Waiting for my Grandbaby

Jaeger sent a message out to the family in a group text earlier this week. “We got us a thumb sucker!” It said.

My oldest son’s words were accompanied by an ultrasound photo. Apparently he and Camping Girl had been to the doctor that morning. I myself had never had an ultrasound back in the day. I had uneventful pregnancies, and at that time, if all was well, then no ultrasound. The gender of each of my own children was unknown to Jack and I until the moment each made their entrance into the world.

I marveled at the picture Jaeger had shared. Ultrasound photos have come such a long way! I could clearly make out the shape of our granddaughter’s tiny little head and the curve of her back. She held her arm at an upward angle, her hand splayed open and four delicate little fingers pointed straight towards her nose. Her thumb, as Jaeger had said, was presumably in her little bitty mouth. I felt tears of joy spring to my eyes.

She’s not even here yet and already I am so in love with this baby girl. My granddaughter. My granddaughter! My oldest son is going to be a daddy and he is absolutely giddy. He and Camping Girl are going to be such amazing parents. As for me, I’m already buying adorable baby girl clothes. I can’t help myself! Jaeger will balance out the wardrobe some. He’s already got a camouflage outfit and a matching pair of Crocs for baby girl.

Staring at the photo, I was filled with emotions. Particularly after a year that’s been so dark, she is a bright and shining star making her way into our world. I cannot wait to meet her, to hold her, to kiss her sweet cheeks, to tell her how much she is loved.

I remember having my own babies, the anxious anticipation, the sometimes panicky sense that we didn’t know what we were doing, and wondering who in their right mind decided we’d make good parents. (Although, I’m glad Someone did. Being a mom has been one of my life’s greatest joys.) I remember one particular evening shortly after Jaeger was born. Jack had gone back to work – on the night shift – for the first time since Jaeger’s birth. I was alone for the first time with my newborn, sitting in my living room and holding him in my arms, thinking how perfect he was and feeling my heart about to burst with the love I had for him. I can still picture the fuzzy yellow sleeper he was wearing (because of course, we hadn’t known ahead of time whether we should buy blue sleepers or pink ones.) I started crying as I sat cradling my baby. I was thinking about how difficult this world can be and I was feeling guilty for bringing him into it. Of course, I later realized I was probably suffering a small bit of postpartum depression. For Jaeger, the world and life have turned out to be a pretty good adventure so far. As for Jack and I, we managed to navigate parenting fairly successfully. Everyone made it out of childhood alive!

While I stared at my granddaughter in the ultrasound photo, I had some of those same feelings of dread that I’d experienced when her daddy was a newborn. This world! It’s going downhill so quickly! How can I not worry about all that this precious child faces once she arrives here?

But then I thought about how my parents must have had those same fears, just as my grandparents must have, and all of the generations before them. And yet somehow in spite of it all, tiny humans keep arriving here. We do our best to protect them, and the world just keeps on turning. In spite of life’s inevitable difficulties, hurts and fear, we continue to find joy, create beauty, and experience love. And if, like the song says, all you need is love – then our precious girl is going to be just fine. Because I have no doubt whatsoever that she will be loved beyond imagination.

Oh, Baby!

I mentioned recently that I’ve been making an effort to journal things for which I’m grateful. Sometimes I have to dig really deep, especially considering the events of the past year and now those of the past week. Sometimes, finding a reason to be grateful is so easy! Take for example, that day recently when my oldest boy, Jaeger stopped over with his girlfriend, Camping Girl. Considering how little I’ve written here over the past couple of years, I may not have mentioned the lovely Camping Girl before. She is lovely. He loves her. She loves him. And we adore her. For quite some time, it’s been so easy for us to see they are right for each other.

Jaeger has made some remarks recently that have led us to believe a marriage proposal was in the works. Jack and I have talked about it periodically, wondering when we might finally hear some news of wedding bells. One Sunday, not long before Christmas, Jaeger and C.G. let us know they’d be stopping by that afternoon. I invited them to stay for dinner and when they arrived, homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs were cooking on the stove. We were all gathered around the island in the kitchen, chatting and waiting for the pasta to finish cooking when Jaeger whipped something white out of his back pocket. The small white thing unfurled before my eyes and I realized an announcement was being made! Though it wasn’t the announcement we’d been expecting.

We’re going to be grandparents!

It wasn’t the wedding announcement we’d been expecting, but instead, a BABY announcement! We are going to be grandparents! I can’t remember exactly how I reacted, but I remember bolting over to the other side of the island to throw my arms around both Jaeger and C.G. I cried. I exclaimed that I was so excited. I must have exclaimed it several times because Jaeger finally laughed and said, “Are you so excited, Mom?”

I am going to be a GRANDMOTHER! I am so ready for this! I am going to spoil this kid rotten! Well, maybe not rotten but there will definitely be some spoiling going on. I may have already bought a baby toy.

A few people have asked me what I’ll be called when the baby arrives. Will I be “Nanna” like my mom was? That would be really cool, but I’m thinking that this may not be a decision I’ll make myself. When my parents’ first grandchild, my niece came along, my siblings and I began to refer to my parents as Grandma and Grandpa – until my niece started talking. And she called them Nanna and Boppa. I remember Jack saying, “I’m not referring to your dad as Boppa! It’s embarrassing.” But it stuck. My dad was Boppa and he was darn proud of it.

I have a friend who is Nonna to her grandkids. Another friend’s kids call her dad, Bumpa. Heck, my own nephew couldn’t pronounce my name when he was young, and although he is now in his twenties, he and his siblings still call me Dewey. So I think I’ll be open to whatever this little one wants to call me. But in case I’m asked to choose, I’m open to suggestions if you’ve got ’em!

And P.S. A proposal was actually in the works. To make a long story short, the news of the baby beat Jaeger to the punch. Like I said, we’re thrilled. Jaeger says they’ll work on planning a wedding after they settle in with the baby, who is scheduled to arrive in late July. Lots of good stuff to look forward to around here!

Shrinking Household

My oldest son is moving out today.

Here’s the thing. Ours has been a very full house for a few years, and I think we are all ready for this change. I love Jaeger dearly, and I’ll miss seeing him on a nearly daily basis. I’ll miss his presence at the dinner table, and the way he helps cook and clean up afterwards. I’ll miss watching This is Us with him every Tuesday, and the laughter that always seems to accompany our time together. But it’s time.

You see, he’s been out on his own before, and this was his return trip to the nest. I know I’ve said this a hundred times before in my years of writing, but I wasn’t ready the first time my kids left home. I got married at twenty-one, and had Jaeger at twenty-two. Ryker and Chesney came along two and four years later, respectively.

I used to say, “Jack and I will still be young when they graduate. We’ll have time to travel. We’ll be young grandparents when our kids have kids.” Except as it turns out, Jack and I are not big travelers. And there aren’t any grandbabies yet, though I don’t doubt they’ll come along eventually. Most importantly, I’ve realized, as my parents and their parents before me must have realized, the world doesn’t necessarily cooperate with the plans you make when you’re young.

When Jaeger began nearing high-school graduation in 2007, it hit me like a ton of bricks that the time had passed in the blink of an eye. I thought about all of the time I’d spent wishing my kids out of diapers, for them to sleep through the night, feed themselves, and start walking. I remembered how I couldn’t wait for the day when the house was no longer cluttered with toys, for them to help with chores, start driving, get jobs. I’d wished away my babies’ childhood, and when it was over, I missed it incredibly.

Jaeger went off to college in a neighboring state in the fall of 2007. For the first two years, he came home to visit a few times during the school years, and moved back home over the summers so he could earn money. I cried every time he left home to go back to school. By his third year, I’d stopped crying so much and Jaeger got a job in Fargo, living on his own for the duration of his college years. He secured a full-time job there after graduation and got engaged to a great girl. They had a dog by then, and she was the four-legged baby in their little family. By all accounts, my oldest son was about to embark on the rest of his life. Until the girl left him.

In the long run, we’ve realized it was probably the best thing that their life together was over before it really began, but it was hell at the time for my boy, and my own heart broke plenty too. I wished he was closer so I could keep an eye on him and make sure he was okay.

He continued on his own for a couple of years after the girl left, thankfully with his loyal dog by his side.  He fought for “custody” of her, and I’m not sure he would have survived without his fur-baby. His heart began to heal, and my mind eased a bit. And when Jaeger lost two grandfathers in two years, he decided it was time to come back home, closer to family. Last year he packed up his stuff and came back. His plan was to stay with us just for the summer while he got acclimated in a new job, and then find a place of his own. That was a year and a half ago.

I’ve loved almost every minute of it, but it’s time. Especially because our twenty-seven and twenty-five year old kids are either still – or back at home too. Stories for another time, but really, I’ve realized that our stories aren’t all that uncommon these days.

It seems now that life just isn’t as black and white as I’d thought it would be when I was envisioning it at twenty-two years old with a new baby in my arms. In spite of my best intentions, I couldn’t ensure that my children had perfect and easy lives, where they easily merged into a secure life after checking off all of the expected boxes.

Luckily, the older version of me now realizes that even if I could have protected my kids from every fall and every disappointment … they never would have become strong enough to carry on day-to-day in this world. And in spite of the fact that I sometimes wonder what people think when they learn that all three of my adult children are living at home, two of them with college degrees, I don’t really care. I love that they know they are welcome here, and that we are happy to help them until they get solidly on their feet. I love that they seem to enjoy hanging out with me. They’ve all made it abundantly clear that they have no intentions of staying forever. But I’d let any of them stay forever if it came to that. I would. But I truly want their lives to be strong and healthy enough for them to soar on their own. And I know they’ll all get there in time.

The beautiful thing is, when we realized our kids who had once left home were coming back, I saw it as a second chance. I knew it wouldn’t always be easy, but I saw it as an opportunity to make up for all of those times I wished precious moments away. I could go on to explain why Jaeger’s three-month plan to temporarily live at home turned into eighteen months, but the details aren’t all that important. And I was never in a hurry for him to go again anyway.

During the time Jaeger’s been back, there have been five adults and two dogs under our roof. We’ve kept the situation pretty healthy. Everyone works full time, pays rent and everyone contributes to maintaining the household in some way.

adult-kids-living-with-parents-5b8e3afc18670__700

We’ve had so much fun together … and we’ve been so annoyed with each other. The dinner table has been filled with contented conversation … and sometimes voices are raised in anger. The hardest part has been remembering how much more worried I can be when one them is out late at night and I’m waiting for the sound of them coming back through my door.

I’ve been given my second chance to be ready for this. This phase is incrementally coming to a close and at this point I’m more worried about the dogs’ ability to adjust to their pending separation than I am about Jaeger. But we’ll all be just fine. And I am ready this time.

Best Things

img_4159I was just thinking that the best thing about today was the sunshine. Blazing, almost blinding at times sunshine.

And the brilliant blue sky.

And the sound of chirping birds filling the air as I stepped out of my car upon arriving at work today…

…Taking a break from a challenging day to enjoy a walk around the pond with a coworker/friend. Sun on our skin. A slight breeze and fresh air. Catching up on one another’s weekend doings and forgetting, for fifteen minutes, about the things going wrong back inside the office.

An email from my oldest with a picture attached. Sharing his past weekend’s adventure.

“I think I want to spend more time at the North Shore,” his message said.

I opened the picture and replied, “Wow. Can I come with next time?”

And, “Is that you in the photo?”

“Yup, that’s me,” he replied. “Fighting a fish. Or a rock.”

Spontaneous cooking at home once I’d left work and picked up Mom. I hadn’t thought tonight was going to be one of my nights. Jack is at work for the evening, so … nothing planned for dinner.

“I’ve been thinking about making your goulash,” I said to Mom as she settled in the living room chair waiting for Wheel of Fortune to begin.

“Oh, that sounds good,” she agreed.

“You’ll have to remind me what all goes in there. It’s been forever since I’ve made it.”

Ground beef, onions and garlic cooking in frying pan. Salt and Pepper. And after the meat had browned and was sizzling, stewed tomatoes and some pasta.

“Put a few tablespoons of ketchup in too,” she reminded me.

Mom wanted a slice of buttered bread to accompany her meal. I said that reminded me of dinners at Grandma’s house, where there was always a plate of sliced white bread and plenty of butter with every meal. I pulled some cantaloupe out of the refrigerator and put that on the table too. Not exactly the healthiest of meals, but it was hot, and it tasted good. Then again, food always tastes better when you’ve got someone to enjoy it with.

Just a really good day…

Celebrating 75

I’ve felt all knotted up lately. I’m not sure why. There never seem to be enough hours in a day, never enough days in a week. And I’ve just felt … I don’t know. Quiet. Moody. Tired. Not sad, but not enthusiastic about much either. I needed something.

I think it was my kids.

Last weekend provided a perfect excuse to call them home. My mom, their Nana turned 75 last Friday. My sis and I planned a party in her honor for Sunday afternoon. I asked the kids (the two not currently living here) if they could come home for the party. Both Jaeger and Chesney said they could. Ryker just needed a reminder to keep his Sunday afternoon free, as I expected him to join us at the party too.

Jaeger came on Friday night. Dacotah, of course, accompanied him. She came barrelling into the foyer after their four-hour drive, leaping around all of us, tail wagging fiercely, and rubbing against legs while looking for attention from anyone willing to give it. Lucy was elated to have a visit from her favorite canine friend as well as her “big brother.”

Jaeger was awfully quiet that night. He said his stomach was bothering him. I worried it had more to do with his recent break-up. It happened right after Christmas, and he hasn’t been in touch with us much since then, other than to let us know it was over. He’s not much of a talker, and in the past few weeks I’ve struggled to find the words or opportunity to offer some comfort. They had dated nearly a year. I know he’s hurting. I hurt for him. But there’s just not much I can do. He just needs time.

Saturday morning, Jaeger surfaced from the spare bedroom and plopped down on the loveseat in the living room. Turning the television on, he surfed channels until he found one of his beloved fishing shows. While he watched pro-fisherman pull Bluegills through holes in the ice, I made bacon and pancakes in the kitchen. We chatted a bit while he waited for the food to be ready. After breakfast and after cleaning up the kitchen, I joined him in the living room, settling into one of the big comfy chairs. He hoisted himself off the loveseat and wandered over to me. He bent over and just hugged me, holding on for some time. I rubbed his back and said, “I love you.” He mumbled into my shoulder, “I love you too, Mama.”

My 27 year-old son is still my little boy sometimes. Maybe he needed me too.

Little Guy from next door rang our doorbell in the afternoon. When Jaeger answered the door, Little Guy’s face lit up.

Hey!” he shouted. “I missed you!”

“You did?” Jaeger laughed.

“Yeah,” Little Guy said. “I didn’t get to see you last time!”

Little Guy’s always been rather shy, so it was fun for all of us to see his raucous display of affection and excitement. He seems to have grown up so much over the past couple of cold months. He turned four years old a few months ago. He’s gaining confidence, and getting pretty comfortable with all of us.

We were leaving to go out to dinner, so we had to send Little Guy back home, but did so with promises from Jaeger to play Wii bowling with him the next day.

Chesney came late Sunday morning. It was good to have my talkative, sunshiney girl back in the house. Jaeger teased her about why she hadn’t yet brought her new boyfriend around. She said she needed a week for mental prep first. I said I needed time to prime her dad to act like a normal human being first. Chesney agreed wholeheartedly. Don’t want to scare the poor guy off!

20150221bThe party on Sunday afternoon was nice. All of Mom’s kids and most of her grandchildren were there, as well as her oldest sister, and family from my dad’s side. The food was good, the presents were nice, and there were some beautifully sentimental birthday cards for Mom. And bonus – everyone managed to get along decently. I think Mom had fun.

We also accomplished a nice family picture, only after several takes in which the brothers made bunny ears, made goofball faces, and each pretended to put a finger in the other’s nose. Some people never grow up. Maybe that’s not always such a bad thing, though. I’ll take fun immaturity over boring and stuffy any day.

It was great to have all of my family together again for a change. I wish we’d had more time. It’s never enough. And it was hard to say goodbye when it was time for Jaeger and Chesney to leave again. It always is. But I’m so grateful to have had a couple of days with them. They were just what I needed.