Archive for the 'Family' Category

Published by sylvia on 20 Feb 2011

Kids gone, pets here – what’s wrong with this picture?

When my kids were little, as most kids do, they wanted their own cats. We had a family dog but they wanted their own animals, to be just theirs. We lived on 8 acres in the country, so I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I knew too many families where the kids had begged for a pet and promised faithfully to take care of it, but “forgot” and the parents wound up doing all the animal care. I was NOT going to have that. I bombarded the kids from birth about responsible pet ownership – neutering, vaccinations, and generally putting the pet’s needs ahead of your own because it can’t fend for itself. They were each responsible for some aspect of dog care, and when I thought they had demonstrated the ability to do that part without being reminded, I talked to my husband about letting them adopt kittens and raise them.

I did want the cats to be good mousers, so I waited until the local “free” column contained an offer of kittens from a barn cat mother, and took the kids over to pick out their kittens. I explained to the kids that how the kittens were raised would strongly affect what kind of cats they became, so the kids needed to spend lots of time playing with and petting the cats, so they would learn to enjoy and value interaction with humans. They smiled and agreed – please, Mama, don’t throw me in that brier patch!

And they did take care of the cats. They fed them, cleaned the litter box, loved on them.

And then the kids grew up.

My daughter went off to college first. She couldn’t have her cat with her in the dorm, of course, so Squeaky lived at home that year. Second and third years, she was living in a house and kept her cat, but for her senior year, she wanted to share an apartment with a cat-allergic friend. Squeaky is a VERY affectionate beast, so I didn’t really mind letting her move back in with us. But now she is planning on staying in the college town, with the same cat-allergic friend, after graduation. Excuse me? Have you forgotten your commitment to your feline friend?

My son, meanwhile, joined the National Guard and was gone for about 6 months doing basic and advanced training. Naturally, Blackie couldn’t go with him. He tried college for one semester but didn’t pay enough attention to do well and moved home (with cat) to job-hunt. He’ll start with the state prison system in a couple of weeks. And he announced that he has found an apartment … that doesn’t allow cats.

Figure out what’s wrong with this picture yet?

Published by sylvia on 11 Aug 2010

Welcome back to Yuppieville

I guess we have rejoined the Yuppies.

Last year at this time, we had 4 drivers and 1 car. My daughter was off at college and my son was at basic Army National Guard training. My husband telecommutes, so we were able to manage just fine with one car, and had for a number of years.

Yuppies? Not us.

Today, we have 4 drivers and 4 cars. My son came home with a bonus burning a hole in his pocket and immediately bought a car. He was also determined to volunteer to go someplace interesting like Iraq or Afghanistan, and got orders to deploy August 7, so he left his car to his college-student sister. She was enjoying the freedom of being able to drive to her job or anywhere else she wanted when the Army doctors decided my son’s shoulder had not healed enough for deployment. He’d have to stay home.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t jump for joy that he wasn’t going to head for someplace dangerous. But I felt bad for his disappointment. Naturally, he wanted his car back, so I also felt bad that my daughter had tasted freedom (there is no feeling like your first car!) and had it yanked away. So I discussed it with my husband and decided to watch for something reliable that we could afford.

So I saw a local classified for a 1986 Saab for $700. I could afford that, but did it run? We took it for a test drive and while it’s definitely an old car, it seemed to run fine. It had a standard shift, which made my husband drool but which my daughter doesn’t know how to drive, so my husband volunteered to teach her. He has wanted a standard-shift car for the entire 22 years we have been married. It wasn’t my ideal car for her; I know from experience that driving a standard on winter roads is not fun, and I would rather have seen my daughter driving a tank. But I sure liked the price.

Parked right behind the Saab was another vehicle with a “For Sale” sign, a 1984 Ford Bronco. Now that was a tank! It had a lot of rust and the owner was asking $1500, which I thought was a little high, but it was an automatic and DH agreed we should at least call the owner, who said it had been his grandmother’s. (A variation on the “little old lady who only drove it on Sundays” sales pitch?) So we did another test drive. It had trouble starting but ran fine once it started. It also had 4-wheel drive, a definite plus on Laramie roads that can stay snow- and ice-covered for weeks at a time in winter. But the seller and I couldn’t agree on a price, so we bought the Saab and DH planned to teach my daughter how to drive a standard.

I waited a couple of days and called the Bronco owner again. I figured the car had been sitting there for months, so it’s not like people were beating down his door to buy it, and he might be willing to come down a little. And it worked; we agreed on a price and met at the bank yesterday. My daughter even made time in her busy schedule to come with me to get the Bronco, so I was able to get it in her name and she won’t have to worry about anyone yanking it away from her (again!)

So here we are, 4 drivers with a car each. My husband is looking forward to being able to participate in more activities without leaving me car-less. I still have our original vehicle, a 2005 Toyota Matrix which is just the right height for me to get in and out with severe arthritis. My son has his 2002 Oldsmobile Alero back and is hopefully job-hunting. And my daughter is crowing on her Facebook page about having her own wheels.

Oh well. Yuppieville isn’t so bad.

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Published by sylvia on 26 Mar 2009

Romance vs. reality

Picture this: You are a woman who has chosen to stay home with your baby and toddler.  After a bad day of whiny children, telemarketers, and dropping a container of eggs on the floor, your husband walks in the door. Immediately aware of your stress, his handsome eyes crinkle in concern, he drops his briefcase, picks up a child in each arm, and tells you to go relax; in face, he suggests a long hot bath and a glass of your favorite white wine (which he happened to pick up on the way home).

Or picture this: you are a woman who is balancing both children and a career. Your husband drops the little ones off at a good daycare in the morning, and you pick them up on the way home.  Late one afternoon, your office phone rings. You’ve been bawled out by your boss and found out your favorite co-worker is leaving, so when Caller ID shows your husband, you wonder what is up. As soon as you say hello, he asks what is wrong; you tell him. He admits he was calling to say he had a late meeting, but you are more important. He’ll cancel the meeting, pick up the kids and the babysitter (who will be available on no notice – this IS a fantasy, after all) and then take you out to a nice relaxing dinner. You know you will be the envy of every woman at the restaurant, with such a gorgeous, attentive husband.

Ever had something like this happen to you? Me neither. Yet this is the “hero” of hundreds of books every year in the most popular genre in bookselling: romance novels.

Frankly, I blame them (partially) for the spiraling divorce rate. When a woman has spent a few hours with an incredibly handsome man watching for her every whim (and, in imagination, she is utterly beautiful as well), and comes back to an average-looking man who wants his dinner and is eager to complain about HIS day, it’s a shock. If he has the bad taste to complain about the kids as well as fail to notice her stress, you have a recipe for disaster.

But few husbands are mind-readers. I happen to have chosen a pretty good one. He likes to come home to his family, proudly introduces me as his wife (and I’m no raving beauty either), brags on our children but takes on his share of the work. He believes in fidelity, trusts as well as remains trustworthy. I had a shopping list of characteristics I HAD to have in a husband, and he had all of them. But he can be totally oblivious of my feelings. Once he did something on a trip that left me fuming, but he didn’t hear my anger in a long 10-minute phone call. My father happened to call a few minutes later, and as soon as I said hello he asked what was wrong.

The answer, of course, is communication. Both partners need to discuss their feelings and desires, and not just in bed. But women who have absorbed the idea of the man who mysteriously detects their feelings are offended by a real man who is focused on his own.

My daughter is almost 20 and has never dated, and I’m glad. We agree that dating is to find your potential husband, and she is not even interested in marriage at this point in her life. Meanwhile, I’ve tried to point out her father as an example of a good husband, and discussed the unreality of romance novels. (She seems to prefer fantasy, anyway.) She’s sensible, and I hope when she starts to think about marriage, she’ll remember not the handsome, hunky hero of a romantic fairy tale, but a real man who took care of me when I was sick and remembered to buy my third-favorite chocolate truffles for Valentine’s Day. (My favorite chocolates are Teuscher, $60/box. My second favorite are Godiva, still too expensive for our budget. My third favorite are Lindt, about $3.50 at Wal-Mart so I can enjoy them with a clear conscience.) And I hope she’ll find as devoted a husband as I have been blessed with. And I hope she’ll appreciate him, while less sensible women wistfully remember dashing, mind-reading men who never existed.

Note: comments have to be approved because this site gets way too much spam each day. I’m eager for comments pro or con, but please Email me at mamasylvia at mamasylvia dot com to tell me you left a real comment, otherwise it will probably get deleted with the unread spam

Published by sylvia on 11 Feb 2009

Baking with plastic

My DH (H is Husband, D is sometimes Dear and sometimes something else) is a major pizza fanatic. Eat-in, takeout, grocery store, or homemade, he loves it all. What none of us likes is cleaning off the fixings that always seem to burn onto the pan. Yuck!

So for Christmas, I got him a silicone pizza baking sheet. It’s really pretty weird, there is some kind of rigid wire running around the edge to keep it flat but the silicone itself is quite soft and flexible. He insisted that you can’t put plastic in the oven, and I had difficulty persuading him that this plastic was MEANT to go in the oven.

He finally tried it, confident that we would have melted plastic stuck all over the oven and he could say “I told you so.” Of course, any of you who have baked with silicone know what happened. The pizza cooked perfectly and slid off the (intact) pizza sheet,  not leaving any burned bits behind.

DH is now a silicone fan and uses his pizza sheets to bake anything that will fit, including biscuits. But he still gives them a leery look whenever he realizes (again) that he is baking with plastic.

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Published by sylvia on 29 Jan 2009

Civilian to military

Earlier this week, my son officially joined the Wyoming Army National Guard. The months leading up to his enlistment have had me thinking about the relationship we civilians have with the military.

I was a teenager during Viet Nam. I saw my male friends suffering the anxiety of waiting for the lottery to reveal their likelihood of being drafted. I had friends who were veterans of Nam, and in the 70’s I could always tell who had been there within minutes of meeting: there was a certain look in their eyes.

What I thought was most unfair was the attitude of the peaceniks towards the soldiers, taunting and tormenting them. At best, they felt they were serving their country; at worst, they were draftees and given no choice as to where they were sent. Yet the peaceniks ganged up on victims who weren’t allowed to retaliate. Didn’t look particularly courageous to me.

Now we are once again in an unpopular war, but this time, no one is blaming the soldiers. I think this is a huge improvement and much more just. If you want to criticize the war, criticize the politicians who ordered it; if you want to justify the war, again, the politicians are the proper target. The men and women who lay their lives on the line deserve only our support.

I’ve been very proud of our armed forces since the Clinton maladministration. In nearly every other country in the world, if someone managed to get elected who the military didn’t like, presto! Military coup and the elected leader is gone or dead. Clinton was a lying hornswoggler, but he was the elected President and our military fulfilled their oath to support and defend him as their Commander-in-Chief. That can’t have been easy, but we civilians rest easier knowing our military abides by their rules.

Now, I’m just relieved that my son won’t have to face the hatred my friends did.

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Published by sylvia on 06 Jan 2009

The good mother

Is it love to make a child dependent on you? I don’t think so.

I’ve been reading The Good, the Bad, and the Mad by E. Randall Floyd. It’s definitely an interesting collection of short biographies of unusual people, but the entry on Robert E. Howard horrified me. He was an SF writer in the early 1900’s who committed suicide when his mother died. Supposedly, his mother had encouraged an exclusive attachment after his father died.

DH and I have always agreed that our purpose as parents was to produce independent adults who could live their own lives and make their own decisions. To ensure they developed self-confidence, we provided a solid wall of love and support – either child could have cuddling for the asking so they didn’t have to misbehave to get parental attention. As they got older, I asked if they wanted me in the room for dentist and doctor visits and other scary situations. When they were ready, they tackled each new situation solo. DD is still pretty shy but can handle what she wants to, and 17-year-old DS thinks he is already an adult and very indignant that legally we still control him.

I miss my sweet, loving babies. But I would consider myself a failure as a mother if either of them gave up on life when I pass on.

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Published by sylvia on 25 Dec 2008

Welcome to the worst Christmas of my life

It started last week, when my teenaged son told me to go to hell. So I told him that for his birthday present, I’d give him life without a mother. And I’ve not gotten in his way since.

And he has apparently been delighted, going around doing his thing, apparently not missing a mother at all. Of course, that meant I couldn’t be around when he opened his Christmas presents — more of a hardship to me than to him, obviously.

What I hadn’t expected was that my husband and daughter, who I thought did love me and want to be around me, enjoyed opening presents without me just fine. Just because I couldn’t join Daniel without violating my word didn’t mean they had to. Why on earth should my son decide he wants Mama in his life? His father and sister are around to keep him entertained and do things for him. Each laugh and happy comment was like a stab directly into my heart. And in a few minutes, they’ll eat the dinner I cooked — without me. Why did I want a family, if this is the way they treat me on the most family-centered holiday?

Peter did insist I come to a short Christmas Eve service at his church last night. I guess that means once he’s had a token Christmas time with me, he can ignore me to spend the rest of Christmas with our son with a clear conscience.