Tag Archives: Family

Goodbye Mrs. Anderson

A Camping Queen Holds CourtI bet no one ever thought a jumbo box of sympathy cards, packaged up like Christmas cards, would be a very big seller. But boy, do I wish I could buy a box like that today. Because the world lost a special lady this morning and I know she is going to be missed by a lot of people, and especially by a lot of people I care a lot about.

Anyone who read my post “Reunion-bound” read that we were heading to meet up with a woman (known to most as Grammy), her ten children, most of the ten’s children, most of the ten’s children’s children, and even one of the ten’s children’s child’s brand new baby child, and of course all of the delightful, wonderful stragglers our group of campers picked up along the way.

It was a great trip and there was a lot of buzz about it being Grammy’s last reunion. Maybe I didn’t want to believe that. But it turned out to be true.

I normally only refer to myself, my husband and my pets by their actual names but that doesn’t feel right for this post because I grew up knowing “Grammy,” as Mrs. Anderson. Not sure why, probably just to avoid confusion with the other grandmothers in my life. It was a friendly, respectful title- not as formal as may sound.

As I sit here going through memories of Mrs. Anderson, I can’t come up any one specific moment. It’s a swirling tapestry of memories: of her in her blue choir robe at Dunbar United Church, her and my Grandpa talking and playing cards, talk of dandelion wine, “The Uncles,” a van and cots, the image of my husband carrying off a bottle of scotch at 4 pm for a “date” with her, fancy canes, fishing-type hats, many smiles, her distinctive voice, and many people.

Mostly I remember her kind of always being there while I was growing up except when disasters had struck and I’d overhear she’d travelled somewhere to volunteer with the Red Cross.

To say she lived an amazing, complete life and that she loved many much and was loved much by many is like saying the ocean is kind of big and has some water in it.

I know no one like her nor have I even heard of anyone like her.

I do know that without her not only would I not have all my “pseudo” -cousins and -aunts and -uncles but also a host of other amazing people. These folks, from every walk of life, never would have crossed my path if she wasn’t part of our lives. Many are who they are; some in small ways, some in very big ways, because of her.

Including the love of my life, my husband.

So, goodbye and thank you Mrs. Grammy Anderson, you are very much missed. So glad we just spent one last camping trip with you. I know what many of us will be thinking about today at 4 pm.

I am certain you are enjoying the reunion you’re attending now.

To all of her many family and friends, I’m thinking of you and you’re in my heart today and if there is a silver lining, it’s that I look forward to hearing all of your memories.

Update Thursday August 15: Here is a link to Mrs. Vera Anderson’s Obituary

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A Letter From Emma To Her Family

20130714-174614.jpgDear Brothers and Sisters Jake, Tucker, Violet, Elvis, Biscuit, Jasper, Cooper, Trixie, and Earl,

I hope you all are well. Sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye- the family that rescued me just fell in love with me and whisked me off to their car.

We just got back from living in a tiny house on wheels. We spent most of our time outside playing. I got to meet a couple other dogs (there were even more dogs there, but the people there were worried about something they called “immunity.”) There were also lots of nice people that played with me. The little house was just like the one you guys and me rode up from Arkansas in, except my new pack only drove their little house a few miles and then just parked it for four days.

My new pack does lots of weird stuff like that. There are five of them and each is strange in his or her own way.

The one closest to my size is named Louie. He’s a very strange dog. He can puff himself up very big. I want to sniff his butt but he can jump over the gate and they let him go upstairs so I can’t catch him yet. He doesn’t bark but does growl. There is a box somewhere that he poops in. I can smell it but it’s on the other side of a little door that I can’t fit through. When I figure it out, I’ll have a delicious treat, I’m sure. He didn’t get to come in the little house with us, I’m not sure why.

The next bigger one is part dog/part human I think. He is almost as fast as me when he uses all his legs. Still, he seems to prefer just walking on two of them even though he can’t seem to go in a straight line and falls on me a lot. I like him because he always has a piece of food stuck to him somewhere, although everybody gets pretty upset when I try to use my teeth on him. Not him, though- he’s cool with me. He and I both get in trouble for chewing each other’s toys. I think his other sister must like shoes a lot because he keeps bringing those to me. He poops right in these pants things he wears. Whenever and wherever he wants. (The pack gets pretty upset if I poop inside.)

Next up in size is the one they call Princess. She has the coolest game. She runs as fast as she can across the room making all sorts of fun noises. Sometimes the rest of the pack sees us and they start making noise, too. Of course I chase her and try to bite her heels, just like I did with you guys. When I get her she makes the neatest sounds. She even gets water to come out of her eyes! Sometimes when she slows down enough I’ll try to get her shirt. That really gets her excited Usually the one they call “Mom” ruins everything by coming over and picking her up out of my reach. Lame.

That one, Mom, is pretty cool otherwise. She feeds me and takes me for walks and gives me lots of treats. She makes me do silly things for them like sit, stay, shake, lie down and roll over and says I have to learn even more. But it’s cool because what else am I gonna do? Lick my butt some more? I already have plenty of time for that.

Finally, the biggest member of the pack is the one they call Dad. He’s not here as much as the rest. He talks about having something called a job. I wish he was here more because he spoils me. He gives me treats and sometimes even lets me come up on the furniture when Mom’s not looking.

Mom, Princess and Dad all poop in a bowl of water that is very noisy. Really weird.

I’m really starting to like it here. I hope you guys all got nice new packs, too. Any way you look at it, it’s better than that first place they brought us to. While we were there, I always wondered what happens to those dogs that went into that one room but never came out. I hope there are lots more families like mine so no dogs ever have to go in a room like that.

It’s pretty cool that organizations like Pack Leaders Rescue (the one that rescued us) make it so easy for people to adopt adorable puppies and sweet dogs like us. Another lady that visits us, called Grandma, fosters dogs for another organization. I met one of those dogs- her name is Ella Grace. She already only poops AND pees outside and she’s so calm and sweet. She says her rescuers, Labs 4 Rescue, are pretty great, too.

Best wishes bros and sisters- hope you’ve all got lots of toys, love, treats and exercise wherever you are.

Sincerely,
Emma (I’m not Pixie anymore- Princess renamed me – after someone on a Disney show called Jessie, I hear. I mentioned they’re weird, right?)

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Reunion-Bound

Tonight we headed off on another extended camping trip.  We’ll be spending the next four nights camped out.  This year, it’s a little different with the drunken-orangutan-like movements of Buster, our Princess, and our brand new puppy, Emma.  But still, I’m ready.  If you didn’t read my very first post- “Roughin’ It,” you should know that I’m pretty tough when it comes to camping.  I could survive for days and days with nothing but two fully stocked refrigerators, my crock pot, my cupcake maker, a smoker, air-conditioning, a flush-toilet of my own, several cases of beer, a handle of Woodford Reserve, 100+ of my closest friends and family, and of course, my mommy and daddy camped right next door.  Because it’s only the basics like that that matter.

Really, I have all that stuff.  If you don’t know how I camp, I went into great detail about how I don’t camp in this post:  How I Don’t Camp.

This camping trip is particularly special, though, as it is a family reunion.  Grammy, a very special 95-year-old lady, will get to see all ten of her children.  They’re traveling in from California, Kentucky, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, and probably more states I’m forgetting, to Connecticut to get together as they do every 5 years or so.

The usual crew we camp with will be there, too.  Most of them are the local part of this giant family.  I’m not actually related to most of them.  My mother’s sister married one of the ten siblings.  Out of kindness, or maybe because there were so many of them already that they didn’t notice, they’ve always treated me like family.  Which is really nice and made for some difficult explanations when putting together already-complicated family-tree projects my cousins had to do.  In fact, some didn’t realize I’m not actually related for a while.  One cousin’s husband was more than a little disappointed to find out he’d been putting up with my crap since I was 15 and there was no real blood to back it up.

But I’m not the only non-blood-related member of this giant family.  It seems they’ve picked up many stragglers along the way who are now considered family.  They’re all wonderful people.  In fact, my husband is one of those stragglers.  I actually met him on my first “family” camping trip after I returned home from Oklahoma.  You don’t get to become family if you’re not tough enough to take some ribbing but kind enough to contribute something- whether it’s fruit pizza, a bottle of some liquor, or just good conversation.  Really the best thing you can contribute is a willingness to be the butt of our jokes for a while, I think.

I think the group needs to be studied.  You know it if you’re a part of it, but there’s no membership cards.  This reunion was well-organized by a few members of the group because it is larger and it has a few scheduled activities, but most camping trips come together with just a liaison to a campground.  The rest just happens without any official leaders.  I think everyone sees Grammy as the matriarch, but like Queen Elizabeth, at this point she’s not real interested in being in charge of everything.  She does enough of that at her nursing home (that’s another story.)  We all show up at a campground and there may be some scuffling about who camps where and how certain people behave, but we always seem to work it out.  We take care of our children and each others’.  We share food sometimes.  Sometimes we don’t.  It would be impressive if I were talking about 20 or so people.  But it’s usually over 100 and includes something like 20 dogs.

Finding campgrounds has become tough, too- we’ve been thrown out of a few.  Weird how they don’t like noise all night long, giant campfires.   One campground seemed particularly sensitive about stuffing some clothing including a shirt that matched the campgrounds “STAFF” shirts and then burning it in effigy after they’d told us to go to bed too many times.  But we’re a big group, and we like to have fun.  We’re always up front before we visit a place.  If we’re on a trip and things are getting less than fun, Grammy will even mention “We’ve been thrown out of nicer places than this one.”

As rowdy as we are during the camping, we always clean up our campfire and all other messes we create.  When a campground we frequent was hit hard by a tornado a couple of years ago, a big group of us (not me, I had two small children, so not looking for credit) went up to the campground to help clean up.  Treat us right, let us do our thing, and we’ll not only pay you thousands in camping fees, we’ll help you when you need it.

The members of the group include several races and religions.  Members of the group have a wide span as far as employment- everything from retired and current business owners, nurses, engineers, firefighters (so the large campfires are usually somewhat contained, or at least someone understands the risks being taken), military, school-bus drivers, teachers, DCF workers, realtor/railroad workers, several IT folks, craftsmen, etc.  And we all get along as neighbors for a few days.  Even more of us do when we have a reunion.  It’s an awesome temporary community and it will be even larger this weekend.  I’m so glad that my kids get to be a part of it.

Anyway, this reunion is going to be fun.  There will be even more kids for our children to play with this trip.  And we’ve managed to book an entire campground.  So I’m looking forward to catching up and telling some old stories and making some new ones.  But I better get to packing.  I’ll leave you with a nursery rhyme I wrote a couple of years ago (I didn’t use the proper name):

Lovely Mrs. Grammy never lived in a shoe,

But she has a large family and

Camping is what they do.

No broth in sight so they drink beer instead,

They burn things all night

And then go to bed.

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Today Is My One Year Anniversary As A VEEP CFO

housewife [derogation]

Housewife (shaking salt? where’s the margarita?)

It’s official.  As of today, a full year has passed since I hugged everybody in my office, shook my bosses’ hands and left the world of being paid for work.  I’m not sure if they miss me, but good God some days I miss them.

In some ways it feels like yesterday. But it feels like a different life. I was a different person.  I had clothes that fit, could afford makeup, and had a W2 to value (even if undervalue) myself by.
I was also delusional.  I was just entering the third trimester of pregnancy, so perhaps that explains why I believed these things about my future life as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM, by the way how lame is that acronym?  Why not VEEP (voluntarily-eschewing-employment-parent?)  I’m using VEEP from now on):
1.)  My house will be cleaner.
Yes, because a house that is empty 3/4 of my waking hours will be much neater when I and two small children now occupy it constantly.  Of course, I’m home to clean it, right?  I wish I could find the original quote to properly attribute it, but I read somewhere cleaning a house with kids in it is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.  That’s true.
2.)  I’ll at least have finally have some time to do a few creative things I’ve always wanted to do.  Kids take naps and watch TV sometimes, right?
Ha!  Want to know what writing/crafting/freelance/etc. is like for a stay-at-home-parent of more than one child?  Try this experiment:  Set a timer for 5 minutes.  Start on the project of your choice.  When the timer goes off, go feed something, clean poop off something, or hold something that is screaming loudly for no reason or a combination of these for the next hour or two.  Repeat 3-4 times until you just bang your head against something for the five minutes on the timer instead.  That’s what it’s like.  By the time another adult arrives home, trust me, all you can handle is a stiff drink or to lie prostrate, whimpering, on the couch for a few hours.
3.)  I’ll be able to slack a little some days.  I just won’t brag about it or anything.  I’m sure that’s what other VEEPs do.
Do you know what kids do to parents who try to read, watch TV or anything else unrelated to their immediate needs or desires?  They torture them. They destroy their most prized possessions.  They eat them alive.  (They do the exact same thing to sick parents.)  If you want to stay alive, you have to stay one step ahead of the little shits (see #4 for details about why this is an appropriate moniker for them).  Lunch better be ready before the thought occurs to them to be hungry. You better have another project ready to go before they notice how boring the first one is (approximate timeframe for that is under 5 minutes, FYI).  No demon born of hell can devise torture that compares to what a bored toddler whose blood sugar is starting to dip will do to you.  Do not test this, just believe me.  It’s for your own safety.
4.)  There won’t be that much poop.  
(Okay, I didn’t have this exact thought, but I never thought about how much of my day will be about poop).  My sense of humor has always been similar to that of a little boy in that I found poop very amusing.  Maybe my life now is punishment for that.  I have an 8-month-old boy and a 3-year-old girl.  And a cat.  And a dog.  If someone were to accurately title my current position, it would probably be CFO- Chief Fecal Officer.  My entire day’s timing revolves around when other creatures evacuate their bowels.  Except the cat; he’ll let me scoop his littler box whenever I want.  He’s just proud that someone knows even his stool should be preserved forever in a plastic bag and wonders where I keep the pile of gifts he makes me that I scoop out and take away to enjoy.
The boy is on no regular elimination schedule.  His ass will explode with  putrid-smelling shades of green and brown any time.  If I were to keep a chart of the times, I would guess that we would find a direct correlation between his bowel movements and my dining.  When he blows, though, it needs to be addressed immediately.  Otherwise things get more than a little messy.  What’s funny is as I write this (on my iPhone word pad while standing in the middle of my living room watching my son cruise around my living room) the boy is obviously grunting one out.  In his usual style, he’s following it up by sitting down and bouncing up and down a few times to make sure it does indeed spill out up onto that chubby little back of his that I bathed roughly 15 min ago.  I will BRB after I avoid this affecting my carpet.  (Note: See #2. It’s been a full 24 hours later before I could type another word.  And that’s only because the girl is with Grandma and Grandpa and hubby’s downstairs with the boy. Anyway, got lucky yesterday and poop only penetrated one layer of clothing.  Yay for absorbent fleece sweatshirts!)    (Another quick parenthetical interruption; the boy’s nursery is across from the office where I’m typing and I can hear his daddy saying “Oh, God, it smells so bad…”; Daddy is now stopping in to tell me that we should get the boy back on a strictly formula diet, the solid food is making his feces too odiferous.  Mental note:  This will be my last post involving poop as it seems to spur the boy on.)
Our dog is only 10 months old, has special needs, and is still “learning”, so I have to take her out at 7:30 am and then again every half-hour from 10 am on until she poops again.  If I don’t, she finds the dining room most convenient for depositing her ass’s contents.  She’s noticed I don’t like the dining room defecation, though, and tries to eat it all up before I notice. “Yes, this is actually  your life now,” I tell myself.
The human girl typically goes in the morning.  If we were to chart her poops, there would likely be a correlation between her events and her brother’s dining.  Yes, she is potty-trained and even though she can’t wipe herself, smearing some poop off a tiny ass and flushing isn’t that bad.  But, when you’re three, “things” happen.  Poop in a diaper is supposed to happen, thus there are a variety of ways even spill-overs can be easily handled.   Tiny onesies can be rinsed or thrown away.  The soiled diaper and any cleaning supplies can be deposited in a magical genie. Come to think of it, though, dragging a thin plastic sack of baby’s eliminations that is secured only by my own not-so-nautical knots to the garbage outside provides some less-than-magical moments and is yet another responsibility of myself as CFO. (Run on what?! Too many parentheses what?!  Seriously, back to the girl..) “Things” that happen to a three-year-old don’t happen in conveniently absorbent, disposable packages.  These “things” can ruin several layers of clothing, furniture and a young girl’s sense of pottying self-esteem.
Now, though, we’re mostly past the accidents, so furniture has been spared lately. But, last Thursday, she missed the hole.  In the toilet, that is.  She went in while I was outside taking the dog out and got her little Lightening McQueen padded seat on there, hopped up, and missed the hole when the poop came out.  When I came in after bagging the dog’s deposits, everything seemed normal.  Princess was screaming “I made a poopie, you have to wipe it!!!” at the top of her lungs.  When I entered the bathroom, I knew something was amiss.  “Mom, I got a little poop on my pajamas.  But I did NOT have an accident,” she told me proudly.  At least I think that’s what she said; I was gagging.  There were chunks of solid brown poop hung up on the handle of the padded mini-seat.  (She’s a log-maker, regular and healthy for sure.  Probably unrelated to her diet.) Her pajamas and her were entirely covered in similar chunks and smears.  I will stop describing there.  But no, this was no accident.  It was another incident the CFO handled readily and without complaint.
5.)  No matter what the sacrifices, at least my children will receive the attention they deserve instead of spending the entire day with strangers.  
For the first two years of my daughter’s life, I worked full-time.  Luckily, much of her daycare was provided by her grandparents.  About a year before I quit my job, though, my mom was all, “Jenn, I’ve finally found a job after looking for one for several years in this terrible economy, isn’t that great?”  And I was all, “Really, where?  No seriously, I need the phone number.  They need to hear about your embezzling habit and deviant behaviors.”
But, she wouldn’t give me the number and went on to join the ranks of the employed.  Like others their age, my husband’s parents winter in Florida. So, my precious angel went on to spend her days with strangers at a daycare.  You know what those strangers did?  They created an entire day that revolved around her learning, socializing, arts & crafts, exercising and sleeping properly.  Never once did they do the things that a parent would do, like dishes.  Or laundry.  Or grocery shopping.  Or cursing while paying bills online.  I bet they never once said, “I’ve got to go handle your brother’s diaper blowout.  Sit in that chair and watch TV until I get back.”  Or, “Please, honey, mommy’s ears are tired.  Can you just stop talking for five minutes?  I’ll give you a cookie.”
So, if you are one of those women who is jealous of me, you should be; I hang out with kids and spend my husband’s money all day.  Still, while you’re out to lunch complaining to your friends how you’d like to be a VEEP like me, just look at your friends while you’re talking.  Be grateful that you don’t have to start writing a blog to replace the conversations you have with them because otherwise you don’t get to “talk” to grownups.
And look at your clothes.  Do they fit?  Are they covered in poop?
And when you get home from your job and hug your child/children and they see that “You are my world.  I really missed you,” look on your face, know that my children probably received a “You are my world.  I would trade my right arm to leave here for just 10 minutes,” look about 15 times throughout the day.
But I am proud of my current position.  I love those little shits (much better than the big ones they do).  I’m Jennifer Greenberg, a VEEP CFO, and tomorrow I will enthusiastically report for doody. (So punny, right?  Tired of parentheses yet?)
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