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FUN In the SAND

Version 2I expected comfortable weather at a Florida gulf beach last week, but 95° degrees and 80% humidity are miserably hot. I sat under a beach umbrella and thought I’d be complaining if I’d been sentenced to endure such heat.

I wiped sweat from my face and reminded myself that I was on vacation to have fun with Daughter’s family. I watched my Grands who played separately. Elaine, age 7, used her hand as a shovel. “What’s so fun about digging a deep hole in the sand?” I asked.

“The sand is cool, Gran. Dig deep,” she said. My Grand stuck her arm, past her elbow, in a hole. “Ah, that feels good.” I dug with my heels, making deep ruts. An inch below the surface, the sand was cooler. I rubbed my feet back and forth through the sand giving them a mini-pedicure while Elaine covered her body with sand. I declined her offer to be buried in cool sand and, instead, moved close to Jesse.

My four-year-old Grand lay face down near the water’s edge. Using one finger he drew a plate-size circle, poked two holes inside it, and drew a semi-circle under the holes. “Look, Gran, a man! Watch this!” He stood and tidewater swamped his drawing and smoothed the sand. “It’s erased!” Jesse said. He lay on his belly and wiggled his chest, his knees, his shoulders, his elbows into the sand, then stood and laughed when water washed away his body’s impression. “Look, Gran. I’m gone!”

Jesse scraped dry sand into a pile and then carried handfuls more, dumped it, and patted the pile into a teepee. Then he ran a few feet away, turned, ran toward the teepee, and kicked. Sand sprayed and my Grand laughed. I dodged flying sand. “Did you see that, Gran?” he asked. For young boys, the reason to build anything is to knock it down.

Ruth, age 9, sat in the middle of pit, a foot deep and three feet wide. Holding her hands close together she dug sand and threw it outside the hole. A small metal shovel and toy plastic ones lay out of my Grand’s reach. “Ruth, I’ll get you a shovel. It’ll be easier to dig,” I said.

“No, Gran. I don’t want one. I can feel what I’m doing and get a lot more sand with my hands,” she said. She had dug a small deep hole about a foot away and now she was digging a tunnel between it and the one she sat in. After connecting two other smaller holes by tunnels, she declared that was enough. “Now I’m going to make a crocodile,” she said and mounded sand. When the croc’s nose was too short and too round, he became the head of a hippopotamus complete with tiny ears.

As the sun began to set, I make a sand pile with wet dripping sand near the shoreline. My Grands dug deep enough in dry sand to discover wells of water. I was still hot, but very happy.

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Let the Children Play

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 1.04.17 PMWhen I read a recent news story stating that doctors should prescribe ‘Play’ for children, I did a double take. Surely, everyone knows children need to play. Surely.

A report, “The Power of Play,” was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Michael Yogman, lead author of the report, stated that play often gets a bad rap as being a waste of time. He said, “Play is really brain building because it has all kinds of effects on brain structure and function. Executive function skills, learning to persist on a task, learning to solve problems, learning to be flexible about how they are learning things. It’s how we learn, not what we learn.”

As a retired elementary school teacher and grandmother of eight, I agree. Children need time to play. Free play. Inside and outside. Time to explore and pretend. Playtime alone, with friends, with siblings, with parents.

I think of when I was a kid and played in the barn loft and struggled to move the heavy hay bales to make a house and a maze. I didn’t know I was learning to plan and carry out a task.

When my childhood friend Elizabeth and I squished mud to make mud pies, we had fun and we learned. How much water was needed to hold the mud together? Where would the mud pies dry fastest? How long did it take them to dry?

I hope every child climbs trees. Obviously, it’s good physical exercise, but it requires decision making and problem solving.   Which limbs are strong enough to climb and which limb can be reached next?

I was probably eight years old when I sat in the top of my family’s cherry tree and thought I couldn’t get down. I was scared. I was allowed to climb any tree, as high as I wanted, as long as I could get myself back on the ground. My hands trembled. I eased down much more slowly that I’d climbed up. No one watched, unless they watched from inside the house. When I finally jumped to the ground, I felt a sense of accomplishment and success. I didn’t know I was building self-confidence.

Last week, I watched 4 year-old Jesse line up about twenty-five matchbox and other small cars and trucks in order. Big to little. Three red cars together. My Grand was learning classification and organization. When Fisher Price little people (two-inch toys) were stuck inside a small plastic playhouse, he turned the house upside down and shook it, but the people didn’t fall out. Then he looked through a small opening to see the stuck people and pushed them with one finger. After several minutes, he got the people out. I resisted offering help. This was Jesse’s problem.

“We’re recommending that doctors write a prescription for play, because it’s so important,” said Dr. Yogman. And he stated that the most powerful way children learn isn’t only in classrooms or libraries, but rather on playgrounds and in playrooms. I agree.

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Cousins Play Bingo

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 8.43.50 AM “Gran, can we play Bingo?” Dean, age 7, asked.

“Yes, that’s a great idea,” I said.

Dean and Elaine cheered. “And get prizes?” Elaine, also 7, asked. I nodded. My Grands high-fived and threw their fists in the air and shouted, “Yes!”

Dean and Elaine were born a month apart, but rarely play together since they live a three-hour airplane ride from each other. When Dean visited Husband and me for a few days (aka Pop and Gran Camp), I wanted these two first cousins to play, without parents and siblings.

“Gran, you get Bingo. Dean, let’s get the prizes.” Elaine took charge since she knows where the game and prize basket are kept. She and I play Bingo occasionally, but the only other time these cousins have played together was a family gathering when they were kindergarten students. Their parents, siblings, and grandparents played too. An adult called out the numbers and put marbles showing the called numbers in a rack. Elaine and Dean needed help then, but not now.

They carried the basket filled with fancy pencils and cheap trinkets and cheaper candy. “Look at this!” Elaine said as she held a piece of candy wrapped in Halloween paper. (Time to replenish the basket, I thought.)

Elaine chose a Bingo card. Dean shuffled through 100 cards and finally said, “The one on the bottom is always lucky.” Elaine reminded Dean to cover the FREE space with a small colored disk and that he had to cover five spaces in a row to Bingo.

“Get a card, Gran. You have to play, too,” said Elaine.

Dean turned the handle on the metal wire basket and counted four balls that fell into a trough. “I’ll call the numbers,” he said. Elaine frowned, then suggested, and Dean and I agreed, that we take turns calling four numbers.

Dean sat up straight, held a small yellow marble and announced, “B 5!” He placed the marble under B in the number 5 slot. “I don’t have 5,” said Dean and his shoulders slumped.

“I do! Look!” said Elaine as she covered the number.

“O 63!” Dean said.

“Oh, I have 62 and 64,” said Elaine.

“I have 62 and 65,” Dean groaned. “Gran, do you have it?” I shook my head. “Nobody has it! Why’d I even call it?”

The game continued. Every number was discussed. Who had it? Who didn’t? What numbers were on our cards close to it? Who had 54 when 45 was the called number? What numbers were needed to make Bingo?

Forty minutes later, Dean shouted, “Bingo!” and Elaine checked the called numbers on the tray. Dean had his eyes on his card and his hand clutching a package of Sour Tarts as said his numbers. “That’s a Bingo!” Elaine announced.

The hour-long game ended when each Grand had five Bingos and five prizes. Then Elaine and Dean ran upstairs to bowl on the Wii. They giggled and squealed and laughed.

I hope it’s true that cousins are childhood playmates that grow up to be forever friends.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Young Grand’s Love

“GRAN!” Jesse screams as he jumps down the backdoor steps at his house. I spread my arms wide and my 3 year-old Grand runs to me. He jumps. I lift him and he wraps his legs around my waist and buries his head in my shoulder.

“Oh, Jesse, I’m so happy to hug you!” I say. Just as happy as I was the day before when he ran to me.

These are the times grandparents must never forget. Must cherish. Almost every time Husband or I see Jesse he asks, “Go to Pop and Gran’s house today?” And he accepts our frequent answer, “Not today, Jesse. Would you like to come another day?” He smiles and screams, “Yes!” Another day can be tomorrow or a day next week.

Jesse has a routine when he visits Husband’s and my house by himself. He climbs the steps to the upstairs playroom. “Come on!” he says. He sets the 1970s Fisher Price plastic garage on a low table and dumps the matchbox cars out of a basket. He parks each car in a blue or red space and counts them. “1, 2, 3, 4,” he says. Then he counts again, “1, 7, 5, 2.”

“Let’s read books now,” my Grand says as he runs to the kids’ bookshelf.   He chooses the same books every time: Look Out for Mater and Tales from the Track, both about the red car Lightening McQueen and his car friends. He throws the books onto the couch. “Sit here, Gran!” he says and slaps beside the books. I sit and he crawls onto my lap.

My Grand laughs aloud when Mater, a brown tow truck travels down a curvy road backwards. And whispers “Shhh” when Big Bull, a monster-sized bulldozer, sleeps. Before I finish reading the second book, Husband comes into the playroom. “Poppy!” Jesse shouts and crawls out of my lap, holds the book, and runs to Husband. Poppy, Jesse’s love name for Husband. Seven other Grands call him Pop, but Jesse coined Poppy, and now it’s his turn to read aloud.

No matter the time of day or how long the visit, Jesse wants a snack. “I’m hungry,” he says. He carries a booster seat to a kitchen chair and fastens its safety belt around his waist. He peels a tangerine, and like most toddlers, stuffs his mouth full and then talks. “Cookies! Can I have cookies?” he says. His snacks are always the same: a tangerine, cookies, and water. Water in a blue plastic cup and a blue straw.

When it’s time for me to take my Grand home, he runs to Husband. “Bye, Poppy,” and holds his arms up to be lifted. If Husband simply hugs, Jesse reminds him to kiss-hug and wiggles to the floor after each kisses the other’s cheek.

Jesse’s greetings and kiss-hugs won’t last much longer. Soon he’ll do as his older siblings who casually say, “Hi, Gran” or wave half-heartedly. But I remember, they too, ran to me when they were toddlers.

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‘Tis the Season for Leaves Part 2

JumpingInLeaves

 

 

 

Tis’ the Season for Leaves

Part Two

            Tis’ the season for leaves.  Beautiful yellow and red and orange leaves that light up Tennessee mountains.   Leaves that fall to the ground.  Leaves that shout, “Play!”  Last week in this space, I whined about raking and blowing of leaves off our driveway and yard.  But I’m really not a Grinch.  And I really love living in the woods.

I’ve played in leaves all my life.  The house where I grew up had a yard with a couple of maples and a huge oak tree.  My best friend and I created ground level playhouses using leaves for walls.  We’d skipped Saturday morning cartoons to set up our yard house, and we carried our lunch to our outside kitchen.  Late afternoon, we raked our playhouse into a big pile, jumped in the middle, and hid.  And we threw leaves high in the air, letting them float over and around and on us.

When I was a college student (right here at TTU), I begged my parents to not rake all the leaves so I could do them when I was home for Thanksgiving.  Dad and I raked the huge brown leaves into a pile that I walked through and jumped in.  Is anyone ever too old to settle into a bed of fall leaves?  And I threw leaves in the air.  I’m sure Dad wanted to get the job done, but he indulged my play before we threw every leaf on the garden plot for mulch.  Mom served vegetable soup and cornbread for supper.  Those days made happy memories.  And when my children were young, they built leaf houses and forts.  They threw and stomped leaves, and they hid under mountains of leaves.

A few weeks ago when the leaves had just begun to fall, my Grands were playing in our backyard.  They kicked rubber balls down the hill and threw them back up to see whose ball went higher on the hill before it rolled down.  We gathered fall treasures.  Hickory nuts, crimson dogwood leaves, and acorns.  “I’ll be right back,” David, age 8, said.  He ran into the garage and came out carrying a leaf rake.  “Get me one!”  his six-year-old sister yelled.

David and Lou worked.  They started at the top of the hill and raked halfway down.  “What a great job you’re doing!”  I said and wondered that if I’d suggested that they rake leaves, would it have been fun?  The pile grew larger.  Big enough that I couldn’t let it stay on the grass, and my Grands had to go home soon.  They could help me carry the leaf pile off the yard, I thought.  “That’s enough.  I think you need to stop,” I said.

“You’re right, Gran, that’s enough!”  Lou threw down her rake and jumped right in the middle of the leaf pile.  “Can you see me?”  she asked.  Those leaves scattered when she jumped a foot off the ground.  And they scattered more when my Grands ran through the pile and rolled down the hill and had a leaf fight.

Fall leaves – Mother Nature’s toys.

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