Say My Name, Say My Name


Oh, jeez, Nonni.

Get a freakin’ grip.

I remember a time when I was very young, one of six children clamoring around my Mom. I remember her barking at us all, “Stop yelling “Mom”! Stop, you’re making me crazy!!!! I’m gonna change my name and not tell you what the new one is!”

At the time, afraid that my Mom was about to disappear on us, my siblings and I cried and moaned and tried to guess her new name. It was pretty harrowing.

Of course, I now realize that the entire time as we were crying and guessing her new name, we were all yelling, “Mom? Momma? Mommy! Ma! Mom! MOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM!”

Still, I thought she was being just a tiny bit heartless.

Hahahahahahahaha!

Silly me.

While I have no clear recollection of feeling the same way about my own children, I now fully understand my Mother’s frustration at hearing her name called out roughly 987,675 times a day.

And this is where the whole grandparent thing gets weird.

I will never ever ever forget the first time that my sweet Ellie looked up at me with those melting brown eyes and said, “Na. Na ee.” My heart rate jumped right up to about 300 and I almost stopped breathing. “She said ‘Nonni!!!’ She said it! She said ‘Nonni”!!!”

Thrilled is way way way way way too weak a word for the joy that coursed through my bloodstream! Huzzah!!! She KNEW me! She recognized the key and unforgettable role that I was playing in her life! We were bonded forever, me and my girl! Oh happy, happy day!!!!!

You get the picture.

And it has only been the past month or so that little Johnny has started to use my name. He, for reasons that nobody can explain, talks like a little old Italian man. Like more than one of my old uncles, in fact. When he wants a snack, he asks for “cheese-a”. To answer the question “Who wants a snack?” he answers “Me-a!”

So of course, he calls me Nonna. With the long ‘nnn’ that marks a good Italian accent.

‘Nonna’

Si, that’s me! La Nonna!

Picture the same heart stopping joy and delusional beliefs of eternal love that I felt when Ellie first called out to me.

Yup.

Happy, happy old Nonni/Nonna. Happy and joyful me-a!

Sure. For the first nine million times.

The problem is this: Ellie has learned to use the phrase, “But, Nonni….” to open every single comment. If she is asking me a question, it’s “But, Nonni, what part of our body helps us to chew?” If she needs something, she says, “But, Nonni, can I have milk?” To tell me about her weekend, “But, Nonni, we had so much fun with Grammy and Grampy.”

But, Nonni…..

“But, Nonni……?” Over and over and over again. All day. Every day. ALL WEEK.

Even if I’m looking right at her, and we are the only two humans awake in the room. Even if I just said to her, “Honey, maybe we can do some art.” Even then, her first words are, “But, Nonni……….”

There are moments when I am sure that my head will explode.

Then sweet little Johnny, our man of few words, reaches out his arms to me. “Nonna?” He’ll ask, “Up? Arms?”

“Nonna!!

And I melt again.

Mom, I’m sorry for making you pretend that your name was Rumplestiltskin. I had no idea.

Love,

A Grandmother to be named later

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?”

My Father’s Hands


My father was a builder. He could build a shelf, a shed, a stool. He could turn an unfinished cellar into a beautiful bedroom, laundry room, rec room and bathroom. My father had hands that could turn a simple piece of wood into a cross for the local church.

My father’s hands were strong, capable, rough to the touch.

They were gentle when they cradled his children. They were strong when they were asked to move rocks in the backyard.

When my sons were small, my Dad built each of them a little wooden train. The cars connected with a simple peg and hole design. Each train had an engine, a set of following cars, and a small caboose. Each had the name of one son carved into it.

I watched my boys play with those wooden trains. They drove them down the hall, across the kitchen, over a mountain of stacked books. The little wooden wheels rolled effortlessly through our house. The engines were crashed together, driven down our front steps, and taken out into the yard on warm summer days.

My father laughed with pleasure when he saw his grandsons racing the trains, crashing them into walls and taken them apart over and over again. “They’re toys,” he said when I worried about the boys breaking them. “They’re supposed to be played with! Let them play.”

So I did. I let them play. I let my beautiful boys use those wooden trains to create new worlds and gain control of those worlds. I held my tongue when I wanted to tell them to be careful. I stopped myself from putting the little trains up on a shelf.

And my boys grew up. The wooden trains were left behind, with the hot wheels and the books and the leggos.

When I knew that they had truly grown and gone, I carefully picked up each little train car. I dusted them, cleaned them with lemon oil, gently attached each car to it’s neighbor. I placed them up on a shelf, surrounded by my favorite photos and souvenirs of long ago vacations.

And there they sat, for too many years.

But now I have my grandchildren in my house. I have a toy box, a book shelf filled with favorite stories, baskets of dress up clothes and stuffed animals.

And the wooden trains have come back out.

This morning as I watched the kids at play, I looked up to see the baby, little Johnny, holding one of those wooden train engines in his hand. And it hit me with the force of all that love and sorrow and joy.

His little hand, the hand that contains the essence of his great grandfather, was rolling the train across my floor. He was cooing and grinning and giggling with happiness. I watched my sweet baby Johnny as he lifted the wooden toy to his mouth and then held it out to me. He seemed to be saying, “Hey! Would you look at this!!! A TRAIN!”

I looked at his little hand, his dimpled knuckles and chubby wrists. And I saw my boys right there in front of my. My own sweet little ones, racing those trains across this very same floor.

And I saw the hands of my father. Those capable, gentle, strong hands, creating years and decades of pleasure for those who would come after him. I saw his hands right there over Johnny’s. I saw the hands of my boys, holding those same little trains in the very same way.

What a gift.

Today I saw my Dad, gone now for more than ten years. I saw him smiling at my little grandson, guiding him as he learned how to roll that wooden train across the floor of my living room.

What a gift.

My father’s hands, and the hands of my baby Johnny.

Johnny train

 

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!

The Goddess


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I grew up as a good Catholic girl. In my world, God was man. He was a tall white man with a light brown beard and a white robe.

God was male.

But I’m not a little girl anymore.

Now I am a mother. I saw my own body grow and stretch and bend itself to give life to my three children. That made me wonder if perhaps the true deity was a woman.

I have been lucky enough to watch my daughter become a mother.  I watched her body grow and stretch and bend itself to give life to my grandchildren.  That made me suspect that I was right is seeing the true deity as a woman.

Today I helped my 87 year old mother as she took a shower, washed her hair, got dressed and settled herself into her favorite chair to rest after those efforts.

It wasn’t easy for Mom. She was embarrassed to realize that she needed me to do something as simple as taking a shower.

I need to tell you that my Mom was a power woman. For all of my 61 years of life, my mother has been tough, strong, proud and independent . She was the first feminist in my life. She was my role model.

But today she needed me. She is almost 88 years old. She is recovering from pneumonia. She has difficulties with her memory and her cognition. She is old.

Today she needed me. She didn’t want to need me. She didn’t want to be so frail that she couldn’t bathe herself or dress herself.

But she was.

And she had the strength and the grace to accept that fact. She let me turn on the shower. She let me help her to undress.

“Well” she said, with a smile, “here I am in all my glory.”

And I looked at my mother. Thin, frail, too weak to stand on her own.

And I saw the Goddess.

I saw the body that gave me my life.

I saw the strength and the beauty and the courage that has shaped all of her life.

My beautiful, fragile, goddess Mother.

And now I think I understand.

The deity is a Goddess. The deity is woman.

God or Goddess; the deity is love. It is the desire to share ourselves with others. It is the desire to love and to be loved.

Now I hope that one day I will have the grace and the courage to face my own frailties, and to let my children help when I am no stronger than a baby myself.

 

 

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!”

box

 

 

The Question of Mental Stability


Like approximately 99.99% of the people in the Northeastern United States, I have a wicked bad cold.

And like approximately 99.99% of Americans today, I am thinking about mental stability and the signs that a person is a little “off kilter.”

Oh, don’t worry. I’m not worried about that guy. I made up my mind about his mental state a long time ago.

Nope. Today I am fixated on the question of my own mental stability.

Did I mention that I’m sick?

I have a cold. A really bad cold. In fact, after two weeks of endless nose blowing, hacking, wheezing and general goop producing misery, I finally went to my doctor. I have bronchitis and a sinus infection. I came home with pills, cough syrup, inhalers and orders to “rest as much as possible.”

Now. Let me ask you this. What would a mentally stable person do in this situation? Probably take the medicine and go lie down, right?

Ha.

That’s what I tried to do. I came home, made some tea, took my various potions and puffs, wrapped myself in a blankie and put my feet up. Where my mucus clotted brain proceeded to have this conversation with itself.

“You aren’t really that sick.”

“Yes, I am! I have bronchitis! I can feel the crunches and crackles every time I breathe!”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like you have pneumonia. Some people are really sick. You slacker.”

“But the doctor told me to rest. This isn’t just a cold, I have a real sickness. I have prescriptions…”

“Probably got sick because you don’t exercise enough.”

“Nuh, uh. I caught it from the kids…I’ve been wiping noses and snot sucking every day…..”

“Probably because you don’t eat healthy enough.”

“But….I….”

“Chocolate eater.”

“I know, I’m sorry, I….”

“Alcohol drinker.”

“Well, yeah, but hot toddies…”

“Get up. Slacker.”

Could you keep yourself wrapped in a blankie after that?

Either could I.

So I decided to do a load of laundry. You know, real quick. Just do one load. Just to shut myself up. I grabbed an armful of dirty, sweaty sheets (from me FEVER the night before, just sayin’) and I wobbled my way down to the laundry. Tossed it in. Done.

Since I didn’t pass out or anything, I figured I should put away the dishes on the counter. Take that, snot brain.

At that point I was ready to hack up a lung so I wobbled back to the recliner and the blankie. With a fresh cup of ginger-lemon tea in hand.

And goopie brain started in again.

“See? I knew you weren’t really sick.”

“What?! Of course I am! You told me I was a slacker!”

“What, you like the word malingerer better? If you’re so sick, how come you’re able to do laundry and clean the kitchen, huh? Wimp.”

“Sputter…wheeze…whimper…”

I put my aching head in my hands and tried to make Goop Brain go away, but he hung around. Big green slimy jerk.

It’s always like this when I’m not feeling well. Truthfully, I’m hardly ever sick. I haven’t had a fever before this in about 10 years. For a flabby middle aged grandmother, I’m actually pretty robust.

But on the rare occasions when I do get sick, it’s always the same internal argument. It’s always the same guilt game.

I was raised Catholic. What can I say? Guilt is kind of our thing.

I’ve spent the past four days alternately pitying myself for how awful I feel and berating myself for not getting the hell over it already.

What a loser.

So I put the question to you. Do mentally stable people argue themselves out of getting better? Do they yell at themselves that if they weren’t such lazy slackers they wouldn’t be sick in the first place?

I didn’t think so.

sickie

I look awful, right? See?

 

 

What I thought was lost


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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!”

john

What a lucky do-over!

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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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.