Monday, July 18, 2011

Not Your Typical Grandmother

July 16, 2011, marked the seventh anniversary of the passing of my grandmother, Lucille Kosharek. In some ways I can't believe that so many years have gone by. She died when my seven-year-old daughter, Emma, was only about five weeks old. In other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago that she was actually with us.

My Grandma was born in 1918 and was one of the toughest ladies I've ever known. She played in a women's baseball league like the ones depicted in the movie "A League of Their Own." She had four children and eight grandchildren and she loved them all fiercely.

She lived with my family from the time I was about seven years old and she was like a parent to me. On one hand, that meant she didn't spoil my brother and I like most grandparents have a way of doing. Although come to think of it she really didn't spoil the grandchildren that didn't live with her, either. But on the other hand, living together made us very close.

You never really wondered what Grandma thought about something or how she felt about it. She didn't leave much to the imagination - she told you what was on her mind. Some people were afraid of her or didn't like her. But she didn't tolerate nonsense - she saw right through it. And she didn't miss a thing. She was a hard-working woman and the kind of person who would stay with a neighbor who was recovering from surgery. But she also had a teasing side, a sense of humor, and loved to laugh.

Although she had a very abrasive manner, her motivation was love. And she could surprise you. I remember being about ten years old or so when she would walk us to the bus stop for school. There was one day when I was finally going back to school after missing a few days from being sick. I was feeling better, but dreading going back to school. I just felt like I couldn't face it yet, with all its social challenges. However, I knew Grandma wouldn't understand that. So I dutifully got on the bus, but then I couldn't do it. I couldn't sit down. I turned around, walked off the bus, and ran to Grandma, fully expecting to be yelled at and told to get right back on that bus. Instead she held me and let me cry for the entire walk back home. I guess she recognized that it wasn't nonsense.

For better or worse, she had a part in shaping me and influencing my life. As with any relationship, it wasn't perfect. And it certainly wasn't the typical grandparent-grandchild relationship. But I knew she always had my best interests at heart, whether or not her methods were the best. Unconditionally, I loved her and I miss her. And if she could have read this post, she probably would have complained that I wrote something about her, but laughed heartily with a bit of embarrassment flushing her cheeks. She was definitely one of a kind.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Croc Envy

I have two pairs of Crocs and they are not the same size. The reason they are different sizes is not nearly as amusing of a story as the explanation of their current roles in my wardrobe or even my family's awareness of this. But I shall share the reason anyway, as over-explaining things is how I roll.

You know the phenomenon of women's feet growing while they're pregnant? Well I'm here to tell you it really does happen. After my first two pregnancies were over, though, my feet magically shrank back to their original size. But not the third one. My feet did not go back to the size eight they had been for probably 20 years. They are now . . . eight and one-half.

As you may know, Crocs does not believe in half-sizes. They just refuse to admit that people may exist that have feet which are incapable of squeezing into an eight while at the same time swimming in a nine. They have a right to their beliefs. I in turn have a right to not buy their shoes, however I was overpowered by my need for ugly but comfortable footwear.

I decided that too big would be a better idea than too small, so for my first pair of Crocs, I purchased a size nine in a lovely brown color. It eventually became overwhelmingly clear that bigger is not always better, and here is where I will illustrate my point.

I was wearing my size nine Crocs while driving one day and I was backing into a parking spot. An essential detail about this parking spot is that it was situated right in front of a small tree. When you are wearing size nine Crocs on your size eight-and-one-half feet, you would be surprised how the extra bit of shoe past your toes can catch the bottom of the accelerator without you knowing it. Yep, up the curb and into the tree we went. Minimal damage to the vehicle (and the tree), thankfully, although I definitely scared the you-know-what out of the kids.

So I now also have a pair of size eight Crocs in an exquisite black color. Instead of getting rid of the size nines, I just don't wear them for driving. Which brings me to the other humorous facet to this tale.
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The other day before we left the house, I absentmindedly put on my size-nine-and-not-safe-for-driving Crocs, but I was not about to get away with that little error. A certain three-year-old who shall remain nameless said, "Um, Mommy? Are those your driving Crocs?" So I was able to change into the other ones and avert disaster. Ironically, she is also the child who didn't give back my size eight feet once she was born.

So I guess the moral of this story is that having children is really mutually beneficial. You take care of them until they're 18, and they will make your feet grow and then remind you to wear the proper shoes while operating motor vehicles - you know, in case you forget.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Manic Act of Kindness

I had just dropped the kids off in front of the school one day last week, when I noticed something amiss with the car in front of me. As I rounded the brick-paved driveway, I noticed a lunchbox perched in the back window.

I have been the victim of a forgotten lunchbox a time or two myself, so I felt compelled to somehow let this other mom know. If I could just save one mom from having to drive all the way back to the school, or from the tremendous guilt of her child having to eat a dreaded "emergency lunch" (if she never even realized the lunchbox was forgotten), then it would be worth it. (Note: While I, personally, am very grateful the "emergency lunch" system exists so that my children do not starve, they are not as appreciative because they are not fans of the type of food that is offered).

As I followed this unsuspecting fellow mom out of the school, my heart was racing and my stomach was churning as I desperately tried to hatch a plan. Naturally my first plan was to do nothing. Because I had a pretty good hunch I would just be making a fool out of myself, anyway. Ah, but then enter the guilt trip, stage left. Wouldn't I appreciate it immensely if someone would stick their neck out for me in this manner? Wouldn't I be grateful for time and gas money and hassle and frustration SAVED? Yes, I would.

But there was really nothing I could think of to do, unless . . . unless the stoplight at the end of the road was red. Then I could put my good deed into motion, dash out of my driver's seat and with wicked speed, knock on this ill-fated mom's window (not too loudly, so as not to ruin her day in other ways). I could reveal to her the location of her child's lunchbox and save the day! Oh, my heart was pounding wildly now.

As we turned the corner on the road, I saw that the light was indeed red! But as we pulled up to stop, it tauntingly turned an annoying shade of green; the kind you only see when you want the light to be red so you reach something on the floor of the car or floss your teeth. Foiled!

Okay, now I really just needed to give up. I mean, how far am I expected to go when paying it forward or performing a random act of kindness? This was getting way too difficult. But some Jiminy-Cricket-like presence was on my shoulder, nagging me to go in hot pursuit of this vehicle.

So I got in the other lane and positioned myself next to her. I looked over. She looked like her day was not off to a good start already. Elbow up on the top of the door, head leaning on hand, mind most likely a million miles away. Boy, was I doing her a favor. I was going to change her life. So I honked the horn. She didn't look. I honked again. Nothing. One more time, more persistently. She finally looked, startled and giving that confused smile and wave you give when you think someone you know is trying to say hello, rather than a stranger is trying to save your life.

I had my window rolled down, and tried to holler over the noise. But I also pointed to the back of her car for a visual aid. "There's a lunchbox back there!" I yelled triumphantly. This was it. I was going to see a relieved look of gratitude on her face and with one glance, she was going to communicate to me that I had changed the course of her life that day and my reward would be in heaven. Only I didn't get the look. She said, "Oh!" She was smiling when she said it, but it was just, "Oh!" I smiled obligingly, and rolled my window back up. And went on my merry way. Without my good feeling.

I passed her and continued to watch her in my rear view mirror. It didn't appear that she had any intentions of making a u-turn. Nope. Just driving straight ahead on the same path. Not going back. Didn't seem bothered by the lunchbox at all. Well. And I had done everything but run her off the road and make a citizen's arrest.

It took me a good few minutes to be able to say this, but I don't have any regrets, and if I had it to do all over again, I'd do the exact same thing. Because if I had not done it, I would be feeling like I had let humanity down, and not cared, and not tried to help. I have no idea who she is. I pray she doesn't know who I am, either. But how was I to know the lunchbox was not needed? Maybe her child was having lunch at school that day. But it seemed logical to me that the lunchbox was just forgotten. And maybe it was, but she has a different way of thinking than me. Maybe her child LIKES "emergency lunches" . . . Or here's a thought: maybe she didn't even understand what I was trying to tell her.

But it is worth it to go out of your way. I don't feel satisfied that I helped her out in any way, but I wouldn't want to have gone on wondering if I could have helped, but didn't. From now on, I plan to avert my eyes from other vehicle's back windows when leaving the school. On the other hand, maybe I just need to be more prepared. I could make a sign that says, "Does your child need that lunchbox today?" and just hold it up as I drive by.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hitch Your Wagon to a Star

It seemed like a good time to get some exercise one day last week, as I do on occasion while Hannah and Emma are in gymnastics class, so I headed out to the van with Olivia. It was not, however, according to my plan to find that packed in there instead of the stroller was the wagon, still there from trick-or-treating in our friends' neighborhood two days earlier.

Determined to burn some calories anyway, I decided to just go ahead and use the wagon. My arms and back were not thanking me the next day, but the hilarity of Olivia's Wagon Ride Adventure far outweighs the agony.

We thought it would be marvelous for her to have more room to play in the wagon. We even brought along her "Cinderellas," as we call them - eight little character figurines she likes to play with. Since I didn't have a handy little tray with cup holders like I do on the stroller, I had to stash my keys, cell phone, and water bottle in there with her, too. There are two seats in the wagon, so she sat in one, and I folded the other one down to make a table for her to play on. Oh, and I also set my tall stainless steel water bottle on that "table" too.

It turns out that going fast with a wagon makes for a pretty rough ride. I guess we usually only use the wagon on slow occasions. For the first several minutes, all Olivia could do was lean over with her arms encompassing all of her Cinderellas and my water bottle. She was yelling, "Can you slow down?!" and "I should have remembered the stroller!" and I was laughing uncontrollably. She was in such an adorable crisis mode, little drama princess that she is. Naturally I really didn't want to slow down and lose any cardio benefits I was getting. But it WAS pretty loud.

After a few minutes, I stopped and put my water bottle on the floor of the wagon. She was terribly concerned that it was going to get dirty, but I assured her not to worry about it. And then we started up again.

It's a lovely, shady sidewalk to be on - there's even a pond on our route. I looked back at her to check on her after a few minutes and caught her waving to a passing vehicle, like she was the main attraction of a parade float. Of course the next time I turned around, she was hugging her bare arms like a cold, neglected child. Mind you, the temperature was an icy 79 degrees at that point.

We finally got back to the van. "I couldn't even talk!" Olivia declared. I began unpacking the wagon and she asked me to unbuckle her. I hadn't buckled her in, so I asked why she did it herself. "Was Mommy driving too crazy?" I asked with amusement. She narrowed her gaze and with a somber face declared, "I didn't want to fall in the lake!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back To Life, Back to Reality

It's back to life as usual this week, in all its grocery-shopping and meal-making glory!

We had a lovely little staycation last week, if I do say so myself. My dear husband took last week off from work so that I and my bruised butt could be rescued from painful tasks such as driving the carpool and wrangling a three-year-old. But if you think being on the injured reserve list exempts you from further incident (even whilst recuperating), allow me to enlighten you.

You may, perhaps, be standing at the bottom of the stairs in your home, pausing only to look adoringly at one of your children while she plays nicely by herself. You may even pat her head lovingly before you turn to go up said stairs and see objects flying at you.

This will probably be because you have decided to decorate the landing on the stairs with a small round tablecloth-covered table, which greatly interests your new rapidly-growing kitten (do not be fooled by his cute and innocent appearance in the picture). And when he takes off from underneath the table, the tablecloth will come with him, thereby sending the table (and the flowers on top of it) hurtling down the stairs toward your shin.

Another thing you are not exempt from is temper tantrums and the fallout thereof. For example, you may be caught in the crossfire if your six-year-old should happen to have a meltdown because her older sister tattled on her for using too much product in her hair one morning (not that there is any resulting parental punishment, mind you).

Then when she unequivocally refuses to go to school that day, but changes her mind after her father leaves with her siblings for school, I ask you, who will have to take her to school? The fact that you have not been driving a vehicle because you injured your delicate sitting device will not bail you out of this one.

And, as if that cat has not caused enough trouble, he may also get the hankering to take off like a speeding bullet but instead plow right into your OTHER shin, nothing but cat skull against shinbone, making a sickeningly loud cracking sound. This will give you matching shin bruises.

Despite all this, it was nice to live life at a slowed-down pace and even garner some time to myself while everyone else was at gymnastics. Alone. At home. Just me. A very strange concept, indeed.

In closing, I would like to attempt to revamp the definition of the word torture as follows:

torture [tawr-cher] - noun: pain or suffering caused by someone who has temporarily lost the ability to bend over having to helplessly witness an increasing volume of items on the floor, which do not belong on the floor, but simultaneously living in a house with four other people, who couldn't care less if there are things on the floor that do not belong on the floor.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tale of a Bruised Tail

Top 3 Things to Do BEFORE Arriving at an E/R Due to Falling on Butt at Roller Skating Rink:

1. Guzzle as much water as you possibly can, camel-style, because once you get there, the dangerous liquid will be taboo, just in case you have done so much damage to your tailbone that you have to be prepped for surgery and rushed to the OR (and while you're at it, completely ignore that reason because it will FREAK YOU OUT).

2. Hit a Taco Bell drive-through. I know this will seem ludicrous at the time, since you are in pain and very concerned about your lack of ability to stand/walk/sit. But, trust me, the fact that you ate dinner very early in order to get your kids to their skating party on time will come back to haunt you and your empty stomach, at the very latest by 2:00 AM, while you are still waiting for x-ray results. And since you are already in pain, why do you need your stomach growling, too? But since water is forbidden, don't even THINK about getting food in the E/R.

3. B.Y.O.I.P. Bring Your Own Ice Pack. Because while you'd think with all the smart nurses and doctors running around, SOMEONE would have the brilliant idea to supply with you an ice pack for your sore bottom, this will not happen.

And as a bonus (I'm not going to count this as a number since it IS a tad silly as far as solutions go), bring an air mattress. Because the fact that you cannot sit down leaves you in a quandary in the waiting room. And the same reasons for which you are not allowed to drink water (think: possible damage to tailbone requiring surgery) do not apply to sitting on said possibly-damaged tailbone. So in review: Water, no way. Sitting on injury, absolutely.

Now you may be asking yourself why I don't just recommend staying away from a roller skating rink at all costs. Or at least keeping the shoes with wheels off of your feet. But there are two reasons why. First of all, I was trying to have fun with my kids and play along with them. This is usually very much encouraged by family experts. And secondly, I have never had a problem roller skating. But accidents happen to everyone. And believe me when I tell you that it felt like someone pulled the skating rink out from under me. I had no warning, and I still could not tell you why it happened.

So I'm just going to chalk it up to one of those things in life that was not reasonably avoidable. And be very thankful that I didn't fracture anything. And be very chummy with my Percocet and my donut pillow (lesser known by the name "coccyx cushion" - hmm, wonder why that name didn't catch on). And I probably won't roller skate anymore. My Mom thinks that once this is just a happy memory, I may be willing to get back on the horse (or at least the roller skates). But I think in the future I will find other ways to have fun and "play along." You know, WATCHING is highly underrated. The kids LOVE to be watched. And almost nobody falls while watching.

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Empty Space

The world is missing a mother this week. A mother of five whose twin daughters are in my daughter's fourth grade class. I didn't know her very well, but my heart is broken for her husband and children. Our paths did cross a few times. Nothing exciting. I just want to honor her memory.

Her girls were in Hannah's Girl Scout troop for a few months. I have a memory of one meeting when she was playfully daring me to volunteer for something. I remember feeling a rapport with her at that moment that made me think we may become friends. Sadly, that never happened.

During the time her girls were in the troop, she headed up the fall fundraiser. At the meeting on the night before the money had to be sent in, she told me one of our checks needed to be made out differently. I hadn't brought my checkbook, so I had to drive out to her house the next morning. I have to be honest and say that I was a little perturbed that she didn't call me prior to the meeting so I could have brought my checkbook with me that night. But now I have the memory of a little wooden bench outside her front door with her twins' names lovingly carved in it.

Then there was the time that Hannah came home from school with a uniform shirt that had their last name written on the tag. I contacted her about it, thinking Hannah must have gotten hers mixed up with one of the twins'. Her response was so laid back! She didn't think it was theirs and if it was, they wouldn't miss it, anyway, so go ahead and keep it. Oh, and she didn't even think they had Hannah's shirt, either.

The last time I saw her was right before school started, at the classroom visitation on August 20th - almost exactly one month before she died. We were joking about our children and she told me how she loved to quote Bill Cosby when he said, "The reason why we have five children is because we do not want six."

She was full of humor and ease. And she has left an empty space on this earth. May God comfort her loved ones now as only He can.