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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, December 17, 2012

Much better than I-

Much better than anything I could have written this weekend!

Another good one!

Please pray not only for the relatives of the Connecticut tragedy, but for parents everywhere who are so much like Nancy Lanza, with severely mentally ill children and doing their best. Until you've lived with it, you simply don't know.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Merry Christmas, Bill Cosby and Remember When

MERRY CHRISTMAS. If you celebrate something else, feel free to greet me with whatever that is. We celebrate Christmas here, taking a side trip here and there to Hanukkah. I get SICK of the "Happy Holidays" generic greeting. If you prefer it, grow a spine. If you don't, get a life, already! Just because somebody says, "Merry Christmas" does not mean they hate everything you stand for, and are out to make your life miserable and marginalized.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, over a decade plus a couple years, which older people will tell you is no time at all- Belle was a very clever toddler who was bright and happy and just the cutest little girl in the world. Lulubelle was busy taking a stab at attempting to straighten out her life before she gave up on that; going to college; working part time; along with making the gesture of attempt to take care of Baby, who really was a baby then.

A frequent mother's helper during that time was the television. Before you judge, remember the Mister and I were there, and this was NOT when Baby developed her affinity for "Divorce Court" and "Maury." And please don't tell me how it effects vision- they see much better than I. This was in addition to reading to all the children, along with plenty of games and interaction.
When we were there- and after I quit working full time, one of us was ALWAYS there for the most part- there was no "Tonight Show" or even so much as a whisper from "Jimmy Kimmel Live." There was "Bear in the Big Blue House", and "Rollie Polie Ollie", and "Oswald", and good programs whether current or in syndication, such as "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "the Cosby Show."

Belle's favorite, over Bear and Ojo, was Cosby. I have never in my lifetime seen a child, let alone a toddler, relay such affection to a sitcom. She seemed to be particularly interested in the newer episodes, those being the 7th and 8th seasons. We thought at first she had a thing for Raven, as Raven at the time was a small child much like herself. But we were never sure.

No. Belle was under the impression the Huxtables were her "other" family.

Belle was a very smart little girl. She's a smart young woman now, but back then, we were still impressed with how much she understood and when she understood it. In her two-year-old mind, she knew kids came from two parents, and each of those parents had a family as well. We figured this out because, when we asked her about the Huxtables, she called Cliff "Grandpa" and Claire "Granny." We knew that wasn't the Mister and me. He was "Papa" at the time, and we won't tell you who I was, because then you will know who I am. 

And as far as we could figure out, Theo was her father, the one who never came to see her except through the good offices of the cable box. And as sad as the story sounds, a two-year-old who replaces the father who was never there for her with a sitcom character, well, we had to give her props for dealing with her situation as best she could.

The Huxtables were actually preferable to the "other" family. Belle's real paternal grandmother has wanted nothing to do with our side of the family since the pending announcement of Belle's arrival. I wrote Sonny's mother what I considered a nice letter, and I received, on loose-leaf paper, a diatribe on what was wrong with me (she'd never met me), with my daughter, who stole Grandma's son- you get the point. I still have the letter in a box, lest it is ever needed for court. More than a few seemed on making grandbabies out-of-wedlock, second generation. But for the most part, Sonny's family seems to have preferred that we drift away with the grandchildren, no doubt somewhat due to some behaviors we discovered on Lulubelle's part, but certainly more than a fair share of their own foibles and faults.

So who would not prefer Cliff, Claire, Theo and the rest of the gang? Cliff and Claire would've set Theo straight if he had caused a pregnancy, and most certainly he would not have skipped out on child support or visitation. Their daughters were certainly nice, and little Winnie and Nelson would have made excellent cousins for Belle and Baby. I'm sure something would have been set aside for both Baby and Belle's college. For I all I know, Theo might be successfully raising the children now. If I was picking shows for Belle to prefer, "the Cosby Show" would have been at the top of the list. 

However, it was not Theo that was Belle's father substitute.

We were remembering, after the annual mental health check, when Belle was a member of the Huxtable family, if not in name then in desire.

"Why do you always say that about Theo?" Belle asked.

"Because you said 'Daddy' when he came on the screen," I replied.

"Yeah, but I didn't think he was my dad. I thought it was the other guy. I wanted the other guy to come on, but it was always Theo."

"Which other guy? Cockroach? Russel? Cliff? Elvin?"

"No. The Navy guy with the little girl. I used to pretend I was the little girl."

OK. This makes more sense. Joseph C. Phililps was Martin Kendall. In the show, he played a Navy officer. Belle's biological father is not an naval officer, but he should be retiring from the military next year (why they keep him confuses me greatly, but that's another story).

"Do you know who the little girl was?" I was about to launch into a monologue on "That's So Raven," another favorite show of Belle's.

"Of course. She was me. Some of our clothes were even the same. She was living with her grandparents in a nice house in a safe place. And they loved her."

Tears. And thankfulness for second-hand clothes and thrift stores. 


Speaking of remembering when- I am stifling my craving to bring in Lulubelle's quilt and work on it. The kids who live here won't permit me to ruin my Christmas this year.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Tale of Intrigue

When I was a girl, back in the days when we rode the dinosaur to school, it was not at all unusual for girls (and they were girls, not prewomen, not young women) under the age of fourteen to play with dolls. Little girls, those in the toddler through age 8 or even 9 bracket, played with baby dolls, and all that came with playing with baby dolls. Baby dolls had high chairs, and bottles, and diapers, and everything for the younger set to pretend they were mommies, and to mother as their mothers did the little girls. 

Older girls, girls not ready to date and too old to play with baby dolls, had other options. 

The first was the paper doll. Paper dolls came in a book with a theme, for anywhere from 29 cents to a whole dollar for the really good ones! Paper dolls lived life on the edge, between TV show characters, brides, airline stewardesses, teachers and nurses. Just about every book contained at least one male paper doll, be he the groom, a pilot, a doctor or the principal. 

While the theme of the paper doll book was established, and with the theme the wardrobe, a smart older girl could easily whip up a wardrobe by studying the position of the tabs that held on a particular paper doll's clothes. Into my second year of magnet high school as an art major, my paper dolls wore fringed vests, bell bottoms, flares, body shirts, headbands, hot pants and culottes. They hadn't come with those outfits. They came with a mid-1960s bridal outfit and changes of clothing for the honeymoon. It got to the point where I no longer imagined my dolls in each other's arms doing who-knows-what. I had a good idea of what did happen, having heard the tales in the locker room. I just enjoyed making the clothes, seeing how realistic I could make them by applying what I learned in class. I discovered years later that I was not the only girl in my high school to secretly harbor paper dolls, or to design wardrobes for them. Some managed to hang onto their fashions despite their mothers cleaning them out when they went to college. One left the designs on sheets of paper and put them in her portfolio. 

None of my daughters has ever enjoyed paper dolls. They didn't like the fact that they had to actually cut the dolls' clothes from the paper, even with the prepunched sets. Even the famous Tom Tierney paper dolls at Dover didn't inspire them. After six months, I swept them up and they are no more.

Belle and Baby do enjoy Barbies. So do I . So do a lot of other grown women, some in their 70s and 80s who were moms when Barbie came out.

In my day, Barbie drove a Corvette my parents never bought us. That's OK. Our Barbies drove a shoe box we converted to a truck, which doubled as a bus. Her house was made from Pampers boxes covered in wallpaper samples from the local furniture store. She sometimes worked at the Neisner's behind the soda fountain counter. But usually, she worked for our doctor in an office, as a nurse, sometimes as a pharma saleswoman. Barbie occasionally took the veil and taught at a Catholic school. We often fashioned our own clothes for Barbies, not bothering with patterns and the like. 

As I got older, Barbie faded off with my sisters. I would sometimes play with my youngest sister and cousins when I baby-sat, strictly to help her out of course. Barbie was in love with Donny Osmond, but wasn't fond of Marie. Barbie dated Greg Brady and David Cassidy. Barbie finally got her car. 

I've heard the stories, about how Barbie is bad for the self-image of girls, and those hard plastic boobs make young girls pine away that their bodies are hopelessly never going to be as perfect as Barbie, with her feet shaped exactly for high heels. Balderdash. Barbie sparks the imagination, and that is a good thing.

One of the ways we found out Belle and Baby were in peril was Baby's recitation of TV programs in preschool. The other kids told the teacher, an older woman who had been teaching for some time, about Rollie Pollie Ollie or Bear in the Big Blue House or even Arnold and the Wild Thornberries. Not Baby.

Baby's first show described a man and a "lady" on stools, watched when Lulubelle was allegedly taking a nap during the afternoon. Another man, with a giant stick and wearing glasses, told the man on the stool, "It's 99% not your baby." The man apparently hurled invectives at the "lady" who screamed and cried. Her second show described a "lady in a long dress at a big table with a hammer" who listened to a man and "a lady in a pit." After listening to the woman cry and the man scream, the lady at the table banged her hammer, and said, "Divorce granted. All the money goes to the wife."

It was bad enough to know that Baby was left alone to watch "Jerry Springer" and "Divorce Court" at the age of 3 and 4. But when we found out Lulubelle left both kids to watch nighttime TV, we really started paying attention.

After we took her to our house again, some days later, Baby lined up the Barbies we'd scavenged on a toy couch. Baby had a big furry bank form the zoo, purchased by the Mister in an indulgent mood, called Wolfie. All of the sudden from the kids' room we heard, "And now, Live from Las Vegas, it's the Tonight Show, with Wolfie the Wolf and his Wolfman Band. Tonight's guests are Barbie 1, Barbie 2, Jerry Seinfeld, and tonight's host, Wolfie the Wolf, live from Las Vegas!"

It was later in play therapy that we discovered the kids had been left to do as they pleased through the night, as Lulubelle was asleep with her face on the keyboard of her computer, after drinking the "brown stuff" as the kids called it. They apparently preferred Jay Leno over Dave Letterman, a wise choice in my opinion. Barbie has been very helpful indeed.

These days, Baby still plays with Barbies, while Wolfie has been retired to a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, which is also Baby's desk. Belle will occasionally join in, and even a couple of the kids' friends have been known to participate a time or two.

TV is strictly regulated in our house. An adult must be in the house when the TV is on, in case questions are raised. The digital programming controls who sees what and when. But the kids are older now, and the shows have changed. The Barbies, as they are called, and were always called, live new lifestyles and have new adventures spawned by TV and imaginations.

The Polly Pockets were recently sent to juvenile hall as the result of mention of juvy in a Disney show. And the Barbies are on the move: 3 are in witness protection, under new identities. Hawaiian Barbie has taken up residence as the head of the Five-0 team, replacing Steve McGarrett, who was captured by Wo Fat and the alleged CIA agent who claimed to be his mother, then made Wo Fat's houseboy on an undisclosed island- and poor Steve must cook and clean, every day. Fashion Barbie is actually a CIA agent, who has a back story of another life in Seattle working for Microsoft, and was the jilted girlfriend of Bill Gates. You don't even want to know about the turnout at the Barbie National Convention, with a Barbie standing in for Condi Rice, Sarah Palin and Ann Romney (yes their Barbies are diverse, but strong in party unity).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Just Living Life

I haven't written anything in almost a month. 

Communication from other grandparents who follow this blog has been minimal. I think we're all busy, with education in full-force, not to mention all that autumn stuff.

Belle is being confirmed in a few weeks. While I have already been confirmed, thank you (in 1967), receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation means a great deal of preparation in the United States. The prep work is all on Belle, but as she isn't quite old enough to drive, the chauffeur service depends largely on me and the local public trans. Yes, I let the kids use public transportation. But public trans doesn't get everywhere at every hour, so it's up to me to make sure she gets where she's going when it doesn't.

I picked up a carload of pumpkins from the pumpkin farm. The farm charges by the car, and there were already kids occupying my small "clown" car. Nonetheless, we managed to get in quite a few pumpkins, some in places we never imagined. Pumpkin pie at home will be fresh, as will ravioli and gnocchi. We've already harvested the seeds of 8 Jack O' Lanterns, and we have at least thirty to go.

Herbal plants have been moved indoors, along with my geraniums. Geraniums make me very happy in winter, as did rosemary last year. I'm hoping the big pots of oregano, basil and peppermint bring the same cheer this coming winter. 

Other than that, it's been college Western Civ I with the kids on Mondays and Wednesdays, followed by English 101 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It amazes me that college courses I CLEPed as an adult, these kids are taking with ease. Belle is scheduled to start College Algebra in the spring. If you knew her pedigree, you would know how unprecedented this is, a female mathematics genius in our family! I've heard my two nieces were very good at math, and the one now a scientist is an ace. My Lulubelle struggled with any type of math, and  while I passed College Algebra, as well as Intro to Accounting, math has not always been my thing. My mother always claimed the girls in our family "just aren't good at math," something that was pointed out as a fallacy to me by my second grade teacher. Anyway, Western Civ is blending itself into a variety of readings and writing, almost a semester unit study.

Novels for class time have included Theras and His Town (how we skipped this in the past I have no idea), the Year Money Grew on Trees and Sophie's World. The research that accompanies college classes can be a little intimidating, even for these kids. Sophie's World ties in nicely with all the survey reading their instructor has them doing of ancient authors. 

Baby is herself, as ever. Our pastor thought he was getting another Belle when he saw Baby enter his Confirmation prep class! Oh no! Baby is conscientious in her own right, but she loves to have fun, loves to cut up, and is not afraid to speak her mind. He will find her assignments match those of her friends in class, even if she has to call them five minutes before they are due

So, that's our autumn thus far. The kids have their Halloween costumes planned, invitations to parties now that they're older.  Confirmation will bring my very dear friend from out-of-town, to serve as Belle's sponsor. Thanksgiving will come immediately after that, and then the Christmas rush will begin!

Grab an Affy Tapple before the season ends at your local Woodman's! Autumn is really my favorite season, for a lot of reasons. I intend to be out in it every day if I can do so.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Next Year's Garden Shapes Up

I am continuing my hanging garden plans for next year, the one that's going to grow between the poles formerly known as clotheslines. I don't hang laundry from them, so they might as well be useful for something. 

I estimated I needed at least 52, up to 72, hanging containers. I managed to pick up more Topsy Turvies, bringing my count up to 20. I'm saving gallon milk jugs, gallon vinegar jugs (we use it as a fabric softener for certain items), gallon detergent jugs and 3-liter soda pop bottles. We are at the 52 mark, so only 20 to go.  Drink up!

I have to protect the roots from overexposure to the sun, growing upside down like that. I suppose I could wrap the planters in a blue or green duct tape, much like a Topsy Turvy, but I think that would ruin my garden aesthetic. So, I cut down some already smallish pillow cases that weren't doing anybody any good and made bottle snoods. They have drawstrings top and bottom, and maybe I'll market them. I'm going to try a couple with Velcro as well. Hanging is a cinch: I have a pile of wire coat hangers nobody will use.

I was looking for something stronger than wire or clothesline on which to run the planters. I found this nifty steel cable at the big-box home supply store that is placed in a plastic tubing of sorts.  I'll put the metal clips onto the cable, first, then hang the cable in place.

As long as I am going for the gusto, I am also looking for other ways to stack and hold planters. I'm certainly not moving my wire baker's rack to the yard! I was thinking of converting a couple of old bookshelves that have stood the test of time. If I don't get to that, I can always make shelves with old boards, bricks and cinderblock. 

We're going to try a few experiments next year. I have some old boxes that are deep, that can have drainage holes so the containers can hold carrots, rutabagas, radishes, broccoli, garlic and onions. Not sure about doing potatoes that way. We have some cleared and ungrassed ground for in-the-ground veggies and fruits as well. 

As far as dirt- I have two compost piles at present. They meet local code and are covered. I am not going as far as putting human waste, or any animal parts whatsoever into them. Leaves, veggie and fruit peelings, worms to root around and aerate the soil. I have spare soil, about 200 pounds, and a big supply of Perlite and sand to lighten things up. I also have several fertilizers I bought at close-out. 

So now I am foraging seeds, both from plants we eat, plants we've grown, and close-outs at local stores. There was an interesting experiment on  growing pumpkins inside pumpkin shells that I'm anxious to try. We currently are set with: peppers of various colors, cucumbers of various sizes and uses, squashes that do and don't squish, herbs galore, chards and kales.

I will be making more planter snoods during the winter, and checking the compost, turning the soil. I can't start seeds indoors until at least early February. All in all, it's starting to be a lot more fun than I thought it would be. The kids are interested as well, except for the composting part.   


Friday, September 7, 2012

Ring out the bells! Go get the dresses!

We have been invited to FOUR weddings this Autumn: Two cousins, a godson and an aunt.  While we won't be able to attend the godson's wedding Texas,we will be able to attend the local or near-local nuptials. 

This requires dresses for Belle and Baby. There is only one small problem. They are in growth spurts. Up. Tall. 

I am at a loss as to where the tall comes in. My mother's brother is quite tall, as were several late uncles from my father's side. My father is 5'7". Ex is about 5'9". Sonny, my Lulubelle's ex, is 5'7", while Lulubelle is 5'8" (Junior, our son, is 5'6"). My mother is 5'8", as is one of my sisters. I am 5'4".  I also have a sister who is just 5' even. So, while the DNA lottery points to short, it seems the kids are going to be tall. They give the Mister credit for it, at 5'11", but he actually has no chromosomal input into the matter of their height.  

Not only is this tallness affecting dress purchases, it is affecting ALL clothes purchases for the kids. Both Belle and Baby grew an inch overnight, within 3 weeks of each other. Belle can no longer hand down clothes and shoes to Baby. They wear the same size clothes; moreover, Baby wears a larger shoe size than Belle. Belle and I can exchange shoes, and do, as long as we're not going to the same place and want the same shoes. 

So, I have waited until a week before the first wedding to go shopping for dresses. I'm glad I did. The dresses they tried on in July at a closeout would never fit them now without leggings. 

And I can mend, and do lovely handwork such as embroidery and quilts. But I don't sew clothes well. I've never gotten the construction thing. I took 2 years of drafting in high school, as well as 4 years of commercial art, so my view of sewing clothes is not the same as a woman who learned to sew in a class. What often happens is a look of horror, followed by, "You made that, didn't you?" For all my advanced spatial ability, I can't do fabric 2D to 3D. I've tried imagining dresses as just a lumpy quilt, or upholstery. No dice.

Belle still has to practice walking in heels and not killing herself or others. She got the prettiest pair of plum kitten heels at a liquidation sale. Her Confirmation outfit in November will hopefully match them, provided she doesn't grow again, foot-wise. 

So, it's off to attempt to find two dresses, preferably that match shoes we already own (not Baby's "boy" PF Flyers-style gym shoes).  It should be interesting, hopefully not traumatic. The wallet will hopefully cover the expense.    

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How'd we get here?

It always bothered me when I heard stories of kids in custody situations not of their own design. One of the lousiest to my mind is a person who nurtured and raised them- be it a custodial parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or even an unrelated foster parent- who usually did this for years, suddenly got shoved aside by a court order and a judge with an axe to grind. The child had a home, a good home, stability, and there was no promise or expectation of the same with the parent. But because the parental tie is allegedly so strong, the child HAD to go live with the parent, even if the parent has not seen the child in years. In cases where that new custodial parent has harmed or even murdered the child, I wonder how judges sleep at night. 

There are such stories. Simply Google and you will see Lulubelles and Juniors bearing the title of Dad and Mom who, after promising protective services and a judge that NOTHING will ever happen to the kid again, he drove into traffic in the wrong direction, killing himself and the child. She took the kid out of the country, and it takes money and years to see that kid again. He got in a drug-induced snit, lost patience and beat the child beyond recognition.  The voices in her head told her the child was possessed by Satan, so she drown/ dismembered/ choked/ poisoned the child. He decided he didn't want to live anymore, and when his children were on a supervised visit in his home (a stupid idea if ever there was one), he shoved the case worker outside the door and blew himself and his children up. One fine day, protective services received one too many reports on a person, and went to investigate. There, among the filth, were little children of varying ages and sizes, without food, without clothes, without supervision. Take your pick.

You will also see plenty of stories where protective services has blown the load and taken away children for no darn good reason. I think of Illinois, because I am from Illinois, and the case of a family who lost their children for weeks on end because of a young teacher who imagined more than there was. I think of the family who ran a daycare, whose young daughter was accused of being a child molester, for no reason other than an odd parent among the daycare clients. I think of a family in another state, who lost their children in their later childhoods, because another child said the father was molesting them; no proof, but there was protective services, butting in and taking them away, until they turned legal age and went back to their parents. One guy almost lost his children because he couldn't speak English. So, I would be the last person on earth to support anything protective services said. 

So when it comes to the Lulubelles and Juniors of this world, I like grandparents to have a way to think out the situation for themselves. Judges have their own political party and theories. His or her spouse might have custody obtained in a bitter divorce, as an example. Case workers are overloaded with complaints, client children, foster parents, and may not have any background in child psychology or social work, but need a job. You know what's going on, and you know the facts. One of the best ways is to reflect on where we've been, and where we are today. How'd we get here?

Often, when the kids are placed in your care, there's little time to think about what's going to happen. You don't know what you're going to do next, it's all moving quickly. You barely have time to call the school, fill the fridge, and borrow a folding bed.

Then, there is a lull. Maybe the errant adult child straightens up in a few weeks or months, and the kids go back. Maybe not. I'm here to tell you from the reports I've received as well as my own experience, "maybe not" is what's likely to happen. 

Regaining custody takes work on the part of a person who has already proven that his or her favored way to do things is the easy way. Therapy sessions take time. Visitation takes time. Legal work takes time. Lulubelle and Junior simply have no more time for such things! There are people to date and bed, drugs to take, legal drugs to skip, booze to drink, video games to play, horses to race, bets to make.  It's so much easier to just skip it "this once" and show up at the extended family gathering, bearing whatever in the way of gifts and bragging on the clean, well-mannered child Lulu and Junior have not raised, as if he or she did in fact do all the work.

And let's face it, we probably indulged the adult child, what's known as "enabling" a person. We love our adult children, no matter how it seems now. We wanted to help them.  They were once our babies. We ignored the falsehoods, the downright lies, the hidden agendas, especially when bullied with "the grandkids" and their welfare. We are not guilty of what our adult children have done, by any measure. But there might have been times when we should have put on the brakes and said NO, in big bold letters. There were times we should have questioned the story we were being told. There were times we squashed down that instinct in our gut that somehow, we were being deceived by our very own children. We gave them money we shouldn't have, time we shouldn't have, leisure and material goods we never should have given them. 

So, there came the day when we opened our eyes fully. Maybe a local or state agency opened those eyes for us. Maybe we walked into a situation that was sufficiently horrific to wake us up. And there was a child, our grandchild, our grandchildren, who were in harm's way, who have had no real parenting, who were hungry, who were being raised in filth, left alone for who knows how long without adult supervision, who have been injured but pulled through- and they need us. They are children, after all. There might have been a phone call, a knock at the door. Our Lulubelle or Junior might have simply left the kids for a brief visit or overnight, and slipped out into the world. 

We might be older. We might have just sent our last off to college, and looked forward to an empty nest. We might be on social security and a pension, and have been for years. We might still have kids at home, the siblings of the adult child in question, who are doing their best to be their best. We might have a significant other or a spouse. We might still live in the same place where our adult child grew up, or a condo, or even a trailer home. 

But we decided to choose, even though it broke our hearts, and we chose the grandkids. Then we rolled up our sleeves and got busy. We hired experts. We did some fact-checking. We called on teachers and daycare providers to fill in some blanks. We took pictures. We got a therapist and an attorney. We checked to see if the pediatrician we used 15 years ago still practices, ditto pediatric dentist and orthodontist.  We went to court. The judge was impressed with our evidence enough to give us custody, or even allow an adoption. In our case, we had the intervention of the Servant of God Vincent Cappodano, along with the best attorney money couldn't buy. Many, many people prayed for us for years, living on Earth and in Heaven. 

And yes, we miss how things were! We didn't stop being parents to our adult children. They will always be our children! We would like to have a better relationship than visitation drop-offs, than family therapy, than always suspecting our adult child of lies because we discovered we'd only known lies for so very long, and that adult child has yet to earn our trust! We didn't like having to move to get away from abuse, manipulating or bullying at the hands of our Lulubelles and Juniors. We didn't like getting orders of protection, restraining orders, supervised visitation orders, guardianship, custody agreements, and the most final of all, adoption decrees. But we had to make choices, and we were given very little leeway. 

So here we are. Here I am, almost seven years from the time the Mister and I took action. I have to say, the grandkids have given us much, much more than we have ever given them. How we are raising them not only reflects new methods learned, but things we didn't want to see happen again. They are bright stars, now and in the future. 

I miss both my adult children, for the brother has taken the side of my Lulubelle, without really knowing the whole story. I am sure he's afraid he's going to somehow lose his children, and I don't blame him for that, even though he seems to be a hard-working guy who takes care of his family. I wish our son every happiness, and every good thing in his life.

But if I had to do this again, take custody and adopt this set of grandkids, YES, YES, YES, I would do it again! There is so much I've discovered over time that they were spared because we did this, on both sides of their DNA. 

As a good example, I don't think anybody would have tested them for academic giftedness. I know my Lulubelle wouldn't even consider interrupting her daytime nap to take Belle to speech therapy as a Kindergartner. I know my ex-son-in-law's present wife can barely spell, and at one point, wrote by typing one long sentence in caps, no punctuation, until she had a paragraph. I could easily see where Belle and Baby would have become permanent baby-sitters for their various biological siblings without breaks for silly interruptions such as school, especially Belle, who my Lulubelle simply hated and showed it.

So YES, I would do it again, and I bet there are many of you who would do it, as well. Nobody else is patting us on the back, and there's always the naysayers who think we've done something against nature. So, let's be glad we got here, and pat ourselves on the back.           

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Open to Interpretation

So we went to a wedding shower this weekend, an almost exclusively female event, except for a cute little toddler boy, the groom, the Mister and an uncle.

Uncle asked the kids if they had any boyfriends, a usual uncle thing. And Belle replied, for herself as well as siblings, "Well, my mother doesn't allow us to date until we're in college. Personally, I don't think I'll date until I'm finished with college. I have too much to do."

Now then- This makes me look as if I'm Simon Lagree, "Toys in the Attic" crazy, bundling my kids up until they live in a cave, without any socialization. Lest you think I keep them confined to the house, you should know what I actually said, Belle's mindset, and how all that applies to her reply. 

  • I told them they should not even think about having a baby until they have finished college, put enough money in the bank to have a cushion, had a decent place to live on their own as well as good transportation, and had a husband. I also told them that, should they get pregnant before they were 18, that our state considers the grandparents financially responsible for the infant, so should they decide to do that, we would be in charge of their child. Finally, I said I don't like teenage dating, that it did Lulubelle little good, and that I wanted it limited. I said I didn't consider a group of people, such as youth group, an actual date, and would make exceptions for such reasons as proms and banquets, where an escort was required. 
  •  I've always told my kids, if you think in order to stop peer pressure you need to publicly blame me, go ahead. This didn't mean that Lulubelle could blame her adult life on me, by the way.
  • Belle already started taking college courses, and has in fact completed a college math course online. She is excellent at Math, not merely OK or good at it, but excellent.  She might start dating around sixteen, which is about when she should be in college full time.
  • Belle is upset with Lulubelle's young adult behavior, making babies out-of-wedlock, of which Belle was one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Defending My Right to Say It

Even the eldest of us these days have an account on social networking sites. One aunt has several (but she is a young aunt, only 65). We Facebook, Tweet on Twitter and Pinterest with the best of them.

I have found both outlets helpful in educating the kids, keeping up with extended family and old friends, and a good place to connect with others, both those who think as I do and those who don't. It's opened my world.

I think we older folks bring the voice of reason to a world gone loco with yelling, screaming, diatribes and soapbox grandstanding, all through the use of keyboards and DragonSpeak. I'd like to think we bring a level of calm to a world that doesn't appreciate calm, that finds fault in every little thing said on social networks, and can get rowdy-nasty in a hurry.   

I've recently had to "unfriend" a few people. I've had to put others into "groups" where I don't want them to be, so that they will not be offended by my opinions. I don't do this lightly, as I look upon a friend as just that, a friend. However, the accusations against me make me feel as if I don't agree exactly and precisely with some folks, I am somehow WRONG. And they let me know how WRONG I am- stridently, shrilly, demanding I accept their way of thinking about things, without reason, without civilized discourse, simply because this is what THEY believe.

My Facebook page carries a caution for those who can see it: I believe and practice what I believe and practice. You don't have to like it. You do have to accept it. Within the confines of the Terms of Service, I can place whatever I choose on my timeline. My wall, the former nomenclature of the timeline, is just that, mine. 

In turn, I don't go to the timelines of others and tell them what they can and cannot post there. I may not agree with it, but that's no reason for me to type away on their space with feelings of hurt, angst, rejection or umbrage. Hey, we all have our ideas and ideals.

I will say there have been people who have had differences of opinion, and they have shown that difference with good manners, grace, their facts neatly and coherently displayed, elegantly displayed in fact. Our discourse did not make me unfriend them; quite the contrary, it made me value their friendship all the more. We can all agree to disagree, and state our reasons for doing so in an intelligent way.  

I won't go into what exactly started what I consider a big loss. I will state, for the record, that if you are a friend of mine on one of the many social networking sites, please be prepared to follow my rules:

  • I get to state my opinion, and that includes memes, photographs and "likes". You don't have to like them, too. You don't have to look at them. I am very willing to put you into a group where you won't see them. That's why the groups are there.
  • Please don't imagine things into my postings that aren't there, or read into what I've written. This type of media is not the place for deep ideas, but a lot of quick postings, even if there is space. I try not to write long diatribes, or esoteric theses. Again, there are groups for that. We all know what "assume" does. Please don't assume. 
  • I am Catholic, not a Cafeteria Catholic. I stand with the Church on Her doctrine, which can't be changed or altered; indeed, it hasn't been changed or altered in 2000-plus years (so if you're hoping it will, save your time and hope no longer). I understand there are Catholics who do not, for whatever reason, agree with the Church, as they are the ones who complain loudly, while our Separated Brethren tend to be calm and open to discourse. Don't expect me to agree with you, allow you to post things on my timeline that disagree with Church teachings, or allow you to use your keyboard to yell and scream outrage at me, God or the Church. I can explain them to you, if you want. We can politely discuss them. But, as an example, you don't get to come on my timeline and tell me you plan on doing unspeakable things to the Creator of the Universe, when if you said you were going to do those things to a human being, you would be locked up and charged with at the least attempted assault and harassment.
  • Please don't use vulgarity. Please. There's no point. Social media is VERY public, and it's just trashy in my mind.   

Oh, and lest you think all the folks who've been unfriended were young and hot-headed, making demands against God and Country- I've eliminated several seniors for out-and-out vulgarity. I don't care if a person IS the son of a female dog, or for that matter, the female dog in person.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Campers

We went to pick them up from camp. From the comments, we were wondering if they transported one of them to another camp:

BELLE: It was so much fun! I can't want to go back! I got a green cap in swimming, and we camped out in pup tents for two days even though it rained, and the food was AWESOME!!! I met so many new friends, and they signed my ballcap, and I have their emails and phone numbers so we can do things during the year, then plan when we are going back. I want to be a five-year girl. Can we afford for me to go three weeks next year? Last year and this year, I only went one week. I earned a badge, and parts of another.  I just love camp!!!!

BABY: Thank goodness you're finally here! They made us sleep in pup tents for two days, and it rained! The food tasted like leftovers, except for the corn dogs. Yeah, I made friends. We're all going to complain to the Girl Scout council. Don't ever make me go back there! Can we stop on the way for real food? Oh yeah. I got a green cap in swimming and earned a badge.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Questions and Answers- On a personal note

Q: You don't seem to like your ex-husband, yet you were once married to him.

A: No I don't, not that it's any of your business. And he doesn't like me either. When one calls on a person to honor the vows he made, and he does not, repeatedly, then lies about one's own participation in the matter, one is not required to like that person. Would you like to talk to his other ex-wife or ex-girlfriends? I think they'd agree with me.  

Question and Answer Time- Goverment Goodies

Q: If you are a conservative, why do you push food stamps and welfare? If you can't afford kids, you shouldn't have them.

A: Because it is there, and it can mean the difference between eating beans and rice three times a day, or worse, such as flour gruel; and vegetables and other proteins. Because kids are accident prone, and need insurance, and too many companies won't let Grandma and Grandpa get them some. Because Grandpa's pension doesn't always have enough money to buy the grandbabies school clothes and supplies.

These are not planned children in the household of their parents. These are children who for one reason or another can't cannot live with their own parents, either parent. Their grandparents might need a helping hand until they can figure this out. They are saving the taxpayers as well as state and federal agencies millions of dollars in foster care money in the long run.

There are some states where the law and procedure dictate that grandparents MUST apply for TANF, food stamps and some form of Medicaid/ Kid Care for the grandchildren of whom they have custody. It is mandatory because then the child support system of that state attempts to collect child support for the grandchildren. There the grandparents have no choice. If they want custody, they must do as their state bids them to do. I'm not saying it works, as from my own experience, I know it doesn't. I'm saying it's sometimes required to get anywhere with child support.

These grandparents or other family members are not Lulubelles and Juniors trying to get what they can out of the System, then starving the kids and sending them out half-naked. The Lulubelles and Juniors no longer have custody, nor do their spouses or significant others. Grandma, Grandpa, or even Aunt and Uncle, suddenly have the responsibility of a child, or a group of children.

I recommend such grandparents who are raising grandkids take help from all the sources that can help them, if they need it. This would include local food pantries, clothes closets, churches, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, and other private charities, along with the local public schools and anybody else who sees fit to assist them fairly and equitably. 

The government funds in question don't go to Grandma and Grandpa. They go to the kids. Legally, the guardian of the child or children is known as a representative payee or RPY. Grandma and Grandpa have to account for those funds, either through the government agency from which they collect the money and goods, or to the court that has jurisdiction over the grandchildren. It is tighter scrutiny than simply being a custodial parent. When the Mister and I were guardians, we had to bring report cards, and the children themselves, to court once a year, so the judge could see they were well-fed and not abused, as well as an accounting of every dime we spent on them.   

One of the things I will do if I ever win the lottery is set up an organization that gives grants to grandparents raising grandkids, for everything from emergency beds to reasonable vacations. Until that time comes- and it's not likely, as I don't play the lottery on a consistent basis, which means twice a year or less- I recommend grandparents raising grandkids utilize all possible resources available to them, in an effort to keep their precious grandchildren from harm.   

Question and Answer Time- Relationship with Adult Child Extended Family

Q: Why can't you see having more people love a child is the best way to raise them? All you want to teach them is to hate. 

A: I never said children shouldn't have as many concerned, loving extended family members as possible. But somebody has to be in charge of the child's daily life. There has to be a boss. The boss sets the rules, and has the authority to act in the child's best interest. Raising children by consensus, where a bunch of adults have input on how the child is raised? Not only is that time-consuming, while waiting on everybody to cast his or her vote, but the paradigm for it requires adults who can put aside their own feelings for the good of the child. 

I'm not saying it can't happen. I've seen two couples pull it off in the thousands I've seen divorce and remarry. I just say it's not likely to happen.

As I've previously stated, having custody of grandchildren is not the same as the aftermath of a divorce. There are a very few similar situations, but by-and-large, divorce is not a helpful comparison to grandparents raising grandchildren.

Grandchildren don't live with grandparents because the grandparents and the adult child don't love each other any more, to the point where there is a separation. This isn't about adultery, or coming out of the closet to be gay and therefore not having a marital relationship with the opposite gender, or because a spouse has substance abuse problems he or she won't treat, or even falling out of love. 

The structure of the grandparent/parent/ adult child/ grandchildren paradigm is completely different. Two adult children chose to do things in life that caused both of them to lose custody of their children. When the kids live with Grams and Granps, it isn't about custody of one parent or the other. BOTH parents did something so radical that the children can't live with either one of them any more. 

It is usually not the grandparents who have a choice in whether the parents visit, in any event. It's the court that has jurisdiction over the grandchildren that decides these things.

As for the others, the extended family? That's up to the grandparents with custody. There are some states that permit certain family members to go to court and ask for court-ordered visitation. There are other states that have laws that the custodian, whoever that person is, decides what's best and who can see the kids. Visitation rights are a separate issue from custodial rights.

Question and Answer Time- the Debt Collectors, Redux

Q: Your recent posts on debt collectors is just wrong! You know they are all out to screw people, and yet you gave them not only your daughter's and son's names, but their friends' names. That's illegal! I hope she sues you, you b@#$%.

A: The ball of the burden of proof is in your court on that one! It is not illegal to cooperate with the location of an individual in the process of a debt collection agency trying to collect a debt.  She owes them money, lots of it. She either needs to pay up, or she needs to declare bankruptcy; in any event, she listed the Mister's cell phone number as recently as this year on forms. As she hasn't spoken to us in over six years, don't you think it's at least unethical to list either of us as a reference or contact? We get calls all the time for both Lulubelle and Sonny from their creditors, and we get calls from various companies claiming we've bought stuff on time from them despite having our credit reports frozen and tagged. This happened as recently as last week. 

If you are one of my adult daughter's friends, perhaps you should think twice about that close contact with her. Maybe you should advise her to work out a debt payment plan with her creditors. Maybe you could suggest she get a job commensurate with her education and skills, the education and skills she chose, so she can make more money and pay her bills. We offered her and her present husband Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes. She never replied, except to be nasty. Maybe your efforts should be to remind her that, despite her recent status as a Christian, Christians are expected not to steal anything, or covet either, even from their parents.   

Question and Answer Time

Q: I liked your post on Indian rights. Do you know any lawyers in Oklahoma?

A: No, I sure don't, but I bet there are plenty of reliable ones out there. I googled "attorneys oklahoma indian child welfare" and got all of these

Hire an attorney based on your and your grandchildren's needs. For more information on how to hire an attorney, look here

(Note: Some readers thought my answers were actually too brief. So, I'm editing the original post into several posts, for easier reading.-DRG) 

Question and Answer Time- Parental Facts & Choosing a Therapist

Q: Our grandchild's therapist recommended that we only portray our son and his ex-girlfriend in a good light, and never say anything bad about them. Our granddaughter is ten. She never met her mother except as a baby, and my son has only been to see her twice since we got her at 18 months. Why don't you say nice things about your daughter and son-in-law?

A: If your granddaughter's therapist is not court-ordered, I'd arrange for another one.  He or she isn't explaining what you need to know, such as, what defines "portray in a good light" for the therapist. 

I think there are too many therapists who equate grandparents raising grandchildren with parents who divorce. There are also attorneys, child welfare case workers, and a host of other experts who see things this way. The truth of the matter is, it is not. The laws are different, especially financial support issues. The case law, or how the law is interpreted through the courts, is MUCH different. The circumstances are different.

But too many therapists think of grandparents as custodial parents, and treat them as such. We are not the same. So, therapy skills for grandchildren living with grandparents should not be the same.

I don't believe absent parents who abandon children to run off and use drugs, etc., should be placed in the same light as absent parents who are serving their country or fellow man in some far-off land, either as military or missionaries (Doctors Without Borders comes to mind). The odds are with us that those parents are doing something noble, and will be back to collect their offspring one day. Even a parent who's pulled his or her head out of the dark tunnel and goes back to school- really goes back, not just goes to do more drugs, alcohol, etc.- deserves recognition for that. 

Kids are not stupid. Are Mom and/ or Dad doing something wonderful? They are not. Are they coming back? Odds are good that they are not. 

There are some therapists who feel that if the child is told the parents are alcoholics, made the choice to stay away to be with a boy/girlfriend, in prison, etc., that somehow the child is going to think he or she is a loser, too. That's just nonsense in most cases. The kid who is in a secure, loving environment knows better. There are some who go as far as to suggest that the grandparents buy birthday and Christmas presents for the child and put the absent parents' names on those.  This is nonsense as well. 

Our children's therapists do not suggest this at all. There have been three actual therapists at different times due to work conflicts and life in general. None of them have ever said that. They said to try not to be negative about the parents, if at all possible. They said don't bring up either parent until the child brings it up. They said keep the explanation on the child's level of understanding, and a lot of details were not necessary. They said to be honest, don't sugar-coat it, but don't make it worse than it is. They said to make it clear that the child is not the parents, that we are here to take care of them, and they will never be harmed or neglected again. They said children have their own feelings, and are allowed to have them, and express them in healthy, appropriate ways.        

I mention my adult daughter and ex-son-in-law here because my reading audience is adults. What we discuss here isn't mentioned in our home. At home, with the children, we say as little as possible about either one of them unless one of the children brings it up, and then we tell them truth if they are old enough to digest it, or ask questions and tell them as much as they are able to handle, per our children's therapists. It is on the children's timetable, as they see fit.

Getting a good therapist, when the grandparent has the resources or is allowed the choice, is no harder than choosing a good attorney. It's an interview process. You go in to see the therapist at an initial appointment, even if it cost some money. You have a summary of the problems, and the solutions you seek. You ask up front how much experience the therapist has with the issue of grandparents raising grandchildren. You ACTIVELY LISTEN to the prospective therapist's answers. You ask about prices and how insurance is billed. This person is working for you and your grandchildren, and will be compensated. You personally don't take any MMPI or other written test at this point. This isn't about you (get your own therapist if you need one). You do NOT bring the grandchildren!!!!! This is important. GET A SITTER IF YOU HAVE TO DO SO. 

You compare the answers you receive with what you've researched about grandparents raising grandchildren. If you don't think you, the grandchildren and the therapist are a good fit, you move on to another therapist.

And don't think for one minute you can be the therapist for the grandchildren! You are too emotionally staked in this. Your family is too staked in this. You also need an independent party when you go to court, an expert, not Aunt Martha who was a social worker before she retired to run the bingo parlor.    

(Note: Some readers thought my answers were actually too brief. So, I'm editing the original post into several posts, for easier reading.-DRG)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Question and Answer Time- Why Adopt Them

Some questioner grammar, punctuation and spelling might have been corrected. 

Q: Why did you adopt your grandchildren? Don't you think that maybe some day your daughter will get her life in order, and want them back? I think it is cruel of you to adopt them! They need their real mother, not some old woman. You hurt your family, and those kids, by taking them away from the one person who really loves them. 

A: Let's pretend you aren't either a young mother who loves her baby very much, or a parent who has lost a child through some circumstance. Your emotion is showing, my dear. 

Is it fair to make a child wait for the day when either parent decides to parent them? What about after the child has lived with Grandma for a year? Two years? Five years? How long are these children supposed to wait for Mom and/ or Dad to get things together? 

What if it never happens? What if it happens when they are old enough to baby-sit for new, younger siblings Mom or Dad just had, or to do a good job on housework? Are these kids then supposed to give up the home they know, the school, the familiar, simply on the whims of their parents? 

First relational DNA is not always the strongest indicator of whom can successfully raise a child. And you know nothing of my real age or how strong I am or not. I bet I can outwalk you in distance and speed, and a year from now, I bet I can outlift you. Age has nothing to do with nurture, and I have maturity on my side, to boot. Even if I were disabled, I love these children and have been judged by a court to be a fit parent, as has the Mister.

The foster care system in this country is broke, both financially and in its paradigm of care. The child welfare in this country is broke, both financially and in its paradigm of care. Google the name of your state's child welfare program. Be it CPS or DCFS or CWH or OCS or CFS, you'll get stories on lack of funds, overworked case workers, and newspaper headlines where either parents were wrongfully accused, or the call was made to leave children where they were with tragic results.Case workers are only by a small percentage actual social workers, degree in social work and licensed by the state in which they work. And even those are worked so hard, it's a wonder they have time for themselves and their own families. 

My former state, Illinois, at one point had case workers set up their own form of answering machine or voice mail service. That means each case worker had to either bring their own answering machine, or get and pay for a number with voicemail.

There are stories everyday of child welfare agencies making not a couple mistakes, but thousands of mistakes in a year on placements. There are even organizations, clubs, who try to make sure foster kids don't have to lug their stuff in plastic garbage bags, what little they have, because these kids aren't given anything by the state. Would you want to expose your children to such a system?

WHY should children be taken from extended family who know them and love them, to live among strangers who may or may not have their best interest at heart? Who don't know their medical histories? Who don't know what side they sleep on at night, or if they like fruit on their cereal, or cheese on their burgers? Who don't know what scares them in the night? 

As it happens, my adult daughter signed away her rights to her older children. She tells anybody who will listen that I stole her children. That is a lie. I suppose it makes her feel better to think that, and to have other people believe that.

I took them from her home, so that she could clean the squalor from the townhouse the Mister and I rented with her so she could have a place to raise her children, children she badly neglected. She couldn't get a place on her own, as her credit was very poor. 

Prior to that, she had instances where she left a 5 year old and 3 year old alone for hours. She threatened to kill them and herself at least twice, locking and chaining the door on the townhouse, if we did not capitulate to her demands for things.

The Mister and I refused to rent her another place to live after six months of her not cleaning the second, smaller place, continued drinking, excessive shopping for her income, and other ranges of unmedicated bipolar behavior, including not maintaining contact with her older children in an appropriate manner. This wasn't done lightly. The apartment complex where she lived actually suggested we hire her a housekeeper who could come in once or twice a week. But I was the one who needed a housekeeper. We helped her move in with a roommate and helped her clean the second apartment.

She then went through a series of roommates who kicked her out for her behavior. One had to call the police on her. It ended with her staying in a single-room only hotel, with a bike from Goodwill as her transportation beyond the public variety. 

She didn't see her kids, wouldn't come to our house to visit us or the kids because she alleged it was "too hard" for her. This meant she was served a meal while we expected her to interact with her children, not sit on her rear-end and watch the SyFi channel.

We did not simply adopt the children, such as adopting a puppy. We had to process through a home study, a physical, a psychological profile, prove we had reasonable finances, have character references. It was a lot of work, but now nobody can take them away on a whim. If our adult daughter and her ex-husband had not signed, we would have had to take them to court and prove them unfit parents. We had sufficient evidence of that, but it would have meant more time and more money thrown at the problem. 

As to how much she loves them- She refused any attempts to be reunited with her older children. She claimed those conditions were too strenuous for her. These were pretty much the same conditions set for her ex-husband, who also signed away his rights to the children, in a courtroom, in front of a judge. He has other children, both with his present wife as well as other women.

You are probably an excellent parent. Please don't put your parenting skills, or your children for that matter, in the same category as my legal children and my adult daughter. This was not what we wanted for our grandchildren, but it is certainly a good choice for them. We are blessed at the outcome, and thank God everyday it turned out this way. It could have been much, much worse for these kids.   

(Note: Some readers thought my answers were actually too brief. So, I'm editing the original post into several posts, for easier reading.-DRG)


Saturday, July 21, 2012

26 feet of unused space...

Last year at this time, we tried to grow things. We had really, really good results with green beans, Kitchen King to be exact. Apparently, wild animals aren't fond of green beans. I gather that from my observations of last year's yard, in a rural (lakefront) setting, where every animal from otter to deer came to munch at my container garden. They didn't eat the green beans. They ate everything else, including the small watermelon two chipmunks carted away. They ate those, and squash, sweet peas, sunflowers, basil, oregano, rosemary, tomatoes and various lettuces. I put down cat hair. I borrowed dog hair. I put down various stinks. Nothing worked. When we moved, I didn't think we would attempt growing food again, sticking to roses, geraniums, marigolds and mums.  

I am not enchanted with the soil, although I am enchanted with convenience. What can be more convenient than walking into one's yard and snagging a piece of fruit or salad fixings? Don't have to walk or drive to the store. Don't have to spend money after the initial investment. Walk out back, pick it, wash it, prepare it, eat it, clean up. 

So it was with great reluctance that I tried again this year. The kids really, really wanted to start seeds again, as we've done for the past two years. What the heck?

The kids were the ones who suggested we try a Topsy Turvy
. They were on sale at CVS in April, so I thought, what the heck, get two. 

Well, the seeds we started didn't turn out as well as could be expected, giving us some scruffy spinach and malformed cucumbers. We did all right on the herbs we already planted. So it was a trip to Walmart and Lowes that produced our starter plants this year. 

It's not a sin in my mind not to be able to grow seed past a certain point. I am not saving my excrement, as I know one member of my extended family has done, to compost; in fact, I am not starting a major composting project. I make a compromise between plant leavings, purchased compost, good old earthworms (buy them at Walmart in sporting goods), Scotts soil, and half of what the bottle of MiracleGro recommends per application. The plants we chose were guaranteed to grow and produce, or my money would cheerfully be refunded. 

I got out the Topsy Turvies, let the kids construct them, stuck two tomato plants in each, and looked for a place to hang them. I checked the garage sofit for possible permanent hooks from past Christmases and the attending lights. No luck. I looked at the fence. No go. I was just about resigned to buying some device to hold the planters, such as a tall shepherd's crock, when I saw it, actually them, two, sitting in my backyard with nothing better to do.

We live in a suburban city in an older home that has been renovated. Walls have been removed, placed elsewhere. Central heat and air have been installed. What was apparently once a back porch is now a combo dining room/ sitting room. 

However, in the back yard is a set of poles designed to hold laundry lines. They appear to be cast iron. They are very well set into the ground with cement. Unless there is an earthquake, they aren't going to be moved any time soon. 

No, I don't hang out my laundry if I can avoid it, except the occasional sheets and blankets in the spring. The money it would save me in the short and long run doesn't compensate me for the time I need to perform the chore. Don't say have the kids do it. It's been tried. It involved even more time spent on supervision. 

The poles happen to have four hooks on either end to catch the clothesline. The hooks also happen to be a great size to catch the end of the Topsy Turvy.

So, we hung them there and waited. WHAM. In a month, we were looking at plants. We added two watermelon plants, along with two bell pepper plants, all in Topsy Turvies. We also stuck a cucumber plant on its last legs. By July, we had the first fruits from every plant except the cucumber, but we weren't expecting that one to make it.

I've been hearing in the news how the drought has been making it hard for things to grow. I've seen, first-hand and on TV, where corn is tassling but there is no ear to grow. Gas prices are already up for transportation of all goods. Prices are already up on produce this year, along with prices on frozen and canned goods.  There are no guarantees who will win various elections, so we can't count on that to change things in the grocery store.

That got me into a long contemplation. That made me reach for a ruler, a tape measure, a calculator, a pen and pencil.

If we raise our own vegetables next year in Topsy Turvies, and if the vegetables actually grow and produce fruit, subtracting the initial expense for more Topsy Turvies, cable or chain to run from each pole; then the annual purchases of soil, compost, fertilizer, seeds and plants; we could still save at least $800 by harvesting fruits and veg from the Topsy Turvy center. If food prices escalate, that $800 could be even more money.

I've already picked up 8 Topsy Turvies from Big Lots, and plan to look at the other Big Lots in my locale for more of them. They are $2.50 each. Do I care if they are last year's model? No. I've found blogs and sites (here, here and here) that also tell how to make a homegrown version of Topsy Turvy. If I can avoid it, I will, as the homemade don't seem to do as well as the real deal. But to fill up the space, it wouldn't hurt to try. 

They'll be more on my experiment next year. For now, we are about to have a bumper crop of tomatoes from four plants, and our watermelons look promising. The pot garden (can't really call it container gardening) produces plenty of leafy stuff, along with two experimental strawberry plants. I've got to get busy with canning jars or some such!