, but the woman who hit us – as she was turning left across our lanes of traffic, apparently not SEEING us in the middle of the road (perhaps she was pondering the truthiness of heaven?) – hit us on the driver’s side. I, as you probably guessed, was sitting on the driver’s side of the car, and so was Emma. I don’t know if she was more freaked out by the large green (blue?) vehicle hurtling toward her or the incoherent screams coming from her mother, but whatever the reason, she was not happy.

We relied on lots of kindness from lots of non-strangers and were able to not only get our groceries home and put away before the ice cream melted, but were able to get Emma to school (the power of routine is not to be underestimated in a preschooler’s life) and all of us to the rental car place later that day. We found out the next day that the estimate for the repairs on the car is $12,000 – yes THOUSAND – making me feel incredibly lucky that we walked away unharmed. (But feeling a bit sad for my little Mazda 5 that so gallantly protected us. I love that car.)

It turns out that one way to help a three year old stop thinking about the death of her dog is to get into a car accident with her in the car. Instead of hearing “Moose died” over and over, I now hear “Mama, drive slowly ok? We don’t want to get into another accident.” Instead of asking “where is Moose?” she now asks “why did that lady break our car?”

We are all dealing with the stress of last week in our own way. Emma has shown some classic regression in response to it all – talking in baby talk, asking us to carry her because she is a baby and can’t walk, getting weepy and sad for what seems like no reason, being super clingy – all pretty textbook really. We have tried to give her extra patience and love to help her through it.

I have spent the last few days marveling at how quickly Moose was gone and how quickly the accident happened, leading me to realize how quickly life can change with no notice whatsoever. I have also spent the last few days driving below the speed limit and watching every car for any sign it is changing course. The accident scared me, and I don’t like being scared.

Eventually Emma will move back in the direction of full independence and I will become more zen about life and its fluidity (and will hopefully be able to drive without freaking out about it.) In the meantime, we are all trying to be extra gentle with each other and are trying not to spend too much time on Jack Russell Terrier rescue sites.