Panic in Nonni World


This is not a funny story, but if my words are chosen carefully and cleverly enough, I hope that you’ll at least chuckle a bit.

This is how it all unfolded.

I was at home this morning, as usual, with my two grandkids and our four year old friend. We had our breakfasts and cleaned up. We played a few rounds of Elsa and Anna and then we made some ridiculously goofy and adorable paper plate turkeys. 

It was just your average day in the life of Nonni and the gang.

But suddenly, I heard something truly unexpected. 

I heard my garage door opening.

“What the absolute FUCK?” is what went through my mind, while, “Oh, my goodness” came out of my careful Nonni mouth.

Nobody was due here in the middle of the day. Not my husband, my son-in-law or my daughter. Not the guy who is going to be renovating the bathrooms, not my neighbors, nobody.

But the garage door had definitely opened. 

In the first ten seconds, I watched the reactions of the dogs. If a car that they know pulls into the driveway, they yip and dance and jump around like a couple of happy drunks. If it’s a stranger, they bark like they mean it and they both get a ridge of hackles down their normally smooth backbones.

Today, as the garage door opened? Deep barks and semi-hackles as they looked out the window into the drive. I peeked over their heads. 

And saw nothing.

No car. 

No people.

Now our garage has one of those openers with the little push button devices that sit on the cars’ visors. You can’t manually open the door. So, if there’s no car in the drive, there’s no device on a visor. Nobody should have been able to open the garage door. 

But I am not quite insane. The door had definitely opened. The dogs and I had heard it. And there was no car anywhere in sight.

Ergo: Nonni panicked. I looked to make sure that all three kids were safe in the living room. They were. I didn’t hear anyone in the garage, so my assumption was that a bad guy was standing there, listening to the sounds of Olaf chasing Anna around the ice castle.

I can’t retell the next 30 seconds with any clarity, but this is a rough estimation of what went careening through my addled old panic stricken brain:                                                                                                                           “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod…there’s a bad guy in the garage….he must have some wide band thingymadgigy that can open garage doors ….he knows we’re in here….whadooIdo? I’ll stay here with the kids and keep them safe! Whaddayamean safe? SAFE? From a crazy assed KILLER BAD GUY? I can’t keep them safe.”ˆ

By now my heart rate was approaching 200 and my head was absolutely splitting with adrenaline pain. I had a split second of complete indecision, and then for some reason, my brain said this, “I can’t hide up here with the kids…I have to go see who it is…if I hear any sound at all, I’ll just dial 911.  where’smyphonewhere’smyphonewhere’smyphone? I got it, don’t drop it, hold it tight, tell the kids to stay here, tell them to sit on the sofa, they won’t sit on the sofa! Why would they sit on the sofa? Tell them to go hide in the bedroom! No, I’ll scare them…tell them you’re doing laundry….NO! They love laundry, they’ll wanna come! Just open the frickin’ baby gate and go face the deadly threat!”

At this point my whole body was shaking. It had been roughly two minutes since we’d heard the door open. The kids were still blissfully playing, making so much noise that I knew the bad guy must have heard them. I didn’t have a real plan in my head, but it seemed to make sense that I should try to scare off the threat. I could dial for help if it got dicey. No matter that chunky old Nonni couldn’t fight off more than chipmunk at this point, it still seemed like a good idea. So I went.

Our house is a split level, so the front door opens onto a set of stairs that go down toward the basement and garage, as well as a set that go up to the living room. I crept down the upper stairs, cell phone in hand, and glanced out through the glass pane of the front door.

There was movement out there on what should have been my empty lawn!!!

I took one more slow step. I got closer to the glass. 

And there was my husband’s car, parked in the middle of the lawn. Behind it stood the man himself, pulling a bale of straw out of his trunk.

“It’s Papa!!!!” I yelled to the oblivious kids. Then I flew through the door and let the poor guy have it.

“OhSo,     The daySo

So. The day is over. Papa made it safely back to work, and I made it back into the house. All three kids made it safely back into the arms of their parents. 

After all that drama, there was no bad guy. No killer. No menacing stranger. I tried to tell myself that I had over reacted, but what else could I have thought? I couldn’t think of any other explanation for no car, no door opener but a wide open door. I started to chuckle at my foolishness, but a sudden thought stopped me:

What if I had owned a gun?

Pretending


I’m 62 years old. My back hurts pretty much every damn day. My neck is stiff. My knees are achy.

But.

I’m Nonni.

I have kids here in my house. Ergo: I must pretend.

Today my little Ellie asked to watch her favorite movie, “Frozen.” I agreed right away because I love the music in this movie. And I love the lesson that it teaches, too. “True love” isn’t necessarily found in the arms of the cute guy who makes you swoon.

True love is found when one truly loves.

Great theme. Great music. Great imagery in the movie.

So when Ellie asked to watch, I was happy to say, “Sure!”

But.

After watching roughly a quarter of the movie, Ellie announced, “I’m done with the movie, Nonni. Turn it off!”

And I did.

Which meant that Ellie came running into the room with her “Elsa dress”, asking me to zip her into the dress and give her “one big braid”, just like Elsa. I did what I was told to do and before I knew it, I found myself playing the role of little sister “Anna” to Ellie’s Queen “Elsa.”

Now, given the fact that we have little Johnny in our care, as well as two small but energetic dogs, we had pretty much the main cast of the movie right in our living room.

“You’re Anna!” Ellie told me. “You need to try to follow me, but I will run away!”

Johnny was given the role of Olaf, the snowman. Lennie was the snowmonster and silly Bentley was put in the role of “Sven” the goofy reindeer.

To be clear, we didn’t actually follow the story line of the movie. But we did spend almost an entire day running up and down the hall in our house, shouting with intense emotion.

“Elsa!” I would yell, “My dear sister!! Don’t leave me!”

“Stay back!!! Stay away!!!!” Ellie yelled back over and over again, “I love you, but I will freeze your heart!”

“ahhhhhha! Mmmmmmah!” Johnny/Olaf crowed every time the two of us ran down the hall.

“Grrffffff..mmmmmmm…..?” the dogs would whine as we ran past them through the house.

This went on for hours. The entire day was taken up with Elsa, Anna, Olaf and the meaning of “true love.”

And as I sit here tonight, my back throbbing and my neck sore, I think I understand what Princess Anna meant when she talked about true love.

I think she meant the joy that an old lady could feel when asked to pretend once again. I thinks she meant the feeling that a Nonni could feel while sitting back and watching her grandchildren completely embrace the role of magical movie characters.

When I held Ellie on my knee today, watching the end of the movie, I was overwhelmed with the magic when she turned and whispered in my ear, “Look, look! That’s me making the ice castle! Look! It’s me sending you away!”

Ellie lived completely within that movie today. She WAS Elsa, the Queen who was afraid of her own emotions. And that let me live for a while as Anna, the Princess who loved and trusted her sister.

What a gift.

What an amazing and incredible gift it is to spend time in the imaginary world of the very young.

th-1

Yup. That’s Ellie and me. Looking amazing.

Those Long, Long Days


I remember when I was a young Mom, feeling as if some days just lasted forever.

Like. For-freakin’-ever.

I remember hot, hot summer days, the ones where I was home alone with all three kids. I can clearly picture myself looking at the clock after having cooked, served and cleaned up breakfast, broken up two fights, done a load of laundry, swept the floor and helped to make four beds.

I remember it like it was yesterday, glancing up at the kitchen clock and thinking, “Damn! The battery must have run down. No WAY it’s only 9:15 in the morning!!!!”

I remember being wrong. It was, in fact, early morning and I had many, many hours ahead of me.

At the age of 35, that was not a pleasant realization. I remember the way that those days seemed to tick by with each second taking longer than the one before it.

I just wanted to get to dinner time, to have Dad home, to get everyone into bed and to Go. To. Sleep.

But now I’m older and wiser.

I’ve made more than a few journeys around the sun on this old planet. Now those long, long days have a whole different feel to me.

I’ll give you an example.

Yesterday was one of the very few gorgeous fall days that New England has experienced this year. It was breezy, cool, bright and perfectly sunny. The sky was a deeply calming blue, with cartoonishly puffy white clouds drifting slowly by. The leaves were gently twirly and falling through the soft air.

The kids wanted to go outside, so outside we went. Coats on, mittens slipped over reluctant thumbs, sneakers firmly attached to feet, out we went. All three of us stopped on the front step, breathing in the clean, clean air.

Ellie, our three year old explosion of joy, threw out her arms, twirled on the wet grass and crowed, “I am Elsa and Anna and we are so so happy!!!!” Little 16 month old Johnny looked up at me with a drooly grin and chortled, “aha!!!!”

They ran, they jumped, they picked up leaves, they screamed at the pure pleasure of jumping into puddles.

I was happy that they were happy, but to be honest, I was also tired. Nonni here has been fighting off a strangely lingering throat infection, and sleep has been eluding me. So as we walked down the driveway and splashed in every puddle, there was a piece of me that kept thinking, “Is it time to go in? Is it time for nap?”

I wanted to lie down.

Then I remembered those long, long days of my children’s past. I remembered the yearning I felt for bedtime.

I stood there, watching the kids play. And I looked up at that sky and watched those swirling, dying leaves.

And it occurred to me that I don’t have as many days to wish away as I did all those years ago. How many more fall days do I have left out there? How many times will I stand in the glorious sunshine watching two beautiful, happy, beloved children dancing with joy in front of me?

I pulled in a breath, smelling the wood smoke of my neighbor’s chimney, the wet, earthy musk of the decaying leaves, the sharp pungency of the pine trees around us. I looked at the kids, both jumping in the mud, both grinning, sharing a moment of pure bliss with each other.

Life is short. And every year it gets shorter.

If one of my days stretches out and takes forever to pass, well, that can only be a good thing. Now I’m old enough to know that a day like this is a blessing unsought.

Let all of my life slow itself down and take its time to pass.

And may I have many more days to simply stand there, motionless, watching beautiful children at play.

slow time

Heaven is a puddle on a sunny fall day.

Of COURSE I Wear Make Up


Of course I do!

I mean, pshhhht, I came of age in the 1960s. Frosted lipstick, black eyeliner, pink blush sticks….I remember it all!

I used makeup when I was in High School and college. I dabbed on the lip gloss, I stroked on the mascara, I even learned to use Kohl to underline my already dark eyes.

But then I grew up.

I got jobs. I started a family. I realized at some point that I could either spend 10 minutes putting paint on my face or ten minutes asleep.

The sleep won.

Time went on, and my children grew. Eventually, they all grew up and moved away and nobody was there to watch me dab on the wrinkle eraser cream. I began to realize that my students loved me for my humor and my love of them, not for any semblance of beauty. I began to realize that my family loved me for myself, and rarely even noticed if I added a dab of eye shadow to some fancy get up.

So I kind of let the whole makeup thing go.

Until my one and only daughter was about to get married. At that point, I knew that I had to step up my game and go for some actual facial improvements. There would be photographers there, right? And dozens of friends and family with those ubiquitous camera phones in hand.

So after I chose my “Mother of the Bride” dress (pale sage green), I shopped for some Mother of the Bride makeup. Kate dragged me to Sephora, where I learned that one could either buy a vacation home or buy the right make up.

I chose to pass on the cream blush, brow enhancing stick and something that was supposed to bring on a “dewy glow.” Instead I decided to head for the local Rite Aide and see if they had any greenish eye stuff.

They did!

I found a lovely matte finish foundation, a waterproof mascara, and a small palette of eye shadow that included sage, a dark umber, and two shades of pale icy green/white. I bought them. I practiced in the mirror with them. I wore them to the wedding.

I looked AWESOME.

1907390_10204049808102994_1811801526289470687_n

Aren’t I just glowing??

Then the wedding was over. The celebrations wound down. The happy couple did a honeymoon and came back. Since then, they have had two kids, bought one house and then moved to a better one, and fully embarked on their careers.

Since then, Nonni here has retired, become a stay at home childcare provider and learned to embrace the joy of spending every day in flannel pjs and a baggy sweatshirt, and enjoying life without one tiny bit of makeup.

It’s been great!

But today was Halloween. I dragged out an old wool cape and some dancing skeleton earrings. I spent all day feeling excited with the kids. I was happy to know that they wanted me to come Trick or Treating with them.

As evening came on, and we waited for Ellie and Johnny’s dad to come get them, I put on my “costume” of black pants and sweater and a beautiful old woolen cape that I bought in Tunisia some 45 years ago. I thought I looked good!

Until Ellie asked, with a deep frown on her face, “Where is your scary makeup, Nonni?” I tried to tell her that Nonni was fine as is, but she wasn’t having it. “But you need scary black eyes!!!” she cried. “You need a scary spooky face!”

I wanted to give in (you know, that’s what we Nonnis do). But I didn’t have any scary face paint around. What should I do?

Yup. You guessed it. I dug into my medicine cabinet, and found the very makeup that I had worn to Kate and Sam’s wedding, more than four years ago! It hadn’t been touched since the ceremony.

I poked it. I stirred some things around, and added a drop or two of water to the rest.

It was good!

I layered it on, trying to achieve my creepiest look. Ellie cheered, while Johnny chuckled and shook his head in the background.

Here’s the final result. I think I look as fabulous as I did at the wedding!

scary nonni

Wouldn’t you want to give me candy?

I guess makeup has its place in my life, after all!

 

Saving George


happy-spider-cartoonOh, brother.

In an effort to prevent my beloved granddaughter from sharing my ridiculous arachnophobia, I think I sort of went too far.

First of all, I hate spiders. I know, on an intellectual level, “spiders are good for the environment, they eat the bad bugs, they can’t hurt you” blah, blah, blah. Still, I wake up at least twice a month from the world’s most vivid dream that a HUGE BLACK HAIRY SPIDER IS ABOUT TO DROP FROM THE CEILING ONTO MY FACE!!!!!

I hate them.

But I am a good Nonni. I am a wise Nonni. I am an enlightened Nonni.

Yay me.

Last week, my sweet granddaughter Ellie looked up during breakfast and asked, “What is that scary scary thing on your ceiling, Nonni?”

It was a very small spider. As in, wicked small. Like the size of a sesame seed. It was black and had 8 cute and tiny legs. I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to teach about the wonders of spiders. I figured if I did it right, it might just spare Ellie 45 years of night terrors in which a giant spider lands on her face.

“Oh,” I said with a benevolent smile. “That’s our kitchen spider. His name is….um….ah….George!”

“Hi, George!” Ellie chirped, before returning with serenity to her waffles and blueberries.

As for me, I kept an eye on ol’ George. He seemed pretty calm, just moving his way long the ceiling, without ever once giving me the idea that he might intend to pounce upon my actual face.

I was cool. I was calm. The kids and I have been smiling at and chatting with George for about a week now. All eight of his tiny legs have remained the same size, and he has never once made any effort to come off the ceiling.

Nice George. Good George.

Nonni was pretty impressed with her ability to stave off severe arachnophobia. Nonni was doing the hippy environmentalist yay-me dance all week.

But. This morning, while Nonni was trying to get a pot of espresso going, she heard this little tidbit:

“Oh, good morning, George!! You got really really big last night!”

Holy heart attack.

I snuck into the dining room, where I found Ellie smiling down sweetly at a HUGE, HUGE, H-U-Fucking-GE wolf spider on the floor under the dining room table.

To my credit, I said, “Oh, my. Oh, gee.” instead of “What the HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU????? THAT IS NOT GEORGE!!!!”

We paused for a moment. Ellie had a waffle bit on the end of her fork. Johnny had a blueberry in each hand. I had a spatula the size of Minnesota in my hand.

“Nonni”, Ellie looked at me with her beautiful innocent eyes. “Please save him!”

Heart pounding. Every horror movie since the dawn of movies flashing before my eyes.

I do NOT want to scare her! I don’t!

“Sure, honey. Let me try! I sure would love to save George’s wicked big Uncle….Tony…..”

I grabbed a juice glass and popped it over the giant spider on the floor. Said giant spider immediately hurled himself upside down against said glass. Every single inch of Nonni skin crawled.

Then I took a piece of sturdy but thin paper and slid it under the glass. Uncle Tony was writhing, but he was contained.

“Oh, look, Ellie!,” I cheered “I captured him!”

Only no I didn’t.

Uncle Tony got one horrifically articulated claw under the glass and pulled himself out from on top of the paper. In less than a nanosecond, I could envision his horrible bendy legs rushing over the side of the glass and right up my sleeve.

With a soprano shriek worthy of the Metropolitan Opera, I hurled the glass, the paper and old Uncle Tony out onto the floor. Then I backed up, sat on a chair with my hand on my chest, gasped and said, “Um….no, no I didn’t.”

At this point poor Uncle Tony was desperately trying to escape by rushing across the floor toward the wall. Unfortunately for him, he was pounced upon our intrepid/stupid puppy dog, Bentley, who tried to snuff the spider up his nose.

The horror of that thought propelled me out of my chair, cloth napkin in hand. I dropped the cloth onto the spider and stomped down with so much force it probably left him as nothing more than a stain.

Gagging, I scooped up the cloth, rolled it into my hand, shoved it into a plastic grocery bag and stuffed it down into the trash. Which I then tied into a knot.

I was gasping at that point. I was soaked in sweat.

I fell into a chair and looked up to see both Ellie and Johnny staring at me with huge brown eyes.

“Nonni, did you KILL him?” asked Ellie.

Gulp. “Yes. I’m sorry honey. Sometimes we try to save our spider friends, but it doesn’t work out.”

Ellie looked at me solemnly.

“Good.” She said. “He was creepy.”

She took another bite of waffle.

 

Keeping Nonni Humble


Oh, man.

Every time I think I have really mastered this “watching and nurturing kids” thing, something happens that forces me to be totally humble.

Totally. Humble.

As in, “This is way more than I could even begin to handle in any world I have ever envisioned.”

Yeah.

Yesterday I was Nonni in charge of my three year old granddaughter, her four year old friend and our one year old grandson. It was challenging but wonderful. The two girls laughed, played, shared toys, argued, snacked and were generally the epitome of young children learning to cooperate.

It was great.

I put out snacks, I mediated a few arguments, I made lunch. Mostly, though, I was a cheerleader.

“You guys shared those toys so well! I’m so proud of you!”   

“You are so good at taking turns!!!”

I thought that the fabulous day was due to my wonderful Nonni-ness. I went to bed last night patting myself on the back for my superior child management skills.

Then today dawned. If you have a secret universe where there are rainbows, unicorns and little tiny children who cooperate without effort……..Well.

Then you are completely delusional. And you have never met an actual child.

I know this because I woke up this morning feeling relaxed. “Oh, I only have my own to grandchildren”, I thought. “It’s like a day off.”

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahahaha

No.

This one short day of child care, which Nonni started with a feeling of smug confidence, turned out to be one huge exercise in keeping Nonni humble.

Holy chaos, Batman.

I won’t go into every detail, but let it be said that Nonni has had her commupance.

I thought it would be a good idea to quickly throw together a little nightstand that I had ordered online. What I didn’t know was that the maker of said little nightstand failed the “Impossible-to-follow-Ikea-test”.

I tried. And tried. And covered the entire kitchen table with said random pieces of nightstand.

I attempted to follow the “oh-so-simple” directions which are provided for free without ONE SINGLE word of explanation in any language.

Today it was roughly 900 degrees outside, so we had our AC running as well as it could. We had fans running. Skylights were closed.So it was only about 85 degrees in the dining room where I was fighting to the death with the nightstand directions. I was a big, fat, old lady sweat ball by the time I had connected the first two pieces.

By this time, I have to brag, I had already fed breakfast to both kids, cleaned the kitchen, thrown in a load of laundry, and set up a glo-in-the-dark racetrack.

But I spent my morning trying to build the world’s tiniest and most useless nightstand. I was determined to get it done.

In the meantime, I had set the timer for potty training and taken the toddler to the potty three times , made breakfast for two, served that breakfast, cleaned up said breakfast, washed two faces, pulled out a bag of toys and cleaned the kitchen.

The day went on with pretty much the same rhythm. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 43, change a poopie diaper. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 52, serve some goldfish snacks. Put the dog out. Let the dog in. Wash faces. Repeat.

I hammered, hugged, sweated, served, screwed in useless screws, mediated fights over crayons, changed diapers, took Ellie to the potty, let the dog out.

For a while, I thought I was OK. I thought it was working out.

Then Ellie asked for a new snack. Yet another snack. A wicked messy snack.

“Nonni,” she asked with her big innocent eyes fixed on mine.  “Can I have some yogurt?”

Shit.

I mean, really? Healthy, wholesome yogurt? Of course I said yes. I said yes even though I knew that Johnny would want to do exactly the same thing that his big sister was doing.
I gave Ellie her vanilla yogurt cup and a spoon and set her at the dining room table. I took off ALL of Johnny’s clothes, put on a big, set him up in his highchair with its big tray. I put the yogurt and a spoon in front of him.

I went back to nailing in useless nails and gluing useless connections. I let the kids eat.

Then I looked up.

“I’m all done!” chirped Miss Ellie with her nice clean yogurt cup and her clean spoon in front of her.

“MMMMMMMMMM” said Johnny, with vanilla yogurt on his cheeks, his ears, up his nose and into his hair. “MMMMMMAHHHHH!”

I dropped the useless hammer and the pointless nails, ran into the bathroom and turned on the tap in the tub. Back to Ellie and Johnny, grabbing spoons and yogurt cups and hustling both of them into the bathroom.

I thought I was pretty cool. Mostly exhausted, but still pretty much on top of things. I had (mostly) made the stupid waste of money nightstand. I had fed the kids and entertained them and kept us all mostly cool in the desperate jungle heat.

Now I dropped the yogurt covered baby into the tub, and helped his big sister climb in with him. I scrubbed, I shampooed, I scraped dairy products off of key body parts.

It was only noon, but I had already had a long day. I was silently patting myself on the back as I sat back to watch my grandchildren playing. “Nice,” I told myself, “I have helped them to share, to learn from each other, to appreciate the special relationship that only siblings can understand.”

And then.

“What’s that?” asked Ellie, pointing into the tub full of bubbles, toys and …..meatballs.

“OH.” I said. “Um. I think Johnny pooped in the tub.”

In a feat of athleticism rarely seen outside of an Olympic stadium, Ellie hurled herself out of the tub with a bloodcurdling shriek.

I was left with the fallout.

*************************************************************************************

So. Now the kids have gone home. The tub has been cleaned, the toys are put away. The sink is filled with hot water, bath toys and white vinegar.

I have a martini in my hand.

Every time I think I have it all figured out, the kids find a way to keep me humble.

kids

Don’t get too comfy, Nonni!

 

 

 

I Feel Useful….


I love watching my grandchildren. I love it so much when their Momma drops them off at my house and leaves me in charge. I. Love. That.

I love it for all of the obvious reasons, of course. The kids are cute, sweet, fun. They hug me, they make me laugh, they snuggle up against me and tell me that they love me.

I love feeding them, and washing their sweet little faces after I do. Naturally, I am thrilled when they ask me to read to them or sing to them or snuggle with them. Being Nonni in charge is so fun!

But.

I realize that there is something else going on when I readily, happily, joyfully agree to watch the kids unexpectedly.

Here’s what I realized today, while Ellie and Johnny were dancing around in my living room.

I realized that being Nonni-on-duty makes me feel useful. It makes me feel like I matter.

On summer days when I am at home alone, with no grandchildren to watch and no students to teach and no job to rush to, I find myself feeling pointless. Oh, I have my list of chores, and they are all significant in their own way. “Stain deck,” “Wash siding,” “Call Comcast Again,”  Laundry, shopping, gardening, canning summer’s bounty, cleaning closets. They could all be called useful, I guess.

But in my heart, when I am crossing each chore off my list, I am feeling useless. I am feeling that I could so easily be replaced by a local teen or a small business or a better cook.

I can’t help it. When I am at home, with nobody here who needs me, I feel completely pointless.

But bring on those grandkids, baby, and everything changes.

Ellie needs me to pour milk! Johnny needs me to hold him! They look at me, and it is as if the sun has risen and poured its golden light over everything. When they are here, I am not the old teacher lady who was put out to pasture. I’m not the middle aged woman with fibromyalgia and arthritis and whatever else is going on that week.

Nope. When those two beautiful little people are here in my house, I am Nonni. I am the giver of hugs, the reader of books. I am the funny lady who runs up and down the darkened hall with flashlights on, screaming about monsters who chase us. When they are here, I am the one who kisses the bumps, the one who laughs at the jokes.

I am the ONE. The center of their small, protected universe.

When my grandchildren are here, I am Nonni.

I have a purpose. A job. A role to fulfill.

They convince me, with one hug, that I am important to the world around me.

kids

“Nonni, we are making dinner! Can you help us?”

Way Too Clean


Well.

The house is very clean. We cleaned and rolled up the garish rug that used to be in our living room (we got it so that our old dog, Tucker the Wolf King, could get up and down with his arthritic back. He’s gone now. So is the rug.)

The floor is clean. The bathroom is clean. There’s a nice table cloth on the dining room table. The dust has been wiped off. The kitchen sink is clean and deodorized.

God help me. I even dusted the hutch.

The house smells good. Clean, fresh, summery.

Empty.

I haven’t had my grandkids here for, um, four days.

All the toys are in the correct places. The dress up items in the white bag. The building toys (all pieces in one place) are in the brown toy box. The stuffed animals are organized and washed and dried, and are resting quietly in the blue toybox. The play kitchen has been cleaned and organized.

If nobody stops me, I might even wash the inside and outside of my living room windows.

Please, someone help me.

Someone needs to call my daughter Kate and tell her to get those kids over here ASAP before I completely snap and start organizing my sock drawer.

kids

Kitchen floor picnic? Yeah, count us in!!

 

Remembering “My” Kids


I went into my daughter’s classroom for a visit last week. She teaches a loop, so she has her students for two years. Now it’s June of her second year with these lovely sixth graders, and everyone is tired, emotional, and ready to move on. I brought Kate’s kids in to the classroom to say goodbye.

Naturally, just stepping into the school building where I taught for more than two decades had me nostalgic.

All the way home that afternoon, I thought about “my” kids from over the years. Here are a few of the stories that have been on my mind.

The Bombs Below

One year I had a boy in my class who had spent about half of his ten years of life in his native Pakistan. His family had moved back and forth from the U.S. to Pakistan a couple of times, and were intending to return again. My student went through the year with one foot here and one over there.

In the early fall of that fifth grade year, we all went on a three day trip to the mountains. The trip included environmental studies and team building. It was hard work for this old teacher, but it was fun! One of the best parts was a hike up to a small mountain peak near the camp. We would all scramble through the woods for an hour or so until we came out to the summit, where the students would gather and gaze down at the camp, far below. Part of our tradition was to call out a greeting from the summit to the camp below. The kids below would hear us and call back.

That particular year, there was some construction going on at the camp. From the summit, we could hear distant hammers and faint booms as piles of wood were unloaded from trucks.

I stood with my Pakistani student, asking him if he could hear the kids calling up from below. He frowned behind his large glasses, squinting at the lake in the distance. “Listen carefully,” I told him. “We’ll yell and the kids on the athletic field will yell back.”

The kids gathered around me, giggling and clearing their throats.  “How, How!” we yelled. We waited, and then it came, “How, How!” from below. I turned to my student with a smile. “Did you hear it?”

He shook his head.

“All I can hear is those bombs down there.”

That’s what it’s like to leave a war zone. This poor kid heard distant hammering and simply assumed that bombs were going off.

He didn’t even react.

What grade am I in?

Many years ago, before I became a classroom teacher, I was the speech/language specialist in our school. I worked with kids who had communication disorders due to learning disabilities, hearing impairment, intellectual impairments and other challenges.

One year I was asked to evaluate a student who had recently immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil. The boy was tall, gangly armed in the way of pre-adolescent boys. He had a huge grin and sparkling brown eyes. Everything made him laugh.

His English was poor, but growing rapidly. He had a quick wit and warm charm that made him instantly popular with his classmates and teachers. He had very few academic skills, which was why I was doing my assessment. We weren’t sure if this young man had an underlying learning disorder that had held back his ability to read in his native Portuguese. We needed to find the best way to help catch up.

Although this student was old enough to be enrolled in our fifth grade, he had been placed in the fourth grade to give him time to catch up.

When I began my language assessment with a casual conversation, I learned why he was struggling so much.

“What grade were you in when you were in Brazil?”

“What grade? I don’t know. How do I know what grade I am in?”

“Honey, how many years of school did you do?”

“Oh. I don’t know.” I remember that he shrugged and grinned, looking up from beneath the brim of his cap. “I would go when there was a teacher. Sometimes I would go but there would be no teacher, so we just played or went home.”

I found out later, through an interpreter at a meeting with his Mom, that this boy had never completed a single year of school. There was no set curriculum, no continuity of lessons from year to year. Most troubling of all, teachers would come and go all year, often missing weeks of teaching time without replacements.

“This is why we left our country,” the Mom explained. “We wanted him to go to school.”

That handsome, charismatic, bright little guy was at our school for only a year. After that, we lost track of him as his family struggled to find a place to settle safely.

I think about him often.

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In honor of every single child who needs safety, education, and love.

I Am Officially Ridiculous


Oh, brother.

What a wuss. What a jerk. What a stupid, weepy old woman.

I can’t stop the tears.

Some of them are from the horrors going on at our border, but others are more personal. It’s the personal tears for which I am apologizing now.

As some of you know, I have the best job on earth. I live a life that most humans can only dream about.

I stay at home, all day, every day, with my two grandchildren. These kids are also known as the cutest, sweetest, funniest, most easy going babies on earth.

Seriously. These are the people I play with all day.

The world’s cutest kids, right?

So, what’s the problem?

Oh, boo-hoo, poor me. In one short week, I will be heading off to Europe with my husband. We will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We’ll spend some time with our dear friends in Germany, then head into Italy. Our two sons and their partners will join us.

Heaven, right?

The Alps, the Mediterranean, the food, the wine, the music, the beaches, the desserts!!!!

Oh, sole mio! It will be (not kidding) the trip of a lifetime!!!! I am SO excited that I have already packed and repacked my suitcase three times! I’m ready! I am so. ready. to. go.

But.

(the sound of brakes screeching)

What do you mean, three weeks away from Ellie’s eyes? What do you even MEAN, three weeks without one single Johnny hug??? What if he takes his first steps? What if she forgets our morning ballet routine? What if when I get back they don’t even care?

Oh, this old Nonni is a nutcake. She knows it.

But.

I love my days with these goofy, happy, messy, exhausting little people. I can’t imagine surviving three long weeks without them.

Please tell me that I’m an idiot. Please remind me that the kids will be with their Mom and Dad, and this is how it’s supposed to be.

Tell me to shut up and get over it.

Remind me that I’ll be soaking up the sun and drinking great wine with the love of my life.

I’ll nod, and smile, and tell you that you’re right. Then I’ll no doubt sob a little and pull up pics of the kids on my phone.

Sigh.

I’m ridiculous.