Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Urban Farming - the Pink Factor

This week I took Bella to the pumpkin farm, though, in fact, I didn't see any pumpkins.  Different farm, but largely the same.  Let's get question number one out of the way - yes, there was a corn maze.  I know that because I saw it on several signs. Not all Granma's are as gullible than they look - or maybe we are just a bit smarter than expected.  No more mazes for me!  I also brought along another adult, just in case I might be tempted into a corn encrusted labyrinth again.  It turns out my brother, Jim, didn't need to lead me either through or away from the tall corn - a relief for the assembled three.

As we stood in line for the privilege of playing at an urban farm, Bella announced she would like to go apple picking instead - which was handily just across the street.  That was enough to make this chick(en) cross the road and for good un-mazed reason.  (I just used up my quota of bad puns.  You should now be safe to the end of the blog.)

Apple picking is not what it used to be.  First, you stand in line for half an hour the right to pay $10/head to pick apples.  The $10 buys you a paper bag that you will eventually be able to fill with apples.  As you can see, eight straight boys (sons and grandboys) have left me at a deficit when it comes to the grandgirlie thing.  These are best earrings I could come up with - and they did kill nearly 5 minutes of the 30 - a Granma success by all standards.

After the accessorizing and before the picking, comes the "hay" ride out into the orchard.  I remember hayrides from my childhood.  Back in the day, the tractor went slowly, and you were allowed to jump (or fall) off and jump (or be pulled) back on.  It was part of the "charm" of the event.  Apparently urban farms have more respect for OSHA than tradition.  It was not possible to either jump or fall off that slow moving vehicle.  I could forgive them for that.  Having tripled or quadrupled my age since my last hayride, I'll give a nod to safety.  However, who ever heard of a hayride without HAY?  Seriously!  It was more like a cattle mover than a hay ride.  At least the midget among us did not object.  Then again, she didn't object to the earrings, either.  Hmmmmm.

Bella is quite the experienced apple picker.  Do not pull the apples from the trees.  Instead, lift and twist and the reward will fall into your hand.  We were also encouraged to eat all the apples we wanted, as long as we ate the whole apple.  We obliged, though were careful to leave room for warm apple cider donuts.  Oh, YUM!!  In case I give the impression that I'm always pining for the good old days (how Granma of me), Kuiper's warm apple cider cinnamon-sugar covered donuts are some of the best things I've ever eaten!  Sorry, Iowa.  Urban farms excel at sugary fried dough!

So, Miss Bella, my love, thank you for teaching me the finer points of girl Granma-ing.  Thank you for humoring me and correcting me kindly when I forget you wear pink.  Thank you for loving me and thank you for letting me love you!  I'll work on harder the earring thing...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

From the Middle of the Tall Corn

It's a Chicagoland thing - or maybe it's a big city thing.  Regardless, I got suckered in, which doesn't take that much where grandboys are involved.  On a beautiful early fall afternoon, Bryce and Tyler accompanied me to the pumpkin farm.  Maybe more accurately, I accompanied them.  Regardless, the three of us spent several hours enjoying farm life - urban style.

I might have mentioned it before, but I was born and raised in small town Iowa, surrounded by farmland.  I don't actually remember going to a farm to buy pumpkins, especially one where they also sold hot dogs, popcorn, Gator-aid and apple cider donuts.  Nor do I remember ever paying $15/head for the right to enter a "farm."  In my memory, going to a farm was free.  They would even pay you to be there as long as you worked - HARD!  Come to think of it, I did work hard at the pumpkin farm, even after paying for the right to be there!  You try dragging a 4 and 9 year old through a rope maze (first one to ring the bell in the middle wins - I lost), a tight-rope made from logs (did I mention a 4 year old with questionable balance?), a pirate ship (self-regulated adult break-time), a zip line (which might have been worth the admission if I was allowed more than one turn), a petting zoo (which we mercifully bypassed), a pumpkin launcher (which we regrettably missed), and a bouncy blob (where Bryce temporarily lost his legs).

The pedal go-cart races where a bust, largely because I was pushing a 4 year old's go-cart around the course.  Note to self: he will NEVER be allowed to drive my car.  There aren't enough years between 4 and 16 for me to forget his steering and braking skills or lack thereof.  Nine year old steering was satisfactory, but he needed help getting up the hills.  There was just not enough Granma power to go around.  Instead, we returned to the bouncing blob for a second time.  Here Granma-power is well coveted (even by those new friends who brought their own sit-on-the-sidelines adult with them).  With just the right timing, I was able to really launch them to peals of laughter and choruses of "do it again."

Needing a break from all the bouncing, we headed to the corn maze.  Being from the aforementioned tall corn state, perhaps I should have had some foreknowledge of what we were wandering into.  I detasseled corn for years, for Pete's sake.  You can't really get lost, though - the rows are straight and end at the edge.  We were forewarned by farm staff to have a maze map - check.  And that they always sweep the maze for anyone lost on Thursday evenings.  (Oh, good, only a max of five days of wandering.)  And please don't call 911 if you get lost - though they neglected to give an alternative number - like maybe 411 for information?
The map of our Nemesis.  We finally located the
bee's stripes to get our bearings.

Tall corn discoveries, in no particular order:
  • Certain 4 year olds don't like to get muddy
  • It had rained the previous day
  • Unhappy 4 year olds will add to the general dampness of the field to express their displeasure
  • Nine year old cartography is only slightly less developed than Granma's
  • Tall corn is just that - TALL
  • Wind around enough and ordinal directions have little to no meaning.

Forty-five minutes later, we exited where we entered and were thrilled with our progress!  We were each walking at least an inch taller owning to the mud caked on the bottoms of our shoes.  We returned, joyfully, to the jumpy blob for round number three.

In the end, they still love me!  Who wouldn't kiss those faces?!  I love you, Bryce and Tyler!  But I'm going to pass on the corn mazes until Tyler is driving - his father's car!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Anatomy of Bedtime

It would be impossible to forget when my boys were little and bedtime rolled around.  It was one of the most anticipated times of my day.  Mind you, they never needed a set bedtime a much as I needed them to have a set bedtime.  Love does indeed have its bounds - and mine was 8 pm.

Things are different with grandboys - but not much.  I still like 8-ish, and I'm experienced enough to know that 8 starts somewhere around 7:30 with a first warning: "after this (insert: show, game, snack) we are going to get ready for bed."  It's a lie and we all know it, but it's a hopeful lie, so we all smile and nod.  Note to the wise:  while the toys should be picked up before bedtime, it will not hasten the desired hour to assign the task to those under 4' tall.  In fact, it will do the opposite.  Give them a hand and expect that your hands will do 75-95% of the work.  It's a good trade off.

Steps 2A, 2B, and 2C, in no particular order are:  jammies on, go to the bathroom, and let's read a book.  Negotiations ensue:
  • Me (M) - We will read 3 books.
  • Aidan (A) - No, how about 5?
  • Josiah (J) - Me book!  I get it myself!
  • M - If you get ready quickly, we will read 4 books.
  • A - No, I want 5.
  • J - Granma, me book!
Round two to the munchkins.  Three books was never going to happen, I knew that from the start.  But they did get their jammies on.  Aidan grabbed 5 books, Josiah grabbed one from him, and they commence the debate on which books is first.  It is now 7:58, so I guess round one has also gone to the midgets as well.  I used to be able to skip pages and make up stories as I went.  Aidan now has most of the books memorized just to keep me honest.  Score one more for the mini ones.

When we finally make it to the bedroom, there are several other key items: blankets and specific stuffed animals are at the top of the list.  Without them, no sleep will happen - not at 8-ish or at 12-ish or any hour in between.  Sundries located, there are prayers, which are both sweet and profound when uttered by 2 and 4 year old hearts.  (I have to peek sometimes just to see their tightly closed eyes and earnest expressions.  Be still my heart.)

We move on to a bedtime song.  It is generally one of three:  Amazing Grace, Jesus Loves Me, or You are my Sunshine.  Actually, they will not agree on the same song, so there are generally two.  One is always "Sunshine," which goes like this:
  • M - You are
  • AM - my
  • JAM - Sunshine
  • AM - my only
  • JAM - Sunshine
  • AM - you make me 
  • JAM - happy 
  • AM - when sky are
  • JAM - gray
And on we go, jammin' with Josiah adding emphasis at the appropriate times.

Now comes the next to last stage, and by far my favorite:  I love you's, kisses, hugs, and MoeMoes.  The first three are particularly wonderful and need no explanation.  MoeMoes are Eskimo kisses, which are so sweet, but require caution when getting so close to the moving head of a two year old.  From time to time, Granmas have been injured by this north-of-the-border show of affection.  It's worth every bump and bruise - so far.

The final stage involves negotiation again, though this time, it's just for show.  Granma just lets them think they are in charge.  Light on or light off?  Door open or door closed?  The correct response is door closed and hall light on so a sliver can be seen under the door.  Sometimes it takes a round or two to reach that forgone conclusion, but it always arrives there in the end.

Yep, snuggled down to sleep right on time - exactly 8:37.  Sleep tight, little love bugs!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

At the Zoo

With a generous word assist from Paul Simon
And photo assist from Ken Harris
(Those Granmas and Grampas among you can sing along to this blog!)

Someone told me
It's all happening at the zoo
I do believe it
I do believe it's true

 The monkeys stand for honesty
(when they aren't photo bombing)

Giraffes are insincere
(and downright rude!)

And the elephants are kindly
but they're dumb

Ourang-outangs are skeptical
Of changes in their cages
(but oh, so cute!!!)

And the zookeeper is very fond of rum
(no, actually, margaritas)

What a gas
Ya gotta come and see
At the zoo

More fun than a barrel full of Bella!
Please don't feed the animals!
Beware escapes!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ABC and 123

School just recently started for my eldest grandboy.  I can't believe he's in fourth grade!  How did that happen?  It might actually be possible that as fast as your own kids grew up, grandboys do so that much faster!  Someone put a brick on his head, please!

So on the first weekend of the school year, Bryce and I played a round of mini golf.  Tyler came along with us - against Bryce's better judgment.  And true to elder brother's prediction, Tyler did not exactly understand or enjoy the process.  He did, however, burn off some energy, which always bodes well for later in the day.  While Tyler earned a predetermined 7 on each hole, we had to revise the score card on hole number 15, where he got a hole in one - almost 100% legitimate, too!

As we golfed, Bryce told me about his teacher, Mrs. Teach (apparently that's not how it's spelled, but it is how it sounds).  He knows some of the kids in his class and likes them.  His favorite subject is math, because he's in the Academically Talented (AT) program.  (If you could see me now, I'm polishing my fingernails on my puffed out chest - as if his academic prowess were my accomplishment.  I know it's not, but I still can't help myself...)  He and four other classmates get pulled out for their own special math and science lessons.  Somewhere during his explanation of a project involving gummy bears and rocket ships, I got distracted keeping other golfers safe from Tyler's putter which was doubling as a sword.  I didn't quite get the whole bear to rocket trajectory - sorry.

Bryce, however, is getting to be quite the golfer, which will make his Grampa very proud!  He got a hole in one - 87% legit!  He also mastered the mulligan, and certainly employed it to his benefit.  There were times when the ball stopped against a rock and he used "relief" to move the ball out from the obstruction so he could hit it without damage to the putter.  He moved it a good 3-4 feet - inevitably closer to his prize, of course.  The putter was no more scarred at the end than it started.  He also has an ingenious use for his foot-wedge, which is to step on the ball as it rolls by the hole heading in the wrong direction.  All of that I could overlook.  It is, after all, mini golf, and not the pro tour.

But the thing that had me scratching my head was his counting:  1, 2, 2, foot wedge, mulligan, 3.  "That was a 3 for me, Granma."  Just as I was about to question his AT math placement, he started counting my strokes.  He didn't falter even once.  Interesting.

Perhaps once those gummy bears achieve orbit, Bryce should go back and review the number line.  Just a suggestion...