Tag Archives: Family

A Very Happy Birthday

Today’s post comes from Jacque.

I found my perfect communication medium when I discovered texting. I was not an early adapter, but once I tried it, the medium became mine. It is succinct and I can look at it when I want to and respond (well maybe, usually). That is all I want from most communication, especially when simple things are involved.

And then there are the emoticons. I realize that many folks abhor those little ditties, but I adore them. This morning I saw a girl wearing a T-shirt displaying emotion-identifying emoticons labeling the emotions in French. How engaging! And clever. And sappy, but I don’t care. I love them.

Back to texting, though.   I am the first to admit that texting is not worthy of communicating about more complicated matters. The issue of more nuanced conversation set aside, the following text sequence between my son and I occurred recently (backstory—he has ADHD and struggles with organization. If asked to do so, I will help):

Son: I would like to rent a car for a week. Are you available to help me out tomorrow evening? I also need help with the upcoming move. Need a mover and cleaner.

 Me: My birthday is Friday. If I do this then I want LOTS of attention, a very large gift acknowledging that I am the world’s best mother, as well as undying gratitude and my say forever. Those are my terms.

 Son: Sounds reasonable enough.

 Time passes. Said services are arranged.

Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm there was a knock on my office door. When I answered it standing there was this:


The balloon bouquet is 8 feet tall accompanied by the following card:


I was happy. He was happy. Texting rules.

What is your favorite mode of communication which does not occur in person? (Hint: Alpine horns, Scottish pipes, smoke signals, yodeling and drums all count).


Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

I was helping my mom clean out her bedroom closet the other day, and we came upon an envelope with pages she had jotted down in pencil between 1949 and 1951. I was the elder child, and “got her to myself” for four years before I was de-throned, and she had time to do this:

Autumn 1949 (age 1½)

Sang “Ho Ho Ho” (Up on a Housetop) when she heard Mother singing. Puckered up lips till she looked like a fish.

Heard soap opera [on radio] in which someone was crying “Oh, No, No!”, so she had to say “No No” for about two minutes straight.

Her first movie “Adventure in Baltimore” when actress said “up there” emphatically. Barby thought she was saying “upstairs”, so she said it too (ah-dee).

First time she attended church service, good for the first half hour, then started crawling under the seat. Began to dance to the organ music when we walked in.

Runs along behind me and laughs when I’m wiping off clothes lines.

Found a wash cloth and started dusting the furniture with it, wood, upholstery and all. I thought it was plenty smart of her till I picked her up and she wiped my face with it.

One day when I took her upstairs for her nap, I put her in the rocking chair while I changed the sheet on her crib. When I was almost through she jumped out of the chair and walked downstairs as fast as she could, chuckling all the way.

Threw her toy doggie down the basement stairs, then went down after him, saying all the way “Hi Dizzie.”

Winter ’49-’50 (20 months)

Found her down on the floor saying “Hi” to a box-elder bug.

After watching me peel potatoes one day when she pulled a chair up to the sink, she tried putting the peelings back through the peeler.

Decided a graham cracker cookie tastes better if she pulls it apart, licks off the frosting and throws the cracker on the floor.

Winter 1950-51 (age 2½)

Asked where Grandma Sterling was, and when I said “In Sioux City” she said “No, she’s in da picture”. I guess Grandma can’t be both places at once.

Her prayers at age 3: “Now I lay me… God bless Mommy and Daddy and Grampa and Grandma Britson and Grampa and Grandma Sterling and all da people in da world, and da babies and da chickens.”

Sings and plays: “do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do”. Her repertoire: nursery rhymes, Christmas songs, Frosty the Snowman, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, I Love You a Bushel and a Peck, Zing Zing Zoom Zoom My Little Heart Goes Boom.

An oldest child may also find more photos of themselves than the younger children.

What evidence or memory (yours or someone else’s) exists somewhere that you were a toddler?


The Joy of Adventure

Today’s guest post comes from Crystalbay.

Finding adventures in the suburb was my third child’s greatest joy. It’s often said that kids these days have little desire to actually go outside and find something active to do. TV, video games, computers, and social media consume them.

The art and respect for actual conversations seems lost on this generation. I’ve told my teenaged grand kids that they’re welcome to the lake, but not if they bring their Iphones.

I haven’t seen them since.

Steve, now 44, was by far the most precocious kid I’ve even known. I think that rather than try to capture the activities he dreamt up as a story, I’ll just bullet point them:

  • built a zip line in a public preserve
  • made a straw into a dart gun that would send sewing pins through the air. (Unfortunately, his first dart ended up in the school bus driver’s cheek.)
  • went skateboarding in the city’s underground storm sewer system wearing a minor’s flashlight hat
  • took girls to the top of a water tower and swam in the tank
  • built a 3-story A frame from a large hole he dug
  • when confined to a downstairs bedroom as punishment for sneaking out of his upstairs bedroom, put hinges on the storm windows to make them into doors
  • made a large dummy called “Fleed”, complete with a wig and clothing, then would toss him onto the road just as a car neared. I guess that he just wanted to see the driver’s reaction thinking he’d run over a person
  • learned the months of the year by using a dozen Playboy Magazine covers he found in a dumpster
  • dug a hole in a very thick book into which these pictures fit so that he could show them to his school friends (he got caught for this one)
  • almost blew his thumb off seeing what would happen if he hit a nail gun bullet with a hammer
  • hid a couple of girls behind the knee wall which he outfitted with sleeping bags, strobe lights, and music
  • put his sister’s goldfish under her covers because he thought they were cold
  • created a giant Johnny Jump Up out of two garage door springs and a seat. Jumping from a tall tree branch, this thing went 20’ feet up and down (this one ended badly when a spring broke and gashed a kid’s scalp)
  • collected lunch money from other kids by selling a hidden stash of candy

This is just the partial list of Steve’s adventures. It’s amazing that he lived through his capers and that his parents were more amused than angry. He also went on to teach himself the 12-string acoustic guitar and learned all of Leo Kottke’s music.

His wife threw a “Man Shower” just before their baby was born. My contribution to this event was a booklet, complete with illustrations drawn by his nephew,  sharing Steve stories.

I entitled it; “Things Your Daddy May Not Want You to Know”.

What adventures did you create during childhood?

J.B.’s Expectations

Today’s guest post comes from Verily Sherrilee

Living with other people’s expectations stinks.

My dad was a terrible student. He was brilliant but never could buckle down to teachers’ expectations. He ended up flunking a few grades, but then skipping grades in between; he just barely made it through law school, graduating in the bottom quarter of his class. He was always disappointed that he hadn’t achieved higher grades or a better standing

And as often happens, his expectations for himself fell directly onto his children and manifested themselves in what my middle sister and I always called the “What Next Syndrome”. Every achievement was met with “That’s nice, what next?” What grade will you get next semester, what level class will you take next, what goal are you setting for yourself next? It made it seem as if no achievement was ever good enough in itself – only as a stepping stone to whatever was “next”. My sister got out from under this weight by blowing off school, blowing off grades and blowing off my dad whenever he got blustery. I went the other direction, excelling at school and working hard on all my next steps.

By the time I began to look at colleges, my dad’s expectations were starting to wear me down. He came home with a big fat reference book of all the colleges and universities that listed all their SAT and Achievement Test scores; he announced that I could only go to a place that had really high scores as their norm.   JBExpectationsVennAs a lover of Minnesota and Wisconsin, I promptly announced that I would only go to a school in one of those two states. If you love Venn diagrams, you can guess that the intersection of our two announcements wasn’t too large!

We both got our way. I ended up at Carleton; it was in his book and it was in Minnesota. Of course, as these things usually go, it wasn’t a fairy-tale ending. I didn’t like it all that much and ended up dropping out, not getting my degree until I was 39! I’ve always wondered if I had gone to a different school (read “with more social life than just studying”), I would have been happier and stuck with it. I guess I’ll never know. I do know that I’ve worked really hard over the years to not settle MY expectations about school and grades onto my child. And it’s been hard.

When have expectations tripped you up?

The Family Vegetable

Today’s guest post comes from Jacque.  

Some families have distinguished, ancient crests with lots of regal history; other families have members who have accomplished great things which allows their relatives to bask in the glory of all that star-dust; and some families, like mine, have a very real and symbolic vegetable. It is a vegetable worthy of a family crest.

My maternal grandparents, bearing the last name of Hess, lived on a farm near Pipestone, MN where they raised eight children during the Great Depression. Grandma and Grandpa grew most of their own food to feed their large family. The vegetable garden was immense, even after the children left to start their own families and gardens. Each spring they planted a row of carrots and a row of kohlrabi for each of the eight children. The child was to seed the row, thin the seedlings, weed it, then harvest it, meaning he or she could eat the carrots and kohlrabi any time he or she wanted.

These eight children produced 39 grandchildren (I am number 20), Grandma and Grandpa continued the tradition of planting many rows of carrots and kohlrabi for the grandchildren. The grandchildren trained each other to love this veggie. During a summer visit to the farm when I was about 8 years old, my cousin Jean Marie,*** who was age 7 and who lived right there on the home farm, taught me about the joys of kohlrabi. She led me to the kitchen to swipe one of Grandma’s many salt shakers, then we sneaked out to the garden.

“Don’t let Grandma see us,” Jean Marie instructed as she yanked 2 kohlrabi out of the dirt, stripped the leaves from it and broke off the root. “Grandma will be mad if we leave the salt shaker out here. And we are NOT supposed to eat these!”

I took this seriously.  I did not want to be in trouble with Grandma.

Then Jean Marie headed for the row of peonies which were large enough to hide both of us. There she demonstrated how to peel the thing with her teeth, salt it, and eat it like an apple. It was a delicious secret treat, crisp, delicate and salty. I wanted another. I crawled behind the peonies to the nearest kohlrabi row where I imitated Jean Marie’s techniques of pulling, leaf-stripping and peeling.

Years later I told Grandma about this. She knew. Of course she knew. She knew all of us did this. That was why she planted them—to get us to eat vegetables. She knew they were sweeter if we thought they were stolen.Family Crest 1

When family reunions roll around, a cousin or two arrive with a bowl of home grown kohlrabi harvested the morning of the reunion, a half dozen paring knives for peeling, and salt shakers.   We snack on sliced, salted kohlrabi all day.

If I was to create a family crest it would include the family slogan, “One Mell of a Hess” and include a regal kohlrabi. Like so.

***Names have been changed to protect the family members who have not agreed to have their names included!

What would you include on your family crest?

Krakatoa 2

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

You’ve all heard me say I don’t want more dogs after my current dogs are gone. So when Young Adult called me from the Humane Society, I fought valiantly but after an hour of arguing on the phone, I just couldn’t envision any win/win. Although she did cave to my request that she wait 24 hours, when the time was up she came home with Guinevere, otherwise known as Krakatoa 2. Or The Little Terrorist. Or Troublemaker. Or – well, you get the gist. So now, despite my protests, there are three dogs and two cats in the household.


Zorro, my elder cat has somehow managed to maintain his “alpha dog” status, although I’m not sure how. He’s the smallest and with no front claws, the most vulnerable in the household. I have seen the puppy put her mouth on Zorro, but then stop. Maybe Zorro has a special muscle twitch that makes K2 back off.

The baby kitty Nimue (although she’s not really a baby anymore at 3) gets a good deal of tumbling. She refuses to get out of the way, so is a natural target for the galumphing puppy. She bats out, makes a great deal of hissing noises, but apparently isn’t using her claws or her teeth in defense. I can only guess that she is either A) absolutely convinced that she can’t cede her space one inch, even if being tortured by a puppy or B) she kinda likes it!

Rhiannon ignores the puppy most of the time, however if K2 gets in her face (or near her food), there is a great deal of snarling and growling and barking on both sides. As with the baby kitty, it doesn’t appear that anybody is using teeth in these pitched battles. No scrapes, no crying, no blood.

Thorin is my hero. He loves K2 and they play and play and play. K2 is really rough, but all that white fur of Thorin’s seems to protect him well enough. Eventually Thorin wears out and he’s had a few nights on which it’s clear that he’s a little stiff and sore, but it never stops him from chasing after the puppy the next morning.

Of course, I am the main one who still wishes we didn’t have a puppy. When she’s quiet and calm, she’s pretty cute and I don’t mind her, but she’s not quiet and calm very much. I did make Young Adult sign a puppy contract with a lot of points but the one I’m already looking forward to is the “You can’t move out unless you move to a place that takes dogs”!

How does everybody get along at your house?

life can be easy

In the header photo: oldest son on left youngest daughter on right all the ones in the middle are in the middle except the old ones in the middle that are not in the middle.

Today’s guest post comes from tim

the art of guest blogging is a mission worthy of pursuit.

when i was a younger man ( i guess i have alway been a younger man havnt i?) i used ot ask people for topics to write songs on. like improv acting. i would take an idea and work it sometimes to my and other delight sometimes to death and with the like i do with potatoes. familiar and i like it but others either do or they dont without much variation. if you liked the least one youve got a shot if you didnt youre likely in for a repeat.

life is a little like that. if you did good you are likely to repeat if you didnt you are likely to repeat. its not like tyou are doomed to goundhog day but it kind of is exactly like you are doomed to groundhog day. unless you are able to swap brains midway through the process the ability to reinvent the essence of you is suspect.

the problem is that if you didnt find great enjoymet in the last version of the sojourn it is unlikely that you will adjust this time unless…… unless you figure it out.

my kids are all coming of age. 28 year old is ready to go make a life, 26 year old is working on hers., 22 year old is fresh out of college and the 16 year old is singing acting and deciding on a course that will allow her to appreciate those things rather than be jailed and a starving artist y looking to find career paths in paying professions that will challenge hr sense of daily heroics and allow her to go for it on a continuing basis.

youngest daughter just got her invite to drivers training and you should have seen the smile. priceless. lord knows what she will end up doing but the 26 year old guesses that emma will likely turn out to be a corporate ceo. just that kind of make up. focused and personable with a take no crap kind of personna.

my job today is to teach them that you never give up.

my wife is form a family where the 9-5 routine is the way it worked. nice folks but a different cup of tea from the roll with the punches life i came from. when we met i was a high rolling young pup on my way to fame and fortune and she bit. we had a kid then two then three and decided to get married and all was grand with a city mouse country mouse kind of theme. then the fan entered the picture and holy moly. it is different when you need to adlib plan

it is a stroke of luck that i can always find a worthy pursuit ti keep me occupied and i have a couple now. the 22 year old told me yesterday when i was talking to him about options i am pursuing right now that he thought i ought to focus on one thing and stay with it. and i told him i have heard that one before and while it sage advice it is not for me. i cant do it. while i am in the midst of one pursuit i a plotting another for tomorrow. multitasking is part of the dna
i hope to show them that if you find a vision and pursue it life will be ok.it works good for me.

i used to work with a guy who wanted me to take a title with his company and i couldnt do it. i told him im a good worker but a poor employee. truer words have never been spoken.

i hope my kids can learn how to find their way in this cold cruel world bt taking care of the things that are important to them as the make therir way throgh the maze and try to find the key ot lifes mysteres. one foot in front of the other a stitch in time saves nine. do sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me and dont let anyone give you a wooden nickle. when someone asks if there are any questions? i always ask for the secret to lifes true meaning. . the response is always worthwhile. every now and again i get a predetermined answer or one off the cuff that the person is comfortable or pleased with and tha tis a good time to pause a moment and reflect.

today was one of the 10 perfect days you get a year in this part of the world and when i went outside at 3 and discovered it was perfect out i went into the office and told my colleague that unless he had something very very pressing he needed to get out and enjoy this perfect day and do whatever the next two hours were going to produce another time and another way.

life can be easy. life can be rewarding, dont think too hard. you know how to do it. just do it.

even nike knows that