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Just Another Mandatory Nap Day


When our kids were young, we traveled long distances to visit relatives. We quickly learned that if one of us had to stop to go to the bathroom, we better make sure everyone else took a turn. Otherwise, five miles down the road we’d hear another little voice wailing, “I have to go to the bathroom!” So began our mandatory bathroom stops. One for all and all for the bathroom.

This past weekend, our grandchildren came to visit. On Saturday, after spending a night getting up to tend sleepless children, I was bleary-eyed. After lunch I said, “Time for naps.” Our three-year old granddaughter looked at me and asked, “Is it mandatory nap day?” Mandatory nap day? What a great idea. I crouched down to look her in the eye and said, “It most definitely is mandatory nap day. Today, everyone gets to nap.”

Our daughter and son-in-law have a mandatory nap day each weekend. It has become a family tradition and now I was going to reap the benefits of this practice with a nice long nap.

But, before we settled under the covers, we had one important stop. The mandatory bathroom stop.



Keys, Paper Clips and Rubber Bands

My dad passed away last March. His home just sold and the closing is coming up soon. For almost one year, his home remained untouched while it was for sale. His wife, unable to go through all of his ‘stuff’, put a for sale sign on the front lawn and left the state.

Now, we (the children) have three weeks to go through a lifetime of our parents belongings. The majority of items in the home belonged to dad and mom. Walking into dad’s home is like returning to 1993, the year mom died. The same couches, chairs, end tables, pictures, knick knacks, serving dishes, plates, tea set and family memories.

In addition to memories, Dad left a legacy of artifacts from his world travel. He has pictures from meetings with Fidel Castro and Anwar Sadat. He has souvenirs from the USSR and China where he traveled long before diplomatic channels were open to those countries.

The remains of his hard work are stored in rows of boxes. Boxes of carousels with picture slides from countries all over the world. Boxes of speeches that are memorable and inspiring. Boxes of keys, paper clips and rubber bands.

Every night, when dad came home from the office, he would empty his pockets. Invariably, his pockets held coins, keys, rubber bands and paper clips. The coins and keys were understandable. The rubber bands and paper clips? Not so much.

One night I questioned dad on the contents of his pockets, trying to sweep away the trash from the treasure. He told me not to touch anything because those two paper clips were his lucky paper clips. Huh? How do you get lucky paper clips? I was never enlightened.

As I wade through dad’s belongings I am finding small containers filled with paper clips. These stashes are making me pause. Where did his lucky paper clips go? Why are there five paper clips in one box and fourteen in another? What about the Poppycock can full of coins, paper clips and rubber bands? What is the significance of all these paper clips in drawers, baskets and boxes?

What is important? I can’t tell right now so I am sorting and stashing and driving my husband nuts. Our storage room is bursting at the seams.

It took me ten years to let go of my mother’s trash. This time, I hope I can figure out what is important and recycle what is not quickly. Either that or you will soon see me on an upcoming show of hoarders.

I Got This

Family, those we are related to and those we acquire through marriage, have a place in our lives. Sometimes their presence enriches us and sometimes it doesn’t. But if we stick together, we build a rich shared history.

I was talking with a friend who has a father-in-law who is…managing. What makes this trait unbearable is its impact on her two lovely children. It seems, let’s call him George, has forgotten that he is the grandfather not the father.

George needs a little lesson in boundaries.

Why? At meal times, George likes to tell his grandchildren how to sit, what to eat, how much to eat, when they may be excused and any other rule he can think of at the moment. During play, George likes to direct behaviors from an easy chair by pointing and bossing.

My friend has had it and is ready to confront George. While she definitely has a right to stop this ridiculous behavior, George is not going to change unless he has a full fledged intervention.

The intervention of choice for this situation is “I got this.” Here is how “I got this” works. It really is simply genius.

George (at the dining room table): “You need to sit down.”
My friend to George: “I got this.” Then to the kids: “Kids, at our home it is okay to kneel on your chair to reach for your cup.”

George (at the dining room table): “You need to say excuse me.”
My friend:I got this.” Then to the kids: “It is nice to say excuse me when you burp.”

George (in easy chair directing 4 year old how to read): “Point to each word on the page!
My friend:I got this.” Then to her son “You are doing such a wonderful job reading the story. Keep going.”

Now George is a crusty old sort of guy who will need many, many examples of “I got this” plus more. No, I am not talking about a slap aside the head. At times, my friend will have to add additional words to the “I got this” campaign such as:

  • I got this. You get to be the grandparent and I get to be the parent. How nice.” or
  • I got this. You just enjoy the children, I will take care of the discipline.” or
  • I got this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts but there was no need. I saw what they did and I will talk to the kids when I am alone with them later.”

When we focus on changing our own behavior, we may foster change in someone else’s. And maybe not. Either way, my friend’s voice will be heard instead of sitting helplessly while her children are being bossed by a man who has forgotten that he is in his golden years and should be enjoying his days not directing everyone else’s.

Goldilocks in Winter

It’s not quite winter but nights are getting colder and falling asleep is more difficult because the sheets are icy when I first get into bed. I have tried an electric blanket and electric mattress pad but they were too hot. I have tried different nightwear but these were too cold. I have been searching for the ‘just right’ solution and finally found one…a bed warmer. No, I am not talking about my husband. He’s cold too. I am talking about an actual bed warmer.

I got the idea from something my dad said long ago. He slept on the unheated second floor of an old farm house. Heat from the wood burning stove on the main level was supposed to rise up through the second level floor grates (which he liked to remove and jump through). Well, at least that was the premise. Dad said he froze his tush off. Dad fondly recalled his mom heating bricks and placing them under his covers before he went to bed. The warmth from those bricks made bedtime possible.

Flash forward 70 years. While we have heated homes and our discomfort is not comparable, I am freezing my tush off when I first get into bed. I thought about heating bricks and then remembered we are in the 21st century, surely we can update the brick solution. I came across a website with instructions for making a ‘new age’ bed warmer. This I had to try.

The first thing I needed to do was purchase a 50 pound bag of feed corn. Yes, both statements are correct. 50 pounds. Feed corn. This past Saturday I asked my husband to go with me to the local Farm and Fleet. I am strong, but if I don’t have to lift a 50 pound bag on my own, I don’t. Our conversation went like this…

Me: “Will you run some errands with me this morning?”
Husband: “Where are you going?”
Me: “Farm and Fleet”
Husband: “Why are you going there?”
Me: “I need to buy some feed corn…”
Husband: “What?!?”
Me: “for the bed warmers.”
Husband: “Come again?”
Me: “I need the corn for the bed warmers I am making so we won’t be cold at night.”
Husband: “That doesn’t…”
Me interrupting: “You can’t stop me. You can’t change my mind. So are you coming or not?”

Now that is the benefit of being married 31 years. He had only two choices, to come with me or stay home. He is the love of my life and he stopped questioning me and actually drove the car. I didn’t tell him we had to purchase a 50 pound bag until we were beyond the point of no return in our journey. I am happy to say I was able to quickly distract him with other topics.

It turns out the most difficult part of this project was purchasing the feed corn. The rest was easy. I found directions for making my bed warmer at make-it-do.com. I used scrap fabric from my pile at home and the actual sewing took about 15 minutes.

Last night we tried it out. It was wonderful. We were warm and snuggly with the side benefit of our bedroom smelling like popcorn. Evidently I have enough feed corn to make 17 to 25 bed warmers. Guess what everyone on my list is getting this Christmas.

I am the 99% and I am Getting Really Creative

A funny thing happened on the way to our reduced family income, our creativity is blossoming. My husband and I experienced pay cuts this fall. We both work for organizations that not only froze salaries, they reduced them. I am not complaining, I am explaining. I am honored to be part of the middle class. We are hard workers. We are resilient. We are resourceful. We have less money. So what to do?

Change. Now our monthly dollars are used to purchase food, shelter and insurance. Beyond those items, we set aside money for savings and a minimal amount for necessities. That is it. No more eating out. No more Starbucks. No more Black Friday. No more land line. No more wants, just what we absolutely need. Budgeting is taking on a whole new meaning for me.

So with Christmas around the corner, I am facing my first big challenge. How to preserve our gift giving traditions without spending much money. We are letting creativity be our guide.

This weekend I continued to cut up an old sweater as I made sweater jar candle holders.

To make my sweater jar candle holders:

  • I found jelly jars that have resided in my pantry for years.
  • I cut a rectangular shaped section of sweater slightly larger than the height and circumference of my jar.
  • I  sewed a straight seam down the side so that the ‘sweater’ fit snugly on the jar.
  • To finish the top and bottom I folded the edges under and hem stitched or attached a strip of fleece, which I had on hand.
  • I cut flowers and hearts from felt from my felt drawer and hand sewed them on with buttons from my button box.

The cost for my project, nothing but time. And my sweater? I returned the unused portions to my sewing basket. I am beginning to think this sweater regenerates because no matter how much I cut I still have more!

If you want to see what else I have made from this sweater, check out Old Sweater, New Life