Safe from the Storms

For the past few days, we’ve had storm evacuees at our house: Older Daughter with our son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable. Their neighborhood in Huntsville, Alabama, lost power and water from this past week’s deadly storms, so they headed east to stay with family for a few days. Husband JP and I got to have them first! Oh my cookies, you know it was blissdom to have the Captain (and his parents, of course) at our house. We played trains. We looked for trains. We crashed the wagon. (This only means I pull him around town in the red wagon I pulled his mom around in 25 years ago and I go really, really fast. When appropriate, of course.) We walked to the drugstore for an ice cream cone. We went to the doughnut shop and bought doughnuts. We chased the kitty cats. We ate oranges. We cracked pistachios. He taught me how to play Dinosaur Train games on the computer. He showed me a “castle” I didn’t even know was in our town. We went to the park. We went to a playground. We jumped, bounced, slid, tickled, crab-walked, ran and swung. I didn’t have time to do official workouts while they were here, but every morning I felt as if I’d done Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, Level No. 3. Twice. Consecutively. But also I got unlimited kisses, hugs and flowers from the Captain. It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a gorgeous bunch of hand-picked blossoms. That’s worth a few aches and pains, I think. And at the end of a week when unbelievably violent weather has, tragically, ripped families apart, I’m humbly grateful that it brought our family together in safety.

If There’s Chocolate, It Must Be Easter

Hoppy Easter! Hope your day is filled with chocolate and eggs and family and fun. I’m just happy that my two daughters are grownup and in their 20s now and I didn’t have to spend Easter Eve hemming little smocked dresses and desperately trying to concoct matching  hair bows. Not that I ever was so unorganized and frazzled that I waited until the last minute to finish Easter dresses. No! Not me!!! Oh, OK. Definitely me. The best thing about Easter, of course, is being with family and friends. (The availability of unlimited chocolate goes without saying.) My family gathered this past weekend to celebrate the joint birthdays of our oldest — my dad, turning 77 — and our youngest — my nephew, turning 1. Photo ops! But with young ‘uns, you never know what you’re going to get. Three-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable is good for about two shots of holding still and saying “cheese,” but then he’s done with you and on to more important things. So I just click away, sort through everything later and hope for the best. Such as this shot of the Captain and his cousin, the Birthday Boy. (We think they’re cousins, at least — the Captain’s mom is the Birthday Boy’s daddy’s niece. Is that right?) It took me a couple of times before I realized that both boys are intently studying the backs of their books. Must be a family trait. And I love the shot with most of my favorite girls in it — daughters and sisters-in-law — and my two absolute favorite little guys. Even though it wasn’t Easter, it was wonderful family time. There even was plenty of chocolate. But, thankfully, no hemming of dresses.

It’s A Conductor. No, Really, It Is.

There’s a super-long fence bordering the backyard of Older Daughter’s house, so of course you know we can’t leave a blank space empty for very long. Even in a non-creative person like me, the urge to Do Art cannot be ignored. (Although maybe in my case it should be.) And I know it’s not a competition or anything, but once again my son-in-law, the artist and art teacher, whipped out a chalk masterpiece with very little effort. “Look, Kacky,” 2 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable said, laughing. “Daddy’s triceratops is eating conductor!” Three guesses as to who drew the conductor.

No Passport Required

I love writing about our 2-1/2-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable. I mean, he’s the smartest, cutest, most adorable genius baby ever. E.V.E.R. So of course you want to read all about him, don’t you? In fact, I’d be remiss in my journalistic responsibility if I didn’t keep you posted about the Captain’s doings. Also: All my friends are starting to roll their eyes and think of things they suddenly have to do when I inevitably start conversations with, “Oh my gosh y’all will not believe what Capt. Adorable did the other day and I just have to tell you …” So thank goodness I have both a newspaper column AND a blog so that I can bore you share all the adorability. Such as this week’s column, which is a visit to the strange and wonderful place called Two-Year-Old Land. Although, in the interest of keeping things family-rated, I didn’t talk about the somewhat disturbing bathroom habits of the native population, and I also forgot to caution against drinking the water, especially if it’s in a Thomas the Train cup that’s leftover from lunch. You have been warned.

Baby Showers

When our friend couldn’t wait to tell us that she was going to be a grandma for the first time, the three of us couldn’t wait to start planning a surprise shower for her. We sneakily scheduled the party for our regular book-club night and pulled off the surprise with style — she truly never saw it coming. Other than her face when she realized what was happening — priceless! — the best thing about our shower was the decor. My friend who volunteered her home for the book-club meeting/surprise baby shower created a baby-boy-blue wonderland that we all oohed and ahhed over and didn’t want to leave. (And now I really should drop the pretense that we talked about the book that night, although we did spend a couple of minutes on it, I think.) She’s a master at using things she already has — mixing vintage with contemporary — to set the mood and then adding her own special touches. Her blue-frosted cupcakes were don’t-let-a-single-crumb-go-to-waste good. And when she kicked off the evening with a pitcher full of yummy icy-blue goodness to sip before we sat down to a cool and refreshing chicken-salad supper, we knew we were in good hands as we welcomed our friend into the Sisterhood of Really Cool Grandmas. And you can join, too, as long as you have Really Cute Grandchildren. And don’t we all? Plus, we’ll even waive the iniation rite of having to sing all verses of the “Thomas the Tank Engine” song.

Father’s Day

These two guys on the left reading the classic “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” share not one iota of DNA – but they sure look alike, don’t they? Okay, except maybe for the hair. But they’re both concentrating mightily on their book and I think they even have the same look on their faces, as if they can’t wait to see what happens on the next page. (Spoiler alert: Five fish, six fish, seven fish, more!) My dear husband very very rarely uses the word “step” when he talks about the two daughters he got when he married me six years ago — they are his family and that’s all there is to it. So it tickled him when grandson Capt. Adorable, now 2, was younger and balder and people who didn’t know would say, “Oh, y’all look so much alike!” Sort of like the picture on the right of the Captain and my dad, his great-grandfather, taken when the Captain was only a few months old. He was fascinated with my dad’s watch and would do his best to eat it — and my dad loved every minute of it. Couldn’t get enough Now, Dad takes him on John Deere gator rides and they “talk” tractors. Lucky baby to have such loving men in his life — and that’s not counting his own dad and other grand- and great-grandfathers and uncles and great-uncles. I’m lucky that way, too. And you, also, I bet. Happy Father’s Day!

Spring

I am not a fan of Spring-Forward Sunday. For one thing, I’m pretty much a lazy person and when we’re off Daylight Saving Time and it starts to get dark at 5 or 6 at night, it’s quite easy to put the ol’ pajamas on and call it a day — literally — by 8 p.m. But in Daylight Saving Time, you’re sort of compelled to keep going until 10 p.m. or so. I mean, isn’t that why Daylight Saving Time was invented — so we’d have more time to do work? Whose bright idea was that???!!! And when I was a young mom, I dreaded the spring-forward time change that wreaked havoc with those lovely early bedtimes. However, now that I’m Grandma Ka-kee and treasure every moment I can spend with my almost-2-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, I say the more daylight, the better. That just gives me more playtime to hang out with the Captain in his backyard and his ultra-cool new playground equipment his mom and dad got him for an early birthday present. It’s got slides and a climbing wall and a fun underneath space for hiding. Plus, it offers the chance for scientific exploration, such as “Why has rainwater gathered in this little hole and I wonder what would happen if I put my finger in it?” And when it’s spring and nice weather, you can also have your  snack of yogurt-covered blueberries outside — definitely worth giving up an hour or two of sleep!

Learning

The thing about hanging out with other people is that you can learn from them. And learning is good — something about keeping your brain cells strong, I think. Take, for instance, this arrangement of seashells and dried grasses. A friend of mine who loves to collect shells at the beach put some of her best ones in this clear large-mouthed glass vase and used the shells to anchor a couple of bunches of grass she bought at a craft store. Result? Simple, easy and inexpensive with a definite wow factor. She just sort of threw this together while I sat and watched, amazed. The main requirement is a clear vase or container that’s wide enough for your shells. And if you don’t have any shells, you can buy them in bulk at most craft stores — although I bet you’ve got a forgotten box of them tucked away in the garage from your most recent vacation when you found these lovely shells on the beach and dragged them home because you knew you could do something with them. Well, you were right! See, you can learn tons of things from your favorite people. Such as my 23-month-old grandson, Capt. Adorable. Every day I spend with him is a learning experience — from repurposing toy boxes into comfy reading chairs to innovative uses for mashed potatoes (clay, glue, finger paint, hair gel). Read more lessons the Captain has taught me in my weekly newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100305/ARTICLES/3055005.

Family

At 22 months, grandson Capt. Adorable already is rocking cool pre-preschool fashion.  Wednesday afternoon was a little bit warmer (in the low 50s!), a little bit drier (no rain for 24 hours!) and a little bit sunnier here in north Alabama so we all headed out to the park for some rare outside fun. Let me tell you, there is nothing like chasing a little guy around a playground maze of slides and steps and balance beams to chase away any adult-onset winter blues. And what does the well-dressed pre-preschooler wear to the playground? A cozy striped hoodie topped off with the perfect pair of shades. I was laughing too hard to snap it, but the Captain somehow did the pull-the-glasses-down-a-bit-and-peer-inquiringly-over-the-top move so smoothly that I wish I had taken notes.

Magazines

I love food. I love magazines. And food magazines? Cannot resist. That’s why I’m still mourning the loss of Conde Nast’s Gourmet. But there are a bunch of other magazines that entice with gorgeous photos, informative articles and innovative recipes. But how to know which ones are worth your hard-earned dollars? Chicago Tribune food writer Judy Hevrdejs has written a fun and helpful story comparing seven of the top-selling food magazines. She looks at such variables as average number of recipes per issue, usability, typical reader and her gut reaction. Your local paper might have printed it. If not, read it online at http://www.twincities.com/food/ci_14229780?source=rss. My favorites are Cook’s for intriguing reads, Food & Wine for inspiration and Everyday Food for how-to guides.

And while you’re online, stop by the TimesDaily Web site and read my column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100129/ARTICLES/1295001. This week I wrote about an experience I had this past week, while Younger Daughter and I were babysitting 22-month-old grandson and nephew Capt. Adorable.  The Captain was overdosing on TV and the results were not pretty. I had two choices: 1) Fall back on my old parenting habits and be too lenient and indulgent or 2) employ the good parenting techniques I’d seen Older Daughter — the Captain’s mom — put into play. Read and find out what happened.