It probably isn't the most glamorous first stop for a kid on summer vacation. But this year, going to see my 98-year-old grandmother -- their great grandmother -- in her assisted living facility will kick off our weeklong trip to Washington, D.C.
My kids have the drill down. First, we'll make a stop for carryout bagels and cream cheese to bring; it wouldn't be a visit with Nana without lox. Then, while hanging out in her small but meticulously decorated room, we will dutifully ask questions about her early life growing up on the pre-hip Lower East Side of New York City. She'll regale them with stories of the first time she owned a television and when going to the movies cost a dime. She will remind them that she was considered quite the looker in her days and could have had her pick of husbands. But she fell in love with my long-since-deceased grandfather because he played the violin. From the sounds of things, she was a pretty much a groupie in the 1930s.
And as we listen to her tales, I will experience a cocktail of emotions. Of course, I feel incredibly grateful that my children are among the select few that get the chance to enjoy a great grandmother well into their childhoods. They will actually remember her, not just remember that they knew her.
But another part of me is always sad that they (and I) don't get to see Nana, or my parents, or my husband's parents when they were alive, more often. My children are missing out on the sage advice, rootedness and the sense of continuity that comes with close physical proximity to grandparents--great or otherwise.
I grew up seeing my maternal grandmother just about every day. She taught me how to crochet (I'm pretty sure I can still make a pretty mean granny square), and who Jonas Salk and Robert Oppenheimer were. If Nana Annie had a thing for musicians, Nannie Ida surely had one for scientists. She never raised her voice or lectured. She was always steadying and calm. Nannie seemed to have an endless supply of the one-thing regular-old parents' so-often have a shortage of -- time.
In my teenage years, as the early signs of Alzheimer's began to set in, staying close to Nannie Ida meant driving over to her place to bring groceries or help organize the attic. This wasn't quite as fun. She was starting to get forgetful, and even harder, paranoid. She'd speak in a weird cadence, iambic pentameter, I think, and make references to people and places and I never knew. She was frustrated I didn't "remember" them. I was sometimes frustrated this was how I was spending my summer mornings.
But I think I knew then, and definitely know now, that helping my mom to take care of her mom, who died when my oldest was an infant, was far more of a privilege than a burden. While my siblings and I would fight endlessly about whose turn it was to change over the laundry at our own house, we rarely gave my mom too much grief about needing to run an errand for Nannie. It was expected of us. And we are probably a better for it.
I don't think Nana Annie, who is a bit frailer each time we see her, will be making the trip to visit us any time soon. But I can still hold out hope that my mother might move to Madison some day. She's entertaining the idea; two of her four children live here now. But she's concerned about leaving her social work practice and starting a new one. She knows making new friends at 74 isn't the easiest thing to do. And I think mostly the thought of harsh Wisconsin winters is holding her back.
But I remind her, that's she has five grandchildren here -- all who know how to wield a snow shovel.
And they need a few more expectations -- and whole lot more Nannie---in their lives.comments powered by Disqus
If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.
At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).
My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.
"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.