Flashback: Sink, swim, or hold on!

Flashback: Sink, swim, or hold on!

Dear readers: This flashback feature originally appeared on Grandma’s Briefs March 4, 2010. Update: I’m still holding on “with a steel-plated grip because I have no other option.” How about you? Thank you for reading my rerun.

Back in the '80s, before the real estate market crash that marked the end of that decade, I worked for a mortgage company. Business was good, and we were rewarded well by the company's owner.

One of the bigger rewards we once received was a day offwork ... and on the owner's boat. On a day we should be processing loans, the entire office (it was a small office) would get to don bathing suits and hang out at the reservoir, on a boat, sipping beer in the sunshine.

I didn't want to go. I really did not want to go.

I didn't want to go because despite having been born in Minnesota…

Read More

Grandma Christmas crafts matter

Grandma Christmas crafts matter

The year my husband and I were married, his stepmom, Diane, whom I had never met and Jim hadn’t seen in years, sent us a lovely joint Christmas stocking she had made for us. She also sent an adorable handmade one for baby Brianna, who was born soon after we married.

Diane sent another precious stocking the following year, when Megan was born. And another two years after that for our baby Andie.

When Megan and Preston married and…

Read More

Remember Sniglets? Plus, GRAND Social No. 313 link party for grandparents

Remember Sniglets? Plus, GRAND Social No. 313 link party for grandparents

Remember Sniglets?

I watched a comedy show the other night and found myself more annoyed than amused. I'm bone-weary—and bored—by what seems to pass as humor anymore, that being primarily political skits, potty jokes, and TMI on anything and everything.

That may sound crotchety, but gee whiz, I sure could go for some of the wit and wisecrackery (yeah, my word) that made me chuckle—and sometimes snort—back in the day.

Yesterday I sought out some of the silliness that used to make me smile and stumbled upon several videos of one of my all-time favorite snicker-eliciting…

Read More

Flashback: 9 things I've kept 'for the grandkids'

Flashback: 9 things I've kept 'for the grandkids'

Dear readers: This Flashback feature originally appeared on Grandma's Briefs July 22, 2010. Thank you for reading this updated rerun!

My daughters have been grown and gone for quite some time now, but there are a few useful and/or enjoyable things from their childhood that I just can't throw away..

I'm pretty sure—or at least I'm bound and determined—that these items will one day come in handy, that they'll one day provide fun and frivolity for my grandkids.


1. VHS tapes of children's movies and shows. Space Jam, Fluke, Casper and more. I can't see throwing away tapes I know kids love, but I sure don't plan on replacing them with DVDs or Blu-Ray discs (except for the…

Read More

Throwback Thursday: 10 things I forget I love... until I remember

Throwback Thursday: 10 things I forget I love... until I remember

This #TBT piece by Lisa Carpenter originally published February 21, 2011 on Grandma's Briefs.

I love jams and jellies. Chokecherry, strawberry, pomegranate, cherry. Yum! I eat jam or jelly nearly every day. On peanut butter sandwiches. On crackers. On toast. On English muffins. On bagels. (Not all in the same day, of course.)

Recently though, as I toasted an English muffin, I noticed the honey in the cupboard and decided to travel that oft-ignored culinary road. So I put it on my toasted muffin instead of jelly or jam, took a big bite, and instantly thought, "Yum! Why don't I have honey more often?"

I always forget how...

Read More

Throwback Thursday: Long live Grandma's hoya

Throwback Thursday: Long live Grandma's hoya

This #TBT piece by Lisa Carpenter originally published May 9, 2013 on Grandma's Briefs.

I've never been very good at growing houseplants. Because of that, I felt quite nervous and unduly obligated when the care of an elderly houseplant was informally included in the deal when we bought our current house nearly five years ago.

The sellers told us upon our agreement to buy the house that they were leaving the plant they had inherited when they bought the house, a plant started by the original homeowners when the house was built in 1975. Story was, according to the sellers — who had no information on what the plant was, only a stern warning to not let it die — that the plant bloomed only once a year and "thrived on neglect." I'm pretty good at neglecting plants, yet I still...

Read More

Friday flashback: Coupon queen

In celebration of Mother's Day on Sunday, for this week's Friday flashback feature I chose to share one of my favorite posts about cherished gifts from my girlies. I smile each time I recall my coupons from kids and hope my story on such makes you smile, too — even if you read it the first time around (and thank you if you did!).

(Originally published June 6, 2011)

coupon book for momCoupons are a hot commodity in my world. Sure, I use coupons for products when grocery shopping, but what I'm talking about here are coupons as gifts.

Somewhere along the line of rearing three daughters, creating coupons to be redeemed for good deeds and great times became a recurring gift, either from me to them or from them to me. Of those, I especially remember...

Read More

Here and Now: March 12, 2015

Today. Here. Now.

clock and book 

On my mind...

Does anyone else ever "save" articles and posts on Facebook (via the little "save" option in the upper right corner of each post) planning to read it later only to realize your saved articles list has reached an overwhelming length? You, too?

I won't "archive" the articles, though, for I just know...

Read More

Four 'fun' parental duties I didn't find so fun

Tooth Fairy duty. Tuesday's question about Tooth Fairy rates reminded me how much I didn't like playing Tooth Fairy when my daughters were young. I didn't like it at all. Not because I didn't want to reward my girls for having lost a tooth but because playing Tooth Fairy scared the <cuss> out of me. Seriously. Every time one of the girls went to sleep with high hopes of finding a dollar under her pillow upon awaking (yes, our rate was $1 per tooth), I dreaded having to sneak into the room, stealthily remove a tooth wadded up in tissue from under the pillow, and replace it with a buck. I just knew I'd be midway through the task, with my hand under a sleepy head while feeling for a papery wad, when the little girl's head would slowly turn my way and her eyes would pop right open and stare at me like a crazed Chucky-type doll.

Considering such scenarios scared me to no end. In fact, it scared me so much I sometimes accidentally on purpose forgot one of my children had gone to bed with high hopes of a dollar magically appearing in the night. 'Twas so much easier and less anxiety producing—for me, at least—to apologize come morning for the Tooth Fairy's poor scheduling then pretend she (or he?) had shown up and made the tooth/dollar trade while the girls were at school. Or, to out of guilt give my daughters their proper due, I'd just steel myself all day for the task, then come nightfall get the stupid duty over as quickly as possible. Which is why the Tooth Fairy would sometimes forget; a day or two preparing myself helped. Get in, grab the tooth, drop the dollar, get out. As quickly as possible! And don't look at her face while doing it!

Oh, the lengths we moms go to in order to convince our kids it's okay to allow charming characters with tooth fetishes into their rooms at night.

Bath time. Yes, bath time for many is a lovely and peaceful nightly ritual shared by mother and child. Not when you have three children to bathe at one time. Bath nights were hell, I mean, <cuss> in our household when the girls were little. At least for me. Thirty minutes of three little girls complaining the others were taking all the space...or all the bubbles...or all the water—yes, all the water!—was not fun. Thirty minutes of repeating, Look up! Look up! Look up! as I shampooed and rinsed and listened to at least one of the girls—sometimes all three of them—crying that they had soap in their eyes was not fun. Even the Rub-A-Dub Doggie with the swivel head wasn't distraction enough to make for fun and frivolous tub time. For any of us.

Sure, it would have been smart to bathe one girl at a time. But with a husband working three jobs, thus gone during bath time, who the heck would have watched the other two (remember, the girls are consecutive ages—16 months between the first two, 19 months between the second two) while I joyfully splished, splashed, and shampooed one at a time? Wasn't happening. I was quite thankful when Brianna became old enough to shower instead of being one of the bathers.

Interesting aside: As a grandma, I still dread bath time...at least when I have to bathe both Bubby and Mac at the same time. When I bathe them separately, it truly is one of the most enjoyable of all grandma duties. When they're together, not so enjoyable. So we opt for individual bath times—as long as there's someone else to entertain the non-bather while the bather and I splish, splash, and enjoy the moment.

Slumber parties. As a mother to three daughters, you'd think I'd be a pro at slumber parties. The girls had a lot of them growing up. Heck, I threw a few of my own accord, as I was a Girl Scout leader for many years and slumber parties were a great bonding experience for the troop. At least that was the original intention.

Just like the slumber parties thrown for my daughters' birthdays and more, though, good intentions at the outset of a slumber party flew out the window sometime soon after midnight when the cattiness of tired and cranky girls brought out the worst in everyone. Including me. By 2 a.m. I was usually gritting my teeth and saying to myself, "I wish they would just go home!" Funny thing is, that was often about the same time whichever daughter of mine was hosting the event would creep up the stairs and into my room to say exactly the same thing: "I wish they would Just. Go. Home."

Of course, we'd all forget about how very un-fun slumber parties were come time to consider having another...and another...and another.

Mall shopping. Being mother to three daughters also meant I was supposed to love clothes shopping with my girls. Seems having my kids at a very early age led to me missing that memo, that lesson in the parenting preparedness classes, for I didn't simply dislike shopping at the mall, I hated it. So much so that I did all I could to avoid it.

Back-to-school shopping was particularly dreadful, at the mall or anywhere else. Reason being, for the most part, because money was always tight, and trying to please three fashion-conscious girls on a limited budget was impossible. Which resulted in many tears—and not just from them. Even when we did manage to have enough money for a planned purchase, there were still tears, especially from one particularly difficult shopper we won't name or point out that she's my middle child and mother to my grandsons.

Ironically, Megan loved shopping most of all, was the one most distressed by my aversion to shopping. Strolling the mall together was supposedly the ultimate mother/daughter activity, the best way for girlie-girls to bond with their mamas. Only, I wasn't the girlie-girl kind of mom Megan longed for. Add my hate for shopping to the long list of other girlie things I didn't do—paint my nails, accessorize correctly (or at all), chat endlessly on the phone for no reason—and it's clear why Megan thought for many years that she had surely been adopted.

As a mom, I was supposed to have fun doing all those things above. I didn't. Maybe you feel the same.

Fortunately my list of things I did have fun doing as a parent is longer. Simply remove from the job description the four duties above and all that's left is what I had fun doing.

Well, for the most part.

Dropping a child off at college wasn't all that fun. Saying goodbye as they packed up the last of their closets and left the nest for good wasn't so much fun either.

Maybe you feel the same.

photos: stock.xchng (click photos for details)

Today's question:

What supposedly fun parental duties did you find not so fun?

Reminders of Grandma

I like to ask my Grilled Grandmas to do things I can't do. Specifically, I like to ask them to provide answers that I myself am not capable of providing.

For instance, when grilling up a grandma, I always ask What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? The ever gracious grandmas give profound answers I envy, especially because when I ask myself the same thing, a concise answer evades me.

The Grilled Grandma question I've most recently pondered myself is What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? The Grilled Grandmas have offered up some awesome words in the past years of me asking them that. But can I answer that myself? Heck no! One word? You gotta be joking, I told myself.

I can, though, think of a whole list of things I hope make Bubby and Mac think of me. Today I'd like to share that list with you—prefaced, though, by a brief disclaimer. As Bubby is older and we've known each other longer, most on the list are things I hope currently remind him of me, but they're things I hope will eventually do the same for Baby Mac. Maybe they already do.

Things I hope remind my grandkids of me

  • Colorado—as well as mountains, snow, squirrels, Pikes Peak, and the North Pole
  • hugs

  • the click, click and flash of a camera
  • homemade ice cream

  • Mary Poppins, Jungle Book, and Robots

  • airports and airplanes
  • hot tubs

  • playing pirates in the park

  • water balloons

  • Muddy Buddies
  • black dogs, pointer/pits, and cats

  • movie theaters

Ultimately, though, the only thing that matters does come down to one simple word. That word is Gramma. It's the one word I most want to remind Bubby and Mac of me, the one word by which they know me, the one word that is uniquely me, only me. At least when it comes to only them.

Today's question:

What things do you hope remind your grandchildren or children of you?

Once upon an unstable grandma

Based on a long-ago experience and a memory forever ingrained in my mind, I for many years felt sorry for a childhood friend because of her grandma's instability and erratic behavior. It's only since becoming a grandma myself that I've realized that particular grandmother was not only stable as stable can be, but that I've acted just like her on occasion.

I lived in Minnesota and was in second or third grade at the time of the incident. On one particular bus ride from my school in town back to the farming community in which my family and several others lived, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. On this particular day I wouldn't be getting off the bus at my house with my siblings because I had the grand privilege of disembarking a few stops from my own for an afternoon of fun at my friend Lynn's house for the very first time.

Lynn, my beautiful friend with long, straight, brunette hair—which she always wore high up on her head in the most marvelous of buns or braids or "high ponytails" I could never manage to make stay put on my own head—had full reign of her house as an only child. And it was her live-in grandma who cared for her each afternoon. Such a very different scenario from my own house, where I was third oldest in a line of seven kids, and my oldest brother and sister ruled the roost each afternoon until Mom and Dad got home from business in town.

Lynn and I chattered excitedly and held hands throughout the lengthy bus ride. When we got off at her stop, we raced down the dirt drive to her house and dashed right through the front door and into the kitchen. Which was empty. And quiet. I found the bare room and the silence unnerving, but Lynn simply smiled and called out for her grandmother. After a few moments and no response, Lynn started tiptoeing from room to room, calling "Grandma." No answer. Not in the living room, the hallway, the bathroom. Not upstairs or down.

Lynn seemed unfazed. I, though, was certain her grandmother had fallen somewhere and was hurt or had been gagged, bound and locked away in the attic by a dastardly drifter who'd entered Lynn's home with murder on his mind. Or worse, I feared the ghosts my older sister swore haunted the fields of the farms had spirited Lynn's poor grandma away.

Of course I didn't share such horrific thoughts with my friend. I didn't want to scare her.

Lynn, still smiling, nonchalantly led me to her bedroom to—unbelievably in the midst of such circumstances—engage in our pre-planned afternoon play. But suddenly, as we were nearly to Lynn's room, a closet door flew wide open and banged against the wall. Then her grandmother, dressed in a full grandma housecoat as grandmas really once wore, jumped out in front of us and shrieked, "Boo! I gotcha!"

Scared. The. <cuss>. Out. Of. Me.

Lynn, though, just giggled at Grandma's antics and gave her a hug. She introduced me to the manic woman, answered the questions that followed regarding our school day, then went on her merry way arranging dolls and toys for us to play with until it was time for me to head home.

I no longer wanted to stay. I no longer wanted to play. I no longer envied Lynn and her single-child status. Her grandma was nuts. She had to be, as grandmas just don't act like that. At least not any grandmas I knew.

My grandmas were normal. They loved me, I have no doubt, as they they hugged me and smiled each time I saw them. Then they'd settle into conversation with Mom or Dad or other nearby adults, all while I admired them from afar. They didn't converse directly with me. Or read books with me. Or cook with me. Or play games with me. And they most definitely didn't hide from me, after school or otherwise, and come shrieking out of hall closets scaring the bejeezus out of my friends.

They were as normal and good as grandmas come.

Or so I thought.

Now that I'm a grandma, though, what I thought was normal and good when it comes to grandmas has changed significantly. What I, as a grandma, think grandmas should be is nothing like what my normal grandmas were.

Seems I lean a little more toward favoring the unstable sort of grandmothering.

Now that I'm a grandma, I have hidden from Bubby many a time. It's all prearranged and part of giggle-filled games of hide-and-seek, of course (he is not yet even four years old). But hiding from one another is one of our favorite things to do. We also have dedicated discussions that don't include Mom or Dad. We read together. We cook together. We play games together. And we laugh like <cuss> together—something I don't remember ever doing with my own grandmothers.

It's in seeing the grandma gig from the grandma perspective that I finally—after literally decades of wondering why social services or other family members didn't step in to save my friend—realized that Lynn's grandma wasn't unstable at all. She was just a very different kind of grandma than my grandmas.

My grandmas were elders loved and respected from afar, while Lynn's grandma was an up-close and personal kind of grandma. A fun kind of grandma. She obviously was a responsible grandmother who cared daily for her grandchild, but she also did fun things, silly things, things my grandmas would never ever have done.

Lynn's grandma was the kind of grandma I've caught myself being sometimes.

Unstable or not, she's the kind of grandma I want to be all times.

Today's question:

What kind of grandmas were your grandmothers?


Brianna & Andrea, ready for Hugo in 3D."Our brightest blazes of gladness," Samuel Johnson once said, "are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks." I learned the truth of that this past Sunday.

Thanksgiving weekend was pleasant all the way around, but my favorite day of the long holiday wasn't the top-billed, highly planned for Thanksgiving Day. Nor was it the day after...or Saturday. It turned out to be Sunday. Unexpectedly. Unintentionally.

My youngest daughter, Andrea, was unable to join us for the Thanksgiving Day gathering because she had to work. We had talked about her possibly making the trek from Denver to home at some point over the long weekend if her schedule allowed, but there were no definite plans, not even as late as Saturday morning.

Then Sunday worked out for her, opened itself up for a visit. She headed home, Brianna headed over from her place, and Jim and I were fortunate to have two of our three daughters with us for the afternoon. And two out of three ain't bad at all.

We played the ABBA You Can Dance video game on the Wii. Andrea proved to be the true dancing queen, Brianna was the karaoke queen, I was the queen of busting moves to my own groove instead of those intended. And Jim...well, he just laughed while watching the rest of us, far too cool to grace us with ABBA moves of his own.

We ate the last of the Thanksgiving turkey and potatoes and more, not at the table in proper family dining fashion, but in front of the TV. We—okay, they—watched and talked about football. We ate pie. We conducted a mini chocolate taste-testing of Lindt Excellence chocolate bars for my Holiday Guide.

And we went to see Hugo, the 3D movie directed by Martin Scorsese, produced by Johnny Depp, and crowned with an A+ rating by Roger Ebert. That's all we knew beforehand, as the trailer doesn't come close (thankfully) to truly revealing the tale...so we were all delightfully surprised by how magical, moving, and memorable Hugo turned out to be.

Just like our unplanned, unexpected day turned out to be: delightful, surprising, magical, moving, memorable.

Today I bask in that blaze of gladness, sparked by pure serendipity.

Today's question:

What leftovers from Thanksgiving still remain in your refrigerator?