Friday, April 29, 2011

Princess Kate's Dress Was Stunning, But ...

Is there anything more precious than a little girl with a skirt that twirls? Please allow Our Little Princess to demonstrate.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Do You Get for a Couple Who Has Everything?

I'm very excited about this weekend's royal wedding. You've just got to admire a girl who waits for her prince as long as Kate Middleton did. After all, she waited so long that the British Press called her Waity Katy.

I remember vividly when Charles and Diana got married. It was so magical and fabulous. Diane looked so demure and princess-like. Who knew that those shy looks were more likely dread and fear? Who expected that within a few short years the fairy-tale romance would turn into a royal nightmare? But I digress.

I've been thinking about what to get Wills and Kate for a wedding gift. But, I guess my invitation got lost in the mail. So while Sir Elton John and the Beckhams are dressed to the nines and making their way to Westminster Abbey, I'll be donning my best pajamas. I might even bust out a tiara.

It is my understanding that, by royal command, Will and Kate are eschewing traditional wedding gifts in favor of charitable donations. But, just in case, I've come up with some ideas for things that I think would be perfect gifts for the Prince and his new Princess. And, I'd bet that most of them are things they won't be getting from anyone else.

Photo source
1. A his and hers spa outing. They’re bound to be stressed after all this public hullaballoo. And who doesn't need a little down time after a big event?

Photo by Mike Peel
2. A subscription to People Magazine delivered directly to their royal mailbox. Because the Princess shouldn't have to fight the crowds at the newsstand. After all, it’s always about them. It's practically their own monthly family album.

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3. Matching disguises … I mean really, would you want the paparazzi following you on your honeymoon?

Photo source
4. Custom cowboy boots. After all I'm from Texas and this gift would serve as a reminder that they've got a friend in Texas.
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5. A year of maid service from Merry Maids. I heard they’re not hiring household staff. What good is becoming a princess if you still have to clean up after your prince?

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6. Cookie of the month club – because, as my sister Bylinda would say, "God knows, that girl needs a cookie!"

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7. A week-long getaway to El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. Not only could they see those famous mystery lights, they could stay in a teepee, a yurt, or a trailer. Any of those would be an experience I bet they’ve never had before.

8. A barbecue pit … I’m willing to bet Wills has never thrown a rack of baby backs on the pit or smoked a brisket to mouth-watering perfection. And with no household help, it’s time he learned.

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9. Matching tattoos … and, frankly, I think they should be wedding ring tattoos, because Wills isn’t going to wear a wedding ring. What’s up with that?
10. A Target gift card – In the USA, it’s the perfect gift for any young couple who will be furnishing their first home. With a Target gift card they could get anything they want … games, appliances, sporting goods, linens, etc. In my humble opinion, it's the perfect gift. I bet nobody gets Wills and Kate a Target gift card.

This post was inspired by the writing prompt "The Royal Wedding…ten gift ideas" and is part of Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writing Workshop.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Naughty Mat

Grams recently spent nine days in San Antonio at the home of Our Little Princess. As I'm sure you'll recall, I was there for the birth of Baby Sister. This gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Our Little Princess.

The Naughty Mat
Now, as her Grams it is my opinion that, like Mary Poppins, she is practically perfect in every way. But, as with any child, from time-to-time her parents must offer a little instruction and discipline. They use a "time out" system and since she's two-years-old, time out lasts two minutes. They use a kitchen timer and a "naughty mat."

The naughty mat sits in the hallway right at the entrance to the kitchen. It actually works amazingly well. I didn't think that a time out would actually work for a 2-year-old but it does, with the possible exception of when Grams is in residence.

One night just as we were sitting down for dinner, Our Little Princess was sent to the naughty mat. Honestly, I don't remember what the infraction was, but I do remember that she was told to stop doing something and didn't stop. After she had been told a couple of times by both of her parents, she was sent to the naughty mat for her two minute time out. Now, usually when she's sent to the naughty mat, she just walks over and sits down, but on this occasion she refused to go on her own so Katy picked her up, carried her the few feet to the mat and plopped her down. As mom turned her back to set the timer, we all heard Our Little Princess say quite firmly "I WANT MY GRAMS!"

Our Little Princess
Mom walked back to the table and sat down while we all tried not to laugh. Katy said "She might as well have said 'Id like to speak to my attorney'." At this point we all gave up trying to hold it in and just busted out laughing.

There was also a second incident which again took place at the dining table. Again, I don't recall the specific infraction, but it quickly escalated into Our Little Princess having a full blown meltdown in her seat at the table. This time her dad asked, "Do you want to go to your naughty mat?" We were all amused when she responded "Yes!" and got up, walked over to her naughty mat, and sat down. As we all sat at the table slightly in shock, it suddenly got very quiet. When we looked over at her she was methodically removing her shoes and socks. After that she just sat there quietly for a couple of minutes. When her mom asked if she was ready to come back to the table, she quietly came back to the table and ate her dinner without further incident.

I must say, it's so much more fun to watch my kids deal with their kids than it was to deal with my own kids.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review -- The Sombody Who by Katie Gates

Grams belongs to a world-wide group of mostly female bloggers known as SITS. There will be a lot more about the SITS girls in a future post. In a nutshell, SITS features a different blogger every day and members go to the featured blog and leave comments. It's all about supporting each other.

On March 15, freelance writer Katie Gates was the featured blogger. Shortly after I visited her blog and left my comment I received an email from Katie, which wasn't really surprising. In case you're a not a blogger and don't know, blog etiquette dictates that bloggers should respond to each comment they receive. Most of the time that's no big deal. If I get two or three comments on any post I consider that a success. But when you're the SITS featured blogger of the day, you will get hundreds of comments ... meaning, you're going to be a busy girl.

Not only did Katie respond to my comment, she visited my blog and looked around. In her response she took note of the fact that I'm am an avid reader. Then she asked if I would be interested in reviewing her book. Honestly, I almost said no. The thought that immediately went through my head was "What if I don't like it?" Then I remembered that the topic was Alzheimer's and dementia, and I was even more hesitant. I didn't share this with Katie, but, like so many others, I have personal experience with Alzheimer's. My husband's grandfather had Alzheimer's and my own mother had dementia the last several months of her life. I really didn't want to revisit either of those experiences.  But, avid reader that I am, I couldn't resist the opportunity to review a book by a writer that I had actually communicated with. So I agreed to review it and Katie sent me a copy. Even though I received the novel at no cost, I did not promise to write a favorable review.

The Somebody Who is Katie's debut novel. I expected that a novel about a family dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia would be sad and depressing ... a real downer. But it was not that at all. It was intriguing, uplifting and enjoyable.

Every day, Evelyn is dealing with her husband Davy's illness in the best way she can. She has learned that what works for Davy is sticking to a schedule and repetition and Davy has caregivers who help maintain that balance. Davy finds comfort in doing the same thing every day which includes a lot of sleeping in front of the television. Usually, Davy is not able to express himself and there are few signs that Davy is still in there. But, on occasion, the old Davy comes through. 

Evelyn seeks to keep herself busy and finds comfort by undertaking a project. The family's story is told through Evelyn's memories as she sorts through pieces of clothing that she will use to create a quilt. Each piece of clothing she chooses has a special sentiment and memory that goes along with it. Readers also learn that Evelyn and Davy's children each deal with their father's illness in their own way.

Evelyn's story evolves further as she begins to open herself up to new companionship outside of her marriage. Their daughter Joy is supportive.
"I completely understand that you are lonely," Joy begins, intently holding eye contact with her mother. "You've had one of the most awesome marriages I - or a lot of people in my generation - have ever witnessed. And in a way, that marriage is over. You're not divorced. Dad isn't dead. But, Dad is definitely absent."
But Evelyn's foray into companionship brings her and her family face-to-face with danger as late in the book a murder-mystery unfolds. I think that mystery adds just the right touch of creepiness to the story to hold the reader's interest.

Katie's writing style is quick and conversational and her characters are well developed. I felt like I really got to know several of the characters, especially Evelyn and Joy. She also does a great job of showing how different family members, and even caregivers, deal with Alzheimer's and dementia.

All the way through the book I was curious about the title and where it might have come from. I won't spoil it for the reader, and some of you may be able to figure it out, but I was really pleased with the way the story wrapped up and brought the title into focus.

I heartily recommend The Somebody Who. It shows that it is possible to deal with these difficult diseases with grace and aplomb and would be an excellent choice for a book club discussion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Catching Up and A Health Update on Grandad

Grams is home several days earlier than originally planned from attending the birth of Baby Sister. Katy had none of the complications she experienced with Our Little Princess. She was up and around and feeling very good and energetic within two days. I cooked, cleaned, and held those beautiful grand-daughters to my heart's content. But I knew it was time to go. I could just sense that the newly expanded family needed some quiet and alone time. The school where Travis works is preparing dinner for them several nights this week, Our Little Princess is in day care until the end of the week, Travis' mother will arrive this weekend, and his step-mother will also pitch in. So I felt comfortable that Katy would be able to handle a few days alone with just herself and Baby Sister. I did make it clear that all she has to do is call and I can be there within three hours.

Yesterday was a very productive day, I made a roast with caramelized onions and mushrooms for dinner. I baked cookies. And, I cleaned my kitchen from top to bottom.

That kitchen cleaning was necessitated by a fruit fly infestation. It seems that while I was gone for nine days to attend the birth of Baby Sister, I left a bag of onions on the counter. One of them sprouted and the fruit flies invaded. Living in an extremely warm and moist climate, fruit flies are just a fact of life. I can usually keep them at bay by only buying enough fresh fruit and vegetables to last for two or three days. But every now and then something gets left on the counter too long and here come the fruit flies. Ridding the house of them includes cleaning every surface in the kitchen and cleaning out the drains and the garbage disposal with baking soda and vinegar. They have a ten-day life cycle, so we have to be extremely careful for the next ten days not to leave any crumbs on the countertop and not to have any food uncovered on the counter or dirty dishes at all sitting out. That part is something of a challenge for Grandad.

Today, Grams is having one of those days where I can't seem to do anything. It's not that I can't accomplish anything, I actually can't seem to do anything. I've just been watching television and checking Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail all day.  There are plenty of leftovers for dinner, so I've decided to blog for a while. That's doing something, right?

I also want to provide an update on Grandad. While I was in San Antonio for our new baby's arrival, he went to Houston for a follow-up visit with his Electro-Physiologist. The last cardiac ablation (in January) does not seem to have improved his atrial fibrillation at all. He is going into a-fib almost every day and feeling bad a great deal of the time. So, he is again wearing a 30-day heart monitor. We expect that, based on the results, he will be scheduled for a more aggressive form of ablation which will involve open-heart surgery. We don't know a lot of the details yet except that this is considered a hybrid procedure which has been pioneered by his doctor. It will involve the same kind of ablation he's already had twice which is done to the interior of the heart and accomplished through catheters and electrodes threaded from his legs up into his heart. While one doctor is doing that, another will perform open-heart ablation on the exterior of his heart. This is done with a scalpel and will create scar tissue on the outside of the heart which will, hopefully, interrupt the abnormal impulses which cause his heart to beat out of rhythm. I will provide more details as we know them. We do know that this procedure will require a 7-10 day hospital stay and then probably another week in Houston before he's released to return to Corpus Christi. We're not sure, but we think this will be scheduled in late June or July.

What else in going on? My two favorite neighbor girls will be graduating from high school in May. Katy, Aunt B, and I are hosting a High Tea in their honor. In addition, I'm working with a group of friends from the church I grew up in (Morgan Avenue Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas) to put together a reunion sometime later this summer. More details on that later.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baby Sister Is Here!

Meet June Frances. I had intended to call her Bubbles on this blog, but Our Little Princess has insisted that her name is Baby Sister ... so Baby Sister it will be.

She is named after two of her great grandmothers. June was Travis' paternal grandmother who passed away last summer. Frances comes from Katy's grandmother, Ruth Frances, who is Grandad's mother. It's a lovely way to honor two strong and remarkable women.

Mommy and Baby Sister
She arrived at 2:15 p.m. on Monday, April 11, 2011. She weighs 7 lbs. 11 oz. Mom and baby are both doing great! They'll be home this afternoon.

Daddy and Our Little Princess looking through the nursery window
Our Little Princess meets Baby Sister
Grams giving Our Little Princess a better look
Daddy looks on as Mommy introduces the new sisters

I'll be staying a couple of weeks to help with the housework and the babies. Life is good!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Funnies

When our daughter Katy got married, her husband Travis already had a daughter from a previous marriage. Grams was delighted with the idea of a ready-made granddaughter. But his daughter lives in the Chicago area so visits are few and far between.

In fact, we first met her just a few days before the wedding. They arrived in Corpus Christi late in the afternoon. We had been busy all day with wedding details and were all tired. There was no dinner cooked, so we decided to visit our neighborhood Whataburger for a quick dinner.

Each of us stepped up to the counter and placed our order. Travis and Mady stepped up to the counter and he asked her whether she wanted a hamburger or chicken strips. She looked up at him with her innocent 7-year-old eyes and said "I'm a vegetarian!"

He didn't miss a beat. He turned to the young lady behind the counter and asked if they had broccoli, asparagus and other vegetables. The cashier looked a little perplexed and didn't respond at all. Mady quickly said "I don't eat that."

So Travis continued, "You said you're a vegetarian. If you don't eat vegetables, what do you eat?"

Undaunted, Mady replied "COOKIES!"

Travis turned to the young cashier and ordered a Justaburger.

A year later, we saw her again. Katy and Travis were busy so Mady and I were spending a day together. We went shopping. We were at Marshalls and there were a few things she wanted to try on. I told her to come out and show them to me, that I would wait by the entrance to the dressing room. The sales clerk who was checking people into the dressing room asked "Are you shopping with your grandmother?" As she held up her hand between us, she replied, "She's not my grandmother. She's nothing to me." I will admit, I felt a little stung by those words. But I told her that it was true I wasn't actually her grandmother and we could just be good friends.
Mady & Grams dancing at her 13th birthday party.
It's been quite a few years since those first awkward meetings. She's grown into quite a lovely and talented young lady and we've grown to love each other. She calls me Grams now just like Our Little Princess. But we still don't see her very often. Chicago is a long way from South Texas.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lessons from a House

Grams never had a particular house that she called home. Home was wherever we were living at the time. You see, my parents never owned their own home. We moved frequently from rent house to rent house and sometimes we lived with my Granny in her little country house. A couple of years ago, my sister Bylinda and I counted that over the years we had lived in at least fifteen different rent houses. There were lessons in all the houses that my parents rented.

Granny's house - Bryans Mill, Texas
I loved Granny's house. It was small and cozy and built in the shotgun style of the South. There were no hallways, one bedroom connected to the next bedroom, and there was no privacy, but I was young and I didn't know what privacy was. The ceilings were so low that Grandad, who is 6'5" tall, could not stand up straight inside without bumping his head on a light bulb. It was in Granny's house that I learned about family and love. Life in Granny's house taught me about the wonders of a country childhood. We played outside from dawn to dusk and ran wild through the pine trees. We picked berries and had tea parties with Granny. We slid down the hill into the creek on the seat of our pants. On rainy days we played inside and cut pictures out of magazines and catalogs. We walked to church on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night. We laid in the grass and watched the clouds go by. At night we could actually see the stars that make up the Milky Way.

One of the other houses that I loved was a grand old two-story house in Texarkana. We didn't live there very long and I don't remember much about it except that it was one of the few times that my sister Jan and I shared a room without the two older girls. Our room had obviously been a nursery in the past. It had fairy-tale themed wallpaper that I adored and a huge old claw-foot bathtub. I must have been about seven years old during the short time we lived there. This house had a banister that I loved to slide down. It was here that I began to understand that my brother Jimmy had very real limitations. One day, as I slid down the banister, I collided with him at the bottom. I shouted something like "what's the matter with you, are you blind or something?" For those readers who don't know, he is ... blind. Yep, it was the pinnacle of thoughtlessness. And I got in so much trouble, I got a switchin'! And, yep, I deserved it. There really is no defense for such unkind behavior, but I will say that to me, he was just my brother. I didn't yet understand the difficulties he faced. I just treated him like the rest of my siblings.

In all of these houses we were taught responsibility and we had to do chores. We girls learned to wash, dry, and put away the dishes as well as to sweep, mop, and dust. The boys learned to keep the yard. We were children of the 1950s and 1960s. Women were not yet liberated and bras had not been burned. Mom stayed home and had dinner on the table when dad came home from work. Girls did girl's chores and boys did boy's chores. Most girls of my generation and income level didn't dream of college or careers, we dreamed of having children and homes of our own.

Most of the houses we lived in had three bedrooms. The four girls shared one, the two boys had one, and, of course, Mom and Dad shared one. I learned a lot from those shared spaces ... important stuff like last one out of bed has to make the bed and don't leave your private stuff where your sisters can see it. It also taught me of shared confidences and respect for other people's property.

Another thing these houses all had in common was that almost all of them had only one bathroom for eight people. That taught me to be alert and not lose my place in line. It also taught me not to dawdle when I was taking care of business, because someone else was always waiting. Baths and showers had to be short because there was only one bathroom and only one hot water heater. The last one in the bathtub was fairly certain to get a cold bath.

The summer between my seventh and eighth grade year, my dad lost his job. We moved into a tiny one bedroom garage apartment in central Corpus Christi. By this time, Jimmy and Kay were living at the State School for the Blind, so there were only six of us in that apartment. Mom and dad slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room and the four kids shared the bedroom. We were there for almost a year while dad worked for a local tire company at what I'm sure was minimum wage. I hated living there, partly because I had to share a bed with my brother Charlie. I was appalled and humiliated. Didn't my parents know that brothers and sisters shouldn't sleep in the same bed? What I realize now is that I was lucky to have a bed and a roof over my head and that my parents did the best they could. The lessons in this tiny apartment were many. I learned tolerance and to crave solitude and quiet. I remember that outside the bedroom window was a huge tree that was covered with morning glory vines. I adored waking up to the view of beautiful blue morning glories every morning. I learned that you can find beauty anywhere, you just have to look for it.

From there we moved into a lovely three bedroom home on Corpus Christi's south side. It had beautiful hardwood floors and plantation shutters on the windows. It was bright and sunny and spacious. In this house I learned how to disassemble, clean, and re-assemble a crystal chandelier. That was one of my regular chores. Once a month I meticulously removed one crystal at a time, washed it, dried it and put it back in it's place. I didn't mind that chore at all. It was beautiful and it taught me the value and enjoyment of doing precise and detailed work.

These houses taught me how to say goodbye. When we moved from Texarkana to Corpus Christi I was just a few weeks shy of 10 years old. I'm fairly certain I cried all the way. Unfortunately, the constant relocating also taught me not to make lasting friendships. I don't have a single friend that I've known my entire life. The ability to maintain long-term friendships is something I had to learn as an adult. It didn't come naturally for me. I honestly didn't know how to maintain a friendship and stay in touch. But I've learned its importance and I've built the skills. I know that I have to put forth the effort and I do it when I find someone who is worth the effort.

Interestingly, the transient lifestyle of my parents also taught me that I wanted to put down roots. I knew that I wanted my kids to have a home and a sense of belonging and stability. My kids definitely have a place they call home. We moved into our current home in the summer of 1984. Katy was five and Nick was three when we built this house.

We chose this neighborhood because of it's schools and sense of community. I knew we had made a great choice when I took Katy to her first day of first grade. Her first grade teacher was Mrs. Bode who had been teaching at that school for many years. That morning, as I met other parents who had kids in the same class, I discovered that several of those parents had also had Mrs. Bode for first grade. That was exactly the kind of continuity I was looking for for my kids.

Both of my kids went to the same schools their entire school careers. Both of them graduated with the same kids they started kindergarten with. They have friends whom they've known since nursery school. They grew up in a neighborhood where they know the neighbors and the neighbors know them. They couldn't do anything that I didn't hear about. They have a sense of neighborhood, continuity, and the accountability that goes with it.

I'm proud that we were able to provide a stable home for them. But, you know what? Since Grandad has been sick and not able to help much with keeping up the house and yard, they've both encouraged us to move. They've both told me that home is wherever we are.

So I guess they've learned early what it took me longer to get ... a house is not a home ... home is where the heart is.

Mama’s Losin’ It

This post was inspired by the writing prompt "The House That Built Me" from Mama Kat's Writers Workshop.