daughter out-law

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The dawn of a new mother-in-law era… I haven’t just acquired a husband; I’ve also acquired another mother-in-law. My third. Enough for any lifetime.

M.I.L.#3 has acted unofficially in that capacity for 9 years but since we shocked her with the news of our unheralded nuptials, when speaking to the G.O. M.I.L.#3 has taken to referring to me as “your wife”. As in “the cards your wife sent out were nice. Everyone had to get a looking-glass, the words on it were a bit small but we didn’t have a looking-glass”.

About a month into married life I had a very clear dream where the G.O. and I visited my in-laws from marriage #1. They and their house was pretty much the same, although it was evident time had passed. Possibly they summoned our presence in spirit to convey their blessings. They were disappointed when I abandoned all hope for the success of my marriage to their son.

Our respective hopes for that union differed. They hoped for grandchildren. I hoped for a grown up husband. Their son hoped for a wife with surgically augmented DD-cups. Disenchantment all ’round.

The two families couldn’t have been more different.

Mine: Anglican, big stone church attended for weddings, christenings, funerals; dress as you please; lottery tickets are acceptable goodwill gifts; TV watching; beer & wine drinking.

Husband #1’s: Lay church, twice weekly; women modestly clothed often to neck, wrists and ankles, no jewellery; gambling is the devil’s work; no TV with the exception of his mother’s rebellious compromise kept in the cupboard for special shows; teetotalers.

the thorny issue of the bathmat
the thorny issue of the bathmat

I stumbled into this family unawares; inadvertently, promptly flouting the conventions. By far my most serious faux pas was the bathmat incident. During my inaugural overnight stay at the in-laws, careful not to make a mess of the spotless bathroom, I made sure to step out of the shower onto the bathmat, left the floor dry as the desert, and returned the mat to the rail.

After her discovery of the reprehensibly damp bathmat, it was left to her son to communicate to me his mother’s long-suffering explanation of what she thought would have been patently obvious… the bathmat is for standing on after one is dry. One should dry oneself within the tiny confines of the shower stall before stepping out.

But I was welcomed, and we enjoyed each other’s company: playing board games cards and chatting while their son watched the forbidden TV. They were keen for us to make right our aberrant cohabiting arrangements. After we married, but didn’t immediately embark on procreating, my new father-in-law offered me $3000 cash if I would agree to a grandchild and a further $2000 and his wife’s moonstone bracelet upon production of same.

It was an offer I had no trouble refusing, although I would have done pretty much anything else for that bracelet.

By the time I encountered M.I.L.#2 I was seasoned. I knew when to offer assistance or not, unblinkingly accept the hospitality status quo, and not to stand on the bloody bathmat (thoughtfulness for which I was complimented!). I shivered my way through a freezing Christmas in south-western Victoria wearing all my clothes in bed as blankets were thin and few. I was grateful for the first-time-guest honour accorded me of not being relegated to the mouldy backyard caravan as had my brother-in-law and his long-time partner.

Although I visited their house numerous times, M.I.L.#2’s first visit to mine occurred a few days preceding wedding #2. I made sure there was plentiful food & drink (F.I.L.#2 loved a scotch, disapproval from his wife seemingly augmenting his enjoyment) and their room was comfortable, furnishing it with a duck down doona and pillows: which had to be swapped immediately upon their arrival and the fraught disclosure of M.I.L.#2 ‘s Pteronophobia (feathers).

Amongst the many pre-wedding house guests M.I.L.#2 didn’t reciprocate my when-in-Rome style: 24 hours later not much had been deemed agreeable. Granted her trip must have been tiring, as M.I.L. #2 stayed in her room late on the wedding day while the rest of us thought left-over chocolate cake & champagne was a fitting breakfast including the dog and cats who had been served their portions convivially on saucers. Upon emerging, being offered same, M.I.L. #2 surveyed the scene clearly appalled, and declined, ingesting as little as possible except tea for the duration.

We maintained polite relations for almost another decade but I’m pretty sure M.I.L. #2 doesn’t miss me.

Despite prior acquaintance with M.I.L.#3 via my friendship with the G.O., the slate was wiped clean upon commencement of our defacto in-law relationship. Once again I had to watch my step (although I’ve never ventured a shower) and my tongue.

One of the good things about M.I.L.#3 is that her son is like her in many ways. Understanding one gives you insight into the other. For instance, neither necessarily conveys what they mean, evidenced by a disconcerting discussion between M.I.L.#3 and her sister on fashion merits of chicken thighs… not the sort from the supermarket, the ones inserted into a bra for figure enhancement… aha, chicken fillets!

Other than M.I.L.#3 demanding to see our marriage certificate as proof we weren’t lying, we’ve had a fairly amicable relationship since the time I was asked my thoughts about financial arrangements they were considering, and foolish enough to venture the honest opinion that it was unfairly one-sided in M.I.L.#3’s favour. Wrong answer.

M.I.L.#3’s sulk lasted a blessedly peaceful couple of days; our visits greeted with silence. The G.O. kindly indulged his mother her mood, but eventually advised “think about it, we’ll be back tomorrow”. Upon our return M.I.L.#3’s greeting was friendly, details of revised financial arrangements cheerfully proposed, and my opinion once again sought, but not proffered.

M.I.L.#3’s house, garden and self are immaculately turned out, and she’s dubious about my casual sartorial approach, helpfully suggesting the local department store’s lovely but expensive selection of apparel and the nice affordable clothes to be had in Coffs Harbour.

By way of complimenting me on any efforts, M.I.L.#3 predictably and frequently admonishes me that I have gone to too much trouble. She also doesn’t practice what she preaches, her Christmas extravaganza outshining my modest offerings. We did manage to underwhelm her by announcing we’d eloped and married on the beach in day clothes; and were informed that proper protocols of guests and attire would have been preferable.

As Christmas approaches the G.O. navigating his mother’s traditional “oh you’re so busy we don’t want you to make a fuss” protests about Christmas lunch conceded only her wish to contribute her customary festive $80 lobster (costing $40 any other time of the year) of which we each get a single bite-size piece.

On Boxing Day, my own step-daughter-in-law will pay us a visit with her entourage of the G.O.’s son and grandkids. I just want her to know… it’s fine to use the bathmat. If it gets wet, no worries, hang it on the line. Relax. We’re family, make yourself at home… and feel free to get a drink out of the fridge, prepare meals, wash up & tidy a packed-to-the-rafters house… mi casa es su casa.

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50 thoughts on “daughter out-law

    katechiconi said:
    November 14, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Oh boy, I think I struck it lucky! Once my MIL had established that I was a good enough cook to avoid starving her son (in point of fact a considerably better cook than she is, although we don’t acknowledge the fact), that I wasn’t in competition with her on any subject, and that we had interests in common (gardening, handcrafts), it was fairly plain sailing. Previous mother-outlaws persisted in wistful grandchild comments, frequent reminiscences about the previous DIL and how lovely she was, and feeding him his ‘favourite’ food (which I later discovered he had hated for years). MIL#3 sounds as though she’s spent time and energy sharpening her tongue…. Still, you have some healthy distance on the subject!

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 6:37 am

      Ah yes, M.I.L.#2 preferred her previous D.I.L. to me but only after I came on the scene, prior she had been disapproved of! I referred to husband #2 as the “little prince” at his mother’s because she’d wait on him hand and foot…
      M.I.L.#3 is the best of the bunch, she has no edit button but a kind heart! Which is good as much as we enjoy the distance the city affords us, it’s nice to see them when we are at TA and even then there’s 30 km of country road between us. During our 3 week Christmas holidays we make frequent but briefer visits which will we will continue after we move.

      Like

    memoirsofahusk said:
    November 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Oh boy! MILs! I only have the one and I won;t say any more! But the whole of that family tried to persuade my husband to return to return to the USA AFTER we married claiming he’d be psychologically damaged by staying with me (I was earning he was still doing a PhD). Laughable in retrospect. Can I come to yours for Christmas 😉

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 6:45 am

      The influence families think they can exert! Even when backgrounds and cultures are similar it can take some time and proximity before comfortable relationships develop, if they ever do. Your situation must have been very challenging to their status quo.
      Other than the lobster, Christmas will be relaxed, and apparently very hot so other than trips to the beach and lounging around reading & staying cool, there won’t be much happening… I hope. You’d be very welcome 🙂

      Like

    Francesca said:
    November 14, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    A very revealing and engaging post, bringing back a few M.I.L memories, some bad but mostly good, of my only one, now deceased. i don’t know- in some parts of the world, mother in laws get such a bad reputation. You have been particularly unlucky.
    I am a mother- in -law to two lovely women. One, when she was very young, drove me demented, but now we are close. The other I loved instantly like my own child, but then, I knew and loved her mother very well.
    There are no expectations at my house either- and if they don’t clean up, I don’t mind really.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 6:52 am

      It’s nice that time has made a difference to your relationship with that daughter-in-law. Time resolves many things. I feel for my step-daughter-in-law as she has 2 sets of in-laws AND the G.O. as her F.I.L… he is far worse than any M.I.L. I have ever encountered!

      Like

    roughseasinthemed said:
    November 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    One MiL is more than enough. I am persona non grata with mine and I’m happy it stays that way. Can’t remember if you’ve read them, but the posts are on Clouds. She was a terrible cook too. As well as being selfish and mean.

    I didn’t get the bathmat problem though. In fact there was no space to dry in the shower as me and him were in there together. I manage to invariably soak both bathmat and floor. I mean, what is the point of a bathmat? I usually walk through to a bigger room to get dry.

    But the pièce de résistance? Offering you cash for kids. Unbelievable. I’d have been out of there at that point.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 7:01 am

      Navigating own family is tricky enough, and as adults we naturally move into our own lives but then find ourselves navigating our partner’s… the older I get the easier it is, but in those early days I was dangerously eager to please. At least you seem to have your M.I.L.’s measure.
      Showering together! I would never have been game under their roofs.
      As for the cash, well meant but badly executed…

      Like

    acflory said:
    November 14, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    -grin- I’ve suddenly realised how lucky I am to be divorced. 😀

    Like

      davidprosser said:
      November 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Spoilsport! xxx

      Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 7:07 am

      If you’re not friends with your M.I.L, divorce has the bonus of relieving you of a double burden… I was a little sad at the loss of the relationship with my first in-laws, they were nice people, and I was fond of F.I.L.#2 and have lovely memories of him (oh dear, teary as I type…) but he died during that marriage, otherwise that would have been sad parting too.

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        acflory said:
        November 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

        My MIL died long before the divorce and I never knew my FIL as he’d died years before I met my ex, but I empathize with the principle – you choose your lover without regard to his/her family, but then if you marry, you /are/ stuck with them too.

        Like

          EllaDee responded:
          November 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm

          Yep, and their friends, but there’s usually gold in there somewhere 🙂

          Like

          acflory said:
          November 16, 2014 at 8:55 am

          I’ve been divorced for many years now but my sister-in-laws are still close friends, which is wonderful.

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          EllaDee responded:
          November 16, 2014 at 2:46 pm

          That is wonderful 🙂 My sister-in-law isn’t humorous enough to write about!

          Like

          acflory said:
          November 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm

          lol – can’t have everything. 😉

          Like

    davidprosser said:
    November 14, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    You had me laughing there at husband No 1’s hope for the DD enhancements. Mike always tells me more than a handful is a waste, I always tell him it’s more than a mouthful. MIL’s can be great or a nightmare and I admit to mine having been great so maybe it’s only women who feel the wrath of the woman who has the temerity to marry one’s son.
    I hope my son in law knows he’s welcome to wet the bathmat and tidy up afterwards anytime and that he’s to treat my home as his. Why stress the poor lad worse than marrying my sometimes scatterbrained daughter has.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 7:24 am

      Reading about your relationship with Ugo warms my heart when he makes an appearance in your diary 🙂 and indeed the G.O. and my Dad get along very well… and I think you and Dad are common in those sentiments! It’s an interesting dynamic, the melding of families, personalities and expectations. Sometimes I think it would be more realistic if the whole of both families had to stand up and take part in the nuptials…

      Like

    janetknight57 said:
    November 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Hi loved this post. I’m lucky only had the one MIL and she is ok. The bath mat made me chuckle, I’m with you I thought that’s the whole idea of them! Stand on said mat and dry one’s self. I like the idea of your place like ours easy going. My daughter is getting married next year so I will be a MIL. Scary x

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 7:33 am

      Thank you 🙂 An ok M.I.L. is wonderful, it’s the idiosyncrasies, like the bath mat (who knew!) that can take a little getting used to. And yes, being a M.I.L. is a whole different kettle of fish, even to being a step-M.I.L… I don’t have that long history & attachment with the G.O.’s son although I’m fond of him but the G.O. as a F.I.L. is like his mother, means well but no edit button.

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    Bill said:
    November 14, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    I laughed my way through this one. Wonderfully written. You should turn this into a screenplay. It would make a great movie (and you needn’t worry about M.I.L #1 ever seeing it).

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Thank you. I think between my Dad and the G.O.’s Mum we could manage a sitcom 🙂 M.I.L. did well to compromise with the TV, and she only ever watched the news and select ABC (public TV) shows as her way of relaxation. Her son however, would watch the test pattern if there was nothing else!

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    Our Growing Paynes said:
    November 15, 2014 at 1:30 am

    Oh man am I lucky with my MIL! What the hell is a bathmat for if not to stand on while drying off! And the feathers, you can’t make this up. LOL. This is quite the journey you’ve been on. 🙂

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 7:50 am

      M.I.L.#2 was also terrified of cows… but that was less problematic than the feathers! I did wonder if I had encountered the only two women with weird bathmat expectations. It seems so. Lucky me.

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        Our Growing Paynes said:
        November 15, 2014 at 7:57 am

        She must have avoided the countryside like the plague!

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          EllaDee responded:
          November 15, 2014 at 9:17 am

          That’s where she grew up, hence the cow issues apparently.

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          Our Growing Paynes said:
          November 16, 2014 at 1:05 am

          Oh dear.

          Like

    mybrightlife said:
    November 15, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Bill is quite right! Write a screenplay! Wonderfully funny and frustrating all at the same time!

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

      Thank you 🙂 Between Dad and M.I.L. I have quite a bit of material… and the G.O. has his moments too. Real life is so much better than TV… especially the misleadingly named ‘Reality TV”. It’s so true, as OGP commented, you can’t make this up…

      Like

    ardysez said:
    November 15, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Great post, EllaDee. You’ve articulately described the peculiarities of dealing with many family members. We are not quite home, airport in Melbourne, from recent travels that were mostly about family relationships. After most of it was over and we had had a pretty relaxed time with our daughter’s partner surprising her and joining us for a portion of the trip, my husband remarked to me ‘why do certain family members have to make life so hard?’ Indeed. I intend doing a blog post about our trip but am certain it won’t be as well done as your own. Good job.

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 9:16 am

      Thank you 🙂 I saw by your wonderful Instagram pics you were in back in the country, if not on the mainland.
      Inter-family dynamics are fascinating, best viewed from a distance or mulled over later with a glass of wine. Thank goodness passing years granted me a step back and laugh perspective… in those early years I nearly went mad trying to fit in, where no fit was possible for anyone.
      I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

      Like

    sara said:
    November 15, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Wow, unlucky three times huh? I don’t have a mother in law – she passed away early in our relationship. I will refrain from uttering anything crass about that, except to say that the Bear was happy to not navigate the grandchildren thing with his mother, who adored children but had a very different idea of how children should be brought up. My own mother and the Bear get along very well, but the father in law thing with my father…troublesome 😳

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      Really, current M.I.L. is fine… it’s all fair, she’s the equivalent of my Dad in many ways. Mostly we get lots of laughs courtesy of them both 🙂 Not having kids there are many nuances of M.I.L-ness I haven’t experienced. From what I’ve seen they can mellow relationships or add to tensions. I loved my grandparents and them me, but there was no love lost on either side as far as son/daughter-in-law affections went.

      Liked by 1 person

    Eha said:
    November 15, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Reading the comments before mine I do feel blessed. Had a wonderful, loving, caring MIL for over two decades, two aunties-in-law from my second marriage and have known and loved to bits the mothers of the few live-out partners who followed. My first ex-MIL died just a fortnight ago at the very ripe age of 99+ and the memories of our times together have almost brought me undone. She would not go to town without a luxury gift for me on return, always took my side in any minor hassle . . . I could not have followed in business, away from Australia about three months a year, if she had not seamlessly taken over our large home, two granddaughters and a menagerie of animals. Once our daughters were past 3 and 5 all six of us generally travelled together and I honestly do not remember one bad moment [I do have a very good memory 🙂 !] . . . . had a long relationship with a guy very much younger later [Thank God all ‘those’ ugly words were not in use then] and his mom and I became the closest of friends and ‘conspirators’ . . . . lucky, lucky, lucky it seems . . .

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 15, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      I’m sorry for the loss of your first ex-M.I.L. but glad you remember her and your time together with such affection that you mourn her passing. And I’m pleased you were able to be friends with your later “M.I.L” 🙂
      Having not had a mum for most of my life I’d sort of been hoping for a close M.I.L relationship I think, but the reality is it’s not easy to find a niche in another’s family, particularly if you’re not contributing grandkids. And if the relationship is ill-advised… All jokes aside the G.O.’s mum is lovely and so true to herself you can’t help but admire her. Her two sisters as well, all of them now in their 80’s are good value. I love spending time with them.

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        Eha said:
        November 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm

        Well Ella I did have a mother who looked after me physically very well indeed but hated the ‘bother’ of children and only had me under ‘duress’ [ie Dad put his foot down!!]. No palpable warmth, no warm hugs or kisses!! So I was ‘Daddy’s little girl’ all my life and perhaps only too ready for the warm welcome I did receive in my in-laws home 🙂 ! As I said ‘lucky’!!

        Like

    Lori D said:
    November 16, 2014 at 12:56 am

    I didn’t know the G.O./husband had grown children, but it’ll be great they don’t have to walk on eggshells around you. Since you were a beta reader for me and read about Ava and Meg (if you recall), Jocelyn is not merely based on my MIL, she IS my MIL. Although I did not face the moral decision Ava made, just about everything she faced with Jocelyn is what I have faced (including bringing her own dinner for everyone to my house, when I invited family over to our house for dinner). So, you kind of know what I’m dealing with in the MIL department, too. I changed the family dynamics in the novel. My husband actually has three brothers, not one brother and one sister. You should be blessed in many ways for having to deal with three MIL’s. Gawd, it’s been hard enough with one. 😛

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 16, 2014 at 7:38 am

      Wow, that information takes the story to a different level. Knowing it gives me a lot of, and deeper insight to your M.I.L. experiences and your novel. Interesting and disturbing the extent to which behaviors are perpetrated, and endured. Makes my lot look like amateurs!

      Like

        Lori D said:
        November 16, 2014 at 8:15 am

        Ha, ha, yep. All those travel demands (for Ava) happened to me. The point for Ava, and for me was, that Jocelyn (or MIL in my case) seemed to be placed there to force us to look at our own demons. As for me, I feel really sorry for my MIL nowadays. She is a frail, elderly woman who never faced her own demons and is naively childlike. Not for any health reasons, but because she never grew as a person. But, because I grew, our relationship is no longer strained. Not that you needed that TMI. 😛

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          EllaDee responded:
          November 16, 2014 at 8:40 am

          Not TMI! I’m digesting not only what I thought, that you were part of the tableau the novel depicts but M.I.L.’s impact. It’s interesting to know how it evolved. And a good point, we grow from our experiences 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    Kourtney Heintz said:
    November 16, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Wow, the dynamics of mother-in-laws. This is wonderful fodder for a novel. 😉

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 16, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Possibly, material for the strangest novel ever… but real life is far more interesting than anything I could make up 🙂

      Like

        Kourtney Heintz said:
        January 9, 2015 at 8:57 am

        True. But a novel would give you the ability to say “No that wasn’t you,” it’s fiction. 😉

        Like

    Vicky said:
    November 16, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Great read, made me realise I haven’t missed anything.
    So the stories about MIL’s are true then LOL.
    I never had the good/bad fortune to meet my inlaws. T doesn’t even remember his mother as she left home when he was four and his father died before we met each other.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 16, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Thank you 🙂 In between the anecdotes were/are good people. I never got to meet the G.O.’s Dad or the G.O. my Mum… it would have been nice, and interesting as we are so much a mix of traits from both our parents. Truly, I think M.I.L.’s are a mixed bag like the rest of us, but family members are a gold mine of story material 🙂

      Like

    diannegray said:
    November 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I’m currently on the Number One Best Person in the World list with my MiL because I take care of her and FiL at the farm. She is in the early throws of dementia so I cook in order to keep their house from burning down and he is recovering from a stroke. It’s only taken 25 years for me to get to this point. When I first met them they were very much like your Husband #1 family and it was a nightmare for a long time. Thankfully they’ve mellowed over the years 🙂

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      EllaDee responded:
      November 16, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      Thankfully we’ve all mellowed over the years, I couldn’t bear being the 20 year old me again of the bath mat incident! It’s very good of you to cook for your in-laws, not always an easy task. When we are at TA we drop extra food into the MIL but she is bloody fussy unless it’s cake/biscuits which she’d live on if possible. Once we move I expect this will happen on a more organized basis. After they nearly starved/froze one winter living on tinned soup, then their second new stove “didn’t work properly”, we started to ask questions and found neither could remember how to work the knobs properly and were turning the gas off not up, so despite protests we arranged non-revocable meals on wheels, and bought them a gas heater. The magpies get fed a great deal of the meals, but at least 5 days a week reasonable food comes into the house, and they are happier managing pay-as-you go gas rather than living in fear of the power bill. Mind you before M.I:L got rid of the clothes dryer she was line drying then clothes dryer-ring to freshen them up! As the G.O reminds me… it’s only going to get worse!

      Liked by 1 person

    MontgomeryFest said:
    November 20, 2014 at 7:50 am

    oh dear. MILs!! what IS it with that title?! you’re words had me cracking up at scenarios that hit too close to home at times! 😉

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      November 20, 2014 at 10:48 am

      Funny stories but MILs have good hearts too 🙂

      Like

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