Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mary Poppins vs. Tiger Woman

Mary Poppins opens the door and meets Tiger Woman! TW approaches the nanny, head down, stalking ready to attack. Stealthfully, she circles the umbrella toting woman. She waits. She waits for one mistake, then she will destroy her prey. Poppins is not intimidated. This woman has dealt with children who would make Tiger Woman look like a pussy cat. Silently, she thinks, "Bring it on you feisty feline. Bring it on."

No, I'm not Mary Poppins, but sometimes I feel like I carry her great big carpet bag reaching in to find the tools I need to be a proper grannanny. Yesterday was one of those days. Armed with patience and a secret sense of humor, I whispered, "Bring it on."

A small knock at the door.

"Hi, Grammy."

"Hi, Gabby." A big, juicy kiss greets me.

"Good morning, Sweetie," I said as Sydney, wrapped in a blanket, still in her pajamas walks past me. "Hm," I thought. "It's going to be one of those days."

Sometimes the kids are quiet because they have been pulled out of bed and are still in waking up mode. I sit between them on the sofa. Gabby lays her head against me and snuggles. Tiger Woman, disguised as Syd, sits waiting for me to make a mistake. Ah, tweens.

I remember when I was a preteen wanting a reason to strike out. It wasn't as if I had a reason. No, the knot in my chest just wanted to bite someone. It didn't have name. Didn't even have a purpose. It was just there waiting to cry out.

With my daughter, I made the same mistake as had my mother. I was the parent. I had the power. Result: Fights that rivaled those of Mohammad Ali. Words that should have been left unsaid. Battles that had no winners, only casualties.

So now I'm Grandma Poppins. I do have a bag of tricks. Better yet, I have all the time in the world to dedicate to helping these girls through those rough years of roaring feelings.

Breakfast was served. Gabby began her daily chatter with unbound energy. Princess Syd still sat wrapped in her blanket refusing to have anything to do with me. I've never walked on fire, but I do think that dealing with an angry tween is close to it. After attempts at non-invasive dialogue, I decided to step away from the child. She needed her space. Hard to find in a house with people. So I gave her back her tension and stepped away from it continuing my role as Mary Poppins, grannanny at large.

By lunch time, I had convinced her that she needed to get dressed. My strategy was to get us all out of the house. After a prolonged time of whining and challenging, she begrudgingly dressed. Ah, a small step for Tiger Woman, a big step for Poppins. We were headed to the deli for their favorite sandwiches.

"I don't want to go that far. Why can't we just stay here?" This had all the makings of a very long day.

"I just thought we all needed to get out of the house for awhile, and I'm hungry." Of course, Gabby was still chatting away driving her sister crazy, and I was still not playing Syd's game.

Tiger Woman ate her lunch beginning to liven up and turn into my granddaughter once more. She was even kind to her sister. I didn't gloat. Mary Poppins doesn't, you know.

We came home and played school. The girls took turns entertaining me on the piano. I reflected on the good day we had. I learn a great deal with each of these battles between Tiger Woman and Poppins. I learn about myself and ways to encourage instead of challenge. I learn to respect my granddaughters and their feeling.

I'm no Mary Poppins. I can't fly beneath an umbrella or jump into a chalk drawing. But life with my grandchildren is just as exciting.....and much more rewarding. I get to stay here and not fly away.

'Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down'....this grandma's creed.

Visit www.neffroad.blogspot.com today for a visit with Uncle Wiggily.

Monday, August 30, 2010

End of the Rack

"When we are both dressed, we open the doors at the same time," Sydney instructed as she disappeared into the dressing room. A true preteen stepping through the door alone while Grammy helped Gabby.

The doors opened once more. Sydney had aged behind that door.

"Gabby, I really like that shirt," she said.

"I want skinny jeans, Grammy," Gabby informed me. Oh, no, another one stepping away from polka dots and t-shirts from Disneyland.

I know they are growing up. Every day I see new signs of the process. I noticed last week that rarely does Gabby play with toys. Sydney likes more time to herself. The times, they are a changin'.

"Honey, I think you need a size larger," from a Grandma determined not to send her granddaughter to school in tight clothing. I go to the far end of the rack to the next size wondering where to go from there.

Now there are shops for the tweens. I've checked them out. With the increase in size and decor to draw in the tweens, the prices increase as well. I think this is what is called a 'cornered market'.

"Can we look at my size?" asks Sydney as we pass by the shoes.

Her size?! Her size is my size! Argh!

Time passes. Feet grow. Just can't stop them. Oh, how I miss those little toes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Winds of Change

Change is in the air. This morning fall seems to be sitting on my doorstep. The air is crisp and chilly. Flowers are leaving their season to rest or to fade until replaced in the spring. A few of the maple trees have begun to color and a humming bird sits perched in the arbor vitae expecting a full feeder over the flowerless months. Change is indeed in the air.

With the struggling economy, my daughter and I find it will easier for us both if we move in together. A sign of the times for many families. My granddaughters are thrilled. Going to Grammy's just got easier. Sleepovers will happen every night. Grams is just a bedroom away.

My daughter and I have not always had the easiest relationship. This will be a new experience for us both working together as a team for the well-being of the children and ourselves. The winds of change will push us to a new level of evolution in this mother/daughter scenario. Apprehensive? Yes. Nervous. Yes.

"I get to send them home to their parents." Yes, all of you grandparents have said this at one time or another. "I get to send them to grandma." Yes, all of you parents have said that as well. Space. We all want our space, our time alone. For me, this has been something I have treasured. I raised my children and love having my grandchildren, but my space has been paradise with no conflict, no clutter, no constant raising of children. The winds of change.

My daughter and I both left marriages taking little with us thinking that we were protecting the children from conflict. Our financial situations did not protect our children but made us all vulnerable to the struggle of a once stay-at-home mom trying to make her way in order to give her children a stable home. A mom always living on the edge of poverty. So now mother and daughter work together trying to financially make it work.

Together we have searched and searched for a place to live finding that we do not qualify for much. How do you find a safe home, a home that your children are proud of, a place close to their schools when money is not an available. How do you find a job when you are 63 and there are no jobs? Winds of change, change not expected.

One thing I do have despite the stack of things I do not is my positive attitude. A little bit of tolerance with a dash of humor and a bowl full of laughter can move mountains. I could list the drawbacks versus the positives, but already I know that the positives would outweigh those things knocking at the door.

I am blessed with an opportunity to build a new relationship with my daughter. I am blessed to have this time with my granddaughters. I am blessed to know that our faith, our courage, our dedication to these children will give them the security and love they need.

No, I will no longer have my space, but I will have a new adventure. Bring it on, winds, we'll meet you head on and win.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mane Event

Dressage forms spread across the floor, a small barn to the left, a tent to the right, Gabby sits in the middle playing with the small riders dressed in cowboy clothing as well as equestrian wear. Barrel racers are mixed with the sleek thoroughbred horses. Even the little colts get into the action.

My granddaughter loves horses as did her mother and her grandma. I wonder if little boys have the same attraction to this wonderful animal. My daughter and her daughters were not raised on a farm nor did my parents have horses later in life. So why this love?

In my attic sits a saddle that hasn't actually be used since 1965, the year my horse died. A few years ago, Gabby placed the saddle over a box and hooked the reins to the exercise bike. "I'm riding your horse, Grammy," she explained. Yes, I remember pretending to ride a horse in my youth. A saw horse and a rope, and I was riding a sturdy steed. I remember the day when I was about twelve and the horse was delivered to our house. I remember the first day of my senior year in high school when my horse died. Yes, the saddle has traveled from Ohio to Wisconsin to Beaverton, Oregon. A piece of my past I find difficult to sell. A saddle that is about 70-80 years old.

Gabby cuddles up against me as we scan the dressage photos on the computer. She ooos and ahs picking a favorite horse that stays her favorite until the next picture appears. We both share that strong desire to pet one of these beasts, to sit in the saddle and ride off across an open field.

I always thought that my love of horses stemmed from the cowboy shows I watched in black an white on the old Raytheon television, but now I'm thinking maybe not. Of course, Prince Charming and all of the other Disney princes rode in on white chargers. Maybe it is the romantic in little girls that loves the horse. Or maybe, just maybe, it is just one look into the eyes of a horse that captures us and takes us in.

I need to stop writing now. I hear a little horse on the floor calling me to come play. "I want the quarter horse!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Piece At A Time

"Grandma Pam, Syd and I are going to put this puzzle together by ourselves," Heather informed me. Heather has been a friend and neighbor of my granddaughters all of their growing up. She is one more of 'my' grandchildren.

This was good news. I am a puzzler and find that when the girls help, the process is nerve wracking and long. "Grammy, where does this go?", "Grammy, I'm bored." "Be careful, girls," I say picking up the 15th piece that has landed on the floor. Yes, I come from a long line of puzzlers. I had not been to sure that this tradition would continue until this very moment when Heather declared independence.

Puzzle time in our family was indeed family time. As a small child, I learned patience at the card table. As a small child, I learned to listen to the family stories and adult conversation. As a child, I found a sort of peace looking for puzzle pieces freeing my mind from all else.

Life is a puzzle, isn't it? We try one piece here and another there just hoping that in some way we can complete a picture of what we want life to be. Needless to say, I've dropped many a piece on the floor, some which just disappeared. Once in awhile a piece of my life falls into place where I least expect it.
I call those pieces fate. You know, maybe I did learn something of life over those puzzles. Maybe I learned that you need to look at the overall design and color. If a piece doesn't fit, don't keep trying.

The pieces were scattered across the floor. Heather took charge while I occasionally stepped in to give Sydney her chance as well. Teamwork. Maybe that's what it is all about.

The puzzle border is finished. The puzzle still resides on the puzzle board completely forgotten. Maybe the border was all that needed to be done. Perhaps that's what life is about. A strong foundation and taking life one piece at a time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wanted: New Thumbs

Grandma looking for new hands. Hands that can write. Hands that can draw. Hands that can guide small hands and teach them to be creative. Wanted: Hands that do not hurt..

I have two bad thumbs. The pain and discomfort started several years ago and has progressively gone downhill. One small surgery relieved stiffness in my fingers but did nothing to relieve the pain in my thumbs. Surgery would make a difference, but it is something I cannot afford. So what do we grandparents do when we have situations we cannot control. Aging parts of our bodies defy our efforts to maintain good health. My father had the same degenerative joint wearing away the cushion between the bones, holding the thumbs in place. His sister, my aunt, has the same as does my sister. The weakness is catching up with me.

When my granddaughter accidentally bumps my thumb, I am knocked to my knees with the pain. She holds me an apologizes. "It's okay, Honey. I'm fine," I say. But I'm not. Inside I am crying, angry that I can no longer write without pain, no longer able to mow my lawn, dig my weeds, hold anything that requires a tight grip. I hate it. But for my granddaughters, I'm okay.

"Grammy, how can you draw when your hand hurts," Sydney asks.

"I can hold the pencil lightly using my fingers more than my thumb," I explain. I show her how I hold the pencil and how poorly I have drawn the small delicate work. "I can't draw for long, but I'm not giving up." I'm determined not to give up on a newly discovered potential for 'primitive' art.

I look at my granddaughter's beautiful hands wondering if she, too, will have this condition. I pray she doesn't. But I can give her a positive example. I can give her a grandma who is strong. My granddaughters know that I protect my hands. They know that there are some things I cannot do....they delight in helping me. They understand that this does not make me helpless but in need of teamwork. I can give then strength.

Wanted: Two thumbs that do not hurt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Birth of a Grandparent

"You have a baby girl," Dr. Green announced. Dr. Griffin was out of town when my baby girl decided to make her appearance two weeks early. When you are in labor, you don't care who is delivering that newborn, yet I wished it had been the old doc.

We had tried for over two years to have a child. Tests had been run, temperature taken, prayers said. Yet, no child came to us. Dr. Hilty, my Ohio gyn, gave me the options. We could continue to try or I could have surgery to remove cysts and tip a uterus back where it once it resided. Without hesitation, we opted for the latter.

The moving van emptied the items from Ohio into our new home in Wisconsin. Five hundred miles from family. Five hundred miles from the old house we had begun to remodel. Five hundred miles and one surgery away from my friend, my doctor. Five Hundred miles away, and I was pregnant.

A little over a year later we would be trying once more to have another child. Echoes of the past haunted us. I could not get pregnant. Dr. Griffin had known the problems we had bringing Stacey into the world. Tests were taken, procedures were done. I had already failed to pregnancy test and was now going in for a third.

Dr. Griffin had written a note given to me when I went in for the third test. "Good luck today. If it is positive, 'Congratulations'. If negative, don't give up." Well, it was positive and in nine months a baby boy joined our threesome.

I worked hard to have my children. Not everyone is as blessed with the same results. Yet it does not take birthing to make a parent. It does not take having a child of your own to make a difference in a child's life. All it takes is caring to make the world a bit better. They are all our children.

In raising my children, I have been birthed, renewed, awakened. With the eyes of a newborn child, I see new ways to grow. With each unsteady step, I learn to walk. With each day, I discover more. As a grandparent, I start all over again.

"Don't give up," Dr. Griffin wrote.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Yellow Bus

Shopping for supplies, new clothes, the stylish backpack. Nerves are a little on edge, summer is waning when it seems it just got here. Fall is approaching in the whisper of cool summer mornings. All are signs of the first day of school.

I vaguely remember my first day of school. Those days that I sent my children off were often difficult for me. I always missed them when they were gone. The house had a strange stillness about it. Loneliness often found me at the oddest times, i.e., picking up a far flung shoe, finding a sock under a sofa cushion, having a cleaner house. I missed my kids.

Now my granddaughters will go off to their schools. Sydney will face the new adventure of a new school. She goes without any of her friends and into a new, creative curriculum. Gabrielle will be moving to the other end of the school with older kids.

Painting, drawing, giggling and cuddling will just have to wait for the weekends. The house will be quiet and a little less lively. I will miss these granddaughters of mine. I wonder if my mother missed me?

Time passes quickly when measured by the events of each passing day. Babies soon turn into young women and school girls into blogging grandmas. Moments to be savored as they fleetingly pass. Moments to allow us to grow and change, to discover and create. This passing of time does not bother me for in each phase of life, I have discovered more of myself, more of my world.

However, for just a few moments, I want to hold time still. Hold it still before the yellow bus makes its journey from home to home taking the children off to new adventures. Bus #16 took me from shy girl to writing woman. I wonder what dreams to be discovered wait for Sydney and Gabby.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm Growing Up

"I want to be part of them moving in," my granddaughter said. "They won't move again, and I can't help after school starts." She is growing up.

What kid wants to tape woodwork for painting? What child wants to hang with the adults when playing with a friend is an option? What eleven year old would give up one of her last summer days to work?

I'm proud of Sydney. She seems to understand how important it is to be part of a family, to be part of an event. She wants to be part of the memories and activity. She somehow realizes that this is special and overrides the child desires to just play. Yes, Syd is growing up.

In just a couple of weeks, this young lady will be going to the Arts and Communication School. She will attend this school from grades six through twelve. The classes focus on her artistic abilities along with scholastic needs. Having been drawn from a lottery of names, she will attend with none of her friends. Her class size consists of only forty students.

The success is not that she won the draw and gets to attend her dream school. No, it is in the fact that she wants this enough to step away from the kids she has gone to school with for five years to face a new batch of kids.

"I'm a little afraid," she said. "But, Grammy, after a couple of days, I will have friends."

She knocks me off my feet, this granddaughter of mine. Never would I have had such courage at such a young age. No one supported my dreams, and I was discouraged to reach out for them.

It is a new day and age, and we are the new grandparents. We are the supporters of dreams. We are the teachers of kindness. We are the representatives of what family should be. We are those who have worth in the eyes of our grandchildren. We can change the world by changing.

I applaud you, grandparents. I applaud every time you lift your grandchildren up with praise. I applaud the times you just sit and listen to what is said as well as what is left unsaid. I applaud you for reading blogs that just might give you insight into becoming a newly discovered grandparent. I cheer for you each time you discover something new and wonderful in yourself and in your family.

My granddaughter is growing up and facing the unknown. Wow, so am I.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Birthing Quandary

A quandary. I sit in a quandary this morning wondering at the nonsense of 'special days'. Yes, I sit in a quandary.....and obviously, I like the word because I've used it three times already.

For me there is a bit of nonsense in Mother's Day, birthdays, Grandparent's Day. The celebrations focus on the receivee instead of the major participant in the process of birthing. Stick with me. I will eventually make sense.

I have given birth twice. On each of those special days, I did the work to introduce two wonderful children to the world. I endured the humiliation of everyone checking out my birthing progress, the pain that surpasses all pain and a doctor and husband trying to cajole a woman who just wants to be left alone with her misery. It may be the day of my child's birth, but doggone it, I did the work!!!!

Now you might say that this is why we have Mother's Day. I don't want to be tossed into a day that has no meaning for me. The prior paragraph was my 'mother's day'. I don't want my kids to buy me dinner or flowers or candy or something I really don't need, because they are coerced by the calendar and merchandisers.

Then we top it off with Grandparent's Day. Now next to the day of the birthing of my children, the days when granddaughters were born were the biggest surprise of my life. Wow! Where did all of those new feelings come from? What happened when that grandchild was placed in my arms? It was indeed my 'birthing day'.....the birthing of a Grammy. Maybe I just like to think that every day is Mother's Day and Grandparent's Day. Lucky for me I live close to my children daily celebrating these gifts given to me in a delivery room setting.

Years ago I was in charge of a grandparents' camp. I believe I've mentioned this before. Babysitters were absent that year. Grandparents were forced to spend every waking moment with their grandchildren. Over the two day, one night camp, the grandparents and children created a family album together. I had created pages for each grandparent and each child filled with simple questions, such as: What was/is your favorite toy? What did you (grandparent) think when you first saw my mom/dad when they were born? What did Grandma look like on her wedding day? The list went on and conversations took place. A history was shared and doors were opened. This was a special two days....a sort of birthing day.

I will have another two 'birthdays' in October. One day will mark the ninth year since my granddaughters birth and another the birth of my son thirty-six years prior. They will both think I am celebrating their special days. Ha! I will be celebrating the first cry of a newborn child. I will be celebrating me on the journeys into the new territory of parenting. I will be celebrating love that came into my life.

Ah, no longer a quandary.

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This post is part of a blog carnival hosted by Susan Adcox, About.com's Guide to Grandparents. If you want to write a blog about grandparents or grandparenting, please join in! You will love Susan's blog with helpful hints and stories for all parents and grandparents. Check her out at:
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Monday, August 16, 2010

A Delicate Balance

Seldom is the Oregon Coast hot. The water is so cold that your legs ache when you step into it. Rip tides are a danger as well as creeper waves. Some say that our coastline is raw and mystical with the capes reaching out into the blue sea and the huge rock monoliths standing in the water.

"DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK ON THE WATER!" I yell for the umteenth time watching my granddaughters retreat from the onrushing waves. The tide recedes; they walk out a little further.

When does a grandparent become a nag? When are we overprotective? Is that really possible? Children disappear at school, disappear into the forest, drown in the family pool. Can we really be too protective?

The best method I've found to teach the kids to be safe is to talk about it and explain why they must be careful.

"A creeper wave is a big wave that can sneak in on you if you aren't watching the water and pull you out into the deeper water. So don't turn your back on the ocean....ever."

"I walk backwards, Grammy. Wanna see me?" replies Gabby. Syd is looking at her toes in the water and probably hasn't heard a word I said. Thus I sit on my towel on a rare, hot day on the Seaside, Oregon, beach watching the children play in the surf.

I love this ocean. It is a place where I find peace....on most days. Sometimes when we arrive after that drive  from home to the coast, bundled against the wind and mist, I am a bit afraid of the foggy sea. The rocks rise out of the fog and the ocean looks restless. I want my granddaughters to love the beach. But....
Rip tides off the Oregon coast have carried seasoned swimmers to sea. I know the dangers, yet I want them to have fun. There is a thin line, a balance that must be sought to achieve both. A balance that involves educating, encouragement, one on one.

"How far out can we go?" asks Sydney.

"I don't want you out beyond your knees," I reply knowing what this ocean can do.

"Grammy, that's not fair," replied Gabby. "My knees are lower than Sydney's." Argh!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Racing Across The Sky

"Grammy, it's scary out here," Gabby said.

"Gabby, do not shine the flashlight in my eyes, please," I replied blinded by the light.

"Oh, sorry, Grammy."

"It is freaky, Grams," added Sydney.

I continued to arrange the sleeping bag on the lawn tossing down pillows and blankets determined that this would be a memorable evening.

"Grammy, I itch." Gabby was determined to take this experience to a physical level.

Sydney began to cry. "Grammy, I miss Mommy." Thursday night and the divorce hit home once more with my granddaughter. "I want her home like she used to be." So did I, but it was not meant to be.

One child is itching and wriggling while one is melted against me in tears. Argh!!!!! We will have a good time even if I have to tie you both down and point you to the sky!

Where are the darn meteors?????? I need a diversion! Where is the show that is supposed to peak tonight??????? One meteor would do it! Come on, God, please give me a meteor.

Okay, time for a revamp. "Sydney, call your Mommy. You'll feel better. Gabby, do not shine the flashlight in my eyes, please."

Soon Mommy arrived and took away the sad child. The meteorless sky was silent.

"So, Gabby, how about we go lay in your front yard. Maybe we are too close to the city lights."

With flashlight beam in Gabby's hand and a light shining up into the trees, the street, gravel at my feet, we managed to toss everything back into the car.

Once more settle in her front yard, we nestled together tickling each other with bare feet, a flashlight clutched to her little chest. The sky was filled with stars. We each picked a favorite star.

"Grammy, can stars be black?" Not sure what she was seeing, I changed the subject. "Grammy, I itch." Oh my God. Here we go again.

Suddenly, a huge, white flash raced across the night sky. The breathtaking sight left us in awe and wonder.

"Grammy, can we wish on those," Gabby asked in a hushed voice.

"Oh, yes, Gabby, we can certainly wish on those."

Thanks, God.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

As The Student

What I learn from my granddaughters. Well, that's a spicy lead in for a grandparent blog. It's true, you know. We grandparents do learn from them. I know, it's a given, but stop and think about what you were before you held that first grandchild and who you are today. Wow.

"Grammy, you can't do it. You're old. Let me help you." Could have done without this knowledge.

"Here, Grammy, let me show you." Oh, yes, I learn.

Perhaps they are really our guides, guiding us into better ways of grandparenting. Perhaps they are the tools that teach us about patience, tolerance, endurance, love. I know that I have found parts of myself that I didn't know existed until them. A discovery of a new me, a new way of dealing with things, a new way  of looking at the world around me has come along with these two children. Yes, they are my guides.

Sometimes a bit of random wisdom will occur to me or happen to flow from my lips, then I am awed. Where this new understanding, this new awareness has come from is truly from this experience as a grammy. I am a better mother because of them. I am a better friend, because they accept me wrinkles and all. I am a better person because they love me.

That old adage "I'm too old to learn" is waaaaaay out of date. We grow younger because of our grandchildren. We find new parts of ourselves by changing, reinventing the old us. My granddaughters are my greatest teachers.

Hm. As the student, I wonder what I learn today.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Value of a Platinum Head

When a record goes platinum, a recording artist has made it. When a girl is offered a platinum band, she knows her man has chosen well. When your hair turns platinum naturally, you know you are old.

If I were to have cosmetic surgery, it would take years and millions of dollars to rearrange this semblance of aging body into one svelte woman. This aging thing is impossible to chase. It happens when we aren't looking and when least expected descends on us. Last night I decided to pluck an unruly platinum eye brow only to realize that I could not find it without adding my reading glasses over the top of my contacts. Oh, my word.

My grandmother, father and sister all had white hair by the time they were 40. My son is mostly white at 35. My hair gets lighter and lighter with each new hair coloring because the roots on my white hair on top of my head grow out so quickly. Then I look like a blond skunk. Ah, what to do, when to decide to let it grow out naturally.

We sat watching Cathy Rigby fly across the screen as Peter Pan. We were having a lazy day. One of my granddaughters on each side, we sat nestled, watching. After a bit, I noticed Gabby tugging on the loose skin on my elbow. She was petting it like a dogs ear. In fact, I think it might be saggy like a dog's floppy ear. "What's with this?" I thought carefully moving her hand not to draw attention to my aging arms.

I'm thinking of doing away with my full length mirror. And, I don't know why I look better in my mirror at home than I do when I happen to glimpse myself in a store mirror. Argh!

I am really not a vain person. It's just that I didn't know I would get here so fast. And, my grandchildren seem to delight in pointing out a double chin, loose skin on the backs of my hands and creaking knees when I bend down. How did it happen so fast?

If I let my hair go all platinum white, I won't get a platinum hair award. The whitish strands won't even be worth a penny and will be more evident when clinging to a dark shirt. But maybe it will also signal years of a good life, of a happy woman. Maybe it will show my grandchildren that I embrace my age and am proud of the signs of aging. But for right now.....eh, maybe not.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Smile

One more trip to Olan Mills. Yes, we bought the package that gave us a memories of our children as they passed each year. Pictures that we gave at Christmas. Faces we peruse, looking for bits and pieces reflecting parents, grandparents, any piece carrying on a visage once known. Pictures capturing our children at each wonderful age. Their history and ours.

What wasn't showing in the pictures were the tears and fears. Wiggling children, bored children, children who recently gave themselves a hair cut as had my daughter. Parents and photographer jumping, waving, dashing to prop up a drooping baby, the chaos of portraiture. Usually it turns out pretty good in spite of the tension and stress. A pretty baby outfit spit up on right before the photo was taken is cover with a cute bib or stuffed toy. The former hair cut is feathered to look styled. A baby blowing spit bubbles becomes the favorite picture.

We lived on a beautiful ravine and wanted the memory of our children there. A friend offered to take the pictures. James was dressed his favorite Cincinnati Reds shirt and Stacey in her Raggedy Ann ready for the photo adventure. Or so we thought.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. For all the frustration of the day, they are my favorite montage of my children. I hope you can relate and enjoy a project going downhill with each click of the shutter.

These sweet, happy children were worth about two happy pictures, then we adults became the enemy. We were full of laughter and encouragement. They were fading quickly and not at all in tune with our desires. We were playing to a silent audience of two.

The finale came when neither child would even look toward the camera. It had become the focus of their angst. They lost interest, and we gained a series of priceless pictures.

My kids now laugh at the way we dressed them back in the 1970's. The don't remember living in the house on the ravine in Wisconsin. Yet these are some of their favorite pictures...a memory of a brother and sister.

Posed photos. Sometimes more than just a picture.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Do We Leave Behind

"What world kind of world will be here for my sons," my nephew asked his mother. After camping in the mountains, they had returned home to extreme heat and a brown, cracked earth. What kind of earth are we leaving our children?

My son has voiced similar concerns. These same worries have crossed my mind many times. I grew up as a child fearing the world of the Cold War. Pesticide threat had not yet come to the awareness of farmers. Everyone smoked and cars spewed exhaust. When we moved to Oregon, it was not unusual to see ships piled high with lumber going overseas. We had to learn.

A segment of the news this morning focused on the affect of hormones on little girls, that girls are maturing as early as age 7. Hormones in milk. I have seen some of these girls at my granddaughter's school. This change in young bodies is alarming.

In Ohio, I grew up with tornadoes and sometimes drought. Here in Oregon we face forest fires and a rare mountain eruption. Our winter was mild, our summer late in coming but other than that, life around here is pretty much par for the course unlike many parts of the US.

I stood with my sister looking up at the sky over Key West, Florida. A water spout suddenly dropped from the sky. We didn't run to the basement to hide from a storm, of course, there are no basements in KW. My sister informed me that they are not uncommon. Very few touch the water. Yet, I stood there looking at a storm taking place in just a matter of seconds.

Where am I going with this? I am a grandmother who is concerned for her family. We are at the mercy of our environment. We can do what we can to change those things that are changeable, yet there are things we cannot change. So what do we do?

We teach our children to be aware of what they can do to protect, to change the changing environment. We teach our families to live each day to the fullest embracing those we love. We teach them to reach out to those who are hurting and suffering learning that we are truly all 'one world'. We teach them not to live in fear but in hope.

We pray.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fear Facing

The little vole ran across the porch in front of us. I looked. I laughed. I held fast. What's up with that?

Something has happened to me over the last couple of years. I'm not so sure how it happened but would equate this change to time spent with my granddaughters. Or, it could be age and lack of ability to scream and run as quickly as I could some years ago. Yes, something has happened.

I have, er, had and bone chilling fear of rodents and snakes. Growing up on a farm, you would assume that these critters wouldn't bother me. Yet, fear has often shaken me to the point of hysteria.

A couple of years ago on a family trip to Disneyland, my son had herded me away from the Peter Pan ride. It was night time and one of the best times to go on the rides. We had not wanted to fight the long lines at one of our favorite rides but were determined to go on it before we left the park.

"Why are we leaving?" I asked.

"They said they were closing the ride," lied my son as we removed ourselves from the line.

Our dash from the ride was explained. "Mom, there were mice running all over the area next to us."

I couldn't complain. Mice sent me into panic. There was no reason for Grammy to scare the granddaughters. Good thinking, son.

A baby snake laid in front of us. My son grabbed a bag, placing it over the snake firmly stomping on it as I yelled, "Stop, I'll move it."

"What's happened to you?" he asked looking at me as if I were an alien. I'm asking the same. 'What's happened to me?'

We attended the school science fair. My daughter refused to visit the reptile exhibit that has always been part of the event. Striving to overcome my dislike of the slithering things, I took my granddaughters into the exhibit showing them each reptile, using positive responses to overcome their fears. "Come on, pet the snake. See, it feels like silk." Year one, neither one of the girls would touch the snake. Five years later, we all pet the snake.

Last night a little vole ran across the porch on which my friend and I stood. It was actually a cute little thing but startling as it dashed between the feet of those waiting access to the theatre. My friend had a slight moment of fear and panic. I just laughed and calming her fears.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?!?!? WHERE DID THIS NEW ME COME FROM?!?!?

I assume it came from pushing away my fears so that my granddaughters would not go through life experiencing the sheer terror that I have always felt in startling encounters. It came about from observing nature instead of fearing it. The girls now face their fear of spiders. They know that there are snakes in all yards, nature areas and that they will not hurt them. They know that mice will still startle us but not eat us. I do not want my fears to be theirs. We are learning together to be strong. To recognize those spiders and snakes which are dangerous. To control fears instead of allowing the fears to control us.

Wow. Growing and learning together. It's the best.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cartwheeling Grandma

"Come on, Grams. Do a cartwheel," my granddaughter yelled.

I'm amazed that a girl who once cartwheeled herself across the lawn can no longer figure out how in the heck she will get her 63 year-old bottom side up in the air with legs straight, landing on her feet on the way down. Hm. It just isn't going to happen.

"Come on, Grams!"

I wonder when my cartwheeling ended..... Sitting on the floor, chasing kids playing tag, rolling down hills. When did it end? Well, one thing I know for sure, my lower half will not be above my head ever again. The flexibility is gone. The enthusiasm to try is gone. The grace and speed of a younger me running around the ball diamond is definitely gone.

How I would love to have that energy once more so I could romp and play with these granddaughters of mine, but it is as it should be. Maybe we grandparents are not to be the participants but the observers, the team cheering on the antics of the little ones. Maybe it is more important that we don't end up in a cast from a broken limb. Maybe, just maybe, we are doing exactly what we are supposed to do.

I miss my child. I miss that little girl who felt the breeze in her face when she ran across the field. I miss that little girl who climbed up in the barn and swung across to the other side. I miss those things that make childhood so precious, so fun.

It is a winding down we do as we grow older and, yet, a winding up at the same time. What I have lost in flexibility, in that little girl energy, I have gained in observance, tolerance and joy. I have learned from the past taking into this time as a grandma the learning from my mistakes and my successes. I have become more flexible in other ways, in thought, in patience, in understanding.

When I became a grandma, I discovered a new me, a woman who could change and learn and maybe do a bit better this time around. I discovered that a new life came for the child as well as for me. I discovered that the little girl inside of me could still laugh and play....just can't do cartwheels.

"Come on, Grams!"

"You're doing so well. I just want to watch beautiful you." And I do.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Water

Water. It bathes us, it baptizes us, it nourishes our earth and we drink it. Water.

However, for a child water is play time. My belief is that the kids play in the womb all those months before birth and already know how much fun it is to splash around in a liquid world. So is it any wonder that when placing a small one in a swimming pool or bath tub, water is splashed and giggling begins. Water.

What child doesn't love to run through a sprinkler? I certainly remember the few times Dad placed the sprinkler in the yard, and I delighted in dashing through the cold water. As the water spun around, we  jump over it.

Squirt guns, slip and slides, fountains, a hot summer rain shower, all excuses for fun. All ways to keep children entertained for hours. One wet child seems to draw others from all over the neighborhood. Running from house to house, sprinkler to sprinkler. Summer fun = water.

Why as we grow older does it seem like work to participate in running through the sprinkler or splashing in the pool with the kids? Parents surround the pool watching their children but miss out on the fun of making memories in the water. The pool babysits while the parents are immersed in their conversation, books or summer snooze.

"Grammy, will you come over and swim?" my granddaughter asks. Well, for starters, I hate swimming and cannot swim even though I have taken swimming lessons. My eyes burn from the chlorine and my skin itches. So do I do it for them or sit on the side for me?

A similar question arose when my granddaughter played softball and the other team didn't show up. It was decided that the girls would play the parents. When asked who would play, of the parents looked away or just flatly declined. Much to my granddaughter's delight, I was on my feet and on the way to the dugout. Did I want to? Not really. My hands hurt with arthritis and my knees ache, but I can sit and watch later when I'm really old and decrepit. This was important for her and me.

So what is it that keeps that inner child at bay? Where do we lose the fun in running through the sprinkler and begin sitting on the sidelines?

"Mom, will you ever grow up?" my children ask. Gee, I hope not. Sometimes sitting on the side watching is wonderful. Every child needs an audience, but time and time again, my girls and I remember the silly times we have had and enjoy the revisiting them again and again.

Water. A cold child wrapped in a towel hugged by a loving parent or grandparent. Water wiped from the sides of a wet bathtub splashed from a playful tot. A baby clinging to a grownup who lovingly introduces them to a swimming pool. Dodging a squirt of water from an overzealous child with a water pistol.

Water. It blesses us, it nourishes us, it binds us together.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Nature Club

Homes that welcome. There are such things, you know. Homes that when you drive up to them seem to have open arms waiting for you. Places where immediately as you walk through the door, you feel at home. Such is the way with the little yellow house.

I informed my granddaughters that I would be working at the little yellow house, the new 'old' house my son and wife just bought, every day setting the yard in order, making it easier to maintain. Without hesitation, the girls jumped at the chance to be there with me.

"I wish we could all live here," Gabby said. Sydney agreed. This was a home where we all felt 'at home'.

A friend stopped by to visit. "This is a home for a family," she said. Yes, it is. It calls to you from the lawn, from the porch, from the gravel driveway.

For days I have pulled weeds and pruned trees and shrubs. Each day the girls come over and help or play in the huge yard. Not once have they complained of boredom. These children are seeing adults work hard to achieve a wonderful goal. They see us working together even through frustration. Anything they can do to help is immediate undertaken with great enthusiasm.

Growing up in the country, I learned to work. My children saw this in the way my parents lived. None of us were raised to be bored, idle or to complain. It was a way of life.

"Some day you will be able to tell Uncle's children that you were here when they moved in. You helped make this their home," I told the girls. Part of the larger picture.

"Grammy, come look," Sydney yelled. I left my garden tools in place and walked across the yard to the little tree house. "We started a nature club and made a home for spiders."

This coming from two girls who hated spiders was a bit of a surprise. I am one who always takes a spider from inside the house to the outside setting it free.

"We decided to make a home for spiders to make their webs. We decided to like spiders."

The little tree house is filled with large and small sticks creating framework for tiny legs to weave their homes.

Yes, this is a home for children, a home for family, a home for nature to survive and flourish.

Lisa, my son's new bride, hates bugs and spiders. Maybe we won't take her to the tree house.