Stiff competition for holding the baby

It’s a shame that newborns can’t talk. They probably have interesting observations on all the people constantly in their faces.

“That one needs to shave before he nuzzles my cheek one more time.”

“Oh great, here comes that one with coffee breath!”

“I’d like to toss a couple of you up in the air on a full stomach and see how you like it!”

The latest two babies in our family are probably asking what all the hollering is about. It’s about everyone vying for a turn at holding a baby.

And you thought competition on the soccer field was fierce.

Three kids scramble to line up on the sofa, all wearing sweet smiles, all holding their arms in cradling position.

“I’m the oldest,” one says, offering credentials.

“I haven’t held the baby since Tuesday,” says another making a plea for pity.

The third one doesn’t say a thing. She simply slides a pillow under her arm to demonstrate that she is safety conscious. Just like that, she gets the baby.

“I’m next! I’m next!” shout the other two.

I finally get a turn to hold the baby and a kid tugs on my dress and says it’s not my turn.

“I’m the Grandma,” I say calmly. “It’s always my turn.”

She takes off crying that Grandma doesn’t share.

If this high demand for holding a baby continues, the baby will have to give up naps. Sorry, baby, it’s just the way it is.

Another kid runs to the baby’s momma and says, “Next time, you should have twins!”

I am holding the baby at the dinner table, dinner is finished, and five kids and four adults are on the other side of the table, all of them trying their best to make the baby smile.

They are bugging out their eyes, wiggling their eyebrows and uttering strange sounds. Frankly, none of them look very bright. One is shaking his head back and forth so hard that his cheeks are shaking. And he’s the business exec in the family.

An array of fingers tickle her chin, her belly, the bottoms of her feet, all the while coaxing, “Come on, sweetie, give  us a little smile.”

And then she does it.

She spits up.

Groans of disappointment.

We clean the baby up and they start in again, cameras poised, cooing, laughing, standing on their heads, hoping for a smile.

Grandpa finally gets a turn to hold the baby. He’s had her 90 seconds when the baby’s 2-year-old sister approaches, waves her hands in the air, wildly wiggling all 10 fingers, saying, “I neeeeeeeeed to hold the baby!”

But we all neeeeeeeeed to hold the baby. And therein lies the problem–so many needy arms, so few babies.

“I believe it’s my turn to hold the baby,” a voice says.

“Get in line,” someone says laughing.

“You just had a turn,” someone else chimes in. “Why should you have another turn?”

“Because I’m the baby’s MOTHER!”

She wins.

Memories written on paper, but held in the heart

There was only one time that I saw my mother-in-law cry. She was a dichotomy, a woman who loved unconditionally and a tough cookie.

She was a nurse when World War II began. Within a month after Pearl Harbor, she told her parents she wanted to join the Army Nurse Corps. They told her ladies didn’t do such things. She was a lady, but she was also a patriot.

Her unit did not ship out to Europe until December 1943. Their destination was Stockbridge, England. She kept a journal overseas. Entries were sporadic, often cryptic, many only a sentence or a phrase.

“First night overseas. Slept in a hut with only two little coal stoves.”

She picked up a 3-week-old black and white dog in England and named her Vicki, short for Victoria and fed it bits of her meals.

Her outfit, the 25th General Hospital, was responsible for setting up and opening field hospitals. They cared for the wounded, mainly Allies, but also prisoners of war. Many of those she tended to died.

“Got sick. Left England with few regrets.”

In July 1944, the month after D-Day, they crossed the English Channel, arrived at Utah Beach set up a 1,000-bed tented hospital near Lison, Normandy, France.

“I’ve worked all around this week – mostly with prisoners – two half days with our boys.”

Another entry reads: “That d—- (she used dashes) Hitler. He should be hung from a toe until dead.”

When the German offensive began, they moved to Belgium.

She mentioned receiving a package from home, noting every item it contained and wrote, “I pray to God things will revert to as near normal as possible when we go home.”

Early in 1945 she wrote, “The more I think of it, the more I liked France in spite of the mud.”

Jan 14: “Here’s hoping the buzz bombs don’t start here. It is wonderfully quiet.”

Feb. 10: “Enjoyed 10 days of work. The boys were swell.”

March 13: “Bombers really coming back today. It was a wonderful sight.”

March 14: “More bombers today. Germany must look like a sieve.”

A few days later from Aachen, Germany: “Talking about sieves – Aachen looks like one. Very few people on streets.”

The most personal entry was written May 7, 1945: “I walked across a meadow so peaceful and beautiful that I had an indescribable feeling of loneliness. I don’t believe I have had a more deep sense of being alone than I did at that moment. It lingered for a couple of days, too. Victory here was expected any moment and there is no one on this side to whom I mean much. Needing companionship, as I always have, it is more wanted at a time like that than any other.”

She smuggled Vicki onto the troop ship heading home, hiding the dog in her overcoat.

Not long after returning, she found the companionship she had longed for and married. In 1950, expecting their first child, she told the obstetrician she’d like to have the baby without drugs. She’d learned of the Lamaze method overseas.

The doctor told her that was not possible.

She said it was possible.

He said if she wanted to try a crazy thing like that, she could get a different doctor.

So she did.

She lived a good and full life and was never easily rattled. When she was concerned about something, she’d let you know, but in a measured tone. Or she’d simply chew her bottom lip.

As she aged, her memory began fading. Eventually, it was easier to remember things long ago instead of things in the recent past.

One day, someone found her box of World War II memorabilia and placed it in her lap. She opened the box, exposing a bright array of red, gold, and blue on emblems, patches and insignias. Soldiers had torn them from their uniforms and given them to her as tokens of gratitude for good care in dark days.

Her eyes welled and soon she was sobbing, memories unleashing a torrent of tears.

It was a deep and sorrowful moment of remembrance.

Traditionally, every Memorial Day at 3 p.m., many Americans have paused for one minute to remember those died in service to the country.

In this age of vitriol, division and polarization, we could all use a moment of unity, a moment reflecting on the sacrifices of others that have enabled us to live free.



Why mothers might worry

Our kids are in their 30s now. It’s the big exhale. They’re grown, finished with school, settled in solid marriages and raising kids of their own. Everything is good. Everybody is on track. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the bathroom scale said I was down two pounds and I’m having a good hair day.

Life is good.

Mid-morning, the oldest daughter stops by and announces she is going to have laser eye surgery. Or maybe she said she was getting Lasik Eye Surgery, I can’t remember.

“Creepers!” I shout.

Who lets someone reshape their eyes with a laser while they are semi-conscious? She begins detailing the procedure and I slap my hands over my eyes.

I feign enthusiasm saying, “Wonderful! You can lose the contacts and glasses.”

She accuses me of insincerity. Maybe it’s because she can’t pry my hands away from my eyes.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine,” she says.

At noon, our son calls to say he is going to Alaska on business and will email his travel itinerary. He forwards a confirmation for a primitive cabin in the wilderness. It has a wooden platform for a sleeping bag, a table and chairs and a woodstove. The fine print says, “If you want water, melt snow but be sure to purify it.”

Are you kidding?” I yell into the phone. “Bears!”

He responded by sending a picture of the mountains where the cabin is.

“I can’t see it! My hands are stuck in front of my face. Your sister’s having eye surgery and now you’re camping alone in Alaska when you could be staying in a nice hotel. May I remind you that you have five kids?”

“Yeah,” he says. “I think it’s going to be very quiet.”

“What does your wife think?”

“She very sad – that she can’t go, too.”

“You don’t have to go to the wilderness for peace and quiet. We could come babysit, you know.”

“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll be fine.”

I ask him to text when he’s out of the wild and on the job site. He agrees, but says it could be late in the day because he’ll be very busy.

How long does it take to text “A-L-I-V-E” to your mother?

My stomach is churning, my hair is wild from running my hands through it and I am standing in front of the ‘fridge with the urge to graze.

I call our youngest and ask, “What crazy thing are you planning? Skydiving? Running with the bulls? Storm chasing?”

“What are you talking about?” she asks.

“Don’t play that game with me, missy. Your brother and sister just dropped big ones on me and you’re probably up to something, too. It’s not enough that one of you worries me sick, I know how you like to team up.”

“I’m not up to anything,” she says. “You need to calm down. We’re all responsible adults now. Why would you worry?”

Because once a mom, always a mom. That’s why.


Messing with a neat idea

It only took one episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the international decluttering guru, to make me a fan. Because I knew the KonMarie method of purging and organizing would be life-changing, I began keeping a diary as I embraced minimalism.

Fell in love with KonMarie method of decluttering. You hold an object close and if it does not spark joy, get rid of it! Now we’re talking! This is going to be great. Our closets will be functional! The kitchen will be streamlined!       Our dresser drawers will look like works of art!

Spent afternoon organizing dresser drawers, folding clothes into thirds and then into small squares. Like doing origami with all my jeans. Workout clothes all folded and standing up like miniature pup tents. Feeling exhilarated!

Since all my workout clothes are black or gray, had to shake out 16 small rectangles while still half asleep at 5 a.m. to tell workout pants from leggings from T-shirt that I wanted for the gym. Will refold clothes watching another episode of “Tidying Up” later tonight.

Decluttered garage. Didn’t throw away much, but tools, sports equipment, lawn care supplies, and water toys are now in large plastic tubs with lids. Minimalism is expensive. Feeling fatigued. And broke.

Fingers cramping from constantly folding socks and underwear into tiny squares. Thinking there must be more to life.

Three-year-old granddaughter taking an interest in folding. Can fold dishtowels into small precision squares. Good to have help.

Have worn same clothes to the gym three days in a row so I don’t have to keep unfolding and refolding.

Refreshed after doing a KonMarie on laundry room. Steam iron did not bring spark of joy. Tossed it. Washer and dryer did not spark joy. Called for big truck to haul them away. ‘Fridge and stove going next.

Husband complaining that the stove and refrigerator are gone. Some people are not suited for minimalism.

Tried to interest 3-year-old in folding fitted sheets into tiny rectangles. No interest. Not so interested myself.

Watched another episode. Think Marie knows about my workout clothes and is judging me.

Noticed Marie doesn’t carry a purse. No makeup? No wallet, cash, credit cards, ID? Maybe she folded them all into teeny tiny squares and tucked them into a teeny tiny pocket. Not giving up my big purses. Ever. Not even for sweet Marie.

Marie says to get rid of books. Am reeling from shock. Every book we own sparks joy. Marie and I are clearly on different pages.

Suspect Marie lives in a totally empty house. Good for her, but I miss eating.

Found a square of chocolate I missed in the pantry purge. Am rejuvenated and heading to the thrift store. At the rate people have been decluttering, there are probably some good buys on major appliances.

Am taking my big brown purse. One of five.

Sorry, Marie.