Category Archives: family

Like Lazarus, Only More Fragrant

File:Giotto di Bondone - No. 25 Scenes from the Life of Christ - 9. Raising of Lazarus - WGA09204.jpg

Raising of Lazarus, Giotto (c.1306)

Lazarus was only in the tomb for 4 days.  My blog has been “at rest” slightly longer, if the Christmas header image that I just replaced is any indication.  Don’t suspect for a moment that I have had nothing to say.  Rather, I was more overwhelmed by the unrelenting waves of events that left me scratching my head and wondering, “WTF?”  I found I didn’t have the energy to blog about what I now see as the inevitability of American decline.

Oh, and there was also a series of life changes.  Since I last checked in, Darling Husband retired from the US Navy after a career of 21 years, 9 months, and 4 days.  His new career in the civilian world began right away, thank Heaven, but lasted 3 weeks.  And then he changed jobs.  This new position is what he was looking for in the first place except…wait for it…it required us to move.  Thus, since late January, this Housewife has been neck-deep in real estate listings.  Our move is half complete.  We are settling into our temporary dwelling while we wait for our new home to be built.

So where does this blog go from here?  My take on military life will now be from the distance of a retired family member.  With budget cuts targeting retirees’ military benefits, I’m sure I will have thought to contribute.  I’m halfway between mom-of-teens and empty-nester right now.  Junior is finishing up (Please, God!) his junior year of high school, leaving one more year at home for him.  That means his college search will be in full swing soon.  SuzyQ will be returning home in a few short weeks after her first year away at college.  I’m sure that will mean some readjustment for all parties.

Is there a niche for over-forty, retired military, conservative, Catholic, almost-empty-nester bloggers??

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Left Behind: After Your Only Daughter Goes Off to College…

…It’s not so easy to get used to the new gender balance.  Before, we were just that: balanced.  Dad and Junior plus me and SuzyQ.  While she and I don’t have perfectly matching tastes in everything, in general we appreciate similar TV shows, music, hobbies, etc.  Now that SuzyQ lives away from home, things look a lot different here:

  • All sports, all the time.  When I walk into a room with a TV these days, I am guaranteed to find a sports event shouting at me.  Baseball, football, NASCAR, golf.  Oh yes, there is yelling in golf!  Sometimes, one game will occupy the TV, while Darling Husband keeps track of another on the iPad.  We own 3 TVs.  It shouldn’t be that hard for me to carve out a time and place to watch my few meager shows.  Unfortunately, the 2 men in the house can’t seem to watch TV together.  They each have their own channel flipping habits that are incompatible.  My only option appears to be recording my shows, in non-HD, and watching them in bed.  No, wait.  That won’t work because Darling Husband will want to “just check the score” before he goes to sleep.
  • Stimulating conversation.  This is the follow on to the point above.  Suddenly the vast majority of conversation at the dinner table and elsewhere revolves around sports.  When SuzyQ was with us, we would sometimes talk about music or politics or other cultural things.  It’s not that Junior and Husband are not well-informed or culturally literate.  They just prefer to talk about bad officiating, recent trades, which players are injured, or the next big game.  Yawn.
  • “What are we doing this weekend?”  That’s easy: playing golf, going fishing, or watching  fill-in-the-blank sports event.  I’m on my own if I want to go to a craft show, head to the mall, or check out the parade of homes.  Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it’s nice to have time alone.  But it’s also fun to “ooh” and “aahh” with a companion.
  • “What’s for supper?”  Even the menu has shifted these days.  Hot dogs, burgers, and buffalo chicken wings make recurring appearances.
  • Music, anyone?  There is no more music in the house.   SuzyQ is the only one of us who plays an instrument.  Now there is no one at home practicing piano or harp at random times during the day.  For years, we always had that background music as she prepared pieces for the next concert or recital.  Even the dog would hang out in the music room and listen.  It’s awfully quiet these days.  Once, I put my iPod on the speakers to have some background music during dinner.  Junior heard it and asked, “Is there someone coming over?  What’s up with the music?”

Moms of all-boy families likely would say things are like this all the time in their homes, so there’s no big deal.  That’s probably true.  But shifting to that predominantly male atmosphere all of a sudden is a lot like moving from Florida to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Gentlemen, act a little more girlie, if you please!

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Sandwich, Anyone?

Hello, blog.  Remember me?  What did you do on your summer vacation?

I wish I could say this was the best summer we have had in our household in a long time.  After all, both kids finished school earlier than in previous years (end of June!!).  We had a fabulous week at a beach rental planned.  SuzyQ and I were excited to get her packed up for college.  Oh, how plans do go awry.

It turns out that excitement about outfitting SuzyQ’s dorm fell victim pretty quickly to anxiety about whether she and her roommate would be able to coordinate color schemes, disagreements with Darling Husband about what is “essential” to take with her and what is excessive, and plain frustration over the daunting task of packing our child’s life up to fit into the back of our SUV.  Ultimately, it all fit; only minor things were forgotten; and SuzyQ is happy.

I wish I could say the same for those of us not away at college.  Both of my parents saw their health deteriorate this summer.  My dad had a particular crisis in a progressive decline, while Mom experienced some mobility issues.  He’s 77, and she turns 73 today.  And neither of them are spry or active for their age.  As the only one of their children living close by, I find myself assuming the growing role of caretaker.  The big problem is, my parents don’t want to need help.  Does that make sense?  They know that they need help, but they are definitely not happy about it.

So to anyone who is in similar circumstances, I put to you a few questions:

  • What do you do when you don’t agree with their medical decisions?  I’m not talking about, “Get me a power of attorney; they’re unfit to make these decisions.”  I mean things like refusing physical therapy or feeling too awkward about asking for a second opinion or settling for the same old course of treatment instead of asking for something different.  Neither Mom nor Dad seek any input from us adult kids when it comes to what test or procedures they will have done.  Should we have any say in the matter at all?  What if they then complain incessantly about their doctors or all the pills they are taking?
  • How do you help your parents downsize when they both tend toward hoarding?  No, it’s not time to call the producers of that “Hoarders” show on TV, but both parents would be better off with more open space in the house to make getting around safer and easier.  And eventually they will have to move into a single-story, maintenance-free home.  Both my parent grew up in essentially poor families.  To them, everything is valuable and must never be thrown away.  They rarely even donate things they aren’t using because, “We might need that one day.”  Add to that the fact that Mom especially has an irrational emotional attachment to most of the “things” in the house.  This too-big piece of furniture reminds her of a particular Army posting.  That ugly ceramic was made by a dear deceased sister-in-law.  All of those years worth of greeting cards were sent by someone special and therefore cannot be thrown out.  I don’t see how they will ever get past the emotional hurdles of downsizing, never mind the physical work involved.
  • Will you always disappoint someone when you are trying to balance your roles?  Mom and Dad will vehemently stress that I must consider my own family first.  And yet…  With Darling Husband facing military retirement and hunting for a new job, what happens if we relocate because of his second career?  How will the parents manage with no family nearby?  Should that be a factor in how broad his geographic search for a job should be?

As I recover from packing one child off to college 6 hours away and get the other one started on his AP classes and SAT prep, I have to shake my head again about all of those helicopter parents out there.  They should be saving their energy.  What they might want to consider instead is helicopter parenting their own parents.

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What I Learned on Summer Vacation

I’m recovering from a not entirely restful week of family vacation.  In looking back over the days spent at a lovely beach rental in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I’ve gained some interesting insights:

Hello. My name is Lunch.

Don’t name anything you might possibly eat.  Blue crabs are delicious.  They are also a little sad when they are scrabbling around in the crab pot.  I feel much better about picking them apart and devouring them if I don’t see the lovely morsels until they are already on ice and ready for the pot.

Olympic Beach Badminton

Are you sure that’s not a real Olympic event?  Everything else seems to be.  White water canoeing, synchronized diving, beach volleyball, and trampoline are recent additions to the Summer Games.  Who knew the kids in the neighbor’s backyard might actually be young Olympians in training on the trampoline cage?  Of course, Junior (pictured above) takes every sport seriously.  He did stick that landing, in case you were wondering.

When did my kids stop being kids?  Two weeks to go until SuzyQ leaves the nest.  Junior towers over me.  This is a bittersweet time of life.  Yes, children, you have a sentimental Mom.

 

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Baby Birds and a Nest Becoming More and More Empty

Last week, my sister found a bird’s nest in one of her potted herb plants.  And in that nest were some eggs which then hatched.  She found it entertaining to keep track of the 5 bald, hideous, scraggly hatchlings.  One day, she went out to water the plant and found that some had jumped (fallen?) out of the nest and into the pot.  Were they learning to fly?  Another day went by, and she discovered that several of the birds were gone.

The empty nest is a rather over-used metaphor.  And I don’t actually have an empty nest, but a vacancy in my nest is just around the corner.  In about 6 weeks, SuzyQ will depart for college.  We have begun accumulating stuff for her to outfit her dorm room.  My guest room, now the staging area, is out of commission until she leaves.  Having spent 4 years living in dorms, I feel that I have a reasonable idea of what she needs.  Still, there is a sense of panic about forgetting those odds and ends one takes for granted at home.  Headache medicine, sunscreen, Ziploc bags, clean towels.  She is not attending school in a desolate frozen tundra miles from any trading outpost, I know.  But minimizing runs to big-box stores will help her stay within budget.  Yes, I am an naive optimistic parent!

I had mixed dorm experiences.  None of my roommates became my best friends, although mostly we stayed friendly.  Learning to live that closely with someone I wasn’t related to wasn’t easy, even after sharing a room with siblings almost my whole life.  SuzyQ has never had to share a room (except for summer camp experiences), so I fear she will have a prickly adjustment period.  Of course, with all of the Facebook chatter and texts flying back and forth right now, perhaps she and her intended roommate will ease some of that tension before they arrive on campus.  That’s one benefit of social media, anyway.

The other baby bird just got his driver’s learner permit.  In my state, teens 15 and 6 months can begin supervised driving.  Thankfully, Junior is showing an appropriate amount of fear behind the wheel.  Confidence will come, too, with practice, but I also believe in a healthy fear.  Especially when he’s driving my car.  It will be at least 9 months before he’s eligible to get his license and drive solo.  Thank goodness.  That’s a lot for a mom to take all at once: one college freshman and one new driver.

I can’t help wondering how some of my friends from school who are just having a second or third child will cope with such things in 15 or more years–at the age of almost 60.  If they asked me, I would advise them to spend the intervening years taking good care of themselves and learning how to manage stress.  Then they might be better prepared, at 60, to haul their daughter’s belongings up 4 flights of stairs in the quaint dorm without an elevator.  And perhaps coaching their teen boy to finesse the brake pedal, ease around corners, and negotiate city traffic will come easily.

Today, my nest is bustling with all kinds of activity.  In a few weeks, it will seem a little more bare.  The metaphor has to end there because, in reality, my sister’s birds didn’t just leave their nest.  All evidence points to a slaughter.  The call of the wild and all that.  Cruel, cruel world.

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Uncommon, not Useless, Thank You Very Much

My initial reaction was, “No.  She couldn’t really have just said that.”  But yes, indeedy, Democrat National Committee advisor Hilary Rosen actually did say out loud what so many liberals and progressives think.  You know: full-time, at-home moms have no business attempting to contribute to discussions on politics, economics, or any intellectual topic.  Due to an un-named and unstudied phenomenon, the brains of these women immediately turn to mush as soon as they make the decision to raise their own children (rather than contracting them out), rendering them incapable of intelligent thought about anything other than diapers, playdates, potty training, and Nick Jr. programming.

So much about this flare-up is offensive to me–and I hope, to other housewives.  Where to begin:

It has nothing to do with whether being a mother is work or not.  It’s ridiculous how White House spokesfool Jay Carney and Michelle Obama and CNN talking head Suzanne Malveaux all tried to appear sympathetic by affirming that raising children is a difficult “job.”  That’s not the point, and they know it.

Does Hilary Rosen (and her ilk) actually believe that full-time moms have no grasp on the economic realities of families??  Who does she think buys the groceries, heads to the pharmacy for yet another round of antibiotics, decides whether to put off having the brakes on the minivan done until after Christmas or whether they can’t wait that long, budgets for Christmas shopping so that it won’t look like you are skimping this year, tracks down used sports equipment or band instruments, scours the clearance racks for past season clothes, and so on and so on.  Housewives, Ms. Rosen, are keenly aware of what it means to stretch a paycheck–a single paycheck, mind you.

(CAROL) COSTELLO: Ann Romney doesn’t have to go outside and work. (SUZANNE) MALVEAUX: It’s a luxury to be able to choose.  This is such a crock!!  They just keep trying to sell this notion that most women have to work outside the home or their children will starve.  I suppose if you call going without unlimited data plans on your household’s 4 smart phones starving, then it’s true.  If you call skipping the annual trip to Disney World starving, then it’s true.  Dining out once a month instead of twice a week, making the kids mow lawns or shovel snow to fund their own XBox game purchases,  foregoing the TV and DVR in each child’s room and making them watch television in the family room: all equivalent to starving.  But what about single moms, you ask.  They really do have to work to support their family, right?  Umm…except in the case of widows, single motherhood is preventable.

Ms. Rosen voiced the sentiments that so many share but dare not speak: that housewives are useless in this age of day care on every street corner, worthless for not adding to the family income, and a horrible role model for daughters in their waste of a college degree and embrace of their femininity.  This housewife can only hope and pray that this firestorm will open the eyes of moms who vote.  Do you hear what the Democrats think of you?

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Don’t Blink–It’s October!!

You might miss it if you blink!!  At least that’s how I feel.  I know it’s bad when WordPress needs me to log in again.  It has been so long that it doesn’t even remember me.  I check my post listing and see that I have a grand total of 2 for the month, which will be over in 4 days.

I love fall.  I can’t wait to open all the windows to let some fresh, not-humid air in the house.  I love having to throw on a sweater because there is just a hint of chill in the air.  Who can resist the beauty of autumn foliage?  OK.  I admit I had a love-hate relationship with the leaves during our short stay in New England.  As lovely as the leaves were, they were also a nightmare to deal with in the yard and the gutters of the house.  Nevertheless.

The crazy thing about fall is that it is over almost before it begins.  All of those cozy fall sweaters are on clearance in the stores already, and the only ones left are the sizes no one can wear or the itchy ones.  Thank you Macy’s for putting up your Christmas decorations 2 weeks ago!!  Target displays Halloween costumes and Christmas lights at the same time.  Yes, that’s the old curmudgeon in me complaining about the hurry-up-and-get-to-Christmas mentality of retailers, again.  (Here was last year’s rant thoughtful post on the subject.)  The problem for me, though, is that there is so much else going on in life at this time of year that I hardly need retailers to accelerate the pace any more.

In September, the school year seems fresh and orderly.  The textbooks are new and interesting.  Everyone’s outlook is positive.  Come October, though, some panic sets in.  The 8-week mark comes and goes, and it occurs to the kids–and me–that, “Crap!  We need to step up the pace or we will end up just like last year!”  Maybe a Columbus Day holiday wasn’t such a good idea.  Maybe we had better plan on a working Thanksgiving.

And having a high school senior is a game-changer.  All of a sudden, the frenzy to get to Christmas is all too real.  That’s because all of the college applications are due by January 1st.  So in addition to the regular school workload, SuzyQ has to squeeze in writing essays for each application, crafting a student resume, tracking down teachers to write letters of recommendation, finishing up standardized testing, and I must be forgetting something else.  Nothing new here, I know.  Seniors have been dealing with this for years.  Doesn’t make it any easier, though; and somehow the time slips away no matter how well you think you have planned.

That’s just the regular stuff.  When you add in extracurriculars, life starts feeling a bit like the Teacup Ride.  Chorus ramps up rehearsals for the holiday season concerts.  Homecoming and college reunion eat up a weekend (in a good way!).  My snow bird in-laws decide to stop by on their way South for the winter:  that means a cleaning frenzy.  And there’s garden clean-up (mine and/or my parents depending on how many hours I can find to do it), lawn treatment for fall (Is it weed and feed or just feed?), sudden pet illnesses, and Junior outgrew all of his pants.

What?! It’s November next week?  I guess I better start making room in the freezer and refrigerator for a turkey.  I did notice the massive display of Thanksgiving Dinner foods in my local grocery store last week.  Has the big sale on turkeys come and gone, too?

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of hyper-ventilating our way from October to January, we could all just enjoy the scenery of fall?  Autumn leaves, sweaters, hot chocolate, afghans, coziness–that is fall, right?  Just sayin’.

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