More than one Psycho Mom

June 9, 2011

Writing last week about DD as “Psycho Mom” reminded me of a memory from when I was a young, excitable mother with small children.

We lived in an old house in a small town.  One of the houses behind us had recently been sold and I had seen the mother out in the backyard with her children for the first time earlier that day.

When Hubby got home from work, I earnestly told him that I was worried about what kind of people had moved into our neighborhood because I had heard the mother out in the yard screaming at her children!

Hubby was still too young to have learned the benefit of keeping a poker face, no matter what your wife says.  So he looked at me incredulously and then started laughing.  Then, just to drive home his point, he said, “So you don’t think you ever scream at your children?”

You might think that I would have been offended, but it hit me like a ton of bricks that he was right!  Gosh, did I sound like that woman sometimes?  I guess I did.  That was a real “ah ha” moment in my life.  I won’t say I never screamed at my children again, but I certainly was more aware that I was doing it and, I think, saved it for the most “heinous” of their “crimes”.

One thing did make me feel better.  The next time we were at Hubby’s parent’s house, I told his mom this story and how bad it make me feel to realize that I sometimes screamed at my children.  And then that lovely, sweet lady said something that really made me feel better.  She said, “Oh, I screamed at my kids sometimes when they were little too.  Don’t feel too bad about that.”  I was shocked to imagine her doing something like that and, in truth, maybe she didn’t do it but just said she did to make me feel better.  But, whichever was the case, it did help.

I had the best mother-in-law in the world, who may have told  her very excitable daughter-in-law a little white lie in order to make her feel better, but may have actually yelled at her children too!

So, if DD yells at her children, maybe she can blame the genetic predisposition she got from both sides of our family.

His mother’s apron strings

May 17, 2010

I took this picture of Hubby with his parents when he was about 30 years old.

An old saying refers to a “mama’s boy” as “tied to his mother’s apron strings”.

Well, Hubby wasn’t tied to his mother’s apron strings — he just liked to untie them! (I looked for a picture of his mother in an apron, but I remember that if pictures were going to be taken, she always took it off.  So, no picture of that.)

Hubby occasionally liked to tease his mother by walking behind her while she was working in the kitchen in her apron (the bib type that didn’t fall off just because it was untied) and just quickly tugging on one end of her apron strings to make them come untied.

When he would do that, his mother would just feign aggravation and then laugh and re-tie them.  No big deal, but a fun shared “tradition” between mother and son.

And when I first saw him teasing her that way when we were dating, I was charmed.  It’s interesting to see now that even though I’m sure I didn’t realize why my teen-age self was charmed, I think it was because of what this said about his good relationship with his mother  and also that it showed such a fun-loving side of his personality.

There is another old saying, “If you want to know how a man will treat his wife, watch how he treats his mother.”  That is certainly true with Hubby.  He teases me just like he teased his mother, although seldom in exactly the same way, because I hardly ever wear an apron!  But I enjoy him teasing me, just like I know his mother did.

A Hardworking Grandma

November 9, 2009


I ‘ve told you many stories about the history of my family, partly because of Mama’s book — there are lots of stories to tell.  But, I guess, the main reason is mostly because it is my family! 

But there are also some great stories I’d like to tell about Hubby’s family.  And today I’m remembering his Grandma Martha.

Dad H as baby2   This is a picture of Hubby’s grandparents, Martin and Martha, with their young family around 1912.  Hubby’s dad, Arthur, is the baby (here is a post I wrote last year about his life).

Of course, they are all dressed in their Sunday best, because I’m sure it was a big event when they had a formal picture taken.  But, don’t be fooled into thinking these were people of leisure.  They were hardworking farmers who worked from sun up to sundown to farm their land and raise their family.

And here is a favorite family story about Grandma Martha that shows that she had already developed her hardworking ways as a young girl. 

This story happened one year at harvest time when Martha was a very young teen. 

If I understand correctly, this is the way they picked the corn.  Each worker strapped a tool, something like the ones pictured below, to the palm of one hand.  In essence, it was a knife that you didn’t have to keep picking up or worry about dropping.

cornhusking tool

Then they walked down the line of corn stalks in teams of two, with each working the stalks on their side, removing each ear by using this tool to cut back the dry husks and silks (to minimize the contact their bare hands had with the sharp husks) so that they could then grip the ear of corn with the other hand and snap it off the stalk. 

I know there were wagons to put the corn in, but I can’t envision where they would have been, without knocking down the corn, so I’m picturing that maybe each worker wore some sort of bag that they would take to a wagon at the edge of the field and dump when it was full. 

Four workers were hired to help do the picking.  But, one day during the harvest one of the workers didn’t show up and Martha volunteered to fill in.  This wasn’t a job that girls and women normally did. 

I’m guessing that the three “pros” (strong young men who made good money during this time of year, hiring out to whatever neighbor needed help with his harvest) were all hoping they wouldn’t have to team up with the girl, but someone had to and it ended up being a young neighbor, Jim. 

Then the other two young men, suddenly enjoying what they saw as their friend’s disadvantage for having to be teamed with a very young girl, suggested a contest.  The two teams would start picking at opposite ends of the field, and they would see who could get to the middle first.  Jim agreed, but I imagine without much expectation of winning.

But, I’m sure you can guess what happened … Martha and Jim won!   And for the rest of their lives (they always lived in the same area, so knew lots of people in common) Jim loved to tell people the story about Martha and him beating those other two.  And he would always elaborate on how strong and fast Martha was and how hard she worked.  My guess is, that all three of those guys learned that day, “Don’t bet against Martha!”

When Hubby’s parents, Art and Vera, married, it was agreed that Art would begin purchasing the farm and he and Vera would live in the big family farmhouse with Martin and Martha.  I don’t know if there was ever any discussion about Martin and Martha moving to a smaller house in town, as Martin’s parents had done when Martin and Martha married and purchased the farm from them, but, for whatever reason, it never happened.  Both Martin and Martha lived out their lives sharing a home with their son, daughter-in-law and their children.  And, by the way, several generations living in the same house wasn’t at all unusual back then.

Actually, Grandpa Martin only lived long enough to know two of Art and Vera’s children, Hubby and his older sister.  The story goes that Martha and Martin were hosting a family get-together and there was a spirited Euchre game going on around the kitchen table (a favorite card game in this area).  Someone had just said something funny and Martin threw back his head and laughed, tipping his chair back on its back legs, but then he and the chair just continued to fall back.  He was dead from a heart attack before he hit the floor.  Hubby was 9 months old at the time.

But, Grandma Martha lived 16 years longer.  In fact, when I started dating Hubby, she was still alive.  I only remember meeting her a couple times.  What I remember most about her is that she called everyone by their given name — she called me Sandra, even though everyone else at that time called me Sandy.

Grandma H middle age   This is the only other picture of Grandma Martha I could find.  I would guess this was when she was in her 40’s. 

Apparently Grandma Martha’s demeanor was always one of  hard work and perpetual motion, going from one task to the next, without any down time.  My mother-in-law, Vera, a wonderful person who I’m sure would never have said this to Grandma, did tell me one time that there were times during the many years she lived with her hardworking mother-in-law, when she would have liked to just be able to sit down for a little while.  But, she said she never felt like she could do that when Grandma herself never “just sat down”!  No matter how wonderful her mother-in-law was, I’m sure there were times when Hubby’s mom, and I’m guessing Grandma too, wished she didn’t have to share a house with another woman.  But, overall, they had a good relationship.  

I’m told that when everyone sat down in the evening to relax, even then, Grandma liked to sit in a straight-back chair at the end of the sofa with her sewing basket and a stack of clothes that needed to be mended next to her so that she could do mending!  But, and this is a very big but, Hubby says he remembers that any time he or one of his siblings would take a book to her and ask her to read to them, she would stop what she was doing, and read.

Hubby says it wasn’t always fun to have a third adult supervising you, especially when you were a high-energy little boy, but he now looks back fondly on their live-in grandma who, even though a hard worker, still always had time for her grandchildren, and he recognizes the ways she added to all their lives, not the least of which was as an example of the value of hard work!

Are you lookin’ at ME?

September 23, 2009


Have I mentioned I was raised a “city girl”?  I think the fact that, by the time I came along, my family didn’t have a garden and bought all of our food at the grocery store was a direct result of  Mama’s childhood memories of usually only being able to afford food they raised themselves.  Consequently, she reveled in finally being able to afford already-canned vegetables, and already cut up meat like roasts, chops, pieces of chicken and ground meat that were purchased at the grocery.

So, the beginning of my education in the reality of the food chain came when I began dating Hubby-to-be, the farm boy.

After we had dated for a while, we started going to church together.  We would attend my Baptist church with my parents on one Sunday and his Lutheran church with his parents the next Sunday (we were equal-opportunity worshippers!). 

When we attended church with my family we would go back to our house for dinner, which was usually Mama’s wonderful pot roast that had been slowly cooking while we were at church.  I will forever remember the experience of walking into the house after church with the smell of that wonderful roast greeting us at the door.

And on the Sunday’s we attended his church, we would then go to his parent’s farm for his mother’s much-raved-about chicken dinner.  When he first told me what we would have, that sounded wonderful.  I loved chicken. 

But, when I began going there, I had a problem.  As we would drive into the barnyard, we would drive through a flock of chickens, and then we would go in the house and eat … chicken!!  Yikes!  Wayyyy too short a loop in the food chain for this city girl!!  I found myself avoiding looking directly at the chickens in the barnyard because I was afraid of making eye contact with next Sunday’s dinner!

I, of course, couldn’t refuse to eat the wonderful (to everyone else) meal his mother had made, but I certainly didn’t eat as “heartily” as I was capable of doing.  And, the chicken wasn’t the only food I had a problem with — the peas were crunchy!  Okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but they were much firmer than any pea I had ever eaten, and bright green!  I was used to canned, Army-green, mushy peas.  I didn’t remember ever having fresh peas before, and they not only looked different but they tasted totally different too!  Now, it’s hard to imagine that I would have preferred canned instead of fresh peas, but, especially when you are young, it’s all about what you are accustomed to eating.

When I look back, I wonder if his parents and siblings looked forward to me coming to dinner because it was so entertaining to watch me experience “farm food”.  I’ve never had a poker face, so I’m sure every emotion I experienced showed clearly on my face.

Over the years, I did come to appreciate and enjoy my mother-in-law’s farm cooking, including her chicken which she fried and then baked slowly in the oven — fantastic!  Very different than my mother’s cooking, but every bit as good, in its own way. 

And, it did make it alot easier when Hubby’s parents quit raising chickens so that I at least didn’t have to avoid the accusing gaze of the condemned as we drove through the barn yard.

Just the beginning of many lessons learned when a couple start learning about the traditions and life styles of each other’s family.

Quilting is Just One Little Letter Away from Quitting!

November 13, 2008


I tried quilting one time and it didn’t work out very well.  But, something has happened recently to renew my interest in the subject, and possibly help me to go from being a quitter to a quilter!

Quilting — what a big subject.  And one I don’t claim to know alot about, but here’s what I do know about the subject.

There are many Amish in this area, and quilting is something that is done by all Amish women.  I was told one time that an Amish girl needed to complete 13 quilts before she married.  When I heard that, my first reaction was, “I’d definitely be a spinster if I were Amish.”  Another interesting tidbit I’ve heard about Amish quilters is that sometimes they will purposely make a small mistake in one square.  It is called a “humility square.”  Now that I could buy into!  I feel confident I could make the humblest quilt of them all.

There are lots of kinds of quilts.

There are the most traditional quilts, that depend on creative material selections and variations of traditional patterns for their beauty.

And there are the fairly new “artistic” quilts that look like a field of flowers or a stained glass window or ocean waves.  They are truly works of art.

And there are cross-stitched quilts.

My mother-in-law enjoyed making cross-stitch quilts.  She came from a long line of quilters.  In fact, maybe because we lived in a rural farm community, many women there, especially the older ones, quilted.

When we were young marrieds, Hubby’s mom decided to make a quilt for each of her children and their spouses, maybe hoping to inspire us younger women in her family to become quilters.  She started from oldest to the youngest of her five children.  When it was your turn, the daughter or daughter-in-law, would select a pattern and size for a cross-stitch quilt from a pattern book.  Mom would order the pattern and then make the cross-stitch quilt top.  When she had completed it, she would baste it to the filling and backing and set it up in the quilting rack in the “front room” (a seldom used parlor) in the farm house.  Then she would invite all of the daughters and daughters-in-law over (for as many evenings as it took to complete it) to help her quilt it.  I think it was a wonderful idea because that way we each had a quilt that not only she had made, but also that all of our sisters-in-law had helped quilt.  Here is the one she made for us.  Lots of loving stitches went into that quilt.  A wonderful reminder of her whenever I look at it. 


After Mom passed away and some of her things were divided among us, this next quilt was one that was given to me because my sisters-in-law knew that I had always had a special fondness for it.  They are nice like that.  It is still one of my favorite keepsakes. 


Hubby’s older sister had a friend named Ardis when she was growing up.  Ardis was an only child and lived in town, so she loved coming to the farm to visit, where there was always something interesting going on, especially since Sis had three younger brothers.

During Ardis’ many years of visiting the farm, she became interested in Mom’s quilting, and asked Mom to teach her.  Now, Mom was a very humble lady and I can just imagine that she probably told Ardis that she wasn’t really that good a quilter and that Ardis could probably find a better teacher, because that’s just the way Mom was.  But, in reality, Mom must have done a pretty good job as a teacher, because Ardis, all these many decades later, is a well-known and award-winning quilter and has taught quilting classes for many years.  After Ardis became an accomplished quilter, Mom was actually the one who told me that it was she who first taught Ardis to quilt.  So, I think that even my very humble mother-in-law felt a little pride in Ardis’ quilting accomplishments.

So it was only natural that about 15 years ago, when I decided that I would like to try quilting, I signed up for one of Ardis’ classes.  It was a class designed for the novice, so the goal was to make a lap quilt, done in small sections and all by hand.  The only real “equipment” you needed was a hoop you could hold in your lap to quilt your squares.  We made an individual square each week, and then in the end we would sew them together to make the lap quilt — in theory.

The kind of quilts we made in Ardis’ class were appliqued quilts.

I loved picking out the materials.  Because Mama loved to sew, I had spent alot of time in fabric stores, and had really developed a love of beautiful fabrics.  And, cutting out the different fabric pieces and sewing them together wasn’t bad, in fact that was kind of fun too.  But, when it came to the quilting, I found out that I was a “nervous quilter.”  When the other students and I would return to class with the square that we had made that week, all the other squares were nice and flat, while mine were “puckery.”  Ardis told me I had to relax and not pull my stitches so tight, but I never was able to relax enough to make my squares lay as flat as the other’s did.  So, I have to admit, even though physically I completed the class, I mentally quit before the class was over.  I decided quilting just wasn’t for me, and the quilt pieces and all the quilting “stuff” ended up in a box in the attic.

Here are the pieces that I’ve kept all these years from that class.  They are in varying stages of “doneness.”  


But, now I live next door to the multi-talented Belinda!  When she came over to help me learn how to use my sewing machine, and the conversation turned to quilting, I told her I had these squares, although, at the time, I couldn’t remember exactly where they were.  And, she told me that she would help me finish my quilt!  Yahoo!  One-on-one instruction!  It is sooo much easier, in my experience, to learn anything, if you have someone who is willing to take you on as a “project” and I think that’s how Belinda sees me and quilting!  So, after the first of the year, I’ll present myself at Belinda’s door with my little squares, and see if she can help me complete this quilt.

It would be great if Belinda could help me go from quitting to quilting Hubby’s mom would have been so happy.  And, let me just say, I’m pretty sure Ardis would be realllly surprised!


The Rocking Chair

October 3, 2008


When Hubby’s parents were still alive and in relatively good health, his mom called one day and made a surprising offer! 

She and Dad were the third generation to live in the family farmhouse, with lots of old furniture from previous generations still in use — a glass china cabinet, a wash stand that was originally meant to sit in a bedroom with a pitcher and bowl on it (back when that’s where you washed your face in the morning), old dressers and beds.  Lots of things that, if you asked, they could tell you stories about from years and generations ago.

Now she and Dad had decided that they wanted their five children to come over and each pick out one thing they would like to have right now.  Her explanation was that they wanted to be able to actually see some of the old family things passed on and treasured by the next generation. 

Spouses were invited too, but I was uncomfortable going.  As an in-law I just didn’t feel right going to their home and “claiming” something, even with their permission.  So, I suggested to Hubby that he go without me.  He said that was fine, but how would he know what to pick that we would both enjoy?  My last suggestion to him as he walked out the door was, “Look for something that they aren’t using and won’t miss, and then we’ll just make it fit somewhere, to make them happy.”  It really was a nice idea, and we loved them dearly, so we did want to honor their wishes.

When Hubby got home, he said, “Well, I did exactly what you suggested.  I went to the attic and looked for something that, obviously, they weren’t using, but that we might be able to use.  I hope you like it.”

He went out to his truck and carried in an old, old rocking chair, that had seen better days.  The wood had darkened to almost black, and the seat and back were covered in cracked, worn, falling-apart black leather.  Through the cracks you could see the springs.  Boy, he had reallly taken my advice! It was obvious that no one had used that rocker in probably fifty years (his parent’s estimate)! 

But, you could tell that it had been a pretty chair at one time, so I thought Hubby had made a great choice.

We had the rocker refinished and reglued, new springs put in, and it has now been recovered four times.  I don’t remember what it’s first cover was, while we still lived on Placid Park, but when we moved to the farm and decorated Victorian, we recovered the rocker in dusty rose-colored velvet and it resided in DD’s teenage bedroom. 

After she left home. we next had it covered in dark blue velvet and it was an honored “guest” in the sitting room. 

And then when we moved here to our “new” house, we had it recovered in a black and taupe pattern and it is a treasured addition to our living room.


What a wonderful treasure this rocker has been.  We have enjoyed it for almost 30 years, and I can imagine it one day living in the home of one of our children, and maybe even a grandchild’s home someday!

What a great idea Hubby’s mom had.  Here’s a picture of them, and yes, they were just as nice as they look!

She and Dad had the pleasure of seeing some of the old family pieces used and loved by a new generation.  And we received a wonderful old piece of family history to enjoy and then pass on to the next generation!