Only a 5-year-old boy would have the good taste to request his mom’s Perfect Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes for his birthday dinner — accented with Star Wars decor, of course. Older Daughter obligingly whipped up a batch while Younger Daughter sliced the berries and made sweetened and real whipped cream. Family and friends sat down to the feast, even husband JP, who although he’s successfully sticking to a low-carb eating plan, cheerfully made an exception for Older Grandson’s birthday party. It’s what grandparents do. And only a 5-year-old boy would request the following for his special day: A trip to a nearby state park to explore a cave, a visit to the local children’s science museum, a pogo stick, Legos (always on any list he makes) and a dinosaur model that includes bones, muscles and a pink squishy stomach and other mysterious parts. Of course, all requests were granted.
This is why I am in awe of Older Daughter. It’s an experiment she set up for our almost-5-year-old grandson, also known as Capt. Adorable, sort of along the lines of a “Sid the Science Kid” investigation. (Speaking of Sid and his preschool co-horts, am I the only person who thinks Gerald will turn out to be Keith Moon‘s grandson?) Older Daughter and the Captain wondered what would happen to an egg left soaking in water and one left soaking in vinegar. They identified the hypothesis — he thought the water egg would turn into a snowball and the vinegar egg into what he logically called a lava ball (because if there’s a snowball then surely there’s a lava ball, right?). Mommy helped with the handwriting but the scientific drawings are all the Captain’s. I predict a bidding war between John Hopkins and Stanford in about 20 years.
Our younger grandson turned 1 year old this past weekend and my son-in-law’s family hosted a joyous party on a perfect fall afternoon. Older Daughter, mom to the birthday boy, asked one of her friends who’s a super photographer, Danielle McCann, to come and take photos. This was the best idea ever, because that meant we adoring relatives could simply stand around and admire instead of stressing about preserving precious moments for posterity. Well done, Older Daughter! And well done, Danielle (Or “DeeDee” as she’s known at our house) for these wonderful photos. And well done Younger Daughter, too, who couldn’t resist the creative forces that were unleashed and so wrote this caption for the photo above: “As he stood from the ashes of the dying trees, the Young Child suddenly realized his camouflage had failed him. He froze. But the game was over. ‘Curse you, Robin’s Egg Blue!! CURSE YOUUU!!!'” My family …
In honor of Mother’s Day — which is Sunday, May 13, for everybody slapping their foreheads and saying, “Uh-oh. Mother’s Day is coming? I knew it was sometime in the spring.” — here’s a conversation Older Daughter reported to me the other day. Because Mother’s Day is sort of Grandmother’s Day, too:
Older Daughter was driving with her 4-year-old son/our grandson Nolan in the backseat. Nolan asked his mommy if she would hand him one of his Cars books to read. “No,” she said. “Remember that looking at books while you’re in your car seat makes you throw up sometimes.” He considered this for a moment and then asked, “Mommy, do you feel like you’re going to throw up right now?” Wondering where this was headed, she said, “No. I don’t feel sick at all. Why?” Explaining his well-thought-out plan, Nolan said, “Well, if you did throw up then we could go home and you could get in bed and Daddy could take care of you and we could call Kacky (Note: That’s me!) to come take care of me and you could throw up with Daddy and Kacky could play with me.”
Genius child! So, to recap — I’m the first person our grandson Nolan thinks of when the subject is being sick and throwing up. Which is exactly what we grandmothers want.
Happy (Grand)Mothers’ Day!
I like shopping. I like bargains. But I also like sleep, which I guess is why I’ve never done Black Friday. That, and as a newspaper reporter I always worked the day after Thanksgiving (& was damn lucky to get Thanksgiving off) and simply couldn’t manage both power shopping and deadline writing in the same day. But now that I live the
financially challenging free & flexible life of a freelance writer, I can get up at 2 a.m. and hunt those door-busting deals with enthusiasm. And with Older Daughter, who talked me into going with her this year for my first Black Friday experience. “It’ll be fun,” she said. “It’s relaxing. Really.” Given all the scary stories I’d seen through the years, I was skeptical, but this is the young woman who has produced two of the Cutest Grandbabies Ever in the History of the World, so I figured she knew what she was talking about. Turns out she was correct: Black Friday shopping — the way she does it, at least — is fun and stress-free. Her secrets? First, she researches and prepares by studying all the newspaper circulars. She knows which stores she’ll go to to buy specific items and which stories she’ll go to merely to browse. From her years of experience (she has stood outside in freezing sleet and spent hours in barely crawling checkout lines), she knows which stores to avoid when and which stores are worth some discomfort and crowding. Second, she also knows in which stores you’ll find the most helpful and best-trained Black Friday staff (Home Depot excels at this) and in which stores you’re pretty much on your own because the yawning uninterested employees couldn’t care less. She knows how to ask about truck arrivals and restocking times and “do you maybe have any of these in the back?” She knows to grab anything you’re interested in while you ponder and discuss the competing merits of a Rock Star Mickey versus a Let’s Rock! Elmo — and she knows to put the rejects back where they belong so others can ponder them, too. Third, she has a great attitude and never gets upset or tense, even when the last pair of size 8 Tom’s Chocolate Canvas Women’s Classic at 25 percent off is gone before she can get to it. She simply switches gears and goes for the Brown Metallic Woven Women’s Cordones instead. No problem. She also approves of frequent treats, so she had me at “And as soon as Starbucks opens and if we’re doing well at that point …” Plus, she was also correct that being out in the pre-dawn hours with other for-the-most-part good-natured shoppers is sort of fun. On the other hand, it probably has a lot to do with who you’re with. Thanks, sweetie, for including me in your annual holiday shopping kickoff. I’ve already started saving up for next year.
I am a bad, bad blogger. I should have my three-year-old WordPress account ripped away and be forced to start all over for not posting in more than a week. That contravenes every piece of blogging advice ever written. But thanks to all who
nagged bugged poked reminded me that even though I was BUSY HELPING WITH MY NEW BABY GRANDSON, I could take the time to post photos and share thoughts. You were correct. I didn’t do it, but you were correct. Anyway, I’m back in the decidedly adult home that my husband and I fill with the stuff of our grownup life: Newspapers, page proofs, espresso machines and stacks of to-be-read books along with deadlines, meetings and I-can’t-read-that-right-now-’cause-I’m-late-but-email-it-and-I’ll-take-a-look. That is pretty much my normal everyday life, but for a week I reveled in the precious & priceless world of newborn babies. Of course, you know that by “helping with my new baby grandson,” I actually mean “endless hours of playing with 3 1/2-year-old incumbent grandson Capt. Adorable” — which, it’s true, the new second-time parents (our daughter & son-in-law) considered a huge help. But I did get to sneak in a few rocking-chair moments with Baby Brother. I’m telling you, it was a grandmother’s dream: When I wasn’t playing Cars 2 Tokyo Spin-out Racetrack or building a Thomas train track or jumping on the bouncy thing at the indoor playground, I was holding that sweet days-old baby and breathing in that indefinable newborn smell. And you would be so proud of me. I pretty much almost always usually followed Mommy and Daddy’s household rules, didn’t say anything when they did something wrong chose alternate paths and offered advice only when asked — which, come to think of it, was never. But I was there to help my daughter over the weepy postpartum hump (she cried when she got home and unpacked her hospital bag — we’ve all been there) and when I left, she told my sincerely that she appreciated my being there more than I knew, so I must have done something right. Actually, I’m mindful of being on good behavior when I’m in grandma-mode since my husband has threatened to curtail my visiting rights if he gets any complaints from our daughter, so I rigorously keep to nap-time schedules and limit chocolate-chip cookies to only a couple (or three or four) at a time. And soak up all the grandbaby love I can get.
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.
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.
To all parents who look at their teenagers — those strange alien creatures who know everything and about everything and believe you know nothing about anything — and cannot imagine them as coherent and responsible adults, I promise there’s hope. For instance, let’s say you have a teenage daughter who sports purple hair and multiple piercings (when she can get away with it) and has the annoying habit of seeing how far she can stretch
your patience parental boundaries. I just happened to randomly pick this example, by the way. Nothing to do with any real person at all. Not at all. Anyway, if you’re in this situation, do not despair. It will seem as if one day your teenager incurs multiple weekends of enforced home time due to multiple infractions of parental rules (“No. 3. Being home by curfew means all parts of your body are inside the house and the door is closed. It does not mean you’re in the same general zip code.”) and the next day she’s a wife and a mom and a Martha Stewart devotee who gets her whole family involved in making batches of lovely and delicious peach jam. Promise.