Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the tag “family”

A Family Trip To Nebraska

I know that this doesn’t sound too interesting at first glance.  Nebraska????  I have to thank my husband, first, for keeping me in touch with my family.  I am one of those people who, if you’re not in the room with me, you may or may not exist.  It’s not quite that bad, but I am horrible at keeping in touch with my family and friends.  Before I got married, I only saw my poor parents a few times a year, mandatory holidays maybe, even though they were about three hours away.  Shame on me.

All of my friends, from childhood on, I have totally neglected.  My three best friends, the three who stood up with me at my wedding, I am barely in touch with.  The only reason I saw my grade school friend this year is because she got married.  And that was an impressive move for me, because there certainly would have been times in my life when I wouldn’t have even managed to make the wedding, even though it was in the same state.

My best friend from high school I communicate with only on Facebook, even though she now lives in the same town as my parents.  My excuse?  She’s a dancer, and for the past several years I’ve been too embarassed to have her see me this fat.  Now that I’ve lost 25 pounds, well, maybe a visit is in order.

My college friend, I seem to keep in touch with only by text.  And she’s only an hour and a half away!  We do enjoy sending each other sarcastic random texts at odd hours though, in a (usually successful) bid to make each other laugh.  And when something significant happens we’re texting away.  We both have extremely questionable senses of humor, inappropriate mostly I would say, and I can share my conversations with her with very few people, mainly my husband.  That’s why he’s my husband.  He gets it.

Back to Nebraska.  Odd vacation spot, I know, but both sides of my family hail from there.  I am three quarters German, one quarter Czech.  And both my folks were born and raised in Nebraska.  They went to college there.  They got married there.  We have family there.

Before my husband came along, all the family was forgotten.  Once my grandparents were gone, it was easy to drift away from aunts and uncles and cousins.  Until DH came on the scene, I hadn’t seen most of these folks in years.  Fortunately, my husband likes to visit family.  Even inlaws.  He managed to find a speaking venue for his profession in Omaha, and once a year now we go back so he can lecture (and write the trip off as business) and so we can visit both sides of my family.

We usually visit my mom’s side (her sister, mainly) for a couple days in Grand Island, and hook up with my dad’s brother in Omaha.  Now that DH has sold the plane, we have to fly commercial, but I kind of like that better anyway.  It’s a lot of work to get a plane packed and ready to fly, and a small plane is a little choppy for my taste.  And the reality of only one engine is a little unnerving.

This year we arrived Thursday and drove to Grand Island.  We spent the day visiting my aunt and uncle, my cousin and his wife and two boys.  Here were some “goings on”:

The following day my aunt and I packed up and went to Ravenna to take my great aunt (the last surviving sibling of my grandmother) out to lunch.  She’s in her eighties now and has a bit of trouble getting around.  My aunt played a little trick on her and sent me to the door to get her when we went to pick her up.  She was gambling that she probably wouldn’t recognize me.  She didn’t.  She looked a bit concerned when she answered her door and saw this stranger standing there.  I reminded her who I was, and fortunately, she remembered.

On the way home, I spied this beautiful barn and persuaded my aunt to stop and let me shoot pictures of it:

Once we got to Omaha, DH went to give his lecture, and A and I took off to local kid attractions:  the Children’s Museum and the zoo.  I admit, children’s museums are a particular type of hell for me.  They all seem to be exactly alike.  They all have some kind of chutes-play-in-the-water-doohickey that gets your kids all wet.  They all have messy paint and glue, to create lopsided wet sticky constructions which your kid will want you to carry around until the end of time.  And worst of all, they all have some ungodly plastic ball machine where you stuff balls into numerous machine orifices and watch while the balls are pumped/rolled/pushed/bounced from one place to another in the gadget.  And there is always a part of the machine that sends all the balls cascading down, so that your kid can stuff balls into it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  For two hours.  Existential hell.  So here are some pics.  Notice that there are none of the infernal ball machine.  But I promise it was there.

Next stop was the Omaha Zoo.  They have a fairly nice zoo, but I do have one gripe with it:  the walks between attractions are way too long, and way too empty.  So between displays, there are seemingly endless hikes along loopy sidewalks with nothing to look at, and the place is so convoluted that you can’t really find yourself on the map.  At least, I can’t.  But I’m not too great with maps.  We did see some cool stuff at the zoo:

We went out walking the last night in the Old Market area of Omaha, which is really cool and funky.  We had hoped to meet my dad’s brother and wife and daughter there, but they had gone to the University of Nebraska Spring Game that day in Lincoln.  We did get to meet up with them a bit the following morning before we had to hop our plane to get home.

I think my hubby is just the greatest for getting me out to see family and friends that I would otherwise never get around to going to see!

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Badminton

For the Thanksgiving weekend, my father brought home a surprise.  He remembered the days when he and Mom and I used to stand in the front yard for hours batting a badminton birdie back and forth.  He found a badminton set with racquets and shuttlecocks, but no net.  So he bought a full size volleyball net to set up in the yard and play badminton with.  He and Kevin set it up in the yard and the game was on!

Amanda had never seen a badminton set before, so she was given a crash course by her daddy.  There was much wailing as serves were missed entirely, whacked into the net, or falling birdies fell straight into the server’s head.  She’s never been much on learning new stuff -she expects to get whatever it is right away and hates being bad at something or having to practice it.

I, of course, went and got my camera, as I recognized a photo opportunity in the making.  Amanda was not pleased that I was photographing her while she was floundering, but I insisted as always that if she let me take her picture, she would be famous in my blog.  She cannot pass that up.  I got some shots of Kevin lecturing her as well.

Then I decided to grab up a racquet, since I remembered being fairly good at badminton when I was a kid.  This proved to be a bit problematic, as I was wearing boots with at least a two inch heel, and had left my camera with the long lens slapping around my neck.  When we started out, I wasn’t doing much better than Amanda.  We elevated the whole thing to a comedy art form, with Amanda missing the shuttlecock and giggling and me sending it off into the azaleas.  My husband, of course, was supremely competent the whole time, except for one epic moment when he slid on the pinestraw, pulling his groin and whacking his knee.  He shook it off, though and we kept playing until it was almost dark.  My muscle memory was returning to me, and I was pulling off some return backhand shots and some high shots that were pleasing me immensely.

Mom came out into the yard to see what was going on.  She was a bit indignant that the badminton set had been erected just when it was time to do the holiday dishes, and she seemed a bit concerned that there was now a volleyball net semi-permanently installed in her front yard.  At that point, we were giggling and whacking the birdie all over the front yard.  We were distracted only by the discovery of poisonous bright red mushrooms in the yard, and some time was taken out to peer, poke at, and photograph said fungi.

By the end of the game, my feet were killing me in those two inch boots, and I had taken off the camera so it didn’t get joggled and bounced all over while I dived for shots.  We managed a volley of eleven and were pretty proud of that, considering we were drunk off Thanksgiving turkey and our own high good humor.  There was much shouting, and I am certain the neighbors were quite indignant with the racket that was coming from the house right next to them.

I informed Kevin that this was a form of exercise I had always enjoyed and I would not be at all averse to a set appearing in our yard as well.  Maybe not the front yard.  He told me that that was duly noted.  I have a feeling that a badminton set may be forthcoming for Christmas this year.  And as far as I’m concerned, that would be a great thing!

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Unexpected Wife

Man With Sis’s Children

He had had enough.  His friends were questioning his sanity.  He had gone above and beyond, really, so why did he feel so guilty?  When he lost Sis he felt like his life was over.  He had spent his life protecting her, and ultimately, defending her when her relationship fell through and the father of her children left her.  After all, in those times, no one had children out of wedlock.  That was just Sis though.  She was such a beatnik.  She had always been such a free spirit.  The kids at school had treated her like a freak.  And a freak she was.  She was beautiful in an odd way, with her pointed chin and her quizzical eyes.  But she dressed unlike anyone in her class, preferring to haunt thrift shops for ratty old pieces of clothing that she put together in odd ways.  She found a used drum set, and she banged away on them at odd hours when their folks were not around.  Which was often.  Their folks had been drunks, long before that became stylish, and he found himself at home with his little Sis all the time.  Their folks had both died badly – their mom fell down the stairs (although everyone swore Dad pushed her) and Dad bled out in the hospital Emergency Room with bleeding varices from his ruined liver.  He had wound up with a strange little sister and a lifetime of bad memories. 

Then Sis got hooked up with a man more freakish than she.  He fancied himself a poet, and a free spirit and he and Sis moved in together long before that became acceptable.  When she found herself pregnant, her father disowned her, just before he died.  He was just sober enough for it to register that his daughter was pregnant and not married, and that even for him this was unacceptable.  The disowning was a formality, really, as he died broke and had nothing to leave them.  Sis and her man fought on and off for two years, and then suddenly she was pregnant again.  Imagine that.  The brother had been slipping her little bits of money and food when he could, that useless son of a bitch Sis was with didn’t think that a job was included in his adult duties, since the man was not a man at all, but a miserable weakling who could not be bothered with anything. 

He had never married.  He had seen his parents’ marriage go bad, and violent, and he felt that the institution held nothing for him.  He was determined not to be a worthless drunk and didn’t drink alcohol at all.  He worked at a thankless job at a local newspaper setting type and put away little bits of money after the rent was paid and the groceries were bought to give Sis to help feed her kids and keep the little house from being foreclosed on them.  Finally the useless bastard left her; even the ghost of a responsibility was more than he could handle and it ran him off.  So Sis was left alone, never married, with two kids out of wedlock to take care of.  She was the town pariah.  She had been known in school as a bizarre girl, and her behavior with this useless man marked her as untouchable.  So she had no one to help her, except him, and he did the best he could.

Then the worst happened.  Sis got a lift home from the store one day and was killed instantly when the car she was in slammed into a bridge abutment.  The two kids had been left home alone, and when he got the call and no mention was made of small children in the car, he went to go get them.  What choice did he have?  There they were, tiny and alone, but oddly undisturbed by their abandonment.  This was not the first time Sis had had to leave them home alone.  He tried to think of a way to explain what had happened, but they were so small, and looked at him so strangely that he just told them that Sis had been in an accident and would not be coming back.  This seemed to satisfy them; neither of them questioned him at all.  So he just took them home with him.

With his limited funds, he was able to hire an elderly woman in the neighborhood to care for them when he was gone to work, and then money and food were even more scarce.  He found a second job delivering the papers early in the morning.  Nothing had prepared him for having small children.  They cried, and shrieked, and ran around the house, and tore the place up.  The woman who was keeping them reassured him they were fine, that all small children were like this.  He spent all his money on rent and on food for them.  He went to work, and he came home, and there were children there, and then he got up before dawn and went to work again.  His social life had never been very active; he had had few girlfriends since he was so soured on marriage and so busy with his Sis.  Now, though, there was no chance of anything at all.

So, as luck would have it, he met someone.  There was a woman on one of his paper routes who had been widowed young, and she began to take the habit of waiting for her paper to arrive so she could chat a few minutes with him.  Still he did not take her out, or call on her, for quite some time.  After all, the children were at home, and the elderly woman who kept them could not be prevailed upon to keep them of an evening, and who could blame her?  One morning, the woman on his paper route invited him to dinner.  He stammered and stuttered and finally explained that although he was unwed and had no children of his own, that he was left with the responsibility of caring for Sis’s children and that there were two children at home waiting for him.  “Bring them,” she said.  It turned out she was childless, for she had lost her husband before they could have children.  So he brought the children to dinner at her house, and they ran, and shrieked and generally behaved as they always did.  But the woman seemed curiously undisturbed.  She found the children adorable.  And, he supposed, as children went, they were. 

They began to see the woman more and more often; she somehow found out where they lived and brought them a casserole dinner one night.  She brought gifts for the children too:  toys and little outfits.  He felt as though he were taking advantage of her, but she persisted in her wooing of him and the children, and before long, she began to feel like family.  A year after he found his “gentlewoman caller”, she began to drop hints and before he knew it, somehow he found himself engaged.  He told her he could not afford a church wedding.  “Then we’ll just go before the justice of the peace,” she replied.

And so, one afternoon he checked out early from work and picked up the children, as the woman had specifically said she wanted them present.  They met on the sidewalk; the woman had a camera and proposed a photograph of the three of them, him and the two little children.  She snapped the photo, and they went on to the justice of the peace, who married them with the two children standing with them, wearing their best clothes.

Years from then, when the children asked about the picture he told them, “That’s how we were then, before Mama came to be with us.  It was just the three of us, since we lost Sis.”  They did not remember Sis, all they remembered was Mama.  And the man who did not believe in children, or in marriage, came to find himself happily ensconced with both.

Orange Beach

Our family made a vacation trip to Orange Beach, Alabama this weekend because my best friend was getting remarried and I wanted to attend the wedding.  This gave us a lovely excuse to spend three days at the beach and play.  Orange Beach did not even really exist when I was a kid – we went to Gulf Shores then and Orange Beach was just a stretch of empty beach, some trailers and a water tower.  Somehow, over the years, Orange Beach has become one of  THE Southeastern beach destinations and it is now all built up with condos and hotels.  For those of you who have not been to a beach in the Southeast of the country, the beaches there are lovely.  The sand is soft and white, without any rocks.  The water in the Gulf of Mexico is fairly smooth, with only small waves unless a storm is coming.  These beaches are locally known as the “Redneck Riviera”.

When we arrived at the beach Friday afternoon in our plane, we went straight out to eat as we knew the local restaurants would be packed.  Despite our arriving at 5:30, the wait for a table was already 50 minutes.  We got our little buzzer thingie, and fortunately the shops around the area on the boardwalk had reception for the buzzer thingie, so we could shop while we waited.  We went into a little fudge shop and bought some truffles and fudge for later.  When The Oyster House finally seated us, the service was fairly quick.  I got Alaskan King Crab legs, which I enjoyed taking apart with the crab crackers.  Amanda enjoyed helping me eat the meat.  We checked into our hotel after that and went for a night walk on the beach with a flashlight.  When I was a kid, there used to be little crabs running all over the beach at night that scooted into little burrows when we walked past, but now the crabs are all gone.  I don’t know if they are now endangered or extinct, but I haven’t seen one at the beach in years.  We used to catch them and put them in buckets and watch them run around.  You couldn’t put two crabs together in a bucket or they would fight.  At any rate, no crabs and no good shells.  It was Amanda’s first night beach walk though.

Saturday we woke up and went down to the beach in the morning.  Amanda hadn’t been to the beach since she was three (she’s seven now), and she delightedly ran into the water and started bobbing up and down with the waves.  A couple of times one knocked her over completely and she came out of the water spluttering and spitting out salt water, which she described as “bluchy.”  I laid out on a towel in the sand and watched her, and unbeknownst to me wound up getting a bit of a sunburn that showed up later.  My husband came down and got in the water with her a bit.  I took a picture of Amanda in her bikini against the waves and posted it on Facebook.

After returning to the room and cleaning up, Kevin wanted to take Amanda to an amusement park.  We found an arcade with go carts and putt putt golf, which Amanda has never played.  I brought my camera along and took lots of pictures.  First we golfed and Kevin was insistent that Amanda learn the correct stance for putting just as if we were playing real golf.  She was a bit impatient with this.  She would up doing pretty well though, except for a couple of wild holes.  After golf, it was time for the go carts.  We let Amanda warm up with a miniature cart that she drove herself.  Then she and Kevin got into a big go cart and took off around the course.  I got some great pictures of them flying around the curve coming towards me.  Then it was time for a nap and an early dinner.  Kevin wanted to make sure and eat before we went to the wedding because we weren’t sure what kind of food they would serve.

After that, wedding time!  We had a little trouble finding the place, because as usual, the GPS was not the brightest, but find it we did, and just in time.  This was Amanda’s second wedding (her first she was a flower girl) and she was not so excited about it.  She was mostly excited about playing with my friend’s boys, whom she really loves.  This was a second wedding for my friend also (I was maid of honor in her first one) so it was a more low key deal.  It was right on the bay, with a lovely sunset right in front of us.  The weather was perfect and everyone had on sundresses and enjoyed the balmy breeze.  After the ceremony, we adjourned for the reception inside, and I must say, we needn’t have worried about there being enough food!  They had barbecue and delicious yeast rolls, and potato salad and of course, CAKE.  The cake was delicious with caramel frosting.  The color motif for the wedding was turquoise, and the bows on all the tables and chairs were turquoise, as was the frosting on the cake.  My friend made herself a turquoise necklace to go with her wedding dress.  She had on turquoise flip flops under her dress.  The groom wore a white shirt and khaki pants, and the wedding party all wore turquoise shirts with khaki, and her boys wore flip flops too.  It was a sure enough beach wedding!  We enjoyed the reception and dancing, until it got late enough that we decided to go and ride the ferris wheel at the Wharf.

The ferris wheel at the Wharf is a permanent installment and I believe is considered one of the largest ferris wheels in the Southeast.  The last time we were there, Amanda was three and she was too scared to ride on it.  Kevin was determined that this time we would go for a ride.  So we stood in line and got tickets, and we sure enough rode that ferris wheel.  The view from up there was great.  Afterwards we walked around the shops a little bit and enjoyed the evening breeze.  When we got back to the hotel it was time for Amanda to hit the bed!

Sunday morning we woke to cooler weather.  Kevin took Amanda back down to the beach, but I elected to stay behind in the room and nap.  Amanda enjoyed the water even though the air was cooler, and when they came back she had found some shells she wanted to keep.  After that, it was time to return home.  We hit the airport at about noon, and got home about two o’clock.  Having that little plane sure is handy – otherwise we would have had a six hour drive!  We got home and our lovely trip was over.  Hopefully we will get back to the beach before another four years elapse.

The “C” Word

Now I know what you’re all thinking.  You’re letting your minds run amok in the gutter, and you figure I’m an obstetrician, so you think you know what the “c” word is.  But, you’re wrong!  The “c” word is actually something much more devious:  Christmas.  I keep track every year of the first time someone lets the “c” word slip – it usually happens around August and causes me spasms of revulsion.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the idea behind Christmas.  I love the meaning of Christmas.  But I hate what Christmas has BECOME.  The fact that it must be mentioned in August when it happens in December says it all.  Every year the stores put up the Christmas stuff earlier.  Hobby Lobby and The Cracker Barrell had their stuff up already in August.  You can’t even buy Halloween stuff (a month in advance) because all that CHRISTMAS stuff is taking up all the space.  I hate that Christmas has STUFF.  There is more stuff, and more knicknacks and more junk to collect for Christmas than is rationally possible.

I loved Christmas as a child.  All children do.  I loved the rituals:  the decorating of the tree, the making of Christmas cookies, the Advent calendar, and the annual cheeseball.  (Yes, cheeseball.  I made one every year as a kid with my grandmother until she was gone and now my daughter makes them with my mom).  I loved the AVARICE and the GREED and the anticipation of MORE STUFF.  I was always so excited on Christmas Eve that I hardly slept at all.  Then I would wake up at four AM and want to open gifts.  I would be allowed to investigate my stocking in the interest of peace and a little more sleep for my parents, and I would have crammed my face with chocolate before the sun even came up.  So of course I loved Christmas. 

I loved it not so much when I reached adulthood.  Bear in mind, I did not get married until I was thirty five and did not have my child until I was thirty seven so nearly twenty years were spent waiting for Christmas with a family that just didn’t exist.  I still had Christmas with my folks every year, either with or without whatever guy I was dating at the time, but it just wasn’t the same.  There was no Santa Claus.  And the responsibility fell on me to decorate and make whatever apartment I was living in feel festive.  And I had to go out and buy presents for everyone.  And I learned that the only time I really do NOT love shopping is at Christmas.  All those crowds.  All those pushy people.  All those ringing bells.  All that desperation to find the perfect gift for each person on your list.  That for me was misery.  And there was little joy.  The greed of the season and the anxiety of the merchants to SELL, SELL overshadowed any deeper meaning that Christmas might hold.  I didn’t want or need anything, or I would have already bought it.  My family didn’t want or need anything or THEY would have bought it.  The whole buying and selling and marketing and decorating thing just shut me down.

I thought I would enjoy Christmas again when I had a child of my own.  That was true for about four years.  The first Christmas was enjoyable from a cuteness standpoint; many elfen pictures and cunning pictures of wrapping paper being eaten were taken.  Year one was still pretty clueless.  Things got a little more magical at age two, three and four.  At that age, Santa was a given and our daughter wasn’t old enough to understand the greed factor yet.  However, things began to slide downhill quickly after that.  In kindergarten, my daughter had a first grader help her make a list of Christmas wants.  It was endless and included “a Nintendo DS – pink”, and “a thousand dollars.”  I think these were more the wishes of the assisting first grader, but it was obviously the beginning of ridiculous greed.  The next year, my daughter visited her cousin and her Christmas list consisted of every toy her cousin owned.  Ridiculous.  And of course she didn’t play with a single one of them for more than a day or two.  This last year, the list was incredibly specific and all goods were material and fashionable.  She doesn’t even believe in Santa Claus any more.  She’s only seven.  So the joy of Christmas has again been reduced to greed.  My parents and I have an agreement just not to buy each other presents – we don’t need anything.  My husband and I play at exchanging gifts, but again there’s that “If I wanted it I would have already bought it” thing.  So now I just acquire more decorations for the house,  because the common knowledge is that where Christmas is concerned, more stuff is always better. 

Next year, I swear we’re just going to attend a Christmas mass, and buy gifts from the Salvation Army Angel Tree.  And maybe I’ll get enjoyment out of Christmas again when I have grandchildren.  If nothing else, we’ll make a cheeseball.

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