A Parable For Today


Once there was a village. It was deep in the forest, in a place filled with trees and grasses and beautiful birds.

The people of the village worked hard, but they had a good life. There was enough food and there were safe places to sleep.

A stream ran through the village. It was clean and clear, but it was powerful, too. The people used the water to drink, to stay clean and to cool off on hot days. Every adult used the stream, and some of the kids learned to swim there.

As time went on, and the generations passed, the little village grew in size and prosperity. The settlement became a town, with paved roads and stores and groups of houses. The stream still ran through it, winding gently along the main street. Some people still used the water for everyday chores, although most people had plumbing in their houses by now.

The stream became a place for recreation and sport, but was no longer key to the survival of the townspeople. It was just a nice little relic of the past. A good place for picnics on hot summer days.

One day someone decided that it would be fun to dam up the water. He wanted to make a pool where people could not only fish, but also swim, dive and jump off the steep banks. It sounded like fun, and so it was done.

As the years passed, people got used to the pool and to the bigger, more powerful flow of water that moved through town below the dam. Some people used the pool but feared the faster stream. Some loved  all of the water and used it everyday.

Life went on.

A few more generations passed, and another water-user decided that it would be fun to narrow the flow of water below the dam. “It will go faster,” he thought, “It will have more power.” When he presented the idea to the townspeople, some told him that they thought the water was powerful enough already.

“We have water in our homes to drink and bathe. We have a pool for fun, and a quick running stream for excitement. Why would we need a more powerful flow of water?”

The water-user and his friends thought about this for a bit. They really wanted to play around with stronger, faster water. How could they convince people to let them have more a powerful water source to play with?

“I know!” said one water-user. “The water can protect us! If invaders come to our town, we can escape quickly on the fast moving stream!”

People are funny. Even though the town had never once been invaded in its entire history, the threat of war was enough to convince the leaders to invest in the narrower, stronger stream.

Little by little, year by year, the water-users of the town continued to work on the pool and the stream. Most people paid little attention to the changes that were made. They were busy with jobs and families and school and sports.

Slowly and steadily the water grew higher, faster and less controlled. It began to frighten people when two small children were swept to their deaths one winter evening. A few people suggested that it might be time to slow the water down. But many people enjoyed swimming in the pool, kayaking on the upper stream and even riding the white waters of the swift lower channel. So an argument broke out.

“Let’s not overreact,” they said. “We need the water for fun. And what would happen if the running water in our pipes ever stopped, or if dangerous invaders came through? We need our water! It’s our right to have this water!”

Heads nodded. Beards were stroked. Nothing was changed.

Every year that passed saw slight changes to the riverbed and the water’s flow.

And every year that passed saw more people dying from the increasingly powerful waters. At times of heavy rain, the lower stream would flood. Entire families were swept away, scooped right out of their beds by the raging torrent.

Now the people of the town began to complain to their leaders.

“We’re afraid of this water! It’s just too much. Something MUST be done!”

The leaders were confused, unsure of what to do. But the water-users offered to help.

“We know what to do” they said. “We will offer free swimming lessons to every person in town! We will sell fabulous water wings in the local stores.”

That quieted things down for a bit, and the demands to slow the water faded away. But not for long.

After a few more years,  the water-users had created waterfalls, rapids and even faster and narrower streams running through town.

“So much safety!!!” they cheered. “No invaders will ever be able to defeat us!”

Then one spring, without warning, the weather turned terrible and stormy. The rains fell for weeks on end. The waters in the pool rose ever higher. The stream below the dam became a raging, screaming whirlpool. Some people in town were terrified, but others found it exciting.

Exciting, that is, right up until the moment when the flood burst through its banks and smashed in all the windows at the nearby school. As the children screamed and drowned, all of the adults raced to the rescue. They cried as they pulled the drowning children through the broken glass. They treated the survivors with tenderness and care. They sobbed and they grieved as they buried the little ones who could not be saved.

They were united in their sorrow and in their determination to make the town a safer place. One grieving mother asked,

“Now should we do something to slow down the water? Now can we drain the pool?”

The town leaders and the water-users thought about it. They were just as sad as everyone else, but they weren’t ready to let go of their best defense against potential dangers. They weren’t ready to let go of all the fun that the water offered.

“How about if we rebuild the school so that it has no windows anymore?” they suggested. This would certainly take care of the problem of water breaking the windows.

The school was rebuilt without a single window. The children and the teachers went back in to recreate their learning space in the darkness. They huddled there in fear, but they hoped that the leaders were right and that now at last they were safe.

But one year the raging river flooded again, and this time it was the door that was broken. More children and teachers died.

Again, the town grieved and wept and swore to make things safer.

This time they bricked up all the doors and put a locked bulkhead on the roof to let the children and teachers in. Every morning, the children watched as their teachers pulled the bulkhead door open. Every morning, they climbed down into the darkness.

And when the bulkhead was swept away in the next flood, the town leaders gathered once again.

“Now what?” they asked the water-users. “Now how do we keep our children safe?”

This time they decided that every classroom should contain a boat. A special safety boat that would be deployed only in the event of another flood.

By now they knew that the river was out of control, that the cataract could not be contained, that the school would once again be hammered by the deadly force of the water.

They put their hope in the boats.

When one timid child asked why they didn’t try to slow the water instead of imprisoning the kids in a school filled with rising water, the leaders only patted her on the head and told her to leave it to the adults.

I know, I know. I am not subtle. And I’m clearly not a fiction writer. But today I watched America’s children marching out of their classrooms because they are terrified that they will be murdered in the place that should be the safest place in their lives. Some of them were babies, as young as third or fourth grade. They had tears on their cheeks. I watched, I sobbed, I paced. I am a mother, a grandmother, a teacher. My entire life is about nurturing and protecting children.

Now I am watching them fight to protect themselves. I can’t get over my anger, rage, sorrow and shame. I WILL march on the 24th. I will scream, yell, cry and clap. And I WILL vote very, very carefully.




I’m Thinking of Writing a Cookbook

I actually am thinking about writing a cookbook.

I need a source of additional income, and my only two reasonable skills are cooking and writing. Hence: a cookbook!

I know, I know. The market is absolutely flooded with cookbooks right now.

But MINE will be special.

You see, I have been experimenting with some truly unique recipes.

Here’s the backstory.

My grandson Johnny loves to eat. His nicknames include “Johnny Cheeks”, “Big Goomba” and “Johnny Pork Chop,” At a mere nine months old, the kid can chow down with the best of them.

johnny's first pastina

Good for him, right? Nothing makes Nonni happier than feeding babies.

The thing is, he’s still an infant. He’s supposed to be getting his nutrition mostly from breast milk. His mother is a milk producer par excellence. Think Holstein and you get the picture. She has enough of nature’s perfect nutrition to feed a whole barnful of Johnnys. She wants him to have her milk. She says it’s the best possible food for him.

He doesn’t particularly agree. Maybe he doesn’t want to seem immature, you know? Or maybe once you taste meatballs there’s no going back. I’m not sure.

All I know is that my boss  daughter leaves me 8 ounces of fresh mother’s milk every day, and my job is to get it into the Goomba. I’ve tried his usual bottle, a sippy cup, a straw, a spoon, and a bottle with handles he can use to feed himself.

No dice. No matter what I try, he pushes it aside and reaches for the nearest ham sandwich.

So I have become an expert at hiding breast milk in everyday foods.

Oatmeal in the morning? Sure! We cool it off with breast milk. Pastina? Yup, breast milk goes in there, too. Scrambled eggs with spinach and breast milk? One of his faves.

I have even given him risotto with carrots, peas and chicken. Made with….you guessed it. Breast milk.

Can’t you just imagine how awesome my cookbook will be once I pull it all together? How unique, how different? How useful?

I’ll need super shiny, fancy photos to grace every page. I figure I know enough cute babies to pose them with my breastmilk and maple sugar pancakes. They can even give the testimonials for each dish.

Johnny oatmeal

“Mmmmmmm. Numnah!”

Naturally, I’ll need to come up with chic hipster names for each recipe. I read “Bon Appetite.” I know how this works. You have to include at least one non-English word in each title, and it has to be served “with” something.  All the new restaurants and cookbooks feature items like “Wild boar ragout with chanterelles and persimmon sauce.”

I have a few recipes already, and plan to spend the next three months perfecting others. Right up until the Pork Chop is fully weaned.

How do these sound to you? Delicious? Be honest. What do you think?

“Bananes frites with mother’s milk and fresh blueberry sauce.”

“Best of the Breast omelette with mushrooms.”

“No Cow Juice For You Fruit Shakes- a healthy mix of Mom’s pride and fresh fruit.”

“Pastina con latte materno.”

“Risotto a la Mamma Mia.”

I think it will catch on. I can’t wait to start working on desserts. Just think of the creamy custards!

Parental Sacrifice

Remember when your kids were little? It was funny, annoying and sweet to catch yourself making ridiculous sacrifices for them.

I know in my house we sacrificed our precious sleep just to keep those little cuties alive. I bet you did, too!

We sacrificed our date nights when we couldn’t find sitters. We sacrificed our weekends to hockey tournaments and band practice and girl scout camping trips. That’s what adults do for kids! We set aside our own needs and preferences for the children who depended on us.

Whether it was the pulp in our orange juice or the crunch in our peanut butter, we were willing to give up our own pleasures to keep our kids happy.

As a teacher, I remember sacrificing my lunch break for kids who needed someone to talk to. We all sacrificed our weekends to lesson plans so that the kids would have the best week possible.

That’s what adults do. That is how every species has managed to survive. We sacrifice our own needs so that the next generation can thrive.

I know that if someone told me that I should give up a dangerous vice in order to protect our children, I would do it. I have skipped that glass of wine with dinner so I could safely drive the kids to a lesson or a game. I have given up the warmth and comfort of our wood stove, knowing that it made it harder for the kids to breathe.

Adults are genetically predisposed to protect children.

So if I was a person who really had a fabulous time juggling hand grenades, I’d be willing to give that up if I knew it might hurt the kids in my neighborhood. If I was a driver who really enjoyed driving a tank around town, I’d grudgingly stop doing it in order to prevent kids from getting squished.

This is what human being are designed to do. We are designed to protect our children.


Why do the “I really have a good time shooting my AR-15” people think that their “fun” is more important than the lives of our kids? It makes no sense. It defies logic.

I know that if I could save the life of one child by giving up my TV, I’d do it. If I could save the lives of a dozen kids by giving up my laptop, it would be gone. Save a hundred kids by giving up my car? Yup, you can have it.

Save thousands of kids every single year by giving up my assault weapon?

Why would any human being say no to that?

I don’t know how these people sleep at night.

Holding On, But Not Too Tight

Ellie and Johnny

The grace and wisdom of grandparenting comes from knowing just how quickly these days will fly away.

One day in the not so far away future, I will be in my living room alone. I’ll have a good book, probably a laptop, and a dog or two snoozing at my feet. Life will be OK.

But what I won’t have on that future day is the sound of little voices filling the air with bubbles of joy. I won’t have the always amusing lilt of Ellie as she narrates our day together.

Last night as I was falling asleep, I kept hearing the sound of her words, complete with every mispronunciation. I thought to myself, “I hear her say my name hundreds of times every day.”  I never ever want to forget the way she says it. “Nah-nni” she calls, as she points out every event. “Nah-nni.” My heard floods with salty love at the thought of her speaking my name.

“Nonni, why is this happening? Why is this box not fitting on my head?”

“Nonni, know what I was thinking? I was thinking about cookies, Nonni, are you thinking about cookies?”

“I love my pretty goolie, Nonni! (jewelry).”

“Where are your ancestors, Nonni? Where are they now?” (We’ve been watching Moana.)

Or those moments when she is sipping from her cup of “milkies” and leans that curly head against my shoulder. She’ll sort of just murmur, her lips still clasped around the straw, “My Nonni.”

I want to save it. I want to record every word. I want to capture every question and keep it frozen in time. I want to preserve the feeling of her hair on my cheek. The feel of her breath on my closed eyelids as we fall asleep together.

I’m selfish. I want to keep these moments.

I want them all.

And then there’s Little Johnny, our beautiful boy. Every tiny new skill is a miracle. He can chomp on his own toes! He can raise his arms to ask me to pick him up! He is starting to babble, and to say “Mama”. He eats and its a hilarious festival of goofy faces and veggies up the nose.

They’re both just like every other miraculous child who has ever lived. But they’re OURS. In my Nonni heart, they’re MINE.

And I want to keep every second. I want them all to myself. I don’t want to share them, or miss them, or forget them. Ever.

Because I know this time around that before I can even catch my breath, the lilting little voices will be gone. The baby smiles will pass. The tender hugs and whispered words, “Oh, my Nonni” will have given way to the rest of their lives.

I can’t save these moments, any more than I could have saved the same tender moments with my own babies. We aren’t meant to hold onto time. I know that.

I know that time has to move. I know that. I can’t hold these days in my two hands.

But I can breathe in the emotion. I can swallow the love and plant it deep inside of me, in my very soul. I can feed it with my memories, and with all the love that I pour back into my little ones.

And one day, when I am sitting in my living room all alone, I will close my eyes. I will conjure up a picture of Ellie dancing in the living in room in her tutu and her “goolie” with a box on her head. I’ll see Johnny’s big shining eyes as he gazes up at her in adoration.

And I’ll remind myself that I have been the luckiest Momma and the luckiest Nonni who has ever lived, anywhere, anytime.

“Oh, Nonni, you are a silly lady!!! I love you, Nonni!”




You Can’t Fire Me!

You know, when my kids were little, I got myself all revved up for the famous “terrible twos.” I got ready for the tantrums and the irrational demands. But they never materialized.

Until the morning of each third birthday.

No kidding. All three of my own children were fine from 2 to 3, but as soon as that third birthday rolled around, they turned into tiny tyrants.

Which is why I’m proud-ish to say that my beloved granddaughter, Ellie, is far more advanced than my own kids. She is only 2 1/2, but she has mastered the fine points of despotic rule in a way that could only make third world leaders jealous.

Tonight is the first night of Christmas break. Yeehah! This means that my daughter the teacher is off for a week, which means that old Nonni here is off for a week, too.

Which means, in the world of neurotic old Italian ladies, that Ellie and I have spent the week making cookies, creating gifts, watching Christmas movies and generally getting ready to be apart for a week. I tell her I’ll miss her. She tells me she’ll miss me. We hug. We kiss. We sigh.

We have also been battling a wicked respiratory virus, ear infections, coughs, nosebleeds and a little constipation. It’s been a loooooooonnnnnnngggggg week.

And today we hit the wall.

Both of us.

My beloved, adored, sweet, smiling, loving…..you get it, right?…..my darlingest little girl arrived at my house this morning wearing her Crazy Dictator Personality.

And she started right in.

“NOOOOOOOO!!!!! Daddy carry me to the car!!!!!!!”   “No, honey, your baby brother in his carseat is too heavy for me. Daddy will get Johnny, I will get you.”


“Go away!!! Nonnie, you go away! I want to be ALONE IN THIS ROOM!!!” “Well, dear sweet child, this is the bathroom, and I was in it first. So you need to go……”  “NOOOOOOO!! I am NOT talking to you!!!!”

And the day went on.

Me, with my sinuses throbbing and my last nerve on edge. “Ellie, I am making you a waffle.”     “NOOOOOOOOOO!!! No waffle!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!! I won’t!!!!!!”

Me again, with the same nerves and throbs. “Do you want some oatmeal?” “NOOOOOOOOO!!! Give me a waffle!!! I NEED a waffle!!!!!”

Most of it was fairly typical Toddler Tyrant behavior, but some was enough to make me pull out my old gray hairs. Like this little demand, while I was in the middle of changing yet another giant yellow poopie from baby Johnny. “I NEED YOU!!! HELP ME!!!! ARGGGHHHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG!!!”   Wrap baby in closest blanket, place him on the floor and rush into the bedroom. “Ellie! What’s wrong?!”  “I need you to make my lion sit up.”


I’ll be honest. I must confess. I started to count the minutes until the end of the babysitting day.

“I NEED a cookie!!!!!!”  Me: Roughly 94 minutes….

Other hysterical, tyrannical demands were just plain hilarious.

For example, the poor kid has had this respiratory bug for more than two weeks. Her nose hurts. She keep reaching into her right nostril with a pointed finger to try to take out the offending mucous. “Look! I finded a big boogie!” When I reminded her for the tenth time time an hour that she needed to keep her fingers OUT of her nose, she announced with a completely straight face, “Go away, Nonni. No talking to me. No looking at me. I don’t have to look at you!” And she went right on digging.

Or this perfect example of what today was like for Nonni and Ellie.

My little girl didn’t want to take off her red reindeer pajamas today. I generally insist on getting dressed, washing faces, doing hair. But today snow was falling and we were all worn down. I let her stay in her jammies.

Until the moment when Ellie asked me to help her put on undies. I unsnapped her jammies, pulled down the zipper, and took off her Pullup. Got her clean, took the pajamas off and handed her the nice clean underwear.

Which she immediately placed on her head.

Ellie pants head

And she immediately started to cry. “Put this on my head! Put this on!!!!”  “Ok, what? On your head? Um……” 

“I can’t!!!!!!!! I need my undies on my chest! On my chest! On my CHEST!!!!!”

At this point, Nonni gave up. Nonni has a cold. Nonni is tired, OK?  Nonni said, “STOP IT!!!!!! Your undies don’t go on your CHEST!!!”  I did not address the issue of whether or not said undies belonged on her head…..

It was a tough day.

By naptime, we were both pretty wrung out. As I pulled the blankets up over her shoulders, my tiny tyrant looked up at me with her huge brown eyes and said, “You’re gonna miss me. You will be sad.”

“You’re gonna miss ME.” I countered. She smiled, rolled onto her side to go to sleep, and murmured, “Night, Nonni. I love you so muck.” (she can’t make the ‘ch’ sound.)

I melted, kissed her cheek, tenderly smoothed back her hair, and went into the living room.

“46 minutes,” I said out loud.


Pulling An All-nighter

When my three beloved babies grew up and moved out, I was devastated. Bereft. Heartbroken.

I told myself that I would spend the rest of my life missing every beautiful moment of motherhood. “Oh, woe is me!” I cried to the universe and my very patient husband, “How I will miss those little moments of mother love!”  I just knew, with every fiber of my overly emotional soul that I would miss EVERY SINGLE THING about spending time with little ones!

I was, of course, completely delusional.

In my grief over missing the hugs, kisses, and bedtime stories, I forgot about the fevers, tantrums and midnight pukies.

But guess what?

Now I remember!

Yesterday my grandkids were here, as they are every weekday while their parents work. Two year old Ellie wasn’t looking so good in the morning, as pale as milk and droopy eyed. She wanted extra hugs and snuggles, though, so I didn’t make too much of it. Her baby brother, the red cheeked, ever grinning Johnny, was as robust as ever.

Then their Mom texted to say she was heading home from work. She was sick herself, so could I keep the kids until the end of the work day? Of course I could! I was happy to watch my beautiful little ones so Momma could get over her norovirus. In fact, I had an inspiration!

“Why don’t we keep Ellie here for the night?” asked the generous and kind Nonni. I pictured us snuggled up under the covers, her arm around my neck. I pictured her eating breakfast and chatting with me and Papa. Visions of happiness danced in my head.

Mom and Dad agreed to my plan, with gratitude, and I cheerfully made dinner for Ellie, Papa and I. We ate, we baked butterscotch cookies. We watched a movie, got our pj’s on, and snuggled into bed.

Perfect. Just absolutely perfect. Right down to the goodnight kisses and that little arm around my neck.

Then reality poked its grimy, nasty head into the room.

The little body next to me turned as hot as a stove. The arm around my neck became a vise. The “I love you, Nonnis” turned into “I want you to walk away RIGHT NOW!”

The next 9 hours consisted of taking her temperature (“OWWWWW!!!! YOU’RE HURTING ME!!!”), giving her Tylenol, (“I want MORE tasty medicine!!!!!”), and trying to decode the meaning of the sob coated screams (“PICK! UP! MY! BLGHRUMNAH!”)

Every once in a while, we’d both fall asleep, and then the neck choking and fever rantings would start again. Ellie would whimper, “I need water…” and I’d fumble around on the bedside table, invariably knocking over the water bottle. Plop myself out of bed, find the water, hand it to her, try to stay upright while she drank, put the water back.


Sometimes it would seem as if we’d been asleep for a while. When Ellie’s whimpers would start again, I’d think to myself, “It’s OK. We’ve probably been asleep for a few hours.” I’d fumble around for the phone and my glasses, and check the time.

“Gah!!! It’s only been 13 minutes!!”

That must have happened at least ten times. There was the time when I had to turn on a light to locate the missing Elmo (hiding from all the noise under the quilt). And the moment when she kicked me in the chin while trying to figure out why she was all turned around.

We made it until morning, when I was awakened by a warm cheek on mine. “Wake up time now, Nonni.”

It was a long and grueling night, that’s for damn sure. But I learned a few things during those uncomfortable hours.

I learned that there are definitely aspects of motherhood that I do not miss.

I learned that the old adage about grandparenting is true; one of the best parts is that you get to send them home.

I learned that taking care of little ones is a young woman’s game.

Now I’m sitting here in my flannel pants with a plate of butterscotch cookies, enjoying the silence and wondering how many naps is too many for one day.


The Universality of Motherhood


When I was a new mother, I felt sorry for every other Mom on earth. I felt badly for them, because they didn’t have MY little one to love. I felt sorry for them because I knew, deep deep down in my heart, that there was no possible way that they could love their babies as much as I loved mine.

I was a jerk.

OK, I was a jerk in the most life affirming way, believing that my kids were the most beautiful, most beloved little beings in the universe. But, let’s face it, I was a delusional, mother-hormone-crazy woman.

Now I know the truth.

Now I know that ALL mothers love their babies just as intensely and profoundly as I loved mine.

I know because I see it every day.

I leave my house every morning and drive for 15 minutes to pick up my grandchildren for the day. I wind through the little streets of our small community. I stop every day for the school bus that seems to inevitably be right in front of me.

So I have had many, many mornings to watch the moms in our community putting the kids on the bus. I’ve come to look forward to seeing them every day. I watch how they interact with their young children.

And I know that no matter who they are, they adore those sweet little munchkins heading off to school.

There is one Mom who has caught my eye this school year. She stand outside every morning, rain or shine. She looks to be in her late 30s or early 40s. She is round, in both face and form. He hair is dark, thick, and curly, like my daughter’s. Her skin is a light coffee color, and her eyes are wide and dark. Although I usually only see her as I pass slowly by the bus stop, I know that she spends these precious before school moments with her son. She looks at him. They grin at each other. One day I saw them dancing.

I have seen them standing in the humid mornings of September, gazing up at the yellow leaves above them. I’ve watched them hold each other under a big black umbrella on rainy mornings. I’ve seen him running around his Mom, grinning and calling something that I couldn’t hear. I’ve seen her laughing at him as he does.

And I’ve seen this woman waving, and waving, and blowing kisses as her boy climbs the steps of the big yellow bus and settles into his seat.

I’ve watched her stand with a hand shading her eyes as she waves him off to school.

And I know that she loves this happy little curly headed boy just as much as I loved my own first born. I know that wherever she goes after he gets onto that bus, she is thinking of him all day long.

I don’t know this woman. She wouldn’t ever recognize me. Still, I know that we share the universal bond of crazy pants mother love.

She probably feels bad for all the other Mom’s she meets, too. Thinking how sad it is for them that they don’t have her little guy to love.


What I thought was lost


It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It’s cold outside. I’m home alone, resting, looking back, feeling nostalgic.

I started looking through old photos, seeing my three sweet kids when they were little. When they were home. And that got me thinking about my two little grandchildren. The happy little souls who spend every week day here with me. And I was reminded of all the little joys that come with caring for children.

There are so many tiny moments every day that make me smile. Things I thought I would never experience again. Little things that I thought were lost to me once my own kids grew up.

But they weren’t lost at all! And I get to do them again now, treasuring every moment. Here’s a list of some of those little daily gifts.

  1. Brushing and braiding hair. Ellie’s hair is a miracle of shiny curls. I’m obsessed with it. I get to brush it at least once a day, then I ask her what style she wants and we chat about clips and hair ties. I love those five minutes every day! hair
  2. Bath time. I don’t get to do this every day, but when we get muddy, or we fingerpaint, or someone is learning to eat bananas on his own, I fill that tub with warm water and bubbles. And I get to hold warm, clean, wiggly little bodies wrapped in soft towels. I get to kiss the water off of little noses. Back breaking, for sure, but still something I am so grateful to still enjoy!towel
  3. Watching babies and toddlers eat. Maybe it’s the Italian in me, but there are few things that give me a warmer feeling than watching babies eat. This is especially true, of course, if I’ve cooked whatever it is! I never thought I’d have the pleasure of serving up nice warm, buttery pasta to a little one again! Johnnyspoon
  4. Holding a sleeping baby. If you’ve ever done it, you know why I missed it so much after my babies grew up. The soft, even breathing, the warmth of the skin against my cheek, the scent of baby hair. When I hold my grandchildren as they sleep, the years disappear. The world disappears. selfie sleep
  5. Those “I love you” moments. What can I say? My heart….A smile, a hug, a little hand on each of my cheeks. A little head resting on my arm. “Oh, my Nonni. I love you so much!”


What a lucky do-over!

The Pros and Cons of Being a Childcare Nonni

I am the luckiest woman in the world. Bar none. Honest to goodness, I mean it.

I have been given the huge honor and privilege of taking care of my grandchildren Monday – Friday while their parents are working. It’s been a blast, and I love it. I do!

But you know what?

Now that I am home every day with a smart, sassy, articulate, imaginative two year old and a chubby, happy, drooly 4 month old, I am realizing that there are HUGE pros and cons to this whole thing. Upsides and downsides to being the primary daytime caregiver that I never even thought about when I first told my daughter that I wanted the job.

I mean, if you have ever been a parent, you will know that there are at least a million tiny details that you never anticipated. And they hit you in the face every single day.

From the point of view of a grandmother, these details can make or break your child caring experience.

For example, here are some of the positive daily events that I could never have predicted:

  • The unexpected grins of joy that flood the babies’ faces when they see me. There is nothing on this beautiful, green earth that matches the feeling you get when your grandchild’s face lights up at the sight of you.
  • That moment when your grandchild asks for you to provide the only possible comfort. “Hold me!” “Snuggle me!” “I need you…”  Sigh…… A person could live off this feeling without ever resorting to actual food for sustenance.
  • Potty training is hilarious. Today Ellie and I had this exchange as I tried to put her into bed for her nap. “Hey, Nonni! I feel a poop in my belly. It feels like a big one! Let’s go, hurry!”  Off to the bathroom we went, and she sat herself on the pink princess potty, where she narrated the events. “Oh, I feel it! It feels like a big one! Here it comes!” Then she stood up with pride to look over her product. Alas, she was a bit let down. But it was still hysterical. “Oh, you’re just a little guy! I’ll pour you out, into the toilet.” (And she did) “Bye, bye, little guy! I’m sending you home!”  Who ever thought that poop would be so funny?

But of course there are the cons to think about, too.

  • There are moments when your grandchild looks at your much beloved face, then wrinkles his face into a mask of horror and cries like his heart is broken. This may be due to the fact that you can’t actually provide breast milk direct from the source. Or it might be just because he or she really, really, really wants Mommy, and for all your loveliness, you are. Not. Her.
  • Sometimes the exact moment when your best beloved grandchild wants you to snuggle/cuddle/warm me up/hold me happens to be the exact moment when you finally have a chance to heat up that burrito. Or worse yet, when your laxative has finally kicked in. (You are, after all, getting on in years.)
  • There are times when nobody in the entire neighborhood seems interested in a nap except for you. You will, to your great shame, find yourself gently placing the baby in the swing and turning it up to 5 while you whisper a prayer to Winken, Blinken and Nod. You will also find yourself skipping entire pages in the nap book just so you can get the toddler to lie down before the baby wakes up. If you are not careful, you will also find yourself snoring on the couch with a dirty diaper on your chest for the entire 7 minutes while both babies are napping.
  • Toilet training might be funny at times, but it is also disgusting, frustrating and filled with moments of wicked nausea. There WILL be pee on your rug, your couch, your bed, your newly washed laundry and probably your dog. There WILL be poop on the floor, the pants, the edge of the toilet and in many many of your daily conversations. Get used to it.

Child number one will no doubt move past the toilet issues just in time for child two to take them up.

But rejoice! You will still get the hugs, the songs, the angelic smiles and the sweeter-than-any-honey kisses.

And they will erase every muscle ache, every yawn, every poopie rug and every toddler tantrum.

You’ll be exhausted, but you’ll be happy.


Eventually, they all sleep.



“No!!! No kisses on me!!!”

My granddaughter, my Ellie, is the love of my life.

She is smart, sweet, beautiful, strong, feisty and affectionate. Sometimes, when I least expect it, she puts both arms around my neck and hugs me tight. “Oh, my Nonni!” she sighs. “My Nonni. You’re here!”

Sometimes she demands that I hold her, rock her, keep her warm. “Snuggle me!” she begs, after drinking a cup of the cold milk the she loves so much.

At just a bit over two years old, I am happy to indulge her. First of all, I know that a child this young truly needs to be held and loved and made to feel safe and special. But second of all, I know how fleeting this time will be. This magical time when she wants me to cuddle her and nuzzle her cheek and tell her how much I love her.

So I follow her lead. When she orders me to hug her, I do it happily.

But there is another side to this shiny coin, and it is one that Ellie’s Mom and I have talked about a lot.

That is the fact that sometimes when it’s me who asks for kisses or hugs, Ellie firmly states, “No. No kissing me.”

When I was a child, that message was most often met with, “Oh, that’s not polite! Kiss your Grandma/Aunt/Friend/Uncle/Neighbor.” Children were expected to respond with pleasure to the signs of affection from adults. Especially well known and well loved adults.

But those days are gone.

And good riddance.

Now when Ellie frowns and states, “No!” I back off as quickly as I can. “OK.” I say. “No kisses.”

It’s so hard, though! I love her SO much! I feed her, dress her, take her to the potty, rock her when she’s sad, kiss her boo-boos, tuck her in for her nap every day. I want to kiss her sweet cheek. I want to rest my lips on her brow. I want to rub my cheek on hers and nuzzle her neck.

But if she says NO, I understand that it has to be NO.

Because even more than I want to kiss her while she is still Nonni’s little girl, I want her to grow up with a sense of ownership of her own body. I want her to know the value of her affection. I want her to know, with absolute certainty, that her kisses are her gifts to give or to withhold. I want her to feel, in the deepest fibers of her heart, that if she doesn’t want to kiss someone, she doesn’t have to kiss them.

Even if that someone is her very own Nonni who made her buttered noodles today and sang her songs and washed her face ten times and didn’t fuss about the spilled juice on the rug. Even then.

If Ellie says “NO” then the answer is “NO”.

I want her to have the power to say “NO” and to mean it. Even if she says it to me.


I only kiss Elmo.