Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Recap

Naomi enjoying second breakfast
Christmas preparations take months!  All the planning and buying and wrapping and baking and, and, and...  and then it's over in the blink of an eye.  In truth, Christmas Day in the Harris household was one LONG blink that started abound 9 am and ended 10 hours later.

We started with stockings and Butter Braids - gooey sugary goodness wrapped around a cinnamon center.  Yum!  We moved on to gifts.  I can't give you a list of items received. My vision was hampered by flying wrapping paper. But I did see smiles all around.

Joyfully Josiah
Next came dishes for some of us, games for others and then a feeble attempt at gingerbread houses. Granma was losing steam by then. Somewhere in the afternoon there were several rounds of naps: by the very youngest and by several of the parents. The eldest of us relied on caffeine to prepare the next round if eating.  There was a salad assist (thank you, Corey) and potatoes mashing (thank you, Colin).  Dinner arrived more or less as scheduled and as planned.  One salad spent a lonely Christmas, forgotten in the basement frig. The dishwasher, on the other hand,
did not get a holiday, either the mechanical or the human variety.

We ended the day with the most beautiful dessert ever, courtesy of Christine.  And it tasted better than it looked. Bella loved the rum sauce; she was allowed an entire thimbleful.  It was quite rummy!

The best way to sum up the day came from Elijah aka Zeke aka Nugget (he answers to them all). With perfect 2 year old diction he intoned, "Ho, ho, ho!  Mer-wee Crit-with!!!"  And it was, sweet one!  It absolutely was.


Nuggets of wisdom - Mer-wee Crit-with!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cookie: Monsters and Minnions

Some Christmas traditions just must occur.  I might spend some time wistfully thinking how much easier the season would be without hours spent, say, wrapping gifts or decorating the tree, but I wouldn't give it up.  That makes me either a hopeless sap or obsessive compulsive.  I prefer sentimental Granma hoping to pass on a tradition or two - though OCD is pretty descriptive, too.

I am hardly the investor of the Christmas cookie baking tradition.  There are a lot of us sugar plum(p) fairies during the holidays!  As a child, my siblings and I required our Mom to make gingerbread Santas.  They were about 6" tall, frosted and an unquestioned stocking stuffer.  No one really ate them, but they were not Christmas optional, either.  Mom grew tired of making them long before we moved out of the house.  They are still required when we go home for Christmas...

About 17 years ago, (how could it be that long?) my bestie invited me to join her in making Christmas cookies.  I think the first year we had a dozen different kinds, the second year we made 13.  Each year we tried to top the previous year - until we realized we weren't that impressed with ourselves.  Six is a good number for anyone wondering, a fact that we proved again last Sunday.  We were heavy on the chocolate, which might not make for the most photogenic sugar gathering, but it sure tastes good!

Just a couple of days previous to that, Josiah and Aidan joined me in round of frosting art.  Their cookies, as you can plainly see, are a study in eye catching design.  Little to no chocolate was employed, though marshmallows were popular, as were sprinkles.  We started with more marshmallows than you see here.  Apparently, it's pretty easy to sneak those fluff balls - there is no tell-tale crunch to call attention to the guilty pleasure/party.

At one point, I caught Josiah "sprinkling" his tongue with red sugar.  Upon extracting the bottle from his mouth (and bidding it a premature farewell), I looked left to see Aidan taste-testing the blue sugar in much the same fashion.  Brothers...  It has been a few days now, and I'm starting to remember with fondness, and a giggle, two little boys with red and blue smiles.  I must remember to get more sprinkles before attempting cookies with them again.  Who knew it a whole bottle of sprinkles was a single use item?

So who won the cookie cook-off of 2016?  Well, for looks, I have to give it to the mini monsters.  They beat the besties with color and creativity!  However, for general public consumption of a more sanitary nature, I recommend the chocolate.  Seventeen years of practice has to show up somewhere - besides our hips...

Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Magic

There are some special "grands" Christmas memories.

Last year was one of them.  Holding two precious baby girles, home from the hospital, but still tethered to oxygen.  How sweet that was!  This year, holding them is much more difficult - they want to be down and moving, especially Faith.  She gyrates in your arms, demanding the freedom of the floor.  What a wonderful, miraculous, welcome change!

Bella's first Christmas with us was last year, too.  She arrived walking and talking, of course.  She and I made ornaments to decorate the tree, dancing snowmen and gingerbread men and women.  We started out following the directions.  We ended up with a whole village of our creations - no two the same.

A dozen Christmases ago, was Bryce's first, all six weeks old of him.  I was still trying on the name 'Granma,' and hadn't settled on the spelling yet.  But I certainly had settled on Bryce!  He has sparkled on Christmas every year since.  I'm looking forward to some boardgames with him this Christmas.


Tyler was almost a year old by the time his first Christmas arrived.  Older and wiser, he enjoyed all the gifts, especially the wrapping and bows.  I love to watch the world through his eyes, which haven't lost the wonder of expectation.

Elijah slept through much of his first Christmas, a mistake he won't make again, I'm sure!  Being grandboy number five at the time, the pack-and-play was a safe location for him, while the rest of the world spun out of control with laughter and bits of colorful confetti raining down.

But my favorite grandboy Christmas memory is the year Aidan learned to blow out the Christmas tree!  He walked into the house, straight up to the tree and started blowing.  The behavior seemed a bit odd, quite frankly, two-year-old adorable, but odd.  Court and Christine let us know that we should stand at the ready by the light switch that controlled the outlet to the tree lights.  We were a quick study.  The lights went off (or back on) with each watery blow from his lips.

My next favorite memory is too intertwined to be a separate memory, though it happened two years later.  Aidan was then in control of the light switch for two-year-old Josiah.  His younger brother would giggle with delight that started at his toes.  Aidan, sharing in the joy, joined a duet with the shear joy of toddler laughter!

I can't wait for Christmas!  I wait expectantly with the joy of a toddler for the gathering of the red and green grands!  Merry Christmas, everyone!  And merry memories in the making!



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

One, Two, Four, Five, Six...

Angelic looks can be deceiving
Family gatherings are always an adventure, regardless of the location.  The most recent occurred at our house.  We are fairly child-proof here, or at least the adults are not so severely outnumbered by the munchkins that it has been a problem.  The biggest rule is to keep the basement door closed.  We do not want the twins exploring the stairs.  This, of course, means that the door is slammed multiple times throughout the gathering, though we barely notice among the other bedlam.  Some toys are housed upstairs where they are available to the mini grandgirlies.  But the ones of more interest to larger grands are in the basement.

Last week, after turning down an invitation to join them in play, those between the ages of 2 and 11 made their way down to the toys.  I am experienced enough to eliminate the "toys" that should not be available.  Their toy room is also my toy room, so sharp quilting items are put away and the sewing machine is unplugged.  There is something about that on/off switch that is a grandboy magnet.  Eliminating the lights that flash helps immensely.  All involved are well aware of the doors that may be opened and those that offer nothing for their playing pleasure.

Shortly after the crew descended, the eldest three among them, made their way back upstairs.  (Tattling is always more fun in groups.)  "Granma, Josiah is being bad.  He's going into the wrong rooms."  I joined them in their lair, where I found Josiah (3) in the gift closet.  So close to Christmas, this is not a good thing.  "And he's turning on and off you sewing machine."

"Josiah, Granma's machine is not a toy."  He acknowledged my authority with a slap to the previously unplugged machine.  Sigh.

"And he hid the TV controller behind the TV."  Easily remedied.

Josiah and I made our way upstairs, where he decided the most desirable toy available was in his sister's hands.  A short discussion ensued before his father directed Josiah to a special bench designed just for thinking.

Bryce commented at dinner that Josiah was being really bad that day, which gave me a chance to offer him some sage parental advice that he will not be able to use for another decade or two.  But for those of you who might need the help sooner, here it is.  Avoid three year olds at all cost.  Terrible twos are not that bad, and three becomes four in a year's time.  But if at all possible, skip three.

There.  Now if you figure out how to do that, let me know.  Until then, I'll just have to love him anyway.  I do love you, Josiah, and I'm looking forward to your birthday...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Movember

I have a father and three brothers.  There have been many mustaches and beards among them.  Actually, I never remember seeing my father with anything more than a few days growth on vacation.  But my brothers have all sported substantial facial hair from time to time.

Then there are my three sons and my husband.  Only twice in 37 years of marriage have I seen Ken without a mustache.  My sons, on the other hand, I remember with peach-fuzz heads and lily-white chins.  Both of those memories are now distant - especially the chin part.  A closer look at the picture, though, will show that all three sons are "headed" back to their peach-fuzz "roots".  I'm told that comes from the mother's side - oops.  Sorry...

In case it has escaped your attention, it is Movember, the designated month to remind the men you love to take care of themselves.  There are lots of men in my life, some old enough for facial hair and some not yet.  I love them all, now and forever!

This public service announcement is brought to you by:
BRYCE
EMMA
BELLA





        and








 As well as Colin, who wishes he didn't need a wooden beard to match his brother, Court's, wooly one.

Take care of your health, men!  There are moms and daughters and granmas who love you and wouldn't know what to do without you - facial hair and all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

I, like many of you, grew up with tethered phones.  Short of a tornado that took your whole house, you never lost your phone.  You also didn't leave messages for people, because unless you were calling a doctor who paid a service to answer their phones after hours, there was no voice mail.  When we dialed the phone, we actually dialed the phone.  How many millennials use that term without the slightest idea that originally it was a literal description?  And, oh, if you wanted to know who was on the other end of a ringing phone, you had to pick up the receiver and ask.  BTW, if someone was actually away from the house, say living life or something, the phone went unanswered.  How did we get by in those dark ages?

I'm not really pining after those bygone days, but there was something kind of nice about not being instantly available to anyone and everyone.  Of course, if you ask my kids, they will tell you that I am really bad at keeping my phone on my person.  The rebellion of mid-century, middle child...

I am blessed to live within 20 minutes of all of my grandboys and girlies, meaning I don't have to spend a lot of time talking to them on the phone.  This is probably a really good thing, for reasons that aren't necessarily 21st century.

Under the best of circumstances, toddler speak can be difficult to interpret.  Frequently, the conversation is easiest to follow while chasing after the wee one to see what he sees.  At least it gives you context and a fighting chance to follow his unique stream of consciousness and foreign sounding phrases.  Even when you are two feet from him, he's too much a busy body to actually sit still, face you and speak.  This multi-directional speak is exacerbated with a phone that never moves in sync with the miniature among us.

Additionally, as it was a lifetime ago, it is still difficult to hear when a child shakes his head.  Of course, there is Facetime, which my lovely grandgirlie, Bella, employed first thing in the morning on my recent birthday.  What a sweet, sweet start to my day.  She might not agree, as she got to see me still in my jammies, hair and makeup still on my "to do" list.  And that little picture in the upper corner that shows me how I look to the other person mocks me!  Why can I never hold the phone so my nose doesn't fill the screen?  Most of the time I rather like my nose - except when Apple gets a hold of it...

The other day, Josiah and Elijah were fighting over the "phone."  Granma to the rescue - I found an additional phone not currently in use.  Yep, they were both calculators.  At least I didn't have to worry about them buying an unauthorized app...

The best part about the phones of today is that grandones are the best teachers.  All too often I hear myself saying, "Hey, how did you do that?"  With a shrug that says 'she's old - I'll have pity,' they let me in on Apple's best kept secrets.

Just reaching out to touch someone.  Now THAT dates me!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ignored!

It happened again, as it does with some regularity.  The family gathered for food and bedlam at increasing decibels.  Here is the funny thing about decibels:  they increase, one child to the next, each vying for attention, until - Mom or Dad or another adult figure ups the ante on the loudness scale and demands silence (parental oxymoron: yelling for silence).  The adult safety valve was released, but long before the echos died away, the noise returned.  Someday when I am deaf, I will smile contently at the din I can no longer hear.  I just enjoy the gathering!

Last weekend's event was to celebrate birthdays of Bryce's and mine.  That made me a special guest - well, I'm always special, right?  But there was a consensus on that day, and I expected to revel in it.

Walking in the front door, the town crier opened the basement door and bellowed, "Granma's here!"  Five munchkins, all under the age of eight bounced off the various subterranean walls and responded.  "Granma!!!!"  The thundering herd came up the stairs laughing and talking.  Elijah voice, carried above them all - not that he was the loudest, but his toddler voice continually repeated my name.  I love that kid!  I got hugs and kisses and happy birthdays and requests for piggy back rides.  Piggy back turned into piggy pile when I made the mistake of sitting on the floor.  I love all those kids!

Shortly thereafter, this Granma was rescued by a voice telling those under five feet tall to take it downstairs until dinner.  Not yet having shrunk in stature enough to be banished to the basement, I remained upstairs for adult conversation.  Elijah, feigning height he does not actually possess, remained upstairs, still spouting my name every other sentence or so.  Love, love, love!

Dinner arrived along with the diminutive noise makers.  Here things turned left:  Uncle Corey became the human equivalent of a jungle gym.  Uncle Colin participated in his share to monkey business, too.  Granma watched.  Eventually the miniature were herded back down to their lair.  Aside from a call to cake, where the cake garnered more attention than this birthday celebrant, midgets were only sighted periodically, usually bringing words like "he took my..." or "he won't let me..."

As the evening wound down, I thought maybe I had lost my Granma-ly touch (though my sanity was blissfully in tact) as I put on jacket on to leave.  Then was heard an announcement aimed downward from the top of the steps:  "Granma's leaving!"  And right on cue, the the masses fell up the stairs pushing and shoving and giggling.  I was swept up on a chorus of "I love you" and "happy birthday", sloppy kisses and hurdled hugs.  So much love!  It was indeed my special day afterall.

Oh, and glad I didn't have to pick up the basement.  I can only imagine...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Happy birthdays to me!

Today is the exact mid-point between my birthdays.  As a kid, I always wanted a second birthday - you know, back when getting older seemed to have all the perks.  Besides, my birthday is close to Christmas and a spring present opportunity seemed a good gig.  Gifts aside, I finally got my second birthday - two days before the original one.  Tomorrow I will be 57 (gasp), but yesterday I turned 11.  So I guess I'm 34 today.  Maybe you can follow my math but question my logic, but I assure you there is logic there - somewhere...  Eleven years ago yesterday, my original grandboy was born, and along with it, the birth of this Granma.

That baby boy Bryce was pink and wrinkly when he was born - pink when he wasn't testing his lungs, which made him more fuchsia - but still 100% blue.  From those very first hours, he taught me to be a Granma.  He taught me to share (him - with his parents).  He taught me to eat yogurt off of chubby, sticky, outstretched fingers (I still hate the stuff, but I obliged him out of love).  He reminded me that even after reading the same book 25,000 times, you still can't skip a page.  Of course, you don't actually have to "read" it, either.  It just rolls off your tongue (and through your nightmares).

As he grew he learned that even average hurts to a small body are huge - I lesson I wish I could have spared him.  Hugs and kisses might not vanquish all those hurts, but they are good salve for the soul - both of our souls.

Together we have conquered merry-go-rounds and water slides and roller coasters.  We proved that you are never too old for Disney - not at 11 or 34 or 57... or 114 for that matter.  Bryce tried to teach  me about Mario Cart - unsuccessfully - and more recently about Minecraft and Pokemon.  Alas, with the same results.  I taught him to play Monopoly, first of the Junior variety and then the real game.  The rules of the adult version include no more blind-eyed Granma letting him cheat to win.  It is a lesson he learned well.  Winning is now a shared talent.  Sometimes he even cheats to lose just so the game won't end as quickly.  (Monopoly and end quickly = oxymoron!)

It doesn't feel like 11 years ago.  I don't feel like 57, either.  Maybe I'll just lay claim to 34 for awhile.  I love sharing this birthday season with you, Bryce.  And I love you!!!  Happy Birthday!!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Take me out to the Ball Game!


Elijah lamenting Cubs losses in
games 3 & 4
If you live anywhere near Chicagoland, as I do, I don't have to tell you the Cubs are in the World Series for the first time in 71 years!  Even if you hate baseball, even if you are doing your best to ignore it, even if you are a Sox fan, it is not possible to have missed this slice of history in the making.  

I became a die hard Cubs fan in the summer of 1981, which makes me kind of new to the game.  I had a baby in my arms (Colin) and a beach ball of a belly (Corey).  Players like Ivan de Jesus, Lee Smith and Leon Durham kept me company as I folded laundry or picked up toys or cradled a crying child.  Having made our own sons into Cubs fans, this Granma and Grampa are watching as they pass it on to another generation.  My dad, on the other hand, remembers the last time the Cubs were in the World Series.  He was in 8th grade, the year he became interested in sports, all because of the Cubs.  

Court, Christine and crew were over for dinner the night of game 2 of this current series.  For those of you not quite so attuned to the contest, the Cubs recovered from a game 1 loss to the Indians with a handy defeat of the same to tie the series.  At one point during the game, Grampa got a bit excited about a Cubbie beating out a double play ball and yelled "Safe!", complete with arm  motions.  Wanting to join in the fun and being a toddler mimic, Elijah spent the remaining time before his bedtime pronouncing every play "safe": strike outs, walks, fly balls and ground outs.  He might have had some encouragement along the way.

In my 35 years of routing for the Cubs, I have occasionally felt guilty about subjecting another generation to the curse of being a Cub fan.  As a Granma, though, I'm feeling better about that decision.  It might be senility on my part, though, as that is always a possibility.  Too many men in your life will do that to you!  But mostly it's because the curse of the goat is broken.  I don't actually believe in curses, but I'm not fond of goat, either.  And at least it's a story that will be told as a historical anomaly to my grandboys, and not as a sudo-factual excuse.
Court (future father of Elijah), Corey (enjoying his 8th birthday)
and Colin enjoying a day at Wrigley Field.

Go, Cubs, Go!  Win one, no, two more, for the midgets among us and cement another generation of fans!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Parade of Halloween

Colin circa 1991
I'm not a major Halloween fanatic.  Well, I was when I was little.  Nothing like a sugar coma that can last for weeks. At some point, though, I realized that since Reese's come in two packs, it was far easier and almost as attractive to simply apply one to each hip.  Sigh.

As I kid, I would spend weeks leading up to the fall fest planning what to wear - AND gathering the parts and making the costume.  I have never worn a "store-bought" costume.  They probably weren't as prevalent when I was a child, but I don't remember lusting after them.  I kind of felt sorry for the poor kids whose parent's couldn't create a costume designed by the heart's desire.

When my boys were in the trick-or-treat age span, they never wore "store-bought" costumes, either.  I enjoyed creating whatever they wanted to be.  In their youngest years, of course, I was able to guide their requests based on ideas and props I had on hand.  There were lions and tigers, crayons and pumpkins, baseball players and maffiosa. In later years, they put me to the test. One year Colin was a baseball.  Another year Corey was a baseball card.  Court made an adorable T-Rex.  But if there is one contume that stands out among the many, it was the year that Colin decided he wanted to be a milk carton.  It seemed an odd request, but not an impossible one.  And, hey, he works in the grocery business now, so maybe it was just foreshadowing...

I thought my costume creating days were over.  Let's face it, now the store-bought can be pretty impressive - expensive, but elaborate.  This Halloween, though, I got "the call!"  I didn't even know I was missing the call, until it came:  costumes for Bryce, Tyler and Bella.  Bryce wanted to be a Pokeball (which I contend looks like a bobber.  I think his father should dress as a fish.  Just a thought.).  Tyler is Mike Wazowski (I'm hoping you guessed that from the picture).  And Bella, well, she is a Southern Bell(a), of course.  Unfortunately, she wasn't available to model for this picture.

So, Happy Halloween, everyone!  Not spooks and goblins, but fun and imagination... and candy!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Falling for Grandboys - Again

Except for the thermometer that registered in the 80s today, we are completely into the fall season.  The fall colors are heading toward breath-taking, though the temps in the early morning can be as well.  I love the fall, especially when I get to take grandboys to the pumpkin farm.

Growing up in rural Iowa, the only pumpkin farms I knew of were the ones in the back yard.  They did not have jumping blobs or apple cider donuts.  Actually, they had weeds - a fact that my parents pointed out to my siblings and I.  Our "play" in the pumpkin patch involved ridding it of said interlopers.  I had to move to the 'burbs of Chicago to make peace with the pumpkins.

A couple of weeks ago, grandboys #1 and 2 were in need of an outing, which was really good timing for this Granma.  We traveled westward about 20 miles to a favorite fall location of mine.  Kuipers - home of the most amazing apple cider donuts!  I have been known to make the trip all by myself, returning home with a half empty donut bag on the seat next to me.  Coincidentally, my seat belt was stretched a bit further, too, around the other half of the donuts...  Back to Bryce and Tyler...

Fresh off a sleepover at Granma's, we headed first to the jumping blob, though we had to play nice since we were not the only autumnal revelers. Then there were the water pump duck races - Bryce won.  Tyler and I had a run off for second, which I diligently tried to lose.  I lost at losing.  As it turned out, the pouting face that acknowledged defeat was only a shadow of the fun to come.

We proceeded to the slide, the spider web and the hay bale jump before wandering into the corn maze.  Just looking at the maze, all three of us had flashbacks to last year, when we got hopelessly lost among the ears.  Feeling slightly brave, but mostly realistic, we opted for the beginner's maze.  Half way into that baby maze, we backed out.  Discretion is the better part of valor.  Besides, the loud speaker told us it was time for the pig races.  Who could pass that up?  The pig nose that Bryce is sporting is proof that he backed the winning pig - Albert Einswine, as I recall.

Next came lunch and an epic Tyler melt down.  Lack of sleep, lack of blog jumping time and lack of pig nose combined to make for whine time as we waited in line.  It may had contributed to the shorter line, too.  Even apple cider donut promises did not stem the tide of tears.  Nor, in the long run, did it prevent donuts.  I don't threaten with fall's favorite treat!  I wouldn't want to have to make good on the threat!

In the end, it was a good trip.  Tyler brightened up and sugared up, as you can see, and I adjusted my seat belt for the trip home.  I must begrudgingly admit that fall is indeed a wonderful time of year.  And we didn't get swallowed up in the corn maze.  Success!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite...

When I was growing up, so many, many moons ago, groups of girls used to gather for sleepovers.  The more bodies you could talk your parents into, the better - never an easy sell  I suspect the parents on the other end of the equation were happy for the night off, though.  Not having raised any girls, I'm not 100% certain of that.  Boys had sleepovers, too, which involved much pizza, soda, belching, and shouting that generally had to be corralled when it oozes into hear-shot of the neighbors.  But that's another story all together.

I remember on certain sleepover at Polly's house.  We were in the basement, two stories away from others hoping for some sleep.  Monika fell asleep first, which is never a good thing.  Better to stay up all night.  Anyway, someone got the bright idea to wake her up while shining two flashlights in her eyes and yelling "truck!"  She had nightmares the rest of the night.  Apparently girl sleepovers are as squirrely as boy sleepovers, minus the belching.  Sorry, Monika...

Saturday night, I took part in another sleepover.  We slept in the basement, well, some of us did, and the exact number of souls sleeping there changed over the course of the night.  Aidan (5), Josiah (3), and Elijah (2) started the adventure.  Trying to be considerate, I plugged in a night light.  However, the shadows it cast were scarier than the darkness - a problem easily solved.  Having spend a napless afternoon keeping up with his brothers, Elijah was the first to fall asleep.  I protected him from even the slightest suggestion of a flashlight, and waited for his brothers to join him in slumber before finding a bed of my own.

My motherhood ears did not let me down, alerting me to a coughing child in the middle of the night.  I spend a very long half hour or so sitting in bed holding a weezy child until he drained properly.  Gratefully, he settled into a peaceful slumber.  Just as I was about to join him, Josiah announced his presence to the neighborhood, He was never able to articulate between his sobs just why he was crying.  But eventually, he settled down to sleep.  The sudden silence prompted Aidan to turn to me and ask "what's that sound?"  2:00 am is not a good time to explain a water softener.  Fortunately, he wasn't really that interested in the answer.

Back to bed next to a two year old, who was blissfully and animatedly sleeping.  That made one of us.  I spent much of the rest of the wee hours removing toddler hands and feet from various parts of my body.  6:30 arrived WAY ahead of schedule, ushered in by our barking dogs.  The little boy eyes laying next to me popped open.  I know this, because I'm not sure mine ever closed entirely the whole night.

What a great, exhausting, incoheriently comical night it turned out to be.  By 7:30 everyone was happily munching on Pop Tarts (breakfast of champions) and making plans for the rest of the morning.  Their mom and dad arrived in the early afternoon, refreshed after a quiet, restorative night together. 

By 2:00 pm, all the toys (and boys) had been returned to their designated locations.  I took a nap to ward off the feeling of having been hit by a truck, sans flashlights.  And just like sleepovers of old, I can't shake the feeling that I want to do it again!  Sleep tight, grandboys of mine!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Belt and Suspenders

One of the things I love most about those ages represented by the fingers on one hand only is watching them learn.  You can almost watch things click into place in their growing, absorbing, curious minds.

"Were does yogurt come from?"

"Milk."

"No, Granma, you can drink milk, but not yogurt."

"Yes, really!  Yogurt comes from milk and milk comes from cows."

"Wow!  Where do shoes come from?"

"Well, leather comes from cows."

"TWO things come from cows?!"

Should I blow his mind that hamburger has bovine origins, too?

Aidan is also quite the reader, and speller, too.  He wants to know how to spell everything, which is good reason to stick to cow rather than bovine or Guernsey.  The other day, after spelling things out on scratch paper, he came and flopped down on the couch by me.  I started making letters on his back with my finger.  He told me the letters and then the word.  L-O-V-E  (easy and a natural, of course), and then A-I-D-A-N.

Recovering his five-year-old energy quickly, he announced that he could write on my back.  I bent over to give him better access to the intended writing surface.  C-E-I-L-I-N-G.  A bit random, I must say, making it harder to guess.  Fortunately, I had just spelled it out for him when he was using more conventional writing implements, so it wasn't completely from left field.

I was pretty sure the next word would be E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T, another word I had helped him spell earlier, and on the list he held in his hand.  I was right, which made un-refined back-writing easier to decipher.  However, midway though the word, he stopped.  "You have a bump on your back, Granma."  And with that, he pushed up my shirt up my back to investigate.

"Oh, I see," he announced.  "It's your belt."

No, I did not correct him.  I just did my best to stifle my laughter so as to not to shake his writing surface too much as he continued with the letters.  Excellent.  Yes, indeed, Aidan, you are!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fingers and Toes

There are things that happen when a child is born - things that are seared into your whole being and can never be forgotten.  Perhaps after a few decades they have taken on a life of their own - larger than life almost, in the form of a teeny, tiny perfectly formed being.  There is the first cry of a newborn, so familiar but so unique.  And seeing as newborn tear ducts don't produce tears yet, his parents supply them - happy tears, startled tears, overwhelming overwhelmed tears.  There are snuggles and sighs from the two generations immediately represented, but it doesn't stop there.  Now I know what Granma laughing tears feel like as well.

There are the comparisons - mouth and eyes and nose - as they relate to Mom and Dad and siblings.  There is the straining to see similarities that won't truly develop for years to come, but the start is there, or so we imagine.

I'm a finger and toes person, myself.  Curled up, wrinkly toes and long slender fingers with perfectly formed nails.  It's a little slice of heaven on earth to watch those tiny digits relax in sleep, allowing a really good look at the newest family member.  Babies are wonderful.  Birth is a miracle!

There are two sets of 10 perfectly forms grand digits in the family that I never got to view in miniature.  They belong to my Bella.  Of course, there were many who teared up at her birth.  Hours spent reveling in the beauty of her delicate features from her earliest days.  But I wasn't one of them.  Bella didn't burst into my world until she was five.  She is seven now.

Just last week, though, I got to do something I would have done naturally if we had met seven years earlier - I got to study her fingers.  And I got to do something that I have never done before:  I painted another person's fingernails!  I'm not particularly good at painting my own nails, but at least I know when to expect a zig or a zag in my movements and correct the angle of the brush accordingly.  Bella and I are not quite so symbiotic.  What I lacked in accuracy, I did my best to wipe off with my own finger and nail.  In the end, we admired ten near perfect and 100% adequately pink trimmed fingers.  There were also spots of pink on a paper towel, my fingers and Bella's knee.  Bella gets credit for the latter.

I got to really study her hands up close and personal for the first time.  They are perfectly formed and quite expressive (hence, in part, the splatters of pink in the various locations).  I didn't cry.  Nor did she.  In fact, there was much laughter.  I think that means the manicure was a success!  It was for me, anyway, though I don't see a career change coming my way.

I didn't get a picture of those 10 perfect fingers, pretty in pink.  And the toe model above belong to a grandboy of mine.  But look at her fingers.  Even without paint, they are indeed perfect!  I love you, Bella!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just call me (for) Bubbles






I love bubbles!  I'm not talking bathtubs or champagne.  And, believe me, I can pass on a sink full of bubbles with a stack of dirty dishes alongside.  Bubble wrap is good, but my favorite is the good old run of the mill bubbles from the bottle that come from the Five and Dime Store (which is now the Dollar Store - inflation...).

In the days of my youth, we would fish that slimy wand with circles on each end out of the colorful plastic bottle.  With just the right offering of air flow, bubbles would cascade from the wand.  They would float through the air without a care in the world, catching sunshine and manufacturing fragile, round rainbows.  If you mastered just the right delicate technique, you could catch the bubbles on the tip of the slimy wand, thereby holding a bubble in your "hand."  I really can't tell you what the attraction is, but considering that bubbles have been around FOREVER, I think I can say with confidence that it's not just me!

When Bryce was little, I would take him out on the back deck and blow bubbles with him. By that time, a great advance had taken place in bubble-ology - the bubble gun.  No more fishing a slimy wand out of a plastic bottle, though fingers still ended up sticky in the end.  There were times when Bryce was safely home in his own bed when I would sneak out on the deck just to blow bubbles by myself.  Sometimes there is nothing better than being three again in the privacy of your own backyard.

A few weeks ago at a craft fair, something like an electro-magnetic force drew me to the booth of a couple who were making enormous bubbles.   Yes, they did come home with me, as if there was any doubt - the bubbles magic, that is, not the vendors.

On a recent fine early fall day, we experimented with gigantic bubbles!  What our technique lacked, our enthusiasm made up for.  And by "our" I really mean Bryce and me.  My original soapy orb companion grandboy is still my most loyal bubble boy.  There is an amazing slow-mo video of Bryce making an 8' long bubble.  The really cool part was watching it pop in slow motion.  Alas, you will have to take that at my word.  Apparently the great, big wonderful world of technology has passed me by.  I'll just have to be satisfied with being a bubble guru - a much more distinctive, if not completely useful, distinction.  Thank you very much...



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Remembering for Those Who Can't

Last weekend felt so normal and so not.  The weather was beautiful but the mood was kind of bittersweet.  The fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 held sway over the news and nipped at my memory throughout the day.  How could it have possibly been 15 years ago?

Last summer I was traveling with Bryce.  As we waited to board our return flight he lamented that he would really like to see the cockpit.  "You used to be able to do that," I said, "until 9/11."

The look he gave me let me know a question was coming, but it wasn't the one I expected.  "Is that the month and the day or the month and the year?"  Bryce is 10.  How do you explain the horrors of that day without frightening a grandboy?  And how do you honor the fallen without an explanation?

What followed was a very abbreviated explanation of what is my life's current event and his dust-covered history.  Hijacked planes lead to the security line we had just wound through that keeps us safe.  Locked cabin doors are an added precaution.  That September day was, in part, what caused his father to join the Marines less than a year later.  It occurs to me now, that indirectly, that uniform lead to his parents meeting.  Absolutely unaware, unanticipated and unlikely, 9/11 and the chain of events to follow, lead to the birth of my eldest grandboy.

I have long thought that 9/11 is the Pearl Harbor of my generation.  It offers me a glimpse into my grandparents' cautious nature.  The indelible mark left by great, sudden and senseless evil gave my Granmas and Grampas a wariness for the world my siblings and I just called life-as-usual.  They feared for our future, for the possibility of history repeating itself.  One Granma lived long enough to see that fear come true.  Did she spend 9/11 remembering Hawaii and the subsequent entry into the Great War - a war that left her to care for three small children while her husband sent letters home from Europe?

I don't know where this meandering leads me, really.  Though I feel two generations older now, as I watch my grandboys and girlies running in the yard, pausing occasionally to point out an airplane passing far overhead.  I remember the weeks when the shiny birds held the ground instead - and the day when they sounded above again and a shiver went down our spines as we looked up and watched them glide by.

I don't want to forget.  And I want this twice descended generation to know this piece of their dusty history, too.  In truth, though, I want it always to remain history to them.  But like those who came before me, how can I believe that?  I can't.  I can only hope that a blanket of love will protect their hearts.  I'll just have to do my part to keep them covered.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Goodbye to Summer

The last weekend of summer is over.  Actually, it's the last "unofficial" weekend of summer since officially it continues until later this month.  But everyone who is in school or who has been in school knows that summer is over now.  So does the weather, though the good stuff may linger a bit longer.  The sun it starting to sleep later and later in the mornings and the trees are thinking of disrobing.  As nice as fall weather can be, it's no summer in my book.  Bittersweet is the best I can give it.

Not wanting the summer to slip away without one last family gathering, seventeen of us gathered on Sunday for a gourmet meal of encased meats, corn on the cob and other summer delights.  There is always a certain bedlam that arrives with such a gathering.  It is my kind of chaos.

It starts with our dogs who announce the arrival of each person - for several minutes per entry, until the assembled turn to them in unison and say "shut up," which is absolutely ineffective but makes us feel better.  When enough have gathered the dogs will stop.  Maybe they have gone hoarse, or maybe they are just drown out by the rest of the cacophony.  They spend the rest of the night hoping the wee ones among us will drop something edible.  They are never disappointed.

Snippets of conversations fill the house, along with running and laughter, and the inevitable tears that follow running and laughter. Eventually we settle at the table (or two) to eat.  At this specific meal, Tyler discovered he likes corn on the cob (would Granma steer a kid wrong on that!), and Bryce confirmed how much he dislikes it (silly child).  Round one of the dishes cleared, dishwasher filled and started, a board game breaks out.  This occupies several adults and one child (the corn distaining one), which is perhaps not a good use of authority figures.  Then again, to watch the game being played, you occasionally have to wonder about the authority being represented.  Rules are challenged, and much (conflicting) advice is given to the youngest player.  There is also much laughter, and rarely does an actual winner get crowned.  A shorter game might be in order, but Bryce favors Monopoly and the such, so the game usually ends with a consensus of who would have won.

Eventually, we disburse, but not until the house is searched several times for a missing blanket or sippy cup or keys or something.  We then move the party outside for hugs and kisses while the more diminutive crawl into the back seats of mini vans.  Multiple waves and many blown kisses later, quiet returns to Forest Ridge Road.

I know the pictures above look pretty tame.  Truth is that neither of them were taken this past weekend.  It never even occurred to me to take a picture.  Nor would I have know where to find my phone.  Sometime you will just have to join us - or not - depending on your relative preference for noise and sloppy kisses.  I love my family.  Any reason to gather is good enough for me. The last celebration of summer was a perfect opportunity.  Now, let's start celebrating the autumn...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Been There, Done That

This week celebrates the second anniversary of the birth of my grandboy, Elijah.  He has grown into the job of being third born and third son in the family.  For those of you without three sons of your own, that means he had to learn to stand up for himself - even before he could physically stand up at all.  He is tough and he is solid, and his heart is solid gold, too!

He has a belly laugh that makes the gloomiest of days morph into instant sunshine.  You can't not smile when you hear it - even if he is laughing at his favorite game:  throw the toy up in the air.  There are only two variables in this game:  exactly what toy gets thrown and which direction it goes when tossed.  Which, I guess, leads to a third variable - who or what might be in the way of the incoming projectile.  But he laughs, and you rub your aching shin, and you smile - and you protect yourself against the next giggle producing ear of plastic corn.

There might be nothing better than showing up at the house of Elijah.  Regardless which grandboy opens the door, Elijah pushes his way through the assembled saying, and I quote, "Granma, lkej eiosh truck wioury oui up."  He had me at Granma.

I know you aren't supposed to have favorites.  It's a good rule and one I hold to - mostly.  But there are exceptions.  First, birthdays render the rule moot for the day.  But on the other 358 days of the year, my favorite is the one I am currently laying hands, eyes and kisses upon.  Meaning, of course, that I can have multiple favorites all at one time.  This Granma gig is a great one!
The son...

And his father
Sometimes, though, when I catch a glimpse of that little third in line, fireplug of a toddler and spark plug of a personality, I see another third boy child.  It takes my breath away!  There is, of course, a perfectly logical explanation for the déjà vu - like father, like son.  And, Elijah, you are your father's son!

Happy Birthday to my favorite of the day.  Oh, heck, you can have the whole week.  I love you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Where the Ocean Meets the "See"

He's got the whole world in his hand!
I spent last weekend in Copper Harbor, Michigan, WAY up North on the shores of Lake Superior.  What beautiful country!  Gazing at the shoreline as white-crested waves made their way endlessly to shore, I couldn't help but ask myself who needs the ocean!  The opposite shoreline could be 10 or 100 miles away.  The spray against the rocks could be fresh or salted.  Even with an intent gaze, there was no way of discerning either.  I couldn't help but think of Aidan, and the globe, and a recent science lesson.

Using a small rubber ball masquerading as a globe, I showed Aidan where the land (multi colored) was verses the water (blue, of course).  We talked about how we lived near a big lake and I pointed out Lake Michigan to him.  We talked about how much water there is in the ocean and how big it is.  To my surprise, Aidan responded that he knew how big the ocean was because he had fallen into it.  I'm certainly not with the child 24/7, but I was pretty sure he hadn't wandered to a continental coastline, either.

On the edge of adventure - and the ocean...
With great patience, Aidan told me how he was riding his tricycle around the ocean with his brothers and Daddy.  He had gotten a little too close to the edge of the walkway, tumbled down the embankment and landed in the drink.  It was very wet, of course, and cold.  Daddy wrapped his coat around Aidan to keep him warm, because they were on the other side of the ocean and it was a long way home,  A harrowing experience, for sure!

"Where is the ocean, Aidan?"  With great enthusiasm, he walked me to the front window and pointed to the offending body of water - across the street, behind the playground equipment but front of the school that was just barely visible from our vantage point - an extremely large body of water to be sure.  At five, Aidan is just starting to explore the vastness of the world, starting with the expanse visible from his front window!

Oh to be five again!  I want to experience the wonder and the terrifying depths of the ocean across the street.  I want to judge my size compared to the ordinary, because ordinary is unquestionably extraordinary.  Thank you, Aidan, for the gift of seeing the ocean through your eyes.  Thank you for sharing that marvel anew.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hoping for a Positive Outcome

We have all been there - that is "there" before you have experienced the actual "there".  Like when a bunch of Texans laugh about how big the snakes are and you laugh, too, at their outrageous stories.  Then a snake eats your car and you aren't laughing anymore.  I will never live in Texas.  If my name was Eve, we would still be living in the Garden of Eden.  I run screaming at the sight of a stick that looked like a snake, much less an actual living and talking belly crawler. But I digress...

So before I became Granma, I laughed at the stories that it might be possible to lose points for giving certain gifts with the most loving of intentions.  Well, except for really loud gifts like drum sets.  I knew from my original parenting gig that such would not be classified as a gift, but rather revenge, and I don't want to be a vengeful Granma.  Nor would I ever give a snake for a gift, even to a budding herpetologist.

Now a decade into Granma-ing, I have some words of wisdom to pass on to up and coming Granmas and Grampas.  You may laugh, but trust me, there is wisdom here born of trial and error.  If you want to stay in the Garden of Eden as long as possible, heed my words.  Gifts to grandboys and girlies inherently have points attached - three sets of points, in fact:  parent points (P), kid points (K), and Granma points (G).  Some examples:

1.  Mylar balloons, which last forever, though they only float for a few days.  Kids LOVE them!  They run around with their eyes on the ceiling, squealing with joy (until they run into a door jam or something).  They provide hours of entertainment at a very low price, and as an added bonus, they give parents hours of exercise pulling them down from heights inaccessible to midget arms.  Granmas love balloons and how they hearken back to days of old.  Points:  -5(P) + 4(K) + 3(G) = +2.  Pretty benign.  Go for it, especially for birthdays!

2.  Large toys, especially those that must be used indoors, like cardboard building blocks.  Again, kids LOVE them!  And their father had wonderful memories of them!  But their mother must find a place to keep them and endure the he-knocked-over-my-tower tears.  +4(P1) - 5(P2) + 7(K) + 4(G) = Go for it, but apologize upfront to your daughter-in-law.

3.  Not all gifts are specifically for the grandboys and girlies.  For example: changing diapers.  Everyone benefits from this gift, including neighboring noses, but none more than the parents.  For this reason, consider giving this gift liberally after #2 above, especially if you smell the #2 in their diaper.  +10(P) + 2(K) - 2(G) = a whole lot of bonus points if your tally is running low.  By the way, these points can easily and quickly double and triple if said rump covering has been combating the flu or teething for a few days.

4.  Books, and educational toys in general.  These are great parent pleasers and with a Google assist, can be a great kid pleaser as well.  This Granma is pretty partial to this type of gift.  The biggest problem tends to be age appropriateness, either to the high side or the low side.  The low side isn't so bad if there are younger siblings, unless it was intended as a birthday gift and the recipient calls notice to such gap.  Equally, though, too much to the high side and it falls on parents' shoulders to assemble/explain/supervise.  This is rarely a problem with books.  Build their library.  +7(P) + 5(K) + 4(G) = Win for everyone.  BTW, the G points would have been higher, but have you priced children's books lately?!

I could probably go on endlessly, and there are individual family variables that might affect your actual score.  I didn't even mention stuffed animals.  There is a reason for that:  it's likely already hard enough to find the child in their bed, though the child knows and will panic if even one such cuddly thing is missing.  It is virtually impossible for a net positive score no matter how positive the K and G elements.  RESIST the urge to buy them, no matter how cute!

There.  A public service announcement worthy of blog space:  cuddly, cute, adorable stuffed animals can practically and easily fall into the same category of Eve's nemesis. Words to the wise.  You are welcome!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Great Poop Caper

I raised three boys.  We joke often that we can't make it through a meal without discussing bodily functions.  Sadly, I confess, this has not changed in the intervening years between grade school and their thirty-somethings.  I theorize that dining discussions tend to be different with you have both sons and daughters, but I have no way for knowing for sure.  Anyway, it's all fair game at our table.  Bear this in mind, and sorry in advance, if you are invited to dine with us...

We all gathered for a birthday celebration the other night, and there was indeed some lively conversation which had not made its way to bodily functions - a feat unto itself.  This would be a good time to mention that four members of the gathered see no need for the privacy of a bathroom when nature calls.  Additionally, we have two small dogs, one of whom likes to be in the middle of everything.

As cake time approached, I passed off a baby grandgirlie and grabbed a soon to be two birthday boy.  It was the smell first, and then the gooey-but-not-frosting on my arm that caught my attention...  (The cake had not yet been touched - thankfully!)  By process of elimination (girlie smiling and pleasant smelling, upcoming birthday boy smiling only), we found our culprit - or so we thought.

Emma, from the other side of the room, walked in and said,"wow, something smells."  I mentioned small dog, right?  Did I mention waist high to a toddler?  Apparently puppy of the curious nature had done no better than I at avoiding the discards of a certain almost two year old, which were now securely located behind his ear, not that he seemed to mind in the least.  Cake further on hold, toddler in Daddy's capable hands, I grabbed a puppy in my hands along with soap and water.

It was almost a Harris record - an entire meal without an ounce of poop talk.  Way to go, Elijah!  Bring us back to our roots!  You are a Harris man-child after all!  Looks like the tradition will continue...