Posts Tagged With: siblings

Sibling Rivalry? Never…

Dear J, J, L and L,

Do you remember how I’d always answer when you asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day?

“Peace on earth, good will toward siblings.”

You all hated that answer. Or at least, you’d groan and say,” MoooOOOoooooooommmmmmm” in a whine of exasperation. I don’t blame you. It’s nearly impossible to run to Target or JC Penney and buy a cute box of good will. Even Wal-Mart, surprisingly, doesn’t carry either generic good or ill will in a bag. And wrapping up peace has so far proven unmanageable to even the biggest big wigs in the world.

It wasn’t that you guys never got along. (That was a double negative, which in math means a positive, right?) Let me rephrase that.


Okay, try this.

You guys didn’t fight constantly. I’ve seen worse. Much worse. And you didn’t come close to some the shtuff I’ve witnessed in other families.

Well, except for the Palestine and Israel years but we’re going to ignore that for the moment. Of course there was the infamous Scrabble incident but I blame myself for that one, in that I responded disproportionately to the constant volley of incoming fire between said “countries” during the game.

“I think this clearly shows that we spend far too much on fancy charts and graphs.” ~ attribution ??

“I think this clearly shows that we spend far too much on fancy charts and graphs.” ~ attribution ??

From what I’ve heard and seen, our family did pretty dang good on the siblings cooperating and getting along well ‘scale of warfare and petty grievances.’

I can tell you’re thinking, “has Mom really lost her mind now?” And you’d be partly correct, but I blame your dad for that more than you four. What you’re seeing and experiencing here is selective memory, and the fog that distance and time provides.

I’m not pretending there weren’t some all out brawls between you, because we all know there were some intense moments, days and weeks, yeah, and months and years. And yet, look at you now. You still speak to each other, you stay in touch, there’s no lasting damage to anyone’s psyche. We can get together as a whole family and there isn’t any major drama. How many families do YOU know that can say that?

I feel pretty dang lucky that it all turned out okay. And that it was more good than bad on the grand scale of things as far as sibling rivalry, conflict and combat goes.

You spent endless hours yelling “Marco” and “Polo” without any bloodshed or maimings. (Whining, yes. Cheating, probably.) Constructing hundreds of blanket forts without any broken bones, stitches, clawing or biting seems noteworthy. We even camped together without accidentally on purpose losing anybody. (We won’t bring up losing J at the gas station that one time, that was entirely my fault, nothing to do with sibling rivalry.)

Hot Wheels. Only the beginning of many thrills to follow.

Hot Wheels. Only the beginning of many thrills to follow.

J and J, you were each others best buddies for the longest time. I considered that the biggest benefit of your birth dates occurring only sixteen months apart. You worked together so well in so many ways. The most infamous example being when one of you, sleepless and bored during nap time, broke several slats off the end of the crib so the other one could crawl out and play trampoline on the bed with you. Evil genius right there, and great teamwork.

One of my most cherished pictures is big bro J with little sis J riding on the back of the Hot Wheel. You two were, even then, extreme thrill junkies zipping and zooming around like speed demons. Happiness personified!

Look how sweet and adorable! Amazing!

Look how sweet and adorable! Amazing!

And then Big L, you had this amazing gift of tongues when it came to Little L’s mangled language those first few years. What would I have done if you weren’t so in tune with what she said in body language and in words? What a great sister you were providing translations so that she and I weren’t so confused and frustrated in the communications department.

And then, few years later, as you patiently, every night for months, read Harry Potter out loud, until little L decided she couldn’t wait until bedtime and started reading alone as if it were oxygen.

What great siblings you all were and still are to each other. Pretty impressive!

I look back on those years and feel, relief, yes, but mostly JOY for the gift you gave me of motherhood. You continue to present me with delightful surprises and elation beyond anything you could buy at a store.

YOU four are my Mother’s Day gifts. Nothing can top that.

Thank you!

All my love,







Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One of Those Phone Calls You Don’t Want

When your phone rings at bedtime or after and it’s one of your siblings, a jolt of lightning shoots through your chest. It’s best to sit down before you say hello. Important to remember to keep breathing.

Whatever niceties you normally say, you say them, even though you know that’s not what the phone call is about.

You hear pieces of words, not full sentences. You try to put it together like a puzzle dumped out the box before you’ve seen the picture on the box.

You want time to move backwards to ten minutes ago, ten days ago, ten weeks ago, ten months ago, ten years ago. You want this not to be happening.

Not my favorite place. But glad they exist.

Not my favorite place. But glad they exist.

Not again.

Another stroke.

A different kind this time. Ischemic.

Ischemic, not hemmoragic. What does that mean?

A million questions. Very few answers, mostly uncertainty.

Tests to run.

Prayers to offer up. That’s all I can do from this many miles away.

Calls to make.

Decisions. Patience while hoping and praying, always praying, for the patient to improve.

The patient.


That one word sends the tears cascading and threatens to spill what little logic yet remains all over the floor making a huge mess of things.

Grateful for group messaging to communicate with siblings quickly, easily and clearly.

Hours later you read words that calm the pounding in your head and heart.

Resting. Stabilizing. Talking. Leveling. Normal Function. No clots so far.

You write not in first person because you need the distance created by the preposition “you.”

You write because sleep seems incomprehensible.

You write to have something to do about frayed nerves and the ache burning through you.

You write because surely you want to, should be able to, create a happy ending.

You write as a sort of prayer through the fingers. A keyboard rosary. Each keystroke a pleading for intercession.

Hoping for the best.

Hoping for the best.

Still praying.

Still praying.

Still praying.


“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ~Mother Teresa




Categories: Family, Hope, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Exploding Butter and Other Things That Never Happened

Growing up in a large family as one of the two oldest children I got the chance to babysit fairly often. At least to me it seemed often. Maybe it was only once a week or so. Being in charge of three to five younger siblings who refuse to acknowledge your authority, wisdom and higher rank makes for a tough slog at the babysitting stint.

Maize for popcorn, cultivated in Hungary, prod...

Add a little heat and pressure and voilà!

It gets more complicated if both your older sibling and yourself  get told, “you’re both in charge.” There’s a recipe for disaster right there. The older sibling will invariably try to pull rank based solely on a few extra years. While the younger, wiser sibling will try to lead from the bottom and behind without being noticed.

Much of the time the little ones would go off to bedrooms or already be in bed by time we older two got placed in charge. That made things easier, but it didn’t solve all the potential problems.

It didn’t always go so well.

Try to envision life without a microwave oven, dishwasher, iPad, cell phone, video, remote control anything and five hundred television channels. I know, it’s a stretch to harken back that many decades into the presmarteverything era. It was a dark time.


It was a glorious time, the best ever!

We had FIVE channels to choose from on the television! Most people only had three. The three big C’s showed up on everyone’s TV (ABC, NBC, and CBS.) We enjoyed the thrill of two, yes two, Public Television stations. What a luxurious life we led when the parentals left us in control.

List of U.S. state foods

Once the tiny kids got snuggled safely  away and snoozing we could settle in and watch ANYTHING WE WANTED! And to make things even better we could have popcorn with extra butter! Yum!

The way we popped corn back in the olden days involved a saucepan and lid, vegetable oil and popcorn kernels. It’s still the best way ever to make popcorn, by the way. (That microwave crap will put you in an early grave, believe me.)

If you want to learn how to do this on your own check out this recipe or this website for great instructions. It’s not that tough and you’ll thank me for pointing you toward popcorn perfection.

So we popped our own popcorn all the time. No big deal. Mom and Dad simply wanted us to clean up our mess if we did that.

Mom always melted the butter in a one-cup metal measuring cup that looked like a miniature saucepan. We’d plop an extra dollop or two of butter in there when we were in charge. Being in a hurry, ie trying to get the popcorn popped and buttered during commercials meant we set burner for the butter on medium instead of low.

Here’s where two heads without a real leader went south that evening.

When we heard the commercials end and the show start again both of us left the kitchen and went downstairs. One of us sat on the second to the bottom step in a token, “yeah, yeah, I’m paying attention to what’s going on in the kitchen” gesture, while still being able to see and hear the television.

That gesture served only to alert that child to the presence of a burning smell in the kitchen. One of us screamed and the other came running. On the stove sat a flaming cup of butter. Big flames, one or two feet high it seemed. My brother, being older and generally the one to take action, grabbed a hot pad and gingerly took the flaming butter across the kitchen to the sink.

Nuclear weapons test in Nevada in 1953

Not the actual butter explosion…(Photo credit: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons )

Then he turned the water on to put the flames out.

Water and oil don’t mix. We all know that. Imagine what water and flaming oil does.


The room filled instantly with smoke. And when the smoke finally cleared, the burnt butter appeared splattered all over the kitchen ceiling.

I have no idea how the two of us didn’t get burned. Angels intervening perhaps, or chemistry and physics perhaps. We got lucky. I know that now.

We never went back downstairs to our television show because we spent the evening cleaning off the evidence of our disaster from the kitchen ceiling. If Dad and Mom found out, we’d catch heck and pay a heavy penalty.

As far as we know they never suspected we’d nearly burned up or exploded the kitchen. Phew!

Luckily both my brother and I live in different states from Dad and Mom so when they read this I think we’ll be in the clear.

At least, I hope so.

Categories: Family, Food, Memory Lane | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The People Who Stand By You

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful for the family I grew up with. What a wild bunch Mom and Dad had on their hands. What a crew we still make!

photo-18 copy 22We don’t often all get together since a few of us scattered with the wind a couple of decades ago. In fact, when the batch that live near Mom and Dad get together and post the inevitable Facebook photos or videos I admit I feel a bit jealous. Those days I wish for Star Trek abilities of teleportation. “Beam me up, Scotty,“ I wanna yell. Scottie was the name of our first dog, who long ago left for wider and wilder playgrounds, so it seems a pretty reasonable request.

But this week will not be one of those wishing days.

Thursday will be one of those rare days that we’re all together for a few fleeting hours before schedules, and jobs and planes and children and a million other commitments scatter us again.

Seven Siblings and Dad and Mom. Solid. Bound up in a crazy mess that is us. We don’t come close to perfect. Are you kidding? Four sisters, three brothers, and two parents who, not so surprisingly, happen to be very human.

Ages ago, when my big brother and I hit the teenage fan and all crap let loose, a set of twins and a sister were caught in the crossfire, followed not so closely by the two babies in the family, a girl and a boy. How Mom and Dad kept their sanity I know not.

I can guess.



And Love Anyway.

They didn’t believe in giving up. Thank heavens. And we don’t either.

So, today I want to thank Kent, Kathy, Nyles, Nyla, Kelly, Becky, and Mitch and JoRae.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum: Gift ...

Original model of the Enterprise from the 1960s’s “Star Trek” TV series (Photo credit: Chris Devers)

Thank you for being tangled up in my DNA and my mental pros and cons. Thank you for loyalty and faith and laughter and realness. Thanks for the family I needed then and that I love now.

May you all “live long and prosper!”

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Watch for Wolves, Or Cows

Long road trips seem to bring out the weirdness in our family. Things that we wouldn’t normally laugh at take on humor of epic proportions. I blame it on the monotony and the weird snack combinations that we bring along.

We left extra early one morning, and by extra early I don’t mean planning to leave by six and actually leaving by ten. I mean early, like the car is already packed and gassed up and all we have to do is stumble out to the car with our pillows and make sure to lock the front door . It was so early the garbage trucks hadn’t started their rounds. It was so early we could tell North by the stars for three or four hours. I wanted to arrive before dark, so that meant leaving while it was still dark.

We had actually left the night before, about five p.m. Not a really wise move. That’s rush hour. That’s the sun blasting holes into your retinas the entire time you’re driving west in rush hour so that you can’t read the signs and you miss your exit to turn north out of the burning laser beams. Once we reached open road we discovered that the car we were driving and the removable car top cargo box weren’t very compatible. At sixty-five MPH the thing let out a high-pitched brain-vibrating mind-numbing keening wail.

I figured we’d adjust to the noise, that after just a bit we wouldn’t even notice it. But what happened was we couldn’t carry on normal conversation. We had to yell at each other. And that was before we had even reached the irritation stage of the drive. I popped in some tunes on our cassette player and cranked the volume. The whistle and the music weren’t in the same key and we could barely hear the music. I soon saw that we’d lose our minds before we even got half way to our destination. We would either have to leave the car top cargo box on the side of the road or go home. We went home. In rush hour traffic still.

Once home, four hours after we’d started out, we repacked the car, without the bonus luggage carrier on top. It was a tight fit but it was doable. By then I was too aggravated to drive safely and it was late. We got some sleep and woke at 3:00 a.m. to leave.

Sleep deprived children are great on a drive, because they sleep or doze or star blankly at the scenery. When it’s too dark to see any scenery things stay quiet. There are no fights and no whining about who gets to sit in the front seat. Bathroom breaks are fewer and further apart. My mind is free to wander, imagine, remember, get into the flow of the driving.

Español: Lobo en el zoo de Kolmården (Suecia).

Lobo en el zoo de Kolmården (Suecia). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About three hours into our drive, with only eight left, morning was beginning to stir. A paleness in the eastern sky was creeping over the landscape. Those odd pre-morning shadows were everywhere. It’s a kind of magical hour between light and dark, my favorite time of the day, even in a car. I looked over my daughter in the front seat beside me who seemed awake but mesmerized or hypnotized or maybe asleep with her eyes open. I smiled but didn’t say anything, not wanting to disturb the quiet. I looked into my rear view mirror at my other daughter but couldn’t tell if her eyes were open or closed. She was probably deep into dreamland.

My shoulders relaxed, my hands rested lightly on the steering wheel. This would turn out to be a good trip. No flats, no car problems, no road closures or detours, no major fights between the two kids.

A few minutes later, from the back seat, my youngest daughter yawned and stretched. Then she asked, “Are those wolves?”

I thought she must be dreaming. “What did you say?” I asked.

“Are those wolves?” she repeated, “in that field over there.”

I looked to the right into an open meadow dotted with a few pine trees. It was still a bit dark, but the shapes she was referring to were fairly clear.

“Those are cows,” I replied, stifling a laugh.

“Are you sure, cuz they look like wolves,” she said.

And then my other daughter chimed in, “yeah, those are wolves that say ‘moo.'” And then she laughed her slightly deranged maniacal laugh.

“Well, they look like wolves to me!” my youngest shot back!

“Moooooooooo!” the oldest howled like a wolf.


Cattle (Photo credit: CameliaTWU)

“Oh, shut up!” was the reply. She shifted in her seat, covered her head with the pillow and went back to sleep.

We kept driving.

The sun kept its schedule and rose slowly sending a basking glow of coral over the landscape. The car was silent except for the hum of the engine and the sound of the tires on the pavement.

“Look!” my oldest daughter said, pointing out the window at a herd of cattle. “Wolves!” And she laughed her maniacal laugh again.

“&#$^%&**” replied my younger daughter from under her pillow.

And thus began the longest part of the drive.

Every, single, time, that we passed some cows my oldest daughter would pipe up, “Look, Wolves!” and the youngest would reply with aggravation lacing her words, “Shut. Up!”

I had no idea there were so many herds of cows in the western United States. They’re everywhere. About every five miles, in fact. And if it isn’t a herd, it’s a single steer standing beside a fence or in a stream bed, or alongside the road.

Cows everywhere. “Wolves!”

And horses. If there were horses, the oldest daughter would yell, “Look, foxes!”

After only six hours my youngest daughter began to see the humor in her early morning mistaken identifying of cows versus wolves. But she still replied with anger and frustration in her voice. I begged the oldest to stop, but she seemed intent on milking it for all it was worth.

The last two hours of the drive, the youngest daughter would sometimes secretly laugh, but not enough to quell the oldest daughters enthusiasm for pointing out the “wolves.”

There were wolf sightings for the twelve hour return trip as well. We should have driven in the dark.

We laugh about it more now than we did then.

I think the only time we’ve ever really seen a wolf was at the zoo. And then, of course, my oldest daughter said, “Oh, look! Cows!”

Categories: Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Keeping the Past Alive and Well

My parents sent me the first of five DVD’s they’ve made from our family 8mm films. We loved watching these flickering gems as kids. There’s nothing else like seeing your very own past play out on film, even if it’s a past you don’t remember.

English: Bell & Howell Regent home 8mm film pr...

Bell & Howell Regent home 8mm film projector (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This one opens like a major motion picture doing a flashback. There on my screen was romance and nostalgia that a filmmaker only dreams about creating. Yet, it was simply real. And mesmerizing!

Most of the early shots are of Mom, since Dad was the one holding the camera. She was so young, and such a flirt in front of the camera. That surprised me, though it shouldn’t have. Dad shows up building one of his famous snowmen. This one had on a flannel shirt and had arms. Try doing that yourself sometime. It isn’t easy.

When my older brother shows up as a newborn, so do my Grandparents. My heart skipped a beat or two at this point since I haven’t seen the four of them ages. I still have a kind of achy feeling banging around in my chest, a combination of love, heartache and homesickness. So much of who I was, who I am, is wrapped up in memories of my Grandparents. I was glad they visited today.

Watching my older brother get chubby and independent was priceless. Then came my other brother, who looked so happy and was so loved for his short few months of life. I wish I had met him. Seeing him bouncing around, laughing, being hugged by his big brother, made him more real, more alive, more mine. What a gift.

Just before the DVD ended, I appeared on the scene, dressed in a white dress and a white bonnet.  It seemed I ought to be able to remember that day, that dress, those feelings of being so welcomed and so loved.

There’s a joy of  having the past recorded. I felt for a short time as if I’d  climbed into a souped up DeLorean and went back to my past.

I can hardly wait for the next few installments. Even if they probably contain embarrassing scenes of me attempting ballet.

Life revisited. What a joy!

Life. What a blessing!

Categories: Family, Memory Lane | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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