Birthday Season is coming to our house

The Bristol Birthday Season used to start with my birthday in February. We had a birthday every 1-2 weeks through the middle of April. But my father-in-law, who had a February birthday, died, so there is a gap that lasts from February 2nd to March 1st. After that, it’s “no holds barred.”

Beginning with my oldest son, there is at least one birthday every 2 weeks–March 1st, March 20th, March 21st, April 1st, April 6th, April 8th, April 15th, April 16th and April 20th.

Granted, these are not all MY children, but somehow, my sons managed to marry people born in the Spring as well. My first grandchild also has an April birthday.  My oldest son Joked that they just wanted to make it easy for me. I only need to make one trip to Hallmark! I replied, “But it’s a very expensive trip!”

My mother-in-law (with her income-tax-due-date birthday in April) was a ranch wife who lived seven hours away. When our sons were born, she lamented that she couldn’t come help with the babies because it was calving season, a very busy time for ranchers. I told her that I was like the cows; I had my babies in the Spring.

As the boys were growing up and having birthday parties, it was a very expensive time of year, harder on the checkbook than Christmas time. checkbook_with_pen_23But it was fun. I must admit that my middle son, whose birthday is in April, was occasionally short-changed because of “mommy burn-out.” But he also had the most faith in my abilities to make a fantastic cake. Every year he challenged me to come up with a Superman Joe's Ghostbuster birthdayor Ghostbusters or Batman or basketball cake or some other themed cake. The other two boys didn’t care as much. I could throw some plastic dinosaurs or a train on a cake and they were happy. But mBasketball cake (2)y middle son held high expectations. I had to fight through the “burn out” and slog on.

I made some pretty interesting cakes through the years. Some more successful than others. I was definitely not a professional baker or cake decorator but I could do enough to satisfy the family.

The boys have fond memories of the basketball cake. It was the simplest birthday cake I made. I baked it in a large mixing bowl, giving it the shape it needed to represent a ball.

My most challenging cake was the pirate’s treasure chest because I had to slant the top layer and prop it open using candy jewelry. It was tricky doing that without the layer breaking. It was successful, though, and the kids loved it. scan0060

Another challenge presented itself when my youngest wanted a Harry Potter birthday theme. I found suggestions for a princess castle and I converted the idea into Hogwarts School of Wizardry.

I made a racing car that was fun, and later used the same idea for an ambulance created for a nurses’ event.

My sons are grown now and I no longer make their birthday cakes. They live in their own homes and celebrate in their own ways. I have noticed that my granddaughters have some pretty elaborate cakes made by professionals. The cakes are beautifully decorated. It will be interesting to see if the girls have the same kind of memories of their birthday cakes that my boys did of their crude “mom-made” creations. I’m sure they will, but they won’t have the stories about the cakes that flopped, like the duck/fish cake. That is a story for another day.

Mike's Harry Potter birthdayscan0011


Motor Pool Parent

You’ve heard of the “helicopter parent” who hovers over the child even into college and adulthood; the parent who just can’t let go and allow the offspring to figure things out for himself. It seems to be a trend now with parents even calling college professors about the “child’s” grades or bailing their son or daughter out financially when the kid has spent all the tuition money.

Yesterday I read about a new app where parents can track their college student and make sure they are going to class. What?! And some of the kids seem to be OK with that. What I want to know is who is going to take care of me in my old age? What happens when all the helicopter parents (and we innocent bystanders) crash? What will we do? Who will sign us up for “Meals on Wheels,” answer our medical alert buttons, order our Depends, and get us to the doctor(s)?

Well, fortunately, there are a few of us out there that were never helicopter parents. We raised our kids to be independent. Once they were potty-trained it was, “You’re on your own, kid.”

Dads birthday 1998

I am more of a “motor pool parent.” In the army, there are soldiers assigned to the motor pool and they are in charge of the vehicles.

Keep in mind that I was never in the army or any branch of service, so I am forming my impression based on old M.A.S.H.reruns.

In M.A.S.H., Rizzo was the cigar-chewing sergeant with a Southern drawl whose attitude was “Where else but in the Army can you be a bum and get paid for it?” The motor pool seemed to run fairly well under Rizzo’s control despite his outward appearance and disdain for others.

As a motor pool parent, I organized the household and demanded that our sons pulled their own weight. I kept a calendar to keep the troops informed of who was coming and who was going. Some days I wished I had one of those big war maps that the generals in the WWII movies used to push little toy ships around on, maneuvering positions.

My expanded role as a motor pool parent included issuing uniforms (clothing) and shoes, sounding revelry on school mornings and sending the boys packing. They had their duties to perform which included working on their own homework, doing the dishes, and even washing and ironing their own clothes when they were teenagers. My boys hiked the 10-15 blocks from school to home by themselves, carrying heavy backpacks. Of course, in the winter or at other times, I tended to pick them up from school.

My boys had “mess duty” and KP, doing some of their own cooking if they didn’t like what was on the menu for dinner. I tried to avoid being a “short order cook,” although I gave in now and then.

I tried not to “sweat the small stuff” and didn’t get worked up about the condition of their rooms. They had Grandma for that! If I didn’t like looking at the unmade beds or clutter, I learned to shut the door instead of constantly picking up after them.

A “motor pool” parent also relies on the kids to do things for her/him. My youngest son tended to be our Information Technology Specialist. Whenever I had issues with the computer, he was the one I called on.

My middle son, the tallest, removed items from the top shelf of the cupboard for me. He also kept us updated on the sports events taking place by yelling at the television downstairs. My middle son provided security to his mother by bringing his troop of friends over where they hung out in the basement, playing video games or watching movies and sports. No worries about what he was up to and no foreign invasions of terrorists. Our cat liked the added bonus of all the testosterone and sweat-permeated athletic shoes left at the front door. She would stick her head into each shoe, enjoying the aroma. I swear that cat got “high” smelling the shoes.IMG_1623

Our oldest son kept us appraised of the political scene, world affairs, and global issues. He was our attache’ in matters of the world. He was also the Strategic Planner. He was known to map out a route to the living room from the bedrooms upstairs so that, on Christmas, he and his brothers could sneak down the stairs at 5 am, missing all the creaks and squeaks so as not to awaken the parents.

Our sons are all adults now and living away from home. They are starting their own families.IMG_2223 It is difficult being a “motor pool mom” now because I no longer have my support troops with me. We communicate on the phone, but it’s not the same. I have to get a footstool to retrieve things from the top shelf. I no longer have daily updates on politics, the environment and social issues as viewed by a teenager. I can’t ask my “techie” to help me with a problem on the computer.

Which brings me to one reason for this blog entry. I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PICTURES I SCANNED FOR THE BLOG!