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Not As It Seems

search I’m blessed with four Grands between the ages of 1½ and 5½. I love the toddler stage, and I’m always entertained by the way young children see the world. Their confusion that everything isn’t literal or as it seems.

Elaine is 3 ½ and she became very upset over something that happened to her older sister, Ruth. While on a recent vacation with Daughter and her family, Ruth and I got out of the swimming pool and sat in the hot tub. Ruth eased herself in front of one of the jets and her loose swim shirt quickly filled with air. “Look, Elaine!” she laughed and called to sister. “Look at my bathing suit!” Elaine came running toward the hot tub, saw Ruth, and then froze in place. Elaine’s eyes grew big. She put both hands over her mouth and screamed, “No! No! Get out! Get out!’ I assured Elaine that Ruth was okay. Ruth got out of the hot tub and Elaine helped her pat the bathing suit flat against her body. Elaine looked at Ruth’s chest and back under her bathing suit.  When Ruth turned to get back in the hot tub, Elaine screamed, “No! Don’t get in!” There was no way to convince Elaine that Ruth wouldn’t inflate, like a balloon.

When Dean was barely 2 ½, his mother asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. Dean looked off into space and didn’t answer. Thinking he needed some hints, his mother suggested that he might be a fireman or policeman. Dean frowned, turned his head side to side and said, “Big. Grow up big!”   He was three years old when he went grocery shopping with his mother and saw a carton of brown eggs in a clear plastic package. “Look! Chocolate eggs! Get those,” he told his mother.

David was five when he saw the sunrise at the beach. “Look! The sun came out of the water!” The same sun that stayed all night in the water; it went in the water in one place and came out another.

My Grands take me back to the time my own children were toddlers. I thought that Son, age 4 and Daughter, age 5 ½ could help me paint a play table. I gave each of them a brush and poured a small amount of blue paint into two flat-bottomed plastic bowls. We determined which half of the table each of them would paint and for a few minutes, all went well. Most of the washable blue paint was spread on the tabletop and most drips landed on the newspapers that covered the garage floor. Then Daughter complained that Son was painting a leg on her section of the table. I said, “Eric, paint your legs,” and I went into the house for one minute to get something. Eric followed my directions perfectly. He completely covered both his own legs with blue paint.

Toddlers. Trying to understand the whys and causes and directions. Aren’t we all?

 

 

 

 

My Grands Said

15741917-five-kids  We’ve just celebrated Grandparents’ Day so it’s perfect time to share some notes that I’ve written recently in a little notebook entitled, “My Grands Said.” When my oldest Grand was two and screamed “ ’Cuse you!” because he wanted everyone out of his way, I grabbed a pen and a blank notebook. Kids truly say the funniest things.

While grocery shopping with his mother, three-year-old Dean saw a carton of brown eggs. “Look, there’s chocolate eggs!” he said. “Get those!”

Elaine, also age 3, sat in my lap and held a small wooden Pinocchio in her hand. “Gran, do you know who this is?”   She cut her eyes to look up at me. “It’s Mr. Pokey Nose!” she said and raised her shoulders and giggled. I imitated her giggle and said, “Oh, I think his name is Pinocchio.” Elaine closed her eyes and whispered, “But Mr. Pokey Nose is funnier.”

I told Elaine about a little girl named Maddie. “Is she mad all the time?” my Grand asked. I explained that her name is really Madelyn and Maddie is a nickname. “Well, she must be mad that they call her that,” Elaine said.

This spring, Husband and I took two of our Grands, Ruth, age 5, and Elaine to the Monterey Easter Egg Hunt. On the way up the mountain I said, “The town we’re going to is Monterey.” Ruth asked, “Is that where the butterflies are?” “I don’t know. Why?” I said.

“Well, there’s monterey butterflies, you know,” my Grand said. “Are you thinking of monarch butterflies?” I asked. My Grand was silent for a minute. “Maybe. But, you know what, Gran? I still think there’ll be butterflies in Monterey.”

Six-week-old Micah was crying as he sat in his bouncy seat so I picked him up and held him in my arms. He continued to cry, just as loudly as before. Big Sisters Ruth and Elaine stood close by.   Elaine said, “Gran, are….?” I didn’t understand the rest of her question, even though she shouted it two times. I asked older sister Ruth what Elaine said. “She said, ‘Are you going to take him home with you?’ ” I told her I wasn’t. In a loud, clear voice, Elaine said, “I wish you would!”

Lou is a second grader and was working on math while she and I sat at my kitchen table. The task was to write word numbers and the question asked how many colors on a traffic light. Looking off into space, Lou said, “It’s mostly black and there’s white around the circles and there’s… ” She hesitated and I explained that the question probably meant how many colors light up in the circles, like red for stop. “Why didn’t it just say that?” my Grand exclaimed. The next question asked how many pages in the reading book. “Which reading book? Surely not all of those!” She pointed to the large collection of children’s books on my bookshelf.

While his mother drove the car, Dean rode in the backseat and announced, “We’re racing that police car, Mommy! We’re winning!”  Mother explained that the police officer was simply driving his car in the lane beside their car.

Elaine held a magic wand over my head and asked, “Gran, what do you want to be? A doll or a stuffie?” I’m happy just being a Gran.

 

It’s Another Night

searchFinally, it was another night. A night when Elaine, our 3-year-old granddaughter, spent the night with Husband and me all by herself.   Some time ago she realized that her three older siblings take turns spending a night each week, so our young Grand often asked, “Gran, can I stay all night with you and Pop? All by myself?”

Elaine has spent the night when one of her siblings stayed, and she climbed out of her bed many times before she finally fell asleep. Her brother or sister helped convince her to go to sleep. I’d hoped that she’d learn to stay in bed before she came by herself.

When she first began to ask to stay all by herself, I’d say, “Yes, sometime, Elaine,” and her mother would say, “Another night.”   The she’d say, “Another night?” I agreed and she was happy. Recently, Elaine asked to spend the night almost every time I saw her. Last week she said, “Gran, can I stay all night with you and Pop? All by myself? I’ll stay in bed.” I nodded and hugged her. Elaine wrapped her arms around my neck and said, “Yes! Is it another night?”

Elaine says the funniest things. At suppertime, I offered peaches, cantaloupe, or blueberries. “Peaches,” Elaine said. “But I like oranges best. So can I have oranges? Will you go buy some now?”

Elaine stood on a chair close beside me while I cut up the peaches. I said, “Elaine, look at the seed. Do you want to hold it?” I laid the seed in her open hands. Her eyes grew big, she open her mouth wide and said, “Gran! That amazing!’   She squeezed and rubbed the seed until it was dry.

When I set a small bowl full of macaroni and cheese on Elaine’s placemat, she stuck her spoon in it and immediately said, “Gran, can I have milk in here?” I nodded and turned toward the refrigerator, but before I could answer, she said, ”May I have some milk in here? Pllllllease?” As I held a gallon of milk in my hand, I said, “Yes, I’m getting… “ Elaine’s voice overrode mine. “Gran, did you know I like milk in mac and cheese?” I assured I did. “How did you know that, Gran?” she asked.

Elaine likes to use the very small baby fork. She turned the fork upside down and propped the tines on the side her plate, the handle on the table. “Look, it’s a tunnel. Just a little one, like for ants.”

I really wanted my Grand to go to bed and stay there so I followed her home bedtime routine. She brushed her teeth. Took a warm bath. Put on her pajamas. And together we chose four books to read aloud. I sat on the couch and she settled herself onto my lap. She picked up Brown Bear, Brown Bear. “Read this one first!” Elaine said. As soon as I finished reading, she said, “Read it again and this time I’ll read.” She told the story as I turned the pages. Finally, Goodnight Moon was the last book to read. “Gran, did you know this book makes me really sleepy?”

By the time I read the last good night, Elaine was snuggled against me and asleep. Husband carried her to bed, and she didn’t get out of bed all night. There’ll be many more ‘another nights’ for Elaine.

Band Concert in the Park

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I carried Ruth’s and my folding chairs across Dogwood Park to a flat grassy area in front of the performance pavilion.To keep my Grand interested, we needed to sit close to the action at the Community Band Concert.  I greeted my friends, Mary Dell and Robert, who were seated at a picnic table just a few feet behind our chairs.  I introduced Ruth to them and to their dog Button, a hospital therapy dog.  Button is an Australian Silken Terrier, is less than a foot tall and weighs only a few pounds.  She stood on the picnic table.  Ruth tentatively raised her hand to touch Button, and Mary Dell explained that Button likes to have her chest scratched.

Button sniffed Ruth’s hand and turned away.   My Grand and I settled into our chairs while the band members warmed up their instruments.  A cacophony of sound – Ruth put her hands over her ears and looked back at Button.  Mary Dell’s smile encouraged her to stand by Button.  With one finger, Ruth scratched Button’s chest and gently rubbed her back.

The concert began.  The band played  “The Star Spangled Banner” and Ruth and I stood, as did all the 250 people in the audience.  Then my Grand crawled into my lap and I tapped my toes to the rhythm of  “Good Ole Summertime.”

“Watch those trombones.  See how the musicians playing them made them long and then short?  That’s how a trombone makes different notes, like on our piano,” I told Ruth.  We teachers think we have to make every outing a learning experience.  Ruth quickly ate the cheese and cracker snack I’d brought, and she looked back over my shoulder at Button.

Mary Dell nodded her head and motioned with her fingers that it was okay for Ruth to see Button again.  Robert put a dog treat in Ruth’s hand and showed her how to hold her hand flat.  She laughed when Button’s tongue licked her hand and then her face.  Ruth went from that first tentative touch and scratching Button’s chest to giving her treats and laughing when Button licked her.

The music played on.  So much inspiring, upbeat, summertime music performed by the sixty musicians on stage.  Robert Jager masterfully directed each song.  I tapped my foot, applauded, and enjoyed and appreciated every note.  Especially the percussion instruments when the circus came to town.  And I sat alone.  My Grand sat on the picnic table bench between Mary Dell and Robert, and Button stood right in front of her.

The hour-long concert ended.  Ruth told her new friends good-bye, held my hand, and we walked toward our car.  “That music was weird,” Ruth said.

“Weird?” I said.  “It’s different from what we usually listen to.  Maybe not weird, but different.  I like band music.”

“Me, too.”

“So do you want to come to another concert?”

“When?  Will Button be there?”  Ruth asked.  Monday night, June 23, 7:30 p.m.  I don’t know if Button will be there.  The free concert will take us Around the World on a Musical Tour.  I’m sure we’ll have fun – enjoy music that’s not what we hear every day and greet old and new friends.  All outside, under the stars, in the park.

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All is Well

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“He’s here!  All is well.”  I read that text message and knew all I needed to know.  Jesse, my grandson, my Grand, had been born and he and Daughter were both fine.

It didn’t matter that it was almost bedtime; I left my house and drove to the hospital.  At the nurses’ station, I asked for directions to Daughter’s room.  The nurse smiled and said, “Grandmother?”  I nodded.  “Just follow the loud crying.  He doesn’t like his first bath.”

My, how times have changed! Gone are the days when I birthed babies and no one was allowed in the birthing room.  I walked right into the huge labor and delivery room. Daughter sat on a hospital bed, and I hugged her in the biggest bear hug possible.  Son-in-law stood right beside the nurse while she gently patted baby Jesse’s legs with a small, soft cloth.  Wearing only a diaper, Jesse lay on his back in a hospital infant bed that looked like clear plastic tub.  The nurse said, “All finished.  Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”  Son-in-law leaned over Jesse and laid one hand on his tummy, the other held his son’s tight fist.  The picture I took will be the first one in Jesse’s photo album.  A father and son talk when son was one hour old.

While Daughter and Son-in-law ate sandwiches, I sat beside Jesse.  Still wearing only a diaper, he lay under a warming lamp.  He seemed completely relaxed lying on his back, his arms spread straight from his shoulders, his legs straight, his little lips smacking, his eyes open.  I held his fist and when he spread his fingers open, I slipped my finger into his hand.  He closed his hand, grasping my finger.

So many strong emotions flooded through me.  Love.  Thankful.  Relief.  Happy.  Joyful.  Ecstatic.  On Cloud 9.  Grateful.  Blessed.  Emotions that jumped straight from my heart to my eyes.  Tears streamed down my cheeks.  I could’ve cried big loud sobs.  Cries of joy.  But it wasn’t the time or place.  I took a few deep breaths, prayed silently, and wiped my wet face with the back of my hand.  Little Jesse’s dark eyes were just inches from mine. I concentrated to imprint this moment in my mind.

As I’ve thought about the day Jesse was born, I remember that morning.  Daughter was folding clothes and watching her children run under, around, and through fountains spraying from a water sprinkler.  “You know,” Daughter said, “it feels good to have a day like this.  We haven’t had a day to just do nothing and stay home and play in a long time.”   Spoken like a mother of four and carrying a baby due any time.

At lunchtime, I told Husband, “This may be the day that Jesse is born.  At his house, there is a huge tree on the ground that last night’s windstorm blew down and the washing machine quit working this morning, but everyone is calm and happy.  Seems like a perfect day for a new baby.”

A new baby.  Almost two weeks old now.  And all is well.  I’ve cried those big tears of joy – more than once.

 

WHY?

 

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I love the way toddlers talk and explore and inquire.  The world is a vast classroom and they want to learn everything so they ask questions.  I’m blessed with two Grands, Dan and Elaine, who are just now turning three.

Early one morning while Dan and I sat on my front porch steps, he stuck his finger in a tiny hole where some mortar between the bricks had come out.

“Look, Gran.  A hole,” Dan said.

“Yes, there is,” I said.  And then Dan asked the favorite question of all toddlers.

“Why?”

“Some of the mortar is missing.”

“Why?”

“It probably fell out.”

“Why?”

“Because it got loose and fell out.”

“Why?”

I sipped my coffee and decided that it was time for a new topic.  I pointed up toward a tall black oak tree. “Dan, look at the birds perched high on a limb in that tree.”

“Where?” Dan asked.

He looked up toward the sky just as the birds flew from the branch. “Oh, they just flew away,” I said.

“Why?”

“They wanted to go somewhere else.”

“Why?” Dan walked down the steps.

“Maybe to find food.”

“Why?”  Dan, dressed in his pajamas and bare footed, stood and was poised to step onto our creek gravel driveway.

“Dan, the rocks might hurt your feet,” I said.

“Why?”

“You don’t have your shoes on.  When I walk barefoot on rocks it hurts my feet.”

“Why?”

“Because the rocks have sharp edges.”

“Why?”

“Dan, hand me a gray rock,” I said. Some limestone rocks were among the brown creek gravels.  He held a rock in his little hand and I ran my finger along the rock’s edges. “These edges and this pointed end could hurt your foot if you stepped on this rock.”

“Gran! I need my shoes!”  Dan said.  He clinched the rock in his hand, turned, and walked up the steps and into the house.

Those few minutes of quiet, calm time had passed.  I helped Dan put on his shoes and together we explored the backyard.  And he asked why about everything.

On a warm spring day, Elaine and I sat on those same front porch steps and watched Husband, who wore a baseball cap, as he walked from our street mailbox toward us. “Gran, why Pop wear a hat?”  Elaine asked.

“To keep the sun out of his eyes,” I said.

“Why?”

“Pop likes to wear caps.”

“Why?”

“His head is bald and a cap keeps his head warm.”

“Why?”

“Pop doesn’t have hair on his head.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s the way God made him.”

Elaine was silent for a few seconds.  She rubbed her hand over the top of her head.  “I have hair.  Why?”

Most times my toddler-age Grands will ask questions as long as I answer.  But one night Dan didn’t.  After his mother and daddy had put him in bed for the night, he called, “Gran, come upstairs!”

I sat on the bed beside him, hummed a bedtime song, and patted his back.  “Why you pat my back?” Dan asked.“Because I love you, Dan,” I said and I thought that there are thousands of reasons why.

Dan didn’t ask why.  He said, “I love you, Gran.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do For All

Pioneer-Photo-Albums-Embroidered-200-photo-Live-Laugh-Love-Frame-Album-P13883104Nine years ago when I first became a grandmother, I bought a small burgundy photo album to hold a few pictures of my Grand.  And I told David’s mother, my daughter,  “I’m making David his own album.  A few pictures of him each month. When he’s older, he might like it. ”

Daughter nodded, smiled, and said, “You know, Mom, what you do for one grandchild, you’ll want to do for all.”  Why, oh why, didn’t I take that as discouragement and pretend I’d never thought about this idea?  When Grand # 2 was born, I put her pictures in a green album.  Grand #3’s pictures are in a bright red album.  Now, I have six Grands and six different colored albums.  I never imagined that stuffing a few photos behind plastic sleeves would mushroom into a major under taking.  And sometimes I wish for the old days when a roll of film was developed at the drugstore and I simply got all the pictures developed, good and bad ones.

Now I spend hours, choosing photos and cropping and enhancing and using all those other edit options.  I’m overwhelmed as I decide which pictures to have printed for each Grand.  My older Grands, ages 5, 7 and 9, have taught me a thing or two.  They flip right past those cute baby poses of themselves lying on their stomachs or looking at the camera.  My Grands like the story photos, the action shots.

I order pictures – many, many pictures.  Sometimes six of the same photo.  Everyone needs a family Christmas picture.  And then I have a huge stack of pictures, waiting to be sorted and labeled, that lay on my desk, sometimes for weeks.  I’m determined to label because I have two generations of pictures with no dates or names.

Finally, I have six stacks of pictures and I get out the albums, turn on a little lite jazz music and put all those pictures in plastic sleeves.  And then I make sure my Grands see their new pictures the next time they visit.

They look at their albums and say, “Gran, why is Pop pushing me in a wheel barrow?  Is that at our house?”  It was at his house. The day Pop set up a sand pile in his yard.  That picture was made six years ago.  Why had my Grand never noticed it before?

“Is this when Daddy built that big sand castle at the beach last year?  It looks like I’m pouring water on it.”  He did.  And this Grand poured water as fast as her daddy could build.

“Look at me!  I’ve got chocolate all over my face!”  It was her 4th birthday.

“That’s the day I learned to jump off the diving board!  Did you know I was really scared?”

During those few minutes as my Grands turn pages and talk, I’m convinced that these six albums are worth the time and effort.  I promise myself that the next time I won’t fret and spend so much time choosing and editing.  Even if there’s just one picture for each Grand for each month, that’s enough.

Last week my nine-year-old Grand asked, “Gran, are you going to make a picture album for the new baby too?”  I can’t stop now.  Daughter was right.  What I did for one, I want to do for all.