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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

In Which the Grandparents Get Fit (or More Fit)- Chapter 1

Once upon a time, a long time ago, oh, somewhere around 2003, 2004, I lost 32 pounds on a low carb diet. Was it truly Aktins? No. Was it truly South Beach? No. But it was full of protein, with nary a crust of good bread, and it didn't take long, only 3 months. The weight stayed off, and what was once a size 24 was a size 16. Yahoo for me.

Well, that is yahoo until a few weeks ago, when I bought jeans. Size 18. So I went to the scale. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM??? Yes, I was overweight. I never lost the rest of the weight, basically because I was quite pleased with the results back in the day. But now I was adding to it.

I tried to start the low carb thing again. For whatever reason, it simply didn't work. I could not kick start my weight loss. 

The Mister has not been looking all that slim, either. His previous illness in 2008 took a lot of weight off his frame, and reduced him by 3 sizes. Those 3 sizes and another are back. While he sees the prior illness as beneficial, I know a lot of things happened with his internal organs, including his heart.

After looking through many a diet, we decided even though it seemed pedestrian, provincial and just downright middle class, we would join Weight Watchers Online. The Mister and I currently don't see the need to attend meetings about our weight, or be with other people in real time about it, at this time. We might not be digital natives, but we are certainly fluent in the language.

The Mister was a tagalong, actually. He saw me input our debit card number into the Weight Watcher site, and thought it would be a good idea, especially since registration is currently free. He seemed happy enough with the choice.

He was not as happy when I informed him that while I would be happy to enter information about certain foods not in the WW database, I was not going to follow him around with a pen and paper, and keep his chart for him, any more than I was going to chew his food for him. Not a wifely duty!

Each food, every food- there are no forbidden foods, which makes WW especially palatable to us- has been assigned a point, based upon the grams of fat, the carbs, the fiber, and the protein. Everybody gets at least 29 points a day, and 49 extra points per week. Those with more weight actually get more points. Tracking occurs on an online tracker, which will also calculate foods not listed in WW's expansive database. 

WW requires activity as well as counting points attached as values to foods. That activity can be converted into food points, if needed. The Mister tried this by helping with the lawn work, after not having had real exercise in awhile. Hopefully, he will join us for walks instead.

The children and I have been walking the local trails set aside for that purpose. It fulfills a PE credit, as well as gives us time to be outside and talk. Conversations have been interesting, to say the least, and sometimes quite profound. The walks have an added benefit of building some relationship time.

WW wants individuals to set a goal. I chose their suggestion of 5% of my weight as my first goal. Seemed reasonable.

The various trackers weave information that show behavior patterns with food, and can be used to diagnose possibly why an individual weighs more than he or she would desire. I discovered this week that Friday and Saturday are horrible eating days for me, days that cause stress make me nibble constantly. I have no idea why, except that those are our "fun" days. Let's just say there is very little at Mikky D's that doesn't consume WW points. One can eat anything, but don't expect to not have that food shave off a lot of points. (HINT: Go for the Chicken Selects and the salads if you can eat them, and skip even the McDouble.)

Portion control was something I was used to doing, but fell out of practice. The food scale had a giant crack in it (plastic), so I still need to get a new one. Accurate measuring cups I have, 3 sets. 

We paid for 3 months, in order to register gratis. We'll have to see how this works out. 

As a woman of a certain age, I know I can't guarantee I will be here tomorrow. I know that nobody can. I know of a relation who got into heavy-duty fitness in his late 40s. He dropped dead on the rowing machine at his health club when he was about 62. I also know my late aunt would have been better off had some of her morbid obesity been trimmed earlier, taking her away from us at only 64, two days after her birthday.

I would like to see Baby graduate college, at least at the undergraduate level. It would be a bonus to attend her wedding or final profession as a religious sister, whichever she decides. The extra weight may put a stop to those plans.

I don't have major health problems- yet. I have slightly elevated blood pressure, brought on by (surprise, surprise) my weight and past stress. I show no signs of diabetes, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. I have no heart disease, and actually have been blessed with very good cholesterol levels. I have a hitch in my sciatic nerve on the left side, again brought on by weight. I don't want this to turn into hip problems. 

And I have to say, at a certain point, the midsection fat HURTS! It's hard to squeeze it into pants. It isn't comfortable in a skirt waistband. Dresses start to look like mumus, and BAM, size 24 is back with a vengeance!

My weight, for me, has become much like a Sallie Mae loan on the Dave Ramsey Show. It's time to kick the old girl, or at least part of her, out of the house, for her own sake, as well as the sake of the grandkids. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

So I have to wonder...What to do, what to do...Nothing? Maybe.

When other grandparents contact me, usually under the cloak of anonymity, I give advice as best I can. I know how to handle taking documenting photographs, when to contact child protective services, and how to handle an obnoxious, drunken or drugged adult child at the front door. 

I do not know what to do about a blog my adult daughter has written. 

I want to hide it under anonymity, because what it states is patently not true. I know she is entitled to her opinion, but the entries are so far-fetched! I am so very much ashamed that she could carry on like that about us. And it is obvious to people who know us IRL that, indeed, our eldest is the blog's author. There is her photo for all to see.
The gist of her blog:
  • She can make more children, has in fact made another child, and none of them will ever be allowed to see the Mister or me. This child is, of course, better than the other children she previously created, a perfect child, the light of her life, and does not hate her, which she knows her other children do.
  • She and her several-year boyfriend are married, but then they are not. Their collective Facebook pages has them both as engaged, so who knows.
  • We didn't give her sufficient love as she was growing up, but more importantly, we won't give her any more money. This is the reason she can't work in her chosen field of paralegal, despite holding a Bachelor of Science. She has to work in stock replenishment for a major retailer because we didn't love her enough, and won't give her any more money.
  • She is not an alcoholic, and has no condition such as bipolar disorder. She knows this because she is allegedly afraid of alcohol, and because she doesn't feel any different than anybody else, no matter what the doctor says.
  • She can take a day off whenever she feels like it, even if she has a child to support, unlike when I was in her life, as I allegedly physically forced her go to work every day she was scheduled. She in fact took a week off with her boyfriend/husband's permission, and nobody told her she was irresponsible.
  • She has a new mother, loads of new siblings, and they all care about her, so she doesn't need us.
  • The whole broken relationship is my fault for expecting too much, not giving enough, and stealing her children. The new twist is the Mister is also to blame for not "reigning" (her usage) me in.

All I can say is that we have the corroborating evidence to the contrary. We have photos of her old residence; for that matter, we have photos of her last residence, courtesy of the owners' realtor. We have the testimony of more than 5 professionals, including a psychologist renown for his honest and unbiased opinions on family situations, several certified teachers, and a day care franchise.

As far as the child currently in her custody, I don't know that child, except the age is under two years. So if we can't help him or her, he or she will either be raised by our adult daughter, or become a ward of the state. Perhaps a relative of the father will step up, if necessary. We pray every night that she doesn't threaten to kill him or her the way she did the kids we adopted. But there is largely nothing we can do for him or her.

No matter her status, we do love our eldest. We simply can't communicate to her that unless she makes some sort of effort toward getting the help she needs, she will not see the children here. She obviously hasn't hit the point where she sees the need for assistance.

The Mister and I have brainstormed to try to put a stop to her blog. Our ideas are not fabulous. 

We thought about using a web site we own to post PDFs and JPGs of all the evidence we've collected over time. This really seems like a last resort effort, something to keep in our safety deposit box unless we really need it. It's certainly dramatic, but this stuff is better reserved for the privacy of court, if necessary.

The Mister and I have discussed privately suing her and our ex-son-in-law for the support they didn't pay for their children for the 2-plus years we were their guardians. This is a direct support amount, not a determination of a court based upon net wages, then the number of children determining a percentage of income. Grandparents and guardians are not responsible for the finances invoked in raising grandchildren or wards. Parents are responsible for supporting their children.

We once tried to get our local child support collection agency to collect, before the adoption was final. FHS did not know what to do, started the case, then promptly dropped it when they found the adoption was final. This was two years after we started the case. ILSDU refused to honor a previous child support order because the support would be paid to our eldest, and as we were told, it was really none of our business. The county state's attorney said even though we were legally the guardians of indigent children, he wouldn't open a case, but we should pursue it privately; after all, we had the children.

We know neither of the parties have what is known as deep pockets. The ex-son-in-law has been very quiet, and made a new life for himself. We would hate to disturb him in his new life with his new wife and his many other children, even though the kids here have precedence. There would be a certain justice in having a judgment hanging over our daughter's head, having her wages garnisheed $1 at a time if need be.

But, nobody here really wants to get geared up right now. Yes, her blog angers us. Yes, her blog hurts us. But, we have the better end of the deal. 

We know we can't save the world.

The fact is, sooner or later our eldest will either get her act together, or she will really falter. We hope for the former, and prepare for the latter. 

So, sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing...Although it is awfully tempting...         

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chocolate Mary's Crown

She's currently out near the front walk, in the rocked portion of the landscape that is my favorite (no mowing there!). At about 2 foot tall, she raises eyebrows for some.

She is a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, concrete, painted medium brown with hints of espresso. She is currently sporting a crown of small, artificial roses into which my girls have woven regulation-sized roses and carnations. It's quite 1960s, and quite lovely.

When Belle was little, and I was still her Nonna, she went to preschool and found out all about Mary (Catholic preschool). So, being Nonna at the time, she conned me into buying a yard statue. 

It is amazing what I found to buy them when I was their grandmother that they probably wouldn't have received. I once bought Belle 2 pairs of sunglasses at the dollar store, because, as she informed me, she has two eyes, which I thought very clever for an 18 month old. I took Baby to pick out her first birthday present from the Mister and me, when she reached onto the shelf and into the cart, then fiercely said into the ear of a plush frog, "I'm Baby, and I love you...OK, Nonny, buyed it!" Hardly the educational and developmental toy requested by my adult daughter for her.

But this was more than sunglasses, a plush frog, or even a small lawn ornament. Somehow, putting a statue of the BVM in our yard, front or back, was more of a commitment than going to Mass on Sunday or praying in the privacy of our home. This wasn't a Knights of Columbus bumper sticker, or a dashboard Sacred Heart. This said to whomever passed by, "HEY! CATHOLIC ALERT! SEND OUT THE ROVING MISSIONARIES OF VARIOUS DENOMINATIONS!" But nurturing the Faith in grandchildren seems at times more important than in children, especially live-in grandchildren, which along with my adult daughter, they were at the time. So, it was off to the best garden center in our area. Besides, for our ethnic background, it wasn't much of a stretch, along with tomato and pepper plants as a backyard crop. 

I took Baby with me, who was some months younger but better spoken than Belle, while Belle was at school. She, in turn, tried to badger me into a gnome, an elf, 2 fairies and a sphere. Baby then told me if I was going to stick to buying a Mary, I had to get a good one. She found me a concrete Mary painted off-white. "If you have to buy one, this is it. Don't buy the skinny ones in color (plastic). It won't blow away, nobody can steal it, and it looks nice." I told you, she was well-spoken and had great taste, even at 2 1/2.

It felt as if it weighed a ton, and took me twenty minutes to successfully remove from the back of the car to its former location in our former backyard. I fished some concrete paving stones from another part of the yard, and there she was, ensconced among the begonia bushes. She looked lovely, the flowers were perfect, and there she stayed, through summer and winter.

Time and weather wore out Mary's paint job.  Every spring, I would head out with a can of cream spray paint and touch her up. But there came the time when a really bad winter wore off a lot of paint, and I was ready for a change of color. We were moving, and Mary was moving with us. I laid down a coat of good epoxy primer, then the first coat of brown. When she dried, it was time to load her into the container to move. I layered more and more paint on her here, but somehow, to the Mister, it looked like chocolate when I was trying for wood.
Every Easter he asks if I am sticking her in one big Easter basket, and every year the kids swat him.  

This year, we had no religious education class except at home, so we had our May crowning yesterday, on Mother's Day. That's why the girls got out the craft stuff, and bought flowers at the Right to Life table after Mass. 

This begged the question, "You know we aren't worshiping the statue, right?"

I got two pinpoint stares. "Don't be stupid! We aren't babies. We know Mary is in Heaven. We know she prays for us, and God has the final say. We aren't pagans!" 

I was glad they could process that. I remember when their biological mother, slightly younger, couldn't, and tried to dress to the occasion of a school May crowning in first grade. When she was not permitted to take out her best party dress, she insisted she get to wear a crinoline slip under her uniform. She came home from the event miffed. "We took all that time, and got her a crown with real flowers, and she didn't even show up! She sent a statue instead!" All the explanation in the world could not convey to the child the symbolism of the service. She was always the most literal of my children. In the family oral history, the story is known as Mary: The Tour.

But her younger sisters know better, and enjoyed their moment showing devotion to the Mother of God. 

And I have to say, Mary now acts as majordomo for our household; since we moved, we haven't been visited by any evangelical efforts of other ecclesial groups, not one tract.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

GOOD BOOK- But not for Mother's Day

For those of you who want to get Grandma-Mom something for Mother's Day (or Christmas, or Easter, or Valentine's Day), forget self-help books. Get her something to lift her spirits & reserve her energy. If you can afford a spa day with massage for her, that's a really good gift, & a mani, pedi or  haircut is good, too if you can't afford the big guns. If you can take the grandkids for a few hours or even overnight, that would be much appreciated. Unless she is allergic, chocolate is generally a hit. Flowers, whether live or in arrangements, are nice. If you are her spouse, well, jewelry is fabulous!

Now, if you give Grandma-Mom a gift card to a book purveyor, she can buy what she wants. And if she chooses to use your generosity to buy self-help books, then that is her choice.

But do NOT buy her a self-help book, especially a self-help book about grandparents raising grandchildren! She may just be getting used to this situation. If so, when she ready, she will get her own self-help books. She may view the books as criticism. Given that in all likelihood one of her brood will be missing, whether through death or choice, do you want to remind her of it?

Stick with her favorite perfume, or even a big-box store card. 
NOW THEN- When I first started to be a retread parent, I couldn't find books on the subject. I did find a government web site, and web sites for support groups, oh yes and a blog, one lonely blog, where the grandparent had sadly returned the grandchildren due to court order. Maybe that was better for me. I started another blog that I have since closed, and I played it by ear. 

I didn't know there was a book, now over 16 years from year of publication, that would have been a big help.

Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family by Sylvie de Toledo and Deborah Elder Brown has been the best of the guides I've seen thus far. Sylvie's sister committed suicide, leaving behind a young son. So she knows first-hand from observation and assisting her parents what a mixed bag retread parenting is, not to mention her social worker skills (not every social worker is just another cog or crackpot, after all). She and Deborah put together a very practical guide for grandparents and other relatives.

The best feature is the recognition of real feelings of grandparents, as well as the clarity used to express it. Having been previously married before the Mister, I have to say most other books I've read on the subject grandparents raising grandchildren seem to be rehashes of divorce books I've read, using the same jargon, the same nomenclature, the same insipid recommendations ("Never say anything bad about the child's parent and encourage the child never to do so" and the like), even the same court rules!  

Grandparents As Parents recognizes that it is a whole 'nuther animal entirely! 

Grandparents As Parents left me feeling very positive about the choices the Mister and I have made on behalf of our grandchildren. I was glad to see that somebody besides me actually stated in print that grandparents do not legally bear the financial support of their grandchildren. I was thrilled to read that children needed to be allowed to express the anger and hurt they feel toward absent parents. I felt blessed to read that, indeed, sometimes the whole rescue of a child goes south in court in order to preserve parental ties, ties that are often every damaged or nonexistent, when child protective services and the juvenile justice system becomes involved in the situation. It was this sad governmental situation that is actually supposed to protect a child, that we fought to make sure was not involved in our guardianship and adoption of our grandchildren. 

The only flaw that I could see was outdated information on grandparents obtaining SNAP for their grandchildren, also known as food stamps. At least in Illinois, grandparental income no longer counts toward the indigent child's income as a unit, but the grandparent who collects for the grandchild is considered the representative payee (RPY) for the grandchild. Perhaps Sylvie and Deborah could revise and update this excellent guide soon!         

Happy Mother's Day! What Not To Expect

If this is your first Mother's Day since you stood up to your adult child who will not or cannot take care of his or her own children, congratulations. You've made it this far. Now I am going to have to remind you that you might have to take some emotional lumps today.

Yes, you will receive tokens from that grandchild or grandchildren. Mother's Day is during the school year, & it's a good craft time, with flowers and lace and almost all the same stuff as Valentine's Day. If you have other adult children who are responsible & well-balanced, they will take you to brunch or some such. If you have a significant other or husband, there will be appreciation from that source.

But it is that ONE CHILD, now an adult, from whom you long to hear. One kind word. One "Thank you Mom."

Oh honey. Here's a tissue. Please don't cry. You are a fine human being, & a wonderful parent & grandparent. It's The Kid.

It will be a blessing that you hear nothing. You certainly don't want this person showing up on your doorstep, calling you every name in the book, demanding you do this or that, telling anybody who will listen how horrible you really are. You don't want any drunk, drugged or mentally ill antics on this day. That would truly ruin your day. Don't wish it on yourself. Don't call this person. Resist the urge to email or write a letter. Save your strength for bigger battles to come if you're not done with court.

Do you want to hear how it's all your fault, for being domineering, for expecting too much, for alienating the children from their parent? 

You know that you will not hear about how this adult was in jail, tried to kill the children, let a lover abuse the kids, kept a house of squalor, showed up high to a child's big event, & that you have witnesses to this event. No, as far as your adult child is concerned, you are a villain who has stolen his or her children for whatever purpose you intended by doing so. 

You don't need that. Use this day instead to relax, & count the blessings you have. You might not have been able to save all the children in the world who suffer pain & neglect at the hands of those who are supposed to love them best, & your present lifestyle might not be permanent (yet). But you did manage to save one or two or three. And let's face it, the honor & privilege is ours when we get to see them grow into better people because of it.

Now take that construction paper flower and kiss the child who made it!