Tuesday, August 15, 2017

L'eggo my Legos!

They have been around for generations - though I'm not sure exactly how many, I can vouch for 3 minimum:  mine, my sons' and my grandloves.  (A quick Google search claims they were invented in 1932, so add another generation and a half to that.)  That is a lot of Legos!  I would like to say they are unchanged in all that time, and some aspects are.  But I marvel (and scratch my head) over the various forms those building blocks now take.  They have some very specific uses, no doubt.  And if the flimsy, paper, step-by-step, instruction booklets they come with don't fall apart, you can put those shapes to use effectively.  Alas, those booklets are one of the things that have not changes in the least over the generations.

However, with a few (hundred) easy (endless) steps, you may build (at least once, if you move quickly before pieces migrate away from you) creations that will amaze and astound your friends!  You, too, can be a master builder, recreating an exact duplicate of the picture on the box.  By the way, there are upwards to 100 master Lego builders making a living snapping those blocks together!  What a job that would be!

All the grandloves have many sets of Legos - whether or not specific assembly of those sets is still a practical consideration.  I have personally supplied my fair share of bricks to each of them.  But the ones they use around this Granma's house come totally without instruction.  They are built with imagination only - and a fair share of, "Granma can you find a piece that is 1x4, white and skinny."  These highly technical descriptions sometimes leave me guessing as to their meaning, and sometimes "white" means blue or green or grey or any other color that matches the less flexible and more desirable block configuration.

The Meeper Bot 2.0 -
modifications by Tyler
There is much talk about how painful it is to step on Legos, and I have felt that pain.  Recently, though Granma Legos tend to get scattered around the house in larger groupings.  For example, in order to take the above picture, I had to gather creations from three separate locations.  Each grandlove or group thereof, has a special creation that they don't want to see returned to the blocks from which they sprang just because it is time for them to go home.  Nor do they want their creation cannibalized for the sake of a competing grand's creation.  Despite these far flung gatherings, the pile of loose Legos (hopefully all contained appropriately) seems hardly diminished.  I think they breed in the dark, though I have yet to catch them in the act.

The latest round of newly discovered Lego fun, though, might be the best yet.  Enter the Meeper Bot 2.0.  Those are not just ordinary wheels - they are Apple charged!  Using an app on the phone and connected through Blue-tooth, that baby can scoot!  Grandboys love it, dogs fear it, Granma sneaks down to play with it after the minis leave!  Yes, the sticker shock is just that - shocking.  Yes, you should keep a supply of 9V batteries handy.  And yes, the axles break when dropped (though it comes with replacements).  But in the end, it's worth every dime, every volt, and every axle repair.

Just a suggestion, but I take my Granma points where I can get them, and sometimes plastic is just the ticket - 9V and/or imagination powered.  Just watch your step after play.  Remember, lonely Legos bite...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Selfishly Selfie

There was a time, not so long ago, that I had the best photographic eye.  The perfection was obvious: the composition, the lighting, the framing of the shot.  I had an amazing ability to capture the perfect photographic image every time.  It was uncanny, amazing even!  The funny thing was, that when I finally finished the roll of film and then remembered to drop it off for processing and pick it up once completed, I couldn't always identify the subject, or sadly, the amazing.  I'm sure it was Jewel/Osco's fault.  Then again, there were far fewer images to cull through than there are digitally.  Those under the age of 20 will never know the joy of being a photographic genius in their own minds.  They are confronted with the reality of the captured shot far too quickly.

Adventures with cameras (read cellphones) and grandloves start like this, "Granma, take a picture of me and/doing [fill in the blank]."  Some events that apparently merit immortalization:  eating lunch, building with Legos, doing a somersault, standing on one foot, putting on shoes, folding paper...  Basically anything that can be done is picture worthy.  In truth, I have a hard time arguing with their logic.  There is nothing my grandloves do that isn't the most adorable thing I have ever seen.  Well, maybe I'm getting older and wiser, but I might be getting more discriminating, too.  Standing on one foot, even while folding paper, is not longer considered photogenic.

The real fun comes when they want to take "just one picture."  And by one, they mean one IPhone in their two hands, while their two legs carry they in the opposite direction as quickly as possible, all the while their finger twitches at lightening speed on the little button that captures their blurry world on demand and repeatedly.  The only thing moving faster than the one with the ill-gotten prize, are the other one to seven grands hoping to claim the same prize for themselves.  Think "camera down" and "memory full."

I thought I would fill this blog with countless original compositions and call it Can Do with a Camera.  Count yourself blessed - near 100% of those unforgettable (and usually unidentifiable) images have gone the way of the electronic trash can.  A few remain, though.  Aren't they adorable?  (Don't answer that.)

This Granma along with Uncle Corey decided to give group selfie lessons.  First, it insured I would have proof of time spend with the mini's among us - after the healing of the inevitable scratches and bruises.  Little boys are, as ever, closely related to the proverable bull in a china shop.  Secondly, it means I got to keep my phone in the hands of an adult, albeit Corey's - his arms are longer.  And finally, I'm learning (slowly) to have a selfie that doesn't beg the question, "when did my nose get that big?"

Ok, Elijah lost his chin in the first version.  Just to prove he has one, here is picture number two: chin in tact while the balance of his face hides behind Josiah's hands.

Bet you can't wait for the results of selfie lesson number two, can you?  I'll try to spare you.  But, then again, aren't they adorable?!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Many Faces

It has been just days shy of 6 years, but I well remember the day - and my first impressions.  I remember Court calling me from an interior room of the hospital to announce the birth.  "It's a..." he managed before the connection was severed - twice!  For the first five minutes of life, all we knew for sure was "baby," but not the predominate color or name!  Finally, on the third attempt - a full sentence, "It's a boy!"  (A singularly common occurrence at that point in time.)  Grampa and I made our way to said hospital to meet the newest baby blue.  I just remember thinking that being born is a hard thing to do - for both mother and child - and he should be tired.  But he wasn't.  His eyes gaped at the world, taking it all in, and staying open for hours when he should have been sleeping after a long day's work.  Adian wasn't then, and isn't now, apt to let anything pass his notice!

He may grow up to be a doctor or an architect or an astronaut or a teacher or a cowboy.  The world is his oyster.  He, at least in part, he has spent the first 6 years of his life as an actor.  Aidan will never be contained on the small screen - his personality is too big for that.  If he is to continue his acting career, it should be on the stage.  His expressions have already earned a Tony in my heart!

I'm not sure if you should be sorry or grateful that, I am challenged by the likes of UTube.  Imagine what I could do if I could figure out how to upload videos.  Believe me, his personality doesn't shrink when the pictures moves.  Maybe the silver screen is the place for his personality after all!

Wherever else he finds himself, whenever the world discovers this body of personality and possibility, however else the world attempts to contain this larger-than-life bundle, he will always be - first and foremost - a major love of this Granma's life.

Don't stop now, Aidan!  Keep taking the world by storm!  Share your smile and wit and antics with all who cross you path.  With much love - sometimes to the point of exhaustion - happy, happy birthday to you!  Enjoy the cake!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ticket to Ride

Start 'em early!
I would like to say that I have been riding a bike as long as I can remember.  That wouldn't be quite accurate.  All these years later, I still remember learning how to ride a bike - and the skinned-up body parts that come from the lesson.  I remember the Schwinn bike, given a fresh coat of baby blue spray paint to spruce it up.  I think it weighed more than I did!  I stood when I road, my legs not long enough to reach the pedals from a seated position.  The feeling of freedom was amazing in the rural town I called home.  I could go as far as my legs would take me - as long as I answered the dinner bell when my mom rang it from the front porch to call me home.

I spent a couple of near bike-less decades in my 20's and 30's.  That is, I didn't do much riding, though I did teach 3 little boys to ride.  Of course, that alone didn't take that may years, but the mothering part was pretty all-consuming.  It wasn't until they went their ways that I picking up a bike again.  And my picked up, I mean, the new bike was light enough to actually consider lifting.  What a change!  For the past decade or more, I have been doing a lot of biking.  And some of my favorite memories include grandboys - of course!  And because Bryce had me all to himself the first five years of his life, many of those memories include Bryce.
My favorite bobble head!

We had a little red bike that Bryce used to ride - one of those first bikes with training wheels, the pedals connected directly to the front wheel, and no brakes.  Given his size and ability, this should not have been a problem - until he discovered that our driveway sloped toward the garage.  He would take the bike to the edge of the driveway and zoom down, threading his way between our two parked cars and coasting to a stop just before the front wall of the garage.  This is a move he executed perfectly EVERY time.  Even with considerable "boy" experience, it made me nervous.

Then there was the time I took him for a ride in the Bugger connected to my bike.  As we went up a hill (a small one, even by Illinois standards), Bryce encouraged from behind, "Go faster, Granma!"  One of us was not amused, the other was disappointed...

Ready to ride?
I am spending this week riding my bike amongst the corn fields of Iowa on RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) along with my brother Bruce, son Corey, and 14,000 of our closest friends.  And by "closest" I mean the roads will be jammed with bicycles!  A little over 400 miles in the course of a week, we will traverse the state from west to east.  On the same trip last year, we rode alongside a grandfather and his granddaughter on a tandem bike.  It was their first RAGBRAI experience as a team.

It got me wondering - Bryce, do you think we could we make the trip?  Hmmm - maybe.  I think I'll put him up front and tell him to go faster.  I think he owes me that much!

Greetings from the tall corn in the great state of Iowa!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Two times Two

Two years ago this week, I was making final preparations for a 400+ mile trek across Iowa on a bike.  An Iowa native, RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) was calling me back to my roots.  I had put in countless hours and miles in preparation to join my brother Bruce and son Corey on the journey.  It was to be the highlight of my summer - until something more important came along. With a scant few days notice, I bowed out of RAGBRAI, leaving my teammates to traverse the state without me.  In my place, Flat Lory hitched a ride on Bruce's back, something he has not let me forget in the intervening years.

So what would possibly make me throw aside 6+ months of training at the last minute?  Grandloves, of course - which is always the answer to all questions in this blog.  Specifically, it was the premature births of Faith Anne and Naomi Hope.  Rather than pedaling among the corn, I was grandboy deep in the newborns' brothers while their Mom and Dad were at the hospital.  At the time, Aidan (3), Josiah (2), and Elijah (not yet 1) were in my care for a week.  My brother might try to convince you that he had the harder job carrying Flat Lory across the state of our birth.  I only know that I had the better job, and I wouldn't trade all the rhubarb pie he ate even with all the PB&J and mac & cheese I indulged in with those boys.  (I've never claimed to be a culinary master.)

Last year and this one as well, I will spend a week in the Iowa sun, sleeping in a tent and rising early to pedal across my home state.  But before and during my journey, I marvel at those two little girlies who turned the Harris world upside-down.

They turn two on Friday.  How is that possible!  And yet, the have gone from tiny little loves, well under two pounds each unable to breathe on their own, to strapping (through still skinny) two year olds exercising their lungs when they feel overshadowed or slighted.  In other words, they are typical two year olds!

Recently, I received the blessing of watching the two of them (and just the two of them) for the day.  What a day it was!  At times, they expressed their opinions showing they are still babies and wanting undivided attention.  Other times, they wanted freedom to explore their world independently.  As I said, typical two year olds...

Faith and Naomi, you have blessed us with your presence - your love, your demands, your personalities.  Thank you for keeping us on our toes.  Thank you for giving us double the joy, even when you are being double-trouble.  Thank you for letting me be Granma!  Happy, happy birthday to two very special two year olds!  With twice the love - twice over!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Back to my Roots

Clockwise: Josiah, Aidan, Tyler, Bryce & Elijah
Most of you probably realize that Tuesday comes around with great regularity.  Me, too.  But my Tuesday always starts with a Sunday evening panicked question:  what will the blog look like this week?  However, since Monday intervenes the Sunday to Tuesday sequence, I continue my day of rest...in favor of a Monday evening full panic.  Some bloggers, I understand, actually have blogs prepared ahead of time.  What a novel concept...

Sometimes between last Sunday and yesterday, I made the executive decision to go back to my roots.  We aren't talking hair, here, though I do have a haircut scheduled on Wednesday.  You are not responsible for that piece of information...  Rather, this blog started with grandboys - 5 of them.  So let's talk about that.

Tyler (6), AKA Spider Man, made an appearance on Sunday.  He is a wiry little midget, and seemingly disinterested in out growing the short label.  However, he has a totally boy way of entering the house, after calmly removing this shoes, he launches himself into my arms.  It is an endearing greeting now that I have learned to brace myself for impact.  The really amazing part is how he wraps his arms and legs around my body.  Once maximum velocity and height have been reached, he does not need me to hold him.  I, however, might need to employ the jaws of life if I need to use the facilities.

Bryce (11), on the other hand, has decided that he big enough (almost) and strong enough (almost) to pick ME up.  He will be, soon enough, but for the moment, I do not give him an assist with his efforts - except that I raise up to my tip-toes.  He isn't fooled, but then, his back is broken, either - a fair trade.

Aidan (5), employs a winning smile - between words.  He is never short of words - or topics - or energy.  I gave him a kiss the other day and asked him to pass it on to his Uncle Corey.  Aidan insisted on seven kisses - and, yes, we counted them.  I'm not sure how many of them he shared with Corey, but it made my day!

Josiah (4), oh my.  Josiah practices at ways to be silly.  Just when I reach my own personal limit and tell him to stop, he laughs - which makes me laugh - so any remote thought he had to actually heed my words and "stop" disappears into a gale of giggles.  How do you reprimand when you can't stop laughing?  Perhaps I am one of his favorite jokes.  Regardless, he wins every time.

Elijah (2), though, won the week - twice!  I showed up to watch his sisters so the rest of the family could take a train into the city to visit Uncle Corey.  I opened the door to Aidan's conversation, Josiah's giggles, and Elijah's proclamation, "I don't want to go.  I want to stay here with Granma."  How much do I love that kid!  So how did he top that?  Well, actually: he got on the train to go visit Uncle Corey.  The girls and I had a relatively quiet and very enjoyable day.

What can I say?  I love both the coming and the going!  And I love the absolute joy of being a Granma to boys!  That's my boy(s)!!!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Celebrating Chicago Style

Breaking and Entering 101
Someone special celebrated her 8th birthday last weekend!  We were a few weeks late with the party, so we had to do it up right!  And we did!  Bella and I joined Uncle Corey in the city for our version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles - less the planes and add a bike taxi instead.  The driver of the bike taxi joined the Lion's International Parade while cutting through to reach our intended destination.  Bella, of course, had the royal wave down - our lioness princess.

The Bean!
On Friday night Bella and I took the train to our awaiting chariot (Uncle Corey's car).  We dined on cheesy bread and pizza, followed by peanut butter ice cream.  Yum!  With full tummies and heavy eyes, we eventually made our way to bed.  For the record, Bella does not kick and snore like her older brother (yeah!!!).  Her stuffed animal, however, does tend to wander off during the night.  She contends that I stole the covers.  Seems like a fair trade - puppy found, covers lost.  All is in balance in the world.

Goofing around
After an early morning trip to the coffee shop, we made our way to Millennium Park and the "Bean" - one of my favorite Chicago locals - and then to adjoining Maggie Daily Park.  We walked, and walked, and walked some more.  Bella was a trooper, even when she was certain she couldn't make it another step.

The Grand Finale
At the appointed hour on Saturday afternoon, we made it to the stated object of our Chicago adventure.  Sitting in the front row of the first balcony, we saw Aladdin - Bella's first live play/musical.  It did not disappoint!  The sets were spectacular, the Genie was magical, and Princess Jasmine was beautiful.  Jasmine and Aladdin were a magical couple, especially when they rode the magic carpet.  Fun stuff!

There was a bit more walking before Bella and this Granma caught a train back to the 'burbs.  Even one of our fellow riders commented that she could tell from our conversation and general goofiness we had a wonderful trip in the city.  She was absolutely right!

Happy, happy birthday, my Bella!  I hope you still remember your 8th when you are 80!  I know I will, but then, I'm a bit closer to 80 than you are.  And by the time I delivered my grandgirlie home and crashed on my own couch, I felt closer to 80 than ever!  What a great feeling - and a great night's sleep, without a single wandering puppy to locate.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fat Mr. Raindrop

We all get our "start" somewhere.  And from such humble beginnings, something just might grow.  It might just be the growth that will set the world on fire!  That's what we expected of ourselves when we were children.  Or it might be a smaller blaze, lighting just a our corner of the world.  I'm not sure yet where my fire will lead, but I know where it started - with my Great Aunt Essie.  Let me introduce you.

Aunt Essie was my grandfather's older sister - older by 8 or 10 years, as I recall.  She told me about her memory of my Grandpa's birth once in a letter - but I'm getting ahead of myself.  This is a picture of her was taken almost half a century ago. YIKES!  How can that be true?  But that is my baby sister sitting next to her, and she is no longer a baby!  This picture actually says very little about my aunt, except that chronologically, her age exceeded mine by LOTS.  But, you see, she was always young to me.

I don't know when or how or why, but we became pen pals  - somewhere about the time I learned to hold a pen.  She would faithfully reply to the letters I sent her - or was it the other way around?  Maybe I responded to the letters she sent?  Whichever the direction, I just remember going to the mailbox hoping for a letter addressed to ME.  And on a regular basis, when it arrived, it had Aunt Essie's address in the upper left corner.  She always understood what it meant to be a little girl wanting to be a big girl.  She never talked down to me or corrected me, or if she did, it was so gently that it just felt like love.  And I loved her, and my heart still holds her memory with the tenderness and tenacity of a mama's bear cub.

I sent her a story once.  Maybe it was the first one I ever wrote.  Certainly it was the first I felt confident enough in to share with this woman who loved me - and who showed it with postage stamps (SWAK - remember that?)!  My first literary classic was called Fat Mr. Raindrop.  Now, I know I have you on the edge of your seats wondering just what made Mr. Raindrop such a captivating figure.  I hate to disappoint you, but I have absolutely no memory of the plot (if, indeed, there was one).  What I remember was Aunt Essie's accolades.  They spurred me on!  And if the book I'm now writing (Soggy Red Confetti) ever gets a cover (fingers crossed for this fall), a big part of the credit will go to my first fan, Great Aunt Essie.

Has anyone else noticed that I haven't mentioned grandloves yet?  That's about to change.

About a month ago, Aidan came running up to me telling me he wrote something for me.  He was so excited!  And my heart was skipping merrily along with him, too!  His story said, "From Aidan.  We are having a party.  I love you, Grandma."  (He misspelled my name, but I will love and forgive a 5 year old for that.)  So this Granma wrote him back - and he drew a picture for me - and I wrote him back - and - well, you probably have a good idea of the way things are progressing.

I hope that Aidan (and his brothers) learns to love the anticipation of the mailman like I did.  I hope he trudges back from the mailbox when it is more barren than he wished.  And I hope he floats back when he finds a card that bears his name.  I hope he tells me stories - words written in just such a way to bring light and love to literature.  And maybe, just maybe, someday, he will tell me his story of an overweight drop of water - or some other protagonist of grandlove renown.

And in that moment, I will thank my Great Aunt Essie. Her faith was well placed and well nurtured and so much more appreciated than I ever knew how to say - until now.  Much love, sweet lady, and much appreciation.  I love you, still.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Are you sure he's related to me?

Aidan DOES love sugar
There are some things that are just the hallmark of being me.  Some of them I'm proud to mention:  grandmothering, of course, and quilting and writing and biking.  That's a solid enough list, though honestly, a bit thin.  But those are some pretty common things you might hear about me, especially judging by my Facebook page - oh, and margaritas, but that's a blog of a different title...

Elijah vs the cupcake
There are other things that are "me" through and through - I'm just not fool enough to highlight them in a blog that I hear will reside on the Internet long after my demise.  Then, again, as long as we are talking about it - or I am anyway - let's bring one of them into the light of day.  Two rounds of Weight Watchers notwithstanding, I am a sugar-a-holic.  My mom taught me to make cookies before my age of remembering.  By second grade, I would make them by myself on a whim or as a result of a dearth of appealing after school snacks.  These days, I try (some days successfully) to keep my sweet tooth in check - or exercises off the excess - as dictated daily.  However, I am well aware that there is a bakery in Sycamore (20 miles west of here) that has the BEST frosted sugar cookies!  Fortunately, you can buy them individually; I cannot be trusted with two.  And I can't easily or often make a 40 miles detour just to satisfy my sweet tooth.  This is what passes for self-control in my life.
Josiah and the object of his affection

Frozen sugar
One of my jobs as Granma - one of the ones I love the best - is making cookies with the grands.  It's not my stated job in life to doom the generation-after-next to a sugar addiction, but apparently I'm not beyond it, either.  Chocolate chips are always at the ready.  Ice cream in always in the freezer (Grampa's vice more than mine, but only by degree).  Mind you, I have never forced sugar or even the love of sugar upon the mini's; they have followed quite naturally, voluntarily and enthusiastically.  Go figure... Until the introduction of cotton candy...

First, a disclaimer:  I wasn't there and I didn't ply the three with pure spun sugar.  I mention this only because my friend, Sue Wauer, beat me to the punch.  A Granma herself (though she spells it "Yaya"), Sue was watching out for the ones I love when she saw them sitting empty handed at a baseball game.  Gaining parental permission, a considerate gesture, she bought blue cotton candy for each of the assembled three.  How sweet - and I say that with multiple meanings.

Whether or not the gift was appreciated by parent(s), it should have been destined for love by three little boys - though in reality, only two-thirds ended up singing its praises with sticky blue mouths.  The picture below graphically reveals Aidan's opinion of the the fluffy stuff, as well as that of his brothers.  This photographic evidence occurred even before the first taste, though I'm told the reaction was that much more pronounced after the first, and therefore last, bite.

While I might not be a cotton candy aficionado, it is sugar, meaning I will eat it just because.  So, really, Aidan, whose grandboy are you?  Well, sweetheart, I still love you!

Want to make some chocolate chip cookies?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Take me out to the Ball Game

So many quotes are attributed to it:  
  • America's pastime
  • There is no crying in baseball
  • The (grand)boys of summer
  • As American as baseball and apple pie
Generally speaking, I might be more interested in the apple pie than baseball - but that just reflects upon my over-developed sweet tooth...

Josiah is playing T-ball  for the first time this summer.  Having shown his prowess in the backyard with a wiffle ball and bat - no "T" needed - he set off to seek his fame and fortune on the diamond.  Well, maybe he would just start his pre-fame-and-fortune story; everyone has to start somewhere.

T-ball rules vary slightly from the baseball it will evolve into.  First, besides first base, there are no set positions - and every team member plays on the field in every inning, regardless of how many show up at the game.  After an opposing diminutive slugger hits off the "T", the ball is thrown to first base.  No outs were recorded in the game I watched, but even if they had, the runner remains on first, advancing to second only when the next batter takes his place on first.  There are no doubles, triples or home runs.  Those will be doled out in future renditions of the game in years to come.

T-ball does have one thing in common with baseball, as I clearly recall from previous Little League days: there is no clock.  Baseball can take hours, and can be seriously elongated by either a pitchers duel or a slug-fest.  Of course, there are no pitchers to duel in T-ball, and in the entire three inning game, only one ball dribbled out of the infield.  BTW, there were no outfielders, everyone bats in every inning, runs are not counted, and outs are too rare to mention.

Apparently, T-ball is not perfectly in line with Josiah's definition of baseball.  "Can we go home now?" he asked after inning number two.  "Not yet, you get to bat, again!"  Being on the home team, there was half an inning of fielding, complete with much yawning from my favorite player, before his last turn at bat.  Game complete, the teams line up for the traditional "good game" slap of the hands with their opponent.  The final game obligation complete, Josiah moved more quickly than he had while running the bases - to claim his prize of Gatorade and a snack.  Little boy motivation has not changed in the intervening generation.

One thing did change, though, being how seriously parents take a game among four-year-olds.  Several of the players donned their own batting gloves as they stepped to the "T".  Over the top, maybe, but harmless and kind of cute.  But when several players stepped to the plate with their own batting helmets, I had to wonder:  do you think I was witnessing the very first season of some future major leaguer?  I think I missed my chance at an autograph or two!

Actually, Josiah signed a picture for me just the other day.  I'll keep that one.  After all, it is already priceless.  No waiting for the majors required.  Swing for the fence, Josiah! 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The mother of/at a playground

Having been at the Granma-ing for a few years, there is certain knowledge that must be collected.  I'm not talking about anything as mundane as diapering, having had plenty of practice in my younger years.  Though, truth be told, the first grandGIRLIE messy diaper was a new-ish adventure for me.  I digress.
Josiah, Elijah & Tyler showing us the ropes

No, the information that must be collected includes things like:

  • Who will or won't eat what, which can get confusing when it is "times eight".
  • Where is the closest bathroom when out shopping.  I still remember their location in my old haunts.  But I don't necessarily still frequent those locations anymore since the Tri-Cities have grown up and sprouted shopping areas of their own.
  • And, to the point for today's blog, where are the best playgrounds.
Colin & Emma - up
and away!
Most of the tried and true from a generation ago have either disappeared or morphed into something unrecognizable.  This is not all bad, mind you.  Some of them needed a good morphing - one of them in particular, being the child-grabbing, adult-denying rocket ship in Kehoe Park (more affectionately known as Rocket Ship Park).  That thing still lures the mini's to the upper reaches where adults are not able to follow, and from whose heights children fear to descend.  Again, I digress.

Colin and Court on top
of the world
On Memorial Day weekend, several of us made the way across the house from our hosts to entertain young ones in that conveniently located park.  The swings garnered some attention, but it was the spider-web-climbing-thingy that drew them all in.  The elder grands taunted the younger from the highest reaches of the spider's lair.  This did not dissuade the more diminutive from their attempts.  They may not have reached the top,but they did grow a foot or three.  Not a bad afternoon's growth spurt!

And sometimes, the chronologically advanced cannot resist the attempt to show the following generation how it's done.  Way to go Colin and Emma!

This last pictures, though, is proof positive that I served my penance and earned the right to grandones!  I'm not sure what I should call the show offs who conquered the spider's web.  I had only one questions for them as they displayed their prowess:  who is your mother, anyway?  Sigh.  I do love those goofballs, too.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hey, Do You Wanna?

Together again!  In living color!
There are lots of things to love about a bestie - and I love my bestie LOTS!  Merry and I have been joined at the hips for almost two decades now - Yikes!!!  That sounds like a lot longer than it feels!  At any rate, one of the things I love the best is when either one of us starts a sentence with "hey, do you wanna..."  The proper response, and it never varies, is "YES!"  And off we go on some kind of adventure.

So a couple of months ago, I started the conversation with "hey, do you wanna go on a color run?"  And rather than the traditional response, she said, "hey, do you wanna bring Bryce and Ava?"  Oh, yeah!  This would, of course, mean Bryce, eldest of these Grandboy Tales, and Ava, Merry's grandgirlie-ish.  Ava's actual relational status is complicated, so we will leave it at that.

Feelin' Smurf-ish
You may remember that the four of us went to Disney World last summer.  The two events, in case you were wondering, have their similarities - scant as they are.  Both are in technicolor, much walking was involved, there were many people and a considerable amount of fairy dust floated through the air.  In other words, a color run is no match for Disney, but it is a different kind of fun.

Fairy Dust in the Air
After stopping for donuts at six o'clock in the morning. we headed down to the "run".  I put that in quotes since a considerable amount of the early morning conversation revolved around the fact that there would, indeed, be no running.  We intended to walk among the colors.  Arriving in time for the pre-party, the air was filled with multi-colored fairy dust and some un-Disney-like music to drum the assembled into a frenzy.  So it was that when it came our time to start the walk, Ava took off like shot.  Maybe it was the donuts.  We didn't try to keep up, and we didn't see her again until the finish line.

Bryce, Merry and I enjoyed our 5K stroll along the Fox River, pausing only to photo-document along the way.  Not surprisingly, we did not set a course record, though it might have been a personal record for each of us.  After meeting up with Ava again, the younger half of us found their way to the mosh pit by the stage.  The older and wiser among us kept an eye on water bottles and a park bench.  What a morning!

You know, it occurs to me that when Bryce discusses his Granma with his friends, I hope he tells the tale in glowing technicolor detail!  Because that's the kind of memories I hope he always has of me.  I do make cookies, but I don't knit.  And as you can see from the picture above, Bryce has the blue hair, not me.  Hmmm - wonder what kind of memories we can dream up with next!  "Hey, do you wanna...."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hop, Skip and a Jump

Christopher Robin with brother Bruce and me. Circa 1964
Some things, they say, skip a generation.  Twins are an often sited example of that phenomenon.  That being the case, I don't expect to live to see my great, great grandtwins, so I'll just have to continue to enjoy the little girlies now!  What an odd thought that someday they might play with grandtwins of their own...

In my family, quilting skipped two generations.  Neither my mother nor my grandmothers were quilters, but my great grandmother was!  I have a couple of her quilts and I cherish them.  I hope the next generation of quilters in the family will still look on them with love and honor for a woman they never met (I never met her either).  And, not so secretly, I hope it won't skip a generation.  I would love to see the birth of a quilter in my lifetime.  Time will tell.

Other things skip a generation, all within one lifetime.  I think that is the joy of being Granma - happily skipping back past parenting to being a kid again.  Some might call that jumping back, or even reverting.  Be that as it may, I did and then I didn't and now I do again.  And if a generation is 20 years (more or less), then mathematically, I did indeed skip a generation within my own lifetime.

For example, I have fond memories of playing London Bridges and Ring Around the Rosy on the playground with my friends.  When you got caught in the "take the key and lock them up" phase, you might be tossed around like a towel in a washing machine - and there is no place you would rather be!  I don't specifically remember singing those action songs with my sons.  However, I love the recent memory of playing them with my grandboys (no girlies present at that time).  I made a pretty good bridge, holding hands with a five-year old.  We caught and shook up a couple other grandboys, with giggles all around.  Fortunately, no pictures exist of my turn to be caught by the bridge of four and five year old extended and interlocked fingers!  And my knees thanked me for carpeting.  We won't even talk about Ring Around the Rosy, except to say that the ground is a lot further down than it used to be.  And the up is further yet, especially after a couple of dizzy rounds.

Of course, some of the very best stuff doesn't skip a generation: bedtime stories and ice cream snacking (not necessarily in that order), soccer games and t-ball, sillies and snuggles.  That is awesome stuff that no generation should miss out on.  But whether it's really skipping a generation or just hopping back, there is nothing liking sharing a world of discovery with little eyes and hands and hearts.  Much love to my fellow adventurers.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Gimme S'more!

Warmer weather when family gathers: there are so many reasons to love that!  First of all, with apologies to the neighbors, the action tends to move outside - and the voices.  No longer is heard the admonishment, "Inside voices."  Ironically, those two words are exclusively issued by those over 5' tall while using their outside voices.  Those directions must be in the parenting handbook, because we have all done it at one time or a hundred.
Happy Tyler, sticky fingers

I know Memorial Day is still a couple of weeks away, but the beautiful late spring weather has also brought with it the summer menu: hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and watermelon.  Even after eating to our heart's content and our bellies bulging, there is always room for s'mores!  

Our pyrotechnic heroes
So it was that Bryce and I found ourselves at the grocery store the other day to purchase the final ingredients for a well-rounded  and complete summer meal.  As we walked across the front of the store, I had my eyes up reading the aisle labels for candy, marshmallows and graham crackers.  Bryce, on the other hand, looked straight ahead and pointed out the end-cap display with all three items from our list.  I love that kid!  BTW, marshmallow and graham cracker packaging both come with directions for making s'mores.  We, the Harrises, contend, however, that if you need directions to make the gooiest of all summer treats, you skipped too many years of childhood to ever recover the true joy of the process.

Grampa got the fire going with help from Bryce and Bella. Lessons in Fire 101.  As you can see, everyone was taking is seriously - or seriously enough not to be a danger to themselves or the neighbors or the house - a successful blaze.

Next came the age old debate: light the fluffy sugar and burn it to a cinder or carefully coax it to the perfect golden brown.  You may be able to guess which side of the debate registers my vote.  But among the gathered, it was a draw.  I contend that the cinder people are just too impatient to do it properly.  But what do I care, mine are perfectly roasted, melted goodness.  I don't allow anyone else to prepare my marshmallows.  In case you were wondering, none of the packaging weighed in on the correct proportions of fire to sugar.  One more reason a recipe is absolutely unnecessary.

There is only one thing that would have made those messy harbingers of summer even better: homemade marshmallows.  Oh, yes, it is possible to make your own marshmallows and they are truly amazing!  I have promised them for our next batch of s'mores!  Oh, YUM!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Stepping Out!

Faith & Naomi - taking the world by storm!
Little fingers, little toes.  It is not possible to be a parent and not count your newborn's fingers and toes, as if you can't tell at a glance how many of each there are.  Still, you marvel at them, so miniature and so perfectly formed.  Those are the same appendages that attempted to spread their mother's ribs such a short time earlier.  They thought they could - and sometimes, mom was pretty sure they did!

Over the next months, you are hardly aware that those precious digits are growing and changing.  They still seem so delicate and miraculous.  I felt like that with all my sons, and with each of my grandbabies, as well.

My youngest grands - the twin girlies, are fast approaching two years.  It doesn't seem possible it has been that long, and yet, it doesn't seem possible that they haven't always been part of the family.  We have marveled at each step of their development, not taking anything for granted:  their birth - impossible early, their size - less than 2 1/2 pounds between them!, their fragile bodies - fearfully and wonderfully made.  We hardly dared to hope, but couldn't bear to do otherwise.

Recently, I was out of town and hadn't seen Hope and Naomi for a couple of weeks.  It's not possible, of course, that they actually changed immeasurably in that period of time, but my eyes don't believe what my head is telling me.  They seem to have grow inches and pounds in that short time!  And where their tentative steps had to be coaxed before, now they were on the move!  Their next steps turned out to be, well, steps!

From humble beginnings
How is it possible that from hands and feet stretching to span an inch came beautiful little girlies covering distances in the blink of an eye?

Thank you, God, for miracles and blessing that stretch and grow.  Thank you, God, for Faith and Naomi!  Once, again, I am the most blessed Granma I know.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Words and Slime: The Perfect Combination

GRANMA:  Slime - the stuff of (grand)boys!  When I got a text from my oldest grandboy asking if I wanted to make slime with him, he knew the answer to that as well as I did:  bring it on!!!

BRYCE:  Recently we made slime.

GRANMA:  The ingredients are few, but they vary some.  Elmer's Glue is a staple in all of the recipes.  The other main ingredient is either Borax or Liquid Starch or Contact Solution.

BRYCE:  Note To Everyone, NO ONE NEEDS BORAX IN SLIME!!! If you haven't seen on the news, one little girl of the age of about 9 was a slime making machine! But she used borax in all of her slime making career then when she woke up on a day, her hands were on fire from the borax. She also needed a cast. The ingredients we used were Elmer's Glue, Contact Solution, Baking Soda and Paint.

GRANMA:  Does anyone shop at Woodman's?  You need roller skates to make it from one end to the other!  That place is huge!!!  So certainly, I could find the needed ingredients there.  Liquid Starch, check!  Glue?  Not so much.  Three small bottles was all I could find.  With fingers crossed, I brought the sticky stuff home with me.  BTW - if you need any liquid starch, I am happy to donate, free of charge.  But if you are making slime, I highly recommend the contact solution!  Great slime and minimal mess...

BRYCE:  We were making slime for three kids, Bryce, Tyler and Bella. Bryce made a sky blue colored slime. Tyler made a red colored slime. But Bella, the two of us had to give her some because we ran out of glue. We sent my Dad to pick some up, but they were all out. Apparently schools are buying glue to make green slime! He went to two other stores, but they had the same explanation.

GRANMA:  Who knew we were just part of a bigger parade?  Elmer's has to be loving this trend!

BRYCE:  Then we got awesome slime at the end of it.

GRANMA:  What he said!  The slime was fun to make and so boyish to play with.  Bryce stretched it into a thin sheet over the counter top.  He then carefully folded it up before maliciously squeezing it.  Next came farting sounds closely followed by giggles.  Boys and slime.  Gotta love it!

And what do I love even more?  Sharing this blog with my grandboy and guest blogger - at his request and insistence!  Slime will forever be one of my favorite memories!  Thanks for the assist, Bryce!  I love you!