The curative powers of a well-timed hair appointment?

I’ve already mentioned that I can’t easily pay for services without feeling a twinge of guilt. In particular, spending money on hair cuts/color. First of all, hair grows, so whatever you do to it has temporal value, at best. It’s like when you drive a new car off the lot or buy top-of-the-line electronics. A rapidly depreciating investment.

"Good enough" or "tragically trendy"? You decide!
“Good enough” or “tragically trendy”? You decide!

Then there’s the vanity aspect: My mom used to cut my hair when I was a child—and though my haircuts weren’t always the latest style, they were deemed “good enough.” Likewise, my natural hair color (mousy brown) is fine, if a tad dull. My parents aren’t exactly puritans, but they are frugal, so I was raised to believe that spending a lot on a haircut was a waste of money as well as rather vain.

Over the years, I’ve managed to squash that pragmatic and wholesome attitude and have been seeing a professional stylist for a cut and color ever since an untimely home-dying episode left me with “hot roots”—in my case bright orange roots and dark dyed locks—the same day as my sister-in-law’s mother’s funeral. Although with a little foresight I could have called it “ombre” and been a trendsetter, at the time it was merely an inappropriate hairstyle for such a solemn occasion.

The professional stylist (my niece) was able to bring my hair back to balance with a nice rich color and tasteful highlights, but such expertise comes at a price (even with a family discount), so as my nod to frugality, I convinced myself I’d drag out the time between appointments as long as possible.

I had been in this wanting-to-make-an-appointment-but-it’s-still-too-soon phase for a couple of weeks and noticed that when I don’t like how my hair looks, I don’t like how life looks. My auburn hair always fades to a nondescript light brown and blah hair = blah life. I’ve never been lured to the light side by the promise that “blondes have more fun,” but I’ve always had a preference for hair color with some oomph to it. I also have the attention span of a gnat and don’t need to explain that switching hairstyles or hair color when I’m bored is easier than switching jobs or husbands.

Before
Before

But in addition to the color issue, my hair has taken a weird turn of late. A couple of years ago, I noticed a very decided “kink” partway down my normally stick-straight hair. And from there it continued to twist and turn until now, three years later, I’ve got wavy hair for the first time in my life at the age of 47 (admittedly, I’ll be 48 next month, but let’s not rush things, okay?!). Yet, despite the recent disposition toward kinkiness, some of the longer (older) hair is still straight toward the bottom—and a bit frizzy and fried from all the coloring and styling tools—so I was also in pretty dire need of a cut to shape things up.

Of course, after waiting until enough time had elapsed to justify another appointment, I discovered that my niece was booked for the next two weeks. Frustrated and impatient, I considered my alternatives. I have another niece who was finishing cosmetology school (it may seem odd that I actually have THREE nieces in this line of work ’til you realize how many nieces I have—let’s just say a lot). Unfortunately, booking a coloring slot would require leaving work early and I was too busy to do that. So, I waited…impatiently… until my scheduled appointment with my niece last week.

After
After

Which brings us to now. Although I did breathe a sigh of relief looking in the mirror as my niece dried my newly colored and freshly trimmed hair, I’m sad to say the euphoria was short-lived, and the next morning old troubles were still troubling me. I guess I’ve gotten more complex as I’ve gotten older, and no longer can my problems just be washed away with an expensive Aveda shampoo. Hmmm… Maybe I need to go shoe shopping instead. 🙂

True Confessions III: Bad parenting

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted about a traumatic parenting incident. With a toddler at home and a job that requires working odd hours, she had dozed off while her toddler napped and forgot to meet her other young daughter at the bus stop. A conscientious mother, she felt terrible and was beating herself up a bit over her all-too-human lapse.

 I sympathized, but inside I thought, “Oh honey, if that’s the worst you can come up with you’re doing pretty good…” Which leads us to our next True Confessions topic: Bad Parenting

Stormy: The little nipper – As a brand-new mother with a brand-new son, I decided to clip my newborn’s long fingernails. With 20 nieces and nephews, I was no stranger to taking care of babies, so I took out the tiny nail clippers and “CLIP!” snipped the end of my son’s thumb. He wailed, I cried, and I quickly handed him off to my husband who finished the job. A half-dozen years later, as a frugal young mom, I was giving my son a haircut once when I very cleanly snipped the top of his ear. It was one of those moments where I immediately registered what I had done but there was complete silence for about 10 seconds as my son scrunched up his face and I braced myself for what followed. He wailed, I cried. After that, I was willing to “cut my losses” and pay the Children’s Barbers for future trims.

KitKat: Just shake it off – I took pride in the fact that as a first time mom I didn’t get panicky over every little bump or fall. My son would take a tumble and I would tell him to “shake it off” instead of running to his rescue. This worked well for awhile. My son didn’t dramatize every little bump. Like most two-year-olds, he loved to run. Though still would trip over his own feet quite a bit. One day, pretending to let him win a race we were having down the sidewalk, he fell over (like many other times). He got up, I said shake it off and he took off running to win the race. Proudly, he turned around with a huge smile and blood covering his face.

Stormy: No really, I’m sick – My older daughter has an unusual relationship with pain. She has a crazy high threshold for physical pain: Shots when she was a toddler, broken bones, acute appendicitis, all hardly elicited a wince. At the same time, she has a low threshold for emotional pain or drama. So in grade school, when she told me she was sick and wanted to stay home, I chalked it up to “school-itis” and insisted she go. An hour later, I got the call from the school nurse. My daughter had thrown up in the hallway on the way to class. Discomfort and embarrassment. Way to go, mom.

KitKat: Full moon – As an over-scheduled family, we are often running out the door in a panic to make it to different events and activities. My kids learned early that they better be able to fend for themselves to get ready for anything they deemed important enough to show up on time. For the most part, they show up presentable. One Saturday after arriving at gymnastics class, I learned my daughter didn’t have on her required shorts over her leotard. She just turned five so I do usually check her out before leaving the house, but it was an extra crazy morning. It might not seem like a big deal. I didn’t think so as I sent her in with a quick apology to the teacher and took my spot with other parents to watch from behind the glass. I saw my sweet daughter run out. As she turned to face her teacher, all of the parents were faced with my daughter’s now-turned-thong leotard. I spent an hour listening to the giggles of the other parents as my daughter mooned us in a variety of positions.

Stormy: Bad day on the playground – My newly adopted Chinese daughter was 5 years old when she had an unpleasant encounter with a wood play set. We picked her up from day care and my usually sunny girl was crabby and whiney for the next hour or so (but whining in Chinese, so we didn’t really know what she was complaining about). Finally, at dinner she was scowling and wincing and gesturing to her bottom, so I took her into the bathroom and made her “drop trou.” There, embedded in her rosy little behind was a 2×4. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. It literally was the equivalent of half a toothpick. I yelled for my husband (do you see a theme here?) who extracted the offending splinter from my grateful daughter’s delicate derriere. In fact, after removing it and washing it off, we taped it to a piece of cardboard and labeled it, for posterity. Or for posterior-ity, if you will.

KitKat: Time to learn a lesson – My son is careless with his things.  Off our watch and at school it is even worse. His desk and locker is a disorganized mess. We have missed conference appointment times, homework, and teacher notes that were crumbled in his desk. Numerous water bottles and clothing items have left for school and never returned. It is a constant battle we have with him. Take care of your things. Be responsible. When it was time for a skating session in P.E. class and he wanted to bring full hockey gear, we sat down and discussed that his equipment is valuable and he has to bring it home each night. Sure enough by the fifth day he showed up at home with no gear. Instantly he started his defense, how he put it nicely away after class and someone must have stolen it. He did look for it. It wasn’t his fault. That is when my tirade started about how careless he is with his things and always had an excuse. After making him sit through a lot of talk about responsibility, telling him he could help pay to replace it and adding on the dreaded no electronics punishment – I stormed off saying maybe he would finally learn his lesson. It was a long weekend. Then, the following Monday, we got a call from school saying they had found his equipment. It had accidentally got moved by a janitor when moving some tables around and they were sorry for any inconvenience. They had found his nicely packed bag, safely tucked into the other classroom. My lesson ended up in being how to say sorry when you are wrong.

Kool-aid for grown-ups
Kool-aid for grown-ups

Stormy: Putting the teeny in Martini – And my greatest shining moment, my crowning achievement of parenting, was the time my family and my sister’s tried to escape the relentless winter with a hotel water park getaway in downtown Minneapolis. After several hours in the water park, my husband was in my sister’s room watching the hockey game with my brother-in-law and the kids were in my room watching Nickelodeon. I jumped in the shower to wash the chlorine off of myself and came out to find the kids huddled around my youngest who looked positively green. “What’s wrong?” I asked my son. He responded that my petite 5-year old daughter had poured a glass of Kool-aid and wasn’t feeling well. I looked at the plastic pitcher no longer full of the bright, colorful liquid inside—not Kool-aid, but premixed Cosmopolitans. Nearly 100% booze. I panicked for a bit: How much had she drank? How would I explain this to the paramedics? I spent several minutes debating the lesser of two evils: Having the Department of Human Services questioning my obviously neglectful parenting or having my daughter experience alcohol poisoning. When I looked at my little girl, her skin was pale and her eyes were glassy–this wasn’t good. Then, she promptly threw up the bright pink poison. Immediately, the color came back in her face and her eyes brightened. Crisis averted. I could keep my terrible parenting a secret. Well, until now. But since my daughter is now a beautiful, happy 18-year-old, I managed to get her to adulthood in spite of myself.

KitKat: On the rocks – Stormy isn’t the only mom who inadvertently provided their child with a taste of liquor well before appropriate. In the summer, often after work I go up on my balcony to enjoy some fresh air, a VO Manhattan and page through a magazine. Once in awhile the kids will follow and my daughter would always ask for ice. I’d grab one from the glass and suck off any lingering whiskey (or so I thought) before feeding it to her. This would keep her quiet for a bit, which was a big deal at three. One morning, she asked for ice and my husband grabbed one out of the freezer. We were quickly told his ice didn’t taste good like Mommy’s. No wonder she was quiet! From then on I remembered to bring a cup of pure ice out with me.

Okay, it’s clear that neither of us are going to be getting Mother of the Year anytime soon. Does anyone else have a good story to share? After all, this whole parenting gig is Easier Said Than Done…

What goes up must come down: A Spring Break fairy tale

Well, I am back, and not too happy about it. As Stormy mentioned in her last post, I was off enjoying Spring Break with my family. Now usually, I would say “enjoying” a family vacation is a bit of a stretch. It usually means whiny kids out of their element, too much together time and expectations set way too high on the quality memories we would create together. Plus, family also includes my parents who we stay with in Arizona. This adds to my personal stress of keeping my children from disrupting their calm lives and of wanting to show off how great my children are turning out due to our fabulous parenting skills. (This usually is when my parents witness all of us at our worst, as I try to force the unrealistic image of a perfect family which then turns into a complete family meltdown.) Toward the end of vacation, I usually start dreaming about my escape back to work. But, this trip was different.

Perhaps my children have reached a new stage. Now they are old enough to also appreciate the difference the warmth of the sun and relaxed schedule can make to them and their parents’ mood. Nor, do they need the same strict routines to function like somewhat tolerable human beings. Or, it could be that I have

View from my thrown
View from my throne

relaxed a bit and decided if my five-year-old daughter wants to do her normal nonstop morning chatter to her grandparents, instead of me, there is no need to intervene. Instead, I took the selfish approach of picking up my book and enjoying the morning quiet. After a couple days, it became the morning routine and household joke as I stumbled through the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, waved to all (without a word) and headed outside to my lawn chair to read. “There goes Mom again.” I’d be joined a couple hours later as the kids jumped into the pool. Which leads me to another great stage, I didn’t have to be in the pool morning till night watching the kids play. They both can swim on their own now. I could pretend to watch (with my sunglasses masking my gaze) all the “look at me” and “watch this” tricks poolside. Once in awhile I would make my appearance as the special guest jumping in and getting lots of excitement and applause for it.

Aside from a few outings, we pretty much just hung out, relaxed and enjoyed the setting. (One outing was on horseback, a favorite activity since childhood of mine that I will post about in more detail later.) I didn’t even check in at work more than filtering through emails once a day. Pretty impressive with a new website launching the day I returned. I do have to give my unplugged-from-work credit to my great and completely self-sufficient staff, who told me (and meant it) to STOP whenever I tried to check in. It was the only time I actually liked being told to “STOP” and I paid attention and took the advice to quiet my rambling thoughts. For ten days, I truly relaxed. I won’t get into full boasting of all of the luxuries and other tidbits that made this trip so perfect, but it was simply a fabulous escape from reality.

What goes up must come down. And I realized this up in the air, just before midnight on Sunday and about 30 minutes away from landing back in Minneapolis. I had planned the late return thinking the kids still had the following day off to catch up on sleep and after all of my rest, certainly one day short on sleep wouldn’t be too hard to handle in exchange for taking full advantage of my vacation time. But on that last leg of the plane ride it suddenly all hit me. Tomorrow, instead of leisurely walking outside groggy from so much inactivity, I would be running to a work in 30-degree weather after only four hours of sleep. I would be faced with issues from a website launch, a frantic pace of catching up on all that sat idle waiting for my return, and to top it off, it was my birthday. Yes, I was turning 44 up in the air and I certainly didn’t see it as a something to celebrate. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had lost an entire year and only recently realized it wasn’t my 43rd birthday. With midnight looming, it looked like I was facing my own Cinderella story.

It was no fun realizing I was right. I kept a good face on at work but inside I was miserable. All of the things that had made me so happy had been swept up and taken away. I kept trying to be mature and told myself I was lucky to have had that time to enjoy, but the more rational I tried to become, the more irrational I felt. I wanted my fairy tale back.

cinderella

It would be a shame to end the post that all was lost and it was a horrible, no good, very bad day (I loved that book as a kid!). There was a slight happy ending that I made for myself. I did what any mature working woman/overstressed mom would do. I came home, put on my pajamas, and hid in my bed with a bottle of wine. Under the birthday disguise, I claimed a free night and wanted my servant children and husband to bring me food as needed. After spending my night with hours of T.V. (all favorite shows I had recorded but never time to watch) and a few too many glasses of wine, I finally dozed off, content.

Looking at the forecast ahead, the temps are rising so hopefully my mood will follow. Onwards and upwards! I won’t give up hope on for my own happy-ever-after ending though.

Rules were made to be broken… even those of our own design

According to our blogging schedule, it’s KitKat’s turn to write a post. However, she’s on vacation with her family, enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. Rather than drag her away from the fun, we’ve decided to mess with our sequence and have me post instead.

Coincidentally, this is an excellent lead-in to my topic. Some of you may be able to relate to this, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’ve settled into a few routine “tendencies.” For example, let’s consider the subject of direct-selling parties. As you probably gathered from my previous post on the topic, if I get an invitation to one, I have a tendency not to attend.

Other tendencies include:

  • Not helping my kids with school fundraising. (I would perhaps buy something myself, but I wouldn’t go to any lengths to promote the fundraiser du jour among coworkers or family like some parents might.)
  • Disregarding charitable appeals that don’t fall into my selection criteria (which is fairly narrow) unless it happens to be a case of supporting a friend’s cause (in which case, it’s actually about supporting the friend more than the cause). The fact is, there are millions of worthy organizations out there competing for the same buck and giving it any more thought than that would cause my head to explode.
  • Not buying any white bottoms. That’s an easy one to explain. I’m a klutz and buying white pants or a white skirt is just asking for trouble.
  • Only watching “non-taxing” movies on Friday nights. These would be romantic comedies, slapstick comedies, classics I’ve seen 20x before, etc. Nothing with a complicated plot or that otherwise requires full attention. After putting in a full week at work, I simply don’t have enough brain cells left on Friday night.

And last, but not least:

  • A policy against having policies. I’ll call these tendencies “preferences,” or “guidelines,” but I don’t like to think of them as “policies.” While these kinds of rules can form a code of conduct that simplifies decision-making, I’ve seen a number of people apply their preferences too rigidly, disregarding the consequences of their inflexibility or its effect on others. As a result, you might say that I have a policy against policies.

Surprised by that last one? Here’s an example from close to home: My dad won’t wait in lines—which he is quick to point out if he encounters one. Like most of his Greatest Generation peers, he enlisted for WWII as soon as he could. Dad left for basic training the first day after the end of his senior year in high school, and at the age of 17 he was immersed in a new world—one that apparently included a lot of lines. As he explains it, “The guys would have to wait in line for hours to go through the chow line for breakfast and then after eating would get back in the line again for lunch. I swore when I left the service, I’d never wait in line again.”

And as far as I know. He hasn’t.

Wasn't Stormy adorkable?
Wasn’t Stormy adorkable?

That’s an exaggeration of course. Realistically, I’m sure my dad hasn’t been able to avoid every long line he’s encountered during the 68 years since this “policy” was formed. But I’m sure he did if he had any say in the matter. Which is why—when my family went to Disneyland in the late 70s and the line for Space Mountain was “too long”—we skipped what was then the hottest ride in the theme park. And I still remember the omission 30 odd years later. (You’re probably thinking here that I need to learn to let things go—and I do—but that’s a topic for another post.)

Today, my dad’s policy is usually cited when my mom wants to eat at a popular restaurant. Would it kill him to wait it out once in a while? No and doing so would make my mom happy. So I try to keep this in mind whenever I find myself clinging a little too stubbornly to my own “tendencies,” and remember that every rule has its exception. Because knowing when it’s okay–or even necessary–to bend the rules is key to living a balanced and exceptional life.

 “The wind does not break a tree that can bend.”  – African Proverb

Fear the Yeti

If you’re wondering what the hell a Yeti is, you’re not alone. I found myself googling it during my son’s hockey game as I heard the parent next to me shout it out as our boys came onto the ice. I was already having trouble keeping up signswith understanding the game … icing, offsides, cross-checking … I never could figure out why the referee was blowing the whistle. (I called him an umpire till my son scoffingly corrected me on a drive home one evening.)

I’m assuming you’re already getting the impression I am not the world’s best hockey mom. And, if you had asked me what sport I would be managing my life around—that is if I actually had to choose one—hockey would not have been it. For starters, I hate the cold. I already live in Minnesota, so why would I add on the torture of standing inside a cold arena? There’s not even a chance to warm up from the below-zero walk from the car. Plus, I was not so ignorant about the sport to not know that the costs and time dedicated to it were much higher than for those of many other activities my son could choose to participate in. But, in tandem with how the rest of this parenting gig has seemed to go, nothing turns out as I would plan it. He fell in love with hockey. 

With three practices a week and at least one game, hockey has become the center of family activities. We plan around it. The schedule hanging on the fridge at home is synched with my Outlook at work. There have been times we have been dragging kids out of bed for a 7:30 a.m. game and others starting a long drive home from an outlying rink an hour past normal bedtimes on a school night. My daughter’s most whined phrase has become, “Do we have to go to hockey again?” 

And let’s not forget the mandatory volunteer duty. As my son moves up the hockey ranks, so do the hours as parents we are committed to serve. Twelve hours this year that my husband and I had to work off at the concession stand. Looking on the bright side, it saved me a lot of snack money and calories once I actually had a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations. hotdogs

It was looking to be a long season. Never having been an active sports participant or fan, I just didn’t get it. Well, then I started to. 

Something happened as I watched these boys play together as a team. It was something I had never before seen in my overly competitive and fairly self-centered son. Everything was bigger than him when it came to this group of boys. It was all about The Team. If one of them had a bad game, there was no finger-pointing or griping as I witnessed too many times in even a casual game of kickball in our front yard with friends. These boys rallied around each other. Every scored goal was an exciting win for all. I would hear detailed recaps of all the parts played by each team member in getting that puck to just the right position. I would watch the team hurry back to protect their goalie when the other team grabbed the puck. Never was a goal blocked or scored without everyone on the ice patting our goalie in congratulations or “good try” before lining back up for the next face off. And they weren’t the best team. In fact, the season started with a 12-1 loss to a farm team who towered over ours and skated rings around all our players. But these boys grew together as a team. Soon I found myself cheering and yelling for each of the boys by name right along with the others. I took pride in watching each of their huge strides in development as individual players and as a team: Proving their growth as they lost only 5-4 in overtime to the same team two months later.

And it wasn’t just on the ice they were a unified team. These boys bonded as friends. It was very different than their relationships with school friends. There were no pretenses. They didn’t have to act cool, dress a certain way or have a pecking order. They were just the crew. At an out-of-town tournament, I would watch my son wake up in the morning grab a hotel key and throw on a hat to meet the other boys at breakfast. This was the same boy who normally would want me to find out where the other kids were, determine whether or not they were they in their pajamas and wouldn’t join others till invited in the group. I heard other parents on the team saying the same thing. There were no insecurities. They could fully just be themselves and fit right in.

I met some great parents, too. None of us were too intense about the standings, but we all would be jumping up and down on a good play and nervously pacing as we watched our kids in a final shoot out to end the game after two overtimes had past. (I did learn some of how the game worked!) We knew each other’s kids and cheered for them as loudly as our own. We knew how each boy would react to a win or a loss. 

Well, the season is now coming to an end. At our last game, the kids were begging the coach to get them all on the same team again next year. They didn’t hockeywant to play with anyone else. Well, that isn’t how it works, and the coach promised them they all had a lot of hockey ahead of them including other great teams to be part of. I found myself feeling sad, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m already looking forward to starting it again next year. It was fun to be part of something. Working (or cheering) together and sharing in both the wins and the losses. I also now understand why you hear so much about the importance of girls also playing team sports, especially during high school years. A feeling of being part of something beyond yourself is so important, plus feeling like you belong somewhere. That team dynamic I had never experienced. (It was pretty amazing just witnessing it.) But, I will make sure my daughter does, and I am happy to tag along on my son’s journey for now.

One thing I won’t mind is a small break from the dictating ice-time schedule. This week, as I invited friends over for dinner, I had to add the caveat, “…that is, if we aren’t placed in the evening bracket.”  Though my friend’s response was, “We’d love to. But, I can’t say for sure till I know how my son’s basketball tournament pans out.” With the end of the season, I can take back control of my schedule. That is until baseball starts. 

And, if you haven’t googled it yet, a yeti is another name for the “abominable snowman” who is pictured on our Storm team’s jerseys. “Fear the Yeti” became our team chant. It may also make for a good vision board slogan next year, I find it seems to help me as a meditative chant in my mind that both makes me smile and feel some power. Much better then that “ohm” stuff that has never worked for me.

Florida vignettes, part II: Del Boca Vista

So, Dear Readers, you may recall that our Florida story began with a work conference. But after a successful conclusion of that industry event, it was time to leave the luxury resort in Ft. Lauderdale for the second phase of my adventure. Next up? A 3-hour drive to senior-infested Central Florida to visit my beloved parents in their winter haven.

Now, whenever I mention that my parents flock to Florida with the other Minnesota snowbirds, I get the same question, “Is it anything like ‘Del Boca Vista’?” To which I respond, “Yes, but imagine the Costanzas living there instead of the Seinfelds.”

After getting turned around a few times trying to find the route recommended by the GPS function on my iPhone (it seems all of the freeways in Florida are labeled “Florida’s Turnpike”), I pulled into the Carefree Country Club in Winterhaven around five o’clock. The next 48 hours were filled with visiting some of Mom and Dad’s favorite eating establishments (the upside of dining with seniors: I got carded when I ordered a beer), listening to my dad play the organ (unfortunately, he plays about three beats behind the pre-programmed accompaniment) and visiting the local flea market.

I’ll take my fleas to go

A "sharp eye" will spot the transposed letters...
A “sharp eye” spots the knock-off pens

The flea market was interesting. Imagine the 20 worst garage sales you’ve ever been to and string them all together. That was the flea market. One large tent in particular was a veritable treasure trove of shit. Knock-off products of every shape and size jockeyed for the attention of shoppers trying to stretch a fixed income.

I was particularly amused by the “Sharpeis”… Aren’t those the wrinkly dogs? The contrast between that redneck flea market and the oceanfront resort where I had been just one day earlier was both amusing and a bit depressing.

What’s a lifetime of sacrifice worth? Apparently $29.82. 

One of the pleasures of being an adult is the ability to buy your parents a decent meal. I mean, my parents raised NINE children, which obviously entailed a considerable amount of physical and financial sacrifice on their part. As someone farther down the batting order, I know that my existence is more due to the Catholic church’s ruling on birth control than it is based on the fact that my parents really wanted an 8th child/5th daughter. So how does one say, “Hey, thanks for all the love and sacrifice?” Well, in our family, food is always an appropriate way to show love, so my plan was to take my parents out for a nice meal during my visit. Sky’s the limit, I told them. Pick your favorite place. After much debate, Mom chose the local Bob Evans. The tab for the three of us? Under $30–so much for gratitude (I had spent that much just having margaritas on the beach earlier in the week). To be honest, my parents would be appalled to know how much my husband and I regularly spend on eating out, as it contradicts the frugal approach necessitated by raising nine children. But my parents enjoyed their meal, and I, their company. So I guess that’s what really matters.

Check out those gams

Being from a large family, it’s an interesting exercise to speculate on which parental traits have carried through to the next generation.

My mother’s nose is…um…prominent. She inherited it from her father and a couple of my brothers and I inherited it from her. My four sisters all lament the fact that they have no pinky toenail and blame my mother. They all covet my pinky toenail—I guess it comes from Dad. My predilection for colorful phrases comes from my father. My love of reading? That’s Dad, too. My sharp tongue? Weird sense of humor? Mom. And so on…

But check this out:

86 years old!
86 years old!

These are the legs of my 86-year-old father. Not bad, eh? In fact, it’s become a bit of a family joke to kid my father about his gorgeous gams. But seriously, this is an unretouched photo taken from my iPhone last week. Look at those legs! I’m hoping this is one of the physical traits I’ve inherited from Dad (my mother’s legs–having withstood nine pregnancies–naturally show a little more wear and tear). Check back in another four decades or so, and we’ll see whether I won the genetic lottery on legs.

Putting the bite on the sandwich generation

The most difficult part of my visit was revisiting an old argument with my mother: The “It’s-time-to-downsize-and-move-to-an-assisted-living-facility” discussion. The fact is, my parents are no longer able to winter in Florida so far away from the assistance of their kids. My mom has her hands full with my dad, who (in addition to great gams) has dementia and no short-term memory. My siblings and I have jobs and families of our own and can’t always drop everything to help out, although we try our best. We all live in dread of Mom getting sick or hurt, because even the most minor hospitalization would require one of us to immediately fly down there and care for my dad.

My sibs and I would like to planfully arrange for my parents to move into a nice senior apartment where they could retain their independence, yet still have a social life and be able to get help in an emergency–rather than waiting for a health crisis to necessitate an emergency move into whatever substandard place has an opening. Ironically, my father–the so-called demented one–is amenable to this; however, my mother is adamantly opposed to the idea. So we defer to Mom’s wishes and continue to persuade and cajole, but the fact is, we’re stuck. We love our parents tremendously and know that these sacrifices are the ones my siblings and I are required to make in exchange for all those our parents made while raising us. As much as I wish otherwise, dinner at Bob Evans just won’t settle that debt.