Grandmothers are the glue of a family. They always have the warmest hugs and are so happy to see you no matter what. In the 80’s they were built in nannies for most. At least I know mine was. I was there daily even when I became old enough for school. I was for sure a grandma’s girl. In fact that’s what she called me. Her gal.

I can remember every detail of my grandma’s house. I can remember the house before and after the remodel to expand the kitchen. We spent most of our time together in the kitchen.

She always said, “ One day when you have your own family you have to make sure you keep your hands good and clean! A mother will touch every bit of the food that goes into her family’s mouths.”

When I was very small she would sit me on top of the washing machine so I could help stir. We’d make cakes, pies, cookies, rolls, and all sort of goodies. Churches and family members from all around knew grandma was the best baker.

It wasn’t the desserts that I loved. I loved her savory meals: roast and potatoes, mustard greens and corn bread made into hoecakes especially for me. But my favorite was hamburgers. I can recall other kids being fascinated with popular drive-thru burger places, but not me. I only ate my grandma’s or my mom’s homemade hand patty burgers.

Growing up a farmer’s daughter, grandma learned to stretch meals to accommodate a large family. She was the eldest daughter of thirteen children with one older brother. In our home it was just my brother and me, so I wondered why she wanted to teach me to stretch meals.

“Add a cup or two of broth to that soup,” she’d say. “The pastor might come by this evening round supper time.”

Always making more out of what little she had.

On Fridays we had fish! It was tradition. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that eating fish on Fridays was a tradition based in the Catholic faith. Humph? We aren’t Catholic.

Like clockwork the fish man would show up on a weekday. My brother and cousin would  holler, “The fish man is here!!”

Grandma and I would turn down any pots and pans to a low fire or off. Picking the perfect fish took time. Nine-year-old me would stand there bashfully, hanging on to her apron. I must have worn a hole in that thing. I was painfully timid and reserved.

“You got any of them nice fat ones?” she asked.

Laughing, he’d say, “ Nobody want them but you.”

I’d wonder why people didn’t want the big fish. My mama and daddy always kept the big ones. After picking her bucket full she’d pay him from the pocket on that apron and we’d rush back to get supper on the table.

“We got some work to do this evening. You gonna help me?”

I’d smile and nod still holding her apron as if  I’d get lost between the front porch and the end of the driveway.

“That’s my gal,” she whispered.

That night, along with cutting up the catfish into fillets and buffalo fish ribs, we’d also grind the beef we got from Madea’s out on the farm. I was old enough to work the grinder now!

We wrapped the kitchen bench good with plastic and some butcher paper we’d pulled from the pantry. I didn’t mind handling the raw beef meat like I did chicken. I even liked the way it smelled. Once we’d filled my large yellow Tupperware bowl with sections of beef I’d drag it over to the bench. PLOP! In goes the first hunk of meat.

“Don’t forget we gotta pass it through two times” she’d say.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

While I ground the first pass, grandma started prepping the fish. I was glad to be helping her. I didn’t care that the other cousins were off playing. Grandma would usually sing a church hymn while we worked away. Sometimes she’d even turn on the old crackling radio in the kitchen window or put on a record from my uncles collection. But I liked when she just sang, slapping her thigh occasionally to get the right soulful rhythm going. We didn’t sing lively songs like that in our church. All the while she’d be making sure I wasn’t chopping off my fingers or dropping a big piece of meat that was too heavy for my small hands. Strange how she could do so many things at one time.

“I’ll do the second pass,” Grandma said.

“No, let me finish it,” I begged.

She agreed reluctantly. She inspected my work from the end of the grinder shoot. Still singing and smiling as before. She added filler (fat) back into the meat. This was to make it stretch and for flavor. I tried to take in all she did in the kitchen. She handed me my yellow bowl back, but this time it seemed to smell different and was covered with cheesecloth.

When I removed the cheesecloth the beef not only smelled different, it had some bubbly looking things in it! Grandma had a smirk as if she knew I’d react how I did. A smirk, not her usual full toothy beautifully gapped smile.

“EEEWWWW, what is that!” I screamed.

She said, “Child that is roe. Roe from the fat catfish.”

I apparently looked puzzled.

“Caviar! Fish eggs,” she said. “You’ve eaten it all your life.”

I was in shock. I sat there silently, wondering how long had I eaten fish egg hamburgers. The last thing I remember from that day is feeling sick. The next day grandma squeezed me close to her while she had her morning coffee wearing her big fuzzy pink robe.

“One day you’ll be able to tell your children you used to eat caviar. I won’t make you eat that ever again.”

GUEST POST: Greek Super Grans

GUEST POST: Greek Super Grans

The Super Greek Gran of this story is pictured above.

The Super Greek Gran of this story is pictured above.

The greatest invention EVER!!!

I hope that all you moms out there are coping with and even ENJOYING your summer vacation! Having kids at home all day and every day can be challenging even for the most organized, and creative of us, especially if we also have to work outside the home.
Do you have help with feeding, entertaining, and generally nurturing your offspring?

I wonder how many of you busy multi-taskers are as blessed and fortunate as I am to have a super-soulmate, super efficient ma-in-law to LITERALLY pick me up when I’m down and totally out of action…and yes, I did say

I have been bedridden for a while and in excruciating pain due to 3 herniated discs on my spine which have plagued me for years. Yiayia (Greek for grandma) makes sure that I have priority in getting meals and having clean clothes, then gets to work doing the same for my hubby and two teenage sons. She makes mouth watering traditional Greek pies and delish soups, so believe me, it’s almost worth suffering flat on my back so that she makes her culinary delights for us!

It’s hard to believe she was born with a severe physical disability and has undergone a series of operations over the years on her legs and hips. Although she can only walk with the aid of crutches, her doctors say that it’s a miracle she is mobile at all! At 83 years old, I truly admre her abilities and her absolute dedication to her three children and their families. The great news is that she is typical of women from her culture and generation.

In Greece, Yiayia is greatly respected and in many households a godsend for working moms. Having a hot meal on the table when your tired daughter/daughter-in-law gets back from work is an example of what Greek grannies consider their duty. Believe me, these ladies REALLY know how to cook!!! Imagine the quality of food our offspring are getting as no Greek from this generation puts takeaway or prepacked food on the table. This would be an outrage! Only dishes based on the Mediterranean diet, passed down from generation to generation are considered good enough for nurturing a healthy family. Really great, right? So, even if at times you might not see eye to eye with the older members of your clan-Greeks are exceptionally clannish-then try to remember that goodwill, especially towards your mother-in-law, has more benefits than negative aspects!

I know that in most cultures around the globe the mother/daughter-in-law dynamic is considered to be one of the trickiest and sticky to manoeuvre.

Haven’t you ever felt at some point in your relationship with the in-laws that a fistful of Prozac or a bowl full of magic mushrooms would be a blessed relief?

Come on now-be honest!

More often than not one or both women feel a  need to have the upper hand when competing for the attentions of hubby/son as well as children/grandchildren. At least in the beginning of the relationship with our new partner things can be pretty tumultuous until the boundaries and expectations are (hopefully) worked out.

My relationship with my Greek in-laws was definitely tumultuous when I first came to live in the family home 16 years ago! My husbands father was certainly NOT pleased when his boy came home with the XENI NIFI or foreign bride!!! Remember that great comedy; MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING ?
That wasn’t a comedy for me but MY LIFE!!!
It’s truly staggering how my relationship with my (now) beloved ma-in-law has progressed over the last one and a half decades! These days I think of Grandma Vasiliki as my own mother who ALWAYS supports me if I have a disagreement with her son. My poor hubby is pretty fed up hearing from his own mother that I’m more practical and wiser than he is (even if it IS true) and therefore I should have the final say in any major family decision making! I sometimes wonder if he rues the day he brought me to live in the family home. After all, the two women who are closest to him have become loving allies and so he can’t get away with anything. AT ALL! There are two sets of beady eyes constantly watching him…sound a little spooky? Well, I’m more than half Greek myself nowadays and I can tell you most Greek families really DO tend to live in each others pockets! I was actually born in the UK but such close proximity and familiarity would be considered very claustrophobic there. In Greece however, every family member feels they have a right to express an opinion about all things great and small, whether it concerns them directly or not! Usually Yiayia has the final pearl of wisdom to share…and more often than not is the wisest of all.

My husband has a great saying in Greek we use when we need a babysitter, cook, housekeeper or a shoulder to cry on. I find it hilarious although it loses something in translation;

“Greek Super Grans- the greatest invention EVER!”

Do you have a mom or mother-in-law to help out when things are tough?
Would you like someone to be this close to you and your family, or would you consider it too interfering and claustrophobic in your culture/part of the world?
What types of behavior would you find acceptable or not acceptable from a grandma?

Enjoy the rest of your vacation wherever in the world you may be!

This is a guest post by Ann Marie Wraight who lives in Greece.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children.

World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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NETHERLANDS:  Grandmothers Are Important!

NETHERLANDS: Grandmothers Are Important!

IMG_3444I am always amazed by how many similarities there are between my husband’s family and my own. Our mothers have the same name (even though the spelling and pronunciation are slightly different). Our parents are teachers, his at school, mine are University professors. Both families share a love and admiration of the French culture and good food. Just recently, however, there is one more thing that we now share: we have both lost our grandmothers.

This is, however, where the similarities end. My husband lost a beloved grandmother, a crucial member of his family. Me? Due to a family misunderstanding, I haven’t seen my grandmother for 20 years. The other grandparents had died when I was little, so I don’t really remember much about them.

However, I never felt that I missed anything. I liked having a small family consisting of my parents and my brother. I enjoyed the privacy and the alone time at home. I could never understand my friends when they told me how much they loved their grandparents. Neither could I understand fellow expat parents when they worried that their children wouldn’t see their grandparents much.

Maybe to you, the title seems rather obvious. You may say: “Of course, they’re important!” But to me, it wasn’t always that way.

I felt my mom was important to my children because she is my mom, and I did struggle with the concept of my mother-in-law being close to my children.

It didn’t help that while my own mom has been simply amazing, I felt that anything my MIL translated into: “You’re doing this wrong, and I can do it better”.

But now it doesn’t matter. While I was raised without grandparents, I can understand my husband’s pain of losing a beloved, close member of his family and my MIL’s pain of losing her mother. I decided to give my mother-in-law a break. One of the reasons is that I realized that while I felt she was being critical, I was being critical as well, which, let’s be frank, is not a good base for communication. But there is a more important reason.

Because children love their grandmas. Both of them. My eldest always asks me when we will visit grandma in Germany to sing songs and grandma in Poland to make uszka (pronounced “ooshka”, it means little ears. They’re tiny dumplings filled with wild mushrooms, eaten with borsht for Christmas). We Skype a lot with both grandparents. They read books and sing to the children. In fact, they’re doing a great job of staying connected to their grandchildren.

If you ask me, I’d tell you I still believe in my right to parent my children the way I see fit. I don’t believe in “sucking it up” for the sake of the children. I do also believe in picking my fights. I believe that both my in-laws and my parents make fantastic grandparents, and this is what matters.

If you ask me, I’d tell you that grandparents aren’t a necessity. I know from my own experience that a child can be raised without grandparents and thrive.

But I’d also tell you that grandparents are a luxury — one that I am gladly letting my children indulge in. Because grandmothers are important, and while I am sad it took losing my own to realize this, I am happy that my children have two wonderful, caring sets of grandparents.

How have grandparents influenced your life? How do your own parents influence the lives of your kids?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from Olga in the Netherlands.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Olga Mecking

Olga is a Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband. She is a multilingual expat mom to three trilingual children (even though, theoretically, only one is trilingual since she's old enough to speak). She loves being an expat, exploring new cultures, learning languages, cooking and raising her children. Occasionally, Olga gives trainings in intercultural communication and works as a translator. Otherwise, you can find her sharing her experiences on her blog, The European Mama. Also take a while to visit her Facebook page .

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Saturday Sidebar: What do your children call their grandparents?

This week’s Saturday Sidebar Question comes from World Moms Blog writer Karyn Van Der Zwet.

In honor of grandparents’ day celebrated in some parts of the world this weekend, Karyn asked our writers,

What do your children call their grandparents?

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Alison Lee of Malaysia writes:
“My son calls his paternal grandparents ‘Ji-Doh’ (grandfather) and ‘Nona’ (grandmother).”

Carol @ If By Yes of British Columbia, Canada writes:
“My mother in law is Grandma, because all her grandchildren call her that. My father in law is grandpa for the same reason. My mother is Nana, and my father was going to be Grampy, but Owl seems to have labeled him Ba Ba. A lot of the boys on my dad’s side of the family say “Bramy” for grandfathers.”

Eva Fannon of Washington State, USA writes:
“My kids call my parents Abuelo and Abuelita (Spanish for grandfather and an affectionate way of saying grandmother). They call my husband’s parents Pop and Grannie.” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children.

World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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CALIFORNIA, USA: (Extended) Family Holiday

CALIFORNIA, USA: (Extended) Family Holiday

On the beach in a small town in Delaware (USA), sits a little house. Basically untouched from the day it was built. That house belonged to my husband’s fraternal grandparents and we are thankful that it still remains in the hands of family today.

This year we went on our first multi-generational family vacation. It included husbands and wives, sons and daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers. All under one roof.

My husband often tells me stories from his childhood of summer time at “the beach house”, as he refers to it. His memories include walking to town for ice cream, playing mini-golf with his friends, fishing with his dad and brother. This year, we were fortunate enough to spend an extended amount of time on the East Coast (we live in San Francisco, CA) and vacation for a week at the beach house. (more…)

Angela Y (USA)

Angela Y. is in her mid-thirties and attempting to raise her two daughters (big girl, R, 3 years; little girl, M, 1 year) with her husband in San Francisco, CA. After spending ten years climbing the corporate ladder, she traded it all in to be a stay-at-home mom! Her perspective of raising a child in the city is definitely different from those who have been city dwellers all their lives, as she grew up in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) surrounded by her extended family.

Angela Y. and her husband are on their own on the west coast of the United States — the only family help they receive is when someone comes for a visit. But, the lifestyle in San Francisco is like no other for them, so there, they stay! This exercise conscious mom is easily recognized, especially when she is riding around her husband-built bike with two seats on the back. And, when she’s not hanging out with the girls, you can find Angela Y. in the kitchen. She loves to cook for her family, especially dessert, and then eats some herself when no one is looking! Sneaky, mom!

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