For someone who always has so much to say, I surprise even myself when I have writer’s block.   One page a week should be easy enough to write.   Last week the writer’s block was so debilitating that I simply gave up.  This week I asked my daughters for a topic to write about and I was pretty surprised at the response.

Boyfriends are a pretty constant theme in this house of late, as in our girls don’t date.  Most parents would be absolutely thrilled that a 17-year old and a 19-year old had better things to do with their time than chase boys.  Unfortunately for my daughters, I do not fall in that category.

One daughter skypes from college on a regular basis to tell me about her studies and about her travels.  I start and finish each cyber-visit with “Do you have a boyfriend?”    She came home for the summer and as soon as she started working, I asked, “Any chance of meeting a boy at work?”  The other daughter is spending her summer writing a children’s book in Chinese and studying brain scans.   After each day’s review of her academic pursuits, I always ask, “So, any boyfriends?”.

First of all, the window of opportunity for embarrassing a suitor is closing quickly.

By the time a child gets to college it is probably not a good idea to purposely do anything to embarrass your daughter’s boyfriend.   Brian and I started dating at the beginning of sophomore year and I would have been crushed if my parents had tried to humiliate me.  There is only one more year before the second one heads for college so I am a tad panicked.

Will I never get the opportunity to ground a daughter for the rest of her life for sneaking out to meet a boy?  Do they realize that it is very hard to have late night chocolate chip cookie sessions after a breakup if there is no startup? What about commiserating with one of the girls about how much we don’t like her sister’s taste in boys?  What about their poor father?  Do the girls think he grew to 6’5” for any other reason than to intimidate their dates?

In fact, the more I think about their selfish ways the more I realize how many people are being affected.   Our sons are in their prime for idiotic behavior and their talents are being wasted.   A boyfriend or two would provide my sons with a brand new audience to entertain.  How selfish can two sisters be?

At the end of the day it really is OK that the girls aren’t dating but it is sure fun to give them a hard time.  They are good sports about it and they know my one wish is for each of them to meet a man who makes her heart sing.  That, and a few grandchildren.


The best part of gardening, for me, is the element of surprise. I only started
gardening a few years ago and despite the time I put into it, I am still a novice.
One can check acid levels in the soil and study the movement of the sun but I would rather take my chances to admire what nature does all by herself. The science behind how a flower grows is easy enough to understand, but the brilliance of the colors and the variations in shape remains a blissful mystery.

One year I planted sunflower seeds and the sunflowers grew to about nine feet
tall. This year there are orchids growing all over the place, despite the fact that
orchid season is supposed to end in late May. Since I can’t remember what I
did last week, I certainly don’t remember where I planted bulbs last fall and this
element of surprise brings me pure joy. The hydrangeas change color every
year, dependent on how the soil survived the winter. This year they are bright
pink and pale blue.

Four years ago, a beloved religious education class gave me an apple tree.
The tree is thriving and it is certain to bear fruit next year as they graduate high
school and grow anew at college. Danielle could not be home for Mother’s Day
this year, so she asked her father to buy me a rose bush from her. What she
didn’t know was that we planted a rose bush in her honor when she was born.
Whenever I drive by our first house in NJ, I make sure that it is still there.

Gardening serves many purposes, not the least of which is solitude. I
don’t bring a phone outside and I don’t listen to music. It is just my tools, my
wellington boots and I. It is the only time I welcome dirty hands. The bugs and
I have negotiated an agreement whereas I will leave them alone if they do the
same for me. The bees don’t always read the annual memo, but we are working
on it.

Patience is something that I do not own in buckets, yet I am always patient with
my flowers. Planting a butterfly bush one year and seeing it grow three feet
the next never becomes boring. Then, of course, there are the questionable
flowers, the ones that bloom but are considered weeds. A little girl once told
me that just because we humans have decided something is a weed doesn’t
make it so. Her expression was so earnest, as if she knew how fallible we are
compared to nature. My rule is that a flowering weed with a soft leaf gets to stay.

My grandmother told us for years and years that when she died, she wanted a
blanket of daisies on her casket. This was a woman who started out with the
simplest of roots and grew to have life experiences that one could only dream
about. She could have asked for roses or lilies or some exotic flower but she
identified the most with the daisy, humble and elegant at the same time. Nanny
got her daisies this past February. This year was too soon, but they will
certainly make a debut in my garden next year.

The Idylls of Summer….

Late last week I held a pity party.   We were two weeks into summer vacation and I was more exhausted than during the school year.  This did not seem possible.  It is unfortunate for my family that they all misplaced the invitations to the pity party and decided not to show up.  This led to a hissy fit of which I am extremely proud.  I announced that it was my summer, too, and I was going to enjoy it!

Now, there are certainly no expectations of summer days spent lazily at the beach with not a care in the world.  This summer idyll only exists if you have full-time staff.  All I wanted was a few hours a week when I could work on my tan and get caught up on some reading.  Here’s how I am tackling my goal:

–  The first Peapod delivery from Stop&Shop arrives tonight between 6:59 pm and 8:59 pm.  I purposely planned the delivery for when I would be at a baseball game so that someone else can unpack the groceries.

–   Full laundry service will resume in September, but until then I will launder clothes for only four of us, as my husband wears a suit every day and the boys don’t seem to be changing their clothes too often lately. The girls are on their own.

– Everyone, though, is responsible for getting their laundry to the laundry room.   Anyone who allows mold to build up on the their bedroom floor from wet bathing suits and towels will be expected to pay for the removal of aforementioned mold.

– There are now two teenage drivers in the house and I will not help with car negotiations.  They have the old car that they now must share.  On days they can’t work it out, we are only a mile’s walk from the train.

– Dinner will be on my terms.  The new kitchen was designed for me. Cooking by others must occur when I am not standing in front of the stove.  People who don’t like what I serve are free to have a peanut butter sandwich.  Add a piece of cheese and an apple and all of the food groups are covered. Just ask Dr. Oz.

– I work very hard at staying focused on all of you in the late afternoon and evenings.   So, when I am in front of the computer or on the phone during the day, DO NOT TALK TO ME.  The only exception is if you can’t stop the blood yourself.

– Finally, please stop grumbling about how I treat the youngest. Instead, you should be taking notes.  He is always nice to me and pays me compliments on a regular basis.  Flattery will get you everywhere.

Just writing all of this down has made me feel more relaxed.  As the summer progresses I will let you know how this plan is going.   Please send me a note if you have other suggestions that work for you.   I’m sure my family will thank you!

It Really Does Feel Like a Sandwich….

Despite the fact that all of my siblings and cousins are now in their thirties and forties, we have always seen ourselves as the “kids” while all of the relatives now in their seventies and eighties are seen as the “parents.”  Our grandparents and those of their generation lived such wonderfully full, long lives that it never dawned on us that someday we would become the “parents.”  This has all changed since February, with the death of our Nanny at the age of 98.

This subtle shift in the family is undeniably complete, as evidenced by a gathering we had at our house yesterday.  There were twenty-two of us, which for us is a normal gathering number.

As the afternoon unfolded, there were discussions amongst the elders comparing walkers and medicines, procedures and doctor visits.  There were hours of reminiscing and a few bouts of not remembering what was said a few minutes before.  Some of us spent the day watching their movements; silently guarding their sides as they walked while others needed to be more overt as they half carried someone down the stairs to a safe landing.  We had to raise our voices for some to be heard, and lower our voices for others as a wave of a memory enveloped them.  There was no teasing about aches and pains as we have done for years, as these are all too real now for some.

Lest it sound as if the day was always calm, I can assure you that the air was littered with calls for “Mom” and “Dad” all day long.  There were real scrapes and invisible cuts that all required multiple Band-Aids.   A wasp stung one child and another one hit the back of his head.  Yet another child had baseball practice and the others held their own diving competition until he got back.  The kids did not seek out the grandparents yesterday, as they intuitively accept that their grandparents are available to them now for quiet conversation, warm hugs and unconditional love.  The days of piggyback rides and long walks are over.

Dinnertime arrived and for a short while, everything seemed the same as it had always been.  We set up three tables but everyone attempted to crowd around one.  There was a minimum of three conversations going on at once, yet everyone managed to be heard somehow.  The meal ended and without hesitation, four generations of women (and one husband) were crowded around the island to help clean.  I pointed out to my daughters that the reason we all love family gatherings is that the burden of entertaining is always shared and thus isn’t a burden at all.  The joy of this moment would be fleeting.

As we said goodnight, I heard tears and quickly realized that they weren’t coming from the little ones that didn’t want to go home but rather from the older ones who now fear that each good-bye may be forever.

So, it really does feel like I am part of a “sandwich” generation, layered in the middle of two generations who both need our attention and our care.  Luckily for all of us, love is one of those things that grows in every direction.

No matter which generation you celebrate with this Wednesday, have a wonderful Fourth of July!