What We Forget


As a grandparent, I am well aware of the fact that I forget a lot of stuff. I forget when I’m supposed to be at the dentist, for example. And I forget why I just walked into the living room.

But that isn’t what’s important.

No. What I think is important, as a grandparent who is completely engaged in the lives of my grandchildren every single day, is that I have forgotten what it feels like to take care of a sick child.

I forgot about the comforting/suffocating smell of Vicks Vaporub wafting through the house. I forgot, for some unexplained reason, how it feels to spread that very same Vicks on my chest, under a clean cloth, so that I can hold a coughing, wheezing child close to my heart. Knowing that the camphor smell would help that child to breathe.

I have forgotten what it feels like to wipe those dripping noses, every two minutes. And what it feels like to smooth a bit of lotion on that red, sore upper lip.

I can guarantee that I have forgotten what it feels like to be stuck in the house with a child or two who can only be soothed by two hours of some TV show that is so unbearably sweet that you actually think about getting yourself some insulin.

Surprisingly, I seem to have forgotten what it feels like to keep water steaming on the stove. And what it feels like to cup my hands and tap, tap, clap, bang against a child’s congested lungs.

I’m reminded of all of that this week, though. Both of my grandkids are down and out with a nasty cold. Both have had the endlessly running nose, the deep cough, the lack of appetite.

Both of them have needed extra hugs, extra rocking and (God help me) extra episodes of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”

I’ve been running, cleaning, washing, rocking, dosing, cleaning again, listening to lungs, checking ears, rubbing backs, feeding again and cleaning again.

I had forgotten how it feels to be covered head to toe in germ infested snot. I had forgotten how it feels to clean up the choked over and redeposited snacks. I had somehow forgotten how gently one has to wash a red, irritated face as a little one cries.

But you know what?

I had also, somehow, managed to forget how sweet it feels to sit still on a cold winter day with two sick children wrapped in my arms. I had forgotten the heart filling feeling of cuddling a feverish little body in my arms. Of singing the wordless humming tunes that would ease that little one into sleep.

I had forgotten the joyful burst of love that comes in the moment when a sick little baby pulls his head back and looks into your face. I had forgotten how special and how empowering it feels when that baby looks up and sighs and settles his aching head against your heart once again.

I wish everyone a healthy Christmas, with no snots, no wheezes, no fevers. But if you are hit by those illnesses, I wish you a few moments of sweet pleasure as you enfold those hot little bodies in your loving arms.

I don’t feel so good…..

The Amazing Oozing Puppy


When we adopted our latest doggy, little Bentley, we were told that he was sweet, affectionate, funny and sometimes stubborn.

Nobody mentioned the fact that this adorable little basset hound/ black lab mix has the incredible ability to ooze across the floor like a freakin’ amoeba.

No. We were left to discover this skill on our own.

Here is how it works.

I sit the kids down at the table to eat breakfast. I serve up some fruit and some nice buttery waffles.

Bentley immediately jumps to attention and runs under the table. As the strong, alpha, leader member of our family pack, I stand up and command, “Bentley, out!” My adorable little floppy eared baby boy looks up at me as if he has never heard this word before. “Out?”, his big brown eyes ask, “you mean, like sit down and beg?”

“OUT!” I say more sternly.

“You mean crouch down under Johnny’s baby seat?” the puppy asks, all innocence and sweetness.

“OUTIE OUT OUT OUT!!!!” I cry.

Bentley lowers his head, and acts as if he’s embarrassed by my lack of self control.

I flash back to the wonderful puppy training classes that we took with Lennie when he was an obnoxious little pain our new puppy. I remember how our trainers, Karen and Claudia, told us to use positive reinforcement to get the dogs to obey.

I change my tone, and grab a few little treats. “Bennie, honey, come!” I hold out my hand. Bentley looks at me and conveys the words “you gotta be kidding” with his eyebrows.  I go to the fridge and grab a piece of cheese.

“Bentley,” I say firmly. “Come.” I hold out the cheese.

He comes. He eats the cheese in the living room, away from the kids. “Good boy!” I say. “Now stay!”

I go back to the table, serving up more fruit and toast and a couple of newly toasted waffles. The kids eat. I sip my coffee.

I look for Ben.

He is lying on the floor, his nose just barely across the dividing line between “under the table” and “out.” I can’t really object because, you know, most of him is actually “out.” I sip my coffee. I take a bite of toast. I glance back at the doggie.

H’m.

He is in the exact same position as the last time I checked on him. Nose on paws, looking half asleep.

But now he’s four inches closer to the table. How did he DO that? I frown. “Stay out”, I tell him sternly.

Johnny asks for more fruit. By shrieking at the top of his lungs. I grab the bowl of apples and kiwis and start to slice. I give John a helping. I glance back at Bentley.

Same damn position. Same appearance of sleep.

But now his big nose is within an inch of my foot.

“Ben!” I hiss. “Stay. Out.”

He looks up at me, his entire demeanor one of innocent outrage. “I haven’t MOVED”, his face proclaims.

But then….how is it that he is suddenly all the way under Johnny’s chair? He’s still lying still, still resting his nose on his big paws. Still looking Totally. Innocent.

Really?

What the absolute hell, I ask myself. Has anyone else out there ever experienced the phenomenon of a dog who can actually ooze across an entire room? I swear, this dog is like an oil spill. You think he’s contained. You don’t ever see him move. But there he is, all the way across the room from where you thought you had planted him.

It’s a damn good thing he’s so cute. Or else I’d be ready to mop him up with a ShamWow and send him off to someone in need of a nice oozing puppy to slide across the bed and land on their backbone at midnight.

IMG_20180922_102322

Oozing my way into your hearts!!!

Levels of Comfort


13690800_10153573793405899_2680432718176470304_n

I am getting older. I am a woman, as they say, “of a certain age.”

What this means is that my body parts are no longer the same as they were in 1970. Gentlemen, if there are any of you reading this, you might want to look away. For this is a story of how we older ladies seek comfort.

Let me start by remembering the years when I was a working woman. I used to have an entire wardrobe of “work clothes” to choose from. These items were crisp, professional, fitted, buttoned and up to date.

They were fine, but they weren’t relaxation clothes. Back then, I also had an entire wardrobe of flannel shirts, loose jeans and soft sweatshirts. Comfort and style were opposite goals.

Then I got older. I became a teacher in a school that valued personal choice over style. I created a closet full of “comfy but professional” skirts, pants, sweaters, vests and blouses. I wore those from Mon-Friday. On the weekends I was back to my jeans and flannels.

And time went on. I became a cranky old teacher. Then I became a retired old teacher.

Now?

Now I am Nonni-in-charge. Now I can go from Sunday to Sunday without ever actually leaving my house.

I no longer have professional, crisp, stylish clothes. Now I have skinny jeans, black jeans, leggings and a range of loose fitting t shirts and sweatshirts. Now I have comfy clothes and “I don’t give a f*” clothes.

Now, my dear ones, now it all comes down to the bra.

Yup.

The girls, as I like to call them, are no longer the perky little lasses that I used to put into sleek sweaters. Now they are a couple of droopy old broads who just want to skip over breakfast and get straight to happy hour.

So now my “formal” vs “informal” wardrobe is ALL about the bra.

I’ll explain what I mean.

If its a normal day, and I’m going to be here in the living room with Johnny and Ellie, I put on my “comfy” bra. This little item is made of cloth. It has NO elastic at any point in it’s design. It holds the girls up….sort of….but it doesn’t put any stress on anyone. It just sort of holds everybody in place. It’s sweet. It never pinches.

I love this bra.

But if I know that the mom and dad of one of my very favorite toddlers will be coming to drop her off and pick her up?…… Well, that’s a day when Nonni puts on a comfy bra with a couple of pads inside. This bra is comfy, but not as comfy as the one above. It sort of pretends that the ladies are still fine upstanding citizens. It makes the sweater look like it belongs on a wise woman, instead of a creepy old derelict homeless lady.

The comfy but padded bra is my “semi-formal” look.

But what do I do, as a stay at home Nonni, when I am going to be visited by an elegant, sophisticated, incredibly intelligent woman of the previous generation? What do I do if this woman is one of my most admired ladies, and if she is coming to see her great grand children?

Well.

I can’t exactly put on my best silk sweater: I will have goldfish crackers regurgitated on me at some point today. I can’t wear a skirt or a dress, because I will no doubt find myself on my hands and knees picking up marker caps before the puppy can eat them.

I can’t dress up like a professional.

But I CAN wear an actual bra.

Not a soft cup, comfort providing, sports bra. Oh no.

When I know that I must do my best to impress, I get out my favorite soft sweatshirt, my jeans leggings, and my best lacy cupped bra. I put that thing on, strapping the ladies in for a ride. “Girls,” I tell them, “We need to make a good impression!”

And I go through my day, perky old ladies on full display.

I feel so formal. So professional.

Tomorrow, when its just me and the kids?  Floppy ladies all the way.

 

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?”

What Gender Roles?


I love being a grandmother. I mean….jeez, I love it! I get to adore my grandchildren without worrying every minute that I’m ruining their lives. (Yup. I remember being a neurotic Mom.) I get to play, make a nice mess, then have the evening to put things back in order.

I get to feed them. A lot.

I love that.

I love watching them grow. I love watching them change, and learn new things. I love seeing which parts of them are nature and which parts are pure nurture.

Ellie, at the tender age of three, is a bit cautious and very sensitive to feelings and moods. And she’s dramatic.

She also loves to solve problems. She has a certain tenacity that lets her scream in frustration while trying to put things together, then sob in outrage, then pick up the tools and start again.

She works with her tongue in the corner of her mouth, frowning and humming as she tries to figure out which piece goes where. She does NOT quit.

When she’s done, she often looks up at me and says, “I did it!!!”

She loves to dress up, she loves to dance ballet. The more glitter, the better, as far as Ellie (“I’m Elsa and Anna right now.”) is concerned. She loves hair ties, and jewelry and plastic princess shoes with high heels.

And she loves blocks, trains, cars, fitting things together and tool kits. She loves to cook, to plant flowers and to defeat the bad guys with her magic.

She is a warrior woman. She is all things that a strong, brave, beautiful, self-confident young female should be.

Warrior Woman Child

Yes, I am using a drill while dressed as Ariel. Why do you ask?

Hooray for letting kids choose their own way. Hooray for telling young girls that they can be sparkly superheroes who defeat the bad guys with drills and high heels.

Hooray.

And while we cheer for the power of little girls, let’s embrace the power of little boys to choose their own paths, too!

Our little Johnny is only a year old. He can walk, climb, throw a ball, drive a car, play the drums and smack his Nonni in the head with a block.

He hurls himself backward into whatever is behind him, whether it’s the couch, a blanket or a pile of bricks. He kicks, he squeals, he eats with both hands.

He seems like the traditional description of “all boy.”

But.

He also looks at his Nonni from across the room. He tucks his little chin, grins and toddles across the room with both arms wide open. When I scoop him up, he rests his cheek against mine and coos, “awwwwww” as he hugs me.

He puts his toys to sleep on the sofa pillows. He feeds them and sings to them and rocks them.

Johnny sings and dances when any music comes on. He asks me to sing when I rock him to sleep, but if he doesn’t like the tune, he sits up in my arms and puts a hand on my mouth. He likes gentle, repetitive songs that have words he can imitate. “Blue bird, blue bird, at my window” is one of his favorites.

He is sweet.

When he was here with me the other day, without his big sister or his Mommy, he found a headband of Ellie’s in a drawer. “Ah”, he said, handing it to me. “Ah” . He tilted his head forward, so I’d put the band on his head.

Then he started to dance. There was no music playing, but he knew that on most days, he and Ellie would dance to the music on my computer.

He twirled, he raised his hands, he picked up one foot at a time. He was delighted to be dancing in the sunshine of my living room, all by himself. He was dancing for his own pleasure.

Then his internal ballet music must have stopped, because he bent down to pick up a toy car.

Johnny

“One pirouette and Vroom!!!”

“Vrrmmmmmm!” he announced, his headband still delightfully in place.

Kudos to the new generation of parents, who let their boys dance around in pink tutus while their girls use the drill. You all give me so much hope for a happy, more balanced future.

 

 

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!!

 

Let’s Pretend


When I watch my granddaughter Ellie at play, I am reminded of just how amazing and fantastical the world can be. At the very young age of two and a half, Ellie has an imagination that takes her to incredible places and lets her be a hundred different characters in one short day.

She is amazing.

I sit back to watch, and I marvel at how effortless it is for her to create her own world and to inhabit that world with total abandon.

Today, for example, we were outside on the lawn. The kiddie pool was filled and a bunch of toys were spread around the yard. Baby Johnny, at only 11 months, was happy to splash in the pool and touch the water coming out of the hose. He chewed on grass, and kicked his feet. He pulled himself to standing on my lawn chair. He was happy to be in the moment, touching and mouthing every concrete novelty in front of him.

But Ellie. Ellie was in another place entirely.

IMG_20180502_132030

“Nonni!” she called, “Elsa and Anna are here today!”

“Hi, girls!” I answered as she ran toward me with her arms wide open.

I’m not sure why Ellie so often pretends to be both Anna and Elsa, but they were on my lawn today. Maybe it’s because the two stars of the movie “Frozen” are sisters, and Ellie is in need of a young companion. Maybe it’s because the two young women in the movie have adventures and face dangers and rush from one exciting moment to the next.

Maybe its the beautiful clothes that they wear, or the endearing little snowman who befriends them.

I don’t know.

All I know is that today, in the 85 degree heat, Ellie rushed all around the yard, from the pool to the bikes to the strawberry patch and back again.

“Elsa! Come with me! We need to go home!”

“I’m coming, Anna! I have to bring these puppies!”

“Oh, no! Nonni, there is a flood and Elsa and Anna have to save the puppies!”

Little was required of me, for which I was grateful. I was busy pulling sticks and bugs out of Johnny’s mouth. But I was so enthralled watching her, listening to her running dialogue.

“Anna, wait! The puppies need to have food!”

“Elsa, come with me! I have puppy food here in my frozen castle!”

I could almost see the scenes she was describing as she ran from the pool to the spot on the lawn where her “puppies” were recovering from their ordeal. She was there. She was Anna or Elsa in that moment. She believed that there were cold and hungry puppies on the grass before her, and as I watched her, so did I.

So now, as the sun has set, and the kids are at home with their parents, now I find myself thinking.

When did I lose the ability to create a whole new world with just my words? When did I stop pretending?

I wonder.

What was the last game that I ever played? Who played with me? Where did I put my own personal “Elsa and Anna” and how did I let them die without a thought?

Childhood is magic.

Watching it unfold before me every day is a gift that I will never take for granted.

 

Sleep Training, Nonni Style


john asleep

Remember when your babies were little? Remember those long, long, long nights when they’d wake up roughly every 42 seconds to nurse?

Yeah. Me too.

My daughter, the goddess of motherhood, is in the middle of this struggle right now. She has a beautiful, brilliant, (not kidding, she’s way smarter than I am) 2 1/2 year old daughter. And an almost ten month old son.

It’s little Johnny who is waking them up all night long.

I feel a tiny bit responsible for this difficult situation.

See, I watch the two kids every day, and I don’t always manage to get Johnny to take enough breast milk during the day. That makes him want to nurse all night long.

I mean, I try, God knows, I do! I give him oatmeal with breast milk, cheerios with breast milk, noodles in breast milk. I even have a new bottle, with little handles that he can use to feed himself that precious momma’s milk.

Except that he doesn’t. When I try to give him a bottle, I settle into our usual glider rocker and I lay him across my lap. I hold the bottle to his lips. He looks up at me with his huge brown eyes, all filled with love and joy. He takes approximately 2.2 sips. Then he grabs the handles of the bottle, jerks himself into a sitting position and proceeds to smack me in the head with the breastmilk filled bottle. He chortles. He giggles. He shakes the bottle so that milk flies through the air.

Just as I’m about to grab the bottle and the baby and wrestle both of them into submission, Johnny pops the nipple into his mouth, looks at me with the innocent eyes of a saint, and take two good gulps.

Repeat. After 30 minutes he might have taken one ounce. Two more are on my floor.

And then nap time comes.

Because we are sleep training, I have tried gently placing our sleepy little boy into the pack and play crib. The idea is for the little one to learn how to soothe himself to sleep. He should cry for a few minutes, then settle down to nap.

Of course, this doesn’t always go as smoothly as I’d like. In the first place, the crib is so low and the side are so high that in order for this old lady to get the half-asleep child into the bed, I have to lean over far enough to dislocate at least two vertebrae. And on the way down to the mattress, our beloved Johnny has learned to arch his back, turn his head, throw his arms up and generally make it clear that if I actually let go, I’ll do him irreparable harm.

Nevertheless, I get him in there every damn morning.

Then I go into the kitchen and I desperately try to wash dishes while listening to him scream as if his toenails are being removed with tweezers. I can hear his internal monologue, “MOMMA! She’s killing me!!! She hates me!!! She threw me into this pit of hell! My neck got twisted! My back hurts! WHY does she hate me???!!!!”

I leave him to cry it out. I hold on as long as I possibly can. His big sister usually looks at me with her own accusing brown eyes. Sometimes, I swear, she shakes her head in disbelief at my cruelty.

So 27 seconds after I put Johnny down, I scoop him back up again. I hold him to my chest, stroking his back.

He sobs. He hiccups, he lifts his tear stained cheeks to me and looks at me with accusing, melting chocolate eyes. He grabs my shirt with his tiny fists. He lays his head against my chest. He sighs.

I sit in the rocker, holding him to my heart. He falls asleep with his angelic face lifted to mine. His lips, so pink and perfect, make a lovely bow. His cheeks flush and his beautiful long lashes brush them gently.

I hold him. I watch him sleep, feeling his every breath against my own.

“I tried, ” I say aloud into the room. “I did. I tried.”

I cradle him a little closer. I close my own eyes, feeling a sense of relaxation and peace that so often eludes me.

Two hours later, when we both wake up from our naps, I hold him upright on my knee.

“Seriously, kid, ” I tell him. “Tomorrow we are going to let you cry it out. We ARE.”

He grins. He reaches his hand out and grabs me by my little finger. He looks me in the eye.

“Gabagoo.” He says. And I believe him.