What is that sound?


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The first time that I heard it was just before dawn. It was one of those hot nights, hot enough to keep all the windows open, hoping for a breeze.

I rolled over wondering what it was that I was hearing. It roared and it screeched, but it was far away. Like in a dream. Not fully in this world, but out there. I lay on my back, trying to orient myself.

“It’s Monday. It’s summer. I’m home.” Slowly, as always, I managed to ground myself in my reality.

I lay there, listening. It was the sound of a racing car that I heard. I heard the engine roar, and the tires squeal.

It was a sound that simply didn’t fit.

I live in a rural place, in a neighborhood where people live quietly and drive carefully.

This was the strange sound of someone racing, gunning for speed and power. I had never heard anything like it in this place. I lay there for a bit, listening to the screaming brakes. “Who is that?”, I wondered. “What’s going on?”

Then the sound faded, and I drifted back to sleep. The early summer morning settled back into it’s usual peace. I almost forgot the strange sound of racing engines in the semi-dark.

But I heard it again the next morning, just as the sun began to rise. And again the morning after that.

I began to wonder about the driver out there. Every morning, just at dawn, I heard the sound of those shrieking tires, out there just beyond my street.  I began to imagine a face behind the windshield of that racing car.

I saw a young man. I saw anger. I saw dark eyes and a tangle of hair. I saw a frown and a clenched fist, pounding on the steering wheel. I saw youth and fear and the power of those four wheels.

I started to drift off to sleep with the hope of hearing that raging, racing sound in the earliest part of the day.

And every workday, every Monday through Friday for weeks, I awoke to the sound of those desperate tires, scrabbling for meaning on the lonely dark roads of our town.

Then the fall came. The wind blew in and the windows were closed.

I couldn’t hear him anymore.

I wondered about him, though. I worried that he was gone. I worried that he had settled into his mind numbing job at the plant. I wanted him to come back.

But the days went by, and the nights settled into warm blankets and quiet breathing.

I almost forgot that he was out there.

Then I drove out of town, over the backroads through our woods. And there they were. Black, angry, impossible to ignore. Black, black figure eights, on the winding road that links our town to it’s neighbors.

“Here I am!,” those tire marked screamed. “Here I go.”

And a few nights later, I found myself awake in the cold, frosty dawn. I rolled over. What was I hearing?

It was the sound of screaming tires, racing against no one, racing against everyone, flying through the icy dawn into the upcoming day.

I wonder who he is. I wonder why he is so angry. I wonder.

And as I fall asleep tonight, part of me will be listening for his early morning declaration of freedom.

 

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Feeling Very Raw


Raw. Raw is in.

My human vegan friends often talk about the benefits of the raw diet. Raw veggies, raw fruits, nuts and seeds. Supposed to make you so healthy you might live to meet your great great grandchildren.

It sounds great, even though I haven’t personally adopted that particular diet. (Because cake. And bread. You have to cook them.)  At this point in my life, I am not at all sure that I want to live that long anyway. Who wants to turn into the scary old lady that the kids are forced to visit on holidays that are supposed to be about the candy and presents?

Not me.

I also have no desire to outlive many more dogs.

If you’ve been around here before, you probably know that we have had to say goodbye to two canine companions in the past year. Not in a hurry to do that again.

But back to the raw diet.

Even if this grandmother isn’t willing to go that route for the humans in the house, I’m willing to try it with the puppy.

This would be our Lennie, named for my Uncle Lennie Merullo, who was the last surviving Chicago Cub to have won a World Series. Uncle Lennie died the season before the Cubbies finally broke their curse (we believe he was pulling strings in Heaven, but I digress.)

Our Lennie, our sweet, slightly hyperactive, never-met-a-lab-in-my-life Lab rescue has been giving us some trouble around eating.

He hates dog food.

We’ve tried a whole range of dry dog food, from the good stuff to the better stuff to the how-can-anyone-afford-this stuff. Lennie would ignore a bowl of this stuff for up to two days, at which time he would look at me with those big bulgy brown terrier eyes and carefully pick up one little chunk. He’d chew it for a full minute, force it down, sigh, shake his head and take a drink of water.

This did not seem like normal doggie behavior to me.

Then I saw Facebook post from my friend, Karen, who is a professional dog trainer. It was all about the virtues of a raw diet for dogs.

Raw beef, raw chicken, raw pork. Give ’em the livers and hearts and brains and pancreas. Give ’em the bones. Let them be the wild canine carnivores that nature intended them to be!

It made SO. MUCH. SENSE.

I was so excited.

I pulled out a package of chicken livers and plopped the whole bloody mess into Lennie’s bowl. “Hey, boy!” I called. “Come get your actual, real, I’m a hunter, my great great grampa was a wolf dinner!”

He trotted into the kitchen, wearing his bright yellow collar. He sniffed the bowl. He sat down so hard his license and rabies tags jangled. He looked at me, and (I swear this is true) his mouth was open.

“What the absolute F*&*# is this?” his face asked. He was aghast.

He left the room.

I threw away the bloody mess.

But I would NOT give up. We moved on to ground beef.

He sniffed, tasted, backed up. Slowly approached, and then he ate it! VICTORY!

I was so excited to know that I was about to have a healthy, shiny coated, no allergies, clean toothed canine who loved me to pieces but who was still only a step away from his wild roots.

I did what any good Momma would do. I researched all over the internet, watched 163 YouTube Videos and learned all about what I needed to do. For example, I learned that my doggie needs BONES!

Just like in all those old cartoons. Doggies need to eat bones. That’s how they get calcium and how they keep their digestive systems healthy.

So. I bought some chicken legs.

Woohooo!!!!

Tonight, we gave Lennie a nice raw chicken bone. Now, we were both scared of him choking, but we have been assured by all 500 blogs, articles, reports and videos that raw bones are fine.

So, we gave our boy his chicken leg. He was thrilled! He ran down into the backyard (warning, do NOT feed the meaty bones in the house unless you want to sit on meaty schmeers on your sofa). He ran in circles. He barked at the bone. He flipped it in the air. He yipped at it in what I can only imagine was his best wolf imitation.

Then he buried it under a bush.

So. I tried again. I am Momma. I will not be denied in my efforts to feed! (Just ask my kids).

This time I put Lennie on our deck, where he couldn’t get to the yard. I gave him a new chicken leg. Repeat the above performance, minus the burying part.

This dog had NO idea of what to do with a chicken leg.

I began to wonder if he was actually descended from a stuffed animal. But I persevered.

I went onto the deck myself, with a pair of kitchen scissors. (Do. Not. Laugh.) I cut meat off the bone. Lennie gobbled it right up off my fingers.

I handed him the now mostly meatless bone. He dropped it.

I handed it back.

We looked at each other.

“Listen, kid” I said. “This is a bone. You are a dog. You are supposed to eat the bone.”

I was pretty let down, I have to be honest. I left Lennie with the chicken bone and went inside. I poured a glass of wine and took a sip. I glanced out the window to check on him.

He was chomping away on what was left of the bone, held between his suddenly wolf like paws. As I watched in amazement, he gulped down the last bit, lifted his head, and I swear to you, he grinned at me.

Raw diet all the way, now Lennie! You wild thing.

 

Yes, Dammit, It IS a Gun Problem


I am speechless. I have no idea what to say, or how to respond.

Yesterday I was taking a quick check of Twitter when I read the breaking news about the latest mass shooting. More school children cowering as bullets fly overhead. More innocent victims cut down as they go through their daily lives.

I commented on Twitter, because I can’t stand it anymore.

Now, you have to know that I hardly ever tweet. Sometimes I respond, and I often retweet what others have said. But this time my anger, my sorrow, my rage made me send out my message.

Because, come ON! Of course it’s a damn gun problem!!!

All of the usual arguments against gun control are just so stupid. They simply make no sense.

I won’t even go into them all. I can’t.

I just can’t.

My heart hurts. My head hurts. My logical brain? It doesn’t hurt anymore because it melted.

Oh, the responses I got.

Holy hell.

What the absolute fluff is wrong with these people?

Let me be clear (to quote every politician in the past 50 years). The people who responded to me were articulate, smart, well informed and respectful. There was no name calling and no profanity. On their part or on mine.

But do you know what they believe??! Are you ready for this?

These American citizens, living in what most people would consider to be a relatively civilized country, these people scolded me for my belief that I am in danger because so many people around me are carrying concealed weapons.

These are a few of their responses to my insistence that the problem is a gun problem.

And also

Uh, huh. So….the answer isn’t to limit the number of deadly weapons. The answer is to arm the schools. And churches. And movie theaters. And malls.

What the hell?

Then there was this:

This is just about the saddest, most distressing image of the United States that I have ever seen. These people honestly believe that the police have no duty to protect us. They truly believe that their only defense from people with guns is to carry guns.

They are unable to grasp the fact that in EVERY OTHER developed country on earth, this is untrue. They believe that every young mother who takes her babies out to the park should be packin’ heat. Every teacher should be armed. Every grandmother like me should have a gun in my purse before I take the kids into the grocery store.

This is, of course, insane.

But the fact that these intelligent people believe it is just about the most depressing thing I’ve seen in years.

It is also just about the least patriotic thing I’ve seen in years. They distrust the government, the police, the fire department, the laws of the nation. They distrust and dislike the United States.

And they honestly believe that we living in the age of the OK Corral.

Isn’t that just awful?

I still think its a gun problem.

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The Theories of Pleasure


I was only a small child when I realized that there were two kinds of people in the world. Those who chose to carefully and slowly dole out life’s little pleasures, and those who simply devoured the good things when they showed up.

It was, of course, the twin candy orgies of Halloween and Easter that showed me this key life lesson.

On both holidays, kids like me were amazed to find ourselves suddenly surrounded by piles of candy. As children who lived with a health conscious, thrift conscious Italian mother, candy was a rare treat for us.

I learned pretty quickly that I was one of those undisciplined hedonists who tried to eat as much candy as possible in as short a time as possible. I remember counting every piece, lining them all up in order of deliciousness and then attacking the pile like a girl on a mission.

My little sister, Liz, was the opposite. Liz was the calm, self-disciplined one out of the two of us. She would carefully go over every piece, arranging them in her own order. Then she’d eat them one at a time. Slowly. Slowly.

So slowly that I have a vivid memory of her crying once because her Halloween candy (in January, maybe??) had turned all white and we thought it was ruined.

I haven’t really thought about this dichotomy for a long time. Now that I’m an adult, with good reasons to pay attention to my health, I eat my treats carefully. I am now able to exist in a house with a candy dish, filled with M&M’s or other goodies. I eat a couple a day, usually with my granddaughter Ellie and only after we have achieved something wonderful. (Like pooping in the potty).

But I’ve started to think about it again.

Not because of food pleasures this time, though. No, I think I’ve got that one covered.

Now I think of whether or not I want to indulge and get all the fun out of the way when I contemplate Netflix.

I mean. Wow. Sometimes you get a rainy weekend day when your back hurts and you think, “I should just settle in with some good TV.”  Right? So the question becomes vitally important.

Do I binge watch “Stranger Things, Season 2” or do I slowly dole out each episode, so I can think about them between viewings. Should I wait for my husband, and watch together? Should the two of us grab a pizza and a bottle of wine and watch them all?

If we do, how will we go on? We’d have to wait another YEAR to find out what the hell is in the upside down! But….

Do I have the internal fortitude to let the cliffhanger hang for a week? Or two days?

Well, do I?

In our house, this is still an evolving issue. We have so far come to a middle ground of alternating shows in the evening. We go from “Bloodline” to “Madame Secretary” to “Grace and Frankie” to “Stranger Things.”

Paul is the slow and steady spreader out of the joy.

I am, naturally, the one who wants to pull the curtains and watch the rest of any of one of those series with a bowl of popcorn and a chocolate bar.

How do you approach the amazing wonder of a complete season of drama at your fingertips? And does it match the way you ate candy?

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Grace, and Frankie, and Women Friends


I’ve been watching the Netflix show “Grace and Frankie” for the past few weeks. It was recommended by a bunch of my women friends.

I love it.

You know why? Not because of the great writing, the wonderful acting, the humor or the gorgeous beach front location.

Nope.

I love it because it captures the evolving relationship of two women who have been in each other’s lives for years without truly connecting. It shows the tender dance of two women who are thrown together through an unimagined tragedy/comedy. It looks at the special bond between women who have always focused on their differences, but who suddenly find a need to see their similarities.

I love it.

I love it because many years ago, when I was young and the world was full of promise, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by loving women friends. Oh, sure, we weren’t actually “women” yet. We were adolescent girls, complete with acne, insecurity and remarkably uncontrollable hair.

But we found each other. We supported each other. In spite of the occasional boyfriend spat, we held each other up and helped each other to grow.

Those women overlooked my self-absorbed rantings. They pretended that they didn’t see my social struggles or my complete lack of fashion sense. They were my team.

The years went by, we went our separate ways. We married, or we didn’t. We went to college, or we didn’t. We were financially successful, or we weren’t. There were babies, divorces, illnesses, deaths, losses.

For a few decades, we barely knew each other.

But. Here we are now. Together once again.

After years apart, different paths, different stories, different experiences, we find ourselves connected once again.

And much like Grace and Frankie, we are finding our commonalities. We are rediscovering our shared experiences and our shared triumphs. We are able to look past the old comparisons and find the best in each other.

After many decades of defining myself only in terms of my ability to nurture, to mother, to teach, I am in absolutely desperate need of these women who knew me when I was just the goody-goody girl with the big Italian family and the mediocre alto voice. I need the shared jokes, the stories from our past. I need the love and support of women who can look at me and see the me that hides inside the Mom/Nonni/wife/daughter. I need the women who see the girl inside.

And I’ve found them.

That’s why I love “Grace and Frankie.” Because it gets to the core of female friendship.

Thank you, women of RMHS!

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Pretty sure I’d be Frankie.

Oh, Stop Pretending!


I really want my daughter and her husband to trust me with their kids.

I mean, right now, I’m all they have in the way of day care, and I know they aren’t looking to make a change, but still. I want them to look at each other every night and think, “Gosh, that Nonni is just the best thing ever! Wow! What a woman!”

I know. Gross, right?

This is the same internal dialogue that has me cooking a fresh, home cooked meal with all of the major food groups every single night. Every. Night. For 39 plus years.

I know. I am still desperately trying to be a “good girl.” I still want approval every day.

Anyway, I want my daughter to be in awe of my fabulous maternal skills.

And mostly, she is. She’s quick to praise me and to thank me, and I know they really do appreciate having me there to care for their babies every day.

Today, though? Oh, today.

Let’s just set the stage by saying that last night was Halloween. And Paul and I went out to Trick or Treat with the kids and their parents and a bunch of friends. I was dressed like a witch. I walked up and down the street, often carrying Ellie in my arms. I was freezing. I got home with a cramp in the back of my neck and an ache in both calves.

Today I was tired, achy, a little bleary eyed. I was on duty for two over-tired kids. One wanted candy, more candy and maybe “a little tiny bit more”. At the tender age of two, our Ellie has become a better negotiator than D. Trump ever was even in his best delusional dreams.

She has learned how to pull on my heart strings. For example, when her baby brother cries and needs to be held, she has learned to wail “I need you, Nonni! I need special Nonni time! NOW!” She gazes up with her dark, dark eyes and lets her lower lip tremble, just a bit.

You’d have to be made of granite not fall for it.

And she knows that if I do anything she doesn’t like (like brush her long, curly hair) she sobs as if her heart is breaking, “Oh!!! I want my Mommy! Mommy, I miss you!!!”

I wasn’t born yesterday, and this ain’t my first rodeo, but Holy Crap, that’s hard to take.

And then there is our beloved little man, Johnny Jump Up. Aka: Johnny NoTeeth, Johnny Knuckles, Johnny Tank.  The boy is five months old and wearing 12 month clothes. He’s all smiles, until he isn’t.

Today was one of those days. He was either sound asleep or screaming and arching his back. He didn’t want to be held or rocked or sitting up or lying down or on his belly or drinking a bottle or in his bouncy seat or in his swing.

Every time Ellie stopped asking for “Nonni time!”, Johnny was screaming.

By noon, I was soaked in sweat. My heart was skipping beats. All I wanted from life was five minute alone. I put Ellie in front of a movie and Johnny in his swing. I put the puppy on the deck.

Then I went into the bathroom and locked the door. I turned on the fan and the water. And I sat with my head in my hands.

But that hurt my neck, so I went back out there and tried to face it all with a smile.

Kate gets her to pick up the kids between 4 and 4:30. By 3:30, both of them were awake and both were cranky. The dog kept charging at the living room window trying to attack the squirrels on the lawn.

Nonni was getting desperate.

I finally settled Ellie down to finger paint, and tried to jostle Johnny in my arms. At one point I found myself with John on my left hip, trying to vacuum up the popcorn (from Ellie) the torn paper (from the pup) and the leaves that had blown in. Ellie was demanding that I clean up her finger paints and wash her hands.

My blood pressure was rising. Johnny was whining. Lennie the puppy was demanding to go back out so he could start tearing apart the screen and demanding to be let back in.

I faced a moment of decision.

I could just let everyone moan and wail and cry and wait till Kate got home.

But then she’d know that I was on my last nerve. She’d know that I was asking myself what the HELL I’d been thinking when I signed up for this gig.

Instead of waiting it out, I put Miss Ellie into a nice bubble bath and settled John into his bouncy seat in the bathroom doorway, with his favorite toy at hand. I joked and smiled and waited.

And waited.

No Kate yet.

Ellie looked up at me with her big dark eyes. “Oh,” she said. “I feel a poopie.”

ANNNNND.

Empty the tub, put away the toys, wrap Ellie in a towel. Quick! Plop her on the sofa, grab Johnny and put him in his swing. Ignore his immediate sobs of rage.

Dress Ellie, while repeatedly asking, “Do you need to poop? Do you want to go on the potty?” Get her dressed in record time, throw the towels into the bathroom, grab the screaming baby.

Look out the window.

See the sweet sight of Mommy’s car coming into the driveway.

Think. I should greet her with a smile, show her the finger paints and the nice clean toddler. Smile about the baby.

That’s what I thought.

Here’s what I did.

I met her at the top of the stairs, handed her the screaming baby, told her that the toddler needed to have her hair brushed. Then I growled out the one word that was really on my mind.

“Wine?”

So.

I felt a little bad about the fact that I was not up to my Nonni best. I hated the fact that I had added to Kate’s stress by telling her that I was ready to jump off the nearest bridge.

Know what she said when I apologized?

“Ma, it makes me feel better to see that I’m not the only one who is driven crazy by the two of them!”

I need to stop trying to always be the good girl. I need to admit that sometimes lunch is a bowl of goldfish, that a movie is sometimes all I can manage and that locking myself in the bathroom is probably keeping all of us safe.

OK. Going to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

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Oh, Thank Goodness We’re Protected!


Gosh, I feel so much safer now that we have a Commander In Chief who is determined to protect us from this scary, scary world.

I mean, sure, we still have to face the dangers brought about by escalating climate change. Floods, super storms, droughts….all of those threats are still out there. In spades.

And, yeah, I know that North Korea is promising to nuke us all into the stone age. I realize that the current administration hasn’t managed to ease or mitigate that particular threat in any way, shape or form. I know.

And I’m aware that Iran is heating up, Afghanistan is still a disaster and Syria is on the brink of total annihilation.

Of course, we also face constant cyber threats from inside and outside of the U.S. and the entire grid could go down at any minute.

But, still! We have a President who has promised to keep us safe from all those dangerous drug dealing rapists streaming over the border from Mexico. And golly, gee, he means what he says!

When I read about the recent detention of 10 year old Rosa Maria in Corpus Christi, all I could think was, “Wow! Now my family can rest easy!”

Our tax dollars are surely being put to good use when we are protected from the terrible risk posed by little girls with cerebral palsy. Little girls like Rosa Maria Hernandez whose parents deliberately broke American law when they brought her to the United States at the age of three months so she could get decent medical care for her disability.

It just makes me so proud, as an American citizen, to know that my government is willing to send armed, uniformed officers to make sure that a disabled little girl won’t do any terrorism while she’s recovering from major surgery.

I just feel so…..safe!

Oh, sure, I know that my chances of being murdered by a pissed off neighbor with a concealed weapon are about 10 million times greater than my odds of being hurt by Rosa Maria. But, gosh, America, don’t we have some standards to live by?

If every devoted, impoverished Mexican family tries to move across the border to keep their babies alive, doesn’t that mean that the very foundation of our democracy is at risk?

RosaMaria, I hope you understand the kind of existential threat you pose to the most powerful nation on earth with your disrespect for authority.

I know that I will sleep better tonight knowing that one more scared, hurting, lonely, confused child is safely in detention.

Don’t you all feel so much safer?

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The Gentle Aromas of Childhood


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I was a lucky, lucky Mommy. All three of my children were born healthy. All of them thrived on the breast milk that I was lucky enough to produce for them. They grew, they matured, they got stronger every day.

I was SO. LUCKY!

I mean…yeah, I was lucky that they were healthy. I was very lucky that they were able to thrive on breast milk. I was lucky that they were able to latch, and that I was able to provide what they needed.

I have always known how wonderful and blessed those early days were.

But now I have an entirely different perspective.

Now I understand that I was one of God’s chosen people because none of my children….not a single one of the three….was a puker.

Of course, they would occasionally burp and give up a tiny little blop of milky goop. But it was so insignificant that we were all able to politely ignore it and just move on.

I never had one of those babies who gurbled out 3 ounces of cheesy milky slime for every 5 ounces consumed.

I mean, I knew about those kids, of course. I remember when my first nephew was born. My sister-in-law described having to turn over her rocking chair once a week to chip away at the dried crud. I have always known that super pukers exist.

It’s just that I have never before had to deal with one!

When Ellie was a baby, she was a delicate, gentle, once in a while regurgitator. The kind of baby that needed a tiny little hanky to handle her rare blurps.

But now we have Johnny.

How do I describe my sweet, happy Johnny?

I love him! I adore him! I exalt at his very existence!

And yet…..

Johnny is a BIG BOY. He weighs almost 18 pounds at four months. He eats. A lot. Some days the little guy sucks down 14 ounces of breast milk, pumped by his goddess of a mother.

Then he joyfully squeezes his eyes shut and poops out 6 ounces of yellow slime into and out of his diaper, and right up to his armpits.

And that’s OK. I can handle poop.

But after every 4 ounces of nice warm Mommy milk in a perfectly sterile bottle? The little monster  boy immediately pukes up a stream of warm, stringy, mucousy milk. All over whatever clean shirt he is wearing.

Nonni then scoops him up, washes him off, puts on new clothes and settles back into her rocking chair.

Where said adorable boy pukes up a pile of yogurt all over the two of us.

Back to the bathroom, back to the washcloth, back to the bedroom for fresh clothes for both Nonni and boy.

And into the chair we settle, very, very gently. We sigh. We snuggle.

And approximately 10 minutes later, something that smells strangely like feta cheese comes flying out of that sweet little mouth and coats the two of us.

What can I say?

I love my grandson more than I could ever explain.

But I can no longer eat goat cheese. Or feta. Or brie.

I can no longer tolerate the smell of butter or cream. (gag) Or the thought of blue cheese dressing.

Cottage cheese? Fuggetaboutit.

I plan to steam clean my living room furniture and rugs with vinegar this weekend.

I am considering the idea of a cork for next week.

Gosh, I love this little guy!!!!

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Do I smell cheese curds?

 

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.

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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.

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I only kiss Elmo.