Honorary Aunt

Comments 3 Standard

When I was growing up, it was a “thing” for us to refer to certain special people in our lives as “Aunt” or “Uncle,” regardless of relation. I don’t know if this is a WV thing, a Smith-Family thing, or just our way of giving people titles of endearment, but I love it. I have several biological aunts and uncles, but I also have many, many other important people in my life who bear those titles.

One of these amazing “Aunts” in my life growing up – and still to this day – is my Aunt Carol. No, biologically not an aunt, but being my mom’s best friend and growing up with her kids and actually being taken care of by her own mother, my Grandma E (no, not my biological Grandma), she definitely earned the title.

Pause here for a moment to talk about my Grandma E. Holy moly the importance of that grammaEwoman in our lives and the love I have for her is still in my heart, though she is no longer with us. Grandma E was tasked with watching me, my little brother, and my Aunt Carol’s two kids while our parents worked as teachers during the day. Back in those days, in rural WV, there wasn’t a day care on every corner, and finding someone to watch kids often fell to family members. Grandma E did it with ease. (Side note, E = Eleanor; I love that name.) I could write a book about the adventures the four of us had with Grandma E, whom she called her “Four Mice.” The word ‘special’ cannot even begin to describe her, so I’ll stop there so I don’t cry.

Any time I get to see my Aunt Carol feels like, well, a big warm hug. She was a teacher like my mom, and an amazing one at that. They met as two young educators at a new elementary school, having both been recruited from out of town. My mom still remembers the day she met my Aunt Carol, and they have been best buds since, with neither time nor distance getting in their way.  She is a pioneer in her own way for attending college as a woman and then working while she raised kids…. Not too common then as it is now! She was raised by her parents and lived with her two siblings, who were much older than she is, and always knew she could count on her parents’ love.  Aunt Carol said she can sum up their parenting philosophy by a quote from John Wesley,

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can.”

Not a bad philosophy! I’m going to keep that handy…

College life was a memorable experience for my Aunt Carol as it exposed her for the first time in her life to very liberal and forward thinking views and ideas that were quite the opposite from her upbringing. She loved learning and reading, and even participated in a couple peaceful protests! (How cool were the 60’s?!?)  She chose teaching as her path, and eventually chose her specialty as Special Education. I actually remember from my elementary school days going into Aunt Carol’s special ed room. It was such a blessing for me to see kids who were different than I was and their learning environment; it was unique and special and filled with love, just like Aunt Carol!  She always kept a sign hanging in her room that said, “ALL CHILDREN CAN LEARN.” I remember when we were growing up, Grandma E would occasionally ask us kids what we wanted to be when we grew up. As with most kids, what we “wanted to be” certainly changed over the years, ranging from vet to banker to fortune teller to garbage man to doctor to teacher to lawyer (just to name a few), but regardless of what we said, Grandma E would tell us as long as we were happy, that’s all that mattered. (None of us turned out to be any of those listed, of course, but we eventually all found our way.) This philosophy was reinforced and passed down the generations, as Aunt Carol’s career advice to her kids growing up:

Be happy. Find an occupation that feeds your soul.

“Married… with Children”  Like my mom, she’s been married a looooooooong time (but how is that possible, Aunt Carol, when you are SO young?! Inside joke between me and Auntie C.) She has been married to my Uncle Carl for 40 years, and they have two awesome kids, a son and a daughter, close in age to my brother and me. My cousins are, like their parents, amazing adults with wonderful, loving spouses. Growing up, they enjoyed camping adventures (my family would tag along sometimes too!) and traveling.  Aunt Carol & Uncle Carl still love to travel, and now, Gumby goes with them! As you can see from the slideshow, Gumby gets around and is a pretty good time…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Life Throws a Curve-ball  A few years back, my Uncle Carl was diagnosed with Behavior Variant Frontal Temporal Dementia (bvFTD), which is a type of dementia that causes major changes in social behavior and conduct, and poor impulse control. Basically, it turns a person into a version of his or herself that can anger quickly, act inappropriately in situations, and is apathetic to the feelings of those around them. Quite the test for any marriage, to have the person you have spent your life with change into someone you don’t recognize. aunt and uncleBecause of this diagnosis, my aunt and uncle packed up their 40+ years in the small town we grew up in and moved to Milwaukee, WI, to be closer to family and medical care. They went from a town of 800 and their large farmhouse in WV to a city of 600,000 and an urban condo! Her heart is still in WV where they will always have strong ties, but as my uncle’s symptoms worsened, the close proximity to my cousins and big-city medical care was a must. Making such a huge change at a point in life where people are usually strengthening roots is scary, but she followed Grandma E’s advice to “bloom where you are planted,” and she most certainly has! They even got rid of their car!! I cannot fathom it, but it piques my interest to think about just jumping on the bus at the corner and being dropped off wherever you need to go… no need for gas, parking, etc. I wish I could do that! #nocarpayment

Like me, Aunt Carol is an avid reader. We often exchange book ideas and talk about what we are reading. She has a friend with a book coming out soon called Is it Time to Freak Out Yet, and I can already tell from the title I will be adding it to my list! She loves to volunteer and work in her new community and has definitely “bloomed” there. She met a friend, Anita, whose husband suffers from the same bvFTD as my uncle, and knows this woman was placed in her life by God. On my aunt and uncle’s refrigerator is a bible verse.

1 Thessalonians 5:13:  In all things give thanks.

Gratitude   Days are hard, but life goes by fast. Along the way various obstacles and burdens and excitements and celebrations come your way, but the attitude with which you approach these things makes all the difference.  “Pick your battles,” Aunt Carol says. “Save your battles for the big things in life.”  Or maybe employ the “10-Second Rule” …

“Our family has employed the 10-Second Rule many times. When something dire/horrible happens, 10 seconds from now it will still be bad. 10 minutes from now, still bad. 10 hours, less so. Then 10 days… less. Days turn to 10 weeks, then 10 months, then 10 years…”

It’s all about attitude. When Aunt Carol met her friend Anita, she shared with Aunt Carol that, in her experience in dealing with a loved one with bvFTD, you just have to accept what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be. Time will continue to march on, but how we choose to face obstacles and all the things that life can throw at us will impact us and the people around us. We have choices in these situations, but we have to keep moving forward. Choose a perspective and attitude that will help you gather the strength in any situation, just like my Aunt Carol. Life is SO good. Have faith.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“You got this, Mom!”

Comments 2 Standard

Last weekend we made a family trip to the Columbus Zoo, on what will forever be known as one of the hottest zoo trips EVER. Adding to that fun, 3-year-old little man is potty training, so we made multiple pit stops in the various “continents.” (I know for sure he peed in North America, pooped in Africa, and did a little bit of both along the “Shores” region, among others.)

Potty training sucks. Taking young kids to the bathroom also sucks. Taking both of them at the same time in 90+ degree heat in a large stall in a public bathroom…. “Off the charts” on the Suck-O-Meter.

sucks

So there I was, sitting on the pot myself (moms pee too; who knew?!) and trying to wrangle both kids to just hold still for one friggin’ minute and do not touch the door latch while I did my business.

I ask for so little.

It’s almost like, in their brains, they heard me say “definitely unlock the door and let it swing wide open for me to bare my mom-butt to the public.” 

Not only am I sweating from the heat, I’m also sweating in fear of what is inevitably going to happen:  One kid (can’t remember which, but does it really matter? They were both being hellions) undid the latch as the other leaned back against the door, forcing the outward-swinging partition to open to the bathroom crowd.

#momondisplay

WITHOUT. MISSING. A. BEAT. Some other mom – henceforth known as Super Hero Ninja Mom – turned with one swooping motion from her hand-washing position at the sink and pushed the door shut so I could latch it. #legendary #teamwork

Cherry on top:  On her way out the door, Super Hero Ninja Mom yelled,

“You got this, Mom!”

I think she was wearing a cape. Yeah, I definitely saw a cape. (Might have been hallucinating from the combo of heat & panic though.)

My daughter heard Super Hero Ninja Mom’s supportive solidarity and said, “Who was what?” That, my dear girl, is a legend.

Super Hero Ninja Mom, if you’re out there (and if you were in the bathroom adjacent to the food court in the Congo region this past weekend and caught a glimpse of something you’d rather not have), thanks for being you. Next drink is on me.

ninja mom

De-stress tip: Un”wine”d from time to time

Comments 2 Standard

First of all, if you don’t like/care about/want to hear about wine, this one isn’t for you.

I, however, love wine and love to take trips with my girls where we relax, catch up, sample some good wine, and eat some good food. After all, it’s nice now and then to not have to sneak-eat the last cupcake to avoid sharing it with a kid or shove an entire Uncrustable in your mouth as someone clings to your leg. Amiright?!

One of my absolute favorite “Mommy Juice” trips is a quick haul down I-77 through Virginia and right into North Carolina’s Yadkin River Valley. This area is chock full of wineries and vineyards, and in my opinion is one of the best kept little secrets in our area. In this area, you’ll find a lot of sweet wine options, but there are plenty for us dry-wine lovers too. There is also the occasional craft beer selection, which often balances out the wine in between tastings.

img_7166

Accommodations: You simply must stay in the Hampton Inn in Dobson. Not only is it wine-themed with its own little wine bar, it is newer, clean, and has a shuttle to the Shelton Vineyards about a mile down the road. (ALWAYS have a designated driver once the sampling begins!) This hotel is also in a great location for access to many wineries in the area. Location, location, location!

More on transportation because, I cannot say it enough: designate a driver! We have img_7169actually enlisted the services of a shuttle/van to take us around touring the area. The Hampton Inn shuttle only goes back and forth to Shelton, so that’s a good place to start/end your daily tour for that convenience, as well as their amazing on-site restaurant. The shuttle service we used was Grape Escape Tours, and it was perfect. You can tell them your wine preferences (dry, sweet, etc) and they will recommend a tour. They had a basket of snacks in the van, too, which was a nice touch. Our driver was a very nice and patient lady who took pictures of our group at the various stops. As you can imagine, as the day of “tasting” went on, dealing with us gals on the loose probably got interesting. I know from the pics that our smiles kept getting bigger and bigger. (Gosh, I wish I could remember her name…. she was just so patient. So very, very patient. Bless her.)

Here is a list of the places I’ve been in the area that I would highly recommend:

Shelton Vineyards: This is a Napa-style winery and vineyard. Take the tour and do the VIP tasting! It is worth the extra money for this awesome experience. While you’re there, eat at Harvest Grill. The food is amazing and the entire property is just breathtaking. Wine recommendation: Family Reserve Claret (or really anything from the Reserve collection).

img_7167

Grassy Creek Vineyard: This is an old stable converted into a winery! The cool factor is definitely “up there” and it just has a very chill vibe. The two men who run the joint are great to chat with and they also have events from time to time on the property. They also have a fun little gift shop selection. Wine recommendation: Red Barn Blend. It’s a crowd pleaser!

Elkin Creek Vineyard: This place is quaint and cozy and just plain old special! The girls and I had a blast sampling here, and next time I am definitely going to try one of their brick oven pizzas. Wine recommendation: Adequate Red (trust me when I tell you it is MUCH better than “adequate”)

img_0397

Round Peak Vineyard: This is a great “first stop” as it is north of the hotel exit (but again, remember to designate a driver!). They have wine and craft beer, but no matter what, do not miss the view from the back patio! Take your beverage out back and sit and enjoy the immediate relaxation that comes with knowing you are on holiday. This place is definitely a “must see.” (featured picture at top of post is a glimpse of the view from the patio)

222 Public House (now Angry Troll Brewing @ 222): This wasn’t quite a brewery last time I was there, but they had an awesome vibe and great food and cold beer. What more could you ask for? Definitely try the nachos!!

img_0401

Whew! This one is making me nostalgic for some girl time!! Hopefully my girls will read this and agree… it is time to getaway!

img_7171