Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Curious and Industrious Child

The way children learn has always fascinated me. They grab bits and pieces of information from a variety of sources and integrate those pieces into their previous knowledge base. Their ability to structure their thoughts and form their ideas intrigues and amuses me.

When my oldest daughter, Keeley, was not yet 8 years old, I took her to see Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl, starring Marsha Mason, Richard Dreyfuss, and Quinn Cummings. The movie came out in 1977 and at that time, Keeley was my only child.

Like most children, Keeley was a very curious child and she grasped the nature of things very quickly. If she needed to know how something worked, she would look for ways to figure it out.

One day, for example, I dropped her off at her grandmother's house. Grandma was always home during the week when I dropped Keeley off on my way to work, so it never occurred to me to think, "Hmm, I wonder if anybody is home." Grandpa, Grandma, and usually lots of other people were always home.

One day, however, Grandma wasn't home, and Grandma, who I depended on for babysitting, hadn't called to tell me she wasn't going to be home. As a matter of fact, though I didn't know it, nobody was home.

Because I was always in a rush, my habit was to drive Keeley to her grandparents' home, hug and kiss Keeley goodbye in the driveway, tell her to be good, and then drive to the bus that would take me downtown to my job.

Back in the 70's nobody worried about kids getting abducted, so I never considered the possibility. Also, never before in all the many times I had been at Grandma's house, had everybody from the family of ten been gone at the same time.

On that particular Monday, though, Grandma and Grandpa hadn't returned from the weekend and, in the days before cellular phones, they hadn't thought to call me to tell me they weren't going to be home. Having no way to reach me, Keeley waited on the back porch steps for them to return, but after hunger struck, she decided to figure out a way to break into their locked back door.

After looking around the yard, she figured out a way to unlock the door using two small but sturdy sticks. An experienced break-and-enter kind of kid, Keeley had previously figured out how to maneuver her way into a locked bathroom door at the age of seven, so this break-in might have been her first deja vu experience.

On the day of the bathroom break-in, I had told her I was going to take a shower and asked her if she needed to use the bathroom.

She didn't.

"OK," I told her. "Are you sure? Because I'm going to lock the door and you won't be able to get in once I lock the door." If I didn't lock the door, Keeley would be in and out for the duration of my shower, and because she was such a chatty child, I needed just ten minutes of peace every day.

"I'm sure."

So I locked the door and got into the shower. When I was soaking wet, I heard her knock on the door.

"I have to use the bathroom." Surprise, surprise.

As everybody knows, it's difficult to talk through running water and a closed door, so I shouted, "I'm in the shower. If you want to come in, you're going to have to figure it out on your own."

And she did. Having never been taught how to break into a room, she somehow figured out how to unlock the bathroom door using only a hair pin. My daughter was now a locksmith prodigy.

On the day of the movie, I wanted Keeley to know that I disapproved of the language spoken by little Lucy, so, as we walked to the car in the theater's parking lot, I tried to make light of it by saying, "Wow, that little girl knew every swear word in the book, didn't she?"

We reached our car, climbed in, and drove in silence for a while (not typical for Keeley). I could tell that she was immersed in thought. With Keeley you can almost see wheels spinning in her head as she tries to make sense of things.

Her mind has always been one of unraveling mysteries and gaining access to every imaginable piece of information through whatever means possible. The thought that a book could actually contain every word she was forbidden to say must have been extremely attractive to Keeley.

Finally, after having given the movie some serious consideration, my industrious daughter asked (probably wondering if she could find it in her school library), "Mom, what's the name of that book?"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When Ya Gotta Go Ya Gotta Go

I was traveling from Virginia to Illinois with my daughter-in-law, two of her children, and one of her nephews.

Several hours into the trip, Michelle asked me if I would mind driving. After a while she announced, "Oh, by the way, when Wesley (her nephew) has to go, he has to go NOW!"

She went on to say that when he has to go, he will frantically scream her name from the back of the SUV, and we will have less than a minute to locate a place for him.

A few minutes later, Wesley called his aunt's name with the frantic urgency of a child who had just consumed an entire gallon of milk that was gushing into a gnat-sized bladder.

We pulled off and tried to locate the Subway that the posted sign promised would be off that exit. After driving a mile and not finding it, I doubled back to the gas station we had passed. Michelle jumped out of the SUV to run Wesley into the gas station.

But Wesley had taken off his shoes and couldn't find them. Michelle told him he had to find them, because she wasn't taking him into a dirty bathroom without his shoes on.

While Michelle was checking the bathroom door to make sure she didn't have to get a key, Wesley was searching (in vain) for shoes that may have been buried beneath the pillows he was jumping up and down on while holding himself.

By the time she came back to the car (30 seconds later), Wesley had peed all over himself and the pillows. Michelle looked at his puppy dog face and said, "I KNOW you didn't just pee all over yourself and the pillows!"

But he did. "I told you I had to go."

Michelle took off his clothes while a couple of us took bathroom breaks. Michelle then took her place behind the driver's seat and we drove to Subway, which was probably a mile further from where we originally turned around. Michelle bought sandwiches, drinks, and cookies for all of us so we wouldn't have to go inside to eat.

A couple of hours later, Wesley urgently called his aunt's name again. Not knowing how far we were from the next exit, we pulled over and allowed Wesley to relieve himself out the back door. "Don't pee on the car!" Michelle warned.

When I turned around to make sure he was finished so I could jump out of the car and close the back door, I noticed he was completely naked. I was grateful that traffic was speeding past us and that nobody had seen little naked boy peeing out of the SUV, but every time I thought about him sitting back there naked, I laughed.

All his clothes were packed and, for some reason, he had taken off the t-shirt Michelle had given him to cover himself.

Later, when it was dark, and we had driven through four states with Wesley naked, Michelle noticed she was speeding. "I'd better slow down," she realized.

Yeah I thought out loud knowing that Wesley was sound asleep in the back, "Imagine some cop holding a flashlight and looking inside the car. We'd have a hard time explaining the sleeping naked boy in the back seat.'"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The New Grandson I Never Knew I Had

Yesterday I flew out to Virginia to visit my son and his family. His two sons are here (his daughter is with her other grandmother in Illinois) and so is their cousin, Wesley. I have a grandson with the same name, but this Wesley is my daughter-in-law's sister's son. So, no relation.

However, this little 5 year old hears his cousins calling me Grandma, so he started doing the same. But he called me by his other grandma's name, too – Grandma Chris, so I told him my name wasn't Grandma Chris, and he wanted to know what he should call me. He had also been calling me Grandma Wiza, which is what Kaden always calls me. So I said, well, you can call me Theresa, or you can call me Grandma Wiza, or you can call me Goddess.

He said, "I'll just call you Grandma Chris."

He started calling me Grandma Wiza, though, so as long as his mom, Vicki, doesn't mind, I'm OK with it.

Later, when his Aunt Michelle went to the store and I was in charge, he asked, "Can I have some M&Ms?"

I told him, "No you already had M&Ms. It's time for a healthy snack. Do you want a banana, an apple, or a plum?"

"NO, I want something for my tummy," he said, as if I thought he wanted the M&Ms for some other reason, like maybe for his artwork or something.

"I know. So what do you want, a banana, an apple, or a plum?"

"A banana will be good for my tummy?" he asked.


"I won't turn into a werewolf or nothing?"

Huh? He was serious. When he realized he wasn't getting anything other than a healthy snack, he took the banana. After he had the banana, he told me he needed M&Ms now because he had "scrubbles" in his tummy.

Scrubbles? Hadn't heard that term before, but I thought it sounded like it could be the sound gas makes moving around a slightly empty tummy. Clever, Wesley!

Anyway, later, after his Aunt Michelle arrived home, he wanted to know if pizza would cause him to be a werewolf and his Aunt Michelle told him that if there were mushrooms on it, it might.

I'm beginning to understand his fears about becoming a werewolf.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's Somebody Else

Oh, those grandkids of mine.

Here's another blog about the antics of Audrey and Nolan:

Earlier today Audrey ran into my room huffing and puffing, slammed the door, and locked it (I was sitting on my bed writing an article). Within seconds, Nolan came knocking at the door, but Audrey held her position, hand on the knob, and refused to unlock the door or let him in.

"Audrey, unlock the door, please," I politely requested.

"No!" she panted, "He's trying to hit me with something."

Audrey is five and a half. Nolan just turned three. He has just recently learned that he now has power to cause fear in his sister and he enjoys exerting his newly-found power.

So I called through the door, "Nolan…" He kept knocking. "Nolan, you're not going to hit her with anything, are you?"

He continued knocking.


And he said, as he tried (unsuccessfully) to disguise his voice, "It's somebody else."

Silly boy!

Later, we found Nolan wrapped around the leg of the table sound asleep. We have a futon, a couch, a love seat, a sofa bed, several children's cots, a king sized bed, a full sized bed, and a set of bunk beds, but despite all of those choices, Nolan chose the floor under the table.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Symbol of a Grandma's Love

You probably expected to see a heart, right? Shouldn't the symbol of grandmotherly love be saturated with tones of red and gold to portray its deep and enduring nature?

Obviously the symbol you see here is not blood red, is not in the shape of a heart, and is not anything you've ever seen before. It is, however, an accurate depiction of the sacrifices a grandmother makes for her grandchildren. And it probably requires an explanation.

So why does this symbol appear to be made only of sepia? Because for me sepia represents age. Grandchildren tend to think of even their fabulously young looking grandparents as old, so sepia works well to represent the idea of age. Also I believe a grandmother's love endures through the ages, so sepia it is.

Before I explain the symbolism behind the symbol, I want you to know that the symbol of grandmotherly love could easily work for grandfathers, dads, and moms, but since I created it, I am calling it, The Symbol of a Grandma's Love.

I came up with this particular symbol as a result of what happened to me the other night. Two of my grandchildren, my son's sons (Kaden and Zac), spent the night with me and slept with me in my bed.

After tossing and turning (all of us), Kaden, 5, and Zac, 2 and a half, soon ended up on top of me and perpendicular to me – I'm sure in an attempt to guarantee that I wasn't going to slide out from beneath them and leave them alone in my bedroom.

After having given this matter some serious consideration, I have reasoned that I can understand their perpendicularity in relation to their mom, because other than going back inside her to be as close as possible to her, thereby replicating the time before they were born, they chose lying directly on top of her, spread out across her body. They are particularly close to my son (their dad), too, so I'm sure the kids are spread out across the two of them at various times throughout the night.

Sleeping across both parents insures my grandchildren that if their parents leave the bed, they can grab Mommy and Daddy and let know that THEY know they are about to be abandoned in the family bed.

But why Grandma? As a sufferer from insomnia, it took me several hours to finally fall asleep. All through the night, I removed feet and legs from my body, put them in a position that was comfortable for me, and attempted to fall sleep. By 3 a.m. (that was the last time I remember looking at the clock) I was finally sleeping comfortably until the feet and legs found their way back to my body at approximately 3:15.

Every time I moved the feet and legs throughout the night, in fact, they returned to their previous position – spread out across my body.

At 3:15 I slipped out of bed, grabbed my pillows and a blanket and collapsed on the couch. Within a couple of minutes I was finally sleeping soundly.

At 3:30 Kaden found me and climbed onto the couch to sleep with me. Telling me he was scared to lie on the edge of the couch, he climbed over me to sleep behind me so that he was positioned between me and the couch back. Afraid I was going to crush him, I waited for him to fall asleep so that I could return to the bed where I found Zac spread eagle across the whole bed.

I could only imagine that while Zac slept, he reached out with his feet to find me and fell asleep before his feet found their desired resting place.

So there you have it – the symbol of a grandma's love is one of her sacrificing sleep so her grandchildren will feel safe and warm. The symbol is one of a loving grandmother succumbing to the charms of her grandchildren.

Don't think I'm too much of a saint, though, because I'm already thinking that if I make a body pillow shaped exactly like myself, I might be able, the next time they spend the night,  to switch myself with the pillow they never saw and convince them that the pillow they're sleeping with is actually me. The trick will be figuring out how to create a pillow with a body temperature that matches mine and dressing the pillow in the same material as what I'm wearing when I go to bed.

I'm going to have to leave this blog now as I search for material that feels similar to skin in case they reach over to touch my face. I may not have to worry about that though, because I've heard that my skin may end up feeling like leather. Maybe I should just hold out until then.