May 2 2016

The Rewards of Parenting

Who knew having kids and raising them to adulthood would feel so rewarding? It seemed like it was hard during each stage we went through, but once it was over then we moved on to a new and different stage.

Before you know it the kids are growing up too fast and instead of celebrating all those “firsts”, you find yourself celebrating the “lasts”. You know, last day of kindergarten, last elementary school awards program, high school graduation, last time you will have to help one of your kids move into a dorm room, that sort of thing.

In five days, we will celebrate another last. Our youngest is graduating from college and moving home. Last time we will have to help pack and move a kid out of a dorm room, last graduation open house, last week of empty nesting for a while. Yes, I will miss the empty nesting. You feel a sense of pride as they reach monumental birthdays. You dread when you no longer have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, but instead you have teens, oh boy! I remember feeling like we had really done something worth while when both kids were officially adults, able to vote, drive cars, get tattoos! Yikes, not all of the rights of passage that come with being an adult seemed like good things. Then the oldest graduated from college and I was so proud. I realized he had done something nobody in either mine or his dad’s family had done since maybe his grandfather, and that was graduate with a four year degree in just four years. We had our share of college graduates in our family, but none had managed to get through in just four short years. Way to go! Then he got his first big-boy job as he called it and he wasn’t moving home. Not even to the city we lived in. But that was alright, he was only an hour up the road and he was doing well. Then when the baby turned twenty, I wanted to celebrate the fact that we had survived the teen years relatively intact. Once the baby turned twenty one, I suddenly had two grown children who not only could legally drink, but chose to do so. Wow! So not sure I am ready for this! The baby turned twenty two, was in her last year of college and it looked like she too would get the four year degree in the four year time frame. Excellent!

So I am bursting with pride yet again. Soon we will have not only two grown adult children, but two college graduates! Who knew when my husband and I struggled through getting our degrees while dating, getting married, having kids and working that we would set such good examples for our kids. They grew up knowing that they were expected to go to college, that we didn’t expect to be able to pay for it so they would need to get top notch grades so they could get scholarships. We were right, we are part of that middle class poor who earn too much for our kids to qualify for financial aid, but not enough to really be able to help them much. We did the College Choice 529 plan thing, but didn’t get started saving until the oldest was starting high school. We faithfully put away $170 a month for just over 10 years to be able to help each kids with ten thousand dollars toward their senior year of college. Do I wish it could have been more? Of course I do. I told the kids that we couldn’t help them until their senior year because first of all we needed more time to save up the money to be able to help them and second because we wanted to make sure they were serious about college and getting a degree. We all know kids who go away to college on their parents’ dime and party all the time until they flunk out. We didn’t want that to happen. They needed to keep their grades up and show up for classes. Their student loans are in their names, because they give out loans for kids to get an education, but not for parents to retire on. It scares me that even going to reasonable priced in-state schools, they are still graduating with over fifty thousand dollars of student loan debt hanging over their heads. That is more than we paid for our first house and almost as much as we sold it for fourteen years later. My husband never had student loans, and I had only five thousand dollars or so amassed during a couple of my last semesters in college. Of course we both took well over ten years to earn our four year degrees going the part-time, slow way and paying for it as we went. Those were the lean years of our marriage. Never much extra time or money, but maybe that wasn’t all bad. We raised our kids to respect money and to be thrifty. They grew up wearing second hand clothing of their choosing from the local Goodwill and thrift stores. They were fine with it and I didn’t stress out if they ruined a pair of jeans or a shirt now and then. They didn’t cost that much and we knew where we could find replacements fairly cheap. Perhaps because they had held jobs and grown up thrifty, they knew the value of the education and student loans they were getting. They didn’t squander them. Yet another reason to be proud of both of them.

One of the things that really pleased and surprised me as a parent was how smart our kids are and how good looking. Still not quite sure how that happened! I mean, you hope, pray and dream it will be that way, but you just figure you could never get that lucky. Well, we won the parenting lottery jackpot. We have two great kids who never caused us many sleepless nights, stayed out of trouble, got good grades, were pleasant to be around, are well liked by their peers and adults in general and who actually seem to like being around us. Well, most of the time anyway. Who could ask for more? I thank God and the fact that both my husband and I were raised by good parents who cared about us. Here’s to hoping you had as good a luck and experience raising your kids as we did raising ours. (1,094 words)

March 11 2015

How to Fold King-Sized Sheets Alone and Making the Bed Easier

We have had a king-sized bed for more than twenty years. I had to teach myself to fold those huge sheets alone because there was rarely anyone capable of helping with this chore. I will try to explain how I do this.

When the sheets come out of the dryer, the pillow cases are easy enough to fold, of course.

The flat sheet is a bit trickier, but still quite possible. I find the top edge of the sheet. You know, the one with the extra thick fabric about four inches wide, sewn down.  That is the top edge of the sheet. I find one corner of the top edge, then run my hand down the side to find the corner of the bottom edge on the same side. I then bring the bottom corner up to its matching top corner then keep those two corners tightly grasped in one hand while following the top edge along to the other corner. Once I find the other top corner, I repeat the search down the side for the other bottom corner. Once I find the other bottom corner, I match it to the top corner. Now the hard part is done. You have the king-sized sheet folded in half, bottom to top. Once you have this done, fold the two sets of corners together with the top edge out. From there it doesn’t really matter how you fold it and it is now a quite manageable size. I try to end up with a folded bundle about the size of a sheet of printer paper.

The fitted sheet is the hardest one to fold. It might be easier to practice this method using a twin sized sheet. Once you have it mastered the same method can be applied to any sized sheet. It is similar in theory to folding the flat sheet, but you put the corners over your hand like a mitten. One corner tucks into the other until you end up with a square about three foot in each direction with the four corners all tucked inside each other. Again, what you do from here is up to you but you want to end up with a folded bundle of a size similar to what you got when you folded the flat sheet.

Place the flat sheet on the tale first, then stack the fitted sheet on top of that and put the pillow cases on the very top. Now your sheet set is ready to go into the linen closet. This might be a good time to mention that when folding sheets it is very important to fold with the side you want facing up when you make the bed on the inside. This likely doesn’t matter unless you want to have troublemaking the bed with these clean and nicely folded sheets.

Now the benefit of folding the sheets as instructed with the right sides in for the fitted sheet and the side you want up in on the flat sheet, is that it make making the bed alone much easier. When you are ready to make the bed and have stripped off the dirty sheets, stuff all the dirty sheets into one of the dirty pillow cases. This keeps the entire sheet set together through the laundry process. Now that the bed is ready for the clean sheets, unfold the fitted sheet until you have the four corners tucked into each other and put that quarter sheet down on one corner of the bed. I usually put it at the head of the bed on the left side, but the process works whichever you corner you choose to make first. Unfold the sheet so that top half of the bed is covered with the half sheet. Now carefully unfold the rest of the sheet to cover the bottom of the bed. Walk from one corner to the next out your hand into the corner pocket then lay it at the very corner of the mattress and press firmly while the other hand slides the pocket off the hand that was holding it and wraps it neatly over the corner of the mattress. Repeat with all four corners. The flat sheet is done basically the same way, but when you get the sheet unfolded to the one quarter size, make sure the top edge of the flat sheet is in the proper corner of the bed where you want the sheet to be after the bed is made. Make sure the fold lines up with the center of the bed. I usually put it about six inches down from the top edge of the mattress, but if you like plenty of sheet to tuck up around your ears while sleeping go ahead and line it up with the top edge if the sheet is still long enough to tuck under the mattress at the foot of the bed. Unfold the first fold across the bed, smooth it out and walk from side to side to check that there is the same amount of over hang on each side. Once that adjustment is made, you are ready to unfold the final fold and smooth the flat sheet over the rest of the bed. Now if you plan to tuck the foot of the blanket in, go ahead and put it on now using the same method as we did for the flat sheet. If you don’t plan to tuck in a blanket, go ahead and tuck the foot of the sheet in under the mattress then add the blanket and you are done making the bed.

I usually put the folded set of sheets into one of the pillowcases and fold the pillowcase around it before putting the sheet set away in the linen closet. This is my way of keeping all the pieces of any given sheet set together without having to worry about digging through or having any of the parts come unfolded. This may not be anyone’s idea of the perfect way to fold sheets, but it is my way and it works for me. (1,019 words)

March 4 2015

Floating Loans

When we were kids we worked. I got a paper route delivering the Indianapolis News six days a week from the time I was eleven until I had two years in when I was thirteen. Mom made us keep the News route for two years so we would qualify to get the scholarships the newspaper offered. Supposedly if you carried the morning paper, The Indianapolis Star, you had to have had your route for two years or more and still have it at the time you graduated from high school. If you carried the afternoon paper, you just had to have had a route for two years to qualify. So we were bullied into keeping our routes until our two years had passed. My brother and I each had half of a sort of rough apartment complex called the Country Club Apartments located near Troy Avenue and Brill Road on the near south side of the city. We had a lot of trouble with people moving out without paying their bills. We always had pocket money and got pretty good at saving a portion of our income, even going so far as to open savings accounts at Indiana National Bank where there was a nearby branch at US 31 and National. If I recall correctly, at one point these savings accounts were paying eight percent interest, unheard of these days.

When mom would go grocery shopping, an almost nightly occurrence, we would often beg to tag along. Mom would be in the checkout line and invariably come up a few dollars short of the amount on the register. She would look down at us, at least I know she did it to me, and say, “Can you float me a loan?” We would gladly hand over the few dollars needed if we had it, proud that we could help out. This happened often, and eventually I learned not to carry much cash with me or not to go along at all, or I would suddenly not have any pocket money to spend at my discretion. Mom was pretty cool about it. She kept track of how much she had borrowed from us on a piece of paper she kept in her cigarette case. I did, eventually, get “paid back” in the spring of 1984, when I wanted to buy my first car, a 1974 Dodge Colt Wagon that was a dull chartreuse green. It was $795 dollars and I had part of that amount saved, but mom and dad came up with the amount they owed me from all the floated loans over the years to pay the rest of the money toward the car. Looking back, I’m not sure if floating these loans wasn’t some devious trick to get us to save our money unknowingly. We ought the car and got it home then took it to the mechanic for the once over. It turned out that what looked like just a lot of rust on the rounded insides of the body under the hood was actually rust on the frame of the car and required some pretty serious welding on of additional metal to make the car drivable. Dad was a barber, and not exactly mechanically inclined. I was a senior in high school before I got the Colt and then it took quite a while to get it fixed up and drivable. I had gotten my learner’s permit when I was fifteen and taken driver’s education which I had to pay for myself to the tune of over three hundred dollars. I got my license as soon as I was eligible after turning sixteen. Then mom and dad informed me that they could not afford to pay for auto insurance on both me and my older sister and since she had more driving experience they were giving it to her, so from the time I got my license at barely sixteen until late in my senior year two years later, I was not allowed to drive at all. I was upset, but what could I do? They couldn’t afford it, so I couldn’t drive. It never occurred to me to ask if I could pay the cost myself or even how much it would be. They never offered that option either. It wasn’t like my sister had a car to drive, she could drive mom’s nine passenger station wagon when mom wasn’t using it and that was it. The benefit to my parents, especially mom, was that my sister could drive to the store to grab a few items or pick one of us younger siblings up from an after-school event if need be and mom could get on with making dinner for the family. My sister was likely honored to be entrusted with this added responsibility and mom was likely thrilled at the freedom another driver afforded her. Then I got the car and was about to begin working the summer between high school and college and suddenly me having insurance was a necessity that could no longer be avoided. I had a car and was able to drive myself back and forth to work, pump and pay for my own gas and be responsible for my own car repairs. I loved that little wagon! It represented adulthood, freedom and responsibility to me. We probably never should have bought it. Although the body looked fairly decent and the interior was in good shape, with the rust on the frame members, it most likely belonged in a junk yard. It served me well for a couple of years before the engine gave out and it simply wasn’t worth putting that kind of money into it, so it did end up in the junk yard after all. One never forgets their first car. (965 words)

March 3 2015

Youthful Activities

When I was growing up, I was one of four kids in a family with two parents. I was a bit of a minority because my parents were both my blood parents and still married to each other. All my siblings were full siblings, not steps or half siblings in our family. Both my parents graduated from high school and valued education for us kids. They always expected us to do our best no matter what we were doing. Mom always said as long as we could honestly say we had done our very best it was good enough. We were all good kids and did well in school. The three of us girls were avid readers reading most anything we could get our hands on. My brother read well enough, but never seemed to take to it like us girls did. I can still remember mom yelling at us older two girls to get our noses out of the books we were reading and help her clean the house. This usually happened on a Saturday mid-morning.

Mom had a system for assigning who cleaned what area of the house. She had four kids and areas to be cleaned each week, so she made up a chart and set up a rotating schedule. We each had a turn cleaning each area once every four weeks. We got our cleaning assignments that first week and were told the rules. We had to clean our area once that week and if we didn’t clean it, we would have to keep that area and get the next area to clean also for the next week. Whoever was supposed to rotate into the area you didn’t clean would get the week off from cleaning. This almost never happened, because after the first person messed up by not cleaning and we figured out Mom meant what she said, we knew we better just clean our assigned area each week. I used to like when it was my turn for the bathroom because it was such a small room it didn’t take all that long to clean it and have it looking really good. That chart is still inside the cabinet door where Mom taped it all those years ago, written in red ball point ink on a 4 x 6 index card, a little piece of parenting history err genius just waiting to be discovered.

Mom was full of parenting wisdom. With four kids, she had a rule that we could each be in only one activity. My older sister and I were in Girl Scouts and the younger brother and sister played Little League. That rule changed when we got to high school. Mom didn’t seem to mind how many activities we were in then as long as we found our own rides to and from or walked. She worked at Stokley Van Camp’s (which later became Quaker Oats) when we were in high school and her work hours, whether by her choice or not, were from 7:30am to 4pm. She was happy to drop us at school on her way to work as long as we were ready to go when she needed to leave the house, and more than willing to stop by the school on her way home from work to pickup any of us who were outside waiting for a ride a little after 4pm. She made it clear she wasn’t waiting around on us. If we wanted a ride we would be waiting and watching for her to pull up and ready to jump in and go. If we weren’t there, that was fine, but she wasn’t waiting on us. Sometimes we had band that went until later and she would run errands while we were finishing up then come by and get us so we could be home at a decent hour to help with dinner or do our chores. She would often bring us back and drop us off for play practice of an evening, then come back and pick us up at nine or ten when it was over. We just had to make sure we let mom know what we had going on and where we needed to be. We had to be flexible enough to be willing to arrive early or stay late. A lot of our extra curricular activities met before school so getting dropped off around 7am was great.

If we didn’t have a meeting to go to we could always sit and read or do homework in the band hall or go to the cafeteria to meet up with out friends. During my freshman year I was not in a lot of clubs and such because I was so tired of doing the same things as my older sister, so if she was in it I avoided it. I was tired of being her little sister and expected to be just like her. I wanted to be seen and appreciated for who I was not because I was next in line after my older sister. I know it got much worse by the time my brother got to high school because there were two of us to live up to. There were high standards to live up to too. The older three of us were all a year and a half apart in age but in school the oldest was one year ahead of me, then my brother was 2 years behind me in school with our younger sister following three years behind him. All four of us graduated from high school in the 1980s, 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1989. The older three of us were all in band together for one year. There is a photo taken of all of us in our band uniforms standing together outside the house. I wasn’t very musical, probably the least talented musically of all of us. I finally joined band my junior year after taking a beginning band class for a semester. I was never good at sight-reading music. I knew the basics and could figure it out if given enough time, but it was a slow painful process for me. I would write the letters of the notes above my music and then write the letters of the notes in permanent marker on the various notes on my bells for marching band and I could keep up that way until I had the music memorized. I guess they needed bodies more than they needed musically talented students. I was willing, able and teachable, so they took me on and let me play. I always knew I wasn’t good and sometimes had to fake my way through performances rather than mess up where everyone would know and hear my mistakes. (1,127 words)