Grandkids? He’s glad you asked

The husband refuses to listen when I tell him that he shouldn’t carry on so about our grandkids to other people who have Artworkgrandkids as well. “They think their grandkids are just as special as ours,” I say.

His jaw drops and the color drains from his face. He is momentarily stunned. Clearly, the thought has never crossed his mind that there might be grandchildren equally spectacular, or even more spectacular (as if that’s possible!) than ours.

The husband’s problem, and this has always been his problem since the day I met him, is that he is sincere and kind. Being a sincere and kind individual, when someone asks about the family, he truly thinks they mean it. He thinks they want details. Oh, he’ll give you details all right, details on all six of the little critters. Age, gender, height and weight percentiles, who is potty trained, who is walking, who knows their ABCs and which ones prefer the sandbox over the kiddie pool.

If you’re still standing and your eyes are still open, he will mistake this as genuine interest. He will then continue, telling you which ones appear to have an aptitude for engineering, which ones seem drawn to the arts and which ones he thinks may one day win Pulitzers.

The husband once chased a man out of a party yelling, “Wait! I only got to tell you about the Chicago contingency! I didn’t even get to the three in New Jersey! What’s your email? Want me to text you? Don’t worry; I’ll find you on LinkedIn! What was your name again?”

I’ve never seen a set of taillights speed away into the night so fast in my life.

Not that the man brags, but the man brags—without shame and without apology.

To be perfectly candid, he thinks there may be something wrong with grandparents who do not brag about their grandchildren. Come to think of it, he could be right.

What kind of person wouldn’t want to tell stories about listening to his grandbaby giggle into the phone? What kind of person wouldn’t show 100 of his closest friends the silly dances his grandbabies created?

Still, the husband may be in a league of his own. For him, grandkids are the best thing since sliced bread. Make that better than a Beatles reunion, ESPN, ESPN2 and the Cincinnati Reds winning the pennant. Yep, grandchildren top all of those things and that’s why he loves to talk about them.

That said, if you run into us, don’t ask about the family.

If you do ask about the family, try not to give verbal encouragement.

If you do give verbal encouragement, and the husband offers to show you pictures and goes for his cell phone, I have one word of advice: Run!

Where have all the wrinkles gone?

A woman who had returned from a lengthy stay in Europe marched up to me and demanded to know why Americans Wrinkled Pugdon’t have any commercials with women who have wrinkles.

“Wrinkles are illegal,” I said, “punishable by a brown paper bag over your head in all 50 states.”

I wondered why she asked me the question. Maybe she thought I might be interested in doing commercials in Europe soon.

When I did an interview with a cable news program they asked if it would be OK if they sent a makeup artist to the studio. “Sure,” I said. “A plastic surgeon would be even better, but a makeup artist will do.”

Why are we like this? Because we are not Europe.

Wrinkles are anathema to American women and, increasingly, to American men. Well, at least to Bruce Jenner.

Women of all ages try some very strange things to slow the hands of time.

Take the scrub cleanser. Scrub cleansers have little particles like sand in them that are supposed to smooth your skin. Think coarse sandpaper on old wood. The scrubs with granules are hard to rinse. I’ve found sand-like particles under my contact lens, clinging to the bottom of my chin and even one stuck between my teeth. You shouldn’t need a toothpick after you wash your face.

Still other washes promise to open up your pores and deflake your skin. I checked the instructions on that one to see if you had to vacuum afterward.

Then there is the retinol eye mask. It is two crescent-shaped pads soaked with a solution that will puff up deep creases around the eyes. I put the pads under my eyes and caught sight of myself in a mirror. I looked like the missing link between raccoons and upright humans.

The cucumber gel for eyelids was a free sample. It had to be kept in the refrigerator. It was a beautiful avocado green and looked very appetizing. Don’t store it next to your salad dressings. Just trust me on this one.

A high-end spa in New York City will give you a bird doo-doo facial for $180. You read that right. The Geisha Facial mixes dried Asian nightingale droppings with rice bran, which is then painted on your face. Don’t get any ideas about trying this at home with whatever you can scrape off the bird feeder. It can’t be any old bird doo-doo, it has to be Asian nightingale doo-doo because they live on seeds that produce a natural enzyme that softens the skin.

Who in the world is the person who discovered bird poo on your face will make your skin softer? It was probably a relative of the person who discovered the mud mask.

A fellow writer was reflecting on an upcoming milestone birthday and the wrinkles on her face. She was feeling low, so she bought herself an azalea. She is 39 turning 40.

I have a milestone birthday coming up in a few years. If it takes an azalea to appease 40, I‘ll need to buy an entire hedge row.

No such thing as a simple project

There is no such thing as a simple project. Every project you start leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to your eventual collapse.

I’m on the couch now.

It started when the husband, who in 35 years of marriage has never once acknowledged the existence of dirt, asked if I couldn’t do something about the dirty carpet in the family room.

We were marveling at the outline of a missing throw rug, the soiled expanse where people stand in front of the television, and a large dark area that bore a striking resemblance to South America, when our son-in-law and youngest daughter said, “Hey! Why don’t we help you rip up the carpeting?”

“Why not?” I foolishly said. “There are lovely hardwoods beneath this ugly rug.”

So while the husband was working over the weekend, the son-in-law and daughter and I ripped up carpeting. We pulled up tack boards, pried nails without heads out of hardwood, moved four 8-foot bookcases, assorted furniture, a solid oak rolltop desk and tangled balls of computer cords that could stretch from here to Jupiter. We applied two Kermit the Frog Band-Aids and wrestled with large carpet strips and padding, rolling them for disposal.

It was good to have the dirty carpet gone. But when your son-in-law says, “Do you want to paint before we move the furniture back?” you know the walls are bad.

Why is it that I am suddenly surrounded by men with an eye for dirt?

This was to be a redo project with a zero-dollar budget. Fortunately, I found an old gallon of neutral paint in the garage. I bought a small sampler of paint in a dark color, determined to tint my own paint, thereby repainting an entire room for only $3.19. Yes! I was about to make renovation history. Somebody Pinterest this!

Ten minutes after applying my cost-saving paint concoction, I was on the way to the hardware store for a gallon of new paint.

After a day of up and down the ladder and crouching in corners, the walls looked good. But the trim needed paint.

More paint. Then, the trim looked good, the walls looked good, the floor looked good, but the space between the trim and the floor didn’t look good. It needed quarter round to bridge the gap.

I could wait for the husband to do it over the weekend, or I could do it myself. DIY is my middle name.

Back to the hardware store for quarter round. And stain.

I got the hang of the compound miter saw and how to miter corners, just as I was doing the last quarter round cut.

So there you have it. One off-hand comment about dirt, a unsolicited offer of kindness, and three days later my fingers are permanently curled, pains are shooting down my neck and my legs are on fire, but the floor looks good. The walls look good. The trim and quarter round look good. The bookshelves look good. The room looks good. The Tylenol looks good—but I’ll be if this couch isn’t looking pretty worn and tattered.

Every parent is a teacher

The oldest of our brood of six grandchildren, oldest being the wise, ripe age of four, sat in church during the first part of a Crayonsservice with her parents recently and observed a baptism.

Later that afternoon she was found standing on a chair in the living room holding a bowl of water. Asked what she was doing, she told her mom and dad that she was going to baptize them.

Our son relayed the story, as it reminded him of his youngest sister. On several occasions she was found with a silver pitcher we had received as a wedding gift, a pitcher identical to the ones our church uses, along with a pack of saltines in hand, about to serve communion.

Sweet in both cases, but not entirely appropriate and so the girls in both scenarios were gently redirected. What the children were attempting to do was laudable: they were imitating the beauty and sacred moments that they had seen.

Every family, with its habits, practices and routines, is every child’s first classroom. Mothers and fathers are every child’s first teachers. In most cases, for better or for worse, parents are often a child’s most important and most influential teachers.

As one-time Secretary of Education Bill Bennett used to say, “Not every teacher is a parent, but every parent is a teacher.”

When people grouse, “What’s with kids today?” I often want to answer, “Look at some of the parents behind them.”

The school buses have been roaring through the neighborhood. I watch them round the corner and wonder what kind of school year they’ll have, not just the students, but the teachers. Some teachers will experience rewarding years and others will have week after week of headaches and misery.

It’s not a great mystery when young children use filthy language and rampage in the classroom. They most likely saw it at home, heard it at home and learned it at home. Nor is it a great mystery when children have an appetite for learning, a measure of self-control and a penchant for kindness. They, too, probably saw it at home, heard it at home and learned it at home.

When a parent abdicates the role of teacher and good things are no longer taught and reinforced in the home, peers without boundaries and a coarse culture with a ravenous appetite eagerly fill the vacuum.

There’s debate across the country right now over the Common Core State Standards, federal education standards for achievement. Every family has standards for achievement or a core curriculum as well.

Maybe that’s the greatest challenge of parenting—having to think on your feet and teach your core curriculum while juggling laundry, dinner, oil changes and that strong-willed kid with arms crossed, sulking in a chair.

In some homes, parents implement a core curriculum of respect, kindness, apologies, appropriate language and helpfulness. In other homes, parents may have forgotten the bar is theirs to set.

A new school year is always a fresh start, a time to regroup and reorganize. It’s a good time to ask what’s in your family’s core curriculum.