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Two Day Gift

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 8.03.09 AMNot all gifts are wrapped in shiny red paper. Not stuffed inside a gift bag. In September, I called Son and offered that he and Daughter 2 (some say daughter-in-law) take a mini-vacation while Husband and I stayed at his house. An offer of two nights away from home, from their three children, ages six, four, and two, and their dog, Baxter. A time to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

So in November on a Saturday afternoon, Son and Daughter 2 kissed and hugged Dean, Neil, and Ann and said, “Bye and be good. Do what Pop and Gran tell you and we’ll see you Monday.”

As Son and Daughter 2 drove out of their driveway, two-year-old Ann wailed for thirty seconds and said repeatedly, “Bye, bye, Mommy.” Husband, Dean, and Neil were having a snowball fight, throwing baseball size white balls of yarn at each other. I hugged Ann. She wiped her arm across her wet nose, and then said, “Let’s play, Gran!”

These three Grands were all ours. Time to play and read and take walks and build wooden cars. To giggle and sing silly songs and tell Purple Cow bedtime stories. To wrap small clean, wet bodies in towels and help wiggle into pajamas. To rub backs at bedtime and cuddle in bed early mornings. To bend the house rules a bit and bribe with Skittles.

Dean, a first grader, repeated my plan to his younger siblings. “Gran said she’d put Skittles in a jar when we did what we’re ‘posed to and we can eat ‘em after supper. I’ll count ‘em and give ‘em out.”

Co-commander Dean asked, “So how many Skittles is that?” after all 60 of the yarn snowballs had been picked up. And he followed me to the kitchen to be sure I put five in the jar.

The Skittle jar sat beside the list of suggestions and advice Son and Daughter 2 had written. Schedules. Neighbors’ phone numbers. Bedtimes. Meal menus. Favorite play activities. TV cable channels. Baxter’s feeding directions. How to cook a hot dog so Dean would eat it. Snacks Ann likes, but Neil hates. What to pack in Dean’s school lunch bag.

Every moment with our Grands wasn’t perfect. When Ann and Neil had breakdowns, Husband and I fumbled for reassuring words, but we knew hugs smooth toddlers. And we struggled through Monday morning to get Neil to preschool and Dean to the school bus stop.

After her brothers had left for school, Ann held a play phone to her ear and said, “Hi Mommy. Uh, huh. Yes. Yes. No. Pop and Gran. Yes. Bye, Mommy.” She ran to me, threw her arms around my neck, and said, “Love you Gran.”

I cherish the time that Husband and I had with Dean, Neil, and Ann. That’s the gift. Our Grands’ parents gave us their children for two days and nights. They trusted us. And they left another gift: detailed lists so we didn’t have to call them, not even once.

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You Let Them Do What?

Who serves ice cream for breakfast? Who lets children jump on furniture? Who watches the same movie fifteen times? Who pays children for jobs that don’t even need doing?

We grandparents plead guilty. Not all grandparents to all charges, but some.

I asked Facebook friends what do grandparents let grandchildren do that they as children weren’t allowed to do. And friends responded.

So many breakfast choices. Caroline’s grandfather served ice cream topped with Fruit Loops and told her mother that they ate cereal.   Nell’s grandchildren eat fudge for dessert after breakfast and her own children never heard of breakfast dessert. Karen’s mother made chocolate pie and chocolate pudding for her grandchildren’s breakfasts. Grandparents offer sugar-coated cereal to grandchildren and parents say it wasn’t even in the house when they were young.

Milkshakes with sprinkles are a meal and one grandmother even serves ice cream to her grandchildren for any meal – not as dessert, as the meal. Sara’s mother keeps mini ice cream sandwiches and brown cow ice cream bars, just for the grandchildren. And if grandchildren don’t like what is served for supper, they can refuse and choose something else.

Laura’s parents give her middle-school age children chocolate candy every afternoon when they pick them up after school. Laura said, “They create nothing jobs and overpay the kids for the made-up jobs.” Looking back, Laura should’ve known what to expect. When her firstborn was two, he colored on her parents’ white bookshelf and television screen, and her parents said, “It’s okay. If it doesn’t come off, we’ll buy new ones.”

Grandchildren jump on beds and if they jump onto a CD player, it’s okay.   One grandmother admits that she protected an antique coffee table and her daughters weren’t allowed to put their feet on it. But her grandchildren sit in small chairs and eat at that table, with placemats, of course.

Brenda admitted that her grandson eats what he wants, when he wants, goes to bed when he wants, chooses television programs and movies, and has her undivided attention. And grandparents are shoppers. When they shopped, Deloris’s grandmother always bought her a new outfit and any toy she wanted. Grandparents take gifts to grandchildren every time they visit.

To go one generation further, one great-grandmother didn’t allow her children in the fancy living room. And when grandchildren opened their Christmas gifts in that room, no food or drinks were allowed. But that room is the great-grandchildren’s gymnastics room where they turn somersaults and pretend to be airplanes. And it’s okay to eat cookies and drink juice in the living room.

So what do parents think of grandparents relaxing the rules? Here are my two favorite comments: I didn’t get to eat ice cream for breakfast, but I’m happy Mom lets my kids! Let it be said, I fully intend to do the same when my tribe grows up and brings me some grandbabies!

All parents may not agree, but I hope my Grands’ parents do.

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Eclipse Connects Generations

 “What’s that book about?” I asked my 10-year-old Grand who held a book in her lap as I drove her home from my house.

            “The big extraordinary event,” Lou said.

I frowned. “What big extraordinary event?”

“Gran, the one we’ve been talking about.”

“The solar eclipse?” Lou nodded. “May I read your book when you finish?” I asked.

“Sure, but there are three kids telling their stories. Think you can keep up with three different stories?” Lou asked and said that the kids end up at the same place to watch the eclipse.

While reading Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass, a fictitious novel for students in grades 5-9 and written in 2008, I met Ally, Bree, and Jack, all young teens. Ally’s parents bought Moon Shadow campground because they knew the two-mile campground would be the only patch of land in the United States that would be smack dab in the path of the Great Eclipse. Bree, who was sure she was switched at birth because the rest of her family was science nerds and she pondered ‘If I’m beautiful and no one sees me, am I still beautiful?’ After failing science in school, Jack chose an adventure at Moon Shadow camp over summer school to earn a passing grade.

Ally explained Nature’s Greatest Coincidence. So called because the moon and sun look the same exact size, but the sun is 400 times bigger and 400 times farther away from earth so they appear the same to us. When the moon covers the sun, the air is like dusk, but with an unfamiliar greenish-yellowish cast.

Baily’s Beads were described as tiny balls forming a glowing circle around the black sun like a necklace of pearls and as the last bit of sunshine passes through the deepest valley of the moon, a huge diamond ring formed. The moon’s shadow passed quickly.

In the book, Ally was amazed by the solar eclipse at totality: the pearly white corona suddenly streams out from behind the dark moon in all directions, pulsing, looping, swirling, glowing, a halo of unearthly light. Bree screamed as the moon’s shadow zoomed like a wall of ghosts, and she saw streams of light fanning out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly. Jack was shocked by the fact that a fiery circle was the only thing that proved the sun still existed, like a big eye beaming down.

“I finished your book,” I told my Grand. “I learned a lot about the eclipse we’ll see next week.”

“Really?” she said. “I never read the fact stuff. Not the introduction or author’s notes. I just read the story.”

“You don’t remember how the characters described the eclipse?”

Elise giggled before saying, “I remember how one threw up all the time! That was funny. Gran, you should read other books that Wendy woman wrote. Some of the same characters are in them.” She told me about two other books.

It’s good when books and events, like Nature’s Greatest Coincidence, connect generations.

 

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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First Lake Trip: Part One

family-in-a-boat“How about a lake trip?   The boys will love that. Maybe a little fishing with Pop?” This was Son’s email response to my inquiry of what his family would like to do during their three-day visit with Husband and me.

A lake trip. On a pontoon boat at Center Hill Lake.

The boys. Dean, age 5 and Neil, 3. Neither had ever been on a boat.

Fishing with Pop. Pop, aka Husband, last took someone fishing more than thirty years ago.

Yes, of course, a day at the lake and fishing would be a perfect outing for Son’s family: Dean, Neil, fifteen-month-old Ann, and Daughter-in-Law. Husband and I would make it happen. We made our list. Borrow toddler size life jackets. Make sure the pontoon boat was ready. Buy groceries for a picnic lunch. Fishing license. Fishing poles. Bait.

When Son and family arrived on Sunday, he and Husband shopped. Two adult fishing licenses: $25. (Husband’s senior license was only $5) Two cane fishing poles, crickets and nightcrawlers: $13. Right after breakfast Monday morning, we loaded up everybody, life jackets, lunches, water bottles, towels, diapers, changes of clothes, sunhats, sunscreen, sunglasses, fishing poles, and fishing bait, and we headed for the lake.

I could leave out a major glitch, but it’s typical of a lake outing. The day before our lake trip, Husband and I had vacuumed the boat floor and scrubbed insect droppings off the seats. And then we discovered the boat battery was dead. So the morning of our lake trip, Husband drove alone to the lake to install a charged battery.

Son’s family and I arrived at the boat dock parking lot thirty minutes after Husband and he greeted us with these words, “The boat still won’t start.” I’m not sure if Son or I was more disappointed. I kept smiling and helped zip and fasten lifejackets on the Grands. “We can fish from the boat dock. We’ll swim somewhere else. It’ll work out,” I said with forced enthusiasm.

Husband made a phone call to a friend who has a boat at the same dock and it did work out. As we pulled away from the dock with three smiling Grands, I was thankful for our friend who loaned his boat on a minute’s notice.

“Can I catch a fish now?” Dean asked.

“Later,” Son said. “We’ll ride on the boat and then stop and swim. Then we’ll get back on the boat and eat lunch. And then fish. Look at the blue heron.” We adults were more awed than the Grands by the heron. That Monday morning, we had the lake to ourselves. Not another boat in sight.  Our Grands sat still and wide-eyed. They laughed as the breeze blew in their faces.

The water was perfect for swimming, warm and calm. Dean and Neil jumped from the boat into the water to their parents’ outstretched arms. Ann wasn’t happy when it was her naptime and she was encased in a tight life jacket and hot. Husband and I took turns trying to entertain her, and she, too, was finally happy when she got in the water with her mother.

“Get in, Gran!” Dean shouted. As Dean and Neil and I lay in the water like starfish (on our backs, arms and legs stretched out) I felt that all over joyful feeling. When all is right with the world. When heart and body and soul are one. The best life offers.

“Gran, can I catch a fish now?” Dean asked.

To be continued: first lake trip, part two and fishing.

Best Lap Sitter

Version 2 “He’s our best lap sitter,” Son said. My almost three-year-old Grand spots a lap and climbs or crawls or rolls into it. While Son sat on the floor, Neil ran to him and plopped in his daddy’s lap and leaned back. Son hugged Neil tightly.

I’d noticed that Neil seemed to have built-in radar for his mother’s lap. She sat on the couch to fold clothes. Neil climbed into her lap. She sat to repair a pair of glasses. Neil climbed into her lap.  It’s said that a mother’s lap is the safest place on Earth, and I agree, but Neil likes all laps.

After Son talked about Neil being a lap sitter, I watched my young Grand that day. Husband held Annie, Neil’s one-year-old sister, on his lap as he read a book aloud. Neil ran into the room and immediately scrambled to sit beside Annie, but he never said a word and Husband kept reading. And my Grand didn’t move until Husband stood up.

I sat in the floor with my legs crisscrossed while Annie crawled around me, picking up toys and tossing them aside. When she got almost out of my reach, I lunged and held her ankle. Neil ran to me. “I’ll help,” he said and wrapped both arms around Annie, pulling her toward me. Then he plopped onto my legs.

Lunchtime, only Neil and I sat across the kitchen table from each other. The others, Neil’s parents and two siblings and Husband, had finished eating, put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and moved on. Neil enjoyed every bite, slowly. One bite, chew. Minutes later, another bite. No need to rush this boy with his food. I was happy to sit with him.

My Grand placed his flat hands on each side of his plate, leaned toward me, “Gran, I’m going to sit in your seat!” He jumped from his booster seat onto the floor and then picked up his plate and set it beside mine. He climbed onto my lap, wiggled to get comfortable, and fifteen minutes later finished eating his peanut butter sandwich and strawberries.

After lunch, I sat in a rocking chair and held Neil. He crossed his arms across his chest and curled his legs, making himself small. “Rock, Gen,” he said. (He’s working on saying Gran. Sometimes it’s Grannie. Sometimes Gigi, his other grandmother’s name. Sometimes Gen or Gran.) I rocked slowly and he scrunched his closed eyes.

“Neil, afternoon rest time in about five minutes,” his mother said. My Grand pulled himself into a tighter ball and turned his head toward me. “Mama, I’m asleep,” he said. Then he peeked, his eyes a narrow open slit, and looked up at me. “Shhh.   I’m asleep.”

I rocked and wrapped my arms around Neil. He wrinkled his nose and squinted several times, as if to be sure I was looking at him and agreed that he was asleep. A few minutes later Neil’s mother said, “Neil, wake up, and come with me. It’s time to sleep upstairs in your bed.”

“Shhh. I’m asleep,” he said. His mother gently lifted him into her arms and my Grand flutter his eyelashes and said, “Good night, Gran.” I let him know I would be ready to rock with him after his nap.

I hope Neil never gets too old to be a lap sitter. Hugging and reading and talking just naturally go with lap sitting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Days

IMG_0712The snow came down and the text messages flew. Daughter and two of her friends planned a sledding party. So right after lunch, nine children and their parents hit our backyard. Most suited out in snow pants and boots. Waterproof gloves and coats. Some with snow ski glasses and face warmers. The dads unloaded wooden sleds with metal runners and big round plastic discs. Quite different from the days when I was a kid.

On a snowy days, the Mochow family would call. “Come on down. We’ll meet you at the top of the hill.” And they meant down. Their house was at the end of a curvy road leading to Star Point Dock, which the Mochows owned, near Byrdstown.

I bundled in the warmest, most water-resistant garb Mom could put together. Flannel pajamas and two pairs of pants. A sweatshirt and heavy coat and a knitted hat. Two pairs of gloves or mittens – neither water proof. To keep my feet dry, I stuck each foot in a bread bag. A thin plastic bag that held a store bought loaf of bread the day before. Then two pairs of knee socks and whatever boots or shoes I could stuff my feet into. Maybe Dad’s oldest barn boots.

Mom, Dad, my brother, and I piled into the car and Dad carefully drove to the top of Star Point hill where Ted Mochow met us and two other families. Ted drove a 4-wheel drive jeep and only the three mothers, who carried food for a pitch-in meal, rode in it. We five kids and our daddies rode on a long sled tied to the back of the jeep.

What a fun ride! A long homemade wooden sled made for pulling, not for sledding. Was it safe? Probably not. Somehow the rope was tied with a loop and in case of an emergency the person riding in front of the sled could unhitch the sled.

Dad usually sat in the front and I hunkered right behind him. We sat like bobsledders – our legs straddling the person in front of us. My brother, the oldest boy, got the last seat. Around curves, up and down hills for more than a mile we rode and then we walked up a steep hill to the Mochow’s home.

A perfect hill for sledding. No store bought sleds for us, but instead old metal cookie sheets and pieces of cardboard. The cardboard went faster and we could bend it to form custom made sleds. Snow angels, snowmen, snowballs, snow cream. All part of our snow fun.

Just like the snow fun in my backyard last Friday. The six-year-olds fashioned snow angels. Kids sled double with their mamas and daddies. The four-year-old ate handfuls of snow. One husband stood behind a tree and pelted his wife with snowballs. Several snowmen were begun – none finished. The deep snow finally packed down so that even the youngest, lightest weight child sled down the hill quickly.

And then they all came inside and stripped down. Fifteen sets of gloves and boots. Snow bibs. Hats. And layers of clothes. I loved that the closest-to-skin layer the youngest kids wore was their pajamas.

And when kids took off their boots and wet socks, I thought they should’ve worn bread bags. Their feet would’ve stayed dry. Not warm, but dry.

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