Confession, Target and Paper Towels

My four-woman book club was at my house the other night, and I’m so glad because it’s only when company comes that I look at our ratty salsa-stained napkins and think, “I really should buy new ones,” and then of course it’s just a baby step to buying a new tablecloth because you simply cannot put old napkins on a new tablecloth and naturally then you need new coasters because the old ones just will not do and before you know it you’re lugging two big bags out of Target and thinking, “But I just went in for some new napkins” — which, we all know, is Target’s Master Plan to Take Over the World. Or, at least, to make a dent in my bank account. I was practicing what to tell my husband (the on-the-defensive offense of “How can you ask me if I just bought these? I’ll have you know I take our household budget very seriously and I can’t believe you think I’d just go out and buy some new things. And furthermore …” was a possibility) but so far he hasn’t noticed, so I figure I’m safe. Or maybe I should just come out and tell him. Sort of like the other morning when I was at Older Daughter’s house with 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable while she and my son-in-law were out. I was puttering and didn’t notice that the Captain had gleefully unrolled a whole roll of paper towels in the hallway to “make a sled.” Yikes. I knew this contravened a Mommy rule and I wasn’t anxious to have another — another! — black mark on my grandmotherly babysitting record.  “Uh-oh,” I said, as unsuccessfully tried to re-roll, “what happened here?” With that innocent look of “What? Who? Me?” that’s perfected so early, the Captain shrugged and said with no irony whatsoever, “The paper towels got long, Kacky.” Brilliant! Genius! Our ticket to redemption! It wasn’t a lie because that’s exactly what happened. “Right!” I said. “That’s what we’ll tell Mommy when she asks what happened.” We practiced a couple of times and I thought all was well, until Mommy came home and the Captain forgot his lines at the crucial moment: “I’m sorry, Mommy. When Kacky wasn’t looking, I took the paper towels and rolled them out in the hall.” Ouch — a double whammy of confession and implication. But it wasn’t so bad, since both the Captain and I escaped with only a stern warning look. And of course we talked later about the importance of always telling Mommy and Daddy the truth — and leaving Kacky out of it.

Capt. Adorableland

Oh my cookies. I cannot believe it’s been a whole week since I’ve had the chance to sit down at my laptop to blissfully and abundantly waste time write thoughtful and meaningful blog posts. But when I tell you what I’ve been doing instead, you’ll understand: Being a full-time grandma. Yes! Our 3-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, stayed with us for several days while his mommy and daddy (Older Daughter and our son-in-law) did a major kitchen renovation and baby-nursery redo (in preparation for the Captain’s baby brother, who’s planning a mid-November arrival). And you know that I absolutely and positively adore being with the Captain 24/7 and if it weren’t for pesky obstacles such as having to work a little bit to make some money and wanting to spend more time with my husband than a quick bleary-eyed good-night kiss, I’d do it more often. At least, I think I would. This visit was actually the Captain’s longest here at our house by himself, and I did learn a few lessons.

A) You know how everybody says, “Aw, you don’t look like a grandma!” when you meet people in your normal life and they learn you have grandchildren? That’s because in your normal life you’re able to spend an hour on your hair and makeup in your by-now-perfected daily age-defying routine and spend the next hour in your closet choosing a coolly chic not-too-young but not-too-old outfit that hides and smooths and camouflages and flatters. When you actually are on grandmother duty, nobody says that. But it’s not your fault — it simply is because you have no time. No. Time. No makeup. No hair styling. No color coordination. You’re lucky if you can swipe on some deodorant, zip up the jeans you’ve worn for five days and find a T-shirt without chocolate-milk stains. Young-mom grunge is cute when you’re a 26 and look adorable in a pony-tail. Thirty years later? Not so much.

B) Stock up on whatever your pain-reliever of choice is — and I’m talking aspirin or acetaminophen or whatever here. No matter how fit you are, no matter how much you work out, no matter how many mountains you’ve climbed or marathons you’ve run, nothing compares to spending 24/7 in grandchildren-land. Especially if your grandchildren’s parents encourage those wonderful modern concepts such as Using Imaginations, Turning Off the Electronic Devices and Learning by Doing. The days of spending summer vacation parked in front of the TV are gone. Children today Get Out and Engage in Active Playtime. The result? A well-rounded and happily grounded child. And a sore and exhausted grandparent.

C) Remember the Mommy Network? No, not a Facebook group. I’m talking about when you yourself were a young mom and everywhere you went you just sort of naturally gravitated toward other young moms in similar circumstances. Well, the same thing is true three decades later: Grandmothers intuitively identify each other and quickly band together to commiserate, complain and plan a margarita night intelligently discuss child-rearing issues of the 21st century. And of  course there’s bragging. It’s a given that grandparents can brag on their grandchildren, who, naturally, are the brightest, smartest, funniest, strongest, kindest, most talented and most creative kids in the whole world. Every single one of them. Learn to listen politely and smile courteously as others share their stories since, obviously, they’re just filling time with their averageness until it’s your turn to dazzle with exceptionality.

D) And, finally, when the visit’s over and your household routine’s returned to normal and the cats have come out of hiding and you’ve cleaned cookie handprints off walls and roller-skate marks off floors and gotten all the chocolate-milk gunk out of the shot glasses, take a deep breath and enjoy a minute of well-earned quiet. Because even as you’re enjoying the chance to sip a glass of wine and read something that’s not Dr. Seuss, you can’t wait to do it all again.

A Genius is Revealed — or, Why I Think Capt. Adorable Will Make Me Famous

This is one of 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s first attempt at actual photography. Genius! Brilliant!! Oh-so-talented!!! He’s sitting on his grandad’s tractor at his grandparents’ place in Tuscumbia, Ala. — which is about his top No. 1 thing to do, although we suspect that one day he’ll figure out how to turn it on and go plow the lower 40. On this afternoon, he’d gathered an admiring posse of girl cousins and their friends — another favorite activity — and then decided to round out this duo of red tractors and adoring females with another of his obsessions: Examining anything that clicks, moves and has tiny little parts — in this instance, my camera. So he leaned over from the tractor, grabbed it out of my hands and was snapping photos before I could say, “If you turn off the flash and use the ‘normal,’ setting, you’ll get a better shot.” He needs to work on lining things up and getting everybody in the frame, but maybe he was making an artistic statement here … you know, about postmodernism in an irony-less world and the interaction of our natural environment with human productivity combined with personal questions about the the supposed mutual exclusiveness of reality and representation. (I don’t know what any of that means, either, but thank you, Mr. Google, for teaching me how to talk like an art reviewer.) Of course, almost anything the Captain does is perfect to me, so I believe this is the start of a successful photographic career as well as the origins of a new style of photography that will come to be called the Hawk Pride Mountain Style and I’ll end up on the Today Show in 30 years saying, “Yes, I knew my grandson was a genius as soon as he grabbed the Canon PowerShot out of my hands.”

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.