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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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What Grandparents Do

images  Grandparents do silly things. Like travel halfway across the country to hug grandchildren. Husband and I made this all day journey to visit Son and Daughter-in-Law about twice a year, until five years ago. Now, three Grands later, we make the trip more often.

Son carried Husband’s and my suitcases from his car, opened the front door of his home, and announced, “Pop and Gran are here!” Bare feet slapped the wooden floor as Dean, age 4, and little brother, Neil, ran. Husband lifted Dean who wrapped his arms and legs around his Pop in a whole body hug. Two-year-old Neil stretched his arms high and his threw his head back. I lifted my Grand into a hug and he buried his face in my shoulder. “Oh, Neil! I love you,” I said. “Uv’ you,” Neil said and swiped his open mouth across my cheek.

Baby sister Annie lay on her stomach on the floor. Dean ran to her. “Annie, look! Pop and Gran are here!” I sat on the floor beside my four month old Grand and picked her up. I hugged her close. Her brothers patted her arms, her head, her legs, and snuggled close to me. The hassle and cost of the day’s journey were worth every effort, every minute, every penny.

Grandparents laugh at the same corny riddle time and time again. Dean sat across the supper table from me. “Gran,” he said, “What did the cow do when her car wouldn’t start?” I guessed that she got her car fixed or walked or bought a new car. Dean shook his head from shoulder to shoulder. “She rode her MOO-tercycle!” my Grand said and he burst out laughing. I laughed, too. The next day and the next I still didn’t know what that cow would do and Dean and I both laughed when he shouted, “MOO-tercycle!”

Neil asked and answered his own favorite riddle. “Sad cow?” he said and immediately lowered his chin, stuck out his bottom lip, pulled down his eyebrows, and said, “MOO, hoo, hoo.” When everyone at the table laughed, he skipped the question and chanted, “MOO, hoo, hoo.” Dean’s and Neil’s riddles were part of every meal’s conversation for three days. I laughed every time.

Grandparents babble. Annie sat in her bouncy seat. I said, “Look at you. You’re as cute as a June bug. La, la, la, la, la. Look at those big beautiful brown eyes. You’re such a happy and strong girl.” My Grand kicked her left leg and made her seat rock. Her eyes sparkled. Her mouth opened wide and she stuck her fist in her mouth. I rattled on. “Oh, is your fist good? Yum. Yum. How about a song? Ole MacDonald had a farm….” Annie laughed out loud at my imitation of a horse. Even her big brothers laughed.

Grandparents like wiggles and scrunches. Recently a new grandmother said, “Before my granddaughter was born, I’d think ‘What’s the big deal?’ Yesterday a friend showed me pictures of her first grandchild and told me how her grandson wiggles his toes, scrunches his nose, and fills his diaper. You know, I get this grandparent thing. I didn’t understand why grandchildren were so special. You gotta’ be a grandparent to get it. I get it!”

Grandparents stick together. After all, we do such silly things.

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A Refreshing Walk with My Grand

imgres “Wots dat?” Neil asked and pointed toward white, feathery puffs of cotton that floated above his head.

“It’s seeds from cottonwood trees,” I said. He reached his hands high to catch the seeds, but they floated around him and onto the ground. He picked up a delicate seed and closed it inside his fist. When he spread his fingers wide, the seed seemed to have disappeared. He wrinkled his forehead, cocked his head, and picked up another seed.

Neil, my almost two-year-old Grand, seemed perplexed. He gathered several cottonseeds -one at a time- closed his hand, and when he opened it, he didn’t see the same white cotton puff. “Gone!” he announced and then began walking.

Neil and I were taking a morning walk. In his neighborhood, on the sidewalk, to a nearby park. “Wots dat?” Neil pointed to a white spot on the sidewalk. “Bird poo. Don’t touch it,” I told him and held his hand tightly. “POO!” he shouted and wiggled his hand free from mine. We had reached the park and Neil ran to and climbed upon a green metal bench. “POO!” he said and patted white spots on the bench.

A robin hopped on the grass, pecked at the ground, and raised its head. I held Neil in my lap and told him that the robin was searching for worms to eat. The robin flew low to the ground and Neil’s feet hit the ground running. Arms stretched in front of him, legs churning, Neil ran toward the bird. Mr. Robin stopped, pecked the ground again, and when Neil was only a few feet away, the bird flew. All around the open grassy field, the two played chase.

But, of course, Neil never came close to Mr. Robin. Finally, the robin perched in a pine tree. Neil ran to the tree and looked up. I pointed to the bird and suggested that he was full and ready for a rest. “Gone!” Neil announced.

Holding hands Neil and I walked along the sidewalk to the duck pond. “Wot dey doing?” Neil asked when we saw several ducks with their heads tucked along their backs. I said, “Probably sleeping.” Neil asked, “Why?” I explained that ducks get tired just like we do and, knowing that why questions never end, I veered our walk toward Neil’s home.

My Grand gathered short sticks that he gave me to hold and we talked about things we saw. Airplane contrails that crisscrossed the sky. White puffy clouds. A man who was power washing his driveway. A brown rabbit that hopped from shrub to shrub. A red pickup truck. Yellow tulips that Neil couldn’t pick.

“Wots dat?” Neil suddenly stopped walking. “It sounds like a fire truck,” I said. A fire truck that didn’t come within our sight, but kept Neil still long enough that he spotted ants, tiny brown ones, on the concrete walk. He squatted so low that his knees touched his chin and he watched the ants scurry to their anthill in the grass and then back onto the sidewalk. One ant hurried away from the others and Neil, still in a tight squat, shuffled his feet and followed it until it crawled into the grass.

“We’re home,” I told Neil. He rushed into his house and gave his older brother a treasure – one of his sticks.

There’s nothing quite so refreshing as taking a walk with a toddler. Everything is fascinating. Even seeds and ants and sticks.

 

 

What Kids Said

14764892-illustration-of-girl-and-boy-holding-callout-picture-on-a-whiteMy folder labeled “Kids Said” is overflowing. And the children aren’t just my Grands. Friends share what their children and grandchildren say. So many snippets not long enough for a column and too good to remain hidden in a folder.

From the mouths of three-year-old kids…

Mother walked into the dining room and saw Robin holding her fingers pointed down over her half full glass of milk. Robin likes to dip her fingers into her milk and she’s been told, more than once, not to do it. Robin looked at her mother and said, “May you turn around?”

Granny asked Chuck to ride with her to the cemetery. She explained that her parents and grandparents were buried there. Chuck asked, “Will God be there?” Granny answered, “Yes,” and didn’t give an explanation. Chuck said, “Then I probably won’t get out of the car.”

As Grandma buckled Madison in her car seat, Madison asked a question that Grandma didn’t understand except she heard the words ‘poka dots.’ Grandma didn’t see any polka dots, or any kind of dots, in the car or on their clothes. So Grandma asked Madison where she saw dots. Madison answered quickly, “Your hands, Grandma.”

One November day, Grandmother told Elaine that her grandfather was blowing leaves off their yard and into the woods. Elaine immediately shouted, “With his mouth?”

When Jack’s parents asked him what gifts he wanted for Christmas, he looked into space for a few seconds, and then shouted, “I know! A choking hazard!” Just like other kids, he’d been told many times that he couldn’t have something because it was a choking hazard.

According to five year olds…

When baby brother was born, big sister told Mother, “I really wish you’d had your umbilical cords tied after you had me so I would be the only child!”

Mother looked at Andrew, tousled his hair, hugged him, and said, “You are changing.” Andrew pulled away from Mother, looked down at his legs and then at his arms. “No, I’m not!” he shouted.

When little Mary was asked to pray before the family meal, she looked at the food on the table and then said, “Not for this!”

 

Grandmother: I’m going to Yoga.

Caroline: What’s a yoga?

Grandmother: It’s exercise to make muscles and joints feel better.

Caroline: Does it get rid of soft, fat tummies?

Grandmother: No. Probably not.

Caroline: Good. Cause I like yours.

 

The perspective of a seven year old…

Gran dropped her iPhone onto the kitchen floor. Lou put her hand on her hip, cocked her head, and said, “So, now do you have a DUMB phone?”

Lou rode in the backseat of Gran’s van and when they stopped at a traffic light, Lou silently read an inscription close to the top of the Putnam County Courthouse.

 

Lou: Hmm. That sounds like something Yoda would say.

Gran: What?

Lou: In God, we trust. That’s the way Yoda talks. Not like normal people talk.

Gran: What would normal people say?

Lou: We trust in God.

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Never Run Out of Hugs

images-1 I love all the hugs that I share with my Grands. And just as each Grand is different from the other, so are their hugs.

I held my arms out to Dean, age 3 ½, and asked, “Do you have a hug?” He spread his arms wide, threw them around my neck and said, “I never run out of hugs!” Until the next day.   Dean sat on my lap as I read aloud Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. I read the last page, squeezed him with one arm and said, “How about a hug?”

Dean shook his head and grinned. “No hugs. I don’t have any,” he said and he jumped onto the floor and stood beside me. I told him I’d give him one of my hugs and I did. “Now you have a hug to give,” I said. Dean wrapped his arms across his chest, raised his shoulders and clutched them with his hands. “I gave me a hug!” he said.

Dean’s little brother, Neil who is 21 months old, laid his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me. A whole body hug. Later, I sat on the couch and watched Neil line up his matchbox cars on the windowsill. Then he held a car in each hand, stood, and turned his back to me. He walked backward until his back touched my knees and then he looked up at me. That was my signal to pick him up onto my lap. Neil pushed himself back against me and sat still. Another whole body hug.

Elaine, who is also 3 ½, has perfected the welcome hug. When I open the back door to her family’s home, I hear the slap of Elaine’s feet as she runs toward me. Her arms form a T with her body. Her eyes and mouth are open wide. I quickly sit on the nearest chair or squat down. “Gran!” she screams, just before she throws her arms around me. It’s a two-arm around the neck squeeze and a kiss on my cheek.   If I don’t sit or squat fast enough, it’s a two-arm around the knees squeeze and a kiss on my thigh.

Lou, 7 years old, surprised me last week. I turned my van’s motor off and expected her to undo her seat belt, open the van door, jump out, say “Bye, Gran,” and run into her house as she usually does. She stood behind my driver’s seat.   After her older brother got out of the van, I asked, “Lou? Everything okay?” She put her arm around my shoulder and her head beside mine. “Gran, thank you for taking me places. I love you.” Then she opened the van door, jumped out, and ran up the back porch steps to her house. She stopped at her family’s back door, turned toward me, and waved. I counted that as another hug.

Virginia Satir, a respected psychologist and family therapist, is often quoted. She said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”   I agree.

A good thing about hugs is when you give one, you get one, and then you’ll be like Dean – you’ll never run out of hugs.images