What happens at Nana’s…

snow baby skiing

We just got back from visiting B, our incredibly cute, sweet and highly amusing grandson. He’s 16 months old and is a chip off the ol‘ AGMA block.

Of course.

He’s our only grandchild. *sigh* That’s what you get when your kids actually listened to you years ago when you told them not to rush into marriage and a family. What the hell…? They didn’t listen to anything else I said.

I have a number of friends who are actually younger than me who have grandchildren graduating from high school. High school for Pete’s sake!

We’ll be lucky if we’re still alive for B’s high school graduation.

B and parents live in Chicago. In a condo. With no yard. Or driveway. Or hose.

AGMA has nothing against multi-family living units. It seems like the majority of the world’s population live in multi-family buildings. It’s just that it makes me a touch sad that most of B’s experiences with the great outdoors will be scheduled, “curated” events. No building a snowman in the back yard, no running through the sprinklers on a hot summer day, no driveway ant floods, no building a fort in the woods.

It’s hard to teach an old AGMA new tricks.

But they live in a lovely urban Chicago neighborhood that has a wonderful new park a block away. A very curated park. Of course. Spongy, bouncy surfaces beneath the swings and high tech play equipment to cushion falls, artificial grass with those little rubber pellets in it to make the ground softer, and fencing all around the perimeter of the park. The only “real” grass and dirt is around the edges near the fence. And the kids aren’t supposed to play in that area.

Of course.

We went to said park twice on our weekend visit. It was packed. The line up of strollers in front looked like Brad and Angelina’s house on play date day. You couldn’t spit and not hit a child having a curated park experience.

B is my son and DIL’s first child. As such, when they leave the house, they’re prepared for every contingency imaginable. Sort of. B had a cold and they forgot to pack tissues. Rookie mistake.

But sans cold, they are ready for any possibility. B’s diaper bag (DB) is stuffed chock full of anything and everything that B might need on their park outings. A block away from their condo.

Mostly, they seem to be worried about the possibility of B starving. I was charged with carrying the “everything but the kitchen sink and tissues” diaper bad on the second trip to the park. It was a lovely sunny day, and my DIL wanted to put more SPF 9,350 on B’s fair skin. She asked me to look for in the DB for sunscreen.

Oops – no sunscreen. Another rookie mistake.

But digging through the DB, I found enough food to feed every kid at that park, and still have six baskets of loaves and fishes left over. There were little plastic food storage containers and plastic bags filled with crackers, veggie sticks, yogurt bites, animal cookies, wheat squares, and other nibbles I couldn’t identify. And there was a whole banana, an avocado and a squeeze pouch of yogurt. All organic of course.

AGMA remembers thinking I was doing something really healthy for my kids when I gave them Cheerios to snack on when they were growing up. Epic mom fail.

A quick call to my son who was at their condo a block away and the sunscreen appeared a few minutes later. Whew! That was a close one.

I realize there is more than one way to raise a child, but AGMA’s very happy that B’s other grandparents live in a house with a big yard only a few hours away. A yard that snowmen can be built in and sprinklers run through and forts built in the wooded area. His other grandpa has lots of tools and other things to use to make cool “stuff”. B’s going to love that.

And AGMA takes some degree of comfort in knowing that, when B comes to visit in a few months, we’ll have an ant flood in our driveway. Although we don’t have a yard per se because we live in a townhouse community, there are plenty of green spaces with real trees and grass and lots of dirt that we can all explore together.

It’s why grandparents are so awesome…  No diaper bags required.

I hope we find some cool bugs.

I pledge allegiance to the Conch Republic


My husband and I just spent a long weekend in Margaritaville.  Yippee.  He was a Key West virgin – this was his first visit.  This was my third visit, but I don’t think the first two really counts.

I was 16 and traveling with my parents on my first visit back in the late 60’s.  Do I have to explain any more?  A visit to any place even remotely fun is automatically negated when you travel with your parental units.  Especially mine.  Especially in the late 60’s.

My dad & step-mother were 41 years older than me.  So it was worse than traveling with your parents.  It was like traveling with your grandparents.  And grandparents were way different in the 1960’s than they are now.

Lots of grandparents are cool now.  I’m a grandma and I’m cool.  It’s a Baby Boomer thing…  We’re terrified of getting old so we act cool.  Goldie Hawn is 69 and the grandmother of five.  Her grandkids call her Glamma.  I bet she’s loads of fun to travel with!

Not so grandparents in the 1960’s.  Or grandparent-aged people.  Or maybe it was just my parents.

First of all, we drove from Pittsburgh down to Key West.  All the way…  Just my parents and I with the car radio on grandparent-type music.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, my dad wore mid-calf high socks with his sandals.  Everyday.   Bedtime was 10 PM and we ALL had to go to bed.  Then we ALL got back up at dawn.  And after breakfast every morning, we’d go back to the motel room and just sit for 30 minutes doing nothing so my dad could spend his daily time in the “library”.   To a 16 year old, it was sheer misery.

I know that Key West was very different back in the late 60’s but the trauma of the trip has pretty well erased my memory.  But  I do remember a very quaint town, small 1 1/2 lane roads and walking in the sand beside the road.  No sidewalks.  I’m sure there were fun things to do there back then, but that would have been way too self-indulgent for us.  Our house was where fun came to die so why should it be any different on vacation?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that the first visit doesn’t count.

My second visit was for about five hours six years ago.  I was on a cruise with a friend and Key West was one of the stops.  It was fun and we did as much as we could do in five hours.  Then we sailed away.  So the second visit really didn’t count either.

Which brings us up to this past weekend…  We had a great time watching the sunsets, visiting the Hemingway House & lighthouse, eating seafood & key lime pie, and indulging in some adult beverages.  Probably more adult beverages than we should have.

And surprise, surprise – we found out that Key West seceded from the U.S.  For ten minutes.  In 1982.  The Conch Republic.   Too long to explain but you can read about the bravery of the Key West “troops” here.  Crazy, fun stuff.  I like that spirit.

Fast forward to 2015.  Yeah – we had fun in Key West, but it wasn’t the most amazing time ever.  Not even close.  I think things have changed a lot since Jimmy Buffet lived there.  Since Key West seceded.  Accommodations were incredibly expensive with little value for the $$.  At least where we stayed.  There was concrete everywhere.  And bikes and scooters and little electric cars with bad drivers.  Drinks were cheap if you did happy hour, but everything else was pricey.  Very pricey.

Maybe we waited a bit too late in our lives to go.  Getting so drunk every night that you puke has kind of lost much of it’s wonder & charm for us.  We liked watching the sunset in the state park where it was quiet, sandy and green rather than on all concrete Mallory Square.  ADHD sunset there with crowds of tourists, loud musicians competing with each other, and tired street performers all vying for tips.

Maybe we’ve become “where fun comes to die” people.  Nah – we’re too cool for that…

But I’m glad I finally got to really visit Key West.  I’m sure it was amazing in the 70’s and 80’s.  It’s just become a victim of it’s own success as happens so often with charming, quirky places.  They’ve lost much of their authenticity.  But you could see tiny glimpses of what Key West used to be like, and that was at once wonderful and sad.

Long live the spirit of the Conch Republic wherever you are!