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The Joys of Five-Year Old Grands

downloadI don’t like that two of my Grands are having birthdays. Elaine and Dean, born one month apart, and a thousand miles from each other, are turning six. An age when some imagination and excitement wanes.

Elaine creates a family out of everything, anything. She lined up crackers on her lunch plate. “Look, Gran. It’s a daddy and mommy and three kids.” They went on an adventure in the park. They played ball and ran through a creek. The littlest kid fell and hurt his knee. “It’s okay. His mommy put a Band Aid on it,” Elaine said.

She likes to take a bath at my house to play with the yellow rubber ducks. (Those same ducks I wrote about once before.) “Do you know how a daddy duck drinks water?” my Grand asked and then she held the biggest duck’s head under water. “He gulps really big!” The mommy duck gulped just a little. “The baby can’t gulp. The mommy has to help him.” Elaine held two ducks close together, bill to bill.

Dean plays balloons. “Gran, let’s play find the balloon! I’ll go first,” he said. I closed my eyes until he shouted, “Okay, look now!” I searched his family’s living room and named places as I searched for the red balloon he had hidden. Not under the couch. Not on the table. Not in his ear. Dean laughed. I sat on the floor and pretended not to notice his jacket over the balloon beside my foot. “Gran, look!” he shouted.

“Give me a clue,” I said. He opened his eyes wide and pointed toward my foot and giggled. I lifted my foot, shook my head. Dean fell on the floor and laughed.

“Gran!” He jerked his jacket off the balloon. “I win!” he said.

Then the balloon was a ball. “Let’s count how many times we hit it,” Dean said. How many times could he and I hit it and keep it up in the air? Each time the balloon touched the floor for the next twenty minutes, my Grand said, “Let’s try again.”

Elaine and Dean are easily entertained. Read a book. They shout out words they know. Build a skyscraper with blocks or Legos or rocks. They show off their ability to count to 100. Dig in the dirt. Look for worms and bugs. Draw silly pictures with funny faces. Line up matchbox cars to race. Sort cars by color and size. Learning is fun.

And no one giggles about underwear like a 5-year-old. “Gran, don’t look. I’m taking off my underwear,” Dean said and giggled. I stood in the bathroom to supervise his bath. Another time, Elaine handed her dirty clothes to me after her bath and said, “Did you know my underwear stinks? Smell!” She snickered and ran from me.

Last week I gave Elaine her birthday present, she hugged and thanked me and then said, “Gran, did you know I’m six today?” And Dean will be in June. Shucks.

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Put Litter in Its Place

 

            If there is a six letter bad word, it’s litter. Litter. Trash in a public place. Paper, cans, and bottles that belong in a landfill or recycling bin. I hate litter anywhere and everywhere and especially along the right of way. Always have.

When I was a kid, before protecting our natural environment were social and political issues, Mom and Dad made it a family issue. Part of our weekly yard care, in addition to pushing a lawn mower and clipping grass around shrubs with hand clippers, was picking up trash along the road near our house. And Mom and Dad taught me that nothing could be thrown out car windows. We had a car trash bag.

I carried on the trash bag practice with my children and their friends knew when I was the carpool driver all trash went in the bag. Except once when a carload of kids was riding in my Ford station wagon with flip-up back seats and in the rearview mirror, I saw a child toss a candy wrapper out the back window. We were on a neighborhood street, not a major highway.

I stopped the car on the wide shoulder and everyone, the litter culprit and those innocent, got out of the car and we picked up every scrap of trash we could find. My two school-age children were embarrassed and I should’ve handled the situation without using my teacher voice, but I was angry.

Now I walk from my house to the YMCA on Raider Drive a couple of times a week and I’m shocked at the amount of litter along a heavily traveled street that leads to a public school and a place to exercise.

Recently, while my three oldest Grands, ages 11, 10, and 8, visited, I told them we were going to do a service project. We’d pick up litter along the road close to the Y. Their responses were typical. How much will we get paid? (No money. Just the satisfaction of doing something good for our environment.) Do we have to? (Yes.) I’m not touching somebody else’s trash. (We’ll wear plastic gloves.) How long do we have to do it? (Until the job is done.) Can we have a treat afterwards? (Maybe.)

Reluctantly, my Grands pulled on gloves, took the trash bags, and decided we should work in pairs. One person, to hold the bag open and the other, pick up. A chore that would’ve taken me all morning was completed in twenty-two minutes. One Grand set her stopwatch.

After we finished, I liked what I heard. That wasn’t near as bad as I thought it’d be. It was almost fun. We found at least 25 apple drink aluminum cans. Why would somebody throw out aluminum cans they can recycle? Don’t they know plastic bottles can be recycled, too? They must not have a car trash bag.

And the last question: Gran, we don’t have to do this next week, do we? I certainly hope not.

 

 

Travel. New Experiences. Family.

“So, Gran, what are ya’ going to write about this week?” Lou, age 10, asked.

“You mean for the paper?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“Hmmm. I’m not sure. Do you have any ideas?”

“Well, yeah. About our trip!” My Grand raised her eyebrows and tilted her head, emphasizing that surely this week’s topic would be her trip with Husband and me to visit Son and family. Lou’s uncle, aunt, and three young cousins, ages 5, 3, and 1, who live 1300 miles away.

“How about you write this week’s column?” I said.

“Gran, I wrote one for you. The one about the big yellow duck, remember? You do this one.”

Weeks after returning home, Lou is still reveling in the experience of flying and being the big cousin whom little cousins wanted to sit beside at the supper table. Of being the first of her family to spend the night at her uncle’s and aunt’s home. (Her dad and brother visited, but not overnight.) Watched a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Traipsed a rocky path and skipped rocks in a branch of the Poudre River and kept a smooth egg-shaped rock for a souvenir.   Spotted a herd of mule deer at Rocky Mountain National Park. Coached cousins turning backward somersaults. Read bedtime stories and kissed goodnight. Ate a bakery chocolate chip, cream-filled, cookie sandwich. Pretended to gobble one-year old cousin’s meal of plastic carrots and fried eggs.

Last week, Lou looked at me with a somber, serious expression. “Gran, thanks for taking me.” Those five heartfelt simple words brought tears to my eyes. She appreciated. She had fun. She recognized an once-in-a-lifetime gift. Never again would boarding an airplane and flying be the experience it was this first time. Never would visiting her uncle and aunt and cousins be as exciting. And, next time, the snowcapped Rocky Mountains won’t look so tall, so huge.

I’d be lying if I said that taking Lou to visit Son and family was fun just for her. I loved it. Even the ninety-nine million questions she asked before and during. Is security (at the airport) scary? What does it feel like when the plane starts? Is it loud? When will we get there? What will we do there?

When she sensed that she was reaching her question limit as we flew over Missouri, she suggested a game of hangman. (I would guess her message by naming letters to replace blank lines, much like Wheel of Fortune.) Her messages were questions. What time will I have to go to bed? What will we eat for breakfast? Will Dean (her 5 year-old cousin) have to go to school?

Lou made me laugh. She wiggled her 65-pound body into her airplane seat and declared, “I’m squished!” She sat with eyes glued to the airplane window. “Look! Those little, tiny things are cars.” “Can you see that? Another plane! Right there.” “So that’s what the top of clouds look like.”

Travel. New experiences. Family. Yes, Lou, that’s a column.

 

Freeze these Minutes

imagesWhen I give my Grand a block, he makes it a car, rolls it on the floor, and says, “Vrooooomm.” I watch Jess, two years old. He lays flat, stomach and head on the floor, and rolls the pretend car just inches from his nose.

After a few minutes, Jess throws the block onto the floor and gets two Hot Wheels cars from our toy shelf. Then back to prone position. Clutching a car in his right hand under his stomach, he rolls the other car with his left hand. Back and forth. “Vroom. Vroom. Vrooooomm,” he says.  I want to freeze these minutes when my Grand is totally engaged in a simple game.

Jess, the youngest of five, visits Husband and me and we relish that we can play with just him. And our Grand seems happy to play alone and have Pop and Gran all to himself.   When I say it’s time for a snack, he runs to the kitchen table, holding a Hot Wheels in each hand, climbs into a booster seat on a kitchen chair, and shouts, “Fruit!” His one-word sentences sometimes sound like demands. He swipes his hand across his chest, an attempt to move his hand in a circle, which signifies please in sign language.

Jess helps me peel a tangerine, remove the stringy white pith, and divide it into segments. His small fingers pick off every tiny white string before he plops a segment into his mouth. “More!” he says and swipes his chest.

Outside, Jess runs toward a rubber playground ball. He accidentally kicks it and it rolls away. He runs again. Picks up the ball and throws it and runs toward it. When I pick up the ball and suggest we roll it back and forth to each other, he grabs the ball and runs. “Mine!” he shouts. Yes, it’s all his and it’s his game until he’s tired and lays his head against my legs.

I give him a plastic spray bottle of water. He squirts the grass and then discovers water changes the color of our gray wooden fence. He giggles and then laughs out loud as water drips down the fence. Soon the bottle is empty and he runs back to me. “More. More. Now.”

Much too soon, it’s time to take Jess home. My fingers don’t manage the belt on his car seat well and my Grand sits patiently. He’s tired and I sing a silly song, “I’m fastening your seat belt, seat belt, seat belt.” Finally, he’s buckled in and Jess claps his hands, kicks his feet, and laughs.

When I tell him good-bye at his house, Jess responds, “Book. Read.” He grabs a book from his family’s children’s book basket and holds it toward me. Daughter, his mother, says, “It’s one of his favorites right now.” Jess and I settled on the couch and two of his older siblings sit close by. Jess makes the sounds to go with the pictures in the book. “Vroooooomm!”

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Gran’s New Game

search-2“Mom, Gran has a new game and it’s really fun! Bingo! Have you ever played?” My 11 year-old Grand stood beside Daughter, his mother. She raised her eyebrows and looked at me. I smiled and nodded. Daughter’s five children, ages 2 – 11, had spent a half day before Christmas with Husband and me and then I took them home. We stood around Daughter’s kitchen island.

“Well, yes. A long time ago, I played,” Daughter said.

“Did you have a metal ball and twirl a handle and little white balls came out?” Lou, age 9, asked.

“Did you get peppermint candy when you won?” Five-year-old Elaine liked the candy better than the game.

“Did you put little colored circles on the numbers on your card?” Ruth, age 7, had lined up different colored markers for each column of numbers.

“I said Bingo the loudest!” Elaine said. “And Jess (her 2 year-old-brother) screamed Bingo and got candy, but he just played with the little circles.”

“Sounds like you had lots of fun with Gran’s new game. Maybe she’ll let me play,” Daughter said.

Whew. Bingo made this first cut. I had bought it to play when everyone got together at Husband’s and my house for Christmas. Eight children, age 11 and under, and their parents: Daughter, Son, and spouses. Outside is the perfect place to give everyone space. But we’d be spending some time inside. Trying out new toys. Opening gifts and eating and visiting and playing, and eventually, all would be tired and some would be cranky. I hoped Bingo would be the perfect inside game. Everyone could play and I had a big collection of prizes.

I had prepped Daughter and Son that we were ending our day with Bingo. So when the Grands began whining and fussing about whose toy was whose, I whispered, “Shhh. Anyone who’d like to win a prize come sit quietly at the dining room table to play a game.”

The five Grands who’d help me try out my new game were the first ones to the table. “Come on, you all. It’s a really fun game!” David encouraged those who were dilly-dallying. Parents teamed up to help pre-school age Grands. Toddler Grands were given only colored circles. Cards and markers were passed out.

“I’ll call a number and if it’s on your card, cover it with a colored circle. When you have a straight line of circles, say ‘Bingo.’ Then you get a prize,” I said.

The Grands’ parents deserve Academy Awards. They smiled and laughed and wished for B7 and O64. They applauded and cheered when anyone shouted, “Bingo.” They oohed and ahhed when Husband brought out the basket filled with prizes. Slinkies, stickers, decorated kitchen towels, notepads, mechanical pencils, key rings, Matchbox cars, and such.

For now, it’s Gran’s new game. Someday, I’ll tell everyone about my granny taking me to the American Legion Hall on Saturday nights to play Bingo and the prizes were money.

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Wanna’ Come Play?

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-7-41-26-amRuth, age seven, and I sat in the middle of a bedroom floor to empty a box labeled ‘Susan’s dolls.’ “Gran, look! She doesn’t have a leg. I bet Pop can fix it,” said my Grand. She held a one-legged Barbie. We rummaged through the box and found Barbie’s leg. Pop, aka Husband, can fix most everything, but not a 1950’s Barbie that I’d played with all those years ago.

Other Barbies were perfect, except for their hair. “How about I just cut it?” Ruth asked as she tried to pull a comb through one doll’s hair. I suggested that she comb the ends of Barbie’s hair first to get the rat’s nest out.

My Grand tossed Barbie onto the floor. “Rat’s nest! A rat did this?” I chuckled and explained that it’s just a saying that means a tangled mess and my dad used to say my hair was a rat’s nest. With patience, Ruth combed Barbie’s hair until it hung straight.

I was a bit taken back when I discovered Barbie clothes. Clothes my mother had made. A pink nightgown and robe. Knit tops and skirts. A blue sundress trimmed with white lace. “These smell yucky,” Ruth said.

My Grand helped me find a shelf to display two antique dolls that had been handed down to me. And we cut one doll’s hair that was beyond repair and scrubbed two bald-headed baby dolls with Soft Scrub and Baby Wipes until they no longer felt gummy.

From a box with a cellophane front, we unpacked a two-foot doll, wearing white plastic sling-back high heels, a pink taffeta dress, and lace gloves. “She was the last doll I got for Christmas and she stood on top of my piano in my bedroom. I never played with her. She was just to look at,” I said. Ruth asked why I didn’t play with her. Why, indeed?

“Gran, I think these clothes will fit Samantha,” Ruth held a red corduroy jacket, a dress, pajamas, and more. “Can I take them home?” We made a plan that the next time she visited she’d bring Samantha, her American Girl doll, and try on the clothes.

The afternoon slipped away while Ruth and I played. Two days later when her family came for supper, she brought Samantha and ran straight upstairs. All the doll clothes had been washed and lay in the room where Ruth and her younger sister would sleep that night.

A bit later, Ruth ran to me and whispered in my ear, “Almost all those clothes fit Samantha just right.” My Grand’s eyes sparkled. I hugged her. She whispered, “That fancy doll’s clothes and Barbie’s smell better. Wanna’ come play?”

I did, but I said, “Another time, okay? It’s time to eat supper.”

My Grand’s face fell and then she asked, “Just me and you? One whole afternoon? Okay?” I agreed.

When I packed my dolls away so long ago, I didn’t know it’d be even more fun this time around.

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When Children Help

move_cartoon-florida-movingThere are have been some unexpected cherished times during this move to Husband’s and my new house. Although sorting, packing, hauling, unpacking, and ‘setting up’ house has almost done me a few times, I treasure some conversations with our children and Grands.

When Daughter-in-Law asked if we’d have room for all our furniture, I said, “We’ll probably sell a few things. Like the antique oak washstand. It’s not a family piece and it won’t go in our new kitchen.” Son muted the televised football game he was watching, and he tuned into our conversation. “Wait a minute,” he said. “What are you talking about? What’s a washstand?” I explained that it had always set in the kitchen by the bay window. “You mean the table where you put the little Christmas tree decorated with seashells?” Son asked. Yes, that’s a washstand.

He wrinkled his forward. “What do you mean it’s not a family piece?”

“It didn’t come down through your dad’s or my family,” I said. “We bought it a long time ago. Probably in the late 70s.”

Son leaned back in his reclining chair and tilted his head. “But it’s always been in your kitchen. It’s a family piece to me.” The washstand now has a place in a guest bedroom until Son wants to move it to his house.

Both Son and Daughter offered to help. Son said he’d fly across country to set up electronics and carry heavy boxes. We took a rain check on that. Daughter said, “Just tell me when to be there, Mom.” I thought she had enough to do homeschooling her children and her daily responsibilities as wife and mother. “I’ll come late afternoon or after supper,” she said. “And what about moving day? You’ll need your bed made and towels out and ready for a shower. I can do that.”

The tables have turned. Husband helped Son organize the garage in his new house last year. When Daughter was a college student, Husband and I helped her move into several dorm rooms and apartments and never left until the bed was made and the towels hung.

I recruited my 9 year-old Grand to help pack our playroom, a former bedroom filled with blocks, cars, dress-up clothes, Fisher-Price play sets, books, art supplies, and more. All saved from our children’s childhood and things I’ve bought because the Grands needed more toys. What to keep? What to cull? “Gran, keep the multi-colored, funny wig,” Lou said as she threw it in a packing box. “Get rid of this straw hat and these caps – nobody ever wears them. Keep these purses. The little girls (her younger sisters) like them.” Lou sorted quickly and she packed, placing things tightly, with no empty spaces. We finished an all-day task by lunchtime.

David, age 11, sat on the floor in the middle of our new garage. Papers with printed directions, metal shelves, screws, and bolts for Husband new workbench were scattered around my Grand. “Pop had some other things to do so I told him I’d do it,” David said. Two hours later he told me, “Some of pieces looked the same, but the directions were good, and I took my time.” Project completed.

One day only David and I were riding in my van and we’d talked about the official moving day. He asked, “Gran, are you happy about this move?” Yes, of course. “Aren’t you sad, too?” I nodded. “So are you more happy or more sad?”

I’m thankful for our children’s and Grands’ help. It’s made for a happy move.

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